Happy New Year! How are we all feeling out there in the world? I generally find that I feel a bit down in January, the weather is darker, the holidays are over and I’m looking for that elusive new year surge of energy that never seems to hit. So if that’s you, let it be, because it does pass and fighting it doesn’t usually work. (This is a guest post by my sister Joanie.)
At the end of the last year my job of almost 10 (!!) years ended. I thought that I might feel sad or anxious about ending something that has been such a part of my identity for the last decade, and I do feel bits of that but mostly I feel excited. I feel a lightness and a new energy for my occupational future. I’ve spent my entire career working very closely with women who have founded their own businesses. The experience has been truly invaluable and shaped my life in more ways than I can count but it was also a crutch for me to focus outside of myself. It feels really nice to be on my own and I’m excited for what’s ahead.
Anyways, let’s talk clothes! I think January is a good time to take stock of your wardrobe, to donate/sell what’s not working, store away some of the summer clothes you might not be using, make sure your hangers are all facing the same direction and stack and fold your jeans. It can be fun to scan through your phone and look at pictures of yourself last year. Do any outfits stand out to you that you loved? Any looks that really felt like you? In my experience, we can be really hard on ourselves when a photo is first taken and then you’ll look back on it in a few months or a year and think, “wow, I look amazing!”.
I’ve been really enjoying the coat and boot days of my California winter. Los Angeles in the winter is actually style heaven. It never gets cold enough to truly need heavy winter gear but you can wear those light cold weather looks daily. I’ve been wearing this cashmere sweater that I love multiple times a week. I also love it in the gray color. It was a Christmas gift and is on super sale right now. Did you get anything you loved for Christmas? I got several things I’m excited about, one of them being the Dyson Airwrap! If you know me, this is pretty big deal considering the fact that I haven’t blow dried my hair in at least ten years. The price tag is pretty nuts but I have to say it has been living up to its reputation. It dries my hair so insanely fast and it honestly looks like I got a blow out every single time.
I generally like to start the year out by not really buying anything for the first couple months. The post-holiday spending burn out is real and I feel like I can’t think clearly. But, I’ve succumbed to a couple of sale purchases. First, the Everlane sale is really good. This one that I’ve linked to before and loved is on sale. Please hand wash and lay it flat to try! It will shrink.
Second, I ordered this blazer. It was honestly sort of an impulse purchase but I saw it and fell in love. I’ve been on a big blazer kick. I got this one for my birthday and have been wearing it non-stop. You can throw it on with basically any pants + t-shirt combo and instantly look polished. For blazers, sizing is really going to depend on your shoulders. Your shoulders are really what’s holding the blazer and giving it shape on your body. Since my shoulders are on the broader side I almost always order up.
king & tuckfield
My commitment this year remains the same, to buy fewer, better pieces, and to prioritize buying second-hand. I think making a list of things you feel like your closet is missing is a good way to make focused purchases throughout the year. My list would include a great black belt (I love Anderson’s and have this classic black one on my wishlist), a great pair of loafers which unfortunately for me happens to be very expensive pair, and some interesting blouses/tops like this one. I think we’re going to see a return to the cardigan worn as a top this year. The lightweight ones that people wear mostly buttoned. It’s very 90’s and I happen to love the look so I’m excited. This Madewell one is a good example of the look.
I recently re-watched Under the Tuscan Sun which is far from a classic film but I absolutely adore Diane Lane’s style in it. It’s really fun and inspiring to pull up a film where you love one of the character’s style. You can watch and ask yourself why you’re drawn to certain things. The length of the dress paired with those boots, the oversized blouse that’s half tucked into men’s pants, the 40’s inspired dress fitted with a belt at the waist. You might have something in your closet that you re-think when you see a version of it styled in a different way than you normally wear it. Or, it might open your eyes to something you’ve never worn but want to try. There is so much that goes into creating a character’s style in movies and it’s fun to watch that aspect closely and see how it tells its own story.
This week I made Alison Roman’s lasagna x 3, in one big batch. I wanted to make a pan of lasagna to drop off at “winter camp,” the occasional weekend camp that our two older girls go to–skating, sledding, skiing, being cold, watching movies, drinking cocoa, sleeping over, basically the best of winter in a weekend (the kids are asked to be vaccinated, test negative, and wear masks when playing together indoors). I wanted to make a pan for a friend who had surgery a few weeks ago. And I wanted a pan for my family. I have actually never made lasagna for my family. I have never been intrigued by it. But after listening to Alison make it while I was doing other kitchen tasks, I was into it. (I think watching her handle the noodles and keep them from sticking was the most reassuring part to me.) And it was so. good. Yum. And it fed us for three nights–I’m sold! (Recipe; Youtube edition)
My sisters-in-law, sister, and I had an interesting discussion over the holiday about Alison Roman coming back from being cancelled. Given that she apologized for her in-poor-taste comments within 24hrs of the publication of them, it feels crazy that abruptly afterward she lost everything she had, career-wise. Being cancelled/crowd-mobbed-criticized seems inevitable these days, so watching someone lose their career and then restart it as her own thing feels like joining her post-apocalyptic, in a relaxing way. (This long New Yorker article summarizes it, if you missed the whole thing.)
