Search Results for: label/LeSportsac

Ask Allie: Durable Commuter Bags

I have been finding it a challenge to find a work tote/satchel that can handle all of my work items (iPad, shoes, book, and occasionally lunch) without having the handles break. I am preparing to take my latest two off to the great purse surgeon for some love and repair and am wondering if you can recommend a great tote/satchel for work that can carry all of the above and handle the weight of it all? I’d like to stick to a price tag of no greater than $200.

Some things I think are worth the price – well-crafted tall leather boots, a winter coat, and a work tote. It’s very hard to find a decent tote that can handle wear and tear without looking like crap. Honestly, few bags can carry all that on a regular basis and survive nicely unless you purchase a heavy-duty tote. While I recommend a black tote for business, for your commute a bag like the L.L. Bean Boat and Tote or Lands’ End Canvas Tote is a brilliant choice since it will hold up with a lot of weight, wear, and tear and won’t be worn outside of the commute. The version with elongated straps will fit over your shoulder even if you have on a heavy winter coat, and they have options with open or zip tops and storage compartments. Choosing a darker color will be better for public transportation and city life as these totes can’t be thrown in the washer and do best when spot cleaned.

I often carry multiple bags instead of stuffing my work totes to preserve their condition and shape, but it’s still great to have a bag that doesn’t look sloppy and can carry both your Kindle and your bottle of water without bursting at the seams. My two favorite work totes were both purchased on sale and would have been over $200 otherwise.

However, price doesn’t equal a good work tote – you want to look for heavy straps that are sewn into the body of the bag (even better if they wrap around the body of the bag), metal feet to protect the bottom of the bag, and a bit of structure so it keeps it shape over years and random contents. The two bags I have are leather with leather straps, fully lined, and one has a center dividing compartment which keeps the shape and structure of the bag, even when seated on a table or the floor. While a crossbody can seem convenient, I find that if you plan on stuffing a bag, a crossbody can be hard to carry, dig into your shoulder, and put far too much wear on the straps.

The bags I suggest below have not been seen in person and I cannot vouch for their quality and appropriateness; their style and fabrication lead me to believe they would be good choices and are all around $200:

Love the canvas boat bags but yearn for something more polished? Lands’ End has you covered with this brown leather tote with brass feet and organizing interior pockets. Reviews are positive and show owners use it for everything from hauling books back to the library to packing for a trip. Supple leather, classic design, smart styling and less than $200!

No frills, but who needs them when you’re trying to cart your work essentials via mass transit? Plenty of pockets, full grain leather, and a variety of subtle shades make this a great commuting tote. The reviews are positive and seems many use this to lug around heavy 17” laptops with no issue. A classic style and less than $90 makes this bag a great option.

The best thing about this tote are the straps that continue through the body of the bag – this will keep your straps in one piece far longer. Generously sized, and fun yet work-friendly fabrics and colors. Currently on sale for less than $140 and free shipping.

I have a Brahmin and can attest to the fact that they are sturdy, well-made bags. My tote has a thin crossbody strap but easily supports a bag full of heavy things like leftovers and bottled water. Though the straps aren’t sewn deep into the body of the bag, they are wider at the bottom and secured all the way around for a strong foundation. Metal feet, interior organizing pockets, and a variety of conservative and fun colors make this a great work bag. While it is a bit over $200, it’s a classic style that should give you years of wear and is polished enough to use for corporate meetings and conferences and work travel. In fact, if you’re interested in splurging, the larger ‘Melbourne Large Anytime’ tote has a padded compartment inside just for your iPad.

I feel inauthentic recommending a brand I wore strapped above my fanny in the ‘80s, but LeSportsac is known for high-quality, sturdy, and lightweight bags that last forever. The Travel Tote is famous for being the perfect tote you didn’t know you needed. Lightweight, durable, expandable, and not covered with overly visible logos or prints, this is a LeSportsac that can fit with most any personal style and will comfortably carry everything from your gym clothes to your netbook with ease. Less than $100, and many say they are still happily using the same LeSportsace Travel Tote that they purchased over a decade prior.

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The Return of an Old Friend

I guess everything does come back in style if you wait long enough.

Anyone remember Generra? Hot brand of the 1980s most famous for creating the much loved Hypercolor shirts. I remember Generra well; my family was too poor for name brands and I found a yellow canvas pullover with lots of grommets and drawstrings and New Wave embellishments at a yard sale for 75 cents. Though yellow has never been my color and the top was at least two sizes too big, I wore that thing every week because I owned a popular label.

Generra, Outback Red, Benneton, Esprit, Guess?, Forenza… brands that were as much a necessity to a young girl in the 80s as a Liz Claiborne purse and matching wallet. How is it that brands like these that were such a hot commodity ended up being fodder for discount superstores and cheesy mail order fashion catalogs? Who decides when a brand is hot, or when it is not?

