Summer Travel Essentials

Friday, July 21, 2017

I don't have any further travel plans for the summer (though I have to say, Nantucket looks pretty dreamy at the moment!), I still wanted to take a moment and spotlight one of my favorite topics, before the season comes to a close. Traveling (especially long weekend trips) is the quintessence of summer to me, and there's little I'd rather scheme about than what to pack for a dream vacation! So here you have it:

My (Admittedly Idealized) Summer Travel Must-Haves
DREAM DESTINATION: Somewhere in the Mediterranean
NOT INCLUDING: knickers and toothpaste, because who wants to talk about that?

The biggest benefit of summertime travel is the simplicity of clothing: a couple of dresses, one pair of shorts and a tee or three are really all you need for week in the sun. I always love a good cotton sundress, but this year I've been especially drawn to the eyelet-fabric trend that's been peeking back through! I feel like a little girl again, in the best possible way. :)

Whether you're wearing a strappy sundress, a loose, drapey tee, or this season's go-to off-the-shoulder look, a strapless bra is a really good summer essential to keep in tow. It's one of those things that are so easy to forget, until you desperately need it - and they're so easy to get wrong too, especially if you have a larger bosom (fuller ladies, you know what I mean!). One I've had my eyes on for quite a while actually is ThirdLove's Classic Strapless Bra: it is more expensive, but all the reviews I've read are really convincing me it's worth the price point. You may be able to fake it with your regular bra, but when it comes to strapless, any off-sizing or discomfort can really become a pain to faff around with, and can make wearing your perfect summer dress something to be dreaded instead of enjoyed. 

ThirdLove has been kind enough to offer an extra 10% off your purchase, with the code TLJLY10! I know I'll definitely be trying one - especially since any bra you don't love within the 30-day trial period can be easily returned, for no cost (save shipping). :)

This needs little explanation: a easy sandal is an absolute must-have for me in the summer! Especially traveling, you can slip them on and off easily, and some can even fit in luggage as small as a handbag. Win-win-win!

I've been back on the signature-fragrance trail, and though I still can't say I've found my "one", I did find a pretty amazing gem, amidst sniffing myself silly at Sephora the other night. Philosophy's Pure Grace is absolute summer-heaven in a bottle. I swear they've made perfume out of sunscreen because that's exactly what it smells like (or at least, the top settles down to something a bit warmer and richer) and it's incredible. 

Last but never least, is it really a summer vacation without a cute straw hat? Packable options are harder to find, but well worth it when you get to your destination (if anything, it looks good in pictures and can hide unwashed hair for a good extra day or two). One that holds it's shape well and doesn't take up too much space is ideal, but if you're stuck for finding one, you can always just wear it on your travel days and bypass the suitcase question altogether. Looking extra chic, too, of course. ;)

What are your travel essentials for summer trips?

An Explanation

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

via tumblr

First: Did you think I'd died?

(I sure hope not.)

Second: I sincerely apologize for dropping off the face of the blogosphere like that, with no explanation. I was at a point with blogging where it was beginning to feel like a chore, and that's never been my desire for this place. When what you love becomes a chore, it may be time to step back and reassess. So that's what I did.

Third: I still want to blog. I just feel the need to make that very clear, since the rest of this is going to be a little bit less so. I still want to blog, but I'm honestly not sure how much time (if any) I will have to do it in college. I always say (a bit tongue-in-cheek) that I don't do anything by halves, and though mostly I'm just poking fun at my own bull-headed-ness, it is partly true. To blog half-heartedly is a foreign idea to me - if I'm going to do it, I want to be all in. But unfortunately, I simply can't be all in blogging at the same time I'm all in school. It's not practical, and likely not possible.

Fourth: I'm going to be completely honest: I did think about quitting entirely. I've been getting a bit uncomfortable with focusing so much attention on myself, and as much as I love blogging, I'm not necessarily looking for a career out of it anymore. I want to reach other people who think the way I do, and uplift other women in this online community. I don't want this to become my alleged modeling portfolio.

