Tucker Dress Inspiration

Did you see this photo last week?

The title from Mashable says it all:

Insane wildfire photo perfectly sums up America in 2017

Golfing at the country club while the forest burns behind you. Yep.

And this is exactly how I felt about myself yesterday as I sat on the sofa shoveling ice cream into my mouth while remotely tracking two of my friends who were competing in the Ironman Wisconsin.

She just completed mile 62 of the bike portion? Wow! Slurp. Slurp.

Her half marathon time is better than mine, even after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112. Wow! She’s so amazing! Slurp. Slurp.

I was so impressed that two of my friends had done the work required for an Ironman and were now fearlessly competing. That was awesome. 

The correct thing to do here would have been to become insanely motivated and head out for a sweat session of my own, running in solidarity, but I did none of that.

I stayed on the couch.

Argh.

Earlier this year, I set a personal goal to train for and set a PR in a fall marathon. I had my sights set on the Twin Cities Marathon (October 8th), with the secret dream to stay in good enough shape to consider tacking on the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. These are both races I’ve done before and love.

Through the end of July, I kept up with my training fairly well. At that point I was commuting up to three hours a day, but I still found time to get in the weeknight runs as well as the longer ones on the weekends. In the week before we moved, I completed a 15 miler. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.

And then came the move.

The first week, I missed three training runs during the weekdays but was able to complete my longer run (13.1 miles, it was a drop-back week) on Saturday.

The second week, I missed the weekday runs and the long run. I started to panic. I didn’t know routes, directions or water stops in my new neighborhood. I doubted the safety of running alone. It was hot.

I fell apart.

I made the lame excuse-ridden decision that this was not my year, and called it quits on the marathon plans, but I really let myself down.

Compounding that is the fact that while I changed my exercise patterns, I sure as heck didn’t change my eating. Frankly, the move has opened up a Pandora’s Box of great new restaurants to try in person or via delivery. There is even a liquor store that delivers through Amazon Prime’s two hour service to my house, which just sounds like the most dangerous thing ever. (I haven’t sunk quite that far).

Which brings me to the title of this post: Tucker Dress Inspiration.

Tucker is a NYC-based company that makes feminine, pretty clothes.

They are also very expensive.

While I love to spend money, it is hard even for me to justify buying a blouse that is almost $300.

Except – I have a work conference coming up next month, and the combination of my lifestyle factors (M&Ms, I’m looking at you) and job switch (moving from all suits/all the time to more business casual or even – yikes! – scrubs) has left me with limited wardrobe options.

And of course I want to look good.

These dresses from Tucker caught my eye:

The top one is called The Market Dress in Black Tire Track.

It’s silk and retails for $375.

The bottom is a fun Russian Dolls print.

The style is called “Abigail’s Party Dress” and it retails for $355. Tucker’s website styled it well for fall with black tights and boots. It looks adorable.

The real kicker? Both of these look like they *may* be forgiving of my recent indulgences.

I might have to find out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinn Coffee

Bono said it best: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

There seem to be a few things for which I am constantly searching for perfection:

  • The perfect work bag that holds all my essentials, has many organizational features, will hold up to spilled lunches and looks good in the process.
  • Luggage. Always luggage. Especially a lightweight carryon bag and weekenders.
  • A perfect white V-neck tee.
  • A homebrew coffee system that rivals anything I’d get at a coffee shop.

Looking back, I saw that I first posted about my search for a perfect cup of coffee at home over three years ago. 

Not much has changed since then, although I went so far as to attend a barista class last summer in Chicago. During the Q&A session at the end, I asked the instructor about which coffee machine(s) would be recommended for home use. His answer – and he was a competitor in barista competitions, which is a thing – was this: “I never make coffee at home.”

Not helpful.

When I pressed him, he said that if he had to buy something, he would invest in a commercial grade bean grinder. Estimated tab: $1500. Yikes.

So I stuck with my $40 Black and Decker machine that I purchased on sale at Target for $29.99.

Until Spinn came on the scene.

Ads for the not-yet-released Spinn coffee system started showing up on my Facebook feed last fall.

Spinn promises a lot: one machine to make everything from espresso to drip coffee, plus wi-fi integration and even an app that automatically orders beans from local roasters when your supply runs low.

Their website fueled the hype: Spinn machines were available for exclusive pre-order and for an introductory price that was 40% off future retail.

