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Home

The past couple of weeks have been very busy, stressful, and overall exhausting. But thinking of spending my weekend here with my family immediately lowers my blood pressure. We moved into this house Spring 2001, married three years later, January 2009 marked the birth of Emerson and the completion of a major renovation confirming that this is not a starter house, this is our life home.

Last night Karl grilled steaks; I sat on a bench at the foot of the deck stairs outside those double doors and looked up into this living room all lit up and thought, THIS is my dream home.  The old couches that sag and creak, the mismatched wood furniture decorated with nicks and some crayon lines, the bookcases jammed full with no rhyme, reason, or color coordination.  Every square foot represents the three of us (actually four, can’t forget our dog Cindy!), and every square foot represents love.

Saturday mornings, I wake up before everyone, go for a walk and then and enjoy a cup of coffee and a chapter of my latest book in that crazy chair I bought from the Annapolis Mall Structure when it was closing.  The rest of the house wakes, Karl heads off to work and Emerson and I sit on the couch together and watch TV with our twin bowls of oatmeal, or lie in the hammock (that’s what that rope is to the right, the other part of the hammock is hiding behind a curtain) and watch the woods, pointing out birds and squirrels.  Later in the day day you can find us working on a craft at the coffee table or lying on the floor playing.  In the evening after Emerson is in bed, Karl and I snuggle on the couch and watch an episode of Vikings or Once Upon a Time (we’re catching up on Once, currently on Season 2 via Netflix so no spoilers please!). This room is called a Living Room for a reason.

I sometimes get caught up in the land of decor blogs and Pinterest, but a home is one of the most personal things in one’s life.  I like how it’s becoming more and more odd and mismatched and worn in, how there’s no real theme or concept except us.  When I start feeling off, I look at our living room and get grounded.  Home IS where the heart is!

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My Home Away From Home

Four years ago, I changed jobs.  It was a scary change, but a really great one. While my last company was a good one filled with great people, it just was not a good fit for me. This current company really feels like a home away from home. As the company has grown, my office has moved around a bit – I am currently in my third location, but have been happily residing at this desk in this office for about two years. I share my office with this awesome woman who is a transcriptionist – she’s only here once a week so usually I have this room to myself.

The only thing bad about my office is that my back is to the window, and I have a pretty awesome view of a main street in the city. Unfortunately the way this room is configured, there’s no way to adjust that.

This is what I look at every day.  I usually have two computers up at all times – I need redundant Internet for work projects.  Always have headphones plugged in – either I am listening to Spotify, or I am editing audio recordings.  Have a headset for my phone for crisp audio when I need to speak on projects.

The lamp is from my college days – a cheapy $19.99 torchiere from Kmart or Target.   It still works great, uses a standard bulb and has three settings.  Proof you can get quality at any pricepoint!  The chart on the wall is a list of to-dos I have created for my team – we’re getting into some pretty quiet weeks before the new year and I keep adding randomness we can do now to be prepared for 2012.

Do you think I have enough beverages?  The reusable Starbucks cup was my morning coffee that I drank on the commute.  The mug (a super cute gift from my mom two years ago) is for when I don’t have coffee from home.  I usually spend the rest of the day consuming 2-3 refills of my Camelbak bottle, but because it’s been a crazy week, today I treated myself to a Diet Dr. Pepper.  And now you know the truth – most of my bracelets and earrings end up on my desk within an hour of arriving at the office.  It’s hard to wear headphones and type with them; I do put them back on when heading to lunch or a meeting!

It’s almost 2012 and I still rely on a Rolodex.  I have had this same Rolodex since 2001 and carry it with me from job to job.  While I do have an Excel spreadsheet with the same information, I find a Rolodex to be faster and easier.

The picture is of my husband and I in 1994 when I went up to Great Lakes for his Navy boot camp graduation.  We were at the Hard Rock Cafe in Chicago, both exhausted but happy.  The print on the wall is from Ork Posters – they have these in a variety of colors for different cities all over the world.

Above my desk is this board.  Tons of randomness – birthday cards from coworkers, pictures of my family, badges from conferences, etc.  The flowers are those decals you can put on windows – I had them up when my old office’s desk faced a window – it helped me recognize which office was mine from the street below.  The shoes are from my sister – in college she managed a shop near campus that sold them and I acquired quite the collection.  My coworker saw my collection and gave me the shoe keychains to the right to keep them company.  The blank space on the ledge is because two shoes have fallen behind my desk and I keep forgetting to go back there and retrieve them.

To the right of my desk is a tall bookcase and short file cabinet.  I have a second phone in my office for when I need to stream audio for a live web event.  A bit more Georgia O’Keeffe, a Picasso print that represents how I sometimes feel on busy days at the office, and a bit more plant life.  At my old job, a coworker gave me a small Christmas cactus; I brought it to this job and it’s still living.  I have broken off some of the long tendrils and put them in a vase to sprout roots – I need to bring in a larger pot and some soil to transplant them!

The frames are Liberty of London for Target – one picture is of me and my husband at Bonnaroo in 2008, one is of the three of us a year ago.  Two glass insulators (I have quite a collection of them at home).  The second shelf is a dust-covered pile of randomness – training manuals, HR binders, a vase from flowers my husband sent me almost a year ago… should be cleaned up.  Maybe I’ll do that next week when it’s going to be super quite in the office.  Maybe I would be able to find a smaller bookcase hiding at the office as only two shelves are really being used!

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So now you know where I hang out from at least 9-5 every week day.  Where I gulp down Lean Cuisines while completing blog posts on my lunch hour, where I chat with you on Twitter and Facebook.  It’s a good place to be, surrounded by good people doing good things.  My home away from home!

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Go Big or Go Home

Shirt: Gap | Skirt: Etsy | Shoes: Miss Sixty via eBay (similar) | Bag: Banana Republic via eBay (similar)

I was on the hunt for a maxi wrap dress, and decided to check out Etsy. I didn’t find one I liked, but I found this skirt and I just couldn’t resist. At first, I thought my life didn’t NEED a big skirt like this, but I indulged and this is the third time I have worn it. I like it on weekends with an Old Navy vintage tee (white and charcoal) knotted at the waist, and think this summer will be cute with a tank, and maybe a different print scarf tied at the waist like a cummerbund. It has one pocket, the only think I don’t adore about this skirt is that there aren’t two. But reasonable price, looks just as it did online, didn’t have to wait too long for shipping. I definitely favorited this seller and may look to have her make that elusive wrap maxi dress for me this summer!

There is an historic Art Deco theater in my community that holds a lot of good memories for people in our community. I remember seeing movies there when I was younger, and we love being able to walk down to see an indie hit or an Oscar contender.  The Greenbelt Theatre is up to receive a $100,000 grant from Partners in Preservation and we’re in our last week of voting. We keep teetering between 4th and 5th place; I doubt we’ll be win (we’re up against the National Cathedral), but there’s funding for runner ups. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a moment to vote for the Greenbelt Theatre. The login process is pretty simple, anyone across the globe can vote, and you can vote every day. I thank you in advance!

