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The Girl on the Train, Blogging, and the Whole Story

the girl on the train paula hawkins

I heard about The Girl on the Train on NPR; I caught the last bit of an interview with the author Paula Hawkins and was interested. I had finished the second book in the Outlander series and was looking for a change of pace before I delved into the third. I listened to The Girl on the Train via Audible on my commute to and from work and ended up not just with a change of pace from Dragonfly in Amber, but a new perspective on blogging, social media, and its audience.

The Girl on the Train is a thriller, very reminiscent of Gone Girl, but it’s also a great example of how looks can be deceiving and what happens when people become invested in the lives of strangers. Rachel Watson is a lonely, lost woman; she’s recently divorced and her life is a mess. She takes the train every day, and every day she passes the same row of houses next to the tracks. One is her old house, still inhabited by her ex and now accompanied by his new wife and baby; but the one that interests Rachel is a few doors down. A couple lives there, a couple that she sees as perfect. She doesn’t know them, but she imagines their lives between glimpses of them sipping wine or coffee on their patio or rooftop terrace. In her head she imagines their relationship, their professions, their hobbies; she even creates names for them – Jason and Jess. When tragedy strikes, Rachel ends up being involved in the life of this couple and realizes they aren’t the people in her morning commute fantasies.

Unlike bloggers and social media celebs, Jason and Jess don’t realize they have an audience. But like bloggers, what Rachel the audience sees is only a snippet of their life and she is making the decision to fill in the blanks.

While listening to this book, I couldn’t help but think about how bloggers and Internet personalities are analyzed, criticized, and sometimes idolized. I see on Twitter, on message boards, and on fan/hate blogs how people like Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train make the decision to fill in the blanks. That somehow, if one looked hard enough at the photos chosen by a blogger for their blog or how a paragraph is phrased they can determine if someone is having an affair, miserable at their job, upset that she can’t conceive, a terrible friend, a neglectful parent. Or the opposite, that by examining one’s Instagram account enough one can determine if someone’s husband really loves her, she’s such a nice and giving person, or she’s a really good mother.

The thing is you don’t know why someone chooses to share what they do. Maybe all the pictures turned out terrible except the one where she’s looking down at the ground. Maybe she always wears sunglasses because even after all these years she’s still awkward in front of the camera and the oversized shades hide her deer in the headlights gaze. Maybe she doesn’t share her husband on Instagram because he’s uncomfortable being photographed.  Maybe the post was written in a rush before the baby woke from his nap and she hit publish before proofing.  And maybe she knows how to play the game and sees from her analytics that she makes more sales when she has that smug smile than when she shows her teeth, or that when she writes something controversial she gets more pageviews, more hate followers, more fame, and more money.

The Girl on the Train is a good reminder that with those we follow on the Internet, and even those we know in real life, we make assumptions and fill in the blanks. And often, our assumptions are dead wrong.

I’m not saying getting invested in a blogger, vlogger, or even reality show star is a bad idea. I love blogs, and I have many favorite bloggers and personalities on social media, some who have become friends in real life and some who feel like a friend though I have never met them and likely never will. This isn’t bad, the Internet is a way to not feel so alone or unusual, to connect and relate to others across the globe. To find kindred spirits and gain inspiration. But it’s important to remember you don’t really know them, you only know what they choose for you to know and through the filter they have picked. It’s entertainment, it’s art, but it’s never the whole story.

The Girl on the Train was a well-written psychological thriller. I don’t want to share much more because it’s definitely the type of novel that is more enjoyable when you have no idea what happens before you start reading. And it’s clear I enjoyed how stereotypical characters were proven to be far more complex than originally thought; something that holds true for everyone you meet in real life, and on the Internet.

Hive on the Hill: The Shoe Hive’s DC Pop-up Shop

Like fashion, I believe in quality instead of quantity for my social life.  My evenings and weekends are primarily dedicated to my family, and only a few choice blog events.  Last night I attended a fabulous and quality event; Hive on the Hill from The Shoe Hive.

While The Shoe Hive has the most adorable and welcoming boutique in Old Town Alexandria, they are taking the next few days (through Sunday the 16th) to have a pop-up shop at The Tabula Rasa on Capitol Hill. While yes, you can find fabulous shoes (Kate Spade, Tory Burch, Hunter boots, and many more popular brands), they also have a wonderful selection of accessories and gifts. From candy-colored crocheted berets to drool-worthy Alexis Bittar jewelry, there have something for everyone, and every budget.

Last night was Opening Night for The Shoe Hive’s pop up, cleverly titled Hive on the Hill. The Shoe Hive asked me and Alison from DC Celine to co-host the event and curate a wish list to be on display. A mix of popular music with holiday tunes, plenty of white and red wine and three adorable men pouring Allagash White beer in Hive on the Hill pint glasses (which were adorable favors for us to take home), sweet treats and some of the most stylish women in DC… it was a wonderful event. While it was fun to see friends and chat over drinks, it was also fun to shop and meet new people. The Tabula Rasa was the perfect venue – crisp, white, modern, and beautiful. The Shoe Hive decorated with white birch branches and ribbons and the whole affair was tasteful yet so much fun. I was thrilled to finally meet social media/blogging friends Amy, KC, and Rosanna in real life and again see loveies like E, Lexa, Christen, and Vyque (and spend QT with my sister!).


A big thanks to Elizabeth from The Shoe Hive and her amazing team for a fun and successful event; rarely have I attended a shopping event that made me laugh to the point of tears, met so many new and wonderful people, while being surrounded by some of the most gorgeous shoes and accessories. If you’re in the area, stop by Tabula Rasa for Hive on the Hill or visit The Shoe Hive’s warm and welcoming shop in Old Town!

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Stacy London’s The Truth About Style Book and Tour

Thursday night I had the pleasure of seeing Stacy London speak at Sixth and I Historic Synagogue in DC. Her book, The Truth About Style came out this past Tuesday and after seeing the book trailer I knew I had to be at the speaking engagement.


I met Stacy London a few months ago when she was at a local mall promoting the partnership between her company Style for Hire and Westfield Malls. The experience made me a London fan for life – she’s so real, and she truly cares about helping women feel beautiful and comfortable in clothing. Thursday night, I realized that she cares even more so about women feeling beautiful and comfortable in their own skin.

I don’t want to give much away about what she discussed or what the book is about because I truly think this is a style book that you should read. Borrow it from the library, loan it from a friend, sneak into a nook of Barnes and Noble or splurge on a copy – you won’t regret it. I can just say that Thursday night gave me such motivation regarding this blog.

When I started this blog, I wasn’t terribly happy about my body. I had a lot of opinions about fashion and style, a lot of rules, and a lot of snark. Through blogging, I got to know so many readers – you weren’t pageviews but people. I saw that I wasn’t alone in not liking the body I was in, and I saw that my snark wasn’t benefiting anyone. What’s the point of a fashion blog (or book for that matter) that dismisses those who don’t “get” fashion, that pigeonholes all women into one lump who needs a white shirt, tan trench, and a strand of real pearls?

Through blogging and through changes in my life (hello new awesome job and new awesome child) I began loving this body.  It’s not perfect… but then no one has a “perfect” body. I came to terms with it, and decided to work with it. And I also changed my voice on this blog – women don’t need another person telling them what they’re doing wrong, we need voices to give us food for thought and tips on how to feel comfortable, feel ourselves, and recognize our beauty.

 

I still have strong opinions on fashion and style, but now when I write I don’t just think about me and my little patch of Earth, but I try to make it more universal, more accepting. And Thursday night I learned that through her ten years on What Not to Wear, Stacy London has had the same experience. Dealing with real women has made her more sympathetic, sensitive, and understanding to others and also to herself. And her book The Truth About Style is about just that. This book won’t give you a list of ten must-have items in your closet, or tell you how to hide your hips or tummy. It won’t tell you what color to wear if you’re a brunette or redhead, and it won’t inform you of what items should be purged from your closet. But it will help you realize how fellow women have learned to find personal style… and may help you find yours along the way.

