On the Daily EXPRESS


Burgundy Dress + Denim Jacket + Friday Four

I took a poll recently on my Instagram stories to find out which fashion items from Amazon people were interested in seeing more and having reviewed, and the top two requested items were dresses and shoes. Well today you get both! Both my dress and shoes are from Amazon (selected by me as part of my participation in the Amazon Fashion Associates program), and they're both comfortable, affordable pieces that are perfect for fall transition.

This dress is true to size but a little on the small side (think Junior's sizing), so if you're between sizes or have a larger chest go up a size. Sorry for not showing the top of the dress sans jacket, but I didn't like how it looked on me without the jacket. I took a few pictures with no jacket and they were no bueno, so you'll have to check the product images on Amazon to see the cut of the chest and arms. I'm wearing the sleeveless tank version, but it does come in a long sleeve version and lots of other colors, too. My color is "Wine Red" and I think it's more berry in person than it looks in the stock photo. I called it Burgundy in the post title for convenience, but regardless of what you want to call this color, the dress is really soft and comfortable, and in case you can't tell from the next photo, it also has pockets. My hand right hand is in the pocket in the photo below, but it's a little hidden back there.

I wore these shoes in all three outfits on the blog this week! I didn't plan it that way, but they're convenient to throw on and happen to go with a lot of fall colors, so that's the way it went. The heel looks a bit higher than what I normally like for everyday wear, but they really are comfortable and don't feel especially high. I've found that for my everyday shoes, low-fuss is mandatory. I cannot handle doing a lot of buckling, tying, zipping etc. Easy on/off is my favorite, but a single zipper (like for ankle booties) I can handle. Now that I'm working from home I actually come and go less throughout the day than I did before, so we'll see if eventually I don't mind "fussy" shoes as much since I don't take them on and off as often.

My denim jacket is the only other piece that would require fit notes, but it's sold out so I've linked to a similar cut and color with great reviews. Mine is the Samantha jacket by Mavi Jeans, originally purchased at Nordstrom.

1. Stella Dot Style: Last week I shared a few of my Stella Dot picks for the month, and this week I'll start sharing how I actually wore them. First up: this camo scarf.

I am loving this camo scarf! It's lightweight so I can wear it now and later. It's the perfect way to add a little bit of interest to an outfit without being uncomfortably warm. I have it styled like an infinity scarf here but it's a standard rectangle shape so you have a lot of options for how to tie it.

2. First Fall (Transition) Pedicure Color: Official fall starts tomorrow, but my toes are a few days ahead of the season. My pedicure color in the photo with the camo scarf is OPI Berry On Forever  and I'm liking this shade for early fall. It does appear a bit darker in this pic than in real life. It's a similar color to my dress but slightly darker than that.

3. Fall Bucket List: Last summer I made a bucket list of things I wanted to do, and it was fun to have "goals" that were more like...plans or aspirations. It didn't feel like as much pressure somehow. I want to do something similar for Fall, but I haven't settled on the list yet (maybe that's my first bucket list item...make a bucket list!). If you want some inspiration for yourself or your own family, my niece makes this cute, printable Fall Bucket list that you can hang in your house and work on as a family. It's only $7 and has a few different graphic options to suit your style.

4. No Shop September Update: It's the 21st of the month and I am still hanging in there! It hasn't been as hard as I expected, I think partly because I'm just a lot busier with a new job. I have been writing down my "temptations" so to speak (things I wanted to buy but didn't because of No Shop September) and it's been interesting to note that sometimes when I go to add a new item, I look back at the other items on the list and think, "You know...I don't even know what that is anymore and I don't even want it anymore." I'm in the process of formulating some ideas about how I want this experience to change my habits going forward. I will admit that I'm going to end my "month" on the 30th of this month to take advantage of some coupons I have that expire on the 30th, but after that I'm leaning towards giving myself an item-limit for October (e.g. 3-5 new items total) in order to keep the impulse purchases to a minimum.

Thanks for reading today and I hope to see you back here on Monday!

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Amazon Fall Kimonos x2 + Work Chat

We still have a couple of months of warm weather on the horizon here before it truly cools down, so I've been wanting to add a fall-friendly kimono to my closet. They really are a great way to add some style and polish to an outfit without adding the warmth of a cardigan or jacket. My Spring version (shown here and here) is white-based, and I thought a black-based option would be better for fall. I got two from Amazon to try and had a hard time deciding which one I liked best, so I put it to a vote on Instagram. That vote ended up at 60/40 in favor of floral, which still didn't help me feel like I had a clear winner. So I took pictures of both on top of the same basic outfit to let you all decide which you like best!

