What I Read: December

I've gotten out of the habit of posting what I read each month, but I'd like to start doing that once again. I always love seeing what other bloggers are reading and loving, so I hope you'll enjoy it as well. Here's what I read in December.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes. I love Jojo Moyes; The Last Letter from Your Lover and Me Before You are two of my favorite reads. I heard mixed reviews about this one, but I really enjoyed it. The way Moyes is able to smoothly jump between modern and historic times is impressive. If you enjoy Moyes' other books I'd recommend it for sure; if you've never read one of her books you absolutely MUST read Me Before You and The Last Letter from Your Lover

The Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa Gabriele. I absolutely hated this book for about the first fourth of it. I almost gave up on it, but it was one of those stories that grew on me. For me, it was the main characters, two sisters who lead radically different lives, who grated on my nerves. If I don't like the protagonists, I have a hard time enjoying the rest of the book. Another strike against it was the plot, which involved one sister sleeping with the other sister's husband... a real feel-good read, right? However, like I said, I gave the sisters a chance and eventually found myself wanting to know what would happen next. 

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. So many people recommended this book to me, and I'm so glad I waited in the long library queue to get it. I loved everything about this book, from the quirky, genius narrator to all the characters he meets in his quest to find himself, in the most scientific manner, the perfect wife. This is a wonderful, feel-good read, I'd definitely recommend it. 

Have you read anything good lately? 

Leather Cuff Bracelet: A Local Christmas Gift

I'm going to keep this short and sweet today because I'm still enjoying some time off. My mom is in town so I'm going to try to soak up the short time I have with her while she's here. But I had to show off one of my favorite gifts I got this year, this Nickel and Suede bracelet that Aaron got me. We both bought each other a local, KC-sourced gift. This bracelet for me, and some Dark Horse Distillery whiskey for Aaron. (I think mine will last much longer!)

Plaid flannel shirt: J.Crew / navy sweater: J.Crew Factory / jeans: Gap / leather cuff bracelet: Nickel and Suede / red shoes: Toms

Linking to The Creative Closet for a gift-themed linkup today. 

Wardrobe MVPs: Favorite Casual Pieces

I think I'm still in a bit of a post-Christmas candy daze, and I know Jona is in a post-Christmas toy daze. I've always loved Christmas, but it's gotten even more fun since having Jona. Over the weekend we did Christmas with Aaron's side of the family, and with three kids (3, almost 2, and Jona-16 months) it was pretty entertaining. Did you have a good Christmas?

Today I'm wearing an outfit that consists of pieces that I consider my wardrobe MVPs, pieces that I wear over and over again. My favorite cargo jacket, a simple gray sweater, dark wash skinny jeans, and ankle boots--perfect for a day of relaxing, errand running, and clearing out some old toys to make way for new ones. 

Cargo jacket: Old Navy / gray sweater: Gap / dark skinny jeans: Gap / scarf: c/o Ross / taupe ankle boots: Target

Linking to Inspiration Monday

Merry Christmas

Christmas is tomorrow! Tomorrow, can you believe it? I thought I'd share this year's holiday card that we sent to friends and family. I went the cheap creative route and designed it myself using PicMonkey (thanks to some good ideas from Megan from Latte Everyday).

I'll be out for the rest of the week to spend time with family. I hope you have a Merry Christmas!

Sweater Love

Now that I'm just about finished with Christmas shopping and wrapping, I'm starting to get that familiar itch to hit the stores once again, but this time to buy stuff for me. (Please tell me that I'm not the only one that finds a million things to add to my own wishlist when I'm shopping for other people!)

One thing I'll be on the hunt for is a new sweater or two. This one I'm wearing is my current favorite, and I'd like another that's similar in style but maybe a little thicker and warmer. After seeing this look on Penny Pincher Fashion I decided to try belting this sweater, and I really like how it turned out. 

What kinds of sweaters will you be buying (or did you buy already) this year? 

Navy print cardigan: Loft / navy t-shirt: J.Crew Factory / skinny jeans: Gap / leaf necklace: Target / brown braid belt: Loft / brown riding boots: Mia

Linking to the Creative Closet for "My Favorite Sweater". 

How-to Wear Double Denim for Day or Night

As I've been thinking about what I'll be putting in my Winter Capsule starting in January, one item that's a no-brainer for me is my chambray shirt. I was trying to figure out why I love that shirt so much, and why I wear it over and over again without getting tired of it. I think I figured it out; it literally is like the "jeans" of tops. I say literally because, well, it's denim, but it's also equally versatile as my favorite pair of jeans. Put the two together, and you've got the ultimate outfit blank slate, perfect for day or night.

For an easy daytime look, I add a colorful scarf and ankle boots to the double-denim canvas. The scarf makes me feel put-together and gives the illusion that I took time putting this together. Scarves are great for that.

Chambray shirt: Madewell / skinny jeans: Gap / scarf: Target, gift / ankle boots: Target

For a double-denim look that's a little dressier, I put on my snakeskin flats, a bold necklace, and a bright red bag. This look is perfect for a casual date night out.

Chambray shirt: Madewell / skinny jeans: Gap / pearls: Loft Outlet / red bag: c/o Ross / snakeskin flats: Target

How do you style double-denim? 

Linking to Inspiration Monday and Mix it Mondays

Weekly Eats: Meals with Kick

Although you won't see me enter in a hot-wing eating contest, and I can't even handle a full ladle of the hot salsa at Chipotle, I do love food that has some spice. Both of these dishes from this week packed a little punch.

1. Crock Pot Santa Fe Chicken from Skinnytaste. Any time you combine chicken, black beans, and corn in some sort of spicy sauce, it's a winner in my book. It's even better when you just throw everything into the crock pot and call it a day. The only thing I would have changed about this is that I should have added some avocado to go on top...yum!

2. Spicy Pork Pad Thai from Budget Bytes. I'm far from an expert on authentic Asian cuisine, so I have no idea if this is what pad Thai is "supposed" to taste like. But I've had a few different versions, and this is one I definitely like! I usually use sliced chicken or pork in dishes like this, so the ground pork was a nice change-up. I used sugar snap peas, but any veggie you have on hand would work too.

Do you like spicy food? 

Pinterest Inspired Gift-wrap

Most years I'm a bargain-bin wrapping paper kind of gal; why spend time and money making gifts look cute when it's just going to be torn to shreds, right? But then, Pinterest. I've come across way too many cute gift-wrap ideas lately, and most of them look surprisingly do-able and not ridiculous. (Like this one.)

So this year, armed with some brown kraft paper, a rubber stamp, twine, and markers, I got crafty with my wrapping. I stamped the packages after I wrapped (the lazy route) but it would probably look better to stamp the paper first. The verdict? This was SO easy, and I love how it turned out. I also liked writing the name of the person the gift is for right on the package instead of worrying about gift tags. I'll be doing this again for sure.

What's your gift wrapping style? 

I'm linking up to Holiday Pin to Present at In Residence

Christmas Wishlist

How's your Christmas shopping coming along? Every year I say I'm going to get it done early, and every year it gets to be December and I realize I have nothing done. The last few weeks I've been in the zone though, so although I'm not completely done, I'm close.

While I'm doing all that shopping for other people though, I can't help but make a list of all the things I want this year. Here are a few things on my wishlist.

1. The Chew Box Calendar. Just like I look forward to picking out a new planner every year, I also can't wait to pick out the next year's box calendar. I love having a fresh page to look forward to every day of the week. Although I never watch The Chew anymore (dang day job) I love that show and I think there would be some great recipe ideas in the calendar. 

2. Cuisinart Food Processor. If I still wrote a letter to Santa, this is the thing that would be at the top of my list. The thing that I would justify with all the examples of what a good girl I've been all year. And all the ways I'd use it, and all the things I'd make. I'm not above bribery, Santa. I'll share the first thing I make, whatever it is, with you. 

