December Book Reviews 12/12/17

Welcome to my December Book reviews! As always I try to keep my fiction reviews free of any major spoilers for those who haven't read the book. I'm also experimenting with the fiction review format this month to make the reviews a little more skim-friendly. I've done this format in the past but somehow fell out of the habit, probably because it doesn't work as well for non-fiction books. Regardless, I'm giving it another go so on with the reviews!

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
Plot: This story is told from two alternating perspectives. In the first, a girl (Quinn) wakes up one weekend morning to find her roommate missing...looking as though she took off in the night through out the fire escape. Clues and mysteries pile up as the days pass with no sign of the roommate and Quinn realizing she didn't know her roommate as well as she thought. The second perspective is Alex, a waiter in a small town restaurant who crosses paths with a new girl in town. He gets an instant crush on her and wants to know more about her, but she's evasive and confusing.
My Verdict: I was hooked on this very quickly, although I found Quinn's narrative easier to follow and enjoy than Alex's at first. It was very suspenseful, a little creepy in parts, and completely engaging all the way to the end. Definitely recommend!

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Plot: A family of three teenagers comes of age in New York the 60s and becomes aware that they have special abilities. They come from a family of witches, and with their gifts come particular challenges, especially in love. This is isn't book with a strong pivotal plot focus, but more of a family saga.
My Verdict: I liked it! I didn't love it and it won't make my top ten list this year, but it was an enjoyable, interesting story. I appreciated the author's creativity in making modern day, believable witches. Thanks to Tracy for the recommendation! Tracy shared her top books of 2017 (so far) in this Instagram post and I'm sure I'll be reading a few more on that list eventually!

The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata
Plot: A 27 year-old woman takes a job as the personal assistant to a professional football player (whose nickname in football is The Wall of Winnipeg, hence the book title) because it gives her the flexibility to pursue her dream job on the side. She always goes the extra mile for her boss but he never treats her well or acknowledges her or her effort, so she's counting down the days until she can save up enough money to quit. When that day comes...things get interesting!
My Verdict: Such a fun read! Easy to get into, easy to get hooked and keep reading. At first I thought the main female character was a doormat and it drove me crazy that she wouldn't speak up for herself. But then she acknowledged as much about herself and developed a plan to quit/stand up to her boss, so I was able to get over that. (And in retrospect, that was a very tiny portion of the book as a whole, but I just remember worrying in the beginning whether she would be this way the whole time.) I definitely recommend this if you generally enjoy chick lit or romance with a solid plot. This would be a perfect holiday/vacation read. Thanks to Kristen for the recommendation! I never would have picked this one out on my own!

Non-Fiction / Audiobooks:
The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer
To sum up my opinion on this book, it just really just wasn't my style and didn't click with me. It did have some nice, pleasant sentiments and ideas about I could appreciate about learning to separate yourself from the voices in your head thereby freeing (i.e. untethering) yourself from pain and unhappiness. It's also a purely spiritual book with no scientific basis or even a small amount of anecdotal "proof" from people who have learned this method and thereby improved their lives. I think the lack of a strong foundation in one or both of these areas just didn't work for me. My standards for self-development and life-improvement books have increased a lot this year based on all of the other books I've read that had a well-researched basis or a more credentialed author. Throughout the book I kept wondering, "Who is this guy and what makes him an expert?" I finally Googled while writing this review and there's not much in his credentials (Yogi with a Masters in Economics, fined in a government fraud case) that inspires me, so I'm still left a little "meh" on this book altogether. If you want a purely spiritual, moderately uplifting book this could be just the thing for you, but it just didn't connect with me.

The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen
I am so glad I read this book! I highly recommend it to parents of teenagers or tweens. It started off just a little slow for me (with a lot of anecdotes about the author's personal experiences raising her teenage boys), but then it got into the "meat" of the book with plenty of well-researched substance on the teenage brain: how it develops and specifically which parts are not developed until adulthood and how that significantly impacts the decision-making skills of teens. It also discusses best and worst strategies for helping teenagers make better choices and helping them understand some of the possible long term consequences and worst-case scenarios for various decisions. This is one I plan to re-read, possibly once a year until I survive the teenage years! (And just by contrast to the previous author, Frances Jensen has an impressive list of accomplishments and published research.)

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
Well this was a surprisingly fun, interesting, and practical read. Scott Adams is the creator of the Dilbert Comic strip, so knowing that I didn't expect this book to be as practical or insightful as it was. And yes, he did insert some humor but it was not overdone at all, and he even explains in the book why he takes this approach. Scott tells the story of his career path and his many failures along the way to success with Dilbert...followed again by additional failures. He shares what he learned in the success/failure process from his own experiences and careful observation of other successful people. He gives very practical, detailed advice, even down to diet and exercise habits. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-organized and interesting this book was, and I was pleased when he quoted a couple of my other favorite authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Robert Cialdini. His last chapter did get a little Matrix-y, but he was aware of that and self-deprecating about it so it didn't take away from any of my other enjoyment of the book. I will be recommending this frequently to people, because even if you don't agree with 100% of his points, it's guaranteed to be good food for thought and discussion.

