Friday, March 28, 2014

Electric Blue

Made in USA: Blouse: Amanda Uprichard (on sale!) // Coat: Fleurette (in black) // Tights: Hue 
Imported/Unknown:  Skirt: old Banana Republic (made in USA option) // Shoes: via Goodwill // Bracelet: Derng (made in USA option

I was going to write this post and take the typical, "I am so over this winter cold" stance. The evidence fully supported the decision. There was yet another snow storm this week. I fell flat on my bum on a sheet of ice. I had to hurdle more snow piles during a weekday run. And my eyes seem to be permanently red from either allergies or windburn (I don't own sunglasses to wear while running, nor is it bright enough to warrant them while I run). 

The weather has been brutal this winter. It's made life difficult.

But, c'est la vie. The snow has been beautiful. Each and every time a new dusting of snow falls I count my blessings. It's as if the world has a much needed fresh start, even if for just a few fleeting minutes. I actually enjoy that electric shock that strikes when you take that first deep breath in arctic air.  Granted, I run like crap in cold air because my lungs rebel against me, but I do rather enjoy that first breath! 

The cold has been shocking this year both in terms of the Polar Vortex and the length in which the snow has stuck around. But you know what - I'll be the first to miss it once warmer weather rolls in. 

Since we're all looking forward to spring - what are you going to miss about the winter? 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Gallery Wall Inspiration

Source: Dezeen 

Source: Lauren Liess 

Source: Style By Emily Henderson 

Our blank living room.

My living room walls are blank and they're crying out for embellishments. However, not one to make any rash decisions when it comes to nailing holes through a freshly painted wall, I'm taking my time planning a gallery wall. I've given myself a deadline of August because that's when my family will be back in town and I function better with deadlines. 

The problem I'm having is the atheistic I'm striving to achieve with the space. The couch is massive, 98 inches wide to be exact, and I want the gallery wall to take away slightly from the size of the couch.  I want the frames to navigate the balance between looking cohesive, yet not overly planned (ha!). I want to be able to add additional pieces of art down the road, so I need an initial cluster that allows the arrangement to organically grow.  It's a tall order. Or at least it seems that way in my head. 

Yet, I do have my anchor piece. A faded city planning map of Baltimore from 1872 that I had framed years ago in a custom barn wood frame with a gilded gold insert. It's been sitting on the floor of my office, covered in protective paper, for well over two years. It's the only thing in the house, besides my camera or shoes, that I would grab in case of an emergency. 

I don't know exactly what I'll come up with for this space, but I know a bunch of pre-matched frames isn't going to work. I think my best bit is to start visiting antique stores to see if I can mix and match frames that way.  I do know that I'll be taking tiny pieces of each of the inspiration pieces above into the final outcome. 

Any suggestions for hanging a gallery wall? 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Rebecca Minkoff Friends & Family Sale

One of my absolute favorite brands, Rebecca Minkoff, is having a pretty sweet Friends and Family sale right now. Even better is that the sale includes the limited edition Made in NYC line of handbags, which as you may have guessed are made in NYC. Better act fast because the black version of the classic mini M.A.C. bag already sold out. I had it in my cart, changed my mind, and after a single episode of House of Cards it was gone for good. 

Also made in the USA is the entire Rebecca Minkoff Denim Shop. Each and every piece is made in Los Angeles. This is not a sale to miss! Stock up on denim staples.  Those white jeans are in my cart right now! 

Get shopping because these babies are going quick! Sale ends Monday, March 24th.  May the deals be ever in your favor. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wedding Season: ModCloth to the rescue

Get ready people! Wedding season is nearly upon us! The hubs and I thought we were past the multiple-weddings-in-a-season phase of our lives, but I guess all those articles you read about people getting married later in life are somewhat true. Our early 30s are beginning to rival the peak wedding season years of 25-27.

