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Shop My Closet – On Poshmark!

WardrobeOxygen on PoshmarkI’ve been saying for a while that I needed to get off my tuchus and sell all the clothes I don’t currently wear. While I may clean out my closet I do have a dirty secret… I have bins and bags full of clothes in my attic (and there were a couple full contractor bags in my home office). I regularly donate career wear to a charity and have Freecycled and donated all my maternity clothes and clothes that are in “well loved” condition, but the nicer stuff I’ve been holding on to.

No more. All this clothing is doing no one favors being boxed and bagged up in my attic. A couple weekends ago, my best friend came over and for eight hours we dug through three bags. All pieces were photographed, packed up, labeled, and ready to ship. While I have used eBay and a Shop My Closet blog in the past, this time I decided to use Poshmark. My friend Alyson has raved about it for a long time and many of you have told me you use it with great success. It seemed simpler than eBay too.

For the past two weeks I have been using Poshmark and I have become as big of a fan as my friend Alyson! It’s an app-based program; while you can visit Poshmark on your computer, to buy and sell you need to do it on your phone. As a seller, I think this makes the process uber easy – my pictures are already on my phone so I can easily upload them, write a quick description, and even answer questions and negotiate counteroffers. I’ve found the customers to be more… reasonable than on eBay. You’re not usually expected to offer 5,000 measurements for a $6 LOFT tee, people are super friendly and quick to share and comment, and while I have had a couple ridiculous counter offers (no, I will not sell that NWT original retail still in the store $250 item for $15), in general it has been a friendly and painless experience.

Tips for Selling on Poshmark by Wardrobe OxygenA couple of you saw on social media that I was on Poshmark and have joined to buy and sell. If you’re interested, if you use this link and code PMZYS you’ll get $5 off your first order and I too will receive a $5 credit (find me, I am wardrobeoxygen).  There’s no auction or bidding, you can counter-offer and some sellers (myself included) offer  “bundling” where you can purchase multiple pieces from a seller at one time and save on shipping ($4.99/order).  If you’re interested in selling on Poshmark, here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Be Honest.  Like other selling sites, Poshmark has a rating system.  Buyers can give you up to five stars for orders.  It’s not worth it to ruin your reputation by trying to pass off replicas, lie about the condition of a garment, or its original price.
  • Provide Details.  Is it an XL but fits more like a L?  How did you style it?  If you recall the original style name or number or even color name, include it.  While Poshmark won’t let you write a novel, you can offer quite a lot of information.  The more details you provide, the more likely the item will sell and the more likely the buyer will get what she expected and leave you a favorable rating.
  • Take Good Photos.  I use my iPhone 6s and take the pictures in natural light near a window.  For Christmas I got this dress form; it’s not high quality (in fact I cracked the base the day my friend and I were on a Poshmark selling spree and it’s now held together with packing tape) but it gives a better idea of how an item will fit than lying a sweater on your bed or floor.  If you have a photo of you wearing the item, include that too.  I also search the internet for stock photos of the item.  A mix of all three is a great way to get an item sold.  Poshmark lets you upload four photos per item with the first photo being your cover photo.  I’ve found the most successful cover photos are those with me wearing the piece.  If you don’t have a photographer taking your picture in items for a blog, a mirror selfie in a well-lit room is still good (and you can cut off your head in the photo if you wish to be anonymous).
  • Stock Up on Free Priority Mailers.  Your post office has Priority Mail Tyvek envelopes and boxes for free; these are perfect for shipping out your orders.  Included in the cut Poshmark takes from your sales (20%, or $2.95 if the item sells for $5 or less) is a shipping label.  When you make a sale, Poshmark emails you this Priority Mail label.  You can order shipping bags and boxes from for free but know it takes up to two weeks to receive your order.  If you have a post office nearby, grab a few to get your sales going.
  • Take Care with your Sales.  I fold nicely, wrap in tissue, tie with a bit of curling ribbon, and carefully slip into the box or bag.  I got a pack of cheap tissue paper; you only need 1-2 pieces per order.  The curling ribbon I purchased when I attended a baby shower where all presents were to be wrapped in blue.  That yet-to-be-born baby is now 5 and as you see in the photo above, there’s still plenty left even though every shower and birthday present since the shower had turquoise ribbon on it.  I bought some rolls of packing tape, and because I’m a dork like that, ordered some cheapy business cards from VistaPrint (this is a referral link that will give you $10 off your first order) that thank the buyer for her order, have my name and my Poshmark address on them.  The overall cost is minimal, but it makes the experience much nicer for the recipient.
  • Raise Your Rates.  Poshmarkers LOVE to counter-offer.  Consider this when making your prices.  It’s worth it to up the price a few dollars to be ready for a counter-offer (if you accept a counter-offer the item sells immediately to that individual).  Also, if you have stagnant items that don’t want to sell, you can then lower the price without too much heartache.  A plus to lowering the rate is anyone who “liked” the piece will end up receiving reduced shipping.
  • Be Quick with Communication.  If someone asks for additional details or makes a counter-offer, be polite and reply within 24 hours.  Since Poshmark is on your phone, it’s easy to quickly type in a response and move on with your day.
  • Follow the Rules.  Don’t accept sales through PayPal or offline.  Don’t try to sell used makeup or clutter Poshmark with items they don’t allow to be sold on their app (home goods, electronics, health and wellness products, used underwear and makeup).  Don’t label something a blouse when in fact it’s one of those belly wrap things that spam social media.  And don’t call something Chanel-esque or like Louis Vuitton – that’s a trademark violation and such names can only be used if the item is legitimately from that brand.
  • Be Part of the Community.  Share other people’s sales (I only share that which I actually like), follow other accounts, leave comments and reply to comments.  Poshmark is very social, and by being part of the community you’ll get a larger audience to see your closet, resulting in faster and more sales!

Are you on Poshmark?  I’d love to hear your experiences and feel free to share your closet in the comments!

20% off Bags, Sunglasses, Luggage and More at Amazon: My Picks

20% off at Amazon for Bags, Luggage and Sunglasses - Details on the Promo, the Code, and my picks for the SaleOne of the best things about going to BlogHer this summer was meeting with Amazon. I have learned so much about the company and how great of a place it is for fashion. I’ve learned since then if there’s something specific I know I want to search for it at Amazon as I can usually find it cheaper, more colors available, and usually with free Prime shipping and returns. I also now get emails notifying me of promotions they are hosting and this promotion is a good one – 20% of select accessories with a focus on bags, luggage, umbrellas, and sunglasses though November 19, 2015. Use the code SAVE20BAGS at checkout for the items available at this link. Not every item on Amazon is included in this promo, but the selection available is pretty phenomenal. If you don’t want to scroll through the hundreds of pages, here’s my picks for the best items for you and for gifts that are part of the 20% off promo:

  1. We all always need another umbrella – one for the car, one for the office, one available when you get caught in an unexpected shower. An umbrella is a great gift, especially if it has style or a message. I adore the City Scenes umbrellas from Totes; they’re adorable and represent some great cities in the US. Get one for your friend who lives in that city, is from that city, or finds it to be her favorite vacation spot.
  2. Get the highly coveted green mirror Ray-Ban aviators for less. This is the classic 58mm size that is part of the promotion, and Amazon already has them almost half the price of department stores. Mega score!
  3. I have a fringe crossbody and it’s a favorite, adding interest to a simple look and not being too fancy for a concert, outdoor festival, or casual weekend. The Finn Crossbody from Rebecca Minkoff is simple in style to let the fringe take the spotlight, but also not look obvious from a brand or dated after one year. 12 colors available and again the Amazon price before the promo is cheaper than most department stores or even what I’ve seen on Poshmark!
  4. Desire a well-made leather bag free of frills, logos, bling, yet doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? The Fossil Sydney Shopper is for you. Five colors available, quality leather but the type that can handle being stuffed and used a lot. Stands on its own, smart inner pockets, zipper closure, sturdy straps and a style that is chic now and for many years. Great for work (will fit a laptop), as a carry-on, or your everyday purse. 81% of the reviews on Amazon are 5 stars, you can’t go wrong with this bag!
  5. I love HOBO for wallets; great quality and smartly designed. I’m on my second HOBO wallet but the previous one I had for almost a decade. The ‘Vera’ wallet is a very similar style to the one I have but with an additional zipper compartment that can transform this wallet into a clutch. Eight colors available.
  6. These are the aviators I wear every day in the same color combination. This is a great price for Ray-Bans, and with the 20% off the price is even nicer. Please note these are oversized; some may find them too big, some may also find these are a perfect gift for the man in your life (Karl is always stealing mine!).
  7. Many of you over the years have mentioned that you swear by the LeSportsac Everygirl Tote for the gym, for travel, for work. Durable, lightweight, and able to smash into your suitcase or under a seat for your flight. Come sin 21 different color options and a really reasonable price for a well-rated bag.
  8. I’m picky about umbrellas, and this one from Totes I own and is a fave. It’s compact but opens up full size. It can handle a windy day without turning inside out, and can open with one hand. 17 colors and prints to choose from and a price lower than what I paid when I bought it last year!
  9. The Sherpani Wisdom Fitness Tote is brilliantly designed while still looking great. Available in four colors, this bag has a ton of smart pockets to hold everything from a tablet to your water bottle. The straps will fit over your shoulder even while wearing your coat, and it can keep you organized and able to function even if one hand is holding onto a subway pole, a child on your hip, or a hot cup of coffee. While made for fitness, this would also make for a great baby bag or work tote. And by the way, the price before discount is cheaper than what I saw on other sites!
  10. I’m not a super athletic gal, but even I realize that my Ray-Bans aren’t the best when riding my bike, kayaking, or doing other physical activities. These wrap sunglasses from Tifoli are great for us occasional weekend warriors as the price is reasonable and so is the quality. They got from about $35 to over $100 depending on the version you get, but they’re lightweight, comfortable, have transitional lenses and are fog resistant. Oh, and they get good reviews from others who have purchased them.
  11. I know the bucket bag is a hot trend now, but it has been a classic shape for a long while and won’t look dated in a year. I love the clean lines and elegance of this version from Fossil. Available in three colors that aren’t typical but extremely versatile and chic, it looks far more expensive than it’s price (less than $150 before the promo) and has plenty of pockets for storage.
  12. If you’re looking for the perfect bag to go with all your holiday events, this chainmail clutch from LaRegale is perfect. Five colors available including silver and gold, this will add the perfect bit of sparkly and will look great with a silk top and jeans as much as a floor-length gown. Oh, and every color is under $50 and some are even under $30 and that’s before the promotional code!
  13. Most diaper bags look goofy, not the ‘Knocked Up’ by Rebecca Minkoff. Sophisticated, stylish, AND practical! This bag continues to get rave reviews from moms, and they also share it becomes a great work or travel tote once baby grows up.
  14. My friend has this large leather tote from Piel and every time I see it, I swoon. She uses it as her weekender bag and it’s so well made, so chic, so understated in its elegance and it has only gotten better with time and wear. Four colors available and a price so low I may finally pull the trigger and get one for myself!
  15. Oh this Minaudiere evening bag from Halston Heritage is so lovely. It’s classic but with an edge, will look amazing with your LBD this holiday season and throughout the year, and will be a piece, if well cared for, that will look stylish for years even decades to come. It has a strap so you can wear it over your shoulder or in your hand.
  16. Looking for a cute gift for a teen or college student on your gift list? How about this ‘brunch fund’ leather pouch from Rebecca Minkoff? With the promo code, this is a really reasonable price for a gift that will be well received!
  17. Another lovely wallet is this one from Fossil. Elegant, streamlined, but a place for everything. Four classic colors, but an unexpected contrast color interior that keeps it from looking too boring (or getting lost in the bottom of your bag).
  18. The Samsonite 24” Fiero gets rave reviews for being a durable and reliable suitcase. Bigger than a carryon bag, but not so big it overwhelms you, this is a great choice for longer trips and overseas travel. Four colors available and a really reasonable price even before the promotion.
  19. I like having a non-dressy statement clutch in my wardrobe. I have a patchwork one with a cat design on it, and a leopard woven fabric pouch and they both get a ton of use. It’s an easy way to dress up a work look for after-hours events, looks chic with a sundress, and if it’s funky enough it goes with everything. The Deculus clutch from Aldo fits the bill, is big enough to hold the largest smarphone plus all your other essentials, and the price is very nice.
  20. From my years of business travel I know the value of having a bag that can stand out in a crowd, is lightweight, flexible, and easy to maneuver when racing to your gate. This upright from Liliput Paris is all of that and more and receives rave reviews. 12 colors to choose from (and reviews that says it seems to repel dirt), no one should be surprised that I’m a fan of it in orange!
  21. A retro cat eye with a modern touch, the ‘Ursula’ sunglasses from Kate Spade are chic and fun. Eight colors available that range from classic black and tortoise to gold glitter. On sale for under $100 before the sale code.
  22. If you’re one who enjoys a smaller wallet, the ‘Darla’ from Kate Spade in Saffiano leather is lovely. While it’s available in black, I’m partial to pink which is fun but also easier to find in the depths of your purse. This would also be a great gift for anyone from 13-103 who likes the brand or wants a smartly designed compact wallet.
  23. If I didn’t own my Mini MAC, I’d totally buy the Rebecca Minkoff ‘Love’ crossbody. It’s feminine yet tough, can dress up for a night out, look appropriate at the office, or can be smart looking with jeans and knit tops. My Rebecca Minkoff is still holding strong after years of hard wear, this one is under $200 before the promo and a fab deal.

