Shoes

Totally Frivolous Friday post right here!  Wanna see my shoes? I have been putting together a closet catalogue for my own record keeping purposes. I love peering into other people’s closets so I thought I would give you the same opportunity if you’re interested.  I have a total of 10 pairs of shoes if you count flip flops, and nine if you don’t.   Not included in this list are my running shoes and my snow boots because those are “gear” to me.

Boots

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ECCO, purchased in 2010 for approximately $200. Apparently you are able to find these for closer to $130 now, but I think I purchased them when they first came out. I like that my most expensive (to me) shoes are also the oldest ones in my closet. I am tiring of the style somewhat, but these definitely don’t need replacing yet.  At $40 per winter I am happy with the good value that these have turned out to be.  Based on when I purchased them my best guess is that these were made in Eastern Europe.

Heels

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Michael Kors mid-heel pumps in black; $100.  I bought these in 2012 when I needed a nice pair of heels for school.  I rarely wear heels at the moment but these are handy to have every now and again.  At this point these are at $25 per year and are still in really good condition, so they were way better than a squeaky pair of inexpensive heels.

Flats

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Frye Carson Ballet Flat, gifted in 2012. A pattern is going to emerge here: I often get shoes as a Christmas/birthday gift from my parents. These retail for about $160 and I had mine re-soled this spring. They are still in great shape; I got a size smaller than normal because I heard they were prone to stretching. $37.50 per year means that these are still fairly expensive for a pair of flats (that doesn’t account for the new sole) but they have a lot of life left in them.

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Nine West smoking slippers. These were also a gift in 2012 and I have no idea what they cost. They are very comfortable, but suede is hard for me to keep clean so they’re basically relegated to the office.  I would say that they have held up well but they haven’t really been tested so I don’t know if that’s a fair assessment.

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Michael Kors Fulton Flat, $98 in 2013. I bought these riiiiight before Michael Kors was everywhere.   I now think they’re tacky and toy with donating them, but I like the driving moc style for when it is wet-but-not-raining; so basically for random warm days in winter and most of spring.  At a price of $33 per year these were probably not a good purchase because I am already quite tired of them.  I didn’t think I was buying these for the brand, but maybe I was.  Either way, I count these as my one poor purchase of the lot.   At this point I think the most sustainable thing to do is wear them into the ground and not purchase anything like them again.

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Nine West Overtime Pointed Toe Flat $70 (gift) 2015. These were a birthday gift and I haven’t gotten a chance to wear them much yet. I don’t wear pink, but I think I can make an exception for shoes.  Since they’re brand new I can’t really say how they will wear.  Admittedly this is likely a very “of the moment” style I’ll probably have to wear them frequently in a short time frame for them to be a good value.

Sandals

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Jack Rogers, gift 2013. Probably not a shoe that I would have picked out for myself, but I do like navy and the fact that this was considered a work-appropriate shoe in my old office.  Not that that matters much anymore.  These can be hard to figure out what to wear with; my default is to wear them with casual dresses for dinners out.       At $33 per year these don’t look like a great value – yet.  They are a timeless style that goes on and off trend but remains popular with the preppy crowd.  I anticipate having these shoes for a long while.  Screen shot 2015-05-11 at 7.42.22 AM Lands’ End Canvas sandals, 2011. I don’t remember what I paid for these, but given when I bought them it couldn’t have been more than $40 or so. Mine are cognac but this was the only picture I could find online. These aren’t going to last beyond this summer, unfortunately. But that would still have them at $10 per year: an excellent purchase if you ask me.  Sadly Lands’ End Canvas no longer exists; it has been folded back into the regular Lands’ End, which I find too matronly for my tastes.  Good thing I’ve found the brand below.

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Everlane Sandals in Ivy, $118 (gift 2015). These were the birthday sandals that my dad thinks are so ugly. I love them, but I am going to be taking them in to get a better sole put on them.  Since these are also new I don’t know how well they will wear but the few other items that I have from Everlane have held up extremely well.  I appreciate Everlane’s transparency and feel good about the fact that these shoes were made in Italy, rather than some developing country with awful working conditions.

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Old Navy flip flops, $2.50 2015. Do these even still count as shoes? I have no idea.

I actually did buy a pair of shoes in 2014, but they got ruined in the accident earlier this year.  Womp womp.  Its definitely not the end of the world because I really didn’t like them to begin with.

