Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What Week Is This? (WT)

Style. Make a (preliminary) definition of your overall look(s). [If you've done WT before or are confident in your look and mostly cleaning your closet, the definition can be a final draft!] The issues you're trying to define are level of formality, basic silhouette(s), balance of color and pattern, what you expect of your tops and your bottoms when they play together. Think in terms of how to put together outfits for your typical weekly routine.
My day-to-day style is definitely more casual. I have few occasions to dress up and thus, more than enough dress-up clothes. They just have to play together a little better, as does the rest of my closet. Basic silhouettes need volume on the bottom to balance my shoulders – boot-cut or wide-leg pants are ideal, as well as A-line skirts if I am going to wear them with flats, pencil skirts are fine with heels. Nothing avant-garde, saggy or baggy here. I am perfectly happy with my size and don't want to feel bigger or lumpier. I like lots of colors and find that while I won’t wear colored pants, I will always grab a bright skirt. So tops should play well with both the generally neutral pants and the random crazy skirts. Jewel tones seem to be the goal with tops, nothing pale to wash me out or too yellow to make me look ill. Also, I need more cardigans and layer-able items here too, and they need to be not all black. I don’t like black particularly, black pants make me look like I should be working at Radio Shack, but I am ok with black skirts and tops, oddly enough.

Boden isn't a bad representation of my idealized style, lots of color and interesting layering and patterns. They run a little to the gamine ruffly empire Audrey Hepburn look but that can be avoided.

Less avoidable, their prices. I have never purchased anything from here. I prefer the patterns to the prices.

Start securing your supply lines. Shopping is easier if you have reliable sources of flattering garments.
Thrifting is negligible here as I am not a particularly thrift-able shape. The outlets I have to be very picky at as I hate to throw away garments that have rabbited at a high rate of speed (some of the summer tops I haven’t hauled out yet may be in this state). They seem to be ok for bottoms but I have a habit of getting seduced by cute printed knit tops and it is not worth the anguish when they rabbit out too soon. Banana Republic (non-outlet) has changed their cuts in pants and thus they are no longer in contention (it was always annoying waiting for the sales and pants I can get at the outlet now). Banana and Gap sale racks are respectable for tops and sweaters as long as I am patient, and the Patagonia outlet is a good deal when they have seasonal sales so I stock up on winter layers and workout wear there. That’s about all my supply lines. I’m pretty brand-loyal when I can find decent cuts consistently. Especially if I don’t have to go to the mall. I never buy clothes at Macy’s etc. because I hate hunting for a cut that works. Basically I am lazy.

Glance at your undergarments.

Fix Velveteen Rabbits that warrant repair. If you have Rabbits from the prior week still awaiting fixes, you may now have enough garments on the heap to justify a trip to the tailor or a cozy evening with the sewing box. Or you may look at the heap, mutter an imprecation, and decide to send all your Rabbits to the Great Dresser in the Sky. Either way, progress is made!
Beloved yoga pants need a hole fixed, nice dress slacks might get taken in if it isn’t too expensive to do as now they are baggy enough to be not so dressy. Some wimpier shirts and skirts have been sent to the Great Dresser In The Sky.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Joyous Colors (Not WT-Related)

I just have to thank god there is one healthy food that I adore in this world. Meet my default meal lately: "Pasta With Stuff". In this case, sauteed kale, roasted red peppers and just a little bit of tasty chicken-artichoke sausage. I've decided I like pasta much more when it's not swimming in gloppy sauce. And Matt loves this. Score one in the healthy food dept.

WT Again - Next Batch Of Piles, Even Fewer Photos

Jeans are my predominant bottoms – right now the status is something like 2 properly long pairs (can be worn with heels or cuffed), one awesome sailor-style pair of widelegs, and one slightly short pair that is becoming the beater pair. Otherwise, pants include one pair of khaki cords and one too-large pair of dress slacks (is it worth taking them in when they are just my job interview pants?), as well as two pairs of yoga pants in brown and navy that are possibly the most comfortable pants in the world.

