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Surviving Summer

29 May

I’ve never much liked summer, a fact I reiterated to my husband when we moved to South Florida. But the jobs we wanted were here and so we came, and nine years later, I like our Florida life, though I still don’t much like summer heat and humidity. The nice thing about a Florida summer, however, is that we’re all in misery together. No one likes hurricanes and 100 percent humidity, so there’s no putting on a happy face about it.

It’s tempting to give up on cute clothes in the summer here. But I’ve found there are ways of surviving summer while still looking like you’re trying — even if you’re face is sweat-slicked.

1. Maxi dresses/maxi skirts

These full-coverage options seem counter-intuitive, but you get a whole lot of air on your legs, they feel like wearing jammies and you don’t have to worry about flashing anyone like you would in a shorter dress. A maxi skirt with a nice tank — or even a not-so-nice tank — instantly looks summer chic. This maxi dress is from Target and is my new favorite thing.



2. A pair of shorts you love

I think a lot of us hate shorts. It’s hard to find a pair that’s flattering. They have all the problems as jeans, but with the added bonus of showing off thighs. Fun! I refused to wear shorts for years, but between Florida and kids — I need something I can wear easily on a playground — I’ve had to give in. It took me two years to find shorts I really really love, but now that I have, these (from Old Navy) are the first things I reach for on the weekend.



3. Cardigans

I know. It’s hot. But every place is air-conditioned and if I don’t have a cardigan, I will freeze in my office — and the movie theater, grocery store and any other place I go. It’s also nice for when I’ve been outside too long and need coverage to avoid a sunburn. The key here is lightweight, wrinkle-free material. You want to be able to throw this in a bag without it looking too mussed.

4. Sunscreen

My favorite is this Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry Touch. I like Jason, too, but the Neutrogena is available anywhere.


5. Structured dress/pencil skirt + blazer

This is my work uniform for summer. The blazer is for warmth in the office. Once outside, I strip it off and, in a dress or a pencil skirt+tee, still look decently dressed.


What are your summer style tips?


SAO Says: Mother’s Day Gift Ideas

3 May

Jenny J: I think the key to a good Mother’s Day gift is to give something that she’d never spend money on for herself. For me, that would be a gift card to a store that I love, but don’t often buy anything from (Lululemon, Anthropologie, Sephora, Nordstrom). For instance, a Target gift card is always, always, always welcome, but you know that if you give one of those to a mom, it’s going to be used for diapers, Clorox clean-ups and Snapple. Also nice ideas would be a day to herself–a gift card for a movie, plus a gift card for a restaurant, etc.

Becky's ideas

Becky: I like this Aqua Harper Crossbody Bag from Patina, a local store that also has online shopping, and I think this little Change is Good change purse from Fossil is really cute. And I like that the color is called Flamingo Pink. For my own mom, I have no idea what to get! She does like to get flowers, but I feel like that’s boring. I’ve given her gift cards to book stores before. My mom also likes statement jewelry, so I’ve given her big bangle bracelets before too, like this from Nordstrom.

Edible Arrangements

RA: My mom is hard to shop for because she always tells my sister and me to “not spend any money,” and then when we get nice things for each other, she’s like, “Ohh, you girls always have such nice things!” ARGH, MOTHER. Plus, my parents keep talking about how they will eventually sell the house where my sister and I grew up and move, but it’s been, like, 8 years of talk and nothing has happened. I have strayed away from gifts of stuff for them, in case this plan ever gets off the ground, and now I lean more heavily on gifts that can be consumable or experienced. SO, this year for Mother’s Day, my sister and I are going in on an Edible Arrangement. It’s a little hokey, sure, but I find them to be surprisingly impressive in person, and Mom can feel okay about us splitting the cost.

Andrea's ideas

Andrea: I got my mom one of these insulated wine glasses. She loves a glass of wine in the evenings when she sits on the patio and reads. And I’ll probably also give her an Amazon gift card for buying books for her Kindle. Lately though, doing stuff seems like a better plan than buying stuff. So, my sister and I have talked about taking her for a pedicure. We took her to brunch (just the girls) for her birthday and that was a big hit. And a few years ago, we did a crawfish boil for mother’s day because she loves crawfish.

