Thursday, October 28, 2010

Messing Up ... In Public

I messed up. It provoked interesting discussion on the forum yesterday. People overwhelmingly told me to return the dresses, and to stick by the rules. I get that. So I scuttled around to shops, returning dresses. (I had bought two more to try, in addition to those I posted, with the intention of finding one that would be right). I knew those were going back, so didn't bother to post them.

Dress #3: bubble skirt dress by MK, from Bloomingdale's: gorgeous but too tweedy for the party:

Dress #4: tweedy sequined sheath by MK, from Nordstrom. Fab but too holiday-ish for the party:

The zippered MK dress, above, is different. It seems silly to send it back and then re-purchase it in January, if I can. It fills a huge wardrobe hole and is perfect for my hairstyle and figure. I realize that this is justification and sounds lame. The honest truth is that the dress came from Zappos and is sitting in its box. It may or may not ever make it to the post office.

I consider spending $150 on clothes since July 17 to be pretty darned good. But I am not holding to the rules I set for myself, and I get that. People want to see me actually do it. They want to live vicariously through me, even if they are not managing to do it themselves. It feels like I'm on display, and that's not comfortable this week.

SYC hasn't bothered me too much until this week. I had fun decorating my house (more to do, waiting for further budget!), borrowing from friends, shopping my own closet. It was a relief to stop shopping for a while. But this week, it is driving me stark raving mad!!

Today, I'll go and shop my girlfriend's closet for a dress for Friday. It will be fun, and doing this makes me feel I'm fulfilling one of the goals of SYC. More tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Resisting Temptation. Or Not.

I am going to a party on Friday night and the theme is orange and black. My friend and I decided to wear little black dresses, tall black heeled boots and orange wigs. Lovely, right?? (The wigs arrived yesterday and I've never seen anything quite this shade of orange in my life! Totally unnatural and wrong!).

Given my world-renowned dress collection, it's hard to believe that I don't own a little black dress. I don't. But I do have a black pencil skirt and could rustle up some sort of top - so it's not like I'd have to show up naked. But I caved and ordered two little black dresses.

* Full disclosure: To my credit, I am borrowing the tall black boots from my girlfriend. Yay, Laura.

This week has been full of temptations. Thankfully Kristen (hi Kristen!) helped me resist a pair of over the knee Stuart Weitzman boots on sale at Nordstrom Rack's new website. What was I doing looking at Nordstrom Rack's new website? Good question!

Now the debate for myself is whether I buy a dress and break SYC, or not. Although I'd love to wear one of the dresses and not tell anyone (bad Laura!), I decided to 'fess up and put the question to all of you. I am 100% convinced you will tell me to return the dresses, which is not what I want to hear but I will accept it. What would it mean to buy a dress right now? You decide.

This weekend, I will post my party outfit ...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bringing back the 90s, one loafer at a time

We had a blast over at YLF last week, gabbing about the 90s, and the resurgence of 90s trends. My most beloved 90s items were low, chunky-heeled loafers with square toes. And although I've ditched most of my black-rutting clothing items from that era, I never parted with the loafers. So, with Angie's blessing, I challenged myself to try them in an outfit, before the weather gets too cold -- an extension of the Shop Your Closet, closet orphan challenge.

These chestnut-colored loafers are from a former fab label, Patrick Cox Wannabe.

And these black, pilgrim-esque loafers from Gucci are the ones I chose to wear today:

A girlfriend and I were obsessed with Gucci loafers at the time. I saved for months and months to buy these. And I still have them, 15 years later. Another testament to quality over quantity (note to self!).

On another note, thought I'd do a "what I wore" for a wedding we went to yesterday. This Marc Jacobs dress was a sale purchase last winter, and I paired it with opaque tights, and in the spirit of the 90s, platform pumps with square toes (yes they are vintage 90s). Not sure if I love how opaque I am from the knees down, and would love to hear what you think. These shoes are from the heyday of Joan and David, when they had a very luxe line. Again, pricey at the time, and again - worth saving.

Detail of neckline:

It's an interesting experience to go vintage shopping in your own closet! Another benefit of age, LOL. Hope you all had a good weekend!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Closet Orphan Challenge

Kristen over at issued a challenge this week to SYCers. The challenge? Pull one orphaned item of clothing from the back of your closet each day, and wear it in a new way.

My first instinct was to duck my head or look distractedly out the window. No, no, tempting as that was, I instead raised my hand and volunteered.

Here's my first attempt. The closet orphan du jour is the wine-colored blouse. It's got puffy sleeves and a ruffled placket and banded waist. I bought it two years ago, wore it quite a bit, and then ... well, let's just say I'm not sure if I wore it at all last fall. Usually I wore it with bootcut jeans and a black moto jacket. Today, I tried to breathe new life into the blouse by pairing it with olive green skinny cargoes, bronze Me Too wedges, and a black moto vest. Not sure what I thought. It is a pretty dark outfit ... a denim vest would have been fab too. I tried it with my Hinge denim vest, but that vest was too light and summery looking.

And now, a bonus What I Wore, to teach Sunday School to 15 little kids who looked up at me expectantly and called me "Mrs. T."! Dress by Max Studio, Mary Jane pumps from Clarks. I LOVE this dress with capital

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What I Wore: Weekend Edition

Confession: without new items to perk me up, I've gotten really lazy in the style department. So I did another "what I wore" this weekend to keep me on the straight and narrow. I am really loving the combination of grey and yellow, which has been around for a couple of years now.

JCrew cashmere shawl collar cardi, JCrew ruffled tank, JCrew grey and gold and pearl necklace, David Kahn skinnies (well, two seasons ago they were skinnies ... now they are merely straight legs in comparison with how skinny skinnies have become!), Clarks grey Mary Jane pumps with brown trim, mustard handbag, Club Monaco.

Then, I added a scarf - because it was only 65 degrees!

