Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spring clean yourself 1: Eye make up

With the start of April, I'm usually motivated to focus attention away from my house and onto myself as I prepare to get a little tan and feel a little more alive. I know ladies are always looking for product suggestions. I am not a huge fan of beauty products as I am a medium-to-low-maintenance girl, but I have experimented more in the last few years, and I've found some favorites. So, today I'll start a short series of "Spring Clean Yourself" posts dedicated to some of my tried and true favorites.

Let's start with eyes. Eye make up is my favorite make up.

Product 1: CoverGirl Lash Exact mascara (non-water proof in black)



Mascara is my "desert island" product. I learned this term at a Mary Kay party my friend had four years ago. Although I do not have many products I consider "essentials," I do love the way mascara makes me look awake even if I really am struggling to keep my eyes open.

I like this particular mascara because it doesn't clump and it last a long time; plus, it's cheap!

I've tried lots of mascara brands over the years, including one by Mary Kay, one by Clinique, and the Maybeline line because that's supposed to be the ultimate mascara. I've also tried a variety of CoverGirl mascaras as well. But this CoverGirl Lash Exact kind has remained my favorite. I also know that some people like to wear brown mascara in the summer, but I like the more dramatic effect of black year round.

Product 2: Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner in Espresso Ink


I did not start wearing eyeliner until I started experimenting with make up for our wedding. The lady at the make-up counter in Bloomingdale's really coated this stuff on the first time I wore it and it freaked me out (and Matt, when I got home). But just a little of this stuff goes a long way, and the special Bobbi Brown eyeliner brush helps you apply what you need. I don't wear this every day, but I do notice how it makes me look so much more alive when I have it on, and it makes me look better in photos.

I've had this one tub of eyeliner for four years. Is that bad? I don't think so. It's worked the same throughout my use of it. You can buy this product at most up-scale department stores. I got mine at Bloomingdale's for $21. The espresso ink color on the Web site looks quite brown, whereas in person the eyeliner looks closer to black, at least to me/on me. The brush I also picked up at Bloomingdale's for $25 (yeah, I know, more expensive than I'd like, but it has held up well. Just wash it out each time you apply eyeliner).

And the best part is I just love Bobbi Brown's music. Just kidding.

Tip 51: Rearrange your throw pillows

Looking for an easy way to change the look of your living room?

Tip 51: Try different groupings of your throw pillows to freshen your living room's look.

I have a slight obsession with throw pillows, and I have a husband who loves symmetry. But I know that items can be more visually appealing when arranged in non-symmetrical groupings of odd numbers.

Our basement couches used to look like this


After I rearranged they look like this

Now I primarily rearranged our pillows because one of the pink pillows went to the dogs (a.k.a they destroyed it), but it's also just one example of how you can make a small change if you're getting tired of a certain look. (And avoid going out to spend more money.)

And you can always change it back.

Next up...let's spring clean ourselves! A series of posts about my favorite beauty products in case you're looking to change things up for spring!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tip 50: Why you should start a blog

I'll view this 50th tip (and 87th post) as a certain milestone and share with you what I've learned about blogging since I began this project a little over two months ago.

Tip 50: If there is anything you want to accomplish that you're not already accomplishing, you should start a blog and tell all your friends about it because that will help motivate you to achieve your goals.

My goals are to have a clean and organized house, so through this blog I have started to share some of what I have learned and some of what I am learning along the way. While I've been keeping this blog updated daily, I have been accomplishing more small and large projects at our house than I have ever accomplished in the span of two months.

But that's not all. Here are some more reasons to keep a blog:

1) You can positively influence other people through your blog. I hate unsolicited advice, and I try not to give out such advice (except to my students, because handing out unsolicited advice to teenagers is literally my job). But my blog is a place where I can share what I know to anyone who cares, and I don't have to worry about stepping on toes. If you don't like what someone has to say on a blog, you don't have to read it. Many of my friends have reported how they've made small changes to their lives through my blog. They've invested in large jugs of vinegar, bought coupon organizers, signed up for Mint.com and created budgets, bought Droids, come up with better ways to divide chores between husband and wife, purged their closets, started making sweet potato fries and/or popcorn on the stove (but usually not together), hung up their necklaces, subscribed to recipe magazines and started their own recipe notebooks, Furminated their pets, and started flossing in the shower.