If you get any goodies at this sale, be sure to let me know in the comments.  Any scores I missed?

My Current Closet

This post plus my trip to Columbus inspired me to lock myself in my bedroom one Sunday afternoon with a cold beer and Spotify and clean up my closet.  The floor was littered with accessories, shoes, and a mix of dirty laundry and items that had fallen off hangers.  Speaking of hangers, there was a mix of metal ones from the dry cleaners, velvet hangers (my favorite, things don’t fall off them and they save a ton of space), and plastic hangers (the ones I use for line drying clothing – things fall off them and they take up more room).  I’ve learned that a chaotic closet equals a chaotic Allie so it was time to get my act, and my closet together.

I cleaned out an entire contractor bag’s worth of stuff from my closet.  I catch myself keeping things that look good in my closet but aren’t necessarily items I wear or use.  I’m over that – I have no time nor space for such a bad habit.  Gone.  I also removed everything which doesn’t fit and everything that does fit but I don’t enjoy wearing.  I’ve kept accessories for a long time figuring they will come back in style or I may need in the future.  With this clean-out I got rid of some belts and bags that haven’t been worn in a few years, don’t feel like my personality any more, or aren’t in good enough condition to warrant keeping.  I will be donating a lot to local charities but plan on selling some of what I removed; I’ll keep you posted how I plan to sell these items and when they will go on sale.

After cleaning, I took some photos.  I don’t have an exciting or “pretty” wardrobe, but I find it helpful when I see how other people organize their everyday wardrobes and thought my pictures may help you.  I felt ridiculous asking Karl to take pictures with his fancy camera so iPhone shots will have to do.  And without further ado…

Wardrobe Oxygen Closet

Karl and I share a closet; while it is a walk-in closet, the space isn’t terribly large and not well designed. Some day when I win the lottery I’ll have some pros come and reconfigure it to make better space. In the meantime I get creative and am grateful to have a partner who doesn’t care much about fashion and can fit all his stuff in one third of the closet.  There’s one long bar along the back wall and two short bars on each side.  One shelf around the whole closet.  I keep my clothing on the back bar, and use my short bar on the left for accessories.

closet detail

I organize my clothing by category.  I find this is the best way to find items.  The pieces in the front are the categories I wear the most, but also the ones with the most pieces, and the ones where pieces can get lost.  Since it’s summer, sweaters are in the back, but when the temps drop the sweaters will move to the center between dresses and shirts.

closet left

The far edges of the closet bar are near impossible to access, and where I keep the items that get little wear or need to be protected.  The far left holds my unique or special event pieces – my vintage fur stole, two sequin jackets, a sequin sweater, and two tulle skirts.  Next are jackets – jackets don’t store well so I keep my jackets here year-round even if I don’t plan on wearing a leather moto in the middle of August.  I don’t keep them in any color order; in fact I try to mix it up because a piece is less likely to get lost in the sauce or a sea of black blazers.

closet center

The center of the closet is dresses and jumpsuits.  Again, there’s no rhyme or reason as to why one dress is next to another, but I usually try to break up the black so they don’t get hidden.  Next is tops – first are any “going out tops” – tanks and shells that can easily get lost when further back in the closet.  I then have my blouses (and yeah that blue striped silk one got line dried but not yet pressed, I promise I’ll press it before I wear it!).

closet right

After work blouses are shirts – denim, white, plaid, the casual ones that don’t get as much wear.  Unlike the other categories, I like having all my white shirts, all my denim together.  I often make decisions on which from a category to wear, so having them all together makes it easier to flip around and decide which is best for that day’s look.  After shirts are skirts, also mixed up so none get lost.  After skirts are pants; I don’t have a lot and they’re all pretty much the same silhouette so I don’t need to see them to create outfits.  The final category is sweaters and out of season pieces; these either won’t pack well or are pieces I may wear (cozy sweaters for an evening at the beach, etc.).

closet 2

The short bar… though she be little she is fierce! This is where I store all my belts (yeah I have a lot), my small bags, and a shelving unit which holds my clutches (some on the shelf, some in a drawer), my scarves (pashminas and winter in one drawer, silk and bandanas in another), and various other accessories (usually my Panama hat is with the orange faux fur but right now it’s downstairs).  I bought the metal hook gadgets on Amazon and they are fantastic; the lesser-used belts are in the back and I can put heavy bags on more than one hook to distribute the weight, and it’s easy to see everything.

closet 4

This picture shows a bit more detail of all the bags and belts on these hooks.  I have belts on there that have been in my collection since high school; some accessories just never go out of style.

closet 3

These shelves are a new addition I got off Freecycle.  I don’t love this setup, but these are the big bags that have nowhere else to go.  I want to do a better job with this but haven’t had the time.  This picture nicely shows the angled ceiling of the closet and how there’s a lot of room for a new setup in here; I’d love to do double bars and have up high things out of season or less used… someday…

closet 5

Here’s a bit more detail of my shoes in the closet.  The ones in the white shelving unit are the ones I wear the most often.  The ones to the left are out of season shoes or special occasion shoes.

closet 6

The closet door is hardly ever closed; I have the over the door shoe organizer which stores the shoes I am wearing the most right now as well as the more bum-around shoes that can handle being shoved together in a pocket.  Having the bags hang in this manner on the over the door double hook isn’t the best for them but gets the job done for now. These bags are primarily casual bags with the most used day-to-day crossbodies on top.

A few things are in the laundry and there’s a couple pairs of shoes and a purse and tote or two downstairs, but 95% of my wardrobe is featured in these photos.  And since I showed the closet contents, figured I might as well show the drawer contents too:


My nightstand is actually my bureau and only clothing drawers.  The top drawer is underpinnings.  The second drawer is knits that I wear on a daily basis – yes that is a whole pile of striped shirts!  Stripes, solids, summer sweaters, then tanks.  The middle drawers is my shorts, and two piles of jeans.  The bottom drawer is my casual stuff – printed tees, solid tees, and then a mishmash of yoga pants, running shorts, and some workout and loungewear stuff.

Out of season clothing is stored in Rubbermaid bins in the attic.  I usually do two transfers of clothing; one will happen around mid-September to pull out some autumnal feeling clothes that are still okay in warm weather (flannel plaids, leather, some cardigans, darker jeans) and pack up the shorts and sundresses, and then the next will happen near the end of October when I completely transition to my winter wardrobe.  Outerwear is kept in the office closet (we don’t have any closets on the main floor).  And there you go, more than you likely ever wanted to know or see regarding my wardrobe!

What’s In My Closet?

Having this blog, I often get comments that I have a small and boring collection of clothing, or people comment on how much clothing I have and ask where the heck do I keep it all. I think both groups of folks are correct – I have a pretty simple collection of clothing, but I feel as though I have a lot because I shop smart, stay on track, and take care of the quality items that I purchase.

If you go to this post, you can learn about my recent closet clean-out and see pictures of my closet. Though it is considered a walk-in closet, it is pretty small and I share it with my husband. I believe that my bar of clothing is shorter than most individuals have in a regular closet in their homes.

When my husband and I moved into this home ten years ago, we didn’t have this closet. Out house was build in the ‘40s and the bedroom closet seemed to be an afterthought – it was placed over the stairwell so it had a sloping side wall, making half of the hanger bar useless. my husband and I shared about four feet of closet space in our bedroom. We didn’t have a hallway closet, or our guest bedroom’s equally small closet (sloped wall was replaced by built-in deep shelves made from splintered scrap wood – not useable for clothing) was used for outerwear and out-of-season clothing that could not handle being packed into a box in the attic.

Due to such little closet space, I learned to make do with less. In fact, when I moved from my bachelorette pad to our nest, I had to get rid of several lawn and leaf bags full of clothing because I just didn’t have the room. After working so many years in apparel retail, I had amassed quite a collection of clothing and accessories. I went through cocktail dresses with the tags still on them, sparkly tops for a night out that were worn only once, dozens of pairs of jeans in my current size, a size bigger, and several sizes smaller just in case I lost the weight I had been carrying for more than two years.

I thought about my life – I am not one who attends cocktail parties on a regular basis, and I rarely go to flashy nightclubs. I needed clothing for work, and casual attire for the weekend. A handful of fun tops and versatile dresses would get me through any social event. I went through each item, deciding whether it was worthy to be in my closet, should be stored for the future, be donated, or be passed on to a friend. I ended up keeping about 25% of my original wardrobe.

Once I had my core wardrobe, I had to stick to it. No shopping sprees – where would I store my purchases? If I bought something new, it had to be for a good reason. Usually if I bought something new, it meant it was replacing something I already owned. Shoes had the same rules, as that I only had so much space on that single shelf above the hanger bar.

Off-season clothing was stored in plastic tubs in the attic, and I had one tub in the attic that held clothing that I kept for sentimental value – my denim jacket from high school, a sweatshirt with my sorority letters on the front, the Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses I bought for a steal that weren’t my current size but were too nice to donate. Because I kept it to being in just one tub, I had to be picky with what was worthy of sentimental real estate.

I lived with this cramped clothing setup for ten years, and it was the best experience. Not having space made me care more about what I purchased. There wasn’t any dusty corner of a closet for bad purchases to hide, or the room to wade through too-small or dated pieces to find something to wear to work each morning. When I went into stores, I was constantly thinking, “Do I need this? Will it go with what I already own? Is it worthy of my precious closet space?” If I had any hesitation, I wouldn’t purchase.

Now I have a bigger closet – my daughter’s room is the old guest room, but we still have that sloping old bedroom closet which now holds our coats (and camping gear, and boxes of photographs we inherited from my father-in-law, and winter boots, and Christmas gifts I buy in advance, and the vacuum cleaner, and…). Though my new closet has more space, I try to stick to the habits I acquired over the past decade. What is currently in my closet:

Click on image to see it larger
Abbreviations: AT (Ann Taylor), ATL (Ann Taylor LOFT), S/S (short-sleeved), L/S (long-sleeved) NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans),  BR (Banana Republic), B&W (black and white), Cardi (cardigan), LE (Lands End), LEC (Lands End Canvas), RL (Ralph Lauren)

As you can see, it’s not as much as you would think. Go ahead, go through the past couple of months of outfits I have worn on here, you will see that it’s the same darn things I am wearing over and over and OVER, just in different ways. The items in gray are out-of-season items that I still have in my closet because I think they could possibly be combined with other items to make them wintry. That which is in red are items I need to replace or remove from the closet – too big, worn out, etc.

As for shoes, I currently have:

Click on image to see it larger

Same rules apply – red means they need to be replaced (old, no longer fit, etc.), gray is out of season (I store all my shoes in my closet at all times – nowhere else to keep them). Pretty small collection, especially when you consider that three of the 11 current shoes are for dressy occasions.

I don’t have a specific clothing budget for each month, or each season. I have a budget for that which isn’t necessary for the family unit – clothes and beauty products for me, clothes for Emerson and my husband, home décor, dinners out, concerts, Starbucks runs, that sort of thing. Some months I find a show at the 9:30 Club more important than a new pair of shoes, sometimes the shoes win. Some months, there is no money for shoes or shows. I go with the flow, and know I have a base wardrobe that will cover any last-minute situation.

I don’t go to malls to shop because there is too much temptation. I will go into stores to try on, but rarely purchase same day. I will mull it over, and then either return to buy or look online to find it cheaper. I do a lot of online window shopping where I will find things that look good, put them in my virtual shopping cart, then close the shop’s site and think about it. If I can come back later and still find it as lovely and versatile and useful, then I may purchase if it fits into my current budget.

I stick to a pretty simple color palette, and purchase mainly solids so they are more timeless and mix and match with ease. Lately I have been on a stripes kick, which is a cheap and easy way to add some variety to the wardrobe. In the past I have had kicks for animal prints, pinstripes, polka-dots, leather, all things green… this is usually the way I add a fresh spin to my wardrobe basics. These little accent pieces can become wardrobe staples or can easily be replaced come the new season without losing too much money on the situation.

I carry with me a list of what I really need – right now it’s pencil skirts in black and denim in my new size, new tall boots in black, and I would like a crisp white shirt that looks great with the sleeves buttoned or rolled up. This way, if I get distracted by some expensive indulgence, I can think, “Do I really need this sequined miniskirt more than a black pencil skirt? Think how much mileage I got out of my current black pencil skirt – wouldn’t it feel good to have another great piece like that in my wardrobe?” It keeps me balanced and always on the hunt for the perfect blend of quality, price, and fit.

Shop My Closet!

Do you like what I wear?  Well now is your chance to buy some of it.  As I remove weight, I am posting my old, gently used clothing and accessories at Shop My Closet: Wardrobe Oxygen.  Some items aren’t even worn.  I try to give very clear descriptions of all items, links to this blog if I have worn them recently, and reasonable prices.  Shipping is $5.00 (US) for most items, and I will combine purchases for reduced shipping fees.

So check it out – you may find just what your wardrobe was looking for!

My Fantasy Fashion Closet

I hate it when I want clothes and can’t find them in stores.

