We paid cash: a down payment.

We paid cash: a down payment | Modern Mrs Darcy

File under: things I forgot to tell you.

We moved earlier this year. One of our goals for years was to keep (as in, not sell) our starter house after we moved out of it so we could use it as a rental. It was a big, fat goal, because the finances were tricky.

This month I shared why and how we did it over at Money Saving Mom. From the post:

My husband and I set a big hairy goal more than ten years ago. We wanted to move out of our much-loved starter home (6 people, 1 bathroom, you get it) into a slightly larger place — while keeping our first home so we could rent it out. We wanted to do it before our oldest child — then a toddler — hit the teen years….

Read the rest at Money Saving Mom.

Also, I owe you a house update. I can’t believe it’s been six months! (If there’s anything specific you want to know or see, tell me in comments?)

Links I love

red maple and snow

From this week: autumn and winter, all at once. 

Housekeeping: the Lucy Jane giveaway has ended and winners have been notified by email. If you didn’t win (Sorry, I would have loved to send “strong coffee long books” pencil pouches to every one of you!) now you’re free to shop: sign up for the Lucy Jane newsletter here and get 15% off your first order.

Lucy Jane classy and fabulous

Classy & Fabulous pencil pouch from Lucy Jane

Best of the web:

Ten thoughts on hosting Thanksgiving from Shauna Niequist. “People are serious about Thanksgiving food, and most of them are practicing some sort of complex strategy for how to consume a staggering amount of both turkey and pie. ..”

How to make your last name plural this Christmas season. “Nothing quells my Christmas cheer as quickly as a stray apostrophe. Every year they assault me.”

Male TV host wears same suit for a year; no one notices.” Of course they didn’t.

British authors’ houses on Google maps. “One thing we’ve learned: Most authors lived in very posh houses, except Rudyard Kipling who lived above a branch of Eat.”

On the blog: 

A very bookish Christmas countdown. (I got so many great Christmas book ideas from the comments on this post!)

Simplicity, productivity, and the personal uniform. (Yes, that is really my closet.)

Gorgeous books for giving (and receiving).

Have a great weekend!

One day giveaway: win an adorable pencil pouch or clutch from Lucy Jane. (3 winners!)

Today I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend and seamstress extraordinaire Kim Vanslambrook, who runs the handmade shop Lucy Jane. If you follow me on instagram, you probably swooned over this pencil pouch, which was her creation.

Kim is an engineer by trade: her very first job as a project engineer was rebuilding the Chicago shoreline. (Yep, that means a hard hat and everything.) But after a difficult pregnancy, Kim quit engineering to stay home with their twin boys.

extra-large tote bag from the Lucy Jane shop

Staying home with the kids (now age 6) was rewarding, but she needed a creative outlet. She started sewing to save her sanity, and started selling her creations to justify spending more time at her machine. Her products sold so well she made a career of it.

Kim’s specialty is products that are beautiful and useful, like her extra-large tote bags that can schlep an excessive amount of stuff to the beach or about town, and her new line of pencil pouches, which I am completely smitten with.

The pouches are made from a durable vinyl, which has a nice weight and feel to it, and is easy to clean. (I’m speaking from experience: I have a monogrammed white pouch, and my girls have the “that’s my name” pencil pouches.

Sometimes I use my pouch as a clutch, and sometimes I slip it inside my larger tote to keep all my essentials nicely corralled. My girls use theirs to hold their school supplies.

a peek behind the scenes of the Lucy Jane office

Kim does all her sewing at her home here in Louisville. Sometimes I get to weigh in on her creative process (“strong coffee long books?” You’re welcome) and experience major sewing room envy in the process. (You can sneak a peek, too: she shares behind-the-scenes shots on her instagram.)

These new pouches are completely adorable and compliment magnets. (Make sure you peek inside the pouches, too!) Take a look:

classy and fabulous pencil pouch from Lucy Jane

Gold and Lovely collection ($18)

Lucy Jane monogrammed pencil pouch

Monogrammed Pencil Pouch ($20)

Lucy Jane monogrammed pencil pouch in leather

Monogrammed Pencil Pouch with leather ($32)

"strong coffee long books" pencil pouch from Lucy Jane

Strong Coffee Long Books pencil pouch ($18)

A peek inside the inside of the "strong coffee long books" pencil pouch from Lucy Jane

Strong Coffee Long Books interior

"sleep less read more" pencil pouch from Lucy Jane

Sleep Less Read More pencil pouch ($18)

"that's my name" pencil pouch from Lucy Jane

That’s My Name pencil pouch ($20)

Today three lucky winners will each receive a pencil pouch of their choosing (leather excluded).

