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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wild About Fashion ... Or Not

Day 152
Wild About Fashion ... Or Not

Today I took my grandson to the zoo. What a great day! At 22 months old, he is old enough to run around, recognize animals and "roar" on request. I generally take something like a zoo visit as an opportunity to "dress the theme". My grandson wore a rain forest print cargo shirt, khaki cargo shorts, a zoo hat and cool sandals (none purchased by me). I wore a cotton khaki skirt, a white tee with a parrot on it and cute strappy red flat sandals. Doesn't everyone dress the theme when given the opportunity?
No, they do not. 

Let me just back step by stating: YAY for everyone there for supporting and enjoying the zoo. The parents, grandparent, teachers, and volunteers. The young adults on dates. And the loads and loads of children. The enthusiasm, even on a dull, gray day, was palpable.

I expect that comfort is the order of the day when visiting the zoo. I don't expect a fashion show. But, I just have to say to my fellow adult zoo visitors, "Even if you decide against dressing the theme, please wear clothes that fit." I assumed that fit and comfort went hand in hand. And I sure don't want to hassle anyone who just can't afford something new. But, oh my! The many, many examples of way too small or way too big garments were hurting my eyes! And they can't be comfortable. I would be crabby as all get out if my shorts were that tight. Or my shoes too big. Or I just looked ridiculous. 

Maybe it's just me. We had a great day and it seemed like everyone else was, too. But I will be checking the mirror carefully when I go out, just in case.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Swimsuit Season!

Day 151
Swimsuit Season

I can count on one hand the times that I have been HAPPY to refrain from purchasing clothes this year. It is swimsuit season and I, for one, am happy to not face the fitting room. The magazines generally begin the swimsuit countdown in March when all seems possible. Each cover boasts they they have uncovered the answer to the great mystery of all time, which swimsuit is perfect for each figure. In March, I believe it. I believe that I have simply chosen the wrong suits for all these years and this year I will look modern and hip, and be comfortable and supported. 
In April, the stores begin the serious stocking of swimwear. Rich, fabulous colors and patterns. Exotic textures and styles. Summer still seems a mile away and anything is possible. In May, swimwear is front and center. How did it get here so quickly? I don't think I ever lost that 10 pounds. But as long as the stores and magazines keep bragging that they've found the perfect suits, there's still hope.
At last, the days are warm, the sun is shining and pools and lakes beckon. It's time to choose one of those lovely suits and make my summer fashion debut! Combing through the racks, my biggest concern is which color looks best with a tan. And gosh, these look so small, but the tag says it my size ... hmmm ... this is supposed to be my perfect style.
I'm not sure which brain-trusts are charged with making a fitting room comfortable or flattering, but whoever decided that funhouse mirrors and sickly fluorescent lights makes swimsuits look good is not anyone I'd want to know. Somehow, the lighting seems to accentuate every ripple. And who sizes swimwear? Are they kidding? A slightly snug elastic can produce a protrusion of epic proportions! Things that should be covered aren't. Things that are supposed to make you appear 10 lbs. thinner are more like a sausage casing. You can't put 10 lbs. of sausage in a 5 lb. casing. And this isn't only in my discount stores! I actually had a bathing suit custom made one year in an effort to get it right. And it was wrong, wrong, wrong and the fitting room was lousy.
If I had a fitting room (and maybe I should ...) it would be different. First of all, I would only have the finest suits available, true to size and wildly flattering. Then, before trying on, each guest would enjoy a cocktail or a dose of prescription relaxant. A gentle layer of spray tan would be applied and a second cocktail enjoyed while it dries. Then, with fun tropical music playing at a moderate level, you would be escorted into a large, well appointing fitting suite. Lighting more akin to candlelight. A mirror tilted just so, one that gives the illusion of taller and thinner. A selection of fabulous sandals and fab beach covers at the ready. Then, if you choose, you could let a well trained associate oooh and ahhh and let you know that yes! You chose exactly the perfect suit. After that, it wouldn't matter! Your bathing suit vision would be sealed in place for the entire season. No matter the day, you will always see yourself as you looked in the magic fitting room. You will be confident and have a blast! 
If I can think this up, how hard can it be? Really? Since the magic fitting room doesn't exist (yet), I'll just count myself super-lucky that I don;t have to buy a bathing suit this year! 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Memorial Day Thank You

Day 148
A Memorial Day Thank You

I would like to take this opportunity to remember and appreciate all of the soldiers who have fought for our freedom. The soldiers who have fallen and those forever changed by their war experiences. Those who chose to serve and those who were drafted but went willingly. Those retired and those newly enlisted. The families that support our troops from home and welcome them back.
I believe many of us take for granted the great country in which we live. A country who has fought along side other nations protecting rights and freedoms. A country who has come under attack more than once. A country that continues to be a target, standing firm and strong for the principles we hold dear.
So on this Memorial Day weekend, while enjoying family and friends, I hope you all take a moment to remember and appreciate. I'm thinking about Joe, WWII veteran, Jerry, Vietnam veteran, and Evan who is preparing to take the reins at the Air Force Academy.