 

At the event with friends and fellow bloggers Nancye, Heidi, Alison, Chelsea, and Dana

And if Stacy London’s book tour is coming to a city near you, I encourage you to get a ticket to attend. She is funny, she is raw, she is honest, and she is inspiring. And she may just renew your faith in fashion, style, and yourself.

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Mick Rock & Fitz and the Tantrums – W Hotel DC

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an exhibit for Mick Rock at the W Hotel in DC. Mick Rock is a music photographer, known as “The Man Who Shot the Seventies.” He has photographed music greats over the past few decades, and some of his pictures of folks like Iggy Pop, Queen, Blondie, David Bowie, and even Lady Gaga are iconic. To celebrate the exhibit, the W Hotel had a performance by Fitz and the Tantrums and had Thievery Corporation DJing.

I really like Fitz and the Tantrums’ soul sound, Money Grabberwill get stuck in your head and never leave. I had heard they were great live and was looking forward to seeing them this past summer at the Silopanna Festival, but the fest was cancelled due to Hurricane Irene. I was happy to have been invited to this event to see them… and I was not disappointed.

The W Hotel had Mick Rock’s work blown up to wall size glossy prints, placed on the walls of the hallway and two rooms. Incredible lighting, amazing music, and complimentary Absolut cocktails. We walked around and saw musical greats in such vibrant, engaging larger-than-life images. We headed into the less-crowded room and saw it was set up with a stage – we were able to get right up front where we found a cocktail table to park our purses and drinks. My husband brought his camera and was able to get some amazing shots of the performance:

Mick Rock himself, capturing the show

Fitz and the Tantrums were amazing, so full of energy and they sounded amazing.  It was awesome to experience them in such an intimate setting.  I was so glad we got a spot up close to really experience the performance, I hardly captured a photo myself because I was so busy dancing!


The set ended and Thievery Corporation took over spinning tunes. We decided to go up to the W rooftop bar and on the way I saw Michael Fitzpatrick near a bar. I just had to go up to him, and thank him for a great performance. I mentioned how I wished I had seen them this past summer and asked for a picture. He is so nice and charming in person, so happy to have gotten the chance to meet him!


The rooftop bar is amazing, with views of the White House and the Washington Monument. Even though I was born in DC and have lived in the area all my life, such a view made me a giddy tourist and we took a lot of pictures of ourselves in front of the White House.


We headed back downstairs where I saw Mick Rock mixing with the crowd, but never got a chance to meet him. However I was pretty close to him while he was shooting the Fitz and the Tantrums set; it was cool to see such a famous photographer at work!

Thank you BrandLinkDC and The W Hotel for a stellar evening of music and photography!

Photography by Karl Gary

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The Mall and the SAHM

This week, I ran to the mall at lunch for some retail therapy. I recently bought a pair of black trousers that had such a perfect fit, fabric and cut that I returned to get them in two other colors. While strolling the mall sipping my iced coffee, I realized that the majority of the mall was occupied by mothers with their children. Women with slings holding sleeping infants, women with strollers holding up to three kids at a time at varying ages. Women and children hand in hand at the food court, on benches, in stores. As varying were the ages of their children were the appearances of these mothers.

This mall is in a community where every economic level of person lives. On one side of the mall are million-dollar townhomes in a gated community, the other side are rent-controlled apartments. A mile up the street are McMansions and in the other direction, cozy blocks of split-level and rancher-style brick homes built in the 50s. I used to work at this mall, and saw people from all walks of life enter my store. This day of retail therapy and my years of retail management remind me that money does not equal style.

My mom often tells me about my childhood. We were not well off and she had to save up to buy clothes for herself and us kiddies. Weekends were spent at yard sales for clothes, furniture and even Christmas presents come winter. Though my mom had a limited budget, she always looked great. She learned to sew to be able to dress for less and flatter her petite frame. She scoured sale racks and when something worked, she would buy multiples in varying colors to make things simple. Since she was a Stay at Home Mom (SAHM), she needed clothes that didn’t wrinkle, could handle multiple washings and were so easy to pair with one another, she could dress in the dark. Pictures of her during this time shows her in jeweled toned knit tops, black knit trousers, black shoes and a silver pendant necklace almost every day. Not too exciting, the sleeve and pant length seemed to change with the seasons, but the premise was the same. Considering it was the 70s and 80s, my mom had a shoulder-length perm that flattered her face but was low-maintenance. You couldn’t look at her and know her income level or that I had vomited on that shirt two days prior. She was a parent of two rambunctious children, a volunteer in our schools, the editor of the church newsletter, active in the community and always overextended. Though her life may have been frazzled, her appearance was not.

It really is possible to look good and be a SAHM. And this is possible without spending much more time every day. It’s all about mindful shopping. I know I have written about this before, but this is something that is important to all women, no matter our lifestyle or responsibilities.

As I walked down the mall, I had two women in front of me pushing strollers. They were friends, chatting with each other as they window-shopped. They were both in their 30s, both of average size, both with straight blonde hair and I believe even had the same strollers. That was where the similarities ended. One was in baggy over-washed black cotton capris that ended at the widest part of her calf. She paired this with a pink, black and white horizontally striped polo shirt that hit right at her waistband and with it a pair of black flip flops. Her hair was half up in a claw clip, though most was slipping out and fanning out around her head. She looked dumpy, disheveled and her clothes looked cheap. Her friend was also in black capris, but they were of a very heavy knit and fit her frame quite well. Paired with it was a turquoise boatneck ¾ sleeve top that hit at mid-hip. On her feet were black ballet flats and her hair was held back with a black elastic headband. Her outfit was just as low-fuss and easy care, yet she looked slimmer and more polished. Both wardrobes can go in the washer and dryer. Both outfits were comfortable and easy. The difference was that the woman in the turquoise seemed more mindful of what she was purchasing.

1. Don’t buy 100% cotton unless you love to iron. It wrinkles, and even an extra 10 minutes in the dryer won’t get those wrinkles out. Also, cotton is known to fade after many washings. Cotton clothes soon look rumpled, old and worn. You don’t have the time and money to replace them, so don’t buy them in the first place.

2. If your tummy is not your best feature, then don’t showcase it. Tops that hit right at your midsection draw attention to that area. Tucked-in tops emphasize the lower abdomen, and tops that are too tight do not flatter anyone. Look for tops that hit around mid-hip. This length is slimming to the torso without making the legs look short. No need for baggy tops – they often add bulk instead of hiding it. Look for something that either skims the body or sits pretty darn close. This will show you have the figure of a woman, not a sack of potatoes.

3. Flip flops are for the beach, not the mall. I say this often on here, but flops are bad for your feet. Your arches sink, you pull muscles between your toes and they do more harm than good. They are great when hopping in the car to drop the kid off somewhere, tooling around the garden, the pool or the shore but that’s about it. To preserve your feet for your future and not look sloppy, invest in some real shoes. Ballet flats are a great alternative and can be found for less than $20 at retailers like Target. A leather sandal in tan will go with 90% of your wardrobe and be more structured and attractive than a flip flop. This change affects your personal style as well as your personal health.

4. With skirts, dresses, shorts and capris, have them end at a slim part of the leg. Your thigh and your calf are the widest parts and when clothing ends there, it gives the appearance that your entire leg is that size. Do your figure a favor and if the garment is perfect except for the length, take them to the tailor. For about $5 they can hem it to a better place.

5. Consider solids. Stripes and patterns may add variety and you may think they hide stains, but they often look cheap and quickly look dated. A solid polo in French blue can look crisp with a pair of khaki Bermudas; a striped one can make you look bigger and often looks cheaper. The best way to make your bargain piece look more expensive is to buy it in a solid color, free of garment-dyed finishes, contrast stitching or elaborate details. Go for simple and you’ll go for gold.

