Happy New Year!

I hope that all of you will have a wonderful New Year. Have a safe and wonderful celebration with friends and family, look back at all the accomplishments and mistakes of the year, and start 2008 with new insight.

This year has been rather pivotal for me. I'm absolutely done with school. I'm grateful to be employed and work with a wonderful group of people. I still have a huge student loan debt to contend with, but for the most part, this is the first time I actually don't have to be constantly worried about my financial situation, which is a huge relief. I'm grateful that some things stay the same, like my wonderful group of friends. Without their support, life would have been rough right now.

Next year I'll need to work on being more punctual (I've been skating too close to being late for things) and get things done more promptly. I definitely need to be more diligent about cleaning things up more frequently. Hopefully I'll be able to balance all the different facets of my life better. There are lots of other things, but these are good as starters.

Last but not least, thanks for being such a friendly and smart audience. It's exciting to get that email message saying someone left a new message; I always look forward to what you have to say, and I enjoy the intelligent discourse we have on fashion and other things. My hat's off to you. I hope that the new year will bring you great news, cute and comfortable shoes that fit to a tee, and just all around a good life!


Just click your heels...wait, there aren't any

Isn't it always like this: back when I was in school, I said I'd take a break from blogging because I have finals, and I ended up blogging in procrastination. Now that I'm supposed to take a "break" from the computer to recoup from all the craziness, I'm not doing it. Imagine that--I actually have *time* tonight. There isn't enough of it for crafting, so blogging it is. I'm still trying to find that work-life balance, so trying to regain a regular blogging schedule is a start.

I've been wanting a pair of red shoes for a really, really long time. Since my outfits are now based on the grays and the blacks, red shoes became an even more coveted accoutrement. They add a little bit of levity and punch to an otherwise somber and serious outfit. I have a pair of red sneakers, but they don't go with the dressy outfits I now frequently wear.

The search for dressier red shoes has been long and hard. Price, of course, is the foremost consideration. Comfort is another major consideration. I've been wearing pumps a lot, so I wasn't sure I wanted another pair of heels, even if they were red. Unfortunately, comfortable and sharp-looking red flats have been in short supply. Finally, the perfect shade of red was hard to find. I'd find things that are either too bright or too dark, never juuuust right.

As I was trawling through the mall during the last days of Christmas shopping, I came upon the pair I've been looking for. It wasn't at all what I expected, but it's perfect. At the very corner of the $19.99 shelf in the Naturalizer store, I saw these:

They're comfortable, they're cute without being cutesy (the pointy toes make them look grown up, despite the words "mary jane" being part of the shoe model name), and they're the perfect shade of red. And the price is right, last pair in my size, so on and so forth. What more can I say? Oh yes--they go pretty well with peaches and pinks. These dressy patent leather flats really go a long way.

What I love about them is that they look fancy without costing like so. Here's what really gets me tickled: after I made my rounds through the adjacent Loehmann's (where I got my mom a perfect-fit cashmere sweater for about $40), these shoes got me to the Beverly Center--a huge mall in ritzy Beverly Hills--to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. I noticed quite a few fashionistas openly staring at my shoes, particularly when I walked into a pricey boutique, where *gasp* I dropped $215 on a Christmas present for myself. (Got your attention, didn't I? But you'll have to wait another few days for this juicy story). A few people in there complimented me on those shoes. I couldn't help but secretly smile against the monied fashion establishment.

About that Christmas gift to myself...come on, surely you know me better than that. It's not quite the horribly foolish, extravagant blowout one might imagine. You'll see why next time.


The Home Stretch

This is it--just one more day to finish Christmas shopping. And this year, I will have to use it. Fortunately, I didn't leave all my shopping completely to the 11th hour.

Usually I would have finished my Christmas shopping by now, but unfortuantely, I don't have the luxury of a flexible schedule anymore. So I've been doing my shopping here and there, getting one or two things at a time. I found that I've spent a lot of time wandering around different stores and malls but coming up empty. I was starting to develop "shopper's fatigue."

As the clock ticks by, the pressure was on. Last weekend I finally knocked off a good number of names from the shopping list--it took a combination of online and good ol' fashion shopping to get things done. Throughout last week, I did some more shopping during lunch and after work. Slowly but steadily, my shopping became 90% done. I learned my lesson, though. Next year, I should do more online shopping late at night and regular shopping during regular business hours, which are far more limited. It boils down to a simple game plan of clock management.

