What I’ve Read: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
Our narrator is Emily Shepard, a teenage girl whose parents were killed when the Vermont nuclear power plant they worked at suffered a catastrophic meltdown. Emily’s story comes in pieces as she reflects on the past. She tells us early about Cameron, a young boy she stumbles upon when they are both living on the street post-meltdown. They’re both hiding there for different reasons and she takes him under her wing. We don’t hear much about him again for a little while—her story is divided into two sections: B.C. and A.C. (Before Cameron and After Cameron). 
The plot of this book is inherently interesting and dramatic, but it’s also dark and sad. The theme of family—what is it, why does it matter—comes up a lot. Emily’s maternal instincts toward Cameron are a painful reflection on what she’s lost herself (and sometimes doubted she ever had). She acknowledges her parents, but isn’t sure how to feel about them. (I won’t spoil it, but there are a few reasons for this.) When she thinks about home, it’s usually because she’s worried about her dog left in the closed-off radioactive zone around the plant. It’s a very complicated book, touching on everything from mental health to prostitution to alcoholism. It’s also about the danger of aging nuclear power plants, though this point is very subtly made. 
It was fascinating to see how well the adult, male author conveyed the voice and actions of a 17-year-old girl. Even better was that he didn’t try to improve her teenage-ness—something that happens so often and is so irritating in novels with teenagers as main characters. There are very few things more contrived than giving teenagers the gift of adult-like conversation and logical decision-making skills. When that happens, we have 14-year-olds who are better read than most college graduates and speak to each other like philosophy professors. In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, teenage Emily likes poetry, but it’s a believable interest. She’s not doing university-level literary analysis. 
In short, this book is very, very good. The plot is dramatic, yes, but Emily’s vivid and realistic character is the reason I encourage you to read it. 
Have you read it yet?

What I’ve Read: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

Our narrator is Emily Shepard, a teenage girl whose parents were killed when the Vermont nuclear power plant they worked at suffered a catastrophic meltdown. Emily’s story comes in pieces as she reflects on the past. She tells us early about Cameron, a young boy she stumbles upon when they are both living on the street post-meltdown. They’re both hiding there for different reasons and she takes him under her wing. We don’t hear much about him again for a little while—her story is divided into two sections: B.C. and A.C. (Before Cameron and After Cameron). 

The plot of this book is inherently interesting and dramatic, but it’s also dark and sad. The theme of family—what is it, why does it matter—comes up a lot. Emily’s maternal instincts toward Cameron are a painful reflection on what she’s lost herself (and sometimes doubted she ever had). She acknowledges her parents, but isn’t sure how to feel about them. (I won’t spoil it, but there are a few reasons for this.) When she thinks about home, it’s usually because she’s worried about her dog left in the closed-off radioactive zone around the plant. It’s a very complicated book, touching on everything from mental health to prostitution to alcoholism. It’s also about the danger of aging nuclear power plants, though this point is very subtly made. 

It was fascinating to see how well the adult, male author conveyed the voice and actions of a 17-year-old girl. Even better was that he didn’t try to improve her teenage-ness—something that happens so often and is so irritating in novels with teenagers as main characters. There are very few things more contrived than giving teenagers the gift of adult-like conversation and logical decision-making skills. When that happens, we have 14-year-olds who are better read than most college graduates and speak to each other like philosophy professors. In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, teenage Emily likes poetry, but it’s a believable interest. She’s not doing university-level literary analysis. 

In short, this book is very, very good. The plot is dramatic, yes, but Emily’s vivid and realistic character is the reason I encourage you to read it. 

Have you read it yet?

  • k 22 notes

Hi Jaclyn! As much as I hate to start thinking about the fall, I'm being forced to.. and I'm on the lookout for some new jeans. As much as I've been a strong proponent for American Eagle the last few years, I'm struggling with their quality and would like to invest in some better denim if possible. However, my long inseam (35/36) seems to be impossible to find in skinny cuts. Do you have any go-to spots outside of AE, being a tall, thin girl yourself? Thank you!

