style is all around us

Is it just me, or can winter style in January be a little bit difficult when JCrew is sending you catalogs full of fewer layers and sunshine? Yes, Spring is wonderful, and will be wonderful when it gets here. The fact remains, however, that we are still in the dead of winter. 
 
For this month’s style post (partly to combat any pending desires to ditch winter layers and begin yearning for sundresses), I wanted to use clothing I already own to recreate looks I have loved on Pinterest. But “recreate” is the wrong word. I would rather not be a complete copy cat. And plus, I didn’t want to be defeated by an outfit simply because I didn’t have the right article of clothing. So if I didn’t have exactly what I needed, I took one aspect of what was lacking, and did the best I could with what I had. And it was fun and even surprising.
 
Using a picture as a starting point and being limited by my closet forced me to be a little more creative. I think I could make a habit of this. Just spicin’ January up a little bit–and applying pinterest to my life now instead of letting it serve solely as a futuristic collection of things I hope to one day remember I want to do/wear/see. Care to see the results? 
Top: LOFT
Jacket: Top Shop
Skirt: Anthropologie
Belt: H&M
Necklace: LOFT
Dress: H&M
Collar: Antique store
Brooch: Eastern Market 
Boots: Target
Hat: Eastern Market
Coat: Urban Outfitters
Do you get in style ruts? How do you branch out? Do tell.
P.S. October style and November style

this past weekend

Friday:

The highlight of our Friday night was when our four-year-old niece called Eric and me and Eric asked if she would make up a song about us. She told us that she would, because she thought it was a great idea, but she would have to think about it. A few moments later, however, she informed us that she was “inspired”, and asked if we were ready to hear our song now. We said, “yes”, and she sang the following (to the tune of “Hark the Harold Angels Sing”):

“Uncle Eric is so sillyyyy. He makes really funny faces. But not Aunt Jenny, no no no no no no no no no (repeat).”

Naturally, we were laughing hysterically, and hope to get it on video the next time we see her. It just doesn’t get much better than that, friends.

Saturday:

Saturday was spent lazily until about 11:00am when we realized we really should go to the grocery store since we were having company. I cooked and baked all day, until our friends arrived in the evening for dinner, a movie, and a lot of laughter. It’s true. We ended up watching “Taken 2”, in which the most unrealistic part of the movie lies in the moment when Kim has to find clothes to wear in a room full of lockers, and finds a pair of jeans that fit her perfectly in the first locker she opens. I couldn’t take the movie seriously after that.

We also came up with our own version of Taken, where the build-up is really high in the beginning of the movie, and as the plot moves along, you realize that they are actually going to be able to enjoy a really relaxing vacation on the beach. The worst thing that happens to them is that they get sun-burned. Something like that.

Sunday:

After church, we hurried home to prepare lunch for more friends with whom we spent the afternoon enjoying Eric’s famous tacos, and a dessert that could not have been chocolate-ier. In the evening, I finished reading the book I have not been able to put down, A Severe Mercy, with no tears this time (ask me about a few days ago), but a tingling spine and a silent vow never to read a mediocre book again. The bar has just been set a little bit higher. 

Good company all weekend, good food, happiness, and cozy weather. It was really pretty perfect. Happy Monday to you all!

10 ways to make work awesome

Let’s face it: sometimes work is not the greatest. In fact, some days it doesn’t seem great in any way at all. Some days, you start to wonder why you even have a job if it only pays the bills which you only have to pay because you need to keep your home so you can get a good night’s sleep for work. It is a viscous cycle. 

Work is great in one way, however: it keeps us from doing things we shouldn’t do, like lie in bed all day with bags of chips and the TV going, or, I don’t know, getting a tattoo or robbing a bank. It also makes us contributing members of society, blah blah blah. I am grateful for my job for those reasons, and also because I know jobs are hot commodities these days. Jobs are like what Beanie Babies were in the nineties; everybody wants one. Unlike Beanie Babies, however, they will probably not go away after a few years. These are the facts of life. These are the lessons we learn from Beanie Babies.

So how can we make work awesome? Notice, this is active and not passive. Things that would obviously make work better are things like: good hair days and frequent raises: things we cannot necessarily control. In this post, I would like to focus on the variables at work that we can control.

#1. Break up your day into segments. Dividing is the first step to conquering. Mentally block your day into three sections: pre-lunch, post-lunch, post-post lunch. Notice each segment basically revolves around lunch. That will come up later.

#2. Make something good happen in each of those sections. Take breakfast to work for pre-lunch, or make a big ritual out of getting coffee and drinking it at your desk while you check your emails and messages, and glance at your calendar for your day. In post-lunch, take a short walk and think about nothing work-related. Imagine a vacation you hope to take in ten years. Think about what plans you have for the evening. Think about anything but work. In the post-post-lunch section, I suggest caffeine. Or chocolate. Or both.