Coming Up Next Month:
If you want to read along with me and share thoughts next month, here's what's next on my to-read list:

I'm not allowing myself to start another fiction book until I finish sending out my holiday cards, but I did order "Confessions" on a Black Friday deal so I'll be starting it ASAP. And clearly Scott Adams made a fan out of me. This book sounds equally interesting so that's what I'll be listening to on audiobook while I prep the aforementioned cards!

Looking forward to your thoughts on any of these you've read or plan to read!

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Burgundy Cardigan, OTK Boots + Monday Motivation

Hello there and I hope you all had a fun, relaxing, or productive weekend. Even better if you accomplished more than one of those things! I have a pretty lengthy Monday Motivation segment today so I'll just jump right into outfit details and save the words for the readers' portion of the post.

This burgundy cardigan is really impressive for the $25 price. It comes in a lot of other colors, but it doesn't come in size XS, so if that's your size, go for the Small. Otherwise I don't think you'll need to size up as it's pretty true to size.

My black cami, white jeans, and over the knee boots are all true to size. I'm wearing the "taupe color" in these boots, although they are a very grey taupe. In fact I ordered a pair of grey boots from Steve Madden and they were so similar to these I had to return them. Aside from that, the lower heel makes these very comfortable and they stay pretty fitted and high up on my legs all day.

Now that I've had these Secret Hair Extensions for about a month I've had a chance to use them a few times so I thought I'd give a little bit more of a review on them.

These extensions were a gift from my hair salon: they didn't come with all of the original packaging (just a satin storage bag) so unfortunately I don't know the exact color name of the set I have. On the plus side, I can be totally honest in my thoughts since I don't think anyone from my salon reads my blog!

Pros: These are very lightweight and easy to wear all day with out the heaviness and discomfort that comes from clip in extensions (for me, anyway). They're pretty easy to put in and the halo band is practically invisible - much easier to hide than clip in extensions.

Cons: The only negative for me is that when I need to brush or comb through these to get the tangles out (and they do tangle, but that's pretty normal for hair...real or fake) a lot of the hair comes out. I am trying to be as gentle as I can, but with the amount of hair that comes out I can't help but think these are going to be threadbare within another month! They aren't too expensive, but I still don't want to be replacing them every couple of months. I do prefer this style to clip-ins by far (as you can tell by how much I've been wearing them), but I might try another brand before purchasing this one again to see if they hold up a little better.

Monday Motivation: Two Bricks in the Holiday Wall
There's no delicate way to say this, so I'll just say it like it is: the holidays are a time of intense sadness for a lot of people. Any of the pre-existing heartache we felt prior to this season -- whether it was the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or some other life situation that's entirely too far from what we'd like it to be -- is magnified by everyone else insisting (or so it seems when you're in that mindset) that it is the MOST wonderful time of the year.

I have my own reasons to be sad this time of year, most specifically that two of my dearest loved ones who passed away not too long ago also happen to have December birthdays. I think even if it weren't the holiday season, this would inevitably be a sad month for me anyway, but it's harder during this season when I feel bombarded by images of "complete" families and knowing that death has robbed me of that "complete" feeling for this lifetime.

All of that backstory brings me to my Monday Motivation. On (most) Mondays I share a little about what I want to work on in a given week to improve myself and stay accountable for my New Year's goals and so forth. It's not intended as advice for anyone else, just sharing with the hope of connecting with any of you who might relate. That said, awhile back I read Opening the Door of Your Heart and Other Buddhist Tales of Happiness (I actually listened to Audio book, which has a separate product listing) and the very first story in that book is applicable here. To paraphrase the story (or find a much better summary here), some Buddhist monks were required to build their own monastery, and Ajahn Brahm had the task of bricklaying, despite his lack of experience. It was a tedious process and he was so relieved and happy when it was done. But when he stepped back to look at his work, he saw that there were two bricks askew in the center of the wall. He was so distraught over these bricks because they ruined the entire wall in his eyes. He even asked the leader of the monastery if he could tear it all down and start over. Permission for that was denied, so the two bad bricks stayed.

People would often tour the monastery, and after one such tour a person commented to Ajahn Brahm how he was particularly impressed by the work on that particular brick wall with the bad bricks. Ajahn was stunned and asked if the tourist was blind or crazy...couldn't he see the two bad bricks? The man said, "I did see those bricks. But I also saw the 998 good ones that surrounded it."