3. Local jewels. I'd love to update my jewelry box with a few pieces from two of my favorite Kansas City-based designers. I went to a trunk show held by Ngan of eNVe Designs earlier this month and found lots of pretties I'd love to add to my collection, like this necklace. I've also had my eye on this leather cuff from Nickel and Suede; it looks comfortable and wearable, even for a non-bracelet-wearer like me. 

4. Tervis Water Bottle. Okay, so this may seem like a silly thing to have on a Christmas wishlist, but I've had such a hard time finding a stinkin' water bottle that I like! I take one to work every day, and I can't seem to find one that doesn't break or doesn't leak, or doesn't sweat, etc. I have a few Tervis tumblers that I use all the time at home and I love them; I think a water bottle would hold up just as well. 

5. Gap Sweatpants. My pajama/lounge-wear collection is in a sad, sad state. Most of it consists of pants I bought to wear around the house after I had Jona. Comfort is happening, but cute is nowhere to be found. I feel like these sweatpants have a little bit of both. 

What's on your Christmas wishlist? See what other bloggers are wishing for at The Circle linkup

Cords and Layers Get Cozy

Yesterday I took my current favorite formula, button-up + sweater/sweatshirt + cords, and dressed it up a little with heels and some sparkle. Today I'm using the same formula but for a much more casual day. For my top layer, I swapped out the classic sweater for a much cozier polka dot sweatshirt. I kicked my heels to the proverbial curb and traded them for my much-loved taupe ankle boots. This look keeps the same balance of classic and whimsical as yesterday's outfit, but with a much more relaxed vibe.

While this outfit is totally appropriate for my casual office, it's just as suitable for a day spent reading and sipping hot cocoa. Although the former is what actually happened, I see some of the latter in my future during the holidays! I can't wait!

Polka dot sweatshirt: Loft / chambray shirt: Madewell / red cords: Gap / taupe ankle boots: Target

I'm linking up with The Creative Closet for today's "Snowed In" theme. What would you wear for a cozy day at home? 

Working Mom Style: Formula Dressing

I'm all about finding different "formulas" that work when it comes to getting dressed. One of my go-to formulas right now is button up shirt + sweater or sweatshirt + skinny cords. Depending on the occasion, I love that this formula can easily be dressed up or down.

For a look that's slightly dressed-up but still comfortable, I added pink heels and my favorite sparkly statement necklace. I love that the components are all classic pieces: chambray shirt, v-neck sweater, corduroy pants, but there's a bit of whimsy added through the polka dot print and the fun color of the shoes.

Come back tomorrow to see a much more casual take on this same formula!

What's your go-to closet formula right now?

Polka dot chambray: J.Crew Factory / gray sweater: Gap / blue cords: Gap / sparkle necklace: Bauble Bar / pink heels: Nine West

Linking to Mix it Mondays.  

Weekly Eats: Bold Flavors

This week was all about recipes that packed a punch. I made three completely different dinners, but each one was filled with big, bold flavors.

1. Bold Buffalo: Baked Buffalo Chicken Pasta from How Sweet it is. Hearty, creamy macaroni and cheese with a hint of buffalo flavor is topped with crunchy Panko bread crumbs and baked in the oven... sounds terrible right? This turned out delicious in spite of my ineptitude at making homemade cheesy sauce. For some reason my cheese sauce always, always separates. Any words of wisdom, ye masters of homemade mac and cheese?

2. Bold Garlic: Pork Chops with Garlic and Wine from The Pioneer Woman, with Parmesan Roasted Butternut Squash. This pork chop recipe had me at 1 1/2 cups of red wine. It had Aaron and 18 cloves of garlic. The combination of the two gave the chops so much flavor. We've gotten into a bit of a veggie rut (frozen corn, some sort of potato, repeat) so I'm trying to mix it up a little. This butternut squash was a nice change-up, and the hardest part about it was just peeling the dang thing.

3. Bold Thai: Thai Peanut Chicken Quinoa Bowls from Iowa Girl Eats. I made this one for the first time in September, and it was a surprising hit. Now it's becoming a new household favorite. Well, for two of us. Picky McGee (Jona) ate a few bites of quinoa (only off of his spoon, not my fork) but made a face each time. Last time he gobbled it up. You never know with that kid.

