My Top 10 Stitch Fix Pieces

It’s been a good while since I’ve been able to order a new Stitch Fix box, but I still find myself talking about the company quite often, especially at my job. At least half of the time when a coworker compliments something I’m wearing, I reply with, “thanks, it’s from Stitch Fix” or simply “Stitch Fix!”

Over the past few years I’ve accumulated quite a few pieces from Stitch Fix, and I thought I would present to you my top 10 favorites. The task was more difficult than I expected, since I’ve kept so many great pieces, but I managed to narrow it down without including three items I’ve purchased from the few Facebook boards I used to follow looking for my unicorn.

These are not in any particular order, and I’ll put the link to each piece’s monthly review in the garment title.

This post contains affiliate links through which I may be compensated, but all opinions are my own!

Don’t know what Stitch Fix is? Check out earlier reviews located in the tab under the banner at the top of this blog to find out how this personal shopping experience works its magic.

1. Gilli – Lauree V-Neck Drape Dress 

This gorgeous piece was the first thing that came to mind when I decided to make this list. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a more naturally flattering dress, and I always feel beautiful in it. It’s perfect in color, fit, style, and versatility. You can’t get much better than this.

2. 41 Hawthorn – Berneen Printed Dolman Sleeve Top

It’s sort of amazing how much I’ve worn this top since purchasing it. This piece is supremely comfortable, lightweight, and fits well while also allowing the extra fabric a dolman has to hide my belly’s lumps and bumps. And the busy geometric pattern isn’t overwhelming at all.

3. Pixley — Abriella Waffle Knit Cardigan

Oh my, this charcoal- colored cardigan is heaven. I love wearing this thing. It’s cozy, keeps me warm, is super cute, and (sort of) has pockets. It looks great as another layer in work clothes or lounging in leggings. I’d buy it in every color. My ONLY complaint is that it’s so fragile because of the knitted pattern. I’ve snagged it about three times and I have to be extremely careful when I put it on — even when I brush my hair.

4. Lila Ryan — Liza Skinny Jean

I will defend this statement until the end: Stitch Fix has the best jeans. It was like these dark wash skinnies were customized for my body. They are snug, yet stretch, they haven’t faded over time (though I take special care when washing them), and the inseam is exactly what it’s supposed to be. Jeans are some of the most frustrating things for a short girl to buy, and I struck gold with these.

5. MAK — Jaclynn 3/4Sleeve Button-Up Cardigan

Another cardigan makes this list because it has all of the features I love in a more “refined” piece of clothing. The cobalt is vibrant, 3/4 sleeves are probably my favorite type of sleeve, V-necks typically look the most flattering on me, the fabric is soft, I can dress this garment up or down, and wear it all year round. Have I forgotten anything else? No.

6. Papermoon — Bastille Tulip Sleeve Blouse

This top defines classy with its understated details and simplicity. I love how flowy it is, and the folded sleeves are such a sweet touch. And the off-white color is so pretty and can really work with so many other items. I’m careful to wear this because I’m clumsy and afraid to spill anything on it, but it’s a blouse I cherish.

7. 41 Hawthorn — Nashik Textured Moto Jacket

What a fun piece this moto jacket is! It’s great for spring and fall, and thick enough to keep me warm without feeling bulky. I love the diagonal zipper and quilted pattern, and remember being thrilled when I saw it in the box for the first time. I didn’t take much convincing to keep it, and I’m sure you can see why.

8. Gilli — Rinna Dress

The only polka dot item in my closet! This flirty little number is a favorite of mine because of the fit and the fun criss-cross detail in the back that is sexy, yet still modest (click the link for a second photo). I’m a sucker for navy and white, too. Such an adorable item and I’m so glad it’s in my closet.

9. Papermoon — Magguie Lasercut Detail Blouse

How can you say no to this tank? I love the color, the flowy, light fabric, and especially love the scalloped, floral neckline. It’s bright perfect for sunny days and warm weather. It’s also really unique. I can’t say I’ve seen anything like it in the shops or on other people since I’ve purchased it. I’m really happy Stitch Fix offers items like this one.

