Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 Goals: Out Like a Lamb

Time to check in on my monthly goal progress! I am SOOO glad that Spring is finally here. Looking around at all of the new life - little green buds on flowers and trees, baby animals, college students groping each other at the local deli, etc. - makes it easy to understand why people used to sacrifice fatted calves and stuff just to make sure that Spring came back every year. Winter is a drag, man.

1) Stop Rewarding Myself with Shopping: There was definitely some shopping that took place last month, but it falls more into the “necessity” category rather than the “reward” category because I lost some weight. My skinny jeans were sagging in the butt, so I bought 2 pairs of Madewell skinnies, as well as 2 pairs of J.Crew chino shorts (all 25% off thanks to the recent sales) to get me by for Spring into Summer. The Georgia heat means that I prefer to wear dresses and skirts for much of the Spring/Summer/Fall, and it’s a lot easier to fudge the fit on those garments with belts and jackets so I won’t need to think about alterations unless I lose more weight, which I’m not planning to do. Other items that I purchased this month include the J.Crew Midnight Floral Tee, the Keeper Chambray shirt to replace my Selvedge Chambray shirt which finally started to look frayed and tired after 4 years of weekly washing/and wearing (will now be a painting/gardening/cleaning shirt), some cheap jewelry (seen HERE), and a personalized leather Madewell tote to use as my summer handbag. This week will be the week that I switch my wardrobe over – storing my woolens and bringing out my light cotton garments – so I’m going to try everything on and assess what goes, stays, or gets altered depending upon how it fits my body now.

2) Pay Off Half of My Personal Loan Before 2014: Still on track.

3) Fold/Iron Clothes As Soon As They Emerge From Dryer: I did really well with all of the foldable things, tucking them neatly into drawers and onto shelves as they tumbled out of the dryer in a warm little heap, but there are currently 6 dress shirts, one pair of chinos, and one pair of pajamas (yes, I iron them, don’t judge me) sitting in the purgatory chair. I was going to iron them yesterday, but the iron died and I had to go buy a new one. That totally sounds like a “dog ate my homework” style excuse, but I promise it really happened.

4) (Ongoing) Savings Account: Automatic deposit is the best thing ever when it comes to saving money. If I have it in my hot little hand, the frivolous side of my brain immediately comes up with things that I can spend it on besides THE FUTURE. However, if it goes directly into savings, the practical side of my brain nods and says, “Yes, that’s sensible, we shall leave it there to grow.” This setup is working out so well that I’m considering starting another savings account to set aside money specifically for my car. I own a 2006 vehicle that is fast approaching the 100,000 mile mark and I dread the day that it either won’t start or I’ll get a repair bill for more money than the entire car is worth.

5) Create Upholstered Headboard: No progress for March, but I’m definitely thinking that April will be the month that Project Headboard takes place! The dog got on our bed and ripped massive holes in the shirred fabric of the duvet, so I want to get new bedding (not shirred – I’ve learned my lesson that shirred bedding cannot co-exist in the same apartment as Bad Benny) and I want the headboard to be in place first.

6) Re-upholster Chair: Project Chair will be completed after Project Headboard.

7) Organize My E-mail Inbox: Last month, Cate (Hi Cate!) left the following comment regarding my inbox organization goal: “Create some new folders, put important mail into those going forward, boom you're done. I have 30,000+ unread emails in my inbox and live a happy life :) I just search when I need to find something, and anything that was vitally important I've already put into a separate folder when it first arrived.” This is a great idea, and I will probably follow Cate’s advice eventually, but I’m a worrier and I worry that there are vitally important things in my e-mail inbox that I have totally forgotten about and I have to see if they exist. Three years ago, my old e-mail account got hacked and a bunch of ads for penis enlargement products were sent to all of my contacts, including my 75-year-old male former boss, who replied to ask why I had sent him that advertisement. Yes, I wanted to die from embarrassment. I immediately closed that account and transferred all of my e-mails to a new one, but I didn’t have time to sort through the archives to make sure that I didn’t need to delete and/or save some things more than others. So…yeah, didn’t accomplish this goal in March.