Skirts are next on the list. I found a great stretchy flared black cotton skirt at a Patagonia outlet sale and wore it so much I went back and grabbed it in both lime green and bright red. These are sadly all getting rabbity as I wear them so much in warm weather. Lower on the popularity scale are the skirts that can’t compete but they do try, a navy one and a patterned one, neither are as nice of fabric or cut so they don’t get worn nearly as much. The other category is denim, in which we have the awesome “sailor” pencil skirt that looks nice with almost anything, the casual, faded A-line skirt that might get retired as it fits a lot bigger than it used to, and a faded, hipster gray one that may retire for the warmer weather because I’m not sure what else to wear it with other than a black turtleneck and black tights. Anything else and I feel like some sort of pseudo-hipster. Mental note: Diva garment! Nice skirts there are a few of which actually get hung up in the closet – one is a proper black pencil skirt which will be great until it starts to fade on me (knock on wood), you can almost see it in the previous post. The next is an adorable flared brown skirt from the Anthropologie Total Fluke Sale Department, it’s brown and stretchy but has an awesome woven detail that you might actually get a picture of as it is my favorite thing ever. The third is from the Macy’s Total Fluke Department. I never go there but I was actually walking through on my way somewhere else and I had to stop. It’s a cream-colored skirt with large polka dots in red, orange, black and white. So it goes with lots of tops and still looks dressy. I’d say I need more like it but I’m actually pretty well covered in the dressy skirt dept. for as much as I wear them.

The rest of the list is sad shorts and capris. One pair of workout capris I never wear and two pairs that Matt has actually told me he doesn’t like – used-to-be-black and used-to-be-jeans. They are great for yard work and messy projects. There are only two pairs of shorts. I hate shorts. One pair is baggy, unflattering and khaki and one is board-short style. Clearly I need to invest some time here. Capris look good on me as long as they end right below the knee (or I can cuff them to there). I think a couple pairs of decent capris are on my list for summer now, as well as possibly one pair of those long Bermuda/city shorts if I can find some I don’t hate. I still have weight-lifter’s thighs and stuff that emphasizes them makes me uncomfortable (I’m fine with them on me as a body part as a general rule but I have never found shorts that are comfortable, well at least not since I stopped playing basketball, and I have NEVER found shorts that are flattering. Ever). The shorts may all just go away. We’ll see.

So the shopping list has expanded to include one more decent pair of non-jeans pants, one nice pair of capris and one stretchy, yoga-style pair, and hopefully one pair of shorts (something I don’t HATE). Also a couple of cotton skirts to replace the rabbity Patagonia skirts. I went by there yesterday and they have stopped making skirts that fit me, apparently. Now it is all about awkward lengths and stiff fabrics with weird ties at the waist. Le sigh. More on supply lines (or current lack thereof) later.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

WT By Request - Photographic Evidence of a Couple of Diva Garments

Both in situ in the only flattering ways I have found to wear them (you'll have to trust me on the first one). Black shoes, black jacket and black skirt. Hat with veil is optional. As is date in Boba Fett mask. Clickable to embiggen.

For clarification, shirt #1 is flattering but has an oddly high wrap collar and little fluttery sleeves. It just seems to look best on it's own. And shirt #2 is also flattering and has a nice subtle polka dot going on, but has an off-center ruched ruffle all the way down the front that makes it hard to layer with and work around. Also, the ruffle seems to pull at the hems (top and bottom) and make them want to start turning inside out and I don't know how to fix that (you can actually see this happening in the picture). So these are my diva garments, any opinions on them are welcome.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wt Again: Piles, Sans Photos

Velveteen Rabbits
Last summer I found a couple of t-shirts from the Gap that were the perfect flattering weight, stretchiness and came in interesting colors. So of course I bought 5 (coupons plus sales, huzzah!) and now they have magically started to pill like mad. And since I’ve lost a little weight the two tees I loved in great jewel tones with a flattering slit neckline have gone from flirty to saggy at the bustline. And I am not allowed to buy cute patterned knit tops from the Banana Republic outlet any more as they immediately start to fade and pill. However, they are the most flattering cuts and patterns (non-outlet BR, will you make these tops in better fabrics? I will pay real prices for them…).

