Monday, January 30, 2012

Snaps from a Saturday in Sperryville

Inspired by a tip from Refinery 29, BF and I trekked to Sperryville, VA this weekend for what was billed as a "wine and oyster festival."  Sperryville is a rural town nestled under the Shenendoah mountains.  While it was an hour and a half away from D.C., the promise of two of my favorite consumables was more than sufficient to get my butt in gear.

We had a fabulous time, no thanks at all to the oysters and wine portion of the day.

When one hears the word "festival," doesn't one typically visualize variety?  Unfortunately, the Sperryville meaning is different, and the oyster selection consisted of two types of raw Virginia oysters, and one offering of steamed oysters.  No salt!  No cocktail sauce!  I prefer vinegar on my oysters anyway (which they had), but it would have been nice to have options.

Also, the wine portion of the festival consisted of four different types of wine from two different vineyards.

Yeah...a bit of a let-down.

Fortunately, the other offerings at the Sperryville River Arts center delivered!  We enjoyed some local barbeque, checked out a large antique mall...

Amazing bright blue sectional sofa at the antique mall.  (words cannot explain how bright blue this was IRL.)

I got a funky 1950's soup tureen with matching ladle for $13.

...and we toured an operating whisky distillery!

Our tour guide---a brother in law of the family.

Barley, after it is "malted" (i.e., soaked in water for three days so that it just begins to germinate, generating alcohol.  As one of the distillery operators said, it's soaked just long enough for the barley to "think it's going to have a nice happy little life.")

Next, the barley goes into a kiln where it is smoked.  The floor of this room is perforated, and underneath is a wood furnace that heats the barley over three days.

This cat, along with several others, was introduced to us as a "mouser cat," i.e., the distillery's all-organic pest extermination system.

Sniffing the fermenting barley.  It gives off a mostly sweet smell, until you stick your nose past some invisible line, past which the sweet fermenting smell turns into a sour, bubbly, sinus-clearing sensation that goes from your nose all the way up into your brain.  It was funny to see people's initial reactions once they felt that sensation---mainly iterations of "Oh HELL no."

Aging whisky.

The distillery invented something they call the "Waxamatic 2011," which turns the whisky bottles once they are labeled and dipped in hot wax.  It's a bit of a makeshift invention; you can see that parts of it are held together by rubber bands. 

The turning is required, partially because otherwise they will infringe on Maker's Mark's trademark dripping wax --- they were actually issued a cease and desist letter for a few bottles that accidentally dried in a drip pattern --- and partially because the turning wax creates a "C" on the cap, which represents their name, "Copper Fox Distillery":

All in all, a fun and educational afternoon in Virginia!

How was your weekend?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's Sunday Runday! Let's Talk Scheduling.

Welcome to Sunday Runday! This is a weekly series of posts relating to running and race training, all leading up to our group race day (see here).

This week's post:  Finding the Time for Training

There's no grand design or insight for today's Sunday Runday; I'd like to hear more about how you're finding the time to fit running into your daily life.

If you're following Hal Higdon's 8k plan or something similar, then you're probably working out nearly every day.  So tell me:
  • Do you work out at the same time every day, or do you mix up your workout time depending on your schedule?
  • How do you plan your day around your workout, if you do at all?
  • Are you a morning person or an evening person?
I've been a bit all over the place in my training times---some days, I run in the mornings before work, sometimes I find time to take a short break after lunch, and other times I find myself running before dinner or even well afterwards.  I love getting my workout out of the way in the morning, but it's just SO HARD to wake up sometimes!  Given the choice between working out and sleeping in for another twenty minutes....well, it's not hard.

One thing that's been working pretty well for me is to integrate my longer cross-training sessions into an errand.  On cross-training days I have been riding my bike to work, which is about a 30 minute ride.  There are showers at the office, so I just need to bring in my clothes and makeup.  I have a feeling my outfits on these days will be all over the place, depending on whether I had time to properly try things on!  Still, I like the idea of killing two birds with one stone; it makes me feel like I'm being healthy AND EXTRA-productive.

