• Style by Joanie

    a list of what I love this year

    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


    dutch oven

    lunya sweatpants


    tennis skirt

    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.


    Clare V


    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.

    perfume oil

    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 love Fly by Jing so much. Their trio pack is the best gift to give or receive. The Mala Spice Mix on popcorn is SO good. Would make an excellent hostess gift.

  • At Home

    on a quarter past November

    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.

    Emily wrote to me about the a cross to cradle wreath, a wooden wreath holding candles for each night of December, to be lit with an accompanying evening reading.

    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.


  • Style by Joanie

    coats to love

    Banana Republic


    The Curated




    J Brand


    Alex Mill

    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.

    Banana Republic


    The Curated

    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!

    J Brand


    Alex Mill

    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.

  • Favorites,  Vermont

    autumn loves

    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…

    grandmother’s pressed leaves, an age-old melancholy remedy, at a rental cottage in Maine

    + 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.

    + Two Halloween young kid books we love, to grab from your local library: The Witch Who Was Afraid of Witches and One Witch. Both clever and rhyming; we seem to read them over and over again.

    + Find a box of candy eyes so you can make this.

    + 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.


  • Style by Joanie

    dressing monochromatically

    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.




    #1. Also, note the sweater vest. They’re coming back in a big way.
    #2. Always going to be drawn to a green on green look.
    #3. Pretty shades of grey.




    #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.

    XO, Joanie

  • Homeschool

    more about classical conversations

       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.

    visiting the annual sunflower garden at Billings Farm

         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.

    Half a Hundred Acre Wood: what’s gathered here can be a little overwhelming but it’s still a fantastic resource. Check out her booklists.

    Share your thoughts and comments!



  • Style by Joanie

    Skin & Beauty Post

    A reader emailed me a request to do a post on skincare which I thought was interesting because I feel like my approach to skin is almost non-existent. {editor’s note: this is a post by my sister, Joanie, from whom I get all my self-care inspiration! Enjoy-Rachael} Especially when you compare it to the current world of youtubers and bloggers who show their skin care cabinets packed to the gills with products. I felt under qualified to give tips but then I thought maybe it would be helpful to hear what a normal(ish) person is doing for their skin/hair/makeup routine and to talk about things like botox and aging. I feel like everyone has their little beauty secrets and I like knowing what works for people and the strange things they love. I like to keep things simple when it comes to beauty so that means anything I buy/keep around needs to pack a punch. I think that the idea of skincare can get wrapped into the idea of makeup, that they are one in the same, but for me, skincare is foundational and makeup is a far second. I’d much rather invest in a good face oil that keeps my skin feeling hydrated than in a foundation that covers my skin. I also think that our eyes might be used to seeing people made up, but I love a makeup less face. It feels so youthful. My sister and I definitely inherited my Mom’s sense of simplicity when it comes to these things. She taught us to wash our face with water, to put rubbing alcohol on a zit (which really works!) and that we didn’t need to shave above our knees.

    When we were younger, she took us to have a makeup lesson where they showed us simple techniques for doing our own makeup and the less is more approach which I stand by today. One of the most important thing they taught was how to tell which colors look good on us, how to compliment our personal complexion and coloring. This is something that I still use and think about today, especially when it comes to clothing. Understanding our coloring and what makes your eye pop and your skin glow is a fun part of personal style and gives us an appreciation for our own specific combination of hair, skin, eyes.

    My first memory of makeup (pre-makeup lesson mentioned above) is going to the Bobbie Brown counter at Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids, MI. I was browsing the products and they asked if I wanted my makeup done, I agreed and sat down. The only thing I really remember is that she told me that my foundation color was the second to the lightest they carry and that they name was “porcelain”. I can tell you that as an 8th grader, this was bad news. There are few things less cool than having porcelain skin which was why we were all hitting the tanning beds on the regular. Growing up, we all wanted to be tan which was not ideal for a very fair skinned Irish girl living in the Midwest where the sun doesn’t shine for 3 months straight. With age, I’ve grown to appreciate my very pale, freckled skin. I have freckles, lots and lots of them especially in the summer months. I’ve been told and taught how to cover them up but I actually love them.

