Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Reviews: A win and a fail

I've read two books so far this year. The first book, I'm recommending to everyone. The second, I'll warn people away from.

The first book I read I received at Christmas. I love the idea of books as gifts. They are personal as well as an "experience" gift. When you read a good book, it takes you away, out of your world, into someone else's so much so that you think about returning to the characters' lives when you're away.

The book The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt was an amazing read. It was one of those books I stayed up too late reading in bed each night. Without giving too much away, it's about a teen boy in NYC who loses his single mother in an explosion at an art museum they are visiting together. The story follows Theo in the aftermath as he navigates his formative years without any parental influence (a mother's nightmare!). But what makes it exciting is the undercurrent of the secret he carries with him, which explodes into a thrilling action-packed ending. It was such a page-turner and beautifully written. The wording was just delicious. Tartt used lovely vocabulary with many words going over my head because I didn't want to stop to look them up...which means I wanted to reread it as soon as I finished it to appreciate the prose. Get this book.

The second book I read had big shoes to fill. I was looking for a book to read that took place in New York City to get me in the mood for an upcoming trip. Someone I follow on Instagram has book club and selected the book. I chose it based on the fact that it took place in NYC and the cute cover. (You should never judge a book by the cover, right?!)

The book Rich and Pretty by Rumann Alam was disappointing. It was about friends-from-grade-school Sarah and Lauren. One comes from an affluent New York family and the other, the "pretty" one, is from a typical middle-class family who gets a scholarship to a private school in the city. They became friends as children--one is outgoing, the other shy--and the story picks up when they are in their mid-twenties. And then nothing happens. One has angst, and the other doesn't know why. Heck, I didn't know why. Additionally, the author was a man, which I couldn't help thinking seemed odd...he just didn't seem to get inside of a woman's mind and psyche as this book tried to do. In summary, it was monotonous and didn't go anywhere. ...So I didn't finish the last 20 or so pages of it--which I rarely do--once I figured out it was never going to get better.

Have you read any good books lately? What have you read and loved, and alternately, read and hated? Comments welcome.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

When you try something outside your fashion comfort zone

I'm fashionably safe. I don't take big risks, jump on new trends, or wear bold clothing.
However, it's a goal of mine to take small risks outside my somewhat cautious style.
When I saw this top in the store, my conservative self was drawn to the classic navy and white stripes.
I mean, can I ever have enough stripes? But when I pulled it off the rack, I noticed it was a shorter, almost midriff length...like I used to wear in high-school. I debated trying it on. Could I pull this off in my forties? To the dressing room I went. Nothing to lose.
Because of the great price, I decided to take it home with me even though I was still unsure.
Once there, I tried it with a couple things, but wasn't quite convinced I had the right thing to make it.
Fast forward to last week, when I was getting ready for a school function and decided to throw it on with jeans. Under the pressure of a time-crunch, I added some neutral shoes, a couple of bracelets and headed out.

You guys, I got so many compliments on it that night! I put a little thought into it and here's why I think the midriff style worked for me:
  • I have a longer torso and shorter legs. The cropped length made my leg line appear longer.
  • The A-line cut camouflaged my straight waist
  • The structured top made it dressy casual. 
  • And it has a fun split in the back that made it a little more unique. 

What I learned is that I have a new style of shirt open to me, and I'm glad I took that small risk outside my normal comfort zone. Which is one of the reasons why I find shopping at TJ Maxx and similar stores so fun: you can try something out for a very small investment. Even though it may not last through a year (or may fall apart in the wash), it served as a learning piece and I can invest in similar, more quality pieces going forward.

What new trend have you recently tried?  

Saturday, January 21, 2017

A fast and easy way to update your look

Once upon a time, in a previous life full of time and disposable income, I went to the makeup counter once or twice a year for new cosmetics. When kids came along, I found myself either exactly replacing what I already had, or picking up new items at Target or the grocery store. After all those years, I'd gotten into a rut.

I decided to treat myself last weekend to a new lip shade. Not from Publix, from a makeup counter. I went to the cosmetics mecca: Sephora. Just stepping into the store can be completely overwhelming. There are so many products, so many colors.