ModCloth reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in participating in their Uniquely You campaign. At first I thought, "why me?" but then I realized that this could be a lot of fun.  The challenge was to style a ModCloth party dress. As soon as I saw the dress I thought, "that's perfect to wear to a wedding." The hubs is slightly old school and said, "I thought women weren't supposed to wear black dresses to weddings."

Um, no. Unless you're wearing a sign that says, "I am wearing black to protest this union," I am firmly in the camp that feels you can absolutely wear a gorgeous black dress to a wedding.

Insert legalese here that this is not a sponsored post. ModCloth didn't provide me any form of monetary compensation and all opinions are my own (obviously).

The black dress is imported, but the rest of the items shown above are made in the USA.

When I saw this black dress I thought it was perfect for weddings. But, knowing myself and my upcoming wedding schedule this year I immediately thought of how this dress could be styled differently in order to give it a different look for different occasions.  Being able to style a special occasion dress is an absolute must for me. You guys know I'm always trying to get that cost/per/wear down to a realistic number!  Even just adding lace tights gives this dress a different look.  I might be in the minority here, but I love layering a peplum top over a dress. I find that many peplum tops are slightly cropped in the waist and work better with dresses/skirts rather than lower waisted pants. The cinched waist on the dress would be the perfect base for a peplum top. That would instantly give this dress a completely different look. Throw on multiple gold accessories and you're good to go to more than one party!

I've been a fan of ModCloth for years and that's actually how I came across one of my favorite American made designers - Eva Franco. ModCloth has a wide variety of items that are made in the USA (over 1500 during a search today) and many of them are very reasonably priced. I actually had a gorgeous cream polka dot dress from ModCloth back in grad school that unfortunately had a bit too much fun near a glass of red wine :(  If you're looking for other dresses to wear this summer for any event, including any weddings here are a few more of my favorites. And they're all made in the USA.

 My question to you - how would you style these dresses to be Uniquely You?  How do you re-style more formal dresses so you can wear them to more than one event?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Irish Green

Made in USA: Jeans: old James Jeans (coated version on sale for $54!) // Pumps: Julie Bee's // Watch: LaMer Collections // Nails: Essie 'Eternal Optimist' // Belt: vintage Coach 

Ah St. Patrick's Day - the Valentine's Day of religious holidays. A day in which my life has been summarized as the following equation:

Ginger + Catholic = you must be Irish

Actually, no. But since it's also common misconception that there is a special bond and form of telepathy between all red heads I'll gladly take that free whiskey at the bar.  I've rebelled against St. Patrick's Day most of my life and I usually abstain from the color green two weeks prior and after this lovely holiday. However, now that I'm married to an Irishman (okay fine, half Irish with a ridiculously difficulty Polish last name to spell) I'm a bit more receptive towards the holiday. 

Plus, any occasion to sip aged whiskey in the afternoon with a few friends is a good day in my book. My family was in town this weekend and I gladly gave up Saturday night pseudo-holiday-festivities at the bar in order to spend precious moments with my family.  The hubs and I headed out for a quick drink with friends later on Sunday which allowed me to numb my sadness that my family had returned to their northern states. I can't go older than 12 year old whiskeys because after that point their experience is lost on me, but I have heard from a few whiskey men that whiskey is meant to be taken neat. That's it. Don't sully your sipping drink with water. 

If you're going out tonight arrange a designated driver and throw on some green -even if you aren't Irish like me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Willing

Made in USA: Top Casual Couture // Bag: old Luciana Verde (gorgeous black and white bag) // Watch: La Mer Collections // Nails: Essie 'Eternal Optimist' 
Imported: Shoes: Delman // Trousers: gifted J.Crew

It's getting closer! Spring is coming by the second. How I know for absolute certain that spring is just around the corner - my allergies?!?! Sorry mascara, we've had a good run these past few months, but I'm going to have to bid you adieu for a few weeks. I don't do well while taking allergy medicine so instead I'm left to look like I'm the most emotional person of all time. It's lovely. 

