Wednesday, July 31, 2013

American Classics: The Chambray Shirt

Starting a new series here on the blog! It's a take on the "Wednesday Wish List" series that is incredibly popular across the blogosphere. I'm going to highlight 5-6 American made pieces each and every Wednesday. Total confession - most of these posts are really entailed to help me purchase more American made goods. The real goal is to force myself to find that there are plenty of American made options available and that many of those options are priced competitively. 

Second confession: I do not currently own a chambray shirt. WHAT?!?!? I feel like I might have to surrender whatever fashion credit I possibly owned with that confession. Buying a chambray shirt has been on my proverbial to-do list for quite some time, but truth be told I'm not a huge fan of the whole "denim on denim" look. Thankfully I've found a plethora of other things in my closet that I can pair a chambray shirt with, which means I can finally take the plunge and buy one. 

I'm really torn between three of the pieces on that list above! The Side Stitch and American Apparel pieces are right on par price wise with anything from J.Crew/Madewell/Banana Republic/Gap and that's nice to render the notion "buying American costs more" invalid.  I just can't decide between one front pocket or two! In addition, I love, love, love the Pladra's washed out color and the snow tree lining on the cuffs and collar would help me stay in a winter frame of mind all year round. 

If I wasn't a red head I'd snatch that Tradlands red take on chambray in a second. I'm all about marching to the beat of a different drum! Chambray pertains to the fabric and not the color, which means that shirt is an amazing way to stay on trend, but stand out at the same time. 

Unfortunately, finances are a concern which means that Theory beauty is out of my price range. But, it's so pretty!  

How about you? Have you found a chambray shirt that's made in the USA? Which is your favorite one listed above? 

Monday, July 29, 2013

5 Year Blogiversary

Made in USA: Dress: Three Dots (on sale!) // Purse: Luciana Verde via MyHabit 

Imported/Unknown: Shoes: Christian Louboutin // Ring: Gossip on 23rd 

Five years ago I took to the internet and 30 seconds later started a blog. I had have no idea what I'm doing. I can't quite explain why I do this, it certainly isn't any aspirations to leave my 8-4 job and blog full time, but five years later I'm still here.  

I started blogging when it seemed liked every woman on The Nest started a blog as a way to string together a few sentences and share a few hobbies.  I've certainly experimented with a few things over the years. There's that sewing machine that was purchased, abused, and then neglected.  Thank goodness the hubs talked me out of learning how to make my own candles. Then, there was that running flirtation that has blossomed into a full blown lifestyle choice. I'll never forget my first marathon and I'll be eternally grateful that my first one was with my best friend and surrounded by my family in the city I've wanted to work in since I was in the 8th grade.  Okay, technically I work outside of the The District, but when I was in 8th grade I didn't realize how expensive it was to live in DC! 

It was funny to look back at some of my earlier posts and realize that that I'm still obsessed with a few things.  My first post about wanting a DSLR was in 2008, then I begrudgingly waited until May 2010 to take the plunge and purchased my first Canon. That was an expensive hobby! It's yielded a few more lenses, a ton of accessories, and one gorgeous Canon Mark 5DII purchased in December 2012

It's good to know that my fashion obsession has only grown since starting this blog as my very second post was about me lusting over a pair of shoes. Granted, I don't think I ever would have dreamed of going to NY Fashion Week, but that happened in February 2013! My first outfit post in October 2010 wasn't even intended to be an outfit post, I just wanted a decent picture of me wearing a cute dress. I even made a pledge to shop local in September 2008 and that pledge has not only led me to discovering amazing treasures in Baltimore and DC, but to finding my passion of purchasing American made goods

These past five years have been amazing. The hubs and I have moved three times and bought our first house. I started my career in a field that I love and that I happen to be pretty good at - if I may say so myself. I've definitely wracked up a few more wrinkles over the course of the past five years, but with the hubs and the pups it was only to be expected. 

Thanks for stopping by. It doesn't matter if you've been here for 5 years (thanks Aunt Ev!) or you stumbled here this morning because you were searching for a pair of Christian Louboutins. I've meet some absolutely wonderful people through blogging and I wouldn't trade any of those conversations  for anything in the world whether they be in person or via electronic means. There's comfort in knowing that each and every one of us has a voice in this world. This little blog is my attempt at putting my voice out there in the midst of all the noise the world has to offer. I don't know what the next five years will entail (kids? moving? Nikons? new hobbies?), but I know it'll include a lot of laughter. A heck of a lot of laughter. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Beating the heat

Made in USA: Shirt: Bobeau (similar)  // Camisole: American Apparel // Skirt:  old Anthropologie // Clutch: Gigee Marie //  Nail Polish: Essie 'Marathin

Imported/Unknown: Shoes: Target // Bracelet: Derng // Pearl Ring: family heirloom //

This is the first time I've worn my hair down in longer than I can remember. I don't know about where you live, but the heat has been oppressive on the East Coast for the past few weeks. I get that it's summer and all, but every time I decide to chop off my hair I realize I can't live without my topknots, braids, chignons, and good ol' fashioned ponytails. 