Torture Devices

Most of these have been cleaned out in past sweeps. Although a couple of the favorite tees are borderline here. A couple of the decent blouses might belong here just because they are such diva garments – a red and cream patterned blouse that I get endless compliments on but cannot figure out how to wear, an awesome tank with studded detailing at the neck that I adore so much I bought it in two colors but also cannot figure out how to wear, and the Halloween costume blouse with the ruffle that looks so good under stuff as long as I don’t button it but I have no idea how to style it by itself. I think it might be too busy for me. Some of these problems may be solved as soon as the weather warms up, thus potentially transforming these three blouses into Stalwart Staples, or perhaps Superstars if I can figure out how to style them usefully.

Um, give me a minute here.

Stalwart Staples

Banana Republic again, am I predictable? I swear if you wait for sales they and the Gap are comparably priced and their quality is better. Anyways, they do a v-neck knit tee most summers that I now collect, as the cut is absolutely reasonable and the fit is predictable. They are not too short, the weight is moderately flattering and every once in a while they come in a great color. I even bought one in a (gasp!) crew-neck cut because it was such a shockingly beautiful royal blue. ONE, count them, one zipper cardigan which is the best thing ever for wearing to work and is verging on rabbity if I don’t figure out how to de-pill it soon. One v-neck purple sweater and one gray crew-neck sweater also fit in there. Two black fleeces and a black sweatshirt also fall in here by default as they are respectable and useful for layering at work, albeit not exciting.

Same Time, Next Year
My long-sleeved J. Crew tissue tees. These are the best bottom layer ever when it is cold. Also most of my sweaters, as I have terrible trouble finding lightweight sweaters that don't change their shape as soon as I put them on and shove the sleeves up to my elbows. So there are some fabulously flattering wool turtlenecks in here and an adorable burgundy wool cardigan, but at least they are wintry weights so I won’t miss them too much.

Sentimental Journeys

I have a t-shirt stack. Band tees predominate, and there is room in the drawer for them. I hate crew necks, and NEVER wear t-shirts as I am not remotely t-shirt shaped. I generally wear nothing with logos unless it is a band I ADORE. But still these stay. Such is life. They are too cool to get rid of.

Mysteries of the Lost Shopping Trip
These are mostly gone by now, due to past purges. That Torture Device/Halloween blouse might be one, if I can’t figure out how to style it. Because I paid real money for it and that kind of kills me. A couple of the lightweight sweaters might go here too as I only wear sweaters as an outer layer and they are very flattering but can’t be worn over a t-shirt. Layering is key, apparently, and non-layerability should be a clue for me now. But they are very flattering and I wear them each about once a year. Sigh.

Is It Bad...

That I just want someone to tell me what colors look good on me and I want them to be colors I already like? I am wondering why I bother with the silly quizzes at all...

Monday, March 22, 2010

In WT's Stead

My excuse is, I went home this weekend for my grandmother's birthday.

So instead of photographing my clothing, which I am perpetually reticent to do, I give you photographs of where I was.

The new science museum in Golden Gate Park is pretty awesome.

I am willing to bet it is even more awesome if you are about seven years old. Although the anaconda and the white alligator both made me jump. The aquarium part is kind of dull but the Monterey Bay Aquarium has always outclassed them there. However, the rainforest and the swamp are both totally worth the trip. Also, pardon my uncropped photos but a friend fortuitously installed Windows 7 on my lappy and I have yet to reinstall Photoshop. I highly recommend clicking to embiggen and I will post the rest on Flickr soon. But this is my excuse.

Task-wise, I am not doing so badly. My piles will follow soon, and I have very little stuff that currently needs repairing due to a recent spate of mending. And any undergarment issues (which there unfortunately are due to my semi-recent mild weight loss [which was not the unfortunate part]) will be addressed next time I have a chance to hit Nordstrom’s while in the Bay Area as I don’t trust anyone in Reno to measure me properly. Does that make me a snob? Or was it the trip to Victoria’s Secret when I couldn’t PUT ON any of the recommended (and overpriced) undergarments? The world may never know.