What's on your menu tonight? 

Trial by Wearer

As I mentioned before, I'm starting my winter capsule in January, so I'm using the month of December as a transition month. I've made a list of things I'd like to buy, but I'm also "shopping" my own wardrobe as well. Several things from my fall capsule will stick around, but I'm using this month as sort of a trial-period to see which currently-owned items will make the cut.

This sweatshirt and plaid shirt are two such items that I'm thinking of adding to my winter capsule. This plaid shirt from J.Crew is a softer, warmer version of my fall wardrobe's plaid option. This sweatshirt is a cozy way to add some sparkle to a look, and I like how it can be dressed up or down.

What are your winter-weather wardrobe must-haves?

Plaid shirt: J.Crew / sequin sweatshirt: Old Navy / denim pencil skirt: Target / brown riding boots: Mia

Linking to What I Wore to Work and Thursday Favorites

My Picks: 2015 Planners

I'm a fan of the digital age. I love my iPhone, I dig my laptop, I write a blog for crying out loud. I even use Google and Outlook calendars for blogging and work, respectively. However, for my daily to-do lists and weekly agendas, I just can't go for that (no can do). I'm a paper planner lover through and through, and I look forward to choosing one every year.

Here are 5 of my 2015 paper planner picks. I'm a little sad that I can't order all of these, but I did end up choosing just one.

Clockwise from top left: 

1. A Beautiful Mess. I've been a long-time reader of A Beautiful Mess blog, and I've rooted for them in all their creative successes. Their newly opened products shop is bound to be just as successful as everything else they've done. Their 2015 planners look like the perfect combination of aesthetically pleasing and practical. 

2. May Designs. May designs Weekly Agenda in Watercolor Painted Garden was this year's planner winner! I love that her designs are customizable, and that she has so many options for what type of planner to choose. Her Weekly Agenda is just what I'm looking for right now, with days on one side and other things to remember each week on the opposite side.

3. Franklin Planner. In college, one of my roommates introduced me to Franklin Covey planners. I'm pretty sure my Type A soul wept for joy upon seeing all the binders, tabs, and interchangeable pages. I loyally refilled my compact-sized planner with daily sheets for years. It was the perfect planner for me as a student, because I had room to write daily assignments and other notes each day. I still love their designs, but over the past few years I've preferred something a little simpler. 

4. Plum Paper Designs. I bought a Plum Paper planner in 2013, and I really liked it. There are several different styles of weekly spreads, and I chose the one that separated the day into morning, afternoon and evening sections. I also love all of the pretty, colorful covers to choose from. I like to change up my planner from year to year, but this is one I'd order again. 

5. Erin Condren Life Planner. This is the planner I'm currently using for 2014. I love her bright, colorful designs and the layout of the weeks and months. I like this planner and it's served me well this year. It's a little more costly, relatively speaking, but it comes with lots of extras like stickers, gift labels, and a zippered pocket.

Do you use a paper planner? Please indulge my obsession and tell me more about what you use (paper or digital)!

Colored Skirt Remix with Just Jacq

Today I'm joining Jacquelyn of Just Jacq for her "Many Ways" blogger challenge featuring a colored skirt.

When the weather was warmer, my turquoise pencil skirt got quite a bit of wear. However, I have a more difficult time styling it for cold weather. I joined Jacquelyn's 2 Ways feature to challenge myself to layer up this warm-weather favorite for winter weather.

For one look I added tights and booties for warmth, and a mix of spots and dots (a favorite combo of mine) for fun. For the other, I added my coziest cardigan and tall boots. Winter tends to make me want to live in jeans and cords (or if I'm being completely honest, pajamas), but sometimes I'm looking for something that's a little more dressed up and professional.

colored skirt many ways collage1

Visit Megan and Jacquelyn to see how they styled their skirts!

