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New Classics

I’ve been working to update my wardrobe, replacing items I’ve worn out, items that no longer fit, and trying to make my work-week items a little more professional and higher quality. I’m very lucky in that my workplace has a pretty casual dress code, so I’m not stuck in suits 24/7 like many lawyers – which is especially nice in D.C. come July! That means that many of my work pieces can do double duty as nicer everyday clothes.

The idea of filling your closet with updated, current versions of “classic” pieces isn’t new, but I’ve found that tracking down the right ones is hard work! Particularly when you want to buy quality (read: more expensive) items, it can take much longer to find the specific pieces that will fit your needs. I’ve been keeping a list of “holes” in my closet – pieces I’d like to add or buy better versions of, so that when I go shopping I can keep an eye out. Pinterest is also an amazing resource, because I can immediately see the subtle differences between similar items, and I can see how they work with other things I’m looking at or already own. I have both a clothing-wish-list type board, and a my-closet board to help me keep track of what I’m lusting after at the moment and what I’ve actually purchased. So far, here are the items I’m most excited about.

I finally bit the bullet and ordered a pair of the Hunter Original Adjustable rainboots and I’m kicking myself for waiting so long to do this. I was put off by the high price, but these are worth every penny. They’re very comfortable, water-resistant, and they actually fit over my calves! I especially love the material that the inside of the boot is made of, it’s not plastic-y at all, and is actually very comfortable if I slip my boots on over bare legs for a quick trip outside. I did order a pair of the fleece welly socks to go with them, but with the socks on I can really only wear leggings or tights, and it’s still a pretty tight squeeze. I’m only 5’4″, so I do wish the boots were just 1 in. or so shorter, because they sit right in the crease of my knee when I sit down, but that’s really the only downside.

Another expensive, but so worth it, purchase was this rain jacket from Piperlime. I looked for ages for a waterproof, light rain jacket that would work equally well with jeans or with a suit when I have meetings for work. I do have a regular khaki trench coat, but I love my coffee and am also horrible at walking without spilling some of it on myself, so the khaki color wasn’t the greatest choice… I’ve also found that trenches aren’t very waterproof, and when it decides to pour down rain in D.C., where I’m walking around in close proximity to traffic, I needed a little more water resistance. This jacket is by far the most stylish option I found. In person, the material has a very subtle sheen, and there are little lines in the fabric that give it the tiniest bit of texture. I will say, the reviews on this thing are spot-on. It runs a bit small through the shoulders, and is very fitted all the way down (which means it will ride up when you sit down if it’s zipped). I ordered a size up (M) and it’s still very fitted. If this jacket came with a double-zipper and slightly deeper side pockets, it would be absolutely perfect.

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A few of my “new classics.”

I’ve also grown to love a good quality purse. After spending many years buying 2-3 $40 Target purses per year and wearing through them, I’ve finally invested in a few nicer ones. My first black Longchamp bag has been with me for 3 years (including my last year of law school and wedding planning – which equals lots of stuff!) and is about ready for a replacement. I also found a good deal on a leather cross-body bag from Coach Outlet last year and I’m so glad I went for it. I have the Ashley Mini Tote in black, with gold hardware. I can tell this will be a bag that gets better with age and it’s the perfect size for a crossbody – big enough for my phone, Nook, and wallet, but not so big that it gets heavy or irritating to wear all day long.

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New shoes! Sorry the photo is so grainy, it was surprisingly hard to get a photo of these that was true to how awesome they look in real life!

When we moved from our last apartment to the house I did a major shoe purge and got rid of anything that was in bad shape (which was most of my shoes…) I’m trying to be really thoughtful with the replacements, buying things that I know I’ll get lots of wear out of. I saw these Steven by Steve Madden heels online and stalked them for a while, waiting for a sale. Lord & Taylor finally obliged me by having reduced these shoes, and then giving me an extra 25% off during their friends and family sale last week. I ended up paying around $65 plus shipping for these leather beauties. I have another pair of Steven by Steve Madden shoes that are around 5 or 6 years old- a black patent pointed toe pump with a snakeskin print embossed into it. They may sound garish, but they’re the perfect understated-luxe work shoe. I’ve worn that pair absolutely into the ground, but I’m hoping to take them to a cobbler to get them patched up, because I know I’ll never find a replacement for them. All that to say, I’m sure that these new sandals will last me for a while!

