Stone Moto Jacket + Monday Motivation

A lot of my shopping habits and style preferences have changed over the years since I started blogging, but a couple of things things have remained the same: I still shop at Express and I still love a good moto jacket. The jacket I'm wearing in today's outfit is evidence of both of those facts, and it's a great neutral, go-with-anything piece for Spring.

This jacket runs true to size (I'm wearing an XS) and does have a slightly boxy fit. Based on how it looked on the model I wasn't sure it would work, but I ended up really liking it. The fabric is kind of like the Silky Twill Express has used on other pieces, so it's very soft and comfortable. It is very similar to the Spring Staple jacket I shared in this post, but I really liked the open collar of this one as well as the lighter color. I bought this during the Easter sale along with this military jacket and told myself I would only keep one since they are the exact same color and fabric. I find I get the most use out cropped jackets and this collar style works a bit better for me so that's why I kept this. But if you favor a slightly longer jacket I would still recommend the military jacket version.

This jacket comes with a belt (you can see the strap hanging all the way down my leg in the second photo here), but after wearing it with the belt for a day and then reviewing these photos, I think I'm going to end up removing it. It's not attached - it just runs through two loops in the back. It didn't really add much to the overall look of the jacket and it got in the way of everything I did, including getting stuck in the car door several times.

We've had a few warmer, Summer-like days this month (mid to upper 80s) so it's time to dust off my jean shorts and start using a darker sunless tanner on my legs for the next few months. My jean shorts are a few years old, but luckily the styles of jean shorts haven't changed much in the last few years so there are quite a few similar options in stores this year like this pair or this one, both under $50. I've been using this affordable self tanner in Deep Bronze and am pretty happy with it thus far.  This actually my first time posting this style of photo (outdoor + posed vs. a selfie of any kind) and I was a little (er...a lot) worried that the DSLR would make things look more splotchy or streaky than what my eyes were seeing in real life. I've seen this in photos from far more professional bloggers than myself so I know the struggle is real! But thankfully my worst fears weren't realized and I can continue posting outfits with shorts when that's what I want to wear in real life, rather than having to dress for the blog since I know for sure I don't have the editing skills to hide a bad sunless tanning job.

Monday Motivation Update:
After my last update in March, I came to the realization that this blog series is due for a little re-evaluation and some consideration as to whether I continue posting it or not. I was very consistent with it in 2017 and it really helped me stay accountable and on track with my goals and progress. That said, my life in 2018 has been quite different from 2017 thus far, largely due to my transition into this tween/teen mom stage. I've had to re-focus my efforts on helping develop my kids more than myself, and that's made it a bit challenging to write anything relevant here. It's one of the more time consuming segments of my blog, and that time was worth it when the passion was there. But as things have changed for me outside the blog, it's started to make this piece feel like more of a chore than a passion, and that's not worth it. So for now I'm taking an indefinite break from the series, but if the motivation strikes I'm sure you'll hear about it in another update here. I truly appreciate all of your comments and support on this series and hope you'll stick around in spite of the change!

Linking up with: Rachelle | Carylee


Everyday Outfits + Friday Four 4/20/18

Hello and thanks for checking in today! I hope you all had a good week. We survived the post-vacation adjustment period and now things feel pretty much back to normal. I'm still working my way through the overload of photos we took on our trip to Zion National Park (recap here) and trying to just get them all organized in a photo book. It's a task I dread but the sooner I force myself get it done after a trip, the better. Aside from that, as usual I have a few outfits to share that I wore this past week along with a few other random topics to discuss in my Friday Four.

Outfit Recap:
I haven't really gone for a lot of traditional Spring colors this year, but I did carry my red bag with the second a third outfit after seeing Rachelle's post about red bags, and I felt like that brightened them both up a bit more for the season. (You can see the second outfit with the bag on Instagram.) I stopped carrying bags in my mirror selfies this year because it really simplifies the linking process for me. It's also had the side benefit of helping me stick to a smaller bag collection since it helps me not feel self-conscious about constantly repeating the same ones over and over here. Just thought I would mention that in case anyone wondered whether that was an accidental or intentional change!

Black Moto Jacket, Camo Jeans:

Lots of oldies but goodies in this outfit! My black t-shirtcamo jeans, and shoes are all true to size. My jacket is a great bargain at just $31 and I'm wearing a Small. I tried a few layering options (e.g. blazers and cardigans) for the t-shirt and jeans before settling on the jacket. It seemed like it went the best with everything else. I had a bunch of errands to run this day (mall returns, Target, take kids to activities, etc.) and I was glad for the jacket since there was a lot of temperature variance everywhere I went.

Charcoal Cardigan, White Henley Tank:

I think this is my third time wearing this cardigan since I got it last month, although I can only find one other previous posting. I keep reaching for it because it's just so soft and comfortable! I also think this curved hem style is a little more flattering on me than some of my others, so I'll be keeping that in mind for future purposes. Mine is a size Small, and I took the same for this White Henley Tank. I do think the tank runs a bit Small, since I think this fits more like an XS. My black jeans and shoes (budget-friendly dupes for the Vince Camuto "Tressa" style) are both true to size. 

