OOTD: Plaid and stars

There are a million ways I want to style this Comfort by Margaret M faux leather skirt that I splurged on from my second Fix (disclosure: link is a referral link, and if you sign up, I'm credited $25). One idea I like is wearing it over dresses that I think are too short for fall. This time, I chose to wear it with my well-loved plaid Eddie Bauer shirt I got at an outlet, novelty star tights over Target fleece-lined tights and my Tieks. Under the shirt, I wore my American Apparel velvet crop top. Why a crop top? To minimize the bulk under the skirt, since I already have a tucked-in shirt and two pairs of tights (warmth over style, but not by too much!).

I think I got these tights at a Halloween store years ago and never wore them. It's amazing what you can discover when you actually look through your underwear drawer.

I wore my J. Crew hard candy necklace to echo the pink of the ballet flats.

This outfit really works for me because I love to mix patterns and textures. The silhouette is sophisticated and work-appropriate, but it's fun and colorful and me.

On my lips, I'm wearing MAC liner in Brick under Urban Decay Revolution gloss in Assassin.


A few home decor details

I want to share a few snapshots of home decor details. Our new rental is the nicest place we've lived in Pittsburgh, and I've been in a real nesting mood with the extra space, especially in my writing room/vanity area/library.

Paintings above my writing desk

Owl lamp from Wal-Mart
The funny devotional candle was from a metaphysical bookstore in Santa Fe, N.M.,
and the Tobacco & Patchouli candle was from Barnes & Noble.

I got these Ohuhu makeup storage drawers on Amazon

Eric found this jewelry armoire at a thrift shop, and I store my perfumes on top

Living room accent wall

My sworn enemy
Wood tiles from World Market. These lamps were a dingy white until Eric spray-painted them

Ektorp couch is from Ikea. The throw and the outer pillows are from Wal-Mart,
and the inner pillows are from World Market

Accent wall accent under the stairs, and a dancing fella
Handknit and Harry Potter


2015 Reading Challenge: In the home stretch

I set out to read 45 books this year, and I'm down to 5. So many surprisingly delightful reads have inhabited space in my brain this year, so I thought I'd run down some observations.


FOTD: Muchos besos

Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso is quickly resurfacing in my collection and becoming my favorite red. It's matte, bold and the tone is so flattering to my skin tone and, I think, would be universally flattering. To get a clean line, I used my MAC Brick lip liner, which is a bit deeper.

I think a bold rep lip looks great with a brown smoky eye. It's less severe than black, and more stepped up and glamorous than my usual simple black winged liner. I used the Naked Smoky palette, with the shade Whiskey all over the lid, Combust in the crease, Radar over the outside half, and Dirtysweet in the inner half. I kept it in the Urban Decay family with Demolition 24/7 Glide-On liner. A bold look isn't finished without strong brows, and my trusty NYX Auto Eyebrow Pencil in Charcoal did the job beautifully.


Stitch Fix style: First fix, three ways

Disclosure: Links are referral links. If you sign up for Stitch Fix through the link, I get a $25 credit that benefits my wardrobe and wallet!

Everyone I know has been trying Stitch Fix, so I was waiting eagerly and watching tons of unboxing videos on YouTube until my first box was delivered. 

A primer for the uninitiated: Stitch Fix is a site where you fill out a detailed survey about your personal style, body type, and what kind of clothes you like or need. Then, a stylist sends you five items they think you'll love. You try them on, keep and pay for what you want, and send the rest back in a prepaid envelope. A $20 styling fee that you pay if you send it all back is deducted if you buy something. So, if you keep $100 worth of clothes, it'll cost $80, and if you keep none of the clothes, it's $20 for the styling and shipping.

I kept the Everly Elzada Dress ($54) and the 41Hawthorn Abrianna Longsleeve Knit Cardigan ($48) in this gorgeous jewel of a purple. I'm so excited to wear the cardigan with everything, and the dress is exactly my style: fitted but without showing a lot of skin, with a perfect-length flare skirt and a great variegated fabric.

