What's Up July + Linkup

Today I'm joining What's Up Wednesday for an end of the month, behind-the-blog life update...along with hosting Style on the Daily Linkup with Amy Ann, as we do every Wednesday! You can view the prompt questions for this post here, or just read on to find out what's been going on around here lately!

What I'm wearing:
I've mostly been wearing beat-the-heat shorts and t-shirts this summer (like these three outfits), but I opt for pants for doctor/dentist/orthodontist appointments, etc. I'm also trying to build my collection of "dressy t-shirts" and this one is my most recent addition:
Tee: c/o Romwe | Jeans: Express | Shoes: c/o Amazon | Necklace: Stella & Dot (Similar) | Bag: c/o Amazon | Bracelets: c/o Charmed Stacks [Get 10% off with code: onthedailyx]

This tee comes in "One Size" only, and by that they mean X-Small. I'd also say that if you're much taller than me (I'm 5'4") or have a long torso and wear an XS, it might be too short in length for you. Luckily the size was just right for me, and I love that it has a shirttail hem so it still looks nice untucked. I did use several of the measuring techniques I described in this post before ordering though, so it wasn't entirely luck!

I'm a big fan of Charmed Stacks bracelets and have purchased many of my own sets, but Tatiana (the shop owner) was gracious enough to gift me with this set when I contacted her about a special order request. I asked her for a set with silver and some softer tones since the one other set I have with silver is more bold with turquoise and black (shown here). She was kind enough to gift me this set since I've been a repeat customer, but she also made one extra set identical to this, so if you're liking this color combo grab it now for 10% off with my code (onthedailyx)! If you miss out, just send a message to Tatiana through Etsy and let her know what set you're interested in! She's always up for custom creations.

Front View:
Tee: c/o Romwe | Jeans: Express | Shoes: c/o Amazon | Necklace: Stella & Dot (Similar) | Bag: c/o Amazon | Bracelets: c/o Charmed Stacks [Get 10% off with code: onthedailyx]

What I've been up to lately:
Back in May, I got my Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do. It was such an exhausting four months of training for the test that I decided to take the month of June off completely. To be honest, it was a little tempting to not go back at all, but I finally made myself go back a couple of weeks ago. I'm glad I took a break, but it's good to be back and doing some of the more advanced training I wasn't able to do as a lower belt.

What I'm eating this week:
Normally I'm an eggs-for-breakfast person, but I guess I burned out after doing that for several years and I've been on an oatmeal kick lately. I like this Organic Cinnamon Spice Oatmeal from Trader Joe's, and I throw in some raisins then top it with some of their Candied Pecans (I like to chop mine into smaller pieces).

For dessert (not necessarily after breakfast but you never know!), I am loving these Cold Brew Latte Dessert Bars, also from Trader Joe's:
They have a smooth, rich flavor with only 40 calories each. They're a perfect way to satisfy my sweet tooth without eating a ton of calories.

What I'm working on:
This week I'm working on my five-a-day positive mindset goals (explained in more detail here). So far it's been a good experience, but I do think I'll make some changes to the plan after I complete a full week. Updates on that to come in a future post!

On the blog front, I'm working on setting some new blogging goals and possibly doing a reader survey to help me finalize those goals. If I'm going to put time into making improvements and changes here I want them to be the things that matter most to all of you!

What I'm watching
I don't know anyone else watching this show, but I am hooked on Boy Band on ABC. I usually like singing and/or dancing competition shows, so when you combine them both into one I have to watch. My ten year old and I love watching this together and picking our favorites. Mine is Brady, his is Andrew Butcher...just in case anyone else is watching!

I also watched something on Netflix for once this month! I watched Soaked in Bleach, a documentary about the questionable circumstances surrounding the death of Kurt Cobain. It was so good! Even if you were never into Kurt's music, I highly recommend it if you're into true crime, unsolved mysteries, etc.

What I'm Reading:
Did you know that Amazon Prime members get a FREE pre-release book every month? I had no idea until this month! I just get so many emails from every retailer that I usually delete them without reading to avoid temptation, but this month I happened to read the one about this benefit and was happy to make my free selection! I chose A Beautiful Poison. It's historical fiction about a group of friends who start to suspect that some deaths attributed to the flu were actually caused by poison, which makes them suspicious of everyone, even each other. I'm just getting started on this one, but it's always nice when I can find ways like this to reduce the cost of my reading hobby.

UPDATE! I had a few questions about the free Prime book and while I'm totally new to this myself, it does look like you must have Prime and a Kindle device. If you happened to miss the email asking you to make your selection, you can navigate the book by going from the Amazon homepage by hovering over Accounts & Lists. From the Drop Down Menu go to Your Account > Your Prime Membership. Here's a screenshot of my page to help you locate those menu options.

After you click "Your Prime Membership" you'll go to a new page From that page scroll to Kindle Books and select Kindle First, as shown below:
And P.S. Since I first wrote this post I've read a bit more of A Beautiful Poison and am liking it so far. It's like Clue meets Mean Girls.

What I'm loving:
Speaking of reducing costs on books, I recently signed up for BookBub emails. It's completely free and a great way to find good deals on books! If you follow me on Instagram, I have been sharing some book deals on my Instagram stories, either for books I've already read and recommend or ones I bought myself while they were on sale. I've found out about nearly all of those deals through BookBub. After filling out some profile information and selecting your favorite genres, they send a daily email with a list of books in those genres that are on sale or free. After my first couple of emails I had to adjust my preferences, but now I find the book suggestions pretty good for my tastes, especially considering they've told me about several sales on books I already own enjoyed! I definitely recommend signing up if you love to read.

