Monday, May 16, 2011

Under the {fashion} influence: Alexa Chung

Here in the south we have a time of year called “Blackberry Winter.” Usually around early to mid-May, after you have purged all coats and long sleeves and boots from your closet (because it’s been in the high 70s since mid-April), the temperature will unexpectedly drop to somewhere around the 50s for a few days. I say “unexpectedly” because for some reason, I am caught off guard by this every year. Yes, you’d think by now I’d know it was coming, but sometimes you think the cold snap has already came through, only to be tricked by Mother Nature once again.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, Blackberry Winter decided to appear, leaving me running to my spare closet in a desperate search for something warm and easily accessible. Luckily I was able to spot this new/old dress front and center, which I bought earlier this spring while thrifting because it reminded me of something Alexa Chung would wear. It was freshly dry cleaned and ready for me to rock it for the first time. I chose to style it with black heels and white tights this go around, but I can’t wait to try different shoes and accessories and tights later in the year when the weather changes again.

photos: Laura Menconi

ps. Blackberry Winter came back again this past weekend, so tricky that Alabama weather is!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Plated: Lilly Pulitzer

Above images taken from

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but my sister-in-law is pregnant with her second child. Not only am I stoked to have another little "youngun" around in the family, but this time she’s having a...GIRL! I love my nephew like no other, but I am thrilled to be able to start buying adorable little girl clothes in pinks and purples and yellows.

Anyways, her due date of late August will be here before you know it, so my mom and I are throwing her a little shower next month. This means I am in charge of invitations of course. My mom wanted to use pinks and greens since that is what the nursery will be decorated in, which to me, is synonymous with Lilly Pulitzer (I mean, you’ve got to hand it to them that they are branded well). I never thought I was a fan of Lilly Pulitzer but as I was clicking around their site, gathering inspiration for a stationery design, I decided that she has some pretty amazing 60s Jacqueline Kennedy style dresses that I do in fact dig....even if the price tag is entirely too far out of my range.

So taking these pretty little items, here’s what I created for my sister-in-law’s upcoming baby shower. (Names and addresses have been changed to protect the innocent, of course).

I toned down the pinks and greens just a little to make it softer for a baby girl and also to keep things more traditional for a southern style shower. What do you think?!

What's in my piggy bank for May?

1. Urban Outfitters BDG Twill Ankle Cigarette Pant in Coral ($49.00). It’s all about neons and neutrals right now. I’d pair these fun pants with the adjacent gray tank top from Target.

2. Mossimo® Women’s Shirttail Pocket Tank in Heather Gray ($14.99). The perfect slouchy, yet cute and casual tank top. Very Jennifer Anniston, don’t ya think?!

3. Old Navy Women’s Ruffled Bandeau Swim Top in New Zealand ($19.50) and Women’s Eyelet-Trim Swim Bottoms in Navy ($14.50). Like most girls, I hate swimsuit shopping, but I do try to buy a new one every summer. It never fails that I always buy either a green or navy one, so I figure why not put the two colors together this year?

4. Urban Outfitters Starlight Sunglasses in Black ($14.00). Nothing says old Hollywood glamour like a pair of dark cat eye sunglasses. Perfect for pool side lounging.

5. GAP Men’s Two Pocket Chambray Shirt ($24.99). No, I haven’t lost my mind picking a long sleeve button down for May. I’m thinking this would be a hip swimsuit coverup. (side note: You could probably find an even cheaper version of this at your local thrift store.)

6. Faded Glory Women’s April Gladiator Sandals ($10.00). Obviously I’m looking forward to keeping it casual this summer and I think these flats will help do the trick...and cheaply!

7. Charlotte Russe Bird, Bow and Blossom Earring Set ($4.00). Another way to stay low key for summer is with minimal accessories. This set of six earrings will be a sweet, simple summer jewelry staple.

8. Single Shoulder Cotton Style Dress in Black ($8.10). Honestly I only just found this website and can’t vouch for the quality of purchases from it, but I do think this is a fab on trend dress that would be perfect for upcoming graduation events. I might just have to do my “research” and purchase a dress (or two?) from this site.

9. Forever 21 Heart Shaped Evening Handbag ($20.80). This isn’t usually my “style,” but I am crushing on this fun bling-tastic gold sequined evening bag from Forever 21 for some reason. I think it’s because it reminds me of Carrie Bradshaw.

10. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipstick in Siren ($7.99). The perfect shade of bright orange to add a pop of color to a neutral outfit.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A cheapskate goes to...Africa!

Photo taken from

Yes! You read that correctly. I will soon be traveling across the world to Africa, more specifically Uganda. Me. A cheapskate who has never traveled overseas. Bananas. Hope you have your coffee handy because this post is going to be a long one!

It all began earlier in the year when my friend Lauren emailed a group of us asking if anyone would be interested in serving somewhere in Africa because she had been longing to go back since she traveled there the first time. Her original plan was to stay a couple of months. Well, I'm not a teacher, so summer vacation doesn't exist for me anymore, so I thought nothing more of the opportunity, said thanks but I couldn't possibly go. Then the plan was altered to going for a couple of weeks instead of months and all of a sudden I was interested. Lauren and I had coffee to discuss the trip seeing as I have never traveled anywhere further than the Bahamas...on a cruise. I had many questions and was nervous about the travel and the money (of course) and also what we'd be doing.

See, there's a small group of us who are part of a larger group who are going to serve orphans in Uganda with an organization called Visiting Orphans. I have never participated in a mission trip either, so clearly this is a BIG trip for me. I absolutely love that my first stamp in my passport will be Africa AND that it's there because I am going to help others who are in need, particularly children without parents. I have been so blessed in the family department with two awesome parents who have done whatever they could for me, and also with a great brother, sister-in-law and nephew, that I am so happy to go and serve and bring that family joy I have experienced to children in need. And something tells me they will in turn give me joy and love as well. You can learn more about the trip I am taking to Uganda on July 22, 2011 here. Overall, we will be working with children at Return MinistriesMy Father's HouseAmazima MinistriesCanaan's Children's Home and SixtyFeet. I have no idea what I will see or experience, but I can tell you that I am so excited to go and will hopefully hit the ground running with open arms as soon as we arrive in Uganda.

As you can expect from anyone going on a trip like this, I have a few requests for friends, family and my blog readers. Basically, I need help!

There are five major ways you can offer your assistance:

1. Money. Of course I have waited until the last minute and I have less than two weeks to raise $2K towards my trip. But I have decided that nothing is too big for God. So if I'm supposed to raise $2K in two weeks, then it will happen! If not, I have money in savings and He will just provide for me (as He always does) later down the road. So if you are able to donate just even a few dollars, I would be so grateful. Because a little truly does go a LONG way! Especially in Africa, according to our trip leaders.

Here's how you can donate money. Just go here, type in how much you are able to donate, click on on the July 22 - Aug. 2nd Uganda trip from the drop down box, continue to fill out the remaining fields with your payment information, then click continue at the bottom of the page. Somewhere on the following page there should be a field to enter "Christen Lewis" as to the person you are donating the money to. It's pretty simple really! You should receive an email with a letter for tax purposes, but if you don't, please let me know and I will be sure to take care of that for you.

2. Buy a magnet. My sweet friend Ashley at Magpie Magnets has created a magnet called "One Love" specifically for my trip to Uganda. She is donating ALL the proceeds from the sell of these magnets to my trip! Just another illustration of how a little goes a long way. Plus, wouldn't it be a great reminder to have that image on your fridge to remind you to pray for that country and those orphans every day?

3. Buy stationery. From now until the end of July, everything I sell from my personal stationery collection will go towards my trip. I had hoped to already have some Africa-themed stationery designed, but life has been a little too hectic lately. Hopefully I will have some new designs uploaded soon though.

4. Items for donations. If you are in the Birmingham or nearby area, I will also accept donations of items that are needed at these orphanages. Just let me know when and where to pick them up and I will do that for you sometime before July 22nd! Here's just a quick list of items I know have been specifically requested:
• granola bars
• hair elastics
• good coffee
• peanut butter
• crayons and coloring books
• school supplies of ALL kind (pens, notebooks, pencils, chalk, whiteboard markers, rulers, maps)
• sports items
• first aid/medicines (particularly baby medications)
• children's clothing and shoes

The list could honestly go on and on, but I thought I'd just put the smaller items I felt I could fit easily into my luggage. (btw, doesn't it just make you want to cry when you see this list and all these things that are so trivial that we take for granted all the time?!)