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Friday: Work from Home

Sweater: Rafaella c/o Gwynnie Bee
Tank: Caslon (similar)
Brooch: Ann Taylor (similar)
Jeans: Gap
Shoes: Ivanka Trump
Lipstick: Revlon Just Bitten Kissable Balm Stain in Crush Begun

Friday I worked from home. While it’s tempting to stay in pajamas, I like to wear something appropriate so I can answer the door, say yes to a friend who asks me last-minute to lunch, or step out to run errands. On this day, I knew after work I would be heading out with my husband (and Emerson!) to photograph a friend for an upcoming True Fashionista post.

I decided to wear comfortable clothes that look put together; this ruffle-trim cardigan arrived in my most recent Gwynnie Bee box. This is NOT a color I usually wear but I always love. Good use for Gwynnie Bee – try out a new color! I ended up loving this color so much I bought another sweater in the same shade. This sweater is pretty awesome – it’s free of closures, so you can wear hanging open, belt it, or do as I did and cinch it with a brooch. I bought this pin at Ann Taylor a few years ago and love that brooches have come back en vogue so it can get more play!

This weekend was pretty crazy – we found out our hot water heater was slowly leaking so we had some major cleanup to do (and still do), and Sunday we helped my mom take down her 30-year old steel toolshed. But to make up for the weekend, tonight I am going with my friend to see Gossip at The 9:30 Club! Woot!

As a reminder, if you are interested in trying Gwynnie Bee (read more about it here), they are offering your first two months half-price!  Just mention Wardrobe Oxygen when signing up to get the promotion.  Deal valid until September 30, 2012.

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There’s No Place Like Home

One of the best parts of going on vacation is coming home.

A little over a decade ago, my then-boyfriend asked me to live with him in a town very close to where we both grew up. This was a town lovingly called “The Two-story Trailer Park” by locals because of the very small row houses. Our town is a co-op that was created as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal and most of the housing (my home included) was created only to be temporary housing for new families after the war. That was the ‘40s. The thing is, cheap manufacturing in the ‘40s seems to be more sturdy and higher quality than cheap housing manufacturing of today. We have hardwood floors, solid walls and foundation. The co-op maintains the roof, the gutters, and any repairs necessary to maintain the structure.

I wasn’t looking forward to living in the “Two-story Trailer Park” but it was all we could afford. We found that living there was actually cheaper than an apartment. We purchased a two-bedroom home that was around 750 square feet, smaller than my bachelorette apartment. No central air or heat (window A/C and baseboard heaters), tiny galley kitchen, dated bathroom, and closets that were probably small even by 1940’s standards. However it was an end unit that backed to woods so it felt pretty remote.

Over the years I have come to love our home. When we found out we were pregnant, we realized we would need to either move or put on an addition to accommodate an additional human being in the pad. We decided an addition would not only be cheaper, but it would be smarter as that the co-op will maintain the house, even the new part of it. We ended up doubling the size of the house, adding a master suite, a large living room, extended the kitchen five feet, and added a half bath/laundry room to the main floor. Though our home is still smaller than most (around 1,400 SF), it is now the perfect size.

We came home from Bonnaroo around 10pm on Monday night. Two of our neighbors shared the duty of dogsitting so we had a nice stack of mail on our dining table and three very happy and excited dogs there to greet us. The house surely smelled like dog (we washed them just before they left so it was a strong scent of clean yet wet pooch) but otherwise… coming home was amazing.

After almost a week away, I saw my home with fresh eyes. The Oriental rug I got cheap on Overstock didn’t look out of place but homey in the living room. The kitchen looked like something off a shelter blog. Our bedroom was a wonderful respite, and a great merging of our two personalities and décor tastes.

The next morning, we took our coffee out to the deck to enjoy the best part of our home. We really are blessed to live right on top of our Nation’s Capital yet live in a small town in the woods. My husband also felt inspired and decided to build a hay bale garden in our back yard. We had all our veggies in planters so he transplanted them so they could be happy and have plenty of space and nutrients.

I looked around at our yard, our trees, our plants and felt so at peace. I grabbed my camera and took a couple pictures. I know I usually write about fashion, but the longer I live here the more my home and my town are a part of me.

Our tomato and basil plants.  We made DIY Topsy Turvy pots last year from paint buckets, but the tomatoes didn’t do well.  This year we decided to do them rightside up and they are performing far better.  We kept them up high because with all the trees there are few places with lots of sunlight.  This way they get sun 80% of the day.  
(The cord hanging from the plant is my husband’s jump rope.)
Our new hay bale garden.  It’s hay bales as a frame, the center is filled with compost, and soil on top.  Again this is the only place in the back yard that gets a decent amount of sun.  We have a couple types of peppers and I believe squash growing.
These pics were taken from my deck chair so you could see exactly what I see from my back deck.  As you can see, I am a fan of old glass insulators and collect them at yard sales.  They decorate my deck, my office at work, and our living room.  The brown jars are from B&M baked beans; we put tealight candles in them for festive (and eco-friendly! Always great to recycle!) evening lighting.

Amazing that we live in such cramped quarters in this community, yet I can sit on my back deck and not see another soul and they cannot see me.  I will hear the occasional Metro bus or lawn mower, but the main sounds in my yard are woodpeckers, birds chirping, and squirrels twittering as they scamper up trees.  Ahhh, nature!

I really think one’s home is a reflection of its inhabitants; I will occasionally be sharing parts of my home on this blog. Don’t worry, this won’t become a shelter blog or even a general lifestyle blog. However, when I am inspired or do feel as though my home is affecting my sartorial choices, I will be sharing little bits of it.

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The Home of the Future… With a Wardrobe Consultant?

My friend Adam sent me this story and I wanted to share it with all of you. Pretty interesting! What will they think of next… a home that shops for you as well?

Disneyland Revives ‘House of Future’

GILLIAN FLACCUSAssociated Press Writer

Source: General Financial/ Business News
Date: February 13, 2008

ANAHEIM, Calif. Millions of Disneyland visitors lined up a half-century ago to catch a glimpse of the future: a home teeming with mind-blowing gadgets such as handsfree phones, wall-sized televisions, plastic chairs, and electric razors and toothbrushes.

The “House of the Future,” a pod-shaped, all-plastic dwelling that quickly seemed quaint closed its doors a decade later. Now Disney is set to open a new abode in Tomorrowland – this time in partnership with 21st century technology giants.

The 5,000-square-foot home scheduled to open in May will look like a normal suburban home outside, but inside it will feature hardware, software and touch-screen systems that could simplify everyday living. Lights and thermostats will automatically adjust when people walk into a room. Closets will help pick out the right dress for a party. Countertops will be able to identify groceries set on them and make menu suggestions.

The $15 million home is a collaboration of The Walt Disney Co., Microsoft Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co., software maker LifeWare and homebuilder Taylor Morrison. Visitors will experience the look of tomorrow by watching Disney actors playing a family of four preparing for a trip to China.

“It’s much different than a spiel that you would get at a trade show,” said Dave Miller, director of alliance development for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We won’t get into the bits and the bytes. It will be about the digital lifestyle and how that lifestyle can help you.”

