Five Piece French Wardrobe: March Update

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five piece french wardrobe minimal fashion

March:

  • Investment: I found a great pair of Franco Sarto heels at Marshalls for $50. The style name is Bocce, but I can not find them online anywhere. Similar heels can be found here (pictured), here and here.
  • Basic: I stocked up for summer this month, since unfortunately jeans and ankle booties are not going to cut it for summer in Texas. After a LOT of browsing (is it just me, or are the majority of this season’s sandals really not stylish?), settled on these wedges, which I absolutely love. I also picked up a basic black tank and white shorts in a recent J Crew sale.

Five Piece French Wardrobe march 2014 basics spring j crew

Onward:

As we continue to transition into warm weather, I’ve been deciding on dresses for summer. I also recently tried on these Madewell d’orsays, and I’m just waiting for them to go on sale before I make them my own. They’re perfect.

Take a look at all my Five Piece French Wardrobe posts here.

Gluten-Free Fettuccine Alfredo with Asparagus

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alfredo-asparagus-gluten-free-pioneer-woman

Until you’ve made it yourself, Fettuccine Alfredo may seem like a complicated dish best reserved for ordering in restaurants. In actuality, it’s a secret 15-minute meal perfect for weeknight dinners, or a way to impress dinner guests without spending any time in the kitchen.

Fettuccine Alfredo is known for being super-fattening, which it undeniably is. In this version, I made it a little healthier with gluten-free pasta and a ton of asparagus – two little changes that made me feel a bit better about taking a second helping.

As for gluten-free pasta, I have tried a million kinds, and my favorite is by far the Tinkyada brand. If you have no interest in trying this without gluten, you can use regular pasta here without a problem!

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Baked Kale, Leek, and Quinoa Patties

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kale-quinoa-leek-healthy-nugget-patty-snack

My inner child loves a snack first thing when I get home from work in the evenings. Usually, it’s leftovers from the night before or something involving cheese and crackers. I always feel better about my so-called afternoon snack (it’s usually closer to 6pm than the afternoon) when it’s something healthy, like these kale and quinoa patties. There’s tons of protein from the eggs and quinoa, and the addition of everyone’s favorite superfood makes up for the breadcrumbs involved (right?).

I’ve already shared a version of these patties here, but this recipe is so versatile – and such a favorite in our house – that I couldn’t resist sharing the baked version. The fried is slightly more delicious, but really, the difference is hard to discern, making this version naturally less in calories.

kale-quinoa-leek-patty-healthy-bake

Want to switch it up even more? Try feta or Pecorino instead of Parmesan, or Swiss chard instead of kale. Add a few handfuls of chopped fresh herbs and/or cumin, as in the original. I bet a broccoli and cheddar version would be fantastic. I usually eat them plain, but they would be fantastic with a poached egg on top, falafel-style in a pita, on a salad, or with avocado.

Recipe after the jump!

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Vegetarian Potstickers

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vegetable potstickers vegan vegetarian dumplings

Recently, I decided to attempt making potstickers for the first time. It was a time-consuming process, but SO worth it when Tim and I got to chow down on a dozen fresh, healthy dumplings each. I love all potstickers, but the vibrant, fresh filling in these was a welcome change from the mystery brown veggie filling I find at most takeout places. The taste in and of itself was worth the hour or so I spent assembling these.

I used this recipe from Smitten Kitchen as my guide, but with a few changes. For the filling, I used half an onion (sauteed), shredded cabbage, firm tofu, peas, and lots of garlic, ginger, and green onions. I didn’t have any issues with the won ton wrappers that I used (she recommends finding dumpling wrappers instead, which I’ll try next time). My cooking times also varied – about 3 minutes to brown, and I let them steam for 6 minutes. Other than that, I followed her recipe – her scallion dipping sauce was the perfect accompaniment and totally made the dish.

We’ve got two dozen more in the freezer, just waiting for a night when I am too tired to really cook dinner. This is a great recipe for a long weekend or a lazy Sunday – let me know what you think if you try them out!

How to Get the Best Deals at J Crew

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best deals sale j crew how to shopping jcrew

Once I got my first job in high school, I was expected to buy my own clothes. My parents would treat me to necessary items around back-to-school and Christmas time, but anything else I wanted (which, not surprisingly, was a lot), I was on my own for. Since I was making minimum wage bagging groceries, I spent a lot of time combing through discount stores such as Marshalls and TJ Maxx. Because of this, I have a serious aversion to paying full price for anything…which has only come to benefit me as an adult. By paying careful attention to store emails, I  have developed a knack for scoring well-known brands like J Crew for TJ Maxx prices.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Good: If there’s a particular item you’re eyeing, sign up for their e-newsletter and keep a close watch on it. J Crew has a huge variety of sales – start of season, end of season, new arrivals…I’d guess that I get a new sale in my inbox every other week. That being said, J Crew’s basic sale prices are usually nothing major – usually less than $10 off the original price.

