Friday, December 30, 2011

2012






Like most of you, with the advent of the new year I have goals on my mind.

This blog is just over a year old and I've been changing it up a little bit lately. I'm blogging less (it was starting to feel like a job that paid me nothing. I'm trying to take it back into hobby-that-I-enjoy territory) but I'm also trying to make sure that what I DO share here is of a higher quality. No more blogging just for the sake of getting something up because AGH it's a weekday and I have to post!

Janssen and I were g-chatting the other day and she said something that has been on my brain ever since-

fashion BLOGS are really useful
  but how long does ONE fashion blog continue to be useful?

She is so very wise, that Janssen.

I've been unsubscribing from quite a few fashion blogs lately. A new post would come up in my reader and I'd go, "Yup. That looks like something she would wear." And then I'd move on. Blogs that I once found incredibly inspiring are feeling a bit stale. 

I really don't want to fall into that rut with my readers. Here's the thing- I DO blog for myself. Fashion blogging has made me think of my wardrobe in a whole different way and I am much happier with my personal style now (though I think it will always be a work in progress). 

But I also blog for you. I get wonderful e-mails about how I've helped girls out of their post-baby shlump or showed them how they could wear the boots their in-laws got them for Christmas. The e-mails I got after the 21 Day Challenge occasionally made me cry. I thought it would just be a fun little thing to do with you guys but there were some women who really needed that push and it made a huge difference in how they felt about themselves. It made me feel like I was operating a worthwhile corner of the internet over here.

So here's the big question: how can this blog be useful to you in 2012? I have some things in mind that I'll be doing for myself but what would you like to see?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas Dress

A couple weeks ago I thought to myself, "I'd really love a new dress to wear on Christmas." Almost immediately I followed that thought with, "Nah. I don't have enough cash to get myself something I'd really like." But then my brain went, "Duh. You own a sewing machine, tons of fabric, and multiple patterns that you haven't ever used. Get crackin'."




I bought this pattern ages ago so I could participate in the Presserfoot Mad Men Sew-Along. I carefully altered the pattern to my measurements and then..something happened. I don't remember what but I didn't get any further than that. Inexplicably, I also threw away every part of the pattern beside the bodice front and back for view A and the sleeve pattern for view D. I wish I remembered my thought process for that.

Crazy face courtesy of me feeling super awkward about taking outfit photos in front of my fam.


Fortunately, that was all I needed. UNfortunately, despite painstaking pattern alterations way back when, it was not even close to fitting properly. The vast majority of the time spent on this dress was nipping and tucking and trying to get it to fit like a wiggle dress and not a paper bag. I also lowered the neckline significantly since the original pattern actually had turtleneck aspirations. I did a neckline facing instead of a lining since, again, I apparently didn't feel the need to keep that part of the pattern.

Matchy! Love my Eos lipbalm.


For the skirt I used my wonderful custom pencil skirt pattern. It fit like a dream from the get-go. I will love that pattern forever.

Dress by me, thrifted belt and shoes, necklace from ATL, bracelet from JewelMint (Christmas present from my sister that oh-so-conveniently matched my outfit for the day)



Even with all the bodice alterations it still came together surprisingly quickly (two rainy-day naptimes and one late night hemming session) and I love it! I feel like it has a classic shape that lends itself to a lot fun remix possibilities.

The fit is still not perfect (that's my biggest sewing hurdle right now..I think I need to take a class or read a book or something) but it's a big improvement over my Halloween dress. I'm getting better!

Special thanks to Nikki for being willing to snap a few pics while also holding/bouncing her baby. That's a talented woman right there.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Wednesday (fulfilled) Want

I always go kind of crazy cleaning lady right before Christmas. All I want on Christmas morning is to wake up to a sparklingly clean house. I would really love it to stay that way but I know that's like asking pigs to dance the hula.

While cleaning and organizing my closets (and preparing for my uncle to come stay with us) I realized we have a rather glaring hole in our linen closet: blankets.