6. Read the label. If it says Dry Clean Only, don’t buy it unless you have time and money for such a service. If it tells you to dry flat, it’s telling you not to buy it. You don’t have the time for this, and if you don’t follow the instructions you will probably ruin the shape or finish of the garment.

7. If it’s great, buy two. As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, I went and bought two more pairs of pants that I already owned and loved. They were the right length, color, fabric and fit. No one is taking a tally of how many styles of garments you own, all people notice is if you look nice. You found a great wrap top that flatters and fits and is easy care and perfection? Get it in black, pink and teal. Found a wrap dress that can hit the dryer as well as the dance floor? Get it in solid black and also in the red print. This is also true for shoes – get them in the neutral you wear most often (black or brown) and then get them in one other color (tan or a contrast shade like red pr green). If they are awesome, they are worth it.

8. Adjust your hair to your life. If you don’t have time to blow out your hair every morning, then get a cut that allows you to wash and wear. If you have bad hair days, you are human. Work with it with flattering accessories. Claw clips seem like a quick fix but look sloppy more often than not. Headbands are hip right now – great time to stock up. Also nothing is wrong with a low ponytail; side parts are flattering on rounder faces and a little hairspray on your brush or comb will help battle flyaways.

9. Buy a new bra. Whether or not you breastfed, your breasts will not be the same as they were pre-baby even if your waistline is. With any weight changes, your breasts change as well. Nothing makes you look firmer and fitter than a supportive bra. Also nothing makes you feel more like a woman than to have a gorgeous red satin and lace number under your standard tee shirt.

10. Keep the active wear for the gym. Knit shorts, baggy tee shirts from a vacation destination, matching hoodies and pants are not appropriate for “the real world.” It is just as easy to buy a feminine cut of tee shirt than to buy an oversized one.

11. Don’t shy from a skirt or dress. If it hits around the knees, you can still crawl on the floor and run around without trouble. A skirt is always more polished, and a great tee-shirt style dress is easier to put on in the morning than a whole outfit. The one pictured is less than $40 by Jones New York, I found it at Nordstrom.

12. Show your personality.You are more than a mom, you are an amazing and vital woman.Wear your favorite colors, buy a leopard print shoe or a bold necklace.Small touches take your standard day wear from uniform to amazing with little work.

 

 

Some companies I recommend to find beautiful, comfortable and durable garments:

      • Lands End – I love this place. I buy knits from there that never shrink, fade or pill. They have petite, tall and plus sizes and offer fit guides to ensure you get the right size. I recommend you use this guide for many of their pieces run big. Best part? Their prices are very reasonable!
      • Chico’s – Fabulous colors, fun accessories and lots of fabrics that resist wrinkles and fading. Do note their sizing is a bit different from most companies and they do not carry plus sizes. As with Lands End, they often run a tad big.
      • J. Crew – J. Crew is the Mecca for pretty solid colored tops. Flattering cuts of polos and tees, high-quality cashmere, cotton and wool sweaters, and all with flattering yet not risqué necklines and cuts. J. Crew often runs small, especially in their bottoms but the quality is good, the cut is usually flattering and their return policy is fabulous. The price may be a bit higher than you’re used to, but the quality usually makes it worth the investment (I am still wearing J. Crew skirts and sweaters from a decade ago).
      • I.N.C. by Macy’s – You may find this a strange choice but if you regularly visit this section you would understand. They carry petites and plus sizes, they always have the most gorgeous colors and a large selection of pants, shorts and capris for the season. I.N.C. does a fabulous job of taking what is on the runway and making is realistic and wearable for every woman. They carry prints, but also a plethora of solids every season in some high-quality knits and other washable fabrics.
      • Boden – Feminine cuts, pretty colors, and great basics for any wardrobe. Do note this is a UK site so their sizes run differently than the us (they have a handy fit guide on the site). They don’t have many extended sizes, though some trousers are offered in long lengths. This company has mastered simple elegance with their basic style.

 

Unlock the Perfect Cup this Holiday with TASSIMO™: Review and Giveaway

Looking at how often I write and tweet about coffee, you’d think I was a coffee connoisseur. Notsomuch. When I hit my local coffee shop I ask for it plain and big because all the –inos overwhelm me. At home, Karl is the master of the coffee domain. I have no idea how to use the French press so I rely on him to fuel my caffeine fix. Lately I have been working more early mornings and I have to stop by the local coffee shop or fast food drive-through to get my cup of Joe because I just can’t figure out how to make a decent cup of coffee. You know what would be a perfect holiday gift for me? A super simple single-serve coffee maker that would make a great cup of coffee every time.

Enter TASSIMO™, who was awesome enough to send me the TASSIMO™ T55 Single Cup Brewing System JUST at the perfect time. I was working a lot of long days and hated spending so much on take-out coffee or watching Karl make me a cup still bleary-eyed in dawn’s early light. No needing to wait until the holidays to become a coffee-making expert!

Place the T DISC upside down so that the INTELLIBREW™ technology can read the barcode. Snap the lid shut, press Start and in minutes you’ll be enjoying a perfect cup!

The TASSIMO™ Brewer is super easy to use too. Add water to the reservoir in back, insert your TASSIMO™ T DISC in the top, and press start. The built-in technology INTELLIBREW™ scans the barcode on each T DISC to identify precise brewing instructions with the exact temperature, water, and time duration, so each and every drink is perfect every time. This Home Brewing System isn’t just for a cup of joe–the TASSIMO™ can also make cappuccinos, lattes, hot chocolate, tea, and more. One of my favorite features is how quickly it heats water; for little energy you can have a piping-hot cup of water for soup or tea in seconds.

TASSIMO™ sent me a few T DISCS to get started, and it’s fun to make hot chocolate, cappuccinos, caramel latte macchiatos, or espressos by myself and know it will be delicious. With well-known brands like Twinings, Gevalia, and Maxwell House partnering with TASSIMO™ for their T DISCS you know the quality and the flavor is great. I love that there are great limited edition flavors like Peppermint Hot Chocolate and Peppermint Mocha for the holidays!

Now I’m a pro at making fancy coffee house drinks from my kitchen counter!

If you’d like to unlock a perfect cup with TASSIMO™ this holiday season, they are offering some great deals on their site. With Cyber Monday code TACYMON3 you can get 20% off T DISCS; you also get 20% off Brewers and with each Brewer purchase, you will receive two free packages of T DISCS (valid in the US only on TassimoDirect.com. Cannot be combined with other offers . Limit one coupon redemption per customer. 20% T DISC discount limited to 6 T DISC packages. 20% Brewer discount limited to two Brewers. Offer only valid on 12/2/2013 until 11:59PM PST).

If you miss the Cyber Monday Deal, brewers and T DISCS are also available at Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon.

Giveaway
Thank you for entering, the giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.

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Showing the Love: ELOQUII

This month, the month of love, I want to celebrate you. It’s the tenth year of Wardrobe Oxygen, and this blog wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for your love and support. To show my love in return, I’ve partnered with some of my favorite brands to offer you some amazing gifts. These giveaways are not sponsored, I am receiving nothing in return for hosting them, I will not be promoting these giveaways on social media so to increase the chances of you regular readers winning. The brands know this, and have chosen to donate great gifts because they too want to show you the love.

For many years, it’s been tough being plus-size fashionista. It’s as though retailers didn’t think that women size 12 and up wanted, or DESERVED current trends and fun apparel. Thank goodness the tides are turning, and one of the trailblazers bringing fabulous fashion in larger sizes is ELOQUII.

eloquii 1

Originally under the Limited Brand, ELOQUII relaunched as private company last year and they’re taking the plus size fashion world by storm. As ELOQUII states on their “About” page, “It’s time for fashion to move forward.” And forward ELOQUII is, offering fun and stylish clothing for work, play, and everything in between in sizes 14 to 24. ELOQUII keeps up with trends by introducing new limited product every couple of weeks and keeps your wallet happy with reasonable prices for the high quality and many great promotions (it’s worth it to sign up for their emails to know when sales are taking place). Not only that, ELOQUII believes in community – from sharing fan photos on their site to customer reviews on products to a really engaging social media campaign (hello a brand that comments on your Instagram photos and replies back to tweets!), ELOQUII is changing not just the look but the attitude of plus sized fashion.