I'm sure you can guess by now where I'm going with this. Yes, there are two bad bricks in my holiday wall. But there are 998 good ones, and I gain nothing by putting all of my focus on those two bricks. It's much easier said than done, but that's really my goal for this week and the rest of the holiday season: to keep my focus on the good bricks. I have good health, a good family, good friends, and a long list of other things that add to my happiness and I'd be a fool to put my entire focus on what I don't have.

Chances are, some of you have a couple of bad bricks in your holiday wall, too. If that's you, I'd love to hear your strategies for re-directing your attention to the good bricks. It seems like a constant mental game this season and I always appreciate good tips and strategies for winning this game!

Before I sign off for today, just a quick reminder that my December book reviews will be up tomorrow so I hope you'll stop by and check them out!

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Everyday Outfits + TGIF 12/8/17

Happy Friday! I hope you all had a great week. Ours was pretty standard, with slightly less homework than usual for my middle schooler. I think (hope!) things are starting to wind down for the holiday break! As usual I have a bunch of everyday outfits in the mirror selfie format, plus I'm starting a new T.G.I.F. series today so read on a little further to see what that's all about!

Oh! And by the way, there's a storewide 40% off sale at Express this weekend so many pieces featured here are marked way down! I've indicated the sale items in the captions below.

Outfit Recap Part 1:

Camo Sweatshirt, Over the Knee Boots:
Camo Sweatshirt | Jeans (40% off) | Boots | Necklace (c/o) | Bag (c/o)

Fit Notes: My jeans and boots are both true to size, but I sized up in this camo sweatshirt. As of yesterday there were a few sizes still in stock when I posted this on Instagram, but I had people telling me inventory wasn't there when they got to checkout. So here are a few more still-in-stock camo sweatshirt options under $50:
Top Row: Zappos | Shopbop  
Bottom Row: TargetAmazon | Dillard's 

FYI the Zappos  and Amazon options are the exact same top. I suggest checking both retailers to find the best price for your size!

Grey Cardigan, White Lace Tank:
Cardigan (c/o) | Lace Tank | Black Jeans (40% off) | Boots | Bag (c/o)

Fit Notes: I'm wearing a Small in both the cardigan and lace tank since they don't come in XS. The lace tank has just a bit of extra room in the shoulders so it does run a bit small, although I would still go with your normal size if it's available and you want it fairly fitted. All other items are true to size.

Blush Cardigan, Black Cami:
Blush Cardigan (40% off)| Cami (40% off)| Necklace | Jeans | Boots (40% off) | Bag (c/o)

Fit Notes: All items ran true to size for me. I do think these Abercrombie Jeans run a tad smaller than Express jeans in the same size, but it wasn't enough to size up for me. (It could also be that my Express jeans have just stretched out over time from so much wear!) These did also stretch a little with wear throughout the day, but not enough that they looked baggy or that I would need to size down.

Outfits Recap Part 2:

Fleece Jacket, Faux Leather Leggings:
Fleece Jacket: Regular Size, Petite Size (40% off) | Black Tank | Necklace | Faux Leather Leggings (40% off)| Boots (c/o) | Bag (c/o)

Fit Notes: Okay, they are not kidding around when they call this fleece jacket "oversized." I originally bought the regular size and had to return it because it almost came to my knees. I decided to try again with the Petite  (I'm wearing XS) and while it's still oversized, it's much better. This is so ridiculously soft, comfortable, and warm. It felt like wearing a blanket and I didn't even care if it wasn't the most flattering thing. It also resulted in some interesting comments ("is that...your bathrobe?") but again, even if I only end up wearing it around the house I'm keeping it!

Burgundy Moto, Charcoal Jeans
Similar Jacket in Chianti (40% off), Similar Jacket (Same Brand) | White Tee (c/o) | Jeans (40% off)| Bag (c/o) | Earrings | Similar Shoes | Necklace 

Fit Notes: All pieces ran true to size. More details in the full post with this outfit here)

Side Tie Top, Faux Leather Leggings:
Side Tie Top (40% off)| White Tank | Faux Leather Leggings (40% off)| Boots (40% off) | Bag (c/o)

Fit Notes: Everything ran true to size except these studded, strappy boots. I took a half size down.

For quite awhile I've been wanting to add a little something extra to my Friday post besides just outfits. Especially since most of these outfits are already posted on Instagram by the time Friday rolls around, I don't want the entire post to be redundant content. So I brainstormed a little and am trying out a new TGIF theme. Every week I'll be using the TGIF acronym to share whatever random things come to mind for each of the letters...week one, here we go!

