Life | College Care Packages

During my college years, when I lived away from home, I always loved getting mail.  I liked letters of course, but the best was when a package arrived.  Usually it was food, but sometimes my mom or older sister sent other little goodies, too.  Who doesn't love getting mail?!

Recently, my oldest nephew went off to college.  My husband kind of laughed, suggesting guys don't care as much as girls, but I know he loved those chocolate peanut butter cookies from his grandma!  I want our nephew to know how much we're thinking about him, so I put together a care package.  Since he recently left, I know my sister-in-law got everything he needs.  I remember when I started college, my parents left me fully stocked with snacks.  I wanted to branch out a little, so I grabbed nicer items and some things a college guy might use.

My care package is for a young man.  If you're looking for ideas for a young lady, scroll to the bottom of the page for some ideas.  This is such an easy way to send some love.  I hope you find a little inspiration!

I started with the basics.  Everybody likes candy!

More basics here.  Chapstick is something my husband always needs but never has.  I'm assuming he isn't the only man with that problem...

You might not know if the recipient wears cologne (or what kind), but everyone needs to shower!  I went with a higher end shower gel from TJ Maxx (similar option here).  

I found some really nice crew tees/undershirts that stole my heart with the little four leaf clover.  Thanks, Lucky Brand! 

I added some dress socks.  He may have some.  He may not.  But guys (especially the kind that play college football), could probably stand to add some new ones to the rotation now and then.

Lastly, we added some artwork from his little cousins who think he's the coolest. 

If it had been my niece who was on the receiving end of the care package, here are some things I might have added.

Style | Labor Day Sales

Can you believe the unofficial end of summer is here?!  In some ways, I'm not ready for it at all because of the crazy fun summer we've had.  On the other hand, getting back into a routine will be good for us all.  I think fall fashion is the best fashion.  The colors are beautiful.  The fabrics are cozy.  Labor Day is a good time to pick up fall pieces at a great price!

Ann Taylor has the most beautiful, classy pieces out there.  When I was teaching, I constantly wore Ann Taylor.  Their work pants, especially, have always been my favorite.  This weekend, full price items are 40% off and sale items are 50% off!  Use code: READYSETSALE

L.L.Bean is is offering 25% off of your entire order.  You will also receive a $10 gift card for future purchases and free shipping with orders of $50 or more.  Use code: LABORDAY

Loft is doing 40% off site wide.  Loft is one of my favorite places to buy sweaters.  They are great quality and, with sales, great prices, too!  Use code: LABORDAY

J.Crew has 40% off site wide and 50% off of final sale styles.  Use code: BIGSALE

J.Crew Factory is offering an extra 20% off (most styles are already reduced significantly to begin with).  Use code: SALEAWAY

*J.Crew and J.Crew Factory offer free shipping on all purchases if you sign up for an account. It's not a credit card (just a rewards program with occasional emails -- totally worth it!).

Abercrombie is 40% off site wide.  No code needed.

Banana Republic is 40% off + 10% off.

Enjoy the weekend!  

Style | Workout Clothes from Old Navy

I am the least athletic person ever.  My old friends still laugh about a mishap in our eighth grade science class when, during a review game, the ball missed the net by so much that I accidentally hit Jesus on the crucifix (I went to Catholic School).  Oops!!  Fast forward to my adult life.  I've not gained any abilities in the athletic department.  While my lifestyle is very active, I only do structured workouts because I should.  Needless to say, it takes a good kick in the pants for me to get myself to the gym.  Right now, that kick in the pants happens to be some great wardrobe pieces!  Whatever works, right?!

Part of my routine as a stay-at-home mama has been to work out and then get ready for the day.  All you moms out there know that the struggle is real in trying to get yourself ready for the day one time.  Twice is just too much!  I have to admit, I don't love the whole athleisure trend, but some days, I just need to make it work right now.  Maybe that's what works for you during the week, or maybe you embrace athleisure every weekend.  Whatever the case, if you need some updating, Old Navy has some great,  affordable options.  My collection was pretty sparse (as in, the stained tees that I no longer wear for non-workout days).  I popped into Old Navy and grabbed some new pieces for amazing prices.