10. Loveappella — Scooby Cross Back Knit Top

This top makes me smile, even though it’s probably the most plain item in this list. The color is simply gorgeous and is one of my favorites to wear. There’s no pattern or detail on the front, but point of interest is in the back, with its unexpected criss-cross cut out. So cute!

There you have it! My to 10 pieces from Stitch Fix. What do you think of my list? Which is your favorite out of my list?

I’m sincerely hoping to schedule a new box in the next month or so, and when I do, you’ll know! But serious question: would you prefer my normal type of Stitch Fix review, or would you rather have me film a short first impressions/unboxing video and then a review? Please give me some feedback!

—K

Now you can have your own personal stylist! Click the banner below and schedule your first box. Once that box shows up at your doorstep, you’ll help me support this blog.

—Photos by Justin McKee

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Book of the Month Review

Last month on my Facebook page, I asked my followers which subscription box service they’d like me to receive and review here on the blog.

Most of you answered with Book of the Month, so here I am to show you what it’s all about! I must have a lot of fellow bookworm friends!

What is Book of the Month?

Book of the Month offers three different subscription plans: $14.99 for three months, $13.99 for six months, and $11,99 for a full year. In the beginning of each month, you are given five book options and out of those you choose which book you want as your Book of the Month within a week, then decide if you want to add on any of the others listed for an additional $9.99. Shipping is free and the books are yours to keep.

You’re able to view each book option, read a summary, sometimes read the first page or two of the novel, and discover what one of the many regular Book of the Month judges thinks of the piece. According to BOTM, they have a team that selects different novels to feature each month, and sometimes celebrities judge the selections. If you don’t care for any of the selections, you can choose to skip a month.

Once you’ve read the books at your own leisure, you’re able to log into your account to rate the book and leave a brief comment of your opinion. BOTM also keeps track of which books you’ve chosen and your post-read rating, and you can join discussions on the books you’ve read with other members through the website.




Now that you know the ins and outs of this service, let’s go over my first month!

I opted for the three-month plan, and was able to choose my first book on July 1st. I was pretty pleased to see pretty varied choices — something to suit nearly every reader. I checked out the recommendations from the judges, read through the summary of each novel, and took some time to think about my choice.

I decided to choose Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong, because I wanted something light and with good characters. This book is written in a sort of diary style, focusing on the female main character and her interactions with her family (and especially her father who is losing his mind to Alzheimer’s) after moving back home following a broken engagement.

Here’s what the judge, Issac Fitzgerald, had to say about this novel: “As it dazzles and delights, as it compels you to fall in love with the people within its pages, it too shows you what is impossibly hard about love, about life.”

Since this isn’t a review on Goodbye, Vitamin, I won’t get into my personal opinions of it. But speaking of Book of the Month, I think it’s a super easy, convenient way to get new reading material each month, and a good way to dig into a genre you might not have been interested in before. I also like how it gives you options, though not too many, so you’re not overwhelmed by a large selection, which happens to me a lot!

So far, the only thing I don’t care for is the package terms. I don’t like being locked into a “contract” because I don’t like the higher cost all at once and there’s a chance I will forget to cancel before they automatically renew my subscription and charge me again. If you’re okay with that, more power to you!

Want to join Book of the Month? Click here now!

—K

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Chicken Enchiladas — A Dinnertime Fiesta

It’s about time I posted a new recipe, right? Today I have one that’s incredibly tasty and has just enough kick for added flavor, yet not enough for someone to worry if they dislike heat.

I’m a lover of Tex-Mex food. Give me homemade tacos and I’m a happy girl. But I decided to expand my horizons and try out enchiladas for a Sunday dinner, and am I happy I did! This was incredibly easy to make, relatively quick, and made enough for my significant other and I to have seconds and leftovers. It could easily feed a family of four, especially when you add a side of rice or refried beans.