And I have to admit, I have a soft spot for ELOQUII because my dear friend Sarah works for them. Sarah was one of my first “bloggy friends,” I met her through a blogging network in way back in 2006 and she’s one of the most genuine, loving and lovable people I know. If you love that sense of community, fun, and spirit that shines through ELOQUII’s social media channels, that’s thanks to my gal Sarah, their Social Media and Community Strategist.  And what’s great is she LOVES working with ELOQUII – it’s always great to know that a great company has great people behind it.

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And come ON, how adorable is their collection? Above are some of the pieces from their new arrivals that are making me drool. Fashion, fun, and heart describe ELOQUII, and that’s why I’m proud to regularly recommend the brand to you in advice posts and oh so proud to offer this giveaway to you! One lucky Wardrobe Oxygen reader will win a $100 store credit to ELOQUII! Giveaway is open to US and Canada readers and ends February 20, 2014. Read the widget below for additional details and good luck!

Wardrobe Oxygen ELOQUII $100 Store Credit Giveaway

Living the Savvy Life Promotion

My friend Melissa Tosetti is the founder of The Savvy Life, a great site that gives tips on how to live a full life without living past your means. I have learned so much from her site, as well as her recent book, Living the Savvy Life (you can read my review of the book here). I am honored to be partnering with her and many other fabulous online budget-savvy folks (hello Flylady!) for the promotion below.

I own Living the Savvy Life and find it a great resource for anyone (and hey, it’s cool that I am mentioned on page 191 of the book!). I encourage you to check out the promotion below, you won’t be disappointed!

and receive $190 in Free Bonus Downloads
Offer valid July 12th-13th, 2011

For details including how to take advantage of the offer visit www.LivingtheSavvyLife.com.

Melissa Tosetti, the author of Living the Savvy Life – The Savvy Woman’s Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living has created a brand new online program that brings the international best seller to life.

Melissa is launching the new program with a special limited time offer. Purchase a copy of Living the Savvy Life from Amazon.com on July 12th – July 13th and you will receive a one month free subscription to the Living the Savvy Life Coaching Program. The new program guides you step-by-step, day-by-day to gain control of your finances, focus your spending on what you truly want and enjoy your life to the fullest.

As an added incentive, some of her savvy friends (like me!) have offered valuable downloadable gifts (worth $190) for free to help you on your savvy path.

Additional Bonus Gifts
  • Free copy of The Working Woman’s eCookbook from Leanne Ely of Saving Dinner ($20).
  • Free 90 Day Membership to FFIT at home, an online exercise, nutrition and support program ($149.85).
  • Free copy of Healthy Beauty Spy, the phone app that helps you choose healthier beauty products while you shop ($2.99).
  • Free French Breakfast & English High Tea Menu and Recipe Guide from The Rich Life on a Budget. (unavailable anywhere else).
  • Free Article on the 10 Must Have Wardrobe Staples and How to Wear Them from Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen (unavailable anywhere else).
  • Build Your Own Control Journal – Instruction Manual courtesy of Marla Cilley, The Flylady.
  • Favorite Savvy Websites Directory compiled by Melissa Tosetti

For additional details including how to take advantage of the offer visit www.LivingtheSavvyLife.com.

Remember, this offer is only valid for July 12th- 13th, 2011.

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Tuesday’s Tip – Making the Clearance Rack Your Friend

When I go into a store, the first place I look is the clearance or sale rack. I don’t want to be tempted by full priced items when a good equivalent is available at half the price in the back of the store. Even when planning my wedding I first scored sample sales and discount bridal shops before even looking at a single full-priced gown. It is better to buy quality instead of quantity, but just because it’s on a sale rack does not mean it’s poor quality or lacking style or fashion.


Take Your Time
Clearance racks are a mess. Why waste good salespeople hours in cleaning up the back of the store when the real money making is in the front displays of new product? Because of this, do not limit your search to the section designated with your size. Take the time to flip through all the racks. You may find a size 10 amongst the size 2s or a great size Small blouse hidden amongst size 14 blazers. Grab everything that even remotely appeals to you, and a few things you would not usually consider. The best way to spend money on trendy pieces and unusual finds is to pay for them at a discount – less buyer’s remorse.


Sizes Can Be Deceiving
Sometimes items are on sale racks because they are missized. I have tried on size 6 jackets that are too big for me and size 14s that are skin tight. Don’t just look at the label – pull the item from the rack and see if it may possibly fit. Often the missized items are at a super reduced price because they are being looked over.


Consider a Tailor
I decided to write this post because of my clearance rack prize of yesterday. Sueded cotton trench, hip cut, gorgeous color, originally $179 on sale for $29.99. No obvious flaws but the coat was too large for me – I am petite and it is not. It is an XL and a generous cut, I am not. I bought the awesome bargain after trying it on and seeing that the shoulders were fitting decently, though the sleeves were past my fingers, the waist was too big and the length too long. I took it to my local dry cleaner and for $35 she is shortening the arms and hem and nipping in the waist. So for $65 I got a $179 jacket that is perfect for the upcoming fall.


Sleeves that are too long, hems dragging on the ground, gaping waists and baggy jackets can all be easily fixed by a neighborhood tailor or dry cleaner. They can also replace missing buttons, broken zippers and some torn seams. If the price is right, often the tailoring still keeps the garment at a discounted price. I have bought suiting pants 75% off just because the zipper is broken, a suede blazer at 80% off because the lining had pulled away from the jacket body.


Do not invest in garments that are stained (salespeople usually try to remove the stains with a cleaning fluid, if it’s still stained it probably won’t come out in the wash or at the cleaners), torn (resewing a seam may make the item fit differently), irregular (remember quality is key – no one should be wearing a sweater with two different sleeve lengths) overly large (tailor costs will be insane and the true look of the garment will be lost) or too small (don’t buy for the body you hope to have, buy for the current you. Also tailors can’t make things larger – there’s usually not enough fabric at the seams and if they attempt the fit of the garment will be compromised).


If You Don’t Love It…
Don’t buy it. Would you buy it if it were full price? If the answer is a quick “no” leave the item in the fitting room. Just because an item is cheap does not mean you can scrimp on cut, style or fit. A 50% markdown does not justify a gaping armhole, an unflattering color or even a staple that you really have enough of already. The world sees you and your outfit, not the reduced price. They don’t know if what you bought cost $200 or $20, they just know it doesn’t look good, doesn’t flatter your body or your personality. Every dollar in your wallet is precious, don’t waste it on crap. If you can’t imagine the item with at least two other things in your closet, it’s not worth your time or money.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Practical Pal

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

gift guide practical presents holiday

1. Large Personalized Canvas Tote – $34.50

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

2. Stabilicers Lite Hikers – $29.95

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

3. Starbucks Stainless Travel Mug – $19.95

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

4. Refurbished Kindle Paperwhite – $99

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

5. Portable Power Bank – $49.95

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

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

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

7. Legacybox – Starting at $75

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

8. Adult Shearling Insoles – $16

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

Contest: Tolani Scarf from chickdowntown.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good luck!

Forecastle 2012 Recap

While I have attended Bonnaroo several times, I had yet to attend a city-based music festival like Forecastle. Unlike Bonnaroo where you camp on the same grounds as the music festival, you have to stay offsite with Forecastle. We chose to stay at The Galt House, which was less than a half mile from the grounds and also had a great price for festival attendees.