2) You can learn through others by keeping a blog. Suddenly your real-life friends and the strangers who read your blog and become familiar faces start telling you their discoveries. And then your friends' parents start reading your blog and sharing more ideas as well. It's like a little knowledge tree, and you planted the roots.

3) You hear from your friends more often when you keep a blog. Before I started keeping a blog I thought people would stop emailing or calling me because they could easily find out about my life through my blog. But actually the opposite has happened. Some of my faraway friends in New York and Colorado have reported feeling more connected to me because of the blog, and we're in better contact, too. Now I am waiting for all my friends to start blogs so I can know all about their lives.

4) You get to chronicle and therefore make better sense of your own life. I love keeping track of my life through calendars and photos, but breaking out an old-fashioned journal seems like a chore. This blog remedied that problem I had with paper and pencil.

5) You get to write for a reason. In high school and college writing was one of my main activities, mostly thanks to my dedicated involvement in scholastic journalism and my time as an English major. Now as an English teacher, most of my writing takes the form of writing on my students' papers. The blog, though, is for me, and it's a chance to actually keep up with my writing and be a better teacher of writing the more I practice on my own.

All these benefits aside, I'm still convinced that the best way to motivate yourself to do anything -- buy a house, be more financially responsible, renovate a house, plan a wedding, become a better cook, get ready for a baby, start a new business venture, train a puppy, travel the globe -- is to blog about it. Your friends will want to know about your progress, and that will motivate you to keep moving forward.

And when you start your blog, send me the link!

Monday, March 29, 2010

New line: Liberty of London for Target

I read a lot of blogs, and one of them is called Project Balancing Act by a woman named Susan who lives in Chicago. Susan has great taste and seems to shop at a lot of the same stores I love. She introduced me to the Liberty of London line for Target in her post a couple weeks ago, and I was thinking I needed to check it out in person.

Then my brother, his wife and their adorable daughter stayed with us last week, and my totally-put-together sister-in-law gave me a great gift that included two candles from the Liberty of London for Target line. It was most fortuitous.

The candles are beautiful. They come in a lovely heavy-duty cardboard holder, and they smell amazing. They smell so amazing that Matt even said, "Wow, these candles are amazing." I mean, my man is fairly domestic for a 29-year-old guy, but he rarely makes comments like that.

Check out these pretty candles, one in vanilla bean scent, and one in lotus and white flower scent.


Thanks Susan for alerting me to this line, and thanks Amy for the great gift!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

DIY project: Kitchen backsplash step 6

Here we are, almost done with the backsplash, and as luck would have it, I think this nearly final step is probably the worst. Yes, I'm talking grout. People had said it would not be fun, and they were right. It's not so much the grout itself that presents the challenge. It's the nearly Sisyphean task of cleaning it that is the worst. Fortunately, though, this step is now complete, and Matt and I are still married.

I've already shown you how our kitchen went from this


To this, after we installed the tile

And now I'll explain how we finally arrived at this, after we grouted.


First of all, when I wrote about the supplies we needed, I said I would blow everyone's mind with the information that we were told by a sales associate at Home Depot not to get a grout float and use just a putty knife instead. Well, that was bad advice. So, yesterday on the way home from lunch, we picked up this mid-range rubber grout float for $6.99.


Then it was time to get to work. We laid some paper towels around the countertops and taped them so they were able to trap any grout that might fall through the cracks.

Step 1: Mix the grout.
We were working with sanded grout because we were working with slate tile. Our friend Thom, who restores old homes for his job, recommended we add more water to our grout mixture than we think we need, and that we wait 15 minutes for the mixture to settle before applying it to the tile. Thom was right. When Matt first mixed the grout it was way too dry and difficult to adhere to the tile. So, he added more water, remixed, and waited, and then it was time to grout.