Each season, I make a list of what I’d like to add to my wardrobe to make it complete and up-to-date with trends. While most of what I own is simple or weird enough to not be passé after a year, combining them with of-the-moment trends gives them a new life. Along with a few trendy pieces, I often need to replace wardrobe staples that no longer fit or wore out with use. Usually I only find a fraction of these pieces for my mind doesn’t seem to be on the same wavelength as mass retailers. These are the items I would love to have for this season but have yet to find.

Sequined Peplum Top
I tried one on yesterday at Nordstrom Rack; it was from Alive + Olivia, was gold, but it was wrong. Not a true peplum, weird boxy shoulders that made me look like a linebacker, and unflattering neckline. That was the closest I have found.

I’d like it to have a round neckline – not a scoop, not a crew, just something that doesn’t make me have a log neck. Short puffed sleeves to balance out my thick arms and shoulders. A peplum that is obviously one, but doesn’t stick out like a shelf. I’d love it in peacock, teal… some sort of dark green with a blue in it. Could wear it with boyfriend jeans and stilettos, with black pants and pointed-toe pumps, or with a pencil skirt.

Olive Anorak-Style Jacket
Cotton, lightweight, looks good with the sleeves rolled up. I have one that has a belt, but there’s too many epaulets and straps and stuff. I want one with the bungee cord in the waist to cinch it. Something I can pair with my brown Karen Kane sequined skirt, a striped tee and booties for a hodgepodge that looks really good in my mind.

Black Wedge Booties
I know, there’s a kazillion black wedge booties on the market. Thing is, they all look wrong. I want ones that are loose at the top so they don’t look as though I replaced my feet with hooves – something that has space between shoe and ankle. I don’t want them super platform, or with a strange cut-out wedge. I don’t want them suede, or textured leather, or patent. Something very simple that I could wear with tights and a shift dress.

Black Photography Dress
My black shirtdress has become my photographer’s assistant uniform. It has deep pockets to hold batteries and memory cards, is full enough to let me get on the ground easily, is cotton which is comfortable and breathable at hot weddings and venues. I wear with a wide elastic belt and low shoes and I look cute, professional, appropriate. Well this dress has been laundered far too many times and I think only has one or two wearings left.

I ordered this dress from MICHAEL Michael Kors and while on paper it’s near perfect, on me it looks like a cheap flight attendant uniform. It’s very hard to find black dresses with pockets that actually can hold more than your hand and a lip gloss!

Black Photography Pants Ensemble
I know most photographers wear random black easy-care pants, flat comfortable shoes, and a faded black tee shirt or sweater. I just don’t feel good in that, I don’t feel myself. I’d love to find some Ponte separates – pants with a wider leg that have front and back pockets, a matching top that maybe has patch pockets on the front. Very clean lines, not too tight, plenty of stretch and places to store things. Oh, and if it could be machine washable!

Black Photography Shoes
Something closed toe with a slight wedge heel, comfortable, squishy, simple. Leather so I can polish them up when they get scuffed and they can handle some moisture.  Nothing dowdy, I’d like to also wear these shoes with jeans on weekends if I need to walk or stand for long periods of time. No flats, no separate heels that can sink in wet grass, no Mary Jane, but something that would also work with dresses.

White Cotton Shirt
I want this every year but I never find what I am looking for. Wrinkle-resistant (at least not the type to look crumpled after an hour) but not heavy or with a sheen. No boob pockets. Seaming so it doesn’t hang straight from the bustline. A collar that looks good regular or popped. No oxford, no voile, no mixed-media. Simple pearlized buttons. Looks good untucked, tucked in, or tied at the bottom and you can’t see the hooks of my bra through the fabric.

Black Leather Pleated Skirt
I thought I found the perfect leather skirt during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but when it arrived I saw it wasn’t. The leather was far too stiff for the pleating, the drop waist hit at a weird place, and it was tight in weird places but gaping a bit at the waist.

I want a slightly dropped waist so the bulk isn’t right on my tummy, and soft enough leather that the pleats move and don’t get stuck together. Hit above the knee.

Black Taffeta Party Skirt
I want a big black taffeta skirt that hits at the lower calf. Pockets, defined waistband, maybe even a slightly dropped waist like my Banana Republic skirt, though that’s not necessary if it’s not too full. I want to wear it with a heather gray v-neck tee and booties, or with a crisp white shirt and channel Carolina Herrera. I’d even pair with a cashmere or sequined tank and wear to a more formal event.


Retailers, am I asking too much? I feel that these things I could use in my closet are relatively basic and would look fabulous on multiple shapes of women who have varied lifestyles.

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How My Morning Jacket Changed My Life

It was 2006, my husband’s good friend plays the guitar and his birthday was coming up. My husband decided to get him a concert DVD of a guitarist that is well-respected but one that he may not already know. Doing a bit of Googling, Karl found My Morning Jacket and purchased Okonokos. The night of our friend’s birthday, we watched the DVD. The friend, who is more into rock and metal wasn’t too thrilled. But me… my life was forever changed.

I fell madly and passionately in love with My Morning Jacket – it was as though all the styles and genres of music I loved most were melded into one band. The sound was refreshing, engaging, unique, intense. It brought me back to my high school self.

Do you recall seeing this girl at the 9:30 Club in the late ’80s and early ’90s?

In high school, music defined my life. I would go to the 9:30 Club without even knowing what artist was performing, just for the rush of live music and learning new tunes. Merriweather Post Pavilion felt like my summer home. I would go to Kemp Mill Records or a record shop in Georgetown and pick albums based upon the look of the cover, sometimes buying duds and sometimes finding new favorites. Freshman year of college, I roomed with a girl who preferred R&B, and we would play “Janet” by Janet Jackson on repeat (and saw her in concert two nights in a row). I can remember hanging out in my friends Brian and Joel’s dorm room, listening to the first seconds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” over and over to hear that Mac truck zoom on the speakers.

Then sophomore year came, and I was living off-campus, working two jobs, and rushing a sorority. Music went on the back burner, and was mainly DMB and the Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction soundtracks – essentially, whatever I heard while downing cheap beer at one of the local bars. The busier I got, the less I listened to music. I think my senior year I only purchased three CDs – Jewel, The Wallflowers, and Seven Mary Three. When I entered the retail world after college, music was the two-hour playlist that corporate sent us once a month – to this day I know all the lyrics to most any pop Christmas song (or anything retailers considered a holiday song, such as this one). I would usually drive to work with the radio off, trying to have a moment of calm before the insanity that is a shopping mall.

When I left the apparel world, I went into an office setting, where I had more time to listen to music. At first, I started with popular FM-radio music, but learned about a few new artists thanks to coworkers. I downloaded iTunes and got an iPod in 2005 and bought a few “best alternative songs of the year” compilations to try to learn about what was out there that I couldn’t hear on VH1 or DC101. And then I saw Okonokos and I realized that the years where I didn’t really have music in my life were years where I just didn’t feel right… feel like myself. I always felt transient, disconnected, unsure of myself. This was seen in what I wore, how I spent my downtime, even how I performed at work.

I even went to Bonnaroo when I was pregnant – one of my best Roo experiences!

I researched My Morning Jacket after that night of Okonokos, and through that, learned about the Bonnaroo Music Festival. I also found Inforoo, a forum dedicated to those who attend Bonnaroo, and through that learned about so many other artists (and amazing people who lived for live music). Me, my husband, sister, and that guitarist friend went to Bonnaroo together in 2007 where we saw artists from pretty much every genre under the sun perform live and blow our socks off. We have been to Bonnaroo several times since, and this year will be going to Forecastle, a music festival where My Morning Jacket is the curator and headliner.

Me & my husband tailgating before the 2011 MMJ show at Merriweather Post Pavilion

Since then, music is again a major part of my life. Since having Emerson, concerts are the way that my husband and I enjoy a monthly date night. We have playlists for cooking breakfast on a Sunday morning, and a different one for when we eat the meal. The latest issue of Rolling Stone is read before Elle or Bazaar, and we’re always on the hunt for new artists to add to the iPod. Music defines the good moments, and helps get through the bad. There is a soundtrack for all aspects of my life, and it makes each event fuller and more colorful. Music has introduced me to some of the most amazing people, and is a wonderful art I can share with my child. Music has helped me come back to who I really am… and if it weren’t for My Morning Jacket I may still be lost.

What do you have in your life to keep your grounded and true to yourself? Have you ever felt as though you got off track, and what did you do to get back?

Note: To remember which Metallica song we listened to back in college, I asked my friends on Facebook. Brought back many memories, and my friend Joel said I had to mention my haircut from that period in time, which was long and relatively normal, but shaved in back underneath.  He said I was, “the safest bad ass” he knew at that time, and I take that as a major compliment.

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My Weekend (and Concert Review)

This was an awesome weekend. I had plenty of fun time, family time, friend time, relaxing time.

The weekend began early – I worked from home the first half of the day and then took off the second half so I could get ready for the Neko Case/My Morning Jacket concert.  My Morning Jacket  is my FAVORITE band, so you know I was excited! We got pit tickets (I am a major MMJ dork and am a member of Roll Call – their fan club so I got early access to ordering tickets) and there were five of us going together so we decided to tailgate prior.

What I Wore: Denim cutoffs from Old Navy, a bold printed rayon tank with a black studded bib/straps (picked up at Downtown Cowgirl in Rehoboth), my Softspots sandals, Hobo International “Libby” bag in pumpkin.

Almost the entire group – somehow I never got a picture of our friend M with me!

My friend S picked up kabob goodies from a restaurant near her home – lamb, chicken, veggies and all-necessary tzatziki sauce. Her husband M brought moonshine – it was berry flavored, with strawberries and blueberries floating in it and was in an old-school Bell jar. I normally would steer VERY clear from moonshine, but I filled a glass ¼ with it, and the rest with club soda and I must say it was pretty darn berrylicious!  I felt so chi chi sitting in the Merriweather parking lot with an oversized plastic wine glass full of moonshine cocktail!  Oooh la la!

Off to the concert! We headed to the right side of the pit since we knew that’s where Jim James usually stands when performing. We caught 75% of Neko Case’s show. Before this concert I liked Neko Case. She’s not totally my thing, but I have some of her songs on my iPod. Well after her set, I am a major fan. That woman is oozing talent, and she has the sort of talent that will just increase with age.

Between sets I got a chance to check out the crowd around me. I guess my husband did too because he whispered to me, “I think we found our tribe.” I don’t find myself to be a really unusual person, but I always feel as though I stick out in most group settings (except with my closest girl friends, maybe that’s why we’re buds!). I’m overdressed or underdressed, too shy or too outgoing, older or younger, too liberal, too hippie-dippy, too preppy, too something. But this crowd was like a bunch of Allie and Mr. Allie clones. I even saw many faces that looked familiar – I think I went to college with them.

I did recognize one girl from college. She looked so familiar but I couldn’t place her until my sister admitted she too recognized her. I worked with her at the fraternity/sorority merchandise store (as did my sister). She was in a different sorority that was known for stuck-up snobs but she was always very sweet and real. In fact, she almost convinced my sister to join her sorority instead of mine (I don’t think so lady!). She was there, with a bouncy shoulder-length bob, an a jersey dress with a Morrocan-inspired print on it. She looked just like she did in college, except she was 14 years older and a few sizes larger. And with these changes she looked BETTER. She looked fun and spunky just as she did at age 21, but smarter and more confident. I said to my sister, “If I have aged the way she has, I’m a happy gal.” Seeing her and this entire crowd was a real eye-opener.

It’s hard to get older, especially when you partake in activities you also enjoyed when you were younger. At a concert in GA, I feel the age of my knees, my feet hurt, my back aches a bit. I get annoyed when someone sloshes beer all over my sandals and I wonder if folks are looking at me wondering what this old fogy is doing at a show. It was so awesome to be surrounded by our “tribe” – people our age, people who have the same passion for music that we do. We got to know our neighbors, some who had traveled cross-country to see My Morning Jacket. People who knew more about the band than we did, and were happy to drop their knowledge on us. As the concert progressed, we worked as a team, holding one another’s spot when people dashed for the bathroom, kindly asking rowdy folks to take it elsewhere, giving each other big grins during amazing parts of songs. It was a wonderful reminder that age should never stop you from doing what you love, and that instead of seeing myself as the old fogy at the concert, I should see myself as the woman who is still cool and still rocking it even though I’m a 36-year old suburban mom.

 When he went to my right, I was even closer!

So anyway, back to the concert. It. Was. Amazing. Seriously one of the best shows (or maybe THE best show) I have ever experienced. They are so incredibly talented, and Jim James is quite the performer. I was just three people from the stage, and Jim would come right up to the edge, hang over the crowd and make eye contact with all of us. The whole crowd was such strong fans of the band, it made the experience all the better – we cheered together, threw our arms in the air together, whooped and cheered together. It was quite a fabulous experience and I am an even bigger MMJ fan because of it!

After the concert we got all old school and went to a Denny’s for a midnight breakfast. I had my first Moons Over My Hammy in over a decade!

Saturday was rainy and glum, we ended up going to Annapolis Mall after we all took naps so we could have a dry (and free) place for her to burn off energy. It is amazing what malls will provide to lure people in to shop.

