I love having company over dinner because it gives me an excuse to make appetizers, cook a tasty meal, and - maybe my favorite of all - set the table.  I may have gone a little overboard with the color on this table, but yeah, the ornament tree with giant pearly hearts and colored mirror balls is pretty overboard on its own.  I buy decor and linens here and there and then like to piece them together into different color schemes for completely different looks.  I'm quite proud of my buttercup yellow tablecloth and napkins that I picked up from Kiwanis for $2.  The blue china taper holders are a gift passed down from my grandmother.  The pink-toned votives were a cheap buy from Ikea.  The hanging candle votives I bought from a school fundraiser through Yankee Candle.  The pink thumbprint glasses and fiesta plates are from resale shops.  It's a fair mix of things bought new and used.  It's a pretty funky, groovy table.  Like a birthday party crossed with Cinco de Mayo crossed with a Dr. Seuss book.  I'm all for it.  Apparently.  Since my outfit is right there with the tables in terms of color.  
I always make an appetizer if we're having guests over for dinner.  It gives people something to snack on while we all mingle and while Kyle and I finish preparing dinner.  That way, dinner doesn't have to be ready the minute people walk in the door.  For this night's appetizer, I was inspired by my post on Zingerman's jarred tapas.  Tasty briny treats straight out of the jar or can with no prep required.  Since I am on a budget here, I bought my tapas from World Market instead of Zingerman's.  Granted, they don't have the variety - or the quality either, probably - but they had enough of a selection to choose from at good prices.  

We picked up these tangy jarred cherry peppers stuffed with cheese.  They have a sweet and sour flavor, and you pop them right in your mouth.  We also picked up a small tub of olive bruschetta, and I made freshly baked flatbread to go with it.  Lastly, we bought some Spanish chorizo and sliced it into thin rounds.  It was a very Mediterranean, spicy, and flavorful spread of snacks.  We served it with a sparkling orange wine in old fashioned glasses with a skewers of green olives.  The salty, briny appetizers served as a nice contrast from the creamy dinner dish that followed.
For dinner we had sole baked in a white wine cream sauce from Julia Child's cookbook.  We baked the fish on a bed of fresh green beans and poured the sauce on top.  To cut through the creaminess, we served stewed tomatoes alongside.  We paired dinner with a juicy rose wine (this is a good pick for people who don't necessarily like wine or who prefer sweeter wines) and a crisp chardonnay.
Our guests brought peach pie and ice cream for dessert to top off the meal.  And then it was time for cards and watching the Olympics...
I buy fashion magazines when I go on road trips because they're eye candy.  I've never really come across anything and thought "I want that!" because I can never visualize myself wearing the fashions, and plus, I could never afford any of its anyways.  I picked up the latest Vogue on our trip up north camping and was flipping through mindlessly, stopping once to drool over some glittering Louis Vuitton bags - that, let's face it, are never gonna happen -, and stopped dead at an Oscar de la Renta ad. 
Pink!  Powder blue!  Vintage 40s-50s styling!  Baroque jewelry!  Lace!  Chiffon!  Florals!  Girly (and excessively so)!  So to Oscar de la Renta's website I went for the first time ever.  
Pink lace skirt?  $3,000?  Oh, no problem.  Powder blue dress adorned with a brooch?  $3,000?  Yeah, no prob.  Ahahaha.  Not sure what I was expecting.  I suppose if the prices were closer within reach, it would just make not having them worse.  But I'm not interested in running up a huge line of credit.  So I decided to search for a similar look...for much, much less.

 I've purchased a lot of clothes this summer, so buying a whole new outfit would have made me feel guilty.  I needed to keep it to one article of clothing.  And instantly, I knew.  Georgina on Cupcake's Clothes recently modeled a pink and white eyelet skirt from ASOS Curve.  I'm always on the hunt for pink, so I checked out ASOS.  The skirt was on sale for $15.  I ordered it, thinking I had some pink and white tanks and cardis I could wear interchangeably with it, and hoped all would be well.

A week later, it showed up.  The underlay is hot coral, but the white eyelet masks the overlay enough to dull it to appear bubble-gum pink.  To give it a few of the Oscar de la Renta touches that I loved on the runway, I tied my cardigan at the bottom to mirror the cropped style of the capelet, pinned on a flower brooch, and strung a ton of charms onto my necklace to make more of a statement (although it still seems a little underwhelming compared to the oversized globs of jewels on the models).