What I have here is the bare bones recipe, because my other half doesn’t like lettuce, and neither of us like additives such as peppers or tomatoes. So add to this what you like and make it your own! Just divvy out the ingredients accordingly and so the enchilada contents aren’t spilling out into the baking dish.

While the photos don’t look like much (I have to admit I decided to blog this recipe last minute), I guarantee the enchiladas are tasty!


Ingredients

  • 3-4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 can mild red enchilada sauce
  • 1 package shredded cheese of your choice
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 package flour or corn tortillas, fajita or taco size

Directions

  • Place chicken breasts and chicken broth into slow cooker
  • Sprinkle turmeric and half of the taco seasoning packet onto chicken
  • Cook on low for four hours, shred chicken, stir in remaining taco seasoning, and cook for additional 10 minutes
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cover bottom of 9×13″ baking dish with half of the enchilada sauce
  • Warm tortillas until pliable, then spoon in about 2-4 tbsp of chicken and 1-2 tbsp of cheese (adjust to include other ingredients) into tortilla and roll it up
  • Place rolled tortilla in baking dish, with the ends facing down. Repeat until dish is filled
  • Pour remainder of enchilada sauce over top of the tortillas, and top with as much cheese as you prefer
  • Cover with foil and place in oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until cheese and sauce is bubbling
  • Serve with sides, sour cream, and/or guacamole

Although there are a lot of steps to this recipe, they can all be completed in no time, especially once you really get going! For those who enjoy spicier foods, you can use medium or hot enchilada sauce, or add jalapenos into the shredded chicken mixture.

And here’s the next best thing: leftovers are delicious!

Side note: some of you may be perplexed by the turmeric in this recipe, and the biggest reason for adding it is because of the oh-so-good-for-you antioxidants it provides. But it did give the chicken a more complex flavor, too, though subtle.

So mix up a margarita or grab a cold Corona with lime, and try this out the next time you’re feeling something different for dinner! If you do, let me know how it worked out!

—K

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Photography is for the Birds

Guest post by Justin McKee

Well, photography isn’t totally for the birds, but I do like to take photos of them from time to time.

No, I’m not a birder, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying to get good images of the little majestic flap-flaps that grace our skies.

Obviously, some birds are more rare to see than others. For this post I went to my great-grandmother’s house and took photos out near her bird feeders. It’s fairly easy to get photos at that location because there are almost always birds present.

I have had the opportunity to shoot bald eagles here in the local area. It’s rare, but I definitely whip the car around when I spot one on my commute.

Is there a secret to bird photography?

Not really, but there are some things to keep in mind.

Having a shallow depth of field by using wide apertures puts you at a disadvantage if a bird decides to suddenly move from a sitting position. In the photo above, I was fortunate that my subject decided to stay still. I kept my aperture at f/4.5 to get a nice blurry bokeh while still keeping my subject nice and sharp.

Normally, if there is enough light I would suggest using an aperture of f/4 and up. Your shutter speed may suffer because of that, but you’ll have a higher chance of capturing a sharp image of your subject if it decides to take flight without warning.

Using a higher aperture might mean sacrificing shutter speed or ISO if a bird takes flight and you want a shot of that bird in flight.

A flash can come in handy at that point as fill light. If you have the time and patience to set up an external flash and sync it up so you can get a good photo, more power to you. That’s definitely a viable option.

Taking photos of birds also is a bit tricky because, like most animals, birds are very aware of your presence when you walk near their feeder.

Thankfully, their short attention span is their downfall. If you sit near the feeder for long enough (sitting very still), most birds will revisit the feeder despite your looming scarecrow-esque presence — or, at least mine; I’m very tall.

