Tag Archives: motherhood

All a woman needs to look great: some perspective.

15 Sep

Hedy Lamar was a celebrated Austrian-American actress whose career spanned 60 years and peaked during Hollywood’s “Golden Age” of the 1930’s and 1940’s. She appeared in more than 30 films during her lifetime, many of which were starring roles. She had some refreshingly outspoken views on feminine beauty:

“All a woman needs is a good bath, clean clothes, and for her to be combed. These things she can do herself. I very seldom go to the hairdresser, but when I do, I just marvel.”

– Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood screen siren of the 1930’s and 1940’s

Hedy-Lamarr-in hat

Another quote attributed to Ms Lamar: “Any girl can be glamorous. All you have to do is stand still and look stupid.”

Bravo. Makes me want to go see her in a movie .

(Incidentally, more quotations by Hedy can be found on her official web site.)

Here’s another beautiful photo of her:

Hedy Lamarr arms crossed

Hedy Lamarr was born “Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler” in Vienna, Austria, in 1914. Between 1933 and 1965, she appeared in 29 films, and also married (and divorced) 6 times. She had three children, one of which was adopted. She died in Orlando, Florida, in 2000. Her ashes were returned to Austria, Vienna upon her death.

Bathing Beauty

16 May

I’m digging through my shoe bin in search of my flip flops. That can only mean one thing – bathing suit season is coming!

Last year, it took me months to find a bathing suit I was truly happy with. I ended up with a Patagonia bikini and swim short which I still like, but this year, I am feeling like I could use a little more coverage in the mid section. So I geared up to search for a bathing suit with a tankini top, or possibly a one-piece. Expecting the search to be long and grueling, I was shocked when I  found a bathing suit that worked for me in the first store I tried.  Great fit – cute print – comfortable – and reasonably priced. Here it is. (Ta da!)

Title Nine "Impossible" Tankini

The Title Nine “Impossible” Tankini – the bathing suit that will carry me through summer. (Also comes in solid blue and other patterns)

The cut of the front offers plenty of support and coverage, and the pads add some shape without looking phony. I also love the tie closure in back, which is more comfortable than a halter (those hurt my neck after a while) and easy to adjust. Here’s a view of the back – even though I could tie the closure myself if I had to, it stays put way better than a regular string bikini, so I hardly ever need to. It also comes in a solid blue color.

Title Nine "Impossible" Tankini - adjustable back

The Title Nine “Impossible” Tankini

It must have been a lucky shopping day because on the same trip, I stumbled across this ultra comfortable top to match – I intended it as a coverup to match my bathing suit, but find myself reaching for it for everyday. Paired with a tank top and jeans, it’s the perfect weight for cool and sunny spring days.  I only spent 45 minutes shopping, but felt like I had seriously scored by the end of it.

Stripy Stretch Hoody from Title Nine

If you have a Title Nine store near you, I recommend starting there for your bathing suit shopping. If not, check out their web site or catalog – their returns policy is reasonable and they carry much more online than they do in the store. Their sizing is pretty straightforward (my real life size matches their sizing in bathing suits). Their stuff is geared toward active pursuits like sporting or adventure travel – which I think describes the average day of a mom with young kids. Their prints are fun and colorful, and their fit is made to stay put, which really makes a difference – even if we’re not surfing or playing beach volleyball like the toned and tanned models in the catalog, our bodies are in motion all day long. Whether it’s splashing the kids in the water, bending over to make sand castles, or lugging piles of beach toys to and from the car, we need all the cooperation we can get from our swimwear (even if we can’t get it from our kids).

UPDATE: As of 8/1/12, The items listed above are on sale at Titlenine.com – if you’ve been waiting for the prices to drop, now’s the time to act! (The hoodie is sold out in the color on this post, but there are other colors still available. The tankini comes in two other colors and all are still available.)

Go, Go, Pants

1 May

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an easy method for finding the items of “deadwood” in your closet. In the process, I uncovered a black pair of black skinny capris from Target, which hung in my closet unworn all of last summer, despite the fact that black pants should pretty much “go with everything.”  I found them quite by chance at Target for about $30 while picking up some plastic bins and Kleenex for the household. Score! I thought. At that price,  it wasn’t hard to spend another $30 on taking in the waist (something I have come to accept as a necessity with my body shape).

