Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Boston Proper: Ever Heard of 'Em?

I hadn't. And well why should I have? There are no stores local to me, but a friend of mine (with some connections - it's who you know people!!) took me to Chico's warehouse, where you can find dresses for $10 to $15, shoes for $3 to $10 and tops/bottoms for $5 to $10, all of which are either Chico's, White House Black Market or Boston Proper.  Chico's permits family/friends of employees to shop there once a month.

Dresses have always been low on my priority list, especially since they usually have a higher price tag. However with the prodding of my friend and some great prices I took the plunge and purchased a couple.

The Boucle Dress (friend had to tell me that too)

Please excuse the ray of sunlight, that is posing as a big spot on my dress!!

Side Note: My friend actually picked this dress out, but felt it was too short for her tall-self, so she pushed me to try it. I was surprised at how much I liked it on, but then chickened out at the last minute to wear it out.   After being chastised in a loving manner, I wore it the follow week. So glad I did.

I was eye level with my husband in these. That was fun.

An added jacket to ward off the early morning chill...

The shoes were Boston Proper as well.  With prices at over $100 for shoes on the website, $10 seemed like a good buy. For some reason, which we still haven't figured out, Boston Proper was more expensive than the clothing with the Chico's and WHBM tags. Any guesses?

Side Note: I'm going to need that kind of saving for all the foot doctor bills I rack up after sashaying around in these! Three hours of experiencing tallness is about all I can handle before these are back in the closet!  The thought of clopping through the mall in these makes me cringe. Not to mention the echoing attention I would draw to myself when people mistake me for a horse coming up behind them.

Outfit Breakdown:

Blazer: WHBM (old)
Dress: Boston Proper ($15)
Shoes: Boston Proper ($10)

Totaling $25, half of my October blow money budget.  The rest of my finds that day are to come...

Wearing dresses just might grow on me. Thankful for friends that push us to try new things and of course have great connections (haha).

What about you? Do you wear dresses much? If so, do you have places you frequent to find them at good prices?



Saturday, October 26, 2013

When Planning Pays Off: Part 2

As stated in the previous post, I have never been much of a planner in any regards but especially when it comes to packing for a trip.  I'm sharing my planned ensembles because it was not as difficult as I imagined and it only took about 45 minutes to do so. The time was worth it!

Outfit 3: Relaxing Around the Farm

My fingers are crossed that leggings will stay current for years to come. They feel so comfortable and look stylish when the bootie is covered (just my opinion here). When taking a relax day into consideration there was no second thoughts...leggings, long cotton shirt and a chambray top for added layers.

Outfit Success: Total Comfort
Outfit Fail: Not easy to hike in those half boots!

Side Note: Those posts had a couple of large nails sticking up, hence the strange expression. Just add this to yet another one of my bad poses!

Outfit breakdown:
Chambray Top: LOFT (gift)
Cotton Top: Hand-me-Down
Leggings: Gift
Half Boots: Wet Seal (gift)

Total Cost: $0.00 BAM!

4th and Final Outfit: The Drive Home

Same Capris, Different top and accessories. I loved the combination of the floral scarf and striped, sequined top.

Side Note: I wasn't able to get pics of my travel day home, so I had to snap these shots yesterday when the weather was much cooler. So encouraged by the promptings of my sweet Facebook friends I "sucked it up", "took one for the team" and "just did it"!

Or Maybe I just have to use the bathroom! Yikes...
Outfit Breakdown:

Scarf: GAP ($10)
Sequin Top: Banana Republic ($12)
Capris: Nordstrom Rack ($5)
Shoes: Hand-Me-Down
Purse: B Makowski (Gift)

Outfit Total: $27 (over 6 month period)

So there you have it. Time permitting, I am sold on planning my outfits for traveling. It made preparation for each day so easy. Do have any packing tips to share?? Learning as I go...



Wednesday, October 23, 2013

When Planning Pays Off

I love throwing together different outfit combinations, but have never been a fan of packing for any type of trip.  It's too much planning for this last minute girl. Only twice have I been successful with organizing complete outfits - head to toe, jewelry and all.  The trip to Asheville was the second. Yay! I am growing. I even thought to check the forecast for the weekend, which was going to be surprisingly warm.

Without further ado, I present to you the first two outfits! Wohoo! Holding your breath, I'm sure.

Travel Day: Outfit 1

Starting with the two travel days, I chose pants that would be comfortable and that I could use on the way there and back but tossed in a different shirt and scarf to change it up for the ride home.