I mean, we have blankets, but they're awful. They're holey or bright pink or sandpapery or all of the above. I have no nice blankets to cuddle up with on the couch or offer to houseguests. The more I've thought about it, the more I've realized I just need to toss everything on our blanket shelf. It's that bad.

Back in November I did some Christmas shopping with my mom and saw this Martha Stewart blanket at Macy's.


It's absolutely gorgeous in person. It's soft and substantial and just begs for a good couch snuggle. It's also like $120. At the time I kind of recoiled in horror just absolutely positive that was a crazy price tag for a blanket. Unfortunately, the more browsing I've done the more I've realized that's pretty standard for a good quality blanket. Some of the other ones I've really loved have pushed the $200 mark. For a blanket. It pains me.

After I had this post all written I complained to my mom about my blanket issue. Last night she went to Macy's and found a wonderful Ralph Lauren blanket on sale for $40. Good old Macy's to the rescue! I love that place.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Guest Post



I'm over at Sumo's Sweet Stuff today talking about my favorite Christmas music and movies. Come on over!

Also, I could have sworn I posted about this but I can't find it anywhere so I must have spaced it. Back in October Brett interviewed me for her blog. Find my interview here.

AND, last week I was interviewed for a little piece on Mormon fashion bloggers.

Have a very merry weekend!!
 
 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Open to Interpretation

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My pick again! While going through my Pinterest boards I kept coming back to this picture:

Shot by Phil Poynter for Vogue Germany

There's so much to love here...a gorgeous silhouette, chunky metallic belt, big splash of red, big and bold winged eyeliner rolled up in a fantastic photograph. I adore it all.

I picked up this wonderful blue coat back when I was quite pregnant with Stinky (with very high hopes that it would fit when I got unpregnant). Every winter I rediscover it and remember how much I love it. I'd totally save it in the event of a fire. When I decided on the inspiration my mind immediately went to this coat. The end result was not something I ever would have come up with on my own but I loved it!

Pictures by Aaron with his 5D Mark II. Obviously.

Charlotte Russe coat and boots, shirt from Italy (a gift from my mom), floral skirt free from church swap, yellow skirt by me, thrifted belt, old headband

I feel like the pictures didn't really capture the silhouette but the bottom was quite full (I layered two full skirts to try and mimic the shape in the inspiration pic). I looked rather hour-glassy, which is quite the accomplishment for my squarey body. I also did a pretty serious winged eyeliner which was a fun change from my normal, more conservative little line.


I was worried I'd be a little overdressed for our trip to the ghost town but there were a lot of other women wandering around in dresses. Granted, they were paid actors (and some of them were faux hookers) but still. I was in good company.

Click below to see Amy's and Erica's interpretations!

OTI


Amy
Erica

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Six

1- Our wedding reception (please note the friends plotting our demise in the background).   2- At Out of Africa in front of a lion that you can't see.  3- Pregnant hippo and husband.  4- Pavones, Costa Rica at sunset. With a sunburn.  5- First wedding anniversary. Sick and sunburned.  6- Hawaiiiii. Sunburned.

Happy anniversary to my hunk of burning love. May we continue our long and illustrious history of taking really unattractive pictures together.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Sunday Share

First moments with Baby 2

Edit: If you have a moment please go read and spare a prayer for this sweet little boy and his family. Having had a child go to the hospital in an ambulance this year I know exactly the nightmare feeling she is talking about but hers is so much worse.  *Edit 2: she had to take down her original post because of what sounds like lawyerly intervention and an investigation or something (darn right too. There should be consequences for that truck driver).


Does anyone else revel in birth stories? I'm so glad that people feel comfortable sharing such personal, intimate stories. They're beautiful and uplifting and absolutely among my most favorite things to read.