You may know by now that I'm usually not a big fan of florals, but it was really hard to find a black-based or fall-friendly looking kimono that didn't have a floral print! I decided to give this one a try because I liked the long line and overall color scheme of it. If I don't look too hard at the flowers themselves I really like it! My other kimono is a shorter length so I liked that this was opposite in every way. It is a "One Size" piece and I do think the loose, open cut will fit most sizes.

The material is a sheer, flowy chiffon. It's really lightweight and a pretty perfect transition piece as far as I'm concerned. I talked about these shoes a little more in Monday's post, but in short they're comfortable and true to size. The heel doesn't feel as high as it looks in these pictures and in the stock photo.

This kimono was the second place version, but not by much! I liked it because I think the colors have definite fall vibes without being a true floral print, but because of my own weird issues with floral. The sleeves on this one are different though. They're cut more like a poncho or cape (as you'll see below). I guess I'd say they're more like armholes than sleeves. This is also cut wider overall and less long and lean against the body. It is also a "One Size" piece and again, I think it will work for most sizes. This also has a heavier fabric than the floral kimono. Not a heavy fabric, mind you, but it's not sheer chiffon so it's more like the weight of an average bed sheet. (That doesn't sound very fashionable but it's the first comparison that came to my mind!)

I have to say, this kimono was making me feel a little superhero-ish! We had a little breeze going on while taking these pictures so I had to capture the flowy cape action that was happening.

You'll have to know which one of these you like best! I ended up keeping both. I can't really explain why, but the floral option feels more casual to me and the second option feels a bit more dressy. Maybe it's the fabric? I'm not sure, but either way, they're both affordable (under $25) and a fun transition piece for summer to fall! The Blended Blog has Kimonos for the Fashion Frenzy theme this week so I'm looking forward to seeing everyone else's fall kimonos today. Hope you all have a great week!

If you've followed my blog for awhile you probably know I'm all about connecting on topics outside of fashion here! Talking only about clothes makes me feel a little shallow, so I try to find other discussion points or participate in themed link ups when I can. Today I didn't have an "assigned" theme so I thought I'd give a little info on my new job as a personal stylist. I've had a few blogger friends reach out with questions, so I thought maybe others would like to know more as well!

First, I should back up and say that going back to work after exclusively raising kids for 13 years is no joke! My first official day on my new job was actually my son's 13th birthday, and I'd been a stay at home mom for all of those years. It had been about 15 years since I'd put together a resume or had a job interview, since I had the same job for a few years prior to his birth. It was extremely intimidating! I felt a lot of anxiety trying to put my worth and experience on paper and explain my absence from the work force (in my cover letter) after such a long employment gap. I can also tell you that I did include my blog on my resume. It's probably unconventional, but I was applying for a fashion-related job, and prior to my blog, none of my work experience was related to fashion (I worked in marketing for tech companies). My blog seemed like the best way I could prove that I was not only very interested in fashion, but I was self-motivated and had some decent communication skills.

One of the questions I've also been asked is, "How did you find your job?" When I started feeling the itch to take on a more "normal" job again, I started Googling fashion jobs in my area. I read a lot of different job listings and that helped give me ideas for what kinds of jobs were out there, where I thought my skills might make sense, and what would be a good fit for me or not. All of the searching finally lead me back to thinking about how much I enjoyed the short gig I had as a personal stylist for a dental office earlier this year. I don't know why I didn't think of pursuing this line of work right away, but in retrospect it seems like the answer was right in front of my face! Once I settled on pursuing that, I started changing up my Google searches to learn more about personal stylist jobs, whether there were other people in my area offering these services, what they charged, etc. As it often happens with internet "spies" and algorithms, once you Google something, related ads start showing up everywhere. If I search "kids music lessons," the next day I'll start seeing sponsored social media ads for that very thing. And so it was with the personal stylist searches. Within a few days my Instagram feed was filled with companies offering those services! Mind you, I was looking to be one, not hire one, but the results still ended up helping me. I started checking out the websites for each of these companies that came up in my feed to see if their services were a match for my skills. It didn't take long before I found one that looked like a good match. I applied via their website, and now here I am, working as a personal stylist on the daily!

I'm not sure if that's a normal way to find a job or go back to work these days, but that was my experience! If nothing else I hope it was interesting to read or possibly motivating if you're looking to make a change to your own employment situation. Thanks for taking the time to stop by and read today!

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The Chelsea Shirt + Thoughts on 5 Years of Blogging

Every September I make it a point to share weather-appropriate outfits here despite the push for fall fashion by retailers that starting in July. But I hate to be totally irrelevant, so I do try to start incorporating fall colors and transition pieces at least! This top hits both of those objectives! It's a perfect fall color but in a style and fabric that works for now and in later in official fall.

