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Five Highlights from Twenty-Five

Posted on August 17th, 2017


On the last evening of being 25 years old, I am having so much fun reflecting on all of the excitement in the past twelve months!  Even as I call out the marquee events, I am so grateful that there was so much joy in the everyday moments, too.  Hosting Sunday night dinner parties, going to Whole Foods with my girlfriends after Bar Method, visiting friends in California, going on movie dates with Ian, running along the bay in the morning… much of the time this year, I really felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.

 
But that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of standout moments, too!  It was pretty easy to pick the Five Highlights from Twenty-Five (listed in chronological order!).

 

 

Marrying the love of my life surrounded by our family and friends.  Because this is the best moment of my whole life, it is by default the single highlight of the year, too.  I am still riding that wave of love nearly a whole year later.

 

 

Running my first marathon.  The months of training in the rain and waking up at 5am on Saturdays felt more than worth it when we crossed with finish line at Disney World in January.

 

 

Promotion at work.  I’m at a place in my life where I am absolutely prioritizing my career and professional development.  After transitioning to a new role and really hitting the ground running with a lot of challenges last fall, it felt great to see my work pay off when I was promoted at the beginning of the year.  And if that wasn’t sweet enough, my increased employee discount is an excellent daily reminder!

 

 

Honeymooning in Hawaii.  We intentionally delayed our honeymoon so it would fall during Seattle’s most unbearable weather, which for us was the right decision 1000x over.  When February rolled around, we were so ready for a week of celebration and sunshine.

 

 

Moving closer to our friends and family.  In June, Ian and I said a final farewell to Seattle before heading to the east coast.  There was a lot of goodness we were giving up in Seattle, but we have felt so confident in our decision every day.

 

 

….and a bonus!  We bought our first house!  I have a lot more to share on this, but last week, Ian and I closed on a home in New York.  We are fully putting down roots and committed to this exciting new chapter.

 

Here’s to another year of excitement and everyday joy, and sharing it with all of you!


Barre So Hard

Posted on August 8th, 2017


In February 2016, I had a little bit of a fitness “come to Jesus” moment.  I’d been a pretty committed runner for several years, and could in fact run a half marathon any day of the week… but I realized I could not even do two honest-to-goodness, on-the-balls-of-your-feet pushups.  I realized I had a bit of a gap in my fitness regimen, but felt overwhelmed at the prospect of mixing things up.  Classes seemed intimidating and expensive, but I had never had success in just doing a non-cardio strengthening routine on my own.

 

As often happens when I am indecisively floundering around, Ian made the decision for me.  We attended an auction the following week, and he bought me a one month Bar Method membership, remembering that I had taken a class in St. Louis once and really enjoyed it.  I did in fact feel intimidated walking into the studio aggressively early for class on that first Sunday morning, but I did in fact love the class, too.  Bar Method recommends 3-5 classes per week to maximize results, so I committed to layering 4-5 classes on top of my running each week.

 

For those unfamiliar with barre workouts, they are based on high repetition isometric movements that fire up the muscle without tearing.  It looks and sounds easy, but all of those tiny movements layered on top of one another are grueling!  I remember a particularly painful set of foldover when I cried.  The first week of my new routine, I could not walk down stairs or reach behind me to zip up my dresses before work.

 


^^photo taken at the brand new gorgeous Williamsburg studio— New Yorkers should take advantage of their super low new member grand opening pricing! 

 

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Fast forward almost 17 months: I took my 300th class on Sunday!  I’ve visited seven Bar Method studios.  I know some people prefer variety in their workouts, and even I admit that I have days when the classes run together and feel repetitive.   For me, having consistency in the routines has really made me able to nail the technique so I can focus on pushing myself and building muscle instead of worrying about whether my hips are in the right place and if my spine is in proper alignment. They mix it up enough to keep me engaged without making me feel like a beginner every time.

