Monday, August 31, 2015

Tote Bag Showdown - Transport Tote vs Longchamp

Ever since I was tiny, tote bags have been one of my love languages. I adore them. Starting in 7th grade, I carried them for school every day and haven't given that habit up since.  Having successfully graduated from the plastic Tinkerbell and Vera Bradley bags, my two current favorites are the Madewell Transport Tote and the Longchamp Le Pliage . Here's why I like them and how they stack up -

Construction // In terms of handle drop, I find both bags fit very comfortably over my shoulder, even while wearing a winter coat. The Longchamp has a longer drop than the Madewell, so I find it more comfortable to carry when stuffed.   Additionally, the Longchamp is water-resistant and has a full zipper, which makes it far more versatile in terms of when I can carry it. I love the leather on the Madewell, it's so sturdy and the color is beautiful, but the open top can be limiting. Winner - Longchamp

Size // Both bags fit roughly the same amount of things, but because the shapes are different, the ability to over-stuff tips this battle in favor of the Madewell tote.  Both bags fit everything pictured above with room to spare, but because the Transport has more vertical space, I find it much easier to shove a cardigan/snacks/dog supplies etc in the top.  Winner - Madewell

Features // Both bags have a single built in pocket. The Longchamp's pocket is much smaller and once my iphone 6 is in there, not much else will fit.  The Madewell, on the other hand, has a much larger pocket that fits all kinds of stuff. I appreciate that both bags are minimalistic in look and come in classic colors and can be personalized.  Both are fairly easily cleaned, though the nylon of the Longchamp is almost impervious, which I appreciate. Winner - Longchamp

Overall // Never in my life will I regret purchasing a tote bag, and I truly believe both of these bags are worth the price.  In general, I think that the Longchamp is more versatile - between the zipper, the water-resistancy (word?) and the plethora of colors, it's the bag I would re-buy first if both were to die in a fire.

Buy my version of the Madewell Transport Tote bag here and the newer version here (zipper! more pockets! more colors!).  The Longchamp can be found here in tons of colors and a few sizes (this is my favorite)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August Budget

The first post-no buy budget! I'm actually really pleased with my purchases.  I've worn everything I bought this month at least twice, and it all follows the closet guidelines I came up with here.  I had amazing luck in the Target clearance section - rare, but it happens.  The dress and shell are in weekly rotation already. In fact, it's really hard to choose a favorite.  The ruffle tee is incredibly fun to twirl in, both shells are perfect for work and play and the flats were comfortable even from day one.  Killing it.

1 // Target dress - $13
2 // LOFT ruffle tee - $30 (seen here)
3 // Gap flats - $25
4 // Target shell (in gray polka dots, not pink) - $13
5 // LOFT tassel tee - $17

Some notes on fit - I found the LOFT ruffle tee to be quite boxy, and I preferred the look of the large, though the medium fit. The boxy/fitted look was not cute on me. The other two LOFT tops fit TTS, I took a large in both and they fit fairly loosely.  I was a bit bummed by the opacity of the white tee, but nothing a cami couldn't fix.

Linking up with Fran, as always.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Recipe // Coconut Curry Lentils

Fun fact - my computer has been taken back to the Apple workshops, so this post will go without pictures for a few days. Sorry!

Today begins two straight weeks of work for me - my students are back, duty is starting, and my will to live is going to be slowly zapped.  In anticipation of this drain, I made a huge pot of coconut lentils this weekend, froze half and will be eating them, over a bed of CSA veggies or white rice, for the foreseeable future.  Good thing they are wicked delicious.

Coconut Lentils (makes 6 servings, but easily doubled)


2 cups lentils, rinsed and drained well
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp ginger
1 15 ounce can light coconut milk
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth


1 // In a medium pot, saute the onion over medium-low heat for a couple minutes, add the curry, garlic, ginger and lentils. Let cook for a few more minutes.

2 // Add the coconut milk and vegetable broth, increase the heat to medium-high, put the lid on the pot and let it come to a boil.