Speaking of cookbooks, gardening podcaster Margaret Roach occasionally interviews baking hero Alexandra Stafford to get Alexandra’s take on new cookbooks. The interview is delightful, and the recommended cookbooks are always gems.
It’s been in the teen digits here lately, so cold, so I’m wandering around in knitwear and Joe and I often find ourselves in same sweatshirts from day to day. It’s still so important to get outside though; I’m thankful for whatever excuses we can come up with to do that and the random extended opportunities like the “wild” church service my friend holds outside once a month at her house. I’m always surprised by how quickly we acclimate to the temperature, as long as we are dressed warmly. We began our first week back to homeschooling after the holiday break and I felt like our brains were in birds-take-flight mode. We could handle in an hour attention span together and then needed long breaks in between. Our community day with classical conversations was as near to chaos as one could imagine. I found refuge in a few trips to the library for wanderlust-inspired reading about the Balkans, diving back into cooking for the family, and tucking into bed early.
photo of lasagna (not mine) by betainflight
The week after New Years found me and the girls staying at friend’s condo on the marina in Naples. The sun poured in through the windows first thing in the morning; the white plastic deck chairs on the porch basked in the humid breeze. While the girls slept on the pullout couch, I would make a cup of coffee on the machine that was nearly instant and piping hot and pour Esme a bowl of cereal. Around 10am there was a gentle clinking outside the windows as two female bartenders prepped their poolside marina bar for the day’s customers. There was very little for the girls to do indoors in between the trips to the beach and pool; they unpacked and repurposed the bits of fabric and toys from their backpacks over and over again, turning coffee tables and ottomans into homes for their favored stuffed animals. We sat outside at a restaurant on the water with a margarita special (happy hour specials don’t exist in New England) and a kid’s menu that included dessert and drink. We walked to the restaurant and the girls wore flip-flops, a new shoe style for them; I could only sympathize with the painful first ever flip-flop blister-to-callus process. I bought a few grocery snacks (food costs at Publix made me feel we have it good in Vermont, surprisingly!) that could work as meals, spending no time on dishes or meal prep. It was sunny escape and a chance to see old friends following an intensive few weeks of holiday-at-home life; unexpectedly I found myself with time for reflecting on the last year. I thought through a prompt that Allie included in her recent newsletter:
“I made a list of the top 10 relationships in my life and how I can show up.
I made a list of all the teeny tiny things that frustrate me regularly. One of them was that my laptop charger only works if the battery pack is tilted at a 45 degree angle. And then I made a plan to fix it.” -Allie Lehman [link to sign up]
This week for the first time we took advantage of the fact that we live within a short drive of several ski hills. Why wait three years, you may ask. Because this was the first year it worked! Age is a funny thing–it makes all the difference in a parent’s calculation of what might work. These past three winters even the prospect of one parent going with two girls and one parent staying home with two, though it would have “worked,” has not been how we wanted to spend our weekends.
But now, on a weekday, two girls are old enough to ski (together) alone at a ski hill small enough for them to come and find me at the base when they need. One girl is old enough to take a group lesson in the morning and then sit with me by the fire while her sisters ski.
Things like this take an enormous amount of prepping, schlepping and encouraging, and this year was the first year it sounded both fun and doable to me. Looking back, I would have said to myself, “good job mom, you’re making the right decision to wait.” (Both the girls are wearing Reima one piece snowsuits. We initially tried that style with just one kid and she was always warmer than the kids with two-pieces, so we’ve migrated toward that for everyone. Reima is mostly sold out by now but, just a note for next year.)
I also like to take a “first pancake” approach any of these endeavors that walk the line between experiment and investment. You’re trying it and it doesn’t quite work out the first time, but that does not mean it was a bad idea to make pancakes. Each time they get a little better. For example, on our first snow/sledding day this year, each of the girls was crying at one point or another. The week’s First Pancake ski day involved almost an hour of coaching one of the girls through getting dressed for adventure. It was twenty degrees outside and estimated to feel like fourteen degrees, we were going to be there for three hours at least; the right clothing was a nonnegotiable. Each layer was a struggle, and even after my slowest most patient cajoling, she almost bailed at the last moment. But we survived, she had a wonderful morning, and left so proud of her accomplishments. So yes! It was a good idea to make pancakes.
