Red Dresses and Love Stories

Photo credit: Mary Pingel

Next week on the 14th, in addition to celebrating Valentine’s Day, I’ll also be celebrating my one year blogiversary! I have lots of fun content planned for this whole month, starting off with today’s Valentine’s themed blog post—from my favorite love stories, to gift ideas, to festive outfit inspo!

My Favorite Love Stories

I’ve compiled a list of my favorite love stories to read (coincidentally enough, all of these also have movie adaptations–though in my opinion not all measure up to their book).

I find it very difficult to rank books, especially when it comes to my personal favorites. I can easily name my top 10 or 20 (and it’s even easier when I can divide them into genres or subcategories of some kind), but I prefer not to number them. However, as far as love stories go, I can say with absolute certainty that my all-time favorite in this category is Audrey Niffenegger’s debut novel The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Not only do I adore the epic love story between the protagonists Henry and Clare–a love that truly transcends time and space–I also enjoy the way the novel is written. It doesn’t progress chronologically from one year to the next, but instead skips around much the same way that Henry (the time traveler) moves forward and backward to different moments in time. From a storytelling standpoint, I very much admire how the structure of the novel reflects its overarching theme of time. (Sidenote: how many times can I use the word “time” in a single paragraph? 😉)

I’m going to try to keep it brief with the others on my list (or else this post will get veryyyyy long).

  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks
  • Possession by A.S. Byatt
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Atonement is a historical fiction novel set during World War II and follows a young couple who is tragically torn apart as a result of the misplaced blame of a crime. McEwan is a brilliant writer who always captures the delicate nuances of love and loss. The film version is one of those rare adaptations that truly lives up to the book. A beautiful score, dramatic cinematography, and a stellar cast led by James McAvoy and Keira Knightley makes it a modern masterpiece.

Nights in Rodanthe is one of those stories that came into my life when I needed it most. The novel’s protagonists are both single parents who fall in love with each other at a coastal inn in North Carolina during a storm. This novel helped me process my parents’ divorce during my early teens because it helped me begin to grasp that my parents aren’t just my parents–they’re complex human beings that want to find love, companionship, and fulfillment too.

Possession (not a horror movie, I swear!) is a novel that follows relationships in the past and present: between two modern-day academics and two fictitious English poets who lived during the Victorian era. It has one of my all-time favorite passages about love and time:

“And every day we shall have less. And then none.”

“Would you rather, therefore, have had nothing at all?”

“No. This is where I have always been coming to. Since my time began. And when I go away from here, this will be the mid-point, to which everything ran, before, and from which everything will run. But now, my love, we are here, we are now, and those other times are running elsewhere.”

I love this quote because it reminds me to be grateful for the moment and to fully live in it, for “those other times” (the past, the future) are neither here, nor now. They’re “running elsewhere.”

Pride and Prejudice is the ultimate classic love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. It has timeless themes such as familial expectations, social status, and love overcoming adversity. It’s been retold and adapted over and over, but the original novel is always worth a read.

Sidenote: The Wit and Wisdom of Jane Austen (pictured above) is such a fun little book that I purchased at the British Library in London two years ago. It’s a compilation of Austen quotes (edited by Joelle Herr) from her novels and personal letters, and is divided into different sections based on theme (such as marriage, family, love, and so on). Definitely the perfect gift for any Jane Austen fan!

Gift Ideas

Gifts for the Fashionista

  • Naked Eyeshadow Palette by Urban Decay: these high quality palettes (the Naked2 option is shown above) are immensely popular and for good reason. Each palette comes with 12 neutral eyeshadows in mattes and metallics that mix and match with ease. Also comes with a double ended application brush!
  • Gorjana jewelry: pictured above are two of their adjustable bracelets and one of my most worn rings. I love the high quality of their pieces, the price point, and how effortlessly they layer and mix and match! (Bracelets linked here and here, and the Elea ring linked here)
  • Perfume: one of my faves is Tom Ford’s Black Orchid (shown above)
  • A classic Burberry scarf: these are on the pricier side, but the quality of fabric and iconic print make it a long term investment that can be worn for years to come.