White Cardigan, Black Lace-Trim Cami:

If you're following me on Instagram you might have seen this outfit on my stories on Wednesday. We stopped for some take out dinner after basketball practice and the restaurant had nice landscaping so I persuaded my kids to do a quick photography test for me. I can't imagine my own childhood as one where my mom repeatedly asked me to take pictures of her in different outfits and settings! But we're living in different times now where many things are far different than my own childhood, so I try not to beat myself about whether that's "normal" or not. At any rate, everything shown is true to size so that makes for an easy caption here!

How about a little random chit chat before we head into the weekend? I'll keep it to four things here otherwise I can easily ramble on for too long!

1. Overnight Oats. I'm always looking for easy, healthy breakfast ideas and I've heard of these a few different places so I gave them a try this week. I used this recipe and made the blueberry version...and I was not a fan. I really did not care for the taste of cold oatmeal, and the ingredients just didn't blend as well they do when they're cooked with heat. Has anyone else tried these and not loved them? Now I need to figure out something else to do with the bag of chia seeds I bought just for the one teaspoon required for the recipe!

2. The Greatest Showman. I finally saw this movie last weekend since it's out on DVD/On Demand. I thought the music was great and I can see myself listening to this soundtrack again. But overall I only liked it okay...didn't love it. I think the visuals and sounds would have been more enjoyable in the big screen format, so I missed the boat by not seeing it in the theater. Also, my husband and kids didn't want to watch it with me so I watched it alone, and I can safely say they would not have enjoyed it so I'm glad I didn't push the issue. Your family tastes may vary!

3. Coffee & Tea Drinkers. Since we talked coffee here on Wednesday I thought it was interesting that this article came up in my news feed this week: This is what drinking coffee and tea all day will do to your body. Here's my personal favorite quote from the article: "The smugness of people who drink copious amounts of water every day might be somewhat unfounded — or their scorn for people who only drink tea and coffee might be, at least."

4. Pillowcase Rules. For ages I have washed our bedding once per week (probably because that's what my mom did?), then on Instagram this week one person said that it needs to be done almost daily. Whoa. I'm not sure if I can commit to that much extra laundry, plus putting on pillowcases is my least favorite part about laundering the bedding. But I also don't want to be un-hygienic! I read a couple of articles on the topic here and here, and I'm considering going to 2x per week. How often do you all wash your pillowcases?

This weekend is looking pretty ordinary for me but the weather is supposed to warm up a bit for Saturday-Sunday so I'm looking forward to that and hoping to spend some extra time outdoors. I hope you all have some good plans for fun and/or relaxation this weekend too!

Linking up with: JoLynne | ErikaAndreaNarci | CherylNina |  Rachael


Striped Cardigan + Starbucks Lately

Well, Spring Break is officially over here and it's the first full week back to reality. I can't say the kids were excited to go back to school, but they do like seeing their friends so at least they have an upside. I'm feeling the post-vacation blues myself (and that's not a pun on my outfit today!) and already thinking about where we can go for Spring Break next year. But I also know I just need to practice contentment with the good things I already have in life rather than living for that Next Big Thing.

At the time I'm writing this, my striped cardigan is marked down to only $22. It's true to size, and I've worn the olive version of this exact style here. These have been perfect to throw on for our warmer Spring days. We're having a mix of high temps anywhere from the Upper 60s to Mid 80s lately so I think we're fully done with winter weather here. If you're still having a lot of cold weather you could easily layer this cardigan with long sleeve top and different shoes.

These taupe espadrilles were one of my purchases from the last Target BOGO 50% off shoes sale. They ran true to size for me and while they're reasonably comfortable, I do feel kind of Clydesdale-Clompy walking around in these. I don't normally wear platform wedges like these so I think I'm just not used to it. I'll be interested to see if I get more used to the style after wearing them a few more times! I do love the neutral color and they way they lengthen the leg.

My Target tank and Express jeans are from past seasons, but I linked to some current options for very similar styles. My Kendra Scott necklace is a custom color bar creation. You can purchase this exact style by using the "create your own" option. Mine is the Teo Style with Rhodium as the Metal and Iridescent Druzy for the Stone. It has an adjustable slider for the length which I absolutely love since I can wear it as a long or short necklace depending on my outfit.

Starbucks Lately:
Since I'm carrying a Starbucks cup in these pics, I figured why not share a few of my favorites Starbucks drinks lately? I'm not a big fan of their hot beverages, though I do love the Medicine Ball when I'm sick. But now that it's warming up I've been going a little more often for their iced beverages. Plus, almost all of my favorites are drinks I tried thanks to other people sharing their favorites, so I might as well pay it forward.

1. Iced Coffee with 2% Milk and...almost any flavor. Vanilla, Toffee Nut and lately Cinnamon Dolce have been my usual choices for this. I do love White Mocha but try not to get it as often because it costs more and it has more calories. But still, almost any Iced Coffee drink costs a lot less than an iced latte of the same flavor but still tastes good to me.

2. Iced Cinnamon Almond Milk Macchiato: I don't think this is a permanent addition to the menu, but I've been enjoying it while they have it. A Grande size has 190 calories so again, not as much of a calorie-bomb as other drinks, although it is pricey. I did try the hot version of this too and actually liked.