This shirt is called the Chelsea Shirt, and it reminds me a lot of the Portofino Shirt from Express. It fits and feels exactly the same, but the difference is in the details. So let's talk Portofino shirt vs. Chelsea Shirt. The Chelsea shirt is a pullover top with faux buttons, no collar and no pockets on the bust. The Portofino Shirt buttons all the way down, and it does have a collar and pockets on the bust. Both have convertible sleeves. And I guess that's it! Just slightly different styling for whatever floats your boat. I loved this Cabernet color when I saw it in store last month, so I snagged it in my "last hurrah before No Shop September!" Labor Day sale purchase and have no regrets about it! If it's not on sale today, no worries it's sure to be on sale again soon.

I took a poll on Instagram recently asking people which pieces from Amazon they would like for me to share more, and Dresses and Shoes were the top two requests by a lot! So I made sure to include a couple of options from both those categories in my sponsored item selections for this month. My first choice were these $30 cognac mules, and I am loving them! You'll see them again in Wednesday's post, and I've worn them a few more times on days I didn't photograph my outfits just because they're convenient to slip on and comfortable for most of my normal activities (running errands and taking kids to after school activities during the week). I took my normal size, and definitely recommend them as a great fall transition shoe.
Today the ladies of the Blended Blog are hosting an All Things Blogging link up and I thought I would contribute a few things I've learned in 5 years of blogging. I am deliberately avoiding the common blogging tips: things like "Be yourself," and "Take nice pictures" because that advice is solid...but ubiquitous. There are few things I don't see mentioned much so I will take a stab at them. And these are just in my humble opinion and in my experience, not hard and fast rules. Your experience may vary!

1. Blogging is Not an Equal Pay for Equal Work Industry.
In my early blogging days I thought that if I put more work into my blog (more frequent posts, nicer photos, more time on social media with better strategy), it would pay off. I'd either get more brand deals or I'd earn more affiliate income. I've learned there are no such guarantees. Putting in extra hours does not always lead to extra pay. I could easily find two bloggers with equal quality content (in reality, sometimes they're both using the same professional photographer!) and equal posting consistency who both started around the same time. Blogger A could be making six figures per year, whereas Blogger B could be lucky to make $600 per month (or even year!). I think it's similar to being an actor, where two people can be equally talented and put in equal work, but for some people it pays off more than others because of circumstances, looks, luck, etc. There are a lot of X factors that come into play with blogging, and I think no one discusses them much because they can't be specifically named when it comes to giving growth tips and tricks. It's not helpful to say, "Be more attractive to improve your chance of success." But let's be 100% honest: beautiful people are going to have a better chance at success in a visual industry. Other X factors may include connections (Know someone famous? Can they mention you on their social media? That will help!), or the random luck of going viral from one thing or another. Of course you will certainly improve your odds of "success" by improving your quality and consistency, so yes, work on those things as much as possible. I'm also not saying this to take anything away from those who make a living in this industry because they still have to do put in the work! It's certainly not all luck. But for most bloggers, we have to do it for the challenge, learning, growth, connections, and experience or there's a good chance we will spend a lot of time frustrated and disappointed.

2. If You Want to Blog About Fashion...
...and make a profit from it, expect to spend a lot of time dressing in seasonably uncomfortable clothing. This is not a requirement of fashion blogging, but you will find that every top blogger does this because it's what sells. In order to make the big bucks as a fashion blogger, you have to service brands and post what sells for brands. It's not enough to just post what you like to wear if you're looking to make a decent income from this gig. Again, you can absolutely post whatever you like for your own enjoyment, but this is the reality about earning an income if you choose fashion as your blogging niche. It took me some time in the blogging game to understand this behind the scenes reality (i.e. why bloggers were dressing out of season instead of providing wearable, in season inspo), and I wish I had understood this beforehand because it would have saved me some frustration. What I've learned about myself is that I'm not as willing to suffer in the name of fashion as some people are (e.g. I don't like to wear boots and blanket scarves in 95 degree weather in order to sell clothes), therefore I will never make as much as some people! But again, going back to point one...even if I did "suffer" more there's no guarantee I'll make more. My personal philosophy for blogging consistency and sanity has been to really weed out and minimize the blogging tasks I don't enjoy (e.g. wearing seasonally inappropriate clothes, spending a lot of time driving to/from "cool" locations for photos), and focus more on the things I do enjoy (e.g. writing and friendships!), and let the cards fall where they may when it comes to earnings, growth, etc.