The Galt House was HUGE! Two giant towers, restaurants, spa, gym, shops, pool and more! We reserved a room with a king bed but it wasn’t ready at check-in time. They apologized, gave us a room with two queen beds and a river view and even comped our parking as an apology. Even better, our new room ended up right across the hall from my sister!

The room itself was lovely – pretty basic but a huge bay window overlooking the Ohio River.  We bought a bottle of bourbon (when in Louisville…) and had cocktails enjoying the view.  My husband said it was looking at a live train set with the bridges, barges and boats, trains and more.

Friday:
The music started just after 5pm; we arrived around 5:30 to get a lay of the land. The festival site is predominately under a major highway which was actually pretty awesome because it shielded attendees from the sun and possible rain (it was set to rain all weekend). While the stages are far enough apart to prevent too much audio bleed, the grounds are small enough that you can easily dash from one stage to another to see every set you desire. The two biggest stages are right on the water, so through the stages you saw the Ohio, the bridges, and the most spectacular sunsets.

We bought a packet from the My Morning Jacket fan club which gave us access to the MMJ sound check, pit access for their performance, and access to the VIP entrance the whole festival. Friday when we went into the festival for the first time, we handed them our ticket and got a black bracelet. Then a woman saw our Roll Call cards and said we were missing a bracelet and gave each of us an orange VIP one. We were confused but soon realized that either they messed up or the package was far better than we expected because suddenly we had VIP access all weekend! We were able to get into VIP which had tons of seating, an air-conditioned lounge tent, air-conditioned bathroom trailers and their own beer and food vendors. I swear, this festival kept getting better and better!

We did a lot of bouncing around from stage to stage Friday night and caught a bit of Rebelution, The Head and the Heart, Atlas Sound, Atmosphere, Sleeper Agent, and Bassnectar. The only show I saw in its entirety was Sleigh Bells, and I got a great spot about a dozen people from the pit, a little right of center. I loved every artist I saw except Atlas Sound and Atmosphere. While both are extremely talented and put on a good show, Atlas Sound was bibbing about the “digital” coming from Atmosphere’s stage, and when we left and went to Atmosphere, we found that he was being a of a Gloomy Gus too, with negative snarky lyrics and conversation between songs. Such things wouldn’t usually bother me, but it just felt like a bad way to start the first night of a festival so I moved on.

After jumping up and down for a full hour at Sleigh Bells, I ended up catching most of Bassnectar from VIP – not a good view, but good sound and it was fun to watch the crowd (and also take advantage of VIP!).

I was already impressed with Forecastle by the end of Friday. Most of the grounds are gravel or concrete which means no mud and little dust. The views of the Ohio were amazing and we were treated to spectacular sunsets each evening. Enough water, more than enough porta-potties, plenty of food and trinket vendors. However the best part was the people – real music fans, few pretentious hipsters, no age-ists who looked down at us parents rocking out – a real mix of happy music lovers.

Saturday:
As previously mentioned we splurged on a special pass for members of the My Morning Jacket fan club to attend their sound check and get pit access for their actual show. The sound check was at 11am, before the festival grounds opened to other attendees. We got there… and it began to storm. They couldn’t let us out to the stage with lightening so they had us wait under the overpass until it blew through. Soon it was clear that the storm wasn’t going anywhere, but instead of cancelling and disappointing their biggest fans, My Morning Jacket gave us a special treat – they came to us! Jim James and team walked over to our group under the overpass and did an intimate acoustic set for us! It was amazing – they sounded phenomenal and did some of my favorite songs – they started with Tonight I Want to Celebrate With You (me and my husband’s song), even did Old September Blues, and everyone joined in to sing Wonderful (The Way I Feel) (do check out the links, they are YouTube videos of the actual sound check!).

After that amazing experience and being in blazing sun and then rain, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the evening. And what an evening it was! We did a bit of wandering, catching a bit of Justin Townes Earle, The Ravenna Colt, Galactic, Dr. Dog, Andrew Bird, and Real Estate. However, we were all feeling a bit distracted thinking about later that evening. As previously mentioned, we had a package to go into the pit for My Morning Jacket – they had one side of the pit for those who waited in line, and one side for us. This made for a very comfortable pit – not too packed, and only holding those who truly love the band.

The show was epic. I have seen My Morning Jacket in concert four times prior, and each time the show is different. I think that since they did most of their lower-key songs for us in the morning they amped it up for the evening show. The craziest part of the set was their cover of George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” where they started changing the “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah” part to “Ba-na-na-na-na” and started throwing bananas at us!  Here’s a link to the entire performance.

While many of our friends went to see Preservation Hall Band and MMJ play on a paddle boat, we didn’t splurge on that and instead headed back to the hotel to rest up for the next day.

Sunday:
Like Saturday, the day started rainy, but cleared up in time for music. We had no major plans in the morning so we headed into town for brunch and ended up at Dish on Market. I had the most utterly sinful corned beef hash and one too many Bloody Marys; thank goodness the food was amazing because the place was understaffed and service was at a snail’s pace. Later, my husband and I went for a walk around Louisville and stopped at two different bars – one for a cocktail, and one for a lunch of oysters, tuna tartare, and another cocktail. Why? Because we COULD! Seriously, it feels so utterly decadent to be eating oysters one moment and rocking out in the pit of a festival the next.  As I said in my previous post, we really felt like we were festing like a boss!

We headed back to the festival in the afternoon, and again wandered around from stage to stage. Ones that stood out were Fruit Bats, Gramatik, Beats Antique, and Clutch. As a DC-native, I love me some Clutch. Since they were playing at the same time as Wilco, I was able to get right up in front in the pit, and have plenty of room to rock out. I often felt that Neil Fallon was singing right to me – at one point I jumped off the yellow jackets (the plastic things that cover wires and a great riser for short folks at concerts) to get out of the way of moshers, and Neil looked out into the crowd a bit confused. I jumped back on the yellow jacket and started cheering again and he went back to singing – I doubt he missed me but it was fun to think so!

After Clutch I watched Wilco from VIP. They sounded great – so great that this gal who is pretty “meh” about Wilco now wants to see them live again. However I was wiped from the weekend and my VIP futon was too comfortable to leave and venture into the crowd. Oh well, next time!

A big thanks to Cate, Allison, and Krista for connecting with me and offering suggestions on where to visit and eat while in Louisville. Much love to Hollie, Sarah, and the other Inforoosters I bumped into at sound check and didn’t get enough time to hang with while there – next festival for sure! And finally, a big thank you to Louisville, AC Entertainment, and My Morning Jacket for putting on a well-run, fun, and friendly festival. We had a blast and will be back!

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This is 40: My Winter Skincare and Beauty Routine

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This is what 40 looks like… and my skincare routine mentioned below after a couple hours of wear and no touch-ups. Mascara, liner, a bit of matte taupe shadow and Revlon BalmStain in Romantic.

After I shared a selfie last week on social media, I received a bunch of questions asking how I take care of my skin. I’ll admit I get tempted by new and shiny products and reviews on blogs, but I’m trying to stick to my current routine because it works, and for the first time in years my winter skin is happy and hydrated.

