Friday, June 28, 2013

America: Holiday Nation

The 4th of July is only a week away, and my family is already preparing for a summery shindig. After weeks of dreary June weather (we've had about three truly nice days, last night being one of them.) we're excited that the forecast is for beautiful skies & warm temperatures.

Like a large population of the U.S., I wouldn't say my family is overly patriotic. We have a flag outside of our house, like everyone in our neighborhood, we say the pledge of allegiance at school, and sing the national anthem at games, but we don't have America tattooed anywhere. And yet, the 4th is always a day that we like to celebrate.

So why is The Fourth such a cultural blowout? Stores have sales, neighborhoods have parties, families gather from near and far, and some use the weekend to travel, sometimes even out of the country. Is it just another reason to drink beer outside and eat cole slaw and brats? Or do we really value it as Independence Day?

Most of us don't refer to it as such, perhaps because it's easier to say the 4th. But it's quite easy to take our freedom for granted, forgetting that the day has some serious implications of war and struggle along with the celebratory fact that we're an independent nation. Like Memorial Day, St. Patty's Day, and the like, we haul out our decorations, put on ugly shirts, and party like it's 1999.

It seems as though America possesses and champions a cultural love of celebration. Any chance to throw a party is for us.

Remember, we're a country in the throw of an intense immigration debate that heavily emphasizes Mexico, yet we happily celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

So are we party obsessed, eager to celebrate at any chance? I'd love your thoughts on this one. It's been on my mind for a while, and would like hear your opinion on Holiday Nation.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bug Out: Summer Bling

I've seen one of the coolest trends in jewelry this summer––insects! Whether on bangles or studs, these baubles are down right buggy! It's a great nod to these summer critters that we love to hate, just quirky enough to keep these jewels fun, and bling-y enough to be fabulous! 

Necklace (ASOS)/ Studs (ASOS) / Earrings (Erica Weiner) / Bracelet (Kate Spade New York) / Brooch (Topshop)
Would you wear bugs in your bling? I think it's pretty great. It will probably be a short lived trend, but it's worth it!

P.S. My favorite summer button down now comes in a dress!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Coming Home for Summer

Do ever find the transition into summer can be a little weird sometimes? I often am so used to being busy during the school year, that the first week or so I need something to keep me feeling productive. It can be difficult to go from long, productive days to lounge-y weeks that require little to no action. But, after a few days of unpacking & reorganizing all my belongings, baking up new recipes, and making summer goal lists, I settle down. 

And then I wake up to a bustling house in the late morning! 

While I'm at school, I'm considered the early riser between all my roommates. Weekdays I get up at 6:00 am and usually crawl out of bed for coffee by 9:00 am on weekends. But when I come home for the summer, I am the late sleeper, and feel lazy for not starting my days early like my parents. I occasionally even feel guilty for being so sloth-like, despite my mother's kind insistence that I "just relax after such a busy year!" 

I've been on summer vacation for over a month now, and am really feeling settled now. It seems crazy that the transition would take a while, but it can! 

How do you transition from hectic schedules to lazy weeks? I've heard horror stories of college kids not being able to stand living with their parents after living alone at college––could you do it? Should you ever feel guilty for relaxing if not everyone in the house is? 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Flying High in NY

Amazing photographer, Serge Semenov, photographed New York City from an amazing view. The above photo is an aerial view of NY's Central Park, while the other is of the Manhattan skyline. So breathtaking! Would the Central Park print be gorgeous alone on a single slim wall?

Do you have any good recommendations of landscape photographers?
Photos via 1,

Monday, June 24, 2013

{Weekend Update}...Summer is Here?

