Tuesday, January 28, 2014

OOTD: Pretty in Pink

It's no secret to anyone who knows me: I have a lot of clothes. Probably too many! But what is probably even less of a secret is how I afford it. My income is fairly minimal - and I'm a bit of a cheapskate. I have expensive taste, but an inexpensive eyesight. I want the best product for a sale's price. Show me the discount price tag!(This is what happens when your parents carried you around in their arms while they visited yard sales and farmer's markets and cut out coupons. You get a discount shopping junkie.)

Recently I was out shopping and picked up ten new items for my wardrobe - clothing and jewelry - for a tremendous deal. I'm really aiming to add more sophisticated and feminine clothing to my closet. Bit-by-bit it's working! (I love t-shirts and pajamas as much as I love blouses, but until recently I've avoided buying the latter for no real reason. No longer! I choose to indulge all sides of my personality.) If anything, now I need to up my intake of casual recreation outfits. For me, a girl who spent a good portion of her childhood wearing t-shirts and shorts/jeans, this is super exciting. Having a balance in my wardrobe feels so good!

Over at Southern Belle in Training, my friend, Miss ALK, posts frequent fashion posts. They're always so much fun - I just love her sense of style. She's always so put-together and oh-so feminine, even on her casual days! (And she's pretty talented at snagging great deals on good products herself!) I'd be lying if I said her love of fashion hadn't worn off on me. She may have had a(n) huge influence. But that's what friends are for, right? Corruption for your highest good.

Anyway, you can blame her for the fashion posts to come, including this one. (No complaints here!) Today you get to partake in my love of pink with a beautiful, hot-salmon pink sweater dress.

  • Sweater dress: Khol's (pretty much free with Khol's cash).
  • 3/4 Leggings: Walmart, a buy a long time ago.
  • Boots: $5 on clearance at Walmart!(Bargain shoppers delight!)
  • Earrings: Christmas gift.
  • Rings: gifts and random finds.

    Up-close shots of the jewelery (my earrings), the boots (apparently my bathroom mirror needs dusting...), and some super cute detailing of the sweater dress:
So sparkly <3

If you haven't sensed it yet: I love me some sparkle.

Moments when I fall in love with cute belts like this makes me wonder
how I ever hated belts when I was a kid!
Another not so silent secret: I love lace. Seriously, completely, swoon-worthily
love lace.

These are my new favorite boots! They're super comfortable.
Because they're so low to the ground, I feel like I could wear them all day.
It feels like wearing flats!
I never used to be a leggings-lover, but these No Boundaries leggings that have been sitting in my closet untouched for years are so comfortable! More surprising for me: they're warm! It has been bitter cold here. The idea of wearing a dress to classes was almost completely shoved aside because of it. Not even tights or jeans keep my legs warm lately. Pulling my leggings from the back of my closet was an act of desperation - one I couldn't be more pleased with. One quick jump out onto my back porch gave me all the information I needed: these babies are warmer than my jeans or jeggings! (Jeggings were my other option if the leggings didn't work out. I'm not much of a skinny jean person, I don't find them very comfortable. Jeggings are all the comfort of stretch pants with all the super-cute fashion of skinny jeans! But, I digress.)

I'm now pro-leggings. I want to pair them with everything (even though I have no sweaters long enough to go with them or other sweat dresses). Finally! I understand the obsession with them. They're so comfortable, versatile, and stylish. (And, apparently, warm!)

Now is probably also a good time to say that I'm also officially pro-pink. I have been for awhile, but it's taken time for it to work it's way into my wardrobe. When I was little-little, I hated pink. I wouldn't wear it. I wouldn't let it in my room. I wouldn't look at it. Today I wore a dress that was solid pink. I loved every second of it. It's amazing how things change, isn't it?

What are some things - clothes, movies, shows, books, food...anything! - that you used to hate but now love?

Pinterest Test: Make-up Brush Cleaner

For a few years I cleaned my makeup brushes with baby wipes. It worked "okay" but it never quite got the job done - not to mention it was expensive and sometimes the wipes would dry out before I finished the box! The brushes never quite got as clean as I wanted them, either.

It has been over a year since my brushes last got cleaned. Recently, every time I use my brushes all I can think about is the make-up build up and bacteria that must be caked on those bristles. That was my red flag. Time for a cleaning!

Pinterest, the almighty DIY life saver, has a multitude of make-up brush cleaner recipes. I grabbed one and decided to give it a shot. This "recipe" consists of two easy ingredients: water and vinegar. It was simple, easy and pretty quick. I definitely recommend giving it a try! (As a busy, loan-plagued college student "simply," "easy," and "quick" are always on my radar.)