What I Wore: Another pair of Old Navy cutoffs (so cheap and basic), white ribbed tank from Caslon, beige crocheted sweater from Ann Taylor, my Softspots sandals (in fact, same outfit as seen here but different shoes)

 “Daddy want shoes?” What kid wouldn’t want bedazzled light-up sneaks with Dora on them? (Sorry kiddo, the answer is no.)
Having a blast in one of the play spaces in the mall

We hit two different play spaces, giving Emerson places to crawl and jump and run for two hours straight. And nope… I didn’t shop! I walked through Nordstrom and we went through Lord & Taylor but I didn’t want to spend and I had no temptation. This is a pretty big feat for me; for many years I avoided malls all together. One reason is because I spent far too many years working in them, but the other reason was because I could always justify buying something and my wallet took a beating. I have spent many years planning out my mall visits to keep them short and well-scheduled to avoid temptation (and hyperventilating and flashbacks from my retail days) but this trip was unexpected. I didn’t even think about it until my husband made a joke on the way home that the only bag I had was my leftovers from California Pizza Kitchen. It felt really good to know that I had gotten over all my mall-related issues!


Sunday is Farmers Market Day in our household; even though the sky was still gray we still strapped Emerson in the backpack and headed to the town center. Fresh berries, greens, bacon, and of course some peach ice cream for Emerson from Simple Pleasures. It began to rain so we dashed into the local café to stay dry and enjoy some live jazz.

What I Wore: Navy cotton sundress from J. Crew (spaghetti straps, drop waist, small floral print), Softspots sandals (my husband calls them my Farmers Market shoes because I bought them to be able to walk places like the market)

“Talking on the phone” at Aunt Debbie’s house

We went home to put E down for a nap and my husband and I made BLTs and watched a movie. When Emerson woke, we took a walk and stopped by my sister’s to say hi and check out her newly decorated bathroom (now I want a lilac-colored room!). Went home where I made some kickass marinara and we had a simple spaghetti dinner.

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Spring has Sprung in my Closet

Spring has sprung here in DC! Hooray for bare legs, packing up the hats and mittens, and being able to expose elbows and toes! With each change of season, there’s usually a change of wardrobe. I’ve found that closet organization has been good physical therapy for me; the pinching of clips to hang skirts, holding the weight of a full hanger, folding scarves and jeans. With my arm, this process has been extremely slow, but that time is great for really thinking about what is in my closet, what I really need, and what I really need to remove from my collection.

The trends this spring and summer are so refreshing; after seasons of bright and bold, fitted and funky there’s a move to subtleness, quality, detail, and drape. I saw it on the runways, I see it in the stores, and I feel it in my heart. I started gravitating toward simpler pieces and colors in 2013, but desire it even more in 2014, especially after my broken arm. After six weeks predominately in loungewear, I crave dressing, but simple, easy, yet elegant dressing. Here’s a peek into my Spring/Summer mindset:

For clothing, it’s not terribly different from the past, but now it feels more cohesive. I’m liking (1) midi-length skirts, but somehow they look more right on me when part of a dress. I have pretty much this same dress; last summer’s LOFT collection, and know it will get a ton more wear this year. (2) White feels really right this year, even before Memorial Day. I’ve been wearing white jeans, boyfriend jeans, and pants quite a lot already (if you’re new to white outside of summer, start simple by pairing it with black). Each season I end up having a signature color without even thinking about it and based upon my closet, this season it’s (3) orange-red.  I type this while wearing a linen sweatshirt of this color, and desire a shift dress like the one pictured.  I’m really digging classic trousers this spring, paired with everything, from blouses to sweaters to tee shirts; I’m on the hunt for the perfect pair in (4) navy.  I’m loving how there’s a trend towards draping and purposeful slouchiness this season and have been gobbling up things that are (5) off the shoulder; I’d pair a top like this with slim white jeans.  I also like the trend of purposeful draping, a top like this (6) can be worn with jeans for a night out, or slipped under a suit for the workweek.  I’m always happy when weathered, worn, and distressed denim (7) are on trend; they please my inner Lita Ford and love the contrast with more classic pieces.  And it wouldn’t be my wardrobe if it doesn’t have a few striped shirts (8) in it!

For accessories, I’m craving fewer pieces, fewer necklaces, and again am drawn to orange-red accents.  Thinking about my faves, I saw they are sort of lumped into three categories:

  • Vacation Inspired: I love white Panama hats and fedoras, I know they’ve been in style for a while and may be less trendy but I think they’re quite classic and these days I’m doing all I can to protect myself from the sun.  I love them with jeans and striped tees, I love them with sundresses, and I love that they hide bad hair days!  I’m also loving my new Converse Shorelines, which make Chucks finally comfortable for me.  With the elasticized back and lower profile, they’re comfy and easy to slip on and off.  Aviators are always my favorite, as are scarves.  Now that bandanas are back in style, I’ve been pulling out my collection of them and square scarves and using them to jazz up simple knits.
  • Bold Silver:  This is nothing new, silver is my signature metal and I’ve been wearing my big sterling cuff for 17 years.  Now I’ve added a pair of silver Birkenstocks to my wardrobe, increasing my silver.  I love mixing shiny silver with a more relaxed material; the bracelets from Lifetherapy are a fave of mine.  I have several of them and love looping one of their wrap bracelets (especially in this season’s signature color of orange!) over the cuff to switch it up.
  • Classic Gold: When my arm was in a cast, I relied on a watch since pulling out my phone was more difficult.  I’ve come to really like the convenience and style, and adore my Citizen Ciena Eco-Drive.  I recently got this cuff from Rebecca Minkoff which is smaller than what I’ve been known to wear and I like it.  Again, been wearing a lot of square scarves, be they around my throat, tied in my hair, or hanging off my purse.  I got a pair of Nine West “Flax” pumps in Natural and they’re a great nude pump, a comfortable height and go with almost my entire wardrobe.

My makeup has also been influenced by my time with a cast; it’s hard to have precision with your non-dominant hand. While I spent much of the winter with bold lips and liquid liner, lately I’m more into a subtle smoky eye, bronzer over blush, and glossy lips in a more natural hue. Miracle Skin Transformer has become my go-to while dealing with a broken arm since it’s so easy and so many beauty products in one.  I’m a mascara junkie and I love Too Faced’s Better Than False Lashes enough to buy a second time. It’s not a product to use when you’re short on time, but they do make my lashes look lusher than any other brand.  I got the Urban Decay lipliner in Naked as a freebie with a order and I use it almost daily with a natural colored gloss (adoring NARS Viva).  And then the original Naked palette from Urban Decay is still a fave for a no-makeup makeup look, a soft smoky eye, or to even replace liner.

Has spring sprung in your closet?  What are you loving this season in regard to trends or new to you classics?

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The Bowels of my Closet

I forgot about this jacket. I got it at Target in the Spring I believe. It’s a beige canvas, motocross inspired cut, brown stitching. I believe it was about $30.00.

Under it is a brown silk/cashmere shell from the Banana Republic outlet. My funky wood and glass necklace around my neck, no earrings or bracelet. Dirty vintage washed low rise bootcut jeans on from The Gap, and brown snakeskin pumps from Nine West.

The makeup is MAC’s Studio Tech for foundation, MAC stick concealer. A bit of Almay bronzer for blush and powder. Goldie’s Blosson lipgloss on the lips. Shadow is Fawn Pearl (The Body Shop) shadow on the lid, my brown brow powder (Maybelline) in the bcrease and along the lash line. Then of course MAC’s Zoom Lash mascara in black.

Hair is being difficult, yet I keep putting off a hair appointment. I swear, this time I mean it, I am going to call to make an appointment TODAY. This has gone on too long.

My VERY LONG Review of Bonnaroo… and a Little News!

Bonnaroo – this would be our second year going. For those who don’t know what Bonnaroo is, it is a four-day music festival on a 700+ acre field in Manchester, Tennessee. As for the type of music, well that is extremely varied. Rock, electronica, bluegrass, blues, soul, hip hop, rap, indie, heavy metal, jam bands, and even famous comedians. Over 100 artists are at Bonnaroo but a few names you may know that were in attendance this year were Pearl Jam, Metallica, Kanye West, O.A.R., Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, Cat Power, Lupe Fiasco, Jack Johnson, Willie Nelson, B.B. King, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, and Chris Rock.

Bonnaroo is 11 hours from my home in the Nations Capital – each year we drive down to Bristol, TN and stay overnight and then head out the next morning for the festival grounds. This gives us a last chance for a hot shower and a cool room to rest for when we do the Roo, we do it in General Camping. This means tents, no electricity, porta potties and the only water available is freezing well water from water stations (a fancy term for troughs with spigots in a trailer). Last year four of us went and with much research and help from message boards like Inforoo, we were prepared with a decent camp setup and all the necessities to survive the heat and long days of music and activity. This year our party grew to be seven folks with an even more awesome camp setup and plan of action to get the most out of the fest.

I was ready for the heat, the possible dust or rain, the long days, the lack of sleep, the need to stay hydrated, to stay up until sunrise to catch the best shows, the ability to be comfy without a hot shower or a shave for almost a week. I just wasn’t prepared to go at it pregnant.

Yes pregnant. I am three months With Child. Knocked Up. Preggo. There’s a bun in my oven.

This was not an accident – my husband and I decided to start trying this past Christmas. However with his medical history (think Lance Armstrong) and my almost two decades on birth control, I didn’t think it would be so… swift. We were trying but not trying. Not charting, temping and “baby we better have sex NOW!” sort of stuff, but just not using protection and being a happy married couple. We thought it would be a couple more months… heck even a couple more years before we got pregnant. I joked with a few about how I could be pregnant at Bonnaroo but didn’t really think it would actually happen.

I was 11 weeks along – long enough to have the morning sickness subside, my need to pee not be every 15 minutes and me start to have a twinge of energy again. For that I am eternally thankful. If Bonnaroo were two weeks earlier, I may have spent the entire time crying or sleeping in the fetal position in my tent.

So with this information… here’s my review of Bonnaroo 2008!

As I mentioned, seven of us went together. It was me and my husband, his best friend and my sister (the four from the 2007 group) and then two close girl friends and one of these girls’ boyfriend. They were all Roo Newbies, but music fans who had been well prepped by us regarding what they would experience when once on the farm. We considered shoving into two cars to save on gas, but decided to take three so we would end up with a larger campsite (you park directly behind your car) and not want to strangle one another before we hit Virginia.

Traffic in DC was a beast on Wednesday morning; it took over an hour and a half to get from my house in the DC suburbs to my sister’s apartment in DC to Route 66. We ended up not getting on the highway until around 10:30 am. Two cars headed to my sister’s place, the other started their commute from near Baltimore at 10:30 and still caught up with us in time for lunch. We stopped at a little pizza joint in BFE, Virginia where I had an awesome mushroom calzone, refueled the cars and got back on the road. We arrived at the Bristol La Quinta around 5pm.

Our friend’s dad lives only about 20 minutes from Bristol so we met him and his wife for dinner at Chili’s. Did you know there is literally only ONE vegetarian entrée on the entire freaking Chili’s menu? WTF! I was so not in the mood for a black bean burger that evening so I got super Meg Ryan from When Harry Met Sally on our waiter and made a custom meal. I didn’t feel too bad when he then admitted he used to go to Bonnaroo too, but stopped “when all the crappy commercial MTV bands started taking over.” I hate jam band snobs – there were still TONS of original Roo artists there (Umphrey’s McGee, Widespread Panic, Disco Biscuits, Yonder Mountain String Band, Phil Lesh, etc.) so those snobs drive me batty.

After dinner, we hit the Wal-Mart for some necessities. Got some awesome battery-operated fans for $5 that were lifesavers at Bonnaroo, some Clorox wipes to prep the porta potty seats, eye drops for my allergy-prone and contacts-wearing eyes, and my husband got a water gun and a Frisbee. After, my friend and his girlfriend went to his parent’s house for the night and five of us went back to La Quinta. Four drank beer, one drank water and we all played Roo-themed Pictionary and wrote goofy raps (sounds lame but we were giggling for hours).

We headed out a bit later than expected the next day, but with some advice from our friend’s parents (construction in Knoxville, use Route 55 to get into the festival) we made great time and ended up in a very short line (less than an hour from highway to campsite) and funnily enough only about 100 yards from our camp location the previous year (Pod 6/Camp Dr. Rumack for those who went). Not a bad spot – like a 10 minute walk to Centeroo where all the events took place and less than a block from porta-potties and right near a main road so it was easy to find camp in the middle of the night.

Camp setup was pretty painless with seven people. Unfortunately it was near 5pm which is when I seem to get my Morning Sickness. I was really dragging, but trying to be helpful. Drank lots of very cold water, had some protein and plugged through. Soon we had our phat pad set up – two EZ up shelters, four tents (one for me and my husband, one for my friend and her man, one for our guy friend and one for the two gals), tarps over all to block from heat and pounding rain, a mini kitchen made from a grill and folding table, a bunch of tailgate chairs, Christmas lights around the shade shelters and even a shower/toilet tent!

We all cooled off with some beers (me with some Vitamin Water) and headed to Centeroo. One friend had a couple he knew who were also there and they suggested we start the evening with seeing Grand Ole Party. Never heard of this band before, but knew I would like them once I found out the lead singer was a woman AND the drummer! They totally rocked and put on a good show. After we took a quick walk through Centeroo to get our bearings and headed to see a few more shows (Grupo Fantasmo, Back Door Slam, The Sword). I would have LOVED to stay up to see Vampire Weekend and Dark Star Orchestra but the kumquat (that’s what size the books say the baby was at the time of Bonnaroo) wasn’t having it so back to camp I went. I was knocked out by midnight.

