30for30 Day 17

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In the mirror, I liked this outfit a lot. In the photos, it doesn't work for me at all. I can't quite tell you why, except to say that I feel blocky in it. I also don't think the belt works, but the skirt doesn't have belt loops and definitely requires a belt, so I'm not sure how I could have done it better.

Oh well. It feels like spring here today,and that has me daydreaming about wearing clothes that are as far away from my 30for30 selections as possible!

30for30 Day 17

30for30 Day 17

30for30 Day 17

30for30 Day 17

I'm wearing:
#29 Banana Republic navy blue boatneck long-sleeved tee (thrifted, also worn on Day #2)
#6 Anne Klein taupe fluted stirt (thrifted, also worn on Day #6)
#28 Softspots purple suede wedges (also worn on Day #3, Day #7, and Day #12)

Accessories:
-cocoa brown tights (Hue, TJ Maxx)
-tan wide elastic belt (thrifted)
-recycled sari scarf (gift)
-silver charm bracelet (Ebay)
-silver and turquoise bead earrings (LBB)

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Thrift Share Monday: solve my mysteries?

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I thrifted like a mad woman last Monday--President's Day meant 50% off at Unique and Value Village. And I got a ton of great stuff, some of which I'm going to have to show you later. Why? Because this post is dedicated to my current crop of mystery items--things I think are really cool, but can't exactly figure out. If you have ANY idea what/where/when any of these things are, please comment!

Mystery tin trays
I am honestly not sure why I picked up this set of six tin trays--I think I mostly liked their shape and saw craft potential. The design on them is odd, too, though, and they look old. They are unmarked on the back.

Mysterious frog pot
I bought this little froggie pot because it's adorable, but I am hard pressed to figure out from when or where it came. It looks handpainted, but I don't think it is, because there is a stamp on the bottom:

Frog pot bottom

Anybody know?

Orange mystery pitcher--made in Czechoslovakia
This orange ceramic pitcher or carafe is my new favorite find, but I have no idea what era it's from. The bottom says "Made in Czechoslovakia," but that's the only clue I have.

Arabia Finnish jam pot
I know this little jam pot is from Finnish company Arabia, and I've found tons of other pots from the company online, but none with this single orange design. My guess is that this one is more recent than the multi-fruit ones I'm finding elsewhere, but I'm not sure. Anybody a collector?

American Tempo Flatware cocktail forks--16
Because they are marked, I know these are cocktail forks from American Tempo flatware. What I can't figure out is when they were made, or why in the world I'd see a bag of 16 of them, in individual plastic bags. They're adorable, if completely impractical, and I just couldn't help but pick them up for $1.

Vintage travel clothesline

Travel clothesline underside
I absolutely adore this little clothesline kit, which I actually thrifted months ago but just re-found in my house. The looks of it have me guessing it's mid-century, but I have no idea if that's actually the case and haven't be able to find anything similar online.

Finally, a repeat of last week's mystery, just in case. Anybody see a casserole dish like this one?

Unmarked covered casserole dish

Happy Thrift Share Monday! Don't forget to head over to Apron Thrift Girland check out all the other great things people are sharing today!

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And money chases its tail

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Over the years, I've written about a number of ostensibly private, embarrassing things here on ye olde blog. My depression. My weight. My inability to stick with...most anything. It's always been my goal to be a pretty open book here on the WINOW, and to present myself as the flawed person I really am. More than any other sensitive topic I've covered, though, people have reacted strongly to the way that I talk about money.

As I've mentioned before, I think our reticence, as a culture, to openly discuss money is to our detriment. The rules about not discussing money for the sake of being polite were made intentionally, by a wealthy upper crust trying to keep everybody else poor and quiet. I absolutely believe that. The more finance/debt-riddance/frugality/whatever blogs I read, and the more often those blogs use real numbers from people's real lives to illustrate their points, the better I feel. I think we're all better served by this level of financial transparency, even if it makes most of us really uncomfortable.

Why, then, haven't I been disclosing any details about my own finances lately?

The truth is that I am embarrassed. My new job has me making more money than I ever have before, by quite a lot, and I still have some unpaid credit card debt. Money seems to just be slipping through my fingers. It feels out of control. And having gone through everything I have with debt, and gone through it publicly on the blog, I have been really embarrassed to admit things are not currently as peachy keen as I'd like.

But I know that this shame is all part of the problem, so no more. Today, I'm going to tell you where I'm at, and tell you my plan to get out of it.

Right now, I am making approximately $2,600, post-tax, every two weeks. When I factor in my limited paid vacation, that's equal to a take-home salary of approximately $65,000 annually. I also have multiple side income streams, all of which are extremely variable and almost impossible to plan for, but which I expect to add up to between $10,000 and $15,000 post-tax in 2011. So I estimate my 2011 post-tax income total to be about $80,000.

It depends greatly on your current place in life and your own finances whether or not that sounds like a lot of money. To me, it sounds like a fortune. In comparison, my pre-tax income last year was about $65,000. And that was the highest it had ever been. Only a few years ago, my pre-tax income was under $30,000. My earning capacity has increased by a very large margin in recent years.

Income, of course, is not the only relevant number. Expenses are just as important. My current fixed expenses are:

$3,100/month to our joint account: This pays for all living expenses. Mark and I contribute to this account as a percentage of our incomes (i.e. if you make more, you pay more). This is a system we have used for years and it works very well for us.
$209/month student loan payment
$90/month gym membership (this amount covers my membership and subsidizes a membership for a less fortunate family through a program at my gym)
$15/month prescription medications
Total fixed costs: $3,414/month

If I estimate my monthly take-home at $5,200 (which is not exactly right, since I get paid every two weeks, not twice a month), that leaves $1,736 unaccounted for every month. Where is that money going?

My current non-fixed expenses look a bit like this:
$300/month charitable contributions
$100/month to savings
Total non-fixed costs: $400/month

That leaves $1,336. And that, my friends, is money that is disappearing. I have no excuse for it. I just like to buy things. That's not going to change.

Also? I have credit card debt. Not a lot--the current balance is $2,934--but some. And that needs to disappear.

And savings? I've got about $2,000 socked away personally, and Mark and I collectively have another $8,000 or so. That's it.

So, it's time for a new plan. I've read a lot of advice, and thought a lot about it. I know many people would suggest a spending fast, I don't think that's practical at this point. I don't have the self-discipline to do something like that when I'm not in trouble, and I don't feel like I'm in trouble now. Moderation seems to be a better idea. And simplicity is key. I've tried just about every budgeting plan and software idea known to man--I'm just not that interested in spending that much time thinking about it. To me, the biggest benefit to finally having some money is not having to think about it all the time.

With the help of some wise friends, this is the simple plan I came up with:

I will, starting on Monday, be giving myself an $125/week cash allowance. This allowance needs to cover everything not mentioned in my fixed and non-fixed costs above. All shopping, all eating out, all entertainment, all not-automatically deducted charitable giving. That will leave with me with $836/month to put towards my credit cards, as well as the "extra" paycheck I'll receive on the first of April (from being paid every two weeks rather than monthly). Between those two sources, the credit card debt should be gone by April 1.

After the CC debt is paid off, I will stick with the $125 weekly allowance, and all extra money (that $836, plus anything that comes in from my side gigs) will go directly into savings.

That seems really doable. There is absolutely no reason I ought to need more than $125/week for personal spending money. And I know I need to get serious about saving. Mark and I have set some fairly hefty savings goals for the next few years, with the idea that we'll have a good nest egg ready to buy a house when we move from here. I need to pull my weight with that. I know I am extremely lucky to have found this lucrative job. I've got to start making it work for me and stop being so out of control.

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30for30 Day 16

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This morning was one of those mornings where just getting out of the house with clothes on was an accomplishment, so I'm thinking I get bonus points if I look at all cute.

This outfit, like the majority of those I've worn this week, brings two things to mind:
1. I am getting really sick of these clothes.
2. A scarf makes everything better. Seriously, this is what I am taking away from the 30for30--if anything is wrong, just add a scarf.

30for30 Day 16

30for30 Day 16

30for30 Day 16

30for30 Day 16

I'm wearing:
#18 Ann Taylor Loft burgundy scoop neck sweater (also worn on Day #9)
#5 Josephine Chaus black a-line skirt (also worn on Day #4)
#25 Ros Hommerson Sidney flat black boots (also worn on Day #1, Day #5, Day #6, Day #10, and Day #13)

With:
-purple paisley silk scarf (thrifted)
-wide black elastic belt with leather buckle (Steve Madden via TJ Maxx)
-black tights (Hue)
-green glass bead and silver earrings (LBB)

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When I asked you all what you'd like to see me blog about, I was kinda surprised when so many of you said makeup! I kinda thought I was boring you all when I went on and on about makeup! But I love makeup, and I am all too happy to talk about it!

I've actually found a few drugstore products lately that I'm excited about, and I know someone specifically asked for cost effective alternatives to high end up products, so let's start with those.

maybelline dream matte mousse makeup.jpgI think I've told you about Maybelline Dream Matte Mousse Foundation before, but just in case I haven't--I love this stuff. In fact, it's my favorite foundation ever at this point. I love the smooth matte finish, it doesn't feel heavy, and the colors (my shade is Light 1, Porcelain Ivory) are great. I'm having a problem lately where I get a little bit of shiny face mid-afternoon (new for me!), and using this makes that far less likely to happen. It's got great staying power, and it hasn't bothered my skin in the least. Price? Around $8, when not on sale (and it's pretty easy to catch on sale).

almay liner.jpgI got an Almay intense i-color kohl eyeliner as part of a set with some shadows, and though I found the shadows sub-par (they were creased within hours and didn't last all day), the liner worked quite well. The deep jade (for hazel eyes) is a great blue-green color, it goes on smoothly, and it stayed put nearly as well as my much more expensive MAC liners (though there aren't nearly as many great colors to choose from). The pencil stayed usably sharp for several applications, and it didn't irritate my eyes. I don't tend to strive for a smoky eye or smudge my liner, so I can't speak to how it works for those operations, but for my daily purposes, I found it very satisfactory. The cost? Again, about $8, with frequent sales.

neutrogena eye duo.jpgI found a bunch of Neutrogena Eye Duos in the clearance bins at Target, and I couldn't wait to try them. They come in a ton of great colors--I chose the Sweet Dusk combo. They're super easy to use and coordinate perfectly--which is great, since I have trouble doing multiple shadow shades. Staying power is only so-so--mine lasted most of the day (applied over primer), but not through the gym. Still, if you don't need something with super-strength staying power, I'd recommend these. Regular price is around $7.50 (I think my clearance ones were under $3).

I wouldn't be me if I didn't try to sell you on a few higher end products as well...

fresh sugar plum.jpgI cannot overstate my current love for Fresh Sugar Plum Tinted Lip Treatment. It looks like Clinique Black Honey, but it moisturizes and heals like Burt's Bees or something. It's also SPF 15. I'm in a big lip color phase, and I am having a very hard time with my lips being dried out by things I love color-wise. In the warmer months, I can usually deal with this by just using lip moisturizer at night, but this time of year, with the dry office air I sit in every day, it's not enough. This stuff is the best of both worlds. Unfortunately, it's $22.50.

sephora lip pencil.jpgAt $12, the Sephora Ultra Vinyl Lip Pencil is somewhere between drugstore and department store prices, and it's worth every penny and then some. I love this type of large, soft lip pencil (I've told you before about the Tarte and Nars versions I use). This Sephora house brand one is about half the price of those, and I think I like it even better. It's more moisturizing, and though it doesn't have great staying power (I can't wear it through a morning's worth of coffee drinking, for example), it's dead easy to apply. I have the Gorgeous Peach color, and I plan to go back for the Vinyl Raspberry and Miami Pink next time I buy makeup.