3. Iced Hazelnut Mocha Coconutmilk Macchiato: Another seasonal drink (I think?) with possibly the longest drink name ever? I tried this one after Lisa posted about it and now I'm a fan. It's listed as 210 calories for a Grande (although the hot version of the same drink is only 180, go figure) and even still, it tastes more like a 400 calorie drink.

That's what's in my cup lately, but I'm always up for trying something new. If you have any Starbucks favorites I should try let me know in the comments! Also, if you go to Starbucks even just once a month and don't have the Mobile App, you're missing out! I love skipping the line and having my order ready right when I walk in. Or if the drive through line isn't long I'll pick it up that way, but either way it makes the process a lot faster. Plus you can earn rewards (free food or drinks) for your purchases, and that ends up being how I try most of their newer menu items so I don't feel like I wasted money if I don't like it. By the way, none of this is Sponsored content. I just feel like every retailer has an app and I don't like putting a lot of stuff on my phone unless it's actually useful and worthwhile. For me, this one has definitely been worth having!

Linking up with: The Blended Blog | Kelly, Anessa | Brooke | Leanne | Dawn | JoLynne

Link Up Hosts:
Join us to share your Style on the Daily by linking up your latest fashion-related posts below! If you link up, we ask that you link back to your hosts Amy Ann and Gina and follow us on the social media platform of your choice. Thank you!


Travel Recap: Zion National Park

Last week, our family of four headed up to Zion National Park for three full days of adventure. Both my (then) ten year old son and I read "Take Me With You" by Catherine Ryan Hyde a couple of months ago and it was that book that gave me the idea for the trip and the itch to go there myself and create memorable experiences for my family. For as much reading as I do, this is actually the first trip I've ever taken inspired by a book. And you know how the book is always better than the movie? Well, now I can say that in this case, real life is better than the book!

Aside from choosing the destination itself based on the book, we did everything else our own way. So we didn't drive an RV from San Diego like they did in the book (coincidentally the main character in the book is also from San Diego), and we stayed in a hotel rather than at a campground. We flew from San Diego to Las Vegas, then rented a car to drive the remaining three hours to Zion National Park. I'm not a big fan of road trips and was dreading the three hour drive from Vegas, but it was pretty interesting landscape most of the time (especially through the Virgin River Gorge) and the time went by quickly. We did hit a big rainstorm on our drive through the gorge, so later in the trip when we learned about the impact flash floods had on the area, we fully understood!
-Driving through the Virgin River Gorge-

We stayed for three full days (at the SpringHill Suites in Springdale, more on that below), but it did take a full day on either side of the trip to travel to/from home so it was a five day trip ordeal altogether. You could easily fit in more hikes and activities than we did in a three day stay, but we wanted lots of rest and relaxation time in our schedule too. For cost reference, park admission is only $30 for an entire week.
-Evening views of Zion from our hotel in Springdale- 
Emerald Pools Hike. This hike has three different levels (Lower, Middle and Upper Pools) and the hike became a little more challenging after each level. We enjoyed the views and the terrain. The boys had a blast climbing all of the giant rocks on the trail. This was the most crowded trail we hiked, although the crowds tapered off with each level as families with smaller children or physically limited hikers would head back once they were maxed out.
 -Waterfall at the Upper Emerald Pool- 
-Moderate crowds at the Upper Emerald Pool in early April-

ATV Riding with Mild to Wild Rhino Tours. This was our most expensive activity (and is completely separate from the National Park) but it was so fun and totally worth it. You can choose to drive your own ATV and follow behind a tour guide in his separate ATV, or you can have the guide drive for you. My husband definitely wanted to drive so we had our own vehicle. It was a blast riding along the rocky terrain on trails we would never have found on our own...nor did we have a vehicle for them! They also provided sunglasses and bandanas for protection from the dust and dirt.
-Our ride for the "Wild" tour option-

The guide had us stop along the trail at the most spectacular view points for photo ops and some fun historical facts on the area. As an extra bonus, each of the kids got a turn to drive the ATV on some of the smoother areas of the trail with the guide! That was definitely one of the trip highlights for them.
-My 11 y/o enjoying the scenery and sun-

After the ATV ride, we drove over to Grafton, Utah since it was very close to where we ended up on our ATV tour and our guide recommended it. Grafton is an abandoned (but well maintained) Ghost Town with a cemetery, school house/church, and a few homes. I wouldn't say it's a must-see attraction in the area, but it was interesting and worth the small amount of time it took us to get there and see everything in the town. It made it easy to imagine life for early settlers in that area with absolutely nothing around except the mountains and a couple of neighbors.
-Grafton, UT abandoned church/schoolhouse-

We packed a few shorter activities into our last day. First we did the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and went through the Zion/Mt Carmel Tunnel. The views on the drive up were absolutely amazing (though I didn't like how my photos turned out through the car window), and the tunnel itself cuts straight through the mountain for 1.1 miles. It's hard to believe they were able to build this in 1930! It's a little freaky but cool all the same.
-Tunnel entrance ahead: only one lane of traffic can pass through at a time- 

-Looking down at the Zion/Mt Carmel Tunnel entrance from the Canyon Overlook Trail-

