Friday, July 31, 2015

I Seem To Have Misplaced July - Have You Seen It?

How is this the last day of July? Where did it go? How did I only post a handful of times all month?

I'm about to get all old school blogger on you: stream-of-consciousness, omg there aren't even any pictures in this thing. Sorry 'bout it.

I'm in such a weird place in my life right now. I'm working so. freaking. hard. to save up for my impending move back to Florida, but hot damn is it hard to get any momentum going. I cant remember which book it was in (I've been reading like a fiend lately, or more accurately like my pre-internet middle school self) but I read something last night that mentioned how almost anything big is at least three times harder than you expect it to be. TRUTH. 

I need this move. I need to shake things up, start fresh. I've been stuck in Missouri for five years now, and every now and then I glance around and think "How did I get here? This is all wrong." I know that changing your surroundings is not an instant recipe for happiness, but I can't shake the feeling that where I am now just isn't the right fit for me. I miss my Florida friends and my palm trees and lazily wandering around Epcot on days off.

I'm trying. I've been viciously de-cluttering, a weird way to put it, I know, but I can't think of a more accurate description. I am tired of being weighed down by things that I keep just because I've always kept them. I've been working my bootie off whenever possible. So much writing. So much trying to pull my new side business together. So much reaching out, trying to make sure that when I do pick up and move, that I won't constantly be freaking out about money and unable to enjoy the life I've worked so hard to get back to.

It sounds so simple - do the work, make plans, budget, go. But man do I feel like I'm swimming against the current most of the time. Despite over a year of doctor visits every few months to figure out the right antidepressant/anti-anxiety medicine, I still get exhausted way too fast. My brain overloads after a couple of hours of trying to focus on work and gets way too fuzzy to produce the kind of content I'm getting paid for. And if I try to push through the exhaustion, mental and physical, and just keep going-going-going until there's finally a significant dent in my to-do list, my body totally shuts down on me and I usually find myself spending at least 24 hours in the most unimaginable vomit-y, headache-y, has ended in trip to ER more than once, pain. (That coming from someone who didn't even touch the fancy pain meds after getting my wisdom teeth out. I took an Advil or something and a nap. My pain tolerance is just weird.)

Throw in the weight of looking after mom while she's in the nursing home recovering from yet another bout of getting so weak that there are nights I have to feed her her dinner, as well as looking after things at her house and running to the store any time she needs snacks or random supplies (which is multiple times a week), and the little bit of energy that I start most days with gets zapped pretty fast.

So yeah, things are tough at the moment. They're not bad, by any means - I've spent more than enough time in "bad" times. Enough that I appreciate "Tough, but not awful" as an alternative. But I thought I'd share where I am right now, what's up in my head. A long string of day after day where I feel like I'm giving my all but only inching forward in tiny increments. But at least it's still forward motion.

I can't wait to be home (despite growing up in MO, FL is "home"), sharing adventures and silliness and all sorts of good things here. I can't wait to have stories that feel like they're worth telling again. Blogging can start to feel rough when your day was, "I wrote some articles, snuggled my cats, and threw away a bunch of old papers". It will be so much more fun when I get to go back to writing about the awesome new local band I just discovered, the hilarious thing I overheard at Disney World, the photos from random day trips to the beach just because it's just an hour away. Yes, life will still be crazy and hard and stressful after I move, but all of that is a lot easier to deal with when you're surrounded by people and places and things you love. That's what I need to get back to.

Time to start another day. Maybe I'll make a few more inches of progress than I did yesterday. Keep moving forward.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

10 Things - Volume 41

1. You would think I'd be able to keep up with doing a weekly 10 Things post! LOLNOPE. I've failed y'all lately. Sorry bout it.

2. So, OMG, Rachel Freaking Maddow followed me on Twitter last week.

Pretty much my reaction. And then I called my mom.

I started to post about it and then got distracted by something shiny, so check back tomorrow to read about it!

rachel maddow shirt - Google Search
Like, for realsies!

3. Target recently had a buy one, get one 50% off sale, so I scored this dress that I've had my eye on for quite a while...

This kind of dress has totally become my summer staple! I tried it on in the store a while back but the medium was too small on my chest and the XL was too big all over, and they didn't have a large in store. So when the sale rolled around, I finally ordered it online!

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Uh, sorry I don't have a head. I actually tweeted this last week as a note that the rad thing about summer is that when you don't feel good, you can throw on a little dress that basically feels like a nightgown and still look like you put in effort. Yay, dresses!

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Slightly more pulled together.