Well, the Spinn folks understand my psychology well, because one Friday night after a glass (or three) of wine, I placed my pre-order for a Spinn Plus machine.

To be fair, the Spinn team said that my order would not be shipped until mid-2017. I was in the first production wave, so I hoped that things would go ahead of schedule – or at least on time – and that I would be sipping my wi-fi espresso now as I type. My current Black and Decker machine could limp along until then.

Fast forward to this week: I received a long email that was signed as being from the head of Spinn, outlining a lot of gratuitous “wins” in their design and production process, essentially to provide window dressing to the fact that Spinn still doesn’t have any machines produced, and that “mid-2017” shipment is now going to be delayed at least 5-6 more months.

Hmm.

Now, I fall on the side of getting things right, but really? In the end – if a Spinn machine ever materializes – it’s going to be more than a year after I ordered it. Meanwhile, I’ve already paid for the machine (like all of the other pre-orders), so Spinn’s got $400 of my money while I’m left hanging.

I could get a Tesla faster than this.

Needless to say, I’ll be very, very excited once my Spinn finally arrives. It’s also going to have to go above and beyond the hype, given the hassle.

Until then, hopefully my Black and Decker keeps chugging away.

 

 

 

 

Day Off

I had an unexpected day off yesterday, which was absolutely fabulous. 

I’ve been doing much more driving back and forth between my current home and new(-ish) job, which is easily a three hour plus commute most days.

[Side note: If you want podcast recommendations, give me a shout! I’ve listened to a lot.]

Even one day without the drive was simply heaven.

The end is in sight: we rented a place that is less than two miles from my primary office and can move in mid-July. I kept the commute up until school let out (two weeks ago; our kids went very late). Given that our house still hasn’t sold, we also haven’t been in a rush to move, nor been in a position to buy another place.

The in between is killing me, though. Three hours per day of driving also gives you waaaaay too much time in your head to worry about your un-sold house, perseverate on patient situations, ruminate on family problems, pine for vacations untaken and generally feel trapped within your own life as you slowly crawl through endless stretches of road construction.

So that’s going on.

Which leads me to yesterday.

I woke up and remembered I did not have to work. Felt happy. Made coffee. I told our nanny not to come until 10 AM, and then I went for a 10 mile run once she arrived.

This was sorely needed. 

Up until a few months ago, I ran at least one 10 mile+ run every week and have done so for years. Usually, I’ve got a race on the calendar to train for, making those long runs a necessity. In May, though, I made the tough decision to skip the 2017 RunDisney Tinkerbell Half-Marathon and with that, I suddenly didn’t have a reason to cover those distances.

Yesterday went better than I expected and I felt great. This gives me hope for a fall marathon, and even possibly doing an early 2018 one.

The rest of the day was full of leisurely errands, like a Trader Joe’s run (perfectly ripe nectarines, avocados, baked ranch chickpeas and two kinds of cheese), getting shorts on sale for my son (who’s now 10! Sigh), and finishing up the packing list for Trixie’s upcoming three week stint at Camp Ogichi-Kaa-Dwe.

I also prepped for dinner: Home Chef’s Grilled Honey Mustard Steelhead Trout with Fresh Tomato Relish. 

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This pan is only for grilling. I know, it looks gross.

And I went through my new Evereve haul.

Last weekend I was at my friend P’s house and she received a Trendsend box. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s basically Evereve’s version of Stitch Fix.

Unfortunately, the person who loved almost everything in her box was me, not her.

This blouse was the first item she pulled out of the box and it had my name all over it:

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This is a silky Lovestitch top with fluttery short sleeves and a soft blue floral print on a blush background. I snapped this pic right in her kitchen so I could get my own, which is why the photography is worse than usual. (Note: I couldn’t find this on the site for Lovestitch nor on Evereve.com, but I was able to locate it in store).

Trendsend paired the blouse with this Braeve (housebrand at Evereve) open cardigan.

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The color didn’t translate well in the photo, but it’s a denim blue and looks great with the blouse.

P. wasn’t feeling either of those items, but I was falling hard. I would have bought them directly from her, but the sizes were off. There are about 4 inches and 40 pounds that separate us, with 5’9″ me on the big end of that equation, so a simple swap wasn’t in order.

Another item in the box was a ruffle sleeve striped black and white top from Peyton Jensen. This may also be an Evereve housebrand? I can’t tell, but I’ve only seen it there.

