Blogiversary giveaway winner is...

The winner of my one-year blog anniversary giveaway, featuring a $25 Marshalls/ TJ Maxx gift card and Urban Decay products is:

Gracie-Lou said...
Hi, I'm following you on GFC. Great giveaway!! Can I just say, I'm so happy you made the decision to start blogging! Your posts are always so insightful, and I always look forward to reading what you've written.

Thanks to everyone for entering! 

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Resolutions

This week, Fashion Beauty Friend Friday participants were asked to share their New Year's resolutions, whether they be blog or personal goals.

If you’re like a gazillion other people across the globe (or, maybe just America – not sure whether this kind of torment affects other countries), chances are you’ve said or thought at least one of the following statements at some point in the last few days:

  1. “In 2012, I’m going to [lose weight/start exercising/quit smoking/get organized/dye my hair pink]”
  2. “New Year’s resolutions? Um, no. Not into that.”
Truthfully, I'm not the biggest fan of New Year's resolutions. When a new year comes I typically avoid making them. I hate feeling pressured by a date on the calendar to make momentous changes to my life. I'm not a fan of the suggestion that there's something wrong with me if I don't declare resolutions when New Year's arrives. But mostly I despise feeling as if I have failed when I do not manage to make my resolutions come true.

So this year is different. This year I decided to make a list of things I am looking forward to in the upcoming year and goals that are realistic and achievable. 

  • Elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary: This includes things such as wearing sequins to run errands, going to more concerts, drinking champagne during the week, eating dinner by candlelight, and treating myself to the occasional massage. 
  • Spend more time outdoors:  Yesterday I took my kids for a hike at a nearby nature preserve, and it opened my eyes to my love for being outdoors. I'd like to go for more hikes and picnics, brush the dust of my bicycle, and buy myself a pair of vintage or used roller skates.
  • Take more road trips: I went thrifting with a blogger friend recently and she mentioned how she and her husband take weekend road trips to visit estate sales, flea markets and thrift stores. I would love to start doing the same. I don't mind driving, and it'd be fun to explore other parts of the country.
  • Publish my book: Writing and publishing a book is a much longer process than I was prepared for. My book is currently being professionally edited. Within the next month, a cover will be designed; the book will be formatted; copies will be printed and an e-book edition made available. I'd love to host a book launch party in March to celebrate getting it finished.
  • Participate in the Texas Style Council Conference in March: I was recently hired as the community outreach manager and social media coordinator for the Texas Style Council Conference, and I could not be more thrilled to be involved. I had an amazing time at the conference last March and I'm so honored to be involved.
  • Write more for other blogs: Guest posting is a great way to become more involved in the blogging community and reach out to potential readers. It also helps me develop my writing voice even further. In January I'll be working as a featured contributor for the Blind Hem, an online magazine focused on intelligent writing about fashion, and I'm hopeful that it will open more doors for writing opportunities.
  • Avoid shopping new: At this point, my wardrobe is 85% thrifted. Ideally, I'll like it to be 100% composed of thrifted pieces, though I'm unsure if that's realistic, what with my reignited passion for shoes (though I'm considering purchasing vintage shoes from eBay and Etsy from now forward.)
  • Add more fun into my diet: My diet is healthy, but boring. I tend to eat the same things all the time. It doesn't help that I'm not the most comfortable cook. I'd like to add more variety into my diet and become more comfortable in the kitchen.

As alway, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Are you making New Year's resolutions this year? Do you avoid making resolutions?

Fashion Beauty Friend Friday was created by Katy Rose of
Modly Chic. Become a member of the Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group to join in the discussion!

Vogue Magazine promotion: Jane By Design sneak preview!

I'm thrilled to announce that I'm working with Vogue Magazine to share special promotions geared towards my readers!

Vogue Magazine is pairing with "Jane By Design" a brand new show set to air on ABC Family Channel. 

 “Jane By Design” will make its world premiere on Tuesday, January 3, 9:00PM– 10:00PM ET/PT. “Jane By Design” follows Jane Quimby (Erica Dasher), a quirky teen with an eclectic chic fashion sense, who lands a job at a hip fashion house when they mistake her for an adult. Torn between her love of fashion and the need to finish high school, Jane conceals her true age to assist the demanding, but talented Gray Chandler Murray (Andie MacDowell), who travels the world in search of the next big style trend.

Jane quickly learns that working for a successful executive in the cutthroat world of fashion is not as glamorous as she once thought. But with help from her best friend Billy Nutter (Nicholas Roux), Jane tries to keep up appearances as she toggles between two lives and guard her secret. Even with Billy’s support, will Jane’s ruse be a passing fad, or will she be able to fashion a career in the design business?

A special two minute sneak preview of the show can be found here

Thrifting 101: An introductory guide to deadstock vintage

It happened to me last weekend.

It was Sunday night. I was browsing through the racks of one of my favorite thrift stores. It was getting late, and my mind kept wandering. I wondered what I would make for dinner that night. I considered whether I needed to do a load of laundry, or whether I could put it off until the next day. I thought about my New Year's Eve outfit, debating between a sequined blouse or mini dress. And what about my editorial calendar?