I hope you haven't grown weary of seeing my cobalt capris because here they are again! I can't believe how much use these bright colored babies are getting.  They are super comfortable and were $5. Need I say more?

My sister made this head band for me so I wanted to show off her mad skills...

Side note: I started a "Fashion Get's" list on my phone to keep me focused on what would help my wardrobe as opposed to adding more "needs". Do you know what I mean? Sometimes when an item is on sale and cute, I think "I can make this work" when many times it ends up needing something else to go with it.
Anyway, I found these ankle boots while running errands before the trip. I was hoping to find a pair I liked at GoodWill, but after a few unsuccessful trips I lost patience and caved at Target for $17.

Outfit Breakdown:

Chevron Headband: lovingly made by my sister
Shirt: INC (Macy's) bday gift
Capris: Nordstrom Rack - $5
Ankle Boots: Mossimo, $17
Scarf: Old

Outfit Total: $22 (over a 6 month period)

Outfit 2: Touring Biltmore & Downtown Asheville

Next, I knew we were going to be touring the beautiful Biltmore first thing in the morning after arrival. So I chose something comfortable, but layered in case there was a little mountain air chill. However, I did not take into consideration that a full 12 hour day with lots of walking was part of the plan...

Were these the best shoes to wear for an all day and evening outing??
These half boots were comfortable until the 5th or 6th hour...burn, baby, burn!
True story: At dinner I ran into the bathroom to remove my sweaty socks and then hid them in my purse. Gross, but necessary. 

Side Note: I admired this blazer hanging in Banana Republic sometime back in April, but the $130 price tag sent me running to the sale racks. No good finds that day, but I enjoy getting inspiration from the store displays.  A couple months later during the end of summer clearance I find that same blazer, only this time it's $16. Sold!

Planning Fail: Shoes
Planning Success: Layers

Outfit Breakdown:

Blazer: Banana Republic ($16)
Top: Goodwill ($2)
Distressed Jeans: GAP $12
Half Boots: gift

Total: $30 (over 6 months)

I planned to the point of snapping pics on my iPhone to remember what accessories went with each outfit. I know. That is scary. Between sweaty socks stuffed in "GoodWill" purses to pictures of myself in various outfits on my phone, I may need help.

And still I press on...two more outfits to come! lol :)



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Girl's Trip: The Red Barn

Recently I traveled with a group of women to Asheville, NC and stayed on a family farm in what they refer to as "The Red Barn".  It was to be a trip with sightseeing, downtime, home baked snacking and of course plenty of girl time.  Needless to say when that appointed day arrived, I loaded my bags into one of the traveling vans with great expectations.

The drive was quick and easy with plenty of chatter going on. No fighting. No whining for a snack and no asking for ETA's.  We arrived at the Red Barn on a Thursday evening.  (It could been the purple barn for all we knew.)  With the thick of night already upon us there was no need to tarry, so grabbing our luggage we all trudged inside to survey our weekend home. Rustic charm and a welcoming warmth greeted the group...

(the first 2 pics are "borrowed" from owner because I didn't take pics when we first arrived)

Facing the front door...

Upstairs was so spacious
A few snapshots of the interior...One of the pics shows my bed, which was the top bunk. We had quickly established who gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom - they would have the bottom bunks.  I slept surprisingly well on that top bunk because they were sturdy and had good mattresses.

We spent the duration of the evening, which for most of us ended up being until 1 or 2 in the morning, getting caught up - or for some of us becoming more familiar.  That night I went to sleep with a smile.

Boy Stealing Goose 

Morning came quickly as it always does and 6 out of the 10 of us loaded up into one car to begin our day with a tour of the famous Biltmore House. The rest who opted to stay behind for some much-needed rest would also get to keep their $50. Yes, that is the price to see the inside of the Vanderbilt mansion and if you want to know what you are looking at as you roam about from room to room, you will need to shell out an extra $10 for a device that looks like a remote control. One employee informed us that this device would explain the history behind the Biltmore home from beginning till present and would be worth every penny.

So we all paid our $10 and were handed the keys to the true knowledge of the Biltmore mansion! It was a beautiful morning coupled with a new adventure. A mix that brought out the best in me. (Well, not all may share this sentiment).

I don't know...what else do you do beside a statue of a lion??