But, after coming home from the tailor, the pants sat in my closet. And sat, and sat. During my recent closet clean-out, I told myself it was because the fabric was too light for winter (Target pants are notoriously thin, in my experience). Then warmer weather started to appear, and I still passed them over. Using the hanger trick described in my recent post, I was confronted with the reality that I was resisting wearing these pants – they were the last pair to remain unworn. With an open mind, I chose a warm-ish day to put them on. After going through the day in them, I realized why I had been resisting wearing them. I just didn’t feel good wearing them.

It wasn’t the fit – I had them tailored to my exact body type. The fabric was cotton with a bit of stretch for ease of movement, and nothing was obviously itchy or uncomfortable. They were reasonably flattering. Still, I felt like I was trapped in them, and couldn’t wait to take them off. What went wrong between now and the fitting room at Target?

I had a careful look in the mirror and realized what it was. The closure loop at the waist was straining, making it look like my middle was bursting open. Because I had these pants tailored to my exact body type, and they didn’t feel gut-binding, I realized that they suffered from poor construction; the fabric was too lightweight to carry the strain of the closure, and the tab wanted to separate from the pants. Cheap pants! I cursed. Even though I could explain away the problem without blaming the size of my midsection, every time I looked down at my bursting closure, I got the feeling that my body was the source of the problem. Before Kids, I thought, these pants would not have given me a problem. 

{Now imagine me with a dark cloud hanging over my head.}

The Black Capri Pants Disaster

Disaster?

Well, there was just one thing to do about that. I only hesitated a moment before chucking them into the give-away pile. Yes, $60 is a lot to pay for a pair of pants you only wear once. But the money is spent, and now I have a choice to make. Berate myself every time I put them on for my thick middle, or make the problem go away.  Isn’t the choice pretty clear?  What would you tell your girlfriend to do? Battered women must choose whether to stay in an abusive relationship or cut bait.  Well, sister, we wouldn’t live with a man who insults your body type, so why should we put up with a pair of pants that does?

I am sure there’s another pair of black capri pants waiting for me that will love me more than those cheap old pants. Even if I was hoping the relationship would last longer, it’s always better to look ahead than try to put energy into a direction that has no future. The hardest thing, of course, is feeling the sting of my mistake, and admit that this love affair was over before it started. But that’s ok, nobody walks a straight path in life, we all make mistakes. Buying a bad pair of pants certainly doesn’t rate up there with running a ponzi scheme, or sailing an Italian pleasure boat too close to the shoreline.

Disaster!

Keeping my pants-buying failure in perspective, I put  the old (new) pants on the curb with the other Goodwill stuff, happily imagining someone out there getting a brand new pair of pants for cheap.

As for buying pants from Target – part of me says, Never again – My booty deserves better! Part of me can’t resist the temptation that I’ll find another good deal. I’ll definitely proceed more cautiously now, and perhaps opt for the casual pants with the elastic waist. (I have a $25 pair of baggy linen Merona pants from Target that have already lasted me for several years.)

So, there are two lessons here:

1) When shopping cheaply, it’s hard to go wrong buying pants that are styled like pajamas. For pants with a more tailored fit, it probably makes sense to shell out a bit more for a better quality product.

2) Never, ever, keep anything in your closet that causes a black cloud to appear over your head and follow you around wherever you go. Put that thing away at once. (In other words –  it’s not you, it’s the pants. It’s always the pants.)

My Closet, Reimagined

19 Apr

In my last post, I discovered that sometimes the stuff in my closet is not so old and boring after all, when combined in new ways. Here are a few more strategies I have been using to breathe new life into my wardrobe. I am using these pics to illustrate the point, but of course I only wish these were my clothes! They are street style shots photographed by Elle in Paris at Fashion Week and elsewhere. (If you click on the image, skip the Elle.com ad and go to the full slide show of photos for more inspiration.) The point is not to copy the look wholesale, but if you squint your eyes, maybe you can imagine your own version of these trends, using stuff that’s already hanging in your own closet.

Layering

layered-knits

Ordinary items can look very new again if combined artfully. Biker gloves and sequin pants don't have a place in my closet at the moment, but a little patent leather and a little sparkle never hurt an outfit that I know of.

