What I Wore During An Unspecified Period of Time: Coats and Things

So the switch over to the winter uniform did not go as smoothly as I first envisioned.

Last year, I mostly wore cropped yoga pants, too small Old Navy boot cut jeans that I would dejectedly stuff myself into, ratty long sleeved t shirts, a terrible pair of fake Uggs, and Mr. E’s North Face down vest. It was fairly awful.

This year I thought I’d wear mostly black dresses with leggings and boots, and maybe a few times a week I’d wear skirts.  Every once in awhile I’d wear jeans and boots.

This was a great idea in theory, but it turns out that I couldn’t find very many black dresses of the sort I was envisioning. (Although my Style Lush post on the subject did turn up some candidates.) The skirts I bought, when paired with tights and necklaces and such, ended up feeling shockingly dressy, and skirts that seemed like they’d be more casual (a line corduroy or maybe some plaid?) I couldn’t find anywhere.  My kingdom for a red corduroy skirt!  I had forgotten that it would start raining and it would never stop and that I don’t want to wear long boot cut jeans or trouser legged pants out into the rain because the cuffs get wet and it’s absolutely disgusting. I also didn’t realize that most days, I wouldn’t want to put on tights and a skirt, most days in December I can barely persuade myself to get out of my pajamas.  So I have had to rethink the uniform.

The first thing I did was to decide that jeans plus boots plus a t shirt plus a puffy vest was ok, but I’d refine it.  So I threw out my disgusting fake Uggs (that was a hard day) and Santa is bringing me a very nice pair of boots for Christmas, and a nicer puffy vest that actually fits me and looks a little less schlubby.  I have two pairs of skinny jeans that I can tuck into boots now, and I have been trying to find more pants that work tucked into boots because that’s mostly what I want to wear. I have had TERRIBLE luck finding long sleeved shirts that I like, so I have had to buy more crewneck sweaters than I initially though I would need.  But things are coming together.

I am still looking for black dresses and casual skirts, and I know I made a few mistakes this year. I don’t really need fancy black wide legged pants, I don’t think, because everything in the winter just seems to look and feel way more dressed up and I don’t need to dress nicely enough to go to an office, after all, since I don’t have an office.

The other thing I realized is that most of the time, people in my social circle are going to see my outerwear more often than what’s underneath it. I do a lot of school pick up and drop off, so that means that coats/hats/scarves/purses/shoes are what people see on me most often, so I started paying more attention to my coats and such than I had been before, and I took a few pictures of that too. I’d really like to get a nice black winter coat, but if I lose 15 or 20 pounds I have a very nice black winter coat just sitting in my closet, so I am hoping that with copious amounts of kale I will save myself having to make that purchase.

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been wearing:

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{Target Sweater, Old Navy tee already pilling, I hate you Old Navy, Gap cropped denim, Top Siders}

This was before it got cold and started raining every day.

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{Gap outlet sweater, Ann Taylor Loft Tee, Gap cropped denim}

This was when I still at a loss as to what to wear.  It’s fine, but it’s not great, I think we can all agree.

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{Gap Tee, AE High Rise Super Skinny Jeans, Bandolino Boots}

I also really like this Gap cowl neck shirt, although it’s so thin that you have to wear a cami over it and it gives me a little bit of that lumpy tummy I could do without.  Both these tees are Petites, btw, the regular ones were suuuuuuper way too long.

 

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{Gap Tee, Target scarf (last year), AE High Rise Super Skinny Jeans, Sam Edelman Driving Mocs (Hautelook)}

Hautelook forced me to buy shoes because they would only give me store credit for a return.  I really needed regular old flat shoes though, and these were pink, so even though Eli told me they are old lady shoes and they look a little teeny bit like slippers from the front, I still really love them. Life is too short not to wear pink shoes sometimes.

I love love love this Gap tee. This is the only long sleeved crew neck I can find these days that’s not a frigging boat neck.  It’s so weird. Also, these skinny jeans are my favorite favorite favorite. Only skinny jeans ever that don’t make me want to weep tears of rage regarding the state of my thighs.  I only buy them at 40% off though, so don’t go buying them full priced.

