Here's Why You're Not Happy

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I try to keep my fingers on the pulse of all that's going on in the world so I can keep you guys informed. But here lately it's been pretty damned exhausting. Why? Our reader millions of readers may ask. 

We live near Dallas, so it's a full time job just keeping Ebola from swallowing us whole, or talking to a reporter from CNN. 

You ever try and outrun Anderson Cooper? 

That sumbitch is fast. And his hair is always perfect.

I sat down at my state-of-the-art computer in my tastefully decorated office and pondered how to be happy.

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For the longest time, I thought all we had to fear were Iranian NUKES and our neighborhood CHUPACABRA (we call him Chuck, but he'll chew through cast iron when he hears any human sound). I'm coming clean with this admission: I WAS SO NOT RIGHT (I'm still having a hard time saying I was wrong). There's plenty to keep you awake at night, even if I was way off on my short list of dangerous things. 

So...as a public service, I'll give you 5 reasons to feel happy right now.

5 Reasons to be Happy

See this sign outside your bedroom window? Stay in bed...

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1. You're Not Here

Chances are you didn't roll over this morning and see this sign out your window. CONGRATULATIONS! It's going to be a great day!

 


What's worse than a four-year-old throwing a tantrum? 

We don't need no stinkin' badges...but we could use a leash.

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2. These Are NOT Your Neighbors

I did have neighbors like this in college (yes, that was young me in the Edgewood Mobile Home Park) but the carnival left town and the carnies went with it. My neighbors today don't even have an oil well.

Gimme the Fruit Loops and nobody gets hurt.

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3. Children Can't Get a Concealed Handgun License

What's worse than a four-year-old throwing a tantrum? A four-year-old throwing a tantrum with fully loaded 9mm! If that doesn't make you happy, then you're just not trying.

4. Better Call Saul Will Air in February

Admit it, you've been a little down since Breaking Bad ended. Cheer Up! AMC's coming back with the Breaking Bad spin off - Better Call Saul in February. And you know what else? Junior Brown sings the title track.

It's really hopeless...give up now and avoid the rush.

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5. Every Week Ends Like This

Try as hard as you can and every week will still have a WTF in it. So roll with it and realize the odds are stacked against you. Just be thankful you didn't wake up in hell. Or Pisa.

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Out of the Closet: 13 Essentials for Fall and Beyond

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Looks can be deceiving. Take my closet. It may look full. But, as I keep telling Bob, there are only a few things I actually wear. The rest just take up space. They're out of date, don't fit right or just don't go with anything. Uggg! I obviously have separation issues or they would've found a new home long ago.

Sound familiar? If so, it's time to say adieu to mere space eaters. And make room for wardrobe-building essentials like these that you'll want to put on again and again. Perfect for fall and beyond, they're chic, pretty and easy to wear in addition to being practical.

Before we get started, I'd like to shout out a big "Thank You" to the brands in this post for providing free samples for review and testing and to Bob for being my ever-patient photographer.

The High Road

Sassy straps with gold-plated buckles. Rich leather that hits just below the knee. One-inch heels made for walking. Naturalizer's new, investment-worthy Johanna riding boots scream gorgeous in every detail.

I'm wild about Naturalizer's Johanna riding boots in cognac-colored Banana Bread but they also come in black and light, caramel Camelot.

Boots - 455.jpgA side zipper guarantees they're simple to get on and off. A cushy insole keeps them oh-so comfortable whether you're standing or strolling. Plus, they actually fit my size 5 1/2 feet and bird-like legs (you'd never believe what a struggle that can be ... unless you've been there), leaving only a small gap between the shaft and my calves.

That means I'll be living in these round-toed classics from now till spring for years to come.($199 in whole and half sizes 4 -11 and standard or wide shaft at Naturalizer.com where shipping is free on orders over $200)

These gorgeous riding boots go with skirts, shirt dresses, leggings, skinny jeans and much much more. 