That's about all that's new in my makeup case right now. I'm still searching for perfect mascara, and have crossed several off the list of possibilities recently (I am looking at you, Nars Larger than Life and L'Oreal Telescopic!). I remain dedicated to daily application of Benefit Lemon Aid to keep the shadow and liner on my eyes. I'm trying to streamline things a bit recently, and have stopped using primer or powder on a typical day. I'll be trying Stila's Custom Color blush soon. What's new in your makeup bag?

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30for30 Day 15

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Over the course of the first half of the 30for30, I've identified three items in my 30 that I just don't like. This cardigan is one of them. It's just...not quite right. It should be longer, the neckline shouldn't be so wide, it should have different buttons, and so on. I'm attempting to wear it anyway, and I'm not particularly happy with the results.

30for30 Day 15

30for30 Day 15

30for30 Day 15

30for30 Day 15

Rest assured that I did re-tie my scarf after I took these pictures. Sorry about that.

I'm wearing:
#22 Purple v-neck cardigan (thrifted)
#9 Banana Republic Jackson wide-leg suit pants in gray alloy (also worn on on Day #7)
#27 Franco Sarto Moto brown boots (also worn on Day #2 and Day #8)

With:
-lavender floral tank top (Target, counting this as a freebie, like tights, since it's basically underwear)
-lavender and gray striped linen and cotton scarf (thrifted)
-bronze circular beaded bracelets (gift)

So tell me what you think--does this sweater look awkward to you? Should it go in my "to donate" bag?

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So some days, it's a chilly Wednesday morning and you just wake up with that va-va-voom feeling. I say go with that.

However, it would behoove you (you meaning me, of course) not to balance your camera on a stack of shiny vintage saucers to photograph your hawtness. Because glare? Not hot.

Sorry about these pictures. I just didn't have time to re-do them.

30for30 Day 14

30for30 Day 14'

30for30 Day 14

And, because it is cold, the cardigan contingency plan. With pattern mixing, even!

30for30 Day 14

I'm wearing:
#1 Charter Club black with white mini polka dot straight shirt dress (thrifted)
#20 Charter Club red and black cropped cardigan (thrifted, also worn on Day #6)
#26 Antia black laced wedges (also worn on Day #4, Day #9, and Day #11)

With:
-brick red elastic belt with brass bird closure (Ross, I think)
-silver hoop earrings (some little shop in Boston)
-black tights (Hue, TJ Maxx or Marshall's)

Now, on to my rant. Yesterday, I had the displeasure of overhearing one of those "she was so fat..." conversations. It was, of course, couched in polite terms, like "not good for her health," but it was really your basic judging talk about how some woman had "let herself go." And the kicker? The part where one of the conversants said, "she must weigh close to 200 pounds."

OK. Go back up to the top and look at my pictures. The woman in those shots, as of this morning, weighs 223.6 pounds. Yes, I am also six feet tall, but even at my height, that puts my (bullshit) body mass index at 30.3. Obesity is a BMI of 30 or greater.

I have been working very hard over the past seven weeks to improve my physical condition. I attend the gym 3-5 days a week (shoot for 5, insist on 3, usually end up with 4) for 60-90 minutes. I do a trainer-created weight routine and a 30 minute cardio routine at each visit. I can feel myself getting stronger, and I'm observing changes in my body (and needing belts for my pants). What I am not doing, however, is losing any weight. I have been fluctuating between 220 and 225 lbs the whole time, depending on time of day/place of day in cycle. I haven't lost an ounce. Still just as "obese" as I was seven weeks ago.

I'm realizing, the more I get into feeling better and being stronger, that it really doesn't make a whole lot of difference if I ever lose any weight. I like the way I look, and the more I work out, the better I like the way I feel. As a clotheshorse, I would like to go down 1-2 clothing sizes, just for the sake of easier availability, but if I can do that without ever getting below that dreaded 200 lb. mark, that is totally fine with me.

My point, I guess, is two-fold. First, this is what a 223.6 lb woman looks like. I think some people are confused. Second, the number has almost no relationship with how you feel. I feel miles better than I did when I started trying to get into shape. I've made huge progress. And the scale just isn't any part of that.

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It has been one of my goals for the past several years, in one form or another, to get my financial house in order. I was doing pretty well for a while, but have been set back some recently by unemployment and bad shopping decisions. While the situation is certainly not dire, and I am making progress, I know I'm not quite in the shape I ought to be. Because of this, I read with interest when Louisa at The Really Good Life posted her progress towards 20 Financial Milestones to Reach in Your 20s (ish). Louisa's milestone list came from Gen Y Wealth, and I decided I'd see how I stack up against it as well.

# 1 - Finance a dream vacation...in cash
Done. Mark and I paid cash for our London trip last fall

# 2 - Pay off your student loans
Not even close. I still have $27,892 to pay on my student loans. My current expected full repayment date is March 14, 2026.

# 3 - Automate paying your credit card bill in full
Nope. But I do plan to do this as soon as my current balance is gone (end of March/beginning of April).

# 4 - Get rid of all bad debt
Nope. I have a couple thousand dollars in CC debt currently, as well as a car loan. The car loan is a conscious decision--it's at .9% interest, so paying cash didn't make sense.

# 5 - Build an adequate emergency fund
We do not have a six month expense emergency fund. Right now, we have about 3, maybe 4 months. But we're working on this and plan to be well above the six month mark by the end of 2011.

# 6 - Make your first, and last, investment mistake
I haven't made any investments, mistakes or not. I don't really plan to, honestly. My retirement fund is in some age-indexed thing I don't understand, and beyond that I stick with simple savings.

# 7 - Develop a statement of cash flows
I've done this, more than once. I am going to need to do it again soon, as circumstances have changed since the last round.

# 8 & 9 Max out a Roth IRA & Contribute to your 401(k)
This is a goal in progress. I have an IRA, but did not max out contribution in 2010 (though I did in 2009). I will begin contributing the maximum matched amount (6% of my income, I think) to my new 401(k) as soon as I am eligible (in April).

# 10 - Get a degree or certification that increases your earning power
Done. I am considering a new certification to increase my earning potential even more, but have not yet decided whether or not it will be worth the time investment.

# 11 - Take a career risk
Every new job feels like a risk, doesn't it? I'm not sure I've done anything seriously risky, though. I guess I'm pretty adverse to this type of risk.

# 12 - Negotiate something
Done and blogged about!

# 13 - Earn your first side grand
Done.

# 14 - Start a sub-savings account for an upcoming financial goal
I have done this a few times, though I don't have one active currently.

# 15 - Set a target retirement date
Done (my IRA is tied to it).

# 16 - Monitor your credit
Done regularly and semi-obsessively.

# 17 - Say no to a financial salesman
Done for both insurance and car add-ons.

# 18 - Give just enough to make it hurt
In process? I'm giving, and I'm giving more and more regularly than ever before, but I'm not sure it hurts.

2 Overachiever milestones:

# 19 - Invest $1 for every $1 you spend
Good God. Not remotely close.

# 20 - Start a 529 College Savings Plan
I don't quite see the good in this, since I don't have kids and have no plans to ever pay tuition again (I will go back to school when and if someone else foots the bill).

So how'd I do?
Done: 9
In progress/partially done: 6
Not done: 5

Could be worse, I guess. If nothing else, I'm moving in the right direction.

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Super style icon: Queen Latifah

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So after featuring Michelle Obama as my first super style icon, I felt a little bit safe. I mean, I love the way Mrs. Obama dresses, but she's the First Lady--not an entertainer. She doesn't push too many envelopes. So I tried to think of someone a bit more boundary skirting whose style I admire. It took me a bit--honestly, I go for fairly safe fashion icons. But then I hit on someone whose style I absolutely adore.

Queen Latifah.

Again, part of my love is about seeing a woman who is neither super young nor super skinny rocking her clothing. Queen Latifah has been great at that for years. And part of it is my admiration for flexibility in style--she looks great in casual or formal clothes. Part of it is that she's just gorgeous.

Here are some of my favorite things about her look.

1. She rocks menswear.

Examples:

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 05: Host Queen Latifah speaks onstage during the 2011 People
In a bustier, suit, and fabulous bling, performing at the 2011 People's Choice Awards

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - MARCH 04: Actress Queen Latifah attends the third annual Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon at the Beverly Hills Hotel on March 4, 2010 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Stunning in a white suit at the Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon

2. She wears great jeans.

Examples:

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Queen Latifah  performs during the 2008 American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on November 23, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images for AMA)
In jeans and jewels at the 2008 American Music Awards.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 09: Actress Queen Latifa attends the People
More fabulous jeans at the 2011 People's Choice Awards Press Conference

3. She doesn't have a bad color.

Examples:
HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 07: Actress Queen Latifah arrives at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Perfect pale pink at the 82nd Oscars.

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 22:  Singer/Actress Queen Latifah arrives at the 81st Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on February 22, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
Spectacular navy at the 81st Oscars

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 09:  Host Queen Latifah performs onstage during the 33rd Annual People
Gorgeous red at the 33rd People's Choice Awards

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 16:  Actress/presenter Queen Latifah poses backstage during 63rd Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton on January 16, 2006 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Beautiful teal at the 63rd Golden Globes

4. She knows how to rock the Little Black Dress.

Examples:
TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 05:  Actress Queen Latifah arrives at the premiere of
An off the shoulder version at the 2008 Toronto Independent Film Festival

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 07:  Actress Queen Latifah speaks at the Michael Jackson public memorial service held at Staples Center on July 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Jackson, 50, the iconic pop star, died at UCLA Medical Center after going into cardiac arrest at his rented home on June 25 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
A subdued version speaking at Michael Jackson's funeral

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 08:  Actress and musician Queen Latifah attends the PAPER Magazine and HP 25th Anniversary Gala at The New York Public Library on September 8, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images)
With a fantastic chain necklace at the Paper Magazine 25th Anniversary Gala

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 06: Host Queen Latifah speaks onstage during the People
An extraordinary full-skirted one-shoulder version at the People's Choice Awards 2010 (Incidentally, this has to be my favorite thing she's ever worn.)