Many of these oldies yet goodies have tried to make a comeback. Heck it works for hair bands, why not for the clothes that complimented the Aqua Net? Gloria Vanderbilt and Jordache had their fifteen minutes of fame a couple of seasons ago. We saw the return of jelly shoes, clear vinyl bags, high waists, neon colors, even mullets.

But Generra? They aren’t having just fifteen minutes of campy fame. They are back, and they are far better than ever. Every hot boutique online and in town has a few of their pieces, there is even an in-store Generra boutique at Henri Bendel. This isn’t a flash in the pan, Generra has slowing been taking over the past couple of years, being seen on the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson, Alexandra and Theodora Richards and also having their moment at New York Fashion Week 2007.

I like it when brands make a comeback. I may not purchase Lacoste, Burberry, Generra or Le Tigre, but I admire their tenacity and impressive marketing skills. I find Generra’s new line to be a bit too utilitarian for my tastes, both in cut and color; but am excited to see an old friend back up on the runway. Now I just need to dig through my mom’s attic to see if I can find that yellow canvas pullover with the grommets…

My Wardrobe Today – Wednesday

Cardigan - Ann Taylor (similar)
Blouse - White House | Black Market (similar)
Pants - LOFT (similar)
Belt – Ann Taylor (similar)
BootsCole Haan “Air Talia”

You know those days where you wish you could go to work in your pajamas? Yeah, today is one of those days. Thanks goodness for ponte, which is work-appropriate yet as cozy as yoga pants. And this cardigan was an impulse purchase from the clearance rack last year that has totally been worth the money. I wore it this weekend with a white tank and a cobalt crinkled gauze oblong scarf with jeans, and have worn it to work several other times.

I have been dealing with a cold off an on for about a week – it has been tough to shake because it seems each time I get well, Emerson gets sniffly. This morning, my husband woke up coughing and sneezing so it looks as though it will make another cycle through the Gary household. Le sigh.

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This Week…

Monday:
- Black cowl neck sweater from Ann Taylor
- Black pencil skirt, also from Ann Taylor
- Black cami from Second Base
- Black tall boots from Ros Homerson
- Gold “twig” bangles and a hammered gold knot necklace (both from… shocker… Ann Taylor).  Wore the necklace under the cowl so it just peeked out a bit on the side
- Hair wavy/curly, slightly smoky eye

Tuesday:
- Teal shawl collar sweater from Banana Republic
- Black cami from Second Base
- Black trousers from Talbots (completely forgot I had these – put away my husband’s dry cleaning and found them)
- Black city boots from David Tate
- Silver and green/blue cuff bracelet and earrings from Anne Koplik

Today:
Well I am right now with wet hair and in my husband’s bathrobe but think I will be wearing my purple cowl neck sweater dress from Banana Republic and my black tall boots!  Better hop to it, I need to leave in less than 30 minutes to be at work on time.

Tomorrow is my birthday, and I have an INSANE day at work that starts at 7am and ends around 6 or 7.  Le sigh.  My husband is hoping he can stop by later in the day after my first meeting is finished so he can show off Emerson and maybe take me to a late lunch.  Best present ever!  After a year, we have yet to bring Emerson to the office and my coworkers are constantly on me to meet her.  Anyway, I am going to treat myself on my birthday to wearing jeans – very likely the new ones from Not Your Daughter’s Jeans (man, if they WERE my daughter’s jeans they would hardly fit my hand!).

Blogging Love – Interview!

I was honored to be interviewed by Elle of the new blog Label Ho. Elle’s discusses fashion and her personal style on this site. I love supporting fellow fashion and style bloggers so I jumped at this chance to have us get to know one another better!

You can check out the interview here.

I loved the questions she asked (and if you go back in her archives, you can see her answers to the very same questions!). The name of her blog cracks me up. It reminds me of when I was Editor of my high school yearbook. I had such the fight with the sponsor over the proper spelling of this word. “If you add an ‘e’ it’s suddenly a garden tool!” (Let’s not even get into why this word was in my yearbook – let me just state that my high school was a fabulous one where I learned Japanese and was in International Baccalaureate courses, but it wasn’t in the most chi chi of neighborhoods.)

Since she interviewed me, I decided to ask her a few questions as well. Get to know Elle!

Name: “Elle,” author of Label Ho, a fashion and personal style blog

Why did you start blogging? What could be better than writing and posting about something you love? I thought it would be a fun hobby and a great way to connect with other fashion-minded people.

Favorite item in your closet: An authentic vintage Gucci handbag circa the 70s. I love that its suede and doesn’t have the GG logo plastered all over it. I found the bag at a thrift shop and its in immaculate condition. Best of all, I got it for an excellent price!