- Asked by hiemilychristine

I don’t spend a lot of money on jeans so I may not be the best source for this (I love AE’s jeans too!) but I’ve had a lot of luck with the Tall/X-Long inseam denim from Gap. They’re long enough on me that I can cuff the bottoms.

The 1969 denim from Gap is the best quality for the price (especially since they have promo codes available so often). These ($69.95) are a perfect medium wash. Their black 1969 high-rise jeans are great too ($69.96). The 1969 Legging Jeans are CRAZY comfy. I’ve been eyeing this new pair ($80). I love the color. Their medium/dark blue color is marked down to $42 (from $70). You can get $25 off $125 orders or $50 off $150 orders today with code SMART

Gap’s sizing is annoying (it varies a lot, even from wash to wash in the same style) so if you buy online, I suggest getting your usual size and one larger or smaller depending on what most of the reviews suggest and returning the one that doesn’t fit.

  • k 3 notes

I'm looking for cute graphic tees that aren't childish to go with my new leather circle skirt and chunky jewelry. Any ideas? Thank you!

- Asked by tinichic

I love Swell’s selection of graphic tees. They look slouchy and comfortable and the prices are great. This long-sleeved one is $27. This moon-themed one is pretty ($24). This trendy arrow print baseball tee ($29.50) is fun. This boyfriend tee might look perfect with your skirt ($22.50). Here’s another option from Volcom ($29.50). 

There are some fun options in J.Crew Factory’s graphic tees section too. You can take 40% off J.Crew’s sale items with code TREAT, so search through their marked down tees—there are some really good shirts, like this Bon Temps tee ($42.50) or this Fantastique tee ($38.50). 

  • k 4 notes

Hi Jaclyn,I'm in dire need of your expertise! I was wondering if you can help me find a maternity dress for my baby shower in August. The shower will talk place indoors (what a relief) in a reception hall (somewhat fancy) with around 100 guests (to get an idea) The theme is "Ahoy! It's a Boy!" so I was thinking of a navy blue maxi dress...I'll be around 34 weeks at that time, so I would love something comfortable yet flattering. i'm open to any suggestions or advice! A thousand thank you's!!

- Asked by machelemabelle

You’re in luck! Isabella Oliver just marked down two blue maxi dresses that you might love. This Tank Column Dress ($79 from $159) looks so comfortable and chic. If you want something a little more dressy, this Gathered Detail Maxi ($62 from $209) is gorgeous. If you don’t mind straying from the blue and going with purple or black, this Hadyn dress ($112 from $225) is crazy pretty. 

This one-shouldered maxi dress by Mothers en Vogue is $86 (from $159). It looks really comfortable! If you want something more form-fitting, this Ripe Maternity dress (about $50) can also work post-baby for nursing. 

This navy maxi from LOFT ($90 with an extra 40% off at checkout) is simple but stylish. 

If you can spend a little more, Rachel Pally’s navy and white print on this Grecian-inspired maxi dress ($238) is really beautiful. If you sign up for her email list, you can get 20% off your first order. 

  • k 4 notes

Hi friend! As a new gym class junkie, I have to ask: any tips for someone looking to motivate herself to get out to a class as early as you do? I'll do the night classes until my legs fall off, but I can't seem to drag myself out of bed and get motivated to go, even on days I know I'm busy at night. How do you do it??

- Asked by ellegolightly

My biggest motivation is that I know I won’t go and really can’t go if I don’t get it out of the way in the morning. The first few months were the hardest but once I did it enough times, it became part of my daily routine. It helps me to lay out my clothes the night before. I keep them right beside the sink in the bathroom so I can brush my teeth and jump into whatever I’m wearing. I keep my gym bag by the door so I don’t have to hunt for it either. I just fill up my water bottle and get my snack. One of the best things about going in the morning is that I have SO much more energy throughout the day than on days when I skip. I drink less coffee and the 3 PM sleepies don’t come as hard. If you can do the early morning thing for two weeks, it’ll stop being so annoying. I promise. 

