Weekend Reads

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So how is everyone holding up after a month of this? I'll be honest, each time I think I'm fine, something causes me to unravel a bit at the seams.  I think I have a grasp on the new normal, then I hear of a friend who is diagnosed, I see a story on the news, my daughter will mention a friend from school she misses, or something minor happens like we run out of mayonnaise and it's over.  But those moments aren't as much now as they were the first two weeks.  

A month ago, I was freaking out about this job.  It seemed so tone-deaf to be a blogger during a pandemic.  Experts were telling bloggers to continue as normal, don't discuss it because Google will ping your site and ad revenue will drop, write evergreen content, and after a few weeks things will even out.  But I don't think things will even out in a few weeks, or even a few months and it has nothing to do with when shelter in place rules are lifted.  Our world will never be the same, so how can my blog? 

Last weekend I did a major closet cleanout and ended up with five bags to donate, sell, or use for a fundraiser once I can figure out how to make that happen with all that is going on. The process was emotional; I felt irrationally angry, I felt so defeated, so disappointed in myself.  So much waste, so much consumption, so much stuff.  Clothing is important, clothing can make us feel strong and safe and powerful and sexy and smart and beautiful and fun.  Clothing can show respect or command it from others.  But no one needs 50 clutch purses and as many scarves as I had amassed.  And what was I doing promoting such consumption?

But after a good night's sleep, I woke Easter Sunday with a new attitude.  Wardrobe Oxygen has never been about buying more, it has been about buying smart.  Quality, not quantity has been my motto for years, it was even on the swag bags at my blog's 10-year anniversary five years ago.  And while we may all be sheltering in place wearing joggers instead of power suits, choosing quality, shopping smart, and knowing style comes not from how much you have but what you have and how you use it continues to be important. And I will continue to offer inspiration on ways to achieve more with less, be smart with your wardrobe and your wallet, while finding joy in getting dressed every day. The methods may change, but after this month we all know everything has and will continue to change.

How to Help

José Andrés is an icon here in the Washington DC area but also beloved across the globe. Achieving fame for his restaurants, Andrés used his fame for good by creating World Central Kitchen (WCK).  In 2017, encountering obstacles from FEMA when trying to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, Andrés organized a grass-roots movement of chefs and volunteers to establish communications, food supplies, and other resources and served meals to residents.  Since then, World Central Kitchen has been on the frontlines supporting people with meals through Hurricanes Harvey, Florence, and Dorian; the California fires, federal workers furloughed during the government shutdown, and the Hawaiian volcanic eruption. 

WCK’s professional culinary arts training program, École des Chefs, offers a five-month curriculum that prepares young, aspiring chefs in Haiti for their first job in the commercial kitchens of local restaurants and hotels. WCK's Plow to Plate partners with and supports smallholder farmers, fishers, and small food-related businesses that produce or distribute food at a local level by providing funding, training, and networking opportunities after natural disasters so they can begin to regrow their long-term capacity for food production, distribution, and sales. 

José Andrés and WCK continue to help where it's needed, helping those affected by COVID-19 with #ChefsForAmerica. Providing over two million fresh meals so far, #ChefsForAmerica is transforming restaurants into soup kitchens to feed individuals while keeping this industry in business.  They are distributing individually packaged fresh meals in communities across the US and its territories that need support, for children and families to pick up and take home, as well as delivered to seniors who cannot venture outside. WCK is providing fresh, hot meals to hospitals and clinics fighting on the frontlines and are working to map out all of the school districts, restaurants offering meals to those in need, and organizations working to keep people fed. 

You can help by donating to World Central Kitchen, a a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization.  WCK also needs volunteers; to learn more and to volunteer your services click this link

As with every charity featured on Wardrobe Oxygen, a portion of the blog's profits were donated to this organization.