Favorite Web site to visit: FabSugar.com. They have pretty comprehensive coverage of what’s going on in the fashion world, delivered in quick, short posts. I also like that they post great outfits that members of their community put together. I’m fascinated with seeing what people put together.

Top five items on your style wish list for this season: I can only think of three since I think I pretty much have most of my key pieces already:

1. Another pair of dark bootleg jeans. I’ve pretty much worn my favorite pair so much (Joe’s Jeans in the Honey fit) that the color’s faded significantly.

2. More dresses. I’ve purchased a few already, but I just can’t get enough. They’re so easy to pull on in summer.

3. A pair of wide-leg jeans. I’ve tried on a ton of different ones, but still haven’t found a flattering fit.

Outlet Mall Shopping

Yesterday I visited a major outlet mall in my area. Over a mile of stores – some with great bargains, some with great piles of crap. There have been many stories about discount stores – how some of the product is not on sale, the clothes are made specifically for the outlet and are not the same quality that the brand name usually delivers, etc. After all that, you find designer duds for less, when is it worthwhile to spend, when should a bargain be passed by?


Fit
If it doesn’t fit well for $300, still doesn’t fit well for $150 and even for $65, don’t buy it. Just because it’s a great bargain does not make the fit any better. Shoes that are too tight or too big, jackets that pull at the back, pants that would be lovely if you just lost 15 lbs., no matter the bargain these items should just stay on the rack.

If the jacket’s sleeves are too long, the skirt’s hem at an awkward length, the shoulders a bit too big, these things can be altered easily by a tailor. You must be in love with the piece and find multiple places and ways to wear it to justify the tailor expense. I found a cream silk linen suit at a discount store – the suit fit perfectly except for a broken zipper and too long of sleeves and legs. I bought the suit for $65, regularly $350, and for $40 had the zipper and hems all modified. I have worn the suit to work, to religious events and as separates for three years. That purchase was worth the added tailoring expense.


Style
Often times the items at the discount store are there because they are leftover from last season. When it comes to classic pieces like suits, dresses and knits, this is not a problem. A blue merino v-neck is lovely almost every year, and more lovely when 50% off. The problem comes with the trendy p[pieces.


If Lindsay, Mischa, Nicole or Chloe was wearing it last spring, it’s a good chance that piece is passé now. Pass on the embellished jeans, the metallic leather bags, the rainbow-hued sunglasses and most other accessories. Just because it’s on sale does not mean it is a good buy. When it comes to scouring outlets, your best deals are the ones that will last through more than one season. Sweaters, suits, outerwear, cocktail dresses, leather goods and most shoes are great bargains if you find quality and value in the same item.


Name Brands
Just because you found a pair of Manolo Blahniks for $100 at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet does not mean they need to be purchased. Do they fit your current style? Are they comfortable? Are they current or classic?

We have all seen the label whores – those women with a Coach purse, Jimmy Choo shoes that JLo wore last year, Baby Phat jeans, a Bebe tee with the rhinestone logo, Chanel sunglasses and a Pucci scarf in her hair. These items weren’t bought for the quality or the style. They were bought because a stranger could spot the brand a mile away. She looks trashy, obvious and victimized by fashion. None of these are appealing. Labels do not suddenly make you well dressed or well liked.


If you can find a Furla bag for 40% off and it suits your style as well as lifestyle – then go for it. If you are buying a bag purely because it’s Prada and you don’t like the style, size or fabric… well you have become a label whore.

Don’t buy that jacket just because it’s designer. Pretend that it is an unknown label – do you still like it? Do you still find it attractive and necessary? If not, put it back on the rack. That goes for ill-fitting designer duds, last season’s “It Bag,” obvious logo advertising (if it’s that obvious, it will be that obvious from last season – not worth your time or money) and damaged designer goods.


Damaged Goods
Many discount retailers sell the irregulars from a label. Some irregulars can barely be seen by the naked eye – may be an incorrect dye lot or the wrong buttons sewn on a jacket. Some may work in your favor – pants cut too short or sleeves that are too long or too narrow. Often times these stores received the garments that were damaged in production, transit or through many jaunts to the fitting room. Broken zippers, missing buttons, fabric snags are all defects that can easily be repaired or covered up if the price and style is right. However there are other defects that are not worth the purchase, no matter how low the price. Runs in nylon, stains, button holes at the wrong height, linings that do not align with the trouser, two pieces stitched together from two different dye lots. Even if it is Versace, it will look like Gallo Clothing on you if it is this defective.


Buying in Bulk
I used to be a huge fan of buying in bulk – find a tee shirt you love, buy it in eight colors and three of white and black. Flattering trousers? Buy one in every color. I then found that my wardrobe was like one big uniform… one big boring uniform. Mixing basics with fun pieces offers versatility, ease but individual style.


