Back to the Old Country—Hamburg

So, I’ve been off-duty as a blogger for much of the year. What can I say, it’s been a busy one! It’s also been a fun year, full of several small trips and one big one. This past September, I got a chance to re-connect with my Kraut (read: German) roots over a two-week vacation with my sister. First we went to Hamburg, where my dad grew up and my parents spent almost the first decade of their marriage; then onward to Berlin, where we stayed with our aunt; then Prague because it made geographical sense (and castles!); and finally Munich, where we rendezvoused with friends from Boston, reconnected with an old ex-pat friend, and spent a couple days catching up all together at the greatest homage to beer in the world: Octoberfest.

Over the course of a couple editions, I’ll take you down the crescent-shaped path of our journey, one city at a time (honestly, too many for a single post!). There was wonderful street fashion to behold, and each city had its own unique style, but I’ll let most of the pictures speak for themselves before getting back to some more personal style blogging. First stop, Hamburg!

Baskets at FischmarktBaskets at the Fischmarkt

IMG_1080 (moody Hamburg harbor)Moody Hamburg Harbor

IMG_1103One of about 50 wurst stands at the Fischmarkt

IMG_1229Looking out from the Hamburg Rathaus
IMG_1167Family ferry ride to visit downtown Hamburg

IMG_1116Cousins! Had a blast meeting these guys for the first time. Priming them for a future NY visit.

IMG_1189St. Michael’s Church (the Michel). Looks pretty tall but must be climbed…

IMG_1219Outside the church. Not sure this entryway is big enough…

IMG_1207We made it to the top!

IMG_1246The block where my parents spent some of the early years of their marriage.

IMG_1255Welcome to the old apartment… where my parents also met Jutta, who happened to live downstairs at the time and would become a life-long friend.

IMG_1132Auntie love.

 

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Belles of the Benefit

Good friends + great cause + black & white party + shopping = The best night ever
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There’s nothing like some booze-fueled bidding to get the party started…

Two weekends ago, I attended my first silent auction. This one, an annual event hosted by AGBU YPGNY (that’s Armenian General Benevolent Union, Young Professionals Greater New York, in case you were wondering), was held at Parlor in Soho and raised money for the AGBU Humanitarian Emergency Relief Fund for Syrian Armenians.

No, I am not Armenian, I told many of the other silent auction attendees that night when asked, but I am an Armenian supporter, thanks to my good friend Lindsey H., whose dedication to the organization, on top of a very demanding career in media, has often left me astounded and also feeling somewhat inadequate for my own lack of volunteerism. Lindsey and the other AGBU volunteers managed to raise over $18K on this one night—impressive! Especially considering that the event had to be capped at 200 guests due to space limitations at the venue.

Full disclosure: what attracted me to the event was not only the great cause and desire to support a friend, but also the prospect of getting dressed up for a night out. I don’t know about you, but for me, opportunities to dress up in winter are few and far between, and my dresses were feeling neglected! The invitation described the dress code as “cocktail chic” and the theme as “black and white.” How on trend of them! (See my previous post, “Fall Preview: Black and White,” a trend that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.)

I had planned on adding some white accessories to a black cocktail dress already in my closet, but when I went shopping for said accessories, it soon became clear to me that due to end-of-season sales, it was going to be cheaper to buy a whole new dress. So, I went for a girly style in a silver/black geometric print. It’s definitely a statement dress that I wouldn’t normally splurge on as I won’t be able to wear it too often, but the sale price made it a less extravagant purchase. It’s a fun addition to my wardrobe that I plan to wear again for, say, a winter wedding or dressier holiday/new year’s party.

I purchased the dress at Anthropologie (where else?), but it appears that the dress is no longer available. You can find similar styles by the designer/label Eva Franco on her website. What I really liked about this dress was the freedom of movement (great for a dance floor), and the full skirt and bow made it feel über feminine while the metallic print kept it from becoming too saccharine. The only thing it was missing were some pockets (would have been so practical!) but I made do with a black clutch with metallic, drop-chain strap. It was perfect for carrying small necessities and easily converted to hands-free. Black tights and a low, black patent heel with rhinestone embellishment completed the outfit. I kept jewelry minimal as the dress was flashy enough.

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So, how did I fare in the bidding wars? Very well, thank you. Turns out, I am a natural. Look at the new camera I scored!

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Hopefully this is the end of my grainy blog photos. I’ll be sharing the results of my adventures in photography very soon! Anyone have any tips?

