10 item wardrobe

10 Item Wardrobe Prep: Winter 2017

Sometimes I hate the 10-item wardrobe. Don’t get me wrong: having 10 core pieces (pants, sweaters, dresses, etc.) and extras (t-shirts) that look great together and fit my personal style is amazing! I can get dressed in three minutes, I always at least look presentable, and it’s really easy to pack for trips. However. When you are in the habit of saving your Christmas and birthday money and doing your major shopping in January, and three of your 10 items (two pairs of three-year-old jeans and one pair of red pants) go kaput in October, you start to look pretty shabby.

I was able to still wear my old black jeans and sub in my light-blue summer jeans from J Crew Factory, but then I realized that my t-shirts were looking pretty worn out. Then one day, I took out my APC sweater dress–purchased just two years ago–and realized that despite my special care, it had become shapeless and unflattering. What was happening?!? I basically wore my striped J Crew Factory shirts and my worn-thin black jeans for two months straight. When I wasn’t dressed as Mrs. Santa Claus.

The good new is: I went shopping today with my Mom! And, just like in Pretty Woman, I had money to spend, thanks to my weekly savings plan (I sock away a little money every week to buy the whole family clothes) and gift money. Thank you parents and in-laws!

I’m waiting on one pair of jeans to be delivered, so in the meantime, I’m going to go through last winter’s 10-item wardrobe and talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what should die in a fire. Then next week, I’ll have a shiny new post unveiling my new duds! I’m sure you’re all very excited.

10 item wardrobe

J. Crew Factory long-sleeved striped boatneck t-shirts.

If you’re a regular reader of these 10-item wardrobe posts, you recognize these shirts–they just keep going and going! Seriously, I’ve had the navy-striped one for at least three years and it shows no sign of wearing out (pro tip: I always hang these to dry). I may actually get sick of these! Definitely staying (but I really count these as extras).

10 item wardrobe

Thread & Supply blue “menswear” shirt.

I feel a little guilty looking at this one. I got it last year from my parents for my birthday while shopping with my Mom (thanks again!) but while I wore it a fair amount this summer, I totally forgot about it. Gonna have to try it on and see if it’s worthy to be one of the 10, or I may just keep it for when I need to look business-y. It’s a maybe.

10 item wardrobe

Spider-Man sweatshirt, Forever 21.

This is another item that’s still going strong! I bought it in San Diego during Comic-Con 2013, the final one I worked as an employee of Things From Another World–but not at Comic-Con, weirdly enough. Not only does this sweatshirt feature Spider-Man (its initial selling point), but it’s the perfect size and weight. Also, a great conversation starter. It’s staying!

10 item wardrobe

Halogen grey wool-blend sweater with embroidery.

I like this a lot–the look, the weight, the fit–but it isn’t wearing as nicely as I would like. I’ve laid it flat to dry but it’s still pilling. It’s staying this year, but we’ll see for next.

10 item wardrobe

Red and gray J Crew Factory sweater with gold polka dots

Ditto for this one–I still like it, but it’s pilling. Maybe it’s me? Likely will stay for 2017.

10 item wardrobe

J Crew Factory jeans.

These jeans are great, but it’s weird that I had them in my “winter” 10-item wardrobe last year. I’ve been wearing them this winter until I got new jeans, but I’ll put them away until this summer.

10 item wardrobe

J. Crew Factory red tailored stretch Lexie pant.

These . . . did not stretch the way I needed them to. They’ve either shrunk a bit or I’ve put on five pounds. I’m not going to say which. They also faded (typical for red fabric), so they’re gone!

10 item wardrobe

Vince black ponte pants.

I still like these pants, but they’re a maybe. They tend to stretch out and get baggy as I wear them. If I wash them and put them in the dryer they shrink up again, but I feel like they’ll wear out faster that way.

10 item wardrobe

APC sweater dress.

Ack–no! I have been very disappointed by this dress, which I bought on sale a couple years ago. You can kind of see it here–despite my keeping it folded in a drawer and dry-cleaning it (a rarity for me), it has . . . relaxed? It’s baggy and shapeless, and I give up. I give up!

10 item wardrobe

Fisherman’s sweater, vintage.

