the whole 30 yards

my first morning's breakfast
my first morning’s breakfast

I’m not a dieter. Denying myself the delectable leads to intense cravings for said taboo items. I have done a few juice cleanses with varying degrees of success (and by success, I don’t mean weight loss but improved complexion, better sleep patterns and more energy). Mainly, I try to eat healthily, though I do have my weaknesses, namely cheese, wine, and half and half in my coffee.

But on the morning of my dear friend Lauren’s wedding, I woke up resembling the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. My face was so puffy my sunglasses left a deep imprint after I had them on for only a few minutes. My abdomen was so distended I could barely bend over to put on my shoes. And the worst part? The bridesmaid dress that fit fine a week before? Yeah, well I was so swollen that it took the might of the three other bridesmaids to get the zipper up. Then, I exhaled. And the zipper broke. Five minutes before the ceremony.

If I’d woken up like this any other day, I’d have visited the ER. I warn you now, never WebMD “water retention” because the causes range from too much salt, alcohol, sun exposure (all which I had in spades) to kidney failure, liver disease and congestive heart failure. I was pretty convinced I was dying, but I had a wedding to stand up in. I drank my weight in water, abstained from alcohol, and MacGyver’d the dress until I could change into something else. After the reception, I returned to my room, cried a bunch, and devised a plan for a reset.

I’d just read Wardrobe Oxygen‘s post on the Whole 30, and while I’ve been dismissive of Paleo-style food plans, I was inspired by Allie’s positive experience eating only whole, one-ingredient foods. I decided to give it a shot.

As it turns out, my Whole 30 shopping cart didn’t look that different from how it usually would, with a few notable exclusions. I’m on Day 5 and so far, I don’t miss anything. It hasn’t been torturous to watch my kids devour chips and salsa. I’ve been around wine without longing. After a bit of experimenting, I discovered coconut milk in my coffee does the trick. I did almost lick the Nutella off a knife the other night after I made Jack toast, but that was more reflex than desire. The bottom line is after a few days, I’m sleeping better, and I have energy after only one cup of coffee.

I suspect there will be challenging days ahead (please don’t flaunt your pimento grilled cheese sandwich from Cheesetique) but nothing could be worse than how I felt on that morning when I could have lumbered through the town of Sonoma and caused more damage than the recent Napa earthquake.

 

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travels with chelsea

There is great benefit in being friends with fashion bloggers and stylists such as Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen, Alison of DC Celine fame, Rosana at DC Style Factory and Christen, the brains and beauty behind the Alexandria Stylebook. Aside from being lovely women inside and out, they humor my angst. When I have a fashion conundrum, I can fire off a quick text or initiate a twitter conversation and get immediate advice, affirmation, sympathy.

However, there is one topic they have all opined about extensively on which I am utterly unteachable: how to efficiently pack.

I get the mechanics. Coordinate colors and pack mix and match separates. Dress in layers. Bring fabrics that easily forgive their undistinguished position in the suitcase. Assemble outfits that can survive more than one wear. Put it all in a carryon. Channel sense of ease. Voila.

But let’s get one thing straight: I like to check my bag. It’s worth $20 to not have to drag a bag through security. It’s worth $20 to not have to worry about only bringing 3-ounce toiletries or what constitutes a liquid (eyeliner? lip gloss?). It’s worth $20 to bring more pairs of shoes than I’ll probably need.

Thus, as I make my list of what to pack for my upcoming 10-day trip to California, and as I look at my standard suitcase, I realize I need to upgrade to the bigger bag. Before you roll your eyes, check out where I’m going: San Francisco, Paso Robles, Menlo Park, San Francisco, Sonoma, San Francisco. And now check out what I’m doing in those spots: wine tasting, bachelorette party activities, pool lounging, yoga, eating out with my dad and grandmother, going out in San Francisco, attending rehearsal dinner, and fulfilling bridesmaid duties. Look at the temperatures of my destinations: 50s-60s in San Francisco and 90s in Paso Robles and Sonoma (but cool at night). And have I mentioned the wedding?

Let’s just say, there’s no packing light for me on this trip, regardless of what advice my friends offer. My goal will be to not get assessed the heavy bag fee.

tales of a music festival

I just spent the weekend at Coachella. I significantly underestimated how cool I would feel just saying that. I might never be the same.

I must admit that reaction was mixed when I announced to friends that I was going.

YOU are going to Coachella?

What the hell is Coachella?

For those who don’t know, it’s a 3-day music festival in Palm Springs, California. Tickets go on sale a year in advance and move quickly. Luckily for me, I have a friend who was on the ball and bought two tickets last May. And even luckier, the friend she was supposed to go with bailed at the last minute, giving me the opportunity to slip in and take her coveted wristband.

I spent hours going over the lineup. I consider myself to know a fair amount about music but I was shocked at the number of musicians whose names I didn’t recognize. But that was fine. I was eager to discover my next new favorite band.