It's certainly no Oscar de la Renta, but it's a fun, feminine look with all of the pink and girlieness that I loved about the ad.  I'd typically never wear a cardigan this way, but I think it works for this look.  And when I wear it, I can pretend I'm wearing the real thing, because pretending is as close as I'm ever going to get.  And I'm okay with that.  I won't go into debt that way.       

White Cami - Lane Bryant
Pink Cardi - Dress Barn
Skirt - ASOS Curve
Shoes - Thrifted
Clutch & Brooch - Etsy
Necklace - Most charms from Brighton
Wearing the outfit over to a friend's house for dindin
Early in our relationship, Kyle and I spent a Saturday with my parents so they could get to know each other.  Being the crafty lady she is, my mom had the idea of us all writing down things on slips of paper that we'd like to do in the surrounding area.  We each tossed our slips of paper in a hat and jumped in the car.  My dad pulled "Kensington" and off to the park for walking the trails and going on the paddle boats it was.  Back in the, we pulled another slip, and off we went.  ...And so on...

It was a brilliantly fun idea and something we haven't done since.  On Saturday, Kyle and I had the whole day together with no errands to run.  This would have been perfectly ideal were we not totally indecisive.  So, we picked a city: Ann Arbor.  And we wrote out 10 or so slips of paper with things we'd be interested in doing and tossed them in the bowl...  

...got sidetracked for a minute to snap a few photos...
Pink tee - Anthropologie *** Black reversible v-neck or round-neck tank - Anthropologie *** Black pencil skirt - Lane Bryant *** Black patent leather flats - Calvin Klein *** Pink clutch - vintage
...and then we hopped in the car, ready to draw our first excursion:
World Market is a fun store that sells gifts, home decor, food, wine, and tableware inspired by countries all over the map.  We picked up some some gifts, jarred tapas like I wrote about in my earlier Zingerman's post, and some wine.  (I ended up serving them as appetizers the following night when we had my parents over for dinner which will be in my next post.)  Plus, we lucked upon a free wine tasting.  What a lucky first draw!

Into the car and out of the bowl came:
We love bowling.  We're not great at it.  Kyle is decent at it.  I'm...eh...probably pretty pathetic at it, but it's fun.  I'm happy if I score over 100 if that gives you an idea of my skill level.  We lucked out again with $0.99 games, and we have our own shoes, so $6 for an hour or so of bowling was pretty excellent.  
And then back to the car to await the bowl's next command:

Pinball Pete's is an arcade on U of M campus.  Old school arcade games like PacMan and Tetris, DDR, shooting games, ski-ball, air hockey, and on and on.  Speaking of air hockey...we are super competitive.  It gets ugly.  I have to watch my language.  The puck goes flying off the table.  People should really keep at a distance.  

Well, a mother and young son were playing four tables down, and when they finished, came to stand and watch us.  Really?  You really want us setting an example for your son?  Screaming, getting inventive with cussing so we're not really cussing, slamming our hand-guarded fist down onto the table, knocking the puck off the table as it soars and smashes against the wall?

Well, they didn't watch for long because apparently the mother didn't think we were great examples either.  There's a reason we're playing at the very back table as far out of the public eye as possible.  Getting intensely competitive about air hockey is sad.  But it's who we are.
Then we hit the Brown Jug, another campus staple, for a drink as we watched the Olympics on their TVs.  They also have a crazy lengthy list of shooters and cocktails to choose from.  

And then back to the car for our next draw...

The Prickly Pear.  Favorite.  Restaurant.  Ever.  Right downtown in Ann Arbor, delish southwestern-seafood fare, and the gold standard gold margarita.  They added a shrimp-queso-spinach dip to their menu which was super yum.  I had spinach and cheese enchiladas and Kyle had the crabcakes.  Portions are always ginormous, so you're guaranteed lunch leftovers the next day.

BHLDN has such romantic, dreamy, quirky, vintage-inspired pieces.  I adore the soft, powdery hues and the special touches of beading, lace, and ruffles.  Had BHLDN existed when I was a bride, I imagine these things would have been on my list: 
But I really shouldn't shoulda/coulda/woulda about our wedding day, as it was just lovely just the same:
I digress...back to BHLDN.  I simply love their look.  And for more than just weddings.  I dream of a "BHLDN for the Everyday" type-line.  I suppose Anthropologie comes close to fitting the bill, but I'd love to see more muted colors, more romance, more understated whimsy.  But I suppose I'd like to see those things in all clothing lines just because that's my style.  And so I went web-window shopping to see if I could put together some "BHLDN-Type Looks for the Everyday" from each of these three shops: Anthropologie, Lane Bryant, and IGIGI:


