Spring Wardrobe Additions

I’ve been trying to slow my roll with wardrobe building over the past several months, for a variety of reasons.

  • My new-ish job (now nearly 1.5 years into it, but still, it was a major style shift) doesn’t require the same business attire (all suits, all the time) that my old one did
  • We moved last summer into a tiny rental house with a highly inadequate amount of closet space (Spoiler: this is a problem that will self-correct soon!)
  • Packing and moving forces you to see how much stuff you really have, and when the amount is embarrassing, it puts a pause on “Buy Now” mode
  •  I adore the idea of a capsule wardrobe, even though I am far, far from it

And finally, a really good reason:

  • I recently lost some weight and I’m waiting until the dust settles to see what fits, what doesn’t and what I need to buy all over again

As I posted earlier this week, I received a Stitch Fix with lots of casual mix and match options for summer. This is terrific. I am hoping to keep my new summer wardrobe mostly limited to that Fix, save a few new pairs of summer shoes and swim suits (I am planning to do a tremendous amount of swimming this summer).

For spring, I also kept what was new in check.

One investment that made the cut was this suit from J. Crew:

This is the Parke blazer, Cameron pants and Perfect Fit tee, all in navy. I knew that I had a few important lectures and meetings this spring, and I wanted something that felt modern. I’ve worn this exact outfit three times already and each one has felt like it perfectly hit the mark.

I also placed an order with Banana Republic during one of their 40% off sales for a metallic tweed jacket, a soft gray leather moto jacket, a v-neck tan sweater and this necklace:

Even though this was a recent order, it looks like the tweed and leather jackets are sold out. Here’s a similar version of the jacket available at Nordstrom:

I wore this earlier in the week to give a lecture, pairing it with the navy suit pants, the tan v-neck and the pearl necklace. It all came together.

I’ve also waffled a lot over whether to invest in this bag:

The gray is appealing and unlike anything else I own. I also like how this is less structured that some other designer bags. I can’t seem to pull the trigger.

This Sole Society blush suede clutch was an easier call:

At approximately 3.5% the cost of the gray bag, this pink one feels like a bargain.

 

 

 

March Stitch Fix

Holy cow – this is Fix #24.

I never, ever peek at what’s coming, but I do checking tracking notices, and these tell me how much the package weighs.

Heavy box = shoes or possibly a coat.

This one was light: 3.6 lbs.

IMG_2865

When it arrived, the box was small. Here’s the first look:

IMG_2867

I’d requested outfits to wear for an upcoming trip to Florida. This is going to be just the kids and me, so casual pieces are in order.

Here’s the first item:

IMG_2868

Looking at this in the box, I couldn’t tell that it was a dress. I thought it was going to be some weird blouse, and I’d mentally already sent it back. As I picked it up, though, I saw that it was Lilly Pulitzer, a brand I genuinely like. I hadn’t seen this pattern before, but I typically gravitate to Lilly’s traditional pinks/greens/pool blues versus blues in the cobalt or navy family.

This is a close up of the pattern:

IMG_2869

This dress has 50+ SPF sun protection, so my stylist suggested wearing it over a swimsuit by the pool. Huh – I would not have gone there, style-wise. 

I put it on and the fit was great, much better than I expected. This became a contender.

Next, two tops:

IMG_2872

IMG_2870

The orange one (Zetska Crochet Detail Knit Top from Q&A) is made from a synthetic, silky material that seems like it would hold up well. The fit was also spot-on. The gray tee is from Sundry, another casual brand I really like. The pom pom detail is really cute:

IMG_2871

Both of these would pair really well with the two bottoms that came in this Fix:

IMG_2874

These are the “Lorraine” shorts from Market and Spruce. Here’s what my stylist had to say about them:

It sounds like a fun trip you have coming up! Since you are headed on a more casual adventure with your kids, I thought that you could definitely use some shorts. This pair by Market and Spruce is a fun change of pace from wearing solid-colored denim all the time. The pattern would be wonderful with this high quality grey tee with the pom detailing. I also love the shorts with this comfy orange top for a pop of color.

 

Agreed. And to be honest, I was going to pack a pair of regular cuffed jean shorts from an old Fix, so branching out is probably a good idea.