Oh man. I still love this, but it had a couple of moth holes when I bought it. I repaired them, but either more keep happening or I’m discovering more! Also, it’s very thick and heavy, so it’s bulky under my coat, and I run hot and tend to not need a sweater as warm as this one. A maybe.

Final verdict: three maybes, and three no’s–leaving a possible six slots open in my highly competitive, breathlessly anticipated 10-item winter wardrobe! Do you feel the excitement? Gee, I hope people don’t bet their entire fortunes on the outcome.

As always, I must credit Jennifer L. Scott, author of the Madame Chic books, for her 10-item wardrobe inspiration! See you next week!

Baby Essentials Checklist

Ultimate New Baby Registry Checklist

Baby Essentials Checklist

Pack N Play, $20 (from Craigslist). Being able to take your baby camping? Priceless.

Here it is, expectant parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles: my ultimate list of baby essentials. This spreadsheet has been emailed around my circle of friends and family and I always get requests when I mention it, so I decided to update it and post it for everyone!

I first made this baby checklist when my brother and his wife were expecting their first child–originally, it was a list of things I had to give them (since I had Sarah the year before ), plus my own recommendations based on my own experience.

Note: I am not claiming any special authority on child safety, etc. Standards change, recalls happen. Please do your own independent research.

Also, the last thing I want is to come off like a bargain basement Gwyneth Paltrow. I’m sure many parents have raised their wonderful children with less stuff. Also, I encourage you to ask around to see if any friends have baby stuff to hand down (most parents can’t wait to get rid of it) or check Craigslist. If you’re buying secondhand, do your due diligence for safety concerns, especially for things like car seats. IKEA also has many safe, low-cost baby options.

This list does not cover:

  • Clothes (You will get so many, most likely in newborn sizes. Most of these items will not be worn by your wiggly baby–I do recommend Carter’s Sleep & Play outfits for ease of use.)
  • Toys (You will also get so many.)
  • Books (This is a personal choice between you and your bookstore.)
  • Stuff for Mommy (Although I swear by this type of nursing bra.)

Optional stuff:

  • Two things are marked with asterisks–the infant rocker and bouncer. This is because every baby is different. Mine loved the rocker, my brother’s son loved the bouncer. My advice: start cheap and work your way up.

For heaven’s sake just give us the link to the spreadsheet:

I would love your feedback on this spreadsheet–is there anything essential I missed? Anything that worked like magic for your baby? Post below!

Christmas Detox: Holiday China Edition

So what, Christmas decorations can go up in stores before Halloween, but we’re just supposed to stop December 26? In the immortal words of Cher Horowitz, I don’t think so. I’ve been wanting to do a post on my Christmas china for awhile–I do so love it, and I have so much, but I’ve hesitated because I worried that it was too self-indulgent. Then I realized that having my own blog was pretty self-indulgent, so why not?

I had a lot of fun taking pictures of everything before I put it away until (sigh) next December–I hope you enjoy!

Lenox Holiday China

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For me, Lenox Holiday is the gold standard, the ne plus ultra of Christmas china. For years, I eyed it like a future junkie: “I’ll certainly never buy that, that would be ridiculous! Ha!” I knew I’d only be able to hold out so long. I finally started collecting it after I made a little deal with myself: I would start slow (buying two place settings on sale), and I would use it for every meal, every day in December.

This justification was aided by the fact that Lenox Holiday is basically a holly-festooned version of my wedding china, Eternal, so I could mix and match the pieces until I gathered a full set. I currently have eight place settings, thanks in large part to my Mom, who has also donated to the “cause.”

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Um, as you can see, I didn’t stop with the place setting (see also: the adorable Santa train salt and pepper shakers, above). I have more Holiday serving pieces than Eternal (I actually have none for that), because Holiday goes way on sale around the holidays, and Eternal never does! Get that wedding registry money, Macy’s–you jerks! But. I love these, and I generally entertain a lot around the holidays, so I use them a lot.

Rosanna Twelve Days of Christmas & More

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While the Lenox Holiday is my drug of choice, my gateway plates are from Rosanna, a Seattle company that designs delightful tableware. I believe I first saw these 12 Days of Christmas appetizer plates in Martha Stewart, and they’re still available on the Rosanna site! A real bonus: Rosanna packages their wares in collectible boxes that are cute and actually useful for storage.