Irregardless of my allergy situation I am very much looking forward to this spring and all its events. Flower Mart. Hot air balloon launch. Preakness festivities. Farmer's markets. Camden Yards. Long walks with the pups. And most of all the cherry blossom festival in DC. I've convinced the hubs to give up a weekend of sleeping in and joining with me to view the cherry blossom in their full sunrise glory. Now I just need the weather to cooperate! 

What are you looking forward to this spring? 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Made in USA Activewear

The first few warm days of spring are analogous to the first few days of the year. Except everyone is exercising outside rather than sweating away inside at the gym. This past weekend the running trails by my house were packed and anytime I was in the car I saw people running. And the hubs can back me up that they weren't visions in my head!  I even took Jax for a cool down jog yesterday after finishing up my run. Happiest.Dog.Ever.

This past winter was a brutal one for me in terms of exercise. I'm an outdoor runner and despise the treadmill (even more considering mine is broken!). However, that left me far behind in my running schedule and I'm looking forward to getting back on track. Plus, bathing suit season is getting closer by the second.

The only thing that gets me more excited for running outside is new exercise gear. I don't know what it is, but if I buy something new I'm going to want to wear it over and over again. It's the best form of incentive. And I'm thinking about doing something crazy this year and buying a tank top (I despise sleeves, unless they have thumb holes!) from Naked Sports Gear. I don't know why, but I'm really interested by their "tan through fabrics for the outdoor athlete." That might be the only way my stomach gets any sun exposure prior to this year's beach trip! Obviously, I'll be wearing sunscreen :)

What are you doing to get in shape this year? If you're interested in more running items check out my post on my top made in USA running gear.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Spring Forward

This past weekend was a welcomed relief. I don't know about you, but weekends lately have been feeling more like work than play in my life. There's a never ending list of errands. Another project to finish. Something to plan or something to see through. 

This past weekend was blissful. The only concrete plans we had included dinner and a movie at a friends house.  The entire weekend was relaxing. The 60 degree weather played a crucial role in the carefree nature of the weekend. Just warm enough to want to get outside and enjoy the weather with the pups and then by myself for a run. But not quite warm enough to muster up the strength to do any serious yard work. Just perfect. 

I know the calendar doesn't officially change to the spring season for a few more days, but just the thought of getting in a few miles in the evening twilight this week has me excited for spring. This past weekend I didn't even have to contend with any snow piles, as they've recessed off the sidewalks and beaten paths at this point.  

Look out next weekend - the bar has been set pretty high. 

How was your weekend? Relaxing or productive? Anyone else fallen down the rabbit hole with House of Cards? 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Kitchen Renovation: The Final Cost

This post hurts. It stung to type out these numbers and seeing them totaled definitely bought about some mixed emotions, but here it goes. 

We were not that couple that redid our kitchen for a few hundred dollars. We didn't salvage our cabinets because they were crumbling in pieces. We didn't find discarded ones on the side of the road.  We didn't have a relative who is a master electrician who could magically rewire our house. We also are not that couple that did everything ourselves because honestly getting our kitchen back in full working order was a high priority and we don't have the skills or tools necessary to handle this type of renovation. Plus, the sheer number of times we ate takeout during this renovation was mind boggling or at least it felt like we were eating takeout every night when I know for fact we weren't.  

One of the things I most appreciated from other blogs when researching kitchen renovations was a line-by-line budget of what it actually cost. A favorite of mine was the kitchen renovation wrap up post from Seventh House On The Left. Post here. I remember showing the hubs their finished kitchen and when we saw that they spent $28-$33k on their kitchen we felt good with our $30-$35k ballpark budget. Although I must have overlooked their line about where to store their cookie sheets because that is literally the only thing I would change in our kitchen too! 