Just as I was about to give up on thrifting, my fingers brushed against something unmistakable - a rectangular merchandise tag dangling from a suede shirt. This was not just any shirt. No, this was a 1960's fringed and beaded black suede shirt, with a little packet of spare beads stapled to the tag. 

I had stumbled upon deadstock.

What is deadstock?

Deadstock is a piece of vintage clothing at least twenty years old with its original tag still attached. Whether it was surplus inventory never put on display, overstock from a retail establishment or fashion brand that went out of business, obsolete inventory deemed unsuitable for sale, or an item from someone's estate, this piece has never been worn and it still, for all intents and purposes, new. 

Traditionally, deadstock is defined as any stock that sits on a distributor's warehouse shelves, usually collecting dust, for a year or more. Retailers refer to deadstock as merchandise that cannot be sold. This type of product has never been worn, used or sold and has been in inventory for an extended period of time.

Deadstock earns its name from the fact that the design is "dead" from its original source. It  might also be referred as NOS, short for "New Old Stock" or "Never Off The Shelf" by vintage dealers.

Why is deadstock so desirable?

As deadstock items are unworn, they serve as excellent specimens of fashion trends throughout time. Whether the deadstock is a 1930's feathered cloche, complete with original tissue paper, tag and hat box, or a southwestern print 1980's sweater with original tags attached, the item is just as it appeared when it originally went on sale.

Where can you find deadstock?

If you're lucky, you might find a piece of deadstock at a thrift store or estate sale. Deadstock vintage can also be found through dealers on eBay and Etsy, using the search terms 'deadstock' or 'NOS vintage'.

What should you do with your deadstock?

Whether you wear it, sell it, or save it, the choice of what to do with your deadstock is up to you! Depending on the piece, deadstock vintage can be much more valuable than the same item without tags. It makes sense to do your research before deciding whether to archive the item, market it to a vintage dealer or sell on Etsy or Ebay, or wear it. 

Almost daily outfit of the day: Luck be a lady 12.28.11

Vintage Jordache blazer from Hunt. Gather. Style; thrifted silk blouse; Gap Outlet trousers; Stuart Weitzman velvet flats; Bloom clutch

I tend to get stuck in a style rut this time of the year. This centers around the wearing of jeans five or more times a week, paired with either a cardigan, crewneck, or button-down with blazer. My sartorial laziness is most likely based on the following: Residual post-Christmas depression; burrowing as to avoid colder temperatures; and sheer laziness. So today I chose to challenge my winter inertia and dress like a lady. A lady would never wear jeans. Oh no. Ladies prefer tailored trousers, and perfectly applied red lipstick, and blazers with shoulder pads, and impractical clutches that hold little beyond a slim wallet and aformentioned red lipstick. I must admit that I felt prettier, and more pulled-together, in this outfit. My jeans might be calling to me from my closet, but a lady never yields.

In case you missed it:

Five things I always wanted for Hanukkah but never got (and still kind of want)

I had a pretty decent childhood, as childhoods go. I can't recall being particularly in need of anything. But you remember that feeling of anticipation on Christmas morning (or in my case, Hanukkah eve) when you excitedly clawed the wrapping paper off a gift just to discover, with crushing disappointment, that said gift wasn't exactly what you were hoping for? Yeah, I was plenty familiar with that. To this day, there remains a list of things I desperately, passionately wanted for Hanukkah that I just never got, despite what I am sure was persistent and obnoxious begging.

So today, as I lounge around the house in a post-holiday haze, I'm sharing that list with you. 

  • A Barbie Dream House: I loved Barbie. Frankly, I wanted to be Barbie, what with her endless wardrobe of shiny satin dresses that velcroed up the back and and permanent blue eyeshadow that swept to her eyebrows and perpetually perky smile. I wanted to zip around in Barbie's pink Corvette, and get escorted to parties by Ken. But mostly I wanted Barbie's Dream House. It had an elevator, and balconies, and a vanilla-scented kitchen where Barbie could prepare things like plastic cupcakes.
  • A pony: I wasn't a particularly athletic child. I was asthmatic, and chubby, and spent hours in my room reading Anne of Green Gables rather than  playing soccer or softball or gymnastics or any of the myriad of sports my friends did. But I nursed deep, deep dreams of being an equestrian. I wanted my own horse more than anything in the world. I would name it Buttercup and feed it sugar cubes and essentially be exactly like Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet.

    • A pool: As a kid, I wasn't friends with wealthy people. But I did watch Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, which featured fabulously wealthy and gorgeous people and their overdecorated California mansions, complete with swimming pools. My logic for wanting a swimming pool went like this: If I had a pool, I too would be fabulously wealthy and gorgeous. There. Logic. It makes sense.
    • Long shiny blonde hair: Basically, think Christy Brinkley, but without the serial marriages. 