For the past few weeks my reader has been alight with birth stories and I thought I'd pass them along:

Superwoman Cecilia gave birth to identical twin boys with no drugs. I keep trying to write about the miracles that happened here but my sentence ended up being like 18 lines long so let me just say: there were miracles.

Sydney labored for something like 9 days (mind is boggled). But those pictures of her when she first held her baby? Killed me.

Christy gave birth to twin girls seven months ago and just got around to posting the story (can't blame her. She has got to be BUSY). I can't believe how chunky her sweet babies look. They must have been really crammed in there.

CJane had a home birth, which both terrifies and fascinates me. Later that day, she hosted Thanksgiving dinner at her house. I kind of wish you could have seen my face while I was reading about that.

This one is older but it's one of my all-time favorite birth stories- the birth of Nella Cordelia. She has Downs Syndrome and her parents had no idea until she arrived.


Have a wonderful Sunday!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Challenge 2.0



Alrighty lovelies, I'm trying to get my brain back into Challenge mode. I know a lot of people were hoping for a winter edition and I'm starting to work on it. It will probably be in January or February

I DO know that the next round won't be 21 days. I'm thinking 2 weeks with the weekend off (so ten days total). I think that's long enough to still be a challenge but not so long that people start hating me for roping them into this crazy thing. But it means I need a new title! 10 Day Challenge sounds kind of lame to me (and yet 21 Day Challenge did not?). Challenge 2.0 is my working title but it's kind of geeky. Suggestions are welcome.

I'm trying to decide if I want to do sponsors again. I'm sort of inclined toward it since I think that prizes give that little extra bit of motivation (plus drawing winners last time was so much fun for me). I'd definitely have to simplify my methods if I do go that route. Tracking points nearly killed me last time since I was only expecting like a quarter of the participation that I got.

If you or someone you know might be interested in sponsoring the challenge, would you contact me? For sponsors who provide a prize for a randomly selected winner I give sidebar space for one month plus a spotlight post in the week leading up to the challenge. E-mail me for blog stats (my traffic sky-rocketed during the last challenge so it's a great time to get your ad in front of some eyeballs).

The last challenge really was SO awesome with such great participation. I'm really hoping this next round will be just as fun! I've been going back through and reading all your wonderful suggestions from the last round and I think the next one is going to be that much more awesome because of your feedback. I'm excited!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Recipe: Utahna's Toffee

Super awesome iPhone photography. I especially love the garlic at the back.

I mentioned in my last post that I went to a candy exchange this weekend. I had a heck of a time figuring out what to bring (candy is not my forte. I make good caramels but wrapping them makes me feel sort of violent).

Then I stumbled across this recipe from Aaron's great aunt Utahna (yes. Utahna). Bingo! I'm not really a toffee person but I love this one! It's pretty quick and easy and doesn't even require a candy thermometer (which is good because mine broke like a year ago and I never replaced it).


Raquel hands out awards for best sweater, best tasting candy and best presentation so I wrapped mine in wax paper and made little boxes out of sheets of card stock. I took a calligraphy class a couple weeks ago from Melissa Esplin (it was awesome by the way. Utah people - take her class!) and used my fancy new skillz to make a pretty label. I didn't win (boo!) but I was really happy with how it all turned out! It felt fancy with pretty minimal effort.



Utahna's English Toffee
from Red Couch Recipes


1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1 cup toasted pecans broken in pieces (toast in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes)
1-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place toasted pecans in the bottom of  8x8 pyrex pan.

Cut butter into pieces and put it into a medium heavy sauce pan with the sugar, and water.  Stir frequently with a wooden spoon.  The mixture will appear fluffy.

Cook 10ish minutes (it will depend on your stove. Mine took a little longer) until it turns an amber color, starts to leave the sides of the pan, and is slightly smoking.

Take off heat and immediately pour over prepared nuts. Let cool for 8 to 10 minutes.  Then sprinkle with chocolate chips.  When chips are melted, spread with an offset spatula.  Let chocolate set* (it takes several hours). Chip out of the pyrex with a butter knife (there might be a better way to do this. I don't know what it is but it worked just fine and gave me good sized pieces).