Day Two – Friday. Started the day with a makeshift shower at the Water Station. This entailed me tossing on a pair of cargo shorts holding a hair towel, bar of soap, shampoo and a razor. Got in line with all the other campers with my own spigot of well water and washed my hair, shaved my pits and washed what was accessible. This year I had no fear and stripped off my shirt to just a solid hot pink cotton Victoria’s Secret bra so I could really feel clean. For the rest of the body, I went back to the tent and made do with Tea Tree cleansing wipes from The Body Shop and some Target brand personal cleansing wipes. I must admit I did add some girliness to the day – brought my Matrix Contouring Milk to add to my air-dried hair and Cover Girl LashBlast waterproof mascara (BTW like it just as much as the non-waterproof version). Packed the Camelbak with Life Water, regular water, granola bars and fruit for snacks after slathering on tons of SPF 30 and donning a sloppy straw hat.

We started the day by attending a brunch for members of the message board Inforoo. May sound dorky, but it was totally awesome to meet so many people I had corresponded with for the past two years. We didn’t stay long because only half our group were members of the board and felt a bit left out. We also wanted to catch some music! We began the day’s music with Steel Train which I liked okay but found it more to be background music to my conversations with friends and People Watching. We then caught the end of Drive By Truckers’ set, which was pretty fantastic. We then headed to the Which Stage (second largest stage) to see Umphrey’s McGee. My husband saw them at Caribbean Holidaze this past December and we have a good friend that is a pretty rabid fan of theirs, but I had yet to experience them live. While half our group went near the stage to see the band, I stayed with a few friends near the back of the crowd under a tree to get shade and to relax. Still loved them and had an awesome experience. We stayed put for Les Claypool, who was on next. Another great performance.

After Les, I had great expectations. I wanted to see Swell Season, Rilo Kiley, M.I.A., Willie Nelson and Chris Rock. However Kumquat was exhausted so I headed back to camp for a late afternoon nap. I ended up sleeping until 9pm. Most of our group had left to go see Metallica; my friend Shelly and I chilled out, changed clothes, repacked and headed later into Centeroo to get good seats for My Morning Jacket.

My Morning Jacket is the reason we even went to Bonnaroo in the first place. My husband wanted to get his best friend a DVD for his birthday that showcased an amazing guitarist he didn’t know too much about (his friend is a guitar player). After doing some Googling he decided to get My Morning Jacket’s Okonokos DVD. We watched it together and I was addicted. I started researching MMJ and found they were regular performers at Bonnaroo. Though they weren’t performing in 2007, it still sounded like a cool festival so we decided to go. So this year they were performing and it would be my first time seeing them live and I was very excited.

We got a good spot (to the left of the beer stand for anyone who attended) and chilled out listening to Metallica’s set (not sad that I missed it) over the trees and enjoying the cool temperatures. Then it started to rain. Just a bit of drizzle, not too terrible. After Metallica, my sister, husband and my friend’s boyfriend caught up with us and it really began to rain. No worries, we were all prepared with ponchos and trash bags!

MMJ didn’t disappoint. It was so good, the vibe of the crowd and being with my favorite people and yes, even the rain made such a magical moment that I teared up. Definitely the highlight of the weekend. However the rain started getting to be very strong and my friends wanted to head out to see the Superjam (rumors were flying that Ton Waits was going to show up) so I regretfully left MMJ and headed with them to a different stage. We stopped at a tent selling hot tea and coffee to warm ourselves up. The barista told me my herbal tea was very hot, but I didn’t realize HOW hot it was. It was so hot, the cup collapsed on itself and spilled all over my left hand. I burned myself so bad the skin today is all leathery and wrinkled on my ring and middle fingers and I can’t get my wedding set back on. That, plus the rain, leaving MMJ, being tired and pregnant… I started to cry. No romantic tearing up, big heaving sobs. Friends got me ice for my hand and we all agreed it was a gross wet and very late night (around 2am) so we headed back to camp.

I was till a bit sad about how the night ended, but as I snuggled in next to the love of my life I heard MMJ perform “One Big Holiday” as clear as day and I smiled and knew things happen for a reason.

The next day, it was still raining. We trudged through off and on showers to get ready that morning. I can’t recall whether I took a shower or not – think that day due to the rain and mud I just washed with wipes in my tent. I decided to wear my Duo boots since I waterproofed them prior to Bonnaroo. I had brought Crocs as my main footwear because they are perfect for such a festival, but didn’t want nasty Roo mud seeping in through the air holes. As with the previous day, clothing of choice was a lightweight cotton sundress (Saturday was Old Navy, Friday was Target).

We started the day with an acoustic set by The Two Gallants at the Sonic Stage. Not bad, but I was distracted and spent a lot of time taking pictures of the crowd. We walked by and caught a few songs by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and then headed to the What Stage (largest stage) to see Ozomatli. I knew NOTHING about this band, but heard great things from friends on message boards. I again was not disappointed – had an amazing time and danced my booty off. It was a true Bonnaroo moment – fun music, good weather (rain had disappeared), good friends, thousands of friendly people dancing with me. We stayed for their entire set and then headed to the Which Stage for Gogol Bordello – another band I heard was amazing live. Maybe I was worn out from Kumquat or Ozomatli, but I wasn’t enthralled with Gogol Bordello. I pretty much chilled out (brought a Crazy Creek stadium seat which was phenomenal for field seating at these shows and easy to bungee to my Camelbak) with a frozen lemonade and People Watched. I then headed back to the big stage to see the legendary B.B. King. I stayed long enough to hear “The Thrill is Gone” and then found my friends at the That Tent where Zappa Plays Zappa was ready to perform.

Was never a fan of Frank Zappa, though I respected his talent. However I heard it was a must-see show and had a mini crush on Dweezil when I was a kid (I can still recall an interview with him on Nickelodeon where he said he hated making left turns while driving). They started and they sounded great, but I knew it was just the wrong scene for me. It was hot and dusty under the tent, a few guys near me smelled of BO and weed, a chick in front of me was smoking a cigarette, Kumquat was getting restless and Morning Sickness was starting (surprise, surprise it was a little after 5pm). I left my friends, wandered a bit and then decided to head back to camp to have a semi-healthy meal (as good as you can do with a 5-day cooler) and a quick power nap.

That power nap ended up being a doozy for I didn’t wake up until almost 10pm, completely missing the Jack Johnson set. Oh, no worries, I figured Jack would be kind of chill and I really was needing high-energy music to keep my own energy going through these long days. I changed into some long linen pants, a tank and a hooded long-sleeved tee and found my friends who were at the What Stage waiting for Pearl Jam.

Yes, Pearl Jam! One of my favorite bands and by far the most favorite band of my husband. Eddie and team have never disappointed us, and I was super excited to see them here were they would be more likely to play rarities and really jam out. Again, my expectations were exceeded. The show went over schedule, they played really rare songs, they jammed out, got personal with the crowd and sounded phenomenal. My Morning jacket made me tear up? Well my husband’s were shining during this set. Totally fabulous.

We then packed up and headed across Centeroo to see Lupe Fiasco at The Other Tent. We got a spot to the right of the tent. Standing, my husband and friend could see the stage pretty well. I was tired so I pulled out the Crazy Creek and had a seat. Lupe was pretty amazing and had the entire crowd wrapped around his finger. I was trying to get in a nap but couldn’t because the beat was infectious and the crowd so pumped.

We then headed BACK to the What Stage to see Kanye West. This was another must-see for me because I wanted to see what Kanye would pull out. There was much controversy about him even being at Bonnaroo – was he the right “feel” for the festival? Why did he get switched from a day spot on a smaller stage to a late night spot on the biggest stage? Would he be a primadonna? Would he live up to the hype? Rumor had it that he would performing the act from his Glow in the Dark tour which would have been pretty awesome to see.

We got a spot almost where we were for Pearl Jam – to the left side of the stage and a third from it. Good view, and good access to beer and porta-potties. I think we were settled by 2:30am and Kanye was supposed to start at 2:45am. I was pretty pumped, as were some of my friends. Others were starting to get sleepy. They were playing popular hip-hop tunes over the speakers until the show started and I was singing Rob Base and Beastie Boys with my girl friends. I was really shocked that no one in the audience knew all the words to Paul Revere. Is it because were are old? Because we grew up near DC? I feel that Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere is a rap classic, one that all ages would know all the words to. Anyway, us old ladies sand all the words and shook our booties!

3:00 and no Kanye. We get a message on the big screen that the show is delayed until 3:15. At 3:15 another notice of delay until 3:30. At 3:30 we get the message “Kanye West up Next!” There were a BUNCH of angry hippies by this point. People were booing, throwing things at the stage and many were chanting, “Fuck Kanye! Fuck Kanye!” I had pulled out my Crazy Creek again and got some shut-eye. I wasn’t going to miss this show, no matter how late it started. People started leaving and at 4am three of my friends gave up and headed back to camp. We persevered. The show FINALLY started at 4:29am. About 20 minutes into it, my husband and sister left because they were falling asleep standing up but somehow my one girl friend and I had a renewed sense of energy and stayed and even pushed forward so we were pretty near the front of the stage.

If you Google this show, you will get many mixed reviews, most negative. Most people were angry from the get-go for the show being almost two hours late. His show was also 30 minutes shorter than scheduled. It was NOT the Glow in the Dark tour performance, but one I had also heard about where he acts out having his space ship crash on an unknown planet.

Personally, I loved the performance, the cheesy parts and all. I knew many of his songs casually but found myself singing along to all of them. I wondered if the delay was purposeful when he began singing “Good Morning” right when the sun was rising, but honestly I didn’t care. I was pregnant, sober and up with the sun dancing my heart out to Kanye West with a good friend and a thousand new friends around me. I was damn proud of myself for sticking through. Kanye sung his heart out and I found him to be a powerful and talented rapper and singer (though his acting skills are SEVERELY lacking). The screens really added to the performance and I loved the lights, the video, the dancing, the whole effect. My friend and I were super pumped and glad to have had the experience.

The show ended around 5:30am and we trudged through Centeroo to head back to our camp. We were so physically and mentally exhausted we could hardly speak. However we were both so psyched by what we just shared.

Surprisingly, my body woke me up around 7:30am. Well maybe not so considering I rarely sleep past that point even on a weekend. Got up and got a burrito of egg and cheese from a nearby vendor. Sunday’s music started a bit later, so it gave me time to have a makeshift shower, even take another nap before heading back for our final day of music. It may sound disgusting, but I put on my same boots (new socks) and the same dress as the day before. I know, ME of all people! However I was going to be gross no matter what I did and the dress was so perfect – it was airy, not lined, super comfortable and my dress I had for Sunday had a lining that I KNEW would stick to my legs. Not only that, my breasts had grown a lot since I bought it and it just didn’t fit the way it was supposed to on top.

We started back to Centeroo around 2:30pm to catch Robert Randolph. He was phenomenal, and others thought so too. He was at the That Tent which is not a huge stage and the crowd spilled out from the tent to the side grounds, over an access road and into a common area. The sun was blazing and there was no heat and after about four songs I had to cry Uncle and move on. I think they put him on a smaller stage because he was with The Revival and not The Family Band, but honestly, he could have filled the What Stage just as well as Ozomatli the day prior.

I headed to the What Stage to catch Yonder Mountain String Band. The sun was insane, I was reapplying sunscreen every 30 minutes and kept wet bandannas on my neck and head. Guys were dancing around with misters and spray bottles which felt like droplets of heaven. I finished a two liter of water and had to go get more. My husband and I sat with our backs to the stage for a while so that the sun wasn’t beating on our faces. The rest of our friends met up with us just in time for the band to start.

Another Bonnaroo hit with Yonder Mountain String Band. Not my typical choice in music (bluegrass) but they were incredible talented, personable and the audience was energized. We were along the gravel access road on the left side of the stage and the road was full of dancing people – hippies, wookies, preps, rockers, ladies with hula hoops, tons of bouncing dreadlocks. It was an awesome sight and you couldn’t help but dance as well. My friend commented, “now I see why Black people say that White people can’t dance” and it cracked me up. It was true, the majority of the people had NO rhythm and seemed more to be doing a jig than traditional dancing, but they were so happy and full of life, it was beautiful! (picture depicts the feelings the next day by many festival attendees)

 We left and headed to get some sustenance and caught a few songs by Solomon Burke. Pretty talented man. We then went to catch O.A.R. It was 5pm and yet again, Kumquat was getting restless so I was feeling anxious, hot, sick and miserable. They were cleaning nearby porta-potties at this time and the smell almost knocked me over. There was no sun anywhere so we just tried to find a spot where we could hear the band and not smell sewage. My sister tells me she got a weird call from my mom on her cell. My mom was dog sitting and when she stopped by my house that morning, there was an alarm going off in my home. It wasn’t the smoke detector or a house alarm and she didn’t know what to do. By time we got the message and called her back, she had called my father-in-law who was also on vacation but called a neighbor of ours who is a handyman. He came over and helped my mom. Come to find out our water heater overheated and a bit overflowed onto the floor, where we have a moisture detection alarm. They cleaned up the bit of water, turned off the alarm and turned off the water heater’s circuit breaker and all was fine by time I called but to have that on top of Morning Sickness and heat and exhaustion… well I wasn’t as patient and nice to my mom as I should have been. I had to walk from my group of friends to hear her and when I returned I couldn’t find my camera. I totally went ballistic screaming that some wookie stole my brand new camera and then my friend found it under his backpack. I knew at that point I needed a major break from it all. The heat, the noise, the ridiculous crowds (65K in attendance), the music, the everything. It wasn’t bad being pregnant at Bonnaroo, but I did have a much shorter fuse than I usually would.