I filled the bottom of a mason jar with enough hot water to cover the biggest brushes and stirred in the recommended 1 tbsp of vinegar by using brushes as a instrument. Then I let them sit for 15 minutes...because as a newbie to the DIY make-up brush cleaning world, I irrationally panic at the idea of 20 minutes, as if leaving them in longer might melt them away or cause climate change to increase at 4x the rate - something extreme like that. (Anxiety Girl superhero problems)
All tons of make-up sediment at the bottom. That used to touch my face?

And after rinsing them out (with hot and cold water as per the instructions)....

They're brand new again!

The dirtiest brushes - the ones I used the most since the last cleaning and my concealer brushes - took the longest to clean. After the first 15 minutes they still were not thoroughly clear, so I put them in for another 15 and upped the vinegar concentration from 1tbsp to 2tbsp, where I had such a large quantity of water in the base of the mason jar. This had to be repeated a few times, where the makeup was so caked on - who knew a year+ of make-up could leave residue! But with each soak-rinse-repeat session, the brushes were cleaner and cleaner. I'm so excited to use my cleaned brushes!

I'd recommend doing a wash of the brushes every week or every few weeks if you use make-up on a daily basis, just because of bacteria and how quickly the bristles get coated.

Definitely keeping this trick in my back pocket. I hope you give it a try, too. Let me know if you do - or if you try another method - and tell me how it works out!

Edit: Tried this again this weekend with one minor tweak, so I wanted to share! This works a whole lot better when the brushes have any excess residue cleared off before hand. I took a towel (I'm sure a paper towel would work too, I'm just an eco-nut) and worked my brushes in circles along the surface, just as I would when applying make up to my face. A ton of powder and gunk came off before soaking them this way! It really decreased my number of washing rounds.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

What does the start of my weekend look like?

Big Bang Theory socks and hot chocolate in a handled mason jar.
Good morning, Saturday, you're looking awesome.

What does your Saturday morning look like? 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Poof's Adventures

(In case you need a refresher on Poof, you can go here and read up on him and the other wackadoodles you might find featured on this blog.)

Homework procrastination led to a realization this evening: while I plastered images of Poof's adventures all over facebook and twitter over the holiday, I never shared them here! (The problem with going so long without blogging - forgetfulness) Time to fix that!

The bio page needs an overhaul - since I wrote it, Poof inherited a new friend: Goldie. While Poof was my Dorm Room Defender, Goldie is my Laptop Defender. In their mutual positions of defending, their friendship blossomed. Now the two are inseparable. They spend their days propped up on my desk, defending my computer room, my work, and all the good in humanity. (A pretty big job for two little ones!)

Poof and his best buddy, Goldie, watching the aftermath of a snowstorm from the warmth and safety of the indoors.
Much cozier inside!

Going for a spin in Santa's sleigh!
Doing Jolly Old Saint Nick a favor by having a pre-Christmas test ride.

Penguins and I have a long standing relationship...so, naturally...we needed a penguin in the family. Christmas felt like a proper time to introduce a new member to the Wackadoodle gang. In the wee hours of Christmas morning, dad tip-toed into my "apartment." When I awoke, there on my bureau was our newest addition. So. Freaking. Adorable. Look at those crystal blue eyes!

Poof and Goldie wandering through their gifts with their new friend - Waddles!

Waddles, Poof and Goldie found Santa's hat on the floor after he left and all decided to try it on.

Poof, Waddles and Goldie out enjoying the Christmas snowfall in style.

Our Christmas picker-upper.

She made sure we never missed a scrap of paper on the floor.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Morale Boosting: Strange Food Combinations

Food isn't the answer to our problems, I know that. Drowning sorrows in a bag of potato chips or chocolate chips is not going to solve anything. Goodness, though, when the times get rough a bag of chips never tasted better. When something in my world comes crashing down I just want to sit down with a creamy piece of cake or pie and revel every bite. Bring on the comfort foods! Give me creamy. Chocolate-y. Salty. Something savory to wash my sorrows down!

(At least until the initial shock or sting is through.)

After experiencing a blow this evening, I found myself diving for chocolate and feel good movies. (Good ol' faithful emotional numbing.) But when my sweet tooth got an ache, I found myself diving for something a bit more...unique.

Gluten-free multi-grain bagel, German mustard, melted cheese and chia seeds.

It got me thinking about strange food combinations. And researching them.