*Don't put it in the fridge if you can help it. The cold chocolate doesn't adhere to the toffee very well and it ends up separating when you break up the toffee. If you DO put it in the fridge, let it come back to room temperature before breaking and mash the chocolate down a bit. This I learned the hard way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

DIY Christmas Sweater

My friend Raquel holds a yearly Christmas treat exchange and always requests that attendees sport some specific Christmas attire. Last year was aprons (mine was awesome but I got sick the day of and ended up staying home) and this year was Christmas sweaters.

I am not really a Christmas sweater person. Even to be funny. I'm lame that way.

But last week I happened to stumble across this Phillip Lim sweater and thought, "You know...I'd maybe wear that."

I mean, I'd maybe wear it if I ran across it at Goodwill for $3. But I would not pay anywhere near the $385 Net-a-Porter has it listed for. Mostly because I would never pay that much for anything besides like..kitchen appliances (I'm getting a Vita-Mix for Christmas! Woot!).

Anyway, I knew I could DIY it. I still had some leftover gray jersey from the tunic from this post and I've always got freezer paper and fabric paint on hand. I found a simple reindeer graphic and did a not-as-quick-as-I-would-have-liked freezer paper stencil (for future reference: large stencils should be done in pieces if you value your sanity).




I really love the end result. I've worn it a few times already and I'm kind of thinking maybe I need a few more...


Deer bum wraparound action
The party was a blast! I ate lots of yummy homemade candies and had some good laughs.


My friend Staci won the sweater contest with her own homemade creation. She pinned a stocking to her sweatshirt! It was both hilarious AND functional. Like a festive kangaroo. She fit all kinds of stuff in there. I sense a future fashion trend...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Open to Interpretation


When Erica sent me her pick for this round I actually laughed out loud a little bit. It was just so perfect. Perfect for December, perfect for a group OTI, perfect for my closet (I got a little dizzy thinking of all the different ways I could do this one). I really love it.

Found on Pinterest but it's not attached to an original source. Anyone recognize?
I was really tempted to go with my red blazer and striped skirt for this one but I'm always looking for reasons to bust out my beloved red pants. If only I had a furry hat (or vest!).

Target shirt, vest from Meredith, Gap pants, Payless wedges, old scarf, bag free from church swap





I helped Aaron with a photoshoot (by that I mean I held the umbrella light stand so it wouldn't get knocked over by a tiny gust of wind) and got paid in outfit pictures taken with Aaron's 5D Mark II complete with lights. Fancy!

Click below to see Amy's and Erica's interpretations and check below that for the link party!

OTI


Erica
Amy

Link up below!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Button Fixed

There was something wonky in the OTI button code but, fortunately, a lovely reader caught that something was wrong and I got it all fixed (phew. That would have been real fun to deal with tomorrow).

If you're planning on using an OTI button for your post tomorrow, THIS is the correct code (sorry about that):

Freckles in April OTI

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

OTI Reminder!



Just a little reminder that Thursday is our OTI link up! Remember that you're interpreting not copying, so don't worry if you don't have red pants and a furry hat...just work with what you've got!

Find the inspiration and button here. Take your picture asap and get it posted and linked on December 8th!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Under $5 Gift Guide



Janssen was invited to a rather high number of "Under $5 Gifts/Favorite Things" parties. I was invited to none. There are two possible reasons for this: 1. my real life friends are boring non-party throwers or 2. Janssen is way way more popular than I am. Leaning toward #2.

Anyway, we were talking about how hard it is to find cool things for under $5. Almost everything that came immediately to mind, like my mascara or fav nail polish, was in the $7-9 range. Under $5 is an elusive category populated with scented candles and cheap bath salts. We thought we could do a little better.