What about the people who are still left on the list right now? There are a couple of variations of the same option. Sometime last week, an online portal had an article about how gift cards are the worst. gifts. ever., on the account of being thoughtless gifts. I completely disagree. I think gift cards are very thoughtful gifts indeed. Why should I impose my idea of what's suitable for Cousin Bob on Cousin Bob when he is the one who knows best? Let the gift recipient decide what he or she really wants. I also advocate giving cash, especially if that's what the person needs. Someone who is unemployed this holiday season may be less concerned with getting fancy gadgets than he/she is with paying for rent, utilities, and food. In that event, cash or gift cards to such places as Target or grocery stores may be particularly of help.

Of course, the downside to the cash/gift card gifts is that the gift recipient knows the exact value of what he or she is getting. This might not be so good if you can only afford to give something worth less than $10. People may say that it's the thought that counts, but unfortunately, it's not completely true.

I'm going to take a week off from blogging to regroup and recoup. I wish you all Happy Holidays. Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next year.


All Dressed Up...

...and nowhere to go? Maybe it's not as bad as people say it is. Dresses as casual wear is a nice change from t-shirts and jeans.

You may recall that I've looked long and hard for the perfect dress for my work's holiday party (yeah, I know it's been a while since I've last written). Ideally, I wanted something that could be dressed up or down. I was even willing to spend more for the dress because I wanted something nice and long-lasting to invest in. Alas, I've looked high and low and couldn't find what I was looking for...until the day before the party.

I had taken that day off of work because I had to go get sworn in for my license. After that was done, I decided to hit the Friday sample sales. I figured that it was one of the few opportunities I had to go, now that my work schedule is so busy, and I needed Christmas presents anyway. To my chagrin, I spent a lot of money on myself (and a little bit for 2 t-shirts for the boys of my family), but I landed a lot of good stuff.

One of the purchases is this wonderful Beaus and Eros dress. It's long-sleeved--perfect for this weather--and very, very soft. I could easily dress it up with a nice necklace and pumps, or dress it down like so. Or dress it down further with flip-flops. $25 is admittedly more than I'd like to spend on casual clothing, but this has such a professional look that I knew it can go a long way.

Here is my Christmas party dress in all its glory. I went without the tights (which I did wear for a different holiday event), and accessorized with my own Garden Variety bracelet and the vintage yellow clutch I snatched up at the Goodwill.

This Ella Moss dress is incredibly soft and drapes beautifully. I love how there are multiple layers that makes the dress look elegant but not weigh me down. I got it for $40--far lower than what I had budgeted for a nice dress. As it was a sample, I evaluated the construction carefully before plunking down my money. There was a split in the seams of the halter strap, but the pros of the dress greatly outweight the little tiny flaw, which was easily fixed with a needle and thread.

In addition to the draping, the gorgeous color got my attention. It's a deep (almost midnight) blue, which is as close to black as you can get and still be different from the typical LBD's out there. Another thing I love about this dress is the casualness of it. Sure, it can be dressed up for a party the way I did, but because the fabric is not satin, taffeta, or anything else that would give it away as a "party dress," I can easily dress it down with flip-flops for the summer.

I'm so glad that I was so productive on my day off ;-). Now it's time to go finish my Christmas shopping to the extent possible. It's been incredibly hard because I've been working long hours, but a little bit of local retail and a little bit of online buying helps knock a few names off that list. Hope you're staying warm and got everything done!


Saving and Helping

Are you still doing Christmas shopping for others and for yourself? Now you can do good and save money at the same time (I love that combination). I just learned that Banana Republic and Goodwill have teamed up for a special--bring in a gently used sweater to BR from 12/6 to 12/12 (next Wednesday) and you can get 30% off BR merchandise, excluding 100% cashmere items. The sweaters you give will be sold in Goodwill stores.

I'm seriously behind on my Christmas shopping...chalk it up to poor planning this year. Things are just not as easy to schedule when you're working long hours. Makes for an interesting write-up on shopping strategy, though.


Shades of Gray

What a whirlwind of a week! I just got sworn in so I can officially work in my full capacity as a lawyer. All of a sudden I realize that some of the stylish things I've been wanting are no longer mere wants--they are real needs. For starters, a briefcase/bag is a must...I'm still working on that. At least I've got the business card case covered.

And then there are things that are definitely "wants" and sort of "needs." I do have quite a bit of work attire, so I'm not quite in "need" of them, yet I want to expand my collection, particular for the colder climes. Also, I wanted a dress for my firm's Christmas party. I already have a lot of dresses, but I didn't think any of them would do for this particular occasion. This post is primarily about the work attire; the dress will the topic of the near future, when I actually have the opportunity to take a picture of it.