5. PRAYER. I possibly should have put this item first. Prayer is always welcome, always helpful and it's free! Please pray for our group's safety and health. Pray that we are what the children need and can tend to them in the way they need to be cared for and tended to. Pray that we are able to bring them more than what we or they expect us to bring—whether that is the physical or intangible items. Pray for those who are serving these children on a daily basis, those who have dedicated their life to caring for them every day because no one else can or will. Most of all just pray that God's will be done on this trip. I think that should cover everything if that's your prayer!

Ok, I think that is actually everything! Sorry for the long post. And if you have any questions or wishes or problems with donating, anything at all, please feel free to e-mail me at fashionplatecheapskate{at} And of course, expect an AMAZING update post after my return from Uganda in August. And for those of you who are able to fund a part of my trip, I would love to hopefully come back with a little something special for you :)

Monday, May 9, 2011

It's a week of BIG news

Saluting PF goodbye. It's been a good ride! 

So apparently a lot of BIG things are happening in my life right now.

It looks as though 2011 is going to be a year that I look back on and see that it was a year of change. I hope I will always remember this as a year where God was very busy at work in my life.

Today's announcement is....I HAVE A NEW JOB! Whew, it feels pretty good to be able to finally say it out loud to everyone. After seven long years (including my internship) with my work family at The Progressive Farmer magazine, I am finally moving on. I can't imagine a better place to have had my first job. I have learned so very many things while here and had many wonderful experiences and formed some of the greatest relationships with coworkers. However, sometimes it just gets to a point where it's time to make a move, experience change and be challenged again. So that's what I'm doing! You're looking at the new Director of Marketing and Research for a local commercial real estate company, Southpace Properties.

It's going to be a little scary venturing into a new unknown world, but it's also very exciting and I look so forward to this challenge. It also doesn't hurt that my third day on the job will be spent working at a convention in Las Vegas! Now I just have to figure out what to wear! It's too bad I can't take my photographer Laura with me...something tells me we could get some good photo opps in Vegas :)

That's all for now. But as I mentioned, there is more news to come tomorrow, so please stay tuned! I can't possibly spill everything in one day, can I?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Congrats to our April winners!

First I want to thank everyone who stopped by to enter my April Bloggiveaway! I'm so thankful to have readers who routinely drop by my blog, so I always want to try to show my appreciation with a giveaway whenever I can. I'm even more grateful to have had two awesome giveaway sponsors for April's giveaway: Spruce Boutique and Magpie Magnets...thanks ladies! Now, let's get on to the winners, shall we?

In order to choose the winners, I used and started with the third prize first. So the winner of a set of stationery from Fashionplate Press was comment #6, which is Lauren!

Next up was the winner of any item from Magpie Magnets, which was comment #54 that belonged to Rory! She decided on the Vintage Letter Magnets - great choice Rory!

And finally, the grand prize winner of a $30 gift certificate to Spruce Boutique was comment #38, Mitchie! She's still trying to decide on which items she wants to spend her $30 on.

Congrats girls! I hope you all enjoy your prizes. And if you didn't win this time, maybe better luck at my next giveaway! Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Under the {fashion} influence: Leighton Meester

I think I have mentioned before that I have a notebook at home full of Lucky magazine cut outs and WWWD email print outs that I like to use as a lookbook. Not to be confused with my digital Lookbook account, of course. Instead this notebook is handier to me because I can pick it up and quickly flip through to my sections I have labeled according to season and occasion (dork, I know). I had to wean myself off of this lookbook because after I first completed it several months ago, I noticed I was picking it up every morning before work. This felt like cheating to me because I was no longer creating new outfits on my own. This lookbook was supposed to be for emergencies only—basically those mornings when I was really having a hard time putting an outfit together and was running late to work. It was supposed to be a privilege, not to be "abused" like I had been doing.

Anyway, I recently found myself in this exact predicament late last week when I need to something to go from "work to play" again, but I was running out of time to try on different ideas. So I snatched up my lookbook, found the above image of Leighton that I hadn't yet tried to recreate. I thought it would be a fun outfit that would transition perfectly from work to a girls night out at an Alabama Symphony Orchestra event with Time for Three (Which was incredible, btw. TF3 played Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and also Imogen Heap's "Hide and Seek" with the orchestra. AH-mazing). Turns out this image of Leighton was from a WWWD October 2009 e-newsletter, but hopefully something within two years is still in style...right?

