Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Lazy Days

No one is lazier than this one. Who apparently brought her bear to nap time.
Oh hey.

I don't know what it is, but it has just been a lazy summer.

For the first time in a very long time, our summer has involved very few plans. No major trips (since the big one is still ahead), and really, only a few weekends where we had made plans in advance or had somewhere we had to be. It's been awesome. I have greatly enjoyed being able to sleep in on a Saturday, get up when I get up, and decide in the moment, "What do I want to do today?"

Some days were productive days. Trips to the farmer's market. Cleaning the whole apartment. Plus the all important honeymoon planning!

Some were made for exploring. We made it to German Fest, Irish Fest, Festa Italiana, the State Fair, and Bastille Days this year. Plus several trips to Summerfest, including to see Dave Matthews. My sister and I also got in a few trips to see our Grandma, who is still loving life in her 80s and killing me with her productivity. She does not slow down!

And still others were much more low key. I think I was averaging a book a week in June and July. A few, I read in one sitting. Plus, I watched all of Broadchurch, The Fall, True Detective, Top of the Lake, the final season of The Killing, and season two of Orange is the New Black. There was a lot of time spent on the couch. Except for the three times that we went to the movies this summer - I fell asleep in all three. Talk about an expensive nap.

It's been lovely. And just the refresher that I needed.

It's go time, folks. The students move in tomorrow, and this is about to get real.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Third Time is the Charm

This post contains affiliate links.

Last summer, I came across something pretty exciting. A service that shops for you. Yep, Stitch Fix.

You see, I don't really love shopping. While I used to love going to the mall in my younger years, now it feels like kind of a chore. The idea of sorting through racks is just not my thing. I'm much more likely to order clothes online.

So when I found Stitch Fix through the recommendation of a friend, I was eager to try it. For a $20 styling fee, you get 5 items sent to you - clothing or accessories. Based on the style profile that you complete on their site, the stylist does their best to find things that will flatter your body type and match your style. You decide what you want to keep, and then send the rest back. Plus your $20 is credited towards your purchase. Worth a shot.

My first fix was where I found this awesome top which I wore for my engagement photos. I loved it so much. While I got some other things that I didn't love as much, I was still excited to have one thing I was really excited about.

Photo by Lisa Mathewson Photography
Loves it!

I gave the service another shot in December, right before going to a conference. My second Stitch Fix didn't have quite the same amount of success. I kept a magenta sleeveless top that I wear for work, but that wasn't a perfect match. I saw other friends and fellow bloggers finding these amazing outfits via their fixes, and didn't understand why my second one was so far off from my style. In fact, the service seems to have gotten so popular, that they have added staff to meet the demand. I was kind of bummed, and not sure if I was going to try again. 

But I decided to try again, with our upcoming honeymoon in mind. With the start of the school year, there is just no way that I am going to have time to go shopping for anything for our trip. And while I am trying to save money for adventures, my wardrobe could definitely go for a refresh with a new piece or two. The first thing that I did was to go back and edit my profile a bit, per the suggestions of other folks who said to be really specific. The more feedback that you give, the better your fixes become along the way. I asked for pieces that would be good for our honeymoon - layering pieces that wouldn't take up a ton of room in my suitcase, since we are just taking carry ons. I also updated my Pinterest board, and sent that to them too.

My box came last week, and I was pretty excited just upon opening it. There's just something about the way that they wrap the neatly folded clothes that makes it even more special. 

So, I'm going to share some shots of me trying on what I got. Let's not talk about the fact that my hair looks weird from taking clothes on and off, that the lighting is terrible and the shots are blurry, etc. Focus on the outfits. I'll include pictures of the little cards they sent so that you can see some other ways they suggest you style the pieces.

The first thing that I pulled out of the stack was this awesome green top. This color green is one of my favorites. And it was a soft flowy top that was super comfy. I liked the detailing on the sleeves and was just super excited about this one. Except for the price. I just didn't feel like it was worth the cost - almost $70. I knew it had to go back, especially as I looked closer at the seam and noticed that it had a bunch of loose strings. Nope, not today.

I ended up sending it back, although I was really sad to put it in the return bag. In another life, perhaps we will meet again. What I did keep from the outfit above...the awesome jeans that they sent me. Did I need a new pair of jeans? Nope! But when you get a pair of jeans that fit and don't give you a mom butt, you keep em! Love them!

I kind of wish that they sent me the cute striped tank in the picture too!

The next thing that I tried on was this cute white top that I so badly wanted to love. Also flowy and super comfy, it had cute detailing that really made me want to keep it. BUT, it was a size too big. Too long and too wide just doesn't work. However, right before I checked out and was going to send it back, I decided to contact their customer service. While they won't guarantee exchanges, they happened to have the top in a size smaller, and would send it my way. Awesome customer service. Woo! I love you white top!