I've gotta say, I am really enjoying the 8k distance.  An 8k is long enough for me at my current level of fitness that I can't just "wing it," but it's also short enough that my training runs aren't too intimidating.  Last week, it got to be 11:30pm one day and I still hadn't done my two miler...but knowing that it would only take me about twenty minutes encouraged me to just go and knock the darn thing out.

I suspect my laissez faire attitude towards scheduling will have to change soon, as my schedule is about to change dramatically.  More on that in a few weeks.

In the meantime---dish!  Tell us how you're making it work.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Anthro Forecast: Hoo Boy

Uh oh.

If these pieces are any indication, my budgetary goals may be in trouble in the months to come.

Is anything in Anthropologie's current line-up jumping out at you? The dress offerings are calling my name!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday (quasi) Funday: The Things I Can Control...But Don't

This week, I got an unexpected email from man-friend with whom I'd mostly lost touch.  He asked me what was new in my life, and I gave him a quick update (law firm, same BF as the last time he and I spoke).  I expected him to return with a similarly brief run-down of his own life, but instead he surprised me with this humdinger:

I wrote because there is someone using your picture on a fake Jdate profile. Yes I'm on Jdate. No comments. Ha

I wanted to forward you the link because that's not right, yo.


He sent me a link, and yep, this is definitively NOT my old Jdate profile from 2006 that I probably never deleted (no comments.  ha):

The picture was probably pulled from this post.  I mean, I'm at least flattered that this fraudster used a relatively decent picture of me and described me as "intelligent" in the "About Me" section.  (Thanks!)  Also, I appreciate this person shaving almost 5 years off my age.  (Much obliged!)

Edit: As soon as I found out about the profile, I called JDate and they immediately removed it.

I suppose it's good to have reminders periodically that the stuff I put on my blog stays out in the internet ether, and I can't control what people do with it once they find it.  Certainly, one can never be too safe.  (See, e.g., here.)  Of course, there may come a point when I'm no longer willing to take those risks, or when my job precludes me from continuing with this fun hobby.  For now, though, I'd like to keep on chugging.

So, while I'd like to curse the fact that I can't control the behavior of others, it's not like I've done a bang-up job of controlling my own behavior, either.

A Non-Exhaustive List of the Things I Could Control, But Do Not:

  • My excited facial expression every time someone with a mail cart walks by my office ("ONLINE PURCHASE DELIVERY???")
  • The fact that my alarm clock is consistently set for an hour later than it should be (or, alternatively, the number of times I hit the snooze alarm).
  • My coworkers' visibility access to my Facebook page.
  • The number of times per day I check:  google reader; email; online storefronts.
  • My open animosity towards a few people in our weekly poker game.
  • The fact that I do not own: solid navy pumps; a sturdy black raincoat; a navy blue blazer, et al.
  • My love of Asian Pear crisps (actually, this may not be within my control).
  • The obscene number of blogs in my google reader (and still growing).
  • The pile of clothes on my "list on eBay" shelf.  (See also, the pile of returns still to be made in my office).


Actually, I'm not sure if I feel better or worse!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Two Ways (Squared): Wily Sweater and Bovary Dress

Okay, you guys are completely hilarious.  Your responses to yesterday's poll (also here) had me laughing all day.  Unfortunately, it was the kind of laughter I couldn't really share with anybody else, because it's hard to start conversations with, "This funny thing happened on my blog today."  Believe me, I've tried.  Those conversations fail with a special type of awkwardness.

I do love that ridiculous bunny hat, but I'm willing to admit that I may be wearing my craycray glasses given the overwhelming crush of popular opinion:

I'll put the $45 towards something a bit more---let's just say---wearable on an every day basis.  If you were one of the 16 people who liked it, though, keep checking back at ASOS for my hat to pop back into stock!  ::evil grin::

Speaking of wearable on a daily basis, allow me to continue clearing out some of my backlog of outfit photos (pre-New Year's resolution) with somewhat of a "Two Ways" squared:  a crossover between the Wily Sweater and the Bovary Dress.

Let's meet the characters, shall we?

