7 Quick Takes About Fingernails (Again), Valentine’s Day, Clothes and Shoes

1.  I wrote a quick little review of Kisses for Katie, over at Mary’s blog, Atelier.  If you’ve read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

2.  I followed Mary’s advice for a Valentine’s night in, almost to the letter, and it was really nice.

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Valentine’s date night in: raspberry Belgian ale, flourless chocolate cake, and pina colada sherbet!

We watched Romantic’s Anonymous on Netflix, which both (!) Pat and I found entertaining.  I would have changed the ending though. (And does it bug anyone else that so many movies feature a male romantic lead so much older than the female romantic lead?) . . . Actually, never mind.  I just looked it up and the lead actress is only 7 years younger than the lead actor.  But man, she looks a lot younger.  Anyway . . .

It made me want to watch more French films.  It’s one thing to read about the Frenchwoman mystique, and quite another to watch it.  I get it a bit more now.

3. My first attempt to rejoin the world of fingernail painters was a bust.  I used Sally Hansen Hard As Wraps for a base coat (accidentally ordered the top coat instead of base coat), an old bottle of red Sally Hansen Hard as Nails, and the Vinylux top coat recently of Camp Patton fame.  It was chipping before 24 hours was up, and by the end of the second day it looked like this.

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I never gave much thought to my cuticles, but they don’t look so hot close up, do they?

But a bottle a OPI Sweet Innocence, per Nichole’s advice, is on its way to me.

4. Amazon sends me an email every day, apologizing profusely for a shipping delay with the aforementioned nail polish.  It’s okay, Amazon, really, it’s okay.  Whole lotta snow out there.  I understand.

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5. Pat was really sweet in how he ordered a Valentine’s Day gift for me.  He went to my web browsing history and specifically looked for what I had viewed on Boden’s website.  And he ordered me a dress.  Unfortunately, I already had ordered myself the same dress and returned it, because it didn’t look good on me.  But it was a really thoughtful idea.

6. I know I‘m not the only one excited by the newest Boden catalog.  I’m finding that a lot of their stuff doesn’t look as good on me as it does on the models (surprise surprise).  I’m hopeful to get at least a couple of winners for my summer momiform, though.

7. I finally replaced my old Sperry’s with a pair of pink Minnetonka Kilty mocs, for my requisite pair of casual-flats-with-which-I-can-wear-socks.  They would look better without socks, but I just really really need socks.  But anyway, I found them at our local general store for $7 less than Zappos!  I hesitate to jump on the “buy local” bandwagon.  When I see a “Do You Know Your Farmer” bumper sticker it just seems so smug and self-righteous to me.  And plenty of virtuous people don’t have the time or money to buy local but feel guilty about it.  And I hate that.

But every now and then you find just what you want locally for a good price, and it feels really good.

The end.  Click over to Jen’s for more quick takes.  Happy weekend!

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The Mom Bag & My Existential Angst

Mom Bag

It’s time for a new mom bag.  My current one was a little worn when I bought it second-hand two years ago, and it’s positively sad now.

I’ve been saving my pennies.  I want to buy something nice.  Something a cow gave up a whole lotta skin for.  I’ve waited and waited for this day to arrive.  Yet now that I’m ready, I don’t know what to get.  I don’t need a diaper bag right now.  But I need something bigger than a purse.  Something versatile, durable, stylish.

It needs to be a neutral color that I can wear with everything.  But not black, because I wear a lot of navy.  I like a nice, light brown leather.  But I tend to grocery shop with a pen in hand, uncapped.  I always get ink all over my purse.  So my bag needs to be darker.

And of course it needs to be big.  But not too big.

This is too big.

I had my eye on a Longchamp “Le Pliage” in navy blue.  Ink stains wouldn’t show!

But is that yesterday’s “It Bag”?  Or the day before yesterday?  Honestly, I wouldn’t recognize today’s It Bag if you smacked me upside the head with it.  But if I recognize something as trendy, it’s probably on its way out.  (Also, for that much $$–even secondhand–I’d like a little more cow and a bit less nylon.)