        • Roller skates:  These days, children have birthday parties in places like private art studios and the club room at Rangers ballpark and indoor mountain climbing gyms. In my day, there was the roller rink. The roller rink smelled like sweat socks and played disco music on an endless loop. It was where you hung out with your friends and got your first kiss and ate soggy french fries. Those in the know brought their own roller skates with them. They were crafted from white leather with giant glittery rubber wheels. I, however, was a renter. To this day I long for those fancy roller skates, except mine would be pink. Or leopard. 

            Now I ask you: What are some things you wanted for Christmas (or Hanukkah) as a kid but never got and still kind of want?

            Almost daily outfit of the day: When in doubt, wear sequins 12.26.11

            Thrifted vintage sequined jacket; thrifted Citizen of Humanity jeans; thrifted vintage 1940's Victorian blouse; Bruno Magli peep-toe wedges (TJ Maxx)

            When I thrifted this 1960's red and gold sequined jacket back in the spring, I had no idea what occasion would call for it. One does not exactly wear red and gold sequins in normal, everyday life, unless you're someone theatrical and grandiose like Rachel Zoe and have a penchant for dramatic dressing during everyday occasions. Despite a lack of celebrity-infused fashion events and affected Californian accent, I too lean towards the dramatic, so I wore this jacket during my Christmas festivities yesterday, which included glamorous things like watching Elf and eating pie and sweeping errant shards of wrapping paper off the floor. Because if you're going to do Christmas right, it should include sequins. That's just a rule

            {Guest Post} Twelve goals for 2012

            Today I'm guest posting for the fantastic Kyla over at Blue Collar Catwalk, and sharing my twelve goals for 2012. I met Kyla at the Texas Style Council Conference back in March and was immediately struck by how friendly and approachable she was. She shares my love of thrifting and vintage and is a truly unique voice in the blogosphere.

            Be sure to drop by Blue Collar Catwalk and
            share your goals for 2012!

            On Sundays I Smile {Holiday edition} - Week in review 12.25.11

            On Sundays I review the past week and I Smile. I share these moments with you.

            Hanukkah is extra-special this year because it coincides with Christmas. This means that our Christmas Eve dinner included latkes and brisket and jelly donuts and we were able to avoid the meal most Jews engage in on Christmas Eve - takeout Chinese food. Don't ask me why this is a thing...I have no idea.

            I'm certain that this little gingerbread playhouse in Half Price Books was meant for children. But I couldn't help myself from going inside, pulling up a chair, and reading with my kids. And it was awesome.

            With all of our family living in New York City, we rarely get to spend Christmas or Hanukkah with any of them, and we've grown accustomed to creating our own holiday traditions. However, I can't deny that I feel a little envious of friends that get to spend the holidays with their extended families. It doesn't hurt that our postman surprises us with deliveries in the days leading up to Christmas. Seeing those packages stacked under the tree definitely makes me smile.

            Vintage sequins for last-minute shopping. Because there's no good reason why I shouldn't feel fancy while trying to decide whether my husband would prefer a gift card or bacon bouquet for a present (I went with bacon.)

            Now it's your turn: What are some things that made you smile this week? Grab my button (created by Kate of Kate The Geek - HUGE THANKS to Kate!) and blog about your Sunday smiles; share your weekly smiles in the comments; or smile just because it makes you feel good.

            While I'm picking up tiny shards of wrapping paper and helping my kids assemble their Christmas presents, catch up on everyhitng from Dress With Courage this week:
            As always, thank you for supporting me by following my blog, continuing to leave thoughtful and introspective comments, and dropping by every day. I am so appreciative that you are here.

            If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.

            Blogging through writer's block

            There comes a point in every blogger's life where she (or he) is left unexpectedly agape, staring at the computer screen, with absolutely nothing to say. A landscape that once overflowed with bright reflections on an outfit or quirky statements regarding fashion had now become as dry and bleak as a desert landscape.

            I love to write. I love brainstorming topics for blog posts. I love doing research and highlighting important points I want to explore. I love the click click click sound of my fingers excitedly running over my keyboard, typing furiously on a post I am hopeful will spurn interesting comments and conversation. I even enjoy those stressful moments when I'm not entirely sure how a post will come together. I accidentally discovered my love of writing as a high school freshman, when my unconventional English teacher encouraged us to free write in between assignments. Those ungraded essays introduced me to the satisfaction of finding the perfect word and exploring a writing style that was outlandishly descriptive. I loved those essays. I could write about anything, and I did.

            Whether they jot down a couple of sentences or compose lengthy 1000 word posts, bloggers are writers. As such, many have trouble with writer's block at one point or another. There are a myriad of reasons behind this problem: Anxiety, the pressure to produce a "perfect" post, lack of inspiration, a life change. However, 99% of the time writer’s block is nothing more than fear. You’re afraid you’re out of ideas. You’re afraid your best work is behind you. You’re afraid that you’re a phony. You’re afraid of failure. You’re afraid you’re not the genius you wanted to be when you started.