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Fashion 4 Eyes—Dreaming of Sand and Sun

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Fashionable eyewear company Warby Parker has the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums—a brand-new collection of frames featuring a desert-inspired palette. Ready to feel warmer? The collection launched today at WarbyParker.com. I’ve included some favorites below.

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Duckworth in Painted Desert

Looking at the variegated new frames, evocative of desert sand and the geography of warmer climes, I was reminded that winter won’t last forever and I could even imagine myself soaking up some summer rays, or some winter rays for that matter, in Palm Springs or a more remote tropical locale. It’s resort season, after all! Is anyone planning a fabulous winter getaway? I am hoping to make like a snowbird and fly down to Florida for a weekend in March.

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Preston in Red Canyon

In the meantime, I am sure we’ll have some more icy, wintry days to contend with here in the Northeast. While this week has been unseasonably warm, last week we broke records for the coldest January 7 in history with a high of only 6 degrees. Brrrrr! While I can’t quite keep up with the temperature leaps, one thing for sure is it’s been wet and it’s been dark. I know I’m craving some sun—is it too early to start shopping for a new pair of sunglasses?

Warby Parker can help with that, too. The lenses on their site are handily organized by optical and sunwear, and the new Palm Canyon Collection is available in both the sunny and optical varieties. Here are some WP sunnies from the new collection:

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Wheeler in Windswept Tortoise

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Wheeler in Revolver

While I’ve never worn Warby Parker frames myself, I have to say that I’m impressed by their attention to detail and price point. Starting at $95 ($145 for the Palm Canyon Collection), the frames are significantly cheaper than many of the designer brands at my local LensCrafters but WP doesn’t seem to sacrifice quality for price. According to the marketing for the new collection, “designing and constructing the patterns required a technique that took over a year to perfect, and … No two pairs are alike.” In addition, according to their website, “Every pair is custom fit with anti-reflective, polycarbonate prescription lenses.” Bonus! This definitely did not come for free with my last pair of glasses.

If that’s not enough to make you feel all warm and cozy toward them, they also display a high degree of social conscience as a retailer—similar to footwear/eyewear retailer Tom’s, which I featured in an earlier post (“3 Shoes for Your Fall Commute“), Warby Parker has a one-for-one campaign: for every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. Another for-profit with a conscience, Bravo!

I’d have to say this is the first time since I started needing to wear glasses in my early 20s that I’ve been excited about it. I’m partial to contacts but after perusing Warby Parker’s website, I may be convinced to look at my glasses in a new way, not as a dorky inconvenience but as an accessory to complement my personal style. I may actually try wearing my glasses outside the house for the first time since circa 2009 when an eye infection forced me to wear them.

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How do you feel about wearing glasses? Necessary evil or style opportunity? Have you tried Warby Parker and what did you think? What are some of your other favorite eyewear brands or retailers?

Birthday Part Deux, Midwest Style

We ate, we shopped, we saw, we ate some more. This is my recipe for a great long weekend out of town.

I recently returned from just such a weekend visiting my favorite (OK, only, but also favorite) sister in Chicago, the city she newly calls home. I went the weekend after my birthday to continue the festivities. Shouldn’t birthdays last all month? This was only my second trip to the Windy City (the first was to help my sis find an apartment last summer), so I was very excited to return with more time to indulge and explore.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the weekend.

Around Lake Michigan, aka T’s new neighborhood…

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IMG_0796I was impressed by this public art under the bridges in Roger’s Park.

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My sister humored me, allowing me to play fashion photographer in the dressing room at American Apparel. What a cutie! I am also loving her fashion sense: this is a great cozy and casual weekend look. Polka dot hoodie (American Apparel) and knit baseball-style hat (New York street vendor circa 2010).

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America Windows by Chagall at the Art Institute of Chicago

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Bundled up outside Chicago’s historic Water Tower. Doesn’t it look like a miniature castle?

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Finally, from the 96th floor of the John Hancock Center. Can you believe this is from the restaurant bathroom? We’ll definitely be returning for dinner on a future visit.IMG_0861 IMG_0862

IMG_0863Any recommendations? What are your favorite things to see and do in Chicago? Happy Thanksgiving Eve everyone!

It’s My Party! Birthday Weekend + Outfit

It’s my party, and I’ll wear what I want to!

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Photo Credit: kyleredente.blogspot.com

Not that! And, there was no Cyndi Lauper, but I did go all domestic and get to play hostess. Here’s what I did to kick off the big 3-1 earlier this month.

