Saturday, September 29, 2012

Heroics (OOTD)

Last night, I watched The Avengers for the first time. Being the mother of small children, I rarely get to see movies in the theater that often. Being the comic book fan that I am, and the Avengers being one of my favorite titles/franchises, I've been looking forward to seeing this for a while. When the DH told me that the movie was being released on DVD this week, I drove around to multiple Targets to grab it (on Blu-ray, of course). Even then, once I had it, I didn't have time 'til Friday night to actually watch it.

Gotta say, it was worth the wait. I love me some heroes.

It's true. I love superheroes. And just your average heroes. And aspiring heroes. I love everyday, never-knew-they-had-it-in-them heroes. And I love those uncommon heroes - the one that change the world with their presence of mind and their strength of character and their giant, enormous hearts. People like Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and  (our names here) .

I love it when characters like Tony Stark, who's just such an asshole so-many-times-over, shows himself to have unplumbed depths of strength, courage, and love. And yes, I know he's a fictional character, but still - if someone like that can strive beyond belief for an idea - be it freedom, or life, or justice, or respect, or goodness --

Well, imagine then, what any of us could be capable of. You know, minus all the crazy high-tech equipment, practically magical suit of armor, and Jarvis, our virtual assistant/butler/valet. Oh, and the enormous bank account. Probably shouldn't forget that...

When I was a child, I played at being a hero. I imagined I was Wonder Woman, or Princess Leia (who was pretty heroic in her own right) or Eowyn from Lord of the Rings. And when I was an adolescent, I dreamed about other types of heroics - being a Peace Corps volunteer, or the Secretary General of the U. N. (where I would broker world peace, of course), or even your run-of-the-mill humanitarian crisis worker. 

As I got older, my perspective regarding heroes evolved again. And now, when I think of heroism, I think of people with vision who are bringing those visions to life, be they entrepreneurs or community organizers or artists or educators. I think of people who discern their vocations, whatever those might be, and who fearlessly step into and embody them. I think of my parents, who accomplished so much though they started with so little ($350 between the two of them and a dream of a new life in America). I think of our military men and women who put themselves between us and those who might wish us ill. 

I think of ordinary people who when confronted with the choice of being loving or being fearful, choose to be loving, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Talk about heroic.

Necklace: J. Crew (old; similar here, here, and here)

I'm not all that sure what a stripey top, bright red pants, and fun shoes have to do with being a hero...I've not once seen a single comic book superhero wearing an outfit like this. But hey - who's to say some future hero wouldn't?

Who are your heroes, living, dead, or fictional?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"Oh Dear God..." (J. Crew Promo)

Those are the words that fell out of my mouth when I opened the email announcing J. Crew's current 25% off + Free Shipping promotion for orders of $150 or more that's going on now 'til Sunday (use promo code: STYLE25).

Why is J. Crew so mean nice to us? *ahem*

(And here I was, thinking I had been doing so awesomely well exercising restraint, etc...)

Some other things that might be making their way into my shopping cart *cough* I might be browsing...

1. Blythe Blouse in Polka Dot (a nice, understated polka dot top, if you're wanting a little something-something, without a whole lotta BAM. You know. Like that. ^_-)
2. Tissue Turtleneck Tee in Stripe (for layering when the weather gets cooler. Someday. *sigh*)
3. Peter Pan Collar Tee or Sweater (So cute. I love them. A little twee, but I don't care. You can't stop me.)
4. Cambridge Cable Turtleneck Sweater (There's something so classic-old-timey-J. Crew-like-when-I-was-an-undergrad-in-college-in-the-'90s-and-couldn't-afford-J. Crew-but-dreamed-about-being-able-to-someday about this that I can't resist it. Now if only they'd bring back the fisherman and roll-neck sweaters too...)
5. Collection Jewel-Collared Schoolboy Blazer (Deliciously wacky and playful. I mean, c'mon - a classic menswear-plaid wool with a sparkly jeweled collar? It just makes me smile.)
6. Hacking Jacket in Herringbone (I adore the dusty jade color. So pretty!)
7. Cafe Capri (I've been a big fan of the Minnie, but I love the warm jade in this one - and it's on sale! A girl's gotta love a bit of sale-on-sale, right?)
8. Bow Collar Necklace (Pretty and sparkly! A great accent piece.)
9. Nora Cap-toe Chain Ballet Flats (how pretty is that blush color?)
10. Everly Suede Pumps (I want one of each color!)
11. Pleated Skirt in Color-block Crepe (A not-so-basic staple for fall/winter. What's not to like?)

So...will you be taking advantage of the J. Crew promo? And if so, what are you springing for?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer's Second Wind (Madewell Wishlist)

It's been hot around these parts. Really hot. This last weekend, we saw record temps here in San Diego, with mercury creeping up to 107º F in Carmel Valley and Rancho Penasquitos. Yesterday, the words, "Oh, it's only going to be 92º today!" actually came out of my mouth.