According to all my calendars, it is officially summer, but I found this weekend particularly gloomy and indeed not summery. We had many a rainstorms, overcast afternoons, and gloomy mornings to ponder over a cup of coffee. It was actually somewhat delightful. Despite the ominous clouds that boded showers, we visited our local farmer's market and discovered the most wonderful salsa company in Eau Claire! Chip Magnet (cute punny name, right?) has every flavor and zestiness imaginable! We picked Spicy Fruit Salsa and Garlic Chipotle Lime Salsa for a good summer flavor. I endured frigid temps at work, but survived, and we celebrated a family friend's 30th birthday! 

How was your weekend? Did you experience any of the crazy summer showers, or are you experiencing typical heat waves. Also, Midwesterners! Any good summer markets I should know about?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Baking with Kids

I always kind of doubted people who said they liked having their kids in the kitchen. To me, it's a pretty adult space, and one that requires safety and some finesse. Hot ovens and stove tops, sharp knives, quickly spinning mixer beaters, so many reasons to be nervous! And then there's the whole mess thing. I like to be pretty tidy when I'm cooking. It keeps me organized as I work methodically through a recipe.

However, I was sitting the three hilarious, upbeat daughters of our family friends, and I thought, "baking with them might be a great project..."

We decided to bake scones, because "Mum can't resist them!" according to the youngest. We whisked the dry ingredients, mixed in the dried fruit, kneaded the dough, and played with the "cloud-like" flour! They even helped zest the lemon, cut the dough into wedges, and brush with melted butter. I could not have asked for better helpers!

My overall take:

While the kitchen was somewhat messier throughout the process, and the scones didn't look "as perfect" as when I meticulously sprinkle the sugar and zest, it was the most fun I've had in a kitchen. And it was hear-warming to see the girls earnestly roll the dough with gentle hands, and delight at the texture of flour in their fists. I can see now why parents like to have kids in the kitchen. They're fascination and love for learning is infectious, and they bake with so much love, everything just tastes better.

Would you bake or cook with kids in the kitchen? Are you someone that would "fix" everything they did once they turned around, or are you content with less attractive, but just as tasty results?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Summer Sneakers

Last summer, I wrote about some fun options for summer kicks. I was heading to Florida, so I was looking for super light-weight (mostly slip-ons) that would go from beach to park in a few seconds. Bensimon creates beautiful tennis slip-ons that come in great colors, and here are some more affordable similar styles by Old Navy. (I have them; they're awesome!)

However, this summer we're going to Chicago! Instead of beach time, we'll be walking––a lot. I want some tennis shoes that are more durable and have more support for the days we spend several hours on hard pavement. These shoes by Superga look like a great option. I just ordered them! I've seen them in the J.Crew catalog, on Shopbob, and Piperlime (on sale there!). They also have great colors, so they aren't as drab as the typical tenny.

What do you think? Do you have any summer sneakers that you would suggest? I'd love to get the best (most comfortable and still chic) ones I can find!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

On Being Friends with Your Ex:

It can be difficult, it can impossible, and sometimes it actually works. A large majority mentions that in break ups, the line, "let's stay friends, though" comes up a lot. But does this really stick, or is it an easier way to say goodbye?

You know, like when you graduate and you promise is to stay in touch, but you really know things will just kind of dissipate. It's easier to swallow, and it's kind of a lie. But it's easier.

Many agree that while you vow to be friends, you can never regress from the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. Yes, you can't take back smooches, forget you deepest secrets, or erase all the shared jokes, stories, and favorite movies. And this can be a problem for a lot of people. So here's my story thus far:

Now ages ago, after breaking up with my high school boyfriend, we agreed that being friends was a very viable option for us, because the consensus was that towards the end, we were in more of a "friendship zone", than a relationship zone. The romance had quite naturally (and undramatically) run its course, but we still got along swimmingly.

It seemed so harsh to say, "Well, I'll never speak to you again," because we liked each other as people. Why sever such a unique tie?

To this day we get along very well. In fact, on breaks and holidays, we still get together, we still communicate, and we still laugh at the same jokes and stories.