4. I also ordered this one...

but then I was very sad because it didn't quite fit right. They had L and XXL in the store, with the prior being too small on my chest and the latter being way too big in general, so you'd kinda guess the XL would fit, right? Nopes. I'm pretty much in mourning. (It also comes in this cute black/coral color scheme which makes me even more sad. Arrgh!)

5. Had a total freakout when I was about to post this because Google randomly decided that after blogging here for over a decade, it suddenly wasn't sure if I actually owned my domain name. An hour of poking things later, my blog came back from 404 awfulness! WHEW!

6. I aspire to this level of greatness:

7. I mentioned the de-cluttering book I just read in yesterday's book post, but I forgot to mention a part that resonated me. I don't recall the exact wording, but it was something along the lines of "Do you want your home to be a sanctuary for your current life or a museum of your past?"

8. I assume that you have already seen this cat gif, but just in case...

9. I am SO OVER the freaking rain! Didn't get to go to this month's thrift store bag sale because there was a ginormous flash flood and the street in front of the store was basically a river. On Monday, I had some free time in the evening and was like omg, I will go hang out at the lake for a while! Except LOLNOPE, the lake ate the road.


Meanwhile, adorable Chris Hayes is doing a week long feature about the drought in California. WTF climate?

10. This is my jam right now:

Yes, I know it's everywhere, but I love it!

Amazon Prime debaucle

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Show Us Your Books - July

Life According to Steph

I never got around to finishing up my post for the June "Show Us Your Books" linkup, so this post has almost two months worth of reading squished into one! (There are a few books that I read recently that I haven't had a chance to write about yet, but I'll get to 'em next time!) As usual, you can click on the cover images to be taken straight to their Amazon pages, both for the sake of convenience and 'cause my coffee addiction is expensive so sometimes affiliate links happen.

Also, I just realized that all of the books in my post this month are by women. Woot!

 A Fighting Chance

Even though I'm a pretty serious political nerd, I have to admit that before reading A Fighting Chance the main thing that I knew about Elizabeth Warren is that pretty much everyone wants her to run for president, but she's all "Nah, guys, I'm cool hanging out in the senate". I feel like I know her much better now, especially since I listened to this as an audiobook, which she read. I'm still impressed that she made economics, not usually my kind of topic, totally interesting. My absolute favorite thing is that while campaigning she picked up the habit of telling little girls that she was running for the Senate "because that's what girls do." Maybe something about that will stick and by the time these girls grow up the Senate won't be 80% men.

Desert Queen

Continuing the "books about awesome women" trend, I also listened to the audiobook of Desert Queen, a biography of Gertrude Bell. In the late 1800's when the concept of an independent woman was still just a gleam in Beyonce's ancestors' eyes, Gertrude spent her time exploring the Middle East, gathering info for the British government, mapping uncharted territory and eventually even drawing the borders for Iraq! I do feel like this book was a rather dry (at times) take on a fascinating woman. Several parts of the book seemed to drag on, and while it was interesting I think it would have benefited in being written in a more compelling fashion that would have kept me wanting to turn pages.

The Doctor Is In

Did you know that Dr. Ruth served as a sniper after WWII? That she lost her parents in the Holocaust? That she's only 4'7"? There is a lot more to the little woman with the accent you've seen on TV talking about sex than you probably know. This book is part biography, part commentary to how to live life with more "joie de vivre", the topic that she ties almost every story in the book back to. I have to admire her energy (even now in her 80s!) and ability to maintain such a positive spirit after going through some horrible things in her youth. Her personality comes through a lot in the writing, which is very conversational in style. I thought it was a fun read, although I've noticed that a lot of reviewers were disappointed because they wanted something different or more. (I recieved a complimentary e-book via NetGalley for an honest review.)

Day Shift - Charlaine Harris

I read and reviewed the first book in this trilogy in May, and picked up my review copy of Day Shift on NetGalley the next day to continue the story. While the previous book took a long time to get rolling, I found the opposite problem with this one - I was intrigued at the beginning, but my desire to keep turning pages (or, you know, scrolling) fizzled a lot by the last quarter of the book. I attribute that to the fact that most of the "mysteries" in this book were only mysterious to the characters - I imagine most readers will figure them out very early on. Add in the fact that one of the major plots of the story (the hotel) is left unresolved, and it just didn't feel satisfying at the end - there was no "Ohhh, wow!" moment when things come together.

