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 www.youlookfab.com 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 www.youlookfab.com, 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 (www.myshape.com)
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 www.alreadypretty.com 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 www.NYTimes.com 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 www.wisteria.com. 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 www.gemisphere.com 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 www.youlookfab.com, 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 www.makeitbetter.net.

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!