Friday, March 22, 2019

Stitch Fix #26 Review

Today's the day many of you have been waiting for:  I'm revealing what I items I kept in my March Stitch Fix box!  🤣 Yea, right, I am sure y'all had nothing else to do but hold your breath waiting in anxious expectation.  Although, quite a few did say you couldn't wait to find out, so drum roll please.......... I KEPT ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.  I know, surprise right?  I'm sure so many of you are wondering why I didn't keep the printed pants, but you'll find out in just a moment.  For now, let's take a look at the last item in the Fix that I have not shown you yet.  This pretty emerald green wrap top.

41 Hawthorn Aliska Front Wrap Knit Top

Status:  Returned

There were a few things I loved about this top, the number one reason is the color.  Stitch Fix keeps sending me items this color because I love it so much, but unfortunately the item doesn't work for me for another reason.  I also liked the wrap style and the unique neckline.

What I didn't like was that from the back it really clinged so you could see my love handles.  Yuck.  Who wants that?  Unless I always planned on wearing it with a cardigan or jacket,  I could never wear this top alone.  It also made me look very busty.  Of course, my husband loved that, and I'm sure there's lots of women out there who like to accentuate that feature, but I'm not one of them.  I'm actually very self conscious of my bust size and I  like to minimize it as much as possible.

The top also polled the lowest on Instagram coming in at only 15% keep and 85% return.  That was the absolute lowest score I've ever seen since I started these polls.  You gals really did not like this top, so I listened to you and sent it back.

Margaret M Sylvie Printed Straight Leg Pant

Status:  Returned!

Returning these pants was a hard one for me, for I really liked the print and the way they looked from the front.  They were so cute!  But my hubby thought they flattened my butt and looked old-lady style.  Which is really funny as I am 56 years old, so technically I am an old lady, but he prefers me to not dress my age.   However, when I saw the pictures, I agreed with him.  They did not do my backside any favors, and unless I was ALWAYS going to wear a long top that covered my butt,  they would never work.  So, I'm gonna be brave here and show you this picture, so you know what I am talking about and your not mad at me for sending these pants back.  I know so many of you thought they were super cute and trendy;  which they are.  Printed pants are very "in" this season, so I'm hoping that Stitch Fix will send me a pair that's just as flattering  of the back view as it is in the front.

On Instagram the pants were tied 50/50.  They were far more popular on my blog post than they were on Instagram.  Sometimes I think opinions can be swayed because the videos on Instagram are super short and I'm standing in front of a mirror.  Whereas when I do a blog post I'm posing to get the best pictures and angles, thus, I look better.  Anyone would.

Liverpool Kolten Denim Jacket

Status:  Returned

This jacket was the most popular item on Instagram polling at 67% Keep 33% Return.  I loved the jacket, it was a stretch denim and super comfortable.  But, I already own a white denim jacket, and a white leather jackets, and tons of white cardigans, so I really didn't need it.  I still almost kept it because my old white denim jacket is yellowing with age and it is not stretch denim so it's uncomfortable to wear, but with the $88.00 price tag, I just couldn't justify it.

Vince Camuto Palmyra Ruffle Detail Blouse

Status:  Returned

There were many things I liked about this top:  the blue and white floral, the sleeves, and the flow of it.  What I didn't like was that it was completely sheer and it was unlined nor did it come with a tank. So I had to use one of my own tanks, and even after heavily spraying my tank with Static Guard I could not stop this top from clinging to it.  It was very frustrating.  I also didn't think it flattered me much in the shoulder area, so back it went.

The top polled at 47% keep and 53% send back.

Daniel Rainn Maiella Off the Shoulder Knit Top

Status:  Returned

This was my favorite piece in this box, and I think it was my husband's favorite as well.  It was SO COMFORTABLE!  The knit was super soft, and I loved the way it hung on my body covering everything I like to hide and showing my better assets.  What I didn't like was the pattern.  Although some of my readers comments about the pattern made me rethink it and now I like the pattern.  But I also didn't want another off-the-shoulder top.  I already own three of them, two of the three I own I only wore once, so I really didn't need another one.  I've also read multiple times that off-the-shoulder tops are out of style (although I will be wearing mine this summer!) which really caused me to fear investing in another one.