Immediately at the end of the tunnel is the parking lot and trailhead for the Canyon Overlook Trail. This was my personal favorite hike of the trip. It was a good balance of effort and enjoyment. The terrain was cool and the views at the top of the trail were breathtaking. My kids could have stayed at the top quite awhile climbing around on all the different rock formations and what not.
-My crew hiking up the rocky Canyon Overlook Trail-

-Canyon views along Canyon Overlook Trail-
-Rocky terrain at the top of the Canyon Overlook Trail-

Our last activity of the day was The Watchman Trail. This was probably my least favorite hike of the trip just because the trail itself was dusty, desert-y and blah compared with the other trails we hiked. I think it reminded me of trails we've hiked here in San Diego (aside from the final view!) so it didn't feel as unique to me. That said, it wasn't a long hike and the views at the end were beautiful as with all the trails we hiked, so it wasn't a waste of time. It's just not one I'd consider a must-do.
-My 12 y/o hiker taking in the views at the top of The Watchman Trail-

Transportation Notes:
While we did have a rental car, we used the free public transportation in Springdale and within the park itself to access everything in the park and the restaurants we chose were all walking distance from the hotel (.3 miles or less). The Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion/Mt. Carmel Tunnel and ATV required our own vehicle. Parking within the park is very limited. We tried to park there once with our rental car and it was impossible unless you're willing to drive around the lot for hours waiting for a spot to open up...and then beat out all the other cars who are driving around for the same purpose (sort of like Christmas Eve at a shopping mall). But the city of Springdale has a free bus service with convenient stops near most of the hotels in the area that takes you right to the park entrance. Once inside the park, the park has its own shuttle bus service to take you to the various main trail heads within the park since those are not an easy walking distance from the main entrance.

We stayed at the SpringHill Suites in Springdale and it was great. It's fairly new, the rooms were clean and comfortable, a big breakfast buffet was included in the rate, and the service was great. The pool was heated and they have a hot tub so we got plenty of use out of those during our stay. Every night they had a big fire pit out back so we could sit outside and enjoy the sunset and scenery by the fire. The Springdale bus stop (offering free rides around town and to Zion National Park) was near the entrance of the hotel so park access was also very convenient.

Food and Dining:
We are not a family of "foodies" by any means, so we usually try to spend less on dining and more on activities. We stopped at a Wal-Mart in St. George, Utah (about an hour away from Springdale) and stocked up on some food items, snacks, and ingredients for PB&J sandwiches. Each day we ate the breakfast provided by the hotel and packed sandwiches and snacks that took us through our activities through dinner time, with the occasional snack purchase made along the way at a gift shop or the local market. We went out to dinner each of our three nights at local restaurants: Bit & Spur, Zion Pizza & Noodle Company, and Jack's Switchback Grille. We were reasonably happy with all of them (again, not a foodie family so check Yelp for more detailed reviews). My favorite was Jack's (I had the taco salad) and the kids liked the pizza place the best. Bit & Spur was a little pricey for what it was but we still liked the food.

Weather + Allergy Notes:
I don't know if it's the higher altitude, lack of proximity to the ocean breeze, or what exactly made the climate difference, but my whole family felt like 70° in Springdale/Zion felt like 80° in San Diego. And I'm not just talking about the times when we were exerting ourselves on a hike and our body temperatures heated up. It felt that way sitting still by the pool or anywhere else in the sun. We packed for 70° weather and really missed the mark on that, so we had to repeat a lot of clothes, which isn't ideal when you're getting them sweaty and dirty every day. I can't say how it will compare vs. other climates but if I go again I will be over-packing to be more prepared for weather variations.

My allergies also went completely berserk there. I burned through small packs of tissues on every hike, and thankfully the hotel had Advil Cold & Sinus packets for sale so I wasn't miserable 24/7. That helped, but if you suffer from seasonal allergies definitely bring along your own preferred medication and plenty of tissues for your activities.

Hiking Essentials:
While I saw plenty of people on each of the trails we chose wearing normal sneakers and carrying a simple water bottle, we picked up a few hiking essentials for everyone in our family pre-trip that really made my experience more comfortable and that I'd recommend for anyone planning a similar trip to Zion or elsewhere. Although if you don't happen to plan in advance, I noticed several shops in Springdale and even one right at the entrance to the park that sell similar supplies. They are probably more expensive than what I was able to get on Amazon, though!

Hydration Pack + Backpack: Each person in our family carried their own hydration pack + backpack (this exact version) and it was so nice. We didn't have to stop, open the backpack, get out a water bottle, put it back. close up the backpack, etc. every time someone wanted a drink of water. Also, since the water is in a "bladder" designed for the backpack, it's a lot more comfortable to carry on your back that way than any other type of thermos that would bang around against your back. The only drawback is that the water isn't cold, and I'm pretty picky about water temperature but it was worth the trade off for the comfort and convenience. We were also impressed with how much other "stuff" these held despite their compact size. We were each able to fit a sandwich or two plus other snacks, an extra layer (jacket or t-shirt), tissues, sanitizing wipes, lip balm and sunscreen in our packs...i.e. all of the other hiking essentials.