At outlet malls, buying in bulk is a good idea. Yesterday I was at the Banana Republic outlet and found high quality stretchy tees in tons of colors – $9.99 each. I bought one in black, one in white, one in gray and one in red. These shirts can be worn with jeans on weekends, with a little skirt for happy hour with the girls or under a suit for work. I found a great pair of wool trousers at Off Fifth, bought them in brown, gray and black. They were so standard and fit so amazingly well (and were only $39.99 each) that it was worthwhile to buy every color I liked. I knew with my work and lifestyle I would find regular use for such trousers. Another time I found a pair of really cute studded pointy heels from NYLA. They were 75% off and tres cute. I decided to buy them in hot pink, ivory and black, thinking that if they fit well, they would get much use. I was imagining sparkly tops and designer jeans with the ivory, a sexy power suit with the black, and envisioned an outfit a la Carrie Bradshaw for the pink. I took them all home, have worn the pink ones multiple times, and have barely touched the other two. I don’t wear designer jeans with sparkly tops on a regular basis, and don’t own a single chic black power suit. Those two shoes have barely seen the light of day. Consider your current lifestyle when considering to buy in bulk – items that look too familiar may not be worn and too many of the same thing may make them all too boring to regularly wear. Also, if you don’t wear red patent stilettos now, you probably won’t after purchasing a pair.


In conclusion, don’t buy just because of a label, or just because of an amazing price. Less money for an item is still money, and money should be spent carefully. Be willing to take the time to find quality purchases, not pick up every shiny bauble that sort of resembles what Gwen or Jessica wore last Spring. Fashion is not about the specific item, but the allover look. A Louis Vuitton bag or a pair of Chanel sunglasses will not make you a fashionista, the pairing with appropriate and complimentary pieces is what takes you from being a label whore or a fashion victim to fashionista status.

Sites that Inspire Me

I love me some personal style blogs, but there’s two blogs that regularly inspire me, get me thinking, and have me pondering my style more than others:

The Coveteur
I love this site so much, I subscribe by email so the newsletter and updates come to me right away (most sites I view via a reader – currently Feedly). The Coveteur features celebrities, models, musicians, and those in the fashion industry. More often than not, they visit the individual’s home, do a bit of an interview, and take a bunch of pictures of their fashion and accessories with their home as the backdrop.

While I doubt I could ever afford an arsenal of Chanel bags or floor to ceiling shelves of Manolos, I find these features inspiring because these are individuals who have true personal style, who dress for themselves and not for others. They mix high end with thrifted pieces and hand me downs, they adore their Chucks as much as their Jimmy Choos, and you get small peeks into their book collection or how they organize their closet. And while these individuals usually have enough money to have closets overflowing with garments, they show how they have favorites, pieces they are loyal to and wear past their hot season, styles they buy in bulk, colors and silhouettes they continue to gravitate towards.

There’s plenty of eye candy and quite a lot of shoe porn, but there’s the underlying message that style comes from who you are, not how much you own. Defining your style, buying with care and thought, choosing quality over quantity, and letting your heart and soul shine through with your fashion choices.

While some features I find to be a disappointment (Kelly Osbourne I hope you let them return and feature your actual home with more of your wardrobe), others give me more respect for the individual and his or her personal style. The Coveteur doesn’t just feature the young and fabulous, they have such a variety of subjects – corporate bigwigs, style icons, restaurateurs, DJs, models, writers, reality show stars, rappers, editors, celebrity stylists, artists, bloggers, costume designers, jewelry designers and more.

Into The Gloss
How does Courtney Love keep her skin looking so amazing considering her lifestyle the past couple of decades? What is in Anna Sui’s medicine cabinet? How did Laura Mercier transition from makeup artist to creating her own successful beauty line? How does one become a highly-coveted perfumer like Francis Kurkdjian? Into the Gloss interviews beauty insiders and beauty fanatics to find out what makes them tick, and what makes their skin look so fabulous.

From peeks into the daily life of a fragrance designer or beauty mogul, to the skincare routines of super models and actresses, Into The Gloss gives an in-depth view of cosmetics, how they are used, how they inspire, and how they create a lifestyle for so many. While many of the products mentioned are completely out of my pricerange, like The Coveteur it is interesting and inspiring to see beautiful people find beauty routines that they love and trust. To see the mix of Le Mer with Neutrogena with natural ingredients with techniques passed down for generations.

While fashion is fun, and personal style helps define you, your body is something you wear every day and deserves care, pampering, and protection. Into The Gloss reminds me that a solid skincare and beauty routine trumps any pair of shoes in one’s closet.


