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What’s In My Bag?

This weekend when I was taking pictures of my haul from the Hobo International sample sale, I figured I should take some pictures of what is inside my own purse!

The bag of the day was my leather hobo from Sabina:

This is what I carry on a regular day – the only thing missing is my engagement calendar. Yes, I am living in 2011 and still carry a paper calendar (with small address book in the back of it)! Calendar missing because my husband was borrowing it to make sure he and I were on same page for the next few weekends.

  • I learned from my sister to keep everything in pouches for easy switching of bags and organization of tiny items.The aqua pouch (a freebie from an Estee Lauder gift with purchase) is for cosmetics, the leopard faux fur (bought at Arden B in the late ’90s) is for my “emergency kit.”  
  • The sunglass case carries my silver aviators from Ray-Ban – classic, lightweight, my regular go-to shades.  
  • The black box with the teardrop on it are my business cards – I got them from MOO and the box has little dividers so in there I can store my mini cards, my full-size cards, and my “real job” cards.  I also have a place to store cards I collect from networking events.
  • I always carry two memory cards – when my husband takes my picture in the morning I hand him one, he takes the pics, gives it back to me and I edit photos on my lunch hour at work.
  • Eclipse gum – it was on sale at the grocery store and I have a dozen of these packets everywhere.  I like that they can’t fall out of the case and get all grody on the bottom of my bag.
  • Two retractable pens so they don’t ink up the inside of my bag
  • SmarTrip card – a given if you live in the DC area.
  • A notepad to capture ideas, SKU numbers so I can go online and find it cheaper, and random ideas.  I have had this same notepad for years and love going through it and remembering different moments in the past.
  • My wallet – you can see the inside of it at this post.
  • Keys – I used to have a bigger keyring, complete with a flash drive but recently simplified.  House, car, office.  The rest are stored at home.
  • Camera and phone.  A given.
  • Not seen – my snack.  I usually carry a 100-calorie pack of almonds or a Weight Watchers bar in my bag to I don’t succumb to a high-fat treat in a moment of weakness, but had yet to replace from eating the last one a couple days prior.

The contents of the leopard pouch – hair thingies when I can’t take it any longer, a Tide-to-Go pen because I am always spilling on myself, contacts rewetting drops, Bliss Spa lotion (this has a smell that doesn’t make me want to gag), a lighter (I don’t smoke but back from my wedding coordinator days I carry one because there always seems to be a situation where one can be useful), BodyGlide (for days when my shoes or thighs are rubbing), Sephora comb (the BEST! My sister got this for me one year for Christmas and it doesn’t cause static like other plastic combs.), face wipes (they also take off makeup, and have even taken stains off clothes in a pinch), crayons (have toddler, will entertain).  I usually have a few quarters in here as well in case of an unexpected parking meter.

My cosmetics pouch, which is in need of replacement – Urban Decay De-Slick (for oil slicks without too much makeup), Philosophy The Supernatural in Beige (for long days as a makeup refresher – goes over other makeup without looking cakey), Colgate Wisps (I keep a toothbrush and paste in my office, but when out and can’t brush I always have a couple of these in my bag), Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Rose (works as a blush in a pinch), two Smashbox lip glosses (one bright pinkish red – Tease, one shimmery sheer pink – Radiant), black Avon eye pencil, DiorShow black mascara, Tarte Indellible Wink in black (black shadow on one side, liquid liner on the other).  With this kit, I can redo my face before an after-work event, freshen up my face mid-day, or easily take a day look and glam it up for evening.

***

Not too exciting.  I keep my purse pretty simple and organized, even more so now that I have a child.  With Emerson I often also carry a wetbag with some cloth wipes and a diaper in case of emergencies, a sippy cup, a couple toys, maybe a pair of mittens.  It’s far easier to keep her stuff separate from mine by having all my stuff compartmentalized. On a work day, I may also add a book, a small travel umbrella, and my travel mug after consuming my coffee (I put a page from the newspaper in it to keep it from leaking and then can compost or recycle the paper at the end of the day)

How do you keep your bag organized?  If you have a post about the contents of your bag, be sure to link to it in the comments!

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What’s In My Bag: Forecastle Edition

This is the second in a series about my experience at the Forecastle Music Festival. I already wrote about what I wore, I will also be writing a festival recap.

For my first Bonnaroo, I purchased the Kelty “Tecate” hydration pack. I wanted something small that would fit pretty much between my shoulder blades, and this did the trick. Problem is, once the bag has a full bladder of water, there’s not much room to hold anything else. Over time, I have switched to attaching a Camelbak reusable bottle to the bag’s strap with a carabineer – this makes it easy to refill, I can take a sip without detaching the bottle, and I have plenty of backpack space for festival necessities.

Since 2007, this bag has attended four Bonnaroos, a trip to Vermont, various hikes around the region, a few smaller local festivals and now Forecastle. My husband says it’s bad luck to wash your hydration backpack; I have only washed it once when a bottle of bug spray exploded in it. It was fun to pull it out of the closet and see it still coated in Tennessee dust from Bonnaroo 2011. The buttons I have gathered from different festivals – I lost two since last Bonnaroo and will have to get some new good ones soon!

This year my husband and I said we were “festing like a boss.” Over time we have learned what is a necessity, and what is superfluous; what will increase our comfort level without leaving us burdened with a heavy bag. Never during the festival did I feel I lacked for anything, and had many people wanting to try out our chairs!

What’s in my Bag:

  • Packable poncho. My sister got this one for me several years ago from Bed Bath and Beyond; it’s fun to have a change from the typical blue, yellow, or clear ponchos and it’s a ripstop fabric that has held up nicely over the years.
  • Alite chair. This thing is totally awesome. It’s the size of a Camelbak reusable bottle and not only fit in my Kelty bag, but also the J. Crew tote I carried the first night. Not too tall to piss off those in the field behind you, but tall enough to keep you out of the mud and dirt; you can also recline in it for a very comfy outdoor concert experience!
  • Sunglass case. I wore my sunglasses until sunset, but didn’t want to get them scratched or lost. Ray Ban makes a nice slimline case that makes it easy to fit in the bag. I also had the cleaning cloth tucked in it.
  • Saline solution. I used to carry moisturizing eye drops, but usually I just need something to wash funk out of my contacts or rehydrate if it has been a long day. I have found that saline solution does it better.
  • Barrettes and elastics. I start the day with hair down, but if it gets too hot, too sweaty, too whatever it’s nice to be prepared. I usually do a messy updo and clip back my bangs, but I always want extras in case I lose or break one, or if a fellow attendee is in need.
  • Safety pins. I even take a couple diaper pins which could secure heavier fabrics or even hang things from my backpack.
  • Pen and Sharpie. Pen to jot things down or share info with new friends, Sharpie in case I meet an artist and want their autograph.
  • Plain lip balm. With SPF.
  • Tinted lip balm. Give the sweaty bare face a hint of color.
  • Philosophy mineral foundation. This is only there in case I get a chance to say, meet a musician and get a photo op, go backstage, end up leaving and going to a place where a sweaty bare face may be a bit much. It can go on sans mirror and look like me, just a bit more polished and it doesn’t itch or drip when I sweat.
  • Gum. One pack of minty, one pack fruity. A day in the heat, drinking a lot of water and the occasional beer can leave a gross feeling and taste in your mouth. Gum is amazing, and you can make a ton of friends by offering gum to those around you!
  • Business cards. To share contact information with new friends.
  • Face sunscreen. Small so it fits in the bag, dry so it will go on the face and stay there. One in our group will carry a can of spray sunscreen for all of us for the day.
  • Comb. My sister got this one for me from Sephora and I adore it.
  • Non-essential wallet stuff. On my person will be my ID, cash, and credit card. However, in my bag I will have things such as my insurance card or fan club membership card and festival schedule.