We're not talking Orange County or Palm Springs, or even San Fernando Valley here, people. We're talking about San Diego - home of the some of the most temperate temperatures in the whole country! Last Friday, at around 10 AM, we got a call from Rowan's school, informing us that since the school is not equipped with A/C, we could come and pick up kids early should we be concerned about possible health risks due to the heat. It was a reverse-snow day.

To be sure, things are not so bad right now. We've got a forecast for temps in the high '80s and low '90s for the rest of this week, so the heat is at least bearable. Of course, it's still way too warm for outfits like this:

Despite that, I can't help day-dreaming about it. And while I wasn't completely bowled over by Madewell's Fall Catalog, there are some great things in their current transitional fall roll-out. (Some of them could even be worn now, in this heat!) These for instance:

1. Silk Hourglass Top (So effortlessly pretty, whether paired with slacks, jeans, or a skirt.)
2. Sessun Gloria Tie-Front Blouse (I love these colors and print. Gorgeous!)
3. Sessun Capricorn Printed Dress (Oh, I love this!)
4. Attic and Barn Elide Shirtdress (slightly less expensive at - Madewell link here)
5. Sheepmeadow Sweater (I actually like this critter sweater better than J. Crew's French hen sweater)
6. Softshade Sweatshirt Dress (I want to use this to recreate a version of this Kendi/Fossil look from last fall. Speaking of - does anyone else wish Fossil would just re-release that whole line?)
7. Linemaker Tee (Because a person just can't have enough striped tees...and, erm, this one has a different neckline from my other ones...)
8. Floral Songbird Dress (I already have the Stucco Striped version of this dress, but there's something so sweet about this floral print...)
9. Bow Sweater (I want to throw this on over a pair of cords and a tank/tee/button-down shirt throughout the cold weather months. Adorable.)

To be honest, I haven't done a lot of fall fashions shopping yet. This heat is such a deterrent and who wants to pay full price for something you can't put on right away? What about you? Are you getting more seasonally appropriate weather in your parts?

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Soul Stylist (Vocal Awareness and a Haircut)

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I spent much of last week studying Vocal Awareness. It's a little difficult to concisely explain what Vocal Awareness is, as it's got a fairly broad scope. At a very superficial level, it's a method for developing more effective speaking, communication, and should you wish to work on it, performance skills such as singing, acting, and broadcasting. There are specific mechanics, techniques, and practices that Vocal Awareness employs to increase vocal resonance, interpersonal connection, and authentic emotional expression.

But if I'm going to describe it honestly, that's only the tip of the iceberg. In fact, in a previous draft of this post, I described it all in detail here only to decide that actually, not only is it somewhat off-topic for In Pursuit of Pretty Things, but it made this post really, really long. So, I moved that part of the post - the discussion of Vocal Awareness - to my other blog, Material Good.

Which brings me to my second topic in this long-but-not-as-long-as-it-was-before post - my new haircut! One of über-cool people in my group studying Vocal Awareness is hairstylist Paul Interval, who hails from New York City and whose clients include celebrities, New York socialites, fashion designers (for their runway shows) and magazines. I was fortunate enough to have my hair cut and styled by him this past week and it was singularly the most amazing hair cut/styling session I've ever had.

Paul is developing a new branch of his work which he terms "Soul Styling." First, we talked about what I wanted for my hair and what I was open to trying. Then he began our Soul Session by playing meditative music and burning sage incense (!!!) around me, while he guided me into a meditation. He asked me to either speak aloud or internally, an intention for the session (I chose "surrender," as I sometimes pretty much always have a difficult time with that. I can be super hard on myself) and then led me through the meditation while giving me a scalp, neck, and shoulder massage. (As an aside, all meditation should come with a scalp, neck, and shoulder massage. Just sayin.') There was no mirror for me to watch myself in and he actually cut my hair dry, without washing it first. The entire process, from start to finish, was just beautiful, and left me...feeling beautiful.

Here's a "before" pic (my hair looks odd because it had been twisted up into a knot on the back of my head all day):

And here's the "after":

 Paul told me he'd angled my layers, in order to help my very "textured" (read: frizzy and wavy) hair to lie nicely with the help of a little product. And then? Well, he gave me this fun and sassy style, using a curling rod (just twisting a few locks of hair around it and teasing the waves a bit, for some personality). He also used some Pureology Texture Twist Reshaping Styler on my hair, to provide some definition and hold:

The artist at work (I call this his, "Blue Steel" look).

He provided cuts to several other people throughout the week, including my friend June:

Overall, the experience was amazing. If any of you live in New York City or are visiting NYC and are in search of an incredible hair Soul Stylist, you should definitely look Paul up. His salon location is:

Studio at 19th
5 East 19th Street
New York, NY

I should also mention that Paul doesn't actually conduct Soul Stylist sessions at the salon - if you want one of those, you'll have to coordinate with him to schedule a time and place for that. At the salon, he gives amazing haircuts, without the incense and meditation. 