Friday, May 25, 2012

3500 Calories ... May as Well Be 35 Million

Day 146
3500 Calories ... May as Well Be 35 Million

Yay! It 's warm! The days are longer. The leaves and grass are unbelievable shades of green. It's shorts season. (arrr ... sound of putting on the brakes ...) Yikes! shorts season already? 

I month or so ago I had this all figured out. Feeling all empowered by staying with my no-buy challenge, I decided to tackle this extra pounds problem head-on. I can do this! I researched and found that it takes approx. 3,500 calories to make or lose a pound. That didn't sound too bad. I hate starving so I decided that I would simply exercise 3500 calories away each week and, voila! By June my cutest clothes would be back into rotation. I even made myself a little chart on a whiteboard to track my progress. It's just math, plain and simple. 

Next step- how much does each activity burn? I was pretty shocked to learn that not as many calories are burned as one may think. For example, one full hour of Zumba burns 500-700 calories. I decided to always round down even though the class is super-intense. Two days per week I wog (a hybrid walk-jog that we invented) around our lake. Again, 500-ish calories. It came down to me exercising 7 days per week, 500 calories, or about an hour each day. A bit of wind out of my sails, but OK- I can do this.

I can not do this. I can not exercise 7 days per week. It just doesn't work for me right now. 3500 calories may as well be 35 million calories. It can seem that unattainable. As I gazed down at my white, expanding thighs encased in shorts yesterday, I felt defeated. Will I ever get the upper hand on these pounds? With a few spring events looming, I faced my closet this morning. Better to know now if I have to cancel based on a too-small wardrobe. And guess what! The dresses seem to be fitting! Either I am doing something right or some tiny little seamstress fairies are living in my closet letting out the seams. Then I realized that I may not be burning 3500 calories, but I am burning at least half that. Not a pound a week, but a half pound. And that counts! If you ever feel defeated, hang in there. Don't beat yourself up. Baby steps are better than no steps. One-half pound ... yay!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Souvenir Dilemma

Day 145
Souvenir Dilemma

The vacation t-shirt is one of my top summer style picks. I, like many of us, have a drawer full of t-shirts. I love to slip on a t-shirt and reminisce about a fun weekend in Memphis, remember a cool restaurant on Maui or relive adventure filled days on Grand Cayman. I had my first Hawaii t-shirt long before I ever visited, courtesy of my mom. This got me to thinking about two things ...

I think souvenir shopping is one of the most fun parts of vacation. In theory (and by definition) a souvenir is a memento of a trip or occasion. For years and years, souvenir shopping for me meant bringing back someone for everyone I know to remember my vacation. Hours spent trudging through straw markets, tacky gift shops and beach emporiums deciding what size t-shirt my nephew wears, what style necklace my neighbor would like and which shell figure is the most whimsical. To remember MY vacation. The stress of counting and recounting to ensure that the gifts were equal in number and value. To be sure everyone is included. And there's the money spent on t-shirts, mugs, toys and candy. So others will remember MY vacation. I am having an OMG, slap myself on the side of the head, what was I thinking for all these years moment. Souvenirs should be mementos for ourselves to remember our vacations, not so everyone else can wear a t-shirt from a restaurant they will never even see. It's time to stop souvenir insanity! Sorry souvenir industry. 

On the other hand, vacations are a wonderful opportunity to pick up a few unique or exclusive things for yourself. I love art from local artisans and jewelry with local stones. I love specialty food and liquor like coconut rum from the Virgin Islands or Rum Cake from Grand Cayman. I found amazing coconut soap and awesome lotions made in Hawaii. There are times when it is absolutely appropriate to bring back things for others. If someone has helped you plan, watched your house or pets, or helped with your kids, they deserve a nice gift. I just don't think an extra suitcase is necessary for souvenirs (yes- I actually had to purchase an extra suitcase on vacation, I get very carried away ...)