It was rather nice to walk to work this morning and not have to immediately pull my hair back or feel like I needed to shower after walking outside for 15 minutes. #masstransitproblems

I'm surviving this summer heat in lots of breathable fabrics, light camisoles, and plenty of easy, breezy skirts and dresses. I'm pretty sure I don't own pants anymore.

How are you managing the summer heat?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Sweet and Tangy BBQ Sauce

Not going to lie, but eating out sounds incredibly tempting during the summer months. I'm more inclined to stop and pick up food, order in, or just go out when it feels like it's 800 degrees outside. The thought of turning on my oven, even in a centrally-cooled house, makes me get hot flashes. 

Thankfully, the hubs loves to grill.  Actually that's bit of an understatement. The man's life wouldn't be complete without his grill.  I wanted to get him a monster sized grill for his 30th birthday earlier this month, but he objected because he's still head over heels crazy about his Weber grill he got for his birthday a few years ago.  Instead he got every grilling accessory known to man. 

I have zero complaints about the hubs and his grilling obsessions. Why? Because it's awesome during the summer to let the hubs do his thing with the grill and keep the house oven free. 

We're just a few weeks away from our third annual pig roast, which means the hubs is working on perfecting his BBQ sauces. Here's a quick and simple sauce that uses your basic pantry ingredients (as long as liquid smoke is a basic necessity in your house like it is in mine!) and can be stored in a mason jar if you make it a week in advance. 

Ingredients: yielded enough to smother 2.5 lbs of boneless chicken thighs and a small steak 

  •  1 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 molasses
  • 2 Tbs Cider Vinegar
  • 3 Tbs Honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp hot sauce 
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/4 tsp salt and pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small sauce pan. Heat for 10-15 minutes over low heat. Stir occasional.
  2. Remove from heat. 
  3. Let cool.
  4. Use it

Seriously this sauce is that simple! The hubs made this sauce last week for steak and kept the rest in a mason jar in our fridge. Monday night he prepped the chicken and it marinated for 24 hours before cooking. 

The hubs was more than happy to try making baked beans on the grill using his new Lodge cast iron melting pot.  I'm happy I got him two for his birthday. Just make sure you don't pick one up first in store and try to carry it around for an hour. Those things might be small, but they're heavy! 

In case you were wondering - the hubs is a charcoal man and has pledged his allegiance to it for the foreseeable future. 

What's your favorite BBQ sauce? I'm a big fan of the sweet and tangy varieties.  The hubs likes his North Carolina (vinegar based) sauces for pork, but I'm more of a chicken fan and I think the sweet sauces go better with chicken.  The hubs is working on finalizing his BBQ sauces for our pig roast and he's tinkering with an Old Bay sauce and a sauce that uses "a lot" of liquid smoke. I imagine that means I'm going to be eating a lot of BBQ in the coming weeks and I'm okay with it! 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Made in USA at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

Top Row (L-R): Pleione Shirt // Trina Turk Wine Berry Dress // Theory 'Lanai' Open Blazer // Amanda Uprichard Cobalt Dress // Elie Tahari 'Kelsa' Skirt //

Bottom Row (L-R): Paige Denim 'Skyline' Jenna Jeans // Munro 'Ann' Boots //  NYDJ 'Megan' Faux Leather Trim Jeans // Munro 'Jerrie' Flats // Joe's 'The Skinny' Coated Jeans

If you haven't had a chance to stop by Nordstrom yet, I'd suggest you drop everything and get there fast because the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is in progress and it's one of those yearly sales you don't want to miss.

This sale couldn't come at a better time for a variety of reasons. First and foremost - it's hotter than heck on the East Coast and thinking about fall is a welcomed relief. Thinking about fall fashion is even better. Thinking about fall fashion items on sale before the season even begins is just the proverbial icing on the ice cream cake (hey, it's HOT out!).

Purge your closet now and figure out what go-to basics you're going to need for the rest of your life. Then, scoop them up while they are on sale now at Nordstrom's!  Yes, I consider coated denim skinnies a basic necessity. They are like leather pants without the irrational fear of leather pants.