First, the Wily Sweater.  I included this piece in my last round of "Use it or Lose it" items.  As I'm sure you can imagine from the fact that there are two very different and relatively strong patterns on this sweater, it's a bit hard to work into an outfit.  Cute with self-contained layers, but not a magical goes-with-anything piece by any means.  I didn't use the sweater within the time frame, but I did wear it shortly afterwards on a weekend:

(Anthro Wily Sweater (M); Pure + Good Tee (S); AG Stevie Cords (28); J.Crew Factory Tortoise Pumps (9.5 -- up .5 size; flea market necklace)

Next, allow me to re-introduce the Bovary Dress.  You two have already met.

(An Anthro explosion: Anthropologie Bovary Dress (4 -- sized down one size); Anthropologie Wreathen Blouse (S); Anthropologie Shadowsleeve Cardigan (M); Anthropologie Gift Bow Belt (L); Anthropologie Bowtied Lacerta Mary Janes (8.5 -- down .5 size); Kate Spade "It Takes All Sorts" Necklace; J.Crew bracelet, Amazon Crawford Boyfriend Watch in Rose Gold (here))

I love the length and feel of the Bovary dress.  The delicate pattern is so pretty, and the elastic all over the place makes it supremely comfortable for a day of sitting at my desk.  (The straps are a little pull-y, but it's not terribly distracting.)  The draping of the bodice is flattering over the torso and stomach, even for those of us unfortunate enough to sport baby bumps when definitively not with child.

However, with the low-cut sweetheart neckline, the only way it's work-appropriate is with some significant layering.  So what better match-up, I ask you, than a dress in need of layers and a cardigan bringing two of its own to the table?

(Wily Sweater, Bovary Dress, Anthropologie Airy Weave Pullover (S); Seychelles Hamburg Pumps (9, TTS) (here, or here in pewter for only $20!!); Lela Rowe Necklace ($5 in NYC sample sale); earrings via Filene's Basement circa 2007)

To make the transition from work (boobs = detrimental distraction) to poker (boobs = helpful distraction), I took off the pullover.


See?  Backlogs can be fun!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Poll: Yay or Nay

Let's all just live in an alternate universe for a minute. 

It's a universe in which I did not just mention my desire to shop less and save more money,* because obviously that universe is one that we begin inhabiting in February and not today.  And the rules of this universe certainly do not apply to purchases made in our prior universe (i.e., two weeks ago).

In that universe, do I keep this hat?

To buy or not to buy?
 Not to buy
 You are a f-cking lunatic free polls 

* LOVE your advice so far, by the way!  Thank you!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

It's funny to think that a few days ago, we were chatting about the quality difference between fast fashion (e.g., Forever 21) and the relatively higher quality of box stores the next step up (J.Crew, Anthropologie).  It seems as though most of us gravitate towards higher quality merchandise, even though it may be a bit more expensive.  It's hard to justify the cost of even a <$30 piece if it's just going to fall apart in the wash or rip on its first wear.

With that said:  Blast you, Kate Spade!

These ooh-la-la tights from Kate Spade (called the Scalloped Tights) were high on my wishlist since November, and I was thrilled when they went on sale in time for my office holiday party in December (I ended up not wearing them due to a slippery shoe issue).  I finally busted them out last week, and what else would happen on their first wear except that a huge hole developed at the toe and caused a run all the way up to my ankle?

But of course.  So, say hello and goodbye to these lovely but too-delicate tights.  I barely knew ye.

All of this sort of ties into one of my New Year's resolutions for this year, which included sticking to a fixed shopping budget, among other financial resolutions.  After paying my student loans this morning and seeing the sad amount that will be left in my bank account after paying the remainder of my bills, I'm going to have to be more resolute with that resolution in the future.  There are a few big purchases I'd like to make in the next few months (iPod nano, large food processor, iPad 3), so I will need to start putting money away for those things now.