What I'm doing this weekend:
This weekend is looking packed. In no particular order I'm going to attend the family picnic for my husband's workplace, take each of my kids to their respective music lessons and parkour/acro classes, go to a "meet the counselors" activity for their summer camp, attend a dance workshop (more educational than actual dancing), plus attend a regular dance class, then watch a friend perform at The House of Blues. I think I might collapse on Sunday night! But next weekend I'll be on vacation on the Oregon Coast and I'm pretty sure I'll get enough relaxation there to balance it all out!

That's the latest from here this month! See you back on Friday!

Linking up with:
ErikaAndreaNarci |JoLynne | Lindsey | Mel | Sheaffer | Shay |  JillCarrie |

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Ring and Chain Backpack + Monday Motivation

Last week I had a fun lunch get together with a few blogger friends. Carylee was in town for work so she rounded up some of her San Diego friends (AudreyNoelle and me) for lunch at Breakfast Republic in Liberty Station. Poor Carylee lost her phone the night before, reminding all of us how much we rely on our phones! Almost all of us had met before (it was the first meeting for Audrey and Noelle), but not all at once so it was to catch up and talk about all things life and blogging. Casual gatherings like these are my favorite since it just feels like a get together with friends and not a Blogger Event where I need to look the part of Someone Who Knows About the Latest Fashion to be there! Here's what I ended up wearing:

Tank: Target (Similar options below) | Jeans: Express | Shoes: Target (Similar) | Bag/Backpack: c/o SheIn | Necklace: Stella & Dot (Option) | Ring: Stella & Dot (Gift) | Watch: Fossil (Similar) | Bracelet: Just Fab (Similar)

This is one of those outfits where unfortunately many of the exact pieces I'm wearing are already sold out, so I can't offer a lot in the way of helpful sizing info but I did find a lot of very similar looking options. My jeans are the exception, though, and they are long time favorites. They're soft, comfortable, and run true to size. I'm 5'4" and prefer the short length.

I've noticed a big trend in bags lately is the ring and chain detail, and I think it's really cute as long as it doesn't compromise functionality. I thought this designer-inspired backpack from SheIn would be a really fun way to try the trend.
It's only $20 and comes in several other colors.  Even though I just did a post with all my sizing tips for shopping at SheIn...you won't need them for this! It's a perfect compact size that holds all my stuff without being too big or too small. It's also very easy to open (the ring and chain don't need to be unhooked or detached or anything) and pretty easy to close with the magnetic clasp. I took off the backpack straps because I plan to just use the top handle most of the time. Though I actually did wish I had a backpack purse on a hike recently since my crossbody got annoying, so who knows, the straps might come in handy!

Front View:

Since my Target top is sold out but there are quite a few current options at various retailers, I thought it might be better to show you a few of them at different price points rather than just linking to them:
Joe Fresh $15 | Nordstrom Rack $20 |  Amazon $28 | Nordstrom $59 

We did have our waiter take a couple of group photos at lunch so I'll post them to my Instagram story later today!

Monday Motivation: The Daily Five
Every Monday I share a little bit here about my struggles or successes at staying motivated to work on the values and goals I set for myself this year (see those here). This weekly series has become one of my favorite additions to the blog this year (along with Book Reviews!) and one of my very favorite ways to connect with each of you! I love the comments and ideas you all share with me and it truly helps motivate me to keep going!

I've read quite a few self-development books in the past couple of years, and one thing that comes up frequently in those books is the power of meditation. Yet no matter how many times I've read this, I've never put it into action in my life. I have attempted meditation exactly once, and it just wasn't powerful or enjoyable enough that one time for me to want do it again.

Now I'm sure the authors of those books would tell me that once is not enough and that I need more practice at meditation to see any improvements in my life or even in my desire to meditate. But I just haven't found the motivation to give it another try. My one attempt made it hard for me to believe that it's worth my time to spend several minutes a day doing (what feels like) nothing.

Then last week I had a moment of inspiration. A friend of mine is trying to give up five foods for five weeks in a step toward better health, and the simplicity of that plan appealed to me. I wanted to do something similar for my mental health and something to help me live more intentionally. I came up with a plan to do a daily modified meditation session. I say "modified" because the plan is to write down five things I want to focus on each day (hence "The Daily Five"), and not just be still and think/meditate about those things. Maybe I can work up to that, but since I also believe in the power of writing things down (which comes up about as often as meditation in self-development books), I chose this method because I think I'm more likely to stick to it.

I am planning to do this first thing in the morning to map out my intentions for the day and decide where I really want to focus my mental energy, because I can't do everything every day, and I can't just think "I want to be a better person" and expect it to magically happen. It shouldn't take very long, and that's the point! I want it to be simple so it's easy to complete. I also expect that several of the items will be on my list day after day, and that's okay too. Just like learning to play an instrument, other behaviors can take a lot of practice before they become natural. For example, my list will probably (repeatedly!) include things like:

- Be patient with my kids
- Be a good listener

In the midst of devising my plan last week, I also happened to start a new book called Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. I'll review it in my next round of book reviews (coming August 8), but I am already enjoying it. This passage in particular seemed to make the point I'm trying to get at with my Daily Five plan:

"Repetition reinforces the circuits in your brain and forms more neural connections so that in your weakest hour, you don't talk yourself out of greatness."

I completed one day of this plan before I got to writing this post, and it was a very positive experience. I wrote my five intentions on a post-it note and referred to them a few times throughout the day. I did find that five might be too many, because when I was away from my note I could only remember 2-3 of my intentions! So it's a work in progress, but based on my Day One experience, I'm going to continue, which is an improvement on my Day One experience with regular meditation!