Yesterday, my husband I and were working on the budget (we got some software especially for this torturous purpose), and while the good news was that I spent nothing on clothes this month, the bad news is that I more than made up for it in home furnishings. Ugh! And I still need a rug for the master bedroom ... and for the living room ... and there's that sofa we don't have ... it never ends!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fashion Friday - and a Room Redecorating Project

Hi Everyone!
Here's what I'm wearing today. It's an outfit I posted on YLF two years ago, with a white ruffled shirt and a lightweight wool cowlneck over it - both from Club Monaco. Add a pair of David Kahn bootcuts and a LAMB handbag and I'm good to go. Neutral? Yes. The only color is cobalt, on the handbag. I've been in a neutral mood lately!

In other news, I've completed the Guest Room Project, which took on epic proportions as I moved my husband's home office into my (ahem, our) office space on the main floor. It's a small bedroom, and it was trying to be both a guest room and a home office - a room serving two purposes never works! Lesson learned.

Room before, as it was being disassembled:

Room after:

MUCH more girly and romantic than any other room in our house! Is this is what happens when you live with three males?

Have a good weekend, everyone. SYC Week 8 starts Monday!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My New Normal

It's been 43 days on Shop Your Closet, and I've made the shift. There's supposedly some period of time - is it three weeks, is it four days? - to create a new habit. Well, my old habit went out the door pretty quickly and my new habit became reality faster than I thought possible. Shopping was such a habit! Just the fact of always looking for something. Only in retrospect do I realize how time-consuming it was. When SYC ends, this is a lesson I will not forget.

What Shop Your Closet has done for me so far (and I still have a LONG way to go to Dec. 31) is to free up huge amounts of time and energy. I made space in my life and have been amazed at what has stepped in! It's almost like these things were waiting outside the closet door, patiently, for me to clear out the clutter so they could come in and live with me. They are richer than any shopping experience. They are ideas for books I'm working on, job opportunities, amazing novels, home projects that are making our house feel wonderful, and friendships. So many wonderful things have rushed in to take shopping's place. My only regret is that shopping kept these gifts at bay for so long.

When SYC started, I imagined five months of constant struggle to avoid buying this item, or that. SYC hasn't been like that at all. I do miss shopping, and the fun of running around the mall with a friend, seeing what's new. But I don't miss buying. I haven't seen one piece that would make me leave SYC. I also haven't looked at shopping websites or gone into stores that might tempt me, and in this case, ignorance is definitely bliss. Maybe it's because, compared to others, I have much more in my closet already, and so many things that could be tempting would actually be duplicates.

SYC came at the right time in my life, when I was absolutely READY. It hasn't been a sacrifice - it's a gift.

Monday, September 6, 2010

What I Wore ... Labor Day Edition

Happy relaxing Monday morning to you all.

Before I pop over to check out the new, here's what I wore to go to the farmer's market on Saturday. There was a chill in the air, and the first honeycrisp apples from Michigan were in!

The skinny cargoes are from Banana Republic and are YEARS old. I mean, probably four or five years old. I've always loved them. The gods of fashion trends smiled at me this season by suddenly deeming them "in." I paired them with a grey long-sleeved t-shirt from Lands' End, a Levi's denim jacket, and the famous NAS scarf. You'll notice I am NOT carrying a matching lime-green LAMB handbag :) Actually I brought out an old Coach hobo that has brass rivets - just the right style to match my Frye harness boots.

Happy Labor Day!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Redirecting My Inner Two-Year-Old

One month into Shop Your Closet and I'm hitting a wall. My inner two-year-old has thrown herself on the floor and is kicking her legs in the air, screaming and red-faced with rage.

I need to redirect her so she doesn't draw all over the walls with a big black Sharpie.

On the flip side, the "nothing from a bag or box" eating shift (because it is NOT a diet) is working. Each day, usually in the afternoon, I find myself opening pantry and refrigerator doors and staring inside, itching for something, anything. That's when I ask myself "are you really hungry, or are you bored, or tired, or thirsty?" and listen to the answer. So far I have walked away. That moment is not easy.

The wonderful thing so far, about the eating, is how much room there is for actual meals, and for good food, when you aren't eating junk. It's so freeing. Yesterday, I made a batch of cookies from scratch and ate one guilt-free. Now, *that* was a moment.

Excuse me, now, while I go put my inner two-year-old in a time out. When her two minutes are done, maybe she can have a cookie.

Four. More. LONG. Months.

Last night was supposed to be the meeting of my writers' group, but at the last minute no one but me could make it. I'd been with my kids all day and even survived a four-year-old playdate at our house (although my house didn't survive quite as well. You should see the carnage of Batman action figures and fire trucks strewn everywhere). I'd been counting on getting out that night for a mental break. So I called a friend to go have a glass of wine. She couldn't go. She suggested, "Why don't you go to the mall? Oh wait. No. Don't go to the mall."

But I did - just to get out of the house. I wandered the home stores. Restoration Hardware. Anthropologie. Macy's and Bloomie's. I didn't even look at clothes. What's the point? But the whole experience was a downer. I haven't been to the mall since Aug. 1. I probably won't go again. Shopping as a fun, social experience, a way to get out and relax, is not part of my lifestyle right now. That's a tough revelation to have. First, it's a little scary to realize that shopping was that kind of outlet in the first place. And second, it's tough to know that the outlet is now gone.

Over at YLF, they're talking about AT Loft looking great this fall. No AT Loft for me :( It's only been one month, there are four left, and I have no idea how I'm going to make it.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Decluttering Your Diet

Turns out I'm not the first person to link diet and clutter. Check out the story below.

Control the Chaos
Article By: Peter Walsh

Closets overflowing? Kitchen cabinets bursting? Getting a handle on clutter is the key to living better — and losing more.

The connection between clutter and weight didn’t occur to me overnight. About five years ago I became the organizational expert on TLC’s Clean Sweep. The premise was simple: We had two days to help a family dig out from under their overwhelming clutter. As I helped families begin to organize their homes, I discovered an unexpected side effect. The link that I had long suspected but only dimly glimpsed became obvious through their experiences.

I was inundated with real examples of the impact that clutter has on all areas of one’s life — especially weight.

They’re not very different — clutter and fat. I see it. I want it. I’ll have it. In our society, consumption is king.

We spend too much, we buy too much, and we eat too much. In the same way we surround ourselves with so much clutter, we overwhelm our bodies with caloric clutter. Almost all of us are carrying extra pounds that we just can’t seem to shake.

