On Clothing

February 23, 2015

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How many things do you have saved in the back of your closet for the one day that you “might” wear them? Have you ever noticed that you NEVER pick out those clothes to wear?

Last fall we did a deep clean of most of the rooms in our house. Our house is small and it feels so good to go through it and get rid of anything that isn’t meaningful, we don’t like, doesn’t serve a purpose, and doesn’t have a place. The one place that I didn’t take the time to thoroughly go through however, was my closet. It wasn’t a mess of epic proportions, but it was crowded with too many things that I didn’t wear, didn’t like, didn’t fit correctly, or never had a reason to wear.

I’ve been inspired lately to take a more minimal approach and really try to make sure my closet is only filled with pieces I love, want to wear, and ones that bring me confidence and joy. Sort-of my own take on the capsule wardrobe phenomenon. So that means clearing out clothing that I’ve outgrown, both in size and style, clothes that are worn out and have seen better days, and pieces that are leftover from my high school and college days that are too casual to wear to work (and I don’t find myself wearing on the weekends either).

Something that I’m really enjoying about myself as I get older, is my ability to better understand the things I really like. One of my greatest discoveries are the clothes that I’m comfortable in.

Here are some of the clothing guidelines I’ve discovered about myself:

  • No v-necks or anything else with a low neckline. I’m just too busty and I feel uncomfortable in shirts with low necklines, even if I wear a tank top underneath.
  • I look better in boatneck or scoopneck tops. Going along with the point above, I feel better and worry less about my appearance when I’m comfortable in a top with a higher neckline. I also think they look better on me in general because they take the focus away from my bust. I also just love the classic look of a boatneck top.
  • I can’t wear strapless tops or dresses. As I’ve said, I’m a busty woman who needs some major support up top. Strapless bras just don’t provide enough support for me and I’m constantly pulling up at the top of my dress and re-adjusting. For years I had this super uncomfortable backless, strapless bra (that looked more like a corset, complete with boning in the sides) that I used under my prom dresses. I have no desire to ever wear that again. I just wish I’d realized this one before my wedding (I’m so embarrassed at the top of my dress when I look back at my wedding pictures!).
  • I like clothes that are fitted, but not so tight they look too small. Again with the busty thing, if I wear clothes that are too loose, I just look fat, but I don’t like wearing clothes so tight that they look too small or are uncomfortable.
  • I like pieces that are versatile – business-casual enough for work, but casual enough for weekend wear. I can’t afford to have two closets, one for work and one for weekends, so I like to have pieces that I can dress up or dress down. Luckily I work somewhere where this works well for me.
  • Over the years I’ve realized there are certain colors I’m drawn to and that look better on me: black, white, grey, cream, taupe, pinks, teal/mint, plum/lavender, and gold, and ones that I should stay away from in clothing (for the most part): red, orange, yellow, and green.
  • I like simple tops and basic tees in neutral colors (solids or small scale patterns) that I can pair with a cardigan or sweater, colored/patterned scarves, plain jeans or colored skinny jeans, leather boots or flats, and simple gold jewelry. (that is pretty much my daily wardrobe).
  • Nothing too flashy, scratchy, uncomfortable, no falling off the shoulders or anything else that is annoying and distracting from whatever else I’m doing.
  • No high heels. I just don’t wear them and when I think I might want to, I put them on only to realize again how uncomfortable they are. Only flats or low wedge heels for me!
  • I really like tops with ¾ length sleeves. I get cold so easily that I feel most comfortable in those. I always bunch up the sleeves on long sleeve shirts past my wrist (because the sleeves at my hands get annoying) and I never wear short sleeve tops without a cardigan (because I get cold, and I don’t feel like it looks very professional for work).
  • I very rarely (like never) wear dresses or skirts. In the last year, I wore a dress to my grandpa’s funeral and when we went out to eat at a nice restaurant for Drew’s birthday. My legs get too cold, or they look too pale, or I feel like I need to be wearing uncomfortable high-heels to complete the look. It is fine if I have a couple dresses for special occasions, but I know when I go shopping, that spending money on them isn’t a good return on my investment.
  • I only wear neutral-colored shoes. I really do. I only wear shoes that are leather, black, nude, grey/silver, or gold. I don’t know how many pairs of pink flats or sandals I’ve bought just to realize that I never wear them. If I want to make a statement with a color I don’t want it to be on my feet.
  • Same with purses. I generally use the same purse for years (I am not the girl who wants to switch out purses to match each outfit), so I want it to go well with anything I put on, which means being a neutral color. I only buy high-quality (I want it to last!) and in a simple style that I really love. My current purse is a beautiful leather cross-body.
  • I never change my earrings. As pretty and appealing as colorful, dangly earrings can be, I’ve learned over time that I never wear them. I have sensitive ears and cheap earrings hurt my ears. So I stick with my diamond studs. I seriously haven’t changed my earrings since my wedding day almost three years ago (when I did wear dangly pearl earrings).