The six of us skipped hand in hand up the stairs and into the largest home that I have ever set foot in. Okay. We were not hand in hand and we weren't skipping either, but I almost skipped. Touring the Biltmore Estate has been on my list of to-dos for quite some time.

Upon entry I noticed that the floors leading to the indoor garden (apparently anyone of affluence in the 1800s would have one) were marble. I pressed the instructed buttons on my remote control. My efforts were rewarded with elevator music and a pleasant voice explaining the statue in the middle of the indoor garden - Boy Stealing Goose.  Some of the gals and I exchanged looks and laughs over what seemed the start of an absurd tour. By the way, my hopes of getting lots of cool pics for this blogged fizzled at the entry when I noticed the sign that stated, "No pictures". Boo! Below is the only shot of the inside I dared to capture.

I know. You can't tell what that statue is! My hands were shaking!!
I will not bore you with a play-by-play of each room, but I will say that the dining room was one of my favorites. With ceilings that were 7 stories high, 13 game trophies hanging about the room,  organ pipes that still played music, sculptures, tapestries that were larger than life, a fireplace about as big as my living room and a table that seemed to stretch on and on, the room took my breath away and send chills up and down my spine.  Beautiful.

Each room was full of character, amazing architecture and astounding detail. Exquisite decor, beautiful paintings, and wall coverings that even included Spanish leather kept me dumbfounded throughout the tour. I was beyond impressed and didn't regret the money spent. And I had to agree with the employee at the front. Our recorded tour was well worth the $10, cheesy re-enactments that made me chuckle and all!

Here we are on one of the balconies...momentarily surveying the incredible views and trying to imagine what it must have been like to live at this home.

Equipped with our remotes for a guided tour...listening intently...

Can you imagine this view off your own balcony??

Here is just a recap of how we goofed off...

I loved walking the grounds and only regret the lack of time to view the gardens in their entirety.

Everything about this home was grand. Sitting on these stairs made me feel as if I was in Europe somewhere touring the castles.

Someone take me to Europe!!!!!!!

***Lunch in Town***

After traipsing around Biltmore for a few hours we all worked up a hearty appetite and had plans to meet up with the rest of the crew. There was a quaint "village" across from Biltmore that featured plenty of restaurants to choose from and shops to patron. Win, win.

Some of us were intense about that menu!

Shopping...a must

Downtown Asheville

The day wore on, but there was no plan to end the festivities. From the Biltmore village we made a pit stop at Elk Grove Lodge.  Sorry no good pics. It was not a good time for picture-taking.

I could have ended the travels there, picked up something to go at the Earth Fare we drove by and headed back to our place but I'm glad we didn't. (One of our many YouTube videos that we watched was Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake's Hash-tag skit.  The hash-tag jokes were flying throughout the entire weekend. This car ride was riddled with them. #Iknowthispostislong #ittookhourstodo #dontcare)

Downtown Asheville was up next and we were not let down...

Friday Night Drums

After driving around for awhile we finally found suitable parking. We unloaded and headed toward the center of town.  

Before you saw, you could hear a rhythmic beat beckoning all to come near.  With peaked curiosity we make our way towards town center. Meanwhile, I find myself distracted by a living statue, who has set himself up on the corner. Throwing a tip in the planter, I pose with my finger pointing right at him. I know. Real original. He surprises me by grabbing my finger, turning my creative pose into a "pull my finger" pose. Nothing happened. I promise.

The drumming beat only grew louder, reminding us of our destination.  We join the growing crowds and I'm rendered speechless.  There were about 100 folks of all walks of life, ages and skill sitting along the steps. They seemed to be following a designated leader.  Some folks joined the center of the circle and danced.  I couldn't tear my eyes away. Emotions ranged from curiosity to what in the world, to oh my goodness! But the beat was alluring...trance-like.  One woman, possibly in her 60s, danced with the energy of a 10 year old.  Another woman, with dread-locks down past her backside steered her two sons (one of which was an infant in a stroller, and the other about 10 with his own set of dreadlocks forming) through the crowd and set up her own bongos.  I am always curious about people, but at that moment was more so. What are their stories? The flapper woman, the angry dancer, the girl who never stopped but appeared to be in some other world.  It was obvious that for many this was a weekly event that they greatly anticipated.

We finally pull ourselves away from the eye-widening spectacle and head off to a restaurant that can seat us all without having to wait too long.  It was a great day and my only concern as I laid my head on my pillow that night was whether or not I offended anyone with my random behaviors and crazed comments. Oh and I might have danced a little on the outside of that drum circle...