            Writer's block strikes me once every few months. During those moments, I feel hopelessly frustrated and confused. What happened? Where did my words go? My brain feels cramped and about as useful as a paper weight. The blinking cursor on my laptop seems to mock me with every flash. I feel ruined.

            During the past year, I've developed a couple of techniques for dealing with writer's block. Each one has helped me at one point or another, and I thought it would be useful to share them with you.

            • Implement a writing schedule: Every day, between eight and ten in the morning, I get on my laptop and I write. I ignore my writer's block and just jot down whatever is in my head - whether it's about fashion, or body image, or what I'm wearing. Bringing my fingers to the keyboard at the same time every day never fails to encourage me to post.
            • Carry around a notebook: The best way to stay inspired is to consistently jot down ideas for posts as they come. Whether you use a notes app on your phone or an actual notepad, recording post ideas creates an archive of topics to draw from.
            • Take some time off: Writer's block is frequently your body's way of telling you that you need a break to gather material and take the pressure of of posting. Time off from blogging might be all you need to become inspired to post again.
            • Have you ever struggled with writer's block? How do you stay inspired to post? Do you have any tricks for beating writer's block?

            {Guest Post} Smiling through winter by Jessica of Monster Cakes

            Today I'm featuring a guest post from one of my favorite bloggers, Jessica from Monster Cakes. I stumbled onto her blog months ago and it quickly became one of my favorites. Not only is Jessica stylish, personable and funny, but she's also a tremendously talented writer. Her Wednesday Smiles posts are the inspiration behind my own. I am sure you will love her as much as I do!

             Hello hello new friends! My name is Jessica and I blog over at Monster Cakes. Something you must know about me: I'm a winter girl at heart. I loathe the summer. My vampire-esque skin burns in sunlight. It snowed on my wedding day (it was perfect). I wear SPF all year long. I own more tights and scarves than I do shirts, dresses, and skirts combined. I don't "do" iced coffee. I get depressed during the summer and feel most in my element when it rains.

            Most people find this a wee bit odd, but it's my favorite thing about being me. Lately I've been trying to channel my abnormal winter powers by cheering up those around me who aren't as partial to the cold months as I am! So my summer friends, allow me to send some of my winter smiles your way.


            The trick is to focus on the beauty. The positive. The daily treats that winter throws your way. Make a list! Seriously! Once you start to notice all the loveliness that winter offers, you won't have time to think about your frosted car windows, your frozen toes, and your sun-deprived skin. 

            My current winter love list:
            + hot coco dates with friends and loved ones
            + Starbucks holiday cups
            + falling asleep to the sound of rain against the window
            + watching puppies play in the snow

            + justifying pajamas at 5PM because it's already dark
            + feeding my belly with hearty soups and stews
            + enjoying extra doses of holiday treats w/out guilt

            + Sees candy's seasonal flavored truffles
            + witnessing the beauty that is foggy mornings and snow capped mountains
            + the way the rain puts me in a writing mood and gets my creative juices flowing
            + watching the sun glitter off grass blanketed with frost

            + feeling the most Oregonian in my winter staple: plaid button ups
            + listening to Christmas music... between the months of October and February

            + hand warmers that rock your world
            + utilizing my absolute favorite accessory: scarves
            + busting out my darker shades of nail polish

            + pumpkin spice candles
            + not shaving my legs ever as often
            + stealing husband's socks because they are always warmer
            + roasting mellows in fireplaces

            + cutting out snowflakes by hand
            + serene winter playlists (see my recent fave here)
            + getting up a little earlier to enjoy my coffee while I watch the sun come up

            So friends. What's on your list?


            Almost daily outfit of the day: Holiday hysteria 12.21.11

            Lucky Brand jacket; thrifted Target blouse; thrifted J Brand jeans; Dolce Vita ankle boots

            The week before Christmas marks the official start of winter break for my kids. This means that they're home from school for two weeks, and I am subjected to conversations such as the following:

            Josh: I WANT THAT TOO! Mom, we've been so good this year, we only got in trouble that one time we spilled water all over your laptop and it got broken.
            Jake: But then you got a new laptop so it was totally okay.
            Josh: And MOM! MOM! MOM! Mom, are you listening? Mom, don't forget I REALLY REALLY REALLY want that Bakugan set, you know the one Mom, it was SO COOL!
            Me: (Reaching for the Advil.) Boys, Santa will be here in just four days. Christmas is going to be great. Let's talk about something else for a change, okay?
             *Extended silence.*
            Jake: How many minutes to Christmas Mom? Like exactly how many? Because I HAVE TO KNOW.

            You can understand my need for both a steady amount of patience and an arsenal of simple outfits this week. These thrifted J Brand jeans might be the best score I've made all year, convincing me that Santa works in mysterious ways.

            In case you missed it:

            One year later (and a giveaway!)

