Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fill the GAP

I have to say of all the store credit cards to have, I'm most pleased with the Gap Company, Inc. Not only because they own several companies (namely Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta), but because their credit card really does pay back.

Case in point...Did you know by using your Gap, BR, or Old Navy card you:
  • Earn 5 reward points for every dollar spent at any of their 5 owned companies, which in turn results in point accumulations, which give you $$ back for purchases. For example, 1,000 reward points gives you a $10 Reward Card.
  • And since it's a VISA, you also get 1 reward point for every dollar spent anyplace VISA is accepted!
  • You can often get free shipping online (spending at least a certain amount) using the card.
  • EVERY Tuesday, cardholders get 10% off any online order!
I have to say, it pays to use the card- and if you like the Gap Company brands as much as I do, it's worth just getting the card, paying it off (interest rates are silly)...and rack up those reward cards!

Monday, December 21, 2009

couches, tables and chairs, oh my!

Thanks to a tip from a faithful reader, I was informed that January (and August) boast some stellar sales in the furniture stores.

Apparently this is a prime time to change stock for the newest season, so if you're looking for a new chair, an ottoman for that chair, tables, couches...wait until January, and watch the sales. They promise to be discounted anywhere from 30-50% off- which helps after you've just emptied your wallet at the holidays!

Also, pay attention to those "pay as you go" deals- if you're making a big ticket purchase, they can be helpful, but watch the interest rates. Lots of dealers will offer 0% APR in the new year, but make sure it's not for a limited time (like 6 months) which expires and then you're paying crazy high rates once the 6 months are up.

I've recently been browsing Ballard Designs' website: great combinations of classic styles with some interesting patterns. Maybe it's time I invest in my favorite pieces of furniture...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sleighbells Ring, Are You Listenin' ?

Clearly it's been a busy holiday season since I haven't had a moment to blog since Thanksgiving!
Hopefully some of my previous posts served you well as you ventured out to find the perfect gift for your loved ones.

I'd like to take a moment to appreciate the season for sparkle...or as some of my co-workers like to say know what I mean- sequins, crystals, glitter,'s all in the category of shimmeration. And folks, this is the time of year to wear it with pride!

My friend Crista is having a little holiday gathering this weekend, and I loved that her evite included an invitation to wear sparkle! Seriously, if not at the holidays, when else can you wear such fun, festive attire without feeling like a total fool? So, I'd like to give a shout out to the shimmeration attire of the world, and encourage us all to pull out those "over the top" pieces- whether clothing, accessories, shoes, whatever!- and sparkle with pride.

Here's a few of my favorite sparklers of the season:
The Sequin Sparkle Tank: I bought this in the camel color (which may no longer be available) but it's the perfect combination of sparkle and conservative fit.
The Sequin Tiered Ruffle Tank: I love that this has both the combination of ruffle and subtle sequins...and for under $50, not a bad deal.
Sequin Scarf Cardigan: I adore how the cardigan has this built in shimmeration around the collar that imitates a scarf- and it's so soft and cuddly. Worth the splurge!
Crystal Supernova Bracelet: Can you get more sensational than something named a "Crystal Supernova"?? So lovely...
Stormy Sea Necklace: I saw a woman try this on in the dark yellow with a grey lace dress, and it looked AMAZING on. Something about the way the stones pick up the skin's natural pink undertones. Really really pretty.
Glam Leaf Earrings: Do you need any other reason to feel glamorous for the holidays? And on SALE!

Shine on, my friends!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Gobble Gobble

Thanksgiving isn't just about turkey, folks- it's about gathering people together in abundance and gratefulness. One could argue that the very nature of my blog is contrary to finding contentment in what you have; however, I've found that even in moments of gratitude for "what is"- there can be great joy in "what is to come..."

So how does one shop for abundance? joy? gratefulness? You don't. You cultivate it. You don't hit up your local mall and find it among the sale racks.

Yet, I've found that shopping creates moments of gratefulness for me...not just b/c I am acquiring some new great find on occasion, but b/c I'm often doing it with people I love. Just the other day, a spontaneous excursion with my friend, Crista, reminded me that my favorite past-time brings me together with people.

So, while my sister and I ponder whether to get up Friday morning at 4am just to "catch the action" of Black Friday sales, I recognize it's also time that I get to spend with her.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone- May your shopping outings bring you together with people you love.

Friday, November 20, 2009

$39.99 should be a crime

My favorite discount retailer, Target, again has given me reason to brag.

It's that time of year, ladies, where the holiday dress buying frenzy begins. There's the inevitable holiday office parties, new year's events, and the countless cocktail gatherings where you are looking for something festive to wear. But seriously, who wants to spend $100 on a dress when you need some cash flow for gifts?!