The actors will be in a flurry of cooking, packing and picture-taking designed to emphasize cutting-edge features in the home’s two bedrooms, living room, kitchen, dining room, study and back yard. Much of the project will showcase a network that makes the house “smart” and follows family members from room to room, even adjusting artwork, to preset personal preferences. When a resident clicks a TV remote, for example, lights will dim, music will shut off and the shades will draw as the network realizes a movie is about to start.

The system will allow residents to transfer digital photos, videos and music among televisions and computers in different rooms at the click of a button. Other applications still in development could include touch-screen technology built into appliances, furniture and countertops, said Joe Belfiore, Microsoft’s vice president for entertainment services. In the kitchen, for example, touchpad software on the countertop would be able to identify groceries and produce recipes and meal suggestions. Similar programs could turn a desktop into a computer screen, allowing residents to load photos, music or e-mail onto a cell phone by placing it on the desk. Mirrors and closets could identify clothes and suggest matching outfits, complimentary colors or track what apparel is at the cleaners or in the wash.

The home will also feature new uses for devices that many visitors may already own, as well as technologies that are still five or 10 years down the road, said Mike Seamons, vice president of marketing at LifeWare, which makes home automation software. “If people walk through there and say, ‘I don’t have anything in this house at all,’ then we’ve totally failed,” Seamons said. “We’re not waiting for robots to happen in order for it to be a reality.”

When it comes to aesthetics, designers decided to stray from the Jetsons-style House of the Future; an all-plastic cross design with four wing-shaped bays that appeared to float. The house was so tough that wrecking balls bounced off it when Disney ripped it down in 1967. The new home will be made of wood and steel and finished in muted browns and beiges, said Sheryl Palmer, president and chief executive of Taylor Morrison in North America. “The 1950s home didn’t look like anything, anywhere. It was space-age and kind of cold,” she said. “We didn’t want the (new) home to intimidate the visitors. We want the house to be real accessible to our guests.”

APviaNewsEdge

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…

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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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What to Wear When Working From Home

Many readers write to me, stating that my staples and many of my posts do not work for them because they either work from home, or are stay at home mothers or wives. As someone who never did work from home, I would always respond back that there is life outside of your house and you should be prepared; anyway you will feel better and be more productive if you are well turned out.

I often got responses back that I didn’t know what I was talking about; to be in your home comfort is key, style is not important.

Well I am now working from home, on semi-bedrest no less. As I type this I am in my bedroom, my laptop on a tray table. I have been like this for a bit and will be until my baby arrives. Once she arrives I have six weeks of maternity leave at home and a couple of transition weeks – working from home, part time working at the office until I return back as a full-time office employee.

As I type this, I am in black ponte trousers, a gray silky jersey empire-waist top, black socks and diamond stud earrings. My hair has been blown out, I am wearing tinted moisturizer, rosy lipstick and mascara. There is a good chance I will see no one but my dog and husband all day, and that the only time I leave this bed is to use the rest room or refill my water bottle.

However when I started working from home, I relished in the idea of not having to worry about my attire. I often worked the day in a variation of what I slept in – knits, sweats, garments better made for my Saturday yoga classes. It was fun, decadent to not put on a bra, not “do” my hair, and just be comfortable.

My schedule was one day working from home, next day working from the office. I started noticing that the days I had to go to the office, I was dreading them. I wasn’t dreading the office or the work, but the need to pull myself together and look professional. I started having more difficulty pulling together a decent outfit from the clothing I already owned and knew so well. The days I worked form home seemed to drag on longer than necessary – often because I would get distracted with a non-work Web site or the desire to do housework instead of payroll work.

I decided that each morning that I felt well, I would try to pull myself together. Shower, an easy wash-and-wear hairstyle (for me is letting the hair air dry with a tiny bit of product and then come back later to smooth the bangs for 5 seconds with a round brush and dryer), small bit of makeup to make me look alive (amazing what a quick swipe of blush and mascara can do for the face). As for clothing, well I wasn’t going to endure bedrest in constricting denim, but I could do it with dresses and leggings, and pants made out of knits.

My morning routine is less than ten minutes because for me, showering at night works better with my schedule. Those ten minutes each morning make me a more productive at-home employee, have less concern with having to leave the house last minute or sign for a package when the UPS driver comes to the door. With my exterior organized, my interior seems to be more organized as well. I feel less tired, less sluggish, and more receptive to visitors.

The easiest way to be polished at home, is to start with the purchases. Be careful with every purchase you make – can it handle time on the floor, in bed, and to be accidently tossed in the dryer by your spouse? Keep away from that which will fade, requires ironing or special washing instructions. Also keep away from that which resembles gym attire, sleepwear, or something that your husband would wear. It’s better to have less that is quality than more that is junk. As you find great durable and flattering pieces, donate those which aren’t up to snuff.

A few pieces I have found to be great while being at home:

Old Navy’s Stretch Ponte Mid-Rise Wide-Leg Trousers – I love love love these trousers. They look elegant, but they are made of fabric that is as comfy as sweats. The fabric is heavy enough to hide lumps and bumps and look work-worthy. They have a classic waistband and zipper, but they don’t dig into your tummy, even when sitting or reclining. They are machine washable – I usually hang them to dry, but they have also gone in the dryer when I have been in a rush and they haven’t pilled, shrunk or faded.

I usually despise slash pockets, but these lie pretty nicely. Best of all – they come in petite and tall lengths! $34.50, currently only available in black. Get yourself two pairs so you have some ready while the other pair is in the wash.

J. Crew Merino Sweaters – Their turtlenecks are cozy while looking elegant, the crewnecks are a stylish alternative to a sweatshirt, and the v-necks add femininity to your simple outfit. Unlike cotton, merino usually keeps it shape and color through many wears and washes. Unlike cashmere, it’s usually at a reasonable price point. The tight weave glides over curves, isn’t itchy like shetland and looks polished. Come winter, I often layer with a tencel, silk or fine jersey tee or camisole underneath (a silk undershirt is incredibly warm without bulk). Black and gray are always chic, but bright colors are always nice to see and wear. Consider a jewel tone that pleases your eye – it will go with black, gray, camel, denim and other neutrals just as nicely as a more subtle or predictable color. Though the sweaters usually say Dry Clean Only, I have always washed my merinos on the gentle cycle in the machine with Woolie or a gentle landry wash, and either hung them up on a padded hanger or lay them on a towel on top of the dryer to dry. This specific merino turtleneck has select colors on sale for $39.99 – not too shabby!

Wrap Sweaters – This one is from Target. Wrap sweaters are great because they offer the layer you want, but flatter your feminine shape far better than a sweater coat or hoodie. This could work over a nursing tank, a cami, a tee, a turtleneck all with ease and look elegant and feminine. Sweaters and tops that wrap to the side give the illusion of a smaller waist; lightweight sweaters add warmth without bulk to your frame, and again this is a great way to add a pop of color to your basic neutrals. This specific sweater is under $25; I have found great wrap sweaters at Gap, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy’s, and more usually under $50. Another ting – if the sweater is layered over a cami or tank, you don’t have to wash it as often. Have a Tide to Go pen at the ready, and you can get more miles between washes!