Gifts for the Traveler

    Hard-shell luggage: Ever since a mishap a few years ago when my soft suitcase was nearly destroyed after a flight, I have been using the Delsey brand’s Helium Aero line of suitcases. The 19-inch international size is shown above, but I also own the 25-inch for longer trips (both in the “Brushed Charcoal” color). My husband bought one for himself as well (from Amazon!), and we are still thrilled with these suitcases, as they are lightweight, durable, and stylish.
    A unique luggage tag: my adorable little Minion tag was a birthday gift from my BFF last year. I always appreciate being able to quickly spot my suitcase at baggage claim and a fun luggage tag is the perfect gift that comes in handy whilst traveling.
    Guide books: my husband and I have been fans of Rick Steves since we started researching for our honeymoon in Italy about five years ago. At that point, neither of us had ever been to Europe, and we instantly liked Rick’s writing style, humor, and practical advice.

Style Inspiration: All Dressed Up in Red

Wearing red in February isn’t exactly ground-breaking or unexpected, but I always find this vibrant color makes me feel strong and confident. This tweed dress by Shein gave me such Chanel vibes that I knew I had to have it!

Tweed dress: Shein Sock boots: Mia (similar here and here) Purse: Chanel Classic Flap (similar styles here and here)

At under $30 it’s a fabulous deal, and the fabric is thick and has a great texture. I love the classic collar and black tie details (and that the pockets are real!). It is a little bit more of a boxy fit, so I’m glad I went down a size.

To complete this look, I paired it with opaque tights, black sock boots, Chanel earrings, and the Chanel classic flap bag.

I also wanted to show how to style this dress with a coat, and I think a bright red trench coat is the perfect outerwear to complement this look. A red coat is such a festive item to wear during the holiday season and for Valentine’s, but it’s also a great piece to throw on over a neutral look for a fun pop of color.

Red trench coat: Michael Kors (similar here and here)

This particular trench I’ve had for several years. I love that its hood is detachable and that it also has an extra lining that can be removed as the weather grows milder in the spring (these are functional details to keep in mind whenever you’re in the market for a new coat!).

Photo credit: Mary Pingel

This red Topshop dress is one of my all-time favorites because I wore it for our engagement photos almost 5 years ago. I’m still very fond of the classic silhouette and floral print. And every time I see a red floral dress, I think of that special day and the kind, hardworking man next to me–the man who makes me laugh everyday, and waits patiently when I change my outfit again (and again 😋), and always loves me just as I am ❤️

Photo credit: Mary Pingel

I also wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for following along this past year–I’m so excited to share more blogiversary posts with you all this month! I so appreciate your kindness, your comments, and your support.

And a special shout out to my brother, who takes most of my blog photos, and my best friend, for encouraging me to take that leap and do this blogging thing 😉

Do you have a favorite love story (a book or movie)? An item, jewelry, or piece of clothing that reminds you of a special time in your life? Let me know in the comments!

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

Classic Vs. Trendy

“Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” –Karl Lagerfeld

This famous quote by Chanel’s longtime creative director is something I think about when I see various trends floating around Pinterest and Instagram. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of current trends I’m 100% excited about (Jumpsuits? YES! Mules? Soooo cute and comfy! Leopard print? Eh not for me).

As I’ve gotten older and have come into my own personal style, I’ve realized that just because something is trendy or cool right now doesn’t mean I have to jump on that particular bandwagon. It also means I can admire a trend on someone else without necessarily wanting to wear it myself.

Gray coat: Zara Scarf: Burberry (similar) Bag: Prada (similar styles also here and here) Over-the-Knee Boots: Blondo

It’s no secret that I love classic pieces that transition effortlessly from season to season and can go from work to play (seriously, this gray Zara coat is on repeat!). I like to mix in trends too, but the classics are timeless for a reason.

This gray wool coat is one of those chic, versatile items that goes from work to weekend with ease. It functions as a long blazer, but also as the perfect lightweight coat. Above, I paired it with a Burberry scarf that I’ve had for several years (it’s a classic investment piece that always elevates a look!).

My over-the-knee boots are from Blondo (and are currently on sale at Nordstrom!).

Below my gray coat is styled for a business casual workday. I paired it with a simple white tee, black ankle jeans, and pointed-toe booties. The silver layered necklace adds an elegant finishing touch.

White Tee: Soprano (similar here and here) Jeans: Hudson (similar) Pointed-Toe Booties: Franco Sarto (similar)

For me, it’s about balance: having classic wardrobe staples that always look chic and transition from year to year, but also indulging in fun trends that I enjoy.