This giveaway ends tonight, Friday, November 21, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, so I can notify winners in the morning and everyone can go ahead and do their holiday shopping. These would make excellent stocking stuffers or personalized gifts, for any age, and they’re an excellent value.

To make these an even better deal, sign up for the Lucy Jane newsletter here and get 15% off your first order. You’ll also be the first to know about new products coming down the pipeline. I’ve had a sneak peek into Kim’s creative process, and believe me, you’re going to want to see what she’s working on.

UPDATE: The giveaway has ended and the winners have been notified by email. Thanks for playing!

To enter, just leave a comment. (U.S. only—sorry, it’s a legal thing!) I’d especially love to hear which pouch you love the most, or what saying you would want to put on a customized pouch. 

Simplicity, productivity, and the personal uniform.

closet full of stripes

I’m fascinated by—and a little jealous of—highly productive people who wear the same thing every day.

I know I struggle with decision fatigue, but that doesn’t make me unique. We all do. Each decision we make throughout the day takes a toll on our finite amount of mental energy.

That’s why people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and even President Obama adopted a personal uniform.

I’ve been thinking of doing it myself.

In high school, I was envious of my Catholic school friends who wore the same skirt, polo, and cardigan to school every day. When they rolled out of bed every morning they knew exactly what they would wear. To my high school self, that meant they could sleep for the extra fifteen minutes I had to spend choosing my outfit for the day.

I’ve heard style gurus speak about the effectiveness of limiting the colors of your wardrobe. Pick two or three complimentary colors and make them “yours,” and you’re well on your way to looking great every day, with very little effort.

I tried limiting my wardrobe to two colors for a while—black and French blue—and quickly abandoned it. I got bored. But I was younger then, and didn’t care as much about avoiding decision fatigue. Would it be different for me now?

Generally speaking, the personal uniform seems much easier for a man to pull off. Did you read about the Australian newscaster who wore the same suit every day for a year as a social experiment? No one noticed.

But even he said there was no way his female co-anchor could have gotten away with that without drawing commentary.

carrie donovan

As a woman, the idea of tightly constricting my wardrobe feels a little scary.

Yet there are women who pull it off.

Choreographer Twyla Tharp wears the same workout clothes and leg warmers every day, as part of her unvarying daily routine. She’s adamant about saving as much mental energy as possible for her craft.

Many women in fashion successfully pull off the personal uniform. Carrie Donovan, a retired editor from Vogue and Harper’s, wore all black with a string of pearls and huge eyeglasses. Grace Coddington of Vogue wears all black these days.

Anna Wintour rainbow

Even Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, has been wearing a variation of the same uniform since the ’80s: a blouse, jacket, and a-line skirt, plus her razor-sharp bob and dark sunglasses, which she calls her “personal armor.”

This summer, I noticed that I had fallen into a uniform of my own, quite accidentally. Every day I wore a striped shirt (one of a dozen slightly different designs), neutral bottoms, and silver sandals. I loved it, because I rolled out of bed knowing exactly what I would wear that day: the next shirt hanging in my closet and whatever bottoms happened to be clean.

The change of seasons has reinforced how much I enjoyed that summer simplicity. In the early fall I wore simple tees and thin sweaters, with jeans and a scarf, every day. But now that it’s suddenly cold outside I need to refine my idea of what I want my daily outfits to look like, because I’m already begrudging the mental energy I’m expending on wintry layers.

I feel a little silly writing something like “figure out a daily uniform” on my to-do list, but I’m inspired by those people who consciously streamline their daily decisions—like what they eat or what they wear—so they can be more efficient in their work and their relationships.

I’m hoping there’s a sweet spot between cheerful dressing for the ordinary days and saving my mental energy for more important things.

What are your tips for striking that balance? 

P.S. Dress for the day; dress for the life.