All of that is not to say I didn't enjoy it - I like Harris's writing style in general, and getting to better know some of the smaller characters from the first book was nice. But speaking of that, a few of the author's minor characters from her other books show up in this one. I don't mind cameos that give a nod to fans of previous books, but two moderately important characters in this book came from the True Blood series, which was just... kinda odd. I feel like anyone who hasn't read that series might be confused by their implied backstories. I'd much rather have seen Harris create vibrant new characters to fill those roles instead of taking what felt like a sort of lazy way out. I'm sure I'll read the next one when it comes out, but this one was just average for me. I guess I'd say that if you enjoyed the first book in this series, this is worth picking up to continue the story. If you didn't like Midnight Crossroads much, though, you probably won't like this one any more.

Behind the Clutter 

I knew as I was reading this book that it would be a hard one to write a review for, because while I wasn't a fan of the writing style, I did find the book effective at making me look at my possessions in a new light and cut down a lot of clutter. Behind the Clutter has a few things in common with the (currently super popular) "Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" in that both books want you to hold your items and think about how they make you feel (and both authors are Japanese, coincidentally). However, while just asking if an object brings me joy, as "Life Changing..." instructs, this book asks you to think about if the object fits who you are as a person right now, if it truly serves a purpose, and what the real reason you're holding on to it is. There's a lot less of the technical "fold your clothes like this and organize your shelves like this" and a lot more of the "why do I feel the need to hang onto this?"

I received a complimentary review copy via NetGalley, and oh man do I hope that the book went through another round of editing before the final version, because at least 1/3 needed to be cut out. There's a LOT of extraneous detail and stream-of-consciousness rambling. For instance, sure, it might be helpful for the reader to know that you carry a computer bag, a gym bag, a yoga bag, a current projects bag, and a "self care" bag in your car, but do we really need multiple pages detailing every single item in each of those bags, as well as what brand and color each bag is and where you got it? Probably not.

That said, I have found the ideas that fuel the book to be helpful. For example, I figured out that part of why I'm so good at starting projects but not finishing them is that as long as a project is incomplete, it still has the potential to turn out great/prefect. I've found letting go of things that I don't really need to be a lot easier than ever before. I'd recommend this if you're interested in shifting the way you think about the things you own, but with the note that you might have to sift through a lot of sugary fluff to find the good stuff. (Just a note - I still have about 7% of this book left, but I figured I'm far enough in that my opinions aren't likely to change by the end. If they do, I'll update ya up!)

Read anything awesome lately?

Monday, June 29, 2015

ModaBox Review and Discount Code!

Pretty excited for something new - a review of my first ModaBox! Since I haven't seen many reviews out there yet, let's start with the obvious...

What the Heck is a ModaBox?

ModaBox is a clothing subscription service where you fill out a style profile, get a big ol' box of clothes in the mail, keep what you like and send back the rest! Sounds familiar? Yep, there are a ton of similar services out there, but there are a few distinct differences. Here are the ones I've come across so far:
  • NO STYLING FEE! For real, y'all. You still need to enter payment info when ordering, since they're sending you a whole lotta stuff, but if you end up sending everything back, you are out $0. Zero, nada. This makes me SO much more likely to keep using this service!!
  • You don't get a set number of items per shipment, but the average seems to be around 10. 
  • You have an entire week to try things on before you have to send them back.
  • And my favorite - your stylist actually communicates with you while putting your box together to make sure you're on the same page about what kind of items you'll like! YAY!

I learned from the ModaBox website that my stylist, Patrizia, was born in Italy and spent some time working as an expert style adviser for Harrods in London. She has been awesome in our email exchanges, and I love that she actually *listened* to what I like and what I'm looking for, but still tries to throw in a few more adventurous things to take a chance on. Big thumbs up on her so far!

Before I get started with the actual stuff, I have a VERY cool bonus to share! If you happen to want to try ModaBox, too, they've hooked me up with a referral code that gets you $25 off your first purchase if it's $100 or more! The ModaBox promo code is CWARD25. To get the discount, you have to enter it when requesting your first box, it can't be added on later. (Because they are awesome, it gives me a credit, too - woohoo!) And for transparency's sake, I'll add here that they just hooked me up with the code last night as I was finishing up this post, so it's a last minute addition - this post isn't sponsored and I didn't have any prior contact with them before I ordered and fell in love, so all opinions you're getting here are genuine and unfiltered.

Ready to see what I got?

The box that showed up was huge! My photos here aren't great because I was trying to keep cats from climbing in, but you might be able to tell that it's almost as big as the little end table that I have it sitting on. Each item inside was individually wrapped in black tissue paper, so it felt like Christmas to keep unwrapping item after item! I had 11 pieces in total, and after seeing how much I liked the first few things I unwrapped my enthusiasm kept building. SO MUCH FUN!

