Friday, April 30, 2010

Actually, I Made it Myself (a fashion challenge for the month of May)

As promised, I wore my new wrap dress to the benefit dinner last night in spite of cooler weather. A benefit where, for the record, I ate and drank WAY more than I should have and now am nursing a petulant stomach and a headache. But before the overindulgence, I did have the pleasure of being approached by someone who wanted to know where I got my dress and how she could get one. And then I had the satisfaction of replying with "Actually...I made it myself."

This brief little repartee immediately brought to mind a fashion challenge posited by Zoe from So Zo for the month of May. I had almost forgotten all about it, but was pleased when my memory was jogged.

The challenge, simply put, is to wear handmade items during the month. Now the diehards are being encouraged to wear handmade Everyday, but Zoe acknowledges that not everyone has such a large stash of crafted creations in their closet. And so she just encourages participants to find a strategy that challenges them and stick to it.

For instance, she suggests maybe committing to wearing handmade accessories every weekend during the month if that habit falls outside of the norm for your day-to-day wear. Or, if appropriate, to amp up the challenge to wearing repurposed clothing during most weekdays if you can manage it.

In other words, the spirit of the challenge is to get us to think differently about the clothes we wear, and hopefully to inspire an appreciation for the handmade.

I haven't figured out exactly how I am going to challenge myself in May, but I'd like to do something. I doubt that I have enough in my closet to fill a whole month without looking like I never do laundry, but I do think that the exercise will encourage me to work on some of those summer projects I've been meaning to start.

And hopefully with a little bit of planning, I will have the opportunity to say "Actually, I made it myself" a few more times next month.

To learn more about Zoe's Me-Made-May challenge, and to [hopefully] join yourself, click here!
To see some of my patterns for repurposing your clothing, click here!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Slacker: falling behind on my garden

Those of us in Northern Colorado woke up to snow this morning. Heavy, wet, thick snow. The kind of snow that seriously puts a damper on my plans to wear my wrap dress tonight at the benefit (don't worry--I'm wearing it anyway! I'll just have to accessorize with a shoulder wrap--).

This weather also got me thinking about spring gardening (risky business in Colorado, if you haven't noticed...), and how I'm WAY behind on my planting. By this time last year I already had sprouts happily pushing out of the ground. I was also reading about the local food movement, researching CSA's in my area, and plotting for more garden space on the other side of my yard.

Alas, none of these good habits have transferred to this year. I haven't planted a seed or read anything about gardening.

In other words, I need a friendly reminder that in spite of the dreary weather
, it really is time to get my hands in some dirt. Past time, in fact. So, in order to nurture some garden inspiration, I've decided to revisit a few posts from last spring, which I thought I'd share with you in case you missed them:

1. My Sprouts are Sprouting: my early-spring thoughts on the value of seeds. Maybe last year's enthusiasm will rub off on me this time around...

2. Feeding the Naysayers: why I think growing food is a good idea, even if my hubby has his doubts.

3. A Day at the Farm: last year's visit to my local CSA was so much fun! And even though I won't be joining this year (sadly, too much of my produce went to waste), I will be snatching up their goodies at the farmer's market!

Finally, for a little education viewing, I thought I would check out Food, Inc. Have any of you seen it already? If so, what were your thoughts?

Do you have any gardening plans for this year? Share about them by posting your comment below!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Send my Regards to Diane

When Diane von Furstenberg created and debuted the wrap dress in 1973, I wasn't even born yet. But when I secured my ticket for a benefit event happening tomorrow night, I knew that I needed something to wear. And I knew that almost 40 years later, Diane's creation would be my inspiration.

The wrap dress is iconic for many reasons. For one thing, it's pure genius. No buttons. No zippers. No belts. It is the kind of dress you can just throw on in the morning and look fabulous in all day.

Two, it is flattering to all types of shapes and sizes. I hardly know of a woman who could go wrong in this silhouette. Even in a zany print it showcases a woman's curves.