I slipped into my 2022 reading with a reread, the only-gets-better-each-time Circe. A wonderful story, like the most lush picnic of ancient stories paired with modern perspective and sprinkled with feminine wiles. A couple of people posted their year in review reading lists (1, 2, 3,), I always like to see those. I myself end up making a digital one, just jotting them down on a draft in my gmail, but there is something wonderful about the written list. I finished last year’s reading with Oh Beautiful World Where Are You? and the nonfiction Truffle Hound. Loved both. Happy January! I’m hoping to be here a bit more often this year.
Interior days. Gray skies, crisp cold grass, damp weather. Made a soup and didn’t like it. It’s time I admitted I can really only eat beets with a vinaigrette. I have a spiral bound book of soup recipes my grandmother loved, I should have started with those recipes, rather than a random one from online. The trouble is, I get distracted: merrily cobbling a soup together without examining the recipe closely because I’m always thinking about the bread that will come with the soup: flaky buttermilk biscuits, crispy olive oil croutons, cornbread with honey.
So, didn’t like the soup. Composted it. I’ve found that one of the great joys of composting is flinging food that didn’t work out on to it, the best regift. I do see the genius of soups though; why my grandmother loved it for lunch and had it almost every day. Often times you get in four to six vegetables in one go. And it’s so elegant…somehow.
I continue to reflect on what ten years of parenting has meant, since we passed that turn around the sun this summer, in July. Where it has brought us. How we have changed. Especially: which roles have faded somewhat, and the new ones that have emerged. I’m working on a “ten thoughts for ten years,” but concrete descriptions of the whole thing elude me. They roll away from me like yarn in this case. Having everyone in the house all the time forces the roles of each parent-child stage to be more transparent. They watch how things go with one another. My parenting of one child seems strange to the other children, as it is not age-appropriate to them. I see one needing a project, a chore, and a walk. I see another needing an hour of working together over a paper. I see one tucked away, listening to an audiobook, happy just for a snack now and then. Sometimes the girls demand that they be treated equally in all things and it’s just so awkward. It doesn’t work.
One challenge of this stage is taking on the role of severe matron. Taking it all so seriously–watching for squabbles, registering the temperature of the moods, keeping tabs on the bottomless groceries, and laundry and clutter. I find myself correcting more than laughing.
Midst-reflection (as a result of?) I’m backing up all of my photos and videos. Ten years of parenting–it is far too much for any laptop to manage blithely. I prefer laptop actions to be lithe and swift; the photos are holding us back. So I’m putting them on a hard drive, plus uploading them to the cloud (amazon, all the clouds seemed shaped as amazon these days), and seeing them sorted under a different algorithm, with ones I haven’t seen in forever popping up. I can’t believe how few photographs and videos I took of our first baby. Evidently Rachael in 2011 could go days, weeks, without bothering to take a photo. Compared to the hundreds…it’s definitely escalated. I bought my first iphone when I was pregnant in 2010; actually, I had to leave the store mid-purchase because I was about to faint and I had not figured out how to manage the pregnant metabolism, aside from wondering if the At&t guy had an orange juice in the back. I did get the phone in the end, and the photos followed. I think we’re all better photographers than we were before instagram, we don’t give ourselves enough credit. Staring at screens and thousands of photos has payed off, a bit.
Though I am now playing nursemaid to them, shepherding them gently from one maternal cloud to another, I am grateful for the photographs and especially the videos, wow. The videos of a three-year-old talking to a one-year-old. A two-year-old telling me something, only translatable by my repeating it back on video. Of dancing. Walking. Laughing. Tense facial expressions while having their face painted. Passing time in an apartment on a dingy carpet that only a few of them remember now. Some of the value comes from the “this is how it was” feeling that I want to share with the kids when we watch these together. This is how it was–we just hung out a lot, and tried to eat and sleep on time, you were a little confusing, and I was never sure what you wanted.
In the super sweet and startling memoir Everything Sad is Untrue, Daniel Nayeri declares, “The patchwork story is the shame of the refugee.” He misses all the things his mom couldn’t bring with them when they fled Iran. He misses the end of a childhood reminisce, and the middle of a story his grandfather would tell. He misses the photos and the old bedsheets. He writes so clearly of this missing-heartache into his book, you can’t help but clutch your trove of complete memories with gratitude, to say nothing of fancy photo books or bobbling framed smiles.
I didn’t really make Christmas or Birthday lists until I married my husband, and like clockwork every year my mother-in-law asks me for my list. And then when Christmas roles around I genuinely feel shocked and excited when I get to open up everything I’ve wanted and forgot I had asked for. My mom always gives us money to buy something we like for our birthday but often I’d end up putting it into my bank account and never spending it on something that felt like a gift. So now, I’m a fan of the list. I like to ask for things that I wouldn’t normally buy myself. The nice face oil, a gift card for a massage, totally unnecessary but fun tennis skirt, a membership to a wine club, pink dutch oven, +$100 pair of sneakers, a face mask that’s overpriced but really works; things that aren’t required but that are fun. Isn’t that what a gift should be?