Mossimo Ultra Soft Long-Sleeved V-Neck Sweaters – I learned about this sweater from another blogger and agree that they are fab! They are super cozy and soft like cashmere, but far less in cost. They come in a good range of colors and seem to flatter a variety of shapes of women.

Very nice with trousers, jeans or even with a simple pencil skirt for church or dinner out. Layer with a cami or tee, dress up with a strand of pearls or a scarf tucked into the neckline. You very well may find that a sweater like this will get more wear and bring far more joy than your most snuggly fleece pullover!

Lands End Fine Gauge Twinsets – Lands End is awesome – they have the best selection of colors, most of their pieces are made of great quality and are easy to wash, their pieces run a bit big, they have an amazing return policy and their styles are classic without being dowdy.

A very easy way to look polished is by wearing a twinset – the shortsleeved crewneck and matching cardigan from Lands End is a great choice. I was mine in the wash on the gentle cycle and hang it up to dry overnight. The colors never fade, the shape maintains, and it dresses up or down nicely. Pair the set with capris in spring, wool blend trousers in winter, a pencil or a-line skirt for brunch, toss the cardigan over a sundress on breezy summer evenings, wear the crewneck alone with trousers and pearls for a simple Business Casual look. Again, consider a cheery color that will bring sunshine to a dreary winter day. Lands End carries most styles in petite, plus, and other extended sizes. The cardigan is $39.50 and I think worth every penny. Keep up with the site, Lands End often adds pieces to this line of fabric so you can get things like sleeveless shells or 3/4 sleeve cardigans come summer and turtlenecks come winter.

Merona Black Leggings – Okay, the leggings under the dress look is gone and done. It was hip for a season and now it looks pretty dated and desperate on most. The thing is, the look is pretty awesome when you are at home. Suddenly you can get on the floor with the kids, chill in bed, hang out at the playground and more without worrying about a breeze. A dress in knit or matte jersey with black leggings and ballet flats is still more chic than a velour jumpsuit or your husband’s favorite hoodie. If paired with a solid color dress that has a simple silhouette, the look can be artsy and elegant. I love wearing my black leggings with a dove gray dress and a long scarf at the neck; my friend’s weekend look is a black jersey dress with bell sleeves, black leggings, red ballet flats and a long silver necklace with red pendant. She looks polished, but is jsut as comfortable as she would be in her pajamas.

These leggings are less than $10 and get the job done. They aren’t miracle workers, but they will last you through a season quite nicely.

What to Avoid:
Memorable Prints – It’s hard to wear the same things week after week if they are so unique. Find creativity in your going out pieces, or your accessories. Choose great colors, flattering neutrals, and then detail piecves to add personality.

Bedazzlement - Just because a tee shirt has fake gems at the neckline does not mean it’s fun or cool. In all honesty, most embellishment (embroidery, jewels, grommets, patches, accent fabrics, ribbons) makes the garment look cheap, not more stylish. Again, find your style with actual accessories to have versatility, style and polish.

Logos – A woman of style NEVER advertises what brand she is wearing. Style comes from the garment itself, NOT the designer.

Anything that Sheds, Pills, Fades or Creases – This means most khakis, cotton button-downs, angora blends, low percentage of cashmere blends, some silk blends, and cheap knits. If the black jersey already has a slight tint of gray or green, you can be sure that it will head further int hat direction after a few washes. Knits with at least 5% of lycra or a synthetic are less likely to shrink thank 100% cotton.

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t have time to blow dry your hair after a shower, will you have time to properly iron that oxford shirt? If the answer is no, then don’t buy it in the first place. It won’t smooth out from wearing or if you pull it down and press it between you and the car seat. Stay with knits and synthetics if your lifestyle doesn’t give you the time for ironing.

Polo Shirts – Unless you have a very slight frame or a slightly athletic build, these shirts are NOT flattering on women. Yes, they make feminine cut ones, but they still are not as flattering as a basic knit. The collar shortens the neck, the sleeve rounds shoulders and draws attention to larger arms, the neckline makes a large bust look matronly and a small bust look more obvious. The cut is usually too boxy or too tight at the belly, and the length is more often than not at the worst part of a woman’s body (somewhere around the middle of her bum or right at the love handles). Want to get away from the tee with a creative knit? Try a wrap style, one with puffed sleeves and a scoop neck, one with lantern sleeves or a notched neck.

Cropped Cargo Chinos – These do not flatter a woman’s frame in any way; the shortened length makes calves look bigger and legs look longer. The extra pockets add bulk (and usually end up wrinkled after the first wash). Want the cargo pockets for day tripping at the park or in the woods? Go with a jacket or a full-length pant or even a small backpack or sling. Want the cropped look? Consider a heavy jersey, a ponte fabric or a synthetic in the same fabric as a jacket or cardigan for something just as comfortable but far more flattering.

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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Saturday

In the morning, I ran to get my hair cut and colored in the nearby town, and then run a few errands. Olive ribbed tank from J. Crew, white ribbed tank from Old Navy, Joe’s Jeans in “Provacateur,” brown stacked flops from J. Crew, silver hoops from The Icing, silver cuff.

Hair was brushed out but on the second day; blew the bangs straight.

Makeup was Body Shop bronzing powder in Light as face color, Max Factor Lash Perfection mascara on curled lashes, Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow.

Kathleen did her magic – all I told her is that I wanted to go darker and that I wanted heavier bangs. I trust her, and was not disappointed. Choppy layers that can work straight, wavy or curly, fun sideswept bangs, and a very rich multi-tonal color of dark brown that looks closer to what I was born with.

Got home and had to dash to get dressed. Friday night I had a friend over so I didn’t have time to play dress-up and figure out my theater outfit. Thank you soooo much to everyone who wrote in suggestions, you guys are awesome and have good ideas! For the one who suggested my Old Navy dress… I completely forgot about it. I had set to wear my black cashmere tank from Banana Republic and my orange-red shantung full skirt also from Banana (seen here), but when I saw how spiffy and sleek my husband looked (flat front gray tropical wool trousers from J. Crew, white tailored shirt from some brand sold at Mens Wearhouse, black blazer from… J. crew? Not sure…, black slip-on sleek shoes from Ecco) I decided my outfit may look a bit like a costume. I tried a few different skirts, but settled on the black matte jersey dress from Old Navy, my red stone necklace, my leopard peep-toe heels from BCBgirls,silver hoops from The Icing, and silver cuff natch. :-)

Didn’t have to do my hair since it was done by Kathleen my talented stylist. She used the Pureology line on me, and swears by it for protecting color. I bought the shampoo and conditioner and once I can wash my hair (was told to go as long as humanely possible without washing) I will be using it and let you k now how it is.

Same makeup as earlier, just a re-touch of the bronzing powder, a bit of Smashbox Soft Lights in Tint on my cheekbones, a medium line of Maybelline Ultra Liner in black on the top lash line, a quick swipe of Maybelline Great Lash waterproof mascara in black over existing mascara, Body Shop Lip and Cheek Tint with Revlon Super Lustrous Lip Gloss in Pink Afterglow over it.