Third, the wrap dress is comfy. Made from knit jersey, it stretches. And drapes elegantly. And moves. And feels soft.

In other words, it isn't stiff or starched or tight or scratchy.

Lastly, Diane's dress is easy to make. It is a great project for newbie seamstresses (again, no zippers, no buttons, no belts...) and could be completed over a weekend. So give it a try!

As for me, I'll be showing off a little Diane tomorrow evening.

For information about this Vogue pattern, click here.
For information about the benefit I'm attending, click here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Giving Back (a fundraiser for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer)

That generosity is a quality of exceptional women goes without saying. Of course a charitable habit would be part of the alluring attraction of je ne sais quoi.

The trouble is figuring out how to give...

I was just reading an article about how volunteerism and charity have evolved over the past twenty years. No longer do we as a culture have an army of stay-at-home moms ready and able to donate hours of their time to noble causes. We're busier. We work more. And because of the recession, we have less money to give.

Which is why I have been feeling a little guilty lately. There are so many needs--Haitian earthquake relief, AIDS orphans in Africa, my local food bank--but my time and money aren't always easy to give.

Which is why earlier this year I started searching for opportunities to give back that fit within my particular set of skills (craftiness, for instance). Because I want to be charitable, but I don't exactly have the deep pockets of a philanthropist.

I do, however, have a stash of baby blankets that I made last year just sitting in my house. A house, I might add, that does not have any babies in it. So when my friend asked if I would be interested in donating something to her team's Avon Walk for Breast Cancer fundraising event, I knew immediately that I could help.

Tucked within this little anecdote is a principle that I LOVE to talk about: resourcefulness. I've mentioned it plenty of times in the past, usually referring to updating used clothing or making clever recipes from pantry misfits. But resourcefulness works just as well for charity, too.

The key, I think, is to start by asking what you have that you can give. I, for instance, don't have much discretionary cash, but I do have baby blankets. And my friend--the one raising money--can walk for a good cause. And that's just the tip of the iceberg:

Knitters can donate socks to the homeless.
Quilters can make quilts for sick kids.
Bankers can offer financial reviews for single moms.
Social butterflies can use their facebook and twitter accounts to spread the news about needs.

In other words, there are a million and one ways to give back, even for a busy, cash-strapped person. All you need is a little creativity, a resourceful eye...

...and a little je ne sais quoi.

To learn more about the "Wine*Music*Massage fundraiser" happening on Tuesday, May 4th, click here! I'd love to see you there!

What is your favorite way to give back? Share by posting your comments below!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Hospitality

Good morning to you all! I hope this Monday finds you well! I have an exciting week planned for us involving a new dress (or two!), a new friend who just happens to "play" roller derby, and more on our series, je ne sais quoi.

So, to kick-off the week, I want to share about a retreat I attended earlier this month hosted by the kind folks at Group Publishing. I enjoyed three days packed with fun and singing (yes, there was singing) and one crazy episode involving pipe cleaners. And though I could speak about many, many things from the retreat, I want to highlight one very important quality I observed while attending: hospitality.

To say that I was impressed with Group's hospitality would be an understatement. Quite frankly they went above and beyond for the 50-or-so of us women attending the event. For instance, the photos you see above and below were taken during the first evening when the founders/owners of the company had us all over for dinner at their place.

That's right--all 50 of us.

Now, to invite 50 women over for supper is one thing. To cook for all 50 women is another thing entirely.

And to cook supremely tasty food (including tiramisu made from scratch) for all of us is downright amazing! I was blown away by the effort...and the dessert.

The rest of the retreat following this first evening was more of the same. And I won't get into all of the details lest I make you too envious, but I will share some of the lessons I learned about being hospitable.