 

 

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Barre has become a huge part of my life for several reasons.  It is the first time I’ve exercised with a focus on getting strong instead of on how a workout makes me look.  It also introduced me to my two best girlfriends in Seattle, and really gave me a community in a city where I didn’t know many people.  When I moved to New York in June, I signed up for my first barre membership within forty-eight hours of touching down.  I feel so inspired working alongside the other strong women grinding it out in class.  Ian foolishly decided he wanted to spend as much time with me on my birthday last year as possible, which meant coming to Bar after work.  He survived, but he won’t be making that mistake again.

 

I’m making progress, and I do feel like I’m getting stronger every class.  Now when it’s time for pushups, I do all sixty on my toes.


House Tours Roundup

Posted on August 2nd, 2017


A couple of really fun house tours have cropped up around the internet in the past few weeks.  As I think more about aesthetic in a long term home, I’ve found myself inspired by tasteful layering of textures, styles, and colors.  I’m linking my favorite room from every house, but it’s definitely worth clicking through to peruse the whole thing!

 

 

Classic Family Cottage- When an interior designer with impeccable taste designs her own home, you know she’ll do it right.  The screened art in front of the TV is GENIUS and something I absolutely hope to emulate.

 

 

Reinvented San Francisco Victorian– Sometimes, in older homes, you have to get a little creative on storage space– but you can own it and go big with a dressing room!  This one is not exactly my style, but they really show how one piece can make a statement and inspire a whole room’s design in multiple places throughout the house.

 

 

Hamptons Home of Katie Lee- Is it cheating if I pick the pool?  The wallpapered butler’s pantry was a really close second, and of course the kitchen in a Food Network star’s home is destined to be fabulous.  The good news is this one is for sale for only $5.5 million.

 

 

Mindy Kaling’s LA Home- I’ve always respected Mindy’s enthusiasm for color (and honestly, just Mindy in general).  This room has so much going on, but it ends up seeming so stylish while being so functional.  You can totally picture the best Netflix binge ever in this room, but you’d feel chic while doing it.  I also love the seating area with the bench in the corner.

 

 

Traditional Georgetown- If you share my concerns that traditional can sometimes look stuffy, feel reassured with the tour of this historic Federal home.  Hosting a dinner party in this conservatory sounds like a dream!  I love how the mix of pieces feel like a natural expression of the owners, rather than a overly styled and curated collection.

 

 

In a world where midcentury modern, retro glam, boho, and sleek minimalism seem to be heavily featured, it is nice to see that there is hope for girls with a flare for the cozy, comfortable, and colorful.


Spontaneous Sunset Picnic

Posted on July 31st, 2017


Since the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale started, I’ve been working most evenings (including on weekends) to support our teams, but the stars aligned for a perfect last minute night off on Sunday.  The weather was completely gorgeous, and none of us had any particular plans, so we organized an impromptu picnic in Battery Park.

 

This wasn’t the kind of blogger picnic with a well styled cheese plate with items procured from Dean and Deluca laid out on a gingham blanket set in a remote country hillside with no one around for miles.  This was the kind where you pull items out of the fridge, grab some throw blankets off the couch, and join the masses of Manhattan on the waterfront.

 

We did have one staple picture-perfect-picnic item, though– rosé.  Which we did not drink out of red solo cups, but gold metallic paper cups, signaling our true level of class.  I also made a quick relatively lightened up summer squash casserole, for which I may share the recipe later.  It involved a breadcrumb topping made from goldfish and cheese, though, so you know it’s good.

 

 

 

 

After several weeks cooped up I was excited to have a reason to leave the apartment that wasn’t exercising or buying groceries, so I broke out a new dress for the occasion.  An unexpected delay in our moving process has left me stuck rotating the same five striped dresses for more than a month, so I finally broke down and bought… another striped dress.

 

I’ve been weirdly late to the off the shoulder game because of my hesitancy to buy anything over which I cannot wear a cardigan or sweater, but I realized this dress could be worn with a smocked rounded neck look if I needed to layer.  I really loved the length in particular (definitely long enough to be dressed up with wedges), and the fabric is a bit more substantial than some light cotton summer dresses.  I paired it with these drop earrings from my current Rocksbox set, which I’ve been wearing several times a week lately.