Vest and Jeans 425.jpgGold Standards

Gold is my main metal year round. Besides imparting some glam, pretty golden pieces like these newbies from Stella & Dot brighten your mood. Great for anyone who needs options, these 3 gems give you 11 different looks. Amazing!

Necklace only 2 - 290.jpgSutton Necklace - Made to dazzle, this stunning statement piece can't help but attract attention. Wearing it on a trip to the wine country recently earned my friend Debbie compliment after compliment. She's the envy of our group because her beautiful daughter Lesli, a Stella & Dot stylist, keeps her outfitted in the latest from this much-coveted brand.

Although Debbie sported the Sutton constantly that weekend, it never looked the same because you can style it five different ways.This matte-gold favorite includes six, airy chains, one of which is decked out in rhinestones. ($128; also available in other colors)

You can wear this showstopper long and glitzy as shown at the right.
Remove the rhinestone strand for a more relaxed feel (left photo below). Shorten it to a sophisticated collar (plus or minus the sparkly strand). Or show off the shimmery links alone for a dressier vibe.

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Necklace only 4 - 600.jpgOrbit Hoop Earrings - In a class above most I've tried, these simple hoops are quite addictive. The shiny gold set boasts two large hoops, two small hoops and two tiny, spike-shaped drops.

You can wear the large Orbit Hoop Earrings alone or slide on the dainty drops to up the fun. Change to the smaller loops to take the focus off your ears, attaching the spike-shaped charms for a little swing.

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This versatile set makes an ideal travel companion because it gives you four unique looks. So light you'll forget you have them on, these lovely loops also work for those with sensitive ears because, like everything from Stella & Dot, they're hypoallergenic. That's a HUGE plus for my sister Pam, my niece Jacquelin and just about all the girls in my family. I especially appreciate the surgical steel posts because they don't irritate my ears. ($39; also available in silver)

Arrison Stretch Bracelet - Arm candy everyone can enjoy, this flexible treasure stretches to fit small to large sizes. Finally, here's a bracelet that doesn't overwhelm my slimmer wrists or annoy me by clanging against my keyboard. And it's reversible so that's like getting two bracelets in one. Stick with the plain, satin-gold side to keep things casual. Feeling fancy? Just turn it over to show off subtle, pyramid-and-rhinestone details. ($34; also available in silver)

Everyone's sure to filp over the Arrison Stretch Bracelet's pyramid-and-rhinestone details.

Bracelet Watch - 600.jpgAll at StellaDot.com with $5.95 flat rate shipping. As a bonus, each piece from Stella & Dot comes in a colorful gift box ... free.

Bulge-Smoothing Sensations

Sweater Leggings Alt - 350.jpgLeggings and tights are natural go-tos when the temperature drops. I'm crazy about this smart threesome from Spanx because they're designed to help you look slimmer and trimmer, even when there's no time for the gym!

Ready to Wow Structured Leggings - With a fit that flatters your figure, these body-smoothing leggings belong on every girl's wish list. They're so elegant and comfy I could wear them day and night.

I'm a size 24 and I can pull on and take off the Small without a struggle. Although I've got a fairly straight shape, they hug my tush and thighs giving more an illusion of curves. (Ohh la la!)

They've got a wide, high waistband that flattens your tummy and sweet, one-inch splits at the ankles. With stilettos, booties, you name it, they're fabulous. And there's no dry cleaning required. You just toss these darlings in the washer and dryer. No wonder they're bestsellers!

Of course, I began with black. But they also come in beautiful admiral blue, brownstone and eggplant. ($92 in sizes S to XL)

Spanx Ready to Wow Structured Leggings paired with a color-blocked, Apt. 9 open cardi from Kohl's. Keep reading for the scoop on this cool sweater.

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Ready to Wow Faux Leather Structured Leggings - With the new faux-leather finish, Spanx' structured leggings move into even trendier territory. I usually avoid leather pants and leggings altogether after seeing poor Ross on Friends trying to pour himself back into his leather nightmare. But I had to try these knockouts.

Like Spanx's standard structured leggings, they excel at smoothing and shaping your body. It's more work getting into the faux-leather style but the result is killer for an evening out or just running around town.