5. She loves a statement necklace.

Examples:

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 05: Queen Latifah attends the 2011 People
Fantastic bling at the 2011 People's Choice Awards

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 17:  Queen Latifah  attends The Fourth Annual Black Girls Rock! at The New York Times Center on October 17, 2009 in New York, New York.  (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)
In layers of necklace at the 4th Black Girls Rock

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 01:  Recording artist Queen Latifah poses for a photograph before her performance on SIRIUS XM Radio
An exceptional geometric version during SIRIUS XM Radios Artist Confidential Series

6. She's not afraid to let her curves show.

Examples:
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 20:  Singer Queen Latifah poses in the press room during the American Idol Season 8 Grand Finale held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 20, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
Catsuited at the American Idol Season 8 Finale

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 05: Host Queen Latifah backstage at the 2011 People
In body hugging bright pink at the 2011 People's Choice Awards

NEW YORK - JULY 16:  Actress Queen Latifah attends the
In a gorgeous fitted dress at the premiere of Hairspray

Like Mrs. Obama, the thing that really moves me about Queen Latifah's style is how comfortable she seems in her clothes--and in her body. Regardless of whether or not you care for her particular sartorial choices, I think that's something we can all be inspired by.

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30for30 Day 13

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A little tease of spring and now we're right back to winter. More sweaters and scarves, at least for a few days.

30for30 Day 13

30for30 Day 13

Showing you how cold it is:

30for30 Day 13

Today I'm wearing:
#7 Ann Taylor Loft Ann black and white mini houndstooth wide leg trousers (also worn on Day #3 and Day #9)
#16 Calypso blue Banana Republic whipstitch v-neck sweater (also worn on Day #3)
#25 Ros Hommerson Sidney flat black boots (also worn on Day #1, Day #5, Day #6, and Day #10)

Did your sharp eyes catch me? Yep, I'm (unintentionally) wearing the same basic outfit (sweater and slacks) I did on Day #3. Different shoes and accessories, though, so hopefully I'm still OK with 30-for-30 rules!

Accessories:
-blue plaid and floral scarf (Topshop)
-Coach black leather belt (thrifted)
-turquoise and wooden beaded earrings (Little Black Box)

Have you noticed that 90% of my earrings are from the LBB? They are. I never buy earrings, but I almost always keep the ones that come with the LBB.

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Thrift Share Monday: A new obsession

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Since I've been reading folks' Thrift Share Monday posts, I've been enthralled with the cool dishes and ceramics some of y'all find. So the last couple of weeks, I've been trying my hand at finding cool dishes to thrift. I know I am going to have to sell some/all of them--otherwise, they're just gonna stack up--but I'm having a wonderful time finding them and learning about them, and so far I think my eye is pretty good.

I've found:

TS&T Cathay berry bowls and platter
Some TS&T Cathay pattern berry bowls and a matching platter

Corning divided plates
Some adorable Corningwear divided plates

Hartstone Farmer's Market salad plates
Some Hartstone Farmer's Market salad plates--these are already on Ebay

Catherine Holm Lotus small pan
A small Catherine Holm Lotus pan (I was really stoked about this)

Royal Stetson Royal Maytime china--1 dessert bowl, 3 bread plates, c. 1950s
Three bread plates and a dessert bowl from Royal Stetson Royal Maytime China--I'm not sure on the pattern, does anybody know?

Homer Laughlin/Syracuse--6 dessert bowls
A stack of Homer Laughlin dessert bowls in a pattern I can't identify--anybody know?

Nelson Lebo salad plate
An extremely odd Nelson Lebo salad plate

Steubenville Pottery Co. Fairlane pattern small platter
A Fairlane pattern small platter from Steubenville Pottery Company

Winfield China Oats pattern small platter
A small platter in Winfield China's Oats pattern

E.O. Brody Co. green glass bowl
A green glass bowl from E.O. Brody Company

Turi Design Market cereal bowl and small plate (Norway)
An absolutely adorable small plate and bowl from Norwegian Turi Design, in the Market pattern

I've also come across a few things that don't have any identifying marks on them to help me figure out where/when they came from, but which seemed interesting or familiar to me in some way. I'm hoping if I post them here, y'all can help me figure out if they are contemporary or vintage, and who made them:

blue teapot
I loved the shape and color of this cobalt blue tea pot.

Unmarked covered casserole dish
Neither the shape nor the color of this small covered casserole dish strikes me as contemporary. To my untrained eye, it looks mid-century. Thoughts?

Owl front
I have no idea what to think about this odd little owl, other than that he's adorable. Is he someone's ceramics class project, or does he have brethern out there somewhere? He's signed ("MEHED"), but a Google search of the name didn't tell me anything.

Here's his back and his signature:
Owl backOwl signature

Not a bad collection, right? I'm hoping to add to it today--50% off at Value Village/Unique!

Don't forget to check out all the other great finds from the folks at Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Monday!

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I made really good soup with no recipe!

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The other night, I came home from a work day wherein my diet consisted of coffee, frosted animal cookies, and a granola bar. Almost unprecedented for me, I was craving vegetables. I wanted food that was made out of food. So I decided to put together some soup to bring for lunch during the rest of the week. I looked at a few recipes, realized I didn't have all of the ingredients for any of them, and decided to wing it.

First, I dug in the fridge to see what vegetables were available. I came up with two leeks, an only-slightly shriveled red bell pepper, and three not-too-slimy carrots. I chunked these all up and threw them in the food processor. I went for onions, realized we didn't have any, and decided to use extra garlic instead. Five or six cloves also into the food processor, then I hit go and diced everything up small.

Then, I heated up some olive oil in a big nonstick skillet and tossed all of my veggies in with some salt and pepper. I sweated them for about ten minutes, maybe a bit less.

As the veggies were sweating, I opened and rinsed two cans of chickpeas and threw them in my crockpot. I followed with a large can of plum tomatoes in their juice, about a half carton of chicken stock, and a glass or so of white wine. When I added the veggies, I added a bay leaf, a couple of teaspoons of smoked Spanish paprika, and a couple of teaspoons of cumin.

I cooked the whole mess in the crockpot on high for about 2.5 hours, then hit it with the stick blender to de-chunkify. And it's AMAZINGLY good. It has a really nice, rich taste, while still tasting really fresh. It's really good for you, too--ton of good vitamins and fiber and also protein. We've had it for dinner two nights in a row (once with cheese and crakers, once with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches). Mark even likes it! This one is a definite keeper. It's the first time something I basically invented has come out so well, so I am really stoked.

For those who are concerned about these things, here's the nutritional analysis (assuming the recipe makes six servings):

Calories: 348
Calories from Fat: 58
Total Fat: 6.4g/10%
Saturated Fat: 0.8g/4%
Trans Fat: 0.0g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Sodium: 1207mg/50%
Total Carbohydrates: 53.8g/18%
Dietary Fiber:14.4g/58%
Sugars:12.7g
Protein: 15.0g
Vitamin A 141%
Vitamin C 69%
Calcium 13%
Iron 33%

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Blogging for fame and fortune

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I was syndicated on BlogHer.comY'all! I did something rad today! I achieved a goal! I got a post syndicated on BlogHer! Please please please go over to my post on navigating the unemployment system and show me some love?

This bit of good news reminds me of something I was going to share with y'all anyway. I'm trying to get people to read my blog. I mean, I've always liked it when people read my blog, but lately, I really want a bigger and more involved audience, so I'm taking steps to try to make that happen. It's nothing Earth-shattering--I'm doing more contests, posting more regularly, becoming more involved in other blogs I like (which I am really enjoying for its own sake), and using Facebook and Twitter to promote myself--but it seems to be slowly working. I took a look at my Google Analytics today and learned that while my visits are actually down about 4% over the past month, time spent on the site is up over 40%! People are hanging out longer! My Feedburner tells me that I have 116 subscribers, up from an average of 71 since it was installed. These are not huge numbers by any means, but they're a good start. And if you are one of the new folks, welcome! I hope you'll stick around.

There are, however, pieces of blog optimization advice I am just not willing to take. The biggest one I am ignoring is the advice to blog on only one topic. While I understand the reasons to do this, I just...don't wanna. I participate in a single subject blog (Heroine Content), and while I very much enjoy that, it's really limiting. As someone who started blogging completely for herself and who still does it first to please herself, that doesn't work for me. If pushed, I say my blog does have a single primary subject--me. As my interests wax and wane, so do my blog topics. It may not garner me as much traffic as another approach would, but it keeps me interested in writing, which I think is more important.

There are other canards that I haven't yet gotten into, but I am considering. I'd love to trade guest posts with someone, for example. I'm looking around for more blog carnival type activity to get involved in. And I'm working on legal ways to incorporate more pictures that weren't taken by my point and shoot on a timer. Most of all, though, I am really trying to listen to you all. If you want to see something here, I'm going to try to do it. So let me know if there's something you think I'm missing that would improve the quality of WINOW--I live to serve!

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30for30 Day 12

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The other day, my friend Emily and I were discussing whether or not it is appropriate to wear skinny jeans to work--on a casual day, obviously. We have casual Fridays at my office (though I so far haven't typically participated in them), so I decided to try it out today.

Appropriate?

30for30 Day 12

30for30 Day 12

30for30 Day 12

30for30 Day 12

Personally, I'm not loving this. I think it makes me look a bit bottom heavy.

I'm wearing:
#30 NY & Co. skinny jeans (also worn on Day #2)
#11 Old Navy printed button down shirt in pink ditzy floral (also worn on Day #7)
#28 Softspots purple suede wedges (also worn on Day #3 and Day #7)

Accessories:
-chunky jade choker (gift)
-purple jade earrings (gift)

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The-Lives-They-Left-Behind-Suitcases-from-a-State-Hospital-Attic-1934137146-L.jpgFriends, this book was a difficult read. I cried. More than once. It's not for the faint of heart.

The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny is a collection of short biographies based on a few of the suitcases found in the attic of the Willard State Hospital (and cataloged and displayed in the Willard Suitcase Exhibit, which I wrote about several years ago). Each chapter reconstructs, from research the authors performed and from the contents of the suitcase found, the life and institutionalization of one Willard patient. For the most part, the patients are people who were committed to Willard in young or mid adulthood and remained there for the rest of their lives. Most of them lived at Willard for decades.

Each story is different, and none are "representative." The details are sketchy, and the stories are based largely on conjecture and guesses. This doesn't make the book any less powerful. Though each detail is heartbreaking in its own right, the common threads provide the real narrative here. The patients profiled rarely suffered from violent or dangerous psychosis. They were, for various reasons, "outsiders" in the societies in which they lived, and were institutionalized for often spurious reasons. Once at Willard, very few, if any, efforts were made to stabilize their conditions and return them to their lives. Many of them were not even given any sort of treatment. Rather, they were warehoused for years. They were, basically, erased. It's seriously one of the very saddest things I've ever contemplated.

That said, I do have to issue a warning about the book--it is, simply put, anti-psychology propaganda. The authors make no bones about their feelings not just about the practices of Willard and institutions like it in the 1800s and the first three-quarters of the 1900s, but about the current state of things as well. And while they make some good points, their analysis is anything but balanced. The book's afterward, using the stories presented as a case against modern psychiatry and medical practices, was a bit hard for someone as pro-psychotropic medication as you all know me to be to take. My suggestion is to read this book not as well-researched history (it's not), or an even-handed medical ethics argument (it's not), but as a collection of small, heart-breaking stories about the lives of people who never got to tell their stories themselves.

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30for30 Day 11

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This shirt is another one of those wardrobe problem pieces that I added to the 30for30 to force myself to figure out a way to wear. I like it--the print is great and I like the style--but the shininess always strikes me as suspect, and it's both too short to tuck in and not structured enough to leave out.

I think this works, though. What do you think?