Saturday, Much Needed Rest

Ahhh, no agenda. Do whatever you want to do. My activities ranged from sitting around the fire ring chatting to wandering   the grounds aimlessly. There was even time to catch up on some "Revolution of Rap" videos from the Jimmy Fallon show with a couple of the ladies.  It's always good to get some meaningless, mind-numbing entertainment. I must confess I walked away making sad attempts to come up with a rap of my own.  

Enjoying the horses...

And finally we walked out into the pasture to get our last group picture for the trip. We were about to eat dinner, prepared by the lovely family that owns the Red Barn so there was not much time to play around with shots. It is what it is, my awkward pose and all...

The Last Night & Closing Thoughts

We made our way into the dining room, thanked our hosts for the lovely meal and began dishing ginger glazed chicken, asparagus, coleslaw and bread onto our plates. A delicious meal that not one of us had to plan or prepare was the perfect way to start the evening.

As we share our meal laughter fills the dining area.  More than one conversation is taking place. Before long a game begins...a game of questions. Two cups are passed around the table with instructions to draw a slip of paper from each one. A name is drawn from one cup and a question is drawn from another.  Conversations pause making allowance for everyone to take their turn.

Good natured jokes flit around the table, as each unique sense of humor feels safe to bloom in a trusting environment.

"What is your very first memory of ____?"

"When I think of _____, I think of______."

Some questions take a serious and meaningful turn...

"How has ___ been a good friend to you?" or "What do you think is _____'s best quality?"

Unbidden tears form as quickly as the laughter, while gratitude and appreciation is expressed. In essence what is being said is thank you for extending friendship to me.

I. Need. You. 

The truth of the matter is we all have a need for friendships and community, made evident once again that night.

We carried coffee and dessert outside and formed a circle around the fire pit. And this time we had a fire, built by one of the young men in the family that resided on this property. (This family was a wonderful host, giving space but also friendly when we peppered them with questions about their home and even some about their life.) You would think that by this point we would be out of words.  Nah....

Morning came once again bringing the trip to a close. We load our cars and returned home to our expectant families. When I arrive I find this message waiting for me: "Welcome home mom - *Beep*". Feeling loved by family and the new friends I made!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chambray Meet Skirt

I asked myself that blogging question again. "Why am I doing this?" Then upon waking up, something akin to inspiration hits while sitting curled up on my sofa corner and I want to try again. It was a dreary  morning, but I was motivated...

Shirt, Belt, & Skirt - Loft
Fedora - Khols
Purse - Goodwill
Heels - White House/Black Market

I hope you are enjoying the fall weather, whatever that may look like for you. I guess it may be time to put the hat and shoes away, but I refuse until it's actually cold around these parts!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Have You Tried a Local Produce Co-op Lately?

It's been another hectic week and my fridge is becoming bare. No need to stress though because I have a delivery coming. Produce in a box. Right to my door step.  Between bulk purchases of grains, sugars, beans and beef there is becoming less of a need to frequent the local grocery stores.  However, when my schedule and route permits I may choose to pick up my box to save on delivery.

I have noticed that whether it be through Facebook, friends, or Groupon, companies that are willing to drop produce at your doorstep seem to be springing up all over the place.  Over the years I have tried out 3 different companies and have been relatively pleased with all 3 for different reasons. The decision to switch was either due to availability or schedule conflicts.

My orders vary from week to week depending on our needs and schedule. Here is an example of a small, mostly veggie that I ordered, which contained collards, broccoli, red pepper, avocado, mushrooms, garlic, one pear and 3 clementines. It was $20.

I loved the red pepper and ate them raw as a snack!

Here is another small, mostly vegetable order with some extras. Each week they post what, if any, extras that will be available.  I had a great deal this week with an extra bunch of carrots for $1. The avocados were on sale as well.  This box also had chard, red leaf lettuce, sweet potatoes, and giant portabello mushrooms. (Snagging a few extra goodies at a low cost is a benefit of picking up.) By the way, I also use the carrot tops in smoothies!

One box had beautiful rainbow carrots that I thought were fun. They pretty much tasted the same, but the boys enjoyed the variety in their lunches just the same.


*Once another member told me that she peels her sweet potatoes, slices them up like carrot sticks and then puts them in a container with a little water for snacking.  I tried it for myself and loved it. Tastes very similar to a carrot only a little sweeter.