P. also wasn’t digging this top, but I loved it.

She also received a printed skirt, sleeveless black top and a cute fringed dress. These were more up her alley than mine.

On Tuesday afternoon I had a bit of time to kill between work and a haircut, so I went to Evereve (less than a mile from our rental house. Danger! Danger!) to do some sourcing.

One sales associate saw me hunting and asked what I was looking for. She knew the printed blouse immediately and brought it to me. She had an armful of clothes to return to the racks and the denim colored open cardigan was magically in the pile, so I snagged it to try on. Both were winners. Sold, although in the end I decided to get a different size in the blouse (L, not M) to make it more flowy and they have to send it to me).

The salesperson also brought a pair of navy Level 99 cargo-ish pants and I was pleasantly surprised by the fit. Mine. I also spied the perfect long oatmeal cardigan.

They had the striped ruffle sleeve top in my size (M), but in the end, I liked it better in a blush pink color.

Here’s the haul, minus the blouse:

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A closer look at the ruffle sleeve detail on the top:

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I would describe the fabric as a soft sweatshirt material. It is extremely comfortable.

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Like everyone else in Summer 2017, I am all about blush pink.

The long cardigan, in a perfect oatmeal color:

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I’m super happy with Evereve right now.

While every day can’t be an unexpected day off, yesterday was pretty darn awesome.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Orangetheory Fitness and Me

I recently started attending classes at Orangetheory Fitness.

Here’s a description of the workout from the Orangetheory website:

Our heart-rate monitored, high-intensity workout is scientifically designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that spikes metabolism and increases energy.

Here’s my take: This is a killer workout that uses heart rate monitors to force you to your breaking point.

The ostensible goal is to get 12-20 minutes per workout in the “Orange Zone,” where you are working at 84-91% of your maximum heart rate.

Ok, this is really hard to do.

The hour-ish long workouts combine running (or walking) on a treadmill, rowing and calisthenic exercises, usually with hand held weights.

Participants spend about half of the workout on the treadmills and rowing machines, and the other half in the weight area. The cardio time consists of stints of working at Base Pace (which is what I would consider my normal running pace, maybe 6.3-6.5 MPH, or a 9:30-9:10 minute pace per mile), Push Pace (1-2 MPH over Base Pace), and All Out Intervals, where you just go nuts and run until you feel like your heart will explode.

Why I decided to try this:

  • I love running and have been working hard for the past six months or so to get faster. Speed work – which the Orangetheory workouts naturally include – are a necessary pain to achieve that goal.
  • I secretly have always wanted to be a rower. Spouse was on the crew team in college and later taught me to row. I regret not trying it earlier, especially in college because I think I would have been pretty damn good at it.
  • While I love to do cardio, I hate to lift weights. Without the pressure of a personal trainer or a group, I just won’t do it. And I know weight lifting is important to overall conditioning.

Here’s a dirty secret about Orangetheory: if you’re already in good cardiovascular shape when you join, it’s going to be really, really challenging to get 12-20 minutes in the magic Orange Zone during the class.

For me, getting to the Orange Zone requires running on the treadmill at a speed of at least 7.5-8 MPH, which is waaaaaaay faster than my normal pace.

And it is super uncomfortable to do so.

On the flip side, if you’re not in good cardiovascular shape, you could easily get to the Orange Zone just by briskly walking on the treadmill at a modest incline.

I routinely see people get 20+ minutes in the Orange Zone, whereas it is a struggle for me to reach 12. This is humbling. It is hard for me to wrap my brain around the fact that while I am working extremely hard, I need to work harder. Part of me always wants to throw in the towel and feel Good Enough with what I’m doing, which is often a lot more treadmill work than the person next to me.

But I guess that’s the whole point of Orangetheory. Push. Push. Push.

Yesterday was particularly humbling: I went to a class and got zero Orange Zone minutes.

My heart rate monitor read a steady 112 BPM even when I was running 8 MPH at a 5% incline.

Something was not right.

At the end of the class, I approached the (very fit) front desk worker and said that my heart rate monitor did not seem to be working. He asked me to show him how I was wearing it, which prompted lifting my shirt and providing an embarrassing display of my abdomen to the entire studio.

Turns out, I was wearing the heart rate monitor upside down, and it will definitely not work properly that way. Whoops.

Big sigh for my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes You Need Bubbles

 

Points of this weekend were too much.