 

 

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I can’t imagine a more enjoyable way to eat soggy leftover salad.

 

Shop my dress and similar options below:


Lemon Blueberry Bliss

Posted on July 30th, 2017


Earlier this week, we found out my godfather was coming to the city for the weekend.  A group text popped up with relevant parties to set up a Friday night dinner, with reservations at a rustic spot nearby.  “Great!” my mom answered.  “Dessert at our place after!”

 

Two minutes later, she came to find me.  “So… what are you making for dessert tomorrow night?” she asked.  If you want to know what it’s like to have a personal pastry chef, she can fill you in.  I needed something that could be made ahead of time, something with a refreshing component to balance a potentially heavy dinner, and something I could make in an apartment kitchen with very little counter space.

 

So, lemon blueberry cake with blueberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting, naturally.

 

 

 

I baked the layers (only two since there were just seven of us) the night before, and then let them cool completely before filling/frosting/assembling.  This was particularly important because I worried the filling would make the cake soggy and a warm cake would melt the buttercream.  When I finally did ice the cake the next morning, I ate so much frosting that I got a stomachache, which I can admit is neither the first nor last time that has happened.

 

Decorating is not my forte, but I’m fortunate that the rustic-unfinished look is in right now, which I can almost manage.  To accentuate the fresh flavors, I used a ring of blueberries and dehydrated some lemon slices for aesthetic effect.  The final effect and, more importantly, the final flavor were a huge hit!

 

 

 

Lemon Blueberry Cake

 

For the cake:

 

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cups white sugar

4 eggs, separated

1 tablespoon vanilla

Zest + juice from 2 medium lemons

2 cups of flour

Pinch of salt

1/2 cup of milk

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup of Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

3 cups blueberries

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease two 9 inch cake tins.  Whip four egg whites into light meringue using stand mixer or electric beaters, and set aside.  Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add in egg yolks, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

 

In a separate bowl, mix Greek yogurt, milk, and vanilla.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt to butter/sugar mixture slowly, alternating with milk/yogurt mixture.  Gently fold in egg whites before stirring in blueberries.  Pour into prepared tins and bake for about 25 minutes, or until the middles are set and a toothpick comes out clean.

 

For the blueberry filling:

 

1 cup blueberries

~1/4 cup blueberry jam

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

Teaspoon of lemon juice

 

Macerate blueberries with cinnamon and lemon juice.  Stir in jam to desired consistency.

 

For the lemon buttercream frosting:

 

1 cup of butter, softened

4 cups powdered sugar

1/4 cup milk

Zest + juice from one lemon

 

Beat butter until light and fluffy.  Add sugar, milk, and lemon until frosting has reached desired consistency.  Feel free to add more lemon for a punchier flavor!

 

For assembly: 

 

Invert cake round for bottom tier, and spread blueberry filling on the side facing up.  Spread a layer of buttercream frosting on the other cake round on the side that will abut the blueberry filling– like you’re making a giant sandwich.  Carefully flip frosting side to meet blueberry filling side.  Add frosting to the top and sides as desired.  Embellish with berries and lemons.

 

A little involved, but oh so worth it.


Friday Five

Posted on July 21st, 2017


It’s summer, it’s Friday, and there is a lot of goodness in the world.

 

 

Tearjerking… Zion, the world’s first person to undergo a double hand transplant, is thriving.  He also seems like the world’s sweetest 9 year old boy– not a demographic otherwise known for thoughtful kindness in my extensive babysitting and lifeguarding experience 😉

 

Laughing… The Olive Garden in Times Square remains somewhat of a marvel to me.  Apparently I’m not the only one who is intrigued, since a simple question has kicked off a discussion with more than 12,000 comments.  I do relate to being suburb-sick sometimes, but I usually solved that by going to the actual suburbs and not by surrounding myself with hundreds of tourists to pay too much for breadsticks.

 

Ordering… Rose Jelly.  Peanut butter is trading up.