If you are planning a nice vacation this summer, grab a memento for yourself. And if you are bringing back a gift for a friend, choose wisely. Some of my favorite souvenirs from other people's vacations include a music CD from Hawaii, a brightly colored sarong, and miniature art from various Caribbean islands. And rum. Lots and lots of rum.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My Summer Style Must-Haves

Day 141
My Summer Style Must-Haves

I feel a little panic-y when a magazine cover claims the true secrets to summer style are available in stores now. Since I can not buy any summer style this year, I will be relying on what I have and what I can make. I was a little anxious to open InStyle magazine's summer essential list but I found it (like many magazine lists) to be lacking. 
I believe many of us already have the real summer essentials because, of all seasons, I think there is the least change in summer fashion. Sunny, warm summer days are conducive to style tried and true, reliable as a great pair of flip-flops. So, here is my list for Summer Style Essentials, and you probably really do have most.

1. Sarong
A sarong, or large rectangle of soft fabric, is essential on and off the beach. I love a great batik or floral pattern. A sarong is perfect to tie over a swimsuit, drape over your shoulders or dress up your dining room table.

2. Flower Clip
Buy one or make it yourself, even the fashion timid can pull off a pretty flower in summer. Wear in hair, on a sweater or clipped on your sandal.

3. Flip Flops
Any summer closet can benefit from a rainbow of flip flops. Important: comfort matters! $2 flip flops may not cut it. I love Havianna Slims and the soft metallic flip flops at Old Navy. A beaded pair or sequin pair is great bet and a flower transforms a simple flip flop to summer couture. 

4. Dresses
Any, all ... I love dresses for summer. I have the floral dress pictured above (from Bealls in Florida, not on clearance) and it is perfect every time I wear it. Go long but not matronly, short but not cheeky.

5. Black Strappy Something
A dress or tank, golden summer skin is enhanced by black strappy.

6. Vacation T-Shirt
I love a vacation tee because it brings memories of fun and relaxation. The more broken in, the better. Think carefully before choosing your next vacation tee, it should look and feel like you can wear it for years.

7. Great fitting White Tank and Tee
Great fit is the key here- so TRY ON! Look for fabrics with some stretch. The shirt should be fitted but not skin tight. And, take care of yellow under arms or get a new one. Nude bra is essential.

8. Baubles
Summer is the perfect time for colorful, kitschy baubles (fun summer jewelry). Ankle bracelets, layered necklaces and bracelets dress up summer casual. Remember, both gold and silver look fab with a tan!

9. Great, Colorful Sandals
A statement sandal is a great choice for summer. Show off those legs!

10. White Cotton Sweater
Again, go for fit and quality here. A summer sweater layered over a tank or thrown over your shoulders says, "Hold the yacht, I'll be right there!"

If you find some of these essentials are missing from your wardrobe, it's the perfect time to get out there and get some summer style. Macy's has a collection called Brasil this summer and it looks amazing- I suggest you give it a look!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

InStyle's Last 5 Essentials

Day 140
InStyle's Last 5 Essentials

These are the top 5 summer outfit essentials as presented by InStyle magazine:

#5: Floral Maxi Dress
Duh. Point.

#4: Chambray Shirt
I would call this a potential wardrobe staple, not a summer essential. 1/2 point.

#3: Ballet Flats
They show these in bright colors. I would expand that to include metallics. Point.

#2: White Shorts
Okay. Point.

#1: Striped Sweater
Summer essential? Don't think so. No Point.

My final review on the InStyle Summer Essentials: 8.5 out of 15 points. Tomorrow I will reveal my Summer Essentials and you can decide who embraces summer more fashionably!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Next Set of Summer Essentials

Day 138
The Next Set of Summer Essentials

Back to InStyle magazine's 15 Summer Outfit Essentials

#10: Polka-dot Bikini
Hmmmm ... possibly. 1/2 point

#9: Peasant Dress
Calling anything "peasant" is not conducive to me coveting it. Call it a casual summer dress and I'm all in. 1/2 point because InStyle should know better than "peasant".

#8: Mens-wear Hat
I can see that this could be a trendy fashion moment, but an essential? No way. No points.

#7: White Jeans
I agree that white jeans are about as summer-y as it gets. Problem is, they can be less than flattering if you are less than svelte. And for coffee-spilling me, likely won't make it through the day sparkling clean. Great idea so a point is scored.

#6: Polo Shirt
I guess that a sleeveless polo has a throw-back Palm Springs vibe but again--essential? I think not. No point.