30for30 Day 11

30for30 Day 11

30for30 Day 11

And are you tired of my new love of belts yet?

30for30 Day 11

I'm wearing:
#14 Banana Republic green and black cowl neck top (outlet store)
#8 Ann Taylor Loft Ann charcoal pinstripe wide leg pants (also worn on Day #5)
#26 Antia black laced wedges (also worn on Day #4 and Day #9)

Accessories:
-Betsy Johnson studded black stretch belt (Ross)
-silver matte bangle bracelets (no idea...)
-silver concentric circles necklace (Ebay)

And a question: I'm really starting to hate my hair. Should I change it? How?

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How I (try to) manage my time

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One of the suggestions for new post topics I got for my Lush giveaway was as follows:

how you allocate your time! It seems like you're someone who has a lot of "systems" (tracking what you've read and watched, for example) and I wonder how you keep track of all of them, what sort of records you keep on a daily basis, and just generally what your days look like.

This cracked me up. I am definitely someone who has a lot of systems. Many of my systems don't work, or get used, but I love attempting them. And a few of them stick along the way. Still, I have a lot more theoretical record keeping than I do real life record keeping. Though I strive towards being an organized and systematic person, in reality, I'm just not.

My life has undergone a lot of changes recently, particularly in terms of time management. As I've mentioned, I transitioned in January from part-time work-from-home status to full-time work-at-an-office status. That was really only part of the transition, though. I am also still doing two part-time freelance work-from-home jobs, as well as spending more and more time each week on outside writing projects. Things are busy in my world. And all this busyness is requiring a few changes to my "systems" and a little more coordination. Which is a work in progress.

At present, my days/weeks look vaguely like this:

Weekdays
7:45: Get out of bed.
7:45-8:30: Teeth brushing, makeup, get dressed, make coffee, feed animals, take, upload, and edit pictures for 30for30, if possible, write 30for30 post
8:30-8:50: Drive to work.
9-5: Work (I generally eat lunch at my desk and don't leave the premises during the day)
5-5:30: Drive to the gym, change clothes
5:30-6:45: Workout
6:45-7: Drive home
7-10: Play with the dog, eat dinner (possibly make dinner), work on freelance jobs, read blogs, blog, read
10-11:30: Watch TV with Mark (currently The X-Files), no computers allowed!
11:30-11:45: Shower
11:45: Go to sleep.

Now, I only go the gym 2 days in a row, then I take one off. So I always have 1-2 non-gym weekdays. On those days, the 7-10 time frame activities just start earlier. And Mark and I don't watch TV together every night, either (though we do most nights)--sometimes the 7-10 activities go right up to bedtime.

On weekends, the schedule is a lot less rigid. I always go to the gym at least one weekend day, and usually spend about 1.5 hours there. Sometimes I go both days. We spend many weekend hours watching football (soccer). I quite often go thrifting on one weekend day, which can take 4-6 hours easily. We tend to cook more elaborate meals on weekends. We do nearly all of our household chores (laundry, any type of real cleaning, etc.) on weekends. We take the dog for long walks on weekends. And we try to go to the movies at least once every few weeks. Recently, I've also been needing to spend at least a good chunk of one weekend day working on freelance work or writing.

In all honesty, life is busier right now than I'd like it to be. I'm weeks behind on the TV shows I like to watch without Mark (Bones and American Idol). I never have as much time as I'd like to write. I'm barely reading (usually just for a few minutes before bed). I have a constant running list of things I want to get done and I never see the bottom. It's hard to complain too much about it, though--I'm too happy to be employed, and I get too much enjoyment from the time consuming hobbies (like blogging!) that take up so much of my time.

As far as my systems go, the ones I really use take up hardly any time at all. Whenever I finish a book or a movie, I take a quick minute and log it on GoodReads or AllConsuming (I have iPhone apps for both, but I am usually close to my laptop). I log my workouts using FitLinxx, which is provided at my gym. I use an Outlook calendar for my day job and a Google calendar to keep track of everything else (deadlines for freelance jobs, birthdays, when the dog needs his flea medication, everything). I've attempted various housekeeping systems and calendars, but failed spectacularly at all of them, and recently realized that I'm just not all that concerned about the cleanliness of my house. I automate whatever I can (bill paying, prescription ordering). And I am trying, more and more, to cut things that are neither profitable nor enjoyable out of my life altogether.

This is actually a subject that I'm really interested in reading more about--does anybody have any links to good blogs or posts about scheduling and time management?

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30for30 Day 10

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This outfit is one of the reasons I decided to do 30for30. It's something I've put on before, decided was cute, and then not worn because other things seemed easier, or because I was afraid it wasn't really work appropriate. When he saw me this morning, Mark asked if I was channeling Joan (from Mad Men). So what do you think--appropriate for the office?

30for30 Day 10

30for30 Day 10

30for30 Day 10

30for30 Day 10

I'm wearing:
#4 Ann Taylor teal ponte shift dress
#23 Lapis black swing jacket (thrifted)
#25 Ro Hommerson Sidney flat black boots (also worn on Day1, Day 5, and Day 6)

With:
-black tights (Long Tall Sally)
-silver and amethyst chip necklace (Overstock.com)

And it's Day 10! I'm 1/3 of the way there! Shall we take a look at the first 10 days?

30for30 day 1.2IMG_357930for30 Day 330 for 30 Day 430for30 Day 5
30for30 Day 630for30 Day 730for30 Day 830for20 Day 930for30 Day 10

Which is your favorite look so far? Least favorite?

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Topics to look forward to

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OK, when I asked y'all to enter my Lush giveaway, it was with a question about what type of content you enjoy/would like to see more of here and WINOW. These were the results:

-food (how you are doing with your resolution to cook more now that you have your new job, and how you handle meal planning and grocery shopping)
-Big Lots posts and TJ Maxx/Marshalls, more stores where you can buy "unexpected" gifty thing
-caring for multiple pets when both owners work
-recommendations for your favorite blogs
-how you allocate your time! It seems like you're someone who has a lot of "systems" (tracking what you've read and watched, for example) and I wonder how you keep track of all of them, what sort of records you keep on a daily basis, and just generally what your days look like.
-shopping
-more fashion stuff and makeup recommendations. Maybe some awesome low end versions of high end cosmetics?
-books/feminism/women's issues.
-how to use accessories with outfits, maybe some cool hair accessories
-more plus sized clothes, thrifting or not, the best for certain body types etc.
-more about your thrifting
-instructions about the home industry you have (had?) with beauty products
-product or company comparisons
-individual LUSH products and how to use them and ur faves
-books
-making outfits
-makeup
-magazines
-accessorizing
-tips for business and biz casual for the bigger woman
-posts exploring different worthy causes.
-work wardrobes
-music recommendations
-how you keep up with your blogging
-favorite products
-more food type of posts
-pre-work routine
-makeup recommendations

What a great list! These are ALL things I can post about in the near future. If anybody has anything to add, please do. I love suggestions.

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Super style icon series: over before it began

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Sad news: the super style icon series I was planning is going to be just a two-parter. Today's post about Michelle Obama is #1, and I have a second post saved for next week, but that's going to be it. The reason? Complete dearth of accessible and legal to use photos. If anybody has any suggestions, let me know.

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30for30 Day 9

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Apparently, my camera had its special "double chin" feature on this morning...

Do you think I'm becoming obsessed with the belts?

30for30 Day 9

30for30 Day 9

30for30 Day 9

30for20 Day 9

Wearing:
#7 Ann Taylor Loft Ann black and white mini houndstooth wide leg trousers (also worn on Day 3)
#18 Ann Taylor Loft burgundy scoop neck sweater
#26 Antia black lace-up wedges (also worn on Day 4)

Accessories:
-narrow blue faux snakeskin belt (thrifted)
-turquoise, amber, and purple silk drip-dyed scarf (gift)

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Super style icon: Michelle Obama

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I'm hardly the first person to blog about Michelle Obama's awesome wardrobe. I'm probably not one of the first million. But I've been thinking about style icons lately, and our U.S. First Lady was the very first lady (heh) to come to mind. So, hopefully, this will be the first in a series of posts featuring women whose style I adore.

So what do I love about Mrs. Obama's style?

1. Incredible vintage style details.

Examples:
TUCSON, AZ - JANUARY 12: President Barack Obama (L) comforts his wife first lady Michelle Obama at the event Together We Thrive: Tucson and America honoring the January 8 shooting victims at McKale Memorial Center on the University of Arizona campus on January 12, 2011 in Tucson, Arizona. The memorial service is in honor of victims of the mass shooting at a Safeway grocery store that killed six and injured at least 13 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), who remains in critical condition after being shot in the head. Among those killed were U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63; Giffords
Wearing a beautiful vintage-esque cardigan to the memorial service for Tucson shooting victims

POCANTICO HILL, NY - SEPTEMBER 24: U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama greets First Ladies from various countries before touring Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture on September 24, 2010 in Pocantico Hills, Westchester county, New York. The visit is part of the First Lady
In a gorgeous 50's style dress at FarmToTable Lunch For Spouses Of World Leaders

BADEN BADEN, GERMANY - APRIL 03:  U.S First Lady Michelle Obama (L) and U.S President Barack Obama (R) pose as they arrive to attend the opening of the NATO summit at the Kurhaus on April 3, 2009 in Baden Baden, Germany. Heads of state, foreign ministers and defence ministers of the 28 NATO member countries are participating in the summit from April 3-4 in Strasbourg, Kehl and Baden Baden to mark the 60th anniversary of the transatlantic military and political organization.  (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Wearing a fantastic formal vintage style dress with a tiered lace skirt at NATO 2009.

2. No fear of sleevelessness or showing off her amazing arms.

Examples:
NORTH LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 01: First lady Michelle Obama is introduced at a get-out-the-vote rally for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) at Canyon Springs High School November 1, 2010 in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Recent polls show Reid, who is seeking his fifth term, four points behind Republican challenger Sharron Angle. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
In a chic sleeveless top at a Get Out The Vote Rally In Las Vegas

WASHINGTON - JUNE 04: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama harvests vegetables during an event as part of the Chefs Move! To Schools initiative at the White House Kitchen Garden June 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. The first lady called on chefs to adopt a school and work with teachers, parents, school nutritionists and administrators to educate kids about food and nutrition. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
In the White House Vegetable Garden in a beautiful green sleeveless top

3. Rocks her height.

Examples:
Miyuki Hatoyama Michelle Obama Yukio Hatoyama and Barack Obama 20090923
By U.S. Department of State Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In a gorgeous sheath dress and proud heels with Prime Minister Miyuki Hatoyama, Yukio Hatoyama, and the President.

Barack Obama Michelle Obama Queen Elizabeth II Buckingham Palace London
By White House (Pete Souza) / Maison Blanche (Pete Souza) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In a full skirt and cardigan, towering over the Queen of England

4. Mixes patterns!

Examples:
Nancy Reagan with Michelle Obama cropped
By The Official White House Photostream; Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton (P060309SA-0498) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
In stripes and floral with Nancy Reagan

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 01:  First lady Michelle Obama arrives in Downing Street on April 1, 2009 in London. Obama is on his first trip to the UK as President and will be attending G20 world leaders
Beading and gingham while visiting England.

