Thursday, February 16, 2012

Loveliness on Valentine's Day: 2012

Hello Readers,

Last year, I published a blog post (Loveliness on Valentine's Day) about the holiday we all love to hate at some point in our lives. In this post, I wrote about my decision not to wear the color black on Valentine's Day as a symbolic action of my new attitude toward the day's celebrations, even as a single woman in her mid-twenties. Yep. I had a new attitude.

This year when I woke up, I planned to wear a reiteration of last year's Valentine's Day outfit, but there was snow on the ground and I had errands to run in the cold, slushy morning.... so I threw on a red wool sweater, a pair of jeans, wooly socks with snowflakes on the side, my trusty snow boots, and my coat. The day started out well, as far as holiday appropriate winter wear.

I ran my errands with great efficiency, buying a raspberry beret cupcake at The Cup, groceries at Dierberg's, and spending a gift card at Starbuck's (thank you Quists!) without any hitches or long lines- but when I returned I was less than enthusiastic about the holiday. I needed a change of attitude, or at least a change of outfits.

Last year's outfit was too cheery... I needed something that made me feel just as confident, but more mysterious. A vintage black and navy dress was the perfect remedy for my feelings of discontent. Paired with a white cardigan, embellished purple ribbon, solid purple tights, and spectator-esque pumps provided just the right amount of elegance and sass needed to survive this year's Valentine's Day.

Holding my roomie's cupcakes
In a way, this outfit helped me make it through a day I dread. What really helped me through this day was the community of friends I have at home, here, and even across the globe! I wasn't alone, spatially or metaphorically, either. My small group had a get together where we took communion and then exchanged bread and words of appreciation/affirmation with each other. This tradition, known as a "love  feast" is most common in the Methodist tradition of faith, but can be traced back to the Moravians. Woah!

I suppose I never liked Valentine's Day very much because it made me feel alone. I felt left out. But, this year I was not alone or left out. I was surrounded by friends who have been like family to me during my year of adjuncting. Their words, hugs, and constant community reminded me of the love present in my life, even away from family and even without a boyfriend or husband. I'm not single... I'm surrounded by a community of people who care about me and remind me of the One who loves me extravagantly- God. I have so much love in my life!

I'm smiling.... but check out that hand on my hip! Sass!


Retail Details:
Black and Navy Vintage Dress: Gifted
White/Cream V-Neck Cardigan: Victoria's Secret
Purple Belt: A Ribbon Embellished with a Clip-On Earring
Goldtone Peacock Earrings: Macy's 
Purple Tights: Hue (via Nordstrom Rack)
Cream and Tan Spectator Pumps: Seychelles (purchased at a boutique in San Francisco)
Smile: Courtesy of my friends!

Grammy Sunday: Swing and Miss

Oh Readers,

On Sunday I came to an absolute conclusion... I think. I need to do something new with my hair! I love its length, but my bangs are too long, I think I need a few more layers, and my color (natural) isn't doing much for me these days.


Ahhh! Is that a ghost? No... just me!
I did something else on Sunday.... I attended a Grammy viewing party at a friend's apartment. Here is what I wore to church (earlier in the day) and to the party.

Lesson learned: silky fabrics tend to ride up, especially when sitting down. Adjust accordingly. 
Too much texture? Yes.

Famous entertainers will distract those around you from outfit mistakes... maybe...

What I realized, in addition to my need for new hair, is that the outfit was not a win. I thought the dress was an easy outfit... but somehow my trusty cardigan, sparkly belt, cabled tights (ok the tights were an obvious mistake, abstract water colored dress came together in a most sloppy manner.

I tried to be creative with this outfit- but it was a swing and a miss! Thankfully, the Grammy's were entertaining enough to distract anyone from my mistakes (I hope!) and the people at my church were too nice to say anything! :)

So. . . the lesson I learned from this outfit is that outfit experimentation is a-ok. When experimenting with new combinations, it's important to take pictures of your endeavors. Cameras tell no lies my friends, cameras tell no lies!

