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I recently wrote about wardrobe essentials, the gist was that everyone’s needs and preferences differ.

So here’s my list. Much of it is common to the lists we have all seen. While what works for each of us is as individual as we all are, there are also commonalities (just as we all have as much in common as we are individuals). Contradictory? That’s humanity!

Monty Python's, Life of Brian

Monty Python’s, Life of Brian

I think I was just sidetracked by thoughts of U.S. culture and character, and the human condition.

Anyway, here’s MY top 10 list:

  1. Classic Trench. I could not agree with this list staple more. As Tim Gunn says, “You can wear it to the grocery store or the opera.” I feel so strongly about this that I have a beige one AND a black one. If you’re wardrobe building, I think a light tan is probably the most versatile.

    Trenches, image found here.

    Trenches, image found here.

  2. Black and Nude Pumps. Between the two, you have a heel to wear with anything. And remember never to settle for uncomfortable shoes, regardless how beautiful they are. There are swoon worthy shoes that also feel good on your feet. If you don’t believe me, check out Corso Como.
  3. Equestrian boots. Yes they are very popular at the moment. That happens every few years. They’re classics and never out of style. I agree with Wendy‘s recommendation, here, that the best option for this staple is a very simple clean boot without a heel or embellishments like buckles and straps.
  4. Flip Flops. My old favorites were a muted silver pair from J. Crew and the sole is almost completely worn through. The new favs are a Roxy black and white chevron pair from Ross for 9 dollars. I live in flips in hot weather. I know, some of you wouldn’t be caught dead in them. That’s why we all have to make our own lists!

    Boots, Flips, and Pumps. All available on Zappos.

    Boots, Flips, and Pumps. All available on Zappos.

  5. T-shirts. I like to have three specific kinds, as they work in layers differently and give me more options. V-necks- American Eagle’s are good. Crew necks- can’t go wrong with the ones from Gap. And Boat necks- J. Crew’s are great, and the elbow length sleeve gives them a grown up feel and makes it easy to dress them up. All of them go on sale semi-regularly so no need to break the bank.
  6. Tank Tops. I am the queen of the cami. And since I’m cheap, most of mine are from H&M. I have a dozen colors and layer them almost daily.
  7. Denim. There’s so much to say about the ubiquitous jean. It’s great to have a solid dark wash since they can often work as trousers. And I believe we should all have a comfy relaxed weekend pair too. More on shopping for denim here.Screen Shot 2013-01-18 at 3.07.04 PM
  8. Skirt or Slacks. This is a personal one. Are you a skirt person? Never? Either way is okay. I have both. I have a skimming but swingy tropical print skirt that has accompanied me to many and island, and the dependable pencil skirt serves all other purposes. For slacks I have a great pair of Kenneth Cole’s that have been a stand by for about 8 years now. I bought them long enough to wear with tall heels and they never let me down.
  9. Cardigan. They say “cotton is rotten” when it comes to running gear, and I have adopted this for sweaters as well. Maybe it’s just me, but my cotton sweaters stretch out of shape after one wearing, fade more quickly, and tend to show wear earlier than some other materials. I’m a big fan of wool: merino, cashmere, whatever. Wool/silk blends have worked well for me in the past, maybe with a little nylon or spandex thrown in. They’re perfect for layering, toning down a saucy top, or adding a pop of color to a work dress.

    The wonderful world of cardis. The above are all available at Nordstrom.

    The wonderful world of cardis. The above are all available at Nordstrom.

  10. LBD. There are innumerable Little Black Dress options out there, and the price ranges vary wildly. I have a few. One is more conservative and would be appropriate for a business setting or funeral (gotta be real, we’ll all attend these at one point or another and I think it’s only respectful to look presentable). Another is, well, saucy. Enough said.
A range of LBDs, all available at piperlime.

A range of LBDs, all available at piperlime.

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BASICS: Different for Everyone

Clearly it’s important to build your wardrobe foundation. We hear about it all the time, right? Everyone and their dog has a list of “Must Have Wardrobe Basics.” It seems obvious. Having simple pieces that are neutral (versatile) and can be dressed up or down, well that’s just common sense.

Surely we all need black and nude pumps. Don't we?

Surely we all need a pair of black pumps and nude pumps. Don’t we?

But I firmly believe everyone’s necessary basics differ. I did some research when I started thinking about this topic and one list I found recommended a 3 piece suit. I have never in my life had occasion to wear a 3 piece suit. Not once. Some women wear them every day. And almost every list I found also recommended a “crisp white blouse.” I’ve been reading that one for years, so a few years ago I bought one. I’ve worn it twice. It’s just not me, I’m not comfortable in it–I wasted my money. I used to read these lists like they were instruction manuals… now I read them critically and have fun deciding which pieces fit my needs and style. I’m sure everyone realizes that ALL advice should be taken with a grain of salt. This is especially true for fashion advice (including this post). One size does NOT fit all. And breaking the rules is just as important as knowing what they are.