Tea and Cup Strappy Open Back Romper - $59

I'll admit that I'm not much of a romper person - I've tried a few on because they always look so cute on the rack, but they never look quite right on me. This is by far the best fitting, most flattering one I've tried! However, the price was a little high for me and the real dealbreaker - no matter how I adjusted it, this thing flat out refused to totally cover my right boob. I twisted, I adjusted straps in the back, but every time, my chest was like "OH HI GUYS!" Had it not been for that issue, I probably would have had a harder time sending this back. The colors and pattern are awesome, and I surprisingly even like how its cut!

I really need a photo assistant. They don't get much better than this - sorry y'all.

Miss Finch Forest Print Blouse - $58 (size med)

Miss Finch Forest Print Blouse

Miss Finch Forest Print Blouse - Back

Okay, this is probably the item from my box that was the least "me", but I wanted to at least give it a go!

 Miss Finch Forest Print Blouse ModaBox
The fit was pretty good and I loved the lightweight fabric. There's a bit of palm print going on, which is super on trend, but this isn't quite my kind of design overall. Plus, not sure how well you can see it but there's one orangey circle that's in an awkward nippley place. 

Here's my version...

ModaBox Miss Finch Forest Print Blouse

I flipped the top around so that the back zipper was in the front, unzipped, and tucked to make a v-neck. Paired with random black thrifted skirt. A little better? (Ignore my terribly painted wall with the cable sticking out, btw. I really need to find another spot with decent lighting to take pics in!)

Checkered Shorts by Ina Fashion - $52 - size L

Checkered Shorts Ina Fashion

Black and White Checkered Shorts Modabox

What I loved: I love a good dress short, especially with a zipper up the back. The fabric quality on these was great and they definitely fall into my favorite shorts category of "more fun than plain denim, but not so crazy that it's hard tops to pair them with". Plus, the length was just about right, which is hard to find!

What I didn't love: The pleats in the front weren't flattering on my shape, and these were a bit too small - couldn't get the zipper all the way up in the back.

Inc Checkered Shorts with Braided Trim Tank

Black Tank with Braided Trim Swoon

Swoon sheer black tank top

Swoon Braided Trim Tank - $21.60 - Size Med

What I loved: The price! I have all of my price settings on the cheapest possible, so it's nice to see something super budget friendly show up. And the braided detail on the straps is quite cute.

What I didn't love: I kept the pic of me wearing this above small-ish because as you can tell, this is pretty see-through! Definitely one to layer with another tank or camisole or something if you don't want to be showing off. BTW, Swoon is one of the few brands I received with a site you can actually shop - most of the others were only open to wholesale orders. I didn't see this top on their site, but there is a lot of cute stuff - very summery/juniors-y/casual fun clothes.

Crochet Open Sleeve Dress by My Beloved - $46.80

My Beloved Crochet Open Sleeve Dress

THIS DRESS. I'm in love. It's perfect for summer, fits well, and isn't exactly like what everyone else  is wearing, so it still stands out a little. I even discovered that since the sleeves are both split and made from sheer, thin fabric, it was possible to slip my hands out, invert the sleeves into the dress, and rock it as a sleeveless dress, too! 

Look ma, no sleeves!

Although the split sleeves are SUPER FUN.

ModaBox Crochet Open Sleeve Dress

After falling in love with this dress, I was a little sad to check the price tag and see that it said $78. However, the price was only $46.80 on my checkout sheet, which made this a definite KEEPER!

Also kinda works as a top if tucked into jeans? Not 100% on this - what do you guys think?

ModaBox Navy Crochet Open Sleeve Dress

BLVD Collection Woven Sleeve Jumper- $88

BLVD Collection Woven Sleeve Jumper

BLVD Collection Mint Jumper

BLVD Collection Mint Lace Jumper

BLVD Jumper ModaBox

Sooo, this romper did not exactly work on me as well as the first one. The tall person struggle is real, y'all. I can't wear one piece swimsuits because they generally come up to about nipple level, and that's pretty much what happened with this- my torso was about 4" too long for this to fit comfortably, and I had to contortionist it up to get it back off! Great color, but a definite no go on this one. (And I don't think I'll ever meet a romper that I love enough to drop $88 on!)

English Rose Lace Border Mini Skirt - $42

My stylist emailed me early on in the process to ask about the fact that I'd skipped over skirts in my profile. We all have quirky body stuff, and one of mine is that skirts just never seem to sit right on me. I don't know if my torso/hip proportions are weird or what, but I almost never find a skirt that doesn't feel super awkward. We agreed that I'd give this one that my stylist had in mind a go, and hey, if it didn't work out, at least we'd know for next time.

