The Listening List: The Audiobooks and Podcasts of My 2016

When I finished graduate school in 2012, I realized that I hadn’t read anything for the joy of reading in about 4-5 years. Yikes, school reading had taken over my life. I wanted to start reading more, but I was reading so much every day as part of my job that I found myself falling asleep every time I cracked open a book. Enter Audible to the rescue. I signed up for a monthly subscription ($14 a month for 1 book token), and I started reading during my commutes to work. At first I kept it to the car, but now I listen to audiobooks while I cook, clean, and sit in bed playing the “Mexican Train” game on my phone before falling asleep. I started in 2013 with 11 titles in my Audible library. Now I have 95!  I’ve spent some serious time getting back into books, and I love it. I still won’t crack open a book, but I will definitely press play, and I’ve even added podcasts to my weekly listening.

Below is a list of all the books I read through Audible during 2016 (with the exception of some I started but never finished). I also included three podcasts that I listened to throughout the year. If you click on the image, a gallery will appear with some notes about each piece, so if you want to hear my thoughts on each, just click through the gallery below.

What books and/or podcasts have you enjoyed this year that I should add to my list?

Any thoughts about the ones I’ve included?

OOTD: Marble

Over the last year I’ve been working toward buying more quality pieces for my wardrobe that could work well in a professional environment as well as evening/”going out” type of situations. Finding pieces with eye-catching and adaptable styles in good fabrics and in my size is a tall order that I often can’t achieve, but I do feel that in the past couple months I’ve made some great discoveries as I’ve found more brands that offer these kind of pieces (mostly) in my size. Now when I’m considering higher-quality items, I’m thinking of quality materials, polished styles, and better fits, not necessarily higher price points. This look has some of my latest finds that are helping me improve my wardrobe, and I wore it out today to an academic conference:

1arimg_8618Top: Eloquii, Skirt: Melissa McCarthy Seven7, Shoes: Lane Bryant

I’ve known about Eloquii for years. In fact, I still have pieces from their first existence as a sub-brand of The Limited, but I am not a regular shopper of Eloquii because they do not offer all of their styles in sizes 26 and 28. I had a couple months there where I would go to their site, and literally every. single. item. I. wanted. stopped at a 24. I also had purchased some items about a year ago that I thought had good promise, but they ended up being slightly too tight and too short, and so they never became a part of the circulation of my wardrobe.

I’ve been really impressed with Eloquii working toward offering more sizes lately. They now have some petites as well as the “Viola” cut, which is meant to fit shapes where a person’s bottom/pant size is 1-2 sizes larger than their bust/top size. When looking at their site at the Viola options, I saw a few styles up to a 28 that I liked, and Eloquii always has great sales, so I took advantage and decided to try them out once again.

I was pleasantly surprised. Everything I ordered fit me really well, and this top, which was purchased at a 28, is even a little big in the bust and sleeves. Not at all what I was expecting from my last experience of things being too small (I like this top so much that I’ve already ordered it in a size down). Putting on this top, the fabric was denser and nicer than one typically gets in plus size clothing. And, I should say, with the coupon this top was only $35 dollars — “nicer” pieces are not always expensive. This is cheaper than some Old Navy tops and 1000x better quality. Once I tried it on, I knew immediately that I wanted to pair it with the marble print pencil skirt that I had purchased from Melissa McCarthy Seven7.

itemsTop: Eloquii, Skirt: Melissa McCarthy Seven7, Shoes: Lane Bryant

Melissa McCarthy’s line has impressed me over and over again. She has great quality items. This skirt’s fabric is so nice, the print is vibrant, and her pieces would work wonderfully for tall people. Most impressive– after one season of offering items up to a 24/3X, she expanded to a 28/4X. I’m hopeful that she’ll keep exploring more sizes, but I will note that her dresses and skirts are roomy and many could fit someone at a size 30.

At 5’4″, I need to alter her items (for example, I pulled up this skirt to be right underneath my bust — that’s how long it is on me), but it is always easier to take fabric off than to not have access to it at all because it’s too small/short/etc. Melissa’s line is just outside of my typical price range. It means not spending money on more affordable fashion that won’t last as long in order to purchase one piece from her. Now, this isn’t hard for me because I own too many clothes as it is, but it might be harder for others who are building their wardrobe. She does occasionally have sales, and I recommend hopping on it when she does.

1rimg_8608Top: Eloquii, Skirt: Melissa McCarthy Seven7, Shoes: Lane Bryant

Lastly, Lane Bryant has been impressing me lately with shoe options. Often times the shoes I like are “online exclusives”, so I take a gamble on them, and these cutout block heels really paid off. The heel height is perfect for me–I cannot do high heels. The base is cushy and comfortable. I’m into the ties, and I love that the ties are suede and just as nice looking as the shoe themselves. I think I bought these with a coupon too, and I feel that these shoes look more expensive than they actually were.

I finished my look with cheaper jewelry – simple silver earrings from a local boutique and a really old faux white-marble stone ring. One place I haven’t made investments? Jewelry. Maybe someday….

Have you tried these brands — what did you think? What brands do you buy from for higher quality pieces? 

Review: Little Red Dress

On the occasion that I need dressy attire or semi-formal wear, I always look to Kiyonna first to see what they have available. I started wearing Kiyonna when I attended a wedding in 2010. I had never had a dress that fit me so well, and I felt elegant in the piece. So when I had an occasion this past summer, I looked back over their collection again. I still wanted the great fit and elegance of Kiyonna, but I also wanted to select a style that was more bold than the demure styles I typically pick. I was really intrigued by the shape of their Foxfire faux wrap dress, so I picked it up via their Amazon shop in ‘Merlot’. I was excited to try on this style, but even more excited about the color. My life needed a little red dress.

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I loved the ruching on the side and the way the “wrap” dress front hangs on the body. I could have done without the halter strap on the dress — just a normal sleeve and shoulder would have worked for me, but it does add something different to the dress that not all dresses have.

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The back comes down in a deep-v, and the dress fits closely to the body.

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I kept my jewelry simple because I just can’t take a lot of jewelry. These earrings worked well and brought in other colors to the look without demanding a ton of attention (similar style here).

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I also pulled out a clutch that I got years and years ago from Evans when I used to do blogging collaborations with them. It’s still in great condition, and I love the beading and color.

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I love this little red dress and how powerful and beautiful it makes me feel. It’s a great option for a date night or for an event where a less-than-modest dress is appropriate. As always with Kiyonna, the fabric is heaven, and the size fit just as described in their size chart. I highly recommend this piece!

*Shopping tip: this style is available on their Amazon shop but not their regular website. I sometimes find the Amazon store has other colors too. Downside- no discounts.

**Dress purchased on my own. Post was not sponsored.

Review: Irresistible Me Hair Extensions

A few weeks ago, Irresistible Me reached out to see if I wanted to try out their hair extensions. Being someone who pretty much wants to try most beauty-related items, I jumped on the chance to try out their product. I had purchased a clip-in extension years and years ago (it was one large piece), and had liked the added volume but disliked the fact that it was one large piece, so I was happy to see that their remy clip in hair extensions came in 8 pieces, allowing me much more customization as I used the product.

b4aLeft: without extensions, Right: with extensions

I have fine hair that has some natural curl and wave to it. I am particularly thin toward the front of my hair and at my crown, and though my hair was long this summer, the ends lacked any kind of volume. I was interested to see if the clip-ins would look natural with my individual hair needs.

But first, let me share how I picked out my extensions. Madison from Irresistible Me passed along a couple tools to help me make a decision. One was this YouTube video that shows, compares, and describes the various colors they offer. The other was this pin that showed the different lengths of the extensions. Based off the description and view of length, I went with the Medium Brown in 16 inches. Madison also told me that the three options of weight (100g, 140g, 200g) refers to the total weight of the hair without the clips. This is relative to length, since a 14″ 200g piece will look thicker than a 24″ 200g piece. I was dipping my toes into the clip-in pool, so I wanted something that would look natural and not be too long for me to work with, so 16″ and 140g it was.

a3Wearing the extensions in both of these pics. Different lighting, but in each the extension color works into my natural color.

My hair this summer was the longest it has been since high school. I usually have it shorter than this, so one thing I noticed when I got in the clip in extensions is that they extended my length only a little but extended my volume a lot. The ends of my hair was thin and sat flat against me, but with the extensions, the ends of my hair were full.

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Because these are remy extensions, they can be washed and you can use heat tools on them. I’ve tried them out with many different hair styles, using both a curling wand and a flat iron on them.

One of my favorite uses is incorporating the extensions into a braid or up do. As I mentioned above, my hair is fine and thin, so using extensions allows me to thicken up a braid. Now in the image below, I wanted a thick braid and I achieved it with just two clip-in pieces, one of them being the thickest base clip-in. I’ve also done this with with just one clip in for a thicker braid than my natural but not as thick as the one on the right.

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I also like to incorporate them with curled looks. This style already gives my hair the most volume, so incorporating the clip-ins just adds more oompf. My natural hair had gotten light on the ends, and seeing the clip-ins darken the color of my hair toward the ends with the pops of lighter pieces inspired me to get my hair dyed to replicate this color.

curlyhairLeft: without extensions, Middle and Right: with extensions

I’ve enjoyed working with these clip-ins over the last few weeks. There were so many times when people weren’t sure whether I had them in or not, and they kept remarking on how long my hair had gotten. I was a little nervous at first that the clips would show, but it wasn’t an issue — they looked very natural and worked well into my hair.

If you’re in the market for clip-in extensions or are curious to try them out, I do recommend Irresistible Me. I am not someone who had much experience wearing these, and I found it really easy and fun to work them into my normal styles.

*Irresistible Me gifted me these clip in extensions in exchange for an honest review on my blog. All opinions on the product are my own.

 

Review: Eloquii’s Extended Sizing

Last night I posted on Instagram that I had gone a wee bit overboard with purchasing new items from Eloquii. I’ve been checking them out since their relaunch, and I was really happy to see that they began extending their size range from 14-24 to 14-28 in select styles. I wasn’t in the market, at the time, to get those items though. I also was a little apprehensive about the sizing. Since I wear their new top size, I figured that the items would most likely be too small. I don’t know why I thought this… I guess because finding items that fit at Lane Bryant was even an issue, so I assumed a new(er) brand would fit even worse. First they came out with skirts and pants, but now they’ve started offering more types of items and styles.

I decided to try out a skirt and a dress at first. When those fit really well, I went for other tops, pants, and jackets. I think I bought maybe 10-12 pieces in the span of 2 weeks, which is a lot, but I also got them at really good prices (around 40-50% off of each item). Eloquii has the best sales, so keep an eye out for them. Anyway, long story short: people expressed that they’d like to hear more about the fit of the extended sizes. Like I was, they were nervous to try them out, so here are a few items that I purchased and my thoughts on the fit.

A note about my shape: I’m 5’4″ with a pretty long torso compared to my legs. I carry the majority if my weight in my lower abdomen, hips, and backside. I also have large arms that make fitting into some tops hard.

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Textured Strip Fit and Flare Dress

I feel like this dress looks much better in person than it does in this photo. I really like the shape and material of this dress. It’s a good medium weight with plenty of stretch. It hits me below the knee. The waist is dropped lower than most other dresses that I have, so I like that it is a different shape for me. For people taller, the line might hit them at the upper waistline. I see this as a great dress for work, so the high neckline is a plus. I plan on playing around with jackets, sweaters, and belts for different looks with this dress.

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Kady Fit Pant in Black Forest

I really love the fall colors they are putting out with this fit. I got this color, which is a beautiful deep blue-green, and the Merlot. In the extended sizes, Eloquii only offers this pant in their regular inseam. If you are size 14-24, they offer petites and talls. The inseam works well for me, but I am 5’4″. I could imagine that this would be short on taller people. I am using up the entire width of the pant though, so if you are smaller than me then it might lay differently. Fitwise, the legs fit me perfectly, but the waist, right at the closure, was a little tight. The fabric does have some stretch, so I was able to still wear them. I might have to reinforce the button because they are a little tight. As you can see in my side pic though, I’m at my widest at the closure, so it makes sense that it’s tighter there.

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Classic Faux Leather Moto Jacket in Wine

With this piece worn open, it’s almost a little big on me, mostly because there is extra room in the shoulders and arms. I do like it a lot though, and once I’m wearing sweaters and bulkier clothing, I’ll be happy for the extra room. I like how high quality this piece it. The sleeves have zippers at the wrist, so I unzipped those and rolled up the sleeves. Rolled down, the sleeves are a little long on me, which is very typical for how items fit me. eloquiitopandskirtsize28

Printed Full Midi Skirt and Empire Flare Top

I promise I have legs under that skirt. I also promise that it hits me right below the knees. Besides the bad angle, I really like this skirt! I could have probably sized down once, and I’m finding that might be the case for most of their skirts (I have another on the way, so I’ll see then). Because this skirt is not form-fitting, you’re really trying to size it to wear it will sit on your body. Since it’s on my waist, I could go down one, but this still works too. The fabric on the skirt will keep its shape and not wrinkle. It has has a good bit of stretch. Definitely a comfortable piece!

The top is a style that I would wear to work. The sleeves sit on a weird part of my arm, but they are meant to be 3/4. Again, with sleeves mostly running too long on me, this makes sense. I might have it altered. This top felt like it was made for the shape of my body. I appreciate tops that have more space around the hip area :).
eloquiitopsize28Ponte Faux Leather Peplum Top

I was worried that this top’s sleeves would be too short, but they fit all right. For the most part I like the fit of this top. Next time I would wear it with jeans that had a higher rise so that my waistband wouldn’t create a crease. I’d also like another inch or two on the hem so that if this top rides up then it will look okay. This top along with the dress shows me that my waistline is a little higher than their fit.

Overall, I’m excited to have another option for finding items that fit (and fit well!). I feel like my work wardrobe is already much better just for the options that the Kady pant offers. Good bye days of only wearing black or gray pants! 

Have any of you tried Eloquii in the extended sizes? If you have a different shape or height than me, it’d be great to hear about your experience with their items!

Review: Igigi’s Urban Jungle

Igigi let me select a few pieces of their Urban Jungle collection to try out and review. I was immediately drawn to the Lark Wrap Top in Emerald Escape, so they recommended the Olivia skirt and the Tabitha blazer to go with it. I love when I get to review a company that has a size range that I can get behind (Igigi goes up to a US 30/32!), and it’s extremely nice to be able to size up if I want! I definitely picked the right sizes for my top and skirt (both 26/28), but I should have gone down one size in the jacket (I ordered a 28). Below are a couple different ways that I styled these pieces.

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The blazer is a softer, stretchier fabric than I imagined. In fact, the cuffs have elastics, so it’s easy to make this a more casual style.

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I don’t have many tops with this kind of wrap style, and what I noticed is that the fabric can be a little overwhelming on my body shape. A simple belt let me break up the print and add more shape.raIMG_0399

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The skirt fit perfectly and did not cling to my stomach like some pencil skirts are prone to do. It ended up being my favorite piece. I have it pulled up to my high waist, so I could lower it any time for a different style.

What do you think of this look? Check out Igigi’s Urban Jungle collection and let me know your favorite pieces.

Review: Igigi’s Bohemian Rhapsody Collection

Last weekend my sisters and my soon-to-be sister headed up the mountains in North Carolina for a day-long getaway. It was one of those rare, perfect summer days where it was warm but not humid, and we spent it visiting the little town where I went to college and driving briefly along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I wore Igigi‘s Kaia Halter maxi dress in Cobalt Cachemire, which was perfectly light and airy. I had already worn this dress to work earlier in the week with a jean jacket and received 2 compliments from strangers I passed, and I received another while walking around Boone. It’s definitely an eye-catching dress, and I always think a dress is pretty special when even strangers will stop you to tell you how much they like it.

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The dress has a waist band with some elastic within the fabric. The teal accents actually do not gather the waist band tighter, so they are there only for the look of the design. I love how the top can be worn without being tied/bowed.

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As you’ll notice in the pictures above and below, the hem of the dress is intentionally uneven. The dress is cut in curves, and I’ve had a few maxis with slits, but not one like this. It took a day of wearing it to get used to the feeling of the hem against my legs. When you walk, the dress moves and flows around you. It’s quite pretty, and it made me think of a quote from Project Runway that I heard the other day: “My girl is into dramatic daywear” – this is definitely that!

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There are quite a few other looks from Igigi’s collection that I love, especially the Emma Maxi Shirt Dress and the Eden Pant – even better, their sizes range up to a 30/32. Check out their Bohemian Rhapsody lookbook here to see the designs. You can also check out my instagram for some pictures of me and my sisters.

What piece from the Bohemian Rhapsody collection is your favorite? 

*This dress was gifted to me for the purpose of a review. I have expressed my true opinions of and experience with the dress.

 

Review: Kiyonna’s Whimsy Wrap Dress

Guys….this dress. This dress! As soon as I put it on I felt like I had let out my alter ego, who is much more sassy and flirty than my usual self. I basically walked around looking like the heart-eyed emoji while wearing Kiyonna’s Whimsy Wrap Dress.

160x160x7-smiling-face-with-heart-shaped-eyes.png.pagespeed.ic.On6Pm-wTdvIt’s not often that I find a dress that fits my shape so well. I’m what most plus size companies would consider as “pear shaped”, but I tend to think of myself as slightly Yoshi-esque since my backside sits out like a shelf. The weight of the fabric, the location of the wrap, and the flirty hem all came together to make a wonderful fit for me.

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I paired the dress with Nine West Outlet gold jeweled sandals, this beautiful cuff bracelet from asos, and jade green earrings (seen in first image)

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Something that I love about being in Kiyonna’s Blogger Brigade is how much they really want the customer to see their designs on lots of different sizes, shapes, etc. You can see other women wearing this dress in the right hand set of images on the product’s page here.

What do you think of the look? How would you style this dress?

 

Review: Custom Styling with eShakti

About a month or so ago, eShakti approached me to see if I’d like to review one of their designs. After buying and loving one of their maxi dresses in the spring, I knew I wanted to try out another style and customize the look. eShakti is unique for their size range (0-36w!!!) and their ability to customize to specific measurements, heights, and styling choices. It takes a little longer than a typical store to receive an item (within 14 business days of the order), but you get the luxury of buying an item that will hopefully fit perfectly. eShakti always has a lot of designs to choose from, but I find myself always looking to their interesting prints, patterns, or cuts. Usually I find items that I can’t find in other plus size stores. Cue to the dress that I chose to review. This dress is made out of a woven fabric — something I typically have to avoid because of my hip measurements. Since I knew I could definitely get this in my size, I decided to take a risk.

 

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While I thought the original design was cute, I wanted to customize it to make it a great piece that I could wear to teach in or to almost any kind of event. I mad the sleeves elbow length, and I lengthened the dress to hit right below the knee. The length change was really helpful because any skirt that is fitted and shorter tends to slowly inch up when I wear it. This length makes it perfect for me to comfortably wear in professional and fun settings.

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I played around with a couple different belt widths, but I ultimately went with an Eloquii braided belt. I added complementary accessories and a knot ring to finish the look.

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When it comes to sizing, it can be hard to figure out which one to get. I tend to look at how the garment fits and where will it lay most close to my body. For example, in the maxi dress I bought, the skirt was obviously designed to be big and flowy, so I ordered the size based off of my top/bust size. For this dress, I knew my hips/bum area would be the one to consider, so I sized up to the appropriate sizing for that. Definitely use eShakti’s sizing guide to help you choose which one is right for you, or you can choose to completely customize it to your measurements.
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I’m really happy with this piece. It’s very unique compared to the other items in my closet, and I finally found a place where I can purchase clothing in non-stretchy fabrics :).

While this dress is no longer available, you can check out their other designs here. Because they have such a wide size range, once the fabric is gone it’s really gone. I recommend jumping on a design if you really love it because it might not be there for long.

You can also check them out on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Have you tried eShakti? What designs are your favorites? How did the sizes/custom styling work out for you?

 

Review: JDSports Trainers

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, then you probably are aware that I’m a flats girl. If I do wear heels, they are wedges and pretty plain, but lately I’ve been getting into tennis shoes/ sneakers/ trainers, so when JD Sports approached me to pick a pair and try them out, I knew I wanted something that was very new for my closet.

I tend to go with neutrals on my feet and comfort is the ultimate goal, so I kept the comfort idea but decided to bring in color and fun details that my typical shoes lack. After going back and forth over a couple different designs, I decided to go with a pair of converses.

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I went with the Dainty Ox Summer style which has a texture on the main part of the shoe and braided laces. These aren’t wide so I wondered how they would fit, but they are very comfy and have plenty of room.

When it came time to style them, I wanted to pick something that would let the shoes stand out. I’ve been loving seeing a lot of bloggers wear shorter dresses with sporty shoes, so I picked a simple cream dress to go with these.

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This dress hit me right above the knee, which is the perfect length for me as I really don’t like wearing any shorter. I prefer this dress free flowing, but you could always belt a similar style if you prefer that shape.

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ASOS Curve Dress (similar), JDSports.co.uk Converse Trainers, Forever21 floral studs

I think the dress and tennis shoes combo works really well if you know that you’re going to be walking around a lot or if sandals are not comfortable for you. Around where I live, this is probably a more unexpected combo to wear, so that can be fun too.

I’ll admit that tennis shoes for me used to be reserved to band camp and going to the gym, but it’s fun to see them incorporated into fashion. How do you incorporate them in your fashion outside of the gym? What styles of tennis shoes do you gravitate towards?