Not seen: carabineer holding my Camelbak water bottle

And here’s how everything fits in the bag. There’s still room to fit a can of sunscreen, a bandanna, a snack. There’s bungees on the back so I can attach a tee shirt if I buy one, or even strap my empty water bottle back there (I tuck the base in the mesh pocket to keep it from jangling around). Sometimes I take a waterproof blanket or groundcloth instead of a chair; for that I usually bungee it to the outside of the pack. If I know I will be using grody porta-potties I will have a sandwich bag of Clorox wipes and one of toilet paper.  If it’s a more rural festival, I will also pack a headlamp.

Wearing my backpack with Camelbak bottle attached – hands free to dance… or enjoy a beer!

My husband says I look like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle with my “shell” on my back, but it’s very comfortable, doesn’t dig into my shoulders, nicely disperses the weight, and I can dance without having to put my stuff on the ground.

I know many may find this to be excessive; I see many a festival attendee having a great time with just that which is in their pockets or a small crossbody bag. And it’s true, you can have a blast without all these creature comforts. I personally like to have these creature comforts so I can better enjoy the shows and not have to spend unexpected cash on things like disposable ponchos or bottles of water. It works for me, and it helped me have a fantastic time at Forecastle!

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What’s In My Bag? Clutch Edition

Yesterday I carried a clutch to work and a reader emailed me asking,

How can you carry such a small bag to work? My work bag is almost the size of a suitcase to hold all I need, and yesterday there was a chance of rain in DC. I’d love to see what is in your clutch and smaller bags so I can see how I can pare down my own work bag. Thanks Allie!

Yesterday I carried this bag:

And here are the contents:

  • Sunglasses (not in case which I don’t recommend on a regular basis)
  • Comb
  • Keys
  • SolarOil for my cuticles (trying to stop chewing them, and this helps keep them soft and less pick-able)
  • Umbrella
  • Urban Decay De-Slick powder
  • Engagement calendar with address book
  • Two phones (work and personal)
  • Retractable ball-point pen

In the pockets I have:

  • SmarTrip card
  • Check card, emergency credit card, driver’s license, insurance and AAA cards, cash
  • Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm in Rose (the lip color I wore yesterday)
  • Kohl eye pencil (what I wore yesterday)
  • Tide-to-Go pen
  • One Kleenex 
  • Camera memory card

So while it doesn’t hold all my regular purse contents, it’s everything I need for a day away from home!

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What’s In My Bag? (and what is in yours?)

I shared the contents of my purse a few months ago and since have realized the post took at a very minimalist point of my life. 2012 has been extremely busy, many days where I would be away from the home for 12 hours or more, traveling to three different locations without being able to stop home. Because of that, my purse contents have grown.

Today I am carrying my yellow leather tote from Nordstrom (last seen here). I love this bag because it’s more polished looking than a reusable tote, but can carry just as much. Along with all these contents, I also had a frozen meal and a return to Ann Taylor tucked in here, and could still fit the bag comfortably over my shoulder. I highly recommend Nordstrom brand bags – they are well made, stylish without being trendy, free of logos, and very reasonably priced (I got this one on clearance).

The contents of my bag:

I used to carry crayons for Emerson, but they got really grody over time. Lately she has been so creative, she can make a toy out of the most random things; I can give her a napkin and a pen and she has a blast.  However, you can usually find a small toy or action figure deep in the bottom of most of my purses.  My Metro SmarTrip card is in my jacket pocket, or else it would be in that front pocket with my keys!

So what’s in your purse?  I’d love to see – if you decide to do a blog post or Twitter pic sharing the contents of your bag, come back here and leave a link in the comments!

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Inside Our Home: Our Kitchen

Next in the series of posts about our home is my favorite room in the house – the kitchen! To fully understand my love for this room, you have to see the “before” pictures of it:

When we did our home remodel at the end of 2008, not only did we add to the back of the house to create a living room and master suite upstairs, but we added five feet off the front to have a main-floor half-bath and extend the kitchen. As a reminder, the original house was just over 700 square feet so the kitchen was teensy. So teensy that the stove only had one large burner and I could never find a cookie sheet to fit in the oven. So teensy that when the refrigerator died a month after moving in, we had to custom order one small enough to fit in its place. When the old dishwasher died, we would have had to custom order it so we just used it as a dish drainer.  Not only was it teensy, it was cheap. Peeling laminate counters, pressed-wood cabinets that were sagging and pulling from the walls… I could go on and on. It all just made me love the remodel even more.

The new kitchen makes our house a home. I saw this in a boutique in Rehoboth Beach in 2009 and had to get it for our “new” home.  Little did I know that this “unique” sign was mass-produced and now every single townhouse in America has one like it, but at the time I saw this sign as a proper and unique representation of how our house had developed with our family.

The bulkhead shows where the house used to end. Emerson’s Rody keeps watch at the front window while looking tres festive.

Just five additional feet meant a full-size range, a full-size refrigerator, and a reasonable amount of counter space. We put the most thought into the kitchen – we researched appliances, cabinetry, and drafted up layouts multiple times.  The cabinets were an overstock – not our original choice but such a great deal (and now we ADORE them).  The floor was a must for me – my husband wanted to do something cheaper, we compromised, but then our contractor scored the very same tile I lusted after at a great price (it sometimes pays to have a small kitchen).  By purchasing our appliances through the company that provided the cabinetry (and the bamboo flooring we have in the bedroom and throughout the downstairs – also an overstock), we saved a lot of money.

Oh to no longer deal with drip pans on electric burners, to have a dishwasher that works, and a built-in microwave so the entire counter isn’t lost?  Heaven!

The paint was a sticking point for me.  I picked this color out before I was on full maternity bedrest.  We went to Home Depot and I decided I wanted a deep shade of berry, I could just imagine it with wood, brushed stainless, and the floor tile.  My husband thought it too crazy and wanted a cadet blue.  The contractor also found me crazy, and the painter found me annoying because I made them paint the room almost a dozen times to get the really deep hue I desired.  But it’s totally worth it – I have yet to tire of the color, and as soon as you walk in the house you see this amazing color.  I think it really fits our personality, and yes now my husband too loves the color!

I love our extra-deep sink.  And this kitchen comes with a garbage disposal!  So very 21st century!  You can see when we finished the kitchen, we still used paper towels – the paper towel holder is now a nice towel bar for our reusable dish towels (we keep a basket in the nearby half bath/laundry room for cleaning rags).  We also use reusable sponges (can find great ones on Etsy), and make our own foaming hand wash from a combination of Dr. Bronner’s and water.

When we moved into our house in 1999, I bought these canisters from Williams-Sonoma as a housewarming present for myself.  You can see my tastes in kitchen decor haven’t changed much in the past decade.  They hold regular flour, steel cut oats, and brown rice.

It’s amazing to have this much counter space! The French press is a recent addition to the home – a Christmas gift to my husband from my mom to replace our old press which was getting wonky. The Le Creuset artichoke holds sugar. Have to have music – we have iPod speakers in many rooms of the house so we can carry our music everywhere. The knife block is Henkels for Target, but there’s a real random variety of knives now residing in it. Most of our cutting boards were in the dishwasher at the time of this photo – the ones we use most often are bright colors like lime, orange, and turquoise.

The other housewarming gift I bought myself back in ’99 was this same Le Creuset teakettle in yellow.  Back then, I wanted a sunny yellow, blue and white kitchen and slowly collected a lot of yellow accessories.  That teakettle had an untimely death – I forgot about it, it boiled all the water out and melted the bottom.  By then, I was on a green kick (pretty clear from the kitchen I am still on that kick) and got a lime replacement.

