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!

Birthday Girl, Part 1

This week I had a blast celebrating my 27th birthday with family and friends. In this post, I’ll be sharing all things birthday-related: gift ideas at various price points, a restaurant recommendation for those of you in the Portland area, and, of course, style inspiration.

My stunning birthday bouquet was a gift from my mama and was designed by the amazing florist at Spellbound Flowers. Spellbound is my favorite flower stand and is located in the heart of downtown Portland in Pioneer Courthouse Square. I love fresh flowers, and this place is my go-to when I want a special bouquet for a loved one.

I want to do a shoutout to my sweet and talented step-sister Nichole, who made me these beautiful sunflower cupcakes! I am not a baker, so I’m seriously in awe of anyone who can create anything this beautiful (and that also tastes amazing!). 🌻

Buying birthday gifts for loved ones can be tricky. I always think perfume is a thoughtful gift, and my mom found this Tom Ford gift set during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. It’s the scent “Black Orchid,” which is one of my new favorites.

I’m a huge Minions fan and this luggage tag my best friend found for me while traveling in Hong Kong. I’ve linked similar options here.

Kylie Cosmetics is immensely popular, but these are actually my first items from this brand! I’ve been wanting to try out the famous lip kits for awhile, and I’ll let you know my thoughts on them in next week’s post.

Inside that Gucci dust bag is a black Gucci belt, something that’s been on my wish list for quite some time. This was actually a birthday splurge because I personally think there is nothing wrong with treating yourself for your birthday!

And last but not least, you can never go wrong with gift cards! Nordstrom and TJ Maxx are two of my favorite places to shop, and the ease and convenience of gift cards makes them wonderful gifts.

For dinner we went to Jake’s Famous Crawfish, which is an iconic seafood restaurant in downtown Portland that’s been around for over a century. This is one of my favorite local restaurants, and I love that their food is sourced from the great Pacific Northwest. Their crab cakes are amazing!

Lace Top: One Clothing (similar) Jeans: Topshop Belt: Gucci Ankle Booties: Qupid (similar)

I wore black from head-to-toe for my birthday dinner at Jake’s. The lace top and ankle booties are both from TJ Maxx, and the jeans are a high-waisted pair from Topshop (super comfy and flattering!). And of course, I’m wearing my brand new Gucci belt!

Now that I’m 27 (and inching my way towards 30! 😉), something I’ve noticed about my 20’s is everyone cruising at a different pace, pursuing a variety of things—school, career, love, marriage, family, travel, etc. Sometimes all of the above. Everyone has different priorities, different dreams, different timelines. And you know what? That’s perfectly okay. Your journey is not theirs, and I’m so grateful for all those on this journey with me. ❤️

Cheers to being one year older, and hopefully another year wiser! 🥂

We have more birthday festivities planned this weekend that I’ll be sharing next week in Part 2. Happy Friday, loves!

Endless Light

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Happy Mother’s Day Weekend to all the moms out there! Doing a special post today to share last-minute gift ideas and what I’ll be wearing for an afternoon of lunching and shopping with my mom and my grandma! I’m so thankful to have them both in my life–they are truly strong, intelligent, and kind women, and I wouldn’t be who I am without them.

In keeping with the Paris theme this week from my travel series, I wanted to start out with a book recommendation. If your mom loves to curl up with a phenomenal book and enjoys historical fiction, Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot Seewould make a wonderful gift. I mentioned in an earlier post that this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was on my spring reading list. I finished it recently, and there is so much to say about this moving story, I scarcely know where to start! I don’t want to give away the ending for anyone who has yet to read it, so instead I’ll share a quote, a major theme, and my overall impression.

“Color–that’s another thing people don’t expect. In her imaginations, in her dreams, everything has color… Bees are silver. The huge cypress trees she and her father pass on their morning walk are shimmering kaleidoscopes, each needle a polygon of light. Her father radiates a thousand colors, opal, strawberry red, deep russet, wild green… He glows sapphire when he sits over his work bench in the evenings, humming almost inaudibly as he works, the tip of his cigarette gleaming a prismatic blue.” 

The reason I chose this particular passage (especially when there are SO many gems to choose from) is because light is such a recurring theme in this novel; it truly is at the center of this World War II story, the thing that everything revolves around. Light is in the title, of course, but it’s also a constant presence.