            One year ago, I was living here in the north Dallas suburbs with my husband and kids. We had relocated to the area from Des Moines, Iowa, and I was attempting to find my footing in my new neighborhood. I had a few friends in the area, women I had kept in touch with before our relocation, but I couldn't help but feel that something was missing. I loved to thrift, and write, and wanted to challenge myself to do something I'd never done before. So I decided to start a blog.

            February 2011

            I had no idea then what I'd put into motion. Slowly, through the months that followed, my life started to change. I began to feel more confident. I became more courageous with every outfit I posted. I found myself questioning why I dressed the way I did, why I shopped where I had, and what I really thought about personal style and body image. I started to allow myself to write, really write, more than a few sentences about where my jeans were from. 

            June 2011

            Eventually, I starting submitting my posts to IFB, and they were accepted into Links a la Mode. I joined a local blogger's meetup and connected with women who share similar interests as I do. I started commenting on blogs I read regularly, and became friends with those bloggers I admired. I learned from them. In March 2011 I attended my first blogging conference, the Texas Style Council Conference, and met bloggers I only dreamed of socializing with. I began to get invited to fashion events around Dallas and made connections with brands. I continued to submit articles to IFB and attended their conference in September, where I learned more about the importance of social media and blogging and began to consider monetization. Oh - and I also wrote a book, which is in the final editing phase and should be published by the end of January.

            Julie, Erin, me and Tina at the Texas Style Council Conference

            The truth is that putting yourself out there comes with both blessings and pitfalls. When my blog really began taking off this summer, it attracted attention - most good but some negative. No matter what I do, say or wear, there will still be some people who won't like it. There will be people who hate what I wear, or think I talk about my eating disorder recovery too much, or write posts that are too long, or don't share enough outfit of the day pics. This criticism is part of living my life in the public eye. Criticism never feels great, but I accept it and am sometimes able to view it as a learning opportunity.

            August 2011

            There's a lot to be said about following your dreams and watching them come true. The work put towards making those dreams a reality isn't easy, but it is so worth it. Don't get me wrong - I still have days when I struggle to find inspiration. I don't always feel great about how I look. But I have a much more positive outlook than I've ever had.

            October 2011

            In the next year I hope to continue feeling as inspired to post as I am now. I want to learn more about blog design, stay educated on social media, and become more involved in the Dallas-Fort Worth fashion scene. I want to reach out more to bloggers I admire. I'm going to publish my book and want to host a fantastic launch party (stay tuned for details on that!) I was just hired as the community outreach and social media coordinator for the Texas Style Council Conference, scheduled for March 9, 10 and 11th, and I'll be extra busy with planning. I want to offer more guest posts from bloggers who inspire me, and continue sharing my passion for thrifting. 

            To celebrate my one-year blog anniversary, I'm offering a very special giveaway containing some of my favorite swag from the Independent Fashion Bloggers Conference.

             The winner will receive:

            • An Urban Decay Foxy palette, complete with four neutral shadows, a cream eyeliner, and  a mini lip gloss;
            • An Urban Decay Stardust lip gloss in Space Cowboy, a sparkly neutral color; 
            • A travel size Amika straightening iron with carrying case.
            The winner will also receive:

            • A $25 gift card to TJ Maxx or Marshalls!
            To enter, simply do the following:

            • Follow me on Google Friend Connect.
            • For extra entries, follow me on Twitter (@dresscourage) and add my blog to your reader.
            This giveaway is open to US residents only. Please leave a separate comment for each entry, and be sure to include your email address so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway ends on December 28th! Good luck!

            Product review: Polka dots from Happy Scarf!

            Thrifted cardigan; thrifted Michael Stars long-sleeved tee; thrifted J Crew skirt; We Love Colors tights; Kate Spade boots (TJ Maxx)

            Last week, Happy Scarf sent me two scarves to wear and review. I don't think I've ever incorporated a scarf into an outfit photo here on my blog, but trust me when I say I'm a big fan. When winter comes I seem to get a permanent chill in my bones, and winding a scarf around my neck is an easy, stylish way to keep warm.

            I chose this fun polka-dot mimic cashmere scarf for my outfit photos and could not have been more pleased. It truly is as soft and cozy as cashmere, and when paired with a long-sleeved tee and cardigan kept me warm. For $12, this scarf is a great alternative to budget-breaking genuine cashmere versions. I also received a black and white skull scarf, which was much thinner and more lightweight than the polka dot, and better suited for warmer months.

            Happy Scarf offers free shopping on purchases and returns every day of the year, and 20% off all new styles. I would definitely recommend their products. A new scarf would make a great holiday gift!

            Disclaimer: I received two free scarves from Happy Scarf for this product review. I was not compensated for this review, and all opinions are my own.

            On Sundays I Smile - Week in review December 18th

            On Sundays I review the past week and I Smile. I share these moments with you.

            I'm coming down with a cold, so I've decided to self-medicate with bowls of clementines, hoping a massive dose of natural vitamin C will chase the germs away. Clementines are the perfect snack. They're so happy looking nestled in a bowl, and taste like summer.

