Weekly Eats: Around the World

When I plan meals for the week, I try to include a variety of types of cuisines. This week was no different, with an all-American burger, a Peruvian beef stir-fry, and Mexican(ish) taquitos. 

1. Barbecue chicken burgers from How Sweet it is. Not surprisingly, I substituted turkey for chicken in these, simply because I already had some. Also not surprising, this was a recipe I tried because Anne sang its praises not too long ago. She was right, this burger was scrumptious! Jona even had his own mini-burger, but I'm almost positive he would have eaten a regular-sized one!  

2. Peruvian Beef Stir-Fry from Skinnytaste. I made this with rice instead of oven fries, but let me tell you, it was delicious! Add it to the (long) list of stir-fry dishes we love. It's pretty simple--just beef, veggies, and a sauce made with just apple cider vinegar and soy sauce--but so flavorful. And once again, Jona ate the beef like it was going to jump off his high chair and run away. (He strategically avoided the red peppers though, little stinker.)

3. Baked Honey Lime Chicken Taquitos from Six Sisters' Stuff. This was another quick dinner, since I already had some shredded chicken ready to go. These were good with the dipping sauce I didn't get a picture of: a sour cream/enchilada sauce mix. And I swear, we eat vegetables other than corn! I had to do some menu-rearranging this week so corn was the easy go-to. 

What was on your menu this week? 

By the way, I'm taking Monday off from the blog to enjoy the day with my family. I'll be back on Tuesday to talk about my fall capsule wardrobe. Have a wonderful weekend! 

New LBD and eShakti Review

A little black dress is definitely a closet staple for me. However, the one I had just wasn’t cutting it anymore. It didn’t fit quite right, and the neckline was a little low, so I didn’t feel comfortable wearing it without some sort of cover-up at work. When eShakti contacted me about doing a product review, I thought they would be the perfect place to find a replacement LBD.

eShakti is known for their custom tailoring, so I hoped that even if I didn’t find perfection, I could make perfection happen through customization. I made a couple of adjustments to the dress I chose: I made the sleeve length longer (it originally had cap-sleeves) and the dress length slightly shorter (above-the-knee rather than knee-length). Although I can’t say that it’s exactly what I was looking for, I will say that I do really like it. I was very impressed by the quality of the dress; it’s very well-made. The sleeve-length and neckline are exactly what I wanted. It’s perfect on its own right now, but it will also layer well under jackets and cardigans when it gets cooler. I only have one complaint, and it’s a small one. While I love the idea of pockets on a dress (who doesn’t love pockets?) I think if I had to choose again I would have eliminated them (which is also an option). I think they add a little bulk to the hip-area of the dress, and since it’s already a full dress, I’d like it to be a little smoother there.

The ordering process went very smoothly as well. Once I found the dress I wanted it was easy to customize and order, and it shipped a lot more quickly than I thought it would. I did have a little trouble choosing a dress; several of the options I first picked I was not able to try due to “fabric supply”. Otherwise, my experience with eShakti has been an overwhelmingly positive one.

Here’s the real test: yes, this dress is going into my Fall Capsule!

Have you tried eShakti before? What was your experience?

Dress: c/o eShakti; belt: Gap Outlet; sandals: Target; #StyleMeAugust "Hollywood's Golden Era"

Linking up to Summer Style at Mix & Match Fashion.

Mid-Week Pick Me Ups: End of Summer

Days have felt long lately, and the heat has kept us trapped indoors. Instead of turning this post into a whine-fest (although a wine fest sounds good!) I'll focus on some positives. Here are a few things that have been turning my frown upside down lately.

1. Ice cream for lunch. Excuse me, frozen custard for lunch. Sometimes, it just has to happen. When it's sweltering and there's a Sheridan's Frozen Custard less than 5 minutes from my work, well, an ice-cream obsessed girl's willpower only goes so far.  