I didn’t really focus on the clothes this year. I had other priorities like perusing recipes and mixing up several spice- and herb-infused simple syrups. At the last minute, I decided to host a birthday/1-year-late housewarming party and in characteristically overly ambitious fashion, I opted to try two new seasonal champagne cocktail recipes. Mind, I am not much of a mixologist and cooking for me as of late has been nominal, but I figured it’s called “simple” syrup for a reason.

It was! All it took was a little forethought to pick up the ingredients I don’t generally have lying around, and some pre-party stirring and chilling. That’s it! That said, next time I will definitely enlist the help of a couple friends so that I have more time to work on appetizers and other party prep (like my outfit ; )).

If you love champagne as much as I do, here are the recipes I followed, courtesy of Anthropologie’s blog (which is a great read by the way!): Blackberry Thyme and Spiced Pear. I did not, however, torch the pear slices as garnish. How many non-pastry chefs have torches? And, the broiling route seemed too fussy.

On to the clothes. This is the only “outfit” photo I managed to take with my good friend Sarah. (Hostessing is hard work! )

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Sarah (left): dress from Urban Outfitters, black opaque tights

Me (right): dress  from Target (last summer), necklace from Eda & Betty via Bryant Park Winter Village, a pop-up shop open through Jan 5 (also on Etsy)

I am firing my photographer for cutting off our feet. ; ) Here are a similar pair of shoes by Jessica Simpson that I wore. These are super comfy and will give you a couple of inches (for my fellow petite ladies out there!).

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Jessica Simpson wedges, similar to the ones I own; mine are in a light pink patent leather.

And, here are a couple more photos that kind of capture the night and made me laugh.

Trying to agree on a “silly” photo in this one…

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OK, we kind of got it together here.

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One of the reasons for the above. Good work ladies…

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Thanks to everyone who helped me ring in another year while making me feel like 21 again (minus the shots… at least for the most part, wink).

What do you like to mix (if anything) with your champagne? Please share your tips and recipes below!

3 Shoes for Your Fall Commute

In no particular order, here are three of my favorite shoes for commuting this fall: a polka dot ballet flat, a shiny boat shoe, and a playful loafer.

In my last post, I revealed Fashion Faux Pas #2 (commuting in running sneakers). If you’re a regular offender, fear not. There are many easy alternatives that won’t break the bank, or your feet.

Boots and booties in a flat or low-heel style are an obvious choice for your fall commute. But, if you’re not quite ready to fully transition to warmer weather gear, here are three options that will get you to work this fall without having to sacrifice either comfort or style. And, the best part is, you don’t even have to change out of them once you arrive at work.

1) TOMS Red Polka Dot Linen Ballet Flat

Did you know that TOMS made ballet flats? I didn’t! I was planning on recommending their original canvas shoe that we all know and love, when I stumbled upon this delightful take on the classic ballet flat. Full disclaimer, I have never owned TOMS but after discovering these, I plan to soon! I’ve heard nothing but good things from friends who cover miles in them on their way to and from the office during the week and all over town on the weekends.

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I would classify the original TOMS as a casual shoe, that would require changing into something more formal for your workday, but as long as your office follows a business casual dress code (see “Don’t Be a Business Casual Casualty“) and you’re not required to wear a suit, these flats could easily be worn all day long. If you work in a more formal environment, you may have to save these for commuting and casual Fridays.

In case you didn’t know, for every product sold, TOMS will help a person in need through their One for One campaign. Over the past seven years, they’ve donated 10 million pairs of shoes to children in need. What a great concept. Extra, extra points for TOMS!

2) Sperry Angelfish Boat Shoe in Gold

An American classic, long the accessory of choice for nautical excursions and weekend picnics, Sperry Top-Sider boat shoes have previously not belonged in your work wardrobe. However, since coming out in metallics, these re-imagined weekend staples are now office appropriate and would nicely complement a dark creased trouser. If you’re not sold on wearing boat shoes in the office, these would still make for a super comfy commute.

Sperry-Gold_clipped_rev_1A note on fit: If your feet are narrow, this might not be the shoe for you. I’m in love with this design but so far have not been able to find the right size to fit my narrow feet. The cushion on the inside, however, feels divine and as soon as they start making them in a narrow width, I’ll be the first in line.

Sale alert! Many sizes are now sold out, but this shoe is on sale on the Sperry website (link above) for almost 30% off the list price.

3) Charlotte Olympia Kitty Flat

Feeling frisky? How fun are these loafers? I chose the original by Charlotte Olympia to highlight because they are lovely. However, black satin, gold trim, and a high price tag make these a high-end choice that are way too fancy for a haute kraut commute.