The outfit from Anthropologie was easiest to put together, perhaps because they're so closely tied with BHLDN.  I love this first dress.  It's nearly identical to the Flared Caraz Dress that I reviewed here.  (It also recently came out in a navy print that I snatched up as well since I loved the pink printed one so much.)  This Frothed Dots Dress is an inch shorter than the Flared Caraz and the skirt isn't as flouncy, but everything else appears the same.  It comes in three colors: pink, green, and navy.  I picked the pink because it's the softest and most feminine.  It would look lovely with pearls or rose gold...or any of the things I've posted beneath it!
Frothed Dots Dress $158
Ribbon Wrapped Ballet Flats $80
Looking Glass Earrings $32
Evolution Ball Necklace $38
Precisionist Belt $38
Frayed Bow Satchel $168

Lane Bryant

I wanted to apply this challenge to Lane Bryant just because I do so much shopping there and feel a certain loyalty to the store after working there for several years.  They don't have a lot of formal items or vintage-romantic items, but they do have a lot of staples and basic trends.  So my Lane Bryant outfit is definitely an everyday outfit with just a couple of the elements I love about BHLDN thrown in: the muted colors, the sequin embellishments, and the playful, flouncy ruffle around the hem of the top.  The skirt is a great staple and the neutral pumps would go with anything.  So while it's not a super stellar outfit on its own, the various pieces have a lot of versatility.  
Elastic Waist Sequin Top $50
Refined Denim Pencil Skirt $30
Double Stick Drop Earrings $11
Patent Wedge Heel $60


IGIGI was the most challenging of all simply because their current lines have such a distinct style: bold colors; figure skimming shapes or flouncy, flirty shapes; exotic patterns and prints, etc.  Their clothing has a lot of energy and sass while still managing to be feminine and pretty.  My biggest struggle was finding an article of clothing in a pastel or muted color.  I picked the Cora dress, and it's one I haven't paid much attention to when I've browsed the site.  I'm glad I gave it another look.  

On a side note, I love that IGIGI offers quick videos the the models moving in the dresses so you can see the flow of the garment, how it falls on the body, what body types it looks good on, the color in a different light, etc.  It's so helpful!  I also like that they provide the size that the model is wearing as well as the model's height.  It just gives shoppers a better idea of how the garment is going to look on them.  I wish more stores did that!  

Anyways, on to the outfit.  I'm not thrilled with it.  I could definitely come up with something better from IGIGI with different outfit criteria, but this is it for now:
Cora Dress $112
Cicely Necklace $58
Gemma Minaudiere in Hazelnut $62
So obviously I'm really into the romantic, vintage, pastel, feminine, sweet, billowy, Marie-Antoinette-esque look right now.  What sort of looks and trends are you into at the moment?
I have missed my style blog!  I've been vacationing and developing my online classes for the fall, and updating my blog just hasn't worked into that schedule.  I've found tons of great web tools to share on my classroom blog, but again, all of my focus has been on figuring out ways to use them in my classroom, not documenting and sharing them on my blog.  Ah well.  I'll catch up soon enough.

Early in July, Kyle and I took a trip with his family to Tennessee.  The outlet malls there are crazy cheap.  I bought five dresses for $100.  That's less than I'd pay for one dress at Anthropologie!  Granted, the quality isn't quite as good and I'm not as in love with them as the items I splurge on at Anthro (otherwise I wouldn't splurge on them), but...they make for fun additions to my closet.  The one pictured below is from the Vanity Fair Outlet.  $20.  The shape of it is a bit out of my norm...the big batwing top with shoulder cut-outs.  Plus it's a bit short.  But I'm trying to branch out.  And the purple color is really pretty, and I don't have much else that color in my closet.  

I've worn it once already with purple earrings and Steve Madden sandals with rainbow colored jewels all over them.  Very matchy-matchy.  I would never never never have paired the purple with the pumpkin-brown shades.  I had been trying on a printed navy and brown dress and the shoes and belt matched the brown shade perfectly.  I stripped off the navy dress to try on the purple one, and I left the shoes on.  And because the belt matched the shoes, I tried on the belt with it.  It worked okay, but I needed some accessories to tie it all together.  I pulled out the necklace which was my grandmother's and that I think I've worn once, and it all came together.  A dress style I wouldn't normally wear.  A color combo I wouldn't even think to pair.  And a necklace passed down from my grandmother to top it all off.
And then it was off to a going-away party: Grizzly Peak Brewing in Ann Arbor for some local brews and appetizers.  Homemade soft pretzels dipped in cheddar ale sauce?  Yes, please!