Electric Color: I haven’t sprung for this much electric color at once, but I do have a few electric tank tops from the Gap that I am layering under other tops and showing just an edge of bright color.

Somehow this lady pulls off wearing electric blue pants with ease. If kids love bright colors, shouldn't we? What bright color are you going to try this season?

Another take on electric blue. The grey coat with soft texture really tones it down pleasantly.

White on Neutral: I’m pretty scared to white around my kids, but it makes sense to me if you’re going to wear it, wear it on top, out of reach of dirty hands. A clean white shirt feels so luxurious to me, I might just opt for that on me next date night.

all-white-ensemble photographed by Elle

Here's one way to wear white - multiple white layers, grey pants and a black accessory. (I love to imagine what shoes you could wear with this outfit- anything from Converse high tops to wedge boots would work.)

Color on Color: Our kids aren’t afraid of bright colors, whether painting with them, wearing them, or eating them. An outfit with a great combination of colors has instant appeal. When asking yourself if two colors look good together, I always go with my gut, even if the answer isn’t immediately obvious to others. After all, there’s no reason getting dressed shouldn’t be fun.

Is there such a thing as being too old to wear green nail polish?

Neon: There’s nothing like a pop-of-80’s-neon to liven up a neutral top and pant. I’ve seen neon on everything from T-shirts to shoelaces, but I use it sparingly because don’t like the color to be overpowering.  

A-pop-of-neon photographed by Elle at Fashion Week

One way to tone down a slightly garish pattern is to show just a peep of it. Also, a-pop-of-neon bag livens up a neutral top and pants.

Sweater with Bold Print: I don’t have a chunky sweater with stars on it, but this photo makes me wish I did.

Even the brown paper bag in the other hand can't take away from the freshness of this outfit. I love how the orange bag brings out the warm tones of the stars in her sweater. I also love the pairing of a**-kicking boots with a preppy tweed vest.

Easygoing Leather: It’s not cheap, but a good leather jacket can last for decades, and can take on a range of personalities. It’s warm too! I got one last year with simple styling, and I am not afraid of getting it dirty, because I can wipe it clean with a damp cloth. (And dark colors hide dirt well.)

Wait! Here's an outfit that I could actually imagine wearing as-is.

Boots with Skirts: Just a reminder that boots don’t just go with pants – I love boots so much they probably deserve their own blog post. I keep mine waterproof by taking it to the shoe place for waterproofing at the beginning and end of every rainy season. I don’t mind if my boots take a beating – unlike with more delicate shoes, it only adds to their character. (I do avoid suede boots for kid-related activities because they age less gracefully than standard leather.)

Boots with Skirt

Sometimes pairing opposites like clunky boots and delicate skirts can make for a fun contrast.

Just for Fun

Let's play dress up

I can't imagine what you could take away from this photo, other than, "Ouch, those shoes look like they hurt." On the other hand, my 3 year old daughter would love to play dress up with that skirt (which appears to come straight out of the remnant bin at Joanne Fabrics.)

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained: Not every outfit has staying power. This one should probably have stayed in the closet – though without taking risks, you might miss out on creating the outfits you end up loving the most!

Sarah-Rutson puffy vest

I was really glad to see the sporty puffer vest featured as a haute couture item on Elle.com - I pretty much live in mine, though I don't wear it with platform ankle boots and a trippy Native American long john pant.

Last Look: Are moms cool enough to pull this off?

Sandals with socks

The caption to this photo on Elle's site is "Keep your spring sandals in rotation year-round by pairing them with thin cashmere socks." My caption for moms (or anyone over 30) would be, "Don't try this look at home, because on anyone but hipsters in their 20s, this look is reminiscent of wearing socks with your Birkenstocks." (Then again, what do I know, I wasn't the one photographed for Elle.com, was I?)

Overall, I am impressed by how wearable these looks are by us regular folks on the street – putting aside the pricey handbags, on the whole they seem quite achievable with ordinary wardrobe items. There is very little fuss visible in putting these outfits together, especially considering these ladies are among the who’s-who of the fashion world. Rather than conforming to the latest trends, they look like they are having fun expressing themselves through clothes – which is really the point of all this, isn’t it?