Coming up with a rough estimate of the budget was really scary. We've read formulas that say "your kitchen budget should be roughly 10% of your home's value" or "your final budget should be 3x your cabinet price." Somewhat helpful, but still pretty vague. We started things off by going to Lowes to talk to a kitchen designer and came up with a very rough estimate for cabinets. Without even reworking our plumbing we were looking at spending $10k on cabinets. That's really the number we used to come up with our ballpark budget. We figured our cabinet cost would be higher and then we threw on a bit more for extra plumbing and electrical. The worst thing we wanted to do was to save up money for this renovation and then find out we had grossly underestimated what it would cost to complete the renovations. 

From there we met with three very talented design firms. We spent about an hour with each firm and held follow-up meetings with two of them. At the end of the day we were absolutely blown away with the design (and price!) from About Kitchens and More (located in Annapolis, MD). They were the only firm that saw a way to rework our kitchen into our original dream layout and stayed within our budget. I really appreciated that we got to pick out every single element in our kitchen, even if I did change the color of our cabinets after the hubs picked something else :) 

Without further ado, here's the total cost for our kitchen renovation.  
  • Appliances:      $4,548.74 (includes taxes)
  • Backsplash:      $1,011.84 (supplies + installation) 
  • Cabinets:          $13,309.00 (supplies + installation) 
  • Demolition:      $1,060.00 ($360 dumpster rental + labor for wall removal) 
  • Drywall:           $675.00
  • Electrical:         $4,215.00 (includes recessed lighting and rewiring with copper wires) 
  • Flooring:           $1,610.88 (approximate, did not include living room floors)
  • Granite:             $3,336.00 (includes extra rebar supports in overhang)
  • Hardware:         $290.00
  • Lighting:           $258.00 (only includes pendant lights) 
  • Paint:                 $131.15 
  • Plumbing:          $1,620.00 (rework plumbing across room, move gas hookup)
  • Micro Vent:       $255.00
  • Window:           $1,748.49 (window, labor, and new vinyl siding) 
TOTAL: $34,069.10

Design and Contractors: About Kitchens and More // Cabinets: Wolf Classic Cabinetry Dartmouth in Dark Sable (USA!) // Floors: Mohawk Natural Hickory (USA!) // Quater Round: Bellawood Hickory (USA!), purchased from Lumber Liquidators Paint: walls Sherwin-Williams 'Mountain Air' (USA!), ceiling Olympic Icon(USA!) // Backsplash: Meram Carrara Subway Tiles, The Tile Shop (installation materials are USA!) //Granite: River White, MS International // Pendant Lights: Rejuvenation (USA!) // Sink & Faucet: Eclipse Stainless // Window: custom American Craftsman (USA!), ordered from Home Depot // Garbage Disposal:InSinkErator (USA!) // Appliances: GE Profile Gas Range PGB950SERSSGE Profile 
Dishwasher PDT750SSFSS (USA!), GE Profile Microwave PVM9215SFSSall purchased from Lowe's // 

I know that's a lot of money. I can tell myself over and over again that it's well below the national average for renovating a kitchen or even well below the Baltimore major remodel average of $53k (source), but it still put a sizable dent in our savings account. It's a lot of money and it took us about two years to save up for it. This is by far the biggest remodel we have planned for our house, we knew we were going to gut the kitchen when we bought the house, and the plan was always to do this remodel before we started to think of expanding our family. Neither one of us saw an extra $35k lying around once kids enter the picture! I hear those little mini-humans are expensive.

Now that the kitchen has been structurally finished for about a month we've really been able to appreciate it all now that we're getting accustomed to it (aka we know remember where the desired glass is without having to search in multiple cabinets).  I haven't once looked at anything in the kitchen and grumbled, "you cost me a new pair of shoes."Instead, I love that the hubs and I dance around while the dishwasher cleans our dishes in near silence. Seriously, it's so quiet we thought we didn't turn it on once or twice. Or that we try new recipes just to use our griddle. And that we hosted poker night two days after the kitchen was finished because we wanted to have friends over for game night. Sure, we're probably guilty of over-testing the soft close features on our full extension drawers, but it's nice to know I'm never going to close a drawer on my finger again.  I certainly couldn't say that in our previous kitchen.