Step 2: Apply the grout to the tile using the grout float.
This is where I began to get sick to my stomach, because as you apply the grout it looks like this:
It feels like you are messing up everything you just spent all this time trying to perfect in all the previous steps.

The keys to this step are to:
1) Really cram the grout into the spaces between the tiles. In our case, we inevitably missed some spots in nearly every section of our kitchen, so we had to reapply to one small spot each time.
2) Take off excess grout using the grout float held at a 45 degree angle once you have applied grout all over an area.

Step 3: Let the grout settle for no more than 15 minutes before you go over it with an ever-so-damp sponge.

By this step the grout will look like this
Still kind of scary, right? I know, my heart was racing. What if we just screwed everything up?

This is why this step is best for a perfectionist like me. When you go over the tile with that ever-so-damp sponge, you remove more excess grout to help even out the grout lines and, of course, start to clean up the tile. At this step, make sure you have a bucket with water so you can rinse your sponge out frequently (and you will need to do this often).
Soon, your tile will look like this.


There is still a haze on the tile from the grout, and apparently this is totally normal. So, we went over the tile about 30 minutes later with that same slightly damp sponge, and it got a little better. Then we tired to buff it with a cloth as we had been told, and it only improved minimally.

But then I still felt like we had failed. It wasn't perfect. Maybe it's not perfect because we did it ourselves. Maybe it's not perfect because it's not really possible to make our specific tile look perfect. Either way, when we went to bed Saturday night I was pretty annoyed.

Little did I know Matt was up investigating what to do to make me happier (reason number 378 he's a great husband). So he discovered...

Step 4: Go over your tile with an equal parts warm water and vinegar solution on the scouring side of a sponge to remove any excess haze.


Now our project is mostly complete. The haze is mostly gone, but we'll do a little buffing here and there to hope we can still make it as pretty as possible. We need to seal the grout and tile again, but you're supposed to wait 72 hours after installing the grout to do that. We also are going to look into either buying new outlet covers in a stainless steel color, or we'll spray paint the ones we already own. Finally, I have some lights to install underneath the cabinets to highlight the backsplash, but I'm going to make that the finishing touch.

Stay tuned later this week for the big reveal!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Tip 49: Carnations, hue knew?

For as long as I can remember I have loved fresh flowers. As a little girl I dreamed of having a boyfriend, just so he could buy me flowers. Then I wised up and realized that if I want flowers, I should buy them myself. My whole life I have also scoffed at carnations. I think one time I was even known for saying, "Carnations...a way to say, 'I didn't try very hard to show you how I feel.'" To me carnations have been the ugly stepsister of the flower world, until I read this post about carnations as "budget blooms" on Young House Love, and it got me thinking I should give carnations a try. So, I pass along to you...

Tip 49: Give carnations a try to brighten up your space on a tight budget.

Carnations are great because they:

1) Come in lots of colors.
2) Last longer than any flower.
3) Are easy to divide up into small bud vases to maximize their effect throughout your space.
4) Are cheap. I bought all the flowers pictured below for $6.99 total.

I took one bouquet and divided them up into three separate spaces on our main floor.

Space 1: On these ledges inside these small Lula vases from Crate and Barrel (current price $9.99 each)

Space 2: On the coffee inside these larger vases, also from Crate and Barrel (no longer on sale; purchased in the fall)


Space 3: On our kitchen island inside these small bud vases from Crate and Barrel (from our wedding)


Thanks in part to the adorably cute couple over at Young House Love, I am now a friend to carnations. It's nice to have something fresh and inexpensive to add charm to your room and a smile to your face.

Friday, March 26, 2010

DIY project: Kitchen backsplash how-to tile


Tomorrow marks the first day I will have been able to breathe since we installed our tile for our backsplash last Saturday and Sunday. Because I am eager to share with you the results when we're done, I figured I better share with you what I learned about tiling before we enter the world of grouting.