I've been pleasantly surprised at Target's limited edition of holiday dresses that range from classic styles to more bold patterns. Best thing...they are all $39.99! Seriously, $40 for a dress? How can you go wrong??

I would recommend looking at them in person, rather than trying to select one online. The fabrics differ enough that you're likely to want to touch and feel them. But again, remember for a fun holiday dress that may only get 1 or 2 wears, $40 seems very very reasonable.

So before someone figures out what a crime this is, go to your local Target and snag one. And grab a little something else nice for yourself with all the money you just saved!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Did someone say FREE?

For reasons that I have already shared on my blog, ALWAYS do a search for free shipping codes when online shopping. I have saved anywhere from 5-10% just by doing a quick search.

As I was reading my latest December issue of O Magazine (Ellen Degeneres dons the cover with her this month!), I came across this FABULOUS tid bit:

FREE SHIPPING DAY, Thursday, December 17, 2009!

What is that, you ask? Well, merchants of all kind have committed to making December 17th a free shipping day, guaranteeing delivery of your item(s) by Christmas day. Check out the site here for participating merchants. And apparently, more merchants are being added by the day, in the hopes of a grand total of 500! How cool is that?

So for those who are using the world wide web to bring some holiday cheer to your loved ones, wait to shop on December 17th and score some free shipping. Why not? It's like free money!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Black Friday

17 days and counting...Do you know what's coming??


It's the day after Thanksgiving, the official opening day of holiday shopping. After Thanksgiving sales are famous for having the best discounts of the year, and shoppers camp out in front of stores to take advantage of the Black Friday sales. I admit, I have never actually "camped out," but I've been super tempted to take advantage of those 4am sales :)

I think it's a good practice to evaluate your shopping needs before you tackle the crowds. Black Friday is really good for big ticket items. For example, if you're in the market for a new TV- this is your chance! The sales for electronics are tremendous- some of the best of the year. So, it pays to check out the ads, plan your outing, and hit up Best Buy to grab the best deal you can. But if you're looking to get that new sweater you've been eying, it's probably easier to wait for another opportunity...the sales aren't significant enough to make the experience worth it.

UNLESS you're like my mom, sister and me- we just like to shop- so Black Friday doesn't scare us!

A few tips before you head out to spend the big bucks:
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes (easy to slip on and off if you brave the fitting rooms)
  • Bring a roomy bag where you can store snacks, a water bottle, and your coupons of course!
  • Have a plan for how you will shop: this is one of those days it behooves you to consolidate your trips, so plan your outing accordingly by parking where's convenient, but also hit the stores in "order" so that you don't waste time back tracking.
And if the black cat crosses your path that day, it's good luck :) It's Black Friday after all!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wrapped in Love

I never fully appreciated the value of a well-wrapped gift until I met my friend Kara. Now, in fairness, she's also one of the most creative, innovative artists I know, so it shouldn't have surprised me when she taught me how much love can go into presenting a gift- no matter how small or large!

But when I received a gift from her, it FELT special. It looked as if she spent time preparing it for me. It showed that regardless of what was inside, she had wanted to offer it to me with class, style and creativity. So, friends, let me share the gift that is the Paper Source.

I love everything about the Paper Source.
Wrapping paper: check
Fancy wrapping paper: check
Ribbon selection: check
Greeting card options: check
Holiday stickers: check
Every color under the rainbow cards & envelope sets: check
Stamps and ink colors: check
Helpful staff: check

I really love their holiday wrapping paper. I usually buy 2-3 sheets of various designs, stock up on red grosgrain ribbon, and poof!- The perfectly wrapped gift. I also adore their gift tags where you can stamp a holiday greeting for your own creative message. I even like using their holiday stickers on plain cards to make it festive. It's just the crafty person's haven- and if you're not the crafty type, I swear their supplies are easy enough to fake it :)

So, take this tip from me: Your gift recipient will love the gift 10x more when it's presented with care. And all it takes is a little time to find great paper and ribbon to tie up the goodness!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hem and Haw

I fear that the tailor has lost it's allure.

In an economy where people are feeling the pinch of salary cuts, it's fair to ask for clothing that fits off the rack. Let me be honest with you, it's usually a gift from the fashion gods when this happens. Pants that are the right length. Tops that hit you at the right point on your hip. Dresses that highlight your best figure flattering aspects.

So, what do you do when you find a fabulous item, but it's slightly too big here, or too long there, or too tight there?

You go to a good tailor.

And you smile at the investment you just made in your item.

See, I discovered with my friend Susan a really great tailor in Belmont, MA who simply did the FASTEST quality work I have ever experienced. (Literally, she brought in jeans to be hemmed, and 10 minutes later, she had a perfectly shortened pair of jeans in hand). And the prices were unbelievably competitive for the Boston area.

