Don’t Just Feel Love — Show It

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I’ve been a fan of author and speaker Shauna Niequist since a friend recommended her book Cold Tangerines as a book club read a couple of years ago. I admire her passion for creating and cultivating community, the way she strives for transparency, and her ability to address seemingly everyday topics in insightful, heartfelt ways. She just feels real, you know? Like she wants the version of herself that the world sees to actually be, well, herself. It sounds simple, but isn’t nearly prevalent enough.

I saw a piece by Shauna posted on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog the other day, and was immediately drawn in based on just the headline: “Why It Doesn’t Matter How You Feel About Your Friends.” The main takeaway: Don’t assume your friends and loved ones know how you feel about them. TELL THEM you love them. SHOW THEM you love them.

Shauna writes:

“It’s so easy for me to feel warm, loving thoughts about friends or family members…and then go on about my day, never reaching out, sending a text, or setting a date to connect. I think about them all the time, pray for them, and watch the details of their lives spool out over Facebook—first day of school photos, last moments of summer photos. I feel connected and warm, full of affection for these lovely people. But how on earth would they know that?”

The idea seems like common sense, but it really is easy to just live your life and forget to remind the people you care about the most that you admire them, love them, miss them, whatever. Despite the many modes of communication we have at our fingertips — text, email, social media, phone calls, carrier pigeon, and more — it’s easy to get wrapped up in life without using them to reach out to our favorite folks.

And it’s more than just telling them you love them — it’s showing it, too. Granted, we all have our different personalities and “love languages” and the like, which means we communicate our emotions and affection differently, but, when you think about it, a key component of “being a good friend” involves letting people know you’re their friend. It’s that simple. That can manifest itself in helping a pal with a move, taking initiative to invite a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with out for coffee, rearranging your busy schedule to make time for a friend going through a rough spot, or just sending a “Hey — I think you’re pretty great” text on an average Monday afternoon.

All this to say, I hope the special people in my life know how much I appreciate their love and friendship. I hope they feel treasured by me, and that I do a good job of reminding them of just how much I love them. Thanks, Shauna, for reminding me to take the time not just to love my friends and family, but to SHOW them how much I love them.

 

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Send Some Sweetness: A Baked Goods-Themed Giveaway

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If you’re anything like me, it’s amazing how a treat can brighten your day. Sometimes I’m just a cookie away from a rotten Monday being a pretty okay one.

With that in mind, I’m starting a giveaway I’m calling Send Some Sweetness, which is a way for y’all to nominate special people in your lives who might enjoy a sweet surprise in the mail one random day. (And — BONUS! — you’ll get some sweet stuff to enjoy, too.)

Here’s how it works:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me about this awesome person in your life and why he or she deserves a baked-and-then-mailed-with-love treat, but DON’T LIST A SPECIFIC NAME!
  2. I’ll select at least one winner, and will then work with that winner to get the name and address of their nominated guy or gal to hook them up with some homemade deliciousness.
  3. I’ll also send the same baked goods to the nominator. Sweet treats all around!

Winners will be able to select from the following delightful Curiouser and Curiouser baked goods (some of my all-time faves!):

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Sweet stuff, wonderful people, and surprise deliveries. That’s happiness waiting to happen, folks! So come on — start the commenting and let me know who in your life deserves a treat. (I’ll be accepting nominations through next Friday.)

 

Arnold Palmer Cupcakes (a.k.a. Sweet Tea Lemonade Cupcakes)

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It’s funny: though I don’t LOVE sweet tea (I know — what a bad Southerner!), I’ve always been a fan of Arnold Palmers (a combination of sweet tea and lemonade named after the famous golfer who loved the delightfully refreshing beverage).

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When I came across a sheet cake version of this recipe in a recent issue of Southern Living, I knew it was something I needed to try. (Delicious, perfect-for-summertime Arnold Palmers? In the form of baked goods? Sign me up, stat!)

Fun fact: Arnold attended Wake Forest University, making this recipe seem even more appropriate for Winston-Salem.