Two years ago, our toaster kicked the bucket and I got this toaster oven for only $25 on Overstock.  We love it – we use it a lot so we don’t have to use a ton of energy to heat up the full-sized oven.  The coffee and tea pots belonged to my husband’s paternal grandparents – we use the teapot regularly.  And you can see Emerson’s bottle drying rack hasn’t gone to waste once she stopped drinking milk – we use it to dry her sippy cups and our travel mugs and Camelbaks.

Okay, finished with the pretty pictures – now to the nitty gritty and not so pretty.  We love our kitchen, and we use it a lot.  Here’s how we organize it (or attempt to organize it).  Starting with the cabinets closet to the window (the ones above and below the toaster oven):

The top cabinet.  You’ll soon see a pattern – things I use are on the bottom shelf, things my husband uses or I rarely use are higher up.  Bottom shelf are sippy cups and travel mugs, higher up are baking tools.

The drawer below the counter keeps a hodgepodge of spices, powder mixes, and leftover sauces from Chinese take-out. Probably not the best place (right next to and below a heating element) but we’re working with limited space.

The bottom cabinet holds our appliances and most of our cookware (we store cookie sheets in the oven, and the really large cookware in the drawer below the oven).

This cabinet is directly to the right of the microwave.  Bottom shelf holds our cooking essentials, while the top shelves hold baking supplies, coffee and tea.

First drawer below the counter holds our silverware and most-used utensils.

The next drawer holds bulkier utensils, tools we don’t use as often, measuring cups, and most of our dish towel collection.

The bottom drawer holds our reusable food storage containers.  We’d like to switch to glass, but it’s pretty pricey and not in our budget.  I found the idea of containers in a drawer so strange, but my husband was raised with a drawer for them and we have never had enough cabinet space to stack them on shelves.

Under the sink is typical under the sink stuff.  Above the sink are these five little drawers and a glass door that opens up.  My husband chose these details for the kitchen and I thought they were both really goofy; now I love them.  Obviously we use the glass cabinet as our liquor cabinet (also stores our olive oil which is too tall for the other cabinet); the little drawers hold things like beer cozies, toothpicks, drinking straws, and wine stoppers.

And here is where we keep all our plates and glasses.  Again, a few are in the dishwasher.  Our glasses are these from Williams-Sonoma – my cousin got them for us for our wedding.  The small square bowls are Crate and Barrel, the round ones are Anthropologie.  The plates are a mix – the dark ones are these from Crate and Barrel – they were on our wedding registry and while they are beautiful we hate them.  We recently inherited a gray stoneware set from my husband’s paternal grandparents that are far more our style – they have a navy brushwork pattern on them.  I think I’ll sell the C&B plates on Craigslist – I know many people love them and may need a few cheaply-priced plates or bowls to finish their collections.

The drawer below the counter is our junk drawer – pens, scissors, business cards, rubber bands, that sort of thing.  Below that is our trash can – this was a biggie for us with the remodel.  Ruckus used to be able to knock over and open any sort of trash can we ever got and this “trash drawer” is completely Ruckus-proof.  We use regular grocery bags for our trash – we compost so we really don’t have a ton of trash – maybe two or three bags max per week.  The grocery bags fit perfectly in the plastic can in the drawer.

And then we have the refrigerator.  The cabinet above it holds things like serving bowls and vases and lunch bags.  I was so happy to be able to get a brushed stainless fridge that was able to hold magnets – we have a pretty big collection of them and it makes our kitchen look more like us and less like a model home.  Your typical collection of baby announcements, family photographs, and receipts.  The white door is our pantry.  The pantry opening is very shallow and just has shallow shelves holding canned goods and pasta; below the shelves we store dog food and unopened bottles of wine.  The pantry then leads to a deep short space below the stairs – in there we store cans of paint, gardening tools, camping equipment, and a bin to collect cardboard and paper for recycling.  We use the slatted door to display birthday and holiday cards – usually I display Christmas cards in the living room but this year I was lazy so they ended up here!

That mishmosh to the right of the pantry has been part of our kitchen from the get-go.  It’s a dinner bell that my husband inherited.  After his first marathon, he slung his medal around it and the rest is history.  The “bar” is pretty much a catchall for keys, wallets, baby monitors and the day’s mail.

And that, my friends, is my kitchen!  All the nooks and crannies, the less-than-exciting parts (which I personally love to see myself which is why I shared), and the fun parts.  My happy purple and green favorite room in our home!

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Inside Our Home: Our Hallway

Our house was built in the 1940s; three years ago we decided to stay put and build an addition instead of moving to a larger home. The original home was a bit over 700 square feet – the size of a basic two-bedroom apartment but on two floors. After the remodel we are now around 1,400 square feet. One of the best parts of the remodel was the opening of the hallway. Originally where the banister is, we had a solid wall. That wall housed our entertainment center for the living room – now it opens to our dining room.

 

While this remodel was taking place, I was on bedrest for my pregnancy. Paint colors were chosen by my husband collecting a few paint swatches from Home Depot and asking me to pick which one I liked best. One color that I liked better in the swatch than in real life was the color for the hallway. I thought this color would be darker, but over time it has grown on me. If the bathroom and Emerson’s room doors are closed, the hallway can be quite dark; the light color opens it up.

Before the remodel we were so frustrated with the stair risers. When we moved in, they were dingy white and covered with globs of glue from having stained carpet removed. We tried painting them white but they still looked dreadful. I then tried to be creative and painted them French blue, which was just as horrible. I then painted them over with red, which was fun, but still not right. One of the best parts of the remodel was that they sanded them down, properly painted the risers, and refinished the oak stairs. I would like a runner, but don’t want basic beige Berber or an Oriental look and most runners I see are either out of my price range or not our style. Until I find the right thing, they stay bare.

 

As soon as we had the hallway redone, I knew I wanted to do a collage of frames along the wall. My husband’s dad died during the remodel and I wanted to display some great pictures of him, along with other great pictures of our family.

 

 

My cousin Arielle took this picture one summer and I just loved it so much I had it blown up and framed.  She totally captured the chubby cheeks and arms of that age, and how curious and newly mobile she was (she was examining a Slip N Slide at the time of the photo).

 

 

Me and my sister as kids, my husband as a baby, me and my husband with the groomsmen from our wedding making silly faces, a member of Kings of Leon (no not really, it’s my father-in-law but I think he would fit in the band perfectly!).

 

 

My husband and his dad, me throwing a temper tantrum as a toddler, my husband’s maternal grandfather (picture taken by my father-in-law).

 

 

We don’t have many wedding photos up, just the two in this hallway.  This is right after we were declared husband and wife, one of the only pics of the event where we were together.  Funny how a wedding is about the union of two people, but you get so busy greeting family and friends you often don’t see one another except at the ceremony, first dance, toast, and cake cutting!  I guess that’s what the honeymoon is for…

***

As you can see, I never finished this hallway project. In our home office I have a stack of black frames – ones I buy on clearance at Marshalls and Target or pick up when I stop by IKEA. I just haven’t had the time to pick the photos and put them up in the right place. Maybe this post will inspire me to finish!

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Inside Our Home – Our Bedroom

Many moons ago I said I would be featuring photos of my home. And then work got busy, my life got busy, and a tree fell through our bedroom. Well finally we got the bedroom back in order, and I captured a few images of it to share with you. This room is still a work in progress – we have more art we want on the walls, are in search of the perfect rug to fit the space, and still need to go through all the boxes under the bed that we inherited when my husband’s dad passed away. Even so, this is my favorite room in the house:

I bought this bed from IKEA in 1998 when I left college; I have been toying with painting it another color but can’t decide what shade.  The dresser on the left is from Hood College – when they replaced their dorm furniture my husband’s grandfather (who was a professor there) grabbed it; when my husband’s parents divorced my father in law got this chest for his new home’s bedroom. It was his bedside table for the almost 20 years he lived alone, when he passed away my husband took it for his nightstand.  My nightstand was my husband’s bureau from his childhood bedroom.  Curtains are from Target – we had this room created and painted while I was on bedrest for pregnancy; I bought the curtains on clearance online hoping they would be a gray that would complement the wallcolor, I couldn’t believe they were an exact match!