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{Gap jacket}

This is what I wore over it. Everyone should have such a wonderful coat.

 

 

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{Gap trench, AE High Rise Super Skinny jeans, Kate Spade purse, Bandolino boots}

Everyone needs a trench coat. I love everything about this except the 3/4 length sleeves, which are annoying, but what can you do? I bought this years ago and the only one I could find that year in navy had these sleeves.

Also, I will spare you from the sonnet I want to write about this purse, but let’s just say – it’s the bees knees. No one makes a bright leather purse like Kate Spade. I don’t really worship at the church of Kate Spade like some people, but when you need a yellow purse, she’s your lady. I think it was just in the big sale so I don’t see it on the site anymore, unfortunately.

 

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{Banana Republic Dress, Old Navy Leggings, Target belt, Frye Campus boots}

Damn I love these boots. I need to buy this belt in a smaller size, but I really hate replacing stuff I already have.  LAME.

 

 

 

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{Lands End Dress, Inside Dog Necklace, Bandolino Boots}

So here’s a dilemma. This dress is AMAZING. AMAZING.  They have it in five or six other colors and it’s on sale for 40% off today. Should I get another color, or is this dress kind of so specific with that v/wrap neck that owning two is kind of pointless? I was thinking green just because I can see what I would match it with (gray leggings and brown boots) but am open to opinions.

 

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{Old Navy the Diva Trouser Leg Jeans, Gap Outlet Sweater, J. Crew Necklace, Franco Sarto Wedges}

Everyone needs a pair of trouser jeans. They are just so damn flattering.  These fall off my ass and I have to really belt the hell out of them and they are  tidge too long and I can’t wear them in the rain and I’d still buy them a thousand times over.

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{Old Navy coat (old)}

And this is what I wore over it. I bought this coat on some stupid Black Friday sale or something, and it’s not the greatest, but I love the color and it was $30.  I cut the weird belt off of it, and it fits me better this year than it did last year, so even though it’s itchy and I wish the buttons were lower, I am glad to have it.  Pink and cheap and cute? It works.

 

 

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{Gap Ponte Knit Dress, Target belt, Old Navy Leggings, Frye Campus Boots}

This is the Gap dress that I wished had come in black, and now it does, of course. I can’t decide if I should get it in black as well. I sort of think no.  For one thing that seems sort of stupid, and secondly I feel like maybe the navy is just more interesting in the  midst of a sea of black shift dresses that I am sure to accumulate eventually.  I thought it would be hard to match with things but these boots and gray leggings seem to work perfectly well. Not sure it’s great enough on me to want another one.

Woah, that took a long time.  Off to trudge back through the rain to pick up Pants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books I Read In November

This was one of those months where at first I had all the time in the world and nothing to read and now I have all these books to read and no time, and every time I start a book I fall asleep two pages in.  I’m about three chapters in to a whole stack of stuff, which makes this list pretty boring, but nothing has really grabbed me yet so it’s been slow going. Anyway, here’s what I actually finished in November:

144. Black Fridays.  I enjoyed this. It was billed as one of the “big books of the year” and I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it was really good.  The tone of the book and the main character’s personality were what really made this book, the plot and the mystery angle of the whole thing was nothing very groundbreaking.

145. Sutton.  This is the fictionalized story of America’s most famous bank robber.  I enjoyed it and it was interesting, but I never could quite get past the reasoning given for why Sutton became and continued to be a bank robber. Lots of people don’t have jobs and can’t find work, they don’t all think it’s ok to rob banks because of those things. And the love story broke my heart at the end.

I also thought it was weird that one of the scenes so closely mimicked The Shawshank Redemption that one scene has to be borrowed from the other, but I couldn’t figure out via Google which came first.

146. Sweet Tooth.  This is the new book by Ian McEwan, who wrote Atonement, which I hated more than a lot of things I’ve hated in recent times. However, this book sounded interesting, and it was. I’m glad I read it, I liked it, but it did have a certain “british icky vibe especially about sex” vibe that I could have lived without.  The main character just kept sleeping with these duds and it was sort of…icky.  However, I found a great deal of redemption for the whole thing in the ending.