3 // Once boiling, remove the lid and let the mixture boil gently for 20 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed

4 // Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.  Add salt and pepper.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Book Review // One Summer: America, 1927, It Was Me All Along, The Wright Brothers, Our Man in Charleston

More books, more books, lalalalalala.  For the last few weeks, I've been on a bit of a streak, reading-wise.  In fact, on Friday, I had the day off of work and Tallulah was at day care, and I managed to read two separate books.  Both were Kathy Reichs murder mysteries, which I love but are terrible and make going to sleep at night a fun anxiety adventure.  Brilliant.  On to the reviews -

One Summer: America, 1927

I loved this book - front to back.  As the title suggests, it's all about a single summer in America.  It happened to be the summer of Babe Ruth, Charles Lindbergh and lots of other stuff.  In fact, the author suggests that Summer 1927 was the high point of America.  The book moves quickly, and the storytelling is very well done - informational without being dry, and I loved the inclusion of the side-stories.  I really felt like I understood the vibe of the summer, not just the events.

It Was Me All Along

Andie Mitchell, the author, write a blog that I've followed for years.  Much of her story was familiar to me, but I was interested in reading the book because I've come to know and love her writing style and ability.  This could have very easily become just another weight loss memoir, but the difference is truly in Mitchell's way with words.  This is a beautifully written, inspiring without being preachy and a very quick read.  It also made me really want chocolate cake.

The Wright Brothers

I've never been all that interested in the Wright brothers, but their invention paved the way for my favorite form of transportation, so I figured the book would be worth a read.  Much to my surprise, the boys were fascinating, and their story was far more engaging than I would have guessed.  The book follows their lives from mid-20s to death, and while it gets a little laborious in the middle (they flew the plane, they flew the plane farther, they flew the plane even farther), I truly enjoyed getting to know the fascinating Wright family.

Our Man in Charleston

And finally, a book about the Civil War, a time period I've always been interested in.  This book highlights a segment of the War I'd never considered - people in the South who weren't into slavery etc.  I loved learning about Robert Bunch and his experience, though the book was a bit more detailed than necessary.  My concentration flagged during some of the more in-depth sections, but the overall story was great fun.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Rustic Summer Squash

In my quest to use all of my CSA vegetables, I've challenged myself to cook with some things I'd previously not enjoyed all that much - first on the list was squash.  Squash has never been offensive to me, but it doesn't taste like much, and I hate when it gets rubbery.  This recipe, happily, creates flavorful, non-rubbery squash deliciousness, and it looks 50 shades of fancy without taking up an entire afternoon to produce.  Praise the lord.

Ingredients - 

2 shallots, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 lb squash, sliced evenly
2 tbsp basil, sliced thinly
1 egg
1 pie crust
1/2 cup feta
Salt and Pepper

Instructions -
1 // Saute the shallots and squash on medium heat until everything is tender crisp (7 or so minutes)
2 // Remove from heat, and add the garlic, basil and salt and pepper.  Stir and let cool
3 // Heat the oven to 400 degrees
4 // On a lined baking sheet, roll out the pie crust and stretch to 13 inches across
5 // Crumble half the cheese onto it, then arrange the squash on top of the cheese, leaving a two inch         crust margin around the edges
6 // Fold the edges up and brush with the beaten egg
7 // Bake for 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and crispy. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Closet Cleanout

Post 30 x 30 and reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I followed Fran's tips, as well as the strategy outlined in the book, to clean things out and figure out my priorities.

1 // Find Inspiration - 

All links here

2 // Look for What's the Same -

Layers,  neutral colors + little pops of color, monochrome patterns, classic feminine shapes, covered arms (though that might be mostly because I'm viscerally craving fall), high necklines, minimal jewelry.

3 // Pick Your Colors - 

I tend to be most drawn to neutrals, especially after the whole 30 x 30 experience - black, gray, navy, camel, and chambray.  My hair/eye/skin colors also look best in cooler jewel tones - dark green, deep mustard (in small doses) and more saturated purples. I also really love red as an accent color, and get a lot of wear out of the few items I do have (Hunters, one skirt, 2 scarves). Weirdly, I also love and own a lot of periwinkle, so I'll go with it. Leather-wise, I own only black and cognac, so that seems like an easy decision.

4 // Dump All of Your Clothes Out and Sort

This was horrifying - the pile was massive, and there was stuff in it I didn't realize was still in my closet.  The pile is important though - you have to literally touch everything at least twice, which really helped me figure out if I needed it still. Once it was all out, I separated it into tops, bottoms, dresses and skirts.

5 // Ask the Questions and Make a Call

In the Tidying Up book, Kondo uses the question of joy to make decisions abut items - does it spark immediate joy?  I used that, but added in also, does it facilitate joy?  For example, my black cardigan alone doesn't spark joy, but it allows me to wear tops I love during the winter.  Worth keeping, 100%. I also used the information I learned from the first three steps, including the colors and shapes I prefer and get the most wear out of.