I immediately found a nice young salesperson to help me--a guide in my journey--and asked for a lip gloss similar to what I was wearing. She looked at me like, we haven't carried that shade in years, lady, and I decided right then to abandon my preconceived idea of replacing what I owned. I would be bold and try something new. I asked instead for a neutral everyday color that would match my fair skin and light hair. That she could do.

She brought back a few choices in a color much lighter than I would have selected on my own. With my mind open to new options, I tried them. Along with her help, I narrowed it down and selected a new shade that I loved. What fun!

Feeling brave, I decided to get another, darker color for evening. She brought back a dark plum color, which I tried, even though it scared me.


No, just no. Way too much out of my comfort zone. So we dialed it back a bit and after a few more trials, I ended up with a berry color that was darker than I would've picked out, but liked.

My new everyday shade and night shade. I love them!

I felt so adventurous with my new shades and more hip. ("Hip," I've come to realize, is the word  middle-age people use when they are trying something more youthful. My parents used to say it, and now I'm using it, which is actually pretty un-hip if you think about it.)

I'd forgotten how much better quality the products from the makeup counter are. The colors are less shimmery and more true, not to mention, the selection is amazing. I've also noticed the color lasts longer and wears better than my grocery store brand. One of the glosses even has peppermint oil, which naturally plumps the lips. Oolala!

My new haul: Kir Royale lip cream by Buxom, Goals lip paint and Latergram lip crayon by Tarte

What I learned is that it's worth the time and money to take yourself back to the beauty bar for a refresher. While it can be intimidating to step up to the counter, remember the staff is well-trained to help you if you tell them what you want. You might ask what are customers' favorites, what is a good value and what are their favorite products. You can even have them teach you how to apply the makeup if you agree to purchase a minimum amount.

So while "contouring" still intimidates the heck out of me, I know I can take baby steps with the guidance of makeup experts at the counter. With their help, I'll make sure my makeup stays "hip."

Next time, a new eye shade.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

I'm Not Doing Christmas Cards This Year?

I mean, what is the point? You've pretty much seen my family and the highlights of our year on Facebook. Our friends know where we've vacationed, what the kids look like, and that we still look the same as we did in college (just humor me, please).

And if you remember my post from last year, taking a good family picture takes a lot of coordination. There are a lot of fails along the way to that one good shot. Ain't noboby got time for that.

However, even though I keep up with friends near and far on Facebook, I love when the colorful envelopes start arriving soon after Thanksgiving weekend. I like seeing how families pose and where they get their shots. I display them throughout the house to enjoy during the holidays.

But, what if everyone slowly starts dropping the tradition and there's nothing in the mailbox except bills, advertisements, and real estate newsletters?

And what if the friends that don't hear from me think I struck them from my list this year? And then they wipe me from their list?

I could put together a cute online greeting and send it out, like some friends do. But gathering everyone's email addresses might be as stressful and time-consuming as trying to get everyone to smile at the same time. And aren't all of our inboxes so full right now anyway? It'd be so easy to miss. Last Christmas, I didn't get around to viewing one family's video until February.

I'm actually struggling with this decision. I don't have a good reason, like a hard year (thankfully). I'm just being lazy, really.

But...since I've become an adult, I've sent one out every year. Every. Year. 

So this, year, I'm going to do not doing it. I'm giving myself a pass. Just to take the easy way out for one year.

So when you don't get a card from us this year, don't think we're not thinking of you and wishing you happy holidays, because we are. We're just busy being slackers.

Unless I change my mind. 

Have you ever taken a year off? Have you given them up for good? What are your thoughts? Comment below.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

You've Been Boo(ze)d!

You got BOOzed!
Think about it for a minute. You're hands are full as you approach your front door, your kids are in tow, and with keys in your hand, you notice a bag. What is this? you think. It looks like a bag with wine in it. Could it be?? Oh, hallelujah!

And your day has been made.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with the fun fall tradition of boo'ing your friends and neighbors. Basically, you leave a cleverly packaged basket or bag with Halloween goodies, directions, and a ghost to stick on the front door. The recipient then "boo's" three friends by gathering up goodies and delivering the treats to those who haven't already been tagged.