We share our new tastes in music, suggest movies to each other, and even visit each other's families (my mom still makes him the same dessert she always made him when we dated). The biggest difference is that we don't talk every day, we don't go on dates, we don't kiss. Honestly, so far we have successfully removed the romantic "relationship" parts, maintaining only the good friend stuff.

Have you stayed friends with your ex? Did it work out, or would you advise otherwise? I'd love to hear other stories. Do you think it changes drastically when you begin dating other people?

P.S. Things you say to your friends, and saying "no" to your best friend. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

That Summer Snooze

Perhaps I deal with it more than most people because of my college lifestyle. My mother is a teacher, and Abby & I are still in school, so when summer roles around, it's glorious! Hours spent lounging around outside in the sun, baking everyday, reading oodles of books; and then a couple weeks go by.

I'm not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth––I know that someday I will not be this lucky. I will have a job for which I will be required to work at least forty hours per week with Saturday and Sunday off, every month, all year. So I'm really not complaining (I promise)! But after awhile, every day becomes just like the last and just like the next.

Life gets predictable. And you suddenly crave something different. That's why vacations are so incredible. I got giddy today when I found out I'd be working more than usual next week, because it was changed things up. That notorious summer boredom has sadly crept upon us...

The school year is very industrious, so the transition to doing nothing all day can be jarring. I clean, I read, I practice piano (the poor ears of my family and neighbors!). I try to fill my day to the brim, but alas, that lull happens.

I'd love your advice here! How do I keep enjoying the relaxing days of summer without getting a tiny bit bored! I miss the excitement of Minneapolis, but realize that where ever I was, things would still be highly similar. How do you stay amused, active, and still totally loungey?

Photo via @classickitsch Instagram, Abby Carlson

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"I'll Pass" and Other Phrases You Say to Friends

We've talked about saying "no" to your best friend before, but today I'm thinking about all those things you say to your friends that get you out of stuff without being in trouble. I have friends with different interests than me, and that's what keeps our friendship interesting. Being exactly the same would get pretty boring, don't you think?

However, this also means that I am often invited to things that aren't really my scene, whether it be a request to go clubbing or an invite to weekly Bible studies. These leave me stumped sometimes. How do I respond without offending my friend? How do I tell them I'm not interested without reducing their interests? Here are some key phrases that I find are typically used:

1. "I'll pass this time, but let me know the next time it happens." This gets you out on a time-to-time basis with no permanent solution.

2. "Thanks for inviting me, but I'm not sure I'd fit in. It's not really my scene." This acknowledges their kindness in thinking of you, and also lets them know that you're not really interested. However, it can kind of come off as cold. If their you're friends, though, they'll get it and move on.

3. "I'm busy––sorry!" Probably the worst way to respond ever. If you are busy, that's fine. But if you're not, you better find a way to be busy, or you're likely to be found out sooner or later. Do you really want to lie to your friend just so you don't have to listen to country music?

4. Almost as bad as number three is, "Maybe. I'll see if I can make it." This is incredibly vague and tells your friends that their consideration to ask you isn't appreciated and you're not extending the same courtesy to them.

5. "Seriously?" Exploding into the realm of friend-talk ever since Grey's Anatomy, you can use this over-used phrase (I secretly love it.) for sarcasm, anger, disbelief, and excitement. A catch-all, if you will. You avoid asking the first question, and in all likely-hood, it allows for a transition to a new subject.

6. Asking, "Is _________ going to be there?" puts the blame on someone else. You don't have to take the fall for not going. To be honest, it's a pretty cheap and cowardly one to pull, but can almost always garner some sympathy, as the invitee thinks you really want to go, but won't because of someone else. It's lame, don't use it.

Ultimately, it can be really difficult when your interests don't align with your friends. However, the next you're invited to a pole dancing class, Bible Study, or extreme political gathering, being honest might be your best bet. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this? I've encountered this recently with a friend who I don't get to see very often. How do I let her know I still want to see her, just not at this shindig? Any advice for salvaging friendships without going to stuff you don't like?