Best: Hang tight for a big sale – such as 30% off your entire purchase, or 40% off all sale items. This is where the best savings can be found, but you need to be a little patient for these sales to come around.

The Numbers: (clockwise from top left)

  • Tissue Tee – Originally $29.50. On sale for $22.50. Purchased for $13.50.
  • Tassel-trim Scarf – Originally $49.50. On sale for $42.50. Purchased for $25.50.
  • Linen V-neck Pocket Tee – Originally $36.50. On sale for $25.00. Purchased for $15.00.
  • Jersey Maxi Skirt – Originally $75.00. On sale for $59.50. Purchased for $35.70.
  • Merino Tippi Sweater – Originally $79.50. On sale for $44.99. Purchased for $22.49.

The Payoff:

  • Original Price: $270.00
  • Sale Price: $210.54
  • Final price with 40% off sale coupon code: $112.19
  • Total savings: 58.5%
  • This particular sale goes through 2/25/14 – use code BIG40 at checkout!

In regard to the 5 Piece French Wardrobe, these are all basics. They can be mixed and matched and compliment all my other basics – I just significantly increased my wardrobe options for just over $100.

Any questions? Just let me know in the comments, or on Twitter @SweetLifeLaur.

Five Piece French Wardrobe: February Update

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Five Piece French Wardrobe 2014 progress february update

Here is my very first update on my year of the Five Piece French Wardrobe. Ah, I love a a blank slate with so much potential! Follow all my progress here.

January:

  • Investment: I scored this chambray top, which apparently never goes on sale, from Madewell for just about 50% off. Win.
  • Basic: Also on sale at Madewell – the amazing Slub V-Neck Pocket Tee in Heather Graphite, which I would wear every day if it was socially acceptable. Next step is to pick up the same top in white and black.

February:

  • (Major) Investment: After receiving my tax return, I bit the bullet and purchased my dream bag during a 20% off sale at Kate Spade. My last expensive bag purchase was three years ago, and I definitely see high-quality purses as an investment.
  • Basic: Madewell Skinny Skinny Jeans in Madwell Rinse. Theses are the best skinnies ever and normally retail for $115. I scored them for less than $60 during Madewell’s Valentine’s Day sale. Update: When I wrote this, these jeans were in the mail. Even though they are the exact same cut and size as my black ones, they had a completely different fit and didn’t work out. Instead: Invested in these basics, on sale at J Crew.
  • Bonus: My husband gave me with this amazing Kate Spade bracelet (which I had been eyeing for months) for Valentine’s Day. It says “Pop, Fizz, Clink!” on the outside, and “Champagne Taste, Seltzer Salary” on the inside – it was made for me.

Onward:

It’s starting to warm up in Austin (!), so it’s time to start thinking about summer pieces. A black dress that goes with everything is next on my basics list, and a summer sandal investment will need to happen soon, as well. I would love to hear your recommendations, especially in the sandal department!

The Five Piece French Wardrobe

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five piece french wardrobe basic basics shopping guide

{black jeans, blue jeans, v-neck shirts, boots, watch}

Right around January 1, I saw this pin from Camille Styles. The post was a part of their New Year’s Resolutions series, and this was the first time I had heard of the concept of the Five Piece French Wardrobe. I did a little research, and it stuck with me. Without even making a conscious effort, my spending habits started to change.

The idea behind the Five Piece French Wardrobe is that you build a closet of basics, and supplement these with five investment pieces per season, or ten pieces per year. It makes sense to me – I find myself reaching for the same pieces over and over, and I do a ton of mixing and matching. As mentioned in this post, I’m tired of buying clothing that I get sick of immediately or doesn’t last – and it’s nice to put a name and a set of rules to an idea.

My ultimate goal here is to completely eliminate the “I have nothing to wear” problem/crisis that occasionally takes over my mornings, and start feeling stylish and comfortable every day. I think it can be done.

The Rules:

  • 5 investment pieces per season, or 10 per year. Since I’m still working on basics (some of the things on the Basics list below are definitely investments), I’m allowing myself one investment per month/12 pieces per year.
  • Socks, underwear, accessories, and basics don’t count toward your total unless they are way out of your normal price range – so if a white t-shirt isn’t so white anymore, it’s okay to replace right away.
  • Shoes (at least expensive ones) do count – even if they’re on the basics list.