My Instagram readers didn't care much for this top.  It came in at 38% keep and 62% return.  

In summary, even though I didn't keep anything from this box, I'm not upset.  Stitch Fix is expensive, and I kept three items in my last box, so I knew if I kept anything in my March box, it would have to pretty awesome.  

If you've never tried Stitch Fix before but would like to, use my REFERRAL CODE to receive $25.00 off your first box!

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Our Fall Vacation to South Dakota, Day 5: Crazy Horse Memorial

This is a continuation of a travel series to South Dakota.  To start at the beginning, go HERE.  The rest of the posts in chronological order are  HEREHEREHERE HERE,  HERE,  HERE,  HEREHEREHERE, HERE, and HERE!

On Day 5 after we spent six hours hiking to the top of Black Elk Peak and back we went back to our hotel to rest awhile, shower, change and get a nice dinner.  At night we went to see the Crazy Horse Memorial, which was located only a few miles from our hotel.

Now a lot of people told us not to waste our time here, but we went anyway because they had a special "Night Blast" (which is only done twice a year, and we just happened to be there that weekend), and a "Light Laser Show".  And you know what, I'm so happy we didn't listen to the naysayers because we not only had a wonderful time but we were so moved by the generosity of the Ziolkowski family and all they have done to memorialize Crazy Horse and the Lakota Tribe.

The Crazy Horse Memorial does not accept any government funding, all the work is done through private contributions and the funds raised at the memorial.  So it is worth going just to help financially support them alone.  Because it doesn't accept government funding, it is more costly than Mt. Rushmore.  They charge for how many people are in your car:  1 person is $12.00, 2 people is $24.00, 3 or more people is $30.00.  Admission covers parking, admission to the museums, and the viewing deck.  If you want to get closer to the sculpture you have to pay extra.  They have vans that will drive you up closer to the monument.  Those are $4.00 per person and they are only available late in the afternoon or on weekends when they are not working on the monument.  

You actually can see the Crazy Horse Memorial right from the highway and never pay to get inside.  However, I don't know if they'll let you pull over on the highway and take a few pictures, plus the admission cost is for charity, so why not go in and support this worthy cost?

The Memorial has a beautiful museum called "The Indian Museum Of North America".  It is home to large collection of art and artifacts of over 300 Native American tribes.  Unfortunately we didn't spend much time in the museum because we got there late and needed to save a seat for the Laser Light Show.  They have limited benches, so we grabbed a spot and my husband and I took turns looking around while the other saved our seats.

The compound also has a nice restaurant and a beautiful gift shop.

When you first enter the museum the employees direct you to a movie theater where you learn all about Crazy Horse and the history of the monument.  I was moved to tears multiple times hearing of the dedication and the sacrifices of the Ziolkowski family to create this monument to honor the Lakota Tribe.  Sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski arrived in the Black Hills in 1947 and worked on the monument until his death in 1982 at the age of 74.  He never took a paycheck for his work on the monument, and he had 10 children!  He said "By Carving Crazy Horse, if I can give back to the Indian some of his pride and create a means to keep alive his culture and heritage, my life will have been worthwhile."  How many people do you know would work so hard for no money and for such a reason;  especially if they had ten children!

If you don't pay the extra $4.00 dollars for the van ride, this is as close as you can get to the monument.  They do have viewing lenses you can look through too for a few quarters.

The monument memorializes the Native American Tasunke Witco.  He led a band of Lakota warriors against Custer's Seventh U.S. Cavalry Battalion in 1876.   This battle is known as "The Battle of Little Bighorn" or "Custer's Last Stand".   Without his successful leadership, the battle would have been much different.  Crazy Horse died in 1877 when he went to Ft. Robinson Nebraska under a flag of truce.  When he arrived some misunderstanding arose due to a bad translator and they started to arrest him.  When Crazy Horse realized he was being arrested,  he resisted,  and a soldier killed him with his bayonet.

In addition to the museum, you can also see a glimpse of the "Sculptor's Home and Studio" and visit the "Mountain Carving Gallery".  I thought this area was so fascinating.  There is a wall of pictures showing the entire process of carving the mountain until present and also a model depicting what it will eventually look like.