So if you live in metro west: go here. She's worth the effort.

hemmingway: tailoring & alterations
597 School Street
Belmont, MA
jinnie lee (owner & seamstress)

So quit your hemming and hawing: Just go! Spend the $15 to get that clothing item to fit well. You'll wear it longer and with more enthusiasm. To me, that's worth every penny!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Consumers Unite!

So picture it: It's the holidays. (Or your birthday, anniversary, etc. - you get the idea...a gift-giving occasion) And you hear the inevitable question, "What would you like for _____ holiday this year?"

I don't usually struggle with this question, mostly b/c at any given time I'm likely to have my eye on several items of clothing, accessories or trinkets that I'm loving.

But perhaps you can't think that quickly on your feet.

Perhaps you're one of those people who likes to only ask for what's really needed. (This is such a foreign concept to me, but I do know it exists.) But here's the trick- Can you always remember what it was that you wanted? Don't you ever so vaguely recall coming across some great "thing"...and well now, you can't remember where you saw it, what it was, or even if it's still available anymore. Shoot.

Solution: I stumbled across one of the coolest websites I have ever seen:
Here's the premise: You create your own wish list (sort of like registering for a wedding or a baby shower) and the site keeps all your cravings in one location.

So when the gift-giving time rolls around, you simply direct friends and family to your cyber stockpile and just like that....your every consumer wish has been shared.

And you'll never have to stumble over the question, "What would you like for your birthday this year, honey?" SCORE!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Here's the Skinny

Slim leg.
Skinny fit.

Have you seen these names before? Believe it or not, they all refer to a particular fit of jeans...which are making a HUGE comeback. If you are old enough to remember the 80s, you know that the slim fit jean (I'll refer to all of them with this name) is no "new" trend. In fact, "they" say if you are old to enough to have worn them the first time, it's safe to say, you shouldn't wear them now!

I think the slim fit jean has a place in the style world. This jean fits shapely through the hips and thighs, and then tapers in to fit the leg. It should hit just below your ankle.

But it should be noted: wearing this jean takes honest evaluation of one's body type. Steer clear of this fashion trend if:
  • You carry weight in your thighs. The slim fit jean is designed to hug this area and keep an elongated look to the floor.
  • You are uncomfortable wearing snug clothing. These jeans cannot fit loosely; they are supposed to fit close to the body.
But if you're in...keep these tips in mind to snag the best pair:
  • At least 1% or 2% lycra or some kind of spandex to keep the shape close to your body.
  • Dark denim- without the distressed look. The more uniform the color, the longer your body appears.
  • They also look best with ballet flats or tucked smoothly into tall riding boots. A very Audrey Hepburn look :)
  • They are also perfect to accompany a tunic or long cardigan sweater (with a waist-cinching belt of course!)
  • I happen to like this pair from Ann Taylor LOFT.
Perhaps you will learn to love them!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Hand-le with Care

One of the things I love most about fall weather is that I can wear great fall colors of nail polish!

Open any magazine these days, and there are so many new colors to choose from, which thankfully give us a new approach to the season. For those in Texas who are blessed enough to have an Ulta (this great beauty supply store- somewhat like a Sephora, but no where near as expensive), I have stumbled upon several terrific fall colors. And since nail polish is likely to last only a week without chipping, why not shake things up and try something different!

My favorite brands are definitely O.P.I. and Essie. And while my loyalty usually is to O.P.I., I have been pleasantly surprised to find several Essie colors worth raving about. Perhaps you'll try them!

Steel-ing the Scene
: a subtle, yet metallic wonder. It has a pewter-esque look to it that I adore!
Over the Top: PERFECT for fall, almost grey, almost metallic, very deep and looks great on fair skin.
Raisinnuts: A really lovely blend of creamy red/pink that looks like a winter festival!
Sheer Bliss: This has been a fan favorite of mine for years. It just has the sweetness of pink, with the creamy white of winter. So lovely!

I also stumbled upon two colors that appear to be discontinued, but if you happen upon them- it'll be hard to resist: Sag Harbor (think subtle, serene harbor water) and Private Bash (think party ready! Perfect blend of red and pink.)

So treat your nails a little party and welcome fall with open hands!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mi Casa es Su Casa