Anybody have good strategies for sticking to a shopping budget?  Right now, I'm thinking of developing a short list of items that would actually fill a hole in my wardrobe, and using that list as a guide to filter out opportunistic buying (e.g., "Oh, $20 for a crisp pair of wool pants!  These will go great with my five other pairs of wool pants!")
In this Outfit:
Blouse via T.J. Maxx
Anthropologie Scalloped Pencil Skirt (8, but one size too big.  Stick with your normal size) (similarless similar but $23?)
Kate Spade Scalloped Tights
Payless Travis Colorblock Pumps (9, TTS) (here)
Anthropologie Pacific Shimmer Earrings
Anthropologie Beaded Wink Belt (L)
Anthropologie Zodiac Necklace (Pisces) (different but reasonably-priced)
Kate Spade Enamel Bow Bracelet (gifted) (similar by Kate Spade) (same size, no bow by Kate Spade) (similar, but bamboo-looking for $7.50 for 3) (similar with bow for $17) (similar without bow for $20)
Ann Taylor Loft Bracelet by Jessica Quirk
Madewell Foxtrot Ring ($15 here)
Geneva Crawford Boyfriend Watch in Rose Gold ($21 here) (This is still holding up well since its purchase in November.  There is some discoloration of the metal on the inside of the clasp when you open the buckle, but it's not visible in daily use.)
Zoya Megan Nailpolish (via Birchbox!)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Runday: The Essential Running Playlist

Welcome to Sunday Runday!  This is a weekly series of posts relating to running and race training, all leading up to our group race day (see here).

This week's post:  The Essential Running Playlist

In last week's Sunday Runday post about my essential running gear, several folks mentioned in the comments that the most essential element of their running gear was a solid playlist.  I agree---with great music playing in the background, I find that not only do my workouts seem to go by faster, but I also seem to actually run faster in keeping with the songs.

So, let's hear it!

  1. Do you prefer relaxing songs or energy-pumping songs?
  2. If you are a podcast person, which podcasts are your favorites?
  3. What's your strategy for ordering your playlist?

I personally enjoy songs with a good strong beat, and preferably with lyrics I can sing along to while running at a comfortable pace.  Songs with a message of toughness are especially motivating.  It also helps me to vary the tempo of my songs, so I can work in some natural speed + recovery sessions (see here for more on speed play).  I don't regularly listen to podcasts, but I used to subscribe to Dan Savage's "Savage Love" podcast, which was always good for an entertaining (and sometimes educational) half hour or so.

And although I'd love to be the person who has everything ordered perfectly to match the intensity of my run, I tend to just put everything on shuffle!

Here are my current running favorites:

Current Running Playlist by Jewish Girl on Grooveshark

Now, some of these songs I definitely would not cop to listening to in my real life, but while running---what can I say?---Justin Bieber's 13-year old angst just does it for me.

Let's get a communal running playlist going!  Share your favorites in the comments (or, better yet, create a free playlist on Grooveshark and share the link/embed the code!  (See also, NPR's compilation of the Ultimate Running Songs.)

Also, how did your training go this week?  I stuck to my schedule (about to go out for today's 2 miler), although I varied the times of my workouts quite a bit.  For Wednesday cross-training, I combined my half hour of xtraining with my commute to work by biking into the office.  Two birds, meet one stone!  I've been using the gym at the office for my weekday workouts, and found myself heading down in the mid-afternoon or right before dinner (at my desk...sigh).

I've gotta say, I was reluctant to start back up running again, but it feels really good to be getting back on the physical fitness wagon!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

OOTD: Blurry Lines

I had lunch with one of my work mentors this week (hi, W!), and she said something insightful about the work-life balance.  She pointed out that there's always more work that can be done---more depositions to read, more slides to create---so you have to decide how much of your life you're willing to give to the job.  If you want to give every spare moment, you could find the work.  So if you don't, you need to figure out how to draw those lines while still being the best you can be at your job.

I'm still figuring out where those lines lie.  There's less than a month left until our trial begins, and work has been RIDICULOUS.  We had Monday off for Martin Luther King day, but it was somewhat of a meaningless holiday since I still had to work at 12-hour day to get my work done.  Of course, I took full days off on Saturday and Sunday, so it felt like a fair trade.

In some ways, this struggle is also depicted in my clothes.  It's becoming a lot harder for me to wear "casual" clothes on the weekend.  I'm starting to feel strange in jeans and a T-shirt.  Where's the blazer?  Where's the pencil skirt?

I suppose I don't need to answer these questions with definites.  Perhaps I can use certain aspects of my life as a barometer.  Do my friends stop calling because they assume I'm at work?  Has it been more than three weeks since I've put on a pair of jeans?