3. If You're Considering Starting a Blog/Just Starting a Blog...
...and you are asking friends "What should my blog be about?" or taking quizzes on Pinterest along those same lines....you probably aren't ready to start a blog. You can go ahead and start one anyway if you want, but odds are good you will run out of ideas/run out of steam quickly. That will make you an inconsistent blogger, which makes it hard to gain any traction or consistent traffic, which ends in frustration and disappointment with the blogging experience. This is probably my most "controversial" opinion here, but I have seen it happen over and over again, and I think there's a lot of bad advice out there about starting a blog when you aren't truly ready to start sharing consistently. Similar to this issue is when new bloggers start asking their audience after their second or third post, "What should I post next?" Girl. You are the content creator! YOU come up with the ideas. They will let you know what they do and don't like from their clicks, page views, comments, etc. I think what happens is new bloggers see established bloggers getting a lot post requests from their followers, and they think the same thing should happen for them if they ask. The reason it doesn't is because no one knows you yet when you're new. They don't know what to ask! Once people build a relationship through a substantial body of content, then followers may start asking questions and making those requests based on what they see as areas where you have worthwhile answers.

So when do you start a blog? In my opinion, the best time to do it is when you have so many ideas and things you want to share and not enough time in the day to share it all! When you have a wealth of experiences or knowledge that you think will benefit others or products you love that you think everyone should know about! In any niche, if you're doing it with a motivation to serve and connect, it won't matter if it's an over-saturated market (because yes, it probably is). You will find so many more worthwhile connections by putting yourself out there and sharing your favorites and experiences than if you just watch from the sidelines. And if you want to blog about Lifestyle topics, don't stress that you have to come up with new stuff all the time. There are lots of great Link Ups with prompts that help get the creative juices flowing and provide lots of blogging community connection. Beyond that, every restaurant you try, every class you take, every city you visit, every book you read etc. can spawn a post of its own if you want it to! I think that's why lifestyle blogging is so popular. There is no end to the content options and there really are no two people living identical lives. And we all seem endlessly fascinated with how other people do life! There's always something to share and learn. I've personally shifted more into the lifestyle territory over the years because I find it easier to form connections without always buying something new for myself or feeling like I need to push others to buy something new to keep me in business, so to speak. I still love fashion, but the business side of blogging about it isn't entirely aligned with some of my personal philosophies about consumption and spending, so I've had to make changes to work on improving that alignment.

Also, don't feel like you have to wait to start a blog until you can start out with the professional quality of more experienced bloggers. Start where you are and improve things over time as you're ready, willing and able. Everyone is a little embarrassed of some of the steps on their blogging journey, but it's just part of the experience and there's no getting around it...only going through it. It can be fun and rewarding at every level of the journey so if it's something you've always wanted to try....go for it!

* * *
Well, this ended up longer than I expected for trying to limit myself to sharing just three things about blogging! Some may disagree with some of my points and experiences, and that's okay. I am not an expert and not even a professional, full-time blogger. If nothing else I hope it was somewhat interesting for you to get my take on some of the behind the scenes, less-talked-about aspects of the industry! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and comments on this as always!

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Blush Cardigan + Friday Four

Blogging outfits can be a funny thing. When I take outfit photos, I generally photograph whatever I wore that day. Then I share it on the blog within a week or so. And sometimes within that week, the weather is completely different than when I took pictures. So as I'm writing this post I'm thinking, "I can't believe it was cool enough for me to wear a light cardigan and jeans!" I guess we had a couple over overcast days this month where this made sense, because I can tell you right now I'd be swapping the jeans for shorts!

I've had this blush cardigan for a year now and it's still a favorite piece, but to be honest this isn't my favorite way I've styled it. I went ahead and did the post anyway because I do like all the pieces individually, they're just not my favorite put together this way. Not terrible, but not an outfit I'm likely to repeat top to bottom again. I'm sure we all have those days/outfits, and it's just part of the fashion journey. Back in February I styled this cardigan six different ways, so check out that post for some different ideas on styling this. That's probably what I should have done before I got dressed this day!

As far as fit details for these pieces, everything is true to size. One thing worth noting is that these shoes only come in whole sizes. Normally I wear a 7.5 but I got these in a 7 and that worked out well for me. They're a great $35 alternative for the $160 Kristin Cavallari "Lash" booties (currently sold out).

1. Stella Dot Style...because I really need to start another new endeavor this fall what with a new job and all (sarcasm intended!), I recently signed myself up to be a Stella & Dot stylist! It's something I have been considering for over five years and I just figured I need to try this once and for all to see if it's for me. I think sometimes it's easier to try new things when you're already in "try new things!" mode. Do you ever find that to be the case? So I'm just going with the momentum! I have loved their products for almost a decade. They never tarnish on me and their styles just suit me well. I debated becoming a stylist five years ago but decided to start the blog instead. Now I still love their products and think I should have done both five years ago! Better late than never? You can expect to see an increase in me wearing and sharing their products here on the blog, but don't worry, I won't ask you to invite me over to host a party. (I mean...you can if you want?!) I primarily plan to share on the blog and do online trunk shows once I figure all that out. But in the meantime, here are a few pieces I ordered that I'll be wearing soon!
One | Two | Three (On Sale!) | Four | Five

2. In Real Life...this week was pretty boring. A little bit of car maintenance, a lot of work! I did have a fun video chat conference call with my blogger friends Caryl and Rachelle. This was our first time doing it, and at first we struggled to figure out how to get all three of us on at once. Rachelle said, "I bet a 12 year old could figure this out!" Then a light bulb went on in my head and I grabbed my 13 year old son who had no problem getting us all connected! We've all been so busy lately that it's been hard to stay in touch, so we're going to try a monthly video chat to be intentional about our time.