Two big reasons for that have to do with the novel’s protagonists: Marie-Laure and Werner. Marie-Laure is a blind Parisian girl, who flees the City of Light with her father upon the German occupation of France. Even though she is physically incapable of seeing light, her mind imagines the world in the most vibrant of colors (as illustrated in the above quote). Throughout the novel, her intelligence, perception, and intuition make her notice things that others often don’t.

In contrast, Werner grows up facing a different kind of darkness. He’s a German orphan boy who grows up in a small coal-mining town, and in his early teens, he’s sent to a school that trains Nazi soldiers. The terrible darkness that he faces is the spread of Naziism in Germany and Europe, and the horrendous realities of World War II.

This novel spans the course of several decades and explores the darkness in this world– but also the ever-persisting light. It asks us to think about the things that can’t be seen literally, but still exist: love, strength, hope, bravery, and the resilience of the human spirit.

Doerr’s elegant writing style and mastery of metaphors paint the most vivid story that is equal parts beautiful and heart-wrenching. The contrast between his eloquent, graceful syntax and the dark subject matter is truly memorable and poignant.

Another Paris-inspired novel that I just delved into is Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop. It was gifted to me by my mother-in-law, and the story’s premise captivated me instantly. It’s the tale of a man who owns a bookstore on a boat that sails on the Seine in Paris. He’s a literary doctor of sorts and prescribes specific books to those who are in need of them. I’m really excited to see where this charming story goes, and I’ll share a more detailed review in a future post when I finish reading it!

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Here are some more gift ideas for the moms in your lives!

Does your mom have a favorite perfume? My mom loves the original Juicy Couture scent (pictured above), and my brother and I take turns replenishing her stash for her birthdays and holidays. My grandma and I both adore Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle, and I know a lot of ladies who really enjoy this fresh, floral scent.

My mom is a big coffee drinker, so my brother and I often give her adorable mugs! I love getting mugs at TJ Maxx, Homegoods, and Target, and I’ve linked some great options (the following mugs from Target are online and available in store at select locations: “Monogrammed Floral,” “Mama Needs Some Coffee,” and “Mom’s the Boss“).

My mom and I are huge fans of the candles from Bath and Body Works. Our all-time favorite is the Mahogany Teakwood candle and is perfect for those who love woodsy scents. Yet lately a candle we’ve been loving is their Watermelon Lemonade–it’s a yummy, fruity scent that’s perfect for spring and summer!

Another great gift idea (or to wear yourself to brunch, or shopping, or on vacation!) is a striped dress. I love black-and-white stripes because it’s such a timeless color combo (I own several because they’re so versatile–knee length, maxi, jumpsuit, long-sleeve, sleeveless, etc). There are so many silhouettes out there for a variety of tastes and personal styles. The one I’m wearing was a TJ Maxx find (have you guys noticed yet how much I love TJ Maxx?), so I’ve linked some stylish options that are all currently on sale.

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Panama Hat: J. Crew  Striped Dress: Monteau (great striped options all on sale: here, here, here, and herePurse: Chanel Classic Flap (similar structure/style here and hereMules: Topshop (similar here and hereWatch: Marc by Marc Jacobs (similarSunglasses: Chanel (similar) Lip Color: Birthday Suit by Tarte

For this particular look, I paired my striped dress with a classic Panama hat (mine is from J. Crew and is a constant warm weather companion). I also wore a pair of mules that are by Topshop and are a recent purchase from Nordstrom Rack (I linked some comparable styles). I’m so happy mules are trendy again! My sunglasses I’ve had for awhile and are Chanel, so I’ve linked a similarly shaped option.

Continuing the Parisian theme this week, my Chanel classic flap bag was purchased at the flagship boutique on 31 Rue Cambon (which Gabrielle Chanel first opened in 1918). It’s such a timeless and elegant style and has been a dream bag of mine for many years. I’ve also linked some fabulous black purses with a similar structure and aesthetic to the Chanel classic flap.

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Happy Friday! I hope you all have a wonderful weekend celebrating the moms, grandmas, step-moms, mothers-in-law, and honorary moms in your lives. My mom and my grandma are such sources of light and love in my life, and I truly cherish the time I get to spend with them (below: one of my favorite pictures of the three of us from my wedding).

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