I'm definitely getting at least one of those items above. I completely torn between those suede boots or the blazer. If Kate Middleton can wear her suede boots every day, why can't I? But then as soon as I make up my mind those dresses and jeans call to me. Looks like I have to make up my mind soon because this sale ends sooner than I want it to!

What are you picking up during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale? If you haven't thought specifically about buying more American made clothes, then this is a great time to give a chance to one of many amazing American made items sold at Nordstrom's.  This isn't a sponsored post by Nordstrom, but I'll vouch for their impeccable customer service until I'm blue in the face. So take a chance, buy American.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Roadside flowers

If you've ever thought to yourself, "those flowers on the side of the road are really pretty. I wonder if it would be crazy to jump out of the car and take a picture of them?"

My answer - you are not alone!

I saw these purple coneflowers while at the beach last weekend and casually mentioned to my friends that if light was softer when we drove by them again I was going to hop out of the car and take a few photos of them.  My friends might have thought I was kidding, but the hubs knew better. He's put up with my antics for over a decade and after nearly six years of marriage he just goes with it when it's not too crazy.

What's your favorite roadside flower?  I'm in awe of the amazing wildflower patches that dot the highway medians in Maryland and West Virginia. The mishmash of colors is just the thing to keep my attention from faltering during a long drive.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Beach Essentials

Sunscreen // Book // Oakley "Sweet Spot" Shades // Eco Swim Bathing Suit  // Hat // Larabar (gluten free goodness) // Gum // American Made Matters key chain bottle opener (you never know when you need a beer) // Splendid bag to hold more sunscreen, chapstick, keys, wallet, etc. // Beach Towels 

Beach umbrella. The only way I could survive on the beach during prime sun light hours. Beach chair not pictured, but also necessary. 

My hubs might be the only person in the world who doesn't wear sandals/flip flops/sneakers to the beach. At least his Sperry's are colorful! 

A little bit of waves and clean sand. Not like I went in the water or anything. 

Random sidebar: this is the most I've gone to the beach in one year. Yes, a whopping two times. I haven't bought a bathing suit in six years so when it came time for this last beach trip I knew I needed a new bathing suit. One of the things I absolutely love about blogging is being introduced to new brands. A big thank you goes out to Mrs. American Made for introducing me to Eco Swim by Aqua Green

Not only does Eco Swim company make all of their bathing suits in the United States, but they also use sustainable building practices, recycled materials, and they participate in beach and ocean clean-up activities. Eco Swim for the win! I love my new suit so much that I'm already eyeing up this polka dot number to purchase next. 

I'm pretty sure if I buy two bathing suits in one year that means I should really learn how to swim sometime here soon. 

All I know is I came home with the beach with zero sunburn and that makes me a winner in my book. Even if I got my butt handed to me in Pac Man and Banana Grams. 

What are your beach essentials?  A bottle of water didn't make it into my picture, but that's always a must. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Beach Maxi

Made in USA: 
Maxi: Saint Grace via Modnique // Shade: Oakley "Sweet Spot"  // Bag: Luciana Verde Jesse Foldover via MyHabit // Nails: Zoya's "Heidi" (Coral) and Zoya's "Sooki" (Red) 

Sandals: Starla (Made in USA option) // Hat: Target (Made in USA option) // Bracelet: BaubleBar (Made in USA option)

After spending a few hours at the beach this weekend with a trio of sun worshipers I was more than happy to shower and slip on an easy maxi dress for a beer sampling at Dogfish Head in Rehobeth, DE. I only own a few maxi dresses, but this one has definitely become a closet staple during the warm summer months.  This dreamy one from Saint Grace is actually knit, but it's incredibly soft and inviting for post-beach skin. It certainly helps that the tag says, "made in beautiful California, USA."

I would also like to add that out of the four individuals in my beach group I was by far the palest, yet I came home with the least amount of sunburn (zero to be exact!). I did the most reckless thing possible as a ginger and stayed on the beach for three hours in peak sun conditions. Thankfully this new invention called a beach umbrella was involved and that thing probably saved a few years off of my life.

Anyone else hit up the beach this weekend? Where did you go? What SPF did you wear? I wore SPF 70 on my face and SPF 100 everywhere else. SPF Ginger as my friends like to call it.

I can't believe I went to the beach during the summer months. That never happens!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Updating with Concrete Patio Stones

A few weeks ago during a routine trip to Lowe's the hubs made a beeline for the hard-scaping section when I was picking out flowers.  Sometimes it's rather dangerous to head into any home improvement store because what begins as "just a few things" quickly escalates into a new project.  It turns out the hubs thought we could update our rather narrow driveway and the weird walkway in our side yard for a few hundred bucks. 