Remember that before you can tile, you should:

With all this taken care of, you are ready to lay some tile. Because we are installing a backsplash, this is where I can speak with a little authority. Installing bathroom tile or floor tile present their own series of challenges (floor tile especially, because it must be perfectly level), but the same general principles apply for all types of tile.

Step 1: Have your pre-tiling conversation with your tiling buddy. Play to your strengths.
Matt and I tackled this job together. We decided he is less fearful of sharp blades than I am, so he should man the wet saw. I am much more detail-oriented and skilled with puzzles than he is, so I should be the one to arrange the pieces together and physically put the tile on the wall. Matt even said, "You are in charge, just tell me what to do." Yes, sir. So, he donned his blood drive T-shirt and got ready to work. (Side note: I did not appreciate the humor in his blood drive T-shirt he wore intentionally while operating a semi-frightening tool until the second day of tiling.)


Step 2: Unless you have a designated workshop space, set up your wet saw outside.
We also laid a tarp underneath our wet saw to reduce some of the mess we were guaranteed to make. And yes, Matt is wearing ski goggles because we do not own actual safety goggles.

We are also really glad we could borrow our friends' saw. If we had planned to get each tile cut at Home Depot that would have been a bad idea because Matt easily made enough cuts that $1 a pop at Home Depot would not have been economical.



Step 3: Pick your starting point. Start at one edge, at the bottom of the wall, and work your way up and over.
Why start at the bottom? So your tiles can be level. This is a crucial step, as we quickly learned after some too-high tiles were placed. We also could not just place one sheet of tiles straight onto the wall, because none of our sheets had straight edges. So we had to start cutting our tile immediately.

Step 4: Cut your tiles in stages. Do not try to cut everything before you lay any tile, because you will most likely miscalculate at some point and then potentially waste a lot of tile.
We basically moved through our kitchen one square foot at a time. I took a black Sharpie and a ruler and drew a line through all the tiles for Matt to cut when I was faced with laying tile at an edge or around an outlet. Only occasionally was I fortunate enough to not need any cuts in one square foot of space.


Step 5: Use the flat end of your notched trowel to spread a thin layer of adhesive to the wall. Once your adhesive is roughly even, use the notched side held at a 45 degree angle to create horizontal groove marks on the wall.
These groove marks will help guarantee that you have spread even amounts of adhesive. At "Tiling with Jim," Jim reminded us that our adhesive would harden in about 30 minutes, so we should only spread the amount of adhesive we can realistically use in that time. At first this was challenging to gauge, but after laying a couple sheets of tile, I could estimate more realistically. I wound up spreading adhesive over an area approximately two feet wide each time, enough to cover two complete sheets of tile (though we rarely laid an entire sheet at a time).

 (And above you might see how I broke a rule...I started at the top here, not the bottom. Then I learned my lesson.)

And at this point, about 30 minutes into our work session, we had laid this much tile at our starting point...victory!


As we kept going, the puzzle would fluctuate between relatively easy and relatively complex. But I enjoyed the challenge.

The corner of our kitchen presented a particular challenge. Thankfully, I am small and flexible and managed to do this:

After five and a half hours of work we had covered all the big stuff. We had social plans and not much desire to continue, so we called it a night and planned to finish Sunday afternoon. Here's what one section of the kitchen looked like at the end of Saturday:


Sunday I took a bunch of loose tiles and pieced them together to fill the one inch spot between the top of the current backsplash and the bottom of the cabinets. The puzzle worked really well, and I only needed Matt to make about six cuts on Sunday.

Here's what that same section looked like Sunday afternoon as I placed the final piece of tile:

 

So if you're wondering if you can install your own backsplash, the answer is yes. Particularly if you use tiles that come on sheets. Particularly if you choose a forgiving tile pattern so that, if you mess up, it will be camouflaged. Particularly if you and your partner divide and conquer. And particularly if you dedicate one nice Saturday to this task.