T - Trader Joe's

The seasonal items at Trader Joe's look ridiculously tempting and delicious, but I'm still trying to keep my sugar addiction in check, so rather than buying any of the food items I bought their Warm Vanilla Body Butter. I use the Coconut Body Butter often but I like the scent of this even better! I hope they keep it year round!
Image via Trader Joe's

G - Good Reads 

For boy moms, I really enjoyed this article about why boys need more emotional support than girls. (Thanks to my sister-in-law Heidi for passing this along!)

For the fitness enthusiasts, this article about fat cells and why some types of body fat are much harder to lose than others (for a lot of people this is belly fat in particular) is very interesting. If you're working on your fitness goals and find some body parts far less responsive than others, you might find this enlightening.

I - iPhone X

My Christmas present came a little early this week and I'm in the process of transferring everything over and getting used to some of the new features (e.g. a screen with no home button and facial recognition to unlock the phone). But so far, so good. I'm actually liking the facial recognition much better than Touch ID...it just seems easier so far. And the camera is so impressive! I mainly got this phone for the camera upgrade and it just blows my old phone (an iPhone SE) away!

F - Fashion

The Pantone announced their color of the year for 2018 and it's Ultra Violet. I love purple, although I don't find it the easiest color to style. And this shade in particular isn't the most flattering on me, but oh well. I'm still interested to see how prevalent it becomes in fashion next year. I also have to say it always makes me think of Marie from Breaking Bad. She was always wearing or using something purple!

* * *

And with that, I'm signing off for the weekend so I can spend some time with friends and family, and hopefully start to tackle the stack of holiday cards I need to address and mail out!

Linking up with:


Moto Jackets vs. Cardigans + Link Up

Just the other day, Noelle made a comment on this post and said, "Remember when we were all about moto jackets?!" When I saw her comment I thought...wait I still like moto jackets! But it's true, I haven't been wearing them as much this season. Fall of 2017 has been all about the cardigans, and their comfort factor is hard to resist! But her comment inspired me to break out one of my trusty favorites and pair it with one of my favorite Black Friday purchases, these charcoal jeans.

Similar Jacket in Chianti, Similar Jacket (Same Brand) | White Tee (c/o) | Jeans | Bag (c/o) | Earrings | Similar Shoes | Necklace

My jacket is a couple of years old from Maurice's, and I was really impressed with the quality of it for the price. They have a current option that's a very similar color, style, and price. The quality is on par with (Minus the) Leather Moto Jackets from Express and the sizing is the same as well. Express also has an color similar to this one, but definitely wait for a sale on those.

I ordered mostly winter-friendly sweaters and jackets during the Black Friday sales, and hardly any of them worked out! I also ordered a couple of pairs of jeans, which I just liked but didn't really "need" as much. And of course, the jeans are what ended up working out the best!

This pair of charcoal jeans are true to size and very comfortable and flattering. Some of my jeans seem to have more of a Spanxy-effect (if you get my drift) than others, and this pair is one of those! I do love to wear black jeans a lot, so this is a nice alternative. Plus, I don't have to worry about them fading with wash and wear!
Similar Jacket in Chianti, Similar Jacket (Same Brand) | White Tee (c/o) | Jeans | Bag (c/o) | Earrings | Similar Shoes | Necklace

This is just personal preference, but more often than not I like pairing a moto jackets with t-shirts and cardigans with camis. Those proportions just work better on my body and I just feel most comfortable with that balance of dressy/casual. I've seen the opposite combos on other people and liked them a lot, but when I try it on myself it just doesn't look or feel me!

I already shared the selfie versions of this outfit here but since I'm on the subject of moto jacket vs. cardigans, I'll just make this post a two-for-one with an example of the opposite cardigan + cami pairing:
chenille cardigan, black lace trim velvet cami

All of these pieces ran true to size for me, but as a note on this chenille cardigan (a.k.a. the most comfortable cardigan I've every owned!), Kristi bought this on Black Friday too and asked me if I've had any issues with shedding since she's having a bit of a problem with that.  I have not had that issue  (and I wear this almost every night around the house) except for on this day when I paired it with this black velvet cami! The black velvet attracted and showed a lot of chenille specs so I won't pair these two fabrics again. One of the satin or silky options I shared in this post with twelve lace-trim cami options would probably resolve the issue.

On the first Wednesday of every month I like to join Anne to share a few things that are currently happening in our lives. She's so creative with her ideas and I appreciate that she lets us piggyback on her concept to help me blog a little more outside the outfit of the day box. I'm also joining Kristen & Gretchen for "What's New" since these topics fall along those lines!