Recent Reads

I’m stubborn. This is hardly groundbreaking to anyone who knows me in real life, but I am stubborn with respect to everything. In a lot of ways this personality trait serves me well (Liam would argue that it doesn’t always serve him well, but I digress) and this post is 100% brought to you by my stubbornness.  Oh, and Kindle Unlimited.

I refuse to give up on books. So even if I am really disliking something I’ll read until the end because that is what one does. As a result my reading slowed down recently because I refused to let myself start anything new until I finished the books I didn’t like. This is probably where my stubbornness is not so good.

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The Wives of Los Alamos

Historical fiction is my literature equivalent of sweatpants. After a long and often stressful day of work I like to get home (these days it’s more like leave the kitchen table) and kick back with a book that transports me elsewhere. My favorite time period in American history is WWII and the Cold War. (Yet another reason I adore Mad Men.) So The Wives of Los Alamos should have been as comforting as my beloved high school volleyball sweats. It tells the story of the community that built the bombs that were dropped on Japan.

Wrong. So wrong.

This was a pretty good story wrapped up in a terrible writing style. You know how any time a book tries to write a passage in a different dialect and it takes more energy to get through the passage? Well, that was this entire book because the author refused to take a point of view. First person plural because why??? We were afraid to read a book like this. Or we weren’t afraid at all because we’ve read this style before. Or we didn’t read at all and thought it was a waste of time.

200 pages of that. Ouch; my eyes.

If I had to guess, I think that the author was trying to make the point that actual historical accounts try to write off these women as a groupthinking team who were all in lockstep with one another, when in reality they were much more nuanced than that. That’s my feminist take on the reason for the awful prose.

My other critique of this book is that it should have ended when the bombs were dropped. The author gets really clunky when trying to weave in the morality of what had just happened. I think the book would have been more powerful – and had more staying power – if readers were left to imagine how the members of the community felt after the bombs were dropped.

All in all, 2.5/5 stars.

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Silent Tears: A Journey of Hope in a Chinese Orphanage

I am so torn with this book. On the one hand, I think that this story (of the conditions of many orphanages in China) is one that needs to be told. But on the other I really dislike the author from the way that she portrays herself.

An American woman’s husband accepts a promotion and transfer to China; while she is there the woman finds her purpose in volunteering in their local orphanage and working on systemic changes that will make it a better place for children.

So yes; this is a harrowing tale of the conditions in the author’s local orphanage. She doesn’t sensationalize the violence or the rundown condition of the place, but doesn’t shy away from mentioning them either. I do like that you can tell the woman doesn’t look at the world through rose-colored glasses.

There are two main complaints about this book that didn’t bother me much. The first is that it is written in diary form. Living in China was a several-year journey for the author and I think that the journal format compliments that. Second, I don’t mind that stories of various children are either repeated in part or left unfinished. We don’t remember every single child’s story and we don’t know what happens to each child that Bratt describes…but that’s reality.

But I have a real problem with the savior white woman complex, and this book reeked of that. I don’t want to say too much about it because I think anyone who reads this should be able to come to their own conclusions about the author. I’m conflicted because I liked what she wrote but definitely did not like her.

All in all, 3.5 stars. Anything else would be me rating the author herself and that’s not fair.

 

Cheers, April.

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Okay, total fail.  I have no good picture for this post, so here is Damien Rice.

In April I spent a lot of time entertaining myself while Liam was really busy with a tough semester.  One of the ways that I did that was spending more time at the gym.  I averaged 10 running miles and 50 biked miles each week in April.  Running is definitely not my strength but my very stubborn self is having fun slowly mastering something that has evaded me for so long.  I haven’t signed up for any races yet because I wanted to be 10k-ready before racing in my first 5k, but now I think that might be silly.  What say you, runners?

Though not the best music to run to, I have to say that the album of the month for me was Damien Rice’s My Favourite Faded Fantasy.  That’s a promotional shot for the album at the top of this post.  It is full of melancholy and brooding lyrics accompanied by hauntingly beautiful guitar and piano.  That right there is my favorite music.  Unsurprisingly Damien Rice’s first album 0 was also on repeat this month.   If you have never heard his music, go listen to Volcano right now.  I’ll wait.

Watching movies bores me but I do enjoy documentaries and I watched two great ones this month.  It’s Not Over is the story of three millenials affected by HIV/AIDS.  My sense is that most millenials think HIV/AIDS is a thing of the past, so even though it’s not a new topic for a documentary it was a fresh and needed perspective.

