Book Research + Girls’ Weekend

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What you need in your life is the sort of friend you can call up and say, “Hey, I’m writing a romance novel and I’ve set it in a city for reasons and I’ve never been there and I am just wondering, would you be willing to accompany me on this book research trip that doubles as an excuse for a girls’ weekend?” and then they agree to it without missing a beat and before you know it you’ve booked a swanky hotel and are researching all the brunch options. There’s a brunch scene in this book, so brunch is serious business.

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It was the best long weekend I’ve had in a long time and I’m so glad Jolene agreed to meet up with me in Minneapolis. What a great city. I could have handled spending more time there and made a sincere effort to extend my stay through the end of this week for the AWP Conference, but things came up. Actually, there wasn’t a decent affordable hotel room available close to the city center by the time I started looking. That ended up being a good thing for me as I lost a large contract about a week later (I still need to write about that).

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Anyway, we had a marvelous time and the trip gave me renewed energy to get this book done. We saw a lot of the city, ate delicious food (had foie gras for the first time), strolled through a museum, stumbled into a flower show, snuck into the hotel where I planned to set a big scene, and enjoyed music late into the night near our hotel. It was another new thing for me, but what struck me about this trip was the realization that I had no fear of it. I know that’s not a big deal for everyone, but (like I’ve talked about before) travel anxiety is a real thing and I’ve only recently overcome most of mine.

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About the book. Most of the major plotting is completed and I made some breakthroughs this week. I’ve got a lot of work to do with one of the main characters, but I’m hoping to get some serious work done on that by the end of next week. Writing a semi-mysterious man isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. Figuring out why he’s mysterious has been a challenge, but I made it past that hurdle yesterday.

Now I’m sitting here watching the #AWP15 hashtag on Twitter, feeling ever so envious of folks who are there in Minneapolis. I’m starting my AWP 2016 fund right now.

Stitch Fix #4

Note – Most of the people who land here looking for info about Stitch Fix are asking questions about plus sizing options. As of right now, there are none at Stitch Fix. Currently they only offer up to a size 12/14/XL. If you are looking for a plus size option, I’ve heard great things about Gwynnie Bee, though I haven’t tried it myself.

I know what you’re thinking.

Elizabeth, where is Stitch Fix #3?

Well. It was here and then it was gone. It was the most “meh” fix so far and I really should have taken photos of it. Not “meh” as in bad. “Meh” because I had something almost identical to every item in the fix and the items didn’t appear to be of any great quality (see the bottom of this post for an update on an old fix). Oh, and then there was an $80 pair of jeggings. I sent back everything but a navy tank with some embroidery on the front, just so I wouldn’t lose the styling fee.

I think I’ll take another few months off after this fix and maybe get one right before my birthday. WHICH IS IN LIKE 2 MONTHS. Gah.

Here we are at #4. I took a couple months off because the last fix was just too similar to things I already had and I thought it would be nice to wait for a new fix for fall.

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First item — Fun2Fun – Richard Pleated Lace Detailed Blouse

This is fine, but once again a little too similar to something I already own. The cut is forgiving, but not very flattering. Looks too much like a maternity top. All that plus the $48 price tag…

Verdict: RETURNING

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Second item — Pomelo – Brentwood Tiered Striped Sheath Dress

Super comfortable and easy to wear. I like this a lot. Threw a cardigan over it because there’s a little too much exposed arm for my taste. (It’s sleeveless. I rarely do sleeveless without a cardigan.) I’d wear a different one with it, but this one was handy for the purpose of a blog post. Once again, we’ve got a diagonal pattern here like the dress in my second fix and that’s really flattering. I don’t own anything quite like this. It’s $68 and one of the pricier items in the fix.

Verdict: PROBABLY KEEPING?

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Third item — Marlyn Schiff – Willa Bar Drop Earrings

$28. Without knowing what they are made of, there’s no way I’m keeping them and putting them in my very sensitive ears.

Verdict: RETURNING

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Fourth item — Olive & Oak – Mulliken Raglan Striped Knit Shirt

Maybe my favorite item this time around. Sooners understand! Perfect shirt for football season. I’m sure there are some Texas A&M fans who wouldn’t be opposed to it either 😉 It’s simple, comfortable, and cute. Rings up at $48.

Verdict: KEEPING

 

Fifth item — Solid Design Lab – Mylee Tulip Hem Skinny Jean (not pictured)

Got another pair of jeans with this fix. I’m going to have to specify that I do not want any jeans because I refuse to pay that price for something I’m not head-over-heels in love with. I could tell they wouldn’t button, even though they are technically the correct size. At $98, there’s just no way.

Verdict: RETURNING

 

Pretty good fix. Worth it to me just for the last top. What do you all think about the dress?

 

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A little update on my first fix from back in April. The striped blouse (first one pictured in that post) has seen some mileage since then. I took it to the UK with me and wore it twice. I think I’ve worn it maybe 4 other times, bringing it to about 6 appearances total and I have to let you know this thing is WRECKED. Okay, it’s not falling apart at the seams, but it has become so misshapen, no matter how gently I have washed it. It looks so warped. This is the sort of thing I expect from something I bought at Forever 21 for $9, NOT something I paid 40 bucks for. I’ve not seen a lot of people address the quality of items after a few months of wear, so I thought this might help someone else out if they were wondering. Most of the other items seem to be holding up well. I’ll keep you posted on that.

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In the Garden

The first round of tomatoes didn’t fare so well during my absence, so a few days after I returned from Scotland I went to the Greenhouse and purchased a few plants to replace the ones that were dying or stunted. They had a hard time at first in the extreme heat, but soon after our days were filled with rain and some cooler evening temps and the tomatoes have been thriving since then. Except for the flea beetles and my homemade organic insect spray. It was close to the miracle recipe I used last year only I think I went a little heavy on the clove oil. That’s how to burn your plants, folks.

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The plants that are doing the best in the garden this season are the mint and sunflowers — thanks entirely to me being lazy and not cleaning out the bed after last year’s harvest. That’s most likely the reason for the flea beetles as well. Learn from my mistakes.

I’ve got a ton of mint and all these big sunflowers that are very close to blooming and if that’s the most I get out of my garden this year, I’ll be thankful because it smells nice and sunflowers make me happy.

Also in the garden – peppers (jalapeno and bell), lemongrass, dill (it came back to life!), and chives.

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This is Clare, eating bermuda grass that’s growing up in the sides of the garden. It’s her way of helping.

Over on the west side of the yard next to the shed I have my butterfly garden. It’s grown quite a bit since I planted it last year and it’s served its purpose in attracting pollinators and covering up the dilapidated part of the shed.

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There’s sage and bee balm and echinacea and zinnias and coreopsis and sunflowers.

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I noticed the leaves of echinacea withering, looking lacy, and turning brown. Investigated further and found a few plants covered in frass (that’s fancy talk for insect poop). This was terrifying thanks to my long struggle with pests, but instead of jumping the gun and spraying it with insecticidal soap I turned to the internet and found that I’ve got a nice little colony of Silvery Checkerspots.

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It would be nice to see them make it to adulthood, but for now I’m just happy that my butterfly garden is doing what I wanted it to — attracting butterflies and giving them a good place to lay their eggs. Even if they are making an absolute mess of my echinacea. That’s why I planted it!

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