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Close-up of my spiffy new Ted Baker sunglasses any my tortoiseshell Stella watch from Fossil.

Finally, some accessories! I love a good Fossil watch. They have a huge selection of styles, their staff is always very helpful if I need a fix, and the watches themselves are really good quality. Now that I’m out of school, I really prefer to wear a watch, because nothing looks more disrespectful in a meeting than pulling out your cell phone – even if it’s just to check the time. This tortoiseshell one is neutral enough to match pretty much everything, is lighter than most boyfriend watches, and has a little bit of bling too. :-) If you follow me on Instagram (I’m barksandbaking there too) you’ve already seen me sporting my next item. I found these Ted Baker sunnies at Nordstrom Rack not too long ago for $55. I have a really hard time finding sunglasses that will fit my face without making me look like a bug, let alone ones that won’t cost major $. I liked these immediately when I put them on. I wasn’t familiar with the brand, but they fit really well, so I paid up and took them home. Then I googled around to find some reviews and saw that these puppies retail for £149, also known as $250 – say what!? Now let’s hope I don’t break them!

What are your new classics? Is there anything you’ve been looking for but absolutely can’t find? (Mine is leather riding boots – my calves make boot shopping impossible!)

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Book Review! The Girls at the Kingfisher Club

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club is a brand-new book by Genevieve Valentine that became available on June 3rd. If you haven’t got a copy already, get yourself over to your book-purchasing location of choice and put this in your cart. You can thank me later :-) This is the best book I’ve read so far this year, and it kind of snuck (sneaked?) up on me.

The Girls at the Kingfisher Club: A Novel

Full disclosure, I received a free copy of the book through NetGalley. The review I wrote for NetGalley and Goodreads is below, but I wanted to get a little more in depth about this book here on my blog. Honestly, I was expecting this book to be in my 3-start review category – a book that I enjoyed, but wouldn’t re-read, and something that I probably wouldn’t recommend to others. Oh, how happy I am to be wrong.

The plot was wonderful, fresh, and brilliantly executed. The skillful narration and pacing immediately sucked me in, and I finished the book within hours. I felt completely invested in the fate of the Hamilton sisters and was rooting for them, all the while knowing that things wouldn’t be easy. At the end, I knew that I had enjoyed the story, but it wasn’t until yesterday, when I sat down to write the review below, that I realized how thoroughly I had enjoyed the book.  I planned on giving it 4 stars, but as I thought about how I could describe the book and the words I wanted to use in my review – and how to avoid spoiling the plot for anyone reading the review! – I was thinking to myself “No, it was way better than that, you’re just not describing it properly!” This really is one of my rare 5-star reviews. I was surprised by how much I was still feeling about the book days later, as only these images can describe:

And then sometimes you'll read a hundred books before you find one that's good enough to remember.

That moment when you finish a book look around and realize

Netgalley/Goodreads Review:

When I saw the description for this book and decided to give it a go, I was expecting a light, coming-of-age story set in the Jazz Age. While it certainly was a coming-of-age story, it was also so much more. I was both shocked and really pleased over the course of the last 2/3 of the book. I thought the ending was fabulous, but also stayed within the realm of believability. I found myself getting anxious each time Jo was called down to speak with her father and nervously excited whenever the girls were sneaking out the back door to go dancing.

The story has a lot to say about the complex relationships between sisters and families, but also about the unexpected variety that you get when people are allowed to make their own decisions and forge their own paths. I wish I could do the book better justice here, but the wonderful writing and the feelings that the author inspired in me as a reader are something that you’ll have to experience for yourself.

I will be recommending this book to many people, I’m sure!

 

Have you read The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, or another good book set in the Jazz Age/Roaring 20s? If you give it a go, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Take a Hike

No, really, you should. Hikes are fun!

As I mentioned in my Update post last month (holy cow! Where did May go?) I was talked into taking a long hike with the hubs and some of his friends from work. Originally we planned to go for 3 days and 2 nights on a hike-in-hike-out type trip, but when we evaluated what gear we had available, we decided 2 days and 1 night would be a better option for us. That way, we only had to carry one night’s worth of food and one day’s breakfast, and we could eat the other meals on the way into/out of the hike location. It also meant we didn’t have to carry as much in the way of toiletries or clothes.

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On our way!

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My clothes for the hike.

Above you can see the clothing I packed for the 2-day adventure. There was a significant chance of rain, so I packed a full extra outfit and plenty of layers – no one wants to sit around at night in wet clothes! In the photo (from left to right) are a long-sleeved moisture-wicking 1/4 zip pullover, a short sleeve tech shirt, 2 pairs of gym shorts, 2 pairs of long running tights, 3 dry-fit Nike tanks, 2 sports bras, 3 pairs of cushy athletic socks, and some underwear (gotta have undies.) I folded all this and stashed it in the mesh wash bag to can see on the left. Not shown are my North Face fleece and Columbia rain shell (you can see the sleeve of my hot pink rain jacket below, though.) I found the Columbia rain jacket at Nordstrom Rack a few days before the hike and picked it up because it was super lightweight, vented, and looked like it would fit either under or over my fleece, if necessary. I’m so glad I bought this, because camping near a waterfall meant the air was damp, and I was glad to have a waterproof layer. On our way into the park, I wore another pair of running tights (in a cropped length), a dry-fit Nike tank, another 1/4 zip pullover, and my fleece. I’m glad I brought the extra tee and running tights, because when we made camp for the night I immediately took off anything that was wet from our creek-crossing adventures and then layered up in full-length running tights and my extra shirt!

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A scenic overlook on our way into the WV mountains.

Even though we weren’t packing as much, the trip still started out a bit frantically – the hubs said that he had a one-person tent stashed away along with a couple of large backpacks (old Army gear, specifically) but when we went to pack them, he couldn’t find the tent! We ended up being able to borrow one from our friends at the last minute, so it was all good, but we definitely need to put that on the list for next time! I ended up sharing a one-person tent with Abe, and the hubs slept under the stars. In the future, I think we’ll go out and purchase a 2 person tent (or maybe even a slightly larger one – Abe takes up just about as much space as I do at night!)

The trails we hiked were in the Seneca Rocks area of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. It was super muddy the days we were there (a huge thunderstorm system had come through the area the day before) but we all just resigned ourselves to getting wet and wading through creeks and the scenery was awesome. There were tons of mini waterfalls and a few larger ones, too (one of which we camped by at night.) Unfortunately, all the water meant we had a hard time finding dry wood for a fire, so we were a bit colder than we would’ve liked at night and early the next morning.

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This path was one of my favorite parts of the hike. It made me feel like I was in an old Grimm’s fairytale!

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One of the many mini-waterfalls on our hike.

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Abe in front of the largest waterfall we saw. This is right next to our campsite. (Note my awesome hot pink rain jacket.)

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Our campsite next to the large waterfall. Note the drying sneakers next to the fire – we waded through a lot of creeks!

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This was the biggest our fire ever got. Fail.

We really enjoyed getting out and doing something active, so I’m sure we’ll go hiking again. There are a ton of different parks and trails around us, so there is plenty of opportunity. In fact, there’s also a short trail right near our house. It’s a pretty low-laying area near a creek, so it was too muddy to explore over the winter or spring, but it’s finally dried out a bit, and the Horrible Hound and I have started checking it out. It’s so nice to have something like this close by –  I foresee a lot of trail runs in our future!