Here are some of mine, in addition to what is displayed above:
- Pickles and peanut butter. (This is a recent one. I made it up for a character in a story and then found out it was real! Google images is full of pictures - check it out!)

- Pickles and cheese on crackers. (Or, for something a little less weird: kalamata olives and cheese)

- Ranch dressing and pizza. (My brother introduced this to me years ago - any creamy, white dressing gives extra flavor. If you haven't tried it, you should give it a shot!)

- Peanut butter with brown rice syrup. (I completely stumbled on this while baking. I had a bit of both on my fingers and licked it so that I got them both at the same time. Newest obsession by far!!)

- Tuna fish sandwiches or chicken salad sandwiches with potato chips between the layers of bread. (It adds a salty, flavor-filled crunch!)

- Black bean, pepper and mango salad. (Sometimes I find myself eating this in winter because it feels like spring in my mouth.)

- Peanut butter and banana. (I love PB and banana sandwiches! I always receive some shocked comments every time I whip one out.)

Here are some links I found of other really unique food combinations:

Ketchup and banana? Banana and mayo? Mayo and peanut butter?!

What kind of strange food combinations do you love?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Knitting Holes Together Again

I have learned to knit!

(Confession: Okay, maybe it is more relearned. It's been a...very, very long time since I last picked up needles and yarn. I might as well have been learning for the first time!)

Even though January is not nearly over, I have accomplished my first learning task. For the past few several years a bag of yarn has been sitting on the top shelf of my closet beside my bag of knitting books and dozens of needles of varying sizes. They've been sitting there. Untouched. I've been itching to use them but I keep making excuses for why I don't. I don't have anyone to give finished projects to. I'll get too addicted. I have so many other projects to do! Mainly: I don't have enough time!

Well, so long excuses! Helllloooo, action!

A week of emotional turmoil that ripped at my heart could only be cured through some creative play. But I had no inspiration to draw. Words wouldn't come when I tried. Painting felt like too much work. My camera weighed 2 tons. I sat there, trying to charge through the numb haze I was living in by use of comedies and reading. Not even they could distract me. My mind was a hamster wheel - going, going, going.

Knitting filled the void that was growing in my chest. It brought me back together, back to my center so that I could heal. It gave me focus. While I knit, my mind could wander and wrestle with the situation, then come right back, ebbing and flowing like the ocean waves. Without driving me crazy it let me work through my hurt. You could say it knit my holes together.

What do I have to show for it?

A new, warm, short scarf! Through use of knitting books and youtube videos (my favorite source for knitting help is knittingtipsbyjudy) I was able to cast on, successfully knit stitch and bind off. More excitedly for me, though, was that I was able to successfully do something I have never attempted before: add a new ball of yarn. In the past, when I used to knit, I had cast on, cast off and completed the knit stitch. Never once had I ever added a new ball of yarn the proper way. Cautious me do that? No way! I was too nervous! Instead I'd tie a knot between the two balls and go on with my knit stitches as normal.

Going with my new trend of stepping beyond my comfort zone and learning new things, I didn't give myself the option of security this time around. With help from knittingtipsbyjudy's video,  How to Knit: Binding Off, I completed it like a pro. It looks as if I just used one ball of yarn for the whole thing.

I was beaming afterward. I remember racing upstairs from my apartment to show my parents. I was like a kid who just learned something for the first time. Proud. Excited.

The scarf was not without difficulties. A bit too late I discovered I didn't have enough yarn to bind off. I could not find any more yarn that matched the balls I used. It was a nerve wrecking conundrum. After the success of casting on, my knit stitches and adding a new ball of yarn I didn't want to wreck the best looking scarf I had ever made.

Stubbornness took over. Hard-headed stubbornness.

By the end of it, I was holding on to a length of yarn the size of my finger nail, trying to finish the last stitch of the bind off. It was crazy. It was insane. My hands were shaking. My heart was pounding, palms sweating. But it worked. I couldn't be more happy!

I might just wear this to classes tomorrow!

What have you fun thing have you learned lately? When was the last thing you knit?

Imaginary Loves: First read of 2014

Before the end of last semester a friend of mine placed this book in my hand and told me "you must read this." I brought it home, placed it on my bookshelf and there it sat. And sat. And sat. Finals came and went. The holiday rush zoomed by. Next I knew it was the New Year, sparkling new and dangling commitment-free hours tantalizingly in front of me. Hot cocoa in hand, warm pajamas and a snuggle-y blanket I snatched up this promising read.