With the holidays calling, we are fortunate enough to have friends and family invite us for dinner, parties, gatherings, game nights, family traditions- you name it! Like a good southern girl, I do know the value of a quality hostess/housewarming gift. With all of the shopping to be done in the upcoming months, it may be good to make note of a few quality, creative ideas to say thank you for the invitation and all the planning your host/hostess did to make the evening a success!
  • Wine Wraps: I LOVE these from one of my favorite catalogs: Garnet Hill! It's a perfect way to dazzle up a bottle of your favorite red or white. Add a personal message, write a cute jingle, or simple say "Thank you!" with style.
  • A scented candle: I'm a fan favorite of the Bath and Body works holiday line: Both Pumpkin Patch and Evergreen are two I never go wrong with. Evergreen smells like real pine, subtle and fresh, while giving your home the perfect cheer. And you can't beat the $5 price right now!
  • Stonewall Kitchen out of York, Maine makes the BEST little jams, sauces, marinades, chutneys- it's all delicious. They make them in perfect 4 oz. sizes for gifts. I would recommend the Red Pepper Jelly (delicious accompanied by cream cheese and Triscuits!) I also think the Citrus Teriyaki Sauce is fantastic for marinating pork chops.
  • Pepper Mills: I know, you're thinking, "Really? A pepper mill?" But truly, these are adorable, conversation pieces for anyone's table. And instead of buying those McCormick pepper mills from the grocery store, why not give a great reusable one?! They also have a fancy stainless steel with a custom painted top coming out in November ($32)- so check it out!
  • Holiday Decor: I realize not everyone celebrates Christmas, so you can't go wrong with traditional "winter" decor. I've given these precious twig reindeers in past years- they are perfect on a mantel, arranged on a coffee table, or even to serve as a center piece for your table. Every recipient has loved them so far!
So as you start to celebrate the good times with loved ones, remember your housewarming gifts and don't forget to wrap with care...A well wrapped gift is often as appreciated as the gift itself! (I have a special love for The Paper Source and their holiday wrapping...more to come on that!)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Save money? Yes, please!

AAA members: LISTEN UP!

If you aren't saving money by using your card, you are missing out. I swear by it. Not only for the roadside assistance (and I have had to use their services before), but for all the great discounts when I shop!

I recently went on a little shopping excursion with my mom and sister (yes, we all believe in retail therapy) and stumbled into a New York & Company. Not a store I frequent often, but my sister was raving about a pair of great knit pants that wear well for travel. (By the way, those pants are perfect- and I can't find them online, but they are the City Knit Luxe. We snagged a deal of buy one, get one 50% off!) But I digress...

After we had successfully found the pants and a terrific fall ensemble for my mom, we went to pay, and I remembered: Wait! The AAA discount! We saved 25% just by showing the card! (Thanks to my old roommate, Katie, who swears by NY & Co. and the AAA discount, too!)

So, it got me thinking: Where else does this little card perform discount magic?

Here's what I found (and mind you, I have AAA for Southern New England):

Shopping (since this is what the blog is about- but there are entertainment, dining, lodging, travel and online savings, too!)
  • Banana Republic Factory Outlets
  • The Gap Outlet
  • LensCrafters
  • New York & Company
  • Payless Shoe Source
  • Pearle Vision
  • Reebok Outlet Stores
  • Rockport Outlet Stores
  • Sears Optical
  • Sullivan Tire & Auto Service
  • The Red Sox Team Store
  • The UPS Store
  • USA Today
  • Wrentham Premium Outlets
I encourage you 1) to sign up for AAA if you haven't already and 2) investigate your local retail options where you could be saving as much as 25% off every time!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Who's That Girl??

I've always had a special place in my heart for accessories. And there is something to be said for a woman who walks in a room with a knock-out purse. It's a statement about her. It's a way she commands attention. And well, it's a carry-all for her life, too.

I'm a firm believer that every woman should own a purse that withstands the trends- a classic in time. It's often that these kind of "statement" bags are more expensive, yes, but their long term status can be powerful. So take a moment and consider, do I have a purse that says "classic" "timeless" "powerful"?

What makes a statement bag, you ask? Allow me...
  • A signature design. Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Chanel are unmistakably identifiable. You know it, you see it, you love it.
  • It's usually leather- preferably Italian leather. (not trying to make a plug for my ancestral heritage here...) And it feels like butter.
  • It doesn't have heavy hardware. The bag speaks for itself. It doesn't need additional accessories; it IS the accessory.
  • It's of a color that transcends your wardrobe. Sure, black and brown are obvious, but a deep rich purple, or emerald green would make someone look twice at your arm.
I realize it's a recession- but seriously, ladies, save your money. $25 a month over a year, and you have yourself a nice cushion of money to buy THE purse you always wanted. And if you're smart- it's a one time purchase. This purse will outlast every $30 bag you pick up at Marshall's, Target or TJ Maxx. Believe me, people will notice and ask, "Who is that girl?" (with the great bag!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Burn, Baby Burn!

Male readers, brace yourselves: I am going to talk girl problems.

This past weekend I ran my 3rd half marathon with some stellar ladies (way to go Susan, Crista & Missy!). Perhaps you've heard that the training for a race like this is harder than the actual race (could be debated!), however, I do agree this year. It was REALLY hard when one's sports bra created a chafing problem 3 weeks before the race...

So, here's the nitty gritty. The bra is soaked (sorry for the detail), skin rubs against the material of a sports bra, and well, we get this lovely little problem called chafing. It's pretty miserable.