We took the Metro and it was not even a block to the little restaurant (I don’t know if there are even 20 tables in the place). The menu seemed different from the one online and the only entrees that were vegetarian were spaghetti with tomato sauce (yawn) and a risotto with corn and truffle shavings. My husband and I chose the risotto, we shared a bottle of Pinot Grigio (not sure the label, our friend chose the wine) and had a nice, yet not inspiring or overwhelmingly unique meal. We then walked not even three blacks to the Kennedy Center where my friend and I sidestepped grates in our heels (she too wore a black sheath and heels) while the men tromped over everything and got there in time to marvel at the acre-sized curtains in the lobby and get a cocktail in the Terrace Bar prior to the performance.

The performance was great! As I said, I had never seen The Phantom of the Opera other than the movie. Back story – 1992, for Christmas I got my first boom box with a CD player in it, and with it two CDs – Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. For several months until I got my high school arsenal of REM, Depeche Mode, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I listened solely to these two soundtracks. Come 2007, I am silently singing along to this performance and even a tear came down my cheek at finally seeing live what I had in my head 15 years ago. I think also seeing Shakespeare in Love the night prior made the theater experience that more intense.

Our friends live in Virginia and parked at the theater; it was a gorgeous night and declined their offer to drive us to the Metro and decided to hoof it. All in all a lovely evening!

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!

Stain Removal – Recipe for Success

One tablespoon of classic Dawn liquid – the blue stuff
One cup of hydrogen peroxide

Dab onto stain with a clean cloth or sponge.

This can remove red wine, blood, yellowed stains from sweat and deodorant, grass, even stains that have been laundered and are old.

On Thanksgiving we tried this with an old off-white muslin tablecloth with a blue, tan and berry colored pattern. A glass of Zinfandel spilled over a large portion of the fabric. After trying all the classic remedies (like cancel red wine with white wine) and having little success, I went onto Google and found a few recipes.

The recipe above got the most traffic and comments online, and was the only one that worked. And boy did it work: without even rinsing the red was COMPLETELY gone, the print was not affected; it didn’t bleach the off-white color. It was as though the wine was never spilled.

Online it says you can use this on most any type of stain with success and virtually no damage. I am totally going to try this on all my old frustrating stains and have these ingredients on hand for the next time that I have a spill!

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.

Seasonless Black Trousers

A pair of black trousers in a seasonless fabric is a necessity to any woman’s wardrobe. What deems a fabric “seasonless?” This means the pants are not wool, they are not cotton. They are most likely a blend of fabrics, usually a good portion synthetic. Ann Taylor has a seasonless fabric they call Triacetate. Express’ seasonless fabric is called Microtwill. J.Crew (and many other brands) calls their version Gabardine. All different fabrics, all seasonless. Maintains it’s shape, often has a bit of stretch, has a slight texture or sheen (great for dressing up and dressing down!), and sort of blends into the background. Not only should these tousers be seasonless, they should be eventless (if that is a word). You want trousers that can go from work to a happy hour to a cocktail party to an interview, to a night club. What cut achieves this? A bootcut leg, not tight, but not Palazzo pants (those pants that look like a skirt on each leg). A tab waist if often a good choice. You never need to worry about a belt, it lies flat under fitted, untucked shirts, yet looks smart with a tucked in oxford. Due to a tab-wait trouser having a wider waistband, it is less likely to cut into the torso, creating a spare tire above the waistline. Very flattering on women with hips, bellies, rears, or straight shapes.

These trousers should not have front pockets. I do not care what your body shape is, front pockets ruin a smooth line and make trousers look more casual and less versatile. These pockets often bow out, wrinkle under the tousers, and look messy. They can make Kate Moss look like Kathy Bates. Back pockets are okay, as long as they are small besom pockets, and not patch pockets (again, detroy the versatility and make the trouser more dated and casual).

Examples of good trousers:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
Yes, I said these trousers should be black, but I chose a lighter color so you could see the detail. The bootcut leg adds a modern look to the pant, elongates and slims the leg. This is an example of a tab waist. See how it is a wider waistband, less likely to cut into the middle. The lack of pleats, seaming and pockets in the front minimizes a belly and gives a smooth line. The strong crease down the front elongates the leg and gives a long, lean look. See how you could see these pants with an oxford and matching blazer with pumps for work, a beaded camisole and pointy toed heels for a night club, a cotton v-neck sweater sweater and some boots for a jaunt to the mall. These pants are from Ann Taylor, and are a cotton/rayon/spandex blend (rayon gives it the seasonless fabric, strech gives it the smooth fit wear after wear).

Here is a great example from Lane Bryant:

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
These pants are a seasonless nylon/rayon/spandex blend. They are cut just below the waist (reduces the look of tummy bulge), have a bootcut leg, and smooth lower torso. These pants would look great with strappy heels, a beaded shell and matching jacket for a cocktail party, or a merino turtleneck and some crocodile pointy boots for lunch with the girls. At the time of writing this, these trousers are on sale for $20, regularly $45. You really can find stylish classic pieces for a steal at your local mall. I cannot stress this point enough.

The point is that with the right black trousers, you can dress for almost any event. I have black trousers I purchased five years ago, and still wear weekly. They do not have to cost a lot, most of the trousers I buy on sale and get for less than $50.00. Do keep in mind that though a bargain is always great, black trousers is one thing you do not want to look cheap. They will be worn more than most anything else in your wardrobe, so don’t settle for a chintzy fabric with a cheap sheen, a pair that wrinkles easily, isn’t lined, isn’t the right length, the right cut, the right anything. I do believe in buying in bulk. If you find the trousers of your dreams, you may wish to invest in a second pair in black, and possibly a third pair in another versatile color (gray, brown, tan, white). Consider this especially if you buy the matching suit jacket. I purchased a pair of amazing trousers and the matching jacket at Ann Taylor four years ago. I often wore the trousers without the jacket. One day my dog jumped up to greet me as I returned home from work, his claw got caught in the fabric and ended up snagging and tearing the thigh of these coveted trousers. Ann Taylor no longer makes pieces in this same fabric, so I have a lovely well-fitting jacket and no trousers to match. Since then, I always buy two pairs of pants for every suit jacket, allowing one pair for every day wear, and one pair to preserve to wear with the jacket or for special occasions.

As for care of these pants. I will let you know ahead of time that often these pants say “Dry Clean Only.” I DESPISE spending money on dry cleaning. I end up taking my clothes to the cleaners and forget to pick them up for two weeks. Most of the knits and sweaters I purchase I ignore this “Dry Clean Only” label and wash in Woolite on the gentle cycle of my machine and hang to dry. I have tried this with trousers, and rarely have had good luck. They end up wrinkled, losing that nice front crease and long line. They look cheaper, they often get tighter, the legs shorter (often leaving the lining the same length, which is NOT a good look!), the threads weaken, leaving the potential for an embarrassment the next time you sit down. I have a stain remover I actually purchased in the lingerie department of a department store. I spot treat with that or a Shout! Wipe (always have 5 or 6 in my purse – available at your grocery store in the detergent aisle) and then take them to the local discount dry cleaners. Every so often, they get a better cleaning at the higher end dry cleaners. This may seem like a pain, especially if you have children, a busy schedule, a tight budget. I must tell you this is an investment. If you take care of your clothes correctly, they will take care of you in return, looking gorgeous and lasting for years. Though it may be more appealing to buy all clothing that can take a tumble in the washer and dryer, you lose that polished look, that classic look, the look that shows you care what you look like and others should as well. If you can’t go beyond Tumble Dry Low, you will have a hard time following the closet rules of this book.