Lately I've been hitting quite a few stores in search of the dress, the work separates, and the suits. The dress has caused much frustration--when I was broke, I spotted things I wanted, but now that I'm willing and able to buy something special, I couldn't find any. I've spent much time in Loehmann's trying to find that dress and came up empty. Instead, I found a couple of pairs of pants that are great for the cooler/colder weather. How I found them was quite a story in of themselves.

I went to Loehmann's for the specific purpose of finding that cocktail dress, but I kept an eye out for other things as well. I picked out a number of pants and dresses to try on, and none of them worked out for me. Frustrated, I decided to put things on the rack of rejects in the dressing room. As I was doing that, a pair of pants French Connection pants caught my eye. The pants were charcoal gray and seemed warm--just what I was looking for. I tried on the pants and--surprise!--they fit like a glove. Searching through the rejects has worked for me before at the crazy BCBG warehouse sales, and this method came through for me again. When I finally hit the checkout line, I spotted a whole rack full of the same pants (albeit in sizes different from the pair I already possessed) plus pants of a different color and fabric. Because I was so impressed with the fit, I ended up picking up another pair of French Connection pants, the second being of light gray wool. At $25 a pair, the price is really good for good-quality, well-fitted work pants.

As an added bonus, the pants matched perfectly with tops I bought a few days later from the Calvin Klein outlet. The floral top is something I've eyed for a while, and it finally went on sale. The gray wool vest was something that my shopping companion (my sister) saw lying around as I was trying on the floral top. Both were around $27; the top is a bit of a splurge at that price (though I love it) while the wool vest is a good value.

As it turns out, the gray wool pants also matched with a wool blazer I got from the crazy BCBG warehouse sale a few years ago. The colors aren't an exact match, but close enough that they work. Now both blazers I picked up from that sale are completed with matching bottoms; the two suits are essentially $50 each. Yup, I'm pretty stoked.

It's no surprise that I've got a thing for gray. It's a great alternative to black or white, and all the different shades are nice to work with. They mix as well with black as they do with white and other colors. Tone on tone is one of my favorite concepts to play around with.

I've done quite a bit of shopping lately, and I hope to write about it soon. It's hard to find the time to post, deal with work, deal with orders, and shop for Christmas presents, but I'll try to make it work.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! I know that I have especially more things to be grateful for this year. May your family gatherings be happy, may the turkey come out juicy, and may you avoid being trampled by the crowds on Black Friday.


Veteran's Day Blowout (Part 2), or in the alternative, The Perfect Pants (Found)

Thank you so much for your well wishes. I still can't wipe that grin off my face. The thought of being accountable for anything I sign my name to is a bit scary, but it's also exciting that I get to do things I couldn't do before.

Back to where I left off before I interrupted myself with the news bulletin. After my tire got replaced, I was fully mobile again. My sister and I wanted to shop, but the local malls served up the same old fare, so we decided to go somewhere different (and also farther)--the outlet mall. My goal was to expand on my work apparel collection and to pick up a few Christmas gifts if I could (since I'm waaay behind schedule this year). Given the little time I had to spend at the mall, I only got the former finished, but it was a pretty good accomplishment.

Most of my time was spent at the Banana Republic outlet. There was an extra 40% off clearance items, which meant there were great deals. I found a dress shirt for just over $7. It had a few very minor imperfections, but otherwise it's great as a work staple. The fit is great and the patterns are interesting. I wore it as a Casual Friday outfit with my "skinny jeans" and a sweater for a bit of a stylish-bookish look:

With a conservative ensemble up top and a pair of pumps, I guess you can pull off the skinny jeans look in a working environment, but the jeans can't be of the super-tight, skin-tight variety. If they are on the tight side and you insist on wearing them, I'd suggest wearing a long sweater or jacket over it, and keep it on all day like so:

I thought this was an interesting spin on the 3-piece suit concept. The outfit looks way better in person. I'm a big subscriber of the layering philosophy. You've seen me wear the cardigan, the shoes, and jacket before. Each of these pieces are so versatile that I can wear them with lots of other things that I've also worn before, and it never gets old. Boring basics can go a long way when they get mixed around.