 

Cheering… One of the perks of moving back to a place with a National League team is my most precious, beloved Cardinals will be coming to town at least once per year.  Ian and I planned a birthday outing for my dad and we all went to Queens decked in red on Wednesday to root for OUR home team.  To no avail, unfortunately!

 

Shopping… The Nordstrom Anniversary sale!  Early Access is over, the Public Event started at midnight, and in a few hours, the employees will be let loose and allowed to transfer their Wish Lists to their carts.  As is the case each year many of my favorite items have already sold out, but there are plenty of gems left.


New Clothes for the Congresswoman

Posted on July 18th, 2017


Big news out of Congress, and I’m definitely not talking about anything that will actually impact the lives of millions of Americans.  Paul Ryan has moved to modernize Congressional dress code, allowing for such newfangled concepts as open toed shoes and sleeveless ensembles in the Speaker’s Lobby.  This is somewhat controversial, as some insist that a certain level of professional decorum must be upheld, while others argue the regulations are sexist.  Nevertheless, it may be a myth that Washington DC is built on an actual swamp, but the mugginess of summer in the District is not to be underestimated, so I’m sure these would be welcome changes for politically involved women sweating through their pantsuits.

 

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I’m not sure how many Congresswomen read A Cultured Pearl (I’m estimating somewhere between -5 and 0), but nevertheless, this post is for all of those women on the Hill– elected officials, staffers, and journalists alike– embracing new fashion freedoms.  I’m under no pretense that Congressional attire will dissolve to off the realm of the casual, and most of these options can still skew quite conservative when layering a blouse and classic pumps.

 

 

1: Hydrangea blue // 2: Violet sheath // 3: Gingham

4: Laser cut (on sale!) // 5: Classic LBD // 6: Mixed media (#Nsale!)

7: Lace pattern (on sale!) // 8: Statement bow // 9: Jumpsuit

 

Personally, I would be automatically inclined to cast a vote for anyone who looks fierce in that black jumpsuit.  With pretty much any of these, it’s a “just add pearls and pumps” styling situation.  When it comes to exploring footwear, comfort is paramount.  Filibuster-friendly open-toe options include bow-toe pumps, peep toe wedges, or a low-heeled sandal in leather or suede.

 

For further inspiration on stylish yet conservative office attire, I recommend Mary Orton of Memorandum (pictured above) and whatever Claire Underwood wears on House of Cards.

 

Shed your shawls, cast aside your cardigans, bid your blazers adieu.  The ladies of Congress are stepping out.

 

 


Botany in the Bronx

Posted on July 17th, 2017


The sheer number of attractions in and around New York City is, naturally, staggering.  Even between decades of New York visits and a year of living here, there are still so many I haven’t visited.  I have loved the gardens I’ve visited around the world (personal favorite: Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia), but had never trekked up to the Bronx to see the New York Botanical Garden.  It is absolutely accessible via public transportation (Metro North or Subway), but it takes a while.  Since we have a car in the city, it seemed like a good time to drive up.  My best friend from Penn, Kimberly, was in town this weekend, and joined for the journey.

 

I was particularly drawn to visiting this summer to see their Chihuly exhibition.  The Chihuly Museum was one of my two favorite Seattle attractions, and I had loved seeing the Chihuly installations at the Missouri Botanical Garden, as well.  The juxtaposition of the natural elements with the colorful glass pieces allowed both to shine without competing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who needs to go to Nantucket?  We have heaps of hydrangeas right here!  Since it was a summer Saturday afternoon it was fairly crowded, but there is tons of room to spread out so it really did not impact our experience.  NYBG does a great job bringing food trucks in and offering several outdoor dining options throughout, so you could really plan a nice leisurely day.  My only regret on our visit is that we were not able to spend more time exploring the gardens– but a good excuse for our next adventure.


Friday Five

Posted on July 14th, 2017


Tragically, it’s mid July already.  I always feel like the summer spins by way too quickly after July 4.  Last Sunday morning my mom and I had just wrapped up a 7 mile run + gossip session in Central Park on a sunny morning and I had the overwhelming desire to pause time or at least bottle up the feeling for a rainy November day.