As always, I love to hear from you! Do you meditate regularly? Have you ever tried to meditate? Or do you have some other method that keeps you accountable and focused on the improvements you want to make in your life? I love new ideas and suggestions so I'm looking forward to your thoughts and experiences!

Linking up with:


Outfit Recap 7/21/17

Hello and happy Friday! As usual I'm sharing a recap of my everyday outfits from the past week. The most dressed-up I needed to get this week was for a lunch with my blogger friends Carylee, Audrey, and Noelle yesterday! That was a highlight of the week for sure, but I wasn't able to include that outfit or any fun details about the lunch in today's recap so I'll have to do it next week. Aside from that it was just more summertime casual comfort!

Outfit Recap:

One Shoulder Top, Pink Sandals:
Top: Abercrombie | Shorts: Target (Similar) | Shoes: Amazon (Similar) | Bag: Amazon | Ring: c/o Kendra Scott (Daisy via Color Bar) |  Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks [Save 10% with code onthedailyx]

This top runs true to size (I'm wearing an XS) and comes in several different colors. It's also been on mega-sale this week, but I'm not sure if that will last through today's post or not. I'm finding I much prefer one-shoulder or cold-shoulder tops to off-the-shoulder tops because they are just so much more functional! I've banned myself from buying any more OTS tops at this point. I do have a couple that I really like, except when I have to move my arms to do things like drive a car, reach for groceries on the shelf, take an outfit selfie, prepare food, etc. etc. Ha!

Camo Jacket, Jean Shorts:
Jacket: Express (40% off) | Tank: Target | Shorts: Target | Necklace: c/o Charming Charlie | Bag: c/o Amazon | Shoes: c/o Amazon

This jacket is the reason Express stays on my list of go-to stores! It is the perfect lightweight layering piece that will take me from Summer to early Fall. It's very soft and comfortable, runs true-to-size (I'm wearing an XS) and is currently 40% off.

Grey V Neck Tee, White Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Abercrombie | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: Amazon | Sandals: Nordstrom |

I've posted quite a lot about this t-shirt this summer (see several other outfits in other colors of this tee here and here) so I'll just keep it simple here and say it runs true to size and obviously I am still loving it this summer!

Beige Jacket, Olive Tank:
Jacket: c/o SheIn | Tank: Target | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Shorts: Nordstrom Rack (Similar) | Sandals: Nordstrom | Bag: Amazon | Watch: Fossil (Similar, Budget Option)

I have a little DIY update on this jacket! I posted this outfit on Wednesday along with all of my SheIn shopping and sizing tips (go here for that post), but I didn't break down the details for this outfit and didn't share the DIY details since it didn't fit in with the context of that post. This jacket does run true to size and I'm wearing an XS here (same as I wear in jackets from Express, Gap or Target.)

If you click the product link for this, you'll see that there's a long piece of sheer ivory fabric hanging attached to the bottom of the jacket. (Or you might remember it from the last time I wore this with jeans in this post.) I've been debating whether to cut off that sheer fabric or not. I wasn't loving it, but I wasn't sure how it would look without it or if it would mess up the proportions. So instead of cutting it off, for now I have secured it up inside the jacket instead with some Hollywood Fashion Tape and carefully hidden safety pins. Unfortunately I still haven't decided if I want to make the final cut. I think I need to try it one more time (both with the fabric up and down) with jeans to see how I feel about the proportions.

Pink V Neck Tee, Jean Shorts:
Tee: Gap | Shorts: Target | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Bag: Amazon | Watch: Fossil | Sandals: Sam Edelman (Current Color options)

I cannot remember the exact color name of my t-shirt here, but it does run true to size (I'm wearing an XS) and there are similar or exact current colors still in stock. My shorts run true to size as well and I've been reaching for them a lot (see them with my camo jacket above) since they are really soft, comfortable and stretchy.

Tips, Toes, Tan:
Here are the products on my skin and nails in the photos above!

Nail Polish: This is a very pretty white with just a hint of pink and shimmer (it's not nearly as pink as it looks in the bottle pictured). I use three coats with no base coat for an opaque look.

Similar Pedicure Color: My exact pedicure color is Essie "Jewel in the Crown. It's no longer in stores but you can find it on eBay. I compared my pedicure color to this polish in store and they are almost identical to my eye.

Quick Dry Top Coat: I usually do my nails at night (about an hour before I want to go to sleep) and apply this right after my final color coat of nail polish to speed up the drying process.

Gel Top Coat: This top coat has made more difference in the lasting power of my manicures than any other product I've tried. After the Quick Dry top coat has completely set (usually I allow it to set overnight, but if I need to do it the same day it takes about 2 hours), I apply one coat of this top coat. Although it's not labeled quick-dry, I do think it dries fast and is fully set in 15-20 minutes.

Quick Tan: I really love the instant color this gives. It's similar to Sally Hansen Airbrush legs, but it also works as a self-tanner, not just leg makeup. It goes on very easily and dries quickly! It does have a color guide that transfers a little to white clothing if you get dressed shortly after application. It washed out very easily, but generally I try not to use it if I'm wearing white shorts or pants that day.

Jergens Natural Glow: This is my year-round staple favorite sunless tanner. Even in the Medium-Dark version it doesn't give the dark tan that Quick Tan does, but it does help even out my skintone nicely and give it a nice color. It's also quick-dry and non-smelly. I have found I can't use Quick Tan more than two days in a row (at the most!) or it starts to get too dark and orange. So I use this on the in between days to help maintain color without adding too much.