    The point being, is that the pressure to look a certain way isn’t something that comes with age, it’s something that comes with birth. The specific societal demands we feel around our beauty might change as we get older but the messaging is consistent, it is most desirable to look one way, youthful and glowing and we should do whatever it takes to stay that way. We can’t talk about skincare without talking about the ever increasing presence of cosmetic work, botox, fillers, etc. Aging skin is something that I’m coming to learn about, I look in the mirror and see more fine lines than I used to, most of my friends are getting botox or talking about getting it. And the truth is, the ones that are getting it, look amazing. Their skin is tight and glowing and I am not above wanting my skin to look radiant. It can feel hard to live in a city like Los Angeles where every 45 year old looks 25 because of the work of their demonologist. We have started to distort and misunderstand what it means when we say, “they look great for their age.” We don’t understand what age really looks like anymore. Our eyes have been tricked by what we’re seeing. And we all feel that pressure to look “great” as we age too, whether we know it or not. Acknowledging that pressure that’s on us is actually part of what helps us process it.

    I am always all for everyone doing what feels right to them but understanding what we really want to do takes some digging. I think there is a fine line between doing something for ourselves and doing something because we feel like we need/have to, to stay young and desirable. It’s hard to push past the societal and internal pressures we feel. It takes pushing beyond the scary feeling of what if I get older and don’t get the work and I feel invisible? Or, what if all my friends do it and when we’re together I look older than all of them? Why not just do it now, when it’s available and it’s not too late? All of these are real questions and I don’t think it’s about doing or not the botox/fillers/cosmetic work. I think the most important part is doing what feels most honoring to you. And that can take some time to understand. I know it’s something I’m still working on.

    For me personally, I have currently chosen to not get botox or any work/injections done on my face. There are two reasons for that, one is that I don’t like the idea of injecting anything into my body. I’m hesitant to take Tylenol so getting botox feels like it’s going against that strong personal feeling. And the second is that I have seen people who get work and how it has aged on them. These people are in their 60’s now and of course that means that they were getting work years ago and things have improved and gotten better. But there is a common thread with all of them and that is they all think they look like they haven’t had any work done. To the outside eye, anyone could tell in a moment that they’ve had work but because it’s been so many years and they see their face everyday, they don’t see it anymore. And somehow, that idea of losing sight of myself feels like the biggest deterrent. This isn’t to say that someday I won’t change my mind on the subject. And if I do, I’l be sure to let you know.

    In the mean time, below are some makeup/beauty/hair products that I love and use.

    #1. There are two things I put on automatic subscriptions and have never regretted. One was my razor with Billie and the other is tampons with Lola. Both were items that I would run out of/forget to replace and would end up making an inconvenient trip to the store or an expensive CVS. I have the least frequent re-stock option for Billie and that works for me because I’m a recreational shaver, aka, I don’t always do it.

    #2. Dry brushing is one of my favorite ways to care for my skin. The sensation can feel intense at first but after a while you almost get addicted to it. I start at my toes and go in a circular motion up my body. I do it quickly once or twice a week before I shower and I find that my skin feels really soft and smooth. I don’t do this on my face.

    #3. I work at a blog so we get a lot of skin care and I’ve tried many a mask that has been sent our way. For me, there are two standouts. #1. is the Tata Harper Clarifying mask I’ve been having more breakouts lately then I normally do (might be the junk food) and this mask works wonders. It’s expensive but I’ve had it for a year and still have some left. To me, this one is worth it because I see a noticeable difference right away. #2. This is from Leahlani. It smells so good you almost want to eat it. This is less for breakouts and more for when my skin feels tired and dry. I use it for a glow and it works.