I like them even better than the regular version because there's more control. Power mesh in the wide, high waistband trims my middle. They're long and sleek with some bunching at the ankles (no splits this time) when you're 5' 2" like me. And, you can still avoid the expense of dry cleaning. ($98 in sizes S to XL)

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Spanx Faux Leather Structured Leggings and Stella & Dot's Sutton Necklace make a killer combo.
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Original Tight-End Tights - Spanx's go-everywhere opaque tights enhance the shape of your lower half while keeping you warm. Beautiful under skirts and dresses, they offer extra tummy control that can be a lifesaver under clingy fabrics and fit-and-flare styles. These soft body huggers fit perfectly around my toes and ankles so they look and feel nice with flats and heels (no bunching!) as well as boots and booties. Pulling them on takes a little effort and you can feel the control but they're comfortable enough to wear from desk to dinner.

Black is always my first choice but they come in seven other collectable colors. ($28 in sizes A to F)

Spanx products are available at Spanx retail stores and Spanx.com where shipping is free with code FREESHIP14.

Spanx Tight-End Tights look beautiful under skirts like this one from my closet. I'm also wearing a Rock & Republic Moto Jacket from Kohl's (more on this find below) and Stella & Dot's Sutton Necklace. The luxe leather bag (also covered below) is a favorite from Light in the Box.

Charlotte - tights - purse - handbag - 400.jpgThe Look of Leather

A black leather moto jacket adds oomph to skinnies, skirts, most any outfit. You can get that of-the-moment look for a song with this striking mixed-media masterpiece from Rock & Republic. It combines soft imitation leather with ribbed rayon on the sides and the bottoms of the sleeves.

I fell hard for this hip-skimming style with its asymmetrical front zipper, eye-catching embossed collar studs and exposed zipper pockets when shopping at Kohl's. Besides having a tough-but-cool attitude, it's a toasty choice for breezy fall and many winter days in Texas. Plus, an in-store discount combined with an email coupon made it a real steal! ($90 in sizes XS to XL at Kohl's stores and Kohls.com where shipping is free at $75)

This Rock & Republic's moto jacket has to-die-for details like embossed collar studs. Since I can't get enough black and gold, I adore wearing it with Stella & Dot's Sutton Necklace and Arrison Stretch Bracelet.

Leather Jacket - 450 without leggings.jpgFine Wine

Choose a bold, leather bag like this rich wine find from Light in the Box to perk up your accessories line up. It has a luxe basket-weave design that reminds me of window shopping the high-end leather boutiques in Florence, Italy.

This easily adaptable carryall can be worn many different ways depending on your desires. Cute gunmetal buckles and clasps plus three, removable straps offer loads of possibilities. You can tote the purse by the short top handle, letting the intertwined, leather and gunmetal-chain strap dangle as decoration. Change to the chain strap and fling it over your shoulder. Or use a longer, adjustable leather sLeopard pouch 384.jpgtrap to go cross-body.

Inside, there's room for your wallet, comb, lipstick, keys, smartphone even a sweater. Yes! The bag has a simple, one-button closure but it includes a large, zipper-topped vinyl pouch with three interior pockets to store valuables. In addition to being uber funtional, the pouch's fierce leopard pattern gives this timeless tote a bit of a wild side. ($84.99 at LightintheBox.com)

This luxe leather bag comes from LightintheBox.com. Watch this site's flash sales for incredible deals.

Divine Denim

For a lighter layering piece with laid-back appeal, I'm lovin' Lands' End's Indigo Jean Jacket. This classic-cut hero has a place in my closet year round. Besides boasting a slimming dark wash, it's soft with a bit of stretch not stiff and scratchy like some I've tried. I can stuff this versatile jacket in my bag and pull it out whenever I feel a chill without worrying about wrinkling. It keeps me warm everywhere from the grocery freezer aisle to Friday night football games.

