A surprising source for fall clothes

19 October 2017

Here’s something I bet you didn’t expect me to post about today: how marvelous the clothing is at Abercrombie & Fitch right now!

I had heard rumblings of A&F’s newfound awesomeness from a few friends, and sure enough, the rumors were true. After a quick browsing session, I checked out with seven items in my cart, and ended up keeping six!! Unprecedented! Here’s what made it into my closet:

Abercrombie favorites

All blue (I guess I know what I like?), but not a one with the A&F logo on it :) I did actually buy the bottom right shirt in white, but the detail was too hard to see in the collage!

Overall, I was super impressed with the quality of the fabric and construction — honestly, I felt like it was significantly better than J.Crew Factory, which constitutes the majority of my closet! Here are a few more detailed reviews, from top to bottom and left to right:

Knit wrap dress: Hands-down my favorite pick from this order – I’m a little obsessed and considering buying it in another color!! I’ve always loved the look of wrap dresses (so balletic!) but have never found one that fits me well. This one, however, is a dream.

V-neck sweater: Particularly impressed with the quality on this piece – it’s a lovely, heavy knit. I bought it in a medium so it would be oversized, and it’s just on the verge of being too big – but I expect it might shrink a bit over time.

Relaxed v-neck tee: A pretty basic at an incredible price. I will be buying this in another color!

Tie sleeve shirt: A casual but “grown up” look with a great fit. I love the stripe version, too.

Ruffle-hem top: Love, love, love this one. Thin but not see-through, and so soft. The first thing I pull from my closet after doing laundry :)

Ruffle sleeve boyfriend tee: I have had limited success pulling off the ruffle trend, but the ruffles here are understated enough, and the fit of the shirt boxy enough, that it works for me here!

And there was so much else I would happily have bought!! Like these comfy leggings! And this cozy pullover! But, you know, budget :) Though since I bought everything at 40-60% off, the prices couldn’t have been more reasonable.

What do you think, friends? Have you popped into an A&F recently? Are my picks convincing you you might need to make a visit? And do you regularly pack a shopping cart with only one color??

Great articles to read with friends

10 October 2017

Articles Club is tonight, and it’s a special one — our two year anniversary! This group is always a highlight of my month. Last year I shared a bunch of the articles we read in our first year, and I thought it would be fun to do so again!

I included tips for hosting your own club in that first post, too — the only difference is that now we eat dinner together instead of snacks! In January we got to talking about lasagna, and I insisted on making my favorite recipe to share its glory with the group. After we realized it’s even MORE fun to chat over a delicious meal, we never looked back! So far, we’ve done Mexican (several times!), Greek, Indian, and American cookout :)

how to host an articles club

Here are a few of the articles we’ve read in the last year…

Stop Hustling and Get Your Life Back
The Luxury of Silence
Should Schools Teach Kids to Meditate?

Can Money Buy You Happiness?
4 Women with 4 Very Different Incomes Open Up About the Lives They Can Afford
Want to Be Happy? Stop Being So Cheap!
How FOMO Can Ruin Your Finances

The Pope on Panhandling
How Utah Keeps the American Dream Alive

Is There Life After Work?
How to Close the Gender Gap
Career Tips from Entrepreneurs

Aging and Dying
Why I Hope to Die at 75
How to Become a “Superager”
Before I Go

New Year, New You? Forget It
The Cost of Holding On
What Do You Like About Yourself?

Welcome to AirSpace
The White Wall Controversy

Just two great reads :)
The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us
When Your Child is a Psychopath

Sound like fun? We’re always happy to welcome new gals, so if you’re into eating, chatting, and reading and live in the Triangle, we’d love to meet you! And don’t think you’d be the only one — after the similar post I wrote last year, three new ladies emailed and joined our group! Just send me an email :)

10 great dinners for new parents

5 October 2017

For the last three or so months, we’ve brought a meal to a family with a new baby every other week. And you know what? I feel incredibly lucky to say that! That means that we have people around us we care about. It also means we have a tangible way to live out our calling to love others as we’ve been loved.

In case others of you are in the same situation, I thought I’d share a few of the go-to meals we like to bring to families in transition (new parents, yes, but also friends who are ill, grieving, or struggling in some other way!). Or, if you’re just looking for new recipes to try for yourself, that’s great, too :) I always like to put together a complete meal, so I’ve included my tips for accompaniments below, too.

If you’re looking to go above and beyond, I have two recommendations: one, take care with your packaging. Put freshly-washed blueberries in a mason jar, wrap up your brownie slices in parchment paper, tie a bow around a bottle of lemonade. A friend did this for us when June was born and I thought she’d hung the moon. Second, consider including something in addition to the main meal, like a pan of cinnamon rolls or a bag of bagels for breakfast, or cut-up veggies and dip or cheese and crackers for a quick snack. Totally not required, but a fun way to love a little extra!

Finally, don’t be feeling bad if you wish you had more people to bring a meal to. This is still a new phenomenon for me. And to be fair, because I know how much it meant to have meals brought to us as new parents, I basically chase people down on the street to ask if I can make them food, so it’s not like we have a million best friends :)

tomato penne pasta

Photo by Jenny Steffens Hobick

Lasagna | This is my absolute FAVORITE lasagna recipe (it is soooo good!), and I love making it for friends in the winter. If you’re looking for something similar and also yummy but a bit easier, try this one pot lasagna recipe. Pack with a green salad, vinaigrette, and garlic bread or a baguette.