Weekend Reads

How Judy Blume, Samantha Irby, Jennifer Weiner and other authors are spending their quarantine. (Washington Post)

Our local pro soccer team, DC United, has partnered with the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System (PGCMLS) to offer bilingual workout videos, player AMAs, and bi-monthly bilingual read-alouds by players. Projects like this just make my heart swell and show the ingenuity and caring of organizations. (PGCMLS)

I asked my husband for a divorce 2 weeks before our city was declared a state of emergency. Now we're on lockdown together. This is more of a sad/bittersweet versus angry/mean piece. (Thrive Global)

This week I was on three separate Zoom calls and for two I wore this top.  It's not shiny but not a t-shirt, the sleeves are long enough to wear alone but also slips under blazers and cardigans nicely, the neck isn't too high but is high enough for total professionalism, and it's machine washable (says dry flat but I dry it on a hanger).  I have it in red bittersweet which is more of a coral, but you can see from the link it comes in a variety of colors and prints, regular, petite, and plus sizes, and most are on sale!

A reader sent me the Instagram account, I Dream of COVID and I immediately followed.  In the past weeks, my dreams have become so odd, merging the news and new social norms with random thoughts in my head.  I see I am not the only one.  If you have had odd COVID dreams, you can submit them at their website and they may become an illustration. 

What if growing food is the most impactful thing you can do in a rigged political system? I know that's a pretty… intense statement and the article is as well. But as a family who gardens and grows herbs year-round indoors, there is power in creating your own food for your family and neighbors while also being a great meditative stress reliever. (Medium)

Nails looking a bit rough after a month of sheltering in place? Alissa tried out the Olive and June nail kit and found it easy and actually enjoyable. (The Adored Life)

I've been using a ring light I got on Amazon for all my videos, whether they are IGTV or Instagram Live events or Zoom calls.  Many have asked for links but I got it on Amazon in February and wanted to find an alternative retailer.  The ring light is from Neewer and Neewer has its own website where you can buy it directly.  If that is too excessive of a ring light for you, I found this one at Best Buy which is half the price and gets good reviews. When it comes to a ring light, you want it to face you directly, not be on an angle or lighting from above or below. The ring is special in that it doesn't illuminate head-on, which causes shadows and focuses too much on your nose and forehead.  A ring will reduce shadows and give a more even “beauty” light. 

“…perhaps the biggest shift in my pandemic life thus far has been the sometimes-wild experience of having the world suddenly arrive at a place I’ve been living in for so long. All at once, I’m watching people publicly grapple with many of the aspects of life I’ve long considered normal but sometimes have a tough time articulating.” On being alone before and during Corona. (New York Times)

The amazing Broadway star Patti LuPone, live from her basement. (New Yorker)

ChloeDigital is a company I've worked with for many years.  They started just as a WordPress support company, but now I also employ them to help with business strategy.  This week they asked me how I maintain creativity at this time and I share my thoughts in this article with a few other influencers.  Spoiler alert, you're what inspires me! (ChloeDigital)

Senior year of high school, I finally got around to taking the dreaded Physical Education requirement for graduation. In hopes to never have to play dodgeball, I signed up for Weight Training.  It was a room full of wrestlers, football players, and then me and my friend Christine.  While we did occasionally use the machines, our teacher let us hang out in the corner and instead do the Cindy Crawford workout video.  As a kid my mom did many workout videos, from Jane Fonda to “Sweatin' to the Oldies” and would record episodes of “Body Electric”.  Needless to say, this piece sharing full recordings of flashback workout videos brought back some serious memories.  (New York Times)

Speaking of “Sweatin' to the Oldies,” Richard Simmons is back and keeping us in shape while we shelter in place. (Yahoo)

A heartbreaking piece by a woman who owns one of the coolest stores in DC that had to close its doors. (Washington Post)

See/Hear/Read

We began watching the series Sex Education on Netflix.  We haven't gotten deep into Season 1 (and there are two seasons), but please know the first episode is adorable British John Hughes movie made into a TV series… but future episodes while still as good deserve a trigger warning in regard to topics such as abortion, violence against LGBTQ individuals, and other sex- and gender-related issues with a focus on them happening to teenagers. If you are concerned, do some Googling of this show as there are many articles discussing it.  This is NOT a show to watch with the kids, but gosh do we love it.  Great soundtrack, great characters, great acting, and Gillian Anderson as the sexy platinum blonde mom.  Have you watched Sex Education