Here's the cheapskate version outfit breakdown:

1. Dress, Anthropologie ($39.99)
2. Sweater vest, Forever21 ($5.99)
3. Skinny belt, Charlotte Russe ($3.33)
4. Knee socks, Century21 (?? - old)
5. Heels, Nine West Outlet ($29.99)
6. Doctor's bag, ATL Market ($30.00)
7. Owl ring, ATL Market ($2.50)
8. Gold "snake" earrings ATL Market ($2.00)
9. Gold cuff bracelet (gifted)
10. Gold bangles (gifted)

ps. I am by no means trying to compare myself with Leighton Meester, other than the fact that I tried to create a similar look. Let there be no misunderstanding that I think I look like her. ha!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Swept away

Today's post has a dual meaning. It's both sad and happy and revolves around how I spent my Saturday.

The first meaning of course is in relation to the tornadoes that "swept away" much of Alabama last Wednesday. I received a phone call from my good friend Jessica on Friday asking if I had plans for Saturday yet. I told her I was trying to figure out how I was going to help the tornado victims, to which she responded that I could go with her and a few other people that go to church with my parents to the small community of Shoal Creek to help clean up some damage. I said, "Done. Where should I be and when?" So early Saturday morning I set out to meet them with my car loaded up with as much supplies and tools that I could manage. We finally made it to our destination and rode down a tree strewn road looking for homes that needed the most help. We happened to stop at the Sanders' residence and I can't imagine a better place where we could've stopped.

I don't want to give out too much information about the Sanders' family since I didn't ask permission to share their story on my blog, but I will say to please keep them in your prayers. They have truly experienced loss. I feel very thankful that we were able to help out what little we could. I mean, we did a lot, but how much is ever enough? We were able to recover some personal belongings and photos and cards that surely had special meaning to them. We went through most everything and was able to help make several piles of things to keep, throw away or burn. We stopped to take a break around lunch and as I looked up I realized that the number of people now on their property helping out had at least tripled in size in the past couple of hours. I also happened to meet the "grandad" Sanders who survived the storm (somehow?) though his home didn't and he was the sweetest, most appreciative man. I still regret not standing up to hug him as he came over to shake our hands but I was truly in shock that I was meeting someone whose home was on that property.

Anyway, here are just a few pics of the destruction to help put it all in perspective. And if you are in the Birmingham area and want to volunteer, here's a great resource on how you can serve. You can also help the Tuscaloosa tornado victims by purchasing a car decal from my friend Taylor who owns Spruce Boutique. The decals are only $3, and $2 goes directly to the Tuscaloosa tornado relief efforts. For more information/to order, you can send her a message here.

Here is the first Sanders house we passed as we walked down the driveway.

Here's some debris as we kept walking down the driveway.

And here's "what's left" of the second Sanders' home. 

A big mess.

Here was their foundation.

And then I turned directly around and took this pic of the floor.

It's hard to tell, but this tree and its root was huge. Trust me. 

On a much happier note, I ended my day with an impromptu Avett Brothers concert with a spectacular view from the 3rd row! My friend and former guitar teacher Tim had been with us helping clear debris on Saturday and we were talking about the Avett show that night at Samford that I was going to miss. Lucky for me he came through (big time!) with a last minute offering of a free ticket to the show so I got ready in 10 minutes flat (no kidding!). It turns out that the reason the ticket was available was because its original owner lived in Cullman and were still dealing with the tornado destruction there and couldn't make it to the show, so of course I couldn't accept the ticket for free...even I'm not that much of a cheapskate! So I insisted on writing a check for the ticket amount and the show itself was worth every penny anyway! One reason was because I saw/heard them play "Swept Away" live for the first time ever. Such an appropriate title. Love those Avetts.

Here are some pics I attempted from my terrible phone. Wish I had known cameras were allowed! I could've got some great shots. Oh well, next time. (yeah right, when am I ever going to be 3rd row at an Avett show again?!)

Ok, I promise to get back to my "typical" blog editorial tomorrow, but I had to make one more tornado post since it's all we can think about here in Alabama right now.