Free closet help (really!)

16 Apr

I discovered a really cool closet trick that I’ve been meaning to post about, but I have had writers block from seeking an interesting way to introduce it. So, in order to get the idea up quickly, allow me to skip the intro and get right to the meat of the discovery. Maybe you will appreciate it on the day before income taxes are due – who couldn’t use a little closet help without spending more money.

The idea came from something I read online someplace (if I remember where, I will update this post with the credit) and it goes something like this:

It’s pretty clear that a closet cleared of clutter serves the owner much better than a closet full of unappealing or ill-fitting stuff. Yet, the problem is finding the time to get it organized.  Well, now you don’t have to set aside special time to do it, if you follow this handy little trick.

Image

After you wear something, hang it back up in your closet with the hanger backwards. Try to wear everything at least once, before wearing the items again with the hanger turned around already. After a few weeks, you will have identified the stuff that you’re not wearing, which you now need to take a closer look at.

The clothes that are left unworn will probably fit into these categories –

1) Don’t like anymore -> Get rid of it. Give away to charity, offer it to a friend, sell it, or go to a clothing exchange. (I always have a plastic bag in my closet that I am filling up with stuff to give away.)

2) Doesn’t fit -> If it can be fixed by tailoring, create a pile for “take to tailor”. Otherwise, let it go into the “get rid of” pile. (Caveat: If you are within one year of having given birth, cut yourself some slack, but put away what you’re not wearing and pull it out again in a few months. The point is to only leave stuff in your closet that you are actually wearing *now*).

3) Out of season -> Box up and put into the garage/ attic/ storage space until the weather changes.

4) Need something to wear with it -> Start a “wish list” of what item you are missing to go with it, whether it’s a matching top, bottom, shoes, belt or bra.  Keep the list somewhere in your closet with a pen nearby, so that you can add to it easily, as inspiration strikes. When filling in the gaps, shop your closet first, and encourage yourself to re-imagine wearing something with it that you already own. (Pick up a good fashion mag like InStyle or Elle for some inspiration about unexpected combinations that work, like below. I’m not saying you need to wear avant-garde runway looks to the playground, but don’t be afraid to go a little outside your comfort zone.)  And next time you go shopping, take your “wish list” with you.

Elle magazine spring collection

Check out a fashion mag like Elle magazine for inspiration; sometimes combining two patterns and textures can look fresh and inspired.

By sticking to this system for about three weeks, I freed up about half of my closet by putting away the stuff that was not being worn. After filling a large box with stuff for warmer weather, and another bag for give-away, I was looking at a closet full of stuff I could actually wear. Now, looking at my closet doesn’t start a panic attack – getting dressed is faster, feels better, and I can get creative with new combinations.

Street style photographed by Elle magazine

Orange and burgundy? Consider re-imagining color combinations in your wardrobe, in any way that feels right for you.

I haven’t applied the weeding out to the folded part of my closet, but I think the same technique should work, if I start with an empty drawer and only put the stuff I’ve worn in there, leaving the questionables behind to be sorted out.

Why I love this approach:

1) it points honestly to the “deadwood” in your closet – either it’s been worn or it hasn’t

2) it has inspired me to find ways to wear the stuff I was passing over before

3) it has caused me to feel grateful for the stuff I already own

4) I did this at my own pace and felt no time pressure to complete the task – you can take as much time as you need to get to the end result.

Because I stopped wearing the same three pairs of jeans every week, I got myself out of a fashion rut. I even got myself to wear a skirt, and realized with tights and boots on colder days, I really enjoyed it. When I found something missing a top or bottom to go with it, I reconsidered which colors and patterns could go together. You might be thinking “uh oh”, but it doesn’t mean you have to look like a kid dressing themselves for the first time.  Most moms I know (myself included) could stand a little kick of color in their wardrobe – and certain bright colors are very “now”. (Even neon and printed pants are making a comeback, with 1980’s flair, though I don’t think I am ready to go there just yet.)

Printed pants are making a comeback from the 80's

With all the 80's trends being revived lately, it was just a matter of time before pants with patterns made their comeback. I'm going to stay on the sidelines for that trend, at least for now. (Fashion week in Paris, 2012)

I am especially loving yellow, coral and turquoise, as a promise of the warmer, sunnier weather soon to come. And for the stuff I wasn’t wearing because I didn’t have the right shoes, I took the time to pull out all the shoes I had, and, looky here – I had forgotten about several pairs which actually filled the gap.