Songland is back on NBC for its second season and the Gary family is thrilled.  We're not big reality competition fans beyond Project Runway (and yes, we watched Next in Fashion and are watching Making the Cut) but we love Songland.  The premise?  Three big-time music producers invite a well-known music artist to guest judge with them for an episode.  Budding songwriters audition.  Unlike American Idol or The Voice, they have been pre-screened so every song is good, no one is being embarrassed on TV.  The judges narrow it down to three songwriters, and each producer spends a week with one of the songwriters, collaborating and perfecting the song to make it a great choice for the guest judge.  The three songs are performed, the guess judge picks their favorite and records it.  There's no need to follow each episode, there is no single winner, someone wins each episode (and sometimes more than one songwriter gets a deal).  It's creative, it's insight into the songwriting business, the producers are awesome and helpful and talented, the guest artists are big names, and it's a feel-good show that may spark some artistic flow in your home. Unlike Sex Education, this is a show the whole family can watch.

As a family we watched Jumanji: The Next Level, the sequel to the 2017 remake of the original Jumanji and we all loved it.  How can you not love Danny DeVito, The Rock, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Awkwafina, Jack Black, Danny Glover, and more all in one film with family-friendly action, adventure, comedy, and friendship?  If you haven't seen the 2017 film or the original with Robin Williams you may be confused at first but don't worry you're not alone, Danny DeVito and Danny Glover are as well and you'll all catch up and enjoy the ride.  This is the kind of movie that an 8-year-old and 80-year-old would both enjoy.

I finished The Ghost Writer by Alessandra Torre.  I didn't like the character of Helena.  I didn't like how she told her story.  I didn't like how some things just fell into place too easily, characters were a bit cliche.  But if that book hasn't stuck with me.  It shares the lesson I learned most by writing this blog for 15 years – you have no freaking idea what people are dealing with and you can't judge their actions without knowing their story.  I keep revisiting it, thinking of the characters from this novel, thinking how I would handle situations thrown their way.  If you want more opinions, check out the reviews on Goodreads.  So now I need another book, any suggestions?

For Your Entertainment

The Olympics may be postponed but Sam Smith and Demi Lovato are bringing us, as Smith states, the Queer Olympics in the video for their new song together, “I'm Ready.”  And this song is the kind to add to a workout playlist with the soaring positive feeling of an Olympics theme song, but instead of being ready for winning, it's about being ready for healthy, deserving love. Enjoy.

31 Comments

  1. Jennifer
    April 20, 2020 / 5:55 pm

    During this unsettling time, I have discovered the Tubi app, and I am loving it. There are a few ads, but the longest ad break is 90 seconds, and they even play the ads at a lower volume. The first series I discovered on there was called “Edwardian Farm,” which is a BBC series about an historian and a couple of archaeologists, who move into a farm from the Edwardian era for a year and live and farm as folks living during that time would. It is fascinating to learn about the history of farming and foods. Then I really fell down the rabbit hole, because the same lineup of people has made several other similar series: “Victorian Farm”, “Wartime Farm” (my most favorite), “Monastery Farm,” etc. Tubi has “Victorian Farm,” and then I have watched the rest on YouTube.

    My current obsession on Tubi is an Australian competitive reality cooking show called “My Kitchen Rules.” It’s apparently very popular in Australia, and is in its 12th season. I’m on Season 4. It’s great escapism television. The chef hosts and judges are easy on the eyes, and I love the Australian accents, places, and food that is showcased. I feel like I’ve really struck gold with Tubi, and I’ve been recommending it to all my friends and family!