We headed for some food and some shade and I chilled out by myself regrouping. When I finally cooled down, my husband and I decided to go see Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, but find a spot in the shade away from the crowds. Eventually my friend and sister joined us. I lay down and relaxed and sort of vegged out. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that performance except that Alison Krauss’ voice can soar like an angel, and I heard Plant wail a la Led Zeppelin and it sent chills down my spine and made me glad I toughed it out.

After a bit, my sister and friend went to check on other shows. My husband and I decided to roam Centeroo alone, checking out various smaller tents and vendors. It was nice for when you go with a group of seven to a festival attended by 65,000 there’s little couple time available. We held hands and walked slow and it was a nice finale to the day.

At 8:00pm the whole crowd reconvened at the karaoke tent to see our karaoke-obsessed friend perform. This was not any old karaoke tent – this tent offered you to perform with a LIVE BAND. When we showed up it was a hard rock band all decked out in lycra and crimped hair and bandannas. It was fabulous, and T totally rocked the house with her awesome rendition of Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. The karaoke tent shut down soon after her performance; a few went to see other shows, my husband and some went back to camp, my sister and I decided to get a trip on the Ferris Wheel. It had just gotten dark and we were able to see all of the camping and festival grounds lit up. It was a nice way to end the fest.

After the ride, my sister headed to see Widespread Panic. I was planning on seeing them but really felt it would be pushing myself too far. I instead kissed her goodbye and walked back to camp alone. I got myself a last Bonnaroo treat – an ice cream cone for the journey and took a long leisurely route so I could People Watch, Camp Watch, and see all the cars already leaving Bonnaroo.

I got back to camp and two friends were up drinking beer. I attempted to stay up and chat with them but soon started falling asleep in my tailgate chair. Said goodnight and was in bed by 10pm. I was so tired; I slept through all the fireworks and craziness of the last night of Bonnaroo. My husband did as well – we remarked that we had a surprisingly restful night of sleep!

The next morning my husband and I were up by 6am and we immediately started packing. I believe we were on the road by 8:30am. We stopped around 10am for breakfast at Cracker Barrel, made two pit stops and were home by 10pm.

All in all it was a wonderful and actually quite a restful experience. Four days without Internet, TV, newspapers, bills, work, and life drama was exactly what the doctor (and the kumquat) ordered. Finding nutritious vegetarian food was really not a problem – I brought plenty of snacks and there were many food vendors that offered healthy veggie-filled vegetarian and vegan meals. I really enjoyed being sober for the whole time because I didn’t miss a thing and never woke with a hangover or regrets. It was fun to have this crazy experience this summer, knowing next summer I will be caring for the new member of my family!

True Fashionista: Jentine

Sometimes I look at blogs and wonder what in the world that woman does for a living that she can get away with such style. It’s funny, when I came across Jentine’s blog, My Edit I thought, hey someone who really loves fashion, has a good time with it, and makes it appropriate for some office environments! And then I realized… Jentine is a landscaper. When I found that out, it made me love Yen and the blog even more, and made me truly respect her sense of style. Jentine knows how to dress her frame, is the most skilled thriftier, and makes fashion fun and for that, I consider her a True Fashionista.

Yen (I feel I can use her nickname because she signs her emails to me like that, LOL) is gorgeous and has a great body, so it could be simple for her to throw on a mall chain frock and call it a day. But what makes her blog My Edit different is that you can really see the effort she puts into her personal style. She budgets, she thrifts, she fiddles, she plays with belts and gathering and turning pieces backwards to see if she gets a better effect. I think a lot of people just put clothes on and go without really looking at how they work with or against their body, it’s clear that Yen knows and understands her body and how her wardrobe works with it.

Jentine also wears what she enjoys and what makes her feel good. Be it a cape that her brother jokes about being a blanket, sequins during the day, or a toque to cover up a bad hair day.  She’ll often discuss what she thrifted that week and the thought process behind it, showing how there’s no random willy-nilly additions to her wardrobe, though many purchases are emotionally-based.

Not only does Jentine share her style on the blog, but she also uses it for good. She recently partnered with Musana Jewelry and designed a necklace. Musana Jewelry’s goal is, “To connect women around the world through a social business that employs, trains and empowers Ugandan women to break the cycle of poverty and secure greater prosperity for themselves, their families, and their communities.” Musana Jewelry is based in Lugazi, Uganda and employs local women to provide them with financial stability and education. All Musana’s supplies are locally sourced and the profits are all put back into the community.

Yen shows that you can achieve current trends, high fashion, and stick to your personal style and still shop on a budget.  She inspires me to give pieces in my wardrobe a new life with a belt, unexpected pairing, or even turn it backwards.  She also reminds me that it’s worth the time to pick the right pieces for your wardrobe and not just buy out of stress/frustration/boredom.  I was thrilled to have Yen be part of my True Fashionista series.  I asked her the same five questions answered by every woman in this series; here are her answers:

How would you describe your personal style?
Evolving. I would like to have some impossibly chic uniform that included a Rick Owens leather jacket and the perfectly beat up pair of biker boots but I would get bored. And I can’t afford Rick Owens.

I’m definitely partial to vintage dresses, sequins and brown leather anything but I love trying new looks and taking chances. One day I’ll wear a sharp red suit. The next day I’ll wear mustard cords and a hand knit blue sweater. That’s the best part of fashion, you get to change it up.

Where did you get your passion for fashion?
I’m not really sure. I mean my parents have always been into antique hunting at flea markets and garage sales so I certainly learned about pretty things from a young age. Though, on the other hand, my mom is the most down to earth, no fuss lady ever and I was raised in the same way. When I’m putting on make-up and agonizing over what to wear, we always chuckle over how different we really are. We do both cry over sad animal stories. That unites us.

I also know I spent much of my childhood staring at what people were wearing. And I wasn’t good at hiding my staring, so that made for some awkward moments…

Where do you find sartorial inspiration?
The usual; blogs and magazines. I am curbing my magazine addiction a bit; those glossy pages are addictive. I also try to be inspired by my own closet, there is plenty of crazy in there and it’s fun to play around. 

What is the difference between fashion and style?
I think ‘fashion’ is the umbrella term for the whole industry and whatever relates to it. Style is a more personal term, it’s how you make fashion work for yourself.

Any advice for a woman who is starting to find her personal style?
Just have fun.

I mean there is lots of important stuff to say about colour, fit, fabric and financial investment but that all comes second to enjoying your wardrobe.

I’ve been blogging for almost four years and I am still discovering my style. I think (I hope) I am better at editing and listening to my own style voice than I was four years ago, but my archives certainly have a fair share of bad outfits. I’ve made plenty of style mistakes. The only thing I consistently do right, is that I have fun getting dressed. 

I get that everyone has very different lives and that ‘having fun’ can mean completely different things. It’s fun for me to wear sequins to pick up Diet Coke and beef jerky from the grocery store. For my mom, it’s fun to wear a tiny mouse pin and a cat pin on the same lapel. A clever detail that often goes unnoticed but something she enjoys enough to text me a picture of. Sidenote- I’m talking about my mom a lot… 

It sounds a little simplistic but if you are trying to find your personal style, it makes sense to discover what you really like. Not everybody is going to like what you wear (trust me… if I had a nickel for every time someone carefully says ‘Um… I would never wear that but…’) and you are going to make mistakes but you might as well have fun.  :)

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What My Brain Has Been Absorbing – Spring 2013

I’m not going to become a lifestyle blog, but I have read and seen and listened to some pretty fantastic and interesting things lately (and some not so awesome but popular things) and wanted to share. My friend Nicole calls her music reviews All Up in My Earholes and I love that; this is my less catchy way of describing what media I have been enjoying…

Grace: A Memoir by Grace Coddington
Of course I had to read this. My mom got it for me for my birthday and I was SO EXCITED! It was on every stylista’s must-have holiday gift list, it had to be good, right?

Eh… I think it was on everyone’s list because they needed more orange-colored fashion books in their colorblocked bookcases, or because it’s a book that adds contrast to the solid black Manolo that is placed upon it for a home shoot. I feel that Coddington phoned it in until around page 275 when she began sharing tales of her time at American Vogue. Only then, did we see a peek into her personality and get fun stories about her colleagues. The entire time I read it, I felt that she wrote the book purely because she became a household name after The September Issue and some publisher told her to do this so she could have a cushy retirement. I always liked her work in Vogue and The September Issue really made me like Coddignton as a person; this book made me like her less. If you read this book, I’d love to hear your view on it.

There are some movies that are just so charming they stick in your brain for a long time. You remember parts almost as though you lived them. This happens often for me with books, but rarely for movies; I can think Little Miss Sunshine, Amelie, The Science of Sleep, Waitress, a few others. Well now I can add Goats.

Maybe it’s because I live in a hippie town with some folks who remind me of characters in this movie, maybe because I like goats, but I found this movie utterly charming. It’s a movie I would re-watch on a rainy Sunday, curled up in an afghan. This isn’t a movie with suspense or passionate love or an exciting twist but I loved it, and think I loved it because it meandered the way in which it did.

Regions of Light and Sound of God by Jim James
Fear Fun by Father John Misty
My husband has a habit of wearing an album out. He’ll put six CDs in his car’s stereo and not switch them out for six months, and will play one album on the iPod or Spotify until he knows all the lyrics. While this can be good (really getting to know a new band or learning the lyrics of cool songs), it can get you to the point where you never want to hear the band again (sorry Tool fans, but thanks to Karl I have had enough Maynard for the rest of my existence). So when I hear an album 40 times and still look forward to hearing it again, it’s gotta be pretty unique and pretty good.

I don’t think any of you are surprised that I love Jim James’ solo work (he’s the lead singer of My Morning Jacket). The thing is, the first time I heard it I felt very meh. The second time, I liked it. Now that I am on the 40th listen, I am a mega fan. This is why I like My Morning Jacket so much – there’s depth and weird little things you notice each time you listen that makes you like it more, makes you think more, makes you react differently each time. The same holds true for this album. I’d love to write more, but I can’t hold a candle to those who write music reviews professionally, and those I have read I agree with wholeheartedly.

And now we turn to J. Tillman, the crazy and obnoxious and weirdly sexy ex-member of Fleet Foxes and now performing at Father John Misty. A friend whose music tastes I respect mentioned he was playing Fear Fun nonstop so I decided to check it out. This was another album that did better with Karl playing it on non-stop repeat. I went from feeling ambivalent to becoming a mega fan and am psyched to see him in May at The 9:30 Club. I would never compare Father John Misty to MMJ, but this album is another where each time you listen you catch something else; with Tillman it is his lyrics. And then if you head to YouTube and watch some of the videos of his live performances and interviews you too many find him weird, obnoxious, but strangely sexy.  Again, if you want more detail about the album, check out professionally written reviews, I have found most to be favorable.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I am totally the type to pick up a book or download an album purely because someone I follow on Twitter or Instagram mentioned that they liked it or are reading/currently listening to it. And I did that with this book. I knew nothing about it, didn’t know the plot, never read anything before by the author, didn’t know it was considered a YA novel, just so happened I had finished my current book on Kindle and just got paid and downloaded it after seeing it on social media. And I couldn’t read it fast enough, I was so engrossed and in love and interested to see how it ended and I cried and I even cried just thinking about the book a week after finishing. After months of reading just for work or blog with a random chick lit or 50 Shades of Crap tossed in, it was a lovely change and made me make the switch back to the occasional emotional and well-written novel for a break from the 9-5.

The Sweet Valley Confidential “The Sweet Life” Series
If you’re around my age, you likely gobbled up every book from the Sweet Valley High Series while in high school. You knew they were sort of lame and cliché and unrealistic and a teenager’s version of a Lifetime Movie but you didn’t care, they were fun. The Sweet Valley Confidential series came out, got bad reviews and I wasn’t very interested. And then I saw a SVH mention on the forums of GOMI, went to check them out in the Kindle store, saw the first of the series was only $1.99 and decided to read. And I read the entire The Sweet Life series. And I want that part of my life back.

I HAD to keep reading to see what happened. And what happened wasn’t very interesting or very well written. I understand if you too feel the need to read them, I fully get it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you…

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Future Past Present: Holdin’ On To Band Posters

Our home is a constant work in progress. Even though the remodel/addition was almost four years ago, we are yet to be fully settled. I guess having a kid can do that. We have also had a few family changes – the passing of my father-in-law just two months before Emerson’s birth, the recent move of my husband’s grandparents from their family home to assisted living… these have caused us to acquire a lot of new things. Things that mean a lot, but don’t really have homes. It’s hard deciding what gets real estate in the house, what gets stored for now, and what leaves forever. Hard from a style point… and also an emotional point.

It seems every weekend we’re rearranging wall hangings, moving pieces to the attic, posting items on Freecycle. It often seems like a real-life game of Tetris. Last week I brought home the artwork from my office as we moved locations and I no longer have a wall to hang them. I realized the frame holding my map of DC is the perfect size for the signed My Morning Jacket poster we got at Forecastle. Not only that, but the clouds in the print are the same color as our bedroom walls. My husband saw that as fate and admitted after many many months that he doesn’t like the paintings of his dad and himself on the bedroom wall, it creeps him out. So we took them down in hopes to find a new home in the house, and for the short term, put up the poster. We decided to frame the rest of the concert posters we have collecting dust in a cardboard tube and make a gallery wall in the bedroom.