I love how they placed the model example right in front of the actual carving so you can back up and compare the two at the same time.  It really helped me to visualize what it will eventually become.

Here are some of the old pictures that were in this gallery.

We happened to be there when the Ziolkowski family was having a birthday party honoring their grandfather.  It was a private party so they closed the restaurant, but would you believe they invited EVERYONE in for a piece of birthday cake after the night blast?  I thought that was so sweet, and so typical of this family.  At first I thought there would never be enough cake for all the people that were there, but there was!  And it was so good too!

As we awaited night to fall and the Laser show to begin, we were blessed with Native American story tellers and dancers.

At night the monument is lit up.  It's so beautiful to see at night.  

Now, I don't have any pictures of the laser show or the night blasts as my camera would not work in such darkness, but you can see pictures HERE and I will tell you a bit about them.

The "Legends In Light Laser Show" is held every night from Memorial Day through September 29th.  The monument turns into a screen where lasers light up the night sky and shares the history and culture of Native Americans.  It's very beautiful and moving to watch.

The "Night Blasts" are only twice a year:  June 26th and September 6th.  This is pyrotechnic show and is so exciting to watch.  You must look at the pictures on their website.  The explosions start at the mountain base and travel all the way to the top of the monument.

There is so much more history to share of Crazy Horse and the origins of the memorial, but it's way too much for me to cover them here.  If you're interested in learning more,  it's all on the website linked above.

I do hope if you're ever in this area that you do not skip this memorial.  It was quite the emotional learning experience for us, and I also think it really rounded out our trip.  There is so much history in the area, especially of General Custer, it was nice to learn about the Native American history too.

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

How To Give Old Furniture A New Look With Chalk Style Paint

I do not like to paint furniture.  And frankly, I tend to not even like most painted furniture.  It drives me crazy when someone takes a beautiful antique and paints it.   But I had this old hutch in my dining room that's been bothering me for years.  I felt something had to be done about it.  It wasn't an antique.  It was a poorly made piece of junk I picked up at Goodwill for $10.00.  It's only redeeming value was that it had curved glass.

                          BEFORE                            AFTER

I wanted to paint this piece of furniture for two reasons:  1) It was already painted a high gloss dark brown and I didn't like the way it looked, and 2) Every piece of furniture in this room was also brown and I really wanted at least one piece of furniture in the room that was not brown.  I did not want to paint the table and chairs (way too much work), the other china hutch is an antique in perfect condition, that leaves the piano and the grandfather clock, neither of which I would ever be stupid enough to paint.

I've seen a lot of successful before and after furniture make overs using chalk paint, so that's what I decided to try.  Following the instructions, I first sanded my hutch so the paint would adhere better.  I used an electric sander but I made the mistake of having the wrong sandpaper loaded and I gouged the wood.  It didn't really matter, as paint covers a multitude of sins and I was going for the distressed look anyway, but as a caution to my readers:  use fine sanding paper!

I sanded outside on my back porch so I wouldn't get the dust inside my house.  It was a warm winter day (for us Wisconites anyway!).

Next, I put on one coat of primer followed by two coats of chalk style paint.  The instructions said only one was necessary but I could still see brush strokes after only one coat, so I added a second coat.  However, I should have only used one because it shows the distressing better. You want to see a little bit of the color underneath.  I ended up covering all the old color with chalk style paint.  They do sell decorative glazes to go with their chalk style paint.  If I had to do it all over again, I'd use the "Smoked Glaze" Topcoat, to add a little more interest to the piece.

The next day, after the paint was completely dry, I used FINE sanding paper (see, I learn my lessons) and I sanded the edges, hinges, and handle.  My husband thought I should have distressed it a bit more, but it's a very elegant room that the hutch is in, so I didn't want to overdue it.  Just like my jeans, I like them slightly distressed, not with huge gaping holes and rips.  😊

When I was done sanding, I vacuumed up all the chalk dust then I wiped it clean with a damp cloth and let it dry.  The last step was to add two coats of top coat, which is basically a matte wax to protect the chalk style paint.