  2. Grace
    April 19, 2020 / 9:12 am

    Love your writing! Thanks for all the truly helpful things like the closet clean out , that was really helpful. Thank you for your authenticity .
    I do agree the world may never be the same. That’s not a bad thing though! It may be better! I think many aspects of life will take some time to get back to a more familiar vibe, but we will have much of it back. And perhaps we get to choose which things we let back in and which we don’t. 🙂

  3. Zaeobi
    April 19, 2020 / 2:52 am

    Allie, you mentioned not being able to drop off your bags of donations to a charity store – do you have any donation bins near you? That’s how I was able to clear out my closet when the lockdown situation first started here. Good luck.

  4. Karin
    April 18, 2020 / 5:49 pm

    I’ve felt no need to buy any clothing (or really, anything) since this situation started, which made me realize how much online shopping was a crutch to distract me from things I didn’t want to face. It’s been surprisingly easy to completely drop something that consumed such a big part of my time.
    That said – I still enjoy your blog very much, even the Friday Sales posts. I’m also enjoying Woo Wednesday as a fellow wife-of-a-health-nut.
    Out of all the bloggers I follow you are keeping it the most real and the most relevant to my life. Keep doing what you’re doing!
    Second the Middlesex book recommendation.

  5. Kelley
    April 18, 2020 / 4:09 pm

    Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and your closet.
    I love how you focus on purchasing high quality items. Sometimes our things won’t serve us forever but if you buy quality it can always be reused. Sometimes it feels like we forget that reuse ideally can happen many times before an item must be recycled. Think about baby and kids clothes and how many times they can be passed along! It’s the same for our adult clothing, even if an item only served for a year or two we can set it free to be loved by someone else when the time comes. I love how you put in the hard work so we can all be inspired. Thank you.

  6. Ann
    April 18, 2020 / 4:01 pm

    As so many have said, I loved reading/viewing your pieces (on various platforms) pre-COVID as well as post. You consistently provide content that is fun, interesting, and thoughtful but never feels frivolous, forced, or fake. I love how you have always kept it real – and this is more important now than ever. As fellow cabi enthusiast I’ve enjoyed your cabi capsules and I will always be grateful to you for Soma bras and jammies – an essential source of comfort recently – as well as the fab Banana R shorts you recommended last year. You have earned our trust and support. Keep doing the wonderful things you do. And thank you for the blurb on Chef Jose Andres today. He is a treasure.

    • Ann
      April 18, 2020 / 4:03 pm

      Adding, because I forgot……. If you’ve never read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, you might enjoy.

  7. Jax
    April 18, 2020 / 2:48 pm

    I loved Sex Education when I watched it in January — I started S1 a bit before S2 was released, so I timed it perfectly for a straight run through. I kind of wish I had postponed it now for sheltering in place, as it would’ve been perfect (sort of) escapist viewing. Love the cast and the setting, and the writing, while not always super tight, is lovely and humanistic.

    I did start The Expanse (yes, alas on Amazon for S4 after SyFy canceled it after 3 seasons) a month ago and am now almost done with the current season 4 — can’t wait till season 5 is released. It’s like Star Wars for smart, thinking adults — fun thrill but also thought-provoking. Highly recommend it — https://www.vulture.com/2019/12/the-expanse-season-4-recommendation-amazon-syfy.html
    “In The Expanse, the women of color are the heroes — and almost all the women on this show are women of color. And the series doesn’t just walk the walk in its diverse casting, it talks the talk in its downright feminist underpinnings. The creators made a conscious decision to move beyond our Earthly, gendered attitudes about women to pursue stories that exist outside of that paradigm, and that, in many ways, is a game-changer. A universe where women are simply allowed to exist and not be scoffed at for their tiny lady brains allows for storytelling of a different stripe; within a universe mired in sociopolitical scandal, interpersonal drama, intergalactic intrigue, and a very timely refugee crises, women are allowed to run things (like Earth!), or to fuck up and be selfish, or anything in between.”
    Also slowly savoring Netflix’s Japanese dramedy, Midnight Diner, and also running through The Bob Newhart show on Hulu.