The final item in my Fix was a pair of Just Black white skinny jeans with a released step hem:

IMG_2873

Ok, this is uncanny because I was totally hoping to get this exact thing, but I didn’t request them – which makes this all the better. The waist was a bit loose on these (same for the shorts), but the fit everywhere else was good. I know these would look great with either top, and my stylist also suggested wearing them with the Lilly dress and treating it like a tunic. I like that idea a lot.

After 24 boxes, this was probably the most versatile Fix I’ve received. All of the pieces could be combined to make at least 6 different outfits (gray top + white pants, gray top + shorts, orange top + pants, orange top + shorts, dress + pants, dress alone), essentially making this a capsule vacation wardrobe. 

 

 

 

Minnetonka Slippers Review

Ugh. 

After an unfortunate incident that centered around stepping in something unpleasant, my trusty old Ugg slippers went sayonara.

I thought I scored the deal of the century when I ordered these beauties for half price:

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 8.23.31 AM

Until they never arrived and an inquiry showed me that Ugg canceled my order due to running out of stock.

They just forgot to tell me.

Back to ground zero.

Ever impractical, I selected style over function and ordered these:

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 10.14.44 AM

Here’s a top view:

Screen Shot 2018-02-04 at 10.14.59 AM

These are as cute as they look.

Two problems, though: the steep price tag makes me nervous about spilling things like coffee (read: red wine) on the pom poms, and the exposed toes are just not cutting it for Minnesota winters, when I often run outside for quick errands like taking out the garbage, getting the mail, etc.

I needed a back up plan.

If you haven’t shopped at 6PM.com, you’re missing out. I *think* this is where unsold merchandise from Zappos goes to die, and with diligence you can find phenomenal bargains. I’ve also had huge success on some occasions in finding a item from a season or two ago that I loved but is no longer available.

Searching for slippers led me to these:

IMG_2804

These blush pink suede Minnetonka slippers were only $24.99. Full retail is $34.95, so even without a discount, these are an absolute bargain. They’re comfortable, non-skid, warm and completely solve my open toe problem.

IMG_2805

6PM.com has about a dozen other pairs of Minnetonka slippers, all well-priced.

 

 

Great Wolf Lodge Review

Last weekend – against better judgment – Spouse and I took MGM (10) and Trixie (now 9) to the re-vamped Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel that is approximately 11 minutes away from where we live.

IMG_2754.JPG

Ostensibly, this was a birthday celebration for Trixie. I shelled out an extra $30 to have a birthday sign placed on our door, along with balloons and a gift card to the arcade.

If you’re not familiar with Great Wolf resorts, they’re a chain of water parks. This particular location has only the indoor water park – which is about as appealing to me as taking a bath with a bunch to strangers  (to be clear: NOT appealing).

The hotel was previously a Radisson and was rebranded last year to a Great Wolf. While the physical structure is the same, the interior appears to have had a substantial upgrade.

We arrived around 4 PM to a full parking lot and overflowing lobby. There was some type of storytelling program happening in the lobby, which features comfortable seating groups and a huge working fireplace. This was nice. The kids received wolf ears at the front desk, a cute touch. Check-in was fairly efficient and we headed to our room to get ready for the waterpark.

A word about the room:

Screen Shot 2018-02-24 at 6.23.16 PM

This was a great set up for a family. There was a distinct bedroom with a king bed, plus a main living area with a set of bunk beds and a sectional sofa with a pull-out full bed. There was a mini fridge and microwave, as well as a gas fireplace with a big TV over it. The bathroom also had a practical design: there were two sinks outside of the toilet/shower area, so multiple people could brush teeth or get ready at once.

About ten nanoseconds after arrival, the kids were ready to hit the waterpark.

Photos are supposedly not allowed in the waterpark, but you can easily picture the chaos. There were plenty of babies in swim diapers, overweight adults walking around and drinking alcohol, packs of tweens and many, many interesting tattoos.

Even though the temperature was probably 70+ degrees inside the park, I was still freezing, especially when we had to climb up to the rafters to get to the entrances of the biggest water slides, which are inconveniently next to huge glass windows that let wintery drafts liberally enter the building. Being wet and cold while you stand in line for 20 minutes to ride an oversized inner tube for 20 seconds is a special kind of torture.