3. No Shop September...I am staying strong on this! I think being busy with a new job (as a personal stylist...which involves shopping for other people) is really helping. I did purchase a few things on August 31 such as my Stella Dot kit, and I do get some new items through my brand partnerships so it's admittedly not as strict as it is for some people. That said, it's still been a good experience and a good exercise in self control. I'm trying to come up with a plan for October that's similarly strict but I haven't settled on it yet. I'm leaning towards a certain number of items (with a max overall budget, of course) just so I carefully consider each purchase.

4. FIVE YEARS. This week marks my official completion of five years of blogging! In some ways it seems like I just started this thing and in other ways I feel like a veteran since there have been so many new people who've come onto the scene since I started. I've considered writing a post about the things I've learned and observed in the past five years since that's a pretty traditional blogger way to "celebrate," but I'm not sure I can consolidate it to post length vs. novel length! I did just read this post by Lyddie who just made it to ten years (!!!!) and I really enjoyed it. I share a lot of her thoughts, so that's my recommended read for today. I also hope to make it five more years, but with recent changes in my life (going back to work), right now I'm just taking it one post at a time. The blog world has changed a lot in five years, I've changed a lot personally, and my blog has changed a lot through my own learning about the business and personal growth. I have no idea what the next five years will hold, but thanks so much for being part of this journey with me! You have made it worthwhile so thanks for allowing me to have this creative outlet that I enjoy so much!

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Camo Tee, Denim Skirt + Outfit Planning

Just before I embarked on No Shop September, I did two things. First, I placed an order for a few things during the Express Labor Day Sale...a little feast before the famine, if you will. Second, I sat in my closet with my calendar and planned out which outfits I would share on the blog for the month of September. I've never been great at planning my posts very far in advance aside from the themed link-ups that I join, like Book Reviews. But I was inspired by The Blended Blog's Fall Fashion Frenzy themes to get organized this month to see if that wouldn't help me stay on track with No Shop September. Their theme for this week is Calling All Camo, so I paired my camo tee with one of my Labor Day Sale purchases, this denim skirt.

First, let's talk about this camo tee. Mine is from a three pack of t-shirts c/o Shopbop, but you can buy just the camo option from Amazon. But I have to warn you about two things. One, it's rather pricey for a t-shirt.  Two, I've had it for a year now and it's starting to pill, which is no bueno when you're talking about splurge item. I rounded up a few other camo t-shirt options that cost less than this one in case you're interested in adding one to your closet but don't want to spend as much on this brand considering the risk. I may end up getting one of these myself if the pilling gets any worse, but first I'll probably try one of those sweater shaver things.

ONE ($35) | TWO ($13) THREE $15 | FOUR ($14) | FIVE ($19) | SIX ($30)

I have not owned a denim skirt in a couple of decades, and after warming up to the idea of adding one to my closet again, it took some trial and error to find one I liked. I wanted it not too long, not too short, some distressing but not too much. I went up one size from my normal Express jeans size in this because I wanted to make sure it wasn't too tight and that it could potentially sit lower on my hips for more length. It is a bit loose in the waist and I'm realizing that might limit which tops I can wear with it, but I don't think I would have wanted it any tighter in the hips so I guess it's a trade off. You can probably go either way with sizing (normal size or one up) depending on what fit you prefer.

Outfit Planning:
Last week I was asked to elaborate on my outfit planning process a little more, and this month it was not as difficult as I might have imagined. But I also didn't plan every day of the month since I don't always know exactly what I'll be doing each day that far in advance or what the weather will be. I just planned my M/W/F post outfits, so that's only 12 outfits instead of 30 for the month. I started by filling in each Wednesday with The Blended Blog themes, then choosing a Key Piece in my wardrobe that fit the theme. I mentally plan an outfit around the Key Piece and put some notes and ideas on the calendar, but a lot of details usually end up changing once I actually put on the outfit, so nothing's set in stone at that point.