First: food is key. Hospitality doesn't require tiramisu from scratch, but certainly serving some sustenance when you're hosting friends goes a long way toward making them feel welcomed and at home. I don't care if it is a bowl of chips and some salsa, or a hand-crafted fruit pyramid with chocolate--your guests will thank you if you fill their stomachs.

Two: offer encouragement. I was impressed when the staff at Group took several opportunities during the retreat to encourage the attendants. Some of it was even a little mushy (which makes stoic types like myself fluster a bit).

Frankly I had forgotten how important affirmation is, both in the giving and receiving. Hospitality includes reminding people that not only are they welcomed, but they are also appreciated and special. So don't forget to encourage, even if it gets mushy.

Finally, hospitality involves fun. When we host guests, it is not our job to entertain them at every moment...but it is our job to lighten their load, if only momentarily. Laughter, joyful conversation and games all help to create memories and strengthen relationships. Scheduling fun is as valuable as serving food and making sure guests know where the restroom is--because nothing welcomes people more than laughter.

Food. Fun. And Affirmation. Hosting with these qualities is oh-so je ne sais quoi.

Thanks to Group for a fun week!
To learn more about the publisher, click here.
To learn more about the retreat I attended, click here.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Evolution

This past weekend I had a lovely afternoon with some friends. We had lunch and then meandered through some shops, browsing the clothing racks and trying on shoes.

(As an aside...if you are reading this and happened upon a small to-go container of fried fish next to the accessories at Charlotte Russe, I do apologize. Those would be mine. And yes--I accidentally left them there.)

And during our browsing we came across a selection of GIANT costume rings for dirt-cheap prices. Huge, gaudy, glittery rings that most normal people wouldn't consider wearing. I know because I used to be one of those normal people.

Until things started to change for me.

Let me show you what I mean. The above photo is a ring from my earlier days. Notice the delicate band and the charming heart-shaped opal stone. This is the kind of ring I once considered "my style." Small, unassuming, petite.

For many years I kept to this principle of small and simple. I saw myself as a natural Colorado girl, which often meant sandals and khaki shorts and earth tones. And my accessories matched this theme. The ring above, for instance, was a college graduation present from my family. Notice that it's a tad bigger than the golden opal, but still unassuming. I was going for low maintenance. Sporty. Effortless.

But then gradually things started to shift. I began to drift away from simple and move toward flashier styles. Like the ring above, which I received from my husband during one of our first Christmases together as a married couple.

The ring, of course, is still fairly natural. The stone is amber and it's set simply in sterling silver. I could still pull it off with shorts and sandals if I wanted to. I was getting girlier, but not too much. Not yet.

And then this happened. Christmas, 2008. Stacks and stacks of faux pearls bigger than my thumb. What happened to me, you might ask? How did I go from small and petite to this monstrosity in just a few short years?

The answers, I'm afraid, don't come easily. All I can say is that once I started dabbling in my feminine side, I couldn't stop. The older I got, the more I regressed to my childhood fantasies of elaborate rhinestone gems and princess attire. The earth tones were replaced by pink and purple. The sandals were ousted by wedges and stilettos. And the rings...well, the just kept getting bigger and bigger.

Which is what led me to purchase this GIANT adornment last Saturday for $4.00. I didn't even think twice about it. Long gone are the days of simple and petite. These are the days for Grand and Ostentatious! I am no longer that natural, Colorado girl. I am Stephanie, princess of the land.

And I can barely lift my hand to prove it to you.

To close, the photo above illustrates perfectly the path of my evolution. Your guess is as good as mine as to where it will lead me next.

But I'd put money on more rhinestones...

Thursday, April 22, 2010

ReCentering: a Time to Grow

My original plan for today was to show you the new dress I've been working on that I'll be wearing to a benefit next week...

...BUT in spite of my earnest intentions, I haven't finished it yet. So Plan B is to revisit a subject that I brought up earlier this year: reCentering.

As I wrote previously, I have been trying to take advantage of the changing seasons this year to do some reflection and introspection. Because after a long period of dormancy, it is time for me to make some changes, too, so that I can move forward.