The cedar chest has been in my mom’s family for a long time; it stores my husband’s sweaters.  The quilt is from Overstock.  The two paintings on the wall are of my husband and his father, painted by his grandfather in the ’80s.

My nightstand – I always have a bottle of water, a couple of journals to write my random thoughts, and a book (I have been trying to get through Eating Animals for what feels like a lifetime – I won’t replace it from the nightstand until it is finished!).  The picture in the silver frame is one of my favorites of me and my husband – we even used it as the photo on the water bottles we passed out at our wedding!  Under it is a jewelry box that belonged to my husband’s grandmother.  The books next to it are old diaries of mine and Emerson’s baby book – by keeping it near the bed I remember to fill it out every so often.  The photo cube was a gift from an old coworker, the picture showing is of me and my dad at my high school graduation.  My cousin made the stained glass pencil holder, and the teddy bear is “Tina,” my teddy from childhood.  The framed record?  That’s my dad and his first wife on the cover – his friend was the photographer and needed models… some props and a red filter later and two Jews from Brooklyn became gypsies!

My husband’s nightstand – he’s always in the middle of 50 different books.  Right now he’s obsessing over The Devil in the White City, which was recommended by a neighbor.  The reading lamp belonged to his father.  The lampshades are from the Liberty of London for Target collection – I bought them back when the whole room was in shades of blue and gray.  I loved them so much I started decorating around them!

When we inherited many of the contents of my father in law’s house, we got his record collection.  Eight of these are ones from his collection that my husband remembers listening to (and loving) as a kid; the one in the lower left corner is Peter Frampton – my husband saw him in concert a couple years ago and was able to meet him and get his signature on the album.

The duvet and shams are from Marimekko for Crate and Barrel, the print body pillows and red sheets are from Target, the paisley pillowcase is from Lands End – we have the whole set (back from the original color scheme of the bedroom).

My dressing table is the bureau mirror and the desk from my husband’s childhood bedroom.  The bench is from the Shabby Chic collection from Target, the lamp is also from Target (both must be at least a decade old).

My dressing table is my little domain – my perfumes, my makeup (in the drawer organized in boxes), all my brushes in a coffee mug from my sorority days, pictures that mean a lot to me (framed picture of me and my sister as kids and me with my mom on our cruise to Bermuda in ’98, and then a photo of my husband the summer before I met him – reminds me of when we were high school kids).  I also have a vase full of perfume samples – when I was in high school we visited a family friend who had a fishbowl full of them in her hallway bath – I was inspired and have been casually collecting since.  Not sure what to do with them yet, but figure when I have amassed quite the collection I will do something crafty and fabulous!

The top of my husband’s dresser.  The glass bottles and the leather box belonged to my dad, the box still contains some of my dad’s cufflinks, tie tacks, and coins from trips to foreign countries.  The lacquer box was a gift from a friend who was stationed overseas.  The small Buddha statue I made in Sunday school back as a preteen – it has been through quite a lot, you can see it has had its head break off numerous times; I still find it to be good luck.  Tucked in the mirror is my husband’s really dreadful fake ID from high school – I found it while cleaning out his dad’s house and it just cracks me up so much!  The photos to the left are of my husband, and then me and my sister.  The picture in the frame is from our friend’s rehearsal dinner – we found out the next morning that we were pregnant.  It’s the last picture taken of us before we became a family and a great memory of an amazing time in our life.

This bookcase is the top of a hutch we inherited from my father in law – we have the bottom part in the living room as our entertainment center.  I don’t really like it in here, but am not sure where to put it elsewhere in the house.  As you can see, this has really become a catchall of randomness – books too tall for the bookcases in the living room and office, photos yet to be placed in albums (which is pretty much the past three years), CDs that we never listen to but can’t bear to get rid of, cigar boxes filled with odds and ends and change.  The statue my husband got me as a gift when he was in St. Maarten, the cameras we inherited from my father in law who was a photographer.

The frames behind everything on top of the bookcase used to hang in our old bedroom but they look weird in this larger space – the one behind the cameras are pictures of me and my husband in front of the Eiffel Tower in 1999, the one in the center has pictures of me with my mom and sister in Italy, the one on the far left are three pictures of my husband in front of Niagara Falls from our three trips there over the past two decades.

The chair… it is the BEST Freecycle score!  It’s the IKEA EKTORP chair and storage ottoman, we got it with shrinkwrap still on it, as well as two more  slipcovers.  When we went to pick up the chair, my husband commented on the woman’s new composters sitting next to her garage – she said she was going to Freecycle them as well so we took them!  I am forever in debt to the Freecycle Gods for these scores, and regularly give back to the Freecycle community.

A view from the back wall of the room to the entrance to the master bedroom.  The door to the left is the master bathroom, the door to the right is our closet.  You can see my jewelry armoire, above it is a shadow frame of our wedding invitation with flowers from the day – my best friend made it for us.  The two framed images next to the door are sand art that my father in law got when he was on a trip to New Mexico – one was a gift for us, the other was his that we inherited.

The view from the main windows (we have two on the back wall and one to the right of the dressing table).  If you sit in the chair you can see a view of beautiful treetops, from the bed you can see the sun rise through the trees.  The stained glass I made back in college.  The glass horse is one of two bookends from my husband’s childhood home (there is one on each sill).

There is still much work to do on this room – we have a huge painting from my husband’s grandfather that we need to pick up from his house – we plan to put it over the chair.  We have many concert posters we want to frame and hang up as well.  Slowly we are feathering our nest!

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Inside Our Home: New Bedroom Lamps

Almost a decade ago I complimented Karl’s Grandma on her living room lamps; I never thought she’d remember and gift me with them. Since that compliment, Karl’s grandparents moved from their home to an assisted living facility. Last year Grandpa passed away and Grandma moved into a smaller apartment. This year Grandma has had some health issues and moved into a different room that didn’t have space for the lamps. Grandma remembered how much I liked the lamps and gave them to us.

Our old bedroom lamps were… fine (you can see them here). The bases were brushed silver, a Target special we bought 12 years ago when we moved in the house. The old lampshades were from the Liberty for Target collection and while I ADORE them, one had broken and was being held together with binder clips. One of the old bedside lamps is now in the office in place of the old desk lamp (which used to be on my dressing table and has now returned to that location), the other base up in the attic for possible future use. I love how these new lamps are very tall and solid, making the airy bedroom look more grounded. We like how the lampshades give such a warm glow to the room.

While they’re beautiful looking lamps, they’re so special because they represent my relationship with Karl’s Grandma.  We didn’t really start off as best friends, but over the years we have gotten close. I love Grandma, and I love that her lamps are now in our bedroom and a daily reminder of the fabulous woman she is.

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Inside our Home – Main Floor Half Bath

It sounds strange, but one of my favorite rooms in our home is the half bath on the main floor. Before the remodel, we only had one bathroom; I begged to have a half bath on the main floor so we could keep our personal bathroom private, and have one for guests to use.  I also was adamant that the bathroom be orange.  Not pumpkin, not coral, not rust. Orange.  While this gave our contractors heartburn, my husband loved the idea and we have yet to tire of it.  The room is cheery, airy, fun, and so very us.

When we completed our house remodel in 2008, we added five feet to the front of the house.  This extended the kitchen (seen here), and also gave us room to make a bathroom on the main floor.  Previously, we had accordion doors in the dining room which hid our washer, dryer, and hot water heater.  We flipped all those appliances around so the closet for them would now be in the new bathroom, making it also our laundry room.  The location is perfect since it’s right at the front door and across from the kitchen, making it easy to wash up after playing or gardening outside, switching a load of laundry while cooking dinner, or tossing dirty napkins and dishtowels into the empty washer.