After the Wednesdays were filled, I looked through my closet for pieces I haven't shared at all on the blog or haven't shared in awhile that make sense for the current season. I made a list of those items, then started filling them in on Monday/Friday slots, shuffling things around so that I wouldn't have outfits that are too similar in back-to-back posts. I left a few spots open since I knew I would be getting some items from brand partnerships this month so I'll need to share those sooner rather than later. And I may want to do some non-outfit posts like recent Amazon finds since those seem to get pretty good feedback, and it's easier for me to put a lot of content in them when I schedule them separate from outfit posts (like this post, for instance).

So far it's been great having a schedule! I actually used to do something similar when I worked in an office and it was a huge time and money saver. At the end of the month I'll re-evaluate, but most likely I am guessing I'll find myself back in my closet on September 30 with my calendar, planning out the month of October. What about you all? Do you have an outfit planning schedule? I know some people choose their outfits for the week on Sunday night, and that seems like a great system too. Let me know your methods in the comments today!

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

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September Book Reviews

Welcome to my September Book Reviews! This is probably the shortest round of book reviews I've done since I started doing these posts, but life was busy this month so it is what it is. As usual I have a mix of fiction and nonfiction, and all reviews are free of any major spoilers. My nonfiction selections are audiobooks via Audible, which does affect my experience with the book. With all that in mind, let's get on with the reviews!

Believe Me by JP Delaney
Basic Plot: Claire is an actress who works undercover for a divorce attorney to "investigate" the fidelity of husbands. A client ends up dead and things get very complicated.
My Verdict: Do Not Recommend. The first third (maybe half?) of this book was entertaining and an original concept. I was really enjoying it and thinking it would end up being a recommended read. But Oh. Em. Gee. While the first half of the book was plausible and entertaining, the second half just went completely off the rails and into ridiculous territory. Especially the ending!!!! It ruined the whole book for me so please save yourself the frustration and skip this.

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena
Basic Plot: Guests at a quaint hotel find themselves trapped in after a snowstorm. One guest turns up dead on the first morning and while it looks like an accident, not all of the guests believe that it was, making everyone there a murder suspect.
My Verdict: Recommend. This was a creative, suspenseful story that was easy to get into and easy to finish. There are quite a few characters but it wasn't too difficult to keep track of them since you didn't need to remember complicated details or relationships. They're all staying at the hotel, and the story is told from almost all of their perspectives in a pass-the-baton style narration. So at first you'll be reading the story from Person A's perspective, then Person A walks into the lobby and meets Person B, who then becomes the primary narrator. The only minor critique I have is that the writing style seemed a little stilted. I got used to it though and still found the book to be a solid, entertaining read.

American by Day by Derek B. Miller
Basic Plot: A Norwegian police woman (Sigrid) heads to the U.S.A. to track down her missing brother.
My Verdict: Recommend, especially if you read the preceding book, Norwegian by Night. You don't need to read the first to understand this book - they do reference things that happened in the first book but there's enough explanation given for it all to make sense on its own. That said, I enjoyed this book a bit more than the first because I thought the pacing was more consistent. The main characters were well developed, witty, and interesting. The story moved along nicely and in a believable manner. Sigrid's observations about American culture and quirks were one of my favorite parts of the book. When you live in a certain place, a lot of things are just accepted as normal without a thought, but taking a step back and looking through her eyes does make you wonder why we do some things the way we do. Overall an enjoyable read.

Connected....The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives - How Your Friends' Friends' Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do by Nicholas A. Christakis
This book discusses the effect our friends (and our friends friends friends) have on everything from our political beliefs to our weight. And when I say "discusses" I mean they cite research done by behavioral scientists for each of their claims, so it's not just an opinion piece. It was fairly interesting but it wasn't groundbreaking or riveting for me. The section on politics went on way too long for my tastes (it's just not my favorite topic), but it did have some interesting insights about the actual impact of an individual vote in a given election. Even though it was published in 2011, the section on social media already seems out of date. They went into explanations of sites like MySpace and Friendster, and described Facebook as a relatively new and growing platform. It's amazing how much has changed in just a few years! Overall I wouldn't rush out to read this. It's moderately interesting if you're interested in this field, but not a favorite for me.