Here's to adventures in fashion!

Retail Details:
Watercolor Dress: H&M
Enchanting Eyes Beaded Belt: Anthropologie
Charcoal Cabled Tights: Anthropologie
White/Cream Cardigan: Victoria's Secret
Black Studded Ballet Flats: J. Crew

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Super Bowl Sunday: Coconut Cake and Seafoam Ruffles

Hello again Readers,

Last Sunday, partly because of my timing belt fiasco, I spent the weekend at home and was able to spend Super Bowl Sunday at my grandparents' house. My trip home also afforded me the opportunity to watch TLC with my mom on Friday night, see Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close with my dad on Saturday night, and make a coconut cake from scratch with my mom.

My mom made most of the cake, but I helped by adding powdered sugar to the icing and assisting in the icing and coconut-sprinkling process. Anyways... the cake was beautiful and delicious and my mom is a cake boss. A cake boss with a specialty in coconut cake deliciousness. I wish I could share a slice with each of you, but since that is impossible, we shall have to settle for pictures of this perfection:

The cake was a hit at my grandparents' Super Bowl party (at least for those of us who like coconut). I rooted for the Patriots, but most of my focus was devoted to conversing with family members and eating delicious party food. Before leaving the party, my mom took a few pictures of (some) of my cousins and my grandma. Aren't we cute?

Whoops! I forgot to turn off the fisheye effect!

Much better! Katie, Grandma, and yours truly.
Retail Details:
Seafoam Ruffle Neck Tee: J. Crew
White Cardigan: Victoria's Secret
Grey Lace-Trim Tank: American Eagle
Dark Rinse Skinny Jeans: Abercrombie & Fitch (purchased on the Peoria store's last day of existence)
Gold Tone Baubled Necklace: Target
Claire, Katie, Grandma, Paige, and Me

A Harrowing Adventure with Mick the Tow Truck Driver

Hello Readers!

Was Super Bowl Sunday really a week ago? Did the semester really begin two weeks ago? Yes, and yes. I feel like I've been playing catch up since the first Tuesday of the semester. This is the day my car broke down. I feel like this story is so big, that I must tell it before I return to my posts about fashion. Aren't blogs a medium for soap boxes?

Wait, what? My car broke down? Yes. The week before school began I took my car in to my local Honda dealer to get an oil change/check up and they suggested a replacement of my timing belt. After discussing the issue with my mom, I set up an appointment. When I asked the appointment specialist how long the procedure would take, she estimated between 1 and 2 hours, 2 at the most. Not bad, right?

When I dropped off my car, I was informed by a technician/mechanic that the appointment would actually take 4 to 5 hours. Since my mom was with me (with her car) I decided to go with her instead of waiting out the procedure in the waiting room. They told us to come back at 5-ish to pick up the car and pay the bill. At 5:16, on the way to the dealership, I received a call from the dealership where I was casually told that my car was making a strange noise, so it wouldn't actually be done until 5 pm the next day.

Readers, it isn't often that I get mad. But this time, I was furious. I politely, but firmly, told the man on the other line that when I made this appointment I thought I was only going to be without my car for 2 hours, then 5 hours, and now over 24 hours? I told him how frustrating this was, especially because I was getting ready to drive back to school, and asked if it could be done earlier. He offered 10 am as a definite hour and 8:30 am as a possible hour of completion. I wasn't a happy camper about the matter, but I was at least glad that my Honda service department was being thorough.

Well... guess what? I picked up my car around 9 am the next morning (good), drove back to school successfully, but on my first voyage to St. Louis since 2011 my car broke down less than 4 miles away from my point of departure. Something in my engine stopped working and I (with almost certainty) knew what was the problem. My timing belt. I knew that it had to be something with the timing belt.