 I finished Sundays at Tiffany's in the period of two days with interrupted reading. Every moment was worth it. While I cannot vouch that it has been the most life-changing book I have read, or that it is my favorite, it is a well written, heartwarming book with likeable characters, and a plot that spoke to the core of my being. The little girl in me couldn't help but imagine what it would have been like to have my perfect, imaginary friend from childhood step back into my life, for real, as a source of romance. I mean, really...sign me up for that!

Sundays at Tiffany's was my first introduction to Patterson and his writing. I have passed his books on shelves a dozen times and never picked one up. Ever since I got swept into the hype of Twilight for several years, I have been cautious of authors who get a lot of hype or whose writing gets a lot of advertising. It's an irrational caution, the inner rebel in me no wanting to follow the crowd. Honestly, if a friend hadn't placed this book in my hand and praised it so highly, I may never have thought to pick up a James Patterson novel. Which is such a shame.

Until now I have also been unaware of Gabrielle Charbonnet's work; however, I look forward to becoming more familiar with her writing. From what I can tell (if I trust Almighty Google) she's written several books under her pen name of Cate Tiernan. Immortal Beloved especially catches my eye. (It's the fantasy lover in my soul. ;) )

My usual go-to genre is fantasy or science fiction, but on occasion I'll explore outside of that. (The Fault in Our Stars is one of my favorite books and doesn't come close to either genre, for instance.) I have never been disappointed in that exploration. Still, Patterson's usual crime/thriller novels never struck me as something I'd be interested in. This novel has changed my mind.

I was impressed by the writing in Sundays at Tiffany's. I loved the switch of perspectives between 1st person and 3rd person to distinguish between Michael and Jane as narrators. It allowed for a more intimate connection between the reader and Jane and Michael, while also lifting the pace, keeping the plot moving forward. For me, the novel was more character-centered than plot centered. As someone who thrives on well-fleshed characters, a mostly character driven plot was refreshing and exciting. Patterson and Charbonnet give the characters distinct voices and unique personalities. Their attention to details in the characters, even secondary ones, is admirable. They use details to explain characters as well as their relationships, such as shared made up games, personal quirks, favorites and dislikes, tolerance levels and many more.

For any budding writers that want a successful example of character development and growth, the subtle - and sometimes not-so-subtle - changes in Michael and Jane throughout the novel is prime example. Patterson and Charbonnet show how small things such as a new wardrobe, cutting oneself while shaving, and the development of anger or protectiveness can signal character growth without explicitly stating it.

Changes in Jane's personality shine through as she gains new confidence in coming into her own. My only criticism is that I wish these changes weren't spurred by a new male presence in her life, but from her own core, life experiences or some other form of inspiration. The idea that a male gives you new (or renewed) confidence, though true, is not an admirable example for me. My most lasting confidence has always come from within or my own accomplishments. Confidence gained by a male's presence - or anyone else - is fleeting. If they leave, the confidence and changes it inspired can be shattered. Though fitting for the plot of the story, I would have loved to see Jane's character gain that extra depth. Her story, though, and her development, is probably far more the norm, from my experience. It also does not make her a weak or shallow character, by any means. Anyone who has ever struggled with self-esteem understands how very easy it is for external forces to influence confidence and change.

When I read the novel, I was going through an emotionally turbulent time. Jane's negative self-talk and her oppression by those around her was more than my psyche could take as a result; however, Patterson accurately portrays how someone who does not fit the ideal of beauty, has been berated, and has never been put first might feel, act and react. He also accurately portrays how they might allow others to treat them, including accepting love that is less than they deserve. Having known friends who were treated similarly to Jane, shared many of her thoughts and accepted less than they deserved as well, I was impressed by the relate-ability and accuracy of the portrayal. (One of my favorite scenes had to be Jane deciding to buy herself a diamond ring from Tiffany's. The ultimate show of "I can spoil myself, I'm worth it." Love it! Way to pamper yourself!)

Michael is the perfect man - sensitive, charming, an amazing listener, kind and gorgeous - who sweeps into Jane's life to save the day as a child and then, a bit unexpectedly, as an adult. Who doesn't want the opportunity to fall in love with their imaginary friend? There are a few I wouldn't mind that happening with! This story speaks to every woman's inner child whoever developed the perfect man in their heads as little girls. Patterson and Charbonnet bring reality to the childhood game of make-believe. They build a world transposed upon ours where imaginary friends are assigned to children, where they are not human, but possibly not angels either. Where they can choose invisibility or visibility accept for with their assigned children, to whom they are always seen. While anchored in the reality of our world, the addition of living imaginary friends gives the story enough fantasy to feed my fantasy-hungry soul. There is almost a potentiality of truth due to this light dusting of fantasy, as if it could have been.