It look me years of buying clothes and then never wearing them or feeling self-conscious about them before I got to these “rules.” Why wear something if it is constantly going to make you keep second guessing your appearance, make you feel self-conscious, or make you lack confidence? I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do with my time. I can’t spend my whole day focused on my feet hurting from the shoes that are cute but uncomfortable, or the sweater that is a pretty color but keeps falling off my shoulder showing my bra straps, or how cold my legs are because I’m wearing a dress. It is so nice to embrace who I am and what I’m comfortable in and ignore the “I could look good in this” or the “that looks great on her, maybe I should buy it too” mentality. Another great thing about knowing what I like and what looks good on me, is that when I spend money on something, I’m much more likely to buy something that I’m going to wear (and want to wear) rather than something that is going to get donated the next time I do a closet purge.

Things to consider when buying something: Are you buying this item because you really love it and want it to become a part of your everyday wear? Does it fill a need in your wardrobe? If you had to wear one outfit for the rest of your life would it be that one? Or are you just buying it because it was “okay” and on sale? Being on sale is one of the biggest culprits for me! But what is the point in spending any money (even if it wasn’t as much as it could have been) on something you don’t love? I love this quote, “Don’t buy anything on sale that you wouldn’t consider at full price.”

I also really love the way that Sherry from Young House Love thinks about her closet (from this classic post, oh how I miss YHL!). Her words, “Don’t water down your wardrobe. I like to look at it as an “overall closet average.” Say I have ten outfits I love love love in my closet. I’d call them all favorites and on a scale of 1-10 I’d score them all a ten. That makes my overall closet average a ten. Then say that I see a sweater I kind of like (let’s say I’d give it a seven). And it’s on sale, so it’s tempting. The way I completely resist grabbing that sweater – which I’m guaranteed to like less than everything else in my closet – is to think of my closet average. Right now my overall closet average is a ten. If I get that sweater and it’s a seven, it’ll bring my entire closet average down, and I can just picture myself choosing other things on my hanging bar over and over again since it wasn’t something that I love love loved from the start. That helps me hold out for things I really truly love and stops me from grabbing anything I probably won’t wear or appreciate as much.” (here is another great post from Sherry on closet clutter).

I want to feel comfortable and confident in all the clothes in my closet. So major purge happening now! Tell me, is this the way you look at your closet too? Have you figured out that list of what you love/don’t love on yourself? I have to say, knowing what I feel comfortable in is not only great for everyday, but when I go shopping I immediately know whether I’ll like something enough to even take the time to try it on or not. Knowing what I like saves me time and money in so many ways!

P.S. There are many places where you can donate your clothes to make sure that they go to good use after you are done with them. Look for local homeless or women’s shelters in your area. Many churches have donation bins that go to those in need in your community.

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese

February 17, 2015

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I love a good mac and cheese. The real cheese, rich, flavorful ones. Unfortunately, not many places make gluten-free mac and cheese, so if I get a craving for it I have to make it at home. No worries though, I’ve been using this recipe for a couple years and love it!

White Cheddar Mac and Cheese (Gluten-free)
adapted from this recipe, here.

Ingredients:
-1 box (at least 12 oz) penne or other shaped pasta (I like this GF kind)
-6 Tbsp butter
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-4 Tbsp flour (I use my GF all purpose flour)
-1 cup chicken broth
-1 1/2 cups milk
-2 1/2 cups freshly shredded white cheddar cheese (or you can use a mixture of cheeses if you prefer – I usually use at least one 8 oz block of white cheddar, then add a bit of Gruyere, Parmesan, or whatever else I have in the fridge)
-salt, pepper, Italian seasoning to taste

Directions:
1. Boil water and cook pasta according to package directions (I like my pasta al dente).
2. In large skillet, melt butter (over medium/high heat). Stir in garlic, mustard, and cayenne pepper and cook for about 1 minute.
3. Whisk in flour, stirring and cooking another minute or so until golden.
4. Whisk in broth and milk and stir constantly for 10 minutes or so, until sauce bubbles and thickens slightly (turning heat down to medium if needed).
5. Stir in cheeses until melted. Salt and pepper to taste. (I sometimes sprinkle in a little Italian seasoning as well). Stir in cooked pasta.
6. Either enjoy as is, or if you have extra time, place in glass baking dish, sprinkle with toasted GF breadcrumbs, and bake in the oven at 400 degrees for another 30 minutes or so until it is nice and bubbly!