It's also wonderful for dressing down black slacks, career-minded sheaths even LBDs. When I paired this topper with a t-shirt and flowy skirt recently, a fellow shopper raved about the combo and had to know where I found it. Now, that's a keeper! ($69 - $79 in regular, petite, tall and plus sizes at LandsEnd.com with free shipping on orders of $50+.)

Lands' End's Indigo Jean Jacket and Naturalizer's Johanna riding boots give this office-minded fit-and-flare style a down-to-earth feel. I'm also wearing Stella & Dot's Stutton Necklace because it goes with almost everything.

Boots Outfit - 425.jpgWrap StarScarf - 300.jpg

A colorful scarf like Stella & Dot's Union Square is a quick way to update t-shirts, sweaters and other basics. Deep blue with a fiery red ikat design, this medium-weight, oversize piece is a must for cooler weather.

Tie it around your neck to stay comfy while handling all those daily to-dos. Later, wrap it around your shoulders to add warmth and flair to date-night styles. This beauty comes packaged in a matching carrying bag so it travels easily and makes a lovely gift. ($59 @ StellaDot.com with $5.95 flat rate shipping)

Stella & Dot's Union Square Scarf lends warmth and a splash of color to this navy dress. I'm also carrying Lands' End's comfy Indigo Jean Jacket; it's become a constant companion.

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Shades of Gray

If you're considering going gray, now's the time. Hues ranging from soft to charcoal will carry you from fall through winter. Black's little brother plays well with wine, red, blue, pink and many other colors but the freshest way to wear gray is with other grays.

Sweater Leggings - 350.jpgThat's just one of the reasons I adore this cozy, Apt. 9 cardi from Kohl's. Here a charcoal front mingles with a marled back and sleeves mixing white with lighter shades of gray. The long sleeves are also tipped in charcoal.

In addition to trendy color blocking, this open-front, chunky knit has two, cool exposed-zipper pockets. It's easy to throw on when you're cold and off when you're over-the-top HOT minutes later. The petite XS fits me like a dream and you can toss it in the washing machine.

Not into gray? This winner is also terrific in shades of black. ($50 in petite sizes XS to XL at Kohl's stores and Kohls.com where shipping is free at $75)

I adore this cozy, color-blocked cardi from Kohl's in shades of gray with Spanx Ready to Wow Structured Leggings.

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Ear Buddies

Carrying a small, inexpensive pair of headphones lets me enjoy music and movies on my iDevices at a moment's notice. I'm crazy about Chic Buds' Love Buds because they're fashionable enough to be part of my wardrobe.

Designed for us girls, these under-$15 audio bargains come in 7 pretty patterns. I tried a rockin', deep blue print called Sienna with bright pink accents. Besides providing strong, crisp sound quality, they're surprisingly comfortable to wear. A handy microphone makes taking cachicbuds_earbuds_sienna1 this 285.jpglls from long-distance relatives like our NYC son Cole as easy as pressing a button. And the cord resists tangling no matter how hurriedly I stash it in my purse. ($14.99 at ChicBuds.com; compatible with iPhones, iPods, MP3 players and computers) 

In addition to providing great sound, these stylish and super-affordable Love Buds are designed to fit us girls. 

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Comfort Corner: Creamy, Crockpot Chicken Artichoke Casserole

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Bob and I discovered Asiago cheese while crusin' the Mediterranean earlier this year. Many nights on ship, we snacked on that to-die-for Italian classic, crunchy breadsticks, a Dirty Martini (Bob) and Prosecco (me) before dinner. What a way to live!

Once home, we stocked up on our new addiction. So naturally, we couldn't wait to try this Asiago-laced casserole from Donna-Marie Pye's Easy Everyday Slow Cooker Recipes (Robert Rose Inc., June 26, 2014, $24.95). This simple, crockpot delight features cooked chicken, artichoke hearts, green onions and red pepper in a cheesy Alfredo sauce with a crunchy-crouton topping.

Easy and delicious, this crockpot meal includes chicken, artichoke hearts and veggies in a cheesy Alfredo sauce with a crunchy-crouton topping.

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