I called my mom to get my AAA number (I couldn't find it in my car), and called for a tow truck. While I was waiting for the tow truck, I called my lead technician at my "trusty" Honda dealership and left a message with something like "Hello _______________. This is Laura. You worked on my Honda Civic on Thursday and Friday last week and replaced the timing belt, but it snapped or something. I thought I should let you know that I sitting on the side of 1-70 W waiting for a tow truck. Please call me at your earliest convenience."

This wasn't the end of this adventure. The tow truck came in under 30 minutes, but after nearly 30 minutes of rude cars whizzing by my car and shaking my car (not moving over to the left lane, even though no one was in the left lane), I was a bit on edge. I remembered from my driver's ed classes that in situations such as these, it is better to stay in your car than stand outside of your car if you are out of harms way. When the tow truck driver arrived, however, I climbed over the passenger seat and exited the car from the left side, to be as far away from traffic as possible. He saw this and asked "why didn't you get out on the driver's side?"

My response? "Because I am terrified, sir."

He laughed at me and muttered something about women running out of gas... and I corrected his assumption by adding my diagnosis of a faulty part in my timing belt. He said, in so many words, that I didn't know what I was talking about and it was probably the fuel tank. And, that he had "a buddy that could fix that." I declined his offer, and he told me to wait in his truck.

As I waited in the truck and watched the tow truck driver load my car onto his truck, I noticed that my windows were open. I remembered that my insurance card, a free signature lotion coupon, and a few other important papers, were tentatively tucked into my sun-shield thingys. I pictured the wind sweeping them away into the oblivion of highway 1-70 and a border of fields and jumped out of the truck and asked the driver to wait. He shook his head, pressed a few buttons and asked, with a puzzled look on his face:

"What in the blazes is wrong?" (not his exact words, but something to that effect)

"My windows are down! And all of my insurance cards and important papers are going to blow away!" I shouted.

"Why do you need those?" He replied.

"Because they are important to me!" I pleaded.

I didn't think he would take my plea seriously. His name was Mick and he seemed like a "good ol' boy." He wore overalls, a trucker hat, a tan Carhartt jacket, and fingers stained with years of work with car fluids. He already thought I was a girl dumb enough to not refill her car with gasoline but smart-alecky enough to offer my own diagnosis of my vehicle's woe's. But, Mick surprised me when he shrugged, opened the driver door, and closed my windows. Then he yelled at me for getting out of the tow truck.

Our drive back into town, to a business of my own choosing, instead of Mick's buddy's house, was every bit as fun as being stranded on the high way. He asked me a few personal questions and proceeded to critique the following:
-my choice to drive a Japanese car instead of an American car
-that I was 26 and not married
-that I had a Master's degree but hadn't settled down (because I guess I had those two things backwards?)
-that I chose to pay him by credit card instead of by cash (even though he offered the option).

Stepping out of Mick's tow truck was a moment of great relief for me. To show that I was still a good sport, and to thank Mick for arriving so quickly, I said thank you and held out my hand for a handshake. He hesitated, looked at me like I was from another planet, and with great hesitation shook my hand.

Thankfully the garage who took care of my car did a wonderful job, and offered customer service excellence and respect that made me (almost) forget about Mick the Tow Truck driver. The problem with my car was indeed related to my timing belt, as I suspected. The tensioner placed in my engine while replacing my timing belt broke, causing the belt to snap loose.

Throughout this whole ordeal, my Honda dealer's service team remained in constant contact with me and the garage and took responsibility for the breakdown. When I went home last weekend, my dad and I stopped by the dealership and spoke with the service department foreman who listened to my frustrations and restored our confidence in Bob Lindsay Honda (the dealer) and the Honda brand.

Now that over a week of distance stands between me and this situation, there are several lessons I hope to carry with me in similar situations.

-don't be afraid to speak up: when you feel like something isn't right raise your voice and bring your concern to the appropriate parties. In this episode, I was able to do this, but I wish that I was more outspoken back in Peoria when I first had concerns about my car.