Do you have any sites or blogs that regularly inspire you? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

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Little Bits of Luxury: The Series

With age comes wisdom. It’s taken a while, but I have learned to truly buy quality instead of quantity. I unsubscribed from most retail emails so I am not wooed by 50% off (if I didn’t need it at full price, I don’t need it now), I rarely enter a mall because I know myself and I will leave at least $100 poorer with bags full of things I don’t need and will likely collect dust. When I visit a store like Target or TJ Maxx I have a written shopping list that will be a visible reminder to stay on track. And in the past year, when I have added to my closet I have looked for what I can remove – to store for the future, to donate, to sell, to admit defeat and cut up into rags.

And the things I purchase are better quality too. Now I am no Martha Stewart, so for me quality is likely Nine West, Etsy, L’Oreal. But I have learned it’s not about the name on the label, but how the piece works with my life and performs in the long run. Be it bras, BB cream, baking dishes, or boots I research, save, and buy the best within my budget. This also goes for luxury items (and items that are luxurious just to me). I have never admitted being a minimalist, and with age I have learned that some luxury items just make life better (and are far kinder to the body than cupcakes and nachos). I’ve also learned that luxury can come at all pricepoints, and some of the best indulgences are quite kind to my wallet.

I’ve found that series on this blog are some of my most popular posts on Wardrobe Oxygen. And so my newest series will feature little luxuries I indulge in, and how I budget for them, and why they are worth it. I hope you enjoy!





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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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What I Wore: Issa for Banana Republic

I’m not a fan of designer collaborations. I don’t understand clamoring for a cheaper version of a designer piece. I don’t want a glued-together pleather bag or ill-fitting polyester blouse no matter what name is on the label. However, once the Issa Collection came out for Banana Republic I was intrigued. Banana Republic already has good quality and fits me relatively well, and the pieces in the collection were things I would buy no matter the designer. I liked the kimono dresses, and felt this print was one I would wear now and five years from now, in spring and in winter. For those considering this dress, I chose a 14, and yes, they do run short (it’s veering on not work appropriate and I am 5’3″). However it’s made extremely well, a heavy matte jersey that feels good and is a style that I think would work if I gained or lost weight. And you know me, I waited until it was on sale, Banana Republic was having a big sale, and I had reward dollars!

And how great is this bracelet? Wearing gold jewelery? No problem! Silver? No problem! Everything goes with this piece from Ruth Barzel, and I love that it’s rock and roll while still being elegant. I’ve been wearing this bracelet a ton lately (check my Instagram for proof), I like it mixed with other bracelets, but with such a bold dress, I felt it looked best all by itself.

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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!

My Wardrobe Today – Monday

Tee - LOFT
Skirt – Ann Taylor (bought on eBay 5 years ago for $14.99, no clue how old, label style unfamiliar to me)
TightsNordstrom
BootiesCole Haan
Scarf – c/o Nordstrom Rack
BagSabina
Silver cuff

I forgot to set my alarm last night. My body woke me up at 7:15 (glad it wasn’t 8:15) and I had 45 minutes to get myself together and out the door. I had pulled this skirt out of my stash of potential winter things and a month ago it was just too tight, too short, and I thought I would re-eBay it. I pulled it on this morning since it was sitting on the cedar chest at the foot of the bed… and it fit! Only thing wrong is I guess the hem dry rotted and has fallen out while wearing (easy to fix). Very excited to have another leather skirt in my arsenal!

New bag – I had $40 in Nordstrom rewards, saw this bag for $129 and decided to try it.  I have wanted a bigger bag to carry my netbook and such, and wanted a soft black purse (currently have my Banana Republic one which is that textured hard leather like a football). Love the bag, so soft, holds so much, necessary front pocket (with magnet closure) and hey… gotta love such a quality bag for only $89!

Sorry for the delay in posting, work has gotten really hectic. Glad I stocked the office fridge with Lean Cuisines because that’s the only way I get to eat anything. The only time I have left my desk is to hit the printer or the bathroom (and refill my water bottle!). Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks!

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Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

jessica alba tolani scarfTo celebrate me coming back to work and to blogging, I have a great contest for you readers!

One of you can win a Tolani scarf that has been seen on the likes of Jessica Alba (pictured), Sienna Miller, Vanessa Minnillo (pictured), Halle Berry and Mary-Kate Olsen.

The Tolani scarf is courtesy of chickdowntown.com, an awesome site that sells hip women’s designer clothing from the likes of Black Halo, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fürstenberg and Vera Wang Lavender Label.

I am so excited, because you KNOW I love scarves, and these beauts from Tolani are fabulous!

vanessa minnillo tolani scarfHow to enter:
Send an email to mywardrobetoday@gmail.com with the word “TOLANI” in the subject.
In the body of the email, please provide your name and mailing address (I promise these addresses will only go to me – except for the winner, and will be deleted once the contest is over). Winner will be chosen by random.

Contest ends Friday, March 20th, 2009 at midnight ET. Winner will be contacted by email. Scarf will be mailed out from chickdowntown.com. Sorry international readers, but the contest is only open to those in the United States.