Joyous Colors are greens, blues and purples. Greens can be most parts of the spectrum from lime to leaf while staying away from forest and darker greens with too much blue. Blues can be pretty teal, ranging into royals and navies, as long as we stay away from Easter-eggy pastels. Strong colors are always preferred over Easter-eggy pastels, although some heathered soft versions of JC’s have snuck in. Purples can range from dark with lots of blue in them to magenta to verging on fuchsia, although my current favorite is something J. Crew calls “vineyard” which is appropriately grape-y. My eyes are green, which, depending on your color wheel, would put my complementary color at orange or red. But my skin has lots of undertones, pink and yellow and orange depending on how I look at them, so I have pretty much despaired at finding a flattering red or orange (my single solid-color orange shirt makes me look like I’m headed for a children’s Halloween party. And also possibly ill). The color I love that I try and avoid is gray, or my whole wardrobe would be shades of gray. I love it, but it does not love me back.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Entertaining and Vaguely WT-Related Link

Even if you have never watched Project Runway, this is hilarious. It makes mildly more sense if you have seen the show, but for reference, these are judges: Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, fab French designer Roland Mouret (with the mustache) and Marie Claire editor Nina Garcia, who is also the author of this:
which is fun if your library has it (a.k.a. I wouldn't spend money on it). She has decent things to stay about establishing personal style even if the second half is heavy on quotes from her famous friends. Anyways, you still need to click on that first link because it is HILARIOUS. And also we need to remember to take some time out every once in a while to caress our eyes with fabulous things.

Monday, March 15, 2010

WT Again (The Tasks)

1. Remove one (and only one!) unsuccessful item from your wardrobe. Mildly exciting - a couple of pairs of pants I have grown out of. They're too big! And baggy, falling-down pants drive me bananas as I am firmly anti-belt.

2. Do the opening questionnaire. See previous post (two back, I believe).

3. Find yourself some sources of inspiration on personal style. As seen from the questionnaire, I like period movies as style inspiration. All different periods. Even sci-fi, when it comes down to it. I have pretty much given up completely on fashion magazines except for use as light airplane reading, and I am mostly over the style blogs, having unsubscribed to many of even the more accessible outfit-a-day blogs because they are just not my style (sorry, academic chics, you are all very stylish but you wear heels all the time). One of the few fashion blogs I still read is The Glamorous Grad Student as I love her writing style and I am particularly fond of her Style Inspiration posts. I like that she's looking for inspiration too and not just following the dictates of the magazines.

4. Do something that makes you feel good about your body. There will be a pedicure (for me, by me) sometime in the near future. Also yoga on Wednesday night, possibly followed by some St. Paddy's Day celebrating with the yoga ladies.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

WT - Just For Fun

I guess by rights I should be talking about 1950's-era clothing more than 1940's. But anyways, I went hunting for some dancing clips because I am tired of moving pavers in the yard. Try here first, or here, not exactly practical outfits to emulate but talk about clothing made to move with you. I can't find any good pictures of Cyd Charisse today, for some reason. But here's another clip (an actual embeddable one!) so you can ogle Cyd some more and watch her make some boring clothes look good just by making them move.

And for SCB -

I think that's about as country as I get. I think it's about as country as she gets too. Also, tragically, apparently she dyes her hair. So the only thing keeping me from having hair like that is wads of cash.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Questions, Questions, Too Many Questions!

The NEW (if not Improved) Opening Questionnaire with context here.

1. Thinking primarily (but not necessarily exclusively) about looks, who's your favorite performer of your own gender and species? Why? Hmm. How about Cate Blanchett for her chameleon-like actressin' qualities and her striking personal style. Of course it helps that she's gorgeous but she is also interesting.

And perhaps Neko Case for similar, if more musical reasons. And my god, that hair. (Note, I totally wrote this before Cookbook posted her answers, I swear I didn't copy it!)
from here.

2. If you could live in any historic era with a really good clothing budget (as well as soap, toothpaste, and delicing as needed), when would you choose? I am thinking the 40's would work for me - but total Hollywood in the 40's with strong colors and prints. Nice nipped-in waists and dramatic details.
from here. I would wear that tomorrow. Also, the respective Hollywood "eras" of Pushing Daisies, Amelie, The Aviator and Chocolat. Cheating again? Maybe.
But you see my point in all of those examples? 40's inspired, cute blouses with cardigans and flippy skirts, adorable shoes and everything in vivid color and pattern.