147. The Keeper of Lost Causes. I liked this. It was your average “quirky Swedish mystery” that we’re getting a lot of these days, but it was entertaining, and there weren’t any SSP’s*. I’d read another one.

148. Days of Blood and Starlight.  Man, this was a rough one, because I fricking LOVED Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but I bought this the day it came out (on my Kindle) and ugh. I thought it was fairly wretched, actually.  Just violent and pointless and long as hell and just really missing every single good part of the first book.  It felt HORRIBLY “middle book in a series so let’s stretch this out” and it just…uck.  I mean, if you look at those Amazon reviews, people loved it, but I thought it was awful. Just awful.

149. Son. I have to admit something here, which is that for ONE BILLION DOLLARS I couldn’t tell you ONE thing that happened in the Giver, or Gathering Blue, or the Messenger, so I think it’s safe to say that these books make a big impression on some people but I am not one of those people. Anyway, this  book was fine, I actually enjoyed the first part quite a bit but then it gets quickly into “ye olde time of dying fabric with ye olde plants which we boil in ye olde kettle” and that is not for me, so I am giving this a solid meh.

 

*Swedish Sex Perverts.

The Christmas Strategies

Laura’s post made me think that it might be time to review Elizabeth’s Christmas Gift Strategies for Maximum Non Insanity Especially if You Live In A Tiny House.  This is my patented tried and true method,  as someone who tends to both Go A Little Crazy At Christmas Time and is also Someone Who Very Easily Becomes Someone Who Wants to Go Away to a Desert Island for all of December and Pretend Christmas Doesn’t Exist.

1. Divide and Conquer:

a. I clean out the toy shelves (when my kids are asleep or else they FREAK OUT) and donate all the extraneous stuff sometime in November.

b. I know this makes me sound like a dick, but I open everything that comes into this house from someone else. Some of it I donate unopened. Some of it I save and put in stockings. Some of it goes under the tree to be opened Christmas Eve, and some of it I save out and give the kids on certain days on the advent calendar because no one cares about a book about trees on Christmas morning,  but it seems pretty fun when you open it on December 10th and then go on a family nature walk to look at trees.

c. I maximize the gift giving times so that the sheer volume of stuff can be spread out. I put “open a present early” on a few days on the advent calendar. I do a treasure hunt for a gift (also on the advent calendar.). We open family presents on Christmas Eve but Santa presents on Christmas morning. St. Nicholas brings presents on December 5th.  So it’s spread out as much as possible.

d. I try to reduce the amount of stuff that we personally buy for our kids to just the things I really want my kids to have that I know no one else will buy them, and through the magic of Amazon Prime I usually don’t buy those things until the week before Christmas.   I still buy them too much stuff because I am always worried that they won’t have enough presents, ridiculously, but I try to remind myself over and over that it’s ALWAYS too much stuff.

2. Good Stuff Goes In the Stockings. I used to buy all this stuff, wrap up EVERYTHING, and then put it under the tree.  Then I’d go buy MORE useless crap that no one really wanted at Cost Plus or Target a few days before Christmas and fill the stockings with that stuff. Now I try to save everything that would fit in a stocking for a stocking. I buy actual good presents OR things we just happen to need anyway, and those go in the stockings, so things like scarves, umbrellas, binoculars, pajamas, nice candy, band aids, commuter mugs, playing cards, stuff like that. No more junk in the stockings.

3. Adults Get Gifts Too. One year we did the whole “let’s not get each other anything” thing so we could shower our children with crap they didn’t need, and it was just depressing.  We do sometimes buy each other BIG things later on in the year instead of in the worst financial month ever, but we always get each other something, and not something crappy. For example this year I am getting boots from Mr. E, and something from the kids, and Mr. E is getting a coat from me and something from the kids.