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Yes, there’s more. Listen, I can stop whenever I want. These three items were all presents from my brother, who raided Rosanna’s Jolly Holiday collection. Unfortunately, these are no longer available on the site. I use the small tray for cookies for “Santa,” and the plates and mugs for snacks and hot chocolate.

Thrift/Unknown

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I got this large vintage plastic (melamine?) tray at a thrift store a long time ago and I love it. The pearlized plastic is embedded with flecks of silver, and it’s unbreakable. Thrift and vintage stores can be a great source of holiday china and serve ware–garage and estate sales, too!

When I see my holiday china all laid out like this, 50% of me is embarrassed and the other 50% wants to roll around on it like Indecent Proposal (weird, also: ouch). But I love it so much: I love the holidays, and entertaining, and family traditions, and I love having something special to use in December. I look at my china and I see decades of holidays around the table, and it makes me very happy.

I’m gonna close with another shot of salt-and-pepper Santa! Thanks for reading about my jolly folly!

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I Hate Taking Down Christmas

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As soon as I touch this, the remaining needles are gonna hit the floor. Help me Hellboy!

It was about 6:00 last night when I realized that–ugh–garbage and recycling pickup was the next morning, which meant I needed to buckle down and get our once-beautiful Christmas tree out to the curb. This was made easier by the fact that our tree had completely dried out and only weighed about five pounds, but still: I hate taking down Christmas.

Preparing for Christmas is magical–getting out the decorations! Picking the tree! Lovingly reminiscing over ornaments! Your family members join in, because we’re making beautiful memories we’ll cherish forever!

Putting Christmas away is drag. Why do we keep some of these hideous ornaments? Can I get rid of them without anyone noticing? Why did I put so many lights on the tree? Is there any way to take them off without taking out half the branches (answer: science is working on it)? As I grimly wound hundreds of tiny lights and stuffed them back into their boxes, a traitorous, non-Christmassy though invaded my head: what if we didn’t do a Christmas tree next year?

What has happened to me? Along with my brother, I’m the most Christmassy jerk I know! But trees are expensive. And messy. And wasteful. And I hate doing the lights. But I won’t let anyone else do the lights. And our house is small. And WARM (hence the extra-crispy needles all over the house).

Every year about this time, I have a very special fantasy. Close your eyes, Mom! Just kidding. I think about artificial Christmas trees: beautiful, non-shedding, pre-lit Christmas trees that are perfectly shaped and can hold those super-heavy ornaments that came from god-knows-where. But then I sigh and realize I don’t have the space to store one–that’s why I keep our artificial garlands up all year long (also: I’m a Christmassy jerk, see above).

I know that I have a year to regain my Christmas spirit. Sid loves doing the tree (and is getting pretty good at helping with the lights). Sarah is only two–I certainly can’t deprive her of these precious Christmas traditions (I can’t, right?!?). But today, I still have a whole house of ho-ho-ho to stuff under the beds. Maybe some holiday music would help . . .

 

Happy New Year & Zero Waste Jar Gifts

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Filling my Curry Lentil Soup jar gifts with my trusty canning funnel!

Happy New Year everyone! Wow, I did even less blogging than usual over the holidays, partly because of GeekCraft Expo Seattle and working with The Doubleclicks, but also because my computer went down, and then when it was functional again, Portland had a snowstorm (and wicked icy roads) that prevented me from getting it for about a week. Plus, I’m crazy.

I also didn’t want to blog about the things I was actually making this year–I’m keeping that as a surprise until the Epiphany, which is when my friends and I usually exchange gifts. However! I did want to share the jar gifts I made last year. If you, like me, are a little behind in your gift giving and want something easy, zero waste (or close to it), and cool to give your friends–or you’re making a game plan for next year–pull up a chair!