Night Skincare Routine:

  • Garnier Clean + Nourishing Cleansing Oil – I use this almost every evening. Two pumps in dry hands, rub on dry skin, and then rinse off. Okay, you don’t “just rinse;” rinsing isn’t that easy and you will be left with what feels like a film of oil on your skin. Trust me, this isn’t a bad thing. Unlike other drugstore-brand oil cleansers, Garnier doesn’t clog my pores and it does remove all my makeup, even mascara and liquid liner. I emulsify and rinse with tepid and blot (don’t rub) my skin dry.
  • CeraVe Cleanser (Normal to Dry) – I use this from time to time, just to switch things up. I’ve used it for years and like how it’s budget friendly, gentle, and cleans thoroughly without stripping. Once or twice a month and after a day where I wore hardcore makeup, I’ll use it with my Clarisonic, and then follow up with the Garnier oil cleanser.
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Eye Cream – I keep trying other brands, get disappointment, and return to this product. No irritation, absorbs nicely, makes the skin feel soft and I think helps with wrinkles and dry skin.
  • Neutrogena Rapid Wrinkle Repair Serum – Again, I try other products and come back to this one. It works, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, and it doesn’t make my skin angry. I apply this after the eye cream to my entire face, neck, chest, and the top of both hands.
  • Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Glow Pads – I don’t use these as often as I did in the fall and early winter because the rest of my body has gotten so pale it looks fake. But I do it sometimes if I have an event to go to, I’ll use in place of the Neutrogena serum. I wear a dark bra, and wipe it on my face, neck, and chest inside the lines of the bra for an even finish. Then I take the almost-dry pad and wipe down my arms and tops of my hands to give a touch of color and then wash my hands.
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Youth Regenerating Skincare Serum – I’ve written about this many times before. I’ve tried other serums and they don’t compare. I can’t clearly explain what this does but it makes my skin happy. Two pumps, on face, neck, a bit on chest and leftover on tops of hands.
  • L’Oreal Collagen Moisture Filler Cream – This is a day/night cream but it hydrates nicely without being greasy or clogging pores. I find the heavier night creams cause breakouts and this doesn’t but it still keeps me from cracking or getting red and miserable in cold weather. And how can you resist a decent cream under $10? I run on face, neck, chest, and tops of hands.
  • Random Hippie Clove and Vitamin E Cream – I got this at a local shop made by a local artisan not online. But it’s a cream made with Vitamin E, cocoa butter, clove oil, and has a consistency that’s a mix between Chapstick and Vaseline. I rub it on my lips and sometimes I rub it under my nose if it’s red and raw, and I rub more on my hands and around my cuticles.
  • Water – I have a Kleen Kanteen next to my bed. I fill up, drink half, refill, and then sip on it while I read before bed and at times when I wake up. Water is a necessity to happy skin.

Morning Skincare Routine:

  • Water – I finish the Kleen Kanteen before I do anything else. Water, water, water and then more water!
  • Fish Oil – I take one Fish Oil pill first thing in the morning, and another when I get home from work. I often deal with dandruff and psoriasis in winter; taking these help greatly and make my skin and hair look better too. These don’t make me burp salmon; they’re big but I don’t have any trouble swallowing them.
  • Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel – I’ve used this for years. I apply it with a reusable cotton round. It’s way more gentle than traditional witch hazel, and smells great too! This is all I use to cleanse my skin in the morning.
  • Neutrogena Eye Cream – Same eye cream from the evening
  • L’Oreal Youth Code Serum – Same serum from the evening
  • L’Oreal Revitalift Day Moisturizer SPF 30 – This is the first time using it but my winter skin really likes it. It’s far too heavy and greasy for the summer, but right now my skin sucks it up and it leaves a dewy finish that works well with foundation for a nice healthy day look. I rub on face, neck, chest, and tops of hands.

My Basic Makeup Routine:

  • L’Oreal True Match Concealer – I don’t love this, but it gets the job done. I like how lightweight and creamy it is because it doesn’t crease or look weird over my fine lines and creases. I dot under eyes, under the nose, around the mouth and on any zits. Then I tap, not rub until it’s blended but still visible. I use Fair Light Warm, the warmer color balances my dark circles better.
  • Revlon ColorStay Foundation for Normal/Dry Skin and Jojoba Oil – I put the tiniest dot of jojoba oil into my palm, then add foundation and mix. I then apply with my fingers. The jojoba oil was an idea I got from my beauty guru friend Sarah and it gives a dewy finish without causing the makeup to slip away throughout the day. For the foundation, right now I’m using Fresh Beige.
  • Ben Nye Banana Luxury Powder – I sprinkle a bit of this in its cap, and use the MAC 190 foundation brush (much softer than others I have used yet still has a precision edge) and apply it under my eyes, between the brows, and under the nose. If I want a very finished look I’ll apply some elsewhere – the forehead, the chin, over the lips (helps lipstick stay). I don’t have to work hard to blend, and it doesn’t leave a powdery or overly matte finish. The yellow tone really helps to cancel out my dark circles and redness under the nose.
  • NARS ‘Orgasm’ Blush – I am not committed to this blush. When I turned 30 I bought this blush for the first time. A couple years ago I decided it was too warm and too sparkly and switched to creams, to pinks, to all sorts of things. But this winter I am embracing my paleness, and liking a dewy face, and the subtle shimmer and peachy glow of ‘Orgasm’ feels right again. I apply with a fluffy blush brush (not sure the brand, it wore off the black handle), smiling and applying just below apples of my cheeks and up towards my temples. A very tiny pat on the top of the nose and one on the chin.
  • TheBalm Mary-Lou Manzier – A reader told me about this product and I have been a fan ever since. Thanks to a six-year-old who finds my dressing table utterly fascinating, this compact fell on the floor and the product crumbled. So now I shake the compact, carefully open, and tap my finger on the mirror to get the right amount of product. A swipe on each cheek bone, a dot at the inner corners of my eye, a tiny bit below the brows (VERY tiny bit) and a bit at the bow of my lip. This gives a very natural highlight that just looks like healthy skin.
  • Tarte Amazonian Clay Brow Mousse – It comes with a brush but I prefer to apply it with my Trish McEvoy brow brush because it’s shorter and stiffer and I have more control and it doesn’t look like I put liquid liner in my eyebrows. Dash dash dash from center to arch, then draw the end. I then go back and dash dash to fill in, and then use a brush to brush the hairs up, then in an arch. I wear Rich Brown.

The rest really varies on my mood. Sometimes I wear shadow (and don’t have any I really love and swear by right now), sometimes I don’t. I have mascaras for thick drag queen lashes, waterproof mascaras, lengthening mascaras. I do always curl first (I use Kevyn Aucoin’s lash curler), it makes a difference. And if I wear liner, it’s Maybelline Line Stiletto in Brownish Black; it’s not too shiny or black for day, it can do a very thin precise line right at the lashline, or get bigger for a cat eye. Mucho love for it. And as you know from my outfit posts, I switch up my lips all the time.

I’d love to hear from you as to what your favorite skincare and beauty products are. Some of my favorite products are recommendations from readers and your Holy Grail may be a HG product for me or another reader!

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.

Goats
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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Lazy Tux

Blazer: The Limited (similar) | Tee: Old Navy | Ascot: Belonged to my Dad | Silk Bracelet: c/o lifetherapy | Boots: DUO (similar) | Jeans: NYDJ | Lipstick: Revlon Matte in “Really Red”

I prefer rain to blustery cold days, especially in April. April showers bring May flowers, right? It rained all night and was still gloomy and wet when I left for work so I wore boots to be on the safe side.

Still playing with this hair, today is Day 2, I curled large sections with a standard curling iron, angling away from the face. Finger combed, then added Jonathan Silky Dirt for a piecey/Mandana from Rachel Zoe Project sort of look. The bangs are still wrong, I need to make an appointment with my stylist to fix this cut, but I just have not had the time. Even this weekend is booked solid but I need to figure it out before I go on a 2am hacking spree with my cuticle scissors!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend, thank you so much for all your support, emails, comments, and tweets this past week. I blog because I love it, and because I love all of you. I love connecting with you, knowing my writing benefits you, and making new friends through technology. I seriously adore all of you and am so incredibly grateful to have you in my life!

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My Wardrobe Today – Friday

Jacket – Limited (at least 10 years old – similar)
Tank – Caslon (similar)
Necklace – J. Crew via eBay
JeansGap “Long and Lean” via the DC Sip & Swap
Shoes Miss Sixty “Jaiden”
BraceletsLauren Ralph Lauren and Ann Taylor

So um… two things going on here. You’ll see that not only am I wearing my engagement ring, but also my wedding band! I was able to get it on this past weekend and have been wearing ever since. I haven’t been able to fit it since my first trimester and even then it was a tight fit!