I also spent an absurd amount of time trying to figure out what to wear. Music festivals are not runways but the fashion is certainly a sight to behold. I consulted my friend Allie at Wardrobe Oxygen who is not only a fashion blogger but an experienced music festival-ite. She wrote a nice post on what to wear to Coachella that I only clicked on approximately 25,000 times as I surveyed my utterly unhip wardrobe.

In spite of my eager cramming for Coachella, no articles or playlists could have prepared me for what we encountered. I’m going to be talking for some time about the pervasiveness of bralets as tops. I only hope the trend of wearing your denim shorts unbuttoned and folded down to reveal underwear is contained to the desert. Many skimpy bikinis were on display, not my first choice of what to wear to sit in the dusty grass. Hell, it’s not my first choice of what to wear to the beach.

While the style was interesting the music was phenomenal. I still have a medley of Broken Bells songs stuck in my head. They were a favorite before the festival but earned my deeper adoration with their live performance. I discovered a new favorite: Future Islands. Sadly I missed the much-written about Beyoncé appearance on her sister’s stage because, frankly, I didn’t know Solange was her sister. I am to be forgiven for that because I got close enough to Jared Leto to run my fingers through his ombréd mane, though of course I resisted such temptation.

I discovered a new skill. I’m an adept crowd pusher. (Now I know how rough it is to be salmon.) I’m still working the dust out of my eyes from Saturday’s sand storm. (Weekend two attendees: bring swim goggles.) Six pairs of shoes turned out to be way too many but three hats was just the right number.

This year has been about doing things I haven’t done before. You know, like writing a book. Coachella fit neatly into the “experience I’ve never had” box. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to attend. I wasn’t even the oldest one there, as some so-called friends might have suggested I would be. And who knows, maybe next year I’ll rock the bralet.

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she’s alive…

And she thanks you for your concern.

All kidding aside, it’s been rather humbling to get so many “why haven’t you written?” or “where are you?” or even “are you okay?” questions over the last several weeks. It turns out that when I don’t write, you assume I am: sick, overworked, overworking out, in love, in a style rut, too depressed, too happy and/or in Lake Como with George Clooney.

But the truth of the matter is, I just haven’t had the inclination to share. After a relatively short period of time (in blogger years) of presenting the details of my life in a very public way, I felt like keeping my thoughts more private. (“Private: [prahy-vit], adjective, personal and not publicly expressed; not usually applicable to blogging activity.”) Of course, I’ve started posts in my head, usually as I’m about to fall asleep. They never felt share-worthy in the morning . I’ve contemplated the copycat method, building off interesting posts written by the three bloggers  (Wardrobe OxygenDC Celine and Lemmonex) I take time to read.  But what I came up with always seemed forced and weak, not complementary to the original.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to write. I just didn’t want to write it. I kept my thoughts confined to my head and heart and shared with close friends in a more conventional format. That is, over dinners, wine, the phone and the occasional g-chat.

However, now a new season is upon us, and I’m going to try this writing thing again. Much like it’s hard to get back into an exercise routine after a break from the gym, I already feel this is going to be a difficult readjustment. My fingers aren’t quite as nimble on the keyboard. My brain is searching for the right words to make you want to check back to see if I’ve posted. But I want to maintain a balance between what’s going to be mine and what’s going to be yours.

In case you aren’t convinced as to why I’ve maintained radio silence, let me reassure you: I’m not sick (except a pesky head cold). I work decent hours (was oddly nostalgic for an all-nighter Senate vote-a-rama session recently). I haven’t been to Biker Barre in a week. I haven’t been on a date in awhile. I haven’t bought any new clothes (unless you count a date dress that’s awaiting the right occasion). I’m not depressed. I’m happy, but not distracted. And I’m not currently traveling with the newly single George Clooney.

Though if he plans to be in DC anytime soon, I have the perfect dress to wear to meet him for cocktails.

Hive on the Hill

There are no fashionable women’s shoe stores on Capitol Hill unless you want to make the trek to Union Station, and who shops at Union Station except passersby and Hill staffers on their lunch break?

That all changes for one brief and shining weekend (as in, this weekend) when the Old Town based boutique, the Shoe Hive, comes to Tabula Rasa on Barack’s Row.

Beginning tonight from 7:00-9:00 with a cocktail reception hosted by my favorite Alisons, DC Celine and Wardrobe Oxygen, and running regular hours through the weekend, all sorts of wonderfulness will be available. From shoes to handbags to jewelry and other accessories, they promise to have something for everybody. Need gifts? Walk away from Amazon Prime for one night to support a local small business. Looking for the perfect holiday shoe? Maybe you will find it here. While I have never actually shopped the Hive since I usually make my big shoe purchases from SimplySoles, I’m impressed by the photos I’ve seen on Twitter and Facebook of not only new arrivals in their actual store, but the goodies they are busy unpacking on this side of the river. And they are super responsive on social media, which feels like good customer service to me.