Saturday night we were hanging out in our bedroom after Emerson went to sleep, listening to music, drinking wine, and looking at the poster on the wall. It’s amazing how a change of wall art can transform the entire energy of a room. Karl kept examining the poster, and said he wanted to cut it up and put the toy together. I said we couldn’t, it’s a signed poster, and a memento from a great weekend. He said we have a second one (one for each ticket…) so we wouldn’t be SOL.

But then I saw life in 50 years. Emerson has just had us move to assisted living, or just got home from one of our funerals. She pours a glass of wine and walks around the empty house she grew up in, overwhelmed by all the stuff. She comes up to our bedroom, it still smells like us, and her mind is full of memories of being a kid, waking us up, family snuggle on Sunday mornings, playing with my makeup at my dressing table. She walks around the room, reminiscing. She stops at the framed poster, and thinks, I always wanted to know what that toy would look like. Fuck it, I’m going to do it. She grabs a pair of scissors and a glue stick and sitting on our bed or on the floor, puts together the toy. She then has a pang of regret, realizing she destroyed something that meant a lot to her parents. As she goes to clean up her mess and put the frame back together, she sees there are other sheets in the frame… a second poster! She laughs and cries at the same time, and puts the frame together and carries it downstairs to put with the other items that will transfer to her home.

We decided to slip a note into the frame, letting the next owner (be it Emerson or another) know it’s okay to cut up the poster. That we wanted to do the same, but held off so the next owner could enjoy it. I hope it does end up being Emerson, and I hope it does give her a bit of joy and a laugh at a time when she may really need it.

It’s hard to see loved ones get older, be hospitalized, placed in nursing homes, die. Karl and I have had quite a lot of that in the past two decades. Through all this loss, we have seen how family truly shapes you – it helps define you, understand why you are the way you are. And one can’t realize how truly wonderful life is without some pain for contrast. We’ve found laughter in the tears with the crazy things we have found while cleaning out our loved ones’ belongings, it feels good to possibly provide the same for Emerson just at the time she may need it. Now I understand why our families held on to so much stuff – you never know which little thing will be sentimental, emotional, or necessary for your next of kin.

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What my Ears Have Been Absorbing: July and August

The past month has been a bit of a blur, especially when it comes to music. I’d love to write an individual post about each musical experience, but it’s summer and I’m spending my weekends outdoors soaking up the sun and hanging out with loved ones and I hope you’re doing the same! So to keep us all enjoying real life instead of the computer, here’s a quick recap and mini-reviews.

Forecastle Music Festival
If you follow me on Instagram (which you really should because I share more outfits on there and what I am doing on weekends and lots of cute pictures of Emerson and not a rehash of the blog) you know I had an amazing time. This was our second year going, and we felt even more like bosses. We stayed again at the Galt House, which is a short walk to the festival grounds. Last year we got VIP by accident, this year we decided to splurge to confirm that upgrade. Totally worth it – no porta potties, shorter lines to get in, free mug for the bourbon tent, free poster (and Karl ended up getting a free bandanna at the same time), shorter beer lines and a special pit area so we could get pretty close to the two big stages.

This year I wanted to dress in a more feminine manner, but once I got there I went back to my standard festie uniform of beat-up denim shorts and band tee shirts. The weather was excellent until the end of the last day, when we got utterly soaked during the finale of Robert Plant’s set.

Speaking of Robert Plant… I SAW ROBERT PLANT LIVE! I saw him before when he was touring with Alison Krauss, but it was underwhelming. His set at Forecastle was not, it was epic. He did new music mixed with Zeppelin hits – he did put a fresh spin on the classics but not so much that you didn’t recognize or get excited by them. I was excited to have experienced it, and while I wish it didn’t rain (because I think he would have played far longer), it was still a fab performance.

Other memorable shows were Jim James (shocker), Killer Mike and El-P, Big Boi, and Bombino. Were there others that were amazing? YES! However some I had seen before (Alabama Shakes, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Houndmouth, FLips, Black Keys), and some were great but didn’t change my opinion of the band or help me find a new favorite artist.

And well… we didn’t see everything we wanted to see. We were very relaxed this year. Miss a show? No worries. Spend time chatting with a stranger or drinking bourbon or eating a burger at a bar that is supposedly visited by ghosts? Just as awesome as a good set. The weekend wasn’t just about music, but about Louisville and getting away for a mini-vaca. And it was a mini-vaca, I came back refreshed and happy!

Americanarama Festival
The Americananarama fest is a four-band tour, and it stopped in Maryland about a week after we got home from Forecastle. Close enough to still be on a buzz from previous festie fumes, and I went with the same peeps (Karl and my sister Debbie). The show was Ryan Bingham, My Morning Jacket, Wilco, and Bob Dylan. I KNOW, Bob Dylan! To see two legends in one month is pretty darn fantastic!

Ryan Bingham was good. My Morning Jacket was outstanding. I think it was the first time I saw them perform in daylight. We had 5th row pavilion seats (not going to pit it for seven hours) and a great view, but the time of day for MMJ’s set and the seats made it feel as though we were watching a high school talent show performance. Sounds bad, but it made it even more awesome. The band seemed to be having a blast, and I think it was one of my favorite My Morning Jacket performances!

Wilco was good, and if you’re a Wilco fan you’d likely be gushing over the set like I did for MMJ. Try as I may, I just haven’t caught the Wilco bug. I like them, I respect them, but they’re not my jam. And 2013 Bob Dylan isn’t my jam either. While Dylan is a legend and I should be honored to experience him live, his set was so dreadful we actually left before it was over.

Music I’m Enjoying
Before each music festival, I research bands who will be there who I have never heard of before. Thanks to Spotify (IMO the paid subscription is totally worth it) I could make playlists of whole albums to really get a feel for the band, and not just their single. In fact, I do this for most artists who I hear about but don’t know. Karl is famous for playing an album over and over and over again until it’s fused into our brains and we did that with some Forecastle artists, and some albums that one of us heard about and decided to investigate. Here’s the albums we have been listening to the past month that we like enough to hear more than twice:

  • Valerie June – Pushin’ Against a Stone: Gospel, Memphis blues, bluegrass, country, a bit of Jack White, a bit of Dinah Washington. A unique voice that at the same time sounds familiar. I didn’t like the singles I heard, but I adore listening to the album from beginning to end.  Seriously good stuff, unique stuff, stuff you should check out.
  • The National – Trouble Will Find Me: each summer Karl seems to get a pet band. He plays their album/s to death, stalks their live performances on late night TV, and sings random lines from songs at strange times which confuses the heck out of everyone around him. Last summer it was Band of Horses, the summer prior The Decemberists. This year it’s The National. I first heard the album and wanted to cut my wrist with a butter knife. Then I heard an interview on NPR, a couple live recordings and of course this album on repeat each day when I get home from work and Karl is cooking dinner. And now I love it… and The National.
  • Capital Cities – In A Tidal Wave of Mystery: Karl likes himself some Clutch, is a fan of Umphrey’s McGee, Eddie Vedder is his spirit animal and each summer he gets obsessed with some sad/lonely/depressed/whiny band, but he is also secretly a cheesy poppy techno fan. So when I heard more than the single from Capital Cities’ album and heard they were great live, I shared them with Karl. And he ate it up, and so did I. Seriously, love the album just for, “Like Michael Jackson’s Thriller, like Farrah Fawcett hair, it’s good shit.”
  • Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg: He has been compared to Bob Dylan, but don’t think that makes him cliché or a copycat. Jake Bugg has his own modern sound, modern lyrics, and this album is awesome. We’re actually seeing him at the 9:30 Club in September, we like the album so much. In the words of Capital Cities, it’s good shit.
  • Rubblebucket – Omega La La: I downloaded this album since they were going to be at Forecastle. I liked it okay, Karl LOVED it. We missed their set but kept listening and liking more and more.
  • Katzenjammer – A Kiss Before You Go: A friend of a friend told us this band was, “A modern-day Norwegian ABBA.” How can one resist? It’s actually a crazy mishmosh of an album, some sounds as though it should be played at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, some sounds as though it was originally recorded by ABBA, and some is just wacky. But it’s fun, it has an interesting cover of Genesis’ Land of Confusion, and Emerson knows the lyrics to almost every song.
  • Savages – Silence Yourself: I absolutely positively love this album. I listen to it and am transported to the good part of high school when I am wearing Doc Martens and rocking out in my bedroom to Siouxsie and the Banshees. Karl doesn’t get this album, but then when I was wearing Docs he was wearing shelltoes. I am going to see them at 9:30 next month and I cannot wait.
  • Diiv – Oshin: I think we saw them perform on Palladia or Jools Holland or Jimmy Fallon. Not sure, but we liked that short set on TV enough to download the album. This is good music to listen to when cooking dinner or reading a book or driving home from work.  It’s not Farrah Fawcett’s hair, but it will grow on you.
  • Portugal. the Man – Evil Friends: I feel as though I am going to go to hell listening to this album, but it is SOOO GOOD! Seriously, the lyrics are downright evil, but the music is amazing. I’ve seen Portugal. The Man at Bonnaroo and was underwhelmed, I listened to a previous album and it wasn’t memorable. Danger Mouse produced Evil Friends and wow he brought it. This album is catchy and memorable and you don’t tire of it. And there’s such good catchy lyrics even though they’re really evil thoughts. I hate to love this album, but dammit I do.

Have you been listening to any great music lately?  Seen any awesome concerts?  Tell me about it in the comments, I learn so much from all of you and I’m always on the lookout for new tunes!

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Concert Review: Jim James at the 9:30 Club

When I was in high school I obsessed over certain bands and singers. Sometimes it was because their lyrics spoke to me, their beats could make me dance all night… but usually it was because of image. Some hot guy mourning over a girl, a badass woman with a nose ring singing about female empowerment. The image always did it for me, it was that thing that got me emotionally invested in an artist.

I’ve written about my reconnection to music before, but a big difference in my new love of music and old is the lack of the visual. I’m not turning on MTV every day after school, I’m not seeking out videos on YouTube or Googling pictures of artists. Often, I find band recommendations from the pages of Rolling Stone or Bust, or through friends or music forums. I often download music or add to a Spotify playlist based solely on the artists’ name or title and maybe a brief paragraph or “sounds like” description.

While there are some artists I find even better with the visual (well HELLO Father John Misty), many I prefer without the visual to muddy the message. One I think of the most is Jim James and My Morning Jacket. I find this man and this band utterly brilliant – simple yet poetic lyrics, creative songs, ability to play so many different instruments, music that is entertaining, thought-provoking, catchy, yet unique. As for appearance? I don’t care what they’re wearing, I don’t care what they look like, I don’t really care one way or another about album art and have seen very few videos. I just love Jim’s voice, the lyrics, the sound, the whole package.

My mediocre Instagram photos; for far better shots of the show see Brightest Young Things‘ article

This past Tuesday, I went with my sister and husband to see Jim James perform solo at the 9:30 Club. We’re such big fans of MMJ that we’re fan club members, and got there early for primo location during the live event. The show did not disappoint – Jim James is a genius and also a stellar performer. I think the show blew Karl’s mind; he’s not the type to get all gaga over anything, but is a giggle teenager when it comes to Jim James. I had a blast, he was SO good, so engaging with the audience, did a fan-geek encore with solo, MMJ and Monsters of Folk songs (as well as a couple covers). In my eyes, James can do no wrong and I can’t wait to see him again at Forecastle Fest this July.

I go to see concerts these days to see the artists do what they do best – perform their music. Jam out, see the skill on their instruments, hear voices without computer enhancement, experience the unexpected. When I was younger, I geeked over musicians hoping to touch them, make eye contact, have a bit of a fantasy in my head along with the songs. Now, I just want to go on the ride that comes with the music, and the scenery is in my mind. I think this is why I have become a major geek over Jim James and My Morning Jacket; I think they encourage this sort of fandom. They want us to think, they want us to journey, they want us to be surprised and elated and excited and they feel these emotions with us through the concert.

If Jim James is heading to a venue near you I encourage you to get a ticket. He’s hitting up venues much smaller than MMJ would perform at, and not many know him by his name meaning the crowd is friendly yet passionate. I hadn’t been to a show since Superbowl weekend and this show was just what the doctor ordered to get my music mojo back and have me in the swing for festival season!

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2013 Music in Review

As you know, Karl and I bond over music. About once a month, we get an overnight babysitter and have a date night of dinner and a concert. Our big yearly vacation is to a music festival, our house is full of vinyl and CDs, our phones and iPods with MP3s, one of the best splurges on our home remodel five years ago was outdoor speakers so we can listen to our tunes on the back deck. I thought I’d do a little 2013 music recap post, sharing the best things I experienced music-wise this year.

Favorite Music-related Stuff of 2013:

This year we upgraded to a Spotify subscription and we adore it. I know, Spotify pays a millionth of a cent in royalties to artists, but the way we use it is to check out new and new to us artists, and then we buy the album. Spotify has a lot of smaller artists so it has been a great way to explore lesser-known musicians and I love the “Discover” feature which has introduced us to a lot of new bands.