Open House.

No buyers.

Driving three hours round trip for 20 minutes of work (worth it, for the record).

A Sunday night work commitment that is a cool opportunity (guest on a live radio show) but throwing a wrench into the routine here.

Tough decision that I would probably cancel running in my favorite race next month for financial considerations.

Driving around for two hours with dog (and laundry) in car to avoid prospective buyers at open house.

Went for family walk and son (with scooter) had unfortunate direct contact with pavement.

Sigh.

Sometimes you need to blow bubbles. So we did.

(Trixie said I looked like I was smoking here. I am not).

 

 

I hope you’re having a magical weekend.

 

 

 

 

The Real Estate Waiting Game

And it’s happening: Fancy Pants Ranch is on the market.

A little background: when Spouse and I were first married – nearly 19 years ago – we lived in an outdated 600 square foot apartment that we jokingly dubbed “Fancy Pants Ranch.”

The name stuck with every place we’ve lived since.

(For my birthday a year or two ago, Spouse had this logo created through an online contest for graphic designers. There were hundreds of entries but this is the one we selected as the winner).

We’ve been in the current iteration of Fancy Pants Ranch since 2008. When we moved to this city, we planned to be here three years (which morphed into nine) and then move on. We’re finally getting around to that plan.

Our house buying process in 2008 was hurried. We needed a place to live. This house was available. It was a new spec house built by a local contractor. After being burned in the past by long, traffick-y commutes (Hello, San Antonio!) and a decrepit old house that was beyond repair (our first stab at home ownership, a tiny brick cottage in Denver, CO, that we owned from 2002-2005), we wanted proximity to work and something new, new, new. 

This fit the bill. Mostly.

For one thing, this house is not really our style. Spouse and I like modern. This is traditional.

Still, we stayed. We have great neighbors. There wasn’t a compelling reason to move to another house in the same city. We’re fundamentally lazy, and let’s face it, moving is a pretty awful process.

But now it’s time to go.

We started by meeting with a realtor about two weeks ago. This was a different realtor than the one who sold us the house in 2008, and that was by choice. We thought our original realtor was nice and did a good job at the time of purchase, but looking back, there were warning signs. For one thing, she drove an old Buick. I don’t know much about being a realtor – and I would love to have realtors chime in – but my cursory study seems to suggest that having a flashy car is important to project success, especially when you spend a lot of time driving clients around in it. Our new realtor has shown up in two different Mercedes on the two visits she’s made to our house. That seems optimistic.

During her first visit, our new realtor informed us that the real estate market is on fire for sellers, we should have already listed our home two weeks ago, and she predicted it would sell for full price in one day.

Then came the pain: we needed to replace several windows ($26,000), and refinish several others ($1800), repaint several rooms ($1000), clean the carpets ($350), buy a new dishwasher ($700), buy a new dryer ($500), mitigate radon (unsure of price tag at this point, and side note: is this a new scam? I swear it is), do some electrical work (price unknown), do some yard work ($2500), find a dog sitter ($20/day), and declutter/deep clean/pack and organize to within an inch of our lives. 

(A word about the window situation, which is really the most disappointing thing: apparently there is a common, well-known problem with houses similar in age to ours, namely that the windows can collect moisture and rot the wood. Our new realtor told us that we narrowly missed the warranty period for the windows – and we are talking either a matter of a few months or possibly even weeks – that may have let us replace them for free. She told us that our original realtor should have clearly informed us about the warranties, etc, which is something we never knew about. This $26,000 oversight is one of the reasons we are not using the original realtor again. Huge sigh).

We were also given a deadline of a little over a week to get things in order. We worked like crazy, hiring painters, carpet cleaners, a home inspector, junk haulers and had two of our college aged nephews over for a weekend of packing and organizing.

We got it done.

The master bedroom closet alone required about 10 hours of sorting, eight plastic totes of clothes and shoes placed in storage, three bags of garbage and two trips worth of donations to Goodwill. 

And here’s what happened: nothing.

The day the listing went live (last Wednesday), I held my breath. Before we left for work, Spouse and I both got sweaty getting everything to the immaculate state that a showing required.

When none materialized, I thought that a weekend sale seemed likely. Friday rolled around. No showings. Saturday dawned. We re-scrubbed and rubbed and prepped the place to perfection, then took the whole crew – dog included – to my mom’s lake place for the weekend, because surely, many interested buyers would be stopping by.