Now, thankfully, I had a few weeks to solve this problem before the big race. So, after a trip to my doctor (yes, some steroid action was necessary!), I needed to consult my local City Sports as I realized I probably needed to re-evaluate my sports bra situation.

The lovely saleswoman was like my own marathon angel. Here's what she shared:
  1. Sports bras should be cycled out as often as one's running shoes. FYI: Running shoes (if you are a regular runner) should be tossed after about 6 months.
  2. When a sports bra has been worn over time (and for me, over the course of 3 training sessions in 3 years), the bra loses it's ability to wick the sweat away from the body.
  3. Also, sports bras lose their elasticity over time, so the elastic band around the chest often stretches out and doesn't hold "the girls in" as well.
Do I need to go on, or are you catching my drift?
So, if you're exercising regularly, ladies, it's VITAL that you pay attention to the age of your sports bras. You simply do NOT want to deal with chafing.

Gents, all I have to say for you: Invest in a convenient little product called "Body Glide." It solves a variety of problems :)

Happy running to all!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Baby, It's Cold Outside

One of the reasons I moved from the sunny heat of Texas to the winter friendly Northeast was the desire to enjoy actual COLD weather. I love it. But if you talk with me in February or March, I may sing a different tune...I do admit that it lasts so freakin' long here! But if I have to bundle up, then I may as well wear a fashionable coat!

Here's a few thoughts about how to get the right fit for a winter coat, and possibly a great place to find one!
  • Make sure that the shoulder width is appropriate. Nothing worse that too tight so your arms are squeezed into it, or the "football player" effect. Shoulder width should match your own.
  • Fit across the chest needs to be comfortable, but not loose. Also make sure you don't drown in it: the puffer jackets are fun, but often make us look like the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man! My down jacket (Northface) fits me well across the chest, as well as goes in at the waist (slightly) and then a-lines out a bit. It makes it feel far more feminine.
  • Sleeve length is key. If the length falls too short, it will look funny! And if it's too long, get it tailored! Cuffing a jacket looks sloppy and not as refined.
  • Length of coat is also something to pay attention to: If you are petite, don't get a full length coat that makes you disappear. You want to elongate your body as much as possible, so look for styles that fall no longer than the middle of your thigh. If you're tall, you can wear the full length styles, but again, look for something that would define your waist (either with a belt or a cummerbund style waist) If you're average height, the safe call is one that falls no longer than the top of your knee.
To purchase a well fitting coat means that you establish a brand that you know fits well. But if you're on the look out: I recommend trying your outlet/sale stores. Places like Sierra Trading Post, REI (check out their outlet link) or CitySports.

I also like to check out places like Off-5th (Saks Fifth Avenue's outlet store) or even J Crew outlets have great winter coat options (usually all wool) in spectacular colors.

So as we welcome some colder months here in New England, let's fight this winter thing head on!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hello Closet!

As we welcome a new season, there is an obvious question to be asked: Do I buy new items, or try to make better use of what I have?

Perhaps you've heard of "shopping your closet"- so here's a few tips:
  • You cannot shop effectively in stores if you're not familiar with your own closet. You need to spend some time sorting through your closet, opening boxes, pulling out the storage bins...wherever you keep the goods...and take stock of what you have.
  • I like to make three piles: KEEP, GIVE AWAY, THROW AWAY. (yes, it is that simple) I realize being this decisive about your clothes can be challenging. Believe me, I've witnessed many friends struggle with my recommendation to throw away, especially when they have developed a certain emotional attachment to an item. Do your best to keep emotion out of it. That sweater your ex loved isn't worth keeping if you don't wear it!
  • To help the decision making process, I ask myself three questions:
  1. Have I worn the item once in the last year? If not, it probably should be given away or thrown out depending on its condition. Do give away gently used items- but pit stains or holes really should be trashed! For specialty items, sometimes this heuristic cannot apply: perhaps a great event hasn't presented itself. Hold onto that dress or suit (as long as it fits well) for when the occasion strikes.
  2. Does this still look good on me? Translation: Evaluate color, style, fit, proportion on your body...all of these impact the overall look of an item on you. So spend some time thinking about if you can say YES to these factors.
  3. Do I enjoy wearing it, or am I only keeping it for "just in case?" I love the "just in case" rationale...believe me, if you strongly believe you will wear it again, you wouldn't have to keep it for "just in case," you would be wearing it NOW! And you really should feel like a million bucks in it- even a basic t-shirt and jeans can do this!
  • Once you isolate the "keepers," you can then start to think about what needs to be replaced from the throw away pile, and/or what's missing to make your wardrobe more comprehensive.
The key to this process is being BRUTALLY honest with yourself about what you actually wear, what fits you well, and what makes you feel really good. If you need a friend to help you judge an item, call your local shopping blogger :)

And I like to hold out hope that you can discover something fabulous that you forgot you's like finding $20 in your winter coat pocket when you pull it back out to wear again!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Web Wonders

I do a fair bit of my shopping online (clearly when I'm too busy to get to the mall). Don't get me wrong, I prefer the action of shopping in person, but in a pinch, online shopping allows me to check out what I want ahead of time (or saves me gas in tight economic times).