Maybe a satchel?  My sister has the cutest satchel that is absolutely to die for (it’s called a hobo, but I think it looks like a satchel).  But they’re hard to find at a reasonable price, even on eBay.  So I’m guessing they’re still a Thing.

I really need a zipper top.  I’d never be able to put a snap-top bag down for a second with my two-year-old around.

Madewell Transport tote: No go.

And let’s talk about brand names.  I dislike displaying flashy logos.  I guess I’m a bit of a reverse snob.

No no no no no no no no no no no.

If I were to get a higher-end, brand-name bag (second-hand, most likely), I probably wouldn’t display the little logo tag. . . . Buuuuut, it wouldn’t bother me too much if someone were to happen to see a very subtle brand name imprinted in small letters on the side.   You know, if it just happened to happen.  It wouldn’t kill me.

I started looking at bags that are super simple.  But where is the line between super simple and super boring?

Simple? Boring? Both?

I’ve also looked at styles that are classic, timeless.

But where is the line between “timeless” and “old lady”?  I trust myself less and less on this point.

What it comes down to is that I’m looking for a bag that will perfectly represent me.  I need a bag that is me.  

But who am I?

I don't really know what kind of girl I am

I’m someone who thinks way too much about a purse.  That’s who I am.

De-frumpifying the Third Trimester With Affordable, Stylish Staples

I am so happy to share a guest post today from Mary Boctor, who offers some guidance on adding a little style to that most uncomfortable and awkward stage of pregnancy (and of life?): the third trimester.  Mary is currently expecting her fourth baby, and she’s a trained personal stylist.   She blogs at Atelier about living and dressing with style.

Third Trimester Staples

Today I want to share with you some of my third trimester staples (though most of these items are great to have even earlier). I’m thirty-three weeks along in my fourth pregnancy, so I’ve had some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Of course, every pregnancy is different – different weather, different circumstances, different emotions, but there are a few things that are always a good idea. I’ll start at the beginning:

Third trimester staples

Third trimester staples

Tunic (similar) // Assets Shorts //  Grey Tee //  Jeans  // Occasion Dress // Flats //  Casual Dress

Undergarments… that fit! It can be so tempting, especially when on a tight budget, to ignore what can’t be seen. But then more than your budget will be tight, and that means panty lines, straps that pinch, and cups that overflow. That being said, undergarments that are maternity specific can be pricey, and aren’t an absolute must.  I have been really satisfied with this microfiber number, because they sit comfortably below the belly and deliver on their “no panty line” promise.  And the price is definitely right.  For bras, it doesn’t fit if it doesn’t contain you and/or it’s too tight.  Size up at that point!

Assets Marvelous Mama Maternity Shorts. Okay, maybe these aren’t absolutely necessary, but they are great for under dresses and skirts. They keep the look smooth without being too constrictive. The third trimester can be an uncomfortable time in more ways than one; twenty bucks isn’t too much for a little bit of extra confidence on big occasions.

Full Panel Jeans. I find that these are the most comfortable option once the belly is full blown. The band on the demi-panels that I love just seems too tight by the third trimester, and it irritates my pregnancy sciatica. If you are on a budget, try H&M, asos, and Old Navy. I also just discovered that even Wal-Mart online has some super inexpensive options. Who knew?! Whatever the brand, look for a pair that is uniform in color (i.e. doesn’t have “feathering” or other embellishment on the hips or rear) to avoid drawing the eye to any one area, such as the widest point of your thigh. Dark washes are especially flattering, as dark colors recede and thus give the appearance of decreased size.

Long Tees and Tanks, depending on the season. Too-short shirts are unflattering and uncomfortable. Look for fabrics that are thick enough that they can be worn alone, if you choose. Such shirts make up the bulk of my maternity wardrobe. I pair them with shorts, jeans, linen pants, alone or under a blazer.