8) Better Meal Management: I committed myself to this goal in March and it turned out to be a great success! I made sure to plan my meals in advance and construct my shopping list accordingly. I paid much closer attention to how much food I was cooking during dinner and cut down on both portion sizes and leftovers. I decided to buy meat for the BF at the expensive grocery store where I could talk to the deli attendant in person and buy single cut portions of organic grass-fed pastured beef and free-range chicken. The good stuff costs more initially, but buying single portions for the one meat-eater in the house (I’ve been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 14 years) not only makes sense but cuts down on waste if I don’t get a chance to cook that entire 4-pack of cheap chicken breasts before the expiration date. I always try to buy eggs from field-raised chickens as well, since I feel better about my money going to farmers who care about the humane treatment of their livestock. Am really pleased with my progress on this goal and hope to keep it up!

9) Make More Art/Do More Designing: Didn’t do much with this goal in March, unfortunately, but April is looking better in terms of both inspiration and opportunity.

10) Stop Envying the Lives of Others: We took a mini-break weekend to Savannah, GA which totally ruined any progress that I might have made on this goal in March since I am now pea-green with envy over anyone who is lucky enough to live there. What a gorgeous town! Am planning a blog post for the near future that will detail all of our activities and recommendations from that trip, personally illustrated by moi since I had so much fun that I couldn’t be bothered to stop and take pictures!

I hope that the sun is shining where you live today :)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Happy Birthday, Breton Striped Shirt!

"The striped Breton shirt as we know it today came into being shortly following the 27th March, 1858 Act of France, which introduced the navy and white striped knitted shirt as the uniform for all French navy seaman in Brittany. The shirt was originally known as marinière or matelot. The original design featured 21 stripes, one for each of Napoleon's victories." ~ Wikifashion

Ah, striped shirt. I wear mine so often that I wonder what I would wear instead if it hadn't been invented!*** Thanks, France!

***Ok, not really. I have a crap-ton of clothes, I'm sure I'd find something.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Madewell Goodies: Quartz Point Jewelry and Ankle Strap Mini Wedge

I recently picked up some accessories from Madewell that I have been really pleased with and cannot stop wearing. They just added customer reviews to their online site, which is awesome, but I thought I would share some irl pics.

I bought this cuff and the matching necklace on the day that it rolled out, and I'm glad that I did because the cuff is now sold out.

I love the fact that it is delicate yet edgy, and it coordinates extremely well with lots of different outfits and plays well with other bracelets. It looks great with my Eden Hand Arts Dennis Bracelet, which was a high school graduation gift from my cousin who lives in Cape Cod, MA.

Just as versatile as the Quartz Point Cuff, the length of the necklace is adjustable.

Looks great alone or combined with other necklaces. I've really become a fan of Madewell's jewelry. For trendy costume jewelry, it's very good quality and you can't beat the price, especially if there's a sale going on.

They are no longer offering the black suede wedges online, opting for more springlike pastels at the moment, but I imagine they'll cycle through most of the color wheel for these shoes just like they have done with the Sidewalk Skimmers. No matter - these are great shoes in whatever color you choose.

The suede is soft and flexible, and the color is very saturated. I've worn them multiple times so far and have had very little trouble regarding marks and scuffs. Fit is TTS; I've been fluctuating between an 8 and 8.5 recently and the 8 fits perfectly in these. I did have to wear band-aids on my pinkie toes the first two or three times I wore these shoes, but I usually need a few wears to properly break in any shoe so I wouldn't call them ill-fitting at all.

The necklace and a few colors of the shoes are on sale right now at Madewell, and the cuff might be re-issued or pop back soon. Happy shopping!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Spring (Closet) Cleaning with GOOP

Gwyneth Paltrow's Tops

"Wait, you're linking to another GOOP post?"

Yes. I have loved GP since 1994, haters gon' hate, deal with it, etc.

Mainly I'm linking to this post about Spring Cleaning for your closet HERE because me and everyone else I know went on a cleaning bender this past weekend due to "Springing Forward" and I came *thisclose* to switching out my cold weather wardrobe for my warm weather one (it's already Springtime in GA), but I decided to give it another week or two. In other words, this post was just too timely not to share.

Not to toot my own horn, but I could get a black belt in closet purging and organization. I wasn't always this way, but moving 7 times in 10 years has a tendency to make a person want to streamline as much as possible so that you're not toting around stuff that you don't need/want/doesn't fit. I purge my closet 2 or 3 times a season, separating discarded items into 4 piles: Don't Like, Doesn't Fit, Needs Drycleaning/Mending, Worn Out. The first pile goes into a plastic bag, where it stays for a few months and then gets re-evaluated to see if there are items that can go back into rotation or whether they need to be donated. Pile 2 goes to Goodwill, pile 3 is taken care of accordingly, and pile 4 is trashed. I find that the more often I closet-purge, the more manageable the task becomes (Captain Obvious is obvious). Here are the editing rules that GOOP lays out, and I particularly agree w/ numbers 3 and 6:

1. “If you hold up the garment and can see any body part imprinted in it - i.e. elbows, knees, saggy bums, etc. - it goes out.”