Karl’s dad Chief (what we all called him, a nickname from when Karl was a little kid) was a music geek, he went to concerts with us, his car was littered with CD cases, and he could spout so much music knowledge we’d call him Google Chief. When Chief passed away unexpectedly at the end of 2008, we inherited his album collection, and you can bet it was a pretty impressive collection. We had a few records of our own, but never listened to them. We couldn’t get our turntable to fit in our entertainment cabinet, we never listened to music in the office, the albums collected dust.

At the beginning of 2013 we bit the bullet and bought a turntable; we chose the Ion Audio iPTUSB Portable USB Turntable because it was cheap, was portable (even battery operated so we take it down to the fire pit in our backyard), had a built-in speaker, and could turn records into MP3s. I gotta say, we haven’t made a single MP3 from it, but we use the heck out of this little guy. It usually resides in our bedroom which is next to the office/album room, but we have carted it all over our house and even taken it on trips with us. We plan on investing in a higher quality turntable, but for now it gets the job done.

Then, I hit the mother lode of all Freecycle scores (yes even better than my brand new IKEA chair and compost bins)… my friend’s parents decided to give away their record collection. I didn’t at the time know it was her parents, but when I pulled up I recognized the house and her dad. We left with four wine crates of vinyl in good to excellent condition with awesome music from the late ‘50s all the way through the mid ‘80s (if you followed me on Instagram back then you likely remember me sharing all the amazing albums).

Since then, we have bought new records, have gems at thrift stores, and some of Karl’s yoga students have brought him albums from their collections as gifts. After Emerson goes to bed, we regularly hole up in our bedroom listening to records and decompressing. Often we bring down the turntable and play records when we have friends for dinner, and the turntable is so easy and Emerson so technologically inclined that she will often spend an afternoon rocking out to Alvin and the Chipmunks, Disco Mickey, or one of those, “BONG turn the page!” records that accompanied books and hasn’t scratched a single album. I love the portability and sound quality of digital, but there’s something so beautiful and comforting of a vinyl record.

Favorite Albums of 2013:
Here’s a roundup of my favorite albums this year – some are new releases in 2013, some are just new to me. I won’t go into deep reviews because that’s what Pitchfork and Sterogum and Rolling Stone and Consequence of Sound and all the other great music sites and publications are for.

  • The London Souls – The London Souls. Listen with friends in the kitchen while drinking red wine and preparing dinner.
  • Drenge – Drenge. Listen when you’re cleaning a bathroom or raking leaves or pounding the elliptical.
  • Lorde – Pure Heroine. Lorde’s album is far more than “Royals.” Listen at pretty much any time.
  • The Sea and Cake – Runner. Listen to while driving on a sunny day on a smooth highway that lets you comfortably cruise over 55 MPH.
  • Savages – Silence Yourself. Listen to when in the car by yourself after a shitty work day. Play it loud.
  • Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends. Listen after the kids have gone to bed and you have an hour to just get lost in thoughts, hear the words and maybe check out a few of their videos on your phone and have a conversation with a friend or your partner about what you think of it all.
  • Father John Misty – Fear Fun. Love me some FJM, saw him live twice this year and would see him again if he came to town. Listen when doing something else, then listen again when you have some time to hear the lyrics. Listen with a friend so you can discuss the man and the music.
  • The National – Trouble Will Find Me. It took this album for me to understand and love The National. I like listening to this when driving in the morning, it helps me relax and think.
  • Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg. He has a brand new album out and it’s good, but it feels like a lot of the same. I’m partial to the original. Saw him live, think he sounds even better in person. Listen when you may normally rely on classics like Dylan.
  • HAIM – Days are Gone. Listen when making pancakes on a Sunday morning and the sun is shining through the kitchen window and you already had your cup of coffee. Then listen to again when you’re driving to run errands later in the afternoon.
  • Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City. It took their third album for me to come around. Listen when you got to leave work early, the sun is still up and rush hour traffic hasn’t really started yet.
  • M.I.A. – Matangi. Listen when you have a project at work you don’t want to do but have to power through.

Favorite Concerts of 2013:
As for live performances, I saw quite a few, but my favorites for 2013:

  • Jim James at 9:30 Club, April 2013. Well this is a duh if you know me. Didn’t hurt that Karl “finger rimmed” Jim James and got mocked on a message board for being an obnoxious hipster and it was a fun and fabulous date night for us kiddos.
  • Bombino at the Forecastle Music Festival. Best part of music festivals is discovering new artists. Never heard of Bombino but found their performance at the fest amazing and ended up researching them, buying some of their music, and loving them.
  • Father John Misty at 9:30 Club, May 2013. Even with a freshly torn calf muscle, the show was amazing and my adoration of J, Josh, Joshua, FJM grew immensely.
  • Robert Plant at the Forecastle Music Festival. Bucket list and he exceeded my expectations. Wish it didn’t rain because I think it would have gone longer.
  • My Morning Jacket at the Americana Festival, Merriweather Post Pavilion (not pictured). As an MMJ fan who has seen them several times, this ranks as one of my top performances by them. First time I saw them in the daylight, and they were an opener, not headliner. Imagine your favorite band on stage for a high school talent show, it felt like that and was awesome and fun.
  • Morrissey at Strathmore, January 2013. Haven’t seen him live since 10th grade, thanks to Emily for selling me her tickets and making a gal’s dream come true.
  • Clutch at 9:30 Club, December 2013. I haven’t gone yet, but based upon every other time I’ve seen Clutch (including same time same venue last year, a great Christmas gift from my sister along with overnight babysitter), I know it’s going to be hella amazing.

And now I ask you your favorites of 2013. I have learned about so much great music from all of you, and I know you have learned from each other. Share in the comments your favorite songs, albums, artists, shows, and gadgets from the year!

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My Wardrobe Today – Tuesday

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

Shop your closet, folks. Shop your closet!

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

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

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

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

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

My Blog, My Choice

No pics today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Shoes!

Reader Allyson asked about my shoe collection. She is trying to figure out what she needs versus what she wants. I am probably the worst person to ask about this for I have an affinity for shoes that match nothing in my wardrobe and will probably cause bunions and hammertoes before I am 40. I like them tall, I like them funky, I like the heels to be spindly…

Anyway, looking at the shoes that get a lot of wear in my collection, I see the not-quite-traditional ones get the most use. The classic black shoes are great in a pinch, but I often find an unexpected neutral like a camel, tan, red or a print like leopard (one with black AND brown in it) seems to work with the majority of the wardrobe.

here is my collection. You’ll see a few I never wear, and will wonder where some have gone (sold, donated or tossed – recently did some gutting of my closet – hello red patent peeptoes and pilgrim shoes). This is my current collection, all seasons combined:

1. Leopard peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. I actually own two pairs because I adore them so much. One pair is a bit scuffed and smelly; the other ones are reserved for more special of occasions. These are fabric, have a 4” heel and make me feel sexy and powerful. I bought the first pair I think late 2006 and then the second pair on sale in spring of 2007.

2. Brown croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. Same exact style as the leopard ones. Bought in spring of 2007

3. Black croco peeptoe heels from BCBGirls. Ditto. If you find a pair of shoes that are comfortable AND fit your style, stock up! I bought them the same day I bought them in brown.

4. Black satin peeptoe heels from Enzo Angiolini. Very similar style to the BCBGirls, but a wider opening at the toe, and evening-appropriate. I got these in summer of 2007 to replace my previous black satin dress heels that broke a heel.

5. Black city boots from Impo. These are actually pleather so they look a bit like patent leather. Side-zip ankle boots with a 1” or shorter kitten heel. I bought these in winter of 2006 to replace my 5-year old city boots that were just DONE.

6. Tan leather calf-height boots from Duo. These are the “Bern” style from their website. Very low heel, comfortable casual style. Got these in the fall of 2007.

7. Brown suede tall boots from Silhouettes. 1” kitten heel, pointed toe, slightly slouched/rouched fabric. I must say a pair in purple are en route to my house via eBay – got them for about $20 on there. Yes, PURPLE! The brown ones I received as a gift this winter.

8. Black low-top “Chucks” Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers. I bought these this fall, got them for my husband as well (yes we are the corny couple with matching shoes).

9. Red pointy-toed pumps from Steven. 2” heel, candy apple red and a sale price I couldn’t resist. Have had for a couple of years now, got them at Off Broadway Shoes.

10. Black heeled oxfords from BCBGirls. Super high heel, pointed toe, classic oxford styling. Can go with skirts or pants. Ordered these in the fall but they were backordered and didn’t receive until winter.

11. Black ballet flats from Target. A total waste of money. They have no cushioning, no support, no study sole and are pleather so they make my feet sweat. I keep these for emergencies, but have no clue what emergency it would be as that I haven’t worn them in months. Bought these in late spring of 2007.

12. Black leather flats from Naturalizer. Very simple style, rounded toe, soft leather, arch support and comfort sole. These were bought for comfort, but are nondescript enough that they work okay for style as well. Bought these in… I think late summer 2006.

13. Black open-work pumps from Steve Madden. I have had these for years (I beleive it was 2001). Classic pump style, but peeptoe and the front is a lattice-work of leather. I call them my Carmen Miranda heels.

14. Hot pink studded pointy-toe pumps from NYLA. Hot pink, dark metal studs and a dangerous heel. These are a bit scuffed in front (and where can you find hot pink shoe polish?) but still a blast to wear and get tons of comments and compliments. I think I got these in… 2004. Yes, I got them while trying to find shoes for my wedding. I couldn’t resist – also from Off Broadway Shoes.

15. Hot pink and orange suede peeptoe wedges from J. Crew. Tall wooden wedge, pink suede with orange trim and tiny bow. Super cute, got end of summer season 2007 so haven’t had the chance to wear a lot.

16. Black leather thong-style heels from Target. 1.5” heel, simple. My go-to shoe all summer long. I buy a replacement pair every other year; these were bought in the summer of 2007.

17. Brown stacked flip flops from J. Crew. Have had them since 2004.

18. Black stacked flip flops from J. Crew. Got at the outlet for a song in 2005.

19. Black “Sandy” flip flops from Reef. Replaced my old pair just this summer.

20. Purple Crocs. Only worn in the yard or to as music festival. I promise! I bought them specifically for Bonnaroo this summer.

21. Aqua flip flops from Old Navy. Thin and cheap, but the same color as my bathing suit! I bought them on clearance in 2006.

22. Black crocheted elastic-strap flops from J. Crew. A slightly dressier version of flops, but hardly ever worn because the elastic stretched out and they don’t stay too well on my feet. I bought these also on clearance back in 2004… they went with me on my honeymoon!

23. Black leather pointy-toed heeled mules from Steve Madden. Horribly uncomfortable and super tall heels, but make suite a dramatic look with pants so I keep them. But I haven’t worn them in years, bought them in 2001.

24. Gray and blue hiking shoes from L.L. Bean. Bought these in 2003.

25. Black and green hybrid shoes from Keen. These have Kevlar lacing, mesh so they can be worn in water, but lots of cushioning and support so they can be worn for long walks. I take them on every vacation. I bought them in 2004 for my honeymoon.

26. Gray and orange sneakers from New Balance. Purely for the gym, the sidewalk, activities. Not the style for street wear. I have had them since the winter of 2005.

27. Black round-toe “Henri” pumps from Jessica Simpson. They got a bit stretched out this spring so I don’t wear as often because they aren’t as comfortable as before. However they are perfect for fuller skirts and more retro of styles. I bought them in… I think spring of 2006.

28. Purple satin strappy heels with rosette. 4” heel, delicate straps and a fabric rose on the strap over the toes. Very fun and quirky; I usually wear them with a non-purple dress. I bought these in 2004.

29. Black and silver strappy heels from Nine West. 4” heels, delicate straps and a rhinestone buckle on the strap over the toes. Have had these for about a decade and adore them. Remarkably comfortable as well. I remember buying them at the Nine West store in White Flint when I managed that Express store so we’re talking… 1998?

30. Purple Birkenstocks. Yep, I have a pair. Haven’t been worn since… I guess the early 90s but I hold on to them because I did adore them so and they ARE comfortable!

31. Beige satin strappy heels. 3” heel tiny bow at foot, very delicate. Considered them as wedding shoes (my dress was ivory) but went with hot pink instead (come on, you must expect that from me by now). Very subtle style that works with any color of dress and are great for summer affairs. Have had since early 2004.

As for where I store my shoes – I have a canvas over the door contraption in my office that holds the majority of the heels. On the floor of the office closet are sturdier shoes like my boots, ballet flats and sneakers. Outside on our deck is a large Rubbermaid box. In there are my slip flops and Crocs. In my bedroom closet I have shoe boxes on the floor that hold my strappy heels/evening shoes so they won’t get dusty. The shoes I wear daily (like my Chucks and city boots) end up next to the front door and when they are out of rotation, they go back into the office.

UPDATE: I added the dates I bought these shoes because I wanted you to know I don’t buy a whole new shoe wardrobe each season. Yes, shoes break and get stinky and stretch out and get scuffed, but many can last season after season if they are a more classic cut (or an really unexpected style that doesn’t follow a specific fad). My pink pointy heels garner just as many compliments now as they did three years ago because they are so unexpected. When I buy my city boots, I usually get a half a decade worth of wear with proper care and maintenance because they are a very simple, streamlined style that works well with pants as well as jeans.