Educated by Tara Westover
This book is the memoir of a woman who was raised in rural Idaho by extreme parents who didn't believe in doctors, hospitals, or public education (anything run by the government was to be avoided). She overcame incredible odds and terrible circumstances to get an education. Honestly, my summary here makes it sound dry and matter of fact but this book is anything but! It was completely intense and riveting, which is not what I would have expected given the subject matter.! I hate to over-hype books because I think it sets the bar too high when other people reading it after a glowing review (case in point below), but my honest opinion is that this is the best, most unputdownable memoir I have read. The writing style was very engaging, and bonus points for the audiobook narrator who did an outstanding job as well. I highly recommend this one.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
I have to say I did not really love this one. It was highly rated and recommended, so unfortunately the hype ended up hurting my experience. This book is a series of short stories/essays on everything from David's younger years and quirky family life, to his humorous experiences of living as an American in Paris. I will say he is an extremely talented, witty writer and I fully appreciate that. I guess I just expected laugh out loud hilarity...and ended up with the occasional chuckle. I couldn't relate to a lot of David's experiences (especially regarding family), so that didn't help me connect with this either. I think it would have been better for me to read this as a regular Kindle book if I read a chapter/essay here and there rather than listening to the book in one week. David was a good narrator the book himself and he did a fine job. I think humor is just one of those things that can never be one size fits all, and for me the fit was just slightly off.

Did Not Finish:
How to Have a Good Day by Caroline Webb
This book bored me to tears. I gave it four hours and decided I didn't want to give it the remaining ten in the hopes that it would get better or that I'd glean amazing new insights to make it worth the boredom. I did get two moderately decent tidbits in four hours, but otherwise it just didn't hold my attention or add much value to my life, so I recommend skipping this one.

Quick Picks:
If you don't want to read the full reviews (no offense taken!) and just want a good book suggestion or two, these are my quick picks:
FictionAn Unwanted GuestAmerican by Day (especially if you read Norwegian by Night)
Nonfiction: Educated

Current Reads + Up Next:
In Fiction I'm currently reading The Lake House by Kate Morton. I forced myself to get to 25% before stopping the other night because I was finding it terribly slow and not motivated to pick it up. Hoping it picks up from here...if you've read it let me know when to expect to get hooked! I don't know what's next after that for fiction, so I'd love your suggestions in the comments or I'll be hopping around the Link Up for ideas!

For Nonfiction I'm reading The Coddling of the American Mind and find it completely fascinating. I love the way the authors make me look at social issues with completely different eyes and reasoning tools. When I finish this I'll be starting The Hacking of the American Mind. I'm on a roll with his "American Mind" theme this month!

That does it for this month! At least there were some quality selections if not quantity!

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Linking up with: Steph & Jana


Bateau Neck Tank + Leggings

One thing I've really tried to cut down on over the last year or two is buying multiple colors of any one item. My longtime readers might remember a time when I had a dozen (or more) colors of my favorite tops! These days I've set my maximum to three of any one item, although preferably just two. I'm at my ideal limit of two for these $12 sleeveless boatneck tank tops, and I feel content with that since they give me plenty of options. I shared the black one in this post with several ways to dress it up and down, and putting that post together convinced me that white would be a useful option too.
White Sleeveless Tank (c/o) | Denim ShirtLeggings (c/o) | Sandals (c/o) (Budget Option) | Bag (c/o) (Budget Option) | Necklace | Similar Earrings

This tank runs true to size (I'm wearing XS here) and I wanted to show an option with it untucked since I didn't do that in my last post. It does have enough length for me to wear it with leggings. Since I have a shirt tied at my waist, it makes it look a little shorter than it did just hanging solo. But it felt a little too shapeless to me just leaving it completely untucked with no definition at the waist, so I added the shirt mainly to have it function as a belt.

White Sleeveless Tank (c/o) | Denim ShirtLeggings (c/o) | Sandals (c/o) (Budget Option) | Bag (c/o) (Budget Option) | Necklace | Similar Earrings

My leggings are also true to size. A couple of reviews said they lose their shape after a long day of wear, but I have had these for 6+ months and worn them quite a lot and so far haven't had any issues with that. For under $20 with Prime Shipping they're a great pair of standard leggings! They've actually replaced Express leggings as my favorite because the fabric is more comfortable.

Here's the memo on what's happening on the blog this week and a little bit of real life updates!

On the Blog this Week: Book reviews are coming up on Tuesday (tomorrow). I read less than half as many fiction books this month as I did last month if that gives you any idea of how busy this month has been between back to school and back to work! On Wednesday I'm joining The Blended Blog with the "Calling all Camo" theme. I'll be sharing a camo piece you've seen before in a way I haven't worn it before! On Friday I'm sharing one of my favorite pieces from last fall that No Shop September made me dig out of my closet!

I think the first blog casualty of me going back to work is the 3 Ways to Wear Segment of my posts. It's more time consuming than it might look, and it's also dependent on being able to take selfies in the middle of the day for decent indoor lighting.  I was consistent with it over the summer, but since I'm usually working during that time now, it just doesn't happen! There are some days where it's still possible, so I may to go back to doing intermittent posts where I round-up recently shared (and still available for purchase) items and style them multiple ways. Just keeping you all informed in case you wondered what happened to that segment!