Thank you to everyone who entered our Nordstrom Giveaway and congratulations to Bianca R. for her winning entry! Please check your email for instructions on how to claim your prize. You have 24-hours to reply or another winner will be randomly selected.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you back on Monday!

Linking up with:


SheIn Shopping & Sizing Tips + Linkup

Not too long ago, I was reluctant to purchase from any brands where I didn't have the option to make returns in store. I also passed on the opportunity to work with a few brands through the blog for that very reason, but I finally changed my mind when I came across an item I just had to have. (That particular item is sold out now, but if you're curious you can see it here.)  Since then I've continued to work with brands like SheIn and Romwe, mainly because they have such cute stuff! Here are a few favorites you've seen previously on the blog:

Jacket c/o SheIn | Top: c/o Romwe | Top: c/o SheIN

Their items are my most-complimented pieces in real life. But there is a learning curve to ordering from these brands. I have read some posts by other bloggers that helped me (e.g. Amy Ann has some great tips here) along the way, and even though I am still learning, I do have a few tips and tricks of my own that I haven't seen elsewhere, so hopefully they will help some of you!

Also, I'm putting both brand names in here because although I think SheIn is more well known, Romwe carries a lot of the exact items (and they share a warehouse, so I do mean the exact same items!) and I have featured items from both places, so these tips apply to both.

Tip #1: Start with Pieces You've Seen on a Human
If you've never ordered from either of these companies before, I recommend starting with something you've seen on a blogger. It's especially helpful if they have a similar build to you and/or you know what size you typically wear relative to their size. This is safest way to shop and have some confidence in how the size and fit will be for you. I realize that sounds self-serving since as a blogger, of course I'd love for you to choose the items that I referred! But I genuinely believe it's the easiest, most foolproof method of initially familiarizing yourself with these brands.

As a blogger, I don't usually want to to choose something that I've already seen on a lot of bloggers, because I don't want to be just a copycat blogger. So I don't always follow that tip, however I still prefer items that have at least been shown either on a model in the stock photo or have some photos in the user reviews. I've had much better luck with pieces that I've seen on a human one way or another than with the items that have only been shown hanging on a hanger or a flatlay display. My worst choices/biggest fit problems came from tops that weren't shown on a person. Even though I am gifted these items, I still have to pay careful attention to fit because it's difficult to show things on the blog (and impossible to confidently recommend them) if I can't wear them myself!

Side note, and this is purely my own speculation, but I believe this is (at least partly) why companies like SheIn have a strong blogger outreach program. They need bloggers to take the "risk" with ordering these items to reduce concerns for their readers who can't try try anything on in store. Not to mention that from a cost perspective, it's easier for them to send clothes to bloggers all over the world than it is to open and operate retail stores all over the world.

Tip #2: Pay Close Attention to Measurements
Prior to shopping at these retailers, I never really paid attention to my own measurements or the measurements of clothes listed online except for the inseam of pants and shorts. But both SheIn and Romwe list a lot of specific measurements for their products that I don't usually see on U.S. retailers, and these measurements are key. Now that I own several tops from these brands, I compare their measurements against with anything I'm considering online to get a better idea of how something will fit. With tops, I always have to check the measurement for the bust and length or I can easily end up with something too tight or too short.

I thought it might be helpful to show a side-by-side of some pieces from SheIn and Romwe along with their sizes and their measurements as listed online:
Striped Cami (Size Small) | Boho Top (Size Small) | Coral Crochet Top (Size Medium)

Here's how these pieces compare in the key measurement areas I like to check in tops:

Striped Cami (Small): 82 cm
Boho Top (Small): 108 cm
Coral Top (Medium): 93 cm

Striped Cami (Small): 48 cm
Boho Top (Small): 60 cm
Coral Top (Medium): 93 cm

Looking at these numbers can still be a bit confusing because what they don't tell you is from what point to what point the product measurements are taken. For example, the second top doesn't look 12 cm (or about 4.5") than the first top as stated! I measured these myself, and the first top does measure 48 cm from the top corner (where the strap attaches to the top) to the bottom. The second top measures 45.5 cm from top to bottom! I can only come up with the 60 cm length measurement they gave if I unfold the ruffle fabric and measure from the top of that to the bottom of the top...and it's not even possible to wear it that way. Luckily the boho top was shown on a model and had plenty of user-submitted photos (going back to tip #1!) when I ordered it so was able to get an accurate idea of fit from those pictures than from length measurements.

Tip #3: Take Note of the Model's Measurements
This is really a sub-point of tip one and two, but I'm giving it attention here since I didn't figure this out until I had already ordered several items from SheIn and Romwe. So just in case someone else hasn't noticed this yet, if you hover over the words "Model Measurements" on either website, the model's measurements will show up, along with the size she is wearing in the photo:
The photo on the left shows how the product is normally displayed. The red circle was added by me. By hovering your mouse over the red circle, you'll get the pop-up displayed on the right. (By the way, this top is yet another pretty top from SheIn.) I keep a measuring tape handy so I can compare the model's measurements to my own for a better idea of how the item will fit me.