I absolutely love Michelle Obama’s style, but I’m pretty sure her wardrobe requirements differ from mine!

When thinking about what you need, logic dictates starting by evaluating what you have. Pull it all out. ALL of it. Empty the drawers!  While you’re in there, cull out the weak pieces. If it’s worn past “cool” and more on the “decaying” end of the spectrum, let it go. If you have clothes that you pull at all day because you don’t like the fit, get rid of them. Life is both too short and too long to spend time feeling ill at ease because what you’re wearing isn’t flattering. There IS clothing out there that will flatter you, regardless of your body type. I’m not saying it’s easy to find great things if you’re 4’10” or 6’3”, but it can be done (we should all have a line on a great tailor), and it’s imperative that we not settle for less than a really comfortable fit. One of my sisters calls this “spiritual shopping” and swears she never buys anything unless, when she tries it on, she looks in the fitting room mirror and thinks she looks fantastic. Pure genius.


Purging is necessary since we buy clothes over years and years. Periodically, we have to take stock of how we’d like to present ourselves and how we are actually presenting ourselves. It’s a good time to evaluate your wardrobe from the perspective of work needs, social habits, and general lifestyle. Also consider the lifestyle you want. Integrate that with your budget, plan which items pack the biggest punch for your dollar, and which items can be added over time…

So once you’ve seen what you have, and thought about your priorities, it’s a good time to peruse a few essentials lists:

  • I really like Tim Gunn. He’s insightful and sweet, but can definitely break it down when necessary. This video discusses the importance of fit and proportion, and here is the simplest of his lists that I’ve found.
  • A Girl, A Style‘s list, here, is thoughtful and interesting.
  • I didn’t think Oprah’s list was especially inspired, but I did agree we need to toss the ratty sweatpants. There are soft cozy pjs out there that are also attractive. Loungewear can look as good as if feels. I really like these pjs from Victoria’s secret, and the Gap Pure Body collection.
  • This is a fun video, with a great perspective on basics and statement pieces. Don’t forget there are amazing deals to be had at TJ Maxx, Ross, and Marshalls. I have gorgeous bags and shoes from all 3 of them.
  • Glamour has a bunch of different essentials lists, it’s fun to check out the different angles they take.
  • Great ideas are often found in unexpected places. I am not a parent- but when researching basics and fashion advice, I found a GREAT posting on a site called Single Moms Ask Sara. I don’t agree with everything she wrote, but I agree with a lot of it, and loved how she talked about teaching her kids how to think of clothing. (Cliff Notes: If it doesn’t fit, it’s the fault of the clothing, not the person).
I've been dying for a fluffy tulle skirt for ages...

I’ve been dying for a fluffy tulle skirt for ages… if I wear it enough can I claim it’s essential?

Well, I had more to say about this topic than I realized! I’ll leave my Basics List for another day.

What 5 items do you think every woman should have (and by that I really mean what 5 items do you think YOU should have)?

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Valentines Day, a loaded holiday, was my nemesis for many years.


I’m now a happily married woman (still a newlywed), and I fully realize just how lucky I am. I spent 20 years dating… kissed my share of frogs, and had my share of single nights. Those 20 years were spent working on myself (I know, I know, some of us have farther to go than others! Don’t judge!), figuring out how to be a friend worth having, and a real partner.

Hubs and I in September, 2012, on the ferry to Alcatraz for the night tour.

Hubs and I in September, 2012, on the ferry to Alcatraz for the night tour.

This Valentine’s Day, I decided to focus on loving my friends, my coworkers, my fellow man in general, instead of romantic love. My husband is on board and we’re not doing V-Day gifts or even cards this year. But just for fun, whenever we pass a display of Valentine’s Day cards, we pick out a few for each other to read. 



For the singletons out there, I hope you are enjoying the journey. There were times I did, and many times I didn’t. We all feel hopeless and alone sometimes. At the same time, as the song goes, “they call us lonely when we’re really just alone.” I took wonderful solo trips to Europe and Central America, had countless girls’ nights out, and learned that I enjoy my own company–whether on a crowded dance floor or in my living room by myself. 


Are you celebrating V-Day this year?


Just a Number

So I’ve been reading a lot lately about weight just being a number, loving yourself as you are, working towards healthy instead of skinny, all that jazz. It’s obviously awesome. Feel Fit February is a good example of the buzz, it’s a 3 blogger collaboration.