Enjoy!

P.S. This recipe works great to add in chicken and broccoli or other vegetables for a main dish. If you do decide to bake afterwards, I would suggest only cooking the pasta on the stove until it begins to soften, but is still slightly crunchy. Otherwise baking it might overcook the pasta and get too soft/mushy. As it is baking, the pasta absorbs more of the sauce and it is delicious! But, let’s be real, I’m usually in a hurry to get dinner done after work and don’t have time for that!

Happy Mardi Gras!

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Yesterday evening, Drew and I (and a couple friends of ours), went to TEDxTU, Tulane’s version of TED talks. We went last year and enjoyed it and this year didn’t disappoint. There were several great speakers, but in particular the opening of the very last speaker’s story stuck with me more than the others. The speaker was Jackie Sumell (learn more about her project here), and while her talk had very little to do with what I’m writing about today, I was inspired by something her grandmother told her. When Jackie was in her twenties, she lived in New York City with her grandmother. They lived a little far out from where Jackie worked, so every morning she had a long route to take to work. Take the subway, get off, walk several blocks, then get on another bus or subway line to go the rest of the way. One day, she was complaining to her grandmother about how inefficient her route was, and very matter-of-fact-ly her grandmother looked at her and said, “Why take the most efficient route? Why not take the most beautiful?”

It struck me how odd of a thing that is to say in today’s culture. We are automatically programmed to do things the most efficient way. It just isn’t practical to take a longer route to work just because you want to see a more beautiful one. It often isn’t practical in a work environment to take longer to do a project just to make it prettier.

But what about when you work in a creative industry? My daily work is to make beautiful things. Is there an efficient route to making things beautiful? Sometimes projects can be both efficient and beautiful, but often they are opposites. It is hard to push creativity into a neat, little, efficient box. Creativity is fed by taking time to see the beauty and inspiration in things and most creative projects aren’t quick and easy. They require planning, sketching, researching, designing, re-designing, tweaking, proofing, and designing a little more. (or painting, or sculpting, or whatever it may be). Not just rushing around to get to the next place or move on to the next task.

I started thinking about my morning routine and route to work. The route I take is a little choppy, taking smaller roads to avoid morning traffic jams, because that is the route that gets me to work the fastest and I like getting every single minute of sleep I can. In the mornings I am only worried about efficiency. Getting the most sleep, waking up at the exact time I need to in order to have the exact amount of time I need to get ready, rushing around getting ready, eating breakfast, feeding the cat, out the door. Taking the fastest route I’ve mapped out to my destination. I’ve been wondering though, how much more creative could I be during the day if I didn’t worry about the most efficient morning and instead focused on the most beautiful? Waking up earlier so that I can take the time to see the beauty on my way to work? I’m actually fortunate, in that the quickest route to work for me is also a very beautiful one, but when I’m rushing along it, I’m not always taking the time to soak up its beauty. Wouldn’t seeing the beauty in the morning help my creativity during the day?

We live in such a hurried culture. Why is it so hard to slow down? To “stop and smell the roses?”

While googling the exact definition of the word “efficient,” I came across this Wikipedia page, with this quote, “Efficiency is doing things right, while effectiveness is doing the right things.” It struck me at how parts of my life might be efficient, but are they effective? The question is not am I doing things right, but am I doing the right things?

Just what I’ve been thinking about this morning. Here is an interesting article from several years ago on the struggle between efficiency and creativity.