    Thank you for the Patti Lupone New Yorker story. That gave me a very pleasant half hour with her Twitter feed while my kid is on a video call with her class mate. She is delightful.

    • Sara C.
      April 20, 2020 / 10:33 am

      Thanks for this! Jose Andres is the best, and I also love Goodwood which is near my home.

      Book recommendation: The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom. It is a memoir, a family history, and a social, economic and racial history of New Orleans in the 20th century and leading up to and through Katrina, all wrapped together. Really nicely done, sets a high bar in this genre.

      I have also been looking for great audio books and podcasts and am enjoying We’re Alive, a serial drama zombie story that ran from 2008-2019, so I would recommend that for anybody who needs some good mildly tense (like, Lost level, not Walking Dead level) escapist ipod listening.

  8. Judy S
    April 18, 2020 / 1:07 pm

    What they all said. The closet clean-out was HARD. So bad, that I never want to go through it again, and hopefully that will curtail mindless shopping. I have identified that there are just a couple of things I actually need, so will follow your Friday shopping tips to add those. Thanks you your blog, I now have Soma bras that have been a lifesaver in WFH era, and pjs that keep my sleep more sound. Those COVID dreams are for real though. Keep being fierce and real, we need that so much right now.

  9. Laurel
    April 18, 2020 / 12:31 pm

    I love the way you’re keeping it real. So on brand. 🙂 Some days I feel like I’m getting used to this (goddess forbid) and other days I think I’ll lose my mind.

    I really, really love your Weekend Reads. That Covid Dreams Insta is great and I enjoy the articles you link almost every week. Have not watched Sex Education, but it’s on my list, now. Thanks for all you do!

  10. Sonia
    April 18, 2020 / 12:07 pm

    Like others have mentioned, I read your blog for the message you send be it the latest styles, looks and fashion, or something family-oriented or even just an issue that is on your mind. Your followers/readers are here to be informed in whatever way you wish to go. I too am inspired by your closet cleaning and now have a goal to clean out at least three bags of clothing for donation leaving me with some items to sell online. We’re here for you to read whatever is on your mind…regardless.

  11. Linda M
    April 18, 2020 / 11:21 am

    I think you’re being too hard on yourself. I read you because I like fashion (tho your style completely different from my own), but mostly because I love your competent, confident, honest and fierce way with words. You have never pushed mindless consumption. And don’t worry about your ethics … I like to escape this crazy world sometimes. “Irrelevance” is a reminder that at least some of the things I enjoy will come back.

    • Jax
      April 18, 2020 / 2:49 pm

      Agree 100% with Linda M.

      • Beverly
        April 18, 2020 / 2:59 pm

        I do, too!

  12. Sara
    April 18, 2020 / 11:03 am

    You always find the BEST music to feature. Love the video. Thanks!

  13. Fawn
    April 18, 2020 / 10:29 am

    All and any of David Sedaris’ books are so laugh out loud funny, highly recommend.

    Thanks for keeping it real for us here. I feel like we’re running under water when trying to accomplish anything in a day, really. Appreciate the thoughtful work you do here for this community. Thank you.

    • Jax
      April 18, 2020 / 2:55 pm

      I’ve been thinking of diving back into my Sedaris books too. You should listen to his appearance on Whitney Cumming’s podcast in early March (though start it about ~72 mins in, as she spends too much time blathering and even questions the seriousness of the coronavirus — this was just before all the SIP orders). Actually, hunt down all his podcast appearances ever — Marc Maron, Dax Shepard, Conan O’Brien. He is delightful.

      I’ve also been re-reading and newly reading Calvin Trillin. So funny in a different, dry way.

      • Jax
        April 18, 2020 / 3:04 pm

        Sorry, meant to clarify that on Whitney Cummings’ podcast, Sedaris doesn’t come on till ~72 mins into the show. Just skip the portion before his section starts.

        • Fawn Mulcahy
          April 18, 2020 / 4:41 pm

          Thanks so much, Calvin Trillinis now on my ‘to read’ list.