The stuff in our homes becomes too much to deal with, but we keep shopping. Similarly, the increasing weight of our bodies becomes more than we are able to handle, but we keep indulging.

So how do you stop the cycle? You need to recognize that your choices have consequences. Every time you pull out your credit card to buy another pair of shoes, you’re making a choice to add to your clutter. Every time you take a bite, you are choosing to bring that piece of food into your body and adding to your weight problem.

Keep this in mind: Every roll of fat on your body came from something you chose to put into your mouth. And every pound that slips away is the result of a decision you made. Before you take control, you need to understand emotional clutter and physical clutter (see the Decode Your Clutter box below). Most people have at least some of both, and it’s no easy task to get a handle on either. We have broken the task into two phases to show how to clear that clutter from your life. It sounds easy, but it takes forethought and commitment. Here’s how to get started:

Phase 1: Declutter your mind
If you acknowledge your emotional clutter (the unhealthy habits that lead you to overeat) and find ways to deal with it, the weight will fall away. But as soon as you let your emotions — be they depression, anger, or joy — make your eating decisions for you, the weight will creep on. Do some personal spring cleaning to break the habits that steer you in the wrong direction. Use this checklist to get started. Post it on your fridge or carry a copy in your purse.

1. Do a reality check: The fat didn’t appear overnight and won’t disappear overnight.

2. Imagine the life and body you want and hold that idea in your mind; refer to that mental image when you’re swayed by unhealthy foods.

3. Organize where, how, and what you eat—it’s the first step toward achieving your ideal body. Take time to plan out your meals.

4. Determine what your goal is for your body (to fit into your favorite pair of jeans or to be able to run a mile, for example). If a food doesn’t help in your efforts toward achieving that goal, don’t eat it.

5. Live in the present, not the past or the future. If you’re eating for emotional reasons, home in on why. Anger? Despair? Fear?

6. Make mindful eating a way of life. If you don’t, the fat will creep back on. Celebrate every meal; it will remind you of the great things a meal provides, beyond food.

Phase 2: Declutter your kitchen
An organized kitchen leads to less eating out, which in turn means better nutrition, less money spent on food, and more family together time. But a clutter-free kitchen goes far beyond cleaning cabinets. It has to do with how you shop and the decisions you make. Like the boxes of stuff filling your basement, clutter foods waste space. Take care that you’re not falling into these traps when stocking your kitchen:

The identity crisis trap
These are foods that you keep with the hope that you’ll magically turn into a person you’re not. You’ve got tins of cocoa powder, bags of semisweet chocolate chips, and bottles of vanilla extract in your pantry, but you never bake. Or a cupboard full of gourmet spices despite the fact that you’re a frozen-food junkie. I’m all for experimentation, but if you’re never going to canoe down the Rio Grande, there’s no point in storing that boat in your garage.

The hostess trap
You read somewhere that every good hostess has a few key items on hand for spontaneous entertaining. So you went out and bought a jar of olives, several boxes of crackers, and various other obscure pantry items. It felt good to know that if you ran into someone on the street, you could say, “Come on in for a glass of wine.” You were so organized and ready! Well, that was four years ago — and those party snacks are cluttering your cupboards.

The secret stash trap
Do you eat healthy meals but keep junk food in your pantry? “I don’t eat the potato chips — I just like knowing they’re there,” you might say. You rationalize that it makes you feel good to know that the pantry is stocked — on the off-chance that you will suffer a major craving and need a salty snack. But those chips are deceiving you. They’re there to be eaten. And they’ll call your name next time you’re disorganized and in search of an easy fix. Now there’s plenty of room to fill those cupboards with healthy staples. You’ll see — organization is the key to weight-loss success!

Decode Your Clutter
You have physical clutter if ...
Mail, clothes, and books pile up in your home. They can take on a life of their own, suffocating your healthy habits and weight-loss goals. For example, your
• kitchen table is covered with mail, so you don’t eat there

• counters are too messy for meal prep

• closet is full of clothes that don’t fit You have emotional clutter if ...
Your unhealthy eating habits are often tied to certain emotional triggers. For example, you eat because you want to
• reward yourself for an achievement, such as a promotion

• make yourself feel better after a tough day at work

• get instant gratification

*Excerpted from Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? By Peter Walsh. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2008 issue of Weight Watchers Magazine.

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day One of the Whole Foods Project: A Quick Check-In

Hi ladies! Thanks for all the encouragement on the "reforming the diet" plan. I loved the comments over at and will definitely look into Mark Bittman, Jean. Thank you!

Today was Day One and it started with a trip to Whole Foods. A quarter watermelon, two cantalope, white nectarines, turnips, parsnips, beets, rutabaga, roasting chicken, a loaf of good bread from their bakery sliced for sandwiches, turkey (from an actual turkey breast), and some grilled veggies from the deli (insanely expensive - won't do that again!!). Here was my menu today:

Breakfast - one slice Ezekiel bread, one slice mozzarella, toasted. Coffee and half and half.

Snack - banana

Lunch - grilled veggies over brown rice (you can get delish microwaveable frozen brown rice at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's), individual container of Emmi raspberry yogurt (from Switzerland - divine)

Snack - watermelon

Dinner - salad greens, can of Cento Spanish tuna, canned corn, balsamic vinegar

Everything I ate was scrumptious. The canned tuna from Spain is expensive but tastes incredible. The balsamic was high-quality from Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. The yogurt? You have to try Emmi! It comes in grown-up flavors like apricot and pink grapefruit.

Part of my theory is quality over quantity and that is working super well. I'll never forget the tomatoes on the vine, served with a tiny dish of sea salt, that was on the table of a restaurant in Nice, France. That tomato was positively bursting with tomato-ness and that is what I'm seeking in all my foods. And that is why Europeans aren't as heavy as Americans, I am convinced. Their foods are so flavorful that they are immensely satisfying. Plus, they are eaten socially, at a dinner table. You do not walk down the street eating in Europe. Here? We eat everywhere. It's all wrong!!