I keep a note on my iPhone of ideas throughout the year. Things I see and love but don’t buy because they aren’t needed or feel indulgent. Here are some things on my list!
[This is a guest style post by my sister Joanie. Links are affiliate where applicable. Thank you Joanie!]
It’s fun to ask for experience gifts. I got a facial membership one year from my mom and it was such a treat and felt like the gift that kept on giving. My aunt gives me a case of champagne for my birthday and I look forward to it every year. We share it with lots of people and it’s fun to have a bottle on hand to open on a random Wednesday. I also love Helen’s Wine Club she has the best taste and was the first person who really got me into wine. She’s a wealth of knowledge and has a great wine club! Also, a coffee club is an excellent gift that keeps on giving! Go Get Em Tiger is a local favorite of ours that ships. (Editor’s note: Carrier Roasting is a Vermont brand that we love that ships as well.)
Radiance Face Oil
Every year I get a bottle of the radiance face oil from True Botanicals. They have a Black Friday sale that brings the price down and (in my opinion) it’s the best face oil out there.
I got a set of these glasses for my birthday last year and love them. Upgrading your barware is definitely not a need but makes hosting cocktails with your neighbors more fun.
Add this absolutely unnecessary but beautiful Dutch oven to your list. Cooking with color is more fun!
I highly recommend these sweatpants. They were on my Christmas list three years ago and I wore them so much and have since told about 10 people to buy a pair. They are something I wouldn’t buy myself because of the $$ but they are worth it. So comfortable and cute for running outside to walk the dog or a quick stop at the grocery store. I think investing in great sleep/lounge ware is underrated! (Editor’s note: my sister-in-law Hannah and I have both given these sweatpants are early postpartum lounge wear. The waist can be worn high or low. They are much loved.)
I don’t play tennis enough to need a tennis skirt but it sure does make playing more fun. I got this for my birthday this year and love it. So chic!
This sweater was on my birthday list this year and I have barely taken it off since I got it. I sized up (normally a small and got a medium) and i would say it’s really oversized so maybe stick with your normal size unless you want it big.
A bag that you’d never buy for yourself. Most of us carry a purse every single day so having something you love to carry is well worth it. I have a yellow crossbody bag that I wear all the time and even though the color might seem hard to coordinate with it mixes surprisingly well with many things. I love this one by Mansur, this beautiful blue woven bag by Clare V, this silver option is the perfect day and night bag, and my dream wishlist item, Celine, this one is stunning.
lightening paw perfume
fly by jing
Perfume is something I never buy for myself but love to receive. I currently have two favorites, this Malin + Goetz cannabis one smells SO good, you’ll never get more compliments on a scent. I’m currently out of it and need a re-stock! Also, this one by Olo is amazing.
I set an old photo of the girls sleeping under our Christmas tree as my laptop’s background screen a few weeks ago. The more you carry the responsibility of the festivities, the more you relate to “Christmas people”—the ones who seem to launch into the holidays promptly after Halloween. Launch early or you’ll probably wake up halfway through, right?
But I was drawn to putting up the photo as a reminder of all the simple things we love about December, like blankets and lights, even as I fill online carts with gifts and scrutinize lists for fairness, and dance with the creeping acknowledgement that we have far more than we need already.
The trees are all sticks now, the temperatures are dropping and the hours of dark are growing each day, so this time of year it does feel natural to fixate on the special moments ahead. I rarely buy a wreath from the small market near us, but I absolutely love to look at them every time I stop by for groceries, often times in the dark of early evening (4:30 around here). Just after Thanksgiving they make great piles of wreaths on the long wooden tables lining the entrance. The wreaths are trimmed with all sorts of things–juniper berries, dried orange slices, evergreen springs of different varieties with cranberry colored ribbons and dark twine. Taking a moment to gaze at them each time is a favorite private tradition.
Last week I happened upon this Calm Christmas podcast, a warm and lovely listen. Listening to her soft British accent, the entire time I was visualizing Kate Winslet’s cottage in The Holiday. The first episode for this year was just released last week, and she plans to do one every week through December.
Last year here I asked for ideas of holiday things a family could still in isolation times. Jayme shared with me the idea of a box of candy bars and energy bars put out for the package delivery people, with a note thanking them for all they do. She said her children loved peeking through the window to see what they picked out. We did the same thing, filled up a big box, and had so much fun with it. All December we kept the box stocked and the kids often went outside to greet the drivers, and watch them choose something. Honestly, it was one the few times there were treats in our home that were not intended for the girls to immediately consume. It was wonderful for all of us, the girls have brought it up as a fond memory a couple times throughout this year.
Taylor wrote to me about their family carol sing along, just the four of them around the tree with a guitar.
Margaret wrote about the muslin bags she reuses each year for an Advent calendar–tucking in chocolates, notepads, ideas for a day off together.
If I had to sum up my personal goals for the season, they would be to clear some of the administrative tasks of the household to one side before December begins–treating the month as an extended sabbath of a sort, the seventh day of rest. I’m not sure exactly how to go about doing that. Perhaps a meal plan. Perhaps clearing out the drawer that holds old bills, cards, notes, receipts. Perhaps letting go of a holiday card, this year. One success of this school year so far is that we’ve gotten to a good system with keeping the house clean together, so I can count on help with that. I’m not planning to make a homemade Advent calendar for the children, but I wonder what a personal calendar for myself might look like. This is a goal on my mind because one of my current pitfalls of parenting to wooshing around completing tasks all day, ever in pursuit of the next accomplished moment. The reason for this is entirely understandable–the list of things to do each day is truly bottomless. But accidentally it’s become a focus of my days, and I’m ready to play with that and switch it around.
I wait all year for fall to hit so I can work on a coat/jacket round up! In my opinion, we should be paying more attention to our outerwear as it’s a primary styling piece for two seasons out of the year. It doesn’t feel good to pull on the same boring coat to face another grey day. Even though I live in California, I am very familiar with Michigan winters and the day in and day out darkness that can start to drag you down. When it comes to coats and boots, there is a lot of age old wisdom circling around, “buy something practical!”, “make sure it’s sturdy!”, “it should last you a lifetime”, “it can’t be too thin!”, “it should be a neutral color!” and my personal favorite which is the “can you easily lift your hands over your head test” while wearing it which is just not an actual way to measure if any article of clothing works or not. What if when it came time to pull down the ole’ winter bins, you felt excited to take out your coat and hang it up for another season? I’d like us all to be able to have that feeling. Our winter-selves deserve a little style thrill!
A guest style post by my sister Joanie. Love her points here, she’s right–I’ll be wearing these coats every day for the next six months! Thanks Joanie!
Coats and outerwear can be an investment but they truly are a cost per wear item, much more than many of the clothing items we spend a lot of $ on. And, when you buy quality they truly last a lifetime. My Mom has coats that are 30 years old that I love and wear when I visit. But, on the other side of that coin, I am also an advocate for buying something impractical that might not be the most high quality piece but that feels fun and lively. Like the neon orange coat I bought from Zara years ago and love to wear and get a zillion compliments. It’s all about balance. Here are some favorites from around the web.
I know I’ve mentioned this several times before by Banana Republic has really been stepping up their game. It’s thrilling to me if I can find BR pieces from the 80’s + 90’s while I’m thrifting but they really lost their way in the 2000’s. Going in there felt like stepping into a fast fashion store. But, I think they’re starting to find their way again. Things feel more quality, styling is way up and the overall vibe is elevated classics which is what they should stick to. I love this jacket. It’s a great length and the blue is fresh but still very versatile.
I have this Uniqlo jacket in the pink. It’s super lightweight, the kind of coat you can shove in your carry on bag or purse as a “just in case it gets cold” option. And yet very warm. It’s also a great layering option too.
Rachael bought The Curated camel coat and I loved it so much on her I bought the same one in green. It is expensive but it really is so stunning, feels like Max Mara. It’s a female-founded company and they are very transparent with their pricing and manufacturing practices. If you are between sizes I highly recommend sizing up! I wish I would have gotten a medium instead of a small so I could wear sweaters under it.
It’s hard to find a classic raincoat. There are lots of “water resistant” options but that’s not the same as something that will keep you really dry. J.Crew just has an insane amount of good coats and jackets right now. Stutterheim also makes a great durable rain jacket. The price is high but it’s a great coat that i own and love.
Sandro is one of my favorite designers, the quality is amazing. Their pieces can be expensive which is why I look to by it second-hand which usually means at The RealReal. A long wool peacoat by them is a great buy. The perfect thing to wear to a dinner out or to an event where you don’t want your outerwear to detract from the look you’re wearing. Would also be very cute during the day with jeans, flat boots and a sweater under it. I also love this deep camel colored one from them. The fringe is an unexpected fun detail.
I got one of the faux shearling options from H&M last year and I wear it all the time. I love how cozy it is and it looks great worn over workout gear to make it a bit more chic. And it’s remarkably warm. This cropped version is cute too.
I adore this perfectly modern checkered coat from DKNY. So chic!