Next month, when Uncle Sam isn’t knocking on my door, looking to get paid, I may take my  own “wish list” and hit the stores. But then again, I am liking the challenge of trying to shop my own closet for everything I am missing – because I am convinced, as I let go of my own rules, I am bound to make even more new discoveries of what to wear inside my own closet. You might even say where creativity leads, inspiration follows. Or something like that.

A Warm Wind is Blowing (At Least in the Malls)

18 Mar

Just last week, I ate at a restaurant with Christmas decorations still up, and there was frozen grass on the morning walk to school not too long ago. But you’d never know it’s still winter by looking at the shop windows of clothing stores at the local mall.

Spring has sprung according to the retail merchandising calendar, and there are a few mom-compatible trends I want to try out for myself this season:

Nautical stripes

Splendid Navy Stripe crop

Nautical stripe looks fresh with lighter pants and layers well on colder days.

You can see them everywhere, on tops, tunics, and shift dresses. Remember the saying that horizontal stripes make you look fat? Not true. With a top that’s cut close to the body either at the waist or in the lower arm, and paired with slim pants, stripes can look light and fresh. You see them just about everywhere, from sweaters to t-shirts to tunics. I like the version with navy blue stripes on an off white (not bright white) background. Also, dense stripes can look busy, I tend to like a wider spacing to avoid giving myself a headache when looking in the mirror.

Above is a top I recently picked up at Anthropologie by Splendid tees. It costs more than I would have liked (over $50), but the cotton is silky soft,  and the cut is flattering and easy to wear; form fitting without binding, and falls below the hip. The stripe is a warm grey that is fun to coordinate with other neutrals. I have a feeling I am going to be living in this shirt well through the summer.

After feeling how comfy that Splendid top was, I got more interested in that brand. Turns out it’s a company dedicated to stylish, casual, nubby t-shirts! If only their prices were a bit lower. (Don’t you just want to dive your face into the closet below?)

Splendid Fabrics

"Yummy Fabric & Color" according to Splendid.

Wedge heel shoes

I get a boost in height and and add a fun accent to a plain outfit with wedge heels. I wouldn’t run after my toddler in them, but if I am going to wear heels, these are probably the most comfortable way to do it. I also like that they convey a laid-back bohemian chic, a reminder of old, carefree days of kicking around town in style before kids. Here are my favorite wedge heel looks – waiting for the sale on these though:

Awesome suede bootie by JCrew:

Wedge heel bootie by J Crew

My favorite shoe trend this spring: the wedge heel (it's everywhere)

I also love the espadrille version by Toms:

The wedge heel espadrille by Toms

In case you’ve never heard of Toms, it’s a shoe company that promises to give one pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of shoes they sell. The shoes are simply made, but comfy, and their social mission means you see their flats on 20-something feet everywhere. (Did I mention they also have toddler and kids sizes?) If you want to try them on, stop by Nordstroms, which carries them in several colors. I can’t see myself wearing a heel this high every day, but definitely appealing for dinner out or date night.

The Shirt Dress

This trend takes the crisp tailoring of a collared mens shirt and extends the length to become a dress. Hey, the chance to wear a collared shirt, with no office in sight – there’s something very appealing about that. Plus, the length is very flattering for all body types. I would opt to wear the shirt dress with cropped leggings or skinny jeans rather than bare legged, for the sake of modesty. (Short skirts and childcare don’t mix well, in my opinion.)  For going out to dinner on a breezy summer evening, I would go with sandals and bare legs. Either way, a belt adds definition at the waist and keeps it from looking like you raided your husband’s pajama drawer.

I first noticed this look on Rachel Mc Adams who appeared in the recent Woody Allen film “Midnight in Paris” as an American tourist abroad. (Fun movie, by the way, if you haven’t seen it yet.) I couldn’t find a good image of the outfit online, but as it turns out, a web site has created the knockoff look:

Midnight In Paris Outfit

The shirt dress looks great with a belt, and, look - there's that wedge heel again!

