Category: Style & Beauty

Preparing for My First Chicago Winter, Round One (and a polyvore!)

It’s already gotten pretty dang cold here in the Windy City.  The temperatures over the last two weeks have fluctuated slightly, but to me early October felt more like mid-December than early fall.  Each week it’s getting a little colder instead of a little warmer.

There are a few things I know about myself which make me very nervous about the pending doom that will be January, February, and March 2014.  First, winter isn’t that fun once the Christmas lights are taken down.  Second, I tend to eat a lot of comfort food, drink warm beverages, and stay indoors in the winter, which isn’t so great for the waistline.  Finally, if I don’t get enough sunshine in the winter months I can get a little mopey, which is most likely a mild case of that seasonal sadness thing.  Because these three things work together to make me feel not great, I need to do whatever it takes to be sure I am getting outside and getting some sunshine this coming winter.

So, I’ve been doing a little shopping.  Here’s what I’ve accumulated so far to keep me happily outside during the coming winter months.  I’ve used Polyvore to piece together pictures of the items I’ve purchased, and while this effort is notably awkward and slightly unfortunate, this month is all about trying out new things on the blog!    So, I’m sharing my recent shopping adventures AND this sub-par photo-collage with you.

1.  Down Coat

Everyone I’ve met here in Chicago has recommended that I get a down coat immediately.  After a bit of research, I decided that the Lands’ End featherlight down jacket would be my first investment piece.  What I like about this coat is that it is incredibly light weight, it’s rated down to -10 degrees, and I can push the sleeves up or layer a lot underneath it without feeling bound up.  Also, I got it on sale for only $69.99 when the comparable coats from other stores were more than twice that cost.

2. Gloves

For gloves, I chose the Lands’ End EZ Touch casual gloves in Vicuna, which is a soft brown color that slightly contrasts my coat.  They aren’t waterproof, ski-quality gloves, and they aren’t fancy leather gloves, but for reading my phone while waiting for the bus this winter I think they will be just right.

3.  Scarves and hats for warmth, not just cuteness

I have a ton of cute scarves, but they are typically lightweight and not really made for keeping warm.  I added two winter scarves to my collection from Lands’ End sales, and while the red-and-white will be adorable during Christmas, the CashTouch scarf is also very nice and I might order a few other colors if I need them later in the season.  I also picked up the red-and-white hat to match my new scarf, because I don’t have any winter hats and really need to build that part of my wardrobe.  The red-and-white set was on super clearance and I was able to get a great deal.

4. A medium-weight fleece for layering

For a cozy intermediate layer, I also picked up an L.L. Bean sweater fleece.  It’s incredibly warm and looks nice enough to wear in the office if I need it.

Winter Essentials Round Oneb

If you’re on the market for affordable winter wear, I really cannot recommend Lands’ End enough. You have to be careful to avoid the granny-styles, but if you take some time to weed through their products, I think you’ll find that the quality and affordability is fantastic.

Do you have any winter must-haves to recommend?  Tips for surviving the cold weather?  If so, please share them here. 

What I’m Into: October 2013

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This month.  Everywhere I go people are saying “Where did October go?”, and I have to agree — this month has flown by.  Today I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s “What I’m Into” blogging link-up.  I always find a few fun things when reading blogs linked up in this series, and since holiday shopping is right around the corner I’m definitely going to be reading up on what other lady-bloggers are loving.  Be sure to check them out by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom of the post.

October Highlights:

  • My first ever Government Shutdown, which taught me that I’m not at all ready to be a stay-at-home person.
  • Dinner with H’s Dad and an entire weekend with my family in our new city.  Chicago is a great place for visitors.
  • The Crate and Barrel Christmas Tree Lot email.  Did you guys get it?  Holy cow it is BEAUTIFUL.  When I feel sad or need some inspiration I go back and look at it again.  Click the link, give it a second to load, and then scroll down.  Trust me.
  • Getting up-close and personal with my old friend Ina.  H and I have been eating some delicious delicious things thanks to the two Barefoot Contessa cookbooks on my bookshelf!

french toast bread pudding

Personal accomplishments:

  • Getting much better at painting my unbitten nails.  It’s been a long time coming.  Practice makes perfect, or so they say.  We haven’t reached perfection yet but we are getting much closer.
  • Choosing (I think) a new alternative career.  During the Shutdown, I decided that once I’ve paid my debt down a bit and we are a bit more settled in a city, I might shift careers and teach government, civics, or U.S. history to high school students.  I’d love to teach at the college level but let’s be real — what I really want to be is a real-life Tami TaylorI’m also open to oh, I don’t know, working for a government that doesn’t act crazy and shutdown all the dang time.
  • Reading the first few chapters of my friend Abby‘s book manuscript.  It was a great read and felt really good to be a small part of something so important.  I LOVE when my friends are successful and do awesome things.