I purchased this top because I like having some alternatives to tank tops, especially if I'm going to be running errands, going into my son's school, etc.  It's a little longer, which I like with workout tops.  One of my favorite workout pieces is a sweatshirt moto jacket.  Mine is old, but Old Navy has a really similar version available right now (here, plus size here)!  It's perfect for throwing on as a top layer.  I loved the detail on these pants (plus size here), and they are so soft (as are these, which I also have).  Just know that I would definitely recommend both for lower intensity workouts.  I love this pair for higher intensity.  My sneakers are old, but this similar pair is a great price.  A couple of other pieces I have and love are this sweatshirt and this one (limited sizing because it's on super sale).

top, similar jacket here (plus size here), pants (plus size here),  similar sneakers here


Life | A Day at Sesame Place (or Any Amusement Park) with Little Ones

Every summer, my mom, sister, and I take the kids to Philadelphia to visit family.  There are so many fun family things to do in and around Philly.  We've been to the zoo, the aquarium in nearby Camden, NJ, and, our kids' favorite, Sesame Place.  After tackling Sesame Place for the third time this year sans husbands, I feel qualified to share some helpful tips on how to tackle the day because, let's be honest, while amusements parks can be fun, sometimes they are downright stressful.  For reference, I have a three and a five year old and my sister's girls are seven and ten.

Visit Tuesday through Thursday to avoid weekend (and long weekend) crowds.  Purchase your tickets online ahead of time and arrive before the park opens.  We arrived at 9:30, got a good parking spot, flew through security, applied sunscreen while standing in a not-so-long line to get into the park, and then rode three rides with almost no wait time before the park filled.  Some of this may have been luck, but as they say, the early bird gets the worm!  Speaking of birds... this one was a big hit with my little guy!

What to Bring

I would recommend bringing a stroller whether your kids are young enough to sit in it or not.  It's so nice to have a place for all your gear.  For a full day, you have gear!  Lockers are nice for storing your valuables if the whole family is riding water rides at the same time, but if you follow my advice, all of your gear is not likely to fit in one locker anyway!  Also, I've never felt uncomfortable walking away from our stroller with towels, changes of clothes, water bottles, etc.  We've done that at several amusement parks with no trouble.

Different parks have different policies on food.  Call ahead and ask specific questions.  Sesame Place advertises no picnic lunches, but what they really seem to not want are large coolers.  We had sandwiches in small lunch boxes, chips and other snacks in our backpack, and insulated water bottles full of ice water.  That was perfect!  If they say no picnic lunches, ask if small lunch pails and snacks are allowed.  It's so worth your time to make that phone call!  In the past, we've spent much longer waiting in crowded cafeteria lines!  The only food we bought was ice cream, which the kids ate while sitting on a beach towel, holding our spot/waiting for the parade.  We saved a ton of money and had better quality food.  

I don't do amusement parks without my backpack (similar).  It's perfect for storing my wallet, keys, phone -- basically anything I wouldn't leave in the stroller unattended.  The only time I didn't wear it was when I was on water rides.  We always had at least one person in our group who was able to hold valuables while the others got wet, but if you had the need, you could easily put your backpack in a small locker.  Another alternative would be to wear a waterproof case with your phone, card, cash, etc. 


What to Wear

Avoid changing rooms as much as possible.  They are never very clean.  We wear bathing suits to the park with clothes over the top.  We bring underwear for the kids to change at the end of the day.  My sister and I wore athletic shorts (love these) so they'd dry quickly and we wouldn't need to change ourselves.  This was perfect.  Changing the kids without trying to touch every surface is challenging enough!  I also recommend shoes that can get wet -- "90's sandals" (like Tevas) are perfect for the kids.  My son has this pair, which he can get on and off easily for water slides, but don't come off in the splash/pool areas like flip flops would.  They're also comfortable enough to wear all day.  I pack a sweatshirt wherever I go.  Obviously, you may or may not need to depending on the weather forecast.

My last bit of advice for Sesame Place is to make sure you see the parade.  You have to claim your spot 30 - 45 minutes ahead of time, but if you put down a towel, let the kids sit and have some ice cream, it's worth it to get a good spot. My kids just love it, and they don't even watch Sesame Street.  It's one of the things I enjoy about the park -- shows and the parade offer a chance to sit and have a break from the chaos.

Style | Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

The Nordstrom Anniversary Sale is a huge, once a year sale.  It's unique because the discounts are on brand new merchandise released for the coming season.  This sale allows you to get on trend, new pieces at deeply discounted prices.  It's a good time to buy boots, sweaters, bags, and anything else that you've had your eye on or need for fall.  It's also a great opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping!  The sale ends on August 5th, when all of the items will go back to full price.

There are some really beautiful pieces, and I've rounded up my favorites from all of the different categories.  One of the best parts is that Nordstrom always has free shipping and free returns!

For the Men in Your Life

I chose things that I know my husband would like.  Most of these are available in other colors and/or materials.  My favorites are the Chelsea Boots and monogrammed duffle bag.

For Your Girlfriends, Your Sisters, and Yourself

These are my favorite pieces from the sale!  I can't decide which is my favorite, maybe the booties, but the earrings and Kate Spade Initial Necklace... gorgeous!  I've heard amazing things about the Natori Bra.  It has over 2,000 4 and 5 star reviews and comes in several colors!  I'd like one of each, please!