Get to know chickdowntown.com:
Facebook (friend “shop chickdowntown” and/or become a fan of the chickdowntown page)
Twitter (twitter.com/chickdowntown)
YouTube (chickdowntownTV.com or youtube.com/chickdowntowntv)

Good luck!

Wednesday


Black cashmere tank from Banana Republic, black ponte jacket from Banana Republic Outlet, Chinese red shantung skirt from Banana Republic (definite theme here!), leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls, gold necklace from Express, gold bangles from Ralph Lauren.

Hair was washed and conditioned, dried with my Croc wet-to-dry iron. No products.’

Makeup is L’Oreal True Match concealer in W1-3, Benefit’s That Gal, philosophy The Supernatural in Beige, Nars blush in Orgasm, Revlon ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis – ivory over whole lid. Lashes curled, two coats Cover Girl Lash Blast and one of Imju Fiberwig. Maybelline Ultraliner in black on top lash line and on lips is some Revlon Shiny Sheers in a sheer red that I left at home by accident so do not have to read the label.

I am not really sure what is going on with the layout of my posts; I have not done anything different so it must be that Blogger is being stupid again.

This outfit is inspired by Catie’s contest at Cuffington. This outfit makes me fabulous inside… though notsomuch when I walk past my reflection in a window. I adore this skirt, it is so much fun and the color is awesome. The cashmere tank is really thick and I have had it for years and got it for like $10 on the clearance rack. Jacket has given me many miles and I love its versatility and the shoes… oh I love these shoes so much I have two pairs of them! All that is missing is my silver cuff, this great green ring I bought at a Ren Fest and my wedding tiara and I would be wearing almost all my favorite things! :) Too bad this skirt isn’t the most flattering (the one my husband says makes me look like Mimi from Drew Carey) or I would wear it every week! :)

Thursday

Black stretch v-neck from Banana Republic, white twill cuffed cropped pants from Casual Corner, black leather thong heeled sandals from Mossimo, multiple skinny silver bangles from Ann Taylor Loft, black leather and silver necklace from Chico’s.

Hair is weird. In the shower I was considering loose messy waves and the front feathered out. Yeah, I watched Jessica Simpson’s stupid new video and was slightly inspired. So I added Frizz-Ease Dream Curls Spray, blew hair straight letting it do as it pleased, twisting some pieces. It ended up looking damaged and gross. I continued blowing, using a paddle brush, that made some difference. I then blew the front with a round boar bristle brush and then applied bioSilk so it didn’t look as much like straw…. not my best hair day.

Makeup is L’Oreal True match foundation in C3, MAC Studio Stick concealer, Physician’s Formula Magical Mosaics bronzer for color and powder, a bit of Nars Orgasm blush. Eyes is the ivory shadow from Revlon’s ColorStay Neutral shadow quad, then The Body Shop’s 08 (Granite) in the lids and along the lash line. lashes curled via Shu Eumura and two coats of L’Oreal Voluminous mascara in black applied. On lips is Sally Hansen’s diamond lipgloss in a hot pink (the label with the name fell off).

Holiday Gift Guide for the Practical Pal

We all have that friend or relative who doesn’t NEED anything and finds most traditional gifts frivolous. While she may be perfectly happy with a gift card to Target, it’s nice to buy actual gifts for people to unwrap and realize you thought of them. While I have been scouring the web for other posts, I’ve been bookmarking things I find to be so practical yet lovely that most anyone would like it as a gift. All of these are under $100 and have free shipping.

gift guide practical presents holiday

1. Large Personalized Canvas Tote – $34.50

A little secret, this is one of my favorite baby and bridal shower gifts. While many sizes of this tote are available, I find the Large Tote to be the most versatile size. It can be a beach bag, overnight bag, reusable grocery tote, tote all your kid’s toys to grandma’s, tote your dirty clothes to the Laundromat… I love carrying potluck items in it – I wrap the casserole in towels on the bottom and on top I can put a 6-pack, bottle of wine, present for the hostess and it won’t topple over in the trunk on the way there. Personalization is free, making it the gift she didn’t think she needed but will be using regularly for years.

2. Stabilicers Lite Hikers – $29.95

I may be biased from my ice slip last year, but this was an AWESOME gift from my sister. They’re rubber so they stretch over shoes pretty easily, and are easy to slip off once you get to your destination. A great choice for anyone in an icy location, and especially good for those who aren’t as steady on their feet (or fear black ice after a previous fall, jus’ sayin’…). Do know they run a bit small, if unsure go up a size because they still won’t be too big for boots and sturdier shoes.