I thought he was kidding, but sure enough he was spot on! 

Now, if only I wish he didn't pick the hottest weekend of the year to tackle a project that entailed moving nearly 2,000 pounds of stone. 

Narrow drive before and narrow driveway with stone path after. 

Weird side yard area before.  It looks like there used to be some type of stone walkway here connecting our carport to the backyard, but it was missing more than it had which meant it wasn't doing much for either of us.

Tools: shovel, broom, 10x10 inch tamper, rubber mallet, level

Materials: 50 of these Allen + Roth concrete patio stones from Lowe's 

Total Cost: $250

Step 1:  Purchase your materials/ get them to your house. I know that seems rather basic, but the hubs and I wanted to pick out the patio stones in case any were cracked at the store.  That mean we had to take two trips back and forth with both of our cars because we didn't want to over burden anyone's car. Thank goodness we live ridiculously close to a Lowe's.  This also meant that the hubs and I got serious side-eye looks from people when we were pushing thousand pound blocks of stone through the store.  

Dear old man who refused to step-aside in the aisle - thanks! Starting and stopping that car easily burned an extra 100 calories! 

Step 2: Dig out your trench/path for the stones.  We had to dig for our driveway because we wanted to the patio stones to be somewhat flush with our driveway.  For the side walkway we just laid the stones on the ground because we plan on building up the area.

I'm of the mindset it's easier to start smaller than you think you need and then dig bigger if needed. I've also got to give the hubs a round of applause because once we put one stone down as a reference point for sizing on the driveway he dug a small trench that was spot on. Man is a machine when it comes to dimensions!

Step 3:  Use a tamper and go crazy! Be careful because if that thing bounces off of the ground and smacks your klutzy-self leg it's going to hurt. 

A very nice neighbor saw us outside and brought over his wagon to make our job even easier! Score! 

Step 4: Lay some stones! Don't worry about being level at first, just get the general fit down. The hubs thought I was crazy because I didn't want too many of the seams to match up on the stones.  When everything was done and final he commented that I was right (victory is mine!). 

Step 5: Remove stones 1 to 2 at a time and continue to level them either packing in more dirt or smashing things down more with the tamper. We used a level here to make sure we were somewhat even with our driveway. 

Step 6: Surround the stones with dirt or some type of locking sand. We didn't purchase locking sand because our yard is very sandy. If we find our sand isn't cutting it then we'll purchase locking sand and brush that over the stones.  I brushed dry sand over the stones and made sure to get as much of the sand packed down into the crevices as possible.  The hubs then took a hose and lightly sprayed the entire area to pack the sand down even more and I went back over everything again with the broom. 

Step 7: Enjoy your new walkway! 

Side walkway area still needs work, but this is much better than the mud pit it used to be! 

We only broke 1 stone during the entire project, which is pretty amazing. Again, I'm so thankful to be married to an engineer because the hubs did all of his calculations and we had the exact number of stones we needed and didn't have to run out and get more.  

I didn't take a picture of every step because there came a point where I was absolutely disgusting and I didn't want to trek back inside to retrieve my camera or even touch it! 

I know this is the most ground-breaking (total pun) update to our house, but it's subtle and we love it. We're actually using these patio stones as a test run to see how they hold up in our sandy yard.  If they survive a few years, then the goal is to redo our backyard, tear down our back deck, utilize patio stones. If we don't have to bring in a ton of additional base sand that will really make this a more cost-reasonable approach. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

Red, White, and Blue

Made in USA: 
Top: Venley by Youth Monument // Jeans: James Jeans (super old) // Shoes: Sbicca via Ideeli // Shades: Oakley "Sweet Spot" via RueLaLa // Nail Polish: Zoya's "Sooki" (red),  Essie's "Blanc" (white), Essie's "Set in Stones" (sparkle) 

The hubs and I had low-key plans to celebrate the fourth of July, but Wednesday afternoon our plans were thrown into a wreck when I came home from work and found myself face-to-face with an under the weather puppy.

Thursday morning I woke up, went for a run, and then headed out to find the hubs a brisket to grill since our plans changed and now we were staying at home.  Mission accomplished!

I know watching the fireworks in Baltimore would have been amazing from a friend's rooftop deck, but I was more than happy to celebrate America's birthday at home, in my USA made gear, and with a few beers in my tummy.  The hubs agreed and that way we didn't have to worry about finding a driver :)

Jax felt much better and the hubs and I felt better knowing he'd have almost constant human supervision for a long weekend. 