Hiking Boots: All of the trails we did were "Moderate" per the official Zion National Park Information Sheet. Most people were just wearing sneakers, but I was really glad for the extra tread on my hiking boots since I was a lot more sure-footed on all of the terrain and somewhat slippery rock surfaces. If you know you'll only be doing Easy Trails (there are six of those within Zion), you probably don't need hiking boots but again, they're nice to have. Finding a pair of boots that fit right was a challenge since sizes seemed to vary a lot from normal shoes. I ordered four pairs in various brands/sizes before finally ending up with these for myself. I took a full size up from my normal size. I think I could have gone with a half size up, but they didn't come in that size and this worked well but they had to be laced fairly tight and worn with my thick hiking socks. With those slight adjustments, they were really comfortable and the traction was great.

Hiking Socks: I wasn't too sure about getting these socks since they looked like they would be thick and make my feet sweaty, but that wasn't an issue at all. They kept my feet cool, comfortable and dry, and I appreciated the extra cushion. Plus since my shoes were just a tad large the thicker socks helped. If you are planning to get hiking boots, definitely try them with the exact socks you want to wear for proper fit.

One thing I also carried that I was so glad I had (not pictured in the collage but you can see it in the photo of me on the Canyon Overlook Trail) was a belt bag. Even though I had the hydration backpack, I knew I wanted easy access to my phone for pictures, and I ended up needing even more frequent and urgent access to my tissue packs thanks to my allergies. If I carried those things in my backpack, it would be a hassle to slow down and stop so I could access them throughout the hike. Having the belt bag was a huge convenience for myself and my traveling companions since they don't really like slowing down! I used this exact bag and it did easily hold my phone (an iPhone X so it's a pretty good size), tissues and lip balm just fine, but in retrospect I would have chosen something more sporty since that one didn't really go with my hiking attire. I don't why I didn't think that through, but from a functional standpoint it was great.

In putting this all together, it felt like a very "dry" post of facts, which doesn't do the trip justice at all! Of course, I did the writing first and am adding the pictures last, so I hope the pictures do a better job of showing the incredible landscape and scenery of the area. It was breathtaking, majestic, and beautiful. We ran out of synonyms for our amazement at the beauty of the area and the size of the mountains. The trip and the park exceeded our expectations. It's a great destination for families with any age of children and adults with nearly any physical ability level. There are plenty of trails, walks, and view points that can be enjoyed by all. You can rent bikes or ride horses, and the park also has a Visitor Center, Nature Center, and History Museum. While three days felt like a good amount of time for us (especially with the two days of travel tacked on), we could easily and happily go back again and plan completely different activities for another three days. I think what I'm trying to say is that if the pictures of the park and surrounding area appeal to you at all, you will not be disappointed by what you see and do in person, and the trip will be well worth your time!

Linking up with: Rachelle | Carylee | Erika


Everyday Outfits + Friday Four 4/13/18

Happy Friday the 13th! I am not superstitious in the slightest, yet I can't help notice the date and think, "oooh...it's Friday the 13th!" At any rate, I'm back from our Spring Break trip to Zion National Park and the dust is still settling. It will be nice to have a couple of days over the weekend to get fully caught up on life and laundry before we go back to the grind on Monday. Here's a quick recap of some outfits from the past couple of weeks, though I'm skipping the vacation/travel outfits since they'll make more sense in a separate trip recap post.

White Cardigan, Henley Tank:

My white cardigan runs true to size for Express sizing, and the henley tank runs a little smaller/like Junior's sizing (I'm wearing a Small in the tank). My jeans and shoes are both true to size. I wore this to take my car in to get the brake pads replaced, then out for a couple of errands when it was finished. Pretty exciting life I lead, eh? 

Striped Hoodie, Jean Shorts:

I am absolutely loving this striped hoodie. It's so soft and comfortable. I think it runs true to size, and I'm wearing a Small here. I first shared it in this post in an outfit with leggings if you want to see the length of the top. I've had two people message me that they bought this after I posted it, and they loved it too. Which is always a relief when you rave about something! I wore this around the house yesterday to get unpacked and caught up on laundry and grocery shopping. I changed to leggings to run errands, but since you've already seen this top with leggings I didn't want to re-post that.

And as you can see I finally got a pair of Tory Burch Miller sandals. I planned to get these in the Shopbop Sale (still going on....see my favorites here) but unfortunately some colors like the ones I'm wearing were exempt from the sale. I still felt these would be the best color option for me since the neutral shade goes with anything, so thanks to my ongoing partnership with Shopbop I was still able to get them. But I do apologize if you were hoping for this color to go on sale as well and were disappointed by the exclusion. I do see them included in promotions from other retailers occasionally so I'll try to keep you posted on that. Reviews were mixed on the sizing between normal size and half size up, but I went with my normal size and they fit perfectly. Do they live up to the hype? I'm leaning towards, "not exactly but I like them anyway." It's similar to how I feel about Kendra Scott jewelry: rather pricey for what it is, but I can't help liking it anyway so I'll make sure to wear it a lot to bring down the cost per wear. They're both the perfect type of thing to request as a Mother's Day/Birthday Gift or Extra Special Reward to yourself. I've looked around a lot for similar styles alternatives before getting these, but I never found much that was truly "similar." However, when I posted about these on Monday I did have a reader tip me off to this style from Cato Fashions. That's the most similar I've seen and even at full price they're only $26. They only come in full sizes, but she wears a 7.5 and the 8 worked well for her.
Thanks to Elizabeth for the photo of her Cato Sandals 