2. “Pay particular attention to collars - these are near your face and right in people’s eye line, so any fraying, wear-and-tear or make-up/fake tan stains, etc. means it goes.”

3. “Consider the ‘two tries rule:’ if you have put on a garment and then immediately taken it off to wear something else two or more times, let it go. I know, you spent good money on it and have never worn it, but you are not getting that money back by keeping it in your closet. Smile and enjoy the cathartic feeling of de-cluttering.”

4. “Nostalgia / gift boxes: Before you begin editing, get at least two substantial storage boxes. Allocate appropriate names for each, such as costume / nostalgia / presents etc. I have seen amazing Burberry suits hung next to Halloween costumes. I know - this is the dress you were wearing when your husband proposed to you, or this is your college sweatshirt that everyone signed... by all means keep it, as it’s a nice part of your history. But why is it in amongst your work blouses?! This makes your closet feel and look completely disorganized, which in turn makes you feel disorganized.”

“Box these items up and store them away from your everyday options. You'll be amazed how much extra space and order you'll win back just from this one simple step.”

“Same goes for the million pieces of jewelry, scarves and wallets that are not your style. Because they were gifts, you keep them out of guilt. This leaves your jewelry box and closet cluttered full of items that you'll never wear - separate all of these out.”

5. “Anything more than 6 months old that still has tags on it was a mistake. It doesn't excite you and/or it doesn't work with your other pieces. We live and learn. Assess what doesn't work, and let it go.”

6. “All, and I mean every single thing you own, should make you feel great, from your cashmere sweaters and jeans, to your evening wear.”

How about you? Are you a closet-purging master or more of a closet hoarder? Do you have any tried-and-true closet organizing rules that you stick with?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sticker Shock: Rad Ring

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this little ring costs $1550.00 since I saw it on freaking GOOP:

Darn that Gwyneth Paltrow and her fabulous taste. I love it but I can't afford that price tag. Somebody on Etsy has probably created a knockoff already for between $50-$75, right?

If you have the scratch to pick one up, you can find it on Gwyneth's GOOP website HERE.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

J.Crew Reviews: Indigo Floral Popover, Postage Stamp Mini in Scatter Dot, and Sailor Pants

J.Crew rolled out quite a few things during the month of February that I really liked. The Boyshirt in Dots was a hit, and I've worn it 3 times already. The Sera Top in Traced Medallion was a miss; it was HUGE through the body and short enough that sizing down would equal an unflatteringly short fit. I managed to take a few pictures of three other items that I bought: 2 hits and a miss. Let's see which ones I kept.

This top was at the top of my "must have" list as soon as it popped up online. I've been trying to find the perfect floral shirt for Spring (I'm not really a floral shirt girl, so choosing one has been more difficult than I thought), and I loved how subtle this floral print was. Two colors? I can do two colors. I also loved the ruffled collar and pintuck detail on the front and back yoke.

The material is a fairly heavy cotton, and the indigo blue is ever so slightly faded. I had high hopes.

I bought the popover in a size 8, my usual size in tops and the same size as the other J.Crew popover that I own. As you can see in the picture, the sleeves are a decent length, as is the torso. You can see that there is some extra fabric through the body.

Here I'm holding the extra fabric behind my back, which makes the shirt fit similarly to the online image that we see on the model. All I can say is that there must be a lot of pinning going on behind the scenes...

...because THIS is the amount of extra fabric in the back! Was your reaction "The hell???"? So was mine. That is a downright stupid amount of extra fabric for a size 8 top. It's so far off, I can only assume that some numbers got transposed somewhere along the line and nobody thought to question it. Or maybe J.Crew decided to start a "CrewMums" maternity line and forgot to separate it from the regular rollout. I'm afraid that if I order a size (or 3) down, the sleeves and torso will be too short, so back it goes. Sad :(

Fun black and white print miniskirt! I like J.Crew's postage stamp minis, and I was lacking a black and white one in my wardrobe. I also like how this print is not the traditional polka-dot.

I bought a size 6, which sits a little low on my hips, so I could probably wear a 4 if I wanted it to sit at my waist. At 5'8" I like the extra length from the larger size, but I'd say this skirt fits TTS.