In other words, it is time for me to follow the lead of these lovely plants in my yard and start to grow and bloom.

The Bible (and a tune from the Byrds) says that there are seasons for everything. The trick, I suppose, is to know which season you are in. And though I wouldn't say that our lives always follow the rhythm of nature, I definitely think that now is a season for me to blossom!

Of course, not being an actual plant, I've had to consider what "growth" looks like for me. And certainly it involves a lot of things, including adding more readers like you, trying new projects, and making new friends.

Toward this end, one thing I've really been contemplating is how I can do things differently than the way I've done them in the recent past. Specifically, how can I change the way I work? And the way I relate? And the way I manage my time?

How can see things in a fresh, new way?
I'm happy to report that some of my introspection has paid off already, and I have a few ideas about how to address those questions above. I'm probably a little behind the curve--budding instead of blooming--but that's okay. We still have a lot of spring left.

Are you trying any new things this season? Or maybe just feeling inspired by spring? I'd love to hear, so please share your comments below!

Previous ReCentering posts:
Turning the Corner
Setting the Pace
A Reflective Walk

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Promote Your Business: Charm DuJour's FREE GIVEAWAY

I am so excited to offer you all a special mid-week treat today! Brittney from the oh-so-charming jewelry store, Charm DuJour, is giving away this Gorgeous navy blue necklace to one lucky winner!

I love the design--don't you? It's simple and elegant. Also, I've noticed recently that I've been drawn toward gold accessories, and thus I am quite fond of these golden beads and the textured chain.

I also really like these navy-blue beads, which Brittney selected specifically for the approaching summer. I think they would look great with a nautical stripe or white linen. Or red sandals. Or a pink tank top. Or basically anything else you own.

To enter to win this lovely charm, please take a minute to visit Brittney's shop (click here!) and say hello on her blog (click here!), and then post a comment below!

The winner will be chosen randomly from the comments below and announced by 6:00 PM MST (that's 8:00 for you Easterners!).

Thank you to Charm DuJour!

note: click here to learn more about how you can Promote Your Business


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Newly.Wed: Introducing a Column on Relationships

by kerri
When Stephanie posted the “teaser” on her blog for this column, I hadn’t even started working on it yet. Fortunately, the picture of the two vases [below] really struck me and gave me the inspiration I needed to get started.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the thought,
Why can’t he be more like me? in regards to my fiancĂ©. Matt and I are finally getting married this September – we’ve been dating for more than eight years – and the amount of arguments we’ve participated in over the years is literally uncountable. It’s the nature of intimate relationships – to care enough about each other to want to be on the same page and to find it next to impossible to do so.

The vases made me think about my relationship. They are equal in every way – same footing, same volume, same color. (For the record, Matt and I are Not equal – he has size 11’s, I have size 6’s; he’s 6’2”, I’m 5’2”. We both do have brown hair and green eyes though, so pretty equal.) The life of theses containers is stable and predictable. In other words, Boring.

My relationship (and I’m guessing yours too) is only boring when we try really hard to make it that way
(like on a Saturday afternoon of napping after a particularly overwhelming week). And even then, it's not really boring or predictable, because while I might want to lay on the couch in quiet and nap, Matt is wanting to watch five sporting events on TV simultaneously (and keeping a running commentary on each). What happens next? You guessed it--an argument ensues. Nothing major or life-altering, but day-and-mood-altering, nonetheless.