Tie One On

Yep, this scarf again. You should know by now though; when I find something I love I wear the ever-loving crap out of it. What got me about this scarf though is that it can be a little tricky to style. It's huge and rather thick, so I'm going for looks that say "What a cute, cozy scarf!" rather than "Did you just grab the throw off the back of your couch and wrap it around your neck?"

I love a challenge though, so I'm going to try my best to scour Pinterest get creative with my scarf tying. On this scarf's debut last week, I wrapped it around my neck and tucked both corners underneath. This time, I twisted it around my neck and tucked the ends in. (However, my bare arms got cold at church so I took advantage of its size and unwrapped it from my neck to cover my arms. I love having an insta-blanket!)

Do you have any scarf-tying tips or tricks?

Red coat: Ellen Tracy via Nordstrom / black dress: c/o eShakti / plaid scarf: Target / brown braid belt: Loft / brown riding boots: Mia

**outfit inspiration: Inspiration Monday photo and 26 and Counting**

Linking to Inspiration Monday and Mix it Mondays.

Weekly Eats: Triple the Comfort

It's dark. It's dreary. For times like these, all I want is comfort food, in its varying forms.

Clockwise from top right: 

1. Pasta comfort: Sour Cream Noodle Bake from the Pioneer Woman. You can't beat the Pioneer Woman when it comes to comfort food; she never lets me down. This has become a household favorite, but I tweak her recipe a little. I use a full cup of sour cream but I leave out the cottage cheese; I also mix the noodles, meat sauce, and sour cream together and then top it with cheese rather than layering it like she does. 

2. Soup comfort: Loaded Baked Potato Soup from Tasty Kitchen. There are about a million versions of potato soup out there, but this is the one I keep going back to. What makes it different? It's made with baked potatoes, which means if you prep those ahead, the soup comes together quickly. The toppings of bacon, fried potato skins, and cheese can't hurt either. 

3. Pizza comfort: Pepperoni Pizza Pull from Midwest Living. Combine refrigerated dough, pepperoni, and cheese and you can conquer the world, I swear. There are infinite winning combinations of these three ingredients, but this one is another favorite. It's basically a 3 step process: cut up breadstick/pizza dough and pepperoni, layer dough, cheese, and pepperoni in loaf pan, put in the oven. DONE. 

What kind of food says comfort to you? 

Working Mom Style: Balancing Act

I hate to say that I've resigned to taking indoor pictures this winter, but desperate, busy, leave-and-get-home-in-the-dark times call for desperate measures. I try to plan ahead and take pictures on the weekend, but some weekends are nearly as busy as weekdays. #bloggerproblems

Lately I've been feeling a little overwhelmed by everything I'd like to accomplish on this blog, at home, and even at work. Top that off with all the "must-dos" of the Christmas season, and I could easily turn into one big ball of stress if I'm not careful. I read a great post on Baby Rabies the other day about not doing it all, and it was exactly what I needed to hear. Sometimes that nagging, perfectionist voice in my head needs to just relax and have a glass of wine. 

Truthfully, it's difficult to find the energy to do much of anything after I get home from work, cook dinner, then take care of Jona and put him to bed. That leaves just the weekends for getting things done. I realize that this is completely unrelated to an outfit post, but I'm curious, how do you find a balance between accomplishing your goals and taking the time to relax and enjoy life? 

(Sorry, this went from a blog post to Dear Abby in a hot minute, didn't it?) 

Chambray shirt: Madewell / cargo vest: Old Navy / navy cords: Gap / scarf: c/o Ross / boots: Mia

Currently: December

Ready or not, December is here. In my usual fashion, I'm running behind on all my Christmas planning, shopping and decorating. When it comes to holiday eating and listening to Christmas music though, I'm well ahead of schedule. Joining in with Anne and Jenna's linkup, here are a few things I'm currently up to. 

Making: I wish I could say I'm in the midst of making awesome DIY gifts (maybe someday I'll get it together in time to do that... ) but I'm still in the planning stages of Christmas. So I'm making my lists and checking them twice. Who do I still need to buy for? What is our budget? Do I have any ideas? I feel like the checking off would go much more quickly with this cute dotted notebook from Kate Spade. 