4. Buy, Send, Done (Preferably Early, Rather Than Later). This is new to my gift giving philosophy, but it’s really helping this year so much.  Last year I found so many perfect presents that seemed too expensive. So instead I fretted and dithered and made lists and then bought other stuff, so much “not quite right” stuff, even, that I spent more than I would have had I just gone with my original, expensive idea. I am SUCH a bargain shopper but sometimes you just have to buy yourself a sense of peace.  That’s my Christmas gift to myself this year. So I find something, I send off $125 worth of beach towels, and then I don’t buy any more little stuff to patch in what I am worried is a crappy gift. I am DONE with the one thing.  I buy the one overpriced thing, even if I have to close my eyes while I push “Place Order”, and then I am DONE.

This is seriously the best thing I have done for myself in a long time. Buy, send, done. I am so close to being DONE with my shopping and now I feel like I can just exhale and enjoy Christmas for a change instead of fretting. I do almost all of my shopping online, I ship it straight to the recipient, and I don’t enter the mall, at all, ever, except for one fun day of shopping with Amy.

5. Less Is More. Last year I bought Eli a giant lollipop, bigger than his head.  He didn’t eat it.  I also bought him all manner of blinking flashing nonsense, and the only thing he really loved and that has stood the test of time is the bike he got from Santa.  So, that’s what I am focusing on this year.  Less junk, less over the top, less excess.  Just a few nice things, less batteries.

 

 

Advent Ideas

Once again this year we’re going to do the Advent Calendar, so I’m looking for activity ideas again.

I think this year Eli will be REALLY into it.  This is the first year that I am not able to wrap presents FOR him directly in front of him without him noticing, which means I think he’s finally kind of getting it. The challenge this year will be that all this holiday stuff is ramping him up to a state of insane over the top craziness, and that Katie can be…slightly annoying during some of these activities.  Lately their age difference has been a huge pain in the ass. I know eventually it won’t matter but right now it makes doing fun things with or for Eli really challenging.

Anyway, here’s my list. If you have any ideas, please let me know because I’d love to replace some of these with something less…work making for me. (These are not in calendar order.)

1. Unwrap a Christmas book. Already purchased, go me!

2. Leave shoes out for St. Nicholas. (He will bring pajamas, already purchased, (go me), and gold coins.) (I believe technically this is supposed to happen on the evening of December 5th.)

3. Buy and donate a gift to a child less fortunate.

4. Buy and wrap a present for Katie.

5. Make caramels. (This sounds like a terrible idea to do with a five year old, am I right? Eli really wants to do this though.)

6. Deliver neighbor gifts. (Cookies, lemons, and caramels)

7. Make snowflakes, stick them in the window.

8. Go see Santa.

9. Write a letter to Santa.

10. Have a candy cane hunt. (shamelessly stolen from Jen, this was a huge hit last year, although we were going to do it outside and then it rained or something and I just did it inside and it was still really fun.)

11. Have a Christmas treasure hunt. (I will hide something, probably a game, in the house somewhere and then leave clues leaving to clues, leaving to clues. You get the drift.)

12. Make a gingerbread house. (From a kit, obvs.)

13. Look at lights. (This is Christmas day night.)

14. Put up decorations. (This will probably be the first thing we do.)

15. Go on a nature hike and look for seasonal decor (like berries, pine cones, etc).

16. Buy a new ornament, go ice skating.

17. Make marshmallows.

18. Decorate cookies.

19. Watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas, drink hot chocolate out of my new Santa mugs which I am irrationally excited about.  This is the activity that I will romanticize in my head before hand and that will go horribly awry in every way conceivably possible culminating in one or more of us screaming that Christmas is canceled. Sounds fun, no?

20. Get a tree. Either at a Christmas tree farm or at Home Depot.

21. Decorate tree.

22. Do a root beer taste test. (This is predicated on the idea that I can buy individual bottles of different brands of root beer at Bev Mo. If this is not the case, please enlighten me.)

23. Plant an amaryllis bulb.

24. Watch the Nutcracker.

25. I need one more idea. However, I have this book on request at the library so I am hoping for good things. I shall report back.