The kids, however, were in heaven and we stayed for about three hours at the waterpark. Some of the time I may have had multiple towels wrapped around me, mummy style.

I accurately predicted that the restaurants at the hotel would be crazy crowded, as well as the fact that we would all be hangry by the time we got back to the room. We’d brought plenty of snacks and food for dinner, so the microwave and fridge came in handy. One note of caution: there were no plates, utensils, etc, so plan to bring your own.

Once warmed up, we snacked, watched the Olympics and everyone was ready to turn in by about 10 PM. I was totally ok with that.

The next morning I woke up early and checked my email. There was a receipt from Great Wolf and I opened it for review. I was surprised to see a $45 charge at the pool bar, so I decided to investigate this while Spouse took the kids to the breakfast buffet.

An inquiry at the front desk showed that someone – not us – had charged two double Grey Goose martinis to our room. This was annoying but was quickly taken off of our bill.

And then things got interesting.

I decided to grab a coffee from the Dunkin’ Donuts stand off of the lobby (conveniently located next to a Ben and Jerry’s outpost). Everyone else at the Great Wolf appeared to have the same idea, so I was about 30 people back. The line inched forward oh-so-slowly as people acted like selecting a donut was a irrevocable, life-changing event.

I had time to kill and became aware of the two guys who were in line behind me. They were having one of those loud conversations you sometimes hear where it seems like the conversants are speaking mainly with the purpose of being overheard. Perhaps, too, I am just a champion eavesdropper. 

Here’s how it started:

I tell you what, Stacy Johnson sure ain’t like her mother. You can actually talk to her and she don’t look down on you.

These two gentlemen proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes debating the merits of leasing versus buying a new tractor (“I ain’t spending two hundred grand on a g-d tractor”), as well as how they needed to repair something called a skid loader. Also, people who live in the City are g-d fools, a sentiment that was repeated multiple times with increasingly colorful language.

This was exquisite.

Somehow, even though they were behind me, they got their order first (“Four plain coffees. PLAIN coffee. Not that fancy stuff. And four PLAIN donuts. We don’t want none with sprinkles or spice”). I took my coffee with light milk – no fancy donuts for me – and headed back to the room.

Via some miracle, neither kid wanted to hit the waterpark one more time before check-out. I thanked the Universe for small favors and agreed to let them do what they wanted, which was to check out the resort’s other indoor activities.

Here’s a look at the resort’s interior, with the waterpark in the background:

IMG_2762

First stop: the arcade.

IMG_2764

Trixie is oddly skilled at crane games and won an oversized bouncy ball.

Both kids also needed to get an egg from the Psychic Chicken:

IMG_2759

This chicken cracked me up. There was a tiny monkey inside one of the eggs. Here is the monkey and me contemplating it:

IMG_2766

IMG_2765

The infamous Dunkin’ Donuts coffee makes an appearance

We also spent $26 on dirt. Yes, dirt. There is a “mining” experience where you can sift through a bag of dirt to find polished rocks and “gems.”

IMG_2760

Other activities at the resort include a Harry Potter-esque game where you buy a wand and travel through the hotel to find clues to solve some kind of puzzle, a climbing wall, a Build-A-Bear rip off, a kids’ salon where you can get hair braids or glitter, and an overhead roped course. All of these come with an additional price tag, so be prepared.

I may have purchased two types of hair perfume from the kids’ salon.

IMG_2757

These smell so good

And then, just like that, it was time to go.

Spouse was the first to declare the night a huge success.

Everyone had fun.

We were physically active.

We all got a good night’s sleep.

The kids got along great and also were able to choose things to do that made them happy.

The short distance made getting home a breeze.

I got my coffee and eavesdropping fix in one fell swoop.

My final thoughts on the Great Wolf Lodge: Prepare to shell out cash. Even though this was a staycation, it came with a price tag. Strongly consider booking one of the rooms that easily accommodate families. I was pleased with the set up and condition of the room. If you go in the winter, bring cozy PJs to wear post-waterpark. Bring lots of snacks, possibly even a whole meal, and of course wine, plus any needed utensils. My favorite time was when we could all snuggle on the big sofa, fireplace on, watching the Olympics and enjoying being together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trixie’s Barbie Cake

Yesterday Trixie turned 9.

Sniff.

Time, please slow down.