Connected in Hope

Jes: I bought my mom a scarf from Connected in Hope. They’re handmade in Ethiopia by women in the Former Women Fuel Wood Carriers Association. I bought one for me, too, and love it. (Don’t worry, I usually buy ‘something I found at Marshalls’ for Mother’s Day. This ‘save the world’ gift kind of fell into my lap this year and I grabbed the opportunity!) Plus, you can get free shipping through May 7 with code MOTHERTOMOTHER!

SAO Says: Looking Forward to Spring

8 Mar

What are you looking forward to wearing as spring approaches?

Stacey's spring picks

Stacey: I love spring! And I’ll be happy to do away with coats & boots. Spring is so much more comfortable & my outfits feel more relaxed. Or maybe I’m more relaxed in my outfits. Here are some recent Pinterest favorites. These are my go-to outfits for spring. I do love rolling up my jeans, thoughts? And I am definitely looking forward to flats!

Jenny J's Sam Edelman sandals

Jenny J: I just finally “bit the bullet” and purchased these Sam Edelman sandals that I’ve admired since last spring/summer. They look fantastic with shorts, dresses, pants–you name it. The nude color means that you can wear them with darn-near anything. Expect a whole post from me soon, on the virtues of nude shoes for spring/summer. I also have a love affair with orange, so these are on my radar for spring and summer as well. My toes, however, are in absolutely NO condition for being viewed by the public, so a pedicure is necessary before I can even contemplate wearing these cuties (and how weird am I, because I hate getting pedicures… I know, right?).

Hillary's spring picks

Hillary: I’m looking forward to print dresses and maxi skirts, which make me feel like I’m wearing jammies.

Gap cap-sleeve drawstring dress

Andrea: The thing I’m most looking forward to is wearing dresses and sandals. Even though it gets warm earlier in Texas, it feels weird wearing sandals and dresses before it’s officially spring.

N's fun wedges

N: I am looking forward to sandals!  I am loving how the styles this year, particularly wedges, remind me of the cute little sandals I wore as a kid in the early 80s.  My spring shoe wardrobe is in dire need of a restock so I’m looking forward to picking up fun, detailed, strappy wedges.

RA's ideal spring outfit

RA: I can’t wait to wear dresses and skirts without tights or leggings. I don’t mind wearing them, and I like to layer, but it’s so nice to just throw on a dress and a pair of flats and be DONE.

SAO Says: Emerald Trend

22 Feb

How do you feel about emerald, Pantone’s color of the year for 2013?

Emerald Collage

10 emerald items for under $50:
dress, cardigan, shirt, belt, skirt, peeptoes, pants, earrings, ring, jacket

Andrea: I love emerald! Such a beautiful and rich color. I don’t have any specific plans for purchases, although I’ll probably pick up a bottle of emerald nail polish at some point.

RA: My favorite color is green, so I LOVE this trend. Conveniently, I have a lot of clothing in this color already. Unfortunately, I automatically gravitate toward green items in a store, so it will take inhuman self-restraint not to buy everything out there this year.

Becky: I love emerald green and really want some green pants. I think emerald green goes with almost everything.

Jes: I used to try to wear emerald, because my mom looks great in it and therefore has a lot of it. I have a completely different complexion, though, and it just doesn’t work. When I finally realized it wasn’t a question of finding the right emerald item and I just shouldn’t wear it at all, I wondered why I didn’t realize long ago!

N: I guess I’m not entirely sure what the “color of the year” entails, but as far as emerald, I love it!  I don’t have much green in my wardrobe at all, and generally stay away from it, but I did recently buy an emerald sweater, and it’s one of my new favorite items.  This shade of green works for me — I actually look awake in jewel tones!

Jenny J: I’ve long been a fan of emerald green. My eyes are sort of an emerald green color, so it’s always been my go-to, slam-dunk color for clothing. Now that I think about it though, I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t look good in emerald. It seems to be universally flattering for all complexions and just a pleasant, crowd-pleasing color all around. BTW, here’s gorgeous example of a ridiculously lovely Valentino in emerald green.