Let’s Talk About My Living Room Some More

So, the living room actually has two distinct areas, which is part of what makes it so frustrating to furnish. There’s this little, corner, I guess? Right when you walk in. Right now this corner is where we have all the kids toys, which is an ok use of the space, but it means that the kids have a tiny little corner to play in and toys are always all over the place right when you walk in my house. Anyway, as soon as Katie is out of her crib, the giant IKEA toy shelf is going in the kids room.

Here is a terrible Iphone picture of the corner. That arch is the entrance to the dining room which means this little space isn’t useful for much of anything.

So, questions.  First, when did your (still napping) toddler transition to a twin bed? I can’t remember when Eli did it, but I am thinking right before Katie was born, so three ish. Sound about right? That’s when I’m planning on it, so that would be this summer.

Secondly, that space, confounding as it is, will probably become the desk area.  I am of two minds about how I’d like this to look. At first I pictured something fairly minimilist so the desk is not sticking out into the room any more than necessary. So maybe a shag rug, and then a long board, stained dark, attached to brackets running the length of the wall.  In my MIND, it looks really good. Something like this:

Or this

Source: cankulagi.com via Elizabeth on Pinterest

The main problem I see with this is that

1. I am worried it will look terrible and sort of…sterile? Or odd? or sort of…not like living roomy but more…I don’t even know.  Just strange, I guess, in my living room, and I am also not sure where Eli’s desk would go. I also don’t love the idea of sitting at a desk with my back to the living room, but I can’t see a way around that.

The other option would be something more like this.

 

At first I dismissed this sort of layout entirely but now that I see this picture, it’s really grown on me. It looks more “intentional furniture in a living room” somehow, and I could paint my desk grey really easily, since I am not that crazy about the color anyway. And then we could have my desk (a basic parson’s style just like this picture) and Eli’s desk next to each other.

Do you think this look is dependent entirely on having that sort of plush chair as a desk chair? I kind of think it might be. I am trying to dissect it so I know how to do it successfully. I think 1. gray parson’s desk 2. wall color 3. art or bulletin board 4. floating shelves with things on them 4. art to the side 5. upholstered chair 6. decorative items on shelves 7. light colored rug with tones of the wall color in it 8. bright colored file cabinet (I have that).

Opinions?

12 Months of House Projects

Usually at this time of year I like to make a giant list of house projects for the upcoming year, in any given year a dubious amount of them get done. This year I’m going to break it down by month  because somehow that seems easier.  Last year I spent most of my disposable income on myself while I lectured my living room about what it had done wrong, this year I finally cracked that code and so this is the Year of the Living Room.  Hold onto your pants. Or whatever.

January: Buy a coffee table with storage, put the trains in it. Replace the kitchen faucet. Install the ceiling medallions.

February (this is Eli’s birthday month so I try to avoid other large purchases): Buy a new rug for the toy area in the living room. Add IKEA butcher block to the small cabinet next to the stove. Replace the front door. (I’m going to do this with my tax return.)

March: Buy a new tv stand at Home Goods or Target and move the bookshelves next to it. Put the green light up in Eli’s room.

April: Get an estimate for adding the windows back to the living room. Repaint the back porch and the gate. Buy a potting table.

May: buy another chair for the living room. Repaint and poly the kitchen cabinets.

June: buy another mattress, move Katie Dubs into the trundle bed, move the toys into her room, move the desks where the toys are in the living room, install shoe molding and paint baseboards, patch the entryway floor. Plumb the refrigerator so it makes ice.

July: buy outdoor storage and a new umbrella. Put shutters on the front of the house.

August: buy a composter

September: fix the kitchen floor, add thresholds

October:  buy myself an overpriced purse

November: Get ready for Christmas

December: Have Christmas

My Favorite Gift Guide

One of my favorite projects of the whole year! (I know, I know, we made it almost until Thanksgiving, but people like to get started early on buying presents.)

Anyway, go check out the 2012 Style Lush Gift Guide. Almost everything on it is under $30 and you should totally go buy yourself something as a reward for all that pie baking you’re about to do.

And don’t forget the Food Lush Gift Guide, by the lovely and talented Caitlin.