Thoughts?

january-2015

Right now in life, I am:

MAKING progress already on my goals for 2015. I made 10 new repeatable patterns in January! (along with a lot of other sketches, ideas, etc…)
COOKING Grits and Grillades (a traditional Creole food, pronounced gree-yahds). I think I’ve developed a new found love for creamy cheese grits. We also made a few beef roasts and then made beef stroganoff, beef stew, roast beef po-boys, and debris fries from the leftovers.
DRINKING water and orange juice.
READING  lots of things. I got a huge stack of new books for Christmas that I’ve wanted to start reading so bad! But I made myself promise to finish up several of the books that I’d half finished before I started any new ones. So this month I finished  Almost Amish: One Woman’s Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life, The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun and Designing Patterns: For Decoration, Fashion, and Graphics. I did however start reading Simple Abundance (see here) again on January 1. Let’s see if I can stick to it this year!
WANTING to make 2015 a more productive year with my planner sheets. LOVE them already!
PLAYING Taylor Swift’s 1989 album in the car and her Pandora station and Ed Sheeran’s Pandora station while I work.
SEWING nothing, again. However, I did seam rip and wash these gold cloth napkins from West Elm in preparation for a project I want to sew. I just have to gather a few more supplies!
CROCHETING nothing! I crocheted so much in December that I took a little break this month. I need to get back at it though as I currently have a scarf and an afghan unfinished. 
WISHING for great vacations in 2015! We have several exciting trips planned and I can’t wait!

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ENJOYING the warm-for-January weather we have been having lately. I hope it sticks around for Mardi Gras.
WAITING to receive my replacement glass for my beloved BKR bottle. I was on my way to check out Courtyard Brewery’s Grand Opening last weekend when I dropped it and it broke. :(
LIKING getting to know more about Surface Pattern Design and Fabric Design through these books.
WONDERING why it took so long for me to post an updated House Tour (2 years!).
LOVING these gorgeous fabrics that I bought from my favorite fabric shop back home in December (photo above). They are just so inspiring to me! I can’t wait to make a quilt with them this year!
HOPING that this post might have struck a chord with someone else the way it did with me. 
MARVELING at how much more New Orleans feels like home now that we are established in our church group.
NEEDING to relax a bit. I feel like I’ve been so supercharged at goal-getting this month that I’m left exhausted.
SMELLING the scent of hot glue as I helped decorate Muses shoes!

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WEARING my favorite leather boots, of course, but they are looking much better since I just spruced them up with some leather conditioner.
FOLLOWING my favorite TV shows again now that they are back on after Christmas break! I know it is cheesy, but I’m so excited for this season of Hart of Dixie. Also watching: Castle, State of Affairs, Scandal, and Madam Secretary.
NOTICING the peace and stillness and community and friendship at the women’s retreat I attended this month.
KNOWING that “the grass is greener where you water it” in regards to working on your goals.
THINKING a lot about minimalism. This and this. And in relation to home design, this and this. Brings me back to my absolute favorite quote about the home by William Morris, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” A great resource for becoming minimalist.
BOOKMARKING this blog. How amazing is the treehouse they live in? Or the house in France they did live in!? Amazing! Check this out!
CELEBRATING my new blog design and its new features! This design has been a long-time coming and I’m so happy that it is a better representation of me!
OPENING my new light pad and using it to create some neat illustrations that eventually became a pattern (you can see part of it in the photo above). Notice the cat face and tail underneath the screen. :)
LAUGHING at this outtake picture from our Christmas Card pics. Love it. 
FEELING excited for Mardi Gras! The last day of January marked the first real parade of Mardi Gras, Krewe du Vieux, which I watched with Drew and my little sister, Kelsey, who came into town for the weekend!

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Click to check out June, July, AugustSeptemberOctoberNovember, and December of 2014.

Blog Redesign & New Features

January 27, 2015

I’m super excited to reveal my new blog design!

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Over the almost 5 years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve made some tweaks here and there to my blog design, but for the most part, the design has stayed much the same. It was finally time to get rid of that linen background and have a clean and simple brand that fit me a little better where I am now. I’ve been working on this design for several months and I’m so happy that it is finally live!

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Along with a new look, there are a few cool new features that I added to make things a little easier to navigate (I’ve wanted to add several of these features for years!). On my sidebar, you can now see images of popular categories and posts. You can also now find an image labeled “post archives” that will take you to this page, which is a nice and easy way to find a past post!

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One of the features that I am most excited about is my recipes page! If you click on the tab labeled “recipes” on my menu, it will take you to a page where you can easily find recipes I’ve posted, and even sort them by “gluten-free,” “sweet,” and “savory.”

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You can do the same thing now too with my projects page as well. Easily find projects that I’ve blogged about. Eventually I hope to also sort those by category, but I haven’t made it that far yet!

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Hope you enjoy the new design and easier navigation!

P.S. If things aren’t showing up correctly for you, you might need to refresh a few times or clear your cache. 

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