5. Loves a great neckline!

Examples:
WASHINGTON - MAY 19: First lady Michelle Obama smiles as she and her husband U.S President Barack Obama wait for Mexican President Felipe Calderon and his wife Margarita Zavala to arrive for a State Dinner at the White House on May 19, 2010 in Washington, DC. President Obama welcomed President Calderon to the White House today for an official state visit that is taking place amid tension over immigration politics and Mexico
In a beautiful one-shoulder blue dress at Mexican State Dinner.

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama waits for Chinese President Hu Jintao to arrive for a State dinner at the White House January 19, 2011 in Washington, DC. Obama and Hu met in the Oval Office earlier in the day. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
In a fabulous asymetrical neckline dress at the State Dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao

6. Uses color wisely.

Examples:

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 27: U.S. first lady Michelle Obama looks on before her husband U.S. President Barack Obama
Amazing eggplant at the State of the Union Address.

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 13:  U.S. first lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during an East Room event November 13, 2009 at the White House in Washington, DC. The event focused on the issues older women are facing in the health insurance market.    (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Speaking at the White House in phenomenal yellow.

7. Knows how to use accessories.

Examples:

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 02:  First lady Michelle Obama applauds during an event to kick off a White House leadership and mentoring initiative in the State Dining Room at the White House November 2, 2009 in Washington, DC. The program provides local high school students the opportunity to discuss career paths with members of the White House staff, including White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers, White House Domestic Policy Adviser Melody Barnes and others.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Speaking at the White House in a fantastic belt.

L
Rocking a great brooch at the G8 Summit.

8. She reinvents the classics.

Examples:

BADEN BADEN, GERMANY - APRIL 03:  U.S. President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle wave upon their arrival as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and her husband Joachim Sauer look on before bilateral talks on April 3, 2009 in Baden Baden, Germany. The two leaders were meeting shortly before a summit of the 28 NATO member countries, which is taking place April 3-4 in Strasbourg, Kehl and Baden Baden on the 60th anniversary of the transatlantic military and political organization.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
Meeting Chancellor Merkel in a perfect sheath dress.

WASHINGTON - MAY 27: U.S President Barack Obama (R), first lady Michelle (C), and Vice President Joseph Biden (L) watch performance during a reception in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month May 27, 2010 in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC. The reception was to celebrate Jewish American heritage and its contributions to American culture. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month in fabulous polka dots.

I love that Mrs.Obama mixes high-end and regular-person clothes (like the H&M dress she wore on the Today show last week). I also love that she wears the same items multiple times, in multiple ways. That beautiful beaded cardigan she wore with the gingham skirt in England? She wore it with also wore it an an all-cream ensemble to speak on the history of White House state dinners:

WASHINGTON -  NOVEMBER 24:  First Lady Michelle Obama sits with students attending a preview of tonight

The coral and white floral cardigan she pattern mixed in the photo with Nancy Reagan? She also wore it at a gardening event she held at the White House:

WASHINGTON - JUNE 16:  U.S. first lady Michelle Obama harvests vegetables from the White House Kitchen Garden with students from Bancroft Elementary School on the South Lawn of the White House June 16, 2009 in Washington, DC. The first lady later sat down to a meal with the children with the lettuce and snap peas harvested from the garden to focus attention on health and nutrition.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)


Most of all, though, I love that she dresses in a way that makes it clear that she's happy with and proud of her not-stick-thin body. She picks mostly classic styles and shapes, she doesn't shy from color or from black, and she wears everything with extraordinary confidence. She's definitely a style icon.

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Thrift Share Monday: my little local Goodwill

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As I mentioned last week, I decided I needed to give more time to my small, local thrift stores. For me, that translates into a weekly trip to the Goodwill near my office--I pass it every day, so it's certainly worth stopping in now and again. Sometimes I come away empty handed, but this week I came home with:

Yogurt maker
A new in the box yogurt maker, marked $5.99, but half-off.

Books
Four interesting books, either for me or to sell, for $1 or less each.

The Quilting Bee doll kit
For $.56, a doll kit from Fredericskburg, Texas. I have a couple of other kits from this same maker that I thrifted while we lived in Austin. I can't leave them alone, and I don't know what I plan to do with them.

Scarves
Four scarves--can't get enough scarves! The gray is a long, wide gray jersey scarf from the Gap, the purple is a smaller jersey scarf from American Apparel, the purple paisley is a vintage (I think) silk scarf, and the blue and yellow and white is a very large poly-blend scarf. I think these were $1.99 each.

Shirts from Gap, Izod, Audrey Talbott
Three button down shirts! The lavender floral is brand new and from the Gap, the pink oxford is Izod, and the striped is a gorgeous high-end silk shirt from AudreyTalbott. I believe these were $2.99 each.

Black Ann Taylor tee-shirt; teal merino Banana Republic cardigan
A new black Ann Taylor tee-shirt (which is much needed, since my "good" black t-shirt has become a scroungy black tee-shirt of late) and a gorgeous extra fine merino wool cardigan from Banana Republic. The tee-shirt was $1.99 and the sweater was $4.99, I think.

Not bad for a store I'd written off, right?

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30for30 Day 8

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Today's outfit is a study in mixing neutrals, and I gotta tell you all--it works for me. What do you think? Too much neutral mixing? Does it seem intentional?

30for30 Day 8

30for30 Day 8

And a Valentine's Day kiss for all of you!

30for30 Day 8

Today's is also an almost-all thrifted outfit! I'm wearing:
#2: Navy and white Dockers floral shirt dress (thrifted)
#21: Cream cardigan with black beading (thrifted)
#27: Franco Sarto Moto brown boots

And accessories:
-wide tan belt (thrifted)
-gray tights (Hue via TJ Maxx)
-Banana Republic gold interlocking circles necklace (gift)

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Living Out Loud 25: Always Learning

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This month's Living Out Loud question:

Tell us something you've always wanted to learn. If you could go back to school, money and time not-withstanding, what would you choose? Is there something you'd love to master but haven't figured out the logistics of who will show you? Do you think you'll make time to learn these things soon or is it something you're saving for "when you retire"?

I don't know why, but I had a hard time coming up with a response to this question. I guess it's because I feel like there were no less than 100,000 things I could have chosen? There are many, many things I'd like to learn, were time and money not deciding factors.

I've always wanted to be "expert" at something. To have some thing, no matter how small or arbitrary, about which I know more than anybody else. To be the top of some tiny field. I think this is a fairly common desire, but very few of us actually achieve it. There's always somebody ahead of you. In all honesty, this desire to be the expert of experts on some tiny subject is one of the reasons I've always wanted to get a Ph.D. Arcane though the subject matter may be, a Ph.D. dissertation is a claim to the ultimate expert knowledge in whatever its topic. Writing a book would serve a similar purpose, I guess.

I wonder, though, if that desire is really about mastery as much as about recognition. Do I really want to be an expert, or do I want to be regarded as one?

Anyway, returning to the original question--were time and money not an object, here is a very partial lists of things I'd like to learn:

-meditation
-sewing
-flying an airplane
-animal grooming
-knitting
-any second (and third, and so on) language
-fencing
-kickboxing
-successfully opening and operating a business
-cutting hair
-perfect waterline eyeliner application
-recognizing valuable objects in thrift stores
-drawing
-playing the guitar (or better yet, the banjo)
-sailing
-skiing
-tending roses

In reality, I don't see myself learning any of those things anytime soon. They are just not my priorities. Most of them would likely frustrate me in that special way things that don't come naturally have always frustrated me. In the spirit of positivity, though, I'm going to end this post with a list of things I *can* do--maybe if one of them is on someone else's list, I can be a better teacher than I am a student?

I can:
-drive a manual transmission
-make a fantastic pie crust
-sniff out the useful, if not the valuable, in a thrift store
-type over 80 wpm
-cut 100, or 1,000, or 10,000, words out of a document
-cry on command
-touch my nose with my tongue

Any takers?

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Lush winners!

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Lush contest winners! Since there were 37 entries, I'm going to give THREE prizes.

The second and third prize winners, of Lush items of my choice, are:

As a blogger, a post about how you keep up with your blogging could be great. I often can't find the time, and when I can, I can't think of what to post about.

Posted by ella | February 6, 2011 6:14 PM

I love reading your Big Lots posts and TJ Maxx/Marshalls. I'd like to see more stores where you can buy "unexpected" gifty things. You always have great gift ideas that I haven't thought about!

Posted by Sarah | February 3, 2011 7:43 PM

And the grand prize French Christmas Star box winner is:

Well, I already voted for you and facebooked that everyone should vote for you, I didn't know you can vote more than once? I just found that out. I will be voting for you daily from this point out. :)

Posted by Sunny | February 3, 2011 10:12 PM

Congratulations, winners! I'll be in touch for your snail mail addresses!


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30for30 Day 7

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I didn't really want to wear pants today, but it's freezing here, so I made a last minute change. I'm realizing just how limited my options are as I keep trying to reach for things that aren't included in my 30for30. I guess that's part of the challenge. I do wish I'd bothered to try everything on before I started, though, so I could at least reject items that don't fit well!

Today, though, I'm looking pretty cute and feeling pretty cozy:

30for30 Day 7

30for30 Day 7

30for30 Day 7

Wearing:
#9 Banana Republic Jackson wide-leg suit pants in gray alloy
#11 Old Navy printed button down shirt in pink ditzy floral
#15 Ann Taylor chunky black short sleeved sweater (outlet store)
#28 Softspots purple suede wedges (also worn on Day 3)

With:
Ling Glass pink stained glass pendant necklace
dela chic crocheted green leaf earrings (via Little Black Box)

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Bloggie Blogs: Who made the cut?

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Last week, I told you about how I was adding all the Bloggie nominees to my blog roll, to evaluate and see who should be added long-term. The influx of new posts in my reader has been substantial, and a few of the blogs didn't last a day, but I've narrowed it down now, so I thought I'd share the permanent additions. There are quite a number of them--more than I'd expected. For organizational purposes (and in case you want to go vote), I'm going to list them by Bloggie category. If I didn't keep a blog, that doesn't mean it's bad--there are just some types of blogs I'm not interested in reading very often, or whose writing doesn't resonate with me. I'm also not including the nominees who were already in my feed reader, of which they were several.

Best African Blog:
My Marrakesh: I can't resist the photographs on this blog.
3limes: I'm intrigued by the stories of a family's adaptation to many new homes.

Best European Blog:
Lost in Cheeseland: How could I say no to a look at daily life in Paris?

Best Canadian Blog:
Attack of the Redneck Mommy: I used to read this, and it fell off my reader for some reason/at some point. Back on now!
Her Bad Mother: Funny!

Best LGBT Blog:
Lesbian Dad: A very pleasant parenting blog.

Best Sports Blog:
Kickette: One of my favorite new additions--funny posts about hot footballers.

Best Art, Craft, or Design Blog:
Young House Love: Very much enjoying well written posts about home decor and remodeling.
How About Orange: Yet another inspirational craft blog!

Best Food Blog:
Bakerella: This is another one that used to be in my reader and then wasn't and now is again.

Best Parenting Blog:
Snarky Mom: Again with the funny.
Pistols & Popcorn: I like the realism here.