Could we have done this renovation for cheaper? Absolutely. We didn't need a gourmet double oven. We didn't need a marble backsplash. We didn't need hardwood floors. We didn't need an exotic granite. We didn't need full extension drawers. We didn't need solid hardware, etc. But we wanted them. This is our 30 year house and we wanted what we put in our kitchen so we took the extra time to save up for it. We didn't want to put in a kitchen that we would elicit lukewarm feelings, so instead we lived with a craptastic kitchen for over two years in order to save up and come up with a kitchen that we absolutely loved.  It took time, there was a lot of frustration in waiting so long, and there were a few delays along the way, but it was worth it to us. 

In a nutshell, we always wanted the kitchen to be the center of our home and now it is. We love it. We hope to have new barstools within a month and then we hope to eat dinner in there every night.  Now, I just need to find a mat to put down in front of the sink so Jewels has a warm place to sit down in front of the air vent. Jax still hasn't acclimated to the new oven's distinctive beep yet, but he's a big fan of hanging out in the kitchen because we've been cooking so much. 

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks so much for reading along during this process. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Florals For Spring

Clutch: Lizzie Fortunato // Pants: 7 For All Mankind (select sizes on sale)// Jumpsuit: Whit // Blouse: Ella Moss // Skirt: Nanette Lepore  // Dress: Karen Kane // Skirt: Trina Turk // Tank: Pim Larkin//

Florals? For Spring? Groundbreaking. 

Yes, I know nothing new here, but even this self-proclaimed "snow bunny" is hoping to jump start the transition to spring with a few floral pieces. And that's kind of crazy because I'm highly certain I own one item of floral clothing. I'm not an overly floral person, but with fresh snow outside in March I'm getting a tad bit desperate for spring to make an appearance sooner rather than later. Desperate times call for desperate measures! 

How are you hoping to transition to spring? 

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Green Coat

Made in USA: Coat: Fleurette (in black) // Jeans: James Jeans (similar) // Shoes: Julie Bee's // Watch: La Mer Collections // Bag: vintage  Coach (similar) // Nails: OPI 'The Man Repeller' 

When I was a little girl I was gifted a heavy, green winter coat. It was far too nice of a coat for a rambunctious child to have and my parents reminded me frequently how careful I had to be with my coat.

One day at recess a boy chased me and tugged at my coat in order to get close enough to me to shove snow in my face. With that tug he ripped the hood of my coat clear off. Embarrassed and fearful of being in trouble with my parents I used safety pins to fold the collar of my coat over and I literally buried the hood in the back of my closet. I secretly hoped no one would even remember that the coat was supposed to have a hood attached to it.

What felt like the longest two weeks later, my family was over at my grandma's house for dinner. I was wearing my coat and it started to rain. Without missing a beat my grandma asked me why I wasn't wearing my hood and since I was incapable of lying to my sweet grandma I confessed on the spot. My dear grandma made up an excuse to my parents to have me leave my coat there and within days she had to back to me. Thanks to her talented seamstress friend my coat now had a detachable hood, but with shiny brass buttons to keep it firmly connected when needed. This was just another moment in which grandma saved the day.

Last weekend I tried on the coat seen above on Friday night. I walked away after staring at it for ten minutes, but I woke up the next morning thinking about that coat. I definitely wasn't in the market for a new winter coat since it was nearly the end of February, but inexplicably I couldn't get this coat of my head. Back to the mall I went and within seconds of buying said coat I told my hubs the story about my last green coat. My hubs was able to sum it up perfectly - I bought this coat because it reminded me of my grandma. And for that I will cherish it forever.

What's an item you've come across recently that transported you back to a moment in your childhood? That magical power is just another reason I love fashion. It might not make sense how something new can remind you of the old, but it happens from time to time.