This Weekend

This weekend was action-packed!

Friday after work a few friends came over. We did a pot luck dinner and then played a board game. It’s so funny, ten years ago I would see that as the lamest Friday night EVA but now, I found it to be so much fun! Emerson goes to bed around 8pm now, so we turned on the baby monitor, cracked open a couple cold ones (and some bottles of wine) and had a good chill time.

Saturday was my friend Shelly’s bachelorette party. I am her Matron of Honor and I planned a winery tour. We went with a company in the DC area that plans the entire event – picked us up at Shelly’s house, took pictures, booked the tastings, offered a Wine 101 class, booklets to take notes, lunch and even drove us to the sushi place near Shelly’s house after the tour so we could pick up dinner!

I had ordered a dress to wear for the day and it didn’t arrive. For some reason on Friday I didn’t receive any mail – packages or even junk in my mailbox. So I was in a bit of a scramble. I actually had ordered this cardigan from Gap and was planning on returning it this week… but desperate times (and dirty laundry) call for desperate measures.

Attire:
Gap – Hot pink cardigan, black ribbed tank, white low-slung flare trousers
Sofft – Black patent T-strap sandals
Silver necklace, hoops and cuff

Hair:
Washed and conditioned
Frederic Fekkai Luscious Curls Cream
Let hair air-dry most of the way, since leaving with wet hair (very frantic morning) to get to Shelly’s house, I dried the bangs with a brush and dryer.

Figured this was a decent picture of the current hair. You can tell in the pictures that the day was quite overcast; there was drizzle most of the day and typical DC-area thick humidity. I didn’t even THINK of trying to straighten the hair, and the cut really made the humidity work in my favor. I again chose dark brown lowlights and just a couple highlights in caramel and auburn.

Beauty:
Philosophy – The Present
Estee Lauder – Nutritious foundation in Intensity 3.o
Nars – Blush in Orgasm
Clinique – Longwear Lipstick in Beauty
Revlon – ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black

On the ride home, I spilled some red wine on my pants. And I was so proud to have gone so long drinking red wine in white trousers without a single dribble! No worries, my trusty Dawn and peroxide combo did the trick Sunday morning. I used it, let it sit, tossed in a hot wash with a bit of bleach and the pants are good as new!

But the winery tour was fun – we visited three different wineries in Virginia. At first we thought it was a bit lame – we arrived to the first winery at the same time as another group and felt we had to compete for time and attention. Then our wine class was a bit hokey and we spent most of the time making faces at one another as though we were back in high school. However the second winery totally changed our opinions. The place was gorgeous, the staff really passionate about teaching us about their wine, the wines delicious (I bought two bottles for home and we got some to enjoy with our lunch). The third one was super busy and at first the woman providing the tasting was a bit rude, but then we killed her with kindness and silly jokes, she admitted she consumed White Zinfandel during a recent NKOTB concert, and all was lovely and fun. After the tour, we picked up sushi, went back to the bride-to-be’s house for dinner, more wine and girly movies.

Sunday was our friends’ son’s first birthday. Again, the plan was to possibly wear the same dress from Saturday, this time with some flip flops for a more casual look. No dress, so I re-wore the newly laundered white pants!

Attire:
Gap – White low-slung flare trousers
Havanias – Silver flip flops
Banana Republic Outlet – Indigo jersey top
Silver jewelery

Hair:
Next day, straightened while dry with round brush and dryer

Beauty:
Estee Lauder – Nutritious foundation in Intensity 3.0
Cargo – Matte BeachBlush in Tenerife
Revlon – ColorStay shadow quad in Neutral Khakis
Cover Girl – LashBlast mascara in Rich Black
Maybelline – UltraLiner in Black
Benefit – Her Glossiness in Next Question Please

It was a lovely birthday party. One relative made the CUTEST cupcakes decorated as various animals. The mom made a blue and green cake, it was a buffet of fresh summer food like gazpacho and kabobs and orzo salad with veggies and shrimp and herbs. Just family and close friends. We had a lovely time and the weather cooperated so we could all enjoy the festivities outside.

Here is my husband and Emerson at the party – Emerson is teething and yesterday she really felt it for the first time. She was a bit cranky, tired, overwhelmed and last night had a low-grade fever. However she still had a good time at the party. She had watermelon and bread and grilled squash and met lots of little kids.

Best story from the party… The birthday boy was chewing on a little rubber ducky and went up to E, took out the duck and placed it at her feet. She picked up the duck with one hand, took her pacifier out with the other and handed him her pacifier. He stuck the pacifier in his mouth and crawled away, she gummed on the duck. The boy’s dad made a joke about only a year old and already swapping spit with the ladies. It was very cute and funny.

Today I am totally spent from being up all night with teething crying Emerson. I felt so bad because this girl NEVER cries and is always so chill. I knew she had to be unhappy to be that vocal and distressed. We tried a few natural remedies thus far for teething which have done great, but last night we finally gave her some meds so she could rest. Now it’s time for Mommy to get a bit of rest. :)

The Story of Emerson’s Birth

As most of you know, my plan was to have a completely natural birth. I switched early in my pregnancy from a highly-respected OB/GYN group to a birthing center with midwives after much research. Call me a hippie or a masochist, but I really wanted to experience the birth of my child sans medication, surgery and in as natural yet safe of a setting as possible.

My sister’s boss once told her that every woman he knew who wanted a natural birth ended up getting the opposite; those who scheduled c-sections and desired epidurals upon admittance often came early… too early for meds. Murphy’s Law. Well Murphy’s Law surely hit me with this birth!

Emerson’s due date was switched to January 2nd from December 28th after her 20-week sonogram. I was happy because I really wanted her to “cook” as long as she desired and not be forced to induce. January 2nd came and went, and the Monday after, due to high blood pressure the last couple of weeks, I was asked to take a NST and get a biophysical/sonogram to see how the baby was doing. The NST was great, but the sonogram showed less than 5 centimeters of amniotic fluid – a number that concerned the doctor enough to call the midwives and tell them he strongly suggested induction… that very day.

I went home to get my bag (was in my husband’s car but he didn’t take me to the appointment) and to do last-minute things around the house. Due to needing an induction, I was admitted not to the birthing center, but to the hospital that was associated with it. I have never been in the hospital before – never a broken bone, stitches or surgery. By 1pm I had a saline lock on my arm, a wristband with my stats and a very uncomfortable hospital bed.

They started me off with a dose of gel that was supposed to open and ripen my cervix. When the midwife (the midwives from the birthing center attended to me even though I was in the hospital) checked me upon admittance, she said I was “only a nub” and they obviously needed more dilation before they tried to progress the birth.