This wool/cashmere coat is a great buy. The wide color and two button closure make it a timeless piece.
We bought this Alex Mill sherpa wool jacket for my mother-in-law for Christmas last year and it was a hit. I saw it person and immediately wanted one, but they were sold out for the season. Happy to see they’re back!
I could go on and on because there are so many cute options out there right now! But I’ll end on this one from Vince. If you haven’t tried a long wool/wool blend coat I encourage you to do so. If you usually stick to shorter jackets, give a long coat a try. It might take a minute to get used to but there is something about them that makes you feel a bit more put together, glamorous even when you put it on. Even worn over sweats you somehow feel pulled together.
It’s the time of year when the girls come down after bedtime and ask for a lemon hot; a mug drink made with a slice of lemon and a squeeze of honey and a generous pour of hot water. One of those things I made up once when looking for a placebo effect to settle listless-restless spirit syndrome. It worked and the cure stuck around. We’ll find the mugs only half drunk a few day later by their bedside, but the calming effect seems more than worth the effort.
The garden is full of dark reds, greens, sharp oranges, and sunny yellows, decay around one corner (the zucchini), and abundance (the tomatoes) around the other. Alma has asked me how many days it is until Halloween so many times that tomorrow we’re going to make one of our old fashioned hand-drawn calendars for the countdown. It is Joe’s absolute favorite season. Full of melancholy for me–am I that much of a summer person? must be.
a few favorite things lately…
+ Loved the chance to hear Wes Anderson talk about the inspiration for The French Dispatch. Don’t miss the bonus episode, listed below the interview, with cast members reading New Yorker essay bits aloud. (You can also find these episodes on spotify or itunes podcast.)
+I just recalled how much I love Dorie Greenspan’s Mediterranean shepard’s pie. The kids would love it better, they told me, if I left the butternut squash out. Make it for yourself the night before and take the day off why don’t you. I’m scrambling to use all my tomatoes right now, but dreaming of a loaf of pumpkin bread.
+ David Leibowitz’s dense newsletters. The guy is a great writer. Recently he reminded me of wonderful things we can eat here in his “Foods I Miss from America.” Have you ever purchased a mallomar in your life? I haven’t! must do.
warm things: These kids’ $20 soft top and pant sets are true to size, wash well, and get worn a lot around here. The girls layer the long sleeves under dresses and wear the pants both as a layer or on their own. The colors are nicely muted too. I first found these through Grace Patton, a shatterproof mom-of-eight recommender.
Wool layer sets are fantastic for keeping kids warm as well. I’ve been a fan of Ella’s Wool in the past, but they’ve been sold out and haven’t restocked for a bit. My sister-in-law Hannah went ahead and stress tested a new brand, and recommends Simply Merino. Lovely natural colors and comfortable on the skin, not itchy at all.
Our wood floors get so cold with the cold weather. I get chills up my bones just stepping on them without slippers for a moment or two in the wintertime. Ugg as a brand has gotten very ritzy but the quality still seems excellent, so I’m not sure where that leaves me…their boots are astonishingly warm, waterproof, and expensive. But today I’m here to recommend these $20 sheepskin insole inserts that they make. You can slip them into slippers, or any other poorly lined boots, and the warmth factor for your toes increases dramatically. There are so many fun slipper options out there (see below!), but often they aren’t truly well lined, so a combo-hack like this is the best. And, if you already own well-made but worn-down boots or slippers, having a new insert can years of life to the shoe.
Slippers on my mind to try this year: overland, nootkas, uggs. Something like these Charix glove shoes would also be lovely. You won’t see a fully-opened back slippers, “slides”, on this list because I don’t like them. There’s something fragile about them; slides like that are not for cold houses with staircases. They are for warm deserts when wearing a slipper just sounds nice. I could see birkenstock birki rubber clog with a warm insole added though. That would work well. Can you tell I end up wearing slippers in the mud? I really like having some sort of rubber sole because I often tramp out to the compost in my slippers.
+ I ordered a number of things from Sezane to try. I was briefly swept away by a vision of myself with a seventies belt and far flung wide-leg jeans. And: those colors! However I was brought back to earth by texting my sister pics of my wildly petite self trying these things on. A few of their tops worked well for me though! They feel great for those days when I still want to dress comfortably but want it to feel special. This turtleneck sweater—love the row of buttons and the height of the neck, and this collared shirt–I didn’t risk the monogram, but that would have been fun.
Last time I wrote a favorites list in July I asked for a recommendation from you, and got some good ones. So: any good recommendations for nicely made children’s jewelry? I imagine Etsy has something like this? Perhaps a trusted brand you rely on? It’s so sad to watch the girls accidentally snap a poorly made necklace or have rings (bendable, I get it! but still) just break after one use.