Reading and Watching:

  • Every show on Television.  I seriously did watch every Fall 2013 television premiere (although some I could only handle for a few minutes before moving on), and I am going to break this down for you a little further very soon.  [There is a mad case of blogger stalling going on here.]  Like most American women I’m loving Scandal and I’ve recently gotten back on the Grey’s Anatomy bandwagon.
  • Friday Night Lights.  H and I had a lot of time together during my shutdown and since he’d never seen it, we’ve been watching it through from the beginning.  He really connects with Coach Taylor and it’s kind of fun watching it from the perspective of a sports fanatic.
  • Hilary Mantel came highly recommended but I think the first book of hers that I picked up was not a great place to start.  I’ve been plodding along through Fludd without being swept up and it’s taken up most of my month.  It’s all about the church so I thought I would love it, but I just haven’t been able to.  Yet.  I’m looking forward to finishing it up and starting my friend Elora’s book (which I received an autographed copy of, by the way! so excited about this).

Fashion and Beauty:

  • Stitch-fix and I are struggling to find our rhythm with a few things, but overall I would be freezing my butt off up here if not for the cute sweaters they’ve sent over for me to purchase lately.  I changed some sizes and gave different feedback after reading Anne’s tips for getting the fix you want, and am very excited about my November fix.
  • H’s office Christmas party was scheduled for Nov. 9 but has been postponed for some unknown reason.  I was excited for the party but really needed to buy new shoes first, so am glad for the delay.  If you have favorite black heels you can recommend, please do leave a comment below!  I’m in desperate need but always put it off.
  • Makeup finds:  Philosophy’s Kiss Me lip gloss in Soft Berry was a random purchase that I’ve actually loved.  In the [just started painting my] nail department, I’m loving Revlon ColorStay in Stormy Night.  I feel super cool when I wear this nail color, although so far the “Stay” part of the polish hasn’t been so effective on my pointer fingers.  Just saying.

So, what have you been loving this month?  Leave a comment or join the link-up to let us know.

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Real Life

Hi Friends.  It’s been a hot minute since you’ve gotten an update, so that’s what you are getting today!  Hope you are doing well — can’t wait to hear about your fabulous lives as well.

Writing.

I told you how I signed up for a writing class thing for the summer, remember?  Well, it doesn’t start until July 1st but during June I’m using Elora’s 30-days of writing prompts geared for finding your purpose.  I’m not even half-way through the prompts, but I’m loving how they excite me about writing and also kick me in the butt for being lazy and not prioritizing my gifts in my own life.  If you’re interested in purchasing the prompts, you can get 30 days of prompts for only $30.  It supports a great writer, and it supports you as a writer, so it’s basically win-win.

Work.

In our last update, I mentioned that I might have a position in Chicago but that it was tricky and not certain and that I wasn’t sure if it would be with my old job or my new (same agency but different division) job or something altogether unexpected. . . Well, it’s settled now and I officially have a position and I officially start on August 12th — the same day H starts his new job!  It’s a dream come true for making our physical and financial transition smooth and I am so excited and thankful that it worked out.  I mean, I couldn’t imagine a better scenario.

Well, unless Rahm called me and was like Hey, MB, we really need a lawyer to work for us in the City of Chicago and really, you are the only one we want.  So can you come and re-do our land-use policies and make sure our master plan doesn’t accidentally (or intentionally) discriminate and be in charge of ending homelessness and economic development grants and just spend all of my city budget helping people? And can you please wear jeans and a blazer to work every day, because dress pants just aren’t our style.  That would be a pretty great scenario too. 

The Daily Grind.

H is fishing three days a week and reading Game of Thrones during his well deserved summer break after graduate school, and I’m enjoying my job a lot.  I’m incredibly busy and working on some organizational planning efforts that are complicated and messy and exactly the kind of projects I love.  I’m doing a lot better at getting to work early on time and getting full nights of sleep, and I’m trying to get to the gym twice a week and eat fewer calories and more vegetables.  I even had a glass of wine and a BLT instead of two glasses of beer and a cheeseburger at Trivia last night.  Impressive, I know.