Listening: There are 2 local radio stations that have been playing Christmas music since Thanksgiving, and since then my commute has been a little merrier. A few songs that I've been looking forward to hearing lately are Celebrate Me Home by Kenny Loggins, Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie, and White Christmas by Bing Crosby. I love the whistling in that one; Aaron laughs at me as I try (and fail) to whistle along. 

Wrapping: You might guess that I'm not wrapping any gifts yet, and you'd be right. Instead I'm wrapping colorful, cozy scarves around my neck. I love a scarf all year long, but right now I'm grabbing my softest, warmest ones and bundling up. 

Reading: (I swapped out "watching" since I'm not really watching much right now.) I found a list of Christmas books for children from the blog Everyday Reading that I pinned last year and requested several from my library. Many are too long for Jona's (very limited) attention span, but I enjoy reading them nonetheless. Right now we're reading Dream Snow and Little Santa. I can't wait until he's old enough to really enjoy books.  

Anticipating: I'm looking forward to getting my house ready for Christmas this weekend. We're planning to get a real tree this year. We have a pre-lit one in our basement that would be the easier option, but I love the smell of a fresh tree at Christmastime. I'm excited to decorate it and get out all my other favorite decorations, like my mom's nativity set

What are you up to right now? 

Plaid Blanket Scarf and Basics

Especially now that I'm trying to limit my wardrobe (and therefore, my shopping), I do my best to avoid jumping on trend bandwagons. However, after nearly a year of trying to resist, I finally purchased a plaid blanket scarf. I pinned a multitude of looks featuring such a scarf, and pretty much convinced myself that my wardrobe just wasn't complete without it. So when I found this one at Target on sale for $13.99 any remaining resistance I had melted away. 

Speaking of melting, this baby is warm! Even in my chilly office, my space heater remained off all day when I wore this scarf to work. I felt cozy and warm all day. So thank you, style bloggers everywhere, for making it socially acceptable for me to basically wrap a blanket around my neck and call it a must-have accessory. 

Have you jumped aboard the plaid blanket scarf train? 

Gray sweater: Gap (similar) / skinny jeans: Gap / plaid blanket scarf: Target (similar) / black ankle boots: Target (similar)

Thanksgiving Weekend 2014 Recap

In lieu of my usual "2 Ways" post today, I thought I'd share a few highlights from my Thanksgiving weekend with you. It has nothing to do with the fact that I didn't get any outfit pictures taken over the long weekend, I swear... 

We spent our Thanksgiving in Hutchinson, KS (a few hours from Kansas City) with Aaron's side of the family. Jona did pretty well in the car, but eventually he got frustrated, cried for a bit, then conked out. 

It's a good thing he got a little rest in the car, because he played hard once we got there! He found a cool hat to wear and a sweet chair to sit in. Can you tell he was the first grandson of the family? 

Thanksgiving day my sister-in-law cooked the entire meal, and I wish I would have taken some pictures. The turkey was hands-down the best I've ever had, and my mouth is still watering over some of the side dishes (homemade rolls, cheesy potato casserole, cream cheese creamed corn...). Oh and the pie! I may have gained 10 pounds on that day alone. Luckily, we were able to burn off some calories by chasing my nieces around. Aged 3 and almost 2, they are full of energy! (And cuteness... look at those faces!)

One night we visited a house that puts on an impressive Christmas lights display and who did we run into there but Santa Claus!? I was pretty sure I knew how Jona would react, but since we knew this Santa we decided to give it a try. Getting a picture with Santa while dad holds Jona? All is well in the world. Santa holding Jona while dad has the audacity to step away? "Whyyyyy are you doing this to meeeee?????" 

On Saturday, Aaron and I went to the K-State football game while Grandma and Grandpa babysat Jona. It was a nice little getaway, made even better by our team's sheer domination over our in-state rival, KU. Go Cats! The K-State marching band was almost equally impressive to watch during their halftime show. 

It was a fun, memorable weekend! How did you spend Thanksgiving? 

Linking up to Weekend Snapshots at Her Heartland Soul.