-in stressful situations, remain calm: my dad has always said that the brain runs better on cool than hot. When I called my service technician, I wanted to cry and shout at him even before I knew (for certain) the cause of my car breaking down. But, I did not do these things. I remained calm and spoke rationally and logically.

-you can't argue with an idiot: okay, Mick is probably not an idiot, but the way in which he spoke to me was not only rude, it was idiotic. Women care about more than marriage and when a woman's car breaks down the reason isn't necessarily because she ran out of gas or didn't take care of her car. I know this, you know this, but there are people who do not. I wanted to talk with Mick about his ill-informed and hegemonic gender assumptions- but something told me that a discussion such as this would fall to deaf ears.

Thank you for reading! I look forward to sharing a outfits and fitting room reviews with you soon!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Back in Black: First Week of School

Hello Readers!

Yet another semester of life is upon us at my college. Classes began on Monday and they went quite well! I still wake up around 6:30 am, but my first class isn't until 11:30 am. Last semester my first class began at 8:30 am and I found that many of my students were mostly asleep during the first 5 minutes or so of class... so I am looking forward to teaching students who are hungry instead of students who are sleepy. (Well, I hope they won't be sleepy!)

Yesterday, after my dear roomie took my outfit of the day photo, I realized that most of what I've worn over the past few days has been black or grey with the exception of a purple sweater on Tuesday. I hope my students don't think I'm gloomy or glum! It's just an easy color to match, I guess.

On Monday, I did add a punch of color with a pair of burgundy Calvin Klein pumps that I purchased from Bergner's last week at 75% off. The only mistake I found in wearing these shoes was that I wore them too much. Note to self: don't wear a new pair of heels on a day when you plan to walk a lot.

Retail Details:
Black V-Neck Cardigan: Zara
Black Elizabeth Dot Tie-Neck Blouse: Banana Republic (14 dollars!)
Black Skinny Belt: Banana Republic
Black Minnie Cropped Pants: J. Crew
Silvertone Locketwatch Necklace: American Eagle Outfitters
Bow and Glass Crystal Earrings: Juicy Couture (via Nordstrom Rack)

Do I look tired? That is because I am! First weeks are exhausting!
On Tuesday, I really wanted to wear tights. Before returning from break I came across a skirt I purchased back in November 2009 hiding in my pile of sports/activity t-shirts in my closet and since uncovering that gem I've been determined to find a way to bring it back into the light of day. And that is why I wanted to wear tights, so I could wear this skirt. Since it is black, grey, white, and gold; black tights were an easy choice. Here is the ensemble:

Retail Details:
Silver Heart Necklace: A gift from my cousin, Liz, for singing at her wedding
Black Cowl-Neck Long-Sleeve Top: Banana Republic
Black Tweed Skirt: J. Crew (Fall 2009)
Black Tights: J.Crew (also Fall 2009! Woah!)
Black Leather Boots: Anne Klein
Hair Elastic: Walgreens
My biggest regret of this outfit, besides not wearing any blush or bronzer while dressed in black, was that the skirt was a bit shorter than I remembered it being. Not inappropriate-short, but maybe a bit too short for a college professor- even an adjunct! The worst part of this skirt was that it rode up when I walked across campus and I had to pull it down every 5 steps (or so it seemed). Who knows... maybe someone will think I was dancing. Maybe soon you will see a dance move (the skirt tug) sweeping across campus. And you'll know that this girl made it up!

Demonstrating the "skirt tug": I think I'll save this skirt AND dance moves for Saturday nights.

Thanks for reading!

PS- Bergner's/Bon-Ton/Boston Store/Carson's/Younkers/etc. is still having their sale! The best deals can be found in the Yellow Dot Clearance (click "Yellow Dot Clearance" to go there. I'm not being paid/asked to say this, I just love sharing good sales with friends! Check it out!