 I wish that we had been able to see more of and learn more about this imaginary friend world. The idea of it fascinates me. If Charbonnet and Patterson ever decided to do more novels dealing with imaginary friends, I could see it working. It is a story and world I'd love to revisit.

The short of it: the novel is worth the read. I'm so glad to have started of the new year with this book; it really put me in a state of mind to place my best foot forward told my goals in life, live life a bit freer, and stand up for myself more.

One book down, at least four more to go! I'm going to love this year of goals.

What have you read lately?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Happy New Year: The Endeavor

Admittance: I tend to bite off more than I can chew. I always get ahead of myself with goals, writing to-do lists so long it's near impossible to check everything off. There's a bit of a dreamer there, an idealist. I like to think I can take on the world. (Who doesn't?) Every new year is no different. I sit, I ponder, I plot and plan. All at once a huge, imponderable list of promises unfolds. A vain part of me refuses to call them resolutions, because with that name comes bitter-tasting connotations.They're "goals." The name is gentler, warmer on my soul.

Sometimes I succeed.

More often than not, they fall through - and not from ill intentions. (The best laid plans, right?)

This New Year's Eve I couldn't help but wonder "why?" Why do these not-resolutions slip through my grasp, sliding like putty past my fingers? I'm still not entirely sure of the answer. It's not like I purposefully sink my claws in the ground and refuse to accomplish anything. Maybe the newness of the year wears off. All of the excitement and promise fades with the realization that it is another year, with one that came before and after, each, at some level, fundamentally the same. Some of that invincibility gets shaken and with the list tucked away, out of sight, out of mind, it's easy for good intentions to get lost in the crowd.

Gee, that's not a very good way to boost one's self-esteem. It's a big, waving flag of "you're not able to stick with anything." Over and over again, letting myself down, never proving it to myself that if I stick with it, I can achieve anything.

Well, the overachiever that I am is taking a stand this year. This year I'm going to prove it to myself: I can achieve anything with a bit of persistence and dedication. My strategy? Holding myself accountable. (A new important trend in my life.) Every time I achieve an accomplishment, I'm going to post it. I may start out not wanting to fail because of not wanting to let an external force down - you - but by the end of the year it will have sunk in that with the right motivation, I can get anything done.

I hope you'll join me - post your goals, document your achievements on your little space of the web or comment here. Don't make it too serious! Have fun with it! Make it a game out of it. Take pictures to commemorate each step towards a goal. Develop narratives. Laugh as you fumble through. Laugh at yourself if you slip up in your goals, there's no need to be hard on yourself - start anew tomorrow. Play.

I look forward to seeing your adventures.

My 2014 Goals:
- Play more
- Blog more

- Learn at least one new thing a month
- Read 5 new books this year for fun. 
- Be more adventurous and go out of my comfort zone more, so that, hopefully, it expands!
- Live more from the heart. (Give more freely and more often. Random acts of kindness. Only accept that love I deserve. Live my truth. Speak my truth. Conform less. Be more open, honest and vulnerable in my relationships.)
- Keep better in touch with my friends - and family - than before, no matter how crazy the school year is. See friends more. Call. Write. Skype. The losses of life this year and the year prior that have hit close to home have reminded me how short life is. While I may feel like I am going to live forever some days, I know better. I want every second to count. I want to live forever in a moment, an eternity in a minute.
- Pamper myself 1x a week. Because I'm worth it. Saturday is beautiday!
- Be more active, more fit, including working out at least 1x a week. (With the goal of 1x a day by the end of the year)
Meditate for 5-30 minutes a day, every day, no matter how busy I am.
- Write. Beyond this blog, in my stories. No more putting it off!
- Art. Play. Experiment. Get creative.
- Take a trip. I was supposed to go to NH last year to a camp with a friend, but plans fell through. Plans are to make up for that this year!
- Finish at least two unfinished projects. This is a bit of a play on the larger theme of this endeavor, on sticking with things and proving to myself that I can finish things. I've a tendency to not complete things. This goes beyond New Year Goals. In particular, I'm thinking of a few vision boards of mine and a drawing I've never completed but always sweat I will. Completely at least two of my unfinished projects screams "I'm a finisher!" to my brain.
- Get an income.
- Prep for wedding photography. (This is mostly here because I need a reminder to not let this obligation slip from my thoughts. Photographing my brother's wedding means I need to think on and practice poses, camera settings, angles and arrangements.)