            My children had their holiday parties at school this week. Simply put, holiday parties are an excuse for the kids to watch movies and eat cookies and wear their pajamas to school and give their teachers presents, typically things like Starbucks gift cards and mugs with pencils on them. We got to make this cheeky little Santa foam ornament which took a surprisingly amount of glue and patience to construct.

            My daughter and husband left for a five day trip to NYC this week, to visit our family and eat bagels and see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and gallivant through the city. I ain't gonna lie - I'm out of my mind with jealousy. I can't help it. I am a horrible horrible person. I want to be the one going to NYC. I want to shop and eat in Little Italy and see family and take touristy photos of things like the lights in Times Square. But I'm thrilled for my daughter. Really.

            To alleviate my despair over not going to NYC, I went to the mall. Because in my opinion there are few better ways to self-soothe than take in some holiday shopping at the mall. I'm kind of shallow like that. There was this display of holiday clutches in Bendel's that made me swoon. Hello, pretty little leopard clutch. You will be mine. Oh yes you will.

            Now it's your turn: What are some things that made you smile this week? Grab my button (created by Kate of Kate The Geek - HUGE THANKS to Kate!) and blog about your Sunday smiles; share your weekly smiles in the comments; or smile just because it makes you feel good.

            While I'm nibbling on clementines, catch up on everything from Dress With Courage this week:

            As always, thank you for supporting me by following my blog, continuing to leave thoughtful and introspective comments, and dropping by every day. I am so appreciative that you are here.

            If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.

            Fashion Beauty Friend Friday: Holiday quiz

            It's hard to believe that are only nine days until Christmas. Because of my husband's busy travel schedule, we only just decorated our tree last night, and I have most of my Christmas shopping list left to plow through. This week for Fashion Beauty Friend Friday, we're offering snippets of thoughts on holiday related topics.

            No holiday party is complete without: Christmas cookies.

            My favorite Christmas song/album: I vacillate between Handel's Messiah and Tori Amos' Midwinter Graces album.

            My favorite seasonal recipe: Latkes. Oh so good.

            The perfect New Year's Eve outfit includes: Sequins, of course!

            At the parties, I'll be drinking: I'm a whiskey girl, but during the holidays I like to indulge in a glass or two of champagne. It always makes me feel festive.

            Eggnog, good or bad? Bad. Very bad.

            Did you ever take pictures on Santa's lap at the mall? I was raised in a conservatively  Jewish household, so Santa, Christmas trees, and anything Christmas-related was a no-no.

            Gingerbread Latte or Peppermint Mocha: Neither - hot caramel apple cider.

            Worst gift I ever got: I can't remember getting a bad gift!

            Best gift I ever received: One memorable year my husband bought me a Kitchenaid stand mixer that I'd been hinting for. That might seem weird, a mixer being my best gift. But that mixer has proved to be the most useful present I've ever received.

            My family has this weird tradition: I'm not sure it's weird, but my family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas so we do an interesting, eclectic blend of traditions from both. We watch Christmas movies and decorate a Christmas tree and open presents on Christmas morning, but we also light a menorah and tell the Hanukkah story and make brisket and latkes and give our chocolate gelt.

            My best bargain find for a gift this year: I bought nearly all my holiday decor from thrift stores this year. It was really fun and saved me a ton of money.

            If I could only buy all my gifts from one place, I'd shop at: Target.

            Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer or Frosty the Snowman: Definitely Rudolf.

            My favorite holiday memory: My childhood Hanukkah dinners and gift exchange with my grandparents, cousins and aunt and uncle. There was always a lot of laughter, silliness and joy.

            My favorite Christmas movie: Elf. Mostly because of this scene. And this one too. I also love watching A Nightmare Before Christmas because the music is so good.

            The best part about holiday decorations is: Our collection of ornaments that we've accumulated over the years. I'm partial to the ones my kids made when they were in preschool. So sweet.

            Rip off the wrapping paper or neatly pull off the tape: Rip that crap off.

            Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life: Miracle on 34th Street, mostly because it reminds me of Christmas in New York City.

            It doesn't feel like the holiday season until: I unearth our holiday decorations from the garage.

            All I want for Christmas is: A relaxed, stress-free couple of days home with my family. Simple enough.

            As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. What's your favorite Christmas movie? What's the best present you've ever received? Any special traditions you share with your family?

            Fashion Beauty Friend Friday was created by Katy Rose of Modly Chic. Become a member of the Fashion Beauty Friend Friday Google Group to join in the discussion!

            Thrifting 101: It's beginning to look a lot like Thriftmas

            As the holidays approach, most people are hurriedly emptying their wallets looking for the perfect gift. There's so much pressure to find the latest, newest, trendiest item, and give our friends and family a present they'll remember for years to come. However, while you're running from mall store to mall store, you might want to consider a different option - thrifting for a holiday gift. Doing so guarantees you'll find something unique, even possibly one-of-kind. It's also a great way to let your recipient know you put in extra effort to give them a memorable present.