Going back to the vases, what fills me up in life and in my relationships is not always the same for Matt. I like to spend quality time together and have meaningful talks with each other. Matt wants to lay on the couch to cuddle and watch movies (notice the lack of talking?). Our differences make for challenges for sure, but they also expand our experience and make us do things that we wouldn’t always think to do. And we find fulfillment in unexpected ways. Even if my words outnumber Matt’s by about a million.
We keep predictability in our lives on purpose – we long for stability. But the things we don’t expect or don’t go quite as we planned--the things that seem to get in the way and wreck the routines we’ve worked so hard to establish--are the things that make it interesting and worth the work. Matt doesn’t like that he’s really started to be the laundry fairy (as I affectionately call him), but he does like all the kissing that comes as my thanks and gratitude after finding my favorite blue hoodie clean and hanging up in my closet. And the moments that we don’t expect from big manly men (like when Matt does everything in his power to make our 5 pound dog fall asleep on his chest) make our days brighter and our hearts fall more in love every day.

photos of Kerri & Matt courtesy of Harper Point Photography.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: Beauty Begets Beauty

Hello friends, and Happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend! I did some shopping and gardening and baking, and feel fairly refreshed for this week, which is good because I have a lot in store for us (including another FREE GIVEAWAY and a NEW COLUMNIST!). But before all of that, I was thinking this weekend about one of my favorite all time movies, Strictly Ballroom. Have you seen it? It is quirky and absurd and full of color and romance. The story centers on the frumpy Francesca who transforms into a beautiful and graceful lady floating across the screen. Naturally there is an evil step-mother, some fancy ball-gowns, and a prince charming.

Apart from the dancing, which I LOVE with my whole heart...
and dream of someday gliding my own slippers across a ballroom floor wearing diamonds and pink chiffon on the arm of a gentleman...

Ahem--as an aside, this will never happen because a) I don’t have the time or the physical stamina to learn ballroom dancing, and b) there’s NO WAY I could convince my husband to dance with me and there’s little chance he’d let me tango with another I will have to continue living vicariously through Francesca...sigh.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes--apart from the dancing, the thing I love about the movie is Francesca’s transformation.
Of course it is incredibly cliche to have a makeover scene in a movie (I can instantly think of at least another dozen films that have an ugly-duckling-turned-swan-story), but I just can’t resist the appeal. There is something so timelessly enticing about a woman who finds her strength, and then watching as that strength slowly transforms her appearance. Because it reminds me that beauty begets more beauty.

We all hear a lot about the value of inner beauty, and so I won’t delve too deeply into that here. But what I will say is that a woman blossoms when she discovers her special talents, or awakens to love, or overcomes fear. Her physical body actually comes alive. This, naturally, leads her to want to care more for her appearance, which just perpetuates her confidence. And the cycle continues, gaining momentum, until she’s too radiant even to look at (okay, maybe I’m going a little overboard here. That could get scary...).

The trouble, of course, is that we know this principle and yet don’t always apply it--especially in the reverse. The other day, for instance, when I was writing this, I was wearing a hideous combination of shiny acrylic pajama pants in a lime green, a threadbare purple shirt, thick wool socks, and my hair knotted messily on top of my head. It was four in the afternoon and I hadn’t even taken a shower yet. Why? Because no one was likely to see me that day. And perhaps because I was also hormonal and not “feeling very pretty.” And, if I’m honest, I was also a little frustrated that some of my plans weren’t working out the way I wanted, which might have been impacting my self-esteem a bit.

In other words, my appearance was reflecting my emotions. Now, I’m not too worried about having one shower-free-p.j.-day every once in awhile, but I know that I can’t make it into a habit. But the truth is that keeping up my outward appearance will help me to resist the lure of low confidence and hormonal tyranny--like an unlikely weapon to ward off unwanted enemies. Messy hair and shiny pants, however, have little effect on making me feel better. Because if beauty begets beauty, than you can be sure that blah begets blah. And I certainly don’t want blah taking over my life!

So what I’m trying to say in a roundabout way is that our emotions and our looks are intricately linked whether we admit to it or not. And though this link isn’t exact science, I’d rather just acknowledge the principle and invest in beauty--both inside and out.

Starting with throwing out those lime green pants.

What do you do to ward off the blahs? Share by posting your comment below!
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