Of all the meals today, breakfast was only so-so, but avoiding sugar this morning worked for me - the protein kept me from being hungry until 11, which is pretty good, because I get up early.

Luckily, wine is a whole food because I'm about to treat myself to a glass! More about the diet as I progress tomorrow!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Phase II - Renovating the Diet

Week 5 begins, and I'm feeling good about Shop Your Closet, despite my LAMB handbag crisis. It looks like I won't be carrying that bag until January, but that's okay! I hear all of you!

Now I've decided to expand the project to incorporate my diet.

That seems like a disconnect, I know. From pulling back on spending, to decluttering my home, dare I even say crafting, this project has been about simplifying, in many ways. Doing more with less. So I'd like to streamline my diet as well. But I don't want to "diet." I just want to change how I'm eating.

My new rule is nothing from a bag or box. There will be a few exceptions. Bagged baby carrots, for one.

These foods in the photo below? Not sure. What do you think? Probably I need to limit the number of ingredients in the box. In other words, Arnold's Sandwich Thins have loads of ingredients, many unpronounceable, so those should be out. But rice -- it's rice. And Quaker Oats -- it's rolled oats. Those seem okay.

Flavor-Blasted Goldfish, and Mint Milano cookies, with your unbleached enriched wheat flour and thiamin mononitrate ... sigh. Not on the plan. Not even Hot Tamales!

What I can't decide is how long to try this. Should I try it until Jan. 1? Or some shorter period of time? Does anyone have experience with this -- how hard is it to eat only whole foods?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What Do I Do?

Temptation, thy name is Sandy.

Remember the lime green NAS scarf? Angie modelled it on her blog last week, and I commented that I was jealous of her matching LAMB handbag. Sandy, that gem!, emailed me to say that she had that exact handbag to sell. And, she had bought it for half price, from Gilt Groupe. She has two styles in the lime green, and kept the hobo style.

True to Shop Your Closet, I told Sandy I couldn't buy the purse. And you know what Sandy did? She volunteered to send the purse now and be paid on Jan. 1. If that isn't a true friend, I don't know what is.

Note the cute black-and-white striped lining.

Now the question. Am I allowed to use the handbag before Jan. 1? What do you think, yes or no?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Katja Poses a Question

Over at YLF, Katja asked the 17 of us who are doing Shop Your Closet:

"Is (this project) about trying to break a shopping addiction or about confirming that you have a well-rounded wardrobe (or learning that you don't)?"

Wow Katja, you really know how to cut through the clutter :)

My magazine editor assigned me to write a Shop Your Closet challenge in the spirit of ... both. A lot of women are in the habit of shopping. I know I constantly was looking for something, at least for the past two years while I went through YLF's style renewal. So I thought it would be fun to roadtest my wardrobe. See how successful I've been. Style is a hobby for me. I wanted to know if what I built, worked.

But as I've gone along, it's dawned on me that shopping ... well, it's a bit of a plague. I've begun to think that consumerism drains creativity (when you're in a cycle of shop, buy, return ... or just shop, buy) and is generally a burden. So the less is more idea has really taken root with me through SYC.

I write about style, interior design, and travel, so naturally I admire beautiful things ... and places. But more and more I'm drawn to experiences, not things. Too many clothes or too many knick-knacks are just clutter.

How about you? What is your answer to Katja's question?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Eat Pray Love

Last night I went with two girlfriends to an over-the-top movie theater where you have assigned seating in velvet loveseats, valet parking, free popcorn and drinks with your movie. We were the only people in a gigantic theater watching Eat Pray Love.

Javier Bardem was hot. Otherwise, the consensus was that the thing that sold this book was the book cover.

As mothers, we decided that Elizabeth Gilbert was damn lucky she didn't have children with her first husband. There would have been NO eating, praying and loving when getting divorced with kids. Well, there would have been eating - of entire containers of ice cream, alone at night sobbing on the kitchen floor after the kids went to bed. And praying - that the child support check would clear. But loving? We figured it might have been a solid decade before that rolled around.

One of my friends did get choked up in the movie - over the fact that the hotel in Italy where she and her husband stayed was pictured. Otherwise, not a wet eye in the theater. What kind of girls' night movie is that?? Tears, laughter, ridiculously named alcoholic beverages ... those are all basic requirements.

Here's what I wore:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shop Your Closet: Now and Later Challenge

Over at, the Shop Your Closet-ers are issuing a weekly challenge to all takers. Khris came up with this week's idea, which is to take a piece of clothing and wear it now, for summer, then style the same piece of clothing for fall. Here's my Max Studio dress. It's a fab sleeveless grey knit dress that I've had for a couple of years.

Dress now:

Leather moto vest - Nordstrom; sandals - Clarks Raasas; layered necklace - Kohl's; mustard-colored cross-body bag - Sak.

And for later:

Sweater jacket layered over dress - Max Studio; wide elastic belt; boots - Frye Janes (NAS purchase); eggplant-colored woven hobo - gift from mom. Thanks Mom! :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


This morning I woke up at 5:20, near my normal time, but thought I had awoken in the middle of the night. Padding outside to get the newspaper, there is the tiniest hint of chill in the air. On the sidewalk, acorn shells and fallen oak leaves speak to the squirrels' frenzied work last night.

Seeing the children, tanned and barefoot, running in the yards until late yesterday, not wanting to come inside, "not yet, mom." Knowing another school year is ahead and how fast it will go, and how soon my handsome big boy will be that much bigger and stronger. Me, interviewing for a full-time job that will keep me away from home more than I want to be. Listening to my dad describe my nephew's success at lacrosse camp, a nephew I get to see only a few times a year.

I love the fall in Chicago. But there is a reason why spring has always been my favorite season.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What I Wore ...

... when it was too darned HOT.

This is what I wore to sell water this weekend on Clark Street in Andersonville, outside of a friend's garden center, for a fundraiser for a women's group. Yes it was hot, but in three months we'll be complaining about the cold, so I'll drop the subject now!

What isn't pictured is the dreaded fanny pack I had to wear to have a place for stuffing cash. Not my best fashion moment! But the dress? Cool and breezy! I love the Ikat print - reminds me of starfish. And although you can't see it in the photo, since I was wearing navy in summer, I added a silver necklace with two ship anchors, my nod to nautical.