Best Fashion or Beauty Blog:
Ain't No Mom Jeans: Really enjoying this new addition to my ever-growing fashion blog list.

Best Designed Blog:
Life as Rose: Design doesn't make a huge difference through a reader, but I like the writing on this person blog as well!

Most Humorous Blog:
Mommy Wants Vodka: Yep, funny!

Best Writing of a Blog:
The Fabulous Geezersisters: God, I love a well-written blog!

Best Group or Community Blog:
Curvy Girl Guide: This is another new favorite--great fashion blogging and body image stuff.

Best New Blog:
A Year of Blogging Dangerously: Funny, well-written, not always office-appropriate.
The World According to Curly Girl: Mmm...pretty stuff.
Curvy Girl Guide: see above

Lifetime Achievement:
Girls Gone Child: Really well done posts on a variety of topics.

Blog of the Year:
The Year of Blogging Dangerously: see above

That's 20 new blogs for my reader! Yay!

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30for30 Day 6

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Does this outfit look challenging? It really was. I love the shape of this skirt, but it has two major flaws: first, it's too big around the waist, even though it's a size smaller than I typically take these days, and secondly, it's brown. I just don't do brown. Earth tones are my least favorite. So I'm never quite sure how to style it.

All that said, I think this worked out OK in the end. The belt helps a ton with the waist problem, and in reality, wearing it with black (which I know some people frown on!) is the only way I'm ever going to make this skirt work.

30for30 Day 6

30for30 Day 6

Showing off my belt:
30for30 Day 6

WHAT is going on with my hair (with gratuitous Illy sighting)?
30for30 Day 6

The players:
#6 Anne Klein taupe fluted skirt (thrifted)
#10 Ann Taylor short sleeved ruched black sweater (also seen on Day 4, this is going to be a workhorse item)
#20 Charter Club red and black cropped cardigan (thrifted)
#25 Ros Hommerson Sidney tall flat black boots (also seen on Day 1 and Day 5)

The supporting cast:
-thick black tights (another buy on my trip to Norway, I think)
-Betsy Johnson studded black elastic belt (Ross)
-copper and bronze tubular beaded bracelets (gift)
-resin butterfly earrings (via Little Black Box)

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Winter to spring fashion wishlist

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One suggestion I've noticed on all kinds of fashion blogs is to keep a wish list of pieces you want to add to your wardrobe. Because I try to add to my wardrobe as much as possible via thrifting, you'd think I'd already be doing this, but I actually don't. I mean, there are always a few things I'd like in my head, but I don't really think them through and write them down. So maybe I should start.

Here are the clothes/shoes/accessories I find myself wishing I had as winter (please God) turns into spring:

on argyle vest.jpg
Old Navy Argyle Sweater Vest, $14.97

I've been after an argyle sweater vest for quite a while, but I haven't found the perfect one yet. I want it to be fitted, long enough, and colorful but not pastel. It's a tall order.

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Gap Slim Cropped Pants, $40

A long time ago, I had perfect slim cropped black pants. I thrifted them at the Goodwill on Burnside in NW Portland, and they were from J. Crew. They have long since been gone--they'd be at least three sizes too small now--and I still miss them. I really, really want a replacement pair of slim legged, cropped black pants.

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Juicy Couture Starter Charm Bracelet, $42

I have always secretly wanted a charm bracelet. Now, I work with a woman who has a fantastic one she wears every day, and I my love has been rekindled. I love how they are sorta old school, sorta juvenile, and still sorta upscale. Or maybe they're not upscale, maybe that's just me.

jcrewcardi.jpg
J. Crew Jackie Cardigan, $62

I don't, as a rule, wear any sort of light color. I like super-saturated jewel tones, black, and gray. But I sometimes make an exception for pink, as I like what it does for my complexion. I also live in cardigans, since I have a combination of sleeveless shirt love+arm tats+fear of being cold in an AC'd office. Therefore, I need a pink cardigan.

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Fitzwell Kaida, $55.20

As you know, I love me some vintage-inspired clothes, and I really want a pair of pointy kitten heels to go with a few things I already have. I want them to be not-black, too--I'm thinking a nice gray like these ones would be perfect.

beautiful mess dress.jpg
A Beautiful Mess Dress, $47.99

I want a vintage floral shift dress with pockets, but the probability of my finding something that is both vintage and fitted like a shift to work with my...ample proportions is unlikely. Luckily, I live in a time of decent vintage reproductions, like this one from Modcloth. Which won't work for me because it's too short. So...back to the drawing board!

anthro top.jpg
Anthropologie Eastpointe Garden Top, $58

Maybe it's just because nothing has bloomed for so long here, but I really want more floral in my wardrobe this spring, especially a vintage or vintage-esque floral top. Will I buy this one from Anthropologie? Unlikely. I will, however, keep an eye out for something similar in the thrift stores.

As of now, that's the extent of my spring wish list. How about you?

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30for30 Day 5

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I woke up this morning, put on this outfit, and immediately fell back to sleep. Seriously, this one is boring. I was hoping the addition of a bit of turquoise jewelry would wake it up a little bit, but the pictures aren't giving me much confidence in that.

And I have officially started to freak out about the 30-for-30. I made some TERRIBLE choices, particularly in the "I don't have enough shirts" and "why the hell did I include two jackets?" departments. Turns out that picking mostly clothes you don't typically wear is probably not the smartest novice move.

Anyway, here's today:

30for30 Day 5

30for30 Day 5

30for30 Day 5

30for30 Day 5

I'm wearing:
#8: Ann Taylor Loft Ann charcoal pinstripe wide leg pants
#17: Martin & Osa red cashmere and silk v-neck sweater (I miss Martin & Osa)
#25: Ros Hommerson Sidney flat black boots (Amazon, my first duplicate item, also worn on Day 1)

And also:
-Ann Taylor black, white, and gray patterned camisole (outlet store)
-Tommy Hilfiger black leather belt (Ross)
-silver and turquoise beaded earrings (Gems by Jerri via Little Black Box)
-silver chain and turquoise bead necklace (A.J. Wright)

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This is what a feminist looks like

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The other day, the folks over at Fashionable Academics asked, "What does a feminist look like?" They asked feminist readers to submit a photo and a brief description of what feminism means to them. And I'll be linking them to this post in response.

I am a feminist. Feminism is the belief that systematic gender-based oppression of women exists, and that it is wrong and must be reversed. As a feminist, my goal is the eradication of this gender-based caste system, in and of itself and where it overlaps with class, race, sexuality, etc., resulting in true equality of all human beings.

And this what a feminist looks like (when she's being attacked by a stuffed honey badger):
Attack of the honey badger

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Etsy Love: Valentine's Gift Ideas for Men

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So this is being published later than I'd intended. I seem to be getting ahead of myself and ending up behind myself lately. Sorry about that. Still, in case you haven't already selected a Valentine's Day gift for the man in your life (or, you know, decided not to do so), here are some Etsy finds that I liked:

belt.jpg
ISHAOR handmade leather belt, $66

I love small, daily luxuries. Men often wear the same belt most days. What better than a handmade belt upgrade?

cufflinks.jpg
Tomatomade Sterling Silver Custom Map Cufflinks, $38

Cufflinks are hardly a new suggestion, but I love the romantic nature of this custom map pair--any location that holds significance for you and your boy could be represented.

mens chunky beanie.jpg
Moon Beam Hand Knits Men's Chunky Cable Beanie, $35

We have an issue at my house recently, whereby Mark steals my hats. I think it would be better if he had his own. I love this chunky beanie for it's simplicity and manliness, as well as the 70% wool 30% alpaca yarn--that ought to be nice and soft for his head!

shaving set.jpg
Orange Fuzz Deluxe Eco Friendly Shaving Kit with Beer Shaving Soap, $47

This is not the first time I've shared my love for shaving sets. I think they're a great dude gift. I'm particularly fond of this one because it's packaged so cleverly in a vintage wooden cigar box.

mugs.jpg
Dorothy Domingo Sea Mist Cups, Set of 2, $40

We are very serious about our weekend coffee in my house. And we have at least a dozen mugs for it. But we don't have perfect, make-you-happy-every-time-you-see-them hand-thrown pottery mugs. Wouldn't they be a nice addition?

russian bear t shirt.jpg
Jam Jam Tees Russian Bear T-shirt, $14.99

Maybe it's the dormant grunge girl in me, but I love a man in a graphic tee. This Russian Bear one is awesome--cheeky and graphically elegant!

These suggestions really just scratch the surface. Depending on what your particular model of man is like, there are a million other ideas available on Etsy or in other handmade markets. Go forth and buy handmade for Valentine's Day!

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30for30 Day 4

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First, my apologies for the pictures. They're getting worse every day!

This is my inspired-by-fashion-bloggers outfit, I think. It all started with my love of Erin's bright pink tights. I don't have tights quite so bright, but I do have pink tights, so I thought it was time to show them off. Then I picked shoes inspired by Sal's awesome architectural collection, and took her advice to bring a pop of color into an outfit multiple times to make it intentional. Finally, I thought of how all four ladies at Academichic make such judicious and flattering use of belts (especially over cardigans!).

This is what I came up with:

30 for 30 Day 4

30 for 30 Day 4

30 for 30 Day 4

30 for 30 Day 4

Love that last picture. Apparently, I'd like you to notice my shoes.

I'm wearing:
#5 Josephine Chaus black a-line skirt (Ross)
#10 Ann Taylor short sleeved ruched black sweater
#19 reversible black and white polka dot cardigan (vintage, I think, thrifted)
#26 Antia black lace-up wedges (Shoebuy.com)

Accessories are:
-candy pink tights (We Love Colors)
-vintage pink seed beaded necklace (thrifted)
-narrow black Etienne Aigner belt (thrifted)

And WHAT is going on with my hair??

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Fashion blogs I live for

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I am having the best time seeing your recommendations for post topics! I fully plan to get to each and every one of them. I noticed a couple of folks asking for more posts on clothes and accessories, and a few more asking for more info on my favorite blogs, so I thought I'd combine the two! I read quite a few fashion and style blogs, but these are my long-term favorites. For me, they do a great job straddling the line between too conservative (and boring) and too outrageous (and not wearable). I've learned a lot from all of these women and been inspired by each of these blogs more than once.

Already Pretty: I think Already Pretty's Sal is probably the most consistently fantastic fashion blogger around right now. She wears real clothes, which can be purchased by real people, and she wears them in a realistic way (i.e. when it's freezing in her native Minnesota, you can tell by what she's wearing). Sal does an absolutely spectacular job with her blog, too--regular updates, good photographs, nice layout, and wonderful incorporation of guest posters and links to other bloggers. I seriously can't say enough good things about her.

Wardrobe Oxygen: Allie from Wardrobe Oxygen (and formerly of My Wardrobe Today, which has been combined with Wardrobe Oxygen) is my other all-time favorite fashion blogger. Like Sal, Allie's been at it for quite a while and she does a great, consistent job. Allie's outlook on fashion is quite a bit different--she has a much smaller wardrobe, dresses more conservatively, and clearly works in a more professional-dress oriented environment. She's taught me a lot about the importance of classic pieces and how far a few nice things can get you. She also talks a lot about dressing for your body, in a very realistic and do-able way.