For the Mama-to-Be

If you have a baby shower coming up or are preparing for your own little bundle, there are some beautiful baby items, both big ticket (hello, discounted double jogger!) and small gifts alike.

For Your Favorite Little Guy

There's nothing I love more for my boys than clothes that make them look like little boys!  I think stripes are pretty much the cutest thing to put on them.  I know they won't let me dress them forever, so they wear a lot of stripes!  Luckily for me, they pretty much wear whatever I pick out for them without a complaint.  My five year old, however, does love to wear athletic shorts as often as I'll let him.

And Your Best Little Gal

For all the little girls in your life, there are some adorable pieces.  If my nieces were little enough, they'd be getting this Patagonia fleece or maybe these, the cutest little Uggs I've ever seen!

For the Home

It's not just clothes and shoes on sale.  There are so many amazing pieces for the home, including rugs, throws (hello, coziness!), and beautiful accent pieces.  This is where you could grab gifts for the teachers, the in-laws, or yourself!

Beauty Products

Last, there are some great deals on beauty.  My first choice is the Aveda Must-Haves Set.  Whenever I use Aveda products, I feel like I'm at the spa.  They all smell so good!  I also love the smell of Philosophy products, and they make great gifts!

Style | Starry Night Top + What to Wear to a Class Reunion

My husband has a class reunion coming up this summer.  I'm really excited to go.  We started dating a few weeks before his 10 year reunion, and, in a flash, the best 10 years of my life have passed!  It will be fun because we keep in touch with a lot of his high school friends, and, coincidentally, my sister graduated high school with my husband, so she'll be attending!!

Going to a class reunion, everyone wants to look nice and put together, but it's not the time to take fashion risks.  Who wants to have a fashion faux pas with people they haven't seen in 10+ years?!  Comfort is important.  Don't grab that dress that rides up or down or sideways!  Obviously, you want to take venue into consideration.  For us, it's going to be at a nice restaurant, but we're from a small town where there isn't a lot of fashion risk taking in general, so I'm going a little more casual.

I loved this top the second I saw it (also available in petite and similar plus size)!  For reference, I got the petite XS, and I'm 5'3" and weigh about 110.  The model is shown wearing it with white on the bottom, and it looks so pretty!  Navy is such a classic color, and while I'm not normally drawn to prints, I love the subtle stars.  It also covers a little of the backside.  Even with a petite, it has some length.  That's a great feature, especially for evening.

I don't have a white skirt, but white shorts and jeans, I can do!  I chose these white jeans for our evening event but also plan to wear it with white shorts for a daytime graduation party.  I love a versatile piece (this one could also function as a work shirt)!  These block heels are still available in some sizes, and I found a really similar pair, too.  For jewelry, I went with these earrings and a delicate necklace.  I love this one!  My bracelet is old, but this bracelet is a great option.

If you're looking for a dress, this one would be beautiful with all the same accessories and shoes (just trying to make your life easy)!  And, for more ideas on what to wear to your reunion, check out this post by one of my favorite bloggers.

Easy Meals | Fish Tacos with Trader Joe's

My husband and I LOVE Mexican food, and we're lucky enough to have several really good restaurants close to where we live.  One of our favorite dishes is fish tacos.  If you live anywhere near Rochester, New York, you have to try them (or anything else) at Selena's and Rio Tomatlan!

I'm not claiming that today's meal formula is in any way close to what they serve at these two amazing restaurants, but we think it's a pretty good at-home, easy weeknight meal alternative.  Even if Trader Joe's isn't where you do your regular grocery shopping, it's worth it to go occasionally.  They have so many delicious and unique choices.  If you don't live anywhere near a Trader Joe's, you can most likely find similar equivalents at your local grocery store, but I can't promise the same delicious outcome!

This meal has only three ingredients: fish, salad topper, and wraps.  These tilapia filets are in the frozen section, and they have just the right amount of crunch for fish tacos.  Simply mix the corn and quinoa salad (found in the refrigerated section) earlier in the day to let the dressing soak in a bit.  Bake the fish, add a few heaping spoonfuls of the salad on top, and you have a delicious fish taco!


Style | Striped Espadrilles

Sharing my outfits on this blog has made me realize that I'm pretty traditional and my closet is full of neutrals.  I don't take a lot of fashion risks with colors and styles, but I know what I like, and I'm okay with that!  If you're like me in that regard (which I assume you are to some extent if you read this blog) you need something to add flare to your outfits.  That said, I think a plain outfit is just fine sometimes, too!  I often find the flare I'm looking for in the form of shoes.