Dress: MK Michael Kors (
Necklace: ship anchors
Shoes: Naya
Sleeveless vest: Hinge (Nordstrom)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Your Work vs. Your Passion

Two potential jobs have popped up in recent weeks. One for my husband, and one for me.

Neither of us has so much as interviewed so this is all horribly premature! But to set up the scenario, here's where we find ourselves.

We sold a house and moved in 2008 after carrying two mortgages for over a year as we renovated our new home. It was a financial debacle thanks to our really really bad timing. Actually the timing was perfect for our family, our son was able to start school in a fantastic neighborhood, at a great school. But in terms of the real estate market, our timing couldn't have been worse. We are in way over our heads because our old home sold for much less than we originally estimated and of course what renovation has ever come in on budget? For the past two years, we have been slaves to our mortgage.

Back to the jobs. The job for me would be full-time. Right now I work part-time and am there to pick up my kids from school every day at 3 p.m. It's hard for me to think about hiring a nanny or doing before-school and after-school care, or whatever it would take to allow me to work full-time. That is a bitter pill to swallow, for me. And I really love writing my own stuff. So I would be selling my time and creative energy to an institution in order to pay our mortgage -- What creative person hasn't faced that dilemma?

The job for my husband would take us to another state and a mid-sized city of about 250,000. Let's just say that a move like that would send our friends here into cardiac arrest. Since 1988, I have lived in Manhattan, Chicago and suburban Chicago. However, as the song goes, I was born in a small town. This would be a big job and a large leap forward in terms of income for us. We might actually be able to retire sometime in the next 40 years!!

It's been interesting doing this project and looking at both possibilities. We have decided to move forward on both, and let the chips fall where they may. I would love to hear what you think!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Deep, Thinky Thoughts on Consumption

It's amazing how in two weeks I have easily squelched the urge to shop. (Check in with me in 3 months when I am crawling the walls). This week, I've started to see the connection between Shop Your Closet and some seemingly disconnected ideas.

- Michael Pollan and the creator of Food Inc., the movie, have made me think about simpler eating. One-third of people born after the year 2000 will get diabetes. This is terrifying. I don't want that for my kids. It makes me want to revamp what we eat. I am scared of processed food!

-- The NY Times article this week on people living simply, have made me see the freedom of getting off the work/spend treadmill. Managing to work less while simultaneously getting out of debt? This really resonates with me. I've gone beyond my young years and the urge to climb corporate ladders and achieve, achieve, achieve. For years I've been telling myself I want to write novels but how can I, with the expense of raising two kids near a major metropolitan area? I need to earn some money during the 18 hours of childcare I have each week. It might take some creativity and bold moves, but now I believe there might be a way.

-- Shop Your Closet and dieting, and books like "Women, Food and God" and "The Four-Day Win" by Martha Beck have helped me see a connection between over-shopping and over-eating. I've also read some of the shopping ban blog entries on and the resulting binge after a shopping ban (just like the binge after a diet) has led me to decide that dieting won't work and shopping bans won't either. Deprivation triggers an equal and opposite reaction. What I want to do is release the need to do either of these.

More than ever, I am beginning to view my life as a way to experiment. Is this a mid-life crisis? Maybe I should just go and buy a red convertible and get it over with!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

SYCers - through thick and thin (*gives secret handshake*)

Ladies, we have only just begun and there will inevitably be rough times ahead. So many times in the past couple of days I have nearly cracked or stumbled blindly into potential mistakes. Taylor, I'm thinking of you and coffee and cookies we need to have together :)

I'm thinking we need to create some group bonding with a secret handshake, a password and vow to have each other's backs until Dec. 31. And then we all need to meet somewhere in January. I vote NYC but can be persuaded otherwise by the group.

Okay I will get started writing the vow if someone else comes up with the secret handshake ...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What I Wore ...

... to go out for a glass of wine followed by dinner at a friend's. Roasted chicken, salad with citrus vinaigrette, haricots verts. I'm bringing dessert: vanilla ice cream topped with amaretto liqueur and crushed Italian amaretto cookies.

Let's hope none of it winds up on my new tunic shirt!

Breaking Old Habits

Yesterday, I was in a local clothing store with the kids. They carry clothing for women and children - I just love this store, mostly for the kids, because the women's stuff is a bit on the gear-ish side. Lots of North Face, Horny Toad, Patagonia. But still, there's always the occasional fun find.

I'd done my time in the boys' department and bought them each their promised package of Silly Bands, Dino version (I thought Silly Bands were over, but they reared their ugly heads again thanks to my son's fellow day campers). Then the boys found a toy to play with, some sort of seagull that balances on its beak anywhere you put it, and I headed over the the women's department with a feeling of, "Yay! A moment where I can look for something for myself!" And I was already in the department with the salesperson informing me that the Illinois sales tax respite for back-to-school was being applied to women's items before the sinking feeling hit: I can't buy anything!

The realization stopped me dead in my tracks and I had to laugh at myself! What a habit shopping had become! Are you having a hard time breaking old habits?

Monday, August 9, 2010

The NY Times Link

Dear Blogger,
You are making my life way too hard.

No clue why a link to the NY Times doesn't appear in the earlier post.

Go to and search for "But Will It Make You Happy?" by Stephanie Rosenbloom, published 8-7-10.

We are SO on trend!

Shop Your Closet-ers, we are not alone in our window shopping ways. Check out the #1 story on the NY Times today, about consumers spending less and finding more ways to be happy.

Home Decor is the Devil

Who knew that the main temptation of Shop Your Closet would not be longing for clothing, but shopping for home decor? Next in line are the twin evils of clothes for the kids and maybe even for the husband! The devil owns And Restoration Hardware!

A friend told me a cautionary tale this weekend. A friend of hers had done a similar shopping ban and wound up hitting Whole Foods hard, without even being conscious of what she was doing. Result? Grocery bills that completely eclipsed any savings from the shopping ban! Yikes!