Fifth: I realized I'm still egotistical enough to think other people care about what I have to say, and precocious enough to keep saying it. ;)

Sixth: If you're confused by all this, all you really need to know is this - to the question "are you still blogging?" Yeah, I am. I've still got so much to say, and in my small way, I think I always will. The writer in me is ever alive and kicking, Lord love her! On top of that, this blog has become a sort of way of keeping long-distance friends updated on the comings and goings of my life, and I know a handful would be pretty disappointed to see this space go silent entirely (not going to lie, I definitely would be sad too). Because I know if I just "post whenever" it won't happen, and if I promise 4 posts weekly I'll loose sleep for the sake of the schedule, right now I'm sticking with the promise of an easy, breezy, one post a week. If I find my footing quickly and begin to pick up this pace again, wonderful. If not, at least you know it's not for lack of care. I still love this space. I still love writing and sharing and connecting, best of all. I just don't want to loose the joy and allow it to become a task, a laundry-list item.

Seventh: I hope you can bear with me in this new season of life. That is - I understand if you don't. But if you do stick around during the new changes, it means the world to me. Thank you, dear friend.


Currently Craving: Straw Basket Bags

Monday, June 26, 2017

via tumblr

Happy Monday, my friends! After a friend at work showed up with the cutest straw basket bag from Zara (sold out! I'm heartbroken!), I've been on the hunt for one of my own. I've always loved the idea of basket bags, but usually have found them too clunky or awkward, or just generally not secure enough to hold things in, (or at least I *feel* that way, without zippers or proper closures, ha!).

It appears that I haven't looked at basket bags in a while though, because after doing some research, I did come across several beautiful candidates. And though I'm still dreaming about the Zara one (it had a fabric drawstring closure, which solves the security thing for me without compromising style), there are definitely several here I wouldn't mind as an alternative. I wanted to showcase a variety here - there really is something for everyone - from large tote-style to tiny picnic baskets, some embroidered, some with leather handles, striped-colored straw, soft, structured, name it, it probably exists. (Except the Zara one, apparently. That no longer exists. XP) But can we just take a moment for their charm? I don't know when or how this happened, but lately, I've been all about the baskets.

I'm blaming you, Joanna Gaines. 

What are your thoughts on the basket bag? Yay or nay? 

The Chic Sheet, v. 34

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Happy Saturday! Not sure if it was just me, but this week just flew by...there's still a lot left that I haven't done (laundry to fold, laundry to wash, posts to write and placement tests to take for school, not to mention lots of cleaning out and starting to pack a couple boxes of college supplies away...), but it was good. Life is good. Making time for Bible study and long, deep conversations with kindred spirits, even if it means not getting out a post on Friday (sorry), it's really worth it.

I've been driving with such force and speed towards one goal for so long, that I almost forgot why I started. With this back injury, and having to slow down, I'm [trying to learn] the value of rest. Not laziness, but purposeful, meditative time off. Allowing that necessary time and space to refocus, trusting God will provide when you can't do everything you want to do, reviewing, reevaluating, making sure your heart is still in the right place and that you aren't just going through the motions - it's so good for the spirit. This week has had several of those moments, and I'm so so grateful.

The Chic Sheet, v. 34

1. Liza Gingerich Blog Rebrand
A week or so ago I mentioned I had a fun project I was working on - well, this is it! Liza and I have been working on rebranding her blog for so many months, it's kinda weird now to be done - I've so enjoyed tweaking and playing with it, haha! As much as I've enjoyed doing a little more design work again (something I don't do regularly), I enjoyed even more getting to catch up with her beautiful soul. If you aren't reading Liza's blog already, get your butt over there and join the family!

2. How Smart Are You?
According to this quiz, I should have a bachelor's degree already. So really... ;) What about you?

3. 5 Guy Approved Outfits
Oh my WORD this one CRACKED ME UP. I especially love the reasoning behind why he chose each outfit for her...tooo funny. Also Carly and Cody are stylish couple goals.