I do have a few reservations about the dress shirt. For one, where do you get a reasonably priced version that’s easy to maintain? J. Crew had one in the store the other day for $100+, which I can’t even consider it until it goes on sale. (Other than jeans, I don’t pay more than $100 for anything I wear around my children for fear of their greasy fingers. I have several pairs of pants with greasy stains in the lap; since they otherwise work well and fit great, I just go around with permanent grease stains on my pants.)

Then there’s the question of how to keep that collar looking crisp and fresh. It goes without saying that I am unwilling to wear anything that needs ironing or a run to the dry cleaners. (I don’t even know where my ironing board is! Do we still own one?)  If only J. Crew married the Land’s End wrinkle-free technology and came out with a no-iron shirtdress. Their current selection is made of conventional cotton poplin, dress-shirt material, which is going to need ironing. Here’s a real opportunity for moms to look polished without much extra effort – Land’s End, are you listening?

Lands End carries a few shirt dresses at reasonable prices - but until they come in wrinkle-resistant fabric, this look is really not mom-friendly.

After a bout of cold weather, the weather turned warm last weekend, and we went to the beach in Capitola. It was really nice to lay face down on a beach blanket and feel sun on the underside of my bare feet.  I’ll take a real spring day on the beach over a fake spring day in the mall any day.  After all, the clothes and sales will wait for me, but my kids seem to wake up a little bit taller every day.  A day spent digging the world’s deepest sand tunnel under a warm, cloudless sky is far more precious than trying on one more pair of shoes in the mall.

I Am Sparkle Princess

3 Mar

I am sure anyone reading this post has noticed that metallic shoes are “in” right now, in shades of silver, gold, copper, etc. When this trend first appeared a few seasons ago, I rolled my eyes and avoided it, as it reminded me too much of Vegas, or else of country club ladies who lunch with little fluffy dogs in their lap.

Metallic Pump

I can't decide who is likelier to wear a shoe like this: Cinderella, or a Vegas Showgirl?

Recently, though, I have started to come around to the playful side of metallic, thanks to my 3-year old daughter. She fell in love with a silver pair of Mary Janes and wore them into the ground (no thanks to Old Navy quality, which didn’t even last long enough for her to outgrow them). The point is that she enjoys feeling fancy and is not shy to show them off to visitors or to checkout clerks in the grocery store. She loves her princess shoes, and fully expects others to love them as she does. She simply loves the way she looks in them, without any self-consciousness.

Watching her shamelessly pointing out her beautiful shoes to strangers, it became clear to me that even though I don’t plan to wear a tutu skirt in public anytime soon, her attitude is a path to freedom for me and moms everywhere.  I realized that dressing up for her and for adults is not that different. She is channeling her inner fairy princess, and I am channeling my inner carefree bohemian urbanite, even though my real life bears very little resemblance to the person I dress up as on some days. (Case in point: sometimes my day includes chasing a runaway turd escaping from a diaper.)

Sorry for that reference. I hope you’re not reading this while eating lunch. Anyway, at a recent Macy’s sale I came across a pair of greyish-copper flats by Clarks (below). Shelving my own prejudices for the moment, I tried them on, and discovered they had a very comfortable sole. Sold! With a skirt, they look dainty and feminine, and with jeans, they add some casual chic. And for about $45, they were a no-brainer even if I get tired of them by the end of summer. Suddenly I belong to an unspoken sisterhood with other wearers of metallic shoes. Although I don’t call attention to my shoes in the checkout line of the grocery store. I wait for the sisterhood to notice my shoes and pay a compliment. 😉

Clarks Metallic Flats

Ok, I confess: Sometimes, I enjoy wearing sparkly shoes like my 3-year old daughter.

I think the key to wearing metallic is to have fun with it, and only wear it if the look tickles your fancy. To avoid looking like you came from a princess dress-up party, avoid wearing too much sparkle at once (I would avoid a matching handbag or a belt, or too much bling elsewhere, for example). Though of course, don’t expect your daughter to respect this rule. As you probably know, there there is no such thing as “too much sparkle” for any girl under 10 years old.