This is a grassy section of the trail near our house.

How about you, my lovely readers? Have you been up to anything active or outdoorsy lately? Any tips for taking your dog on extended camping trips?

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Updates!

I have a ton of new goodies to show you all, but most of them are house-related, which means I need to clean up and take some photos first :-) You can look forward to some new photo ledges in the living room, my spiffy new raised garden beds, and some updates to our basement layout (hint hint, it includes a kegerator.)

Not really a matching set, but maybe now random strangers (usually sales people) will stop asking when the wedding is ;-)     Working from home today, morning essentials include coffee and treats for bribing the horrible hound.     Blueberry scones on the lovely jadeite cakestand my family got me for Christmas. I have a serious scone addiction lately!     Cutest. Dog. Ever.

In other news, I am finally out of the dark ages and have joined Instagram! After waiting ages for them to develop a platform for Android phones, and then just being stubborn, I’ve finally given in (I’m barksandbaking there too.) Now you can check out a small selection of what I’ve been up to on my right sidebar – or give me a follow, and feel free to introduce yourself!

I encourage you to check it out now, because I’m pretty sure I just agreed to a 3-day hiking adventure in 10 days (of the pack-it-in, pack-it-out variety… no campground, no “facilities,” no morning Starbucks.) I’m pretty sure I’m crazy, but I’ll happily bring y’all along for the ride (most likely as a cautionary tale ;-) )

 

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Spring Workout Gear

Spring Workout Gear

I thought it was about time for an update on the fitness goodies I’ve been in love with lately. My workouts haven’t really changed much in the last 6 months or so, but the gear I’m using definitely has. These are my fave items for runs with the Horrible Hound and classes at PureBarre. I’ve also used free trials at a few gyms in the area, I’m trying to find one where I feel comfortable that also has a decent selection of machines/weights/classes, and this gear works equally well for trying out circuit training classes, cycling, and other studio-style classes.  I’ve also gone on a few hikes lately with friends, and all I can say is thank goodness I own fitness gear now, because trying to hike in tennis shoes and jeans would have been miserable!

Nike’s CityRun tights/crops are my new obsession. They’re the softest pants ever, they wick sweat like none other, and they hold their shape really well, even over multiple washes. While they’re 3-4x more expensive than the C9 by Champion crops I was wearing this time last year, I think they’re totally worth it. I’ve also purchased several Nike Dry-Fit racerback tanks (usually at Nordstrom Rack or other outlet stores) for running and barre classes and I love that they’re a longer length. The tank shown above is ridiculously soft and I love the print <3 I saw it in stores while picking up the CityRun tights, and two weeks later decided I had to go back for it. I do still have a lot of Target/C9 brand items too, like the pullover above (I have something similar in about 3 different colors – this winter was so cold I had to buy a couple of extras so I wouldn’t be doing laundry every day!) and this tank, which I think is a good alternative to the standard LuluLemon options.

I still have my Talia tote for days where I’m doing a full gym workout + shower, or a yoga class, but for days where I’m just running to a barre class before or after work, I wanted a bag that was more compact. (Now that I’m out of school the extra padding and laptop compartment of the Talia aren’t as important to have in a bag, and that tote is definitely not compact.) This particular Nike bag not only has a front pocket, it’s vented to allow air flow (which is key for helping sweaty/wet clothes and shoes dry out) and it has a divider in the main compartment of the bag to separate clothes/shoes/toiletries however you want, which I find really handy. I used it to carry water, my basic “purse” essentials (wallet, chap stick, keys) and dog supplies on a shorter hike this weekend, and it worked really well to have the separate compartments! I also have a hot pink SPI belt for when I go running with Abe. Women’s gym clothes generally only have 1 teeny-tiny pocket, and it’s usually not big enough for dog bags and my keys and phone/ipod, but the SPI belt holds it all and stays in place really well.