Here is the card with the styling:

The next item that I tried on was a charcoal gray drape front cardigan. I don't have anything like this, so I was pretty excited about it. It also felt like a high quality piece that I could wear often. This picture doesn't really do it justice - it looks a little weird with the white top that is too big, but it is comfy and wonderful. It is a piece that would get a ton of use on our trip.  

This was another piece that I was debating whether or not to keep. While it is super high quality, the price was a little bit more than I wanted to spend on a cardigan. Or so I thought! Turns out, there was a typo on the price list that they enclosed in the package. When I went to check out and was planning to send it back, it was actually $16 cheaper. Score! So I kept it!

The last thing that I pulled out of the package was a dress that I wasn't so sure about. It was a pretty bold pattern, which isn't necessarily my style. I tried it on, and I was right. Not my style. And also not a good fit. I'll spare you the photo, as it was at least a size too small on the bottom. Cute on someone - just not me.

As a whole, this was a much more positive experience. I didn't anticipate keeping 3 out of 5 things. Allison, the Stitch Fix stylist, definitely did a good job of matching my style and my requests. All of the items were definitely stuff that could be worn throughout our trip and would roll up easily into a suitcase, leaving plenty of room for souvenirs!

While I can't afford to do Stitch Fix every month, I will definitely continue to use the service for different occasions. I think it could be for you too, if:

  • You don't have a ton of time, or a ton of interest in shopping.
  • You are still figuring out what your personal style is, and could use some help finding direction.
  • You enjoy the element of surprise.
  • You are willing to give it a shot, knowing that you are going to likely send some stuff back.
Looking around the web, they have a huge array of options - folks aren't all getting the same thing. If you want a whole box of maxi dresses, or one entirely of accessories, they'll do it.

Want to check it out for yourself? Here is a link to their site. When you sign up, I get a $25 credit. Which is always a lovely gift for future Fixes. : )
Do you get Stitch Fix? Anything good lately? 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Travel for Two

As we have been planning for our belated honeymoon, it hit me. This is the first big trip that Chris and I are taking together. 

We have traveled together before. That's not new. We drove to Iowa last summer for a reunion with my graduate school friends. We have headed out east together for the last several years to visit Chris' family. We have gone to the Rose Bowl and Florida with my family. And Chris joined me for a conference last year for some time in Orlando. 

But this time is different. This is us, planning an entire trip on our own. Over two weeks of adventures across three countries. Planes, trains, ferries and buses. Exchanging currencies. Determining what we both need in terms of structure and flexibility in our journey. Deciding when to get the advanced tickets and when to wait and make a game-time decision about what we want to do. Spending lots and lots of time trying to weigh advice from all of the interwebs. I am really enjoying our time spent researching the trip together, but wow, it can be overwhelming!

I'm finding that vacation planning can tell you a lot about your relationship. It provides insight into what each person individually values and what they need to feel fulfilled in a trip (and to stay sane). There is a need to be explicit in your expectations, and to not assume that the other person feels the same. To compromise, and make sure.

For example, Must Sees. We both have different things that we really want to do. And we can't do all of them. As we were talking about what day trips that we want to squeeze into the London leg of our trip, we were weighing our priorities of the Warner Brothers Studios to see the Harry Potter sets, a day trip through the Chunnel to Paris, and a bus tour to Stonehenge/Windsor Castle/Oxford. Sidenote: Channel + tunnel = Chunnel. Best thing ever! I'm a nerd. For both of us, Harry Potter was a given, because Harry Potter. Tickets booked. It's happening. But it was looking like it would make sense to choose between either Paris or Stonehenge versus trying to squeeze in both. For me, I'd choose Paris because I don't know when I will get there in the future. Chris also wants to go to Paris, but he worries that he'd feel some sense of regret, getting all the way to the UK and not making Stonehenge happen. Time to discuss. Is there a way that we can both be happy? 

Then there is the question of "How" we want to see different places. Are we bus trip people? Do we want a guided tour for things, or would we prefer to explore on our own? My aunt recommended that we do a biking tour of Paris, as a way to fit in a lot of sites in one day. Is that our style? Because this is our first kind of adventure, we are sort of guessing. We both agreed we weren't ready for a driving trip, so we are mixing in some self-guided destinations via public transportation, and selecting some guided day trips for the one's that seem a bit more complicated. If we go into this open minded, we can figure out what we'd prefer for next time.

Then there is the question of "What do I need on this trip to keep me from going crazy?" For me, I am pretty open to exploring lots of different things, as long as I am fed. Hangry is a thing. You can ask Chris - he's aware. He does not require specific meal times like I do. But he has learned that to avoid me getting crabby, food is important. Naps are also important.

To summarize: Naps. Food. Harry Potter. I'm excited.

How have you prioritized trip planning with a partner, friend, or family member? Any tips?    
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