4. Americana
In honor of Independence Day coming up, (and for an Albion Fit Giveaway/Challenge), I created an "Americana"/Patriotic/Summertime board and I've been having WAY too much fun scouring the internet for the prettiest, most patriotic pins. Check it out, if you're so inclined! :)

5. Anthropologie Marbled Statement Necklace
Gorgeous find of the week: a necklace of cool, sea-green marbles shot with electric magenta cracks. I never even knew I wanted this but my goodness it's pretty.

6. Fourth of July Style
If you're looking for something cute to wear for your July Fourth celebrations in a couple weeks, this dress from Aerie is a darling, lightweight and easy option! I only recently really paid attention to Aerie's clothing, always assuming it was mostly just really, really small denim (lol) - but their dress options are so sweet! I need to remember them next time I'm looking for good summer sundresses.

7. O Me! O Life! by Walt Whitman
I've been wanting to memorize something new, and even though it took me a couple weeks to come up with the right thing, the minute I re-stumbled upon this old favorite poem, I knew it was the next thing I wanted to make my own. I'm rusty, having not memorized anything really since the end of my senior year when I did Ulysses by Tennyson (still LOVE that one, and can still say it!) but it's short and I can make my way through it with only a few mistakes so far. ;) If you have any suggestions for more poetry, passages or speeches worth memorizing, I'm all ears!


Patria | #OOTD

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Even though my style hasn't always been as Americana as it's become over the last year or so (plot twist! haha), I've always been a sucker for navy and white stripes with a punch of red. I'm calling this look French-inspired, since Independence Day is still a couple of weeks off and I have another look already brewing for that one...but there's no denying the patriotic vibe. I'll just leave you to guess which country. ;) 

And also, Happy Midsummer!  Even though it does mark the beginning of shorter days, it also means the gentler half of the summer is past, and we've moved into the hotter, bolder days. I don't know, maybe that sounds silly, but that's always the way summer moves for me, and I love the rhythm of it. It's like we've been easing into it up until this point, and now the dancing is speeding up. It's time for fireworks and watermelon, instead of pink lemonade and sundresses. It's time for red. 

Outfit Details:
Striped top: Gap (old, similar)
Navy Culottes: Old Navy, (navy no longer available, similar here)
Red leather cross body: Kate Spade
Watch: Merona
Shoes: EuroSoft, old, similar
Sunglasses: Old Navy
Nail color: Essie "Chinchilly"

What are you looking forward to today?

In Your Words: What Elegance Means

Monday, June 19, 2017

First off, can I say how fun it was to read you guys' responses? I loved hearing your insight and stance on what true womanly elegance looks like, and though for the sake of brevity I haven't shared everything, it's definitely worth going back and looking at if you haven't already!

But more importantly, thank you so much for sharing your hearts!

elegance: in your own words

"Christ Himself makes beauty from ashes. He created the loveliness in humanity and in nature. He knows how much the human heart thirsts for love, acceptance, confidence, and beauty. These desired qualities are crowned with and united by elegance. Elegance is my favorite word because it sums up the grace, confidence, and beauty I so want to exude." -Madeline

"When I think of someone who has [elegance], I see someone poised and usually well-dressed, but not in a pretentious way, who is wholly present wherever they are -- a sort of noticeable intentionality that makes it difficult for them to ever appear rushed or harried." -Mary

"To me, elegance is the perfect blend of kindness and grace, with a dash of class." -Riley

"I feel most elegant when I put care into something." -Mary

"Attitude" sums it up pretty well." -Lydia

"I always like to think of elegance as the feminine strain/expression of ultimate Christ-like-ness: like the greatest thing you could call me is an elegant, Godly woman." -Katy

"Elegance means being humble enough to admit when you're wrong, and having poise to continue on when you believe you are right." -Anne

"This quality of elegance pushes through doubt and holds onto the confidence that sets it apart from the rest of the world." -Madeline

You Can Take The Girl Out of Pennsylvania... | The Chic Sheet, v. 33

Saturday, June 17, 2017

I feel like it's been ages since I've done one of these! I've got quite a few fun discoveries of the week to share this Saturday, so grab a cup of coffee and come on in, friend!