In Real Life: It's going to be a very basic week of work, school and after school activities here. No extra stuff on the agenda like there has been in recent weeks with back to school. That's a relief since the pace has been pretty hectic since school started and I'm ready for it to settle into a routine pace. Hopefully that means I'll be able to get my reading pace back to normal. I find when I can't keep a consistent reading pace, it's harder to get into a book at all because I can't remember what was happening the last time I read and I lose track of the story arcs. First world problems I suppose!

Hope you all have a productive, positive week!

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Linking up with: Rachelle | Lauren M. | Laura | Lauren 


Black Dress+ Splurge vs Save Shoes

For the most part, everything I wear on the blog is what I wore in real life on a given day when I had one of my camera men handy (and by that I mean one of my two sons). For today's post I did a little bit of dressing up for the blog since I didn't have a particular event that called for wearing this dress. But I wanted to share it on the blog sooner rather than later since it generated some interest the first time I posted it in my Friday Four (here). I did take my kids to get haircuts immediately after snapping these pictures, and all the ladies at the salon were very complimentary about my dress...and then they asked where I was going! Eek. Naturally, I said out to dinner, but I didn't specify that I really meant McDonald's drive through for my kids!

This dress is an under $20 Amazon find. Some colors and sizes have Prime Shipping, some do not. My experience with a lot of pieces like this is that Amazon often has just a few in stock for Prime Shipping, and once those are gone...you have to wait for the slow boat. I've never had anything take more than two weeks, but still, best to be prepared for patience if the option you want isn't available with Prime.

At any rate, let's talk about this dress. It looks a bit more dressy than it feels. It's actually a t-shirt material! And on that note, it's a fairly thin material (it is under $20 after all), so if you pick one of the lighter colors you may need to wear a slip underneath it. I'm wearing a Small and I'd say it runs true to size and slightly on the small size, so go up if you're in between sizes. It does have a fairly wide neckline so I did have to wear a strapless bra with this (this $22 option is my go-to lately), which is about the only drawback of the dress. And in case you didn't notice in the photo above, it has pockets. Pockets make everything better, right?  I could see myself wearing this to some of the upcoming music concerts my kids will be having this year. And definitely to another dinner date at someplace nicer than McDonald's!

The only other piece here that really requires fit info would be my sandals, and they're true to size and quite comfortable for having a fairly high (albeit stacked) heel. I still choose to wear a ball of foot pad in them for extra cushion on the ball of the foot.

As usual, I'm sharing my four random things for Friday so we can chat about a little more than the clothes I'm wearing.

1. Save vs. Splurge...I really love this style of peep toe bootie with the scrunchy front area that's trending this fall, but I didn't want to pay over $100 for the look. Luckily I've found a few affordable options under $50!
THREE: Amazon Option (3 colors) | FOUR: Amazon Option (4 Colors) | FIVE: DSW (3 Colors)

I've purchased all three of the budget option so here's just a bit more info on each one in case you're considering a purchase.

Three: These only come in whole sizes. I normally wear a 7.5 and I got these in a 7 and the size worked out great for me. They also come in a color identical to #5, and if I didn't already have those I would have purchased another pair of these because they cost a bit less and have Prime Shipping!

Four: These do not have Prime Shipping, so be prepared to wait awhile. I ordered these a week ago and haven't received them yet, so I'll have to update you on sizing, quality etc. when I get them. Their expected delivery is Sept. 20- Oct. 12, so it could be awhile.

Five: You can see this pair on me in this post, and I have no complaints about them. They're true to size and also come in half sizes, but the sizes are limited in the nude and black color. This Amazon pair (#3) is identical, has the same color options and more sizes.

2. This is why our phones are making us miserable. I really enjoyed this article and the simple breakdown it gives about pleasure vs. happiness. It's well worth the read!

3. J. Crew x Amazon. Did you hear that you can now shop J. Crew on Amazon? They don't have limited selection of items but it's nice to have some options that are eligible for Prime Shipping. I can think of a few times where this would come in handy, especially for last minutes gifts!

4. Blog/Life Balance. When I started a new job as a personal stylist last month (more here), I wasn't sure how well I'd be able to keep up with a part time job and a blog. So far...it's busy but doable. I'm starting to believe in Parkinson's Law that basically says work expands to fit the amount of time you give it! When pressed for time I've been able to get my blog posts done in a shorter amount of time than I would have thought possible! Sometimes they may have be shorter posts and eventually I may skip one here and there. But for the most part I really enjoy the blog community and readership and am all about finding ways to make it work to do both!

Of course, it wouldn't be worth it to continue without you here as readers so thank YOU for choosing to spend some of your time with me! I hope to continue creating content that's enjoyable and worthwhile to you!

Linking up with: JoLynne | ErikaAndreaNarci | Andrea | The Blended Blog | Laura  & Erin

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