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For these cupcakes, the cake portion contains the tea component of the iconic tea/lemonade flavor while the icing brings the lemon to the party. The result is a sweet-with-just-enough-zest-to-cut-it treat, which is exactly the charm of the beverage version. Success!

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Ingredients (for cake)

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 3 family-sized tea bags
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Ingredients (for icing)

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 6 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon zest
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice

Directions (for cake)

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin pan with cupcake liners. (Note: I made 24 cupcakes, but overfilled them a bit, so I think this recipe actually makes closer to 30 cupcakes when filled appropriately!) :)
  • Pour boiling water over tea bags in large measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap. Let steep for 10 minutes, then remove plastic wrap and tea bags and let tea cool for 20 minutes.
  • Once tea has cooled, beat butter in mixer until creamy, then add both granulated and brown sugars, beating until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time.
  • Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with tea, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pans (see my note on step one about not overfilling — I’d recommend filling the cups about halfway) and bake for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
  • Cool completely (about 20 minutes) before frosting.

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Directions (for icing)

  • Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed until creamy.
  • Gradually add powdered sugar, adding about 1 cup at a time to the butter/cream cheese mixture.
  • Beat in lemon zest and lemon juice until just blended.
  • Increase speed to high and beat icing until light and fluffy.
  • Ice cupcakes once they’ve cooled and enjoy!

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My 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge: Week 5 Recap

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That 30 days went by fast! I enjoyed my 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge, and was glad to discover some pieces in my closet I’d forgotten about a bit.

The best part was probably taking a month off of buying anything new, though. It was a good reminder that I already have quite enough, and that it’s worth really thinking about things before I add them to my closet.

I might actually continue the challenge (Kevin suggested I call this part the “lightening round”), since I still have lots of outfits I could wear that didn’t make it into this 30-day period. We’ll see just how long I can keep this up! (Although it will be nice to be able to re-wear some favorite outfits again.)

Did anyone else participate in the challenge along with me? If so, what did you get out of it? Did you find it difficult? Rewarding?

Here’s a quick overview of the outfit line-up from the final week of my 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge:

Day Twenty-Four: Monday, August 18

(top: TJ Maxx / pants: J. Crew / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Five: Tuesday, August 19

(top: Theory / skirt: Loveapella — via Stitch Fix / shoes: Nordstrom)

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Day Twenty-Six: Wednesday, August 20

(top: 4Hawthorn — via Stitch Fix / Pants: Old Navy / shoes: Target)

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Day Twenty-Seven: Thursday, August 21

(top: Express / skirt: H&M / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Eight: Friday, August 22

(dress: thml — via Stitch Fix / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Nine: Saturday, August 23

(romper: Free People / sandals: Target)

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Day THIRTY!: Sunday, August 24

(dress: Missa — via Stitch Fix / sandals: Forever 21)

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A Weekend With The Schmids!

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Kevin and I are so lucky. We have incredible family members and love spending time with them — something that I know isn’t true for all families. Not only is my sister, Susan, one of the most awesome people we know, she also married a guy we adore. Honestly, Kevin and I couldn’t have chosen a better addition to the Swindle family if we’d been able to handpick a husband for Susan. Marty’s a perfect fit.

So, as you may have gathered from the paragraph above, we like hanging out with these two, and were pumped when they made plans to come visit and check out our new house. (They live in Columbia, South Carolina, so it’s an easy drive between our houses. We’re so glad they live as close to us as they do!)

Kevin and I have been busy trying to get our house in order over the past couple of weeks, and were excited to finally have the guest room set up in time for Susan and Marty’s visit. (Our house is finally starting to feel lived in — there’s just one room that’s still full of boxes at this point!)

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Not only did we get to hang with Susan and Marty this weekend, but we also got to meet their adorable puppy, Piper, for the first time. Y’all — this pup is TOO cute, and so sweet, too. We quickly learned not to let her small size fool us. This girl can hold her own, and before long had commandeered many of Fulton’s toys. (Her favorite was Fulton’s bull toy which is, quite literally, exactly her size.) She has more energy than Fulton knew what to do with, but they became fast friends and played well all weekend long.