The other one I watched was far more controversial, groundbreaking and challenging.  After Tiller is the story of the four remaining late-term abortion providers in the U.S.  Truthfully I’m still processing my thoughts on the film but I think it is far too simplistic to dismiss it as pro-abortion propaganda.  The film is both intimate and morally ambiguous; viewers are given the space to come to their own conclusions about the process, patients, and the doctors.

Finally, I spent a lot of time with Duolingo this month.  Duollingo is a wonderful (and free!) language learning program that I use on my iPad and computer.  It makes learning a language feel like a game rather than a game and it tries to simulate native (rather than classroom) language learning.  In that way i think it is similar to Rosetta Stone.  It is a great way for me to pass an hour or so while Liam is doing homework.

States I slept in: IL  Other than Easter there was no traveling this month.  And even then it was only to my parents’ house a few hours from us.

Books I read: The Wives of Los Alamos.  This was a really quick and relatively light read.  I am struggling with a few other really weighty books that are slow going.

TV shows: Mad Men is back!  And it’s ending.  2015 is not going to be a good year for my television shows.

Snippets: Liam’s degree program has him in really tough courses this term, so I am seeing less and less of him on weekdays.  Celebrated my birthday with an awesome concert in downtown Chicago.  Planned a summer girls’ adventure with some friends.  Go Blackhawks!!

April 2015 Shopping Summary

April is my birthday month, and I spent a few gift cards, store credits and saved rewards points in order to add several new things to my closet.  Once again I’m linking up with Fran’s link up.  Go check it out!

white jeans

First of all, the elusive white jeans finally made their way into my closet! These are real white (not “vapor”, as the first pair that I purchased were) and I am excited! They’re from Old Navy and were right around $20 when I purchased them, but I spent rewards certificates to get them for $10.

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The black maxi is also from Old Navy and was also listed at $20 when I purchased it.  Normally I try not to buy clothing that I don’t intend to wear out of the house but I’m making an exception for this dress.  With a birthday coupon and store credit it was $9.   I can wear it while working at home and throw a cardigan over it if I need to Skype.  It’s comfortable, long and drapes well.  I’m a fan!  Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 10.34.09 AM

I (very) patiently stalked this next item for a few months.  I’ve found that J.Crew Factory can be really tricky with their pricing and that the 50% off everything sales aren’t necessarily the best prices on the older items on the site.  The downside to being so price-sensitive is that sometimes you’ll miss out entirely on something that never got as cheap as you thought it was going to.  But in the case of the cashmere sweater below my persistence did pay off and I managed to get it for $64.  I’m not going to be wearing this until fall but I love the color, which luckily for me appears to have photographed poorly.  I think that’s why it was the only color left.

And the last thing that I purchased this month (which I am wearing here) was a sweater to wear right now.  It’s blush pink and was $17 from H&M.

That is it for my April shopping.  In total I spent $100, which is far more than I thought I would.  But at the same time I didn’t really expect to be able to purchase the cashmere sweater which I’ll be putting away for fall.

After this month I’m done shopping for the season.  Unless I need to replace something that I wear all of the time or something drastic happens to me or my clothing I am set for spring and summer. I think.  We’ll see what happens :)

 

 

 

Coffee Chat

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Hello, and happy Friday!  I know things have been really quiet over here lately but April just flew by, and I thought that Jenna’s link-up would be the perfect excuse to catch up on what has been going on over the past few weeks.

Let me start by mentioning a repeat low point around here: my job.  I’m tired of talking about it so instead I’m going to wait and update when things (hopefully) change significantly.  Fingers crossed, knocks on wood, tailsmen rubbing and prayers are all very much appreciated.

On to a different sort of low, what do you do when you have really poor restaurant service?  I’m not talking just really slow or somewhat incompetent servers, but make-you-want-to-walk-out bad service?  Unfortunately Liam and I had that very experience when we went out for dinner for my birthday.  The waitress accused us of lying about the possibility of another person joining us because we wanted a bigger table and then gave serious attitude for the rest of the night.  It was beyond incompetent; her whole demeanor was really inappropriate.  And I am so not the type of person who makes a fuss about things.  So, what to do?  We tipped at 10% and called it a day.  I thought about calling the manager because it was clear there wasn’t one on staff that night but then I was afraid of blowing the whole thing out of proportion.  Thoughts?