My Master List of Basics:

Tops:

  • Black, grey, and white t-shirts
  • Black, grey, and white sleeveless shirts
  • Black dress
  • Black sweater

Bottoms:

  • Black jeans
  • White jeans
  • Blue jeans
  • Black shorts
  • White shorts

Jackets:

  • Leather jacket
  • Trench coat
  • Winter coat
  • Jean jacket

Shoes:

  • Black heels
  • Nude heels
  • Ankle boots
  • Rain boots
  • Riding Boots
  • Flats
  • Sandals

Accessories:

  • Gold or silver watch
  • Black leather bag
  • Leather belt

Valentine’s Day Gifts: Hearts and Arrows

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Tiffany Ziegfeld collection arrow necklace valentine's day gift ideas

You don’t know this because I haven’t gotten around to blogging my wedding yet, but an underlying theme of our wedding was hearts and arrows. I have loved hearts and arrows since I was a kid. We had “A Special Valentine with the Family Circus” on tape, and I was in awe of the giant heart and arrow Valentine the kids make for their mom – I guess it stuck with me, 20 or so years later! Here’s my roundup of favorite heart-and-arrow inspired gifts for your Valentine. I saw the Tiffany Arrow necklace above on the Tiffany Instagram account last week and fell in love. At $175, it’s a bit extravagant for a Valentine’s Day gift, but it definitely deserves a place in this post.

bando-mini-sequin-heart-valentine-accessories Ban.do Hearts – these are one of my all-time favorite accessories. I have mini hearts in red, pink, and gold. They have a dual back, so you can clip them in your hair or pin them to your top, jacket, or almost anything. Everything Ban.do makes is fun, stylish, and well-made. My collection grows every year.

iadornu arrow brass tie bar mens accessories

One way that we tied our wedding theme together was in Tim and my accessories. I bought this tie bar for him, along with a matching bracelet for me, from Etsy shop iadornu. We both still get compliments on these whenever we wear them – the tie bar, especially. It’s subtle, elegant, and unique.

girls heart rain coat valentines day gift children

If you have a special youngster in your life, this raincoat from J Crew is an absolutely adorable Valentine’s Day gift that she can use all spring. Not only is this one too cute for words, it also folds up into a little pouch so your little one isn’t dragging around a raincoat once the sun comes back out.

Cupid Cuff Bracelet BaubleBar Valentine

BaubleBar’s Cupid Cuff was their Buried Bauble selection last Friday, and I couldn’t resist purchasing it to add to my arrow bracelet collection. I haven’t received it yet, but I’ll definitely be posting an arrow arm party on Instagram when I do!

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide: Flower Ordering Tips

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bouquet how to order flowers tips tricks

{A surprise bouquet from my work bestie, Lauren, on my one-year anniversary}

Over the past few years, I have sent flowers to a lot of people – both on behalf of executives at my job/past job, and personally to friends and family. This may be a sweeping generalization, but I think it’s safe to say that most women just love receiving flowers. A beautiful bouquet is an incredibly thoughtful gift that (bonus!) doesn’t involve a lot of work for you.

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I thought I’d share my tips for ordering flowers, as it can definitely be overwhelming at first.

  • Use a local florist, not a website like FTD.com – the flowers will be much fresher and will come beautifully arranged when you use a local florist. (Note: Teleflora will work if you’re in a pinch – they work solely with local florists, and their flowers are hand-delivered, whereas FTD flowers come in a box via UPS).
  • I have flowers sent to a lot of different cities, and I always start with a Yelp search – just type in a person’s address or city, and the best options will be presented to you in seconds.
  • You do not have to stick with the exact arrangements a florist has on their website. Call in and let them know your budget; ask them to have fun and use what is fresh and local, or do a little research to figure out your signature style.
  • If you order flowers often in the same city, get to know your florist. When they know you by name, they will go above and beyond for you.
  • On Valentine’s Day especially, try your local farmer’s market for flowers. Everyone’s prices will go up everywhere for Valentine’s Day, but I have found lower prices at farmer’s markets.

When has a surprise bouquet made your day?

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Him

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anatomically correct mens heart t shirt tee valentine gift

Valentine’s Day is coming right up, and I have five Valentine’s Day gift guides coming your way this week. After what seems like so soon after the holidays, you might be running low on gift ideas for the special gentleman in your life. Here are some of my favorite gifts for guys.

I bought the shirt above for Tim on our second Valentine’s Day, in 2011. It’s held up incredibly well, and he still wears it. I highly recommend this Etsy shop – and thank you to The Lovely Sisters for first posting this great find!

chemex-8-cup-coffee-maker

I know my husband has a Chemex on his wish list. If you haven’t seen these in your local coffee shop, basically it’s a fancy (yet easy) way to brew coffee. This Bon Appetit article does a good job at explaining how to use one of these. I’d pair this gift with a bag of his favorite coffee, and don’t forget filters!

tovolo colossal ice cube old fashioned bar accessory

Bar accessories – need I say more? Tim and I both love a classic Old Fashioned, and an essential part of a good drink is ice that won’t water it down immediately. We recently purchased these amazing “colossal” ice cube makers – one big cube keeps the drink tasting as it should, and it looks pretty professional, too. We also have these ice sphere molds, which are very user-friendly. Wrap this up with a bottle of bourbon and a jar of maraschino cherries!

opinel knife legal pocketknife wood handle

If your significant is the type who likes to carry a cool pocket knife, this might be the one. Opinel knives are high-quality and incredibly affordable – this one is only $14.49! They can also be monogrammed for an extra-special touch.