The key to giving inexpensive gifts is presentation. A couple colored pencils wrapped with twine or a pretty ribbon and a gift tag feels special even if you only spent $3. The dollar store carries all kinds of ribbon options for cheap and I love using basic office supply string tags as gift tags.




1. Mirra makeup brushes - These are surprisingly nice, given the price tag, and can be found at Kroger grocery stores (includes Frys in AZ and Smith's in UT and probably a bunch of others in other states). I own a few and use them quite a bit and they've held up really well. Prices start at $2.24 (with my Frys VIP card. Otherwise it was $2.99). There are a few brushes in the $10 range but most are under $5. Bundle two of the cheapest ones together or pair one with...

2. Cover Girl Eye-Enhancers 1 Kit Shadow - Comes in 25 shades and was $2.55 at my grocery store when I last checked.

3. Faber-Castell Pitt Calligraphy Pens - Archival, acid-free, smudge-proof, water-resistant and all kinds of fun to write with. Black, cranberry and sepia available online for $1.99 apiece.

4. Sequined floral coin purse - Pretty, sparkly, and $4.80!

5. Bar Brow Aviator Sunglasses - Let your friends channel their inner Maverick or Ice Man for $2.49 (on sale from $5.50)

6. DIY Sea Salt Spray - Pick up small spray bottles from Target or Wal-Mart and mix up a big batch of my favorite DIY hair product. You can get a LOT of bottles worth from one little container of epsom salt and one tube of gel so the final cost per person would be well below $5. Bonus points for creating a cute little label to stick on your bottles.

7. Fun tights - I think under $5 options are easier to find in stores than online but I found these awesome pirate ones and diamond textured ones on Amazon. Check Target or Wal Mart.

8. Flour sack kitchen towels - I've found 3 packs for $1 at Dollar Tree. They're wonderfully multipurpose. Good for cleaning up and great for crafts. I let my kids draw on one with colored sharpies and then paint it and we hung it on their wall for a while. I made another one into a baby dress.

9. Erasers with famous paintings and their artists - I kind of feel like maybe my life has been incomplete without one of these sets. On sale for $1.99 (orig. $4.99). It also sounds like they're maybe pretty decent erasers.

10. Pantone colored pencils - for the color nerd who knows what the Pantone color of the year is (it's Honeysuckle) and can't wait to see what it will be for 2012 (yay!). $1.39 apiece in almost any color you can imagine.

11. Socks - Fun ones! Stripes, argyle, polka dot, fuzzy! I've had good luck at Target (I can always find the cheap ones in the store but not online) but I'm sure Wal Mart and department stores like Macy's or JCPenney would also be good. The ones in the picture are, sadly, $7.50. Foiled.

12. Local treats - I get all my bread from a wonderful mom-and-pop bakery. It's about $4 a loaf and I would love to tie a red bow around one and give it as a gift. Delish! I also have some options for locally produced honey and chocolate that would make lovely gifts. Find something you love and share it!

13. Dover Thrift Editions - Cheap paperback versions of classics. I picked up a ton of these in college and they're awesome. Bonus: they tend to be small and thin so I can squeeze more into my limited shelf space.

14. A deck of cards - the more decks you own the greater variety of games you can play! Plus, I don't know about you, but we're always having to buy new decks because one card disappears forever into the depths of our couch. This deck of cards is barely over $1 so you've got some leftover change to include an ebook with instructions for a bunch of different card games if you'd like.

15. A pretty notebook - I think that empty notebooks are among the most wonderful and useful things in the whole world. A purse sized one is perfect for jotting down grocery lists, inspiration, random thoughts, and reminders. Or you can always go with one of those basic spiral-bound $.99 ones from the grocery store (those are actually my fav) and include a fun pen!




16. A pretty bottle - Fill it with homemade lemonade (or something a little stronger, if that's your thing). I'd be thrilled to receive this one! $3.99 at Ikea.