Academichic: Academichic is the work of four feminist academics, A., E., L., and S. Three of them are graduate students teaching and dissertating, one is teaching English at a private school. They each have a slightly different take on professional academic clothing, and they all have fantastic style. Along with daily outfit posts, the ladies at Academichic often do theme weeks/months or challenges of various kinds, and they are extremely instructive. Recently, I've also been enjoying S.'s posts about how to dress her increasingly pregnant shape.

The New Professional: Angeline at The New Professional is a recent addition to my blogroll, and I am really enjoying her posts. She focuses on fashion as it relates to a young woman newly in an office environment, and she does an absolutely bang-up job of it. I'm quite a bit older than Angeline, and have been at this whole work world gig a lot longer, but she still teaches me a lot. Even though a lot of the clothes she wears won't work for my body, which is about as opposite hers as possible, I get lots of ideas from her and really enjoy seeing the professional, yet cute and interesting, looks she puts together.

Work With What You've Got: Finally, I have to plug Work With What You've Got. Erin and I have pretty different styles and jobs, so most of her outfits don't translate into something that is going to work for me. However, her styles almost always make me happy to see, and she wears her clothes exceptionally, inspirationally well. She also focuses on clothes that can be had on a budget, a real one, not a pie-in-the-sky one, which I really appreciate (I don't think there is enough of that done well in the fashion blogging world).

So hit me--do you read any great fashion blogs I should check out?

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30for30 Day 3

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First, can I just say that I take the worst self-portraits known to woman? These are just awful. I think I need one of those flexi-tripods so I can set the camera up higher and not have every shot be below my face level (all the better to produce glare off my chins). But for now, we'll make do with what we've got.

It's Monday, kids. Today we're going for cozy, simple, and professional enough to get me by.

30 for 30 Day 3

30for30 Day 3

30 for 30 Day 3

30 for 30 Day 3

What you see here is:
#7 Ann Taylor Loft Ann black and white mini houndstooth wide leg trousers
#16 Calypso blue Banana Republic whipstitch v-neck sweater
#28 Softspots purple suede wedges

Accessories are:
-wide black leather Tommy Hilfiger belt (Ross)
-vintage Vera Neumann lavender floral scarf (thrifted)

I actually like this more in live action that I do in the photos. I think it makes me look kinda shapeless in the pictures, but it's a bit more flattering in real life. I also LOVE the softness of the sweater and finally figuring out how to wear this great scarf.

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Thrift Share Monday: Vintage?

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As I read more and more thrifting blogs, I'm finding myself envious of other people's finds. It took me a bit to figure out where that envy was coming from. At first, I thought it was about the financial pay off--other people are thrifting things and selling them for cash money! But in reality, it's not--I tried and failed the thrift-for-cash experiment. I decided it was definitely possible to turn a profit, but not possible for me to turn a large enough profit to make the work worthwhile. So it's not the money. What, then? I realized, after a while, that it's the interesting stuff. I've been trying to thrift practically for so long--either things I need or things my friends or family need--that I'd forgotten how to thrift just for things that seemed interesting. Especially things that seemed interesting and OLD.

So, this weekend I decided to do two things. First, I would focus on my little local thrift shops, rather than making the drive to the big shop I usually frequent. Secondly, I'd let myself buy stuff just because it was cool, but only if it was old.

And I loved it!

There is a little thrift shop in the small town/suburb in which I live which has really limited hours. It's open I think 10-2 three days a week. It's also really crowed. So I almost never go there. But I set off on Saturday to see what joys awaited me.

The first thing I picked up were two sheets of wrapping paper, for $.10 each. One of them s shown below. They aren't vintage, but I liked them, and I knew I was going to be covering some boxes soonish for a project, so they wouldn't sit around too long.

Wrapping paper detail

The next thing I picked up were a few vintage (or maybe not, not sure) notions. These I really can't justify, but they were only a couple of bucks.

Notions

And included these, one of the weirdest things I've seen lately. Doll face beads?

Doll head beads

The final things, though, are the ones I want to ask all you wise folks about. I bought this platter and sugar bowl just because I loved them, but I'm fairly sure they're vintage. There are no identifying marks on them--no brand, no location where they were made, nothing.

Platter and sugar bowl

And a detail of the design:

Mystery plate detail

Any ideas? The sugar bowl is pale blue. I don't even know where to start looking with no names or dates to start with.

I also went to another local thrift store (the Goodwill near where I work) and had a great day, but I don't think I'm going to be doing any more thrifting in the next week, so I'll save those finds for next Monday!

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30for30 Day2

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I swear, the forces that be do NOT want me to get into this remix. I'd barely started and I was informed that today (my Day 2) is "jerseys" day at work. We're all supposed to wear football jerseys in honor of Super Bowl weekend.

Hm. OK. As I'm sure you noticed, a football jersey was not included in my 30for30 items.

At first, I thought I'd just not count today. Then, I decided to work with it. The jersey itself would be a freebie, because there was no way I was going to wear it again in the next 30 days, but whatever I wore with it would either have to come from my 28 previously selected items or fill in my 2 blanks.

I really tried to make a the jersey work with something I'd previously picked out. At one point, I was wearing it over a shift dress, with a jacket over the top. It just didnt' work. It looked like something I'd have come up with at three years old.

So, I filled my #29 and #30 spots. With things that will likely not be that helpful when it comes to making 28 more outfits. But I've got spirit, dammit!

Oh, also? My jersey is a British Premiere League football jersey for Mark's team, Arsenal. So yeah. Soccer. Hopefully that's close enough.
IMG_3585

IMG_3586

IMG_3582

IMG_3579

I'm wearing:
Arsenal 2009 season away jersey (freebie, belongs to Mark)
#29 Banana Republic long-sleeved navy boat neck t-shirt (thrifted)
#30 NY&Co skinny jeans
#27 Franco Sarto Moto boots (no longer available, sadly)

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Micro giving at home: Love Drop

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love-drop-logo-MD.gifI just found out about something I'm really excited to share with you all! It's called Love Drop, and it is a micro-giving network run out of D.C. and Milwaukee. It's an online community focused on giving to one person/family each month, with buy-in as little as $1/month. Here's how Love Drop describes themselves and this month's project:

Love Drop is a micro-giving network of people who unite as a community to make a difference in the lives of one person or family a month. By giving just $1.00, they make it easy for their members to change lives in a fun and super easy way.
At the end of every month, Nate and J$ show up in the town the families live in and present them with everything the team raised -- all the money, the gifts, whatever the community helped get. It's all on film, and it all ends with us making a difference! (And then it starts all over again the next month).
This month we are coming together for 2 beautiful kids with severe autism -- Ethan & Alex. Our goal is to raise $13,000 so we can get them a highly trained service dog. And if possible, two iPads so they can speak again (they can't even say "I love you" to their mom -- these iPads allow them to get their voice back). Here are 3 ways you can help:
1. Join the team - This is the best way to help out, and all it takes is $1.00.
2. Join our blogger network - Blog about our Love Drops each month like I am :) It's easy, it's rewarding, and it REALLY helps spread the word (which in turn helps our families). Love Drop will give you all the content you need.
3. Give a gift or provide a service - Gift cards (iTunes would be great!), two iPads (so we can help the boys speak again!), and anything else you think could help out.
Thank you guys so much -- You rock.

There are no words for how much I love this idea. So, I am doing #1 and #2--becoming part of the Love Drop team with a monthly gift and joining the blogger network. That mean you'll see a notice like this one from me each month, letting y'all know about the family Love Drop is featuring. Please feel free to join me! In the case of this month in specific, I have to say that I have an online friend who has done a ton of advocating and writing about the great things the iPad can make possible for children with autism, so I'm particularly excited at the idea of Ethan and Alex getting iPads of their own by March!

I'm going to put a button to take you to the Love Drop site over there on the sidebar, in case, you forget about it in between this post and next's month's installment. I hope some of you will join, too!

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Grace+Lush 4EVA (with a giveaway!)

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lush christmas star.jpgI am not, typically, the on-again off-again type. When my relationships end, they're pretty much over. However, there are exceptions. A few years back, I broke up with Lush. For a while, I stuck with that decision. Then, slowly, Lush and I started to have brief, torrid flings--when I was in a place with a local store, I'd sneak in and buy some Honey I Washed the Kids soap. I discovered Turkish Delight, and slowly Lush began to worm its way back into my heart. I stayed strong, though, when it came to the treacherous slope of online orders.

Then, just after Christmas, Lush made me an offer I couldn't refuse. First two for one on all Christmas items and wrapped gifts, then 50% off all Christmas items. I made an order. OK, I made two, one from each sale.

And we're back on. My heart belongs, at least in part, to Lush.

Lush is keeping me super happy so far. Case in point is my most recent order. One of the items I'd ordered, for 50% off, the Christmas Star gift box, turned out to be out of stock with English inserts. Rather than just removing it from my order (and thus removing my chance to get it at half off), Lush replaced it with the same item with French inserts. Cool, thought I! Same products, in French! To make up for the "inconvenience" (which was really no inconvenience at all), they also included a second box!

Well, what happens when I get doubles of something cool? You get it, of course! This contest is for one Christmas Star box, complete with French labeling! The box contains six bath bombs: 2 Winter Bath, 1 Cinders, 1 So White, 1 Li'l LUSH Pud, and 1 Mrs. Whippy. I haven't tried any of these bombs before (which is actually why I bough the box in the first place), but I've loved other samples of Lush's bombs, so I'm sure they're good stuff.

Because I am feeling spirited, I'll up the ante with a second place prize for this contest as well. Second place will receive a small sampling of other Lush goodies I've gathered from my recent ordering spree, wrapped and packed by me. Probably not as cute and professional as Lush's wrapped goodies, but still fun!

So how do you enter? Three ways!

1. Leave me a comment and tell me something you'd like to see me blog about. I'm always gathering post ideas.

2. Tweet or post on your Facebook about this contest, or about me and my blog and how I'm pretty. Leave me another comment linking me to where you did it.

3. Go over to my page at Explore Modeling and vote for me to be a cover girl for I AM Modern magazine. Leave me a comment telling me you did it.

This contest is open for one week. I'll pick the winner next Friday, February 11. Good luck!

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30for30 Day 1

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As promised, today I'm wearing my first outfit. It hasn't been an auspicious start. First, I realized that my #1 item, the black dress with the small white polka dots, isn't actually fitting me at my current weight. Nice. Then I discovered that it was 25 freaking degrees and all thoughts of style were secondary to concerns about warmth and coziness.

So I went for warm and cozy. And...monotone.

30for30 Day 1.4

30for30 Day 1.3

30for30 day 1.2

30for30 Day 1.1

What you see here is my thrifted BCBG sweater dress (item #3), worn with my new Ros Hommerson flat black boots (item #25). All I've added are a pair of thick patterned tights I bought in Norway a long time ago and an old gifted Banana Republic gray and black floral silk scarf as a belt. So much for embracing accessories.

I don't hate this outfit, though. It's boring, but it does the job of being cozy and comfortable and it's still pretty cute. It'd like it better if the dress wasn't a turtleneck. And I did try to force myself a bit out of my comfort zone by tying the scarf as an obi-style belt, but it just looked odd, so this was my compromise.

Also? In the future I'll try to remember to take photos without my uber stylish work ID already attached.