Using a telephoto lens also can help because you won’t have to be as close to the birds in order to get the shot. My 70-200mm is great for bird photography when I’m babysitting a feeder. I’d prefer a 300mm or more if I were out looking for bald eagles or chicken hawks.
They aren’t as friendly if you get close.


Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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My Goodreads Reading Challenge Update

At the beginning of the year, I told you I was participating in the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge!

Goodreads is a great site, simply for organizational purposes. You can keep track of the books you’ve read, are currently reading, and want to read, and you can review and rate books you’ve finished. It also connects you with friends (via Facebook or other outlets) and you can see what they’re reading and their reviews as well, which can provide you with more ideas for yourself. No more walking into a store or library and forgetting what you wanted to read! That used to happen to me all the time. Now, I just pull up the site on my phone and go down the list.

It’s now more than halfway through 2017 (seriously, can you believe that?), and I’m here to give you an update on my progress.

This year I have challenged myself to read 20 books in 365 days, and I’ve read 11 so far. I got a bit ahead with books this winter while I was unemployed, but since I’ve started working again, my reading has slipped, as my time is limited and I have some other priorities. I haven’t given up, though! I really want to meet my goal before the year ends.

Out of my short list of novels I mentioned in my earlier post, I accomplished reading most, and still want to check off the ones left on the list. I also added a few I didn’t expect thanks to some recommendations from friends, personal interest, and availability from the library.

Here’s my list thus far:

Not too bad, right? And I’m actually more than halfway through my 12th book, and working on two others that don’t require a straight-through read. I’m really thankful that Goodreads keeps track of what I’ve read this year, because it would be hard for me to remember!

Though it will probably change, here’s my current to-read list for the remainder of 2017:

  • The Lunar Chronicles — Marissa Meyer
  • Love & Gelato — Jenna Evans Welch
  • Caraval — Stephanie Garber
  • The Nightingale — Kristin Hannah

So if you’re also part of this challenge, how many have you read this year, and how close are you to your goal? I’d love to know!

Want to connect with me on Goodreads? Click here and add me as a friend! Give me your recommendations!

—K

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Celebrating Life at 90

In the past 90 years, so many things have taken place: World War II, the moon landing, Beatlemania, the JFK assassination, the development of vaccines like penicillin, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, the introduction of color TV, the change of music formats from records and vinyl to 8-tracks, cassettes, CDs, and mp3 files, September 11th.

The list goes on.

My grandma, Alice, who just celebrated her 90th birthday on Sunday, has experienced it all. What a milestone!

Ask me to describe her, and I’d say spunky, generous, sweet, humble, and loving, among many more positive attributes. She has been there for her family, myself included, more times than I probably know about and doesn’t hesitate to help if she can. She’s held strong through the death of her husband. She never wants to stop going, even if exhaustion or physical pain gives her no choice. She loves her Detroit Red Wings hockey, black licorice, and newspaper or magazine crossword puzzles. She supports her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, and doesn’t forget a birthday. She’s active in the church and well-known in the community.

To honor her, my extended family helped plan and host an event in her hometown. Photos depicting the years of her life were prominently displayed, sweets lined a large table, and my relatives from near and far made it a point to be there for the big day. In addition, dozens of her friends showed up to congratulate her and return the love she’s given.

She looked so happy, and I hope she knows how happy she’s made each one of us. I’m very blessed to still have her and call her Grandma.

—K

— Photos by Justin McKee —

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Have a blast this year with fireworks photography

Guest post by Justin McKee

People love fireworks. They’re beautiful, brilliant displays of light that make everyone gather together and bring smiles to faces already filled with awe at the color and complexity of what is essentially the sky exploding.

Photographers love fireworks too, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll never want to turn down the chance to take fireworks photos. But if you’re not sure how or where to start, this is the post for you.

Here’s how I shoot fireworks photography.

The show usually doesn’t begin until after dark, so I usually gather up my DSLR and tripod and find a good place to sit. Composition matters, so be sure to find a place that will compliment your shot.