Jar gifts are great: not only do they look cool and handmade, but they’re useful and quite economical. They’re perfect for the holidays, hostess gifts, teacher appreciation day, etc.

jar gifts zero waste

Supplies to Make Zero Waste Jar Gifts:

  • Jars. This is probably a no-brainer. You can save glass jars throughout the year, pick them up at thrift stores, or buy a box of them at the grocery store. The grocery store option will include some plastic packaging, but in a pinch, they’re convenient.
  • A canning funnel. This is an essential piece for creating jar gifts, and the best way to get pretty layers–it’s like a regular funnel with a much wider neck, so pouring things like beans or marshmallows neatly is easy.
  • Reusable produce bags or containers for shopping. I got almost all of my supplies from the bulk bins at my local WinCo. Not only was this incredibly cheap, but I had nothing to throw away afterward–especially nice around the holidays.
  • Scraps of fabric for decoration. I used pinking shears and cut squares of decorative fabric to cover the lids.
  • Card stock and twine. I printed up recipes for those items that needed it–soup mixes. etc.

Jar Gift Recipes:

These are all the recipes I used last year, ranked in order of “would I make them again.”

  1. Curried Lentil Soup: Winner, winner, chicken dinner! I loved this recipe and will keep it in the rotation. Not only was it very pretty in the jar, but the recipient doesn’t need to add much to make it (onion and garlic, perhaps broth), it can be vegan, and the soup itself is delicious and easy to make. Yummy!
  2. Sriracha Salt: This looked fancy and was useful. It only takes the second spot because it takes a couple days to dry before you can pack it up.
  3. Cowboy Cookie Mix: Everyone gets cookies around the holidays, but what about after Christmas and New Year’s? Now your friends can have something to tide them over. This was visually appealing and tasty, but the resulting cookie dough was a little dry.
  4. Classic Cocoa: This was very pretty and very tasty, but I wouldn’t make it again. Why? Because to use it, the recipient actually needs to dump it out, mix it up, and then put it back in the jar–silly and needlessly messy. I didn’t really think this one through.
  5. Almond Joy Energy Balls: I took this recipe and made it into a jar mix, layering the ingredients. I was, frankly, searching for something Paleo for some of my friends, but if I made this again, I would just make the balls and pack them in jar.
Jar Gift Lentil Soup Zero Waste

The winner: Curry Lentil Soup–so cute, and tasty!

The method is simple: line up all your jars, and have all of your ingredients, measuring cups and spoons, and canning funnel ready. To get the most attractive layers possible, I like to pour in each ingredient and then tap the jar on the counter to level it.

Cocoa Jar Gift Zero Waste

Layered cocoa is cute, but a loser for the giftee, I realized too late.

There are tons of jar mix recipes out there, and it’s also pretty simple to take a regular recipe and jar-ify it. My rule of thumb is to make sure your giftee doesn’t have to go out and buy a lot of things to actually make the gift, like meat. If the recipe needs extra stuff, it’s better if they’re pantry staples like butter or eggs. The recipe itself should be simple, too–you don’t usually want to give two hours of active cooking to someone, unless you know that’s how they like to spend their time.

Have you ever gotten a jar gift for Christmas or a hostess gift? Did you ever use it?

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

Presenting My Mrs. Santa Dress

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All dolled up in my Mrs. Santa dress–unveiled below!

You may remember my desire to make a big green velvet Christmas dress this year–I even had a pattern picked out! However, after an extensive search (at three different fabric stores) I couldn’t find any green velvet, and after a look at the calendar, I realized that realistically, I wasn’t going to have time to sew a dress anyway. I was quite disappointed–until I brainstormed a way to make the most Christmassy gown I could ever want, using a dress I made a few years ago!

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

Mrs. Santa dress: before!

About six years ago, I wanted to make a big red Christmas dress, which I did, using a pattern I cannot find, either in my sewing stuff or online, but I believe it was a Vogue pattern that must be out of print: boatneck, big swingy skirt, defined waist, bracelet-length sleeves. While I wore the heck of it that year, it was never quite right: I should have taken up the shoulders, and I chose a polyester crepe fabric (partly because it was inexpensive, partly because it was the perfect color) that was a little too stiff.

Mrs. Santa Dress How-To

Mrs. Santa dress: after!

But! If I took it to a tailor (who fixed the shoulders for $20) and hot glue-gunned a little fake fur around the edges–voila! I’d have a perfect Mrs. Santa dress! After I rummaged through my closet and found a black patent leather belt and heels, my course was set.

Mrs Santa Dress How-To

Out on the town as Mrs. Santa at the Rum Club!