This week had an unexpectedly rough start, with the discovery of a bulging disc in my back (I've been having nerve pains for about a month, but brushed it off repeatedly, until it got much worse over the weekend, and I had to get it checked out). So I took it much slower than I'd planned on, doing my gentle physical therapy exercises and trying not to eat the whole house (anti-inflammatory steroids and their side-effects. bah.) and being incredibly cautious at work.

But in the end, it's still been a good week, and I can't complain about having to take a little forced rest. Here's what I've been loving!

The Chic Sheet, v. 33


1. Shania Twain
Ever since I shared on my Instagram Story about a week ago that I had been listening to this song, I've been on a major Shania kick! So many good old songs I've fallen in love with all over again, or just cracked up listening to ("In My Car", anyone?) - talk about a throwback moment! Does anyone else still like old music better than a lot of current pop songs?

2. 5 Casual Ways To Spend Time In Norfolk, VA | Lipstick and Gelato
I love things post because not only did it refresh my desire to take a spontaneous drive out to VA and visit Rachel and her family, but it also made me look at my own growing hometown a little bit differently. Smalltown Southern USA is widely underrated. There is so much beauty tucked in places like this.

3. Buttermilk Biscuits
A couple of months back, for my littlest sister's birthday, we had lunch at Kitchen Notes at the Omni hotel - and of course, the phenom of the day was the epic buttermilk biscuit situation. I'm telling you, you do not know a buttermilk biscuit until you have had one of these. Of course, I came home and wanted to recreate it, but it's taken until just this week to find a recipe that I think might come close. That's not to say I've been practicing biscuits every weekend in between, of course, but rather that the two times I have tried between now and then have been...less satisfactory. I finally found a recipe for skillet biscuits, however, and I cannot wait to try them out this weekend. They look amazing: crispy with butter on the bottom, flaky and pillowy inside...oh man.

4. Penguins Winning The Stanley Cup
Of course, I couldn't not talk about this! I don't talk about sports a ton on here, and but after baseball, hockey is definitely my favorite sport. And when your team wins the Stanley Cup (two years in a row) it's kind of a big deal. Especially if you live in the opposing team's city (see post title). XD

5. J Crew Boater Hat
I think the only summer item I miss every year is a good, cute boater hat - I just can't seem to find one that fits my head and looks nice, not dorky! I also would love if I could find one that will pack well, because usually it's traveling that I want a cute hat, but if I can't put it in my suitcase...well, it'll probably stay behind. This one from J. Crew definitely caught my eye, though! It's definitely expensive, but I really like that it's packable. This Nordstrom one is super cute too! 

Any recommendations, friends?

Have a wonderful weekend, be careful, and for goodness' sake if you know the secret to perfect buttermilk biscuits, let me know.
Cheers, y'all.

"That's Not Your Responsibility." (A reminder)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Someone at work recently said those words to me, and it kind of took me aback. He didn't mean it in a rude way, not to put me down or tell me I was overstepping the line - it was, really simply, a reminder that "carmel, you don't have to be everything for everyone." And I was like, "you know what? He's right."
boating in maryland, at the end of our new york trip, because when in New England...;)
Now to some of y'all, that sounds like a no-brainer. Manage everything? Why the heck would I want to do that? And to be clear, I never really thought of myself as a Type-A personality - but as I've gotten older, those older-sister/controlling tendencies, I've found, are still deeply imbedded in me: to protect, to worry, to feel responsible if anything is wrong.

This especially manifests itself in my work life. Being in a position of responsibility over your peers is all exciting and responsibility, until you realize you're trying to do everything - and a lot of times, you didn't really have to. Something really big I'm trying to learn right now is simply how and when to delegate (which is my typical response when I can't do everything) - and when to just plain let go. Because sometimes it's not just a matter of doing too many things, it's becoming obsessive about things that don't matter, or aren't worth the battle.