Image © Sarah Carlson Etc. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To the Nightingale

As summer evenings start to wrap around us in dreamy sunsets and quiet buzzing, hear is one of my favorite poems. It is one I always think of when summer roles around, and I always turn to it whenever I need to think of something beautiful. I also love "Ode to a Nightingale" by the beloved Keats, but this is so gorgeous, and Borges is awesome.

Out of what secret English summer evening
or night on the incalculable Rhine,
lost among all the nights of my long night,
could it have come to my unknowing ear,
your song, encrusted with mythology,
nightingale of Virgil and the Persians?
Perhaps I never heard you, but my life
is bound up with your life, inseparably.
They symbol for you was a wandering spirit
in a book of enigmas. The poet, El Marino,
nicknamed you the "siren of the forest";
you sing throughout the night of Juliet
and through the intricate pages of the Latin
and from his pinewoods, Heine, that other
nightingale of Germany and Judea,
called you mockingbird, firebird, bird of mourning,
Keats hear your song for everyone, forever.
There is not one among the simmering names
people have given you across the earth
that does not seek to match your own music,
nightingale of the dark. The Muslim dreamed you
in the delirium of ecstasy,
his breast pierced by the thorn of the sung rose
you redden with your blood. Assiduously
in the black evening I contrive this poem,
nightingale of the sands and all the seas,
that in exultation, memory, and fable,
you burn with love and die in liquid song.

                     Jorge Luis Borges (Translated by Alastair Reid)

Photo by Nick Athanas

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Family Movie Nights: The Adult Years

Now that Abby and I are in college, our family rarely has moments when all of us are together doing the same thing. It doesn't happen suddenly. It's slow and sneaky, and finally one day you realize that everyone is in the house together doing different stuff.

Last night we had a very impromptu family movie night. Other than going to the theater with friends to see movies, we don't really have evenings where we gather around the television for two hours (my mom often says she doesn't have the patience to watch movies). The Switch––conveniently one of Abby's newest favorite movies––was on TV, but we soon got sick of commercials and switched to Netflix.

Then. . . Boom! We were having a family movie night. Sure, the semen part was a little weird, but now that we're all adults, most of those awkward scenes aren't as awkward anymore! We can all enjoy the R-rated movies, not stifle an immature laugh when they say penis, or die a little bit when a sex scene pops up.

It was nice to laugh at the same lines as my parents, felt cozy to have my mom pop some food in the oven for a snack, and was a rare treat that we all stayed up a little later than usual (even though work was the next day) to enjoy a movie together.

And yeah, now we will probably have a family inside joke, all saying, "Oh my God. . . I have that."

Do you still have family movie nights with your parents? We once endured The Full Monty with our parents, and they painfully watched every Harry Potter and Twilight movie. Any good grown up films you would recommend for fun family evenings? I'd love to see something funny and smart!

P.S. We also now love Arrested Development and Jason Bateman. 

Photo via

Summer Goals

During a lazy weekend at home in the middle of spring semester, my mom and sister and I lounged around dreaming up life goals. Some were really big (I want to be published!), while others were small but important (Abby wants to be a fabulous ballroom dancer). We got all caught up in dreaming big, but we also made some summer goals. Since Abby and I have part-time jobs, and the three of us are on a summer long "vacation" (Mom still does a lot of work for school over the summer.) we wanted to have little goals to keep us doing. Here are some of ours that we came up with:

1. Take more walks together. We live in a beautiful neighborhood––it's completely canopied in luscious, old trees and gardens. There's something very serene about taking a walk with others, but not feeling like you have to make conversation. 

2. Refurbish old furniture! My mom has a knack for giving beat-up things new life. She repainted a rocking chair for her classroom that is now gorgeous, and even overhauled a cabinet for our house! So we're hitting up thrift sales, estate sales, you name it to find the new "it" project for the summer!