3. Starbucks Stainless Travel Mug – $19.95

Almost ten years ago, I won a $50 Starbucks card and I bought that year’s version of this mug. And I am still using that mug today. Most travel mugs get weird with time – the lids get stretched out, they leak, the double walled system separates. Not this baby. While it doesn’t look brand new any more, it keeps my coffee hotter longer than any other mug I’ve had, fits in all the cupholders in both of our cars, and it holds a full 16 ounces. This is something that is worth spending a bit extra and your loved one will thank you five years from now when she’s still reaching for it for her daily work commute. Do note, this isn’t one with free shipping (it is on Amazon with free Prime shipping but costs $10 more), but I’ve seen it in several Starbucks locations this year so it’s easy to pick up in person. If you plan to buy more at Starbucks, code AFF10 should give you 10% off your first purchase with them online plus free shipping if you spend at least $65.

4. Refurbished Kindle Paperwhite – $99

I got one free last year as part of a blogger promotion and it made me a Paperwhite convert. My mom bought her boyfriend one last Christmas and he loves it. Long battery life, great for the practical person who doesn’t want to add more stuff to her house, and especially nice for those with poor vision or dexterity. While the newest generation Paperwhites are $119, you can find perfectly good refurbished ones under $100 and Amazon provides a 1-year limited warranty and proper packaging so you can feel good giving refurbished as a quality gift.

5. Portable Power Bank – $49.95

The more we rely on our smartphones, the faster we deplete their batteries. This compact charger that isn’t much bigger than a smartphone adds a boost of power to small appliances just when you need it most.

6. Silk Long Johns and Socks – Starting at $17

Of course you better know the person quite well to give such a gift, but it’s likely one that will be loved and well used by the recipient for many years to come. Since he doesn’t read my blog I’ll let you know I got Karl the Silk Interlock Crew and Pants for a gift this year (thank you Lands’ End for carrying it in Tall!) and I know he’ll go gaga for it while he usually finds most gifts silly. Lands’ End has a great return policy, are known for quality, and have a nice variety and pricepoint making it a good destination for such gifts.

7. Legacybox – Starting at $75

What a cool concept; fill a Legacybox with old films, photos, slides, negatives, tapes and more and send it back with the pre-paid shipping label and they will carefully digitize all your memories. You will get back all your original memories as well as DVDs with your digital copies. At the time of writing this, if you visited the site and provided your email you’d automatically get a 25% off coupon and last week I received a coupon for 40% off and a promise to have Legacybox delivered in time for Christmas.

8. Adult Shearling Insoles – $16

Slip them into a pair of your tall leather or snow boots for warmth and comfort or give new life to an old pair of slippers. Made from natural shearling which wicks moisture and EVA foam which adds cushioning, these would be a welcome treat for anyone’s tootsies this winter.

Friday Favorite: The Body Shop Satsuma Shower Gel

body shop satsuma shower gel

From fall 2001 to the beginning of 20014, I was a trainer for The Body Shop stores. After many years in apparel and merchandising I desired a change. I was making a concerted effort to get out of debt, and it would be easier without temptation around me and the need to be dressed in the latest and greatest (hello all-black dress code!). And it worked, I not only got out of debt, but I learned a lot about skincare and ingredients, how to be profitable and philanthropic at the same time, and finally how to properly apply eye shadow!

When I worked for The Body Shop back in the early oughts, we would burn fragrance oils in an aroma jar at the front entrance. I learned quickly that a blend of Satsuma and Exotic oils would bring in customers from all over the mall, and it would be easy to sell them a jar, bag of candles, those two oils and much more. After two and a half years with the company I couldn’t stand the smell of Exotic but I never tired of Satsuma. After leaving the company I’d still buy the shower gel and glycerin soap bars. It’s a sweet orange scent that doesn’t get weird, isn’t too fruity or pungent, and is a nice pick-me-up in the morning. But with time I forgot about Satsuma and moved on to new brands and different scents.

When my arm broke, I realized simple things like squeezing shower gel onto a pouf or washcloth were nearly impossible. I went on a hunt for spray and pump products that could be used with one hand and came back to The Body Shop. I ordered a bottle of Satsuma shower gel… and I don’t think I’ll go back to any other bath products!

Not only do I love the clementine scent, I love how it doesn’t dry my skin. It doesn’t scent my skin, so no competing with perfume or lotions but it does scent the main floor after a hot bath or shower. Even Karl uses it! A little goes a long way; I bought a 25 oz. bottle in February and just hit the bottom of the label and that includes all the times I indulged in very bubbly baths. While it’s a perfect summer scent, I know I’ll love it in the colder months too. A little bit of sunshine with every shower or bath!

The Bandana is Back!

Some trends come on the scene that make me wonder what designers and street style icons were smoking or ingesting when they decided on them. And recently, a lot of trends were impossible to recreate on a budget. I’m loving how so many trends this spring and summer are honestly achievable on any budget; it’s less about the logo and more about the look.