By 8pm I was maybe 2 centimeters dilated at most. They said they could do another dose of gel, but it probably wouldn’t do enough. They recommended a low dose of pitocin overnight to begin mild contractions, hoping it would open up things. I really didn’t want pitocin, but there wasn’t much else of an option. The low dose wasn’t bad – they monitored it very carefully so I always felt in control and relatively comfortable.

Tuesday, they checked my cervix and it was not even 3 centimeters. Argh! They took me off the pit so I could eat and shower, but stuck me on it again and at higher doses. Due to being on the pitocin, I had to be on a constant fetal and contraction monitor, which tied me to the bed (another thing I was very against). One nice nurse found a telemetry unit which would let me walk laps around L&D; we tried it out and the baby’s stats rose and couldn’t always be checked (she moved a LOT when I walked) so I had to get back in bed. They got me a birthing ball and rocking chair for some variety and relief. My contractions were one on top of another, sometimes not even with five seconds between them. I was handling them well and using Hypnobirthing and yoga methods to breathe through them and focus, but they were worried that the speed of them and lack of dilation would cause too much stress to me and the baby.

Tuesday night, they decided to try a different route – a pill that is actually for ulcers but has been shown to cause contractions. I agreed to try it out – 24 hours of contractions and no dilation was utter torture. I got off the IV (hooray!) and swallowed the pill.

I knew the pill didn’t work when I realized I slept for six hours straight. They checked me Wednesday morning and I was still three centimeters, though supposedly “paper thin.” They decided to go with pitocin again, but really carefully monitor and adjust the dosage. I started at 8am; by 8:30 I was feeling pretty strong contractions. They were like the day prior, but with more build-up and time between… the nurses, the midwife and I all felt confident these were more “productive” contractions that would get the job done. Two midwives said “your baby will be born today!” I was so excited…

Until around 1pm… when the contractions got stronger. Stronger as in horrific, painful, unable to think, to breathe, to control. They were in my lower abdomen and my lower back. I couldn’t stand because the darn monitors would fall off my belly; bending over helped the back but hurt the stomach, I was in too much pain to be able to handle the birthing ball any longer, and the rocking chair decided to get some horrible loud squeaking noise every time I glided it back and forth. I tried to breathe, to moan, to flow but it wasn’t helping. I never clenched or strained, but it went to the point where I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t control my body and I just knew something wasn’t going well. I started crying, I felt like such a failure. I became that woman who screams for Jesus and makes everyone in the lobby roll their eyes. My birth plan said to not offer me an epidural – if I needed one my husband or I would state it. Speaking of which, my husband was the most phenomenal birthing partner – I didn’t have to say a word and he seemed to KNOW when to press on my back, when to play with my hair, when to offer light massage, when to back off. He got the iPod going with my labor playlist, and even seemed to know when I needed it turned up to drown out machines and myself.

So anyway, he looked at me, without me saying it, and said, “I am so impressed and proud of you, and think you would still be very brave if you had an epidural.” It was what I was thinking, in my head I was begging and pleading for one but I didn’t say it out loud because I felt like a wimp and failure. But with his support… I asked for one. By now it was around 4pm.

An epidural is so terrifying, even when it’s taking place. It hurts, your body is shaking, the room is overflowing with medical professionals and it’s a horrible experience. My husband held my hands and supported my body as I leaned over the side of the bed to get it inserted in my spine. I was grateful, yet also hated how things had turned out. Pitocin, bed ridden, hospital, and now an epidural. Way things were going, next thing I knew I was going to end up with a caesarean.

The epidural kicked in and it was a very weird experience – my right hip to toe was so numb it was as though it disappeared; my left leg felt more the way one does when a limb falls asleep. I still felt contractions, but more a slight wave in my crotch and hardening of the top of my belly. They decided to check to see how far my cervix had progressed…. Now I was almost four centimeters… almost. After all those hours of extreme pain I didn’t even get a full centimeter of dilation. They tried breaking my water but couldn’t do it – either not enough water or weird positioning of the baby’s head. I was so exhausted and frustrated with my body. Luckily, through all this the baby was completely strong, happy and healthy.

They gave me some time to rest while I had almost unknown contractions. My husband started looking a bit worse for wear – sweaty, red eyes, pale. He had been with me since admittance, only leaving once to shower and change clothes. He said he was feeling a bit weird and went to the bathroom, and didn’t emerge for over an hour. He asked if it was okay to use the shower, thinking it would make him feel better. It didn’t. By 8pm he had chills, aches and couldn’t keep anything in his system. He internal reflexes were in overdrive, and he was dry heaving and puking bile after his stomach had emptied.

The midwives come in around 10pm and say they think the baby won’t come until the next day. My husband goes home to medicate himself, rest up so he can see the birth. My sister and mom come to sit with me. They check me and decide after my husband has left that a few pushes may help the cervix get going.

We push for about three hours and things are going far better. They can see the baby’s head and say she has hair. My water broke. I started dilating and next thing was around eight centimeters. They try different pushing positions, but keep me on my back because the baby’s head was behind my pelvic bone and they needed her to move toward my back. So I was in the typical position I never wanted to be in – legs in stirrups, back on the bed, pushing for all life’s worth. Between pushes I visualized her head descending but they said after each push which would descend the head, a relaxation would cause her to slip back up behind the bone.

They brought in an obstetrician, who said they could try forceps or vacuum, but she didn’t think it would work and most likely would need a cesarean. My husband wasn’t there, my sister called him and he was in such bad shape he was on the bathroom floor unable to move. This is a man who does 100K hikes for fun, gets sick maybe once a year, dealt with cancer and chemo without a tear. For him to be crying in the fetal position at home while I was in labor… we ALL knew it was really really bad.

So I keep pushing and I start getting the feeling back in my right leg. They say this is normal due to gravity and body positioning. I push and can feel when contractions come and how my pushing affects things. They say this is good and I feel productive, yet so sad and frustrated my husband isn’t there. I start to cry, they tell me the baby could possibly come with any push if it is a good enough one. My sister is holding one leg. My mom is helping me curl up into pushes, the nurse and midwife are both so supportive but my husband isn’t there.

Now I am feeling contractions, and ask my mom to press the while button on the epidural drip. She does, the nurse says it will take 15 minutes for it to kick in. The contractions are so strong now, and with each contraction I can feel the catheter ballooning inside me which is utter torture. I cling to the side of the hospital bed and watch the clock tick down. The time is up and I have no relief… in fact it feels even stronger. My mom looks at the machine, and sees a cord on the ground. Somehow the epidural drip disconnected from my back. No wonder! They call in the anesthesiologist to reattach it. Takes ten minutes for him to arrive, and then another fifteen minutes after reattachment for it to kick in. Two minutes after he finishes reattaching, the obstetrician arrives saying we’re going to try forceps, and try right then and there.

The catheter feels like some archaic torture device, the contractions feel like the last scene of Braveheart, and now they are putting what looks like metal car fenders in me and asking me to push like I never pushed before. My husband is not there.