Hillary: I’m a big fan of any jewel tone; they all look nice with my dark hair and pale skin. What I really like about emerald is that it looks sharp with both black and navy. I only have one emerald shirt, but it’s a go-to shirt any time I want something to brighten up my navy suit or a plain black pencil skirt.

SAO Says: Valentine-Themed Outfits

8 Feb

Do you wear a Valentine-y outfit on Valentine’s Day?

Valentine-y looks from J. Crew

Danielle: Every year I think, “I need a heart tee or sweater” but then Valentine’s Day comes and I feel like a dork actually wearing it on that day. Maybe this year is my year to follow through!

Buster: I do not wear Valentine’s colors, but not because I have any great aversion to the idea. I just don’t own much red or pink and I refuse to buy a once-a-year shirt.

Hillary: I am not a Valentine’s Day fan and generally don’t like dressing to a theme on work days — parties and special occasions are a different matter. So, I probably will not be wearing a planned red- or pink-themed outfit. I have a lot of pink and red in my closet though — my pink-and-red paisley skirt comes to mind — so it’s possible that I might dress to the holiday by accident.

N: Yes! I try to add something red to my outfit (I don’t think I have a pink item in my wardrobe) but nothing that screams Valentine’s Day.  I think it adds a little fun for a day among a long stretch of wintery non-holidays, and makes me feel kind of young again, somehow.  However, I wasn’t always happily married and there were definitely Valentine’s Days in my past for which I wore black!

RA: I defiantly do not wear red or pink on Valentine’s Day. It just seems so cliché to me that I feel the need to wear GREEN or ORANGE and HEAR ME ROAR, HALLMARK, YOU’RE NOT THE BOSS OF ME! I don’t know. It’s a meaningless rebellion, but there it is.

Stacey: I do not wear Valentine-y colors on Valentine’s Day but only because I don’t look good in red. I would not be opposed to some fun heart earrings or a fun red chunky necklace if I ever thought about how I could use it for Valentine’s Day props! So my answer is yes, I would, if I weren’t lazy. I love Valentine’s Day. I really like to do special things as a family. Last year I made a special dinner and we talked about the things we love. Sort of like Thanksgiving and what we are grateful for.

SAO Says: A “Me” Outfit

25 Jan

What outfit feels like “you”?

Phoenix tee

Andrea: Although I try not to always dress like a college student, the outfit that absolutely feels most like me is a soft t-shirt and blue jeans. A friend bought me a shirt with this print on it at a Phoenix concert, and it’s currently #1 in the clothing rotation on weekends.


Becky: This is a horrible photo of me, but it show the outfit that feels like me: sweater, black pants, black patent heels. I love this Banana Republic sweater because it’s formal-ish and feels like something Jackie O or Michelle Obama might wear. I wear black pants to work almost every single day, and I love patent heels.


Hillary: Dress, tights, shoes — ankle boots in this case, but just as easily could be flats or knee-high boots. I love the ease of a dress and tights. You get the flirty, femininity of a dress, but the practicality of pants. I mean, I’m not bending over purposely and flashing my underwear in this outfit, but if the wind blows and someone gets a peek at my black-clad bottom, well, oh well. Sadly, I rarely get to wear tights. It’s one of the drawbacks of South Florida. So, I take advantage whenever I can — if the high dips below 80, chances are I’m busting out my tights — and in the summer, I translate this outfit to a maxi dress and flip-flops.


RA: I love wearing a cardigan, scarf (or big necklace in warm weather), and flats, usually in saturated colors, so this picture is pretty representative of that. And the watch is a must-have for me. I also wear dresses a lot because they are so easy — one piece! — and I would totally swap out the t-shirt and jeans for a dress in this instance. I have so many scarves and cardigans that this formula is really easy to throw on if I don’t know what to wear or I’m in a rush, but I still feel like myself, which I guess is something like nerd-cute, maybe? Even though I don’t have a pair of those nerd glasses.

SAO Says: Favorite Cold-Weather Items

11 Jan

What’s your favorite style item for cold weather?

Cold Weather Items

Buster: I could not live without something around my neck – scarves, cowls, infinity scarves, shawls, whatever. I always feel warmer, which is necessary when I sit right under the arctic-blast air vent, and the pretty ones double as accessories. I have several hand-knit ones that I’ve made and received as gifts over the years, but my current favorites are infinity scarves. I’ve knit one for myself that is very similar to this one. This royal blue one (comes in other colors!), is soft and cozy and, because so much of my winter wardrobe consists of gray, brown, black, and white, I really like the pop of color it provides.

RA: Ever since I got a smart phone, my favorite thing in the winter has been convertible mittens: full warmth of a mitten + fingerless glove capabilities for a touch screen! I have 2 pairs from J. Crew Factory, where they are (ridiculously overpriced unless you find them on sale and have a coupon code, which I did, of course) amusingly called GLITTENS, oh, yes. And maybe there exists a person for whom that product name does not tip the scales toward purchasing, but I am not that person. Obviously.

Andrea: Long socks. I always love the first time it’s cold enough to get out my warm, knee-high socks.

Jes: My cold-weather staples are pretty typical – scarves and boots. I have a scarf paired to each of my coats as a default so I look a little bit more put together. If I pick out a different scarf to go with what I’m wearing that day, even better! (Though I’m usually in such a rush I don’t get around to it, hence the default.) As for the boots… I think I’ve mentioned them about 12 times, so you’re probably getting sick of them. I love, love, love my boots.

SAO Says: The Best Gifts

16 Nov

What’s the best gift you’ve given or received?

N: My mom had a 1970s-era Ernie (Sesame Street) cookie jar that sat on our kitchen counter ever since I can remember.  Many cookies were baked, stored, and stolen from Ernie over the years, and he endured a lot of wear and tear.  Sadly, a few years ago Ernie sustained his final injury and my mom emailed my sisters and me, and she was just heartbroken that Ernie was no more.  On a whim, I googled “Ernie cookie jars” and, lo and behold, found a few on eBay.  I successfully won one that was exactly as I remembered hers, and we surprised her with it on Christmas.  I have rarely seen my mom so surprised and touched as she was by the return of Ernie – there were many tears.  I will never forget that moment!  Sometimes vintage finds can recreate the best memories, and sites like Etsy and eBay make this so easy these days!

Andrea: One of my favorite gifts I’ve ever received was a wine of the month subscription. It was so fun to get wine on my doorstep every month and was a great way to try new wines.

Danielle: This wasn’t a Christmas gift, but it is by far the best gift I have given. My husband is a drummer, so for our wedding I gave him a Noble & Cooley snare drum and had a line from our wedding song engraved on the rim. Finding a gift that is centered around someone’s passion always works. Unique art supplies for an artist friend, vintage posters for a movie nut – things like that. Ebay is a great resource for unique gifts.

RA: I think the best gift I ever gave was a framed Calvin and Hobbes comic strip for my husband. We both love it, and we have all of the books, including the massive hardback versions. The creator of C&H, Bill Watterson, famously denied any licensing of the characters, which is why there aren’t greeting cards, stuffed toys, or the like (legally) available. So when I found official prints available from the publisher, I got very excited. I ordered the last comic strip, my husband’s favorite, and framed it on my own. When he unwrapped the present, he got all quiet and then asked, “Where did you get this?” It was great. And, for what it’s worth, the best thing he ever gave me was a Slanket, oh, yes. That thing is awesome.

Hillary: The Christmas I was 21 and my sister was 19, we each found a diamond ring tucked way down into the toe of our stockings. “A girl should get her first diamond from her parents,” Mom said. They weren’t big — maybe 1/4 carat — but they were a great and special surprise. I don’t wear that ring as much as I do my wedding rings, but it means just as much. In the picture, the one on my middle finger is from my parents. The other is from my little sister. It’s also one of my favorites.

Becky: The best gifts I ever received were tickets to go see Dolly Parton in concert. My husband and I had so much fun.