What do you think? Are you Team Trendy or Team Classic? Or a bit of both?

Hope you all have a wonderful week! Thank you for stopping by ❤️

Travel Series: London Town

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“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” –Samuel Johnson

London is definitely one of those cities I will visit as many times as I can in my life. From the lively theatre scene in the West End to the cultural significance of Westminster to the grand tradition of afternoon tea, the sights and sounds of this historic city captivated my heart. Being an English major and a lifelong fan of British lit, I was truly inspired.

Like last week’s travel post on Paris, this is not intended to be a comprehensive guide; instead I’ll be sharing specific insights, experiences, and things that I enjoyed. Also, in honor of the Royal Wedding this weekend, I will be sharing our visit to Windsor Castle, which is where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married.

Theatre

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First of all, it had always been bucket list for me to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (pictured above). We saw Much Ado About Nothing and absolutely loved it (for more info on this play, check out my first blog post).

A bit of advice: I studied quite a bit of Shakespeare in college, whereas my husband, who majored in the sciences, hadn’t been exposed to any Shakespeare since high school. So in order to prepare for the play, we read it together before our trip and also watched the Kenneth Branagh film adaptation. Since Elizabethan English is quite different from modern English, I highly recommend doing this, unless you’re a Shakespeare expert or quite familiar with the play you’re going to see.

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We also saw Les Misérables at the Queen’s Theatre and Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Both musicals are longtime favorites of mine. I admit that I cried at the end of Les Mis, despite that I know the story and songs very well. And though I’d seen Phantom live in the US on four previous occasions, it was an entirely new experience to sit under the famous chandelier when it drops.

We would’ve loved to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child as well, and even though we tried to buy tickets months and months in advance, they are so hard to get! However, we did have a magical (pun intended!) Harry Potter experience at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

Harry Potter Studio Tour

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Growing up, I was a Harry Potter fanatic (hmmm where was my Hogwarts letter?). When each new installment was published, my parents would drive me at midnight to a nearby bookstore so I could be among the first to read the latest book (I would definitely be a Ravenclaw).

Anyway, visiting the gorgeous sets where the Harry Potter movies were filmed made me feel like I was ten years old again and seeing the movie for the very first time. They truly transport you to the Wizarding World and beautifully illustrate how the costumes, sets, and special effects make the magic come alive. Allow at least three hours here, especially because the line to get into the Great Hall, where the tour begins, can get quite long (even if you purchased tickets in advance like we did).

Pictured below is my husband staring up at the huge, intricate model of Hogwarts, which is what they used to film many of the panoramic shots of the castle.

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If you’re even a moderate fan of the Harry Potter universe, I still think you would enjoy this; if you’re like myself and are a Hermione-level expert of all things Harry Potter, then this is a must.

Westminster

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The area of Westminster includes the famous sites of Buckingham Palace, Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey.

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In addition to watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, we were able to tour inside the State Rooms (no photos allowed inside, unfortunately). From late July through September you can purchase tickets for this tour. I’ve heard that the dates can vary slightly from year-to-year, based on the Queen’s summer travel plans (since it’s available to tour when she’s on holiday elsewhere). For more up-to-date info visit the Royal Collection Trust’s website.

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We purchased our Westminster Abbey tickets in advance and greatly enjoyed visiting this iconic church. When I was in college, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married there, and I remember staying up late to watch the beautiful ceremony and marvel at Kate’s stunning Alexander McQueen gown. I also very much enjoyed “Poet’s Corner,” where many renowned writers, poets, and playwrights have been buried or memorialized (Shakespeare, for example, has a monument there, though he was buried in his hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon).

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The telephone booths in this area are also ideal for photo-ops!

Shopping at Harrods and Afternoon Tea

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Simply put, Harrods is shopping heaven. The exterior particularly dazzles at nighttime and beckons one inside to the opulent grandeur. Their gift shop is also a great spot to bring home souvenirs for yourself and for loved ones.

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My husband and I had afternoon tea at The Georgian, an elegant restaurant inside Harrods. I’ve always been more of a tea drinker than coffee, so this was a special treat for me (also: Pink champagne! Tea sandwiches! Pastries! Yay!). We booked our tea time on their website several days prior so we could get the exact time we wanted.

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Windsor

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This 11th century castle feels like something out of a fairy tale, and is one of the Queen’s official residences. We visited first thing in the morning when it opens and really enjoyed wandering the beautiful grounds and touring the State Apartments.

