a study in CONTRASTS »

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A Not-Fancy Backyard Get Together

A few months ago, Dustin told me that he’d like to throw a little get-together for some of his employees & co-workers. If you know me, you know I love to throw a party, so I’m all, “Hell, yeah!” Not so fast there fancy pants… He wanted me to throw a party for him, but I wasn’t allowed to “make it all fancy & decorate”. Cue the record scratch. Whaaaaat? I mean, we’ve been married for 15 years now, I’m assuming he knows me. But, considering it was his party & it was for his co-workers, I figured he knew best. He gave in and let me decorate to a certain extent because, let’s be honest, I don’t care who you are, when you show up to a party it’s always nice if it looks decent. I’m not going to lie here, I had a really hard time with this. I was more stressed out about this party than I was our vow renewal! I mean, I don’t go for “themes”, but I do need some type of creative borders to work within when I plan a party. A mood, or a style, if you will. I had no clue what to go for here. I procrastinated an unusually long amount of time (basically until the week of) & then went shopping. At this point I had a general idea & had ordered some succulents & a massive roll of kraft paper for the tables, but other than that, I was struggling. I hit up Target & Party City & bought a bunch of different styles of plates & napkins. I’m so glad I did because I was able to play around with them all once I got home to figure out what worked. Once I put these Wit & Delight plates down, I knew I had my plan. And once I have my plan? I’m on fire. I’m really, really, happy with how it all turned out. I think it looks nice, but not fancy. Masculine, but still pretty. In other words, exactly what I was going for. I just didn’t know it….

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get TogetherA Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get TogetherA Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get TogetherA Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

I had a couple of outdoor seating areas set up too. I love the idea of bringing the comfort of inside to the outside. I also really love lamps outside. I didn’t get any evening pictures, but it just adds a lot of warmth to have those lamps lit while people are mingling around.

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get TogetherA Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

The actual meal was catered by D&R, who also catered our vow renewal. Everyone raved about their food then, so I decided to go with them for this event as well. I’m smart enough to know that you don’t mess with a good thing. Especially if that good thing is food!

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

Carrot cake cupcakes from Something Blue Bakery. Their cupcakes are, no exaggeration, the best that I’ve ever had. Yes, including the famous Magnolia Bakery cupcake. SO good.

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get TogetherA Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

I’ll be honest, I’m not loving the way the bar photographed. In real life, I loved the way it looked, but it’s coming across pretty meh here. Side note… Dustin made me that table for one of our anniversaries from old scraps of our house & barn. See the doorbell there at the front of the table? Pretty great, right?

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

More Wit & Delight fun with these napkins.

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

I tried to source as much of the party as I could locally. There was actually another wine from Wildcat Creek Winery called Harvest Cranberry, but it was long gone by the time I took this picture. It was insanely good. Here’s another fun fact for you… My sister & brother-in-law have started the first commercial hops farm in Indiana (Hopknoxious Farms) and People’s Brewing actually used their hops to create a beer called Local Farmer Harvest Ale. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any in time for the party, but it’s still cool though, right? Right.

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get TogetherA Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together

One fun little last minute addition that we added to the party was a Whiskey tasting bar. We’ve accumulated quite a collection of Whiskey/Scotch/Bourbon & this was a fun way to share some of them. I’m pretty sure it was a hit.

A Study in Contrasts - An Un-Fancy Backyard Get Together


Catering – D&R Market

Cupcakes – Something Blue Bakery

Tables, Chairs & Linen Rentals – Midwest Rentals

Wine – Wildcat Creek Winery

Beer – People’s Brewing Co.

White Plates & Silverware – Party City (plates link, silverware link)

Grey Plates – Wit & Delight

Cocktail Napkins – Wit & Delight

Straws – Kikkerland

Gold -Target (I can’t find it online, but I just bought it two weeks ago in store, so it should still be there)

Succulents – Amazon (Who knew?)

Terra Cotta Pots – Hobby Lobby

Gretchen Wakeman - Great Job! You ALSO photographed it beautifully. A women of many talents. And… who knew that Lafayette had a winery. When did L-Town get so “fancy”?