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While we weren’t busy being entertained by the pups, we enjoyed hanging around in some of our favorite Winston spots. Susan and I hit up Pure Barre on Saturday morning (she’s a Pure Barre goer in Columbia, and we love going to class together when we’re visiting each other or are at my parents’ in Atlanta) and also stopped by the Cobblestone Farmers Market in Old Salem to grab some veggies to grill that night for dinner. We found purple okra again (Kevin and I discovered this last week at the market and LOVED it), mini cucumbers, squash, tromboncino zucchini (also new to us — not pictured below), bell peppers, and cherry tomatoes. Quite the lovely, local haul!

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For lunch Saturday, we stopped by a food truck event where the girls enjoyed sandwiches and the guys chowed down on noodles. Everyone was happy (and sweaty — it was hot out yesterday!).

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After our outdoor meal, we decided to opt for an air conditioned activity, so we moved the party to Winston’s wonderful independent movie theater, Aperture, and saw Boyhood, a fictional film captured over a 12-year period and showcasing a boy’s journey from young child to freshman in college. It was definitely an interesting new way to film a movie, and one we all enjoyed.

Saturday night was low key, and we grilled out (all those delicious veggies we’d picked up that morning plus some lamb sausages Kevin and I got from the Cobblestone market last weekend) and watched Step Brothers with Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (a movie Kevin and I hadn’t seen and one that came highly recommended by Marty).

Sunday morning, we wore the pups out with a nice long walk around Ardmore and grabbed a leisurely brunch at The Porch before Susan, Marty, and Piper hit the road to head back to Columbia. (And, obviously, we had to take pictures of all three girls and all three guys before they left. Documentation, y’all.)

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We’re so glad the Schmids came to visit us!

Pure Barre Is The Best Thing Ever — But Nearly Impossible To Explain

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Okay, fellow Pure Barre addicts: Can you relate to the following scenario?

You fall in love with Pure Barre. It becomes this strange, unexpected addiction, but one you’re totally okay with because, well, it’s healthy and makes your body look awesome. Plus, your studio’s great and the instructors and other clients are super nice. So initially you buy the new client special and then follow up with the regularly priced unlimited membership. (Yikes! It’s expensive, but you love it so much you just can’t say no.)

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At this point, you’re 100% a Pure Barre convert. You live in yoga pants, you know what “LTB” means, and your day doesn’t feel quite right until you’ve had your 55-minute PB fix. If you have a significant other, he’s probably a little baffled by the whole thing, but is supportive because he sees how much you’re digging it. (And, again, your body’s looking awesome. Which he’s very okay with.)

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Now comes the hard part: describing this workout to your friends who haven’t tried Pure Barre for themselves. Seriously — how exactly do you put this into words?

In the past, I’ve said that it’s kind of like “a combination of yoga, ballet, and Pilates.” But that doesn’t feel quite right. Your heart rate is up the whole time, but you don’t get especially sweaty. You work on a barre (like ballet) for a portion of the class, but I don’t think having done ballet would really prepare you for Pure Barre at all. You focus on making the tiniest movements possible, and yet it’s crazy hard. There aren’t levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) so everyone’s in the same class together regardless of how long they’ve been taking Pure Barre, and yet somehow instead of getting easier the workouts get HARDER. (They do! I swear. It’s the weirdest thing.)

None of these statements make sense to someone who’s not part of the Pure Barre inner circle.

When I think about it, though, that’s part of what makes Pure Barre great: it’s completely its own thing. You honestly have to try it to fully get it. Samantha from Forever Twenty-Somethings published a post recently about “100 Thoughts I Have During Pure Barre.” I laughed the whole way through the post, because I can absolutely relate to just about everything she listed. (Honestly, it was refreshing to learn that I’m not alone in some of those thoughts. Thanks for that, Samantha!) But for someone who had never taken a Pure Barre class? Completely irrelevant. They wouldn’t have enjoyed the post a bit. It’s just for us Pure Barrians (?).