Tip #4: Pay Attention to the Stretch of the Fabric 
On both Romwe and SheIn sites, the product description (near where the measurements are listed) will specify whether the fabric has stretch or not. I've found that if it has some stretch and I'm unsure about sizing, I can err on the smaller side (as long as it's not smaller than my own measurements, of course) and be comfortable. When it doesn't have stretch, I tend to err on the bigger size. That was the case with the coral crochet peplum top above. It had no stretch and I thought it still looked a bit snug on some of the reviewers who said it ran true to size. I wanted to be sure I could zip it all the way and up and still freely move my arms! So I sized up to a Medium and it's plenty roomy, but if it were too small it would be entirely unwearable and I didn't want to risk that.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way
I mentioned that I've had some errors along the way prior to getting a little more savvy about measurement taking and comparison. This top is my favorite mistake (as Sheryl Crow would say) since it helped me learn a lot of my current ordering strategies. It wasn't shown on a model or any bloggers. It didn't have any reviews. I didn't know my own measurements or compare it to any other product measurements when I ordered it. I just thought it looked cute! Lots of rookie mistakes! In looking back now, I ordered it in a size Small, which is only 35 cm in length. That is way shorter than any of my other tops above, so no wonder it was a crop top on me! The bust is also listed as 68-78 cm. The fabric does have some stretch so it can probably stretch to 78 cm, but that is an extremely tight 78 cm and still smaller in the bust than any of the other tops I shared above. While I couldn't wear it, at least it's helped me figure out what does not work for me!

As you can see, so far all of my items have been tops because I've been too nervous to branch out into shorts, dresses, jeans etc. and go through the measuring and learning curve all over again. But I did recently order some shorts after doing a lot of measuring and comparing to pieces I own from other brands, and my fingers are crossed that I've honed my skills enough that they'll work out.

Also, depending on what you order, you SheIn allows you to pay $1.99-5.99 at the time of your order for Hassle Free Returns. For me, that would probably be worth it if I wanted to order multiple sizes or some 'higher risk" items that weren't shown on a model. You can read more about that here.

I hope you gained a couple of new ideas from these tips! I was not asked or compensated to write this post aside from being provided with the clothing items designated as c/o, but as always I want my content to provide you with a more informed shopping experience!

Reminder! The $250 Nordstrom Giveaway is ending soon so head here to enter!

Linking up with:
Wednesday:  Lindsey | The Blended Blog | JillCarrie | JoLynne

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More of the Same + Mood Boost

Hey, it's Monday! I hope you all had a good weekend! Mine wasn't very noteworthy....mostly just driving kids around to their lessons plus a hair cut for one and an orthodontist appointment for another. Consequently, I didn't have a need for any noteworthy outfits, either! Just some go-to basics like these!
Cardigan: Abercrombie | Cami: Express (Similar) | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: c/o Amazon | Shoes: Sam Edelman (Similar, Similar) | Shorts: Old Navy (Similar)

This cardigan is wonderfully soft and comfortable and true to size. That said, at the time I'm writing this just XS and Small are left so don't wait around to grab it if you need a piece like this. My cami is the discontinued Barcelona Cami from Express. This option from Banana Republic is almost identical and an excellent substitute, and you can see my comparison of the two (plus a Nordstrom option) in this post.

This black crossbody bag is such a great designer dupe! Shipping time was pretty long though - almost three weeks. But I was okay with that for a bag I can use in all seasons like this. Even though it holds my essentials (small wallet, keys, phone, lipstick, sunglasses) the opening is not very big so I do have to place my stuff strategically for easy access to the things I use most.

Front View: 
Cardigan: Abercrombie | Cami: Express (Similar) | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: c/o Amazon | Shoes: Sam Edelman (Similar, Similar) | Shorts: Old Navy (Similar)

Monday Motivation: Mood Boost
Every Monday I share a little bit here about my struggles or successes at staying motivated to work on the values and goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. (Original post here.) One of the things I'm working on is being a more positive person. I know I prefer to be around positive people, so it follows "The Golden Rule" that I should want to be that kind of person myself.

To be honest, last week wasn't my best week. While I've experienced enough truly horrible things in life to know that last week's troubles were just minor disappointments and frustrations in the grand scheme of things, it's still human nature to feel a little down and discouraged when one thing after another doesn't go your way. I don't know about you but it's tough for me to shake off those feelings and radiate positive energy when that's not how I truly feel on the inside!

So what do you do when you're feeling down and want to turn it around? I don't think I've mastered this skill the way I want in life. I do have a couple of things I like to do when I know I need an immediate mood boost. My first choice is usually texting or calling a long time friend or family member. Someone who has known me for a long time and really gets me. We all have a need to feel understood, and sometimes feeling understood is enough to change my mood. My second option is to watch something funny on YouTube. I'm a believer in "laughter is the best medicine" and things like funny cat videos, Kids React, and Carpool Karaoke with James Corden can usually give me at least a little chuckle and mood lift.

This week I'm motivated to stay positive and keep working on my "mood turnaround time." If you have some tried-and-true ways for staying upbeat or picking yourself up when you're down, I'd love to hear about it!

Oh, and before you go - don't forget to enter the $250 Nordstrom Gift Card Giveaway here!

Linking up with:
Monday: Rachelle | CaryleeLaura | Karen | Erika


Dressed Up Summer Style + Giveaway

On Wednesday I shared some of my everyday casual outfits lately (here), so today I'm balancing things out with some of the dressier outfits I've worn lately! A lot of the time I find reasons to dress up that don't really require it, like a lunch date with friends. (But when they know you have a blog about clothes...there's a little pressure to dress the part!) Other times there's a "dressing up encouraged" dress code and I like to make the most of those opportunities!

Outfit Recap:

White Denim Jacket, Black Sundress:
Jacket: 6 PM | Dress: Express (More sizes in this Similar option) | Bag: c/o Charming Charlie  | Shoes: Target |

Fit Notes:
No surprises on the fit of any of these pieces! Everything ran true to size.