The sink, cabinetry, and light fixture are from IKEA – I desired very clean, simple lines that would be kid-friendly and provided a ton of storage.  I also wanted a really big sink so I could soak stained clothing or clean hand washables.  IKEA isn’t the best quality, but the pieces have held up and are easy to clean.  I also love that there is space under the cabinet – while it can collect dust bunnies and dog kibble, it’s also where I store my hand weights for those times when I am inspired to whip out an exercise DVD.

The trash can is from Target – it was the kitchen trash can in the old house and we always found it to be an awkward size.  It fits perfectly in this corner of the bathroom, and is small enough that we can use old grocery bags as the trash bags.

The floor is industrial-grade linoleum.  Budget-friendly, durable, comfortable, and doesn’t look like your grandma’s kitchen floor.  Seriously, even people who are standing on the floor are surprised when we tell them it’s linoleum and not tile.

And heck, I’d want to know what reading material is in another’s bathroom so I’ll share it with you.  No fashion magazines because Bazaar is upstairs and the others I finished and passed on to others.  Since the time of this photo, the latest issue of Elle is now residing in here.

On top of the medicine cabinet are two blue glass bottles my father-in-law gave me.  He attended a flea market on one of his travels and felt they looked like something I would like.  He was right!

This little shelf was a big reason why I chose this medicine cabinet.  Then I got home and realized how very small it is and how few things we owned that looked right in the space.  We started using it as a place to display cool rocks and shells we find on our travels.  Now that Emerson is old enough, she contributes to the collection (the biggest rock to the left is one she picked out on our trip last summer to Vermont).

We make our own foaming hand soap with one part Dr. Bronner’s to 10 parts water.  We just keep reusing these Method bottles, and give them a trip in the washing machine from time to time to keep them fresh.  It saves money, and reduces waste.

To the right of the bathroom door is our rag bin.  In here are old towels, dish cloths, cloth diapers, and cut-up receiving blankets and tee shirts that we use for cleaning around the house.  They work better than paper towels, are reusable, and easy.

This painting is by our neighbor and friend Barbara Stevens.  She had an art exhibit at a local cafe and my husband and I were both drawn to this painting.  A few weeks ago she gave it to us as a gift.  Some may find it strange to have such a painting in your bathroom, but I love how it looks against the orange walls, this is the sunniest room in the house, and a place where all visitors will be able to see and enjoy it.

I have had this poster of Georgia O’Keeffe since at least college, if not earlier.  O’Keeffe is one of my favorite artists, I wrote many papers about her in high school and college.  My husband once joked that Georgia O’Keeffe was my spirit animal.  I love this photo, showing how badass she was, not letting age hold her back from fun experiences.

The bathroom window is right at eye level at the front step so it needs some sort of privacy shade.  Problem is, traditional blinds would block the sun and that is one of the most appealing parts of this room.  The window is an unusual size, so we couldn’t find off-the-shelf plantation shutters to fit.  These are the ones from the old kitchen window, but they are a bit short for men standing at the toilet.  One day my husband was putting Emerson’s window crayons away and became inspired.  He did this crazy rainbow pattern on the windows and it has remained ever since.  Eventually we will have custom-made plantation shutters, but the rainbow is quite the conversation starter!

Hrm, looks as though a little potty training person lives in this house!  These are the doors to the laundry closet.  I was super budget conscious during the remodel, and freaked when I saw new doors up in this bathroom – where were the old, perfectly good ones?  The contractor had these leftover from a previous project so they were free.  And while the old ones were perfectly good, these were perfectly new and shiny and made of real wood!  And because I know you like to see what is inside closets…

The utterly glamorous inside of the laundry closet.  The washer came with the house, the dryer we bought a year after moving in.  We keep meaning to organize the closet with shelves and storage containers, but have yet to get around to it.  So instead we have a mishmosh of dog leashes, bike equipment, driveway chalk, hats, and such.  Emerson’s sand pails come in handy – one holds gloves, the other holds dryer lint (we add it to the compost).  You can also see our two dusty rolls of paper towels – both are three years old.  We never use paper towel, but when people dogsit we bring it out in case of accidents and because it seems to wig people out to wipe their muddy paws on an old towel.

Here’s all the cleaning supplies in the house.  Seriously.  There’s nothing we can’t get sterile and sparkling with a combo of white vinegar, Dr. Bronner’s, oxygen bleach and baking soda.  I’m a big fan of Biokleen products, which smell amazing, are reasonably priced, and seem to always be on sale at Drugstore.com (and if you use Ebates you get 6-12% cash back on your order!).  The Biokleeen spray bottle in front is just a vinegar solution we use to wipe down counters and mirrors.  Biokleen’s Bac-Out takes care of pet accidents and tough stains and smells with ease.  And Dawn liquid with peroxide is the BEST stain removal (see recipe here).

I didn’t show the contents of the under-sink cabinet or medicine cabinet because they are pretty standard.  Benadryl, Band-Aids, lightbulbs, cleaning buckets, extra toilet paper and hand towels.

And that’s it! Small, but bright and sunny and very much us!

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Not Fashion Related: Creating a Bug Out Bag

So the world didn’t end on December 21st. I never thought it would, but all the hype did get me thinking about the future. While I do think my family and I have a good plan for hurricanes and natural disasters, we never had prepared Bug Out Bags (also known as Go Bags). A Bug Out Bag is a bag you have prepped that will take care of you if you have to leave your house without notice and get by sans creature comforts for three days or so. This could be for a zombie apocalypse, alien takeover, Mayan apocalypse… just kidding, it’s for situations you don’t even want to imagine but could happen. Even FEMA suggests that everyone have a bag at the ready to get out of Dodge just in case. So this past month, I created Bug Out Bags for my family.

If you Google Bug Out Bag or Go Bag you will find a kazillion ideas on what is necessary in such a bag; each person’s needs are different and your needs will vary based upon your climate, family, health, and personal needs. In fact, Googling such a topic may freak you out a bit – there’s some major doomsday preppers out there and their “necessities” may be scary and/or overwhelming. I see a Bug Out Bag as less something to protect me on the Oregon Trail or from an alien takeover and more something to keep me and my family safe and healthy during a disaster until we have a safe and healthy place to rest.

I honestly don’t see what the harm is in preparing for a disaster in this way. I’d rather be safe than sorry, especially now that I have a human life for which I am responsible. We have stored our Bug Out Bags where we keep our emergency supplies (which is also where we meet in the house in case of an emergency). Nothing in the bags will expire any time soon nor is needed on a daily basis. Here is an example of what I have in our bags.

Adult Bug Out Bag: While online lists will encourage you to buy a Molle or Alice military backpack, you can honestly use any bag you have around the house. Again, something is better than nothing, and it doesn’t make sense to go into debt for something you hopefully will never need to use.  My bag is a backpack I already owned but never use. You don’t want it so heavy you can’t run or walk long distances in it, and something that will be comfortable when worn for long periods of time. Chest and waist straps will help with comfort and support.  Some things you may want in your bag:

  • Change of clothes (something easy to get on and off, warm if you’re in a cold climate, and something that can dry quickly or handle the elements)
  • Poncho (if you get a sturdy reusable one it can double as a tarp or a makeshift tent)
  • Flashlight (a crank one is great so you don’t have to reply on batteries)
  • Water (at least three liters)
  • Food (Clif bars, bags of tuna, Datrex bars, something that won’t spoil but has lots of energy)
  • Toilet paper
  • N95 Respirator face masks (sounds scary, I know, but I even would have liked these during the dusty years at Bonnaroo)
  • A sleeping bag (get one for backpackers since it will be light and take up less space)
  • Mylar blankets
  • Immodium AD, some pain reliever, and any meds you or your children are on
  • Bandanna
  • Purification tablets for water
  • Swiss Army Knife and/or multitool
  • I have some paracord, heavy-duty diaper pins, duct tape, dental floss, needles and a pair of cuticle scissors to be able to mend and jimmy-rig things if need be
  • Fire starter/waterproof matches
  • First aid kit
  • Waterproof note pad and pen
  • A metal cup or small container (like from a Boy Scout mess kit) to carry food and water and heat if necessary
  • Toothpaste and brush, some sort of soap (I like Dr. Bronner’s because it can be used for body, hair, and even clothes and dishes), feminine care needs, pack of personal wipes, hand santitizer or sanitizing wipes
  • Can opener (these are tiny, cheap, and get the job done)
  • Compass
  • A couple trash bags and Ziploc bags
  • Weather radio (even better if it’s solar or crank-powered so you don’t have to worry about batteries)
  • Phone charger (in case you get to somewhere with electricity; I also have this solar charger but I don’t always keep it in my bag)
  • Emergency whistle

Child Bug Out Bag: If your child is old enough to wear a backpack, he should have his own bag. You want to keep it light and comfortable, and be less about survival and more about a feeling of normalcy in an emergency situation. Emerson has this bag from Deuter, which will also make for a great backpack for school, camping, or everyday. I taught her it is an emergency camping bag; I had her try it on, snapped the chest strap and we ran around the main floor of the house playing chase to see if she could wear it and move quickly yet comfortably. I also had her try the whistle and told her the whistle is when she gets separated from us when camping. She now knows that if we need to go emergency camping, she is to wear this bag, but didn’t get freaked out about the whole process.  Some things good for a kid’s bug out bag:

  • Change of clothes
  • Diapers or pull-ups (if applicable) or toilet paper
  • A small favorite toy or two
  • A paperback book
  • Crayons and coloring book
  • Emergency whistle
  • Small flashlight
  • Water
  • Poncho
  • Food (unlike we adults who understand the importance over flavor, it’s good to have some snacks your kid would like – granola bars, fruit leather, candy that won’t melt, honey sticks, crackers, etc.  If younger, have formula/baby food.)
  • Laminated card with parents’ names, address and phone numbers as well as a couple other contact folks who are further away (relative in neighboring state, family friend in town an hour away)
  • Face mask
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste, little pack of moist wipes/personal cleansing cloths
  • If your child is big enough to carry it, you can add a child’s backpacking sleeping bag


Office Bug In Bag: What if you’re at work in the city when something happens? Do you have what you need to be able to get back home to safety? I know my office is about 17 miles from home and I know two walking routes to get there. I have a bag with these things at the ready in case I need to hoof it out of the city:

  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Compass/map
  • Knife/multitool
  • Poncho
  • Face mask
  • Mylar blanket (while it can keep you warm, it’s reflective and can also be used as a beacon)
  • Water
  • Food
  • Headlamp
  • First aid kit
  • Personal care (hand sanitizer, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Bandanna

There are likely things that are missing and things I would never use if such a situation would occur, but I can sleep a bit better at night knowing that my family is a bit prepared if the worst were to happen.  Many of these things you can find at your local CVS or grocery store or may already be hanging around your home. Many of these things I found on Amazon for ridiculously low prices. I know most Bug Out Bag lists online have far more on them than my list, but I am working with my budget, my ability to carry a bag, and I guess a little bit of hope.  It’s better to have some than none, so create as much of a bag as you can with the funds and supplies you currently have.

Update your bag every few months switching out things that expire, cold weather necessities (gloves, hat, hand warmers) for warm weather ones (sunscreen, bug spray, sun hat), etc. This way you also remember what is in the bag and what you may want to add/remove as your life changes. Remind your family about where to meet in case of an emergency, and the importance of leaving these bags alone so they are always at the ready. It may seem a bit obsessive, but a little preparation now could save you if, in the words of preppers, the SHTF in the future.

UPDATE: I can’t believe I forgot to mention a pet bug-out bag!  We have food, water, and collapsible bowls for Cindy plus a leash; don’t forget that your pets too need sustenance in an emergency!  Thank you all for the reminder!

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Ask Allie: How to Clean a White or Light Leather Bag

I just splurged for a gorgeous cream and beige leather bag. But now I’m wondering, how do I best care for it? I’m almost afraid to take it outside for fear that it would get dirty. Is there a way to treat it so that it lasts longer? And what if I do get a spot on it? Are there any products that I should avoid using on leather?

I have a gorgeous off-white leather bag from Banana Republic, got it for an insanely low price on eBay. A year later I was embarrassed to carry it because it was so dingy and stained, mainly from propping a newspaper on it during my Metro work commute, but also denim dye transfer and a few splashes of coffee. I researched ways to clean it, and if I can offer any advice from my experience, try spot test cleaning the bag now in an inconspicuous spot to see how it reacts so you’re prepared when dirt happens. Below are processes I tried that didn’t ruin the finish of my leather bag:

  • Dish soap diluted in water, gently applied with a soft cloth and quickly blotted dry. This is a good method for occasional cleaning to prevent set-in stains since it’s gentle, easy, and you likely own all you need to do it. Err on the side of too little soap, and the cloth should be slightly damp, not soaking.
  • Spray hair spray and wipe off with a cloth – the hairspray often grabs the stain but not the dye; be sure to wipe off while it’s still damp
  • White Wizard Stain Remover – this stuff is amazing and good to have on hand for all sorts of stains in the closet and around the home
  • Ink stains can come out with a bit of plain white toothpaste and a soft toothbrush (I have a child’s toothbrush just for this); be gentle and try to scrub only the spot because it could affect the finish
  • Equal parts Cream of Tartar and lemon juice (fresh lemon juice seems to be gentler and doesn’t smear as much as bottled) gently rubbed into the stain, left for 10 minutes. Use a rag damp with diluted soap to remove and buff dry with a soft cloth
  • Chamberlain’s Leather Milk – This stuff is gentle and conditions as well as cleans. It’s another great product to have on hand, I’ve used it on our couches, vintage leather coats, boots, and more.

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Blogger Favorite Beauty Buys of 2013: Mixed Bag Edition!

At the end of each year, I share what I found to be the best beauty buys from the past 12 months. Some are new products, some are just new to me. Many of you tell me you find the posts incredibly helpful, and I must say I also find them helpful when I read them on other blogs. This year, I decided to ask my favorite bloggers to share their single favorite beauty product from 2013 and I must say their choices have made my shopping list a mile long! I was honored to have so many bloggers share their faves, I have broken it down into six editions; this one is the lovely women who couldn’t narrow it down to one item.  Be it for the lips, eyes, face, or even fragrance, here’s their top picks:

“I’m a bit of a whore for concealer and my favorite this year by far is Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. It’s super pigmented and stays put so it’s great for undereye circles. Like Marianne (see below), I’m fickle when it comes to makeup but I’ve rebought Maybelline The Colossal Mascara several times this year and it’s definitely become a staple. It’s black-black, holds curl and it’s cheap! Finally, Clinique Almost Lipstick in Chic Honey is my favorite lip product of 2013. This color is a bit of an update on the classic Black Honey, but still sheer and easy to apply in the car without a mirror when you’re running late to work. (Um, not that I do this. Much.)”

“For skin, Kiehl’s Midnight Midnight Recovery Concentrate. It’s not cheap, but a little bit goes a very long way, and a small bottle lasts forever. It smells amazing, and my finicky skin feels like the proverbial baby’s bottom in the morning.

For color, Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Romantic. Your recommendation, obvi, and one of my finds ever. So much impact for so little money – and key for this lazy makeup girl – so little effort. A few swipes (so easy to apply, it’s mirrorless), plus a pat or two of powder, and I go from exhausted mama to grownup.”