Who knows? Since I already indicated to the Hive-ess that my feet take a size 8, maybe I will find a happy birthday to me present.

Stacy London

Photo by wardrobe_oxygen

I first discovered What Not to Wear when I was on maternity leave after giving birth to Colin in 2004. Talk about a time to be thirsty for anything related to style. It didn’t take me long to become devoted to my time with Stacy London and Clinton Kelly. As I struggled to get back into pre-pregnancy clothes, clothes that suddenly didn’t look as chic to me as they had nine months prior, I salivated over the idea of a $5000 budget to start anew. I yearned for someone to come tell me what to wear and, of course, what not to wear.

Since it seemed futile to wait for style fairies Stacy and Clinton to ambush me at work to offer their services and credit card, I started watching the show from a different perspective. I absorbed their advice. I looked for episodes that featured women who were built like me or had a similar lifestyle.

To this day, I still take fashion inspiration from them every time I watch their show.

While I adore Clinton’s cheekiness, I love Stacy’s enthusiasm, snark, and sentimentality. (If she tears up during the final reveal, I’m sure to as well.) And how could I go without mentioning her wardrobe? I also appreciate and admire that in a realm dominated by women much younger than we are, she’s my age.

Last night I attended a book signing event for her recently published book, The Truth About Style. While a rough day had almost led me to cancel, spending an evening with the likes of DC Celine, Wardrobe Oxygen, Closet Coach and Stacy London turned out to be just the therapy I needed. Stacy was generous with her time, sincere with her stories and answered every question from the audience thoughtfully. After her monologue and the Q&A, she spoke personally to each woman getting a book signed. Since I was way at the back of the line, I had time to craft a question for her that wouldn’t be too serious but yet meaningful to me.

Me: You’re 43, I’m about to turn 43, what did you buy yourself for your 43rd birthday. (Because I love birthdays. And I need ideas.)

Stacy: My God! What did I buy myself? I don’t know! (Thanks to Wardrobe Oxygen for snapping this photo of Stacy pondering my question.)

Me: Shoes?

Stacy: No! Now I remember. A Celine trapeze bag. I highly recommend it. You should do it. And by the way, I love that you’re wearing purple. And you have a great necklace. And wait, is that a leopard print coat? I think I have that coat!

Stacy London is as effusive in person as she is on TV. She looks you in the eye when she speaks. She really listens to you and her responses are thought out. She spent several minutes giving wedding dress advice to the women in front of me in line when they told her they’re getting married and one wants to wear a feminine dress and the other a more structured dress.

It’s fair to say I officially have a crush. While I’d need a lot of people to buy my 99 cent short story (coming soon) if I’m ever going to buy a Celine bag, I will live off the fumes of Stacy’s inspiration (and the lust for her fuchsia pleated flowy skirt) for a long time to come.

must have monday: boot edition #1

photo credit: http://www.polyvore.com/boots_more/set?id=59029937#stream_box
so many boots, so little time

I love boots. I have brown riding boots, brown wedge boots, camel tall boots with a heel, brown tall boots with this interesting stitching up the back, black ridding boots, black cowboy boots, black tall boots with a heel, a fancy pair of rain boots (Aquatalia red patent leather) and a not fancy pair of rain boots (muddy, well-worn Hunters). I even have a pair of over-the-knee boots, though they are currently in the consignment pile. But what I don’t have are any short boots. I do not own a bootie. Nor I do I own an ankle boot of any heel height.

I feel it is time to remedy this situation.

Here’s the issue: when you are short (like I am) you’ve been conscious your entire life that you shouldn’t wear anything that makes you look shorter (hence my love of heels). After a few of what I now regard as feeble attempts to try a short boot, I gave up. After striking out, I assumed all such boots would cut me off and be unflattering.

But I admire this look on other women who are even shorter than I am (yes, I mean you, Wardrobe OxygenDC Style Factory and @travelinjames) thus, I have come to the conclusion that I might be wrong. It’s possible, perhaps, that I jumped to conclusions after trying the wrong pairs. I mean, there’s a classic short boot that shares my name, so how wrong could it be on me?

The bottom line is that I’m ready to try again. What I’m looking for is something that doesn’t go too far up my calves. I don’t want a substantial heel for this pair (sorry, guy readers, baby steps). It has to work with my bootcut jeans as well as with my skinny jeans (tucked in) and (gasp) maybe a dress. I know some of you are having a hard time with that visual, but one of my 43 by 43 goals was to challenge myself when it comes to my style. Pairing short boots with a skirt or dress would do just that.

Have you seen a boot that you think fits my needs? Please share. And if you want to go shopping with me, even better.