I hope you and yours had a happy and safe July 4th!  

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Feed USA: Target

Please forgive me in advance. This post was incredibly difficult to write and I completely acknowledge there will be a few moments where I sound like an arrogant ass. I wrote, deleted, cried, re-wrote, deleted some more, and then finally hit publish. I even sent out a few texts asking if what I was about to write was acceptable. 

I've had June 30th penciled in on my calendar since the Target + Feed USA launch date was announced.  I felt a sense of pride when I heard that Lauren Bush's FEED initiative was going to partner with Target for a limited run of items that would benefit Feeding America and provide meals to Americans who needed them most.  

I'm a tremendous fan of the work that the Feed projects have done to provide quality meals to millions of individuals who need food.  There is not a fiber in my body that doesn't truly believe that providing  over 60 million school meals to children around the world is anything less than a miracle and should be heralded for the positive and commendable achievement that it is. I mean that with absolute sincerity.  

My thought process when I first heard of the Feed USA project was: 

Target + feeding Americans = I'll take one of everything! 

The months of buildup finally gave way to the launch date and I was eager to peruse the entire collection and make a few purchases.  From my climate-controled ivory tower I immediately checked out a few of the iconic tote bags and had mentally added a few baseball caps to my cart.  When my cart was ready for checkout my mind quickly second-guessed my purchases and I thought, "I didn't remember reading where any of these items were produced." I then spent the next 30 minutes reviewing the item description for all 100 items in the collection and was repeatedly told that each and every item was imported.  I took a deep breath and reminded myself that website's make errors and it was entirely possible that a few of the items were made in the USA. 

I did what any completely irrational person would do - I went to three different Targets to scope out almost every item in person. 

I didn't find a single item made in the USA. 

Here's what really bugs me. 

1. "USA" is in the product line title.  This is one of my absolute biggest pet-peeves. Don't put "USA" or "NY" in the name and then not make something there. That's just false advertising in my book. 

2. The product launch date of June 30th is the week of July 4th. Really? You launch a product line with "USA" in the name the same calendar week as America's most important holiday and not a single item is made in the USA. OUCH! 

3. The blatant misrepresentation of where the products are made because the product colors and imagery further perpetuate the image that the products are made in the USA. A bag with patriotic red, white, and blue colors that contains an image of the USA (minus Alaska and Hawaii) and adorned with brass snaps? If that doesn't proclaim "USA! USA! USA!" then I don't know what does.  

4. Current Feed USA bags available for purchase on the Feed Projects website are made in the USA.  You'll have a very difficult time convincing me that the bags made for this initiative were incapable of being produced in the USA when other Feed USA bags are made in the USA. This just reinforces my first and third points that the products available at Target are misleading.

5. The stats don't help. 1 in 6 Americans are affected by hunger. The Feed USA website states this as plain as day.  You know what could help the 50 million Americans that do not have dependable access to enough food due to limited money and resources? JOBS! Manufacturing jobs like making the items in this collection would do a tremendous amount of good for the long-term sustainability of this country.  The skills developed in making the shirts could continue to work in the growing American textile industry.  Instead, money was sent to China and Indonesia to create these goods, but Americans are expected to purchase the items in order to have a tiny bit of the funds directed back to their countrymen. 

Maybe my expectations were too high. Maybe I was living in a fairy tale. Both points are most likely true.  I know people will say, "why does it matter where the items were made if the proceeds are going to help people?"  

I get that. I honestly do. And I'm not saying that the individuals who made these products in China and Indonesia should be put out of their jobs.  We're all people of one world and every person in the world is trying the best they can to do what's best for them and provide for their family. That's a universal connection that isn't unique to any one country or group in the world. 

When I advocate for purchasing American made items I don't mean it as an arrogant, "well screw you rest of the world!" I buy American because I believe in labor standards and I believe that America has some of the most advanced labor standards (please note - I did not say "the most advanced") and there are other parts of the world where labor standards are severely lacking. I don't want to think that an individual put their life at risk to make my tee shirt because they happened to work in a factory that wasn't built properly or they're working for pennies a day. 

I had lofty goals and expectations for this iniative. Maybe during Feed's next major endeavor they'll include provisions to make products in the same country that they are working to support and that way they'll be able to make their impact even greater.

But you know what - at the end of the day I'll buy this Feed USA bag because it's made in the USA and provides support to local communities.  I'll most likely end up buying an item from the Target collaboration because I want to support businesses in any endeavor that benefits Americans. 

For more information on how you can help Feeding America please click here. For more information on how to donate to Feeding America please click here

What are your thoughts on the Feed USA Target collaboration?