Me with my Soul Stylist, Paul Interval.

Hope everyone's having a great weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Catch-ups, Top-offs, and Other News

Hi everyone! I'm sorry I've been away so long - I was at this amazing week-long training for Vocal Awareness (which I'll talk about more in a future post), and between the 8-hour sessions, homework, keeping up with some projects at work, and just spending time developing friendships with some of my classmates (for lack of a better word), I just couldn't find the time - or the energy - to write a post, try as I might. 

Still, it was a really great week. I really needed it.

Okay, but let's get on to some fun news - Topshop, the British clothing line, has come to Nordstrom! Select stores around the country are now actually carrying the line (in Orange County, my favorite South Coast Plaza is one of them!) and of course, you can also buy online from Nordy's website. Browsing the selection, I found this little frock:

And along with that, a few more promising selections:

1. Topshop Skater Dress (such an easy, wearable dress - and what a great price!)
2. Topshop Rib Pleated Skater Dress (gorgeous color and it'll look amazing with layers)
3. Topshop 'Lucy' Paisley Print Skirt (such a fun skirt! I can imagine it'd go with all kinds of things - and it's machine washable. LOVE.)
4. Topshop Floral Pintuck Shirt (so sweet - I love it)
6. Topshop Mixed Media Tunic (not my usual thing, but I kind of love it. Imagine how cute it'll look with some skinny jeans!)
7. Topshop Boucle Dress
8. Topshop Embellished Collar Top (oh my gosh, I love this. LOVE. The only way I might love it more is if it were silk and not rayon. At least it's not polyester.)
9. Topshop Lace Peplum Top (Ivory lace and a peplum. Seriously, what's not to like?)
10. Topshop Oversized Plaid Sweater (I know, I know - Valerie Keaton, every Huxtable child, Samantha Micelli, and Mike Seaver all wore a version of this sweater. Which might be why it makes me smile and feel happy when I look at it, seeing as how I'm a child of the '80s. *ahem*)

I've been intrigued by mention of Topshop for years - first as a well-known fashion retailer in England, and then when it came to NYC. But for whatever reason, I've never actually even looked at Topshop's website until fairly recently. The style is definitely a bit younger and a little more urban - or street? - than I tend to favor, I find. That being said, I'm looking forward to seeing some in person, the next time I'm at South Coast Plaza and getting to know the brand a bit better.

What about you? Are you a fan of Topshop? And if so, can you share anything about fit, wear, etc?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Squinting Up at the Arena (OOTD)

A. A. Milne once wrote, “If ever there is tomorrow when we're not together... there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

It's true. We are all braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think. It's just not something we're always conscious of. In fact, even for those of us who have an inkling of what it means to believe we're brave, strong, and smart, it's not something we're always willing to claim. Which is a funny thing when you consider that we're always being encouraged to identify and sell to others how special we are. That's essentially how you become a success, right? Find your strengths, leverage them, and demonstrate your value - to your community, your customers, and the public at large.

The fact is, our world and our lives have conditioned us to think that should we dare to truly embody the fullness of our courage, our strength, our intelligence - our own unique Greatness - for every moment of our lives, we will be disdained for our arrogance, our conceit, and our hubris.

So instead, we tuck away our enormous, amazing, possible Selves, and adopt these other personas. You know - the ones that are socially acceptable and even lauded in their own way. The ones where we are agreeable, decorous, decorative, fun, witty, and capable - but diminished. 

As women and girls, it's so easy to slip into these lesser versions of our Selves and while away the years. But the truth is, deep inside each of us are extraordinary Women. Women who are braver than we believe, stronger than we seem, and smarter than we think. Women who are able to be simultaneously sovereign and loving. Most of us have glimpsed her - the Self that breathes within us, whose Greatness both thrills and terrifies us. Some of us can even summon her from time to time, when certain circumstances or situations seem to call for it. So very few of us are able to embody her always, as she deserves to be and should be embodied. 

Why is it so very scary to imagine that we might be everything we ever needed? 

Dress: Polka Dot Tie-Neck Dress, J. Crew (similar herehere, and here)

The thing is, when I'm running on the hamster wheel of life - moving from task to task, moment to moment, without much time for thought or breath, I'm fairly oblivious. There's no place on my list of to-do's for reflection or even much doubt. Ironically, it's in the moments when I make myself be still and silent, and then ask if there isn't more to my Self than this - it's not until I begin stretching for that more powerful, intentional version of Me, that I am assailed with the apprehension that I am really just small, easily defeated, and trivial. 