She is the most helpful
6 // Fold the Right Way

Once my mahoosive discard pile was out of the way, I started putting away everything I was keeping. Kondo suggests folding everything so that you can stack it on it's side, instead of on top of itself.  This was a huge revelation - I folded my shirts according to her method and they took up literally half of the space that they had previously.  My previously overflowing drawers are now organized and, more importantly, I can see and use everything!

To be honest, my clothes situation took up most of a Saturday - it was a lot of work, and was exhausting. But now, I occasionally open my drawers just to admire how beautifully laid out they are.  Well worth the effort!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

CSA Experience

I absolutely adore CSAs - I adore fresh vegetables, I adore getting to pick them, I adore getting the benefits of farming without the actual farming... One of the major perks of living where I do is that there's a farm just up the road that offers a CSA.  After work on Tuesdays this summer, I've been walking up to pick up my share.  Here's the good and bad of that experience -


This is the most obvious, but clearly, the produce is the main draw of any CSA.  Locally grown, fresh and delicious, the produce in my share has constantly blown me away.  Even vegetables I typically don't  enjoy are amazing.

Pro // Creative Cooking

One of the most unexpected things for me has been that, with the influx of different ingredients, I've had to discover different, new ways of cooking.  It's been a ton of fun, and there have been a few flavor combinations that I'm now obsessed with .

Pro // Discovering New Loves

Having always hated salads, getting bushels of greens every week was terrifying.  But at some point, I just committed to figuring it out, and ended up with a few favorites (parmesan crisps from Trader Joe's were an absolute game changer).  I also ended up loving squash, especially in the tart I'll post about next week.

Con // Initial Work Load

Tuesday's have basically become a null day for me - once I get home from share pickup, I have to clean and manage all of the produce, which typically takes most of my evening.  This bag has made things much easier, but I still end up with dirty produce all over my playhouse-sized kitchen.  Not my favorite.

Con // Cost

My CSA is pretty reasonable in terms of cost - 20 or so dollars a week, but the initial outlay is high, and there are definitely weeks that I don't get 20 dollars worth of produce - I can't eat that much lettuce in 7 days.

Overall, I'm so glad I joined the CSA - it's fun for me to go choose produce, and I love how excited it gets me to cook. So far, there's been enough variation to keep me engaged, but we'll see if that's still the case come week 18...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Closet Revamp - 30 x 30 Experience

As of the weekend, I have full access to my closet again! And, to be honest, that isn't so exciting.  This 30 x 30 and no buy have taught me a ton about how I dress vs how I want to dress, and clarified a lot about my own spending habits.  Before I get into that, here's how I made it all work -

Keep the 30 x 30 stuff separate

Buy it here

I bought a pretty cheap rack to hang all of my 30 x 30 stuff on, with the idea of using it as sort of a dressing room/planning tool after I finished the challenge. Honestly, I think this was the biggest reason the whole thing was a success. By physically removing what I could wear from that I couldn't, I eliminated the temptation of the rest of my closet.  When I got dressed, I headed straight for that rack and stopped even thinking about the other stuff.

Choose thoughtfully

Overall, I was pretty impressed with my choices, though I think I made the list on a particularly cool day, because 3 pairs of pants were way more than I needed, and the cardigan was useless.  Everything worked well together, and gave me lots of flexibility in terms of getting dressed.  I also think that the number of each particular item (shirts, bottoms, shoes etc) was on point - enough variation that I never got bored, but not too much of one thing

Plan for all different parts of your life

This was one area I could have done better with.  I made the list considering my (casual) work needs, but kind of ignored weekend/after hours options.  This was fine, considering I rarely see anyone outside of work, and my dog doesn't care that I wear the same shirt/shorts combo every day.  If I do another one of these (which I will!), I'll be more careful about choosing clothes I'm comfortable lounging in, that can also be remixed for work.

And now what I learned. Because most of my closet was literally out my sight, many of the items in it completely fell off the radar.  When we were reunited, there were a few running-across-the-daisy-field-to-hug moments, but there were a lot more questioning stares and wondering how long it's been since I put that on.  Next up in my closet clean out series - how I'm using the experience to actually change what I own/wear.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Project 365 // July 21 - August 2

July 21
 July 22
 July 23
 July 24
 July 25
 July 26
 July 27
 Kuly 28
 July 29
 July 30
 July 31
 August 1
 August 2