What a great idea.

I talk about his stuff with my hubs regularly as he was, once upon a time, a fitness instructor. He is also a former paramedic and a martial arts expert, and knows a lot about wellness and nutrition in general. So last week I was reading a magazine and I pointed to a model with the most amazing slim sculpted cellulite-free beautiful legs, “Do you think my legs can ever look like that again?” (The “again” was pretty generous, but at my most fit… well, sure, maybe).

Athleta's beautiful model Lauren C.

Athleta‘s beautiful model, Lauren C.

His response blew me away. He stopped what he was doing, made eye contact, and re-oriented me to reality: “She looks great. She’s also probably been hungry for 15 years.”

Whoa. Right. Plus air brushing.

This morning I saw some photos of myself 10 years ago. I looked great! And I didn’t realize it, I was convinced I was deficient in a dozen ways. So today I’m thinking, let’s let go of the negative crap we think about ourselves. In 10 years we’ll look at photos we’re taking of ourselves now, and think we looked amazing. We’ll wish we’d realized “then” how hot we were! So let’s realize it now. Let’s not starve ourselves and beat ourselves up about whatever isn’t good enough. Let’s go for healthy and happy.

Who’s in?

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Paring it Down and Beach Life

I just got back from a trip to Florida for to help out a family member. While there, I ended up spending time in the home of a hoarder. We’re talking true pathology here. I’m still flashing back to the PILES of STUFF everywhere, with paths through them for moving around the house. It was overwhelming and unsettling to say the least. I wanted to go home and burn everything I own!

Before heading to the airport, I made time for beach therapy. There were very few people out as it’s off season. I fantasized about moving to a secluded beach, taking only a few bikinis and sarongs, maybe a couple sundresses, and my favorite flip-flops. I’d have a tiny clean home with minimal furniture and no tchotchkes or stacks of papers. Just clean surfaces and clear space filled with sunlight and a tropical breeze.


The beautiful beach at Gulf Breeze, just across the causeway from Pensacola.




Where is your fantasy home?

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Living a Life of Adventure

Adventure. It adds flavor to life. It makes us feel alive and vital.

I have always yearned for adventure. I know this is in no way unique to me. What child doesn’t want to sail the seven seas, win epic battles, and travel through time? But I never outgrew it. So, my junior year of college I attended University College Cork in Ireland for a junior year abroad. I took that opportunity to travel all over Europe by myself, then quit school and moved to Germany for a year after that, as I just wasn’t ready to return to the States. I wandered quite a bit for a few years, even after returning to the US. 

London. It's time to go back.

London. It’s time to go back.

In the past 10 years I’ve learned to dance Salsa, gone surfing, scuba diving, sky diving, swimming with dolphins, and snow boarding (that one was a bust). I traveled for work, taking contracts in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Kansas City, and San Francisco. I traveled through most of Central America by myself and climbed Half Dome in Yosemite. I took Krav Maga for 2 years and tested into the second level. I worked on a helicopter for 3 years. I embraced adventure whole heartedly.

Horseback riding in Costa Rica, 2005.

Costa Rica, 2005, Mt Arenal in the background.

Screen Shot 2013-01-19 at 9.31.49 AM

Honduras, 2006.


Buenos Aires, 2007.

Sparring in my Krav Maga class.

Sparring in my Krav Maga class, 2011.

Since getting married (dating itself was definitely an adventure!) I’ve been much more domestic and have loved every minute of it. But I’m feeling the itch and it’s time to get out there again.

Nicaragua, 2009. This monkey kept sticking his butt in my face, I could not stop laughing.

Nicaragua, 2009. This monkey kept sticking his butt in my face, got in my lap, was all over me. I could not stop laughing.

So here’s my list of proposed adventures for the next couple years. Some of this is pretty mundane, but it’s new to me:

  • learn to ride a motorcycle
  • take a hot air balloon ride
  • go horseback riding (haven’t been in YEARS!)
  • get my advanced scuba cert
  • get my lifesaving scuba cert
  • go skydiving again
  • go public with my blog (seems adventurous to me!)
  • budoir photo shoot (I’m VERY shy around cameras, but my hubs would love this)

And now that I’m thinking about all this, there are lots of quiet, less daring, new things I’d like to try.

  • take a sewing class
  • take a photography class
  • try out Zumba fitness classes
  • take Samba lessons

Embracing bold new activities, learning new things, finding creative outlets… it’s what life’s all about. I’m excited to have new challenges lined up! And maybe I’ll add some time in a hammock with a view like this to my list too…

Costa Rica, Pacific side.

Costa Rica, 2005.

What new thing (or old thing you miss) would you like to try?