Camo Jacket, Grey Jeans:

I am 95% sure I have worn this exact outfit combo of camo jacket, white tee, grey jeans before, but I didn't feel like looking for a link to an old post to prove it. All I know is that it worked and I repeated it for a day of doctor appointments, errands and driving kids around to their activities. Last summer, I had a pair of Jeffrey Campbell Rodillo dupe sandals like this. I got rid of them in a closet clean out last Fall thinking that I was over them and wouldn't want to wear them again this year. WRONG. Luckily I was able to find this pair (under $25!) to replace them. They're comfortable and true to size, so let's hope I learned my lesson and don't get rid of them again in the fall! My camo jacket is long gone from Express, but here are a few current options from other retailers.

More Camo Jacket Options:
1. Old Navy  | 2. Abercrombie | 3. JCP | 4. Rails

Friday Four:
Back in December, I started doing a TGIF series where I share four random things inspired by the letters in TGIF. I always found a way to share whatever four things I wanted to share and just bent the letters to fit the narrative. But honestly, sometimes all the mental gymnastics I did to accommodate the four letters would give me a headache throughout the week. So for now I'm just going to forego TGIF but stick with sharing four random things since I'm used to that format now.

1. Behind the Blog...For the past four years, I've used Polyvore to create lots of blog content like the camo jacket display above or any of my book collages for my book review posts. Last week as I was prepping posts for vacation I used Polyvore on Wednesday, then on Thursday...POOF! Gone. It's been sold to another brand and they don't offer the same function at all. It's just a shopping site...you can no longer make product collages. I was able to get by on Canva for the few things I had left to create for this week, but in the meantime I'm shopping around for alternatives and dreading having to learn a new system. My sixth grader is currently learning Photoshop Elements in school so that's my leading contender since I'll have an in-house tutor! But if any of my blogger friends want to make a recommendation for collage creation software I'm all ears!

2. Coming up on the blog...next week I'm planning to put together a trip recap from our Spring Break to Zion National Park for those of you who find those kinds of posts interesting or useful. We had such a great time and I'm really excited to share the experience with you all.

3. Weekend Plans...a.k.a. coming up in real life! This weekend my brother is in town for a dental conference. He doesn't have a lot of free time but we're planning to meet him for dinner tonight so I'm looking forward to that.

4. Into vs. Over...Remember when People Style Watch (R.I.P.) had the What's In vs. What's Out segment? I always loved that. I don't consider myself the arbiter of in vs. out, but I know I go in phases of being into something and then over it. Case in point, before blogs existed, I was a lot more into fashion magazines. Now I'm over them. Last Spring/Summer I was into Ruffle Hem and Peplum tanks and tops. This year...I'm kind of over them and more into fitted tanks like the henley tank above. It's possible that stance will change again by summer, but I haven't been tempted by any this Spring.

That's it from here today! I'd love to hear if you all are into and over the same things and what exciting things you have going on in your neck of the woods!

Linking up with: JoLynne | ErikaAndreaNarci | Laura


Hoods and Random Rules + Shopbop Sale

Before I get to my outfit details today, I want to mention that if you've had your eyes on anything from designers like Tory Burch and Rebecca Minkoff, Shopbop is running one of their best sales right now (no minimum purchase!) so now's the time to get the best deal on those splurge items. All details are here, and I'm sharing a few favorites below.

I used to have an arbitrary, self-imposed rule about not buying anything with a hood. I never actually use the hood, so what's the point of the surplus fabric? I stayed firm in that for several years, and finally I decided to break the rule last month for a the striped hooded t-shirt I shared here. I still don't need or use the hood part, but it helped me decide to relax a bit on the "rule" and if I like something that happens to have a hood and serves all of my other needs, the hood shouldn't stop me from getting it. And that's exactly the case with this hooded cardigan I'm sharing today.

I wore a similar outfit to this last winter (see it here), but it's too warm to wear that cardigan now so I was on the lookout for a more Spring-friendly version. This cardigan is from the same brand (Pattyboutik) as my heavier version and has a similar look, but the reviews mentioned that it was thinner so I decided give it a go. I'm glad I let go of the hood rule for this since it's exactly what I need for the current weather. Even if it's a little cooler where you are, you could easily layer it with long sleeves instead of a tank for a little more warmth. To be clear, it's not what I would call a thin cardigan. It's just thinner than most other sweaters and cardigans from Pattyboutik. I'm planning to wear this exact outfit for my travel style this week since it was really comfortable, which is just what I need for a day of airplane and car travel.

As far as sizing, Pattyboutik pieces usually run in sizes Small - XL. This is the first piece I have from this line that came in size XS, and that's what I ended up ordering/wearing here. I normally wear a Small in Pattyboutik, so I think this sweater runs more similar to Express sizing (I normally wear an XS in Express cardigans). The functional pockets are also a nice touch, especially since I wore this with leggings that don't have pockets and my hands always feel without pockets!