2. Space in my (tiny, shared) closet. Like actual space to slide the hangers back and forth. I didn't even know that was possible! I have hangers that I'm not even using! Sorry for the excessive exclamation points, but you should have seen it before. Aaron can actually see his clothes now. It may have technically been a shared closet before, but up until now my stuff took up about 80% of the space, and I'm not even exaggerating. 

It's not just me who has a stripe addiction, is it? 

3. Jona on his first "bike". So he may not quite have the whole "push with my legs to make it go" thing figured out yet, but he looks too cute sitting there! Thanks Papa Gary and Grandma Gail for the sweet ride! 

4. Counting by 7s. The last book I read (Lark and Termite) left me a little perplexed. There were many things I enjoyed about it; the writing style, for instance, was beautiful and evocative. However, I frequently found myself trying to figure out what was actually going on, you know, with the plot. By contrast, I recently started Counting by 7s, which has been refreshingly easy to read and sink into. Heartbreaking, but absorbing nonetheless. 

5. Kitchen deals at Ross. I've blogged about Ross before. I've shopped at Ross before. But when I visited their newest store in the area (this one is fairly close to where I live), I discovered something I had overlooked before. They have so much kitchen stuff! When I went last weekend, I was getting ready to tackle my closet, so I thought it may not be a good idea to bring home more clothes (or shoes) for my already overstuffed closet. So with a tear in my eye, I wandered past the shoe selection and found myself surrounded by pots and pans and utensils, all at amazing deals. I got all these name brand, much-needed items for $25. How awesome is that? Thanks Ross! 

What has been making you smile lately? 

I was provided a $25 gift card to Ross as compensation for this post. However, all opinions are my own. 

Sundae Style: Jeans + Tee Shirt

After I cleaned out my closet this weekend and donated enough to clothe a small village, I had a brief panic attack. What if I got rid of too much? What if I donated something I'm going to want later? Will I get bored with the seemingly tiny selection left in my closet? Then I started thinking about how much I love the clothes that are left in my closet, and how wearable and versatile they are, and I started to calm down.

For example, I love a jeans + tee combination like I wore the other day, because with the right accessories it's far from basic. If an outfit were an ice cream sundae (yes, I went there again), the jeans and tee would be the base flavor. The accessories would be the yummy toppings that turn the sundae up a notch: the whipped cream, the chocolate sauce, the cookie dough...you get the picture. 

Here are a few of my favorite style flavors: 

Sundae #1: Funky Feminine 

Sundae #2: Colorful Classic

tee / jeans / necklace / blazerpumps

Sundae #3: French-inspired

What "toppings" would you add? 

Gray Lace Top 2 Ways

You know you're getting old when the highlight of your weekend was cleaning out your closet. But seriously...it felt amazing. I donated four (yes, four!) trash bags full of clothes. And that's not counting another bag that I'm going to try to sell to a consignment shop. It's amazing how much stuff I've accumulated over the years. 

One thing that was spared the donate pile though was this gray lace top. I think it makes any outfit feel a little more special. I love to mix it with contrasting styles, like a cargo vest or a chambray shirt. 

For work I wanted to look casual, yet professional. Alone the lace top and denim pencil skirt are ladylike, but the cargo vest and strappy flat sandals add a little funk. My inspirations were the Inspiration Monday picture at Two Birds and the #StyleMeAugust prompt "Ladylike lace love." 

Cargo vest: Old Navy; lace top: Loft; denim pencil skirt: Target; black sandals: BC Footwear

Over the weekend, my lace top was the contrasting piece between double denim layers. 

#StyleMeAugust "darling double denim" look: chambray shirt: Madewell; lace top: Loft; jean shorts: Loft; sandals: Loft

Linking up to Mix it Mondays and Inspiration Monday

Weekly Eats: Dos and a Don't

Here are the highlights (and one low-light) from our dinner table this week: 

1. Vietnamese Caramel Pork Stir Fry from How Sweet it is: We eat quite a bit of "fake out take out" Asian stir-fry type dishes. They're usually quick to make, and it's an easy way to add some veggies to a meal without making a separate side dish. This version is one that's become a recent favorite. I think it's the toppings that make it stand out: it's delicious on it's own, but the lime, cilantro and peanuts make it absolutely drool-worthy. Put this one on the DO list!