    #4. My husband and I share shower products which is interesting because we have very different hair but I like the idea of not having a cluttered shower and sharing means that we aren’t over-buying products and letting things go to waste. We both use and love this face cleaner. I don’t wash my face with it every day, if I’m not wearing makeup I mostly just splash water on it, but a couple times a week I’ll use it and I really like it. It makes your skin feel clean and fresh and never dries me out.

    #5. I wish it wasn’t the case but the face oil from True Botanicals is the best thing for my skin. I hate how expensive it is and I’ve tried a lot of the cheaper ones but they don’t have the same results. I ask for one for my birthday and I buy one at their black friday sale and those two carry me through for a year. I don’t wear makeup most days so I want my skin to feel hydrated and plump with just being moisturized, no makeup needed. I put it on morning and night and really rub it in which is maybe not recommended but I like giving my face a good massage. I have tried many of their products and to me, this is one only one that it really worth the price. But that’s my personal opinion!

    #6. The most intense beauty treatment I have ever done was microblading my eyebrows. My friend Kristie was about to launch her service and she offered to do them for free. It was too good of a deal to pass up and I ended up loving them. You can see the before and after here. It’s not something I can keep up because of the price but it made me a big believer in eyebrows. I now use Hour Glass Brow Gel and fill them in with Glossier Brow Flick.

    #7. Saie Beauty is definitely my go-to for any makeup related products. I like their Slip Cover that has SPF in it and gives the slightest bit of coverage. And I also love their liquid blush. I don’t use them daily but they would be great daily go-to’s if you wanted a 30 second makeup routine to give you a little lift.

    #8. Lipstick is tricky for me, they never end up staying on right and I worry that I have lipstick on my teeth and no one is telling me. When I got married, I wanted very natural makeup and I was worried about the lip. I wanted it to look pretty in photos but to still feel natural and like me. The makeup artist used “Boy” by Chanel and it has since been my go-to. It’s a beautiful flattering shade and I get a ton of compliments on it. It seems to have a bit of a cult following and for good reason.

    #9. I’m not a big body lotion person. I know I should moisturize but it somehow falls low on my priority list. I recently got this Coco Rose Body Oil and have been throughly enjoying it. I put it on after a shower when my skin is damp. A little goes a long way, it glides on and makes my skin feel smooth.

    #10. It might sound strange but I love my tongue scrapper. I’ve been using it for 5+ years and I have to use it every morning or it doesn’t feel right. I use it right when I wake up to scrape off all the gunk on your tongue from sleeping, rinse out my mouth and then drink coffee.

    P.S. Here is a picture of my face, just as it is. I had to resist the urge to stand in the good light, to fix my unruly eyebrows and to moisturize so my fine lines are less visible. I thought, well I look tired, maybe I should take a picture tomorrow but it’s just a normal face, being normal no Paris filter included.

    A face I know and love very dearly! Thank you Joanie!

  • At Home

    loved lately

    This summer is the first summer our homeschool group made a plan to meetup almost weekly for swimming, hiking, or berry picking. It’s been such a treat to see them, I’m so glad we made that intentional plan together. When it’s not raining, the girls and I are loving swimming in lakes, ponds, and pools. I make it out to the garden every once in awhile and pick my way among the weeds to check on everything. So many of the flowers are blooming for a bit, then dropping, with new ones quick to open. The pearls of green tomatoes are so promising.

    Doing old-normal things like going to outdoor farmer’s markets with the kids, having the neighbors over for drinks, and buying candy at the public pool feel SO special. I am just soaking it all up.

    A podcast, a recipe, a book, a newsletter I’ve loved lately…

    +This old interview with Esther Perel on the goop podcast. Esther is a famous sex therapist, you see her everywhere, speaking wisdom with her warm Belgian accent. But this particular talk was full of great thoughts about monogamy, relationships over time, and refreshing your perspective by allowing yourself to desire.