The inside of the hutch was already painted white so I didn't have to do anything with that.  I loaded the hutch with my vintage peach lustre ware as I thought it would be so pretty for spring.

Since the walls are ultra white, I painted the hutch "Aged Grey" so it would stand out from the wall a little.  It turned out a little lighter than the paint card.  I wish I would have chosen "Country Grey", as it's a little bit darker.  However, I LOVE the way it turned out.  I love that I finally have one piece of furniture in this room that isn't brown.  And, I think the chalk style paint really suits this piece of furniture much better than the high gloss paint job it previously had.  Now I'm tempted to tackle my table (at least the top as it's all scratched up anyway).  What do you think?

In the picture below you can get a better idea of the distressing.  It was super easy to distress as it's "Chalk" paint.  When I was done sanding, the table top and my hands were covered in chalk dust.  It reminded me of my childhood school days when I had to clean the erasers (yes, I'm that old!).

There are many varieties of chalk style paint on the market.  I used the Rust-Oleum brand.  I bought a quart, which was way too much.  I think I only used 1/8 of what was in the can.  These are the two products I used:

I am absolutely thrilled with my "new" piece of furniture that only cost me $20.00 to update.  I already had a brush, sanding paper, and primer so I did not count that in the refinishing cost.

So what about you?  Do you like chalk painted furniture?  Have you ever painted furniture before?  I'd love to hear from you!

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Monday, March 18, 2019

An Off The Shoulder Top From Stitch Fix

I have read so many blog posts from bloggers who attended New York fashion week and came back saying  that "Off The Shoulder" styles are out.  Yet, I still see them in stores and Stitch Fix just sent me this top.  I think often when Pantone comes out with a new "Color of the Year" or something premiere's at a fashion show, it isn't until a full year later (or longer in my neck of the woods) that you see it in stores.  So I'm guessing we still have one more year to enjoy our off-the-shoulder styles ladies!  And that's good news, as I only wore once a couple of mine that I purchased last year .

There were many things I liked about this top, first, I thought it was super flattering.  It had a nice length, and it covered everything I generally like to hide.  I also liked how comfortable it was.  It is made of a super soft knit and it felt so good against my skin.

I also really liked these fun tie sleeves.  Anything with little ties is super trendy right now:  shirts that tie at the waist, neckties (like little kerchiefs), and sleeve ties are everywhere this spring.

Because the print is so busy, I just wore a silver bracelet for jewelry.

Now I know many of you are always curious as to what hubby thinks of my pieces from Stitch Fix.  He really liked this top, but he said "I like anything that shows your skin".  Ha- ha!  Typical husband response.

I liked the top, but I wasn't thrilled with the pattern and I was also concerned how much wear I would get out of it knowing that off-the-shoulder tops are on their way out.  I also already own three off-the-shoulders tops.  But, you will have to wait until Friday to find out if I kept this top or returned it.  I know, I'm so bad!

On Friday I will show you the last piece I received in this box from Stitch Fix and then I will review the entire Fix letting you know what I kept and what I sent back.  Plus, I'll have the results of my Instagram poll.

If you'd like to try Stitch Fix, use my REFERRAL CODE to receive $25.00 off your very first box!

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Blue & White Florals For Spring

I am back with my third piece from my March Stitch Fix box:  this pretty blue and white floral top.  On Monday I shared a pair of printed pants and a white denim jacket that I got in that box.   I was really happy to see all spring items in my latest Fix as I am so over winter (although you wouldn't know it by all the snow we still have! ).

The top is by Vince Camuto.  It is sheer and it did not come with a lining or a shell to go with it, which was a negative for me.  I wore one of my own tanks underneath, but even after spraying my tank heavily with Static Cling, I still had major issues with the top clinging to my tank.

I styled the top with white jeans and white sandals to complete my spring look.  I can't wait till I can wear this stuff for real.  It's starting to warm up, but with all the snow and rain it's a real mess out there!

The sleeves have a pretty ruffle detail.

The flowers are a petite white.  There's also a row of tiny white buttons up the neckline.  I skipped a necklace since there was already so much going on in this top and opted for a silver bracelet and rings instead.