Second… these jeans? I picked them up in a rush at the DC Sip & Swap and got home, hoping they would run large. I couldn’t even get them over my butt and thighs. This morning I was looking for my old Gap Essential jeans, thinking maybe I could cuff them like boyfriend jeans. Digging through the “To Donate/Swap/eBay” bag I found these jeans and gave them a chance. They FIT! Me, in a size 10 pair of jeans? This hasn’t happened in YEARS! Happy Friday to me!

This weekend is my friend’s baby shower, and there is a blues music festival in town. Otherwise pretty free. I hope me and the fam can relax, get this bug past us 100% (Emerson is pretty sick again and my husband is also battling it). What are your plans for the weekend?

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How to Shop: Sticking to a Budget

The best accessory I acquired in the past decade was getting out of credit card debt.

My Experience:
When I worked in retail, I found it far too easy to shop. I was spending at least 45, usually closer to 65 hours a week at a mall. Lunch hours were spent strolling through other shops, sipping on an overpriced coffee drink, or treating myself to a very nice lunch at a nearby restaurant. As a personal shopper and visual merchandiser, I felt I had to be a perfect example of style and current fashion and made sure to have the latest shoes, makeup, accessories and always a perfect professional manicure, pedicure, haircut and highlights. When our shop was thisclose to making the day’s sales goal, they could always count on me to purchase something from the new line to get us over the hump.

When I left working at Express, they gave me my associate purchase logs. In one year, after my employee discounts, I had purchased $7,000.00 worth of their clothing. When I maxed out my Express card, I opened a Structure card and used that (hey it was the late ‘90s/early ‘00s when Structure still existed). When I maxed that out, I found out that I could use my Limited or Victoria’s Secret cards and shop at Express. I won’t even go into details about the major credit cards I used for salon treatments, binges at Sephora or Nordstrom, and many a steak salad at the Nordstrom Café.

As women, we are constantly attacked by media telling us to spend, spend, spend. The dress that will get you the guy. The moisturizer that will make you look ten years younger. The bag you must have this season. The five or ten or hundred items every woman must have in her wardrobe. And then of course, the purchases you need so that you can be as lovely as Anne or Mila or Kate. Magazines like Lucky are completely geared towards assisting women on shopping, while glossies such as Vogue and W bring couture to Middle America, encouraging everyone to feel that they too need a fancy label on their dress to be special.

As you know, I love fashion. I love clothing. I find it to be a great way to express your personality, your individuality, your passions. Fashion can also help you feel more confident and more beautiful. But no garment is worth falling into debt. A woman cannot be strong if her finances are crumbling around her.

So how do you achieve personal style while sticking to your budget?

When I got to the point where I was fearing every telephone call, thinking it was a debt collector, I knew I had to make a major change – FAST. For me, it was changing careers. I had to get away from that which was causing the debt – easy access to current fashion. However I still had mountains of debt and wasn’t willing to sacrifice style along the way.

This was when I started understanding wardrobe staples. Pieces slowly collected that could multitask and make a woman ready for any event in her life. I looked at women I knew as stylish and really examined their wardrobes. They didn’t own a lot of clothes, they seemed to wear the same things over and over. And those clothes they wore were perfect. They were well tailored, high quality, flattering. Few prints, few trendy details. Classics like cashmere turtlenecks, crisp dark jeans, white tailored shirts, simple sheath dresses, elegant black leather pumps, simple pencil skirts. They would add their own look to these staples with accessories like scarves, bold jewelry, and belts.

I thought back to the exchange students we hosted when I was in high school – how they could survive weeks in another country with just a small suitcase of clothing. Even with their small wardrobes, they were ready for any event in the US. Their wardrobes were of simple pieces that mixed and matched with one another – pieces of similar fabrics, colors, and silhouettes so they made a true collection.

I looked in my own closet – spangled knit tops to wear out to clubs that still had tags on them, a dozen cocktail dresses, four pairs of leather pants (and one pair bright red!), three pairs of tall black boots, over 20 pairs of jeans. Who the heck needs 20 pairs of jeans?

I obviously had plenty of clothes at that time, and really tried to make do with what I had. My new job required me to wear all black, so when I didn’t have the right item in my wardrobe, I stalked sale racks until I could find what worked at the lowest price. I often bought in bulk – who cares if you’re wearing the same black pants every day as long as they are clean and fit well?

Over time, I got a grip on my finances, but realized yet another new profession and a changing figure required me to shop again. I decided to keep those stylish women and my exchange students in mind. I looked through my closet with fresh eyes and decided to purge. Gone were all the spangled club tops, the evening gowns, and any clothes that didn’t fit and flatter my current frame.

However for purchasing, I needed to figure out a budget so I wouldn’t get back into a financial mess. Before I went shopping, I took a month or two to look at where my money went, and what were my priorities. Thanks to my sister who is the Excel Spreadsheet Queen, I started tracking where all my money went – that pack of gum, that latte, that issue of Marie Claire. I didn’t just note how much I spent on groceries, but what exactly I purchased. I saw that a lot of my money went to food – dining out, alcohol, and purchasing items at the grocery store that I don’t really need (hello another lip gloss) or that I can’t afford (artisanal cheeses, sushi, out of season produce). I decided to adjust my current spending before shopping to see what I could cut and still lead what I felt to be a joyful and comfortable life.

Only then, could I figure out my fashion budget. Some months, I spent that money. Other months, I saved it up so I could get something really special. I stuck to my list of essentials, and decided I would only buy fun items when I got a work bonus, birthday cash, special events. This way, I not only stayed on budget but I was even more careful with my money and those special items not only were nice to buy, but had special meaning behind them.

Each woman’s budget will be different, but it is important to first pay yourself before you do any shopping. Pay off your debt, save and invest your money. Prepare for the unexpected. Yes, a great pair of shoes can make your day, help you land a job or perfect your wardrobe but shoes won’t pay the rent if you get laid off. Shoes won’t buy you a new car when yours dies on the side of the highway. Shoes won’t give you independence and freedom.

If your budget is small, that’s actually a good thing. Small wardrobe funding requires one to do homework to find the best quality for the price, to really get to know one’s body and lifestyle and only purchase that which makes sense. Keep your wardrobe small, hard-working, classic, elegant.

Tips to Stay on Budget:

  • Have a Life Budget. No point in having a clothing budget if you are blowing your paycheck already on other items. That being said, have priorities. Clothing is probably higher on my priority list than the list of many other women. Each woman is different – some budget for world travel, some budget for books, some budget for art supplies, some budget for home renovations. It’s important to first be true to you – prioritize and then figure out where fashion fits.
  • Make a List, Check it Twice. If you have an actual written list that you carry with you, you’re less likely to get off track when you hit the mall.
  • Do Your Homework. You need a black suit? Go to the mall, try on brands, and then go home. Research online for coupons, deals, maybe the same item on eBay or in a thrift or vintage store. Never accept full price unless it is absolute perfection, absolutely necessary, and still fits your budget.
  • Stay Away from Shopping Triggers. For me, it’s malls. I only visit a major shopping mall once or twice a year because I can get lost in there and leave hundreds poorer. Maybe for you it’s Target (can always justify another tee or a $19.99 sundress but it adds up), possibly an adorable boutique in your neighborhood or maybe it’s Net-a-Porter. Whatever it is, accept your trigger and control your visits. Schedule them according to seasons – maybe only allow one visit each season, or maybe once a month.
  • Cancel the Magazine Subscriptions. I am a magazine-aholic, but I know that when I read them, I end up shopping more. Magazines do a great job of making items look amazing, and seem necessary. The most recent Vogue made me spend an hour of my life looking for a certain Brahmin bag – something I don’t need, can’t afford, but loved upon first sight. I did stop before purchasing, but if I hadn’t received that magazine, I would have never known about that orange bag and would have still lived a happy and stylish life. For some, it may be fashion blogs instead of magazines – even if it’s my blog that encourages you to shop, unsubscribe and just visit maybe once a month or every other week.
  • Play “Which Would You Rather.” Sally McGraw of Already Pretty often hosts a “sudden death” question on her Facebook page – which would you rather do – wear only white for a year, or wear your high school colors for a year, and only your school colors. It’s a good exercise for shopping – which would you rather have – that It Bag, or a sushi and sake date night with your mate once a month for a year? Which would you rather own – the perfect pair of black leather pumps, or six pairs of sandals from Payless? Which is more important, your morning Starbucks, or a pair of riding boots? Break down the price of the item and compare it to other items in your life.
  • Get Creative. No one knows you’re wearing the same black pants every day if you switch it up. One day, wear with a tucked-in blouse, the next day with a blazer and shell. Another day wear a cardigan over them and belt the cardigan to change the silhouette. Use your small wardrobe as a brain teaser – who needs Sudoku when you can take the dozen or so quality pieces in your wardrobe and make dozens of outfits from them.