Currently Lighting....
...up our house with this holiday light projector. This is our first year using one and it's so convenient! Way easier than hanging a bunch of lights. (Not that I've ever done that myself, but so I hear!) It has an automatic light sensor so we never have to remember to turn it off or on.

Currently Spending...
..."money." I was stumped on something worthwhile (and maybe not so obvious?) to say for this question, so I asked my ten year old, "If someone asked you what your mom was spending lately, what would you say?" I was hoping his answer would be something like, "quality time with her kids." But no. It's money. Out of the mouth of babes...

Currently Choosing...
...a new black crossbody bag. Mine is a few years old looking pretty rough these days because I reach for it a lot. I really want a simple, classic style, so I've been browsing some options at Shopbop:
1. Shop Marc Jacobs Bags (Recruit Small Saddle Bag)

2. Shop Rebecca Minkoff Bags (Nubuck Mini MAC)

3. Shop Tory Burch Bags (McGraw Crossbody)

4. Shop See by Chloe Bags (Joan Shoulder Bag)

I'd love to know from my bag aficionado friends if they think any of these styles are more trend than classic. I love the ring detail on #4 but I do think it's a trend that won't be around forever.

Currently Sending...
...all kinds of paperwork in to the state of California. Just my luck that my driver's license renewal, vehicle registration, and jury duty selection all happened at once!

Currently Singing...
...nothing! I used to sing a lot in the car, but now I am either listening to an audiobook or riding in the car with my kids, and they don't especially enjoy my vocal stylings. Especially not when we're getting close to school or any place where they might know someone who might see or hear me!

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Join us to share your Style on the Daily by linking up your latest fashion-related posts below! If you link up, we ask that you link back to your hosts Amy Ann and Gina and follow us on the social media platform of your choice. Thank you!


Gift Ideas for Older Boys

In case you didn't know this already about me, I'm a mom of two boys. They're tweens now, and Holiday shopping for them is getting a little tougher each year! I haven't seen a lot of gift guides for this "older boy" demographic this year, so I decided to tackle it myself since I have a few good resources for this. I happen to have a lot of friends and family who are also boy moms of school-age boys through older teenagers, so I decided to poll them for ideas on what they're getting their sons for the holidays this year or some of their past favorites. Today's post includes all of their ideas plus a few of mine to help you shop for the boys in your life!

First let me say thanks to my contributors today! Collectively these ideas are coming from five moms of 15 boys altogether. I'm the least experienced boy mom of this group, but here's a little about how I know each of these moms and their sons:

Nicole - Mom of four boys ages 9 and up (my sister-in-law, married to my fourth brother)
Stacy - Mom of three boys ages 5 and up (my best friend for the past 20 years or so!)
Heidi- Mom of three boys ages 13 and up (my sister-in-law, married to my fifth brother)
Amy - Mom of three boys ages 7 and up (my Instagram friend)

1. Spectacular Magic Show
Amy: "My 7 yr old is obsessed with doing magic tricks! I picked up a great kit at Costco recently!" 

2. Lego Dimensions
Nicole: "This is my 9 year old's current favorite video game, and we'll probably get him some of the add ons this year." 

3 and 4 -  LEGO Sets:
3. Lego Star Wars
4. Lego Minecraft 
Stacy: "Lego Ninjago and Lego Star Wars are my 7 year old's favorite Lego sets this year."
Nicole: "My 9 year old is asking for some Lego Minecraft sets this year, specifically this Crafting Box and Waterfall set."

5. Dinosaurs
Amy: "Literally anything dinosaurs works for most boys in this age group: figurines, fossil teeth and/or bones, crafts, books etc. All three of my boys went thru a dino obsessed phase around this age."
Gina: My now 12-year-old collected dinosaur figurines from about age 8-11. He was also pretty particular that they had to be scientifically accurate, so it couldn't be just any toy. The more realistic, the better.

6. Ozobot
Nicole: "My 9 year old got this for his birthday earlier in the year and really liked it."

7. Art Supplies
Amy: "Never under estimate the power of paper and markers! I think we can forget sometimes as parents (I do anyways!) how the simple arts and crafts can build confidence in our kids! Just last week I bought a pack of new construction paper and markers. I laid it out on the table so when the boys got home from school, they would see it. My middle son (12) and my youngest (7) sat right down and started crafting away! Load up on packs of construction paper, markers, crayons and colored pencils, even stickers and watch the MAGIC happen!"

8. Secret Formula Lab Kit
Nicole: "Last Christmas my (then) 11 year old really liked this Science Kit."

9. Nerf Anything
Gina: Several moms in my poll mentioned this! For my 10 and 12 year old boys, this is their number one activity when they have friends over, so one Nerf gun isn't enough even if yo're only buying for one child! Make sure to have a spare (or two!) for friends plus extra darts!