17. Carafe - Find 'em cheap at thrift stores. I never pay more than a buck and I use mine all the time. It makes our beverage of choice (water!) seem so much fancier.

18. Serving Bowl - I think this $1.99 option from Ikea is gorgeous.

19. Cookie cutters - buy online or go to JoAnn's or a baking supply store (they're cheap when you pick them up individually). Include your fav recipe for sugar cookies!

20. Scarf - Thrift these (if you're ok with giving secondhand stuff as gifts). You'll probably spend less than $2 apiece and can sometimes find some really nice ones. Alternatively, places like Old Navy frequently have them for pretty cheap on clearance.

21. Magazine holders - I felt like I finally saw the light when I got myself a set from Office Max to hold all my old Real Simples, Ensigns, etc. But this set of 4 for $2.99 from Ikea (this is becoming the Ikea show) is way prettier.

22. A house plant - Pick up a small glass container from a thrift store. Throw in some pebbles for drainage, a little soil, and a plant. Succulents are ridiculously easy, upkeep wise, but an herb plant would be awesome too.

23. An ornament - You can find pretty options for cheap everywhere (especially after Christmas) but even over the past couple weeks I've had awesome luck at Kohl's, Macy's and random mall kiosks. If you're crafty I'm sure there are some good DIY ideas floating around the blogosphere.

24. Scrabble Slam - We love this game! Much faster paced than its predecessor and you only play with words that have four letters so it's not as intimidating for someone who maybe didn't ever think of high school vocabulary tests as a good time (please tell me someone else out there loved vocab tests as much as I did!).

25. Padded hangers - This is $12.97 for a pack of 10 but you could easily divide them up. Nice hangers are so awesome. I learned the hard way about how cheapy ones ruin your clothes (the shoulders of my fav sweater will never be the same). Some nice wood ones would also be fun.

26. iTunes gift card - music is always a good gift. A $5 gift card can buy a handful of great songs!

27. Rug - If you like to put a rug near your doors then you know they get filthy and beat up fast and usually don't last real long. A cheap stripey one is just the ticket for your friend who likes you to wipe your feet when you come in. This one is $3.99 from Ikea.

28. Your fav snacky food - The Funyons were Aaron's suggestion. I'd probably go with Reeses or something. Maybe a sugar cookie from Sweet Cakes! That's actually a really good idea. Note to self. And they don't need to know you used grocery coupons.

29. Eos organic lip balm - pretty, functional and tasty! I've wanted to try this one for ages and finally picked up the summer fruit flavor at Wal Mart last week. I love it!

30. Homemade candy - caramels, toffee, nut clusters, rock candy. The options are endless! You can even try your hand at making homemade versions of your friend's fav candy bar.

Bonus extra item: when I told my friend RA about this gift guide she immediately pointed me toward these brilliant Apple Core cord wranglers. There are 3 sizes and they're all under $5. They're so well designed (and come in pretty colors!) and I think just about anyone who has electronic devices would appreciate one. I immediately added it to my list. I need something to corral my headphones. They drive me nuts with the constant tangling!


Janssen came up with 30 more ideas. Hop on over to her blog to see the other half of the Under $5 Gift Guide!



*Remember: if you shop online, go through ebates! You get cash back for online purchases. Seriously! I got a check for almost $20 last week. Plus, if you're new, you get a $10 gift card to Target, B&N, Home Depot or Magazines.com when you sign up. Also, they did not pay me to say this. I really just love ebates.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

OTI Inspiration

Photobucket


Come back on December 8th to link up your interpretation! You can add your link on Erica's, Amy's or my blog. The link party will be attached to all 3 of us so you only need to do it once. If you'd like to put a button on your post you can grab the html below-

Freckles in April OTI

We decided to keep participation loose. We didn't want to make any rules for this party but it would be nice if you'd link back to one of us in your post! The link collection will open at 9am EST December 8th and close at midnight.

We're really looking forward to seeing what other people come up with!
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