3. Read more (an old stand-by for me) and watch TV less. I read quite a bit for school, but I like to read whatever I want over the summer. Also, my mom, an amazingly dedicated teacher, and avid learner admitted she hasn't read and "real, mature book" in ages, because it can often feel like she only has time for short articles in magazines during the year. (P.S. would you have a magazine or article club instead of a book club? They sound appealing and fascinating!)

4. I want to learn bass guitar––finally!––after getting one in high school and never taking the initiative to learn for real. 

Do you have any summer goals? So many people have the "bikini body" goal, which I gave up on long ago. What's on your reading list? Do you have a summertime hobby?

Photo © Sarah Carlson Etc. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Kudos, Disney!

I have to take a moment and express how impressed I am with Disney. I will admit that it can be quite easy to get swept into the protests against sexist stereotypes in the princess tradition, or claim that the Disney franchise isn't around for kids, but for commerce. However, I stumbled across their series A Poem Is... on their website. Each episode is a maximum of about 3 minutes, features acclaimed actors & authors narrating poetry in concert with sweet little animations. One of my favorites is "The Wind on the Hill" by A.A. Milne narrated by Kenneth Branagh. 

How refreshing that a huge franchise is taking the time to introduce poetry to children! So beautiful!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Bedtime Stories

I'm reading one of the best books right now. Stories: All New Tales, edited by the amazing Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio is a fantastic compilation of wonderful stories. They are short enough to read within one week, and are perfect for reading those 30 minutes before lights out.

My favorites thus far: "The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains" by Neil Gaiman, "Blood" by Roddy Doyle, and finally, the awesome "Wildfire in Manhattan" by Joanne Harris. (Beautiful storytelling––I'm interested to read more by her!)

Do you have any good recommendations that are good for night-time reading? Sometimes stories that are creepy are gruesome are simply to anxiety inducing for bedtime; would you agree? I also really enjoy "At the Bay".

Photo via @sarahcarlsonetc Instagram. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

{Summer Threads}...Family + Friends Dinner Night

We've put away the Spring Threads column for now––even though summer doesn't start for a few weeks––and are kicking off June with Summer Threads! Our first is for those hazy summer evenings when you gather at a friend's house and have a big dinner. Last summer, our family had some theme dinner nights, like Italian night and Mexican fiesta night with a taco bar and fresh guacamole. Family dinners are relaxed and fun, but there are usually tons of pictures for those Instagram albums. Here's my favorite uniform for summer evening shindigs!

Chambray is everywhere this summer, this button down is relaxed in a beautiful light wash, but still polished.

Cat eye shades with a twist featuring animal print and gold. 

NARS everywhere stick in their most popular color, Orgasm (oh, my!) is great for throwing in your tote and having instant, effortless beauty. 

lovely carafe that is easily transportable for bringing homemade sangria to the party.

Tote along your camera, board games, CDs, and edible contribution in this simple straw bag.

The most swoon-worthy floral skirt that is fun, flirt, and absolutely dahling...

These will be your go-to shoes. Easy to slip on & off as you go from patio to living room in a radiant metallic. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taking Mental Days

Have you ever employed the ubiquitous sick day just because you really needed a break? People work so hard these days, and it's showing. Perhaps we've gotten a little lax on self-care, but it isn't unnoticed that as obesity, stress, and mental illness skyrocket, professional pressures likewise rise. I've often heard of people calling in sick to take a day for themselves.

Despite our daydreaming, sick days aren't enjoyable when you're actually ill. Remember high school? You thought you'd take in a few movies, eat junk food, relax. Instead, you sleep all day, are crank and miserable and then stress about the homework and quizzes you'll need to make up.

As work, family, societal demands accumulate, the desire and need to have a day free of worries, obligations, deadlines is obvious. I was talking with one of my mom's coworkers and friends, who suggested that work contracts include a select number of "mental health days" in addition to the set sick days employees are given. Being at your very best, for work or just life, requires that you are happy, healthy, rested, and at peace.