The first look is just the dress with leggings and my trusty biker boots. I think of this as edgy but glamorous. I like the contrast of the boots and the sparkly statement necklace, and the dress is the perfect anchor piece.

The second look just adds the cardigan, and it's instantly artsy and eclectic. The drape on the cardigan is amazing. It skims my back and doesn't look baggy at all, but it leaves room in the front so it can sort of mask your midsection if you had pasta for lunch. And it's so soft with impossibly thin and luxurious material.

The third look is funky and feminine. I tied the ends of the cardigan around my waist, swapped out the boots for booties, and added a chunky floral necklace.

Overall, I'd consider my first fix a grand success, and can't wait to see what my stylist comes up with next.


OOTD: Fall color

Jacket, H&M | Shirt, J. Crew | Skull dress, Hot Topic | Tights, Wal-Mart | Shoes, Clarks | Scarf, handmade
My wardrobe is full of bright colors, so fall style for me is about transitioning how I layer, not what shades I drape myself in. I just love a bright, especially in the dreary weather.

I like outfits that are decidedly feminine but not too delicate. My skull dress frequently gets mistaken for a floral or paisley until someone inspects it further, and there's something very Hocus Pocus witchy about my conservative (super super comfortable) shoes. And of course, a leather jacket toughens it up and ties everything together.

I was disappointed in these tights. I was stoked that they were less than $5 at Wal-Mart, but even though they're supposedly fleeced (read: they aren't), they're basically slightly thicker pantyhose, not super opaque and have weird seams up the butt. But. They work with this dress, so there's that.

My style can be kind of young, so I like some sophisticated touches, like these leaf earrings I'm pretty sure were from Little Black Bag. 

This scarf is a knitting project I just finished. I adapted it from this pattern and instead of doing equal-sized stripes, I just freestyled. I love being able to create a custom garment and feel that sense of pride when I get a compliment and can respond, "Thanks! I made it!"

One thing I'm mindful of in the fall is that when I dress in layers, I want to still be in a cohesive outfit when I remove layers. I like how the gold buttons on my shirt echo the clasps on my shoes and my earrings.


Book series review: "His Fair Assassin" trilogy by Robin LaFevers

Two words: assassin nuns.

I didn't need much more to sell me on the premise of the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers. Daughters of Mortain, the god of death, serve him by training in a convent in espionage, seduction, poisons and weaponry, and in the course of their work influence the course of Breton politics in the late 1400s. They are, aside from the sisters behaving badly, very historically accurate and provide a window to an interesting time and place in history centered on the fraught rise of Duchess Anne of Brittany.

Each book has a different narrator with a distinctive voice, yet the interconnected characters and plots as well as the excellent world building make the novels feel cohesive. I raced through the series and loved each book in a different way.

Grave Mercy — Narrated by Ismae, who was rescued from a violent arranged marriage following a childhood full of rage and neglect, this one reads like Pride and Prejudice with poisoned hair accessories and crossbows. Ismae's story is about devotion and agency. Unquestioning in her service to the convent of Mortain, she's faced with doubts about her faith and how best to worship when she's ordered to kill the man who, despite her initial disdain for him and her charge to pose as his lover, has stolen her heart.

But don't expect a sappy, cheesy love story. Not with quotes like, “I comfort myself with the knowledge that if Duval ever feels smothered by me, it will be because I am holding a pillow over his face.”

This is the one with the most court intrigue. But any boredom or confusion from the politics were soothed by the kickass descriptions of Ismae's many deadly accoutrements.

Dark Triumph — This is the one with the most swashbuckling. It's narrated by Sybella, who has had without a doubt the worst life out of the trio she forms with Ismae and Annith. Sybella is a badass hardened by the most heartbreaking and unrelenting personal traumas a human being could possibly endure. I don't want to spoil her storyline, but here's a blanket trigger warning. Trigger warning. Any trauma you've ever had, or if you're just a sympathetic human being, you will be triggered AF by Sybella's history and inspired by her strength, even if it isn't the warm and fuzzy kind you get from shows on Oprah's network.