3. What's your favorite painting or other form of visual art? Why?
from here. I like me a nice Michelangelo in general. I guess that's cheating because it covers painting (mostly fresco) and sculpture. But it's so strong on so many levels - he had such a distinct style, I love his use of color (somewhere I have a fantastic book on the Sistine Chapel pre-and post-cleaning, it is AMAZING). His women may look a little manly sometimes but they never look weak. In his world everyone is striking and powerful and I'm ok with that (I'm not talking about the Last Judgment in this context, yes I am cheating again already). But seriously, look at the Delphic sibyl up there - gorgeous color, strong, imposing frame, and those eyes! That is one positive image right there.

4. What is your first memory in which clothes are important? My 8th grade graduation - I got my first "grown-up" dress. It was a purple sheath in some sort of silky material from Ann Taylor and I got to wear my grandmother's silver necklace that all my sister and I fought over (now it rotates between sisters to forestall strife). I felt so adult. That was when I started realizing that skirts and dresses are ok to wear, I don't lose my tomboy cred by not wearing jeans every day.

5. What is your favorite garment ever? Why? Ever is a tough one. Right now, I have an adorable 3/4 sleeve black jacket with big round buttons that I ADORE. I seriously lack reasons to wear it though because it is dressy but not very warm. It is freakishly flattering though, it looks boxy on the hanger but makes me look absolutely sleek when wearing it just because it is cut so well.

6. What is your favorite garment in your wardrobe right now? I have a couple of awesome dresses that I desperately need excuses to wear. One is a fitted black sheath that seriously makes me look like Audrey Hepburn (and that is not easy as I am not remotely gamine or generally Audrey-like at all) and the other is a flippy leaf-print dress that is the easiest-to-wear piece of clothing I may have ever owned. It is cut like it was MADE for me, no Spanx necessary, no sneaky funny bulges in the back, no nothing. Is it that I am willing to hunt for dress-up clothes but not everyday ones? Because the only clothes I seem to be able to rave about are the ones I can wear only a few times a year (I get all excited when I hear somebody's getting married so I can get dressed up).

7. What is the worst clothing purchase you can remember making? Wide-legged, cream-colored pants with a drawstring waist. Made out of corduroy (very thin corduroy, but still, WTF was I thinking?). There was nothing good about those pants. I think I wore them twice. I was desperate but in the end, not desperate enough to wear them.

8. What's your most embarrassing clothing-related memory other than a bad purchase? I went through a phase in grade school where I wore the same green sweatpants and matching sweatshirt, possibly until they wore out. My nickname at one point was Green Giant (I was bigger than all the boys back then too). Suffice to say I am no longer a sweatpants person. At All.

9. What body part (no more than three!) are you proud of and expect compliments on? My hair is looking pretty awesome now that I am growing it out and not dyeing it, my legs are looong and my lips are nice and pillowy (I could keep going, I guess that's a good sign).

10. What body part (again, no more than three!) seems to require management, if not coaxing, cajoling, and sometimes outright begging if it's to please you? That darn hair. It's never been this long before and I am not totally sure what to do with it. Freshly-washed it is nice and bouncy but after that I run out of ideas.

11. If you could dress however you wanted all the time, what might you include? Knee-length cotton skirts and flat sandals. A lot. Right now they are slightly impractical for both work and the weather. Sigh. In the winter I can do heavier skirts with tights and heels but that's also not terribly practical for every day. I Do Not Do heels as everyday wear. V-neck tees and zip-up cardigans in bright colors and patterns (that don't fade upon washing, thankyouverymuch BR Outlet). Large chunky jewelry (small stuff just disappears). Generally more color, not bubble-gum candy pastels but saturated jewel tones. Are those in this season? Make the colors more rich and the shoes less ugly and I'm in.

12. If you could shop at any store (or from any designer), which would you choose? I assume this is ignoring both sizing and budget issues. Banana Republic and J. Crew, full price instead of haunting the sale rack. Lots of Anthropologie. Lucky and Jane Marvel for cute bags, Hobo International for seriously gorgeous bags, Pink Studio for awesome shoes, and Michael Kors, Roland Mouret and DVF for fab dress-up clothes.