As far as everything else I'm wearing, my leggings are true to size and these boots ran a half size big i.e. I recommend ordering a half-size smaller than your usual size. I don't know about you, but I sometimes get a little confused by sizing "help," and I even get confused trying to write it out myself! When something "runs big"...it takes a minute to process that I need to order something smaller than usual and vice versa.

Shopbop Sale:
Going on now through Saturday, use Code EVENT18 at checkout to save 20% off any order under $500, or 25% on orders over $500. There are a few brands that I own and like to shop during these sales that have some really cute pieces. And you an definitely find any of the top trends for Spring like espadrilles and straw bags at great prices during the sale.

I mentioned on Monday that I've been wanting to try Tory Burch Miller sandals (#4 above) so I think this sale will be the time I finally try them now that the weather permits wearing them (some days!). Some reviews are confusing about the sizing, but a couple of my blog/Insta friends took their true size so that's the route I'm taking. I already own a couple of pairs of Soludos espadrilles (#6) from last summer and I'm very happy with that line, too. I don't think yellow would look great on my feet but those are so cute! I should also mention that they have just a few of my Tory Burch Half Moon Crossbody bags in stock at the time I'm writing this, so if you saw mine in this post and thought about getting one, now's the time!

Of course, there's plenty of clothing options on sale too. From wardrobe staples (an oatmeal cardigan like #1 is a must-have for me) to fun seasonal pieces, a lot of pieces will be under $100 with the sale promo.

That Rebecca Minkoff skirt is making me re-consider some of my other arbitrary rules about prints and skirts! Do you all have any self-imposed fashion rules? Or any that you've broken recently for better or worse? I always love hearing your thoughts and experiences in the comments so thanks for taking the time to share! And just reminder to my blog friends and readers that I'm off on Spring Break this week so I'll be bit behind in my regular engaging and responding habits. Thanks for your patience and support.

Linking up with JoLynne

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April Book Reviews

It's another second Tuesday of the month and I have another round of book reviews for you all today! As usual, I had a few I really loved, some in the "meh" department, and some that were a complete waste of time, so read on for my thoughts on each of the titles below:

Go: A Coming of Age Novel by Kazuki Kaneshiro
Basic Plot: Sugihara is a high school age boy who was born and raised in Japan, but he has Korean parents and citizenship, though no one can tell that by looking at him. This is the story of his struggle with racial prejudice coupled with the usual teenage challenges of dealing with parents, friends, and dating.
My Verdict: Recommend-ish...I only recommend this if the subject matter sounds interesting to you. This book was eye opening for sure: I was completely ignorant of this sort of racial prejudice against Koreans in Japan prior to reading the book. The main character was well developed and I came to care about his circumstances throughout the book, so props for that. The book was pretty short and did hold my interest well enough, though the storytelling was a little scattered at times, so I didn't love that about it. Also, there was a lot of violence. That's not my favorite thing to read about, but it left me wondering how much of that is part of the actual culture (e.g. is it really acceptable for teachers to beat students like that?) vs. specific to the character and his hot temper. So it was a solid read with unique subject matter that made me want to learn more, but it's definitely not going to be for everyone.

The Opposite of You by Rachel Higginson
Basic Plot: Vera decides to open up a food truck, but due to unfortunate circumstances she can only park it near the top restaurant in town, owned by the hottest (in terms of looks and skills) chef in town. Their paths inevitably cross and sparks fly in various ways.
My Verdict: Recommend! This was just a really fun, cute, well played romance. I will especially recommend this if you're into cooking, cooking shows or consider yourself a foodie in any way.  The meal descriptions and food as foreplay was a really fun, unique element in this book. Every I meal I ate the week I read this book seemed really boring compared to what they were making in the book. No real complaints for this one, and I definitely want to read the follow-up book by the same author about a couple of the other other characters in the book.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Basic Plot: Five high school kids get detention and one of them ends up dead. Someone has to be guilty and it's quite a ride uncovering the lies and secrets that everyone involved wants to hide.
My Verdict: Highly Recommend! The Amazon description for this book compares it to Pretty Little Liars meets Breakfast Club. I've never watched PLL, but the Breakfast Club comparison is valid in that detention is involved as well as a mixed group of kids from different high school cliques. (Popular Girl, Brainy Girl, Jock, Stoner, etc.). But the entire book isn't set in detention...the Main Event just happens there. It was a really fun read that keeps you guessing and develops each character well enough as the story is told through their alternating perspectives. Even though I'm a little tired of alternating perspective storytelling, I didn't mind this one because it all went in chronological order. It didn't skip around from past to present. Not much else to say on this except it's a perfect Spring Break/Beach Read or just an anytime read when you want a book gets you engaged quickly in the story. I expect this one to end up as a movie or TV show!

The Dry by Jane Harper
Basic Plot: Aaron Falk returns to his hometown in rural Australia after he learns about the death of a childhood friend. The friend allegedly killed himself and his family members, but Aaron doesn't believe things are what they seem and gets involved in the investigation, which ends up digging up difficult parts of his own past as well.
My Verdict: Recommend. This book had a lot of hype so I decided to set an expectation that I wasn't going to like it, I just wanted to know what the fuss was about. That worked out well for me. I did end up liking it and it held my interest really well as Aaron followed the clues to solve the mystery of what happened to his friend, along with dealing with other parts of his past. There were a couple of upsetting parts for me, as I'm very sensitive to violence against children. On a scale of 1 to Kite Runner, the graphic nature of the violence was maybe a 4/5, but still, you've been warned. All things considered it was a solid, entertaining read for me.