Our Move.

We’re still planning to find an apartment after the July 4th holiday and move up the first weekend in August.  Now that we both have start-dates for our jobs, it’s getting more real.  Once we find our new place in only SIXTEEN DAYS!!! we will schedule our movers.  Between now and then, I’m going to start  going through some of our things and packing/donating.

Let’s talk about donating for a second — do you guys ever feel like Goodwill doesn’t want your donations?  On the day of my last drop-off, I was asked if the clothes I had in sacks had been dry-cleaned and were on individual hangers.  I’m not dry-cleaning t-shirts, but I don’t want to just throw them out.  Is there a better way to donate used items that still have some life in them?

We’re also looking at a lot of furniture stores, because we have a lot of things to purchase in the coming months and want to be responsible about such large expenses.  For a new sofa, we’re considering Basset Furniture — we really liked their selection and service.  We also found this AMAZING coffee table (minus the wheels) but it seems weird to pay so much for something that looks so simple. . . not that furniture making is simple, just that I wish it were so I could have whatever kind of furniture I wanted.  (P.S. Sorry this photo is a little blurry.)

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Travel.

We spent last weekend in Virginia Beach, and we had so much fun EXCEPT that the traffic on I-95 from DC toward Richmond was HORRENDOUS.  When we left at 10:30 a.m. I anticipated arriving by 3:00. . . but it was actually 6:30.  That’s how much traffic it was.

But, it was so fun to get away, and I only took one picture!  Below please find Virginia Beach’s favorite drink, the Orange Crush.

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Professional Photo Shoot

Last Friday afternoon I accepted a volunteer leadership position with an organization I am a member of.  It is a fantastic opportunity for me to do legal work in a field I care about, and a great way to expand my network since I’ll be moving to Chicago and basically starting my professional network there from scratch. 

Once I’d accepted, I received a final request that said (paraphrasing here): “Thanks!  Please submit your professional head shot to xxxxxxxxx at [email address] for inclusion in our leadership directory. 

…. ummm, my professional head shot?  Do people normally have those just sitting around? 

Working as a government policy-maker (and not in an Office of General Counsel or fancy-schmancy law firm) has some great perks.  I get to make decisions like, we should do this instead of that “for policy reasons.”  So, even though an idea is technically legal I can argue against it just because it sounds stupid/inefficient/like a bad idea/is unsupported by research/ or is otherwise unlikely to help families and children as much as another idea could or would.  I never have to work more than 40 hours each week and I get great benefits.  But there are things the job doesn’t include that I miss: things like CLE and bar expense reimbursements, administrative leave for lawyer training events and conferences, business cards (yes, really), and a reason and venue for taking professional head shots. 

I’ve been working a little at a time to fill these tiny gaps in my portfolio.  Earlier this year I ordered beautiful name cards from www.minted.com to use while networking, and I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the design and paper/printing.  Today, I had an emergency photo shoot with Gretchen from Honey I Shrunk the Gretchen so I could send a head shot to the organization.  We met up during my lunch break today and had a 30-minute photo shoot plus meet-and-greet in the L’Enfant Plaza-Smithsonian area.  The weather was perfect, Gretchen was fantastic (and funny!), and our hastily planned quick-and-dirty photo shoot was a huge success.  

Check out a few photos from today’s session!  I think Gretchen did a wonderful job of making me look smart AND pretty, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.  We were able to squeeze in a few more casual shots too, which I will be revealing soon as the blog gets a facelift over the next few months.  Adding professional-quality photos to the blog, linked-in, and other social media accounts has been a goal of mine since last November, and I’m excited to have one more item checked off of that list. 

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Here’s a little something exciting

Well, you guys know I hate going to the dentist already, but in case you weren’t aware: I hate all types doctor’s visits. It’s a sliding scale of hatred — a great chain of hatred, if you will.

**This is a reference to the Great Chain of Being. It’s a thing you should know about- google it if you don’t!

Today, on the less-terrible end of the scale, I had my annual eye exam. I hate the glaucoma puff test (sometimes I call it the gonnorhea test by “accident,” ahaha). I hate how they shine bright lights in your eyes and tell you not to blink. I mean, seriously? Your body is designed to shut your eyes in the face of danger. Flashing bright lights are dangerous.