But maybe I speak to soon....we have to grout tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book review: Stop Getting Ripped Off

So, I'm hosting book club tonight at my house, and as the host we appear to have a trend going where I have the last say on the book selection. Being the nerd that I am, this month I picked a financial literacy book for my group. All of us are pretty savvy ladies, so none of us "need" this book, but I heard good things about it before I picked it up, and it did teach me some nice tricks along the way. Here's the scoop.

Title: "Stop Getting Ripped Off: Why Consumers Get Screwed, and How You Can Always Get a Fair Deal"
Author: Bob Sullivan
Publication year: 2009
Now in paperback for $10.20 at Amazon


Why I liked this book:
  • It is well organized. Clearly this is going to resonate with me. There are three parts -- part 1, an overview; part 2 chapters about how you can "stop getting ripped off, one deal at a time," where each chapter focuses on a different aspect of our daily lives; part 3: how to implement your financial dreams by following the "pitfall-proof pyramid."

  • The book is filled with practical, clear advance. This is another huge plus for me. I love how-to books that are straight to the point. There is lots of information you can start implementing tomorrow.

  • The author's goals. Sullivan does not claim to have a perfect solution for everyone. This book is not about how to get rich quick. This is not even a book about how to get rich. Instead, he's trying to show how, in both big and small ways, we can all make sure that we're looking out for our financial selves. And you can pat yourself on the back for already doing so many of the strategies he outlines.

Some of the highlights:
Here's the wisdom Sullivan shares that I am happy to pass along. I have not applied this wisdom myself, but these practices may be adopted over here at some point.
  • Get an allowance checking account with no overdraft protection. This is his solution for anyone who shares a joint checking account. Sullivan recommends that there be one joint checking account from which you pay all the bills, and then each individual gets a certain amount of money each month in a separate account to spend as he or she chooses. Sullivan emphasizes the importance of making sure these accounts do not have overdraft protection, because then the possibility of high fees (even one time) defeats the purpose of using an account like this to avoid poor banking practices.
  • Get rid of cable. Growing up, it seemed like a few times a year my parents talked about the possibility of cutting cable because we were "poor," yet we always managed to keep this "necessity." Now cable seems like it's becoming less and less of a necessity. Case in point: "In 2009, complete episodes of nine in ten prime-time network-television shows and roughly 20 percent of cable shows were available online" (169). Most of us probably have friends who have cut cable -- I know I do. Check out CancelCable.com if you're interested in checking out this movement.
  • Raise your auto insurance deductible. Sullivan claims that raising it from "$200 to $1,000 will save you about 40 percent on the cost of comprehensive insurance" (186), and he believes in a little something he calls self-insurance, meaning you set aside money in an account (and I assume clearly labeled as well) that would cover the cost of your higher deductible if and when you need it.
  • Or you could straight up drop comprehensive and collision coverage. He says you should just be sure you have a savings account worth the value of your car so you could replace it. He is talking about those of us, like me, who have cars that aren't worth much anymore so that if  faced with the choice between a major, multi-thousand dollar repair, or a new car, we might opt for the new car (190).
  • You need life insurance when you have children. You've probably heard this before. I've heard it too, but I never really thought much more about it. Now I know about this Web site Sullivan suggests -- LifeHappens.org, which provides a tool for you to calculate how much insurance you should have should you die. (Can you imagine being a life insurance salesperson?) Also something I never thought of: the older you get, the less life insurance you need. It's totally intuitive now that I know it, but for some reason I always thought of it in reverse (as you get older, you're more likely to die, so you should need more insurance...WRONG!)
  • Find out what you're worth. As a teacher and government employee whose income is posted online for anyone to see, I always wonder about everyone else. What are they making? Here's a site that could at least fulfill my morbid curiosity: salary.com (simple, right?). So if you're looking to change careers you can get a realistic sense of what to expect, and if you're looking to negotiate a raise at your current job (except for us government employees) check it out.
  • Examine the annual fees associated with your investment accounts. I admit, here's an area where I am a bit of a financial idiot. All I know is that the numbers in this book are shocking when you see how much of your money can go to annual fees, and how in many cases if you have high-fee accounts you would be better off putting your money in a high-interest savings account (see pages 276-277).
There is also an entire chapter about paying for college. I shared it with my students. I think it made them depressed, but I am not sure. I hope it just made them realize that when they're the age of their hip journalism/English teacher, they would be really happy if they were debt-free like me. I hope they will listen.