Stacey: The best gift I have ever given was to my brother. We grew up in a really small town. I was 3 years shy of graduating when we had to move, my brother had already graduated and went to college. Neither of us wanted to leave this safety net of a small town, but we did. Three years ago I made a trip back there to visit a friend and I don’t know why but I took a picture of our street sign. The street of the house our parents built and where we spent the better half of childhood. They had just redone the street signs and since our street crossed with Main St. it even had the name on the town on the sign. The picture was fantastic so I blew it up to an 11×14 and framed it. On Christmas morning when he opened it he was in shock…. “Who took this?” he asked me. “I did.” I could tell it meant even more to him then.

And I have one more: My grandmother had a very old Gisele Mackenzie Christmas record that my mom and her siblings listened to every Christmas growing up. My mom snatched it up after my grandmother passed away when I was 4 so it also became the music I listened to every year as well. In 2007, I asked my mom to give me the record. I could not find this record anywhere on CD so I took it to a record store and asked them to help me. The guy told me later that he would not normally transfer a record to CD that was this old but he could tell it meant something to our family so he did it. Aw! Christmas cheer, everyone! I wanted to hug him. I got the CD in hand and I immediately made copies for my aunts and uncles and put them in the mail right after Thanksgiving so they could have them for the holidays.

To me, these are the gifts I love to give. Sometimes it’s not always possible but it sure is nice when it is.

SAO Gift Guide: Sparkly Gifts

14 Nov

My family jokes that I’m like a bird: easily distracted by shiny objects. It’s true. I do like a good sparkly gift.

Obviously, jewelry fits this bill. My sister is a lot like me, and we tend to buy fun sparkles for each other each Christmas. I always scan the jewelry department at Kohl’s and Target, but I’ve also had a lot of luck finding fun items for her — or for me, what?, I get distracted — on Etsy or at second-hand shops.

I like more classic jewelry like this: Image

That ring (and photo) are from Delezhen on etsy. I haven’t bought from them, but they have good feedback and lots of pretty things at reasonable prices. (This one is listed at $46.)

My sister likes funkier stuff, the bigger the better.


This one (and photo) is from Anthropologie. She’s been nice enough for a $38 present this year, I think.

Of course, sparkles don’t have to come in tiny little jewelry boxes. Here are other shiny objects to give this year.

To yourself (or someone like you): A sequined dress for New Year’s Eve. (Ruche, $73Image)

To your husband: A classic watch (Fossil, $115)

For your kid: Light-up shoes. (I can’t believe I’m suggesting this, considering I am a MEAN MOM who will not allow her sons to have light-up shoes. Whatever. Santa does what Santa wants.)
For a friend: Glitter nail polish (Here’s a link to Essie at Ulta, but I’d just check out CVS or Target.)
What’ll be lighting up your holiday season?

SAO Says: Scary or Confusing Trends

2 Nov

Which trend scares or confuses you?

Hillary: Peplums. First of all, these things remind me of some of my favorite outfits from elementary school. I’m not sure I should be wearing anything as a 31-year-old that resembles something I wore as an 11-year-old. Still, I am a bit straight up and down and can see where the little flounce might make my hips look a little curvier and my waist narrower. Except, after two babies, my lower stomach doesn’t need any floofiness around it. Pretty sure this is one trend I’ll be passing on.

Danielle: Booties. I love the look on others, but I can’t seem to make it work on myself. Maybe my jeans are the wrong length or I need more skirts – whatever I try doesn’t seem to look right.

Buster: I find rompers and jumpsuits baffling. I admit to liking the one-piece instant-outfit thing that makes for easy dressing, but they seem impractical  How do you go to the bathroom? Do you have to completely disrobe?

Andrea: The comeback of high-waisted pants and shorts paired with cropped shirts really confuses me. I suppose it’s because I prefer more of the classic pieces that will last a long time and I generally stay away from trends that will seem dated too quickly. I’ll occasionally try some trendier options, like colors or prints, but sorry, you won’t see me sporting either of these comeback trends.

Maura: Weird nail art. I can’t get behind multi-colored French manicures or one nail of a different color. OCD or SOL (stodgy old lady), I can’t do it.

Becky: Cropped sweaters confuse me. If it is cold enough for a sweater, why are you showing your stomach? And in what situation is a cropped sweater appropriate? I cannot imagine wearing a cropped shirt in public. No.

What do you find mystifying or terrifying in today’s trends?