Sybella also has a romance, and it's pretty unconventional and swoon-worthy. Not at all as unconventional as Annith's coming up in Part 3, but still, it's a definite odd-coupling that works.

Mortal Heart — Annith's story is the one with the most "What the hell just happened?!" twists. Raised in the convent since she was a baby, Annith is formidable and ready to serve her god, but she's been held back while younger and less prepared girls are sent out, some to their deaths. When the twisty abbess of the convent tells her she's being groomed to be the Seeress, the oracle who guides the convent and never leaves its walls, Annith runs away with little in the way of a plan other than not accepting such an anticlimactic and restrictive fate.

This is also the book with the most supernatural content. We learn a lot more about the mythology of the old gods and meet the Hellequin, riders of Death who gather up wandering souls and escort them to the other side. It's riding with the Hellequin that she meets Balthazaar, a dashing and mysterious individual you won't forget.

This book reunites all three girls, and I would have loved to see more of their friendship and where they all end up. A lot of loose ends are tied and the conclusion is satisfying, but it left me wishing there was another book, or a spinoff that focused on some of the other convents that serve the remaining gods. I would have loved to see more of the servants of Arduinna, the goddess of love's sharp bite. They were basically a bunch of Xena Warrior Princesses. Or a comedy about Salonius, the god of mistakes.

I would without reservation recommend this series. Even the parts that drag pay off, and there's steak under the sizzle of that insane and glorious premise.


First impressions review: A week in Tieks

When I first saw Tieks in a Pinterest ad (a plague on your house, Pinterest, you temptress), I fell in love. The company says it has reinvented the ballet flat. Foldable yet sturdy flats with brilliant teal soles and supple Italian leather. So many gorgeous, vibrant brights, creative prints and classic neutrals.

I spent several months debating whether I could ever justify spending $175 on a pair of shoes, especially ballet flats. Ballet flats are, counterintuitively, notorious foot killers. And the most I've ever spent on shoes was maybe $80, once, for a pair of black stiletto booties I've worn a million times. And that was easily double the most I've ever spent on a shoe before or since.

But I read review after glowing review, lurked on Instagram, heard about the excellent customer service, and lost sleep dreaming of that fuchsia leather. So I decided to take a calculated risk.

Even though Tieks says to size down if you wear a half size, reviews advised me to size up, especially because of my wide soles. Excellent advice. My size 9 shoes fit my size 8.5 feet perfectly right out of the box.

The first thing I noticed about my Tieks other than how insanely cute they were was that they had substantial soles. These are not like the foldable flats you get at the drugstore that are basically socks to stumble home in with your heels in the tote (although Tieks do bring a tote for that purpose). These are legit shoes. I've worn them every day since I got them, walked several miles up and down hills through the city, and stood in them in a crowded bar. My feet felt pretty good and I got no blisters.

I love that the heel isn't elasticized, which can cause irritation, yet really conforms to my foot. The material feels so soft and luxurious to slip my feet into. The only place I've had trouble is along the top, which dug into my foot near my toes a bit, but that's loosened up.

The soles and the rest of the shoe are really easy to keep clean with just a quick wipe with a slightly wet paper towel.

My one real complaint is how easily scuffed these are because I'm a klutz. I already have a couple of scuffs along the toe, so I'll have to add to my investment and get some pink shoe polish.

Oh, and they squeak. The only way I've remedied this a touch is by putting baby powder on the bottom of my foot to reduce the noisy friction. Because squeak-squeaking flats sound much less sexy than click-clacking pumps.

So are Tieks worth it? That's entirely up to you. I made sure to get a color I thought would work really well with my wardrobe, so that I can wear these constantly and get my cost per wear way down. These are definitely the best ballet flats I've ever owned. My Tieks are beautiful, comfortable and versatile. I love them so much that I'm planning to save up for another pair. I love the Galactic Green, Matte BlackChestnut and Electric Snake versions, even though the ones beyond the basic $175 colors are outside my price range.

Tieks are my new favorite shoes. I feel so chic in them. Which are your favorite shoes, and how much were they? What are your favorite investment pieces?