13. Where do you ordinarily shop now? Gap/Banana Republic Outlet/J. Crew sales. Also random hippie stores and tiny local boutiques for accessories. Etsy for jewelry as I have found some AMAZING ladies making stuff I love (it's trouble).

14. What clothing, accessory, or prettifying need (if any) do you enjoy shopping for? Jewelry, bags and scarves. Stuff that always fits and can make any outfit more interesting. I hunt for a lot of stuff online but rarely go out and shop now. I just don't feel like hunting right now.

15. Which one do you most loathe shopping for? Shoes. It kills me. In my soul.

16. Do you consider yourself low-, medium-, or high-maintenance? Medium. Low for work and high-ish for a nice night out so medium on average.

17. What are the two most frequent occasions that you dress for and how would you describe them? Work right now is pretty mellow so I have started to wear slightly cuter clothes there since they are less likely to get ruined. But still, I am either in the lab or the greenhouse right now so everything has to stay pretty practical. Also the lab is freezing and the greenhouse is overheated, so layers. Other than that, maybe date night? Or working in the yard? Or yoga. I don't dress much for other specific things. I mean, I do wear clothes, just not activity-specific ones.

18. What was your favorite Hallowe'en costume ever? A couple of years ago I was a 1940's style Lois Lane-type girl reporter. I got to wear a mildly sexy blouse with a pencil skirt, my awesome suit coat that I never get to wear, and a fedora with a press pass stuck in the hatband. Vaguely professional-sexy but not full-on ho as is so very common at H'ween. This past year's was a close second. I have decided a good hat is an absolute necessity for a good H'ween costume.

19. What do you see as the current problem(s) with your wardrobe and/or look? Lack of consistency. I have started to find things that work for me but they are still part of a very random mix. And it is so much easier to find lovely things for dressing up than it is for everyday wear. To use a slightly strained sports analogy Ive got a few flashy starters but I need some more depth on the bench.

20. At the end of WT, what lovely compliments do you want onlookers to give you? "She looks so put-together". I want everyone in the closet to play together nicely. As a team, one might say (if one were to beat the reader over the head with the metaphor).


I may get nothing done today. But last night was an unqualified success. The tenderloin was tender with little crispy bits on the outside, and the mushroom sauce was rich and delicious. The tiramisu, you may ask?

My picture still doesn't compare to the one I swiped from flickr but I bet my tiramisu sure does. And yes Lauralynne, I knew there was no way we would finish it. It's better for breakfast anyways. This was corroborated by Mister Oh-I-Don't-Have-A-Sweet-Tooth this morning.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Dinner Party Update

So a plan is coalescing. The asparagus and mashed potatoes were such a hit they may be repeated, and I am still sticking with the pork tenderloin plan. However, I think I can tie them all together with a semi-sauce with lots of sauteed mushrooms, somewhat like these but simmered down in a little bit more liquid with a pinch of flour.

The other part of the plan is the totally impractical dessert that requires more people to finish it so one doesn't scarf down the whole thing in one sitting. To wit: The Frugal Gourmet (remember him?) had an excellent Italian cookbook many years ago. This is where I learned that tiramisu should properly be referred to as TiraMiFuckingSu.

Picture from here. It's a showstopper, kids. And they can bring the wine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I Haven't Completely Abandoned The List (Just Mostly)

9. Find a skincare routine that works.

Reno is DRY, folks. And my skin was actually really happy in the 99% humidity that was life in Oregon. So my skin was miserable when I moved here. Oily, dry, breakouts, redness, you name it. I was so self-conscious that I decided to suck it up and do something about it. Between luck, crossed fingers, an allergist and a dermatologist, I have actually (after going on 5 years here) found a skincare routine that works (knock on wood) without making me super-oily or ridiculously dry. To the point that I sucked it up and ordered the good stuff (although frugal me had to at least wait until I could get free shipping and an extra sample, those sample tubes are BIG).

Morning routine:

Finally something with SPF that doesn't feel greasy. Every morning post-shower.

