shop your own closet!

I'm no fashion plate.

But I think after all these years, I've come to understand My Look.

I was a Seventeen fashion magazine fiend, back in the day.

I have always had a bit of a preoccupation with fashion.

And that includes my fourth year, when I took a shine to tucking my sweaters into my britches.

For years I liked to think that I was the quirky, patterned Anthro girl.

In reality, I am not.

If I know I will not be leaving the house at all, there is a good chance that I'll be found in yoga pants and old-lady socks. My hair will be in a ponytail. I will not dig into the make-up bag. I'm a real jeans-tee-and-misbehaving hair kind of girl. I am one piece of jewelry at a time. I am flip flops and frazzled boots. I'm almost never heels. Even on Date Night.

But once in a while, I twist up some holiday hair and wear something sparkly, much like my beloved peonies in full bloom, when they are the perfect pink, fluffier than my grandma's old powder puff, full-on debutantes with eighteen petticoats and teetery heels. When that happens, I usually need something grungy to balance things out, like wrecked-out jeans or funky jewelry.

I'm a study in contrasts.

A little bit country, a little bit suburban  preppy urbanite biker-chick hippie beach girl.

Also, I'm a sucker for seersucker.

I've fallen victim to that "thing" lately where I'm very sure I have nothing in the world to wear. The timing couldn't be worse.

I was never a frequent shopper or a big spender, but if I was near Old Navy I would stop in and TJ Maxx was my secret crush. I used to stalk clearance racks and buy skinny cords on J Crew's Final Sale annually for $20 a pop.

Yeesh, don't even get me started on J Crew. More and more, I've learned to stay away. I've forced myself to stay away. Because as Molly the dog is my witness, I cannot go into one of my favorite stores without walking back out with something in my bag. It's a proven fact.

Life changed suddenly, there's just no time for surprise stripes or impromptu plaid shopping sprees right now.

A month or so ago I started to tell myself that I deserved to do a little damage. Just the tiniest bit. One hit. A quick fix.

But the strangest thing happened. I started to see what I already have with fresh eyes. And I realized all over again that it's not about needing "something", it's about wanting something new. Different.

If you remember nothing else that I ever say, remember this... shop your own closet! It will surprise you, energize you. It will inspire you and make you feel like a fashion genius.

Also, Layers are your BFF.
 I dare you to layer a button-down under a t-shirt under a cardigan under a blazer.
You will emerge feeling brand new.
You will emerge with limited range of motion in your rotating joints.

Layering tips: Pull button-down cuffs out of the blazer. If you have a lining in your blazer or jacket, roll it! Instant texture and funk. The goal is, lots of layers in lots of places. A bunch of random bracelets tops it off.
Oh, and stripes (always, always, always stripes!) with plaid. or florals!

Then, what the heck? Tie a 25-cent thrift-store table runner around your neck and pin it down with a cool vintage broach.

But don't forget the belt! Tuck just 1/3 of the front of your shirt in and let some belt peek out. In a perfect world, it matches nothing else you're wearing.

Sidenotes: I bought the best jacket ever 12 years ago at TJ Maxx. Still love it. When I brought it home my sister laughed hysterically and asked if it was for a 2 year old.

I've often wished I were a more normal person, but the sad reality is, weirdness follows me around like Betty follows Veronica.

I can go almost nowhere without strangeness happening, and it's not just that it happens when I'm there, it usually happens to Actual Me or, at the least, in my immediate proximity.
I'm the magnet, situational comedy the metal.

Though this makes me an awkward person to hang out with, it can also be fairly entertaining. Except for the time said "awkwardness" happened to be a near-miss with a would-be band of mayhem-makers on a flight from LAX. Don't even bother to ask the hubs to corroborate this story, because it's still a bone of contention. But I was there. I know what I saw. I didn't write imaginary goodbye letters to my children for nothing.

All of that to say, another funny story.
I'm so sorry.
bear with me.

It happened years ago, and it's taken me this long to feel comfortable sharing. I don't know why. Or maybe I do. Whatever. See, I bought these boots in San Francisco, back in 1998. I was boot shopping at Country Outfitter and I tried on ALLLL of the boots. Even though a gift certificate was involved, I felt squirrelly about spending that much money, plus I have problems with boots because 1) I'm short and 2) chunky calves

At the very, very last second, I spotted these, fell in love, and brought them back to my hotel with me, does that just sounds creepy?

I Loved them!!!

Yada, yada, I wore them all the time.
They worked with everything, or at least I said they did.

It was no surprise that I wore them a lot when we traveled. What WAS surprising was when I was sitting, minding my own business, at my gate at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta when a man approached me. I saw him from my peripheral vision, but did not look up, because I decided he must have just had poor depth perception and was actually heading somewhere else. He was probably just a crooked walker.

When it was obvious he was getting ready to speak to me, I looked up to see a youngish, handsomeish business man wearing a suit, tie and wing tips.

When he wordlessly passed me a single, folded piece of paper, I assumed he was getting ready to bomb the joint or abduct me.

I remember I was wearing a pink sweater, and I'm sure my cheeks matched its hue as I stammered, "Uh, for, uh, me?"

He nodded.


Handed me the note, then turned and walked away. Without a single word.

I was suddenly feeling clammy and weird. Though I wanted to know what the paper said, I was kinda scared to look.

From the corner of my eye, I watched him hand over his boarding pass, and board a plane headed for It Totally Doesn't Matter. He never looked back, which was comforting and interesting, in light of the slip of paper in my shaky hands.

Slowly and carefully I unfold it, quite sheepishly, my eyes darting around the perimeter.
I smiled as I read his words......"Single Hottest Boots, ever!" Safe Travels M.

just sayin'.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble
Yields 6 to 8 servings.
For the topping:
1 1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons Demerara sugar (or turbinado sugar aka Sugar in the Raw)
Zest of one lemon
1/4 pound (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
For the filling:
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch pieces
1 quart strawberries plus a few extras, hulled, quartered
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cornstarch (some commenters found the flour option a little too, well, floury so this has been updated)
Pinch of salt
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Prepare topping: In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, sugars and lemon zest and add the melted butter. Mix until small and large clumps form. Refrigerate until needed.
2. Prepare filling: Toss rhubarb, strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch and a pinch of salt in a 9-inch deep-dish pie plate. (I used an oval dish this time, because they fit better in the bottom of a shopping bag.)
3. Remove topping from refrigerator and cover fruit thickly and evenly with topping. Place pie plate on a (foil-lined, if you really want to think ahead) baking sheet, and bake until crumble topping is golden brown in places and fruit is bubbling beneath, about 40 to 50 minutes.


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