This Saturday Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will be married at Windsor inside St. George’s Chapel. I will definitely be staying up late to watch it on TV, and I can’t wait to see her wedding gown!

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What to Pack

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Red Top: Pleione (similar here and here) Black Ponte Pants: Jolt (similar)  Striped Shirt: H&M (similar)  Lace Top: Rose and Olive (similar here and here)  Trench Coat: Ellen Tracy (similar here and here)  Bag: Longchamp Small Le Pliage Tote  Scarf: Burberry (similarUmbrella: Burberry (same style, but in red)  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Clubmaster

As I’ve mentioned in my previous travel posts, staying within a neutral color palette is my personal preference for packing versatile outfits. Adding a dash of color helps mix things up (red and maroon tones always look great with black, white, and beige, as illustrated above).

The other way to add interest to an outfit is with textures and prints (lace and stripes are classics). For London, I brought both my Burberry scarf and umbrella, as the iconic print evokes timeless British style. Given their cloudy, damp climate, a water-resistant trench coat is vital.

P.S. Just wanted to mention that I had such a wonderful time viewing the rare books and manuscripts at the British Library Treasures (they have a copy of the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and many other historical texts). If you’re a bookworm like me, this was a real treat.

I didn’t discuss any of the London museums we’ve visited, but the British Museum and the National Gallery are especially stunning and overwhelming. If you enjoy history, give yourself as much time as you can at the British Museum in particular. It’s MASSIVE. Next time I would really like to spend longer there.

(The photo below was taken just a few blocks from the National Gallery. I couldn’t resist a picture with those beautiful flowers!)

Are you going to be tuning in to the Royal Wedding this weekend? Let me know in the comments! Hope you all have a great week!

Girl About Town

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“There will be little rubs and disappointments everywhere, and we are all apt to expect too much; but then, if one scheme of happiness fails, human nature turns to another; if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better: we find comfort somewhere–and those evil-minded observers, dearest Mary, who make much of a little, are more taken in and deceived than the parties themselves.”

The incomparable Jane Austen has countless words of wisdom throughout her stories and letters. This one ranks high on my list, as it celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and our ability to start anew. It’s from the novel Mansfield Park, which tells the tale of a young girl who goes to live with her mother’s wealthy relatives on their country estate. In a way, it’s a bit of a Cinderella story–a girl who is often mistreated for her lack of status and not valued for her true worth (and I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t read it!).

Amidst the schemes for advantageous connections and romantic affections, an overarching theme of the novel is something that the above passage illustrates well. We can’t fear things not turning out the way we hope they will: “if the first calculation is wrong, we make a second better.” We learn, we make changes, and we try again.

Though I’m only about 6 weeks in, it’s been such a positive experience for me thus far with Shakespeare Loves Chanel. I’ve enjoyed writing regularly again and sharing my thoughts on books I’m reading or poems I’m revisiting; it’s something I’ve truly missed since finishing up grad school. I’ve also loved styling outfits and choosing locations for photos, and it’s been great connecting with new people who share similar interests.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned conquering my fears–when the fear of not pursuing a dream or a goal outweighs the fear of failure. A big part of that fear has to do with what Austin speaks of in this passage. She calls them “those evil-minded observers.”

In that regard, the internet and social media can be a daunting place, when anyone anywhere can criticize your work and simply hide behind a computer screen. Yet Austin’s counter to that is truly just as applicable now as it was in 19th century England: such observers make “much of a little.” Or, in other words, they make a big deal out of nothing. They deceive themselves with their own judgments and assumptions, which is precisely why we can’t let their opinions dictate our lives.

All in all, we cannot fear mistakes, disappointments, or criticisms–instead we must have the courage to keep on growing.

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Blazer: Zara (similar here and here)   Boots: Blondo  Scarf: Burberry (similar here and here)  Purse: Prada (similar here and here)  Sunglasses: Ray-Ban (similar here and here)

I’m a girl who loves pairing classic pieces with statement accessories, and on this particular cloudy spring day, I stuck to some beloved wardrobe staples. I am a huge fan of mixing affordable items with high end investment ones; those in the fashion world call that high/low dressing, and you’ll see it on countless bloggers and celebrities. As such, I’ve linked designer items and some affordable options above.