So, I thought I'd share a few that serve me well when I'm surfing the web:
  • (free shipping and returns- who can beat that?!)
  • (this summer, I bought the best, cheapest sandals! Can only speak to their shoes though...)
  • ($2.95 shipping for everything...I even bought my couch here!)
  • (a great weekly email comes to me combined from my favorite stores with sale alerts)
  • (a TERRIFIC e-newsletter with tips for shoppers!)
  • (I can't say enough about the perfection of their flannel sheets!)
  • (an under-the-radar Texas jeweler whose items are timeless!)
  • (their handcrafted purses are the BEST idea for bridesmaid gifts or a great ladies outing with friends! For stores, you can visit Boston, Chicago, Kansas City or Philadelphia!)
The key to online shopping sites is to look for promotional codes that save in shipping or total discounts. Never complete your order without first doing a Google search for codes! Also, I really love these weekly sale alerts from sites like ShopItToMe- it gives me a chance to look at all of my favorite stores or brands in one fast swoop. Nothing like efficient shopping :)

If you have a favorite site to share- please comment...I'm always open to new ideas!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Ode to the Travel Gods

I travel a fair bit throughout the year- visiting family, friends, vacationing, or even taking 500 college seniors to the Bahamas. (Yes, my job does require that) See, I've had quite the traveling woes over the years (as have most) with unreliable airlines, ridiculous delays because the ramp that connects the plane to the runway is malfunctioning, or my favorite: when there is weather problems. It never ceases to amaze me how the airlines can find ways to make traveling that much harder.

BUT, one assuring thing is that whenever I do arrive at my final destination, I have a well packed suitcase, complete with outfits that will make me feel good again!

I learned this trick from my mom (she's a rock star about it) whenever I pack: Choose 3 colors to coordinate your travel wardrobe and stick with it! For example, black, white and red (BWR): Bring any variety of clothing (dresses, pants, tops, accessories etc.) that use those colors, and you are assured of a coordinated outfit the whole trip! This way, you avoid bringing the black shoes, brown shoes, etc. that coordinate with just ONE outfit you bring. Instead, you maximize an item's wear, and you always know you have the pieces (with you) that look good together.

Here's a sample of what the BWR travel wardrobe might include (for a 2-3 day trip):
  • Black pants
  • White cotton button-down (wear the one with ruffles!)
  • Red chunky beaded necklace
  • Red flats (remember, Target has these!)
  • Black wrap dress (jersey knit travels well, too)
  • White jeans
  • Black t-shirt (pima cotton for sure!)
  • And for fun...bring that red patent leather purse!
Or the standard classic, a good leather black hobo handbag- it can hold everything including snacks and water for when you're delayed..AGAIN! :)

O, Travel Gods, have mercy on us!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Love those Brits

I almost hate to share this brand secret, but perhaps some of my readers are already familiar with Boden. It's a UK brand originally, but they have a catalogue and online ordering system for the States. And let me tell you, I LOVE BODEN! Their designs are classic and interesting, while practical and fun! Over the years, I've invested in a variety of their apparel: trench coat, fancy and casual tops, GREAT shoes, and many fun accessories. If you're looking for a piece that has some visual interest, I really encourage you to take a look at Boden and see what you find.

Ont thing to note: their sizing is by UK standards. So, until you get a sense of how you translate into their sizes, it may be a little challenging to find the right fit.

Another tip: make sure you do a google search for promotional codes before buying. They OFTEN have free shipping and 10% off (sometimes even weird numbers like 11% or 12% off!)- so it saves a little. Items can be on the pricey end, but well worth getting something "different."

My favorite fall items from Boden:
I hope that you enjoy this fairly undiscovered brand!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Green Thumb

As a homeowner, I am charged with the important task of developing my little piece of land behind my house, AKA my backyard. It's perfect space for someone who knows how to grow plants or landscape...two skills that were not passed onto me from my mom. She's an exceptional gardener. Tragically, my green thumb is barely a shade of sage.

HOWEVER, I'd like to redeem myself by saying I did successfully plant 7 beautiful hostas (a great low-maintenance perennial) in July, a generous gift from my co-workers. Then I came across this informative tidbit in September's issue of Real Simple magazine: September is the best time to buy plants! Apparently, gardening centers move their inventory to make way for the next season's plants, so there's tremendous sales of 30-50% off!