Red Lace Dress:
Dress: Rent the Runway | Bag: Express | Shoes: Target  | Bracelet: Express | Earrings: Stella & Dot (Option) | Ring: Kendra Scott

Fit Notes:
Sorry for the dark photo! This was taken at night as we were heading out and I didn't have it in me to put everything back on the next day for a brighter picture. This dress ran small and luckily with Rent the Runway you get a free back up size sent with your order! This is the first time I ended up needing it so I was glad I had it!

White Crochet Detail Top, Jeans:
Top: Charming Charlie | Jeans: Express | Necklace: Kendra Scott | Bag: c/o Amazon | Shoes: Target (Similar)

Fit Notes:
I bought this top in store and got one size up since that's all they had in stock. I do own a few tops from Charming Charlie and find their sizing to be the same as Express, so if I had more patience I am sure an XS would have worked as well! As it is, I didn't mind the relaxed fit on this flowy style of top. It's very sheer and lightweight, which is great for summer, but you do need a cami. (I use this one). These jeans ran true to size, and at 5'4" I always prefer the short length option.

Giveaway Time!
Truth be told, I really try to limit my own purchases from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale for a number of reasons I won't list here, and consequently I don't end up dedicating a lot of blog space to it! But if I had a Nordstrom Gift Card right about now it would be another story and I would have no trouble spending it all! If that sounds like a good option to you, here's your chance to win a gift card and make the most of the sale by following along with this group of (really nice and down-to-earth!) bloggers:
Enter the $250 Nordstrom Gift Card Giveaway by using the Rafflecopter below! You do not need to perform all tasks to enter, though the more tasks you do complete means more chances for you to win! The giveaway will end on Thursday, July 20 at 6pm Central. The winner will be notified of their prize the morning the sale opens to the general public and displayed on the Rafflecopter in this post. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Simple Summer Style + Linkup

A couple of weeks ago I posted about how much I like these v-neck t-shirts and shared three outfits I had recently worn with them (see it here), and this week I ended up wearing three of them three days in a row! Sometimes I deliberately try not to be too repetitive in the outfits I wear since I know I will be sharing them on the blog and want to have some variety. Other times I just get dressed and don't worry about variety...just comfort and function. And that's when things like this happen! I won't say too much more about how much I like this shirt since I just did that in my last post, but I will provide some fit details on other pieces below.

White Tee, Camo Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Exact at Bloomingdale's and Lord &Taylor | Bag: Sole Society | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks (10% off with code: onthedailyx) | Necklace: c/o Amazon | Sandals: Target 

These shorts are available at numerous retailers, so I linked to the two with the lowest prices at the time of writing this post. You may prefer one or the other based on shipping rates, ability to return in store, etc. They ran true to size with a comfortable, relaxed fit (no need to size up).

Stripe Tee, Jean Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Target (Similar) | Sandals: Nordstrom (exact color sold out) | Bag: c/o Amazon | Necklace: Pictures on Gold (Gift)

I have several pairs of these sandals and they're also a summer staple for me. They run true to size and are really comfy. While my exact color is sold out, there are lots of cute prints and colors from this season that were just marked down here.

Black Tee, White Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Abercrombie | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Shoes: c/o Amazon | Bag: c/o Amazon | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks (10% off with code: onthedailyx)

These shorts are only $16, and they do run a bit big. If you're in between sizes I recommend sizing down. I went into more detail detail on the fit here.

And finally, here's a better look at the shoes, jewelry and bags with the top-down view:

White Tee, Camo Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Exact at Bloomingdale's and Lord &Taylor | Bag: Sole Society | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks (10% off with code: onthedailyx) | Necklace: c/o Amazon | Sandals: Target 

Stripe Tee, Jean Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Target (Similar) | Sandals: Nordstrom (exact color sold out)| Bag: c/o Amazon | Necklace: Pictures on Gold (Gift)

Black Tee, White Shorts:
Tee: Nordstrom | Shorts: Abercrombie | Necklace: Stella & Dot | Shoes: c/o Amazon | Bag: c/o Amazon | Bracelets: Charmed Stacks (10% off with code: onthedailyx)

Simple and comfortable for summer! That's what my daily style is all about these days, although I have had a few occasions to dress up a little (or a lot!) more and I'll be sharing those outfits on Friday! I hope you'll stop by and check it out, and in the meantime, if you have a blog make sure to link up your style on the daily below!

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July Book Reviews

Welcome to my July Book Reviews! These are becoming some of my very favorite posts to write and one of my favorite ways to connect with you all! I read some excellent books this month so if you need a great book to read you've come to the right place. Also, if you didn't know today is Amazon Prime Day! There are tons of amazing deals on a huge variety of products and services. I've become a huge fan of Audible, Amazon's audiobook service and that's how I "read" all of my non-fiction book selections. They are offering 40% off 6-month Audible Gold memberships (and Kindle Unlimited!) through today only! That's a major savings, so if you're considering getting into Audibooks, now is the best time! Also, Kindle e-readers are $30 off today! I read all of my books on this version and my kids have this more affordable option. If you don't have an e-reader I highly recommend taking advantage of these deals today and both of those options have been great for our family! Alright, enough sales promo talk on with the books!