- Alison, DC Celine

- Angelica, Clarendon Moms

“My favorite beauty buy is Parachute coconut oil. I am obsessed with what it does for my hair and skin. I have always heard about all the benefits of coconut oil but like everything I assumed it was just a lot of hoopla. I have naturally dry hair and skin (probably because I dont drink enough water) and this has been a life saver.

I also am in love with Pink Sugar Eau de Toilette. I was at the movies a few months ago and this lady sat next to me and I immediately was drawn to the way she smelled. So much so that I just had to ask what she was wearing. She told me about this perfume and I immediately got on the internet and was ordering it. It definitely has a super sweet scent but everyone remarks positively on it.”

- Jennifer, Comme Coco

“I’m a pretty fickle pickle when it comes to beauty products, constantly moving from one favorite to the next, but for 2013 a few products stand out. First of all, my Clarisonic Mia has been a game changer. I almost feel like I wasn’t getting my face completely clean before I started using it. On the makeup front, I switched to a full coverage foundation (Smashbox Studio Skin 15 Hour Wear Foundation) and whoa. It looks natural, stays on ALL day, and I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to tinted moisturizers! Lastly, this year I splurged on the Urban Decay Naked2 Palette and I use it almost every day. I love that I can go from natural to dramatic all in one product, and the colors are rich and lasting.”

“My Favorite Beauty Buy: Kiehl’s Mint Lip Balm. This lip balm is the best remedy for chapped lips and it also smells divine. I wear it all the time. I also use a tiny bit before applying lipstick especially during the winter months.

Lola’s Favorite 2013 Beauty Buy was Kiehl’s Cuddly-Coat Grooming Shampoo. After a luxurious 5-minute bath with this shampoo, Lola feels beautiful and her coat is incredibly soft and shiny.”

- Rosa (and Lola!), Rosa Loves DC

I always say I learn the most from you, readers.  Some of my Holy Grail beauty products are ones you recommended in the comments.  So let me and everyone else know, what were your best skincare buys in 2013?

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What I Wore: Slithering Snake

Jacket: Halogen (similar) | Sweatshirt: c/o CAbi | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Fitzwell (similar) | Necklace: c/o Kristin Biggs, Stella and Dot | Bracelets: Nordstrom (similar), had forever | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in Wine Not | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

CAbi recently contacted me and asked if I’d like to style a few of their pieces. Yes please! I have been a fan of CAbi for a long while since my dear friend Lisa became a consultant for CAbi and introduced me to the line. The clothes fit so well, it always amazes me that my petite curvy frame can rock the same CAbi pieces as my tall slim friend Lisa. I decided to take this opportunity to try a few things that aren’t typically me and asked to try their Dressed Up Sweatshirt. Gotta say I like it! It’s sheer so I have a black cami underneath, but not super sheer that it looks inappropriate at the office. I love the mixed pattern, and am always a sucker for any animal or snakeskin print. I originally imagined this top with their Fleather Skirt (which I also got and adore and will feature soon), but today I was feeling more relaxed and decided to pair it with dark denim.

I can’t recommend eBay for bags enough.  There’s so many people out there who buy and baby bags and then tire of them after a season or so.  I wanted a plain black leather tote that could pack into a suitcase if need be, but look nice enough for work.  I found this one on eBay; the leather is super soft, it’s unfinished inside which makes it light and easy to pack but the straps are thick and sturdy.  Single pocket inside to hold keys and cell phone, structured bottom, straps that fit over a winter coat and a magnetic closure.  All that for $20 and it even came in a dust bag.  If you know a certain brand or even style number/name search eBay before paying retail and you can save big.

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My Head is Too Big to be Hipster: A Warby Parker Review

Once I got new glasses, I wanted more. A pair of red frames to channel my inner Sally Jesse Raphael, a funky blue or green pair to jazz up all-black ensembles, a funky shape to show personality at the office. I had heard a lot of great things about Warby Parker and decided to try a pair of frames from them.

Me in my new glasses – Lafont’s Issy & La collection, the frame is called “Gloss”

Warby Parker Eyewear’s mission is to offer reasonably-priced fashionable frames. On top of that, for every pair of Warby Parkers sold, a new pair is given to someone in need. Warby Parker is also proud to be a carbon-neutral company.

Warby Parker has a try-on program where you can pick five frames and try them on at home. They will ship the glasses to you for free and offer free return postage; I decided to take advantage of this program and see if I could find a new pair of signature prescription frames.

The Warby Parker site is very easy to navigate; click on your gender and then whether you desire optical or sunglass frames. From there you can choose material, color, frame shape, and width. From experience, I know my face is pretty wide, so I stuck to the medium and wide styles of frames. Since I already have a pair of tortoiseshell frames, I stuck to more unusual colors.

The glasses arrived quickly in a sturdy shipping box, and then a lovely navy linen box. Each pair of glasses was in its own compartment, wrapped in plastic and labeled with its name. Each pair of Warby Parker frames has the brand and style name inside on the temple. I found the quality to be stellar, especially for the price. These frames rival the more expensive designer styles I tried at my nearby glasses shop. The return process is simple – peel off the self-adhesive UPS label and drop it in a nearby UPS drop box. I couldn’t be more impressed with Warby Parker and their process… except that my face is too big for them.

Maybe I should have tried men’s frames, but I felt that almost every pair I tried (except for the Bensen, and they just weren’t a style I was looking for) was just a hair too small for my face. I often have this issue not just with glasses, but sunglasses as well. In fact, when I got my new glasses, they were the only ones I liked after trying on about 20 pairs – each other pair seemed just a bit too small for my face shape, even some of the men’s frames I tried.

So if you have a normal to small-sized noggin, I encourage you to try Warby Parker. The Warby Parker at-home program is completely free so you have nothing to risk; if you find a pair you like you can feel good that not only will you look great, but your purchase will also be doing good. As for me, I will have to look elsewhere, my head is just too big to be hipster.

Note: Warby Parker has no idea I am doing this review and I was not compensated in any way for it.  I just decided to try the brand and share my experience with you!

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What I Wore and a Giveaway – Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design

Shirt: c/o Foxcroft | Jeans: Gap | Shoes: Halogen (similar) | Necklace: c/o Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Bag: Brahmin (similar)

Accessories can transform the most basic wardrobe staples and make pieces a cohesive outfit. I just received this necklace from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design and while it is BEGGING to be styled with an LBD for the holidays or worn with a beautiful silk blouse, I thought it could really make a statement with a simple white shirt and dark jeans. I haven’t carried my Brahmin bag in a while, and I thought the bright blue really made the emerald necklace pop!

Giveaway:

If you like this necklace and the other beautiful pieces I have featured from Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design, well today’s your lucky day! One Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to Ruth Barzel Jewelry Design!

Ruth Barzel makes all her unique pieces in the United States and is a local-yokel to me.  Not only that, she’s an awesome human being!  While I love the Emerald Quartz Nugget Statement Necklace I’m wearing here, I also love wearing her Blue Quartz Pendant Necklace and wear her Mixed Metal Chain Bracelet on a weekly basis. Ruth has offered all Wardrobe Oxygen readers 20% off her entire store, just use code OXYGEN20.  This discount will be in effect until the end of November, 2013.

How to Enter:
Please use the Rafflecopter form below to enter. This contest is open to both US and international readers. Contest ends November 30, 2013 at midnight ET.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
As a reminder, if you can’t wait for the giveaway to end and want to get yourself some jewelry from Ruth Barzel, use the code OXYGEN20 at checkout for 20% off your order!

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Monday

Same dress as yesterday, same hair, same makeup! the only change is that I am wearing my silver cuff bracelet and a silver and seagreen glass bead necklace from Target. I also tossed my black Naturalizer flats in my bag because I am joining my company’s Walking Club for 20 minute walks at lunch.