At least I started! Hopefully I'll do better tomorrow.

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Lovin' on the very useful Bloggies

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I've mentioned a time or three of late that I'm on the lookout for new blogs to add to my reader--I'm just really really loving blogs these days. I find myself wanting to step back from the more real-speed forms of social media (of which there are so many) and re-focus on the blogging world. Given this quest, the finalists for the 11th Annual Weblog Awards couldn't have been released at a more opportune time.

I've voted in the Bloggies before--there is always a plea for votes from at least one of the blogs I read. This year, I headed over to throw my support behind Chookooloonks, nominated in the photography blog category. While I was there, browsing, I came up with a plan.

I added every single finalist in any category to my feed reader (except for those who who were already there), in a special "Bloggie Nominees" folder. For the next week or so, I'll check those blogs out. If they don't speak to me, I'll kill the feed subscription. If they do, they'll become part of my regular reader rotation. How cool is that? Tons of new blogs to try out.

If you aren't a crazy person who feels the need to have a complete set of every thing, you could do the same thing in only selected categories. Were I making recommendations, I'd tell you to focus on the non-US geographic categories (lots of great stuff you may have otherwise missed there), the writing category, and the best kept secret and new blog categories.

Remind me in a week or two and I'll come back and tell you which finalists I added to my reader permanently!

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Sorry I'm Late! February 30-for-30 Remix

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hello I knew the last time I watched it go down on some of my favorite style blogs that I wanted to hop on the next 30-for-30 remix train. And I even got myself together and signed up for the huge February remixers list.

And then? I totally forgot to start actually doing it.

So I'm starting two days late. My 30-for-30 will begin tomorrow, on February 3. And it's going to be work-days only--I have no desire to keep track of or photograph my sloppy weekend wear.

For those who didn't bother to click the link, the rules are fairly simple:

1. Pick 30 items or less from your closet. Shoes are included, but accessories and jewelry are not.

2. Remix the 30 items into 30 different outfits.

3. Don't shop for 30 days.

I need to do these things for a couple of reasons. First, I'm only in my third week and my work wardrobe is already boring me. Secondly, it's only my third week and I'm already over-shopping for work clothes. Time to remix, and no more shopping for clothes for 30 days!

Tonight, I'll introduce you to my (very poorly photographed, sorry about that) players:

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1. Black with white mini polka dot straight shirt dress (thrifted)
2. Black and navy flora shirt dress (thrifted)
3. BCBG black sweater dress (thrifted)
4. Ann Taylor Loft teal jersey shift dress

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5. Josephine Chaus black A-line skirt
6. Ann Klein taupe fluted skirt (thrifted)

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7. Ann Taylor black and white mini houndstooth trousers
8. Ann Taylor charcoal with white pinstripe trousers
9. Banana Republic gray trousers

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10. Ann Taylor short sleeved ruched black sweater
11. Old Navy ditsy floral button down shirt
12. Lavender shell (thrifted)
14. Banana Republic green and black cowl neck top

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15. Ann Taylor Loft chunky short sleeved black sweater
16. Banana Republic powder blue scoop neck sweater
17. Martin & Osa red cashmere and silk v-neck sweater
18. Ann Taylor Loft burgundy scoop neck sweater

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19. Reversible black/white polka dot cardigan (thrifted)
20. Charter Club red and black cropped cardigan (thrifted)
21. Cream cardigan with black beading (thrifted)
22. Purple v-neck cardigan (thrifted)

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23. Lapis black swing jacket (thrifted)
24. Land's End navy jersey jacket (thrifted)

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25. Ros Hommerson tall flat black boots
26. Antia black laced wedges
27. Franco Sarto Moto brown boots
28. Aerosoles purple suede wedges

I'm leaving the last two spots up for last minute additions. Anybody done this before? See any big holes I should fill?

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Blogs I'm Loving

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I am reading a ton of blogs lately, and it's been a while since I've shared titles I am excited about, so I thought it was about time for a round-up.

First, about Feedly. Remember when I told you I'd be trying it? Well, I've been using it since then and it' FANTASTIC. Blows Google Reader out of the water. Try it.

Now, some of my new favorite additions to my reader:

Wry and Ginger: Wry and Ginger is a terribly funny personal blog written by terribly funny lady. She also makes and sells funny cards. I am a particular fan of this recent post about what I consider a very reasonable love of boots.

The Thrifty Chicks: I am reading more and more blogs dedicated to thrifting, and The Thrifty Chicks is one of the best. It's a collaborative project, with four bloggers writing, and I've enjoyed each of their posts (made all the better by how they are each in a different city). My current favorite thing is Ms. Golightly's pledge to thrift all her 2011 Christmas gifts, for less than a dollar a day, this year. The latest installment is here.

Whatcha Find?: Whatcha Find? isn't the type of blog I normally read--it's basically a daily digest of thrifted finds, mostly high-end pieces, from a mother and daughter team. I am a bit obsessed with it, though, as these ladies are finding things I've never seen in thrift stores. It's also very low-text, which can be good for my fractured attention span.

Bounty Huntress: Bounty Huntress Angela thrifts on my old turf of Austin, Texas and I love reading her blog for that reason. She writes somewhat regularly about my much-beloved and very missed Bins. So yeah, I'm living a bit vicariously through her blog. So?

Budgets are Sexy: I have a love-hate relationship with frugality blogs, but I'm currently digging them, and I am particularly amused by J. Money's Budgets are Sexy. It takes itself seriously, but is humorous enough to keep me from rolling my eyes out of my head. It's also really well done--more a professional blog than a personal one. This recent piece about what your date's credit card says about him is pretty darn funny.

The Everyday Minimalist: The Everyday Minimalist is very new to my feed reader, so I'm not 100% sure I love it as yet, but it is definitely growing on me. It's very well-done, and several of the posts I've read have left me thinking or even beginning to write responses, which is always a good thing. If nothing else, check out the Why Minimalism? post, it's food for thought.

What blogs are you excited about right now? And confess--how many are in your reader? I'm at 168 in mine right now, which seems very reasonable to me.

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Adventures in growing up: salary negotiation

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In the past, my salary negotiations before accepting a new job have been something like this:

New Job: We'd like to hire you for $X.

Me: OK! Great!

Which is to say, I've never really negotiated. In part, that's because the only job I've ever been offered for that I realized had a too-low starting salary was my first one out of college, and I was in no place to refuse any work at that point. In part, though, it's been because the idea of negotiation makes me uncomfortable.

I'm not alone in being uncomfortable negotiating. In fact, I'm in the majority. There has been a lot of work done and there are a lot of theories about women and negotiation. There are books, websites, seminars, and speakers about it. With women still at something less than 80 cents to the male dollar, it's a big deal.

So, when I started this last job search, I promised myself that I would negotiate. It wasn't just my personal responsibility, I told myself, it was my responsibility as a feminist! I looked up the going rate for professionals in my field in my area, and was surprised to find that my previous salary (which I'd considered very generous) was at the low end of the spectrum. I look around and noted what jobs in the field with published salaries were listed for. I came up with a target number for what I wanted to make.

The first job I was offered made an initial offer of about 8% less than the number I'd arrived at. I told the human resources person with whom I was communicating that I'd like to make my target number, but that I'd consider additional benefits (i.e. more paid vacation days) in lieu of salary if the salary number was non-negotiable. The job had good benefits already, so I felt OK in coming down a bit if I had to, but I started with a strong counter-offer. After a couple of rounds of negotiations, we agreed on a salary right between the one they'd initially offered and the one for which I'd asked, with no additional vacation time. Though it wasn't all I'd wanted, I felt good about having forced myself to go through the process.

That position didn't end up working out--there was a contract issue between the company for which I was going to work and the company for whom they were staffing, and it fell through. Back to the drawing board.

The next offer I received was for a salary 17% below my target. Again, the job had good benefits, so I was willing to consider a slightly lower salary, but this one seemed far too low. Before I responded to the offer, I re-checked the going rates for my profession in my area. The offer was in the bottom quartile for those with my experience, or even a bit less experience. I countered, saying I would like to make 17% more--my target number. Again, I told the human resources person that I would consider additional benefits in lieu of compensation. The human resources person was surprised, telling me that I'd been offered the highest salary budgeted for the position. For a moment, I second-guessed myself, thinking I'd made a mistake by asking. I stood my ground, though, and requested that my counter offer be presented to the hiring manager.

This time, the response I got was negative--the hiring manager refused to increase the salary offer at all, or add additional benefits. In retrospect, as low as the offer was for the field in which I work, I should have turned it down. I was a few months into my job hunt at that point, though, and not feeling very self-confident, so I accepted.

That was the job that didn't work out, at which I was employed for two days. The salary offer I received, I now realize, was an excellent clue to how I should have expected to be treated at that company.

On my third round, I found myself in an enviable situation. I had two competing offers. Initially, one offer was 117% of my target salary, the other was 141% of my target salary. The lower offer included full benefits, though, while the higher one did not. As I considered my decision, I was honest with both companies, telling them about the competing offer.

After I told each of the companies about the other, (without making any requests, save a request for a few days in which to make my decision) each presented me with another offer. The first offer was increased to 133% of my target amount. The second was increased to 150% of my target amount. I knew, then, that I was in an exceptional place to negotiate. The first company made it clear that the offer they'd made was as high as they were able or willing to go, but offered me an excellent benefits package to go along with it. In speaking to the second company, I explained that although I was tempted by their higher offer, I hated the idea of not having paid vacation. They returned with a second counter offer, this time of 156% of my target salary and ten paid days of vacation per year. I accepted the second offer.

I don't know if I did this right--I feel like I may just have gotten very lucky. I do know, though, that my forcing myself to attempt negotiation, even if it wasn't all that successful, during the first two interactions helped me to feel much more confident during the second two. I knew, when I began my search, what the lowest salary I should take would be, what the salary I'd consider fair would be, and what the salary I'd consider generous would be. I also knew, in general, how much a benefits package would be worth. It helped to arm myself with that information.

The most helpful thing, though, and the part I completely failed with in the middle of my search, was believing I was worth it. I don't know if it's because I grew up poor, or because I am a woman, or for some other reason or combination of reasons, but it is hard for me to believe the work I do is worth the salary it commands. I know, intellectually, that the combination of skills and education I bring to a position *is* worth this salary--I can look up the numbers to tell me that. But making the leap from that knowledge to actually believe that *I* am worth a given dollar amount is very difficult. And it was especially difficult after a few months unemployment.

Another important lesson for me was not to feel guilty about getting all you can get. When companies hire new staff, they do the best they can to get the best person possible for the position. There is no shame in an individual doing the same thing--getting the best situation possible--and compensation is a big part of that. It's an outdated and dangerous artifice to pretend we aren't working to get paid.

Obviously, not every job offer is one you can safely negotiate, or at least not one you can walk away from if the negotiation doesn't go your way. It's easy for me to say now that I should have refused the job with the low-ball offer, but I really didn't feel like I could at the time. I am, of course, glad now that it didn't work out, as the job I've ended up in is both more in keeping with my preferred work style and environment and significantly more lucrative (187%!). But that part really was luck. I don't think I'll be afraid to negotiate in the future, though. And for that learning experience alone, this process has all been worth it.

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