But I say we kick it up a notch...

Before the holidays take over our lives, let's toast fall by changing up the tradition.

Instead of Boo-ing your friends, BOOze them!

(I know, it's brilliant, right?!)

Now, we just have to make it easy. You do not have to attach washi tape, spiders, baggies of candy corn or put very much effort into it. Just leave a bottle by the front door of a friend with a note and head out. Easy peasy. Something to the effect of...

BOO(m)!

You just got BOOzed! Happy October. Pay it forward to someone who needs a smile.

I don't care, write in on the front of the bag with a Sharpie pen.
The easy way to BOOze someone

But for those of you who like going the extra step to make it cute, I've come up with a poem you can print out and put inside:


Okay, certainly I'm no poet, but if you want to use it, I've created a PDF you can print out and use to BOOze someone.

And there will be no obligation to paste something to your front door. Because there will be no limit to amount of booze you can receive. If you get BOOzed more than once, then lucky you, and you have some awesome friends!

So whaddya say? I say we get this thing rolling. I'll be dropping off a bottle of wine on someone's doorstep this week.
Download the BOOze front & poem
I think October's going to be a wonderful month.

If you BOOze someone be sure to share it on Instagram @messycasualblog or share it on Facebook and tag Messy Casual or tell me about it in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Anti-Procrastination Initiative

I'm a procrastinator. Sometimes I do my most creative work at the last minute. But most times, I just cause myself stress.

But a new school year is a great chance to start fresh.

This year, I've decided to be more proactive. More on top of things. Don't put off what can be done now. Just do it.

A couple years ago a friend told me she used a football metaphor with her family. Instead of doing something part way, or, instead of just going for first down, go all the way; go for the end zone! This is a great analogy for this time of year, especially in a house of boys.

I feel so ahead of the game. Instead of waiting until the last day to turn in all the first week of school paperwork, I did them all the first day. The first day!

Instead of putting the dishes in the sink to deal with them later (which turns into the afternoon), I put them in the dishwasher right away (well, usually). Instead of leaving the hand washing on the counter next to the sink hoping someone else will wash his Yeti Rambler, I go ahead and do it and voila! no more cutter on the counter. Instead of just taking something near the room it belongs in, I actually put it away.

And so far, I like this new me. Like, I feel really productive, and on top of things. This could be the secret to success, people! And less stress.

So, realistically, it's been less than a week since school's started, but they say it takes three weeks to make a habit. And I think I can keep this up. So if you're looking for a way to help yourself get things done, you must. go. all. the. way. Touchdown!!! (Read in your best sports broadcaster voice.)

And now, I really must go wash that Yeti cup.


Monday, July 11, 2016

Outfit of the Day Posts are Silly

I know. And selfies are silly, too.

Buuut...

In the world of blogging and Instagram, it's like, a thing. I'm still getting comfortable with it. You can probably tell from my own outfit of the day (or #ootd) posts.

But here's the truth. Or my truth.

I love this upcycled clutch by Torrain
I love clothes. I love the options. I love how everyone puts their own style in an outfit. Clothes can  spark conversation and appreciation. I love a piece with a story. Like the clutch I had to get when I saw a friend carrying it and she told me it was from recycled feed bags. Like my paper bead necklace and bracelets from Uganda that help women come out of poverty. Like the great pair of designer shoes I scored from a second-hand shop. And the pair of pants had been looking for all summer on the final clearance rack for $14.99 that fit perfectly. That right there is happiness.

But even more than that, there's the triviality of it. It's not that important, like so many heavy things going on in this world or even in our own worlds. It's fun. When things get burdensome, a quick look at my favorite Instagram feed lets me escape into a world where everything's going to be okay.

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

Just looking.

And if I get an idea for a new way to wear something, that brings me a little joy when I step out in it. If I see a shirt I love in Instagram and track it down and order it, then get it altered (I'm talking about you, watermelon shirt), I greedily accept compliments on it when I wear it.

So yes, fashion is silly, but sometimes something silly and insignificant brings you your kind of happy.

If you're on Instagram, follow me @messycasualblog for outfit inspiration and to get ideas from people and boutiques I follow. It's a huge world out there with endless insights.