    +Books. I’m reading so many good books this summer. I absolutely loved Elaine Ferrante’s newer one, The Lying Life of Adults. She’s always incredible on the adolescent perspective, but this one felt modern and irreverent and sexy as well. The perfect summer book. My sister-in-law Hannah let me read some of her copy of Always Home by Fannie Singer, written from a daughter about her famous mother, Alice Waters. I’m looking forward to paging through for notes about her kitchen. I know Alice has a kitchen hearth—a kitchen fire that’s about waist-height—because I’ve seen it in videos. I love that idea and want to know more. But in my brief page-through I was immediately taken by thoughtfully and joyfully Fanny writes about her childhood. If you’re in the mood for an audiobook, I loved listening to Gabrielle Hamilton read her Blood, Bones, and Butter

    + I’ve recommended Younga’s instagram account, kidbookrecs, but now I must recommend to you her substack email Making it Work. She writes about some quirk of parenting and childhood every week or so, and dashes in a few recommendations at the end. It’s the perfect newsletter. I’ll share her opening paragraph from the story of her trip into New York with her daughter Ada…

    • “A few Fridays ago I took Ada to NYC for a day, a self-serving idea born out of my desire to see the Julie Mehretu show at the Whitney masquerading as quality solo time with my elder child. I revealed the idea to her the day before, that we’d be skipping school, waking up early to catch an Amtrak train, then going on an “adventure day” before sleeping over at her aunt and uncle’s apartment in Park Slope. It’s the thing I always wanted my parents to propose to me—joy-slash-adventure prioritized over education—which now seems preposterous to expect as a child of immigrants growing up in the 80s. I remember the envy of having friends whose parents let them take “mental health” days, and others whose parents pulled them out of class 48-hours before February break to depart for their trips to Disney World. I remember once proposing the idea of a mental health day to my mom, and was met with a truly blank stare of confusion, before being shuttled out the door to the bus.” [read it all here!]

    + Lux has a new book series she is obsessed with, Keeper of the Lost Cities. I wasn’t sure if there were any left for her to discover and fall in love with, so this is a treat. We found it sitting innocently on a bookstore shelf in Michigan. We bought the first book, she’s on her fifth re-read of it. She says it’s right up there with The Wizard of Oz series, Harry Potter, and Land of Stories.

    + And Joan has lately fallen for the audiobooks of How to Train Your Dragon. Few things as soothing in this life as a busy afternoon in the sun, followed by an audiobook and a snack, in the dim of the house.

    + This one-pan recipe for pasta tossed with ricotta, corn, basil, and brie. The kids loved it! It comes together very quickly, and I’m looking forward to subbing in zucchini for the corn. Our kids eat ricotta on toast with olive oil, so we always have it kicking around in the fridge.

    Well, that’s all for now. Anything you’re loving? Hope your summer is feeling sweaty, hydrated, and relaxing (or maybe just one of those?). A few things I’m in the market for, if you have any recommendations…a/ waffle iron b/ a one piece bathing suit c/ a ceramic stovetop pan.


  • Style by Joanie

    wedding + party attire


    & other stories

    Banana Republic




    Banana Republic

    Clare V


    just a time, a little inspiration for those social (gasp!) events this summer. Thanks Joanie! All links are affiliate.-Rachael

    Have you ever had this experience: you don’t have an event or party to go to and you see 50 fancy things you’d love to wear to party. but as soon as you have a reason to buy something fancy, suddenly not an item in sight interests you?