Finally, but probably most important, I switched from my old, beaten-up running shoes to the Saucony Kinvara 4’s, which have a minimal sole and a small heel-to-toe drop (4 mm). These have been much better on my calves while running (my other shoes were a high 12 mm drop and my calves would hurt when I switched to flats or flip fops that had no drop for the rest of the day.) I got fitted for them at a local running store (Pacers, for those in the DC area – I highly recommend them, their staff is always so nice and knowledgeable!) I let the salesperson know that I was looking primarily for a running shoe, but something that I could also use for some light gym/Crossfit style workouts. I love that they have a thicker sole (unlike my hubby’s Vibrams) but are flexible enough to accommodate my super-wide feet through a wide range of activities. I have the white/coral pair shown above, but I’m already eyeing the grey/teal ones too :-)

Between barre classes and trying the local gyms, I realized that I needed a sports bra that could take a little more impact while holding me in, and also that I wanted something with minimal fabric in the back (and therefore, more air flow, which is key with DC’s summer weather on the way.) Of all the strappy styles I’ve tried, Moving Comfort’s yoga bra is by far the easiest to get on and I love the minimal back (btw, who knew that less bra fabric = more complicated to get on? I tried the Victoria’s Secret Angel sports bra, and holy cow was that a struggle!) I also picked up a Nike Favorite bra, which is amazingly comfy and will definitely get a lot of use.

Nike Favorites Women's Sports Bra

There’s a new Bikram studio opening just a few blocks from our house in May, and the hubs is interested in trying it out with me (which I found really surprising, but I think it would be fun to go together :-) ) The first time I tried Bikram I just brought a standard towel, but those are really bulky to tote around, so I’m thinking I might grab one of the yoga towels like this:

I also bought a pair of fitted shorts a few weeks ago, which I think will be better than the capris I wore last time I tried Bikram… I’m not sure I’m comfortable enough to just rock the Moving Comfort yoga bra and my shorts yet, but thankfully I have a ton of light, sweat-wicking running tanks that should work just fine for hot yoga too.

 Do you all have any favorite gear for Bikram/hot yoga that I should try? What about earbuds? My beloved Skullcandy Fix ones just broke and I’m in the market for a replacement – preferably with a mic and volume control on the cords!

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Beauty faves

Beauty faves

 

These items are what make up my everyday beauty routine (unless I’m staying home all day or working out, in which case I like to give my face a break.) I thought I’d share some of my favorites here and solicit recommendations – if there’s anything you can’t live without, let me know!

Up until the end of law school I wore light eyeshadow, mascara, and lip balm on a daily basis. Then I started experimenting, which I can firmly date to the week I got our wedding pictures back. Despite putting on way more makeup than I was used to, I still looked pale and washed out, whereas my sister and friend Addie looked awesome (they were both wearing considerably more – and darker – makeup and it photographed much better, while still not looking like gobs of makeup in person.) After some trial and error, many samples from Sephora, and many many additions to my makeup bag, I’ve finally found a look that is quick but looks better both in person and in photos than where I was before. This new look is what I have on in my “About Me” photo -although the lighting when I took that pic wasn’t great, so everything looks a bit more “glowy” than it does in person.

I have a good mix of drugstore/Target makeup along with some more expensive items from Sephora. I tried a few of Sephora’s mascaras that everyone raves about (ahem, Benefit’s They’re Real) but the Revlon Lash Potion is my favorite by far. I also had a really hard time finding a moisturizer that absorbed into my skin quickly and didn’t feel greasy, but this new Olay Fresh Effects stuff is the real deal! On the other hand, anyone who thinks that $23 is too much for lip balm has never tried the Sugar line. I got a mini size of both the clear color and the rose as a birthday treat from Sephora last year, and that was an awesome marketing ploy for them, when I ran out of the clear sample I went straight to the mall to pick up a full-size tube. I had no idea I’d get so attached to any balm other than Burt’s Bees! I’m really getting into the nude makeup trend too – Maybelline’s Lip Sensations in Nude Lust is the perfect nude-with-a-tinge-of-pink, as is Essie’s Spin the Bottle polish. Essie’s Mademoiselle is my go-to color for a light-pink everyday polish.