Hair is acting a bit different because I used the Dove conditioner for Darkened hair. Makes the hair very soft to the point of unmanageable. It was a free sample, heading to get my hair cut tonight and will probably buy some new shampoo and conditioner if my bank account will allow it…

What I Wore: Real Red

Dress: Belle c/o Dobbin Clothing | Bag: “Erin” Satchel c/o Fossil | Tights: Nordstrom | Boots: Ros Hommerson  | Bracelets: had forever, Nordstrom (similar) | Watch: Citizen c/o WatchCo | Coat: Via Spiga

Fossil was kind enough to send me this bag and I immediately fell in love with the color. It’s not cherry, it’s not tomato, it’s not ruby or oxblood or any other fancy terms. It’s as clear and true of a red as a crayon. I checked the bag’s label and it’s called Real Red. I like that, no crazy made-up name, just what is exactly is. This bag is pretty phenomenal, and perfect for a commuter like me. Two side zipper pockets to hold things like farecards and lip balm, and inside there is a zipper pocket on one side, and the other side five different pockets to hold anything from a Smartphone or your keys to business cards and a pack of gum. And in this bag I have my wallet, Kindle (did you enter my Kindle giveaway?), makeup bag, myAgenda, sunglasses, gloves, journal, and two reusable containers to hold my lunch. Impressive! The crossbody strap is adjustable to become a shoulderbag, or it can be removed. I know this bag is going to be used quite a lot this season!

I never understand why street style models and bloggers wear their coats on their shoulders like a cape.  How can they move their arms?  Why not just put on the coat?  Then I realized on cold days I do this very thing – I wear the coat like a cape from the house and over my shoulders until Karl gets ready to take pictures.  This way my outfit doesn’t get as rumpled and I’m less likely to mess up my hair.  Karl got this picture of me in the coat at the beginning of the shoot and it showcases the coat I bought last winter on a whim and still adore a year later (and it’s still available at Nordstrom and now on sale!).

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My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Sweater – Vince Camuto (similar)
Skirt – Ann Taylor (similar)
Tights – Nordstrom
Cuff – Gap (similar)
Shoes – Miss Sixty (similar)
Bag – Hobo International “Jude”

Feeling so much better today than I did on Friday, however still not 100%. Getting there!

This weekend was really nice – Saturday evening we went to a neighbor’s house where we adults had dinner and our kids had a blast together. Yesterday, I went to the mall with my sister – I didn’t plan on buying anything, but ended up getting a bangle bracelet, a bag, and a skirt. I find some of the best accessories at the cheapest places – the bangle is big and green and fun and I found it at The Icing; the bag is a small emerald green patent “Kelly” inspired bag with a crossbody strap that was less than $20 at Forever21 – not something I would wear every day, but great for concerts and events when I need a smaller bag (and the color is phenomenal!)

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My Blog, My Choice

No pics today.

My husband took pictures this morning… but I don’t like how they look. Shirt ended up a bit untucked, belt looks better IRL than in a still, and I am a sweaty mess. I guess this is the real Allie, but I don’t feel like sharing it. Every time I have an “off” day (which happens to all mere mortals), it gets plastered on a dozen different forums where people criticize my gut, my cankles, my fivehead saying, “THIS woman is giving fashion advice?” I have been blogging for six years, I am used to criticism, I know it’s a part of being a fashion blogger. However, sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming for anyone, even someone who knows it’s par for the course.

I am the first to say if you choose to put yourself on the internet, you have chosen to have yourself scrutinized. You made this decision to have a public lifestyle, and if you can’t handle the mean comments, the snark, and the criticism, the heat… then get out of the kitchen. But even moi, who has a pretty tough skin, can sometimes want to scream at the computer, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

I have cellulite and wrinkles and flat hair in this humidity. I have a gut, which existed pre-pregnancy and is even more pronounced now that I have had a child and have no time or desire for a zillion crunches a day. Today my hem is held up with a safety pin because I didn’t have time to tackle it with Stitch Witchery, which holds up most of my hems these days. A good percentage of my wardrobe is being held hostage at the dry cleaner’s because I have spent my clothing allowance for the month and can’t afford to pick them up until August. I have big calves, and big ankles and my knees are lumpy and scarred from far too many disastrous bike rides as a child and drunken escapades as a college student. I enjoyed tanning beds far too much as a young adult and have the wrinkles and age spots to prove it. I have bad posture, soft arms, I chew my cuticles, and I am in need of a root touch-up.

I have never claimed to be perfect, and I have never claimed to be an expert. I write this blog in hopes it can help some women feel better about themselves. To help the fashion clueless gain some insight into how style evolves. To offer suggestions on how to update a current wardrobe to make it more useful, more personal, more effective. To show fellow women that you do not need to be rich or thin or young to be stylish.

I blog for those who want this help, want a virtual friend who will offer suggestions and ideas they may have not thought of before. For gorgeous fashion, there is The Glamourai or Atlantic-Pacific or Sea of Shoes. For beautiful women, there is Keiko Lynn or Fashion Toast or Karla’s Closet. For professional fashion advice, there are amazing books by folks such as Bridgette Raes, Tim Gunn, or Nina Garcia.

For suggestions from an average woman who has been a size 4 and a size 16 and everything in between; who has worked in creative and conservative offices and knows how it can be to have a body and life change from having a child, deal with wide calves and large bust; has been a personal shopper and wardrobe consultant for women of all ages, shapes, sizes, and lifestyles… then read my blog. Feel free to like what I write, or hate it immensely. Tell me when I am wrong, offer suggestions on how to improve my style or my blog content, I encourage and appreciate such feedback. But please, tell it to my face.  In the words of an ’80s psychotherapist, “Help me help you.” 

A blog only shows a small portion of a person. The blog owner chooses that which she wishes to share with the world. I usually am pretty good with sharing myself warts and all, but today I just don’t want to open myself up for more criticism. I made the choice to not share. I have bad days… and I have feelings.  I am after all, human.

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Scrimp or Splurge – What’s Your Number?

scrimp or splurge

Tuesday’s post about white tee shirts got me thinking. I believe we all have a number, that price we won’t cross for certain items for our closet. I often read interviews with style icons and they’ll say how they scrimp for X but splurge for Y, and often I feel the complete opposite about those items. That our numbers are personal based upon our age, our figure, our lifestyle, our budget. They are as unique as our personal styles.

While I wouldn’t have spent over $30 for a tee shirt two years ago (maybe $45 if striped or embellished), I now obviously will drop $80 for a plain white v-neck to stop the hunt and finally be satisfied. I couldn’t imagine spending more than $75 on a pair of jeans (but owned over a dozen pairs), but now don’t even blink at a $100 pricetag; though I now only own a handful of pairs.

On the other hand, some things I won’t pay as much for now that I used to. I can recall putting designer wool and leather coats on layaway because I considered them a worthy investment; now I buy my coats on clearance in the spring and don’t care the label inside as long as I like how it looks on me. Most of my makeup bag contents are from CVS, and I’ve learned some natural budget-friendly products like witch hazel, coconut oil, and jojoba oil do just as well as the high-end skincare lines.

The part missing from the tee shirt conversation was lifestyle and budget. What are the white tee shirts worn for, and how much can you spend on clothing in general? For some people $150 is a drop in the bucket, for others it’s the food budget for a month. For some, a white tee shirt is a piece of fashion as important as an It Bag or designer jeans while others just see it as what they slip on under their sweaters or wear on weekends with shorts.

So I ask you, what are your numbers? What’s the max you’d pay for a pair of jeans? A winter coat? A pair of tall boots? A handbag?  A dress to wear to a wedding or gala event? Where do you scrimp and where do you splurge? I know there’s such a variety of people who read this blog, this conversation would be interesting to highlight your unique lives and personal styles, but also help me know what to share on Wardrobe Oxygen in the future!