            There are a couple of ways to approach thrifting for a gift. The most important thing, however, is to know your recipient. There are some people who just aren't going to embrace receiving something from a thrift store, no matter what it is. They are much more comfortable with a new item, packaged and returnable. Obviously, a thrifted gift is going to be unsuitable for them, so it's better to leave them off your thrift score list.

            One way to look at holiday thrifting is to use thrift store finds to supplement other gifts. For example, cookbooks found in a thrift store can be packaged with a new cookware set from a department store. If you have a friend who enjoys cooking, a season thrifted cast iron skillet would pair wonderfully with gourmet flavored oils and utensils. For the jewelry lover, a vintage pair of earrings or pin combined with a gift card to a boutique makes an unusual, memorable gift.

            Another approach is to repurpose thrifted items to create something new. My local Goodwill is overloaded with fabric, and a skilled sewer could utilize it for curtains, sewing and crafts. Old frames could be sanded down and painted;  sweaters mended; lamp bases and shades repainted and repaired; and furniture can be refinished. 

            Of course, there are great finds to be discovered at thrift stores if you're looking for a ready-to-go gift.

            • Records: most thrift stores are loaded with crates of records, ranging for classical to holiday music to pop. If you have a music lover in your life, thrifting for records is a surefire way to thrill them.
            • Glassware: Packaged beautifully, vases, wine and champagne glasses make pretty gifts. Collectors might also appreciate shot glasses.
            • Books: I can't think of a better source for books than thrift stores. Hardcover and paperbacks are typically priced anywhere from fifty cents to two dollars. From cookbooks to religious volumes to best selling fiction, it's all there.
            • Holiday decor: Looking for ornaments, dishware and mugs, and decorative items? Thrift stores are overwhelmed with these items at this time of the year. 
            • Accessories: I've had great luck finding authentic vintage Coach bags at thrift stores. Charity-based stores, such as St. Vincent De Paul, occasionally carry designer jewelry such as Michael Kors and Fossil watches, along with purses, scarves, belts and wallets.
            Have you ever thrifted a holiday gift? D you have any ideas for thrift store finds that would make for great presents? Share in the comments!

              Everybody, Everywear: Sequins and sparkle

              Vintage thrifted dolman-sleeve sweater; vintage thrifted skirt; We Love Colors tights; Urban Outfitters boots; earrings from some little boutique in Dallas; Michael Kors rose gold watch

              I was thrifting last week in a dusty little Goodwill when I discovered this sweater, tucked into a rack of snap-front western shirts and 80's mock turtlenecks. As soon as I dug it out, I knew we were meant to be together. You see, I have a strange affinity for sequined, sparkly, and glittery vintage tops. We're kind of a thing. When I wear one, I like to imagine I'm a young starlet on the set of some eighties soap like Dynasty. As such, I'd sail through each episode in sequined evening gowns and a cloud of Dior Poison. I'd craft elaborate schemes to destroy my enemies and survive kidnapping attempts with nary a lacquored hair out of place. Sure, I'd have no real reason to be costumed in rhinestones and sequins. But I would, because it's the eighties and that's what eighties starlets did.

              This sweater is all eighties glitz and glam - chenille woven with gold thread. It's kind of perfect.

              Sequins + Sparkles | Everybody, Everywear

              The big deal about small talk

              Have you ever lingered in your car or played games on your cell phone or stared intently at a tray of appetizers for the specific purpose of avoiding small talk at a party? I have. I think we all fear the awkward silence that sometimes comes with making small talk with a stranger. Whether you're at a wedding, work event, or holiday shindig, the pressure to be a sparkling conversationalist can leave even the most confident of us cowering.

              Every year, my husband gets invited to a holiday work party. And every year I dread going. After twelve years of attending these kinds of functions, you'd think I've gotten better at managing the anxiety I experience before going. But I haven't. I live in terror of getting stuck next to some conversational genius and not having anything interesting to contribute. Small talk makes me nervous and turns me into a sweaty, babbling idiot. My mind races with crash-and-burn scenarios. What if I become tongue-tied and awkward, and the person I'm attempting to speak with thinks I'm boring? What if I can't find anything worthwhile to contribute and our conversation dissolves into a tediously painful exercise marked by comments on the weather? I would rather wander around the room faking interest in potted plants than suffer through this.

              Small talk is often seen as meaningless conversation motivated by social politeness. You do it because that’s the proper thing and you have no choice. If you're extroverted, you can probably be planted in any social situation and get the small talk started without too much pain. If you're introverted, however, holiday parties and other events with strangers will make you cringe.

              Thankfully, I've come up with a number of strategies to help make small talk more palatable. While these won't completely remove the terror from the situation, they'll help make you feel a bit more comfortable should you find yourself facing an unavoidable conversation with a stranger.