You can see the end result, and I’m quite proud of it! I wore it to a party and out for holiday drinks with my best girlfriends, and let me tell you: it is a lot of fun to dress as Mrs. Santa–I got a big (and mostly positive) reaction everywhere I went.

I’m pretty proud of my ingenuity (or is that insanity?). It took me less than half an hour to glue the trim on, and I got a re-branded, very distinctive dress for less than $40!

Do you have an ideal Christmas outfit? I’m still dreaming of a White Christmas-type dress (basically my Mrs. Santa dress on steroids). Post it below!

Toxic Femininity Destroys the Patriarchy in The Love Witch

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This movie poster is everything.

What happens when a woman consecrates herself–not to God, but to the idea of becoming man’s ultimate fantasy? This is the question brilliantly and bloodily answered by Anna Biller’s The Love Witch, a delirious, candy-colored foray into the pursuit of love (or at least the superficial aspects of it) above all else.

While writer/director/producer/art director/costume designer Anna Biller has said she wanted to evoke the Technicolor thrillers of the ‘60s, another comparison kept plucking at the edges of my memory as I watched–The Wonderful World of the Brothers’ Grimm, the 1962 film directed by Henry Levin and George Pal. It’s a fitting comparison: like any Grimm fairy tale worth its salt, The Love Witch offers beauty and fantasy, but something darker and uglier eventually seeps through.

Before we go any further, you’re going to have to watch the trailer (except maybe my Mom–NSFW):

When we first meet Elaine, she’s fleeing a cloud of suspicion following the death of her ex-husband, and starting a new life where she can pursue both the Satanic arts and her dream of finding a man to love. “You might say I’m addicted to love!” she burbles to Trish, the modern woman who rents Elaine an apartment. After listening to Elaine explain how women need to give men what they want–“Just a pretty woman to love, and to take care of them, and to make them feel like a man. And to give them total freedom in whatever they want to do or be!”–Trish incredulously says, “You sound like you’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy!”

Later, we find that Elaine has indeed internalized the criticism of her father and ex-husband (“You’ve put on weight!” “How hard is it to get dinner ready on time?”) and devoted herself to the dark arts to catch a man, becoming a weaponized Cosmo magazine in the process. Elaine’s outer glamour–luxurious wig, lacquered makeup, lingerie–isn’t just about vanity. They are her rituals, her magicks, her power, and she wields them with blunt (and perhaps deadly?) force.

Elaine quickly captures the attention of Wayne, a local professor, asking him to take her to his remote cabin, offering a flask of some unknown potion, and then cooking him a very masculine steak dinner. Then Elaine and Wayne retire to the bedroom, after which . . . the shine begins to fade.

You see, whether it’s the potion or the heady combination of red meat and hot sex, Wayne begins to feel and express emotions. “Elaine!” he cries, tears rolling down his face, as Elaine, stone faced, sneers, “What a pussy.” Things do not end well for Wayne.

That’s the double-edged sword cutting through this devilish fairy tale: by becoming the living embodiment of the male fantasy, Elaine is now all surface, no soul. She’s only interested in the thrill of the hunt, of capturing the attention of a man. Why would she subject herself to the daily drudge of sharing a bathroom or talking about feelings, when she can dispose of all that messiness (along with the man) and find a new conquest?

Griff, a police detective who’s a living caricature of the “manly” man (He likes his coffee like he likes his women!), and therefore Elaine’s ultimate prey, accuses her of being a black hole that no amount of love can fill. And he’s correct. The narrow desires of the patriarchy have created its own Frankenstein’s monster in Elaine, and the men pay dearly in The Love Witch.

Is The Love Witch a “good” movie? Yes and no. The acting is stilted (although perfectly in keeping with the atmosphere Biller is trying to achieve), the storyline is ridiculous, and the supernatural elements are incredibly campy. But it’s a strange and beautiful and sexy and unique and bizarre and intentional movie, and it is exactly what director Anna Biller set out to make (seriously, look at the credits on IMDB, Biller did nearly everything herself, including designing and creating the pentagram rug in Elaine’s apartment).

If you’re very lucky, you can still catch The Love Witch in theaters, or pre-order it from the official website!