Let’s discuss dressing monochromatically! It happens to one of my favorite ways to pull together an outfit and I find it to be very chic. I love to layer lots of white/creams together (as you can see in the photo below), or a tonal blue outfit with navy pants and a light blue sweater, a soft pink paired with a brighter one. I think there is some confusion as to how it’s done and if the idea is to pair the same exact shades of a color together. Which does work, but unless you bought the pieces as a set you will have a hard time finding an exact match. To me, it’s more fun to lean into the shades of a color. I like to match the undertones, so if a red is warm (leans orange) I wouldn’t pair if with a cool tone (that has a blue feeling to it). If the undertones are the same, they’ll work well together. I’m also pro denim on denim and neutrals on neutrals together like brown and black.
Notice how often these monochrome looks include mixing different textures. For example, a thick pair of denim with a light chambray top is going to work better than thin jeans with that same top. A sleek red leather skirt looks good with a chunky red sweater, thin silk pants looks pretty with a cotton button down shirt, etc.
(This is a post by my sister Joanie! All links are affiliate where applicable.)
Let’s look at a few looks and why they work.
This first one has three shades of white and they are also mixing textures, denim with a t-shirt and some type of linen blazer. I really love pairing a white t-shirt with a pair of cream pants. It feels simple but very pulled together. (photo from J.Crew)
This second one in yellows gives you an instant calm when you look at her and that’s because tonally the outfit makes sense. If you were pulling together a look and laid two items side by side you could tell by looking at them if they worked together. Let your eye lead you. (photo from J.Crew)
One way to rework our wardrobes when we’re getting tired of everything we own is to pull out a piece and pair with something you’ve never worn it with before. We tend to revisit the same looks over and over because it feels comfortable to us. Give yourself a challenge of creating a monochrome look with what’s in your closet, no buying required. You can start with a neutral, like shades of brown (see below) or white.
Meghan Markle often dresses monochromatically. Notice here how her stylist pulled in different textures, a woven top, satin skirt and velvet pumps. Mixing the textures keeps it interesting and keeping it all in the same color family keeps it sophisticated which is crucial for the type of functions she attends.
We’re going to be seeing a lot of these looks this fall. Here are a few I’ve noticed around the web.
#4. I know I’ve mentioned this before but H&M really does have great knits and this chunky one is very versatile.
#5. Sweats elevated by wearing them as a matching set.
#6. These pants are a favorite. They run true to classic sizing, which for me is one size bigger than Madewell or J.Crew.
#7. I like the addition of the belt with this look.
#8. Love love love this purple look. Would be perfect for the holidays, a departure from the classic darker color we tend towards in the winter.
#9. Okay and this very ice princess look to end on! I guess my next post should be a satin skirt round up because they’re everywhere and so versatile.
We are beginning our fifth year in Classical Conversations (CC) this year. As a homeschooler who resists being pinned to any form or shape, it astonishes me that we’ve stayed with it for so long. This will also be my third year “tutoring,” the word CC uses to describe the parent-volunteer who teaches the three-hour-morning class session to an assortment of ages (there are typically three to five classes in a community, grouped by age from 4-12). I wouldn’t say I’m particularly gifted at this, it’s just a job that needed someone, and I like to help when I can.
The timing is appropriate to reflect on our years with CC because my family was just at the doctor’s office, having that annual (or biannual, as covid made it) well-visit. A visit where questions like, “What’s your favorite subject in school?” come up as a formal question they’re expected to answer on their own. Our two oldest answered separately (I managed to give them their own appointments this year), “History! I love history.” And, “What’s a subject you sometimes need help with?’ Again, both answered the same: “Geography.” Those answers are a testimony. CC inculcated the love of history. It introduced the language, the characters, the way it arcs in spots, and blurs in others. The way it invites to be understood, and whispers the stories buried within. And CC introduced the challenge of geography. The immense amount to be learned. How great it felt when you knew the names of most of the places on the map. How often you don’t know all the names. How it’s changed throughout history.
A kind reader emailed me to ask about what she might expect her five-year-old daughter’s first time CC experience to look like. Thinking of a response brought me way back to when we first enrolled, on a lark really. I thought—a four-year-old, what do I have to lose? If she hates it, we won’t go. If she loves it, it will be far more content than I ever expected to introduce this year. I think I experienced whiplash at the first meeting. The tutor was saying facts over and over again, and only asking the kids to repeat after her? No explanations? No graphics to introduce these characters characters? She’d scrawled these facts on a whiteboard? Then she would just move on to a completely new topic, and have them repeat that too?