1. Parrot Drone
Nicole: "My 15 year old loved his Parrot Drone and used it throughout the year."

2. Pro Scooters, Parts, etc.
Heidi: "My 17 year old wants things that are very specific to his interests, like pro scooter parts (from The Vault Pros), a guitar and amp, specialized bikes, helmets, etc." 

3. Razor Crazy Cart
Stacy: "These are a bit pricey but my 7 and 12 year old each have one and LOVE them."

4. Anki Overdrive
Nicole: "All of my boys (and my husband!) loved Anki Overdrive. My 9 year old was a little too young for it if he had to set it up himself, though. They used it all throughout the year. It's a really fun flat track where they control the race cars with tablets, phones, etc."

5. Hoverboard  and
6. Hoverboard Go Kart Attachment
Stacy: "This year, my 7 and 12 year old boys each want a hover board, and there is an attachment you can buy to make it a hoverboard go kart which is really popular here too."

Heidi: "From age 11 and up my boys have loved their hoverboards (although my baseboards hate them!). It's probably their most favorite and long-lasting gift that they use daily STILL. They also got the go kart attachments last year and go back and forth using them or not, but they still love having it."

7. Bluetooth Shower Speaker
Gina: JoLynne mentioned this one on her blog awhile back and I'm planning to get this for my kids. Not only do I think they'll enjoy having music in the shower, they tend to lose track of time in there so I'm hoping I can tell them they have a 2-3 song limit and then it's time to get out!

8. Light Up Gaming Keyboard and
9. LED iPhone Chargers
Gina: My kids tend to like anything cool and techie. My youngest just bought one of these light up gaming keyboards with some leftover birthday money and is loving it. I saw these light up iPhone chargers on Instagram and think those might be fun stocking stuffers too. 

All of the moms agreed that clothing preferences get very particular at these ages so you really have to know your audience when it comes to styles and brands! Comfort was a common theme, and here are a few more specifics on the recommendations for these items or categories.

1. Storm Trooper Robe
Heidi: "Our boys got roes like this (and a Darth Vader version) one year and still wear them often

2. Steelers Jersey
Amy: "My boys love hometown sports team gear - hat, socks, sweatshirt, track pants, jacket...pretty much anything black and gold...GO STEELERS!" 

3. Vancation T-Shirt
Both Heidi and Nicole listed Vans as a popular apparel brand for their teen boys (13 and older).

4. Storm Trooper Snuggie
Gina: I'm tempted to get Snuggies for my kids this year because they are always dragging blankets around the house when it's chilly in the morning. Only my oldest likes Star Wars so it would have to be something more generic for my youngest!

5. Fleece Blanket
Gina: When my boys were babies, a few different people made us fleece blankets like this. We love them and still use them around the house, but a couple of them are in bad shape now. It might be nice to replace them with themes more suited to their current tastes. This Etsy shop has lots of different custom options from sports teams to animal and more.

6. Pajama Jeans
Heidi: "My teen boys loved these pajama pants and wear them often. They're very soft and thin so they don't get too hot."

7. Nike Sneakers
Amy: "For my 15 year old, shoes are everything. And from my friends who have boys this age, it's across the board! I mean, these shoes are way more than mine! I can buy 5 pair of shoes at Target for the one pair he has on his list! So ask what shoes your teenager would like (Nike is my son's current favorite brand) and they will love you (even more!) forever!"
Gina: My boys are Under Armour fans when it comes to shoes (but they're also not quite teenagers!), but I posted this Nike Pair in the collage because it was rated the most popular Mens Shoe for 2017 by this site.

8. Slippers and 9. Shower Shoes
Amy: "Ok, so maybe it's just my boys? But probably not! Since we live in an area of the country where we have all four seasons, my boys are always needing different shoes they can just slip-on and run out the door in. ( I mean who has the time to shove their ever-growing (MAN FEET!) into tennis shoes and then TIE them?) I find myself buying countless Nike or Adidas shower type shoes. In the Winter I'm looking for a warmer alternative...slippers but with tough outdoor soles so they can wear them to a run to the store with me (yes, Target.) or out to their friends house for a fun evening."

And a few more random ideas!

Heidi: "For the last three years we've been doing something they 'Want, Need, Wear, Read.' For the read option, we've done things like a magazine subscription to Runners World (my son runs on the school cross country team) and Illustrated Harry Potter for my youngest. Portable chargers are also a must for teenagers around here!"

Stacy:  A few more things I've seen gaining interest around here: 
Fidget Stick
Thumb Chucks
39 Clues Book Series
Sphero (App-controlled robo-toys)

Amy: "I have been happily surprised at how much we have all enjoyed playing Classic Board Games (e.g. Uno, Clue, Risk) together as a family!"