It has pockets and little pleats in the front, but the pleats are really narrow so you don't get the puffy "Mom Jeans" effect.

The skirt is fully-lined, with a separate structured waistband. Black dots, linen-colored background, fun basketweave texture. I'm really pleased with the quality and plan to wear this skirt until I'm old and can no longer get away with mini skirts.


Hooray! I do love me some Sailor pants. My favorite pair of wool dress pants are a butter-soft fully-lined pair of black J.Crew sailor pants with the traditional functioning button front and lace-up waistband in the back. These are more like a pair of non-tapered polyester Cafe Capris with decorative buttons, but I love them anyway.

I wore them to work on a warm day with my Seine Stripe blouse, Etta Patent pumps, and matching belt. Like most Cafe Capris, they run a little large, and I thought about sending the 6's back and exchanging them for 4's. In the end, I stuck with the larger size since sailor pants aren't supposed to be snug. After a day's wear, there was some creasing in the front, but the fabric is thick enough that they fall out pretty easily once you start walking around. 

The cut of the leg is straight, and there are pockets in front of the row of buttons that I have left sewn shut because I'm pretty sure they'll puff out if I open them. J.Crew needs to work on pocket structure or something, because lots of their pants have puffy pocket issues. Nobody wants to have extra bulk in that area, right? So...polyester. I don't hate it, and I wish these pants were wool or cotton, but the polyester used for these pants does at least look and feel like good quality polyester, if you know what I mean.

What do you think? Did you order anything from the new rollout? Did you order a top that was shockingly huge and had to return it?

Friday, March 1, 2013

2013 Goals: Monthly Progress Slowed by Plague

I am so glad that February is a memory. My new short-term goal? Get rid of this cough that has been plaguing me for two weeks! I had a nasty, snotty cold, which went away after a week, but the cough is lingering and I’m SO OVER IT. Now, back to our randomly scheduled programming….

1) Stop Rewarding Myself with Shopping: Disappointing performance on goal #1 for last month, mainly because 3 sick days at home meant lots of free time online to peruse my favorite stores and buy things to cheer myself up. It was also WAY too easy to switch from the book I was reading on my iPad (Wild, by Cheryl Strayed) over to the Internet, so the next time I’m sick in bed it’s going to be paper books all the way. On the upside, I saved money on groceries for the month since soup, crackers, and orange juice are not expensive when that’s all you happen to be eating.

2) Pay Off Half of My Personal Loan Before 2014: Still on track.

3) Fold/Iron Clothes As Soon As They Emerge From Dryer: I saw an improvement on this goal, but I’ve either been wearing comfy clothes and pj’s that are easy to fold away immediately or work clothes that will end up in the dry-cleaning service bag, so it wasn’t a challenge.

4) (Ongoing) Savings Account: I’m going with the direct deposit “Set It and Forget It!” approach, so this goal is on track and I think I’ve also earned $.03 in interest (Boo-yah! Don’t act like you’re not impressed…). My mini-goal is also to e-file my tax return this week and electronically deposit the refund into my savings account, so that will be a nice little boost. I always get a refund since I don’t claim any personal exemptions, which is something that my dad and I disagree about. He says that I’m losing money by allowing the government to use more than they need throughout the year and that it’s smarter financially to budget for maybe having to pay some back after I file my return. I told him that, unlike him, I’m currently a Broke Person who is happy to pay the government little bits of my income throughout the year if it means that I don’t have to worry about coming up with an extra few hundred bucks all at once. You have to HAVE money in order to PLAY WITH money.

5) Create Upholstered Headboard: No, but I got to stare at the roll of fabric taunting me from the corner of the bedroom for hours at a time.

6) Re-upholster Chair: See above.

7) Organize My E-mail Inbox: Wow, those 3 days in bed would have been an ideal time to complete this goal! Did I do that? No, I did not. FAIL.

8) Better Meal Management: Like last month, the improvements made on this goal were merely incidental as opposed to being the result of actual effort (see the end of the paragraph for Goal #1 above re: soup, crackers, and orange juice).

9) Make More Art/Do More Designing: I’m currently working with a friend to help her choose fabrics for her Living Room makeover, and have a few art projects in the works. None of them are paid projects, but I’m fine with that for the time-being.

10) Stop Envying the Lives of Others: I’m going to give myself leave to envy anyone who is not sick right now, and I’m going to be grumpy about it.

Sooooo, I pretty much consider February 2013 to be a wash, and I’m really hoping that March will be better!