Sting by Sandra Brown
In May I read Mean Streak by Sandra Brown and loved it (full review here). I immediately wanted to read another book by the same author, but unfortunately this was a letdown. The story involves two hit men hired to take out a woman (a beautiful, wealthy, successful woman, natch). It takes quite awhile for the story to develop enough for us to understand why she was being targeted and that's one aspect of the story that frustrated me. But it was a pattern throughout the book where I felt like too many secrets were being kept from the readers for no good reason. (e.g. knowing her backstory sooner wouldn't have spoiled the ending or plot twists at all.) Also, I just didn't connect with the main characters in this book the way I did with the main characters in Mean Streak. They weren't terribly likable or unlikable...just one-dimensional. The Bad Boy. The Pretty Girl. I finished the book but just to finish it and see if there was something in the ending that helped me make more sense of it all. But that didn't really happen. I will give this author another chance on a different book, but I don't recommend this one.

Hidden by Kendra Elliot
This book wins the dubious honor of Worst Book I Have Read This Year! Why did I keep reading it? I tried to stop. Twice. I purchased two other books and those were worse! (See Abandoned Books at the end of this post.)  So I went back to it because the storyline itself was interesting enough: a dentist who examines skeletal remains to help identify bodies (there's a fancy name for that profession but let's be honest, only 1% of us would know it), is called to a case where she identifies the victim as her own friend from college. This friend went missing ten years ago as part of a crime spree, and the killer seems to be striking again with new victims, except the person who went to jail for the crimes is already dead. The problem for me was that the book read like a Lifetime movie. The characters were too cliché and some of the scenes were just too dramatic (semi-spoiler, but there was a scene where a woman is carried out of a burning building in the arms of the sexy bad boy that had me rolling my eyes).  In the end, there were a lot of loose ends and random characters thrown in that made absolutely no sense. Luckily, this was a free book from the Kindle library otherwise I'd want my money back. But I don't recommend this one.

Confessions by Kanae Minato
I will go ahead say that this is my favorite fiction book of the month and the one I would recommend the most if you want a page-turner to put on your reading list right now. It was fairly short and went by so quickly. It captured my interest immediately and held it through the end. In this story, the child of a middle school teacher is found dead in a swimming pool at the middle school. Each section of the book narrated by a different person, all of whom were involved in or affected by the child's death. It was unique and compelling with lots of interesting twists. It was translated from Japanese so that fact alone added to my interest (I love books that can teach me about different cultures via interesting plots!) Thanks to Jana for recommending this one!

The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
Typically I don't pay a lot of attention to the cover of the book, so as silly as this seems, I didn't realize until almost the end of the book that this was a memoir, even though it is clearly stated on the cover. I wish I had paid attention to that detail because I think I would have stopped reading it much sooner. I was expecting more plot, more resolution, more twists or more something  that would connect me to the story and characters. I would have had different expectations from a memoir, and as it was I just didn't connect with this. In short, it's the story of a woman who becomes particularly fascinated with a death penalty case in Louisiana because she can draw parallels between that case and her own life. What I did know going into it was that it dealt with some heavy, upsetting subject matter but after reading the glowing reviews on Amazon I hoped maybe it wouldn't be that much of a downer and that there would be enough other plot to interest me. That was another mistake on my part. I kept reading with the hope of resolution or a tie-in that just didn't happen...because real life doesn't always wrap things up in a concise story. This just wasn't my cup of tea, but the fault is on me for even ordering it in the first place without proper due diligence.

The Guise of Another by Allen Eskens
A lot of the reviewers who read this book had read Eskens' previous book, The Life We Bury. Most said that this one wasn't quite as good as the first, but it was still good, and ultimately I found myself in that camp as well. In and of itself, it was an entertaining plot that moved along and had an action/adventure vibe. It was an interesting enough story and easy read, and I would rate it a solid 4/5 stars. However this is something I'd be more likely to recommend to my husband than to my girlfriends! For me, the reason that I didn't like it quite as much as The Life We Bury was that I felt it lacked the deeper meaning, character development and interesting relationships that TWLB had.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman
This book came highly recommended by a couple of bloggers in last month's book link-up, and if not for that I think I might have given up on this one because it wasn't the type to grab you right away. A few reviewers on Amazon mentioned the slow-build as well so I was prepared to give it some extra time before giving up.  For me it was around Chapter 18 that I was completely into the story and eager to keep going. While the story is essentially about a town that lives and breathes hockey (whether the people want to be involved in the sport or not it will affect their lives one way or another), you don't need to like sports or hockey (I'm definitely not a hockey fan) to enjoy the book. You just need to like human dynamics, strong character development and thought-provoking, carefully built storylines (which I do!). This is most similar to a Kristin Hannah novel to me, so if you like her books (e.g. The Nightingale and Night Road) I recommend this as well, but be prepared to invest some time at first before you get hooked. I did really like this book but I would rate it 4 out of 5 stars, only because of the slow start (which was somewhat confusing for me, too) and the fact that the ending was a bit confusing in parts and just didn't give me the complete resolution that I wanted.

Non-Fiction/Audio Books:
I always listen to my non-fiction books on Audible,  which is Amazon's audio book app and service. My phone goes everywhere with me, so this is how I "read" books while driving in my car (via Bluetooth) or just set my phone next to my laundry basket as I fold and put away clothes, and in the kitchen while I put away dishes, groceries, make lunches etc. The Audible app is free in the App Store, but you do have to purchase the books and download them from your computer. (You cannot purchase books in the mobile app itself.) You can either buy books individually or get a monthly plan of Book Credits. I find Book Credits to be a cheaper way to go since audio books are generally more expensive than Kindle or physical books. And of course, this is especially true with the Prime Day deal on Audible that's ending today.

So with that explanation, here are the books I listened to on Audible this month...