Charlotte-Olympia-Kitty-Flats_clipped_rev_1For a more practical, lower-cost alternative, inspired by these beauties, check out Seychelles Tell Me More. Available in Natural and Black, these cheeky loafers are carried by Urban Outfitters. I also found them on sale from 6PM.com. With a lightly cushioned footbed and low heel, I wouldn’t expect them to stand up to the very sturdy, and heavily cushioned, boat shoe in terms of comfort, but if your commute isn’t a long-distance one, then these would do equally well for both commute and workday.

What do you think? Would you wear these for your commute and workday? What are your fall favorites?

Fashion Faux Pas #2

In keeping with my theme from last week, I have decided to reveal the next fashion faux pas on my list. Fall semester is in session so let’s call this series Fashion 101.

This week’s fashion crime is: Commuting in running sneakers. No matter where you live, my advice is easy: Don’t.

Miranda: I had to walk all the way from the subway in these heels. My feet are killing me.
Steve: Why didn’t you just carry them and wear sneakers like everyone else?
Miranda: Stop. You can take me out of Manhattan but you can’t take me out of my shoes.

Well said, Miranda (“Cold War.” Sex and the City: Season 6. 2003-2004).

Abbey inspired this post with her comment on Fashion Faux Pas #1, which I couldn’t agree with more. Abbey said: My pet peeve is when women wear regular (usually white) sneakers with their work outfits for commuting. There are so many cuter but still functional options out there for commuting! 

Amen, sister! I snapped this picture on my way to work last week, and it exemplifies the good and the bad of commuter footwear. I will let you, my discerning readers, decide which is which.

Commuter-shoes

Believe me, as an athletic girl who favors practicality and comfort, I understand the temptation. And, I will fess up to committing this crime on one or two occasions. My fashion philosophy is all about comfort. How can clothing make you feel confident and more like yourself if it isn’t comfortable?

Cute shoes that don’t provide any support aren’t just impractical, they could cause serious tendon and muscular problems. As a long-time runner, I understand the importance of taking care of my feet. Though I don’t compete as intensely anymore, I’m still a casual runner and have recently gotten in the habit of walking the two miles between home and work at least once a day.

Since increasing my a pied commuting mileage, I have been on the lookout for footwear that will both get me from point A to point B and not make me cringe when I catch a glimpse of my outfit reflected in the couture store windows I pass every day.

If you are a regular offender of this crime, fear not. For one, this is more of a misdemeanor than a felony (see previous post). Secondly, the boundaries between “sneaker” and “ballet flat” have been blurred, which is good news, resulting in what I call hybrid flats and many more options that could go on the comfortable, yet non-running-sneaker list. As there are so many permissible options, it’s easier to start with what not to wear:

Guidelines for Selecting Commuter Footwear

1. DO NOT wear your white or heavily cushioned running sneakers to and from work. These belong in a locker or gym bag, and on your feet only when you are actually exercising (or you might just find yourself running from the fashion police).

2. I shouldn’t have to say this, but please DO NOT wear Crocs or anything that resembles these hideous clogs during your commute. I know I said I favor the practical and comfortable, but I don’t recommend wearing these, ever really. They are probably the most unflattering shoes known to modern woman. I can’t think of a reason to buy them unless maybe you spend a lot of time gardening. Don’t wear them out of the garden.

3. DO NOT commute in stilettos. Yes, this is the other end of the spectrum, but no matter how great you are at walking in heels, save these for the office (or club?): Your heels will wear down to the nub in half a season, and you’ll be stressing your calves before the day has even started. Be kind to your calves. You may also stress your fellow passengers if you are forced to move at a snail’s pace as a result of your impractical choice of footwear.

Side note: Be mindful of the height of your heels. Some stilettos are better left for the weekend and out of the office equation altogether.

4. DO NOT wear socks that go above the edge of the shoe if ankles are visible. Socks are an unfortunate necessity with many shoes, however, socks that stop at the ankle truncate the leg and flatter no one. Trouser socks are fine but your pants should cover the top so that they look like tights or other hosiery. Avoid athletic socks at all costs.

5. DO NOT wear flip-flops. I know I’ve said before that these are OK for commuting, but they should only be worn as a last resort. These are too casual for most offices, even for just a few minutes. And, more importantly, they provide very little support and put you at risk for strains and sprains and other problems. Save these for the beach! (See also “Casual Summer Fridays.”)

So, what should you wear? The possibilities are endless! I’ll feature a few of my current favorites in a future post. What about you? What are your favorite shoes for commuting?