This was an exciting tip for me as September was welcomed in yesterday (where did August go?)- and we're starting to catch a whiff of cooler air. So, I'll be off to Lowe's or Home Depot as soon as the weekend provides me a break to catch the best deals. And then, my next task: planting them all...Better call mom...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Shiny Happy People!

There are two types of people in the world: Those who wear silver jewelry and those who wear gold. I happened to be one of the few who love the silver/gold combo. One of my prized bracelets is the Eden Cape Cod bracelet, sporting a silver band with one gold ball in the middle (which is screwed on!)- I love it!

Recently, a co-worker requested a blog about keeping silver jewelry shiny. It's no easy task, especially if you leave your silver out in the open air; it will likely tarnish because of oxidation. So, what's my trick?
  1. Keep your silver covered once it's been polished. I have small cotton pouches that I keep silver pieces in, and then store them in my jewelry box. It really does preserve the silver for a longer period of time.
  2. Invest in good silver polish. I happen to like Restoration Hardware's- but it's hard to find online. I had to go to the store and search around their furniture section to find it.
  3. Remember to rinse your silver in warm water before cleaning; It helps remove some of the tarnish!
  4. Once you rub the silver polish on your piece (using either a soft cotton cloth or sometimes silver polish comes with a mini sponge- Wright's silver polish does!), remember to rinse the piece in warm water again. I even use a little ivory soap to clean if off really well.
  5. Pat dry with paper towels, and make sure to let it dry completely before wearing again. You don't want any residue to rub off on clothes or skin.
Result: Shiny Happy People!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Right on Target

Those who know me well, know that Target must receive at least 10% of my gross pay each year. I can't even remember a time before Target was my "go to" for all things I used to buy at CVS or the grocery store. And then, (for my loyal Target shoppers) designer Isaac Mizrahi started a women's clothing line that transformed my thoughts about buying cute clothes at Target!

Sadly, Isaac no longer has his line, but an old favorite, Merona, has really stepped it up. They started a line this last year called "Merona Collection" which is mostly comprised of great business casual wear. PERFECT for the office or running around town looking put together. I particularly favor the dresses- varied in color, style, shape, length...each time I peruse their inventory, I find some great new little treasure of a dress with fantastic details, rich colors, and superb pricing! In fact, just this weekend, I picked up a great red wrap dress with mini ruffles along the hem for $24.99 and absolutely love it!

Merona Collection makes a wide variety of clothes: dresses, skirts, suiting separates, quality t-shirts with special detailing, and even shoes. I haven't purchased any shoes yet, but I will say the options look appealing. And if you're still shopping for that pewter shoe, this one looks particularly cute! I also like the idea of this red flat, which would be great with tights and a black dress.

So, next time you're walking around Target picking up shampoo and paper towels, walk through the Merona section, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Free Fallin'

Fall is around the corner (perhaps not for my southern readers), but nonetheless, that clear, crisp air is just begging for a few updates to our wardrobes. I'm ready because redheads just look better in fall colors :)

Lucky for you, I have a few thoughts about what to wear/purchase/hold onto/pull out from the depths of your closet for my favorite season. A friend suggested this blog entry last night, so while the juices are flowing, here's some ideas (ladies only for this post; gents, I'll get to you later):

  1. The color PURPLE: preferably in a deep eggplant or jewel toned magenta. Wear it in dresses, tops, accessories...even a great pair of purple ballet flats will be perfect with jeans and a great crisp white button down.
  2. Ruffles on shirts and jackets: it will add femininity and detail to the most ordinary of tops, but keeps you looking fashion forward. I've noticed great cardigans sporting elegant ruffles, which can easily be worn for evening events. I have my eye on this cardigan from Ann Taylor LOFT.
  3. Cinched waist emphasizing belts: wear them over button-down blouses, sweaters, cardigans or dresses...even the classic trench coat looks classier with a great patent-leather belt over it!
  4. Pins/Brooches: go dig in your mom or grandma's closet, and those brooches are hot! Again, it's about the details on your clothing. So, go find a great flowered or gem stone brooch, pin it to a blazer or sweater, and your need for jewelry is done. Watch how many people comment on them!
  5. Metallic flats: Think of this as a neutral shoe. You can wear it with any color; it adds a little flare to your feet, and if you're smart, they'll be incredibly comfortable. I am a huge fan of FSNY's pewter metallic flat- they are like a dream to wear!
Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Great White T-Shirt Dilemma

I have a favorite white t-shirt. In fact, when I find one that fits particularly well and is the right combination of "bright white" and thickness (nothing worse than a thin shirt), I tend to buy multiples. After all, the white t-shirt is a basic staple for any great wardrobe.

My guess is you know the dilemma I allude to: the underarm stain situation. It's devastating. The perfect shirt, over time, discolors under the arm- perhaps for reasons I shouldn't share, but the fact is...we now are faced with the questions: Throw away? Salvage? Or wear with those embarrassing stains?