Remember those perfect pants that I had to let go because they were $80? That's really the reason why I spent so much time at the BR outlet--now that everything's been marked down, I tried to hunt them down. Alas, I couldn't find them in the sales racks even though I've fought off the throngs of people to reach the racks. I was about to give up when I wandered through the petites section and found a pair of pants that clearly didn't belong--the legs were longer than the petite pants. Sure enough, they were "my" pants, last pair in my size, fits prefectly, and $35 instead of $80. Oh yeah, they're definitely mine now:

I like how they are fully lined so that the tweed won't make me itch, and the fabric has a bit of weight to it so that it drapes well. The cuffs are great as well. The olive green is different from the standard boring colors. Because the pants have all my favorite features, they're definitely worth it. The pockets are sealed, which is kinda silly. I understand this is done in the interest of keeping the sillouette more streamlined, but why go through the trouble of sewing in fully-functional pockets only to seal them up later? If you know the answer, do tell. I'm curious.

It's amazing how fabric weight affects the fit, particularly for the now-popular wide-legged pants. I've tried on the same cut of pants of the same size/fit, yet one pair of pants looks markedly better than the other. So in addition to quality, fit, and construction, fabric weight will be a consideration when I shop for work pants in the future. Of course the fabric shouldn't be so heavy such that they make the pants sag (as we've seen all too many times in men's fashion), but it shouldn't be so light and flimsy that they make your thigh look bigger than they really are.

Even though I couldn't get any Christmas shopping done, it was a great shopping day because I found what had previously been out of reach. I also found some discounted MAC eye shadows at the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet.

Maybe I should head out to that mall again soon for some Christmas shopping. Parking is going to get crazy now, but if I can get most of my shopping done, I'll only have to brave the crowds once.


So a lawyer walks into a bar...

...and that lawyer is me. I went straight from bar results to a wine bar with my colleagues.

I was going to update with Part 2 of the blowout story, but my brain is somewhere amongst Cloud 9 and has yet to be retrieved. And since I don't have my camera cord with me, I can't update anyway. I know...excuses, excuses.

Anyway, I'll be sure to update early next week.


Veterans Day Weekend Blowout (part 1)

This weekend is a time to reflect on those who served and are serving our country, as well as their families. I am thankful for all that they've done, the sacrifices they have made.

I was also very thankful that most people were out of town early or stayed in for the long weekend, resulting in fewer cars being on the road. Because of that, I avoided disaster.

I was driving in the number 2 lane of the freeway, just before the interchange of three major freeways. All of a sudden, I knew something bad happened to my car because it was shaking very badly. I heard a loud noise of something go under my car, followed by an incessant, repetitive flapping noise as my car chugged along--the rear driver side tire had blown out. This is not a good thing to have happen when you're travelling at high speeds. Because that stretch of the freeway was 5-6 lanes wide, there was no way I could just stop and pull over. So, I had no choice but to drive about half a mile onto the connector road leading to US 101, moving toward the right lane as I went along. That part was much easier since the freeway was now only 3 lanes wide. Luckily, I wound up at a narrower end of a very wide shoulder area--unusual for LA freeways. I called my parents, who would later come with a jack and other tools to put the spare tire in.

While I waited, a tow truck suddenly stopped behind me. The driver got out and asked, "You called for a tow truck?" I told him no, but someone was coming for me, so he left. The way he phrased the question got me thinking, "what if I really did call a tow truck?" How would I know that's the guy I actually called for? If I was in a panic and would let the truck driver take complete control, I would have been taken in for a scam and possibly be charged an exorbitant amount. If you're ever in this situation, please make sure the truck driver is whoever it is you called, be it Triple A or someone else.

After all this, I should finally get some AAA protection. When I was in my belt-tightening phase, it was not an added expense I could afford. Now that I can breathe a little easier, it's worth the peace of mind. I should probably get a reflective sign or cone to get people to see my car and hopefully slow down. Believe me, sitting in the immobilized car while others whiz by dangerously close is quite unnerving, especially when one of the passers by is a huge semi with wheels skating on the line just a few feet away from your car.

The next day my dad managed to get me a set of rear tires that were on sale (yup, bargain shopping runs in the family). The blown tire was of course thrown out, but he saved the good right rear one as the new spare. He said that the next time something like this happens again, I can just pop in the good tire and it's all good to go--no need to put on the little spare one and replace it later. That's pretty good thinking.

Next time, I'll talk about a blowout of a very different nature: blowout sales. Finding those perfect pants is really satisfying.


Hot Button Issue

The chicken or the egg--did retailers follow what's in the magazines, or did the fashion magazines take their cues from the stores? Or is it somewhere in between?

The latest issue of Lucky magazine shows sweaters without buttons. The styling involved putting a belt across the front of the sweaters. It looks cute, but with an open front, it's hard to stay warm...isn't that the point of wearing a sweater? So it was to my great annoyance when I went shopping for sