Friday, May 22, 2015

I literally can't even.

I dislike when people say that. What the heck does it mean? Oh, maybe it means I literally can't even post today because this week has been the fourth grade party, the fourth grade transition ceremony, the week to get teacher gifts together, the week I actually went to court and lawyered up for the first time in a year, the week where my kids expect countdown treats in their lunches, the fourth grade luau, the last day of school, the week before the pool opens, the week Mr. Wonderful was out of town, the week I did decor for a bar mitzvah as a mitzvah.....

I literally can't even!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Paying A Stylist Actually Saved Me Money

If you have been following along this week here, you know that I recently worked with a stylist and closet consultant, Paula Collins. I keep saying it has saved me money. I know that seems impossible because having a professional come to your house to go through your closet is a luxury. The truth is, while the experience is luxurious, it isn't that expensive (my session was under $100 and that was a long one). Here is a true story of a time I spent only $25 dollars with Paula and it saved me money and sanity.

Picture it, Sicily 1925 (don't really; it was St. Louis in early February). My fourth grader was having a rough morning trying to figure out what to wear. We didn't really buy many new clothes this year because her clothing from last year still fit (she got a very few things for back-to-school and the holidays). By this point, she was tired of everything she owned and the seemingly endless winter weather. She is the youngest and smallest in her grade, but doesn't want to look like a baby. All of this combined for the perfect storm one February morning, when I found her in tears on her closet floor with clothes thrown askew all around her. I get it. Oh, boy do I get it. But when I tried to make some suggestions, she said she needed all new clothes! She was defensive and sad, and I had a glimpse into our teenage years (what was happening to my sweet girl?). We were at an impasse--I would not buy any new clothes for the remaining six weeks of winter. So I called Paula and she came over for a short session. For $25 we got an organized closet all these "new" outfits from just a few pieces we owned:

My daughter learned about layering through changing weather, utilizing existing pieces in new ways, pairing the same items to get different looks--in a nutshell, she got the Paula treatment. She was so proud of herself, and even made some more great combos herself. I did not buy a single new thing until it was actually warm out. I am happy to report my little bit finally made it to a size 8 shorts (with elastic tighteners) just before her tenth birthday. The BEST part was no more manic mornings or tears. And that, my friends, is why $25 saved money in clothing and my sanity!!!!

No Minimalist Here

Monday, May 18, 2015

More Tips From My Afternoon with Paula Collins!

If you are just tuning in, please check out my closet make-over with closet consultant and style-guru Paula Collins here and definitely check out Paula's site here. Paula is a stylist for the everyday woman who helps real people look like a million bucks. She helps you make excellent ensembles out of your own clothes and organizes your closet so that you can "shop" your own closet for your best look! I can't say enough good things about working with Paula and how much money it saves you in buying items that you don't need. Of course, sometimes Paula will see a gap in yor wardrobe and make a purchase suggestion, but she also saves you money with tips like these:

1.) Preserve your boots (and your cash) by using rolled up magazines. Simply roll up the magazines and place them in the boots--they stand the boots up to avoid creasing and keep your pretties on display.

2.) Use Nail Polish on Patented Leather or Metallic Shoes. I used to think that a scuff meant the death of a metallic or patent leather shoe. Ala' Pretty Woman, I used a sharpie to touch up a spot on some patent leather sling-backs that were damaged after one wear. I guess I shouldn't have taken style tips from a 25 year old movie about a street walker, because it didn't work! Never fear, Paula had a tip that actually saved the shoe: a small dab of black nail polish matched the sheen of the shoe and saved it to walk the streets another day (to my respectable job as an attorney)! Similarly, Paula said that a magic eraser is a great save for white shoes like sneakers and deck shoes!

3. Show your jewelry off: If you can't see it, you won't wear it! My good stuff is stored for safe keeping, but my fun stuff is out where I can see it. Isn't it pretty?

4. Invest in the Basics, Save on the Trends! Paula has encouraged me over the years to keep a stock of basics, you know the pieces that should be in every woman's wardrobe. The flip side is to watch trends and be influenced by them, but not necessarily to splurge on something that might just last a season. As a part of her services she offers a style guide biannually to keep her clients current on both the basics and the trends. I keep it in my closet--you can also purchase it through her website!

5. Shop your wardrobe! I used to organize my clothing by color; it was pretty in the closet but not so functional. Paula has encouraged me over the years to organize my closet in sections that I can shop to make a complete outfit. Read much more in my original post about Paula!

Finally, this tip is just from little ole' me: keep a few photographs of yourself to remind you that you are gorgeous no matter what you wear. I have one from Mr. 31-derful and me taken in the dating days, my bridal party, my beautiful besties at another wedding, and our family the day baby was born and we became a foursome (its not pictured because its on the other side of these pics). I love seeing all of these in my closet!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Meet Your Closet's Best friend (an afternoon with Paula Collins)!

Here was my closet a little over a week ago. It was certainly not the worst; I had plenty of storage options, space, and light. Even though you can’t tell here, I also had the remnants of an amazing organization system that allowed me to "shop" my wardrobe (way more about that in a minute).

I had a few “ First World ” problems. Plain and simple, I had too much stuff. Second, my organization system had fallen into disrepair because of some misguided help. A nice woman comes to help with light cleaning once a week; I certainly don’t pay her enough to do laundry. Bless her heart: she does it as a “favor.” The problem is that dry cleaning gets washed (or put away dirty), jeans and sweaters mysteriously shrink, and nothing goes to the right place (like my husband frequently finds little girls’ tops in his closet). I have asked her to stop several times. Similarly, she often helps put away my accessories by shoving them on top of or in the drawers. Yes, I could stop all this by having the house tidy when she gets here! Believe me, we have our share of real problems, and I know this isn't one of them. Still, things were getting chaotic in the closet!

The clutter was not only annoying to me from a housekeeping perspective, but it was affecting the way I was dressing. I would grab only from the few things that were in the right place. Despite all those clothes, I felt as if I had nothing to wear. When I get that feeling, I need one kind of healing (no, not that kind). I needed Paula Collins, Your Closets Best Friend. Visit her website here

Paula is wardrobe consultant for real, everyday women. She comes to your home to asses what you already own, helping you pair down things that are ill-fitted or worn, and making clever combinations you would have never dreamed up! Paula is like that friend with great style tips, but unlike your friend, she can gently and honestly tell you your pants are too tight! If after assessing all your clothes, you really need something, Paula will give you a short list of things to buy that would help stretch your wardrobe farther.

As a veteran of the fashion industry, she knows where to shop for those items. As the mother of two busy boys, Paula also understands budgeting and saving. A side benefit is that your closet is as beautiful as you when she leaves! I have worked with Paula for years- through weight ups and downs and career-lifestyle changes. Paula’s reasonable hourly rate has saved me so much money, time and energy. Really! She makes outfits from my clothes, so I don't buy new!

Knowing it was time to re-tool again, I called Paula. As always, she came with an empty clothing rack, energy, and a smile ready to work. I don’t have to do a single thing but show up to try on loads of clothes. I assed every last shirt and dress in my closet:

After much work, we decided to get rid of an entire rack of clothes to sell/donate and all of these shoes:

All my boots were on the chopping block too, due to their conditions, but we decided to save them until the Fall when I can buy new. In the meantime, Paula gave me a tip for storing them with magazines inside to help them stand up without expensive boot stands!
We also determined I needed casual black pants, but then found these new ones mixed in among some other things:

As we went along, we made outfits and snapped pictures of them (that's a whole other post). This is the main benefit of Paula-its like getting Polyvore outfits but with your own clothes!!!!! She also shared a piece of motherly advice too, suggesting that I get one central bin for all the little treasures that I was saving from the girls-now they live in a more sensible place!

I don’t want to give away all of Paula’s trade secrets, but at this point we began putting away the clothes. Her system is to put the "good" clothes away in a manner so that I can “shop my wardrobe.” That means different things for different people based on their body type and lifestyle. For me, with a round soft middle (my words, not hers!), it means that I need to “shop” several sections of my closet daily to get the right look. I have 1) a shape wear section, 2) a bunch of shells and undershirts, and 3) a section of jackets, shrugs, and cardigans (things to pull myself together). I can simply grab one thing from each section and go. At the end of the closet, Paula has encouraged me to show off my accessories so I remember to “shop” that section too!

I have historically worn most of my clothes year round and so they were all together. Sensing that having everything together might have been a part of my overcrowding problem, Paula suggested that we break my closet into a pod Winter/Fall and one for Spring/Summer, with each of those being further divided as the closet had been before for “shopping”. Because I am an avid tennis player and try to work out often, emphasis on try, we also made a pod of pulled-together workout attire! Here is the closet after:

And here are close-ups of the pods,subdivided and ready to shop!


My Spring and Summer Clothes:
My Fall and Winter Stored for Later:

Jewelry and Accessories Now:
My newly organized hats, shoes and bags! Paula sugguested hanging the casual caps I use for tennis:

I was so inspired by my time with Paula that I went on and did my jammies and undies too! Now everything is neatly organized and clean. Best of all, I know that every last thing I have is something that suits me and is a productive part of an outfit. I will be back with more of Paula's style tips and fashion hints tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How Sweet It Was: Throwback Candyland Party

No joke: my soon to be 8-year-old has requested an Oregon Trail Birthday Party! Whah?????? I can't help but think back to the time that she asked for a Candyland 5th birthday party in 2012. Since it is conveniently the photo album I need to work on next, I thought I would tell you about the time this happened:
Yep, I turned the yard into a gamebaord, complete with Gumdrop Mountains:
Lollipop Woods:

A Peppermint Forrest:

You had to be careful and not to get stuck digging for treasure in Gloppy's Chocolate Swamp:

If you got too sticky, you could rinse off by spraying the dastardly Lord Licorice:

Along the way you could rest at a candy-colored seating area:

The fabulous St Louis Snow Sled showed up:

They offered all their regulars along with a specialty candy menu and a separate table with St. Louis' best pretzels and popcorn. If you know me, you know I had to add a cotton candy machine:
I also offered lots of water bottles and adult beverages--it was a blazing hot July day!

Back in the game, the kids were cooling off at our favorite spot on the game board, the Rainbow Slide:

As players completed the game, they were given a prize: a toothbrush and reminder to brush their teeth!!!

And with that, Baby's Candyland 5th was in the books! Now does anyone know how to throw an Oregon Trail party???!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Mother's Day: Grandmother's Tablescape!

Because my parents always come up for the girl's dance recitals in late May, I can't think of the last time I saw my mom on Mother's Day (of course we speak or face-time). My MIL, who lives in town, loves Sunday morning yoga. While she does her thing in the morning, its ALL ABOUT ME! This always involves breakfast in bed and lots of sweet homemade gifts. This year, I put in a special request that I just get coffee and gifts and do the cooking myself. They did not disappoint! After a precious scavenger hunt prepared by the baby, I got ready for breakfast guests:
The tablescape was inspired by some of Mr. 31-derful's grandmother's china. She had oodles of sets. This one was set for the chopping block when she moved to a retirement home. The "fancier" stuff was allocated to various people, while this Wedgewood was in the Goodwill pile. To be honest it was very out of style in the clean-lined and silver-hued late 90's. BUT in my family, Wedgewood is the fancy stuff and I saw the potential. I have no shame and I took it right out of the pile. Same goes for this lime green, lace trimmed tablecloth that nobody wanted. Fast forward 15 years and its cool again (thanks Anthropologie)!
One of my grandmothers also provided inspiration via this beautiful cream and sugar set that she wanted me to have when she passed away. She was giving other grandchildren entire rooms of furniture and china sets (at the time I kept kosher and would not have wanted her dishes, so she thoughtfully gave me this which would have only been touched by "approved" food). Back then I was still all silver and Nambe, but the gold has turned out to be so lovely as our tastes have changed.
I love this gold pedestal vase! It originally held an orchid given to me by a friend in law school. The orchid lived a shockingly long time and the vase is still going strong 15 years later!
I made a simple breakfast of Fruit, Bread Basket--mini bagels and pitas, cream cheese, Trader Joe's pastrami style lox (so good!), coffee cake, and this amazing Shakshuka from the NY Times. My personal favorite flavor profile is tomato sauce plus cheesy or creamy (think: Pasta alla Vodka, Eggplant Parm, Tikka Masala). This may be my new favorite. Start by heating olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add 1 sliced onion and 1 sliced bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes. I added minced garlic about 1/2 way through, though the recipe calls for sliced:
I added cumin, paprika and cayenne, and cooked 1 minuted. The recipe called for diced tomatoes, but I went with crushed:
I simmered until the tomatoes had thickened, about 10 minutes. Then I turned it off until my guests arrived. (One of my besties from Law School came with her husband and son. She lost her mom this year and is expecting a second child--I figured she deserved to be pampered a bit.) When we were close to ready to eat, I turned the heat back on and stirred in crumbled feta. Next I gently cracked eggs into skillet over the sauce and transferred the skillet to oven. You are supposed to bake until the eggs are just set, 7 to 10 minutes, but I went longer for our expectant guest. Oh my--it was so, so good!!!

The rest of the day was devoted to lounging in my Lilly for Target Hammock and then topped off with dinner at our club with my MIL. It was just perfect!