    This nameless phenomenon has happened to me more times than I can count (which is why I’m an advocate for always buying something you love, even if you don’t have a specific occasion for it!). However, there are some tips that can help with the major outfit block that can happen around events that have a looming deadline, i.e. ‘I have to have something to wear for a July 15th wedding.’ If you’re attending a wedding/party this summer and are looking for some ideas on how to find something to wear, this post is for you! – Joanie

    For starters, I always like to have some frame of reference for what I’m looking for before I start shopping. Even if it’s vague. If you have no idea what you want, it can seem like an endless fruitless scroll. Reference points can be anything, here are some ideas:
    – It can be the shape of the dress, maybe you want long and flow-y, or short and straight, or fitted at the waist with a skirt. Knowing the style of dress you’re looking for is helpful because you can narrow searching down by maxi, midi, mini, etc.
    – If you have something you’ve worn before and want a different version of that, maybe you wore an off the shoulder dress and felt like a million bucks and want something similar. Or you know you have a yellow dress that you always love in photos. Those are great jumping points. You can search by those key words too, i.e. yellow maxi dress.
    – Using other people as inspiration is also fun. I’ll often clock something that I see someone wearing and make a note to myself to visit it in my own life at some point. This could be someone in real life or a pinterest photo you saw. Recreating a look you love is fun and can narrow down your choices quickly which is great.

    It also helps to shop broadly and early. It can feel tempting to put the task off hoping that something will just magically fall into your lap to wear. Unfortunately, that will most likely not be the case and you’ll end up panic shopping closer to the date which usually ends up being more expensive and less satisfying.

    Borrowing a dress from someone is also a great option especially if you remember something they’ve worn that you’ve loved. “Hey, remember that green dress with sleeves you wore? Can I borrow that please.” I’ve loaned clothing to countless friends and I’m always happy to do so and I’m pretty sure the friends in your life will be happy to as well. It’s a compliment, you like their style!

    I also want to recommend pushing yourself just a little bit and trying things outside your comfort zone. It can feel soothing to wear something familiar but it can also feel liberating to wear something outside of your norm. If there is something you’ve always loved and thought you can’t pull off now is the time to give it a try. We didn’t live through a global pandemic to come out on the other side wearing black knee length dresses to every party!

    Here are somethings I’d wear to celebrations this summer!

    a/ Banana Republic

    b/ & other stories


    a/ Hot pink is the color I love to see anyone in. It’s vibrant, fun and looks great on everyone. Banana Republic has some really great dress choices right now. I love this dress and the fact that it’s an extra 30% off right now.

    b/ If you feel like trying out the oversized trend, this yellow dress is such a cute option. Also a great one for high heat days as nothing sticks to the skin. I recommend ordering one to two sizes up with items from & other stories. This dress from Free People is also a very pretty oversized easy fit option.

    c/ This linen dress with sequin detailing is so beautiful. I love the dramatic sleeve and the color palette. An outside the box option!

    d/ DVF


    f/ Sika

    d/I have a soft spot for DVF dresses. There is a reason she’s such a legend, she really knows how to cut a flattering dress. They are classics and something you’ll keep in your closet forever and also hold their value if you want to resell it. I love the bodice detailing on this one and the print. So much of what we’re shown these days is the same cut and style over and over so anything that branches from that is welcomed.

    e/ Short and structured is a great option, especially if you like to show some leg. When you’re shopping it’s nice to think about what body part you want to show off. That can help to narrow your options and buy something that feels fun and exciting to wear.

    f/ This is a great style if you like to show collarbone but don’t want any cleavage, something I’m always looking to find. This has a very structured bodice with a full skirt which makes it a great dancing dress. Make sure to read size chart as it’s in UK sizes. Also love this one shoulder option.

    g/ Banana Republic

    h/ Clare V

    i/ Mango

    g/ I love that Banana has two bias cut dresses, it’s a surprisingly hard cut to find. A slip dress should only exist in bias cut. It shouldn’t be cut straight up and down, it doesn’t lay right against the body correctly. This dress is beautiful and if you want the bra friendly one get this version. These dresses are easy to dress up or down, you can tie a sweater around your waist and head out for the day or pair it with a shawl and strappy shoes for evening.