Trespassing by Brandi Reeds
Basic Plot: A man who is a private jet pilot goes missing, leaving his wife and daughter behind. The wife attempts to unravel the mystery of his disappearance (is he dead or did he deliberately leave?) and uncovers secrets along the way, all while questioning her own sanity (due to a family history of schizophrenia) and dealing with her precocious 3 year old.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. Ugh. Classic case of Main Character Unrealistically Dumb. Add to that a hefty helping of Main Character's Child Incredibly Annoying and this one was tough to finish. There were pages and pages of the main character debating with herself about what may or may not have happened with her husband or what she did or didn't see and I found it repetitive and boring, not suspenseful in the least. I finished it to see what ultimately happened with the husband and that was entirely disappointing as well.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Basic Plot: This is not a plot-driven book so much as a family saga over several generations. The story begins in the 1700s in the Gold Coast of Africa where the slave trade affects everything from tribal wars to the life your family will lead for generations to come.
My Verdict: Recommend-ish...As with Go, I would only recommend this if the subject matter sounds interesting to you. This book is highly rated on Amazon, so clearly a lot of people love it. I personally did not love it. I did think it was an impressive work and fascinating piece of historical fiction and I learned a lot. However, it was often confusing and frustrating. It's confusing because each chapter has a new narrator, and each narrator lives in a different era of time, one or two generations after the previous narrator. But all the narrators are related back to two women who are blood relatives, one who was sold into slavery and one who was not. So we learn what impact that outcome (slavery vs. life in Africa) had on a family for generations to come. I just found it confusing trying to figure out the relationships of the characters and keep them all straight because there were so many, plus all the time hopping wasn't always easy to follow. The frustrating part was that sometimes I'd just be getting into a character and his/her story, and abruptly the chapter would end. I wouldn't figure out what happened to the character until their descendant made a quick reference to them two chapters later, at which point I've forgotten some details about how or why I was invested in the character to begin with. Some parts were really s-l-o-w and I wondered if I'd even be able to finish the book, others were more engaging. All in all I'm glad I read it for what I learned, but again, I just didn't love it.

Nonfiction: (Audiobooks)

Seriously... I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
I'm sad to say I really did not like this book. Normally I enjoy Ellen's humor and when I'm having a bad day, pulling up her pranks from her talk show on YouTube are a surefire way to boost my mood. But this book was just too silly and pointless for me. It was funny-ish in parts, but mostly just rambling and nonsense stuff. I can't even tell you what the book is about, because the book is about nothing. It's a hodgepodge of Ellen's humor but it came across as though it were narrated by Dory from Finding Dory (scatterbrained), and that didn't work for me in an extended format like this. It was moderately entertaining at times, but once I realize there was absolutely no point, I was counting down the minutes until it ended.

The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes
This falls under the category of, "Books I wouldn't have chosen myself...but I'm glad I read it." My sister-in-law recommended this to me and found it very insightful as a boy mom (she's a mom of four boys). And indeed it was. It's easy for me to be in tune with and aware of pressures that women face in society from each other, from social media, from men, etc. But I haven't previously given a lot of thought to the different and similar pressures that men face. The author breaks down the different "Masks" mean wear to cope with these issues. The book had some interesting insights on issues such as why men are more likely to commit suicide than women. I do recommend this if you're raising boys yourself or if you live with a man and want to look at the world through his lens.

Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
This book was mentioned in the previous book I read and the reviews were outstanding so I decided to give it a go. The author is an FBI hostage negotiator turned business consultant and he shares his top strategies for negotiating a deal of any kind. He gave lots of personal experiences and very specific suggestions for everything from negotiating a salary to a car price to a hostage release (naturally). It was a pretty interesting book. I don't know how often it will be useful in my life right now and it's not something I'd call a "must read" depending on where you are in life, but overall it was worth my time.

Current Reads + Up Next:
On the Nonfiction side I'm currently reading Sapiens thanks to Rachelle's strong recommendation. It's very long and I'm just about halfway through and I do find it really interesting. I was reading it alongside Homegoing and it was actually rather complimentary to what I learned from that book. After I finish this I've already downloaded and plan to read The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains and My Story by Elizabeth Smart.

On the fiction side, Kristen and I are going to read Rhythm, Chord and Malaykhin and welcome anyone to read along with us! We're hoping this one is a little more enjoyable than some of our past selections! Ask Him Why is also on my TBR list, and I'm thinking about reading Force of Nature after that. All three are by authors I've read in the past so I'm hoping to enjoy these almost as much as their other books.

Thanks for stopping by today and let me know your thoughts on any of these you've read or others you think I should read! And just a reminder that I'm traveling on Spring Break this week so I'll be a bit behind on participating in the book link up community. But I always get great recommendations from them (e.g. One of Us is Lying was a hot book last month), so check out Steph & Jana for the link up if you're looking for more suggestions!