#3. Take a moment to organize your desk. I like to do this once in the morning, and again in the afternoon. For people like me, I can never underestimate the importance of less clutter with regard to my sanity.
 
#4. Lunch break. As I made clear in step #1, your day revolves around lunch, so make it good. Here is where I admit to being very hypocritical because I am a serial desk-eater. Oftentimes, the day is so busy I don’t have time for anything other than eating something simple while my eyes scroll through emails. However, on the days when I step away from my desk and read a book while eating something I was actually looking forward to, the day is much more pleasant. Lunch should not be so big that it puts you to sleep, but if you include a few of your favorite morsels, pre-lunch period will be all the sweeter.
 
#5. Adjust your chair. I have no qualms about being a hypocrite here, because I have adjusted my chair, and I know that doing so makes all the difference in the world. Your feet should rest fully on the ground, and your elbows should be level with your desk. Your head should not be tilted up or down, but looking straight ahead. Do it.
 
#6. Be aware of your posture. Slumping shoulders, even slightly, can cause severe neck and shoulder pain. Let work pay the bills, not your chiropractor.

#7. Break for tea during pre-lunch, post-lunch, or post-post lunch. Tea and coffee are both associated with rest and relaxation, but I find that just drinking coffee all day long gives me a false sense of alertness. Tea is my wonderful solution. I keep a little jar of coconut milk in the office fridge to add to my tea to make my tea breaks even more special.

#8. Feeling put together. If I am preoccupied with the small stain on my sleeve or my shoes pinching my feet, it just adds needless stress to my day. Come prepared, and leave things at your desk for emergencies (like a pair of flats).

#9. Smile and greet everyone by name as you walk through the halls. At my place of work this is kind of a requirement (hint: I do not work at Disney), but it really does promote an environment of cheerfulness, whether or not we mean it or not.

#10. Make time for yourself in the mornings before work. At my job in the Senate, I did not have to leave the house until 8:00. That meant I could get up at six and have two whole hours to read, take a walk if I fancied, make breakfast, slowly drink coffee, and get ready for work. These days, I have to leave earlier than 8:00, but I try to wake up early enough to not be rushed. When I have a few moments to quietly read, check blogs, or eat breakfast, I am reminded that life is not work. And that is important.

And that’s what I have for now. What gets you through the work day? Do you have better ideas? Do share.

Inauguration Recap

It was really cold. There were tons of people. This is how the President was sworn in for his second term.
 
There is something about being alone in a crowd of people that makes one feel very…alone. Yes, I am by myself. But somehow, as a lone observer I feel that my inner voice is louder, and almost as though I am invisible. It is a wonderful feeling. 
 
My morning began on the Metro, surrounded by people who, even at 8:00am, were headed to the Mall to stand for hours and wait. When we emerged from the train into the cold air, there were just: people. Tons and tons of people–walking in the streets, mostly. I didn’t have a ticket to the Inauguration, and I wasn’t about to wait for hours for something I couldn’t even see, so I made my way to one of my favorite coffee shops. I had brought a book along for that very purpose. 
 
I was literally the only person walking East. Everyone was walking West, toward the Capitol. I think people thought I was either crazy, or a very confident lost person.
The Library of Congress. And the angels are singing.
 
After coffee, I decided to just walk and see how close I could get to the commotion. The police had all the streets around the Capitol blocked off, and I felt a little offended that I couldn’t roam as freely as I normally can. I guess I can understand the importance of security,when weighed against my own desires to take my usual route. I ended up at Union Station for a while, and then hopped on the Metro from there to wander around Dupont Circle, a few stops away.
 
At Union Station, I was taking a picture of this cutout of Obama, because I thought it was borderline ridiculous, and so naturally I wanted to text it to Eric. But then a man nearby asked if I wanted to be in the picture, and I said, “Yes….actually”, and sent this one to Eric instead. He loved it.
 
I was browsing the children’s books about DC at Kramerbooks in Dupont (there is a shocking lack of children’s books about DC) when I heard Obama’s voice coming from a TV nearby (and not Beyonce’s lip syncing). 
 
I started to walk to the White House, and the streets in front of me, and behind me: filled. With people. Are you getting the picture? I couldn’t get close to the White House, because my bag was bigger than the size limit to enter the secure area. And it was at about this time when this semi-introvert was greatly looking forward to wine on the couch.
 

I can’t say I did a lot on this day, other than do exactly what I intended: purposefully avoid any kind of schedule and simply be a part of the feeling in the air. But it was that feeling of being invisible that I could not shake, that I particularly enjoyed. No one paid any attention to me. I felt like I really did have the insider’s view on this day in history.