    By the way, for a good strapless event bra, this is a good option!

    h/ I have to throw in one accessory because I love this Clare V. strawberry print bag as your party bag of the summer. I have this style in purple and it fits all the important things like phone, lipstick and wallet and has a very chic chain strap which make is a great evening option.

    i/ Let’s not forget separates! I personally plan to wear wide leg pants with a a high opened toed shoe to some parties this summer. I also love a good skirt moment, something with a soft drape that you can wear with a t-shit and a sparkly or denim jacket depending on the occasion. Like this one.

  • Style by Joanie

    Summer Staples







    Old Navy



    (a style guide post by my sister Joanie. All links are affiliate. Thanks Joanie!)

    What are the 10ish piece that you can reach for over and over again this summer? The simple sandal that’s great for the beach/pool but can be worn with a long dress to a fancy party. The swimsuit that works as a top paired with shorts or a skirt. The stripped button down shirt that is equally as cool as a cover up or half tucked into jeans when the sun goes down. A great pair of sunglasses that will be in style forever. I’m all for heavy hitting pieces, especially this summer when most of us are going to be traveling for the first time in a while.  




    To begin: a-go-with-everything sandal. When I travel in the summer I like to pack only two shoes: a running shoe and one sandal that can be worn for every occasion and this one fits the bill. 

    Remember when I mentioned that I was on a big Gap kick? I still am. I love their updated basics. This striped shirt is the perfect summer staple, I’d order up one to two sizes. Wear the heck out of it, it’s 100% cotton and can handle it. If you’re looking for a solid color option, I like this one

    It’s not all shorts and skirts for summer. An easy breezy pair of pants will get a lot of wear. I like to pair them with a bathing suit or a slim tank top. If I’m wearing it with something oversized you can full or half tuck it in to give the outfit some shape. They shouldn’t be tight so if they are, go up a size. People should look at you and think, “Wow, that girl looks so comfortable.” I love the white, flax, navy and green. 



    Old Navy

    A lot of summer things can be semi-sheer or you might want to undo a few buttons as the temps increase showing a bit more skin. When something is sheer or showing, our first thought can be to pair it with a flesh colored bra, which is fine but I think that pairing it with a white bra can be really pretty. Especially a lace one like this that can peek out from under your striped shirt. 

    I have a big soft spot for J.Crew swim. I’ve been wearing them since high school and they just fit. Their underwire option needs a call out. Swimsuit two pieces can be so tricky to fit in the top but this once goes by bra size and fits so well. This is also great to pair under your clothes if you know it’s going to show a bit. 

    A plus of a smocked dress is that I wear them bra-less which is especially nice when it’s hot and sticky in the summer. I like this one in black which might seem like not a summer color but I think it’s very chic paired with a classic sandal or a pair of sneakers. You can also wear this with a button down and tie it at the waist, a very 90’s move that is currently in vogue. This is also another great black dress option




    If you haven’t embraced summer as the time of the sun hat, it’s time to start now. Not only are they fun and chic to wear but they protect your face and shoulders when you’re running around outside all day. I love that this one is canvas which makes it really durable. I have some beautiful straw ones but they are impossible to pack and therefore don’t end up getting as much use. And this one comes in head sizes which is such a gift for large headed people like myself. I just ordered it! 

    I love a lightweight sweatshirt that you can stuff into your bag or leave in the back of your car for those unexpectedly cool evenings. I have one very similar to this and I wear it all the time. It’s slightly oversized and looks cute thrown over a dress, with shorts or pants. I love the grey and the purple. Order your normal size, it is cut to slightly oversized. 

    I am a proponent of investing in a pair of sunglasses that you love. They are basically the only accessory of the warmer months. You wear them everyday and having a pair you feel great in feels really good. I’ve had these Ray Bans for 5+ years and they are timeless. Order several pairs from a place with easy returns like Nordstrom and find your pair. If you’re looking for the polarized version you can find those here for only slightly more money. 

    Let’s pack in carry ons, throw together beach bags without too much thought, and embrace returning to life that is calling us out from our living rooms! -Joanie