 

 

Lounging… My parents live in a high rise building in Tribeca that has a great outdoor sundeck next to the (tragically indoor) pool.  Growing up sitting next to the pool and chatting with friends, reading a book, needlepointing, or just eating chicken fingers was my main summer activity.  Looking around and seeing skyscrapers is definitely different from overlooking tennis courts and the wafting smell of NYC trash is definitely different than that of freshly cut fairways, but it scratches the itch and helps with my Vitamin D intake.

 

Reading… I am not sure how I escaped an elite liberal education without it, but I had never read The Handmaid’s Tale, something I particularly felt I needed to rectify given its topical content.  I found it incredibly well written and compelling, and finished it within 36 hours.  For my primary reading location, see photo above.

 

Romping… After years of abject failure,  I may have finally found a romper (under $100!) in which I feel comfortable romping.  I’m the super fun kind of person who orders things online and then usually needs to try them on about 7 times before I make the final keep vs. return decision, so it’s still too early to tell, but this seems promising promising.

 

Puzzling… I’m not generally much for celebrity gossip, but I’m fairly entertained by the namegame confusion of Beyonce and Jay-Z’s twins.  Does Rumi have only one name?  Does Sir Carter Carter have two last names?  Is his name just Sir Carter?  Also, is Beyonce trying to tell us that plastic flowers are making a comeback?

 

Weekending… My best friend from Penn is coming up from Maryland this weekend!  I haven’t seen her since November, and I’m excited for a good old fashioned catch up.


The Other Side

Posted on July 13th, 2017


Today is a big day in the world of bloggers, fashion lovers, and American retail.  Truly Christmas in July– the start of the annual Anniversary Sale at Nordstrom!  But while other bloggers are plastering their pages and social media platforms with their sale picks (which, given the thousands and thousands of items, is truly appreciated!), I’m coming at this from a different angle.  In fact, Nordstrom employees are not even allowed to shop the sale until the end of the day next Friday.  We make sure you guys get the good stuff first!

 

Hello from the other side of major retail mania.  In case you’ve ever wondered, I am providing a glimpse into what it is like to be on the corporate side of a store’s craziest time of year.  Retail is highly seasonal, so these key peaks can make or break the year.

 

 

 

 

Yes, I need a manicure, and yes, I bite my lip when I work.

 

Since we’re staying in Manhattan for a few weeks, I don’t have my usual set up of monitors and equipment, but my laptop is getting the job done.  I am working anywhere and everywhere that has a strong enough wifi signal for my VPN connection.  Within marketing, my role is not quite as in the weeds as some and has more of a tops-down vantage point.  I am not the one, for example, determining our target cost per click on a specific shoes initiative, but am more likely the one to monitor how one tactic is performing as compared to another, and to recommend we change our overarching investment strategies accordingly.

 

But if it’s Anniversary, you can be sure we’re…

 

Monitoring key performance indicators.  Of course we are always keeping a pulse on our performance, both within marketing and beyond, but on days like today we keep hourly tabs on how we’re tracking as compared to forecasted trends and last year’s numbers.  This enables us to be agile and optimize nimbly.

 

Working at all hours.  Night shifts, weekend shifts, you name it.  Content is being shared with customers 24/7, so we’re there every step of the way.  For example, I know that I will be working on a specific initiative from 5-7pm every day of the sale, weekends included.

 

Coming together.  To tell the full story, we need to understand the themes coming out of merchandising, supply chain, brick & mortar stores, and beyond.  Marketing wouldn’t want to send an email featuring a dress that’s only left in size 8, and on the flip side, if the merchants have a particular item they want help selling, marketing needs to know that, too.

 

Listening!  To customers on social media, to bloggers, to anyone who contacts the customer care center.  In order to best serve customers in services, product, and messaging, we need to understand what is and is not working for them.
 
Putting customers first.  After all, it is the Nordstrom way.  This sale is a huge part of what defines our brand, and we want to make sure it reflects our values from all aspects.

 

 

What do you think of this year’s sale?  Let me know if you have any questions!  …or need product recommendations.  I have lots.