Well, today I was a vision-testing rock star. I made it through the puff test in one try per eye. That alone is a minor miracle. I also aced the flashing lights and insane eyeball photos with minimal re-dos.

And…I purchased new glasses. My most recent pair were tornado-insurance glasses, so I haven’t actually paid for glasses since, ummm, 2005. And that was definitely still my parents’ money so in reality, I have never once paid for glasses. That is pretty impressive even for me.

I have a pretty typical style — reddish purple metal frames with a squared-off face. I almost bought a new pair that was right along those lines.

But, I didn’t. I bought large tortoise-shell plastic frames by Michael Kors instead.

Aren’t they cute? They’ll be back on my face in about two weeks. Boring mold-breaking for the win.

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Mid-March Update

A friend requested more updates – so, this update post is dedicated to you, sir. A memorable gift, I’m sure. ;)

1. I started a new job on March 1st. It is technically a rotation and technically temporary, but we shall see about that. Already, it has so opened many doors and provided so many new opportunities.

2. I stopped being career depressed on March 2nd. This may or may not be tied to item number one.

3. I love the spring-looking weather. And I use the modifier here because, while beautiful in our nation’s capital, it is freezing cold.

4. I bought a new top that I am completely in love with. I’m wearing it right now!

5. March Madness began today but my heart just isn’t in it this year. Yet.

6. We were fourth place in trivia last night. Selected facts for your intellectual development: the Vatican has a best movies list and Schindler’s List is the newest film on it; the wheelbarrow was invented in China; vexillology is the study of flags.

7. I printed a 30-Days of Spring Cleaning plan but our apartment is so small I think I could do it all in about 8 hours. And I already cleaned out our pantry because I like it to look like the shelves at Target. It’s called “zoning.” Don’t judge.

8. We still have not heard back from H’s future employer about where we will be living, so no announcements yet. Hopefully soon — seriously, hopefully tomorrow because I’m an obsessive planner and if we don’t hear soon I might kill someone.

9. I’m posting this from my iPhone while commuting home and it is phone-blogging-awareness month at WordPress, so I’m not just multitasking but also joining a blogging revolution. Impressed much?

10. I just got 5 text messages about basketball in the last ten seconds. Oh lord…

Greatest Deal Ever (this is about makeup)

As you probably will not remember, my awesome mom gifted me Laura Geller’s Baked Collection for Christmas.  And I fell completely in love with the foundation.  I mean the rest is all pretty sweet-tastic as well, but the foundation is KILLER.

It’s been a bit over three months and my sample-sized foundation started running out, so I headed over to Ulta to buy a replacement.  I did some internet research and discovered that the full-sized foundation was $33, which is honestly not so bad when the sample size lasted for 3 months and the foundation is literally the best ever.  I also noticed that there was a coffee-flavored kit for sale at Ulta, but I remained focused:  no marketing tricks for this girl.  I just needed the foundation, not some random samples of things I never wanted in the first place.  I’ve been around the block a time or two.  I know how these things work.

But they were out of my color.  And so, since I was there anyway, I walked over to check this fancy-schmancy kit out.  For only $6 more, you could get foundation, blush, highlighter, highlighter shading brush, eye shadow palette, and lip gloss.  And so I decided to give it a try.  It was super cute, and the packaging totally fooled H, who asked:  Are you seriously buying coffee from this ridiculous makeup store?  Why do they even sell coffee here?

002So I bought it, fully anticipating a mini-sized foundation that would last for another three months.  BUT WAIT:  It was actually a full-sized foundation.  AND a full-sized blush.  And a full-sized everything.  Check it out:

makeup kit insideThe blush, eye shadow, and lip gloss are all incredibly natural-plus, [that’s what I call my style, for your information] and the lip gloss is actually not sticky.  I’m ambivalent about the highlighter and highlighter brush — it’s a foam pad brush, not a bristled brush, so I’ll have to try it for a few days to see how I like it.

But seriously, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving and I am stoked about this amazing deal!  Adorable packaging, great deals, and products that I can and will actually use.  So stoked, in fact,  that H started making fun of me and saying that this was just like getting three fishing lures in a package that looked like pork rinds — only that is not actually a thing.  This is.