And now on to happier things … April was my birthday month!  Liam and I celebrated with dinner (see above) and a show downtown.  My parents bought me a pair of sandals that my dad openly admits he finds hideous.  Typical.

I have finally found a groove in our kitchen!  What I recently discovered is that I’m not a Pinterest-type cook.  I don’t want my meal to look beautiful or be super trendy; I like preparing simple food that takes me to other parts of the world.  More on this later, but I am currently jazzed about Finnish food.  Karjalanpiirakka, anyone? :)

But the most exciting thing is that I will have Liam back very soon!  I mean, he’s here, but because of school I hardly see him other than first thing in the morning.  But apparently he is in a groove with school now because he has been calling it a day at really reasonable hours and has been putting in only 3-4 hours on Saturdays.  I missed him!  And I know this isn’t going to be for long because finals are always right around the corner.  But I am enjoying it for now!!

White jeans are tricky.

white pants outfit

White jeans are something that I have wanted for years (seriously) but have never been able to pull the trigger on for reasons I’m unsure of.

I think a big part of me is afraid that they’re very “suburban SAHM-ish”, which is a style I’m afraid of slipping into before my time. This fear is exacerbated by the fact that I work (mostly) from home and we do live well into the suburbs.

But I told myself that I would find a pair of white jeans for my spring/summer capsule wardrobe and give them a go this year. After a few missteps – white jeans are hard to buy online – I found the pair below. They came pre-holed, but I’m okay with it because they are ever so slightly more edgy. (In my mind I’m sure. But that’s what matters!)

You know what else is hard? Taking pictures of clothing that you’re wearing! I’m not being self-effacing here; fashion blogging is not my forte. But when I saw that Bri was having a linkup surrounding white jeans I knew that I wanted to join in and get a few more ideas of how to wear these pants.  I can’t wait to see how everyone else has styled them!

teal shoes

 

Sweater: H&M (current); Jeans: Old Navy; Shoes: Nine West (old) ; Photo Quality: Further proof of fashion blogger inadequacy :)

Blood moons, brunch and backyard chores: Easter 2015

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Easter is my favorite, and I love, love the fact that we were blessed with such excellent weather for all of the Easter 2015 weekend.  As usual we spent the holiday weekend with my parents in their newish home.

We all made it to the house by about 7:30 on Friday afternoon and had a small meal of white fish and water then.  (Good Friday is both meat-free and a fasting day for adult Catholics.)  My dad had had a long day and went to bed after dinner was cleaned up.  We then decided it would be fun to teach my mother how to play beer pong.  It was all about the mechanics.  We weren’t drinking; we had water in the cups and were drinking tea…it was the squarest game ever, but also so much fun.  My mother was hilariously excellent (are you sure you never played before?!) even if she did walk up to the table like she was bowling every single time.  Great memories!  And now her friends cannot tease her about how she doesn’t know how to play!

Did you catch the blood moon (early) Saturday morning?  Even though the reports were saying that there wouldn’t be much to see in Chicago we got up for the blood moon anyway and watched it for 30 minutes or so.  The reports were right – there was very little to see, and to add insult to injury there was a cloud covering the moon at the very moment we were at “peak moon.”

After that it was all about doing yard chores around the house.  Most of the landscaping and outdoor furniture is leftover from the previous homeowners and some of it is in rough condition.  We got to work re-screening the porch (truth: this was mostly a boy job), power washing concrete and iron furniture, pulling up weeds and mostly-dead shrubs and adding new mulch to the beds.  Plenty of work remains for us next time, but we really enjoyed spending the day out in the nice weather and helping to fix up my parents’ house.

While we were slaving outside my parents were making homemade pizzas for an Easter feast.  As always the margherita pizza was the favorite.  So simple, but so delicious.  Others included a taco pizza, sausage and onion and an I-don’-t-know-ask-the-boys-but-I-think-they-put-Cholula-on-it that the boys devoured on their own.

Because the college kids had a decently long drive back to campus we went to early mass on Sunday morning and came home to an easy brunch.  Fresh fruit, scones (made the night before), bacon (because, boys), quiche and toast and spreads.  It was decreed that we will do something similar from now on: big dinner on Saturday evening; smaller, lighter brunch on Easter morning.

After brunch we exchanged Easter baskets (candy and socks; the usual) and then took turns heading home. My mom took several pictures of her kids in dressy clothes but other than that the weekend was under-documented.  Must fix that next time!