I loved the lightweight fabric and "fun to spin around in" factor of this skirt, but as usual I didn't feel like it fit me right. Plus, since I'm super pale in general, I always feel like peachy/cream colors look weird on me. I didn't have any tops that even came close to looking right with this, so I just photographed it with the plain black top I had on hand from another outfit so that you could at least see it on. Super cute in theory and definitely unique (in a good way), but not a good fit for me.

English Rose Lace Border Mini Skirt

BLVD Sublimation Fitted Dress - $40.80 

Agggh, this dress, you guys! Straight out of the box I LOVED it. The colors and print are right up my alley. It actually reminded me a little bit of McQueen's "Plato's Atlantis" collection, which is just about the highest praise I can give anything,ever. 

However, it was just a tiny bit too clingy in a few "yikes, I kinda gained 10 lbs this spring" areas, and definitely too small on top. If they happen to have this in a larger size, it might be a match made in heaven. Sending this one back was SO HARD, but I had to admit defeat. But check it out - you could totally get extra wear out of it by pairing with other skirts!

YA Los Angeles Inca Strap Tank Top - $42 - Size L

YA Los Angeles Inca Strap Tank Top


ModaBox YA Los Angeles Inca Strap Tank Top


ModaBox Ribbon Strap Tank Top
Cute strap detail

I liked the idea of this top a lot, but it was suuuuuuper unflattering on me, to the point that I'm not even posting an "action shot" of it being worn. I loved the color and ribbon straps and the crossed fabric in the back (not even sure what this style is called), but given my very hourglassy shape, airy tops with multiple fabric layers like this just don't work, especially with it being kind of cropped length on me. I definitely took mental notes on the construction for future sewing projects, though!

Bird Out Back Dress by Closet London - $109

At first glance, I didn't think this dress would work well on me, and while it wasn't a total hit it did fit a lot better than I expected! Not quite a keeper, though.

Andrea Jovine Belted Mint Shorts - $48

Best "Fashion Blogging" pic ever? Probably. #Romance

This was another "close to being great, but not quite. These fit quite well in the waist, but they were super long on me, and cuffing them didn't go well, either. Loved the color and that they included a belt, but we just weren't meant to be. (Unlike my "kitten" Tennyson and I, clearly.)

I only ended up keeping one item this time (the navy dress), but I'm pretty impressed! I would have definitely kept the fun print dress if the fit had been a little better, and the navy romper would have been a serious contender as a keeper if not for the weird boob flashing thing. Three items that I like a LOT out of the very first box is pretty darn good, considering that I only ever kept 2 things out of 6 StitchFix shipments! And even with the items that weren't quite right for me, there were none that were totally off the mark. I have a feeling that after this first "getting to know you" type box, my stylist is going to be putting my bank account in serious peril in the future!

Overall ModaBox Opinions!
What I loved:

  • Having 7 days to try everything on (as opposed to just 3 with Stitch Fix). 
  • Getting 11 items! It was like Christmas when you just keep finding more presents under the tree!
  • Emails with stylist beforehand! I think chatting about preferences helped my stylist find a bunch of items that were definitely on the right track without ruining the fun surprise aspect of this kind of box. 
  • Having a promo code to share with you guys, obviously! Gotta love a good discount!
  • For the most part, I found the items I received to be way more reasonably priced than what I've been getting from Stitch Fix. My two favorite items were dresses that were $40 and $47, which is a price I am totally comfortable paying for a cute dress! 
  • The lack of a styling fee is also (obviously) a huge plus! As far as I'm concerned, that means there is pretty much no reason not to give ModaBox a try if you think this is something you'd have fun with. You literally have nothing to lose! 
What I didn't love:

  • They currently only work with certain sizes - I think up to size 10? So I'm right on the cutoff. I'm pretty sure that this will change as they grow, but it does leave out a lot of people for now.
  • Boxes take a little while for your stylist to put together. This isn't a real "con" on this pro/con list since I think that having extra time gives them a better chance at finding things you will really love, but having an entire month pass from first ordering to finally getting the box can be a little challenging if you're as impatient as I am when it comes to cool things!
  • That's pretty much it on the non-love list! Overall, this first experience with ModaBox was a very positive one! 
Have any of you guys tried ModaBox yet? If so, I'd love to see what you got! And since I always love feedback - did I pick the right thing to keep?