              • Ask questions: People, for the most part, love to talk about themselves. Asking someone questions allows you to steer the conversation towards whatever direction you're comfortable with. It also allows you to avoid certain dicey topics that are likely to cause awkward moments. Asking someone where they're from, places they've traveled, plans for the weekend, favorite stores, or hobbies will put you both at ease and could lead to some interesting stores.
              • Bring up something you'd like to talk about: Have you been curious about that latest Anne Hathaway movie? Wondering what someone else is reading? What's your guilty pleasure TV show? A conversation about something fun and interesting can often turn into something more.
              • Be a good listener: Nod and use other nonverbal listening cues to indicate to the other person that you're actively engaged in the conversation. A little encouragement goes a long way.
              • Avoid potentially volatile topics: Politics, religion, money, personal details - just don't go there. You also might want to avoid trite discussion about the weather and the spelling of someone's name (I get this a lot.)
              • See it through a positive lens: Small talk is a great way to make personal connections with relatively little effort. What we might think of as tedious chatter is actually a wonderful way to both socialize and network with influential people. 
              Do you struggle with making small talk? How do you handle it? Got any tips or tricks to help turn conversations with strangers into meaningful connections? 

                Almost daily outfit of the day: Lists, vomit and a vintage cardigan 12.12.11

                Vintage thrifted Montgomery Ward cardigan; Gap legging jeans; thrifted Michael Stars long-sleeved tee; Frye boots; Urban Outfitters necklace

                I am a planner. I enjoy making lists and crossing tasks off as I complete them. I schedule appointments months ahead. I plan outfits days in advance and lay out my clothes the night before. I organize my day and stick to objectives with an almost militant precision. Spontaneous outings send me into a panic. No, I like things to be structured, predictable. This makes me feel like I'm in control of my life. Sure, it might be a sham, this feeling of control, but it works for me.

                Naturally, when crisis comes, I find myself completely unhinged. Take this weekend, when one of my twins barfed all over my bed. A sick, vomiting child sends me into a panic, rushing to my computer for a obsessive search of symptoms on WebMD. Is it bubonic plague? A stomach virus? Dysentery? My mind spirals through a encyclopaedic, increasing terrifying collective of illnesses. What if he becomes dehydrated and needs intravenous fluids? Does he have an antibiotic-resistant super bug, like they showed on 20/20? What if he infects the rest of us? OH MY GOD ARE WE GOING TO DIE, A TERRIBLE DEATH WHERE NO ONE KNOWS WE'RE DEAD UNTIL THE SMELL HITS OUR NEIGHBORHOOD???

                It helps to have a simple, comfortable outfit to rely on when I'm facing my imminent end. A vintage cardigan and weathered pair of boots is soothing, and when accessorized by a liberal application of hand sanitizer and Lysol, even better.

                On Sundays I Smile - Week in review December 11th

                On Sundays I review the past week and I Smile. I share these moments with you.

                I had three main loves as a child:
                1. My Barbie travel van,
                2. The entire Little House on the Prairie series,
                3. and my dolls.
                Oh, how I loved my dolls. They kept me company during long trips in the car. They crowded me out of my bed. They shared my love of frilly dresses and penchant for hair bows. My dolls kept my secrets and let me practice being a mommy, the kind that let them eat candy before breakfast and wear outlandish amount of play jewelry if they wanted to.

                I was reminded of my childhood dolls when I came upon the above display at the Goodwill. These dolls, in their glass prison, made for one of the creepiest displays I've ever seen. I desperately wanted to rescue them, but I feared I'd be murdered in my sleep.

                When the weather gets cold, and the holidays are near, I reach for plaid. Plaid makes me cheery and instantly reminds me of Christmas. I wore a lot of plaid this week, and my mood was greatly improved as a result.

                This week I joined the legion of Jeffrey Campbell fanatics when my new splatter Lita ankle boots arrived in the mail from Nordstrom's. I snatched them up when they went on clearance. These are, without a doubt, the craziest shoes I have ever worn. I'm now adding every style to my wish list.

                Everyone in my household has been working feverishly on their own wish lists this week. My boys prefer to cut pictures of their desired presents out of catalogs, organize them into piles, and spin elaborate plans of what they will do with these presents once Santa bring them while I pick up tiny little scraps of paper, the flotsam and jetsam from their efforts.

                Thrift score of the week: This St. John military sweater, bought for 57 cents. Life is good.

                Now it's your turn: What are some things that made you smile this week? Grab my button (created by Kate of Kate The Geek - HUGE THANKS to Kate!) and blog about your Sunday smiles; share your weekly smiles in the comments; or smile just because it makes you feel good.

                While I'm prancing around the house in my new shoes, catch up on everything from Dress With Courage this week:

                I had one blog mention this week:

                • My post regarding thrifting for winter posts was included in Already Pretty's Lovely Links. I'm thrilled for the mention!

                As always, thank you for supporting me by following my blog, continuing to leave thoughtful and introspective comments, and dropping by every day. I am so appreciative that you are here.

                If you're visiting my blog for the first time, please think about following me through Google Friend Connect, and tweeting with me on Twitter (@dresscourage). You can also follow me on Pinterest and Instagram under Dresscourage and on Facebook.