That could work for now.

And there's always this everlasting "Teen Mom 2" marathon on MTV to help me feel like I'm making good life choices.

In this Outfit:
J.Crew Factory Perfect Shirt in Flannel (here)
ASOS Vero Modo Super Stretch Skinny Jeans in Tomato Red (29, TTS) (here)
Payless Women's Chelsea Glitter Flat (here)
Kate Spade "It Takes All Sorts" necklace
J.Crew Factory Cluster earrings ($10 here)
Chunky bracelet from H&M via 2007
Fossil Watch (similar)
Anthro Spotted Satchel

Thursday, January 19, 2012

OOTD: Popping a Cherry

Well, it's gone.  It sure took me long enough, too---I'm nearly 28 and you'd think I'd have had this kind of experience before.

But nope, last week was my first time.

...My first time ordering from ASOS, that is.

I've been eying their wares for a while.  I was impressed with the variety of merchandise and price points and ease of product searchability.  The "view runway" feature was especially intriguing; this option allows you to watch a model walk down a runway in a particular garment.  Oftentimes while shopping, I would like the product images but be turned off by the way the fabric moved.  Despite the fact that I held off on buying these items, I very much appreciated the fact that ASOS let me make the choice.

Of course, free shipping and free returns don't hurt, either.

So, I took the plunge and purchased a few test items.  In the batch?  This shirt.

One of my colleagues is a pro at wearing navy and white in various iterations, and by her example she has shown me the virtue of having a basic, long sleeve navy blouse.  The ASOS option seemed like a nice way fill this void while trying out the website.

On the one hand, I love the blouse.  It seemed to drape nicely throughout the day, although I'm not 100% pleased with the way it photographed.

On the other hand---confirming my fear about some of the cheaper ASOS merchandise---my shirt ripped in BOTH elbows by the end of its first day of wear!


To ASOS's credit, I emailed them about the issue on Tuesday, and within 1 hour I'd received an apology from customer service and a shipping notification for a replacement.  Excellent resolution!  Of course, if the blouse rips again I'll be requesting a refund, so I'll keep you posted.

Fingers crossed that I just got a defective item, but I fear perhaps the quality of this particular piece is lacking.  You'll see another one of my ASOS purchases within the next week or so, and that one has at least remained in one piece through repeated wearings.

I guess that's part of the reason I love shopping at "overpriced" stores like Anthropologie and J.Crew.  The prices are very reasonable if you wait until sale, and these stores seem to churn out more high-quality clothes than the average chain store.  The pieces I buy from Anthro, on average, hold up better over time than cheaper clothes from the likes of ASOS, Forever 21, H&M, etc.  Durability is less of an issue for quickly-passing trends, but when I buy something classic, I want it to last.

The higher-priced stores are often shorthand for quality in my mind.  Perhaps this isn't always accurate, but it's worked out this way more often than not.

How do you feel about "fast fashion" stores like H&M, Forever 21, and (some parts of) ASOS?  I often feel so overwhelmed by crapola when I walk into the physical stores, but their websites are much more appealing.  I can't tell if it's because of the easy search features or because everything looks a little more glamorous online.

These shoes cost $11!  Except for the fact that I also bought two other pairs of $11 shoes along with these that were non-refundable and totally didn't work out.  But whatever!

In this outfit:
ASOS Angel Eye Blouse with Contrast Collar ($36 here) (not sure I can recommend this, as it ripped after a day of wear.  ASOS customer service was excellent about replacing it, though)
Victoria's Secret under tank (similar)
Anthropologie Cuffed Tweed Crops (6) (similar here)
Kate Spade "It Takes All Sorts" Necklace
J.Crew Factory Cluster Earrings (here)
Bracelet from H&M, circa 2008
ASOS hand holding pearl ring ($3.50 here) (and looks exactly that cheap in person)
Watch by Appetime (gifted)
Sam & Libby Elliance Pumps via ($11 on 11/11!  Now $25 in black, $55 in brown, or $40 in pewter)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

OOTD: Chance Inspiration

Do you ever find yourself neglecting an item of clothing for no good reason?

Such was the case with this dress.  I like it---it's comfortable, it's flattering.  I can't give you one good reason why this dress has gone mostly unworn since last year.