  14. Lee
    April 18, 2020 / 10:26 am

    Alison, thanks for all the recommendation! Have you watched “Atypical” on Netflix? (If you’ve talked about it here in the past, I apologize for not remembering). It’s about a teen with Autism, his sister, & parents & he’s trying to navigate through high school, college, & life in general. I’ve been through all the seasons & would just love it if the next one were ready to be released. I have a 14 yr old & I’ve not allowed him to watch it yet (he wants to & has a friend who has seen it, but I’m not quite ready to allow it; some of the themes regarding sexual issues are holding me back right now). For adults, though, I think this is such a great show!

    Thank you for talking about Chef Andres & World Central Kitchen! After learning of him because of his amazing work after the hurricane in Puerto Rico, I’m such a fan. My own school district has partnered with WCK & other businesses in our small city of Little Rock, Arkansas to feed our students while schools are closed. It’s been nothing short of amazing! Local food trucks are a part of this, helping to prepare & distribute multiple meals every single day of the week. We are feeding so many kids, even those who do not attend our public schools. Just amazing.

    Good books: someone here mentioned Lisa Jewell & I second that! If you enjoy suspenseful books, hers are a great choice. I am a huge fan of Irish writer Tana French. She writes mysteries & they are just fabulous. I’ve also recently come across the Danish author, Jussi Adler-Olsen, who writes a detective series. The first is “The Keeper of Lost Causes” & I really enjoyed it. Another great mystery series is by the Canadian author Ausma Zehanat Khan & it’s her Detective Esa Khattak series. This was my first series to read with a Muslim man as the lead character in a detective novel. Her books are excellent, and I’m always impressed with how much I learn while reading. The first in the series is “The Unquiet Dead” & I recommend reading these in order. Obviously, I am a fan of mysteries!

  15. Bette
    April 18, 2020 / 10:26 am

    I totally identify with your post-closet-cleanout feelings: guilt, anger, sadness, regret, plus the worst, the feeling you had made progress but realized you hadn’t. It seems like a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing, where acknowledgement comes first, then real progress. I’m with you!

  16. Linda Dodson
    April 18, 2020 / 10:10 am

    If you’re looking for a quick read, try Anne Tyler’s new one, Redhead by the Side of the Road. You can read it in a day, and you might enjoy all the Maryland references.
    And hang in there. I cleaned out my closet because of you. You’re doing good work.

  17. Karen S Eugenio
    April 18, 2020 / 10:10 am

    Thanks for being real. Your blog is a welcome respite from these strange times.

  18. Laurie
    April 18, 2020 / 9:23 am

    Please hang there Alison. Wardrobe Oxygen has always been my go-to for shopping smart. No one does it better. I trust your reviews and sources and I should have said this sooner: Thank you!!!!

  19. Krista
    April 18, 2020 / 9:06 am

    I thought I had it together… then my son’s graduation announcements arrived. I cried for the moments that were stolen from him. I cried for the moments stolen from us (Dad & I).

    I’ve put myself back together again but I wonder just how fragile it is. I’m a strong woman. A survivor. But something about this is harder.

  20. judy
    April 18, 2020 / 8:42 am

    Keep on keepin it real. We love you!

  21. L H Carter
    April 18, 2020 / 8:18 am

    Loved and appreciated you before. Love and appreciate you now. Wonderful and thought full intro. The weekend read is my Saturday ritual.

  22. Emily
    April 18, 2020 / 8:13 am

    I keep thinking I’m holding up ok and then I’ll randomly start crying in the middle of the day for no reason! I’m planning on tackling a wardrobe clearout (you inspired me!) but it feels a little intimidating right now. Trying to take each day as it comes and keep being kind to myself! Thank you for all the content you’re putting out during this time.

  23. Jamie Serran
    April 18, 2020 / 7:01 am

    I just finished reading The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell. It was a quick read, kept my interest all the way through, and was very entertaining!

    • Lee
      April 18, 2020 / 10:01 am

      Yes—such a good read! I have enjoyed many of her previous books & highly recommend them.

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