If you work in the service industry, you know how key this is! Sometimes you just have to bury your nose in what's immediately in front of you and breathe, and trust that everything will get done when it gets done - because otherwise it's so overwhelming to see scores of people waiting in line for help, that you actually become less effective with the work right in front of you.

So here's your little Friday reminder, not because I know this any better than you (in fact, it's probably the reverse!), but because a lot of times the reason we struggle is because we haven't been recently reminded of the Truth we already know. That's the funny thing about being human: we can know so much, but so often when it comes down to the wire, we forget all but a few, key things. So if you're in that place today, I hope you can reassess what actually is your responsibility. One step at a time. Leadership, contrary to popular belief, sometimes means just sitting back and letting things happen, and having the wherewithal to not flip out.

Inhale. Exhale. Now dive back in.

happy friday, dear friends! 💙

A New Take On The Q&A

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Just for a change of pace, I was recently thinking how fun it would be to do a Q&A over here! I haven't done one in years, and I have had so much fun with it in the past...
^at the adidas store in new york, aka where I could happily spend a lot of money. XD

But instead of having all the focus be on me, I wanted to use it for a constructive purpose. I want to hear from you, too, because even though I'm the one writing the blog, you all share excellent ideas in the comments on a regular basis, and I always enjoy getting to know everyone and seeing this little community grow! Because this blog is all about lifestyle excellence, and finding how to be a more graceful woman, here's what I want to do:

You, dear reader, are going to give the 
"advice,"or the answers.

I ask questions in every post, and everyone's answers are always a little different, but there's one thing you have in common: you all are striving for the same excellence that we always talk about. So as a way to bring fresh perspective on the idea, 

I want to hear your perspective on what elegance means.

Make it wordy, make it brief, make it humorous and witty, or make it serious; moving. Tell me how you find elegance in your own life, what makes you feel elegant, why you want to be elegant (if you want to be elegant, that is), why you do what you do and what you want to ultimately become. 

For me, I want to be the epitome of elegance, while maintaining spirit. I want to embrace gracefulness, with the knowledge that I don't need to flaunt my strength in order to prove it. I want to be so strong in character, that I can graciously defer to others, and know when my comment is not needed. I want to know when my comment is needed, and have the courage to speak truthfully and clearly. I want to speak well. I want to love well. I want to make others feel always at home, and never uncomfortable, or unwelcome. I never want to be so deferential that I can't speak up, for fear of hurting others' feelings. I never want to speak so indiscriminately, that I can't see how other people may be hurt by my words. Elegance, to me, is being able to know the difference.

I'll be sharing my favorite responses in next Monday's post!

Semi-Sporty | #OOTD

Monday, June 12, 2017

 And just like that, it's Monday again! I'm finally feeling like I've got back into the rhythm of blogging, and I've got my life back in order. It took two weeks post-vacation, but I'm no longer just treading water, I'm making progress.

I've also got another fun side-project I've been working on with a friend, that I should be able to share with you all very shortly! Life is good at the moment, and work is good (getting into that summer flow), and I'm finding myself with more creative energy than I've had in a long time. Of course it ebbs and flows, but whether it's just the change in the weather or something a little bit more, I'm feeling the fresh desire to create that is always a good sign.

So today's outfit is an expression of that: since late February, I've been wanting to shoot some outfit pictures at the tennis court. Of course, I had to wait for warmer weather, and then for sunshine to coincide with my off-day in order to get the shots that I had envisioned, but last week I finally did it. And though I definitely want to try again, just to get a little closer to my ideal, I'm pretty proud of how these turned out. :)

Wearing my jean skirt from the Karlie Kloss Express collection that I raved about here.

channelling my inner adidas model. XD

Outfit Details:
Denim Button-Front Skirt: Express X Karlie Kloss (no longer available; similar here)
Boston Red Sox Baseball Hat: old, similar
Sandals: old, similar
Tote: Old Navy

Hope your week is off to a good start! How is your summer so far?