My white sandals were purchased last year.  Forgive the unpainted toes, I do not paint my toe nails until it's officially open-toe shoe season. 

Overall, I thought it was pretty top but I didn't think it was that flattering on me.  I was also bothered by the static cling and the fact that the top was not lined.

On Monday I will show you one more piece I received from this Fix and then on Friday I'll review the entire box and let you know the results of my Instagram Poll.  I'll also tell you what I kept and what I sent back.  You will be very surprised!

If You'd like to try Stitch Fix, use my Referral Code to receive $25.00 off your very first box.

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Our Fall Vacation To South Dakota, Day 5: Custer State Park, Black Elk Peak Trail

This is a continuation of a travel series to South Dakota.  To start at the beginning, go HERE.  The rest of the posts in chronological order are  HEREHEREHERE HERE,  HERE,  HERE,  HEREHERE, HERE, and HERE!

Day five of our trip to South Dakota was one of the most exhilarating and rewarding days of the entire vacation, for it was the day we climbed Black Elk Peak Trail (formerly known as Harney Peak Trail).

The Black Elk Peak Trail would probably rank in the top three of the most difficult hikes I've ever done.  The other two difficult trails I've hiked were the Delicate Arch Trail  where we hiked it in the middle of the day and got the worst sunburn of our lives, and a trail in Rocky Mountain National Park  where we had to turn back because we got caught in a snowstorm in May.

The Black Elk Peak Trail is a challenge because it gains 1,110 feet in elevation in 3.5 miles (one way).  You have to be in good  cardiovascular shape to conquer this trail as you will be climbing up, up, and up!  I can't tell even begin to tell you how many people I saw on this trail struggling (many a lot younger than me!)  But it is worth every step because the views from the top are AMAZING!

There are other places you can catch the trail to make it a bit shorter and easier, but we started from the very beginning, the Sylvan Lake parking lot where we picked up Trail 4.  From this spot, it takes between 4 to 8 hours to get to the top of the summit and back.  It took us 6 hours, but we took a couple of detours (smaller trails that break off the main Black Elk Peak Trail) and we spent a lot of time at the summit enjoying the views and feeding the chipmunks.  Even though you're not suppose to feed animals in the park, be sure to bring natural, unsalted nuts for these cuties because they are so tame and come right up to you for foods.  I loved it!

It is recommended that you start this trail bright and early in the morning as it is an all-day hike.  I can't even begin to tell you how many people we ran into around 2:00 pm just starting the climb and asking us "Are we almost there?" when they had miles to go.  My husband and I would look at each other and say "They're never going to make it."  Also, there are no bathrooms on this trail.  Why, I have no idea.  It's kinda hard to go all day without using the restroom, then again, when you're sweating all day, you don't really need to use the restroom.  Be sure to bring PLENTY of water.  You will need it!   And bring food too, not just for chipmunks, but for you.  Even if you're not hungry, you will need to consume it for energy.  Energy bars, trail mix, are perfect!

We started the trail in the crisp coolness of the morning.  It was so peaceful when we started,  we seemed like the only ones out there.  We ran into one single father with three little kids who really seemed to be struggling.  We thought the guy was nuts for bringing little kids on a trail like this.  One of them kept crying to be carried.  He had no stroller or backpack of any kind.  We think he eventually turned back for we never saw him again.  After that, we didn't see people till we hit the Cathedral Spires and then the trail got busy.

The trail covers a huge mix of landscape.  You will walk through gorgeous grasslands, see amazing boulders and unusual rock formations, and of course stunning mountain vistas.

From Trail #4 there are two trail head spurs (or detours I like to call them) that you can take to see other neat natural landscapes.  One is Little Devil's Tower and the other is the Cathedral Spires.  After seeing the Cathedral Spires from my car on our scenic drive of Needles Highway, I was excited to see them up close, so we took this little detour.

Even though it took us a little out of the way, I was glad we took this detour for we were able to get some great pictures that we couldn't take from our car.  It was also surreal to see these "needles" so close and get a better idea of how huge they are.

When we got back on the main trail to the summit, the climbing really intensified but so did the views.  I constantly wanted to stop and just soak in the view!  But that's one of the advantages of starting the hike early in the morning, you can take your time!