Stylish flats. I don’t forego heels just because I’m pregnant, but for everyday wear, flats are the way to go. Depending on the weather, tall boots, booties, or ballet flats complete an outfit without sacrificing style or comfort.

Non-Yoga Pants Comfort Wear. There comes a point in every pregnancy (for me, at least) when I don’t even want to bother with the constriction level of jeans. And I have nothing against yoga pants, it’s just that when I get out of them in the morning I feel more productive and ready to meet the day’s challenges. In summer, this isn’t a big issue because there are lots of light weight dress options that are cool, comfortable, and pulled together. In winter, it’s a little more difficult but tights with a tunic top works great, or even a casual dress if I know I’m sticking around home.

A Special Dress. I spend the majority of my time home with my kids, or out and about in casual settings, running errands, playdates, that sort of thing. Yet, I find it absolutely necessary to have at least one dress that is special occasion appropriate. Target has some really cute options for $40 and under. Topshop is a nice midrange retailer,  [editor’s note: Topshop’s maternity line is Duchess-of-Cambridge approved!] and if you’re looking for something that will last many a pregnancy, Isabella Oliver has lots of beautiful items.

Thanks so much for the pointers, Mary!

New Glasses: Need Your Opinion

You know, this is funny and all:

But it seriously does not give due credit to the degree of finesse required for a good selfie.

Which should I go with?  I need to send these try-on pairs back on Monday.

Option 1: Marshall

Option 1: Marshall

Option 2: Crosby

Option 2: Crosby

Option 3: Sims

Option 3: Sims

Option 4: Northcote

Option 4: Northcote

Option 5: Crane

Option 5: Crane

For jollies, check out how different some of the same styles look on the lovely Maia.

Thanks y’all!!

A Professional Stylist’s Mom Uniform Micro Wardrobe {Guest Post by Mary}

I am so happy to share a guest post today from my blogging friend, Mary Boctor.  If you haven’t yet, you should check out her blog, Atelier, where she writes on style and wardrobe, movies, makeup, food (and drink), books, life and love.  It is inspiring, elegant, and insightful, as is the author!  Mary is both a mother of three and a personal stylist, so who better to ask for guidance in building a chic yet workable mom uniform?

I was flattered when Laura asked me to write a little bit about my spring / summer mom uniform.  I’ve really enjoyed her series on finding her personal style and keepin’ it real as a busy mom. I too am a mom of little ones (three under four years), so I totally understand the need for easy clothes. I’m not talking streetwalker here; I mean clothes that look great with little time and effort. I also find it absolutely necessary to be comfortable; there are enough irritants in life without your pants being one of them! My basic pieces are:

 v-neck tees

tank tops

dark wash straight cut jeans

shorts

linen blend pants

boyfriend blazer

booties, ballet flats, and sandals (the temp really fluctuates in Buffalo this time of year)

watch, pearl earrings, sunglasses, and leather tote

Image created via Polyvore

Image Created Via Polyvore
Grey & Black Tee // Black Tank // Blazer // Linen Pants// Jeans // Shorts // Booties// Sandals// Ballet Flats // Tote // Watch // Earrings // Sunglasses

This polyvore collage about sums it up (some of the items are the exact ones, others are close approximations). As you can see, my mom uniform is very neutral heavy and simple.  When I step out with the husband or to special events, I go outside this box, but I’ve found these items to be my best formula for day to day wear.

If you are in the process of figuring out your mom uniform, I have a few suggestions for [lucky] you.  Spend more on shoes and accessories than tops and bottoms. “Cheap” shoes aren’t really that cheap, they are usually not very comfortable, and they don’t age as well as real leather. My accessories were all gifts from my husband, and I have been roundly convinced that they were great investment pieces.  Chic accessories will see you through any body fluctuations and their importance grows in direct correlation to the simplicity of your uniform.

Spend less on tops and bottoms.  I view these as more disposable items.  The reality is, I get dirty because of the kids.  We play outside. They spill stuff on me.  Even bodily fluids come my way once in a while.  I don’t want to flip out because a $60 sweater from Banana Republic got ruined by grape juice.  Therefore,  I usually buy basic v-neck tee’s at Target and thrift other tops.  As for bottoms, I have been wearing Old Navy Jeans and for warm days basic shorts and inexpensive linen blend pants (I hate being hot).

Find a great jacket. I was lucky to score a high quality wool blend blazer (from a Saks Fifth Avenue private label) at a thrift store for under $5. It looks amazing, yet, I wouldn’t cry if one of my kids got it with an ink pen. Okay, I would, but not for too long. My advice is to search the racks of the local thrift stores for a blazer. Look for something high quality that fits well through the shoulders. Sleeves can easily be shortened, and a little less easily, the jacket can be taken in.

I don’t want to presume on anyone’s desire for details (editor’s note: it’s a pretty safe presumption, Mary!  ;-); if you would like more info on the specific pieces in my uniform (as opposed to approximations) or have any other questions, please shoot me an email at marytboctor@gmail.com  I would love, love, love to hear from you!

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Style and the Stay-at-Home Mom: Building the Uniform, Part 2

Before I go further with this series (you can read the first two posts here and here), I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the man who is my inspiration, both in fashion and in life: my husband. Patrick has perfected the art of the fool-proof everyday uniform, as shown in his fall/winter work wardrobe:

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Sweater: Lands’ End (no longer available in Tall)
Jeans: Old Navy
Shoes: New Balance

Same style, same color, different sweater

Same style, same color, different sweater

Same style sweater, different color

Same style sweater, different color

3 sweaters, 2 looks.

But don’t worry, sometimes he cuts loose and does something a little different:

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(Clearly, I’m fortunate to have a husband who doesn’t take himself too seriously and sometimes lets me have fun at his expense.)

So back to my fall/winter uniform:

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My current line-up includes both new and old purchases. I must admit, I’ve been buying things here and there before doing a complete closet clean-out and reassessment. But it worked out okay (with they exception of a few flubs, described below).

For example, this outfit has a Gap Outlet cardigan from 2009. I pair it with a new, striped tee (a (rare) Old Navy clearance rack purchase of recent months) and a skinny belt.

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This next outfit has another cardigan from the same Gap Outlet shopping trip of 2009. I pair it with a floral tank I bought from Lands’ End last summer (no longer available).

Until recently I wouldn’t think of combining a print with argyle, but I like how they go together (also seen with a polka dot skirt one recent Sunday):

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One of these days I’ll clean that mirror.

Here’s yet another sweater from that same fateful Gap Outlet trip of 2009. I pair it with a scarf I found at a yard sale.

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But with jeans.

One of my favorite recent purchases is this sweater (which I wore in this What I Wore Sunday post):

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I’m trying to accessorize more when I go out, but I’m not quite sure what to do with this one. This necklace (discussed in this post) would be good in a different color, but I see red + green and think Christmas tree:

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These earrings look the part, I think, but, I dunno, would you wear them to story time at the library? (And would you trust your toddler not to rip through your earlobes with them?)

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So I’m on the lookout for a scarf or necklace to wear with the polka-dot sweater.

Next in my current line-up, I have a cable knit white cotton sweater:

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This, however, is next in line for the give-away pile. You see, I bought this sweater at a consignment store recently. I wish I had Mary with me because I ignored the fact that it didn’t fit quiiiiiiiite right.

I just love the look of a white cable knit sweater. So crisp.

So Brideshead:

Alright, maybe fictional, effeminate Oxford boys of the 1930s are not the best fashion inspiration. But Kate is!

But mine just doesn’t fit exactly right. And one thing I’ve learned is that fit is everything. If you don’t have fit, you don’t have style. My white sweater would be better a bit longer and preferably a little fitted at the waist. And maybe a v-neck would be better?

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Not quite the right fit.