Saturday was a bit of a struggle. I was downtown getting my hair cut and colored. It was a beautiful day, I was feeling skinny for some unknown reason that has since disappeared, and the urge to do some shopping was strong! But instead, I directed myself home to work on the "transform husband's messy office into cute guest room" project.

That was an event in itself, requiring us to hire two guys to move furniture up and down the stairs for an hour that afternoon. The only bad news was that the mattress and box spring that I'd been storing in the basement for the guest room smells dusty. I am like the canary in a coal mine when it comes to dust and this thing makes me sneeze! That means purchasing a new mattress for the guest room. As Roseanna Roseannadanna said, if it's not one thing, then it's another.

With all this energy being directed into crafting and home improvement, there's hope that by Dec. 31 I will have actually created the family photo wall that's been sitting in boxes for a year!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Fashion Friday

Hi guys - something fun for Friday! Here is my final NAS order. In last-minute Shop Your Closet panic, I ordered two colorful scarves from NAS, plus black skinny jeggings from GAP and a black cami from BR.

The scarves are up for assessment over at YLF. Not too sure of the colors, which I wanted to create a contrast with all the blue/black/grey I wear. Yellow is not the best color up against my face but it is great with the colors I wear often:

I was really surprised to see that the lime green and pink scarf had dark brown in it - I had expected black! That might be a dealbreaker as I don't wear brown at all!

The final haul in its entirety:

The BR cami is really nice. It has wide grosgrain ribbon straps that are adjustable. Length is shorter than Nordstrom BP camis that I usually wear. Those BP camis also tend to fade with wear because they have cotton content - BR is more of a spandexy fabric and thus non-fading. I would advise sizing up for length in the body, because you can always adjust the straps to get the neckline right. I love adjustable straps on camis!

The GAP jeggings are heavenly. And I threw in my NAS Kenneth Cole satiny tunic ... I love that voluminous look. Had to size down to a petite 4 to get the shoulders anywhere near fitting - they still are slightly off my shoulder but 2P is gone and since there is no more buying I am keeping this!

In other news, I am down a pound and a half this week. Not sure if SYC and food consumption are related but stay tuned!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Feeling Guilt Pangs

I didn't cheat.

But I feel like I did.

Yesterday, I went on a tear. Literally. Tore the house apart. Photographic evidence of the room formerly known as our living room:

All in the interest of decluttering. You see, I am a book person. But all these books are getting to be too much. I am considering buying a Kindle as a decluttering tool!

Honestly. I can only let go of my books if I can reassure myself that I can always download them someday, if I miss them. So my criteria is that all hardcovers can stay, no questions asked, but paperbacks? You are all up for possible dismissal.

The decluttering is part of a larger project: Transform fourth bedroom from husband's (super duper messy) office cluttered with beer steins filled with coins and Cubs photos into guest room. Move husband's office into library, where I work.

It means getting rid of husband's desk, bookshelf and filing cabinet, storing the cute daybed that's currently in his office, and moving an antique brass bed, a ladies' desk, nightstand and small bookcase into what will be the guest room.


Now to the guilt. Yesterday my son and I visited that den of iniquity, The Paper Source. $170 later, we were out of there. I nearly had a stroke when she told me the total. I bought some organizing items for the library so my husband and I don't kill each other trying to share the space. I bought two of these accordion file holders for $35 each:

and the cute files to go in them. I bought a fall leaf wreath-making kit and a gold pen to decorate the leaves (get ready for another crafty post) for $25. Then I bought some school stuff for my son. Oh, and spy glasses that let you see what's behind you. For my son, of course :)

Afterward, I felt deflated, like I had cheated, even though technically, I hadn't. So I wonder, is Shop Your Closet really about not buying at all, even beyond the world of clothing?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What I Did to Paul McCartney

In an effort to divert my attention from fab owl pendants over at YLF, yesterday I found myself in Michael's, mulling over tubes of silvering paint with a helpful employee. Let me just state that I never do anything myself. Home Ec was a fiasco from which I have never recovered.

I found myself in this foreign land of crafters because my mom watches Martha. Let me back up.

I *thought* I needed to reframe two Beatles photos that were already perfectly framed in museum glass and a good matte, but in blonde maple wood, which was totally cool in my husband's bachelor pad 10 years ago but won't work in my living room today. My lovely local art store, while complimenting the current framing, had quoted me $1,000 EACH to put them in new black frames with larger mattes. Minor stroke (mine) ensued.

Back to Mom. When I related the tale, she thought for a while and suggested silvering. Martha had put silver leaf on some Easter eggs once upon a time, and my mom described how she rolled out the thin silver strips and adhered them to the egg with glue and a paintbrush.

It seemed unlikely I could pull that off, and risky. But then the helpful Michael's employee pointed out silvering paint that could be applied with your fingertip. $3.99 total!

Rub some paint on the frame with my finger? I'm in.

Exhibit A: Paul McCartney, before:


Materials used:

Exhibit B: Paul McCartney, after:

What do you think of the before and after? Was my do-it-yourself experiment a success?

And a shout-out to Kristen who made my first photo posts a success!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Prepping for a Marathon

Now that I've plunged headlong into Shop Your Closet, I realize I need to prepare for these five months. Hello, Earth to Laura! Preparing usually takes place BEFORE the event.

Nevertheless, yesterday I ...

1. Deplaned from those five billion retail emails that fly into my inbox daily. NOT helpful ... must resist temptation! I did keep Ideeli, and Bloomie's. If Ideeli has a fire sale of Marc Jacobs dresses for 75% off, I am toast!

2. Found my large blank sketchbook. This will be my "dream" book and whenever I see something I cannot live without, I will rip the page out of the magazine or print it from the website and paste it in here.

3. Planned a prize for the end of the marathon, totally stealing Taylor's idea over at YLF. My prize? A ticket to NYC to stay with girlfriends and shop the sales. January = Cheap airfare! Cheap clothing! Cheap, normally expensive, restaurants with available tables!

4. Started de-cluttering my closet. Have a sinking feeling it may be photographed for the magazine at some point. I want to slowly go through my house, decluttering room by room.

5. Thought about the eating and shopping connection. I am trying to eat and drink less. Sort of a cleansing process!

Did you do anything to prepare for the next five months? Is there anything you wish you would have bought or done before we started?