Here's where we stand on Summer Essentials as dictated by my (former?) favorite magazine, InStyle:
5 out of 10 points thus far. I'm feeling a little disappointed but we'll continue tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

15 Summer Wardrobe Essentials

Day 137
15 Summer Wardrobe Essentials

This is the worst time of the year to be in a No Buy Zone. Spring and summer fashions are my absolute favorite. I swear, I walk past a rack or see a picture in a magazine and they call to me. "You would look so pretty in me! I am perfect for you. C'mon, no one would know, it can be our fashionable little secret." I stick fingers firmly in ears and march on.

That's why this InStyle magazine headline caught my eye: 15 Summer Outfit Essentials. What's on your closet already? Perfect, right? Well, sort of. I am starting to realize (hellooooo...) that InStyle magazine really only wants me to buy things from the fine companies that purchase their advertising space. The headline should really read: 15 Categories of Overpriced Outfit Essentials.  I however, am not a giver-upper, so I examined their picks closely.

#15: Embroidered Tunic

  The one in the magazine looked similar to this. Danger: This can easily look like an impulsive Mexican Riviera vacation purchase! I say go for mostly white or at least try for embroidery that is very close to the fabric color for a more subtle look. I give them 1/2 point for this one.                                           

#14: Striped Tank
I actually got one of these last summer and I totally agree. Striped tank gets a point.

#13: White One Piece Swimsuit                                                        
Seriously? Nice thought but I think this applied to teens and models only. And, no way for the beach, poolside only. No points.

#12: Crochet Dress
I'm all for a great summer dress but perhaps a gauzy dress is more "essential". 1/2 point

#11: Oversize Sunglasses
Yes. Point.

So far, InStyle is 3 out of  5.

Check your closet, more tomorrow!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Things I Learned From My Mother

Day 132
Things I Learned From My Mother

I've already confessed that I am a bargain-junkie. I can't pass up a clearance sale and I have bought things I do not need time and time again because they were cheap. These are behaviors passed on to me from my mother. Perhaps they were passed on to her by my grandmother. I come from a long line of bargain-hunters. That in itself isn't so bad, but other things I learned from my mother are:

  • You can always fit one more thing in the closet.
  • You may not need it now but someday might.
  • Kids can never have too many toys or clothes.
  • If it's from resale or a garage sale, it doesn't count.
  • If one is good, five are better.
Many of these are behaviors I am battling this year. Thanks a lot, mom.

    But there's another side to my mother, the bigger, better side. My mother is the most generous person I know. She would, literally, give someone the shirt off her back if they wanted it. She has made dozens of scarves and blankets using sale-priced fabrics to gift senior citizens, mostly anonymously. She uses coupons to buy toiletries to help stock a homeless shelter. She showers the grandkids with so much, our Christmases used to resemble a toy factory explosion. More accurately, she is generous to a fault, buying for everyone when she really couldn't afford to. 
     I've learned from my mother that family is the MOST important thing in the world and you sacrifice anything for them. If any of us need anything, she is there, and more importantly, is happy to be there and do whatever we need. I'm sure my sisters and I have taken advantage from time to time but she doesn't complain. 
     Because of my mother, I feel like I can accomplish anything, because she truly believes I can accomplish anything. All of us, my sisters, our kids and grandkids. My mom bursts with pride in us. 
     And, my mom has taught us to embrace the adventures in life. She travels as much as she can and is always up for a road-trip. I remember the Sunday afternoons when we would pile into the car with a full cooler and no plan. The times she packed up the kids to spend the night in a hotel with a pool. The shopping trips she still takes with her good friends, even hours away. 

So, yes. I have learned my bad shopping habits from my mother. But that's a small price to pay for all the wonderful things she passed on to my sisters and me. I look at my own daughter and hope that I've stopped this shopping madness in time for her. But mostly I am thrilled to see that we have passed on all those good things on to her, too. So, really, Thanks a Lot, Mom!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Grocery Store Dress Code: Don't be a People of Walmart!

Day 130
Grocery Store Dress Code: Don't be a People of Walmart!