Gina: In case you missed it, I shared a couple of other gift ideas (for boys and everyone else) in this post, with the specific video games and console my 12 year old wants this year. 

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Well this was quite an undertaking but I got a lot of ideas and if you're shopping for someone in this age range, I hope you did too! Please note that unless specified, some items linked are not necessarily the exact items each of the moms purchased or recommended. It's simply what's in stock (with decent reviews) at Amazon right now. Happy Holiday shopping!

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Lace Trim Cami Options

Lace trim camis of all colors and styles have been trending lately, and as soon as one or two bloggers stumble on a good one, they sell out quickly! That happened with two that I really liked from Abercrombie this Fall, so I'm always looking for good similar options to share when I wear those. Today I thought I'd share a big round-up of some options I've seen. These range in price from $10 and up. The higher price-point items are usually silk, so if you like a more luxurious fabric those might be for you. I have #4 and #7 in the collage below so I can at least tell you that the sizing on those is true to size (if not a little on the roomy side for #7).

1. White House Black Market 
2. H&M
3. Shop Anine Bing Tops at Shopbop
4. SheIn
5. H&M thin Lace
6. Boohoo
7. Abercrombie
8. Amazon
9. SheIn
10. Shop Cami NYC Tops at Shopbop
11. Amazon
12. Amazon

I shared these white lace trim cami options on Wednesday, but I thought it might be easier for search purposes going forward to have them all in one place:

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Everyday Outfits 12/1/17

Hello and Happy Friday! This week felt like Christmas for me as all of my Black Friday orders started to roll in. I felt guilty overspending with all the sales last week, but I was counting on a lot of stuff not working out because that's what happened the last couple of years. Thankfully that's been the case with my my orders so far so my budget can recover! A lot of items are going back, but I also got a couple of pieces I really love that I'm looking forward to sharing. I didn't get them into the outfit recap this week, but I'm sure they'll be on the blog next week and possibly sooner on my Instagram story with some quick snaps.

After lots of sale posts last week I'm getting back to my normal blogging routine with some everyday outfits I wore this week. I guess this velvet cami and these taupe knee high boots were my favorites this week since they were on repeat! The cami is in the first two outfits and the boots are in the second and third.

Outfit Recap:

Black Blazer, Velvet Cami:
Blazer | Velvet Cami | Jeans | Taupe Over the Knee Boots (c/o) | Crossbody Bag | Earrings  | Bracelet | Kendra Scott Ring (Sold Out)

Chenille Cardigan, Velvet Cami:

Olive Ruffle Hem Jacket, Black Jeans
Jacket (c/o) | Similar Tee | Jeans | Boots | Bag (c/o) | Earrings

Mocha Cardigan, White Cami:
Mocha Cardigan (c/o)| Cami (Wearing XSP) | Jeans | Earrings | Bag (c/o) | Boots (Half-size down)

Grey Cardigan, Burgundy Cami:
Grey Cardigan | Burgundy Cami | Jeans | Boots (c/o) | Bag (c/o) | Hair Extensions (Gift from my hairdresser) 

Normally I add some notes on the fit for items in each outfit, but with this round almost everything was "true to size" so it seemed a little repetitive! I opted just to add any variations from normal sizing next to the product link. On my last two cardigans I'm wearing a size Small  because they don't come in XS. But I do still think they're true to size and fit about like a size Small from Express or Old Navy would fit.

Instagram View:
When I can, I like to add this view into the posts to give you a little better look at the jewelry and details:

Black Blazer, Velvet Cami:

Chenille Cardigan, Velvet Cami:

Olive Ruffle Hem Jacket, Black Jeans

Mocha Cardigan, White Cami:
Mocha Cardigan (c/o)| Cami (Wearing XSP) | Jeans | Bag (c/o) | Boots (Half-size down) | Similar Necklace

Grey Cardigan, Burgundy Cami:
Grey Cardigan | Burgundy Cami | Jeans | Boots (c/o) | Bag (c/o) | Hair Extensions (Gift) | Similar Necklace | EarringsNail Polish | Bracelets (Use code onthedailyx for 10% off any order)

Thanks for stopping by today! I'm hoping to get some holiday stuff done this weekend...my youngest pretty much told me I need to decorate more and generally be more festive. Maybe we'll watch Elf for family movie night to get a little more in the holiday spirit! It doesn't come naturally for me but I do want to make it fun for the kids so if you have any great holiday-related "fake it till you make it" tips I'd love to hear them! Have a great weekend!