This stuff is called Duac, and I only use 3-4 days a week, max. It is a combo benzoyl peroxide/clindamycin gel so it dries the crud out of my skin. But it really does cut back on general spottiness (except on my towels, if I'm not careful). I'm still coasting on the samples with this one, but this is a prescription I plan to fill.

Bedtime routine:

Yes it is mild and all the dermatologists say to use it, blah blah blah. Once I got used to not feeling like clean = skin completely stripped of all moisture I realized, my skin is really much happier with this stuff.

This one is the investment (at least in my book). My skin was having a particularly dry period and it came as a XL-sized sample so I figured I'd give it a shot. This is good stuff, folks. I actually sucked it up and bought some and it is so mild yet rich but not oily and seriously my new favorite thing ever. And so far it has taken me more than a month to put a dent in the sample bottle - you only need a tiny bit!

And a very mild retinol, because they really do work.

It seems funny to me that even though I like to go all natural for my soap and shampoo and as much food and cleaning products as possible, literally no natural skincare products have done anything other than make my skin worse. I guess this makes me a bad hippie. But seriously, folks. I wear less makeup if my skin is healthy, I stress out less if my skin is healthy, I pick at my skin less if it is healthy. I guess that would make it a reverse vicious cycle. But I'll take it! All of these products seem to last forever and so far they are worth it.

What skincare products do you swear by?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Whether the Weather.

So I bit the bullet and ordered more decomposed granite. It is supposed to be partly sunny/partly cloudy with a chance of drizzle this weekend and I am going to suck it up and level that back patio area so I can put some pavers down when the weather actually gets decent. Here is the view towards the patio-to-be:

The path is grayish gravel, the river rocks are shades of gray too, so I am wondering if I should use gray pavers so it will all match. This article is my main inspiration:

This couple stained their pavers, and it works pretty well for them, but mine will be in a slightly less lush area, so I don't know if I am as enamored of the greens they use. The gray would go with the rest of the stone but look kind of industrial, but there is a tan color too. It won't "match" but it might blend better with the rest of the garden. Thoughts? Fancy pavers or flagstone starts at anywhere from $2-5 per square foot so I want to make the basic stuff work as it is the best option, budget-wise (the cheapest option would be a really thick layer of decomposed granite but I got some patio furniture and I don't want it to sink in. Also I don't want to track it in the house, so that's out).

Edit: Best Guests Ever helped me truck all that decomposed granite into the backyard. Now I just need to level it and edge it and I can order some pavers!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dinner Parties (Also, Looking For Opinions)

We have been trying to not eat out so much lately. Which I think is good. But when one of your main pastimes with friends is going out to lunch, you see people a little less when you stop going out as much. So we have been trying to invite people over periodically. The goal is: I feed them, they usually bring wine or dessert, and we all spend 1/10 of what we could have if we had gone to a bar for cocktails and then out to dinner (ok we didn't go whole-hog that often, but still).

We had friends over a couple of weeks ago. I served this over mashed potatoes and with a side of roasted asparagus. I cooked it a little longer, I think it's nicer because the chicken gets really tender and the tomatoes turn into a sauce. We had white wine and some cookies from a fancy local bakery. It was a really nice evening.

Now I want to do it again. And I need recipe ideas. I still want to be a little bit fancy, last time I actually plated stuff out in advance instead of putting everything on the table in big bowls and letting everyone serve themselves, and it was really nice that way without all the clutter on the table. But I am also horribly tempted to make a big batch of chocolate chip cookies (a.k.a. not fancy at all).

So tell me - what do you like when you go to someone's house for dinner? Fancy? Low-key? We're not talking a big group here, just 4 of us (same as last time). Do you usually bring something? Are you offended when people bring something to your dinner parties, like you were going to run out of food or something? Also, what are your favorite appetizers? Or do you prefer to wait for the meal and not fill up beforehand?

Image from here.

Menu-wise, the only thing that I've found that I'm excited about so far is Smitten Kitchen's mushroom appetizer, which I might have to test run tonight even though it totally won't go with dinner, just because I really really want it. I am contemplating some sort of roast pork, possibly a tenderloin sliced up over some salad so it's not terribly heavy. Ideas, anyone?