I wore this look when my husband and I were out and about downtown, though it would also be perfect for a casual business setting. My wool blazer is from Zara (sidenote: hooray, Zara is finally coming to Portland!). My knee-high suede boots are from Blondo and–like all their boots–are waterproof!  Those boots are currently on sale at Nordstrom. My silk Burberry scarf I’ve had for four years but it has held up tremendously well, and I’ll continue to love it for seasons to come. My black Prada purse is made of a beautiful textured saffiano leather. It’s a special piece to me because it was purchased on our honeymoon in Italy. The Ray-Bans you’ll recognize from my last post (and you’ll probably see me wear them a lot in the coming sunny months).

The next few weeks I’ll be sharing more spring-specific looks that are perfect for events like Easter, bridal showers, and brunch. Thank you for visiting, and I wish you all a wonderful weekend!

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Seize the Day, Rain or Shine

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When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be
by John Keats
When I have fears that I may cease to be 
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain, 
Before high-piled books, in charactry, 
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain; 
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face, 
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, 
And think that I may never live to trace 
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance; 
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour, 
   That I shall never look upon thee more, 
Never have relish in the faery power 
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore 
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think 
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

I’ll be honest—I was never much into poetry when I was growing up. I was an avid reader, but I primarily stuck to fiction. But as a freshman in college I was introduced to English Romanticism and the poet John Keats, and I finally understood. Something about his writing resonated—the imagery, the language, his youth and melancholy. He was immensely talented (many critics have compared his lyrical writing quality to that of Shakespeare), but he died at such a young age that he was never fully recognized for his prowess until after his passing.

This sonnet is prophetic in that regard—Keats has not yet contracted the tuberculosis that will eventually claim his life, but he’s nevertheless fearful that he won’t reach his potential in his lifetime. He doesn’t know it when he writes this of course, but we know it now—he’ll never marry his love, and he’ll never see his poems become a success, making his words even more bittersweet.

Yet what moves me most is that palpable fear he expresses of not having enough time. I love that metaphor in line 2: “before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain.” His mind is full of all these thoughts and dreams and ideas, and his pen has yet to extract them.

This fear Keats harbors is an age-old one, for isn’t it something that we all fight against? Time–and not having enough of it.

I wrote in my first post that I’d finally reached a point where the fear of doing nothing outweighed the fear of failure. I kept asking myself, “what are you waiting for?” If you wait for the timing to be perfect–whether it’s launching a website, or starting a new job, or taking that bucket list trip–you might be waiting forever.

Some might read this sonnet in terms of sorrow and tragedy; for me, it inspires the exact opposite. It’s carpe diem in its most eloquent form, and it inspires me to be grateful for each day and to spend it on the people and things that matter to me.

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As spring inches near, I’ll admit that I’m dreaming of sunshine and blue skies… Here in Portland, March still means scattered showers, giant puddles, and temperamental downpours. As a native Oregonian, I’ve learned to embrace the unpredictable climate with timeless and durable rain attire. Some of my favorites I took with me to another cloudy city across the pond: London Town! It’s been exactly 6 months since my husband and I were there, and every time I pull out my Burberry umbrella, I’m transported back.

28340112_unknownCoat: Ellen Tracy (similar here and here)  Boots: Blondo  Purse: Longchamp  Umbrella: Burberry  Book: Norton Anthology of English Literature (Volume D, The Romantic Period)

Few items are classic in the way a beige trench coat is (one day I hope to purchase a Burberry version!), and this Ellen Tracy one is a tried and true fave. I’m obsessed with boots from Blondo—1) they’re always made from waterproof leather, 2) they have a range of fashionable colors and styles, and 3) they are SO comfortable! I can walk miles in any of my Blondo boots with zero pain or problems.

The Longchamp totes are great for everyday but are also amazing for travel (they pack nice and flat in your luggage too). Pictured above is the small Le Pliage shoulder tote, but I also have the large size for travel (it’s often what I bring on the plane). Whether you’re in Portland or London or another rainy location, these totes are especially practical in wet weather because the nylon is so resistant to moisture.

P.S. Before anyone teases me for being an Oregonian and owning an umbrella—something that locals often claim is a faux pas—I will say this: when you trudge miles from your dorm at Barnhart to the opposite corner of the U of O campus or trek 20+ blocks in downtown Portland on work errands, an umbrella is truly a MUST.