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin.
With some books I have an easy time forming an opinion (e.g. Confessions reviewed above), and other times my feelings are complicated. This book falls into the "complicated" category. This book is all about habit formation and how to create and change our habits to make us "better than before." The author has developed a theory that there are four different types of people when it comes to habit formation, and depending on which type you are, different habit strategies will work for you. In general, it was well thought-out and had some great suggestions. It gave me some a few helpful, practical ideas. For instance I talked specifically in this post about the Moderator vs. Abstainer Concept (one of my favorites from this book) and how I applied it to my social media use. So for all of those reasons, it is something I would recommend if you're on a quest to make or break some habits because it will certainly give you a lot of ideas for where to start and where you may have gone wrong in the past. On the negative side, there were times I thought the author got into too much detail of with her anecdotes of experiences with friends and family. And frankly, a lot of times she came across as a know-it-all in how she described her personal interactions. If she were my friend I think I would get a little annoyed if she were treating me that way, which made it difficult for me to enjoy her as an author. I also wasn't sold on her four categories of people (I guess because I didn't strongly identify with just one category), and it seemed like she tried too hard to make the evidence and experiences fit those categories. Overall, it was worth the read for the good information and new ideas I gleaned, but not my favorite book on habits. (Mini Habits is still a favorite for this topic.) Thanks to Megan for this recommendation!

David & Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell
I'm on a mission to read every book by Malcolm Gladwell because I really enjoy his research and entertaining way he presents information. All of his books have been very enlightening and worth the read. Malcolm also narrates his own books and he does such a great job at it. The way he speaks is very soothing but also very conversational and believable. Some audiobook narrators can be too dramatic or too robotic (see below), but Malcolm gets it just right. In this book, Malcolm examines how some disadvantages in life (e.g. dyslexia or the loss of a parent at a young age) can actually become an advantage. As with his book Outliers, I found this really insightful and helpful as a parent, especially his section on choosing top universities vs. a less renowned school and the effect that has on the students. I didn't like this one quite as much as Outliers, probably because I just couldn't relate to as many of the sections, but it was still excellent and worth it for what I did learn.

Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens- Davidowitz
I apologize if I get a little redundant with the terms I use in my social science book reviews because there are only so many ways for me to say they are so fascinating! That was absolutely the case here. The author of this book mentions that he was inspired to go into his field of study because of the book Freakonomics, and I think he's done a great job of taking that field of study in a new direction. The premise of the book is that we are all more honest with our internet searches and studies than we are with our friends, our social media accounts, ourselves and even anonymous polls we may take. And he posits that we can learn a lot more about humanity by studying this data. Just imagine if your Google search history from the last ten years was made public...would your friends and family be surprised by some of the things you've searched? I'm sure the answer for all of us yes! The author studied and analyzed copious amounts of data from Google searches, Google trends, and even adult websites to come up with compelling theories and facts about humans. One thing to note is there is quite a lot of time in this book devoted to sex and sexuality, but I suppose that's largely because it's an area where the author feels there is the largest discrepancy between what people say vs. what they really think and desire. My biggest critique for this book was the narrator of the audiobook. I found him very dry and robotic. Because it's a very data-heavy book, it was easy to get distracted or bored in segments when the narrator was just reading through lists of statistics. I do recommend this if you're into social science, and I wish more people would read it since it's one I found myself wanting to discuss more with others!

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein
Okay, if I can't use the word fascinating, how about intriguing? Compelling? Both words would accurately describe this book. If you have ever wondered why some people in life are more popular than others, this book will give you some very scientific answers about that and go on to examine just how much our popularity in our childhood and teen years can affect us for the rest of our lives. It also compares the the two forms of popularity: status vs. likability, and analyzes their prominence in the culture of the United States and even offers research data on how the U.S. views popularity vs. people in other countries. This book wasn't written as a parenting help book by any means, but I found it very beneficial as a parent and pre-teen mom, since it explains many of the changes in the brain that take place in the transition from childhood to teen years. For parents of younger children, it will give you some solid research data on just how involved you should be in setting up playdates for your children at different ages and stages of their life. The author narrated the audiobook version of this and I didn't have any complaints about his performance. This one gets a strong recommendation from me for parents in particular and overall it's my top non-fiction book of the month.

Abandoned Books:

I didn't even like these enough to make a collage out of them, but in case either of these are on your reading list, here's a little explanation of why I couldn't finish them and don't recommend them!

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda
I didn't get very far with this because I couldn't tolerate the clueless narrative of the main character. Her roommate has been missing several days, but she doesn't see the need to report it to the police. She doesn't know the last name of her roommates or where she works or her boyfriend's name. And this roommate is supposedly her good friend who they chose to move away from the city and out to the country together to start over. I just found all of that too annoying and unbelievable to keep going.

Water Under the Bridge by Britney King
This book started hinting at a controlling, potentially abusive spouse and I am just not into that. I have read a few books with that plot element lately and I end up not enjoying them most of the time. There didn't seem to be any other compelling part of the story to redeem the book in the first few chapters so I just called it quits.

Current Reads:
If you want to read along with me and check back in for my August book reviews, I'm currently reading The Alice Network. This is Reese Witherspoon's current Book Club selection and I thought I'd read along to see how my taste in books compare to hers! I'm also listening to Heavier than Heaven, the biography of Kurt Cobain.

In Case You Missed It....
Two weeks ago I posted my Favorite Page Turners so far this year, with reviews on some books I really loved, including....
Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

And that does it for this month! As always I love hearing what you loved or didn't love from this list and any recommendations you think I might enjoy!

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