But the thing that got us first, a few weeks into it, was their word recognition from the timeline song and the history sentences. In church our kids leaned over and hissed, “Caesar Augustus?! That’s on the timeline song.” A few weeks later, “Jerome completes the Vulgate?! That’s on the timeline song.” We realized that recognizing language out in the world felt incredible to them. Words have meaning, even if they didn’t fully understand what that meaning was yet.
The crème de la crème of this out in the world experience came at the end of the year. Our oldest had been following along with the memory work, even though she was enrolled in public school at the time. She couldn’t resist it; from the moment she heard the first sung history sentence, she was smitten. Anyway, the year is finishing up, and the CC kids have memorized the Preamble to the Constitution. It’s one of the last history sentences for the Third Cycle, the USA history cycle. So she goes with her public school on a field trip to the city courthouse. Waiting in line inside, she starts scanning the walls. All of a sudden she realizes she recognizes the words carved into the wall. “We the people, of the United States in order to form a more perfect union…” There was the preamble, carved in marble, larger than her. How cool is that? Second grade, spotting significant and meaningful language in its context, murmuring the lines to herself, before she even fully understood them.
Fast forward three years. She’s starting her third year enrolled in CC. We also enroll her in an online Latin class—again, on a lark, let’s just try it!. First homework: memorize the first declensions noun endings. Well, that’s easy, because she memorized all—first, second, third, fourth, and fifth declension—noun endings when she was seven, back in CC’s Cycle One. First year Latin homework just became significantly easier!
It’s a myriad of experiences like that that keep me coming back to the classical education peg-and-hooks theory. The idea that we put these pegs up for them, and maybe they have nothing to hang on the pegs, for awhile. Then they hear an adult they admire mention Martin Luther King Jr. They sort through their memory of memorized words and phrases, find the peg “Civil Rights Movement,” and hang that experience there. Later on, they see a picture of a Buddhist monk. They sort through their mind, find the peg “Founded in the sixth century B.C., Buddhism…” and hang that image there.
So my answer to the “What is this, what did I sign up for?” would be: give it time. Watch it unspool.
On a day-to-day basis, the CC curriculum is not the main thing I do with my children. I prioritize reading aloud together, practicing handwriting and spelling, learning to read (for the younger ones), and grammar and Latin for the older ones. I prioritize play and lots of free time. I play the CC cds in the car. If we’re on long car trips, I ask them to review weeks of CC on the app. If they tell me they wished they knew more of the material by heart, I help them practice it. But it’s supplemental, not primary, in my mind.
But there’s more! There’s the community. Our community has grown to have a number of children the same age as my children. They look forward to connecting with them every week. They love the presentation portion of their class when they can learn from one another, raise their hands and ask questions of one another. They pay attention to which books their friends are reading, and which projects they shared.
If you were just looking at politics, there would be a vast chasm of difference between the moms’ feelings. I know for a fact I would disagree vehemently politically with moms there that I admire enormously. But we don’t need to talk about that. Instead we talk about what we’re doing at home. How we’re learning together. What we’re reading. What we’re loving. How we’re handling difficult moments and discouragement.
I find many of the moms are more curriculum driven than I am. They complete far more work with their children—more textbooks, more content. They anticipate homeschooling through high school (I don’t, this is an up-to-middle/high-school plan for me). But that’s fine with me. I like being around that, being encouraged by it, maybe even challenged by it.
Speaking of challenging, it is challenging. Getting out of the house on time. Packing snacks and lunches. Preparing to teach a class. Helping the girls plan presentations. Writing papers for Essentials (the afternoon program that starts at age nine). Getting my toddler to go into childcare. We’re exhausted at the end of the day. But when I evaluate how we’re feeling on the drive home, which I do every time, it feels like–yes, this was good. And we enjoy our slow Thursday mornings all the more.
Here’s something funny–I love researching things online. Love to arrive in a new town having already decided the first three things I’m going to do there. However, I do not research people’s opinions about Classical Conversations online. I don’t want to read blog articles about “Why I left Classical Conversations.” It just holds zero interest. I think, if it’s working for your children, if they’re excited and engaged, what more can you ask? Don’t load it with too much importance, you know? Don’t make it your whole ethos.
Resources/Guidance I’ve enjoyed for digging in…
Farmhouse Schoolhouse: the blog of an inspiring cc mom.
Memory Work Coloring Books: on Etsy.
Zag Homeschool: not cc specific, but this video course is the clearest, fastest thing I’ve encountered to feel like a comfortable, competent homeschooler. You can use the code RACHAEL50 for a 50% discount. (I previewed the whole course before endorsing it but am not being paid in any way to promote it.)
The Well Trained Mind: this book has been super accessible and inspiring for the overall vision of a classical education.
Heritage Mom: not a cc mom, but a Charlotte Mason homeschool mom (lots of crossover with Charlotte Mason & cc) that I admire.
Share your thoughts and comments!