Next up...a detailed look at how to tile (I know, I've been putting this longer post off, but it's been a busy week!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tip 48: Mop and broom organization

The other week I decided I had officially had it with our mops and brooms falling all over themselves (and ourselves) in our entryway closet. Now, maybe the problem is that I had these household goods in the wrong place, but what I really needed was...

Tip 48: Hang your mops and brooms on the wall to maximize your storage space.

It took me a while to find it, but I picked up this Closetmaid broom and mop holder at Target for $7.99.

Then it took me a while to figure out where to hang it. At first I had hopes of squeezing it into our tiny laundry room, but that just wasn't logistically possible. Instead, I settled on inside the garage, and I am happy with my choice.


What's your system for these unglamorous items?

Next up...a review of a book that will help you organize your finances (just in time for book club night!).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Inside my closet day 8: the last hurrah

So, there are some things I didn't get to mention this week about my favorite clothing items, so I thought I should add one last clothing mash-up to tie everything together (as we wait for "Glee" to finally return...)

First, to follow the journalistic inverted pyramid, I will give you the best stuff. That is this...

Best clothing tip I have ever received: Get professionally fitted for a bra at Nordstrom.

Without getting into intimate detail, let me just say that for all the ladies in the house, this should be at the top of your wardrobe priority list. My friend Megan, a quite fashionable lady, shared this tip with me two years ago, and my world has never been the same. Just yesterday I got a Facebook message from a friend sharing the fact that she too just got fitted at Nordstrom and it has similarly rocked her world. If you go, might I suggest checking out strapless styles made by Le Mystere. Yes, like most essential clothing purchases -- and I realize I use the word "essential" in a highly American sense -- they are expensive, but like any expensive clothing item I have ever purchased (all of which I believe I have posted on this blog this week) they are long-lasting and well worth it. And, if you don't want to shell out $80 for a bra, get fitted at Nordstrom and then try to find similar styles at a cheaper place, such as at Loehmann's, which carries some of the same items.

Now, on to other items that didn't make it into my earlier clothing posts:

Blazers

Just this morning my friend Katy, who is also a teacher and blogger and book club buddy (the primary ways in which we are different are: 1) she has one more child than me, and I have one more dog than her and 2) she gets her pants in long and I get mine in short), asked me when I am going to write about how much I love blazers. Here goes: I love blazers, particularly ones from H&M and Ann Taylor Loft. I tend to buy them on sale for super cheap and wear them with dress pants to look majorly professional, or with jeans to look quasi-professional. Here's a current best-of:

This red, fitted corduroy one from H&M that I bought this fall
This tan, less-fitted one from H&M that I bought five years ago
This black and white, smock-like one from H&M that I bought three years ago
This black cropped one from Ann Taylor Loft that I bought this fall (I love the way it flares out at the bottom)
This pink one from Ann Taylor Loft that I bought five years ago

This white chino one from JCrew that I bought four years ago

There is a great shopping story behind this purchase. I bought my wedding dress from JCrew. It cost $599 full price, so I opened a store credit card (the only time I've done such a thing in my entire life) because the 10 percent discount off $599 was too good to pass up. Then I found (or rather, Matt's parents found) my dress in my exact size at a JCrew outlet at the beach the very same day my wedding dress arrived in the mail. The beach outlet dress had never been touched, had no defects and it only cost $259. So, I returned the JCrew dress to the store later that day and kept the outlet dress and saved over $300. Then around Christmas time JCrew sent me a $100 gift card because I had charged at least $500 to my JCrew card within a certain length of time. In my mind, this made my wedding dress cost $159. JCrew messed up, but I am not complaining.