Just as I am finishing this post, the weather is turning sunny and warm in Northern California, with daffodils busting out of the ground everywhere. I guess it’s pretty clear that I should finally put away the Christmas decor this weekend. On the other hand, if the weather is good, forget tidying up the house – we’re taking the family to the beach. If no one in my house has noticed that the Christmas decorations are still up past Valentines Day, they probably won’t say anything if they make it to St Patrick’s Day either.

___

Worth mentioning: The products and companies I am featuring in this post are of my own choosing – I have no relationships with the companies or products that I spotlight.  If that ever changes, I’ll be sure to post a disclaimer to that effect.  It’s not that I have anything against receiving products to review – it would enable me to give more firsthand performance reviews. After all, there are only so many pairs of metallic shoes a woman can justify to her skeptical husband. 🙂

Grocery Shopping with Kids (Funny Reblog)

29 Feb

I am working on a post for the end of this week, but meanwhile, I ran across this post from another mom-blogger which is short and sure to bring a smile to your face. Enjoy!

Sally

http://play101.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/grocery-shopping-with-kids/

Cooking blogs focused on enjoyment of food, Northern California style

23 Jan

Ok, this isn’t exactly about what to wear, but the recent news about Paula Deen (the southern-cooking host who recently fessed up to having diabetes) probably has many of us asking ourselves how our food choices impact our health, if not our appearance.  After the new year, I am feeling my pants fitting a bit tighter after all those holiday sweets. So I went on the search for some inspiration in the kitchen, with health and enjoyment at the top of  my mind. The last thing I want to do is follow a fad diet, count calories or cut out entire categories of food that I love (I can do without deep-fried cheesecake, but not my crusty bread!). Here is a blog by a Bay Area mom focusing on the preparation of wholesome, delicious of food. I love her philosophy:

My food philosophy

Eat really good food. And enjoy every bite. Eat fresh food. Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh meats and fresh baked breads. Eat local foods, in as many places as you can. Eat shortbread in Scotland, eat croissants and drink coffee in Paris, …. eat artichokes in California, eat steak in Texas. You get the idea :)

Throw out all that low-fat, and “light” stuff you have at home. It tastes awful! Eat less of the real stuff and I promise you’ll be glad you did. Don’t even walk down the canned food aisle in the grocery store. Again, it tastes awful. And please…don’t eat any more fast food. Blech! Nothing good comes from there, no matter what their current advertising tells you.

Think about what you eat in a day…how much fruit did you eat today? How many veggies? Focus on real, fresh food and the calories and fat won’t need to be counted as much.”

Visit her blog at

http://whatskpcooking.com/about/

Here are a few more gems from my sister-in-law, who is a professional chef and has her finger on the pulse of food culture in the Bay Area and beyond. I raided her favorite bookmarks to share with you. Even if I never cook a single thing off these pages, I will visit for inspiration from the photos alone – they make me never want to settle for anything other than eat fresh, wonderful and nourishing food.  Sure, there will still be Kraft Mac and Cheese on our table occasionally, but it’s fun to imagine other possibilities, especially when we in the Bay Area live within so many great sources of local food. Here are her online favorites and comments:

http://101cookbooks.com :My friend Heidi, author of “Super Natural Cooking” and “Super Natural Everyday;” great photography and a focus on great, seasonal ingredients.
http://honest-food.net/ :Hunter Angler Gardener Cook: Hank Shaw is amazing.
http://orangette.blogspot.com/ Molly Wizenberg is a pastry chef, but also posts some savory things and travel photography.
http://smittenkitchen.com/:A NYC home cook’s very nice, inspiring blog. I love her blood orange olive oIl cake.
http://chocolateandzucchini.com/ :Clotilde Dusoulier, from Paris
http://thedinnerfiles.com :Molly Watson, here in San Francisco. “

Thanks, Jennifer! I’ll continue to update this post as I run across more inspiring food blogs, from the practical to the sublime. Please feel free to share your own favorites in the comments section!

Discovering the Upscale T-shirt

25 Jul

I’ve been shopping at Target, Gap, and Old Navy for t-shirts for as long as I can remember. Why not – they are conveniently located, cheap, and when I see a color in a style that I like, I don’t think too hard about buying it. I wear it to bed, to the gym, and around town. It’s a no-brainer wardrobe item in the morning – paired with jeans and a hoodie or cardigan, it makes getting dressed effortless.

gap favorite tshirt

Gap's Favorite T-shirt is an economical and reliable layering piece. Yawn.