Day 2: No Signs of Agony ... Yet

How many days of this are there going to be? Five times 30 ... Yikes! (again).

Deep breath: Welcome, Day 2.

Another auspicious sign. Yesterday my sister-in-law called with the breathless news that had aquamarine necklaces for as little as $239. Two days ago, the least expensive was about $2,000!

I know, I hear you!! Cheating already! But actually, this is not jewelry -- these are therapeutic gemstones, and the reason it's auspicious? Aquamarine is the necklace I've been waiting for to help with my writing projects. Aqua fosters creativity and intuition. Up til now I managed to afford six tiny chips. A whole necklace with hundreds of chips? Super powerful!

(Yes, I don't blame you for thinking I've lost it for talking about therapeutic gemstones during a Shop Your Closet project. Thank you for bearing with me!).

Have any of you felt changes already? I was actually panicked a couple of times yesterday and went into my closet to dig around in boxes. Honestly! I have plenty of clothes. It's just that I'm dreading the first time I see something I WANT and having to get past that. WANTING. I wish it would just happen and get it over with!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Shop Your Closet: Day One

It's August First, D-Day, and my stomach is doing flip-flops. Today is launch day for the Shop Your Closet project. Thanks to everyone who's brave enough to join in! As I learned years ago training for the Chicago Marathon, it's always more fun to suffer together than separately :)

Thank goodness for Angie, who last night offered up a hand-me-down gift of a gorgeous red crinkled patent leather purse. She gives me faith that treasures will find all of us along this journey.

Then, this morning, I came downstairs to find in the pile of mail a nice fat package of information from Augustana College's Swedish Immigration Research Center, another fitting start to the SYC project. The research inside is fuel for my new book, which is inspired by my family history.

The story involves three red-headed girls from Sweden (yes their roots happen to be in Smaland, the same province that Pippi Longstocking's author hailed from) who emigrated to be pioneers in the first successful Swedish settlement in the U.S. They are Ida Mathilda, Annette Jenny and Svea Augusta, my great-great grandmother. I have a lock of Svea Augusta's hair, tucked into her Bible, and can vouch that it is gloriously red! :) Those three red-headed girls went on to have daughters of their own, in America, and that's where my book begins.

As Jean said on, a lot of us use clothing as an outlet for creativity, and that's fab. It has been an incredible two-year journey on YLF! Now, I would like to roadtest the wardrobe I've built, while diverting some of that energy into my writing projects ... and reading ... and transforming two rooms of my house. But I don't want to exchange shopping for clothes for shopping for home decor. I will be trolling our local antique mall, believe me, but think I can do the transforming without spending much at all.

This weekend, in my last-minute panic, I bought black jeggings from Gap, a black cami from BR, and two colorful fall scarves from NAS. I forgot to buy underwear and stockings. Yikes!

Okay my fellow Shop Your Closet crew. Here are the rules.

1. No new clothing, footwear or accessories purchases for yourself through Dec. 31, 2010. Plan to hit the January sales like there's no tomorrow!
2. You may borrow.
3. You may receive gifts. (But, asking your husband to buy you a Marc Jacobs dress and then pretending it's a gift = cheating :))
4. You may have existing clothing altered.
5. You may sew yourself something. Maybe you can even design something. I was such a failure at Home Ec that I am willing to reward bonus points for this!

I will be posting my triumphs and sufferings daily here, a weekly check-in thread on YLF, and starting Oct. 1, will have a monthly story for

As Angie would say, over to you! What did you buy pre-SYC? What are your own rules? Do you have creative projects of your own that you're focusing on? Let's hear it!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Imagine ...

Ever since I left journalism to defect to PR, I have felt the occasional pang of regret. Now, I am not a regretful person, generally speaking. But those first months after I left the newspaper, I would sit at my desk on the 23rd floor of Grey Advertising's headquarters in Manhattan and shed a tear at 1 p.m., the deadline for the Daily Jefferson County Union in little Ft. Atkinson, Wisconsin. Because I missed it so much. That's how pathetic I was ... am.

At the time, I was a newly minted college grad, stuck in a small town in Wisconsin, working for $11,000 a year (with city council and school board meetings at night, I managed to earn $3,000 in overtime to bring my total to $14,000! $14,000!), and I wanted to see the world. Or at least Manhattan. So I ditched journalism and grabbed the miraculous PR internship that was on offer.

Honestly, though, I think journalism and I were the best career match. Journalism is instinctual to me; PR was learned. Have you ever felt that way about a job?

So I find it heartening that many years later -- 22 to be exact -- there is a potential journalism job in the offing. I can't jinx myself by writing more. Suffice it to say that if it happens, it would be hugely satisfying and the fulfillment of a long-time dream.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Power of Half

When you're writing a novel, it's interesting to see where ideas appear. The other day I was watching TV and a father/daughter duo was on the Today Show, promoting their new book, The Power of Half. They are an upper-class family from Atlanta who sold their gigantic mansion and downsized, giving half to charity and getting involved in a project in Africa. That was interesting, but what was more interesting to me was their affluent lifestyle and how they threw money at everything, and how harmful it was to their kids. That is exactly the situation of the family in my novel when the story opens. And, they also describe how telling their affluent friends caused them to be socially rejected. Perfect. This is exactly the type of situation I'm writing about. So now their nonfiction book has become inspiration for a talking-mixmaster novel. Funny how one seemingly unrelated idea feeds into another.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Crime Doesn't Pay, and Neither Does Writing

Things are going really well with Make It Better magazine ( I love the editors, they keep giving me interesting assignments, and I keep coming up with good ideas for stories. It would be a dream job to be able to write for them full-time, but as it stands, at $150 an article a month, how is that supposed to work? I keep hoping that somehow a full-time position will appear there, but since it's a start-up, and a magazine, in this economy, that's a pipe dream. And the novel is going well, but who knows? At best, and I mean absolute ideal best, which is to say I get an agent and it gets published (that only happens to about 5% of all novels written), it will be published in 2 years and for not much money.