2. Skillet Lasagna also from How Sweet it is (love that blog!). You may vehemently disagree, but I think this beats "real" lasagna any day of the week. It's quicker and easier, plus the way the fresh mozzarella on top gets all melty in the oven...mmm, heaven. I've lost count of how many times I've made this dish; it's definitely a keeper in my house! 

3. Baked Honey Chicken Tenders from Six Sisters' Stuff: This chicken was flavorful and easy to throw together (I didn't marinate for as long as they recommended but it still tasted good!). The only downside was that I baked it a little too long and the chicken got a bit dry. I imagine if you replace the super-lean tenders with drumsticks or even thighs in this recipe, the result would be juicy chicken that's packed with flavor. 

4. I'll share a fail that wound up on our DON'T list. Most of the time I ignore the cooking times on slow cooker recipes. (Cook for 6 hours? Well I work an 8+ hour day, so that just isn't happening.) However, I learned my lesson with slow cooker turkey meatballs. I'm positive that if I would have followed the directions, these would have been awesome. But even on low, after a full day of slow cooking, those poor meatballs had all the moisture and flavor sucked right out of them. Luckily Jona didn't seem to mind. Aaron and I were picking at our plates, and meanwhile that kid was practically inhaling the meatballs! At least they didn't completely go to waste. 

What was on your menu this week? 
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Jeans + Tee + a Touch of Glam

Jeans and a tee shirt. It's one of the most basic combinations, yet it's one of my favorites. It's what I reach for when I need an "easy" outfit. I love it because it's simple, yet it's the perfect foundation for so many possibilities. For work, I wanted to dress up my jeans and tee a little, so I added a sparkly statement necklace (for #StyleMeAugust) and funky snakeskin flats. 

How do you dress up jeans and a tee? 

Taupe t-shirt: Target; jeans: Gap; sparkly necklace: Bauble Bar; belt: Gap; snakeskin flats: Target

Linking up to Summer Style at Mix & Match Fashion. 
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Jona's Whale Birthday Party

Since I've been blubbering on and on about my baby turning one, I thought I'd at least share a few photos from his whale-themed party (see what I did there?). We decided to keep the party small, but I still wanted to have some fun with the food and decorations. 

My starting point for party decor was this Nautical Whale Party from RVParties, my favorite party planning shop. I let Rachel and Victoria (the R and V of RVParties) do most of the work - I just had to cut and assemble. Because throwing parties stresses me out, I didn't go crazy with the decorations. As difficult as it was, I gave my perfectionist, type-A self a break and didn't stress (too much) about having everything match.

I did try to put some effort into the food, since that's always the best part of a party anyway, right? In keeping with the whale theme, I served the following dishes: 
-Whale Eggs (AKA meatballs - I used this recipe)
-Sea Snails (pigs in a blanket)
-Ham & Cheese "Seaweed" Wraps (seaweed = spinach tortilla)
-Turkey Hummus "Seaweed" Wraps
-Plankton (Chex Mix)
-Ocean (Funny story, mixing Swedish Fish into partially set-up blue Jello is a good idea in theory, but the resulting bloated, purplish blobs swimming around the gelatin sea were less than appetizing. Live and learn.)
-Cupcakes - the chocolate and white (box mix) cupcakes with (homemade) buttercream frosting got a pass on the cheesy naming

In addition to a special t-shirt (see my post on that here), Jona got his very own smash cake. I baked white cake in a round pan and cut it out and frosted into a whale shape. No, it won't be gracing the shelves of any bakeries, but for a cake whose purpose is to be pulverized by tiny little hands, I think it turned out pretty cute. Jona's reaction was a mixture of awe and horror. Once he figured out that it tasted good, there was more going into his mouth than into the air at least. 