*If your pears are not ripe keep them out of the refrigerator, or they will not ripen.

So if you have been thinking about trying out a co-op of some sort here are some lessons that I have learned when it comes to a co-op and using up the produce therein:

  1. It tastes GREAT! The produce dropped at your door IS fresh.  Many co-ops order as much as they can from local farms, so some weeks I am receiving produce that was picked the day before as opposed to weeks before. 
  2. If organic is important to you, you will find the prices to be reasonable. At first I did not think so, but after a couple of months I realized this did work well. I always have produce on hand so I'm not running to the store as often. On the weeks that I did not place an order, I felt frustrated store hopping, looking for organic, fresh produce at prices I can afford. (**Note: My family does not eat all organic. I try to follow the dirty dozen rule of thumb and even consider this when making my weekly selections with the co-op to save money. For this year's list click on this link.)
  3. There are several that do not require a commitment and allow you to order "on demand". This may work best with those with a hectic lifestyle (if you don't please share your secret!).
  4. Fruit tends to be more costly, so if you want more bang for your buck order mostly veggies on the weeks where the mostly expensive choices are offered (strawberries, blueberries, etc).
  5. Don't want to pay full price for delivery? See if a close by friend would be interested in "partnering" with you by alternating your homes for delivery.  Some co-ops have a pick up schedule, which may work for you if you are local. This would be another opportunity to share with a close-by friend.
  6. Many co-ops offer discounts to groups of 5 or more. This would be a great way to save money while building community - more excuses to see each other.  
  7. Some companies allow you to substitute items when you are not a fan of a particular selection. For example, I am the only member of my family that enjoys eggplant so I usually choose to double up on the apples or some other fruit of choice and forgo the purple offender.  
  8. I would recommend ordering consistently for at least 3 to 4 weeks to really get an idea as to whether or not it will be beneficial to you. Using a variety of fruits and vegetables on a weekly basis may require adjusting for some. Note: Soups are a great way to use and get the whole family eating much of the selection that gets dropped at your door (chard, kale, peppers, celery, carrots, potatoes, etc).  
  9. If you don't already, roast and saute veggies more. I even threw in small, chopped bits of chard into my pan of sauteed veggies from this week's order.
  10. Did I mention it tastes GREAT??

Family Size Box 
Well, I have already written a novel here on produce so I will close by saying that I fully understand that not everyone gets excited over fresh veggies so something like this may not work for you. (#notjudging) However, if you do, I believe that a co-op may help simplify your life and even push you to eat a variety of whole foods, while eliminating some of the processed options. That's always a good thing!

For those of you who are local, I will share the two companies that I use.

Big Organic Garden (they offer pick up or delivery)
Fresh Harvest Delivered (delivery only - be sure to put in my name to get us both a 50% off discount on the first order - message me if you need any of my info)

Phew! That was work. Let me go hunt for outfit inspirations. Less work. More fun.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hooray For Neutrals!

Another outfit combing items I've had in the closet or were gifted to me on special occasions. Always feels good!
Yes, that is a basket ball stuck in the net...

My Production Managers

My little production managers assist me with picture time by telling me if my head AND feet are in the shot. :) "I see your chin, Mommy. And your necklace." they chorus together, each one talking above the other. "I can see your shoes! Yes, both of your shoes!"

This picture grips my heart as I think about how quickly they are growing up on me. Their sweet relationship is a joy to daily observe. No doubt they have their moments...

"Mom, Evan won't share with me!"
"SHHHHH! CADEN, you shouldn't tell on me!" 
"Ma-oooom! Caden keeps messing up my cars!"
"No, No, NOOOOOOOO! I was gonna drive the green car!!!

I can't count how many times I hear those things in a day, but I also hear...

"I need to get Caden his Avenger spoon for him. It's his favorite." Or, "Caden, can I drive the green car first this time?" 

"Um, sure. If you want."

And endless hours of playing side by side with cars, action figures, legos, etc. I'm very grateful to be home with them, but I just wish I could get it through my head to learn how to get down on the floor and join their play more.  This is their last year at home with me!!

How we amuse ourselves around here...

Conversations with the scarecrows..."So tell me. What was it like for you being in storage these last several months?"

A full fledge conversation was going on here...
Goofball to the core...

Outfit breakdown:

Necklace: Macy's gift
Top: Zara (gift)
Skirt: LOFT (old)
Shoes: TJMaxx (last year - $10)

Total: $0.00 in 2013

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