Next, make sure you pack a wide angle lens if you’re going to be close to the fireworks. Those explosions are far-reaching, so you’ll want to make sure everything fits in frame.

So darkness falls and the show begins… what do you do now?

Well, hopefully you’ve prepared your settings ahead of time. Here are my recommendations for camera settings.

Let’s start with ISO: You want a clean image and you won’t really need to stretch the sensor due to the amount of light that’s about to appear… so stick to a low ISO. Below 500 will do.

Aperture is a no-brainer. Keep it wide open. Below f/4 is my suggestion, but you can get away with f/5.6 if needed.

And shutter speed; The most important point here. I usually set it for about 10 seconds. This allows for a few fireworks to go off during the time of the exposure and fill your frame with excitement and will give the photo viewer a similar sense of awe that they would have in person.

Obviously you can change your shutter speed depending on your situation. If the sun hasn’t fully set yet and the show begins early, you’ll want a faster shutter speed to avoid overexposure. Also, this is optional, but a shutter release remote will help limit camera shake. The less physical contact you have with your camera while shooting in low light the better. No shaky photos.

For focus: I usually set my lens to close to infinity in the focus window, but if you don’t have the luxury of a focus window simply focus on the area you know the fireworks will be coming from and turn your autofocus switch OFF. It’s useless here. Don’t do it.

One last thing: don’t bank on the grand finale being your best shots… many times the finale is a concentration of fireworks all in the same place and it can end up just looking like a giant white sun floating in the sky. If you’re trying for the finale, shorten your shutter speed to around 1/40-1/100. There’ll be plenty of light.

That’s it! Enjoy this fun and easy method of photography. It’s relaxing and very rewarding. Happy Fourth!

PS: For fun… move your focus all the way back to minimum for some cool bokeh balls. It makes for a pretty desktop background. Just sayin’. Enjoy!


Justin McKee is a small-town photographer with big ideas living in Michigan. In addition to portraits, wedding photography and video, he also enjoys wildlife photography. He always seeks to learn more about his craft.

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Find Your Zen with Color

How do you relax? After a full week’s worth of work and home responsibilities, we all need to chill out. Do you go out for a drink? Find a quiet space to read? Take a bath? Meditate? Become a vegetable on the couch in front of the television?

I have a few ways I like to get away from the stress of life, and one of them is reminiscent of an activity many people only do during their childhood. However, in the past couple of years, it’s made a comeback.

I’m talking about coloring!

I’ve enjoyed coloring as an adult for nearly a decade, but always had to rely on purchasing children’s books with Disney princesses or Winnie the Pooh characters. While that was generally okay, now there are dozens of coloring books specifically geared toward teenagers and adults. You can find books with pages filled with different designs and pictures that inspire a world of color.

While the children’s books are more suited for crayons or markers, adult coloring books have smaller spaces and skinnier lines, perfect for mature motor skills. While this is well and good, I really don’t like colored pencils. The tips dull quickly and easily, and sharpening creates a huge mess, and there’s a risk of breaking the pencil in the sharpener.

Then my mom discovered a revolutionary colored pencil by Crayola. They’re called Twistables, they’re mechanical, and they’re the the best. No sharpener needed, and they’re sturdy enough that the color inserts don’t break easily, yet you can get as much pigment as you’d like on the page. They’ve become my favorite tool for coloring, and I still haven’t used an entire pencil up.

Personally, I like to color either without distraction or with music playing in the background. The motions of the pencil moving in my hand, taking care as to not color outside the lines but keeping shading consistent, relaxes me and clears my head. I’d color for at least an hour, or until my hand started cramping.

It’s a great way to bring some peace and quiet to life, and if you haven’t colored since you were a child, I’d highly recommend trying it again years later. You may just be surprised!

—K

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Sugar Festival: the Sweetest Event in Michigan

In the region of Michigan known as The Thumb (look on a map if you don’t know what I’m talking about), lies the small village of Sebewaing. It’s where half of my family is from, and where a few of my relatives still live.

For the past 53 years, the Michigan Sugar Festival has taken place to celebrate the sugar industry and its support of local farmers who grow the sugar beets which are processed in area factories. If you’ve ever seen a bag of sugar in the grocery store with the label “Pioneer Sugar,” it’s from Sebewaing! During the third weekend in June, family members and friends who haven’t seen each other in years reunite for this special event.

The Sugar Festival holds dozens of memories for me, since I’ve been going since I was a small child. Since my grandma lives literally one block from all the action, and since Sebewaing is such a safe community, I was allowed to walk around (mostly) on my own and take in the sights — carnival rides, vendors, entertainment, the parade, fireworks, and food stands in the park. It was something I looked forward to every year and loved spending the entire weekend with my grandparents who always stocked up on frozen Nutty Bars and Fla-Vor-Ice freezer pops.

One of the festival’s traditions is the crowning of the Sugar Queen, and fun fact: a few of my family members participated in the pageant years ago. In the recent years the number of contestants has diminished, and many of them aren’t from the Sebewaing area, but it’s still fun to watch the queen, first runner-up, and second runner-up get crowned.

Throughout the years the festival has featured live bands, a beer tent, a church service in the park, baseball tournaments, helicopter rides, free freshly-spun cotton candy, a chicken BBQ, Bingo, talent shows, and more. I highly commend the individuals who have spent and are spending their valuable time to keep it going through the years as more and more people stray from small-town celebrations.

Although the Michigan Sugar Festival holds an insane amount of nostalgia for me, I really do think it’s one of the most family-friendly events in the summer. Everyone has a smile on their face as they cheer for the veterans holding the American Flag high while marching down Main Street, take a huge bite into a bratwurst blackened straight from the grill, fly high on one of the many carnival rides, or see the bright colors of the fireworks illuminate the night.

It really doesn’t get much better.

—K

— Middle photo by Justin McKee —

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From West Texas to Northern Michigan

Hello! This is going to be a photo-heavy post versus text, because in this case, I believe photographs tell the story better than words.

In the beginning of the month I had the privilege to meet up with my friend Marisol, who lives in El Paso, Texas. She came up this way, and my goal was to show her the beauty of northern Michigan, since we didn’t have enough time to travel there during her previous visit.

Before heading north, however, I had to take her to the Detroit Institute of Arts, since she’s an art lover.  She took loads of photos and stared wide-eyed at a few works by her favorite painters. I must apologize for not remembering to take my camera for that part of her trip!

Mackinaw City and Mackinac Island was the first large trek of the journey, and she and I met up with Justin, booked a hotel, purchased tickets for the ferry, and we were transported back in time to a place where horse cabs and bicycles are the main way to travel. No cars allowed! And of course, I had to get a photo of her by the famous Arch Rock!

Mackinaw City — mainly Mackinaw Bridge — was a sight to see for her! For someone used to desert landscapes and shorter, rugged mountains, the green and blue of Michigan was a change of pace. She kept telling me how much she loved seeing so much green. She’s not wrong. It’s something I know I take for granted. Apart from the scenery, there were, of course, a few “Michigander” things I required her to do while we were there. One: fudge. Two: Superman ice cream. She accomplished both!

The next day we moved on to Traverse City, where we showed Mari the downtown area and riverfront, popped into a few shops, and then headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes. While the weather was perfect in town, going into the dunes was a different matter…the fog didn’t lift all day. Not much of a view, but for Mari, who never sees fog like this, she said it was dreamlike and mysterious.

The trip only lasted for a few days, but the mini vacation was not only a fun getaway, it allowed me to spend time with a good friend who lives thousands of miles away and helped me re-appreciate Michigan’s natural beauty.

Want to see more of the weekend’s adventures? Check out this video made by Justin, and then subscribe to his channel or follow him on Facebook!

—K

— Some photos by Justin McKee —

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