I'd say the party was a success. Jona had fun seeing friends and family, and I didn't shed a single tear thinking about how my baby isn't a baby anymore. (I'm not saying I won't, but so far, so good.)

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Five French [inspired] Fall Finds

In anticipation of my impending closet clean-out and fall wardrobe transition, I was brainstorming which styles I am most drawn to. One that kept popping up in my mind was "French". Now French-style dressing means different things to different people (especially real French people I'm sure), but to me it means classic, quality pieces and simple prints like stripes and neutral leopard. 

Here are 5 pieces that fit that aesthetic, all of which would be perfect additions to my fall wardrobe. (Whether or not the budget agrees, now that's another story.) 

1. Leopard flats. My leopard flats from Target have served me well, but they are about to bite the dust. To spare myself the crying and heartbreak of not having a pair of leopard flats in my closet, I'm going to replace them before they die. I love this pair from Madewell. 

2. White button-up. I have a white button-up shirt, but I don't wear it much because it feels so stiff. I bought it because I figured it would go with everything and be a classic piece in my closet. I think a classic white button-up can be a closet staple, but it needs to fit well and be wearable. This lightweight, silky version from J.Crew Factory is better suited to me and would make a great layering (and stand-alone) piece. 

3. Striped long-sleeve top. I plan to replace two striped tops with fits I'm not crazy about with one higher-quality one that I'm more comfortable in. (As much as I wanted to love this peplum top, every time I wear it I'm constantly pulling it down. I should have sized up.) I'm a fan of this one from Land's End. 

4. Skinny black pants. I love a good skinny jean, but I need a versatile, slim fit pair of pants for days when I need to look more professional. These J.Crew Factory ones would do the job! 

5. Graphic tee. In my opinion, the French are masters of the "I just threw this on but I somehow still look incredibly sexy" look. A simple, loose-fitting graphic tee sends just that message. (Bonus points for being in French, J.Crew.) 

What's on your wishlist for fall so far? 
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Navy Floral Dress 2 Ways

I'm really hoping that one of these days I'll say, "Wow, I'm feeling refreshed and recharged after that relaxing, lazy weekend!" instead of "Holy busy weekend, I'm exhausted." Next weekend? Please? Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time, and Jona had the best first birthday. But I could use a nap or two. 

This navy blue floral dress got a workout this week. I love the ease of a dress, and this one was perfect both for work and for the weekend. 

For work, I kept it painfully simple, and just added red ballet flats. Although my look is a lot different, I had the Inspiration Monday picture at Two Birds in the back of my mind when I put this on. I was also thinking of the #StyleMeAugust prompt "Talk of the Toes" with my red shoes. 

Navy floral dress: Loft; red ballet flats: Gap Outlet

For my weekend look, I added yellow sandals and earrings, a belt, and a neutral navy cardigan (for the indoors, of course). I love navy blue and yellow together, so the dress was just what I wanted for "Hello Yellow" day for #StyleMeAugust. 

Navy cardigan: Merona, Target; navy floral dress: Loft; earrings: Etsy; belt: Loft; sandals: Steve Madden via DSW

Linking up to Mix it Mondays @ Fizz & Frosting and Inspiration Monday @ Two Birds
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Weekly Eats 7: Quick and Easy

This week I've been working hard to get Jona's party finalized (even for a small party, there's still so much work involved!) so it was all about the quick and easy meals.

1. No Fail Slow Cooker Chipotle Pulled Pork from Kitchen Belleicious. Ahh the slow cooker. A working mom's best friend. This pork was juicy, flavorful, and a little spicy (must not have been too spicy though--Jona devoured this). It was delicious on toasted kaiser rolls as a pulled pork sandwich, and again in quesadillas later in the week. And I still have some left to freeze...any ideas for leftover pulled pork? 

2. Homemade Crunchy Taco Hamburger Helper from Iowa Girl Eats. This one is a household favorite, and it's a one-pot meal which is an added bonus. You can't go wrong with rice, salsa, ground beef, and cheese in my opinion! 