Linking up with:
ErikaAndreaNarci | JoLynne | CherylNina |  Rachael


Sweater Coat + November Update + Link Up

One thing that really frustrates almost every style blogger I know is when we get something new, love it, photograph it, get ready to post it for the first time...only to find out it's already sold out! I can't speak for everyone but generally I find people are most interested in the exact items I share vs. similar options. And that's understandable since one of the advantages of seeing it on someone else is that they can answer a lot of questions about fit, fabric etc. that help make or break purchase decisions. But it's bound to happen from time to time, and today is one of those times!

Sweater Coat (c/o) | Lace Cami (Almost sold out. Similar, Similar S-XLBudget Option) | Jeans | Boots | Necklace | Tory Burch Bag (Budget Option

I'm leaving the link to my exact sweater coat (c/o SheIn) in the post just in case they happen to re-stock it. (It happened over Black Friday weekend with an Express sweater so you never know!) For reference it's a One Size piece and pretty roomy. I think it could fit sizes XS (as long as you don't mind it oversized) through Large.
Sweater Coat (c/o) | Lace Cami (Almost sold out. Similar, Similar S-XLBudget Option) | Jeans | Boots | Necklace | Tory Burch Bag (Option, Budget Option) | Earrings

As for the still-in-pieces I'm wearing, my black jeans and slouchy boots run true to size. There are a couple of colors/sizes left in my exact lace-trim cami and it does run true to size but on the roomy/boxy side.

Since my exact item is out of stock, I thought I'd share a few other highly-rated SheIn sweater coat options under $40.
One | Two | Three
Four | Five | Six
Seven | Eight | Nine

If your size is sold out in my lace cami, here are a few other current options at price points under $60.

One | Two | Three | Four | Five 

November Update:
On the last Wednesday of the month I always share a little behind-the-blog update here to add a little variety beyond the standard fare of what I wore, what's on sale, etc.!

What I'm eating:
After going a month without any baked desserts (I'm not kidding when I say that's probably a lifetime achievement since I started eating solid foods as a baby) I enjoyed some pie for Thanksgiving Day and these cookies over the holiday weekend:

They were a little bit of a mess an hassle to make (after rolling the dough it has to be dipped in egg white followed by corn flakes) but the result was a delicious peanut butter chocolate cookie with a crunchy exterior. You really couldn't taste the corn flakes...it just tasted crunchy! My husband had the brilliant idea to pair these with ice cream so it tasted similar to fried ice cream recipes I've had.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, I'm ready to get back on track with healthier eating. Having sugary sweets around the house reminded me how easily I get addicted and how tough it is to resist temptations sitting around my kitchen. Out of sight, out of mind! We tossed the sweets we didn't finish over the weekend and will wait for another special occasion to indulge. I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities for that in December!

What I'm working on:
Holiday Prep: I just ordered our holiday cards but will need to address and mail those when they arrive. I have a few ideas for things to get my kids but I really need to sit them down and have them write an actual wishlist for me...then get it all ordered!

2018 Prep: The new year will be here in no time and I've been thinking a lot about what goals I want to set for myself and for the blog. And by blog goals I don't mean, "get this many followers." I mean things I can work on or control, like "improve photography" or "post consistently to my Facebook page." Hopefully I'll have some kind of plan in place by the New Year so I can share it here! I also ordered and received my 2018 Planner so at least I have that much done! Thanks to Kristen for directing me to Plum Paper for my planner. I favor a particular page layout (every weekday on ONE side of the page) that I couldn't find anywhere until she suggested them.

What I'm reading:
Currently reading The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman and enjoying it so far! The full review will be in my December Book Reviews (coming on the 14th). For more book recommendations you can check my most recent round of reviews here or head to the menu bar up top and select Categories > Book Reviews.

What I'm listening to:
My current Audible Selection is The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist's Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults. Spoiler alert for my December Book Reviews but I highly recommend this to parents of tweens and teens (or anyone who works with them regularly)! It started out a little too anecdotal for my taste but once the author got into the substance of the book it's been so informative. It's really changed some of my ideas about teens and how I plan to parent my soon-to-be teens.

What I'm doing this weekend:
My second monthly Friends Brunch is coming up this weekend! I am a little proud of us for making this plan and actually following through with it. I'm in charge of restaurant selection this month so fingers crossed that everyone likes it! (For the backstory and more about the challenges of making friends as an adult read this post.)

What I'm looking forward to next month:
Two things rolled into one! First, the middle school orchestra concert. My oldest will be playing in it and he's been so dedicated to practicing and preparing for this. I'm excited to hear the whole group together for the first time. And on that note (no pun intended), my mom is coming out for the orchestra performance so I'm looking forward to that extra family time! She's a very talented musician herself so it will be fun to share this experience with her.

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That's it for this month! As always, thanks for spending a few minutes of your day here and I'll see you back on Friday.

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