These striped espadrilles are just adorable!  They're black and white (one of my favorite classic combinations) and add pizazz to an otherwise plain outfit.  I found them to run true to size.  I paired them here with a simple black t-shirt dress (similar here) and denim jacket (similar here).  Here is my bag (the dupe of this).  You could wear these espadrilles with shorts, skirts, jeans, or dresses.  Being able to wear a piece in many different ways is always something I consider when purchasing something new.

shoes (also available here + here), similar dress here + here, similar denim jacket here + here, bag (original version here)

Life | Father's Day Gift Guide

Father' Day is next weekend, and it's time to start thinking about how to make that day special for your dad, grandpa, husband, etc.  I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by the very best, but in my experience,  they are the toughest to shop for!  I enlisted the help of the dads in my life and developed gift guides for all of them.

The New Dad
My cousin has an infant, and he had some great suggestions.  I'll start with my favorite, this Papa + Baby Bear shirt set.  Adorable!  He also suggested a good whiskey (for obvious reasons), a manly cookbook, and a chess set (since he's now spending a lot more time at home -- and let's be honest, little babies don't do a whole lot, so why not learn a new hobby?!).  Last is a book full of great information that he found especially helpful as a dad who was as clueless as they come.  #heknowsitstrue

The Musician
My husband is a musician, and he knows his stuff!  I can't speak to his suggestions because I am not a musician.  To give you a little background, he is formally trained in classical guitar and can play several other instruments, so he knows what a musician would like!  This is what he suggested: his favorite guitar strings, a variety pack of guitar picks he uses and lovesa speaker for a lover of music (musician or not!)a tuner, and his favorite guitar cables.

The Intellect
My dad is the hardest to shop for.  He doesn't value things as much as he does learning and experiences.  So my suggestion for a dad you're trying to shop for in this category is to search classes (my sisters and I have taken cooking classes with my dad in the past), small trips (we once traveled together to his hometown -- such a treasured memory), theater tickets (this year we're taking him to a musical), or books!  Here are some ideas, inspired by what I found on his bookshelf: my dad's all time favoritefor the history bufffor a reader braver than me!, and a new release.

The Traveler / Tech Lover
My brother-in-law is a traveler and lover of all things techy.  He's been all over the world, and here's what he'd love: adapter for international travelnoise cancelling headphones, electronics organizer, laptop backpack, and luggage organizers.  

Style | Memorial Day Sales

The Memorial Day sales are in full swing.  Here's what I've found!

L.L.Bean doesn't do deep discounts or frequently offer site wide sales, so now is a good time to grab items you've been eyeing.  Their products are high quality and made to last.  They're offering 20% off today.  Use code SUMMER20.

Abercrombie has 40% everything.  No code needed.  They are so good at doing pretty.

J.Crew has 40% off and free shipping!  Sale items are priced as marked, but there are still some really great prices in the sale section.  Use code GETAWAY.  Also, the dress from this post is available in some sizes right now!

Gap is doing 40% off + 10% off + free shipping with codes BEST and MEMDAY.  Here I found kids' clothes, because I think theirs are the cutest and comfiest for my boys!

LOFT has free shipping on all orders + 40% off of full priced items + 50% off of sale items.  Here are my favorites.

Enjoy your Memorial Day!  I hope it brings you picnics, water, good food, friends, and family!

Style | Red, White, and Blue for Memorial Day

Memorial Day weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year.  It's a weekend of celebration, as my birthday always falls somewhere around it.   It's the unofficial start of summer -- woohoo!!!  Of course, most importantly, it's a day to remember our servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

In the fashion department, it's time to bring out all your red, white, and blue!  My closet is full of white and blue (mostly navy, but that works).  I'm lacking red.  Actually, I don't own one piece of red clothing!  I'm more of a neutrals gal.  I usually don't do colors that pop, so I found this adorable neckerchief for under $10 to add just the right amount of red to my outfit.  I tied it to my bag (similar), but it would also be perfect worn around your neck or as a headband.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again that casual dresses are probably my favorite summer pieces.  There is nothing easier than only needing to throw on one article of clothing!  The dress I'm wearing here is sold out (I have seen it pop up now and then over the past few weeks on super sale on J.Crew's website, if you want to keep checking back).  Otherwise, I found some great options of blue and white striped dresses.

This dress is very casual, which fits for a busy mom on a holiday weekend.  I'll be chasing my boys around outside for much of the weekend!  Anyone else?  It would also be a great beach cover up.  This similar option is a budget friendly at under $20.  If it's going to be hot where you live, try a tank version.  Last, here is a dressier striped dress for the fancier picnics.

Have an amazing weekend!  If you want to take advantage of the sales that will be happening for the holiday, check back this weekend.  I'll share the sales and my favorite pieces.

Life | College Care Packages

During my college years, when I lived away from home, I always loved getting mail.  I liked letters of course, but the best was when a packa...