I took a mini mental health day from school last semester when things were getting ultra-busy and out of hand. It was just what I needed. I felt amazing and ready to finish school strong after taking time for myself.

P.S. I seriously recommend trying to get a job at Google. Their employee benefits are insane!

What do you think? Would you call in sick for a mental health day? Should this be something that employers acknowledge as necessary? Is a mental healthy day as real as a sick day? I'd love your thoughts!

Photo via

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Double Standard

When it comes to movies and movie-watching behaviors and etiquette, I have an obnoxious double standard. No one, and I mean no one may talk during the movie. The slightest peep could disturb by cinematic experience, even if I've seen the movie 20 times. 

My patience for movie chatter is extremely limited, too. I, along with some poor souls that "used to be my friends" had a movie night over the weekend, and some (you know who you are) discussed everything from toe jam to medical research for the whole two hour movie. Distraught by the incessant murmur, I kept (not so subtly) piping, "Eh–this is my favorite part!!" Advise they, poorly willed, ignored. 

Needless to say, my favorite lines went missed. Those stunning moments of silence, when the soundtrack even stops, were no longer magical. And, my blood pressure steadily rose. 

With that all being said, and it feels good to get it off my chest, I must confess something...

When I watch movies with Abby, we talk. One of the few joys in life is reciting lines from a movie with my sister. I'm usually pretty well-behaved when I'm with others, but for the most part, I love adding my own commentary. 

And when I'm with all my girlfriends, we have a movie playing, but no one is really watching. So yes, I break my own pet peeve, and quite obviously. Perhaps I should feel guilty that while others suffer my wrath as I berate them for talking during a movie night, I chit chat to my heart's content. 

But in all honesty, my double standard will persist, because when it boils down, making exceptions for myself is totally human. And I think everyone is entitled to be the exception now and then.

Do you have double standards? What are some pet peeves that you can't stand? Is it wrong to have a double standard, or just human? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Photo via

Monday, June 3, 2013

{Spring Threads}...Wedding Edition Part Three

Our last wedding edition of spring threads has the ultimate fanciful vibe. Imagine a garden wedding, not only are there bouquets and boutonnieres, but walls of flowers, petals down the isle, gorgeous ivy twisting it's way around archways. It's dreamy and fragrant. With this, you definitely get to go on the precious side of things. Since the flowers will most likely be incredibly vibrant, sticking with a softly neutral ensemble can be best. 

This beautiful blush pink dress with a boat neck is perfect for garden and tea parties alike; it's girly and still sophisticated. (Bonus! This is something you actually can wear again.)

Simple gold hoops will look elegant, but young––they also will be great for any hairstyle.

Let your necklace mimic the garden while being totally cool. The tortoise shell enamel baubles with sparkle and shine are anything but predictable. They also give a nice edge to the sweetness of the whole outfit. 

Add some funk by mixing floral patterns with geometric designs like this clutch to make your "garden themed outfit" a little less obvious.

Since you'll be wearing a pale, short dress, these nude shoes with minimal straps will elongate your legs, give you great posture and with an ankle strap, you're set for dancing!

What do you usually wear to weddings? Would you dare wearing any shade of white or cream? Can you wear the same color scheme as the bridal party? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

P.S. A totally sweet, non-traditional wedding gift; 27 must take wedding photos; and hashtagging a wedding for candids from friends and families (we did it at a family member's wedding!). 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Happy June!

It's finally June! After what seems like months of bad weather, summer has arrived! The Chippewa Valley could not be more beautiful right now––we're looking forward to going to cool even in our city called Taste of the Valley tomorrow (vendors from around the area serve their coolest, most popular food at a huge park and pavilion near the gorgeous river) for sunshine, food, and fun! Enjoy your first day of the lovely, lovely month!