Burberry Summer is my favorite perfume ever, but unfortunately it’s a seasonal, which Burberry changes from year-to-year. I managed to snag a second bottle this Fall, but now it looks like it’s sold out everywhere. Some other perfumes with a similar profile that I like are Burberry Sheer, Marc Jacobs Dot (which I buy in the 1oz. size because then you get a classic clear bottle – once you remove the cap – instead of the hideous red ladybug design) and Clinique Happy.

There will be a few changes to this lineup soon. I’m shopping around for something that’s less orange-y on me than the Boscia BB cream shown above. So far the front-runner is Stila’s CC Cream in Tone, which I think would carry me nicely from spring on into my summer tan (I get a few shades darker during the summer, and then revert to pale-as-death as soon as I’m out of the sunshine :-( ) Also, while I like my NARS palette (“The Happening” from spring 2013) the darker eyeshadow shades are a bit much for me, and I prefer the subtle sparkle from my e.l.f bronzer rather than the NARS Laguna bronzer, so I’m really only using it for the blush (Orgasm, of course!) and the lighter two eyeshadows. I’m thinking this Laura Mercier “Enlightenment” palette might be a nice alternative, but I haven’t made a very big dent in my NARS palette yet, so that’s more of a birthday/wish list item.

Lovely readers – what are your beauty must-haves? Do you have any makeup tricks for when you know people will be snapping photos?

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Book Review! The Maggie Hope Series by Susan Elia MacNeal

So I know I just posted my new favorite series list oh, 2 weeks ago, but I already have another one for you. The Maggie Hope books by Susan Elia MacNeal.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary (Maggie Hope Series #1)

Princess Elizabeth's Spy (Maggie Hope Series #2)

His Majesty's Hope (Maggie Hope Series #3)The Prime Minister's Secret Agent (Maggie Hope Series #4)

 

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed the Royal Spyness books by Rhys Bowen, then you need to check out Maggie Hope a.s.a.p.! *In full disclosure, I received an advance copy of book #4 in this series, The Prime Minister’s Secret Agent, to review through NetGalley (at the publisher’s request, I’m waiting to post the full review here and on Goodreads until the book hits stores on July 1st.)* I liked it so much that I immediately went to good old Barnes&Noble.com on my Nook and bought e-book copies of the first three novels in the series. I absolutely flew through those three books, and I hope MacNeal continues to write this character for a long time!

Set in the early days of WWII, Maggie Hope – a British citizen raised in America – suddenly finds herself at the center of the British war effort. Throughout the series she takes on many different roles, each with a particular purpose in mind, that tax both her mental and physical abilities. Surrounded by interesting characters (some of whom are friends, some of whom are famous, and a few who aren’t what they seem to be) Maggie navigates her way through wartime life and discovers some very surprising family secrets. There’s a little bit of romance, a lot of mystery, and tons of historical detail in each book. While you don’t necessarily need to read the books in numerical order to enjoy them, the plot and character’s relationships makes much more sense if you do (reading the not-yet-released fourth book first actually presented me with a few spoilers from the earlier books, but I still really enjoyed going back and starting the series from the beginning, even though I had an idea of where things were going.)

Fun fact: Barnes and Noble’s list for “people who bought [Mr. Churchill's Secretary] also enjoyed…” includes House of Silk and Death Comes to Pemberley, both of which I read and loved. It also suggests a book called Sydney Chambers and The Shadow of Death, which I think looks great and is now on my to-read list :-)

P.S. I just saw that there’s a new Royal Spyness book up for pre-order – now that’s on my list too!

Have you had any great book recommendations lately? Did you read anything I’ve recommended/reviewed? I’d love to hear your thoughts, my lovely readers :-)