The truth, of course, is only that I am afraid. It's the paradox of me - on the one hand, I am just dying to see what I am made of and on the other, I am quite certain I already know and that I'm not going to like it. 

I've got to admit, it's going to take me some time to work myself up to it - stepping into my Self and really daring greatly. Until then, there's nothing like a pretty dress and some Teddy Roosevelt (slightly modified to make it more inclusive) to get me into the right frame of mind:

“It is not the critic who counts: not the [one] who points out how the strong [person] stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the [one] who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends him [or her]self for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he [or she] fails, at least he [or she] fails while daring greatly, so that his [or her] place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

Sunday, September 2, 2012

On Paper (OOTD)

Some of you already know that I'm an avid reader. What you probably don't know, however, is that lately, I've been buying all of my books electronically, and reading them on my Kindle. Part of it was due to the fact that...well, I was given a Kindle. Then also, that Borders (my preferred mega-bookstore) shut down, which made me sadder than I would ever have imagined I'd feel. And then, of course, there's the issue of space. As in, "no space for books left in this house." 

My next house? It's going to have a whole room just for our books. I've decided.

Sweater: From Nordstrom BP - old - (similar here, here, and here)
Pants: Joe's Jeans Ponte Leggings (similar here, here, and here)
Necklace: Kate Spade 'Hang in There' Necklace (similar here, here, and here)
Watch: Michele (similar face here and band here)

Anyway, today I found myself in a Barnes and Noble bookstore...and I bought a couple books. On paper. And you know what? It felt...decadent. And indulgent. And reminded me that all this time I was happily reading ebooks on my Kindle or iPhone (via the Kindle app - so convenient!), I'd actually really been missing the feel and smell of paper and pages and...

I know, right? It's like I was living in a cyber-punk future, where paper is a relic of the past and I suddenly discovered a hidden cache of it, or something. This of course, despite the fact that between the DH, the kids, and I, we probably own enough books (the non-digital variety printed on pressed wood pulp with ink and bound with glue/thread/other materials) to open our own little used bookstore. 

Funny, the things we overlook when we're so tied to our electronics...

Hope you're all having a great Labor Day weekend!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

More Fall Fancies (Rachel Zoe)

I'm terrible at "favorites." Some of the worst questions I get asked have that word in it. What's my favorite book/author/movie/designer/restaurant/food/color?

Really? With all the options in the world, with all the access we have to so much of it, living where we live (and boy, do we have access), I have to have favorites?

Take colors, for instance - how do you choose? I love colors! All colors! Browns and reds and blues and purples and golds and oranges and greens and grays and everything in between. They're all amazing - all fantastic - all beautiful beyond belief, given the right setting and context.

Still, I gotta say, I have a particular affinity for greens. And green seems to like me back pretty well. So, when I was checking out the Rachel Zoe fall selection available at Nordstrom, this outfit jumped out at me immediately:

Isn't it a dream? I blogged about the Rachel Zoe Fall 2012 collection earlier this year, and I'm super excited to see the pieces I love showing up in my favorite department stores now. Of course, most of it is beyond the reach of my budget, but who knows - if I exercise the proper restraint with other stuff, maybe some of these things pretties will make it into my closet, come sale time?

A girl can hope!

Here are the other things I'm dying over (oh fall weather, won't you come soon?):

1. Rachel Zoe 'Kasia' Sweater Dress (did I mention I love purples too?)
2. Rachel Zoe 'Daphne' Leather Jacket (oh, my RZ Sullivan jacket is super similar to this and I wore it so much all through the winter and early spring! This jacket is probably just as supremely wearable - and that color! *swoon*)
3. Rachel Zoe 'Dean' Silk Blouse (well, you goes with that sweater dress and that leather jacket...)
4. Rachel Zoe 'Alice' Lace Gown (I wish I had a red carpet to walk down somewhere. I'd wear this and have my own "Angelina's Right Leg" moment. Only, it'd be Carol's right leg. Which is probably not the same thing at all...but what the heck. This is my red carpet fantasy, right?)
5. Rachel Zoe 'Marina' Blouse (speaking of gorgeous greens...)
6. Rachel Zoe 'Woody' Blouse (and oh, this blue! It's ridiculously pretty.)

On a totally unrelated note (I am masterful in the use of the non sequitur), my thoughts are with our neighbors in the Mississippi Gulf states, dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac. While the devastation isn't nearly as spectacular as that of Katrina, seven years ago, homes, businesses, and even lives have been lost to flooding caused by Isaac. The Red Cross is seeking donations to help support its relief efforts which are expected to last for several weeks. After a rough summer of responding to wildfires, power outages, and floods, Red Cross resources are stretched thin and every small contribution can help ease the burdens of those caught in the crosshairs of circumstance. If you'd like to help, you can donate here.

Hoping you're all having an otherwise safe, fun, and happy start to your Labor Day Weekend!