In the middle of the first push, I feel the warmth of the epidural kick in and I feel as though it is a sign that it’s now, it’s this way, and I need to block out all the pain and frustration and do it. Three rounds of pushes, and I feel enough to feel her head, and then her shoulders come out. Omigod, that seemed so… quick! 5:35 AM, Thursday January 8th. She isn’t crying, she is coated in meconium so they whisk her to the other side of the room to clean and suction her. I am up in stirrups, slid down to the bottom of the bed, unable to move in any way. They tell me I have a fourth degree tear and have to sew it up. The obstetrician and my midwife get to work, I am at such an angle that I can’t really see the warming table where Emerson is located. There seems to be a dozen medical professionals in the room scurrying about, my mom is holding my hand, my sister is checking on Emerson. Finally we hear a cry… and it seems as though it’s from another room, another person’s baby. I ask my sister to cut the umbilical cord. I feel sad… my husband missed it, and really I missed it too. I feel so detached and deflated and wrong.

Finally I am stitched up and Emerson is clean and healthy. They bundle her up and place her on my chest; I still am numb almost in my entire body and have my legs propped up, but I am able to hold her up to my face and look in her eyes. And I think she looked in mine and she looked like me, and like my sister and like my husband in the brows and my mom’s side of the family and so… beautiful. Not alien, not like a wrinkled old man, but even with all the red stripes of forcep marks, just so delicate and feminine and beautiful and I started to feel connected.

She got a 3 on her first APGAR, but a 9 on the second one. She got healthy very quickly and we were finally left to hang out with one another. I asked to have her exclusively breastfed, so we got the chance to bond over her first meal. I needed a nurse’s assistance but it was nice that it was the nurse who was with me through the whole evening.

Around 11am on Thursday they move me to a different room on a different floor. This room has a far more comfortable bed (not one that morphs into a birthing chair) and a whole different staff and a good energy. It doesn’t even smell like a hospital as the L&D room did.

This is where Emerson and I resided until Saturday afternoon. The hospital was amazing – the techs were so helpful and sweet, the nurses were total saints. I was visited by five different lactation consultants who showed me all sorts of techniques and holds. One day I was so exhausted, a nurse came and swaddled Emerson tight, and took her to hang with the nurses for a bit and at that time, I could sleep for two hours and even a massage therapist came by for a complimentary back rub. The OB and my midwives came by to say hi, meet Emerson, congratulate me on being such a trooper. The only thing that sucked was that my husband still hadn’t healed. He had a high fever so he couldn’t come see Emerson. He didn’t want to see pictures because he wanted his first view to be her in person. But he called several times a day so I could let him hear her and tell him what she did and how we were doing.

I have never been a baby person – as a teen I preferred sitting toddlers and when friends have had children I may coo and play with a little foot but I never like to hold or cuddle with infants. I don’t know what to do with them, and I always find them a bit weird and slightly scary. I feared parenthood – gosh I didn’t even know how to hold a baby and had never changed and diaper. No need to worry, it seemed like instinct. The nurses taught me basics, but really it was as though I delivered the baby, the placenta, and then Service Pack B for my brain to know what to do with a baby. Also, once her skin touched mine, it was instant passionate love between us two – totally surreal and awesome experience.

Saturday, my husband arrived around 9am and instantly fell in love with Emerson. Nothing more wonderful than to see our baby with him, them getting to know one another.

Since then, I have been very tired… my body has gone through quite a lot with the healing from the tear as well as other things (TMI, but I think trying to poop after pregnancy and stitches is scarier than having to push a baby out). But it has been awesome – my husband doesn’t have to work right now so we’re working together to take care of Emerson. My mom and sister have been AMAZING – last night was my mom’s birthday so they made dinner and brought it over and we had cake and watched the Golden Globes together. While at the hospital they came to the house to prepare the place for Emerson – setting up the Pack & Play in our bedroom, washing laundry and dishes, etc. Right now I am in bed with my husband and a very gassy Emerson, chilling after a marathon feeding. Ruckus is on the floor and we’re a tired, overwhelmed but happy family. It wasn’t the birth I had envisioned, but it doesn’t really matter because of the final product.

As for fashion… well due to the stitches I am far more comfortable in dresses. The summer dresses from New York & Company, the gray jersey Old Navy dress and even my black matte jersey Old Navy dress that I wore to my friend’s wedding are awesome. All have surplice necklines that work with breastfeeding, are soft fabrics and are a length where I am covered but not twisted up. I have a navy jersey robe from Lands End that I can throw over it for comfort. Due to not being a perfect size anything before the baby and still not one, I have yet to find a nursing tank that is comfortable, fits and flatters. I do own one from Bravissimo, it gets the job done but due to the weight and size of my breasts it cannot be worn outside the house without getting arrested for indecent exposure. As for nursing bras, I got an underwire one from Nordstrom that is awesome… but I haven’t tried it now that my milk is coming in. I have tried several others and they weren’t working pre-milk so I fear they won’t now. So anyone who had large breasts and some curves pre-pregnancy and then found a bra or tank that actually worked and didn’t leave everything hanging out, hanging down, or smooshed do let me know. Preferably online… don’t think I’ll be getting to a mall any time soon!

For those who want to know additional pregnancy and motherhood related details – where I went, what birthing center I used, reviews of products, natural remedies I am trying for PPD, healing, and what I tried to naturally ready myself for labor (and they said actually did help in the long run) feel free to email me. I do not want this blog to become a baby blog, and my views are naturally not going to be the same as all those who read here.

I respect everyone’s decisions on how they want their pregnancy, labor, birth, and motherhood to go. No one knows what is best for you and your baby more than you. Don’t think my views here are saying I am anti any other birth plan – in fact this experience helped me respect more plans and methods alternate to my views before giving birth. To all those who have sent well wishes, we thank you so much! The blogging community is amazing and I am glad to know all of you through it! For those who are expecting, I wish you much health, luck and happiness with this journey!!!

And for those who want some baby pics… we have baby during and after her first bath at home (with proud Daddy who did the honor), what I like to call “Dr. Evil Emerson,” and “Emerson in Pink.” Due to her size, no chi chi outfits of yet… pretty much rocking the tee and diaper look with a blanket or gown. But do know when she gets some weight on her and some regularity, I will be showing her decked out in her baby duds. :)

UPDATES:
My sister (and best friend and fabulous birthing partner!) read this and saw I missed a few details or got them wrong. Love her! Here’s her view (more accurate since she wasn’t drugged or crying out for mercy ;P )

* your water broke at some point before 8pm, possibly while [husband] and I were out for dinner or a little before that
* [Husband] left around 10:30pm – or at least that’s when you called me
* you pushed for 4 hours before Mommy realized the epidural was unattached. I first called [husband] at 11:10 to tell him you were about to push and it was only 5 minutes later that you did. The nurse and midwife told the OB at one point and said you had only been pushing for 30 minutes when really it was about an hour, hour and a half. I don’t know if they were confused or if they did it on purpose to prevent the OB from talking c-section too soon.
* you fell asleep once the epidural was working again and were asleep for about an hour. Then around 5am, they came back in and it was only at that point that they decided to use forceps. Before it was only vacuum and threat of c-section.
* it was Mommy who got them to use forceps by telling her birth story with you to the OB.

Thanks sister! :D