<<< Crickets. >>>

Finally on Sunday afternoon, we got two requests for showings. Both were inconveniently late in the day, but we accepted the times without question and pushed back our return home. The first showing was with our own realtor, showing the house to another client. The second was with a different agency.

On Monday, we had another showing during the day.

<<< More crickets. >>>

On Tuesday, our realtor said that she wanted to have an open house this weekend. We agreed.

We also received feedback that one buyer from Sunday (the one from the other agency) was considering several other houses. The Monday showing said that they were not interested, and that both the husband and wife commented that our master bedroom lacked natural light. Funnily enough (well, actually not funny), Spouse and I had recently had a similar conversation, that this house is too dark. But it’s that old situation where you can complain about something that is uniquely yours (like your family), but when an outsider does it, it stings and makes you defensive.

Here’s where I’m at with this situation right now:

  • Against my better judgment, a big part of me really believed the realtor when she said that the house would sell ASAP. That might sound ridiculous, but I had hope. It made me reflect on the long odds that some of my patients face in trying to build their families, and I thought about something I’ve said to patients many times:

As humans, we need hope to survive. Hope is what keeps us getting out of bed in the morning. Hope keeps us going when times are tough, because eventually we will most likely succeed if we keep moving forward.

And now I desperately need to take my own advice.

  • I can’t believe how much we got done in such short order. Wow. A week – and many extra hands – can work miracles. Everyone should do a mini version of this process every year. Is that what other people describe as spring cleaning? I wouldn’t know.
  • Selling a house is surprisingly expensive. If you’ve been keeping a tally, we’ve spent more than $30,000 to get the house ready. This unplanned expenditure, in the midst of all of the other expenses and challenges we are currently facing, is unwelcome.
  • I’m already sick of the buying and selling process. Like so many things in my life, it’s been humbling. Life lessons always seem to come to me in the not-easiest path.
  • When we move, we are NOT buying a house. I don’t want to feel the pressure to Just Buy NOW that we experienced when we came here. We want to take our time and get it right, even though that means living in a rental for a year or more. And if living in a rental means that I don’t have to wake up 45 minutes early each day to get it in pristine, model-home condition, all the better.

Please wish us luck in selling the Ranch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost and Not Found; Weekend Update

Once again, MGM (9) and Trixie (8) were up well before an acceptable hour on Saturday morning, a fact that continues to be an agonizing irony in our world since waking them for a school day is akin to poking two hibernating bears. 

They decided to use their valuable morning time to make a fort:

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This involves no fewer than 75% of the pillows in our house and is not going to be fun to clean up at the end of the weekend. They seemed to be happy and occupied while I drank coffee, though, so I let it slide.

On a different note, I was horrified to discover yesterday morning when I woke up in my hotel room that I had lost all of my cosmetics. This is especially painful because – as I’ve posted before – I spent a considerable effort to curate a set of travel cosmetics that worked really well for me, including limited edition mini brushes collated from several different brands.

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As I was getting ready for work and couldn’t find my cosmetics bag, I had the following thoughts:

  • Maybe it’s in my suitcase and I just didn’t find it. Commence ripping apart suitcase; do not find bag.
  • Maybe I left it at home. This seemed probable, although it did not solve my impromptu no make-up look problem.
  • Maybe I left it last week at the hotel where I’d stayed. Due to scheduling, favorable weather and kids who seemed extremely lonely, I’ve been home every night this week except Thursday, so while I had my suitcase packed all week and in my car, I hadn’t opened it. This means that the cosmetics bag could have been AWOL since last week and I hadn’t noticed yet.

In the interim, I was stuck without make-up, which shouldn’t really be that big of a deal since I don’t wear a lot, but I still felt a wee bit naked.

I decided to wear my funky glasses, which effectively limits the need for eye make-up, and I subbed a pink lipstick as cream blush. In the end, I probably didn’t look much different than I normally do, which is not saying much regarding my usual look.

A search at home also failed to locate the bag, so it looks like I’m starting over. Fortunately, Bobbi Brown is offering a great deal this weekend where you can create a free five piece mini beauty set (including choices of mascara, lip color, cheek color, eye shadow and makeup remover) with any $100 order. The site is also conveniently featuring a lot of travel minis, so replacing my stash is fairly easy.

Big Sigh for My Life. And Happy Weekend!