Are you one of those people that have to look put-together whenever you go out? Next time you go out for dinner, look around. Most people look like some effort was made into their appearance. I make the effort, for sure. Hair, makeup, nice shoes. It's funny because we are mostly sitting and the bottom half will be largely ignored.
How about when you go to the mall? Do you look different when you shop at the "fancy mall" as opposed to the outlet mall? Subconsciously, I think I do dress different for the fancy mall. Not sure why, I suppose I at least want to "look" like I buy everything there (when I surely do not!). Comfort is generally more a factor at the mall than a restaurant, but the mall is a place where we could potentially run into someone we know. There is nothing worse than a chance meeting with an old friend or acquaintance and wanting to scream: "I usually look better than this! It's really not that bad!" So I try to look a little nice at the mall.
And then there's the grocery store. We have a Kroger about a half mile away. I do not know why, but for some reason it seems acceptable to shop at Kroger in dirty gardening clothes, stinky exercise wear or even pajamas. Seriously- pajamas. We still see people, just like we see people at a restaurant or mall. Is it because we are likely to see only our neighbors? No reason to try to impress them, after all. If you run into a neighbor at Kroger, even if you stink to high heaven, there's no judgment. Neighbors are like family. It's a good thing there is not (to my knowledge) a People of Kroger website.
I'm talking about People of Walmart, that funny website where grocery store fashionistas flaunt their stuff. Need a laugh?, Check it out:
See if it doesn't make you think twice about your grocery store attire!

Monday, May 7, 2012

New at Target: The Webster Miami

Day 128
Target: Webster Miami

Did you happen to shop at Target this weekend? I stopped in to get cat food and saw one of my Great Challenge Fears come true. I was worried that during this No-Buy year, Target would introduce a guest designer perfectly suited to me. The guest designers of the past were intriguing, sure, but none really suited me. Although technically not a designer, The Webster Miami Collection is part of a new "boutique experience" at Target. I am not sold on this "boutique" thing- but oh my! I really like this Webster collection!

A little more "upscale" than a typical Target garment, these pieces are colorful, breezy, a just a bit preppy. It was painful to examine them too closely but the fabrics seem nice and the styles very wearable. The long dress is $44.99 and that lovely blouse $29.99, again, a little high for Target but still very affordable.

Now that I have had to scrutinize my previous purchases, I have learned a great deal about what is worth buying and what is not. Sure, the colors and patterns in this collection are great, but I have to learn to see past the look and get great fit and fabric. This is an exercise in restraint, for sure.

If you, on the other hand, are looking for a couple of cool things to brighten up your spring/summer wardrobe at a great price, I would suggest stopping by Target. Warning: try stuff on and be critical. Take it from me. Each day, I face a closet that is half full of "misses" and not nearly enough "hits".The stuff you pick should be more than a pretty face!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Accessorize Your Garden

Day 127
Accessorize Your Garden

Spring fashion abounds! The stores are bursting with colorful, stylish outfits and my closet is looking positively boring. Since updating my wardrobe with new pieces is not an option this year, I've stepped out-- to the backyard that is. 

A few weeks ago I shared that my husband and I decided to make a real, honest-to-goodness effort to grow a successful vegetable garden. The soil in our area is very sandy so we built the garden area up about 8", filled with a combination of garden-y soils (us at Home Depot: "Let's get a couple of those yellow bags of dirt, a red bag and a load of those blue bags"), and fenced it in so as to avoid the Lake Orion location of the Old Country Bunny Buffet. Then, I accessorized!
I smile every time I look in the backyard! I only hope the plants actually grow!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mothers and Daughters

Day 125
Mothers and Daughters

When I set out to take a year off buying clothes, my intention was for myself only. I quickly realized I got the same thrill buying clothes for anyone, so I extended the challenge to include all clothes, shoes and accessories. My family is beginning to realize that it was me who chose and purchased most of their clothes. I loved to buy clothes for my husband. He would come home to an assortment laid out on our bed and I'd chant, "Fashion show! Fashion show!" My son's drawers were perpetually full and refreshed. And all my daughter had to say was, "I could use some more yoga pants" and whoosh- I was out the door on the hunt. It's been good for them to realize that clothes don't magically appear.

It was a bit painful, though, when my daughter got her first "real job". Landing a position in a fancy hair salon, she would now have to dress like a stylist instead of a student. A year ago, I would have been scouring the stores for cute work outfits, comfortable shoes and accessories that would tastefully match her new salon surroundings. Just as I had sent her off to preschool in a new dress, kindergarten with a new backpack and middle school in new boots, I wanted to send her into the working world in style. 

I was really pleased when she stopped by last weekend with bags full of her own stylish purchases. I admit, I held my breath a little as she changed into the first outfit. But yay! She looked great! She made careful purchases at good prices of styles both flattering and salon-ready. My daughter picked outfits that I would have chosen (maybe better!). She's growing up. I'm letting go. And I have the bonus of feeling like she learned a little something from me on the way.