  • k 18 notes

Recently (in Shorts)

I’ve been wearing American Eagle shorts all summer thanks to their frequent sales. They are so comfy. The only drawback is that sizing can be hard to figure out (they vanity size in some styles, not so much in others). Here are my favorites (clockwise from top right):

The Boyfriend style is versatile—they look good with a sweater/sneakers or with sandals and a tank. They’re cut a little longer. The Shorties and Midis often have more stretch denim options than the other styles. The Hi-Rise Festival shorts are cut higher on the outside—really flattering. 

  • k 12 notes
  • / print

My favorite bra in all the land—Aerie’s unlined style—is marked down to $20 (from $30) right now. I haven’t yet found a *real* bra as comfortable as this one is. (It’s not a super supportive style, though it does have underwire.) They also have a few sizes left in last season’s version ($17.99) and in the mesh striped version ($14.99). 

P.S. The more I type the word “bra,” the weirder it’s looking to me. Bra. Bra. BRA. 

  • k 22 notes
This long white embroidered dress from ZARA ($99) is so pretty. 

This long white embroidered dress from ZARA ($99) is so pretty. 

  • k 5 notes

Suits on Sale:

Hi, love your blog! Please could you make some posts about cute and chic business suits on sale - will be much appreciated. Joanna
joannalovesnyc

I don’t know if I found any cute things (are business suits ever cute?), but they’ll do the job! :)

J.Crew Factory has a massive sale today—50% off clearance items with code EXTRA50—and they have a lot of suiting options available. Their lightweight wool blazer is marked down to $120 in black. The matching pants are $75. The black skirt is $70. They also have a navy pinstripe blazer for $120 and the pants are $75. A cotton blazer (available in gray or navy) is $95. The matching pants are $55. 

You can take an extra 40% off J.Crew’s suiting with code SALEFUN. They’ve got some GREAT pants available. The Campbell pant in stretch cotton has an insane 9 colors available ($60-$79.50). Their cropped linen pant in white or navy is really sharp ($108 from $118). The popular Bristol trouser is $70-$90 in 4 colors (from $98). The Paley pant in stretch wool is $148 (from $158). They also have this great stretch cotton skirt for $98 (from $110) in 4 colors. 

Nordstrom has also marked down a lot of suiting separates for their Anniversary Sale. Halogen’s navy skirt is $45 (from $70). Vince Camuto’s well-reviewed straight leg pants are $52 (from $79). Halogen’s black Ela suit jacket is $76 (from $128). 

Banana Republic has suiting separates on sale too. The promo code BRPICK4 should get you 30% off. This white blazer is $130 (from $158). Their popular Sleek Suit Blazer is $140 (from $158) and is available in 3 colors. I love their small black check wool blazer ($120 from $198). 

Calvin Klein has lots of suiting separates on sale. Ann Taylor’s semi-annual sale has dozens of suiting options marked down. You’ll get an extra 60% off at checkout. 

  • k 6 notes
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I'm booked into my first spinning class next week! What should I expect? Where in class should I try and get a bike? What will I wear?! Any advice to prevent me from looking like such a newbie would be most appreciated!

- Asked by emmafolds

We’ve talked since you sent me this so I know you already read this older post of mine and went to your first class (yay!) but since the post is old here are a few extra tips with another year and a half of these dang classes under my belt:

  • The pre-class snack is important but I go to the first class of the day and so I’m usually eating at 4:50 am. Eating at that time of day is gross. I mean, everything feels gross at 4:50 am, but eating is especially terrible. I’m never hungry when I wake up but I can push myself much harder if I have some fuel in my stomach. I’ve tried many snacks and had varying success. The easiest is a protein/energy bar but they can sit really heavy so I’ll eat half pre-class and the other half post-class. Chia Bars are great. They’re small, taste decent and give me a lot of energy. KIND bars work well too. They don’t sit like lead in my stomach and they’re pretty tasty. Something that doesn’t work well for me? Smoothies or shakes. I tried this a few times but it’s too heavy and I feel like I’m sloshing as I pedal. It’s a good post-workout option, but they’re a little too much first thing in the morning. The winner for me is usually a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter smeared on the top. It’s easy to eat as I drive to class. If we’re out of bananas and I’ve pressed snooze once (or twice) and I’m running late, I’ve been known to gag down two spoonfuls of straight peanut butter. On the rare days I wake up hungry, I’ll make a frozen flaxseed waffle (from Wegmans) in the toaster, spread peanut butter on it and fold it in half like a sandwich so I can eat it in the car. Basically ANY food is better than no food for me, so I’ll grab anything in a pinch—a string cheese, an apple—but I definitely prefer some items over others. 
  • It’s really beneficial to find out how hard you’re actually working. Polar’s FT4 (starting around $60) or FT7 (starting around $70) allow you to track your heart rate in real time. Spin class is so aerobic that regardless of how hard you’re working, you’ll probably sweat. This creates this annoying little setup where I think I’m working really hard (SWEAT ROLLING OFF MY FACE) and then I check my heart rate and I’m working in the high 70’s of my aerobic max. No spin class is immune to this. I’ve read reviews of SoulCycle by fitness instructors (before they were banned) and they were seeing really low total calorie burn numbers. Most things I’ve seen say that 400-600 calories per 45 minute spin class seems to be a good target zone. One of my harder instructors says that 600 calories should be the minimum for her more difficult rides if we follow her to the letter. Basically all this is to say that I’ve had classes where I think I’m putting in some really good effort and then I check my heart rate monitor and realize that I could be pushing myself more rigorously. The way I see it is that I’m taking the time to get out of bed and go to the gym instead of sleeping for another two hours, I better get the absolute BEST outcome I can. Unfortunately (or fortunately), because of the format and self-sufficiency of spin classes, a lot of that responsibility falls to me. A heart rate monitor is really the only way to find out how much effort is actually happening. (Some spin bikes have watts monitors. Watts is a combination of your cadence—how fast you pedal—and resistance. The faster you can pedal at a higher, tougher resistance, the bigger your watts output. Watts monitors are a great way of seeing how much power you’re putting out on the bike—some classes even turn it into a competition against other riders—but a heart rate monitor is still important because you can see how your body is responding to the watts you’re generating on the bike.) 
  • Pay attention to how long it takes to recover breaths and/or heart rate during recovery or active recovery portions of the ride. When you go anaerobic—try to hit that threshold at least once or twice per class—take an informal note of how long it takes you to catch your breath or how long it takes for your heart rate to drop back to aerobic levels. Breathe in through your nose and out your mouth to speed up recovery. You’ll know when you’ve fully recovered either by checking your heart rate or because you can breathe in and out of your nose comfortably. The more classes you take, the faster this recovery gets. This is really important training if you decide to start cycling outside too. (I haven’t run in years but I have to think this kind of cardio training would be great for runners too.) Downhills or coasting are really the only recovery portions of an outdoor ride. Usually you have only a few seconds to bring an anaerobic heart rate to a place where you can start another climb or pick up the cadence without lactic acid eating your legs. Anyway, tracking your cardiovascular fitness as you go to more and more classes is really rewarding. It’s so fun seeing cardio efforts get bigger and recoveries get faster. 
  • Cycling shoes aren’t cheap, but they make a such a big difference. (You can rent them at a lot of spin studios now though.) Sizing can be tricky so I recommend you go to a bike shop for fitting, but if you do know your size, I saw these Shimano shoes selling for $78 in certain sizes on Amazon. The cleats aren’t sold with the shoes (another reason to go to a bike shop, they can get you all situated with the right stuff), but SPD cleats are compatible with most (if not all) spin bikes. 

Have fun! I can’t wait to hear how this week goes. :) 

[ETA: Here’s another post I did about spin class earlier this year.]

  • k 9 notes