Lemon Parmesan Penne with Grilled Chicken | This is one of my personal favorite recipes, so I love to make it for friends! It’s a lighter pasta dish that’s perfect for the warmer months, and it comes together easily (if I’m delivering it on a week day, I’ll often ask John to grill the chicken the night before). Pack with sparkling lemonade and brownies.

One Pan Orzo Italiano | We got this in the HelloFresh box we tried, and loved it so much we promptly made it for friends AND for ourselves the next week! One note: I found that a full box of orzo (not the 1 1/3 cups it calls for) was the right amount to absorb the four cups of liquid. Pack with sparkling lemonade and chocolate chip cookies.

Hot Chicken Salad | While I appreciated the friends who brought us healthier food after June was born, what I really craved was comfort food (maybe because she was born in the winter!). Our dear friends brought us this Paula Deen recipe, and it was soooo bad but soooo good :) Pack with crusty ciabatta rolls, green salad, and blueberries.

Black Bean Soup with Cumin and Jalapeno | This is an easy, economical recipe that’s great for vegetarians! It’s also easy to double, which makes putting dinner for my family and another family on the table on the same night more manageable. Pack with a baguette, a green or kale salad, and chocolate chip cookies.

Award-Winning Chili | For a cozy fall or winter meal, you can’t beat chili, and this is a good one. Pack with apple cider, guacamole, and Honeycrisp apples.

Easy Chicken Pot Pie | Alongside meatloaf, chicken pot pie is one of my absolute favorite comfort foods. This recipe takes a lot of shortcuts to make the prep easier, but it’s still yummy and satisfying. Pack with sparkling lemonade, fruit salad, and brownies.

Taco Soup | Cheap, easy to make, and delicious — that’s a winner for a sharable meal! This recipe is a top performer for my family, for guests, and for new parents alike. Pack with a green salad, cornbread, and cut-up strawberries.

Lightened Up Chicken Enchiladas | A friend brought this to us when June was born, and in addition to being yummy on the first night, it was great for leftovers! Pack with sparkling lemonade, tortilla chips, and Rice Krispees treats.

Any go-to sharable recipes you’d like to tell the group about? Or favorite meals to make when friends come over to your house for dinner? (I find so many good recipes that way!)

October 2017 goals

2 October 2017

I’m as ready as I’ve ever been for a new season, and my goals reflect that! In light of my imperfect home thoughts from last month, I’m focusing on making what I have more beautiful, and taking care of it well as we gather in for the colder months. When I’m not cleaning or organizing this month, I hope you’ll find me having fun with my two favorite people — and on that note, keep an eye out for a fall fun list coming to the blog soon!

apple cider scones

What I read in September:
You and Me Forever (I always try to read a marriage book to coincide with our anniversary, and this was a good, if unusual, one! If you’re familiar with Francis Chan, you know it’s going to be challenging and convicting, but I welcome the sharpening :))
For the Love (Re-reading this with my neighborhood book club!)
Nyxia (My friend’s debut novel! It was REALLY good. If you like dystopian YA, I would highly recommend it!)
— Books I’m reading throughout the year: The Power of a Praying Wife and The Lifegiving Home

Revisiting my goals for September:
Write the Word every day (I did this more days than not, and LOVED it! Such a great practice.)
Eat a fruit or veggie at every meal (Embarrassing or not, I loved this goal! I didn’t keep a great record, but it was something I thought about at every meal, and it was a great reminder!)
Make a donation to Harvey relief through our charitable giving account. (We chose to donate to UMCOR.)
Bake apple cider scones for June’s teachers on the first day of fall (Yes! Pictured above.)
Put Financial Peace University plans into motion at our church (Baby steps, but yes!)
Celebrate my parents well on our Asheville trip, as it’s sandwiched in between their 60th birthdays! (Yes! We got them Hamilton tickets (!!!), which will count for their birthday, Mother’s/Father’s Day, and Christmas gifts for the next five years, haha!)
Celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary!!! (Yes! We went to the NC Zoo on Friday, then went out to dinner at The Durham that night without June, and it was SO GREAT to have a leisurely, long dinner together, something we hadn’t done in way too long.)

October goals:
— Start my work-from-home days with Bill Hybel’s prayer journaling practice (Trying this again!)
— Have a magic eraser party all over our house (I am new to the magic eraser magic and after cleaning off just a tiny portion of our baseboards, I’m hooked! Plus, June thinks it’s realllly fun to help (she works next to me with a normal sponge! :))
— Re-color code book shelf (I tore a page out of a magazine as inspiration, and am excited to give our colorful shelf a facelift!)
— Spruce up our bedroom dresser (I was majorly inspired by the styling in Alaina’s home tour, and am hoping to style this surface a bit and add more framed photos.)
— Organize our pantry
— Host the fifth annual pumpkins and soup party in our backyard
— Come up with something fun for June’s Halloween costume!

Any Halloween costume suggestions?? Bonus points for a concept John and I can get in on, too. Here’s what we did last year :)