So what’s the problem? Well, the plain t-shirt is a bit like eating popcorn for lunch. It’s not that it’s bad for you, but if consumed in excess, it doesn’t leave room for more satisfying options. That’s how I recently found myself in a t-shirt fashion rut.

Seeking inspiration, I recently wandered into a boutique in downtown Palo Alto, enigmatically named GV, which keeps irregular store hours but carries a wonderfully edited selection of fashionable clothes sourced mostly from Paris and LA. Golrukh, the store’s owner and sole staffer, prides herself on scouring the fashion trade shows to bring her clients the freshest looks every season.  The store has the intimate feel of a Parisian clothing atelier – dimly lit, with just a little bit of this and that, from casual to evening wear, complete with a tasteful display of high-end underwear. The salesperson is tactful and attentive. Although I enjoyed looking at myself in the mirror wearing $180 haute couture jeans, strategically ripped and distressed, I passed on them after remembering that just about every pair of jeans I own are already stained or otherwise compromised by the demands of motherhood. After a few suggestions from Golrukh, though, I did fall in love with an $80 long sleeve cotton tunic by Nation Ltd.

nation ltd white tunic

In search of a more stylish alternative to t-shirt dressing, I paid $80 for a comfy, well-cut cotton tunic.

The irony of paying $80 for a t-shirt, after I had come into the store looking for a t-shirt alternative, does not escape me. So what gives? Well, these shirts have several upgrades from the basic model:

Feel: the light, gauzy all-cotton fabric is welcoming from the moment I put it on – it feels like something I could live in around the clock (although I don’t, to preserve its life span).

Cut: this top sits snugly below the hip, allowing ease of movement without looking baggy. The neckline is generous enough to flatter the neck and collarbone without being too baggy. It can be worn loose or belted.

Texture: the “burnout” semi-sheer fabric feels airy and feminine, and has more visual depth than solid cotton.

Color: I sprung for the shirt in white, as well as a shade of regal turquoise that makes my skin glow.

Golrukh is a great sales person. When she saw my hesitation with the price tag, she pointed out that a lot of busy moms choose these tops because “it’s the shirt you’ll wear day after day”. So far, she has been right – I reach for it every chance I get, especially the one in turquoise. (I am still afraid to wear white for anything but occasions that exclude children, but at least I know I have at least one clean white shirt in the closet when such an occasion arises.)

Golrukh also left me with a valuable bit of advice, worth passing along: even though these shirts are more expensive than the stuff you normally wear, she says, “Don’t save them for a special occasion. Wear them. Don’t worry if they cost a little more. Just wear them.” I thought about that, and decided to agree with her – it does not make sense to buy clothes you love, only to put them away in the closet waiting for that special occasion that happens all too rarely. So I decided to treat myself to a little everyday luxury in the form of an $80 t-shirt.

And has the theory proven out, do my $80 t-shirt days feel a little more special? Was it worth blowing my month’s clothing budget in a single shot? In a small way, yes – on my fancy t-shirt days, I pause to think about what shoes or pants to pair with the top, rather than picking up yesterday’s pants off the floor like a college student. The opportunity to wear a belt opens up fun possibilities as well. I treat my $80 t-shirt with extra love – I don’t put it in the dryer, and I try to hang it instead of stuffing it on the shelf with my other low-brow t-shirts. It feels good to wear something that has been well taken care of.

Despite all this devotion, it’s showing signs of wear – perhaps because the material is less beefy than a standard t-shirt, and perhaps because designers, like the Maytag man, don’t want their wares to last forever, to bring you back to the store to buy some more. And because the glow is fading, this love affair has a finite life span, limited by the power of the shirt to continue looking fabulous in the face of a full toddler assault. I am glad I turned the flirtation in the dressing room to a full-fledged fling, but it’s not going to last. When the sleeve finally snags on a tree branch, or my lap lands a stain that just won’t budge, the magic will be gone, and I will return to my stack of tried and true Target t-shirts. I will fondly remember my days with the $80 t-shirt, but when it’s time to update my wardrobe again, I’ll check Target and Gap first – chances are, a few seasons from now, they’ll have a pretty darn good knock-off.

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