A woman should get fitted for a new bra every year. She should have the perfect LBD in her wardrobe to be ready for unexpected social events. And she should be able to sleep well at night, knowing full well what is going on with her finances. The best accessory I acquired was getting out of debt – the best accessory any woman can wear is self-confidence, and confidence comes from being true to one’s self, feeling strong, and being financially solvent.



Be sure to check out the first of my How to Shop Series: An Introduction

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Designer Fashion for Less!

I love discount stores. Nothing is better than scanning racks of junk to come across a designer piece in your size at a fabulous price. Some of my favorite wardrobe pieces have come from places such as TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, and I love them even more because I paid an insanely lovely price for them. When I hit my favorite stores in the mall, I usually hit the back of the store first because that is where most retailers hide their sale racks. I once got a cashmere sweater from Banana Republic for under $10… that’s a story I will probably end up telling my grandkids.

The thing is, just because it’s a great price and a great brand doesn’t mean it’s a great purchase. We get so caught up in the thrill of the hunt, often what we drag back to camp isn’t worth our time, effort or hard-earned cash.

1. Quality.
I was speaking to a friend this weekend, she loves The Limited because they make a style of jeans that fits her perfectly the “Cassidy”), as though they are custom-made. One day she walked into her local Limited and there in the sale department were three rolling racks FULL of Cassidy jeans, and at almost 50% off the regular prices. She was so ecstatic, she considered just grabbing a pair in each wash in her size and race to the register, but something made her try them on. She got in the fitting room, went to try on her beloved jeans and THEY DIDN’T FIT! The legs were so narrow, she could hardly pull them up, and the waist gapped in the back. Where was her custom fit? She tried on a different color and found the same issue. Asked a salesperson, she admitted that The Limited considered changing the cut of the Cassidy jeans but they didn’t sell well, so they are now on the sale racks. My friend left empty-handed.

Point is, often that which is on the sale rack is not as high quality as what is in the rest of the store. Maybe it was returned and has a run in the knit, maybe the zipper is defective, maybe it’s an irregular cut. Don’t buy just because you love the label and the price tag, sale items need to be looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Sit in the pants, raise your arms in the sweater, examine the seams. Sometimes you have hit the jackpot, sometimes you don’t find Jack. No matter how sweet the price, save your money for items that DESERVE it.

2. Style. It’s a designer name, your favorite celebs sport this label on a daily basis and you are finding a dress at a price you can afford at your local C-Mart. You can’t believe your luck! But wait… just because it’s a popular designer means it’s stylish. Remember clear vinyl totes? Team Aniston tees? High-heeled hiking boots? All trends that have happened in the last couple of years, but trends that should not be worn by ANYONE now. You will NOT look hip, stylish, rich, sophisticated, famous or sexy in any way of you are wearing something based upon the brand name and not how it looks on you (or how it looks in society). Often items are at discount places because they have been accumulating dust on the sale racks of the finer boutiques for a year or two. Just because it’s designer does not mean it’s fashionable. A good rule of thumb is if you found it at Target, would you buy it? If it’s ugly for Target, it’s ugly for Dolce and Gabanna.

3. Fit. So it’s a size small, you’ll diet. Right? WRONG. If you didn’t lose those last five pounds to be Maid of Honor at your best friend’s wedding, you surely won’t for that Chloe dress. A steal is still a rip-off if it sits in your closet for all of its days. And even though it’s a $700 dress on sale for $250 and a 30% coupon on top of it, doesn’t mean it’s going to look good bunching up at the waist and encasing your arms like sausages. You will not look chic, you will look like a girl in a too-small dress. Again with quality, check to see if the item is cut correctly for fit: are the sleeves the same length? Does it nip at the waist or at the hip? I have often found precious items on sale racks to find that the lining of the dress or jacket does not fit the same as the garment, having the lining suffocate my arm or bunch around my hips. Never leave without trying something on; brand clothing is mass-made by machines. Machines cut large stacks of fabric into patterns, machines will sew seams, machines cannot see when the fabric has slipped an eighth of an inch on the conveyor belt and is altering the entire cut, fit and hang of the future garment.

4. Need. It’s gorgeous, it fits like a glove and the price makes you faint. But really, do you need a plum taffeta ball gown with a six-foot train? If you do not plan on being invited to the Oscars in the next few months, do not purchase the dress. This goes for ANOTHER black v-neck sweater, the cocktail dress that would possibly be perfect if you are invited to a New Year’s Black Tie affair (though you have not ever attended one yet), the bikini that would be perfect if you just had the halter tailored, the power suit when you have been a yoga instructor for a decade, the stiletto heels when you are a flats person, and the amazing dress that would require a special bra and control garment to be allowed to leave the house without being arrested. If you don’t need it, if you can’t see it with three other items in your wardrobe and at least two events in life, don’t even take it to the fitting room. Your life won’t change to fit the contents of your closet.

5. Too Good to Be True. If you visit my other blog, you will see that I love Ann Taylor. Their clothes fit me beautifully, and the style works with my career and my social life. A friend emailed me about their current promotion – Buy One Sweater, get the Second 50% Off. Yay! I had also received this via email from my beloved Ann Taylor along with a coupon for free shipping. I race to the website and scan the sweaters.

There is nothing on that site that would work for my wardrobe now. I either don’t like it, or don’t need it. I know that certain styles do not go with my body shape, and certain colors either do not go with my skintone or do not go with my sense of style. I leave the website not adding a thing to my virtual shopping bag.

This is not to say that this sale is full of junky sweaters, it’s just that the sale offered nothing for me personally. Just because a sweater is on sale, does not mean I will buy something I do not absolutely love. This goes for eBay purchases as well; often we get sucked in by the great price, the great brand but KNOW it’s not what we really want or need or even like. Don’t buy three pairs of jeans just because of you buy three they will each be 15% off. This only makes sense if you REALLY NEED three pairs of jeans today. Just because a store has a sign in the window that says 40% off The Entire Store does not mean you have to enter – if you have gone in before and found the clothes not your style or size, why are the items going to be better for you now that they are on sale?

You are at the grocery and there is day-old meat. Sometimes there is a perfect steak there, the only thing wrong is it has yesterday’s date. It’s beautifully marbeled, fresh and juicy. Next to it is another steak; it’s brown on the edges, thin and smells a bit strange. Do you buy both just because they are an amazing price and you need to make dinner tonight? No, you buy only the GOOD steak. I mean, it is a great price, it will be eaten, you know it’s still fresh. It’s a good buy. The next time you are drawn to the sale rack, think about the day-old steaks. Then think about those sweaters. Are they fresh enough for consumption?

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:

Spotify
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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