What I’m saying, basically, is that if you haven’t tried Pure Barre yet, you probably should, just so you know what it’s all about. (Come on — you know you’re intrigued, right?) It might not be for you, but more often than not the opposite is true. You’re likely to get hooked quickly (like I did and like and so many other girls did) and before you know it Pure Barre will be your favorite workout. Part of your lifestyle. Part of your social circle. Perhaps part of your identity, in a way. (What girl doesn’t want to work to develop a long, lean, dancer-like body, after all? I never took ballet but sure do want to look as much like a ballerina as possible. Pure Barre helps me achieve that, and so I’m a big advocate for the Pure Barre brand and all it stands for.)

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Any gals in Winston-Salem who are interested in trying a class, please let me know and we can coordinate a time to go together. Things like this are always so much easier when you have a buddy, and I’d love to show you the Pure Barre ropes. (Note: There are no ropes involved, but there are weights, balls, mats, and single and double tubes. Oh, the double tubes!)

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Pattypan Squash Stuffed With Sausage, Corn, and Rice

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Kevin and I checked out the Cobblestone Farmer’s Market in Old Salem for the first time last Saturday (with our friend Bethany, who’s a seasoned Cobblestone-goer with one visit under her belt) and came home with a stellar collection of deliciousness, including cherry tomatoes, bitter melon, lamb sausage, eggs, two Be Nice everything bagels, purple okra (!!!), and pattypan squash. I was particularly pumped about the squash, because I’d been wanting to make a version of a New York Times pattypan squash recipe I tried a couple of years ago.

I modified the recipe a bit based on what we had on hand and was really happy with the way the squash turned out. I’m a big fan of this dish, since it’s easy, fresh, filling, and I love the presentation with each person getting an individual squash to enjoy. Feel free to adjust this recipe based on your taste. It’s hard to go wrong!

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Pattypan Squash Stuffed With Sausage, Corn, and Rice

(note: this recipe makes two squash servings)

Ingredients

  • 2 large pattypan squashes
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sausage links, casing removed (I used hot Italian sausage we got from another farmer’s market recently)
  • 1/4 cup corn (I used Trader Joe’s frozen roasted corn)
  • 1/3 cup rice, cooked (I used Trader Joe’s frozen rice medley)
  • 1/3 cup Gruyère cheese, grated
  • 1 egg (fresh from the Cobblestone market!)
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a baking dish or casserole large enough to accommodate both pattypan shells.
  • Slice the top off the squash and scoop out and discard all seeds.
  • Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes.
  • Add the sausage (removed from its casing), and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the corn and continue to cook.
  • Stir in the cooked rice (for me, that meant microwaving for three minutes — score!).
  • Once sausage is fully cooked, remove skillet from heat and stir in cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • Fill the pattypan shells with the sausage/corn/rice mixture, and arrange in the baking dish.

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  • Beat together the egg and milk, season with a little salt, and carefully spoon a little over the mixture in each filled squash. Cover (with a lid to your dish or with aluminum foil if your dish doesn’t have a lid) and place in the oven.
  • Bake 40 to 55 minutes (until the squash is tender).
  • Enjoy! (We coupled our squash with roasted broccoli and cherry tomatoes, and they worked well together.)

 

 

Cake Crumb Coconut Cookies (a.k.a. Busted Cake Pieces Get Another Chance)

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Remember when I showed you that pile of disaster mini pound cakes last night? Here’s a reminder of what I was left with:

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I was determined to find a use for those ugly cake pieces. After all — they still tasted delicious! I felt like they deserved a second chance.

Enter the cake crumb cookie, invented for such a time as this.

Just turn your hunks of disaster cake into legit cake crumbs, add a few ingredients, and — voilà — you have a sort of cake/cookie combo. Almost muffin-like in texture, even. Quite delicious, and much more presentable than a pile of disaster cake, to be sure.