And here's that cheap wedding dress that never saw the tailor (a true Stephanie-style purchase)...

Purse: local designer

This inexpensive and cute find is from Elizabeth Designs. Elizabeth has a table at Eastern Market in downtown D.C. on Saturdays and Sundays (assuming she's still working there...I have not been since the fall). You can also check out her awesome Etsy page. She makes these handmade purses in lots of sizes and so many cute patterns that it took me about 20 minutes to choose my pattern.


Best...
  • Place to buy ankle athletic socks -- Costco (like you, I am also shocked, but this is true)
  • Place to buy chunky, inexpensive jewelry -- World Market (or Cost Plus if you live on the west coast)
  • Place to buy chunky, sometimes-splurge-worthy jewelry -- Banana Republic
  • Place to buy shoes of all varieties -- DSW
  • Place to buy leggings, tights or pantyhose -- Target (try the Assets by Sara Blakely variety if you want tights that will last; try the Xhilration leggings)
  • Place to buy bathing suits -- JCrew (I love the way they fit and the material is thick enough to last for several summers)
Now, share your best-of's, please! What are your absolute favorite clothing purchases, and where are they from?

Next up...things get back to normal here, and we'll talk about something less-glamorous: broom and mop organization.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Inside my closet day 7: Dress pants

By now you may have noticed that when it comes to stores, some clothes and a good deal of products, I am all about brand loyalty. Perhaps this is because I am a decisive person, and when I find what I want, I stick to it. Or perhaps this is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy stemming from my mother's choice of name for me -- according to her, at least, she chose "Stephanie" because it means "loyalty" (though this definition is as of yet confirmed, as most online sources claim it means "crown"). Then again, thanks to Matt I have been happily buying lots of Wegmans (aka generic) brand pantry staples the last few years, so who knows. Either way, I am loyal. Enter...

Favorite clothing item #7: The Editor Pant from Express

How does loyalty come into play here? The fact that I have owned eight pairs of these pants, five of which are in my current rotation.

These pants are great because:
1) They come in a good variety of colors and materials.
2) They hold up well over time (my oldest current pair is from seven years ago).
3) They have a fairly classic look, so as they hold up physically over time, the look should hold up reasonably well, too.
4) They are affordable for work clothes. These pants range in price from $49.50 to $79.50 full price, and there are occasionally specials.

What's annoying about these pants?
Some of these pants come in short sizes, but on me the short size is too short, especially given the fact that I often wear heels to work. Maybe the problem here is the fact that at 5'4" I am right on the line between petite and regular sizes. Then there's the issue, much like with designer jeans, that the regular-length pants appear to be made for giants, thus requiring some decent amounts of tailoring. Still, these pants are worth it.

Oh, and these are some of the few items I own that I actually get dry cleaned. 

My current Editor Pants are:
The Luxury Stretch Editor Pant in light gray melange (a particular pant it seems  many people I know own and wear regularly, and which is currently on sale for $48.65)

And these four patterns that I cannot find anymore on the Express Web site:
  • Brown plaid

  • Black plaid, wide waistband

  • Black and white wool (not surprising that they're not selling these right now!)

  • White...which looks just the way you think it would.

My three oldest Editor Pant purchases are no longer with us. One black pair I wore until it practically disintegrated, and two pairs of Editor Pant jeans (not exactly dressy work pants, but maybe casual Friday pants) became a little too tight and I simultaneously got tired of them, so it worked out that the people of Goodwill gladly accepted them. But these pants each saw well over eight years of use.

Next up...one final look inside my closet week post to tie it all together...a cornucopia of leftover clothing items awaits us! And, the best piece of wardrobe advice that I ever received.