This Little Light

It’s really fascinating to me that as I get older, that I’m realizing how many amazing, creative, women are around me. Some of them I see on a regular basis in real life, and others I only have contact with virtually (thanks, Facebook!). I have friends who are photographers (obviously), friends who can make amazing things with their hands (quilts, scarves, mittens, you name it), friends that are stylish & know their way around a closet in the most fun way possible, friends who are living out their dreams inspiring others, & friends who are writers. One of those virtual writer friends, Jessica Collaço, just released this sweet-as-pie book, Firenze’s Light. Jessica & I went to middle & high school together & I always knew she’d do something creative in her life. We re-connected on Facebook & when I saw that she had started a Kickstarter campaign to bring her dream of writing a children’s book to life, it was a no-brainer that I was going to sign up. I was so excited when the book was finally released & I’m beyond happy to say that it’s wonderful. Both Finn & Matilda made us read it to them every night for a stretch & every time I read it, I couldn’t help think about how cool it was that I knew the person who wrote it. If you’re looking for a beautiful new children’s book (seriously, I’m in love with the artwork!) that has a fantastic story of kindness & learning to love your uniqueness (without being heavy-handed & saccharine) I highly recommend checking out Firenze’s Light.

You can find Firenze’s Light on Amazon or on the publisher’s website

A Study in Contrasts - FirenzeA Study in Contrasts - Firenze

A Study in Contrasts - Firenze

A Study in Contrasts - Firenze

A Study in Contrasts - Firenze

You can find Firenze’s Light on Amazon or on the publisher’s website

Jessica Collaco - Thanks so much for this great review, April and the lovely photos. Just wanted to let Lafayette locals know that “Firenze’s Light” is also available at Von’s in West Lafayette. xoxoxJessica

Cozy Layers

Fall is herrrrreeeeee! I know that it’s technically been fall for a few days, but today’s the first day that it’s really, truly, felt like fall. Woo Hoo!  What better time to share an outfit full of layers? Layered clothes, layered jewelry, layered hair. Ok, technically the hair was layered in summer too. I just like to list things in threes. This is a lot more stuff than I normally wear, but it was fun to try it out for an evening. It’s nice to travel outside your safe zone once in awhile. Try it, you might like it;)Oh & as an aside, can I just say that fall light is freaking amazing? I’d forgotten just how gorgeous it is. Ok, on with the show…


You may recognize a familiar style element here. See it? Not yet? (It’s a little camouflaged) Keep scrolling…

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

There it is! My new H&M hat! Ok, can I be perfectly honest with you here? I love it & it’s the closest I’ve found to the perfect floppy hat, but in these pictures it’s feeling a little cowboy adjacent. I don’t know what changed from the last time I wore it, but it’s weird. Ergo, the search is on for something with a little less room at the top of the head. Maybe it’s just stretched out a bit & now looks too big on my pin-sized head?

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

Layers. So many layers. See what I meant? But man, don’t I look cozy?;)

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers


A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

I have no clue what I was laughing at here. Probably myself. Confession time… I’m obsessed with these graphic tees. This one’s from JCrew, but everyone’s getting in on the game now, of course. I just bought one from Old Navy, and while it doesn’t fit me quite as nicely as the JCrew, it was about a third of the price, soooo, yeah. No brainer there. I LOVE this tassel necklace from Stella & Dot. You can adjust where you put the tassel too, which is cool. It makes it a little less perfect & I like that.

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

I’ve had these boots for probably 4 years now & they’re truly the best. They were from Target, real leather, & affordable. I’d love a pair of the Frye Veronica Slouch boot, but it’s whoa out of my budget. These were a similar style & much more in my price range. Yay Target!

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

My friend, Hollie, & I both bought this sweater in the Urban Outfitters clearance section last year. It’s amazingly soft & I absolutely love the pattern on it. I know slouchy cardigan sweaters are going to go out of style before too long, but man, I’m going to hold onto them tightly until they do. They’re like an acceptable form of a snuggie.