The solution has been found (again, I'll give my mom her proper credit here): There is a GREAT product called "Stain Solution" made by The Laundress ( that works like a charm. I was so skeptical about using it on my shirts after they had been laundered many times, setting those stains firmly. But, to my delight, with this product and a little patience to work it into the stain well, my white shirts restored their whiteness! No more underarm ick! So, if you want to hold onto that great white can, too- hooray!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Never underestimate the power of eBay

This year I decided that I wanted to own china, and specifically fell in love with several of Kate Spade's patterns. I spent hours looking through, trying to decide which one suited me best. I realized if you mix and match several of her platinum patterns, they're almost better than deciding on just one! (How smart are those designers?!) My mom (again, the good little shopper that she is) discovered that the Dillard's in our hometown turned into a mark down/close-out department store. On one of her visits, she found 4 or 5 Kate Spade platinum patterns, and I became the proud owner of my first pieces of china. Success!

So my mission: Add to the collection! Enter the world of eBay. I learned that if you misspell an item that you are looking for, you come up with a whole list for your search item that most people never see! And let me tell you because of this, my Kate Spade collection has grown significantly! Try it- you'll be surprised the quality stuff you find!

And for those who are interested or care, Cypress Point is my favorite pattern in case you want to supplement the collection :) (but Bonnabel Place is a close second!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

How it all started

I grew up in a middle class family just outside of Dallas. My parents made a comfortable life for us, but by no means did we have the typical regional standard of wealth. So even though I may not have always owned the brand name clothing item, Mom believed there was nothing wrong with just looking. And hence, her favorite term, "wandering," came to be our special time together. We would go to different shops and boutiques with the intention of just wandering around, looking at the window displays, checking out fabrics and current trends, all to acquire what my mom would say, "a great idea!" She rarely would take me out with the intention to buy; it was more about the exploring.

And there it all began. The genesis of my addiction to shopping.
(And don't worry, my older sister got the gene, too. She's has a special affection for finding shoes and handbags!)

And come on folks, no trip to Dallas is worth much without mentioning the words SHOPPING. Those of you who are familiar with Northpark Mall know that this is practically the epicenter of the city. Not to mention the Galleria, Vista Ridge, Prestonwood...I could go on and on. Shopping has become the only way I can survive a summer trip back home. That heat makes me crazy.

So fast forward about 25 years, and I'm now a resident of Boston (although I never deny my true Texas roots). I have made a good professional life for myself in education, but my true love, shopping, is how I maintain hope and joy in a world of chaos and upheaval. It sounds crazy to say that shopping is what makes me happy, but honestly, when I wake up early on weekend mornings with few plans for the day, I exhale knowing that I can find some time to head out to the Atrium, Chestnut Hill or Natick Mall (which has, by the way, dramatically improved since its transformation into "The Collection.") I get a chance to "wander" on my own, often wishing my mom could join me, and peruse the latest trends, colors, and ideas for consumers.

I never claimed to be good at shopping, but it's been evident to me over the years that I am in fact, pretty good at it. It's not even the fact that I can spend money well (and believe me, friends will attest that they DO spend more when I'm around!); it's more that I have a knack for seeing the potential in an item, or coordinating clothing, or finding the best layout for the bedroom furniture. I feel silly even admitting it, but friends and family tell me regularly enough that I have a special gift- so hence, the idea for the blog.

A friend gave me the idea to write about this little talent of mine. We had just been out at the Wrentham outlets shopping for a few key items for her wardrobe, and after successfully finding the PERFECT black dress (and I mean literally perfect...She put it on, and I screamed), she reminded me that I am good at this shopping gig. She often repeats my little tips about fit, styles, colors, or designs to look for- and I feel especially proud when she calls me from Philadelphia to share the story of a recent purchase, all with the appropriate rationale for why it's truly a perfect addition to her wardrobe. I have taught her so well. (sniff, sniff)

So, friends, here's my stab at sharing a few of these tips, ideas, thoughts, or special finds that I discover about shopping. I don't claim them all to be my own, in fact, most are little tidbits I pick up from reading magazines, flipping through catalogs, or watching great shows like What Not to Wear on TLC. But I do think there could be a few people in the world who may like what I say. Or they are at least kind enough to entertain my passions :)

Texas Transplant Tip of the Day:
I find that Lands' End has the BEST cashmere sweaters. My friend Betsy introduced them to me a couple years ago, and I was sold. Great colors, superb quality, reasonably priced (they are on SUPER sale now in their "overstock" category online), and BEST yet: hand washable. I've tried many a brand, and rest assured, you won't regret this. I also find their fit to be slightly larger than standard. So, while I normally would buy a small top, their x-small is better. I recently ordered a lovely clear blue crew one for $39.99!