Bottom Row, Left to Right: Louis Vuitton via GQ | Stockholm Street Style | Vanessa Jackman | The Blab

And one of those trends is the bandana. That white-pattered cotton scarf you can pick up at the dollar store or take from your college Halloween costume is now an on-trend accessory. I’ve always loved the classic bandana print and prefer a cotton scarf to a silk one, so I am thrilled about this trend. But how do you wear a bandana without looking like an extra from a John Wayne movie?

    • Create a Contradiction. A bandana with a chambray shirt is cliché, a bandana with a leather moto jacket or a silk blouse or a crisp blazer is unexpected.

 

  • Keep it Crisp and Classic. For now, keep your pink and purple bandanas in the drawer and stick to classics like navy, red, and black. These should also not be the weathered, worn, and torn bandanas you use to mop sweat when gardening or to hold back your hair on a camping trip. The classic color and the crisp finish makes the bandana purposeful and not a leftover from cleaning out the garage.

 

 

  • Simplicity is Key. Leandra Medine’s all-white outfit with the bandana tucked into the collar of her shirt is a fabulous example of how to wear a bandana this spring. Minimal color, no competing prints, use the bandana as you would a silk Hermes scarf and let it take center stage.

 

 

  • Get Creative. A bandana doesn’t have to be worn knotted in back and draped in front. Check out The Not Vanilla’s post and how she wore it knotted around her throat, and even as a purse and wrist accessory. I recently rolled a bandana , wrapped it twice around my neck and had it peek out of a white button-front shirt; I think it’s fun to spice up a monochromatic look with a bandana tied to a single belt loop at the front of a pair of trousers; don’t be afraid to use a bandana as a headband, kerchief, headwrap, or tied around your ponytail.

 

Last week when I shared my outfit featuring a bandana, I received a few styling questions from you folk:

    • When You Have Short Hair. If you’re draping the bandana in front and the “ears” are peeking out making you feel as though you’re wearing a bib, consider a bit of fashion tape to hold them down. I keep all those tiny safety pins that hold garment hang tags and find them great for a situation like this (I pin the “ears” to the underside so they don’t ruin the line of the scarf).

 

  • When the Bandana is Too Stiff. A brand new bandana can be as stiff as a piece of paper, and often have hard creases in it. Before trying anything, wash it and throw it in the dryer, preferably with bulky items that would make it bounce around a lot. This often does the trick. If it’s still too stiff for you, an overnight soak in fabric softener or vinegar will soften cotton without fading the fabric. Rinse and tumble dry.

 

 

  • When You Want a Bigger Bandana. I desired this very thing to have more variety (and to double-look around my big neck). On eBay I found “Texas Size” bandanas which are 27” (most are 22”). If you search for 27” bandana, you’ll find that many online stores like Amazon offer them, which will give you the length you desire.

 

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My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

Black Knit Moto Jacket – Gap (no longer available online but you may find in their stores in black or gray)
Black Ponte Dress with Exposed Back Zipper – LOFT (no longer available online which is a shame because I LOVE LOVE LOVE this dress!)
Belt – Ann Taylor (bought a couple years ago)
Black Patent Mary Janes – Nine West (see below)


Shop your closet, folks. Shop your closet!

I have been spending this week doing a hardcore closet clean-out.  I dumped everything out of my bureau and only put back that which I like.  I made one bag of things to donate, and one bag of things to put on eBay.  Now I am working on my closet.  I took everything out that is too small, too big, too ugly, too worn.  There’s a pile of items to repair, and then I added to my two bags.

I am putting all my shoes in boxes on the shelf, because the floor of the closet it a bit of a No Mans Land. My dogs sometimes like to take a nap in there, my husband uses it as a place to throw things and close the door when people come over, I often find Emerson’s books and toys hidden in corners… anyway it’s a bad place to keep shoes. I opened each box to ensure the shoes inside match the label on the outside… and found these shoes!

Long-time readers may remember them. I saw them at Nordstrom a couple years ago and HAD TO HAVE THEM. They only had them in 7. I ordered them, and they were far too small. I started searching online for these shoes from another retailer and found then for half the price of Nordstrom, but only in an 8. I ordered them anyway… and they were too big. I think I wore them twice, both times bad experiences with rubbing, blisters, and carefully shuffling from Metro to office. After that, I shoved them in the box, stuck them in the back of the closet and figured I would eventually put them on eBay.

Well last night I found them and tried them on… and now they fit! Not only do they fit, they are pretty comfy! I am so excited because on my shopping list I had a pair of patent Mary Janes. Granted, I wanted all black with a pointy toe and a slimmer heel, but these are pretty stellar. I had a stranger stop me on the street and ask me who made my shoes and two coworkers said they are “Fierce.” Hooray!

Tonight I hope to finish the closet and this weekend hope to tackle the attic. After that I will be posting even more stuff on eBay – check it out!

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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