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

Fall. Autumn. October. I love it all.

A Study in Contrasts - Cozy Fall Layers

Hat – H&M (last seen in this post)

Cardigan – Staring at Stars (similar)

T-Shirt – JCrew (similar-ish)

Jeans – Old Navy (last seen in this post)

Boots – Target (similar)

Earrings – Target (similar from Stella & Dot, but the Target ones don’t have crystals. If you really love them, I bet you can find them in the store)

Ring – Bauble Bar (old)

Tassel Necklace – Stella & Dot (similar)

Green Necklace – Lucky via TJMaxx (similar style at Stella & Dot)

Lipstick – Nars Niagra

About Face

We just finished a crazy week here at our house. Last week, Finn started pre-school, Matilda was sick & waking up every 45 minutes all night starting at around midnight, & I was trying to get everything ready for a party that Dustin & I were throwing for his co-workers. Thankfully, Matilda’s better, the party happened (more on that in a future blog post), & we’re getting into the routine of getting all of us out of the house at a specific time in order to get Finn to school. Phew. So, here I am, back at the keyboard. And what’s this? A post that’s not about me? A post that doesn’t include my face? Niiiiice. Speaking of my face, that’s what I want to tell you about today. (Smooth transition, right?)

My skin drives me crazy. I’ve been thankful in my life that it hasn’t been prone to breakouts, however, the only reason that I’ve been so “lucky” is because I have really dry, sensitive, cranky, skin. It’s the worst. Even in the summer I usually use a heavy cream. I’m always on the lookout for something new to try, yet always leery to switch to anything lest I anger my skin & it turns red & blotchy for a week. For serious. If I try something it doesn’t like even once, it freaks out for a week, sometimes two. Good times. Still though, I was curious when one of my high school classmates posted a link on Facebook to a new organic skin care line, Brooke Elizabeth Organics, that her girlfriend had started. I was finally about to run out of my current supplies, so it seemed like the perfect time to give it a shot. I love the fact that it’s organic. I try to make sure that I eat organic as much as possible, so it only makes sense that I use something that’s organic on my skin too. I also really liked the fact that it’s an oil, which I was assuming would make my dry skin happy. Of course even if something’s organic, it doesn’t mean that my sensitive skin wouldn’t still throw a tantrum, right? So the verdict? I love it. I’ll go into more detail below, but my skin just feels amazingly soft & not a red spot in sight. Cue the happy dance….


Ok, so there are 4 different oils to choose from. The descriptions for all of them sound great & I had the hardest time deciding. I was down to choosing between Calm & Freedom, so I decided to just go for it & order the sample pack. I’ve only used the Calm so far & it’s working out so well I kind of hesitate to try anything else. If you don’t know which to go for either, there’s a quiz that you can take to help you choose. Oh & one more thing… even though these are oils, they don’t leave my skin feeling oily. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it’s true. It just feels soft & smooth.

A Study in Contrasts - Brooke Elizabeth Organics

Awaken was the only facial cleanser option, which made me a little nervous. It’s so creamy though & the smell really does wake you up, so I love it. I do have to be careful around my eyes because the herbs make the skin around them tingle a bit. She recommends using the facial oil to clean off eye makeup though, which makes a lot more sense. I wasn’t sure if I’d need the Infusion Tonic or not. Because of my dry skin, I don’t usually use a toner, but I figured, “Why not?”, & I’m glad I went for it. You spray it on before you apply the oil & it really does help you skin to absorb the oil. Plus, I just love the way it feels when I spray it on.

A Study in Contrasts - Brooke Elizabeth Organics

Just a heads up, I bought these products myself & decided to do a blog post on them after I’d used them for a couple of weeks. I didn’t receive payment or product for this review. I just like the idea of helping out a business that’s starting out & offering a great product. Plus, it would’ve been selfish for me to keep this great line a secret to myself! If you try it, definitely let me know what you think, especially if you try one of the different oils. I’d love to hear your experiences with them.