Also it could use some accessorizing. Since becoming a Color Me Beautiful aficionado, I’m convinced that white and black wash me out and it’s better to wear color near my face.

I thought perhaps a collared shirt underneath would work, like this:

But no.

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Sarah Vickers I am not.

I have a hard time with collared shirts under sweaters. I don’t know what it is.

I also tried it with scarf, but nope. Maybe I’ll try tying the scarf a different way, or a different scarf.

Maybe if I'll try tying the scarf differently.

Maybe if I’ll try tying the scarf differently.

So, a better-fitting white sweater is also on my look-for list. In the mean time, I still wear the sweater because . . . well, I still kind of like it. My new rule for buying clothes, whether at a thrift store or elsewhere, is to buy something only if I’m 100% satisfied. In a world of unlimited wants and limited resources, though, my rule for keeping things once I’ve already purchased them is maybe . . . 75% satisfaction. 😉

I learned a few things just as I was taking pictures for this post. For example, I have worn this combination a few times. But after taking a picture I mended my ways. Meh.

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Belting it didn’t help much:

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I bought the striped shirt from a thrift store a few months ago (duh duh DUN), and it has now received what most of my thrift store purchases have received (i.e. the boot). The cardigan was a Target purchase and, like most things I’ve bought there, it hasn’t kept its shape. For some reason, though, it looks okay with the chambray shirt, so I’m keeping it around for a while longer.

But with jeans.

But with jeans.

Sometimes I wear the chambray shirt (another recent Old Navy clearance find) on its own with this scarf:

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I also have a heavy wool sweater for very cold days, like this past Thanksgiving:

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Just recently, when I should have known better, I bought a $9 striped, dolman sleeve top from what is truly the dregs of the retail market: Ross . . . in the junior’s department {hanging head in shame}. I don’t have a great picture, but you get the idea here:

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When I bought it, I didn’t notice the tag saying “HAND WASH ONLY.” Right, like that’s gonna happen. I machine washed it in cold water, hung it to dry, and it didn’t fit as well afterward. Now, a couple more cold-water washes and drip-dries later, it’s pilling, it has threads coming off, and it’s lost even more shape. $9 down the drain.

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Well, there you have it: my everyday uniform for the colder months.

Except that I haven’t discussed, you know, the entire lower half of each outfit. That is a post in itself, (make that two posts or three) for next time . . . .

What I Wore Sunday, Furnace-less Edition

Here we are again: it’s What I Wore Sunday time!

But first, an update on our heating situation after the furnace explosion of a few nights ago.  The repairman says our furnace flame box blew, which made the exhaust pipe of the furnace break in two.  Thankfully, Pat’s boss is letting us borrow his honkin‘ space heater, so we don’t have to keep the fireplace going 24/7 anymore.

The repairman is checking to see if a new flame box is available for our furnace, which is the original in our 1963 house.  If not, and we’re guessing it’s not, we need to replace our furnace. So now we’re considering our options: oil furnace, gas furnace, electric heat pump, geothermal electric heat pump, electric furnace, wood stove, wood furnace, pellet stove, coal furnace, coal stove.  It’s overwhelming.  I want someone to just come and tell us what the right option is.  Does anyone have any insight here?

But on to more important matters: my sister Lizzie has expressed a preference for “natural settings” for fashion blog posts, as opposed to closet doors and blank walls.  Well, here ya go, Lizzie.  My native backdrop, au naturale.

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Scarf: yard sale
Sweater: Gap Outlet
Skirt: LOFT (old as Methusela)
Boots: Overstock
Liturgically correct tights: Sears

Speaking of Lizzie, we got a package from her on Friday.  Amazing.  Girl 2 will be finely decked out for every Sunday for months to come.

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Girl 1 got a new dress too.

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She accessorized in time for another Lizzie-requested feature: What I Wore to WalMart.

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wish I were kidding.

For more Sunday finery, check out the link-up at Fine Linen and Purple.  Thanks as always to Kendra and Emily for hosting the fun!