Travel Diary: New York City (May 2017)

Friday, June 09, 2017

I've got something a little bit different to share today, friends! Originally, I was planning on doing a New York City travel guide...but being there for only three days didn't give me enough time to explore and feel like I have enough experience to really do justice to a travel guide. (Which is fine by me, really, because it just gives me more reason to go back multiple times!) So instead, I want to share my favorite moments from the trip, as well as a few of my big-girl camera shots that I haven't shared on Instagram!

Side note: the main reason this has been so long in coming is because I had around 300 original shots to edit (not counting multiples) from the trip. I still haven't finished all of them, but I couldn't wait anymore before sharing some. At first I was wary of carrying my big camera around the city (you definitely want to carry as little as possible, because theft is higher even than most large cities in America) --- but I'm so so glad I did. Some of these photos are up there with my favorites I've ever taken, and as any of my family members can tell you, I was shooting pretty much nonstop the whole 3 days: which is something I haven't done in ages and which I really, thoroughly enjoyed. It's good to flex those creative muscles every once in a while! ;) I didn't get the chance to take outfit pictures because the weather was bad, but again: next time (because there definitely will be a next time).

3 Days In Manhattan

Trinity Church, where Alexander + Eliza Hamilton are buried.

1. One World Trade Center
If you get the chance, the 9/11 Museum is a must see. It's definitely not a "fun" activity, but I felt that because this is a moment in history that happened within my lifetime, it was important to go and pay respect to the service men and women who knowingly sacrificed their lives without looking back, to save people they didn't even know. And equally to all the ordinary heroes, who became warriors for life without having to be asked. I would recommend blocking out a good few hours for this one, as there is so much to absorb.

2. Beme Offices (hi, Casey Neistat!)
This was a cool fan-girl moment for me. We took a bus trip around the city, and it affords the best views of all the key monuments - but it also means you get to drive past everything in between! I spotted the BEME Office (on the left in the above picture), and from there Casey Neistat*'s offices as well (upper right), on the way through midtown...and about jumped out of my seat. Of course I had to take a picture of my favorite YouTuber's spot! It was admittedly very weird to see it in real life after seeing it online all the time...but also pretty cool (no spotting of Casey himself though...darn ;).

3. The Statue of Liberty
Hands down, the best part of the first day was taking the ferry out to the island to see the Statue of Liberty! The weather, which had been overcast most of the day, cleared up in the afternoon as we licked ice cream and gulped in the sea breeze. It was so amazing to see Manhattan Island growing closer from the deck of the ferry as we rode back in, too - I definitely was having a Brooklyn moment!! Too cool.

4. New York Public Library
As a self-professed Bibliophile, we couldn't stay in Manhattan 3 nights without taking some time in the NYPL. So naturally, when it was raining on the third day, we took it as a clue to go shopping (stay tuned for something special in that department!)...and to explore this giant book-lover's dream stop. As far as reading and studying goes, it's far too crowded of a tourist attraction to get any work done in, at least for me, but it was an architectural feast for the eyes! I never grow tired of ornate ceilings, effusive amounts of marble, and best of all: shelf after shelf, in room after gorgeous room, of books.

Inscription on doorframe reads "A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit, inbalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life."

5. Carmine's on 44th Street (Theatre District)
If you want to get your fix of authentic, family-style Italian in New York, Carmine's is the place to go. Technically, it's a chain (I've also been to the one in D.C., equally amazing) but the quality of service, food, and overall atmosphere is unbeatable. As a southern-raised girl in a large family, walking the rainy streets of New York surrounded by cold, single, serious businesspeople or tourists for a while can be a bit was like coming home to emerge into such a full, warm atmosphere, full of laughter and larger families and friends all just eating really amazing food and enjoying a night out together. (Also, their pasta is out-of-this-world and the bread is complimentary). As far as pricing goes, it's not bad at all (relative to the area).

There's so much more, but I'm sure I'll unravel it overtime. I'm still processing some things, but this was potentially the highlight of the year so far, and I can't wait to go visit again. 

Have you been to New York City? What was your favorite part(s)?
Design by Bethany. All images and text displayed here (C) Carmel Elizabeth 2010-16, unless otherwise stated. Please do not steal.