A Study in Contrasts - Brooke Elizabeth Organics

All products – Brooke Elizabeth Organics

Jen Hilger - Thank you so much for the glowing review of BEO! You take amazing photos!! I really appreciate you sharing it with your community, and so pleased that you love it! Sending love from the Oregon coast.

Brooke Nitzsche - My sincerest thank you for reviewing BEO products. I love hearing about peoples experience with the products and it looks like Calm drew you in for a reason.:). It is a pleasure to provide simple, sustainable, clean, organic skincare to

Brooke Nitzsche - Women and men all over the globe. My gratitude, April.

Hello, Fall

It’s here! It’s here! The most wonderful time of the year! Well, at least it will be in 3 days. I love fall SO much. It’s undoubtably the most beautiful season & the weather is usually perfection. You just have to put out of your mind the fact that winter, the most evil of all the seasons, is right around the corner. I didn’t used to hate winter, but after last year, I get heart palpitations whenever I think of it happening again. It legitimately feels like winter just ended a couple of months ago. Obviously I was traumatized by the harsh conditions and the fact that I live so far away from civilization. I’m lucky I did’t turn into Jack Nicholson in The Shining. Sorry, where were we? Right. Talking about fall… The weather this past week has just been gorgeous. Add that to the fact that the fields are the perfect shade of gold & you have one happy lady here. The icing on top of all that awesomeness? I found the (near) perfect floppy wool hat. I’d say it was totally perfect, but it tends to shift around and look a little like a cowboy hat. Which, I mean, is really not the look I’m going for. Still though, it’s about a million times better than any of the others that I tried on. I have a small head, so they all seemed to swallow me alive. This one is a little big, but I’ll deal. What about you guys? Any fun fall fashion that you’re excited to break out?


In the process of taking the above and below pictures, I was bit by a bug on my hand, almost put my hand right on a big fat spider, & was painfully poked by a stick in the back of my leg. Don’t I look calm, though?


So the Master Kajal eyeliner that I was wearing in last week’s post? No good. I mean, it goes on great. Then? It slides off your eyes and all over your face. If there’s anything that an almost 40, sleep-deprived, mother of three doesn’t need, it’s more help with undereye circles. So, I moved on. I’m trying out the L’Oreal Silkissime eyeliner. It seems ok so far. I don’t know why I’m even messing with new eyeliner. I’ve been using Make Up For Ever’s Aqua Eyes in 3L (navy) for a couple of years now & have always loved it. I was just hoping to find it’s equal in a drugstore brand, I guess. My lipstick here is the ubiquitous Nars Heat Wave. Although it’s toned down a little because I put it on top of a pinky lip pencil.


I was having some major camera issues & luckily Dustin came out at just the right time. I was legit ready to throw the camera into the field behind me. He took the rest of these & I must say, it was ten times more fun having his help. Although it was also ten times more embarrassing. Also, as you can see, I had an assist by Max too. He’s really trying to become internet famous.


This Target necklace has been my favorite all summer. If you know anything about Target jewelry, you’ll know that it’s cute & affordable, but not made to last. Let’s just say that it’s lost a lot of it’s sparkle. I’m still wearing it though. Obviously. The bracelet was one that I’d originally bought as an option for our vow renewal. I ultimately went with something else, but couldn’t help but keep this one too, even though I abhor snakes.


Hat – H&M

Shirt – Target

Jeans – Old Navy

Shoes – Kork-Ease via TJMaxx (similar)

Necklace – Target (similar. I’ll probably be getting this to replace this one.)

Bracelet – Anthropologie (similar, but no snake motif. Sorry!)

Eyeliner – L’Oreal Silkissime

Eyeshadow 1 – Stila in Kitten

Eyeshadow 2 – Nars Barbuda (I just found out they don’t make this color anymore. I’m heartbroken. Here are a couple of close options, although it’s hard to tell online. Lhasa & Coconut Grove)

Mascara – DiorShow