3. Sriracha Chicken Quinoa Bowl from Kim's Healthy Eats. Ooh boy this one was a sinus clearer! It was plenty spicy, but tasty. Aaron even liked the quinoa, so I'll consider it a success. (Once again I'm finding inspiration at Anne's blog--she talked about trying this recipe in a recent post.) 

What was on your menu this week? 
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Pin to Present: Birthday Tee

Today I'm joining in the Pin to Present linkup at In Residence. Anne's linkup was just the motivation I needed to make one of my pins happen off the screen. Since there's a big birthday coming up in our household, I decided to recreate a pin from my "Birthday Boy" board. 

I remade this t-shirt from an Etsy shop (Lilthreadzclothing), and I admit I came close to just buying it because it's so darn cute! But since I couldn't quite bring myself to spend $30 on a t-shirt Jona will wear just one time, I decided to make it instead. 

I found a plain gray t-shirt at Old Navy, and bought some fabric paint. I looked up and down for stencils in lettering that I liked (simple, lowercase letters) but had no luck. So I painted everything freehand (which is why the letters are a little wonky looking) and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out!

I decided to go with a "whale" themed party as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Bible story featuring that other guy named Jonah. And also, because these decorations I found at RVparties Etsy shop were super cute. Next week I'll share more from the birthday celebration. 

Ruffled Pink

Oh hey, another pale pink cardigan. I think I have a problem. This one I found on a major sale, when I was on a short-sleeve cardigan kick. (And I do admit, they are great layering pieces in the summer!) The sheer, ruffled cardigan paired with this navy print summery dress suited the #StyleMeAugust prompt "Flowing in the Wind" quite nicely, I think.

Stay tuned, tomorrow I'll have a little peek at a few things for Jona's first birthday party. (He's turning one on Friday, how is that possible?!) 

Ruffled cardigan: Loft; navy print dress: Old Navy; earrings: White House Black Market (old!); sandals: Loft

Dots, Spots and a Fall Challenge

Although I'm not trying to hurry summer along, in many ways I'm ready for the fall. (And sorry Aaron, it's not just because of college football.) For a while now, I've been thinking about doing a major closet clean-out, and there's no time like the fall to jump in and do that. Anne at In Residence just wrote a great post about it, and I found myself nodding my head with much of what she had to say. 

There's just so much stuff. I always tell myself I'm going to shop quality over quantity, but then there's a sale, or I have a coupon, or something. But enough! Seriously, I'm tired of having a bunch of stuff I like, when I could have a smaller selection of things that I love. Realistically I wear the crap out of the same few things anyway (chambray shirt and navy striped dress I'm talking to you). So I'm ready. Ready to get rid of all the clothes I feel lukewarm about. Ready to build a small(er) capsule wardrobe (thanks again Anne for leading me to Un-Fancy). Ready to challenge myself to believe that less really can be more. 

What challenges are you taking on for fall? Are you ready? 

Graphic t-shirt: Old Navy; polka dot skirt: Old Navy; leopard belt: Gap Outlet; black and gold sandals: Ross

Red Summer Stripes 2 Ways

The weekend is never long enough, is it? I feel like I have so much to do, and I never can get it all done in those two short days. Especially if I want to fit a little relaxation in there too. 

Today I'm remixing this red striped top for two weekend-ready looks. 

The first look was perfect for casual Friday at work. For Friday's #StyleMeAugust prompt, "layers of lovely" I added my favorite cargo vest. 

Red stripe top: Target; cargo vest: Old Navy; white jeans: Loft; wedge sandals: Old Navy

My second look, inspired by the Inspiration Monday photo at Two Birds, took me from a casual lunch out with my boys to relaxing at home (and by relaxing, I mean trying to keep Jona away from all the phone charging cords and TV remotes). 

Red striped top: Target; boyfriend jeans: Loft; yellow sandals: Steve Madden via DSW