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You can make these cookies in several varieties (spice, chocolate chip, chocolate), but I went for coconut. Because, duh. (And also, I was out of chocolate chips but DID have shredded coconut on hand.)

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups of cake crumbs
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 Tablespoons cold water
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Directions:

  • Place left over cake (disaster cake) in a mixing bowl and beat until the cake becomes crumbs. Add the rest of the ingredients and beat until well mixed.
  • Refrigerate dough for 30-45 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.
  • Drop into rounded Tablespoon-sized balls of dough onto baking sheet.
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the edges begin to turn golden brown.

#savethedisastercake!

Mini Lemon-Glazed Pound Cakes: Delicious Meets Adorable

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This latest recipe was inspired by a visit to Tart Sweets, a local bakery right around the corner from Kevin and me. (It really is close — less than half a mile from our house.) Despite its location, I hadn’t tried Tart Sweets until last Saturday (crazy, since I’m a lover of all things sweet). Kevin and I were running a few errands nearby and stopped in to check out the bakery. They had incredible looking pound cake on display, and Kevin and I chose a slice of Kentucky Bourbon Pound Cake to share. It was SO good, and put me in a pound cake mood. (That reminds me: I need to go back and sample Tart Sweets’ Brown Sugar Pound Cake.)

Determined to try a new pound cake recipe, I then decided I wanted to incorporate the awesome mini bundt cake pan I got for Christmas a couple of years ago. Mini pound cake time, people! We already had lots o’ lemons on hand, so I went the citrus route. It was a good call.

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Mini Lemon-Glazed Pound Cakes:

Ingredients (for cake):

  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup milk

Ingredients (for glaze):

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions (for cake)

  • Grease your baby bundt pan (really well — get in all those nooks and crannies!) and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Beat the eggs in a stand mixer, then add the powdered sugar, melted butter, flour, baking powder, and salt, beating at medium speed until smooth. Beat in the milk.
  • Spoon batter into prepared pan, then bake for 15-20 minutes (until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean).
  • Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan (carefully — these have a tendency to stick!*) and let cool for 30 minutes.

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Directions (for glaze)

  • While your super cute cakes are baking, whisk 1 cup powdered sugar and lemon juice together in a saucepan, then bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir until thickened to a syrup (about 8 minutes) and let cool.
  • Brush the tops of the cooled pound cakes with the lemon syrup. Let glaze set, then brush with a second layer.

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*While my first pan of mini pound cakes turned out pretty close to perfect (as shown above), my second pan met a different fate (as shown below). I think perhaps I didn’t clean the pan well enough between the two uses and so maybe there was some cake still stuck in the pan from round one, or maybe I should have tried a different greasing approach. Whatever the reason, I was left with lots of, well, pretty much crumbs. The good news? The crumbs are still delicious! Now I’m trying to decide how best to use said crumbs. As a pie crust? In cookies? Cake balls? That’s my project for tonight…

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My 30-Day Wardrobe Challenge: Week 4 Recap

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Happy Monday, friends! Here’s a quick recap of how things netted out in the outfit department last week.

Highlights:

  • You might recall that I was on the fence about rompers just a couple of months ago, but I’ve since bought two I like a ton, and wore one of them this past week.
  • You’ll notice there aren’t any weekend days included in this line-up, and that’s because Kevin and I spent pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday working on the house in scrubby clothes, so I didn’t think that was worth including in the 30-day mix. (We got tons done on the house, though, which was exciting!)

Day Nineteen: Monday, August 11

(top: NY & Co. / skirt: Mod Cloth / shoes: Steve Madden)

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Day Twenty: Tuesday, August 12

(top: Pomelo — via Stitch Fix / jeans: J. Brand / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-One: Wednesday, August 13

(top: Asos / jeans: Just Black — via Stitch Fix / shoes: Target)

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Day Twenty-Two: Thursday, August 14 (my birthday!)

(dress: Forever 21 / sandals: Target)

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Day Twenty-Three: Friday, August 15

(romper: Loft / sandals: Target)

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