Last week, I was taking a short morning walk before heading to work when I passed a girl wearing rainboots with a black, red, and white plaid pattern.  Immediately I thought of this dress and decided it was time to end its long haitus at the back of my closet with the other black dresses.  (The evils of color-coding!)

Oh, dear Perthshire, I promise not to let another year pass before you caress my body yet again.  Sure, you bear a slight resemblance to a schoolgirl outfit, but just because I'm insecure about capitalizing on a disturbing sexual fetish is no reason to let you wither in my closet unworn.

Maybe it was my effort to avoid looking like a child that caused me to reach for my new red lipstick.  This prompted a few, "Is that a new color for you?"s from colleagues and boyfriends, but I still liked the effect.  As Victoria noticed yesterday, I've been making a bit more of an effort with the appearance of my head as a whole, inspired largely by the amazing Naked Palette, several blogs in my google reader in which the ladies regularly rock incredible lipstick (see here for just one example), and a random, general comment from someone on the internet about the unprofessionalism of unstyled hair.  (Not at all directed at me in any way, but it was one of those things that made me reflect on my own professional appearance.)  Also, I maybe have the best blowdryer ever for a lazy person.  (This one.  The brush attachment is a small miracle.)

I needed LOTS of help from the makeup experts at Sephora re: picking out and applying red lipstick, but I like the shade they chose!  (Make Up Forever's Rouge Artist Intense #41, here.)

Things are changing around here, I tell ya.
In this Outfit:
Anthropologie Perthshire Dress (4) (similar-ish for $35)
Anthropologie Drawing Parallels Top (XS) (similar in gray for $40, for less than $20, here too, less budget-friendly by CLC here)
Ann Taylor Blazer (6) (similar)
J.Crew Ribbed Tights (here)
Dexter Pumps via Payless ($17 here)
J.Crew Factory Cluster Earrings (here for $14.50, plus an extra 30% off!)
Sterling Filigree ring won in giveaway from Closet At Capacity
Zodiac atmosphere watch via eBay (gifted) (quasi-similar)
Anthropologie Banded Together Belt (similar here and here for $40, or here for $5)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

OOTD: Nothing Comes Easily

Meehhhhh, I dunno about this one.

It feels like I have wanted this skirt for ages.  I was intrigued when I first saw it appear in stores, and even more sold when I spotted this fabulous outfit on display at the West Palm Beach Anthropologie on Black Friday:

Turns out, it's pretty tough to style.  Witness my first attempt:

Not terrible, sure, but something is off, no?  I mean, I know I've collected a nice little gut over the holidays, but is it really necessary to rub it in my face like this?  Really, skirt?  REALLY?

Perhaps I should have been tipped off by the mediocre reviews about clingy fit.  Or perhaps I should have been tipped off when an Anthro sales associate who was wearing this skirt said, in response to my gushing about it, "Oh, thanks.  It's, uh, really hard to style."

I tried to counteract the smushiness of the skirt with a structured blazer, and I untucked my undershirt a bit more to draw attention from the pooch.

I dunno, man.  Kendi wore this skirt on the same day as I made my second attempt, and she made it look so easy.  WHY NOT ME?!
In this outfit:
Anthro Tile-Quilted Mini by Charlie and Robin (4) (here in Kendi's orange)
Eze Sur Mer Top by Deletta (L) (similar at J.Crew, similar in teal)
Payless Travis Colorblock Pump by Lela Rose (on sale here for $33! (originally $55) (seriously, these shoes go with EVERYTHING))
Anthropologie Cockle Shells Tights (M/L) (circa 2010 -- don't recommend; they tear easily) (kinda similar color for $14 here)
Anthropologie Triphasic Earrings
Kate Spade Hang in There Glasses Pendant (potential dupe on Etsy here, but hard to tell the size) (see also here for other suggestions)
YSL Arty Oval Ring Dupe (here for $23) (real thing here and here)
Geneva Chronograph Tortoise Watch (similar for $23 shipped)

PS:  I know I'm being a bit slow in responding to comments, so thank you for your patience.  Work will be extremely hectic for the next two months, but I'm doing my best!
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