Since she has severe celiac disease, our usual birthday routine is to make a (meager) boxed gluten-free cake.

This usually involves over-baking, spills, fingerprints in the frosting and aching teeth from the glaring sweetness of it all.

In other words, it’s often not worth the calories. I’ll save mine for Chardonnay.

But this year I had an ace up my sleeve: one of the embryologists at my work is not only an excellent scientist, she’s also a genius cake creator.

And everything she makes is gluten free.

Trixie didn’t know I was ordering a custom cake, so I had to vaguely ask her about various preferences.

Things she likes: rainbows, glitter, dolls.

All came together in this beauty.

IMG_2783

I picked out the Barbie that I thought would tolerate the most frosting, but that was the extent of my effort (minus driving the cake home in a snowstorm, avoiding every icy patch and hoping that my plan to use the front seatbelt to keep the cake safe would work. It did).

The inside was a spectacular surprise:

IMG_2797

It was also absolutely delicious.

Spouse and I both agreed this was worth stretching our diets a bit. The kids each had two pieces at the birthday dinner and another one for breakfast the next morning.

Family motto: Eat cake for breakfast.

IMG_2795

Birthday score!

 

 

 

 

Becca Cosmetics: The One Brush

A couple of weeks ago, I had a lonely Saturday where I basically threw myself a pity party.

Not exactly pretty behavior.

It was freezing cold, Spouse was gone for the weekend, the kids were climbing the walls yet didn’t want to go anywhere, I had to work (they were reluctantly dragged along), etc.

Oh, and it was my Birthday.

The most embarrassing part of this day was that I left QVC on in the background.

QVC is an extremely guilty pleasure. 

It never occurred to me to watch it until once when I was home on maternity leave with MGM (now 10), up in the middle of the night, disoriented from lack of sleep, and bored.

While channel surfing I rested on QVC, and they were selling Philosophy skin care kits. After half-watching for 20 minutes, I felt like a new skin care kit would definitely improve my life. Click, buy.

Since then, I’ve generally done a good job of NOT buying from QVC. Really.

But I still sometimes sneak peeks, and every once in a while, they even have exclusive offerings on brands I genuinely like (Bobbi Brown, Barefoot Dreams).

Back to that fateful Saturday: the big deal of the day (is that what it’s called?) was a Becca Cosmetics set that included highlighter, foundation, skin primer, eye brightening concealer, and lip gloss.

The lip gloss got me first.

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 12.13.00 PM

It’s sparkly and peachy, two things I adore.

Click, buy.

All of this was about $60. The gloss is everything I wanted. The eye brightener is also better than I’d hoped. I’ve been layering it over my usual concealer and it really delivers on the glow.

I don’t usually use a primer, but I’ve given this a few chances and it does not disappoint. I wear it under my Bobbi Brown tinted moisturizer and can see a (good) difference.

The powder highlighter is supposedly one of the line’s star products. It’s finely milled and gives a nice golden glow. I still like Bobbi Brown shimmer brick better, but this is ok.

The foundation’s formula was good but the color was off. This is my fault; I should have followed my gut and ordered a different shade. I picked the lightest one and it is just too light.

Researching the brand, though, I discovered that another of their best sellers is this brush:

Screen Shot 2018-02-11 at 12.01.56 PM

Called The One, here’s Becca’s description:

A true beauty multitasker, this brush can be used with liquids, creams, powders and anything in between.

It retails for $49.

I have a lot of cosmetic brushes that I’ve either bought or received as freebies over the years, so this didn’t immediately seem like something I’d be interested in.

Yet – I loved the idea of this being the one tool that can replace up to 10 others.

Amazon also had deals on this exact brush from third party sellers for as low as $15.

That price made it worth a try.

One thing that surprised me is the size of the brush. It’s a lot bigger than I expected.

IMG_2693

For reference, it’s about the size of a deck of cards.

It also lives up to its billing as an allover brush. I’ve been using it for bronzer or a quick dusting of translucent powder, and it’s extremely efficient due to the wide brush head. The bristles are short and somewhat stiff, but not prickly in any way.

This would be perfect for travel. Even though the size isn’t compact, the utility of this brush would earn it a place in a travel bag.

Of all the Becca products above, I’d recommend the gloss, the eye brightener and the brush, especially if you can find it for less than $20.