All of this is to say that I am in the market for a full-time job and it will likely be doing marketing writing or PR or something that is actually valued (somewhat) and therefore paid (somewhat). It's depressing, but I keep telling myself this will be good for me and I need to suck it up and stop being such a baby. Who said you should be able to make a living doing something you love? Oh yeah, only every new agey life coach out there who happens to have a (very highly paid) monthly column in Oprah Magazine. Yes, I'm talking to you, Martha Beck. But being paid for your work IS good for you, and that's where I get frustrated with writing. Why is it that people working with numbers are valued more than people working with words? My worst fear is that it's a gender issue, and that is beyond depressing but SO typical.

But back to my novel. I am writing a scene in which the 45-year-old mom heroine goes to a funky local bowling alley to meet a psychic to help her locate the talking mixmaster, which she has sold at a school rummage sale and only later realized she has made a huge mistake. Now, this is fun.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

When Treasures Find You

Since I launched this misguided, silly, potential time wasting effort of writing my new novel (all negative thoughts that my internal self-critic has thrown around in my head on every possible occasion), several interesting items have found their way to my library.

My new roommates include:
1960s sewing machine. Sears Roebuck catalog, winter 1931-1932. Meta Given's Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking. Coats and Clark's Sewing Book. A hat box circa the 1950s or 1940s from The French Room at Marshall Field's.

As a child, my mom made it very clear that inanimate objects have a life. I pass this along to my boys whenever I can, pretending that their Hot Wheels cars, sweet peas on the plate, pillows on their bed, anything, have a life and feelings of their own. So it's not surprising that I feel that the 1960s sewing machine now taking up residence in my library came here for a reason. In fact, it was offered to me out of the blue by an 80-year-old friend of my husband named Marge. And why is it that, while having my first writing session with my new writer friend, she revealed that she was a home ec minor?

You can call it sheer random chance, or serendipity, but I know better. Every one of these little coincidences, to me, points the way down a path. This is how novels are born. People, don't break the spell for me: The creative idea is very fragile at birth.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keep Chipping Away

Each morning, I make a date with myself and my novel. The alarm rings at 5, I pop contacts into my bleary eyes, do my makeup and head downstairs to make coffee and unload the dishwasher. (That dishwasher makes me feel like Sisyphus: Load, unload. Load, unload). My very modest and totally attainable goal each day is 250 words. The calculations show that at this rate, the first draft will be done in 2028. No, it just seems that way. Actually it might be done some time in October.

Today I hit 85 pages. Not all of them good or usuable, mind you. But the lesson for the day is that little things do add up.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Your Top 3 Travel Adventures

Just finished writing my article for on adventure travel, in which I listed my top three travel adventures. They are: Cartagena, Colombia; Dawson City, Yukon Territory, Canada; and Muscat, Oman.

You'll have to check out the March issue of the magazine to read why and how I wound up in all these places -- for some reason, I have crazy travel timing, so my time in Dawson City (near the Arctic Circle) was in February when high temps were 30 below WITHOUT wind chill. And I spent a sweltering August in Oman, which happens to be a coastal Gulf nation, meaning not only desert heat, but humidity. Try 120 plus 90 percent humidity and a long dress and you get the picture!

What are your top travel adventures? Fill me in on the juicy details!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Non-Travelling Travel Writer

Yesterday I had a lunch meeting at The Noodle with the publisher, editor and ad sales director of a local magazine called Make It Better ( The fabulous highlight of this lunch was getting to talk to Larry, the publisher, an accomplished journalist and former Pioneer Press publisher, who has a killer sense of humor and carries a reporter's notebook in his back pocket. I love that. Once a reporter, always a reporter.

We talked travel stories for upcoming issues: adventure travel, unusual mother-daughter trips, boys' days out in the city, county fairs (LOVE this. I covered county fairs every summer as a cub reporter. Nothing like a good horse pull. Or an interview with Weird Al Yankovich.) Most amazing? They want stories about places other than Chicago. Imagine that. Much as I have hinted to Frommer's that I could write about places other than my home, they insist on using writers who live in the cities they cover. Fine. I get that. Imagine: Now I can become a travel writer who actually travels. Suggestions for my first destination, anyone?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Your Brain on Writing

Yesterday I had a lovely, non-deadline-filled day with both kids in school, and I plopped myself on the couch, laptop on top of lap, and turned on the TV. Oprah. Half watching, half writing, half cruising Google reader (does three halves equal a whole?), I didn't pay much attention to the show until Paula Deen showed up. I've never seen her cooking show, but Lawd, that woman has a commanding presence.

She was there to reach out to a boy who had lost his twin brother to a brain tumor and was finding his way back to life by baking. That's when my writer's brain perked up. My new novel (73 pages and counting! Progress is being made!) is about a character who's lost her husband, and in fact has lost herself long before that, and through cooking, begins the process of connecting with herself. I started making frantic notes on the tiny post-it that happened to be on the table next to me, none of which made any sense later, but no matter. I had absorbed the jist of it. Writer's brains are like that: we find connections, latch on to ideas, and bring them all together in one place that maybe, hopefully, will have meaning for others.

Human Error

It's 3:50 a.m. and due to malfunction of alarm clock, I am sitting on my couch in full make-up already having downed first cup of coffee of the day. To be honest, it was a user malfunction, not so much the alarm clock's fault, after all the poor clock is an inanimate object that does what it is told. If the NTSB came to check out the wreckage of my life today, they would declare human error. The honest-to-God truth is that I intended to take a nap yesterday and set my alarm for 2:30 so I could pick up kids at 3, and I sorta kinda forgot to change the time when I popped the little plug on the alarm last night. So here I am.

Early morning is good to me. I get up at 5 daily and get to work producing my 250 words. It's a modest goal but hey, I had to make it achievable even after late-night port-drinking sessions. (Port quickly becoming new obsession along with French bistro cooking. Admit it, you want to join me, don't you??). At my novelist group's holiday dinner held at the venerable Hopleaf Bar in lovely and scenic and formerly Scandinavian Andersonville, we figured out that each one of us (except me at that time, but look, I'm reformed) got up at 5 to meet what you might call the writing muse. Here I am, muse. Time to pop over to the novel and see what the muse has in mind today.