If hiking it all in one day seems too much for you, or perhaps you want more time to explore some of the other trails nearby without having to hike half way up again, feel free to spend the night!  Camping is permitted anywhere along the trail as long as it one fourth mile away from the summit.  Here we found some one's old campsite, and thought it was the perfect spot to rest and enjoy some lunch.  

As  I said earlier, the higher you climb, the better the views.  They provide great motivation to keep going!  

You know you're almost there when you see this sign.  Here you have to fill out a form and put it in a box so they know who is in the area in case they have to come looking for ya!  That was a bit alarming to me.  I never had to fill out a form when hiking a trail before.

By the time this picture was taken, I was pretty hot and exhausted.  Every time I thought we were almost there, we weren't.  I didn't think we'd ever reach the summit.  Hikers coming back down were always encouraging the hikers going up, telling them to keep pushing forward, it's not much further.  

But eventually we saw it, the Harney Peak Tower!  We knew we made it to the summit!  I couldn't remember the last time I was so proud of myself!

The tower was an architectural marvel.  "How in the world did anyone build this thing on the top of this mountain in the middle of nowhere?" I wondered.

Can you just imagine putting these stone steps in?  All the stone had to be hauled up over three miles in two wheel carts by horses and mules.

I felt I discovered a castle in a foreign land and I was no longer in Custer State Park anymore.

I could tell you more about this tower, or you could just read the plaque below (ha ha!).

You can go inside the tower to get even higher views than the ones outside the tower.  I let my husband do that, as I waved to him from the deck below.  I had climbed high enough for one day.

If you're afraid of heights, you may not want to take this trail.  I am always nervous about heights, but I managed to control my fears.  It's also very windy up there, at times I felt the gusts of wind were going to blow me over the edge.

They say that on a clear day you can see four states:  South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska.  Of course, I had no idea what land was what state, but I did think it all was breath-taking beautiful.

There is a little water hole up here.  My husband went down to investigate, but the steps made me nervous so I hung back and fed the chipmunks.

The tower served as a fire lookout until 1967.

This is a view of the water hole as seen from the tower.

And here is one of my little buddies munching on a raw almond I shared with him.

The Lakota still come up here for religious ceremonies and leave colorful prayer cloths and other offerings.  Visitors are asked to not disturb them.

I wish I could say going down was easier and quicker than going up, but it was not.  It seemed we climbed a lot going back down too (don't know how that's possible 😊), or perhaps I was just tired and really had to pee.  Now it was our job to encourage the hikers as they attempted the climb.  By now I was ready to do just that.  I kept telling them "You can do it!"  "It's so worth it!"  "Don't give up!  You're almost there!"  for that's exactly how I felt when I finally reached the top.

The tower had a mix of stone and metal staircases which I thought was so interesting.  I love how they aided the visitor to the top of the rock yet blended in with the natural surroundings as much as possible.

When I finally reached the parking lot,  I was exhausted but I felt pretty good about myself.  I wanted a tee shirt that said "I climbed Black Elk Peak" so we stopped at the Sylvan Lake Gift Shop.  They had some tee shirts referring to the trail that said:   "Hiked it and liked it", but those whimsical ones did not reflect what I was feeling:  a great sense of accomplishment;  so I didn't buy one.

After hiking this trail, we were spent, so we left Custer State Park and went back to our hotel to shower and rest.  Then we went out to eat and ordered the largest pizza we could find and ate the entire thing!  We were hungry!

If you are in good physical shape, I highly recommend hiking this trail.  I didn't see any young children other than the ones I mentioned earlier in this post, but I did see a lot of older people.  They were slower, and took longer, and stopped and rested a lot, but they did it!  It is possible.  If you're worried at all, just start super early in the morning and bring plenty of food and water and you'll be fine.  Also, bring sun protection, and wear lots of layers.  Sometimes you'll get really hot and need to remove clothing, and other times you might get cold. It is quite a bit cooler at the summit, but I found the cool air refreshing after the difficult climb.  I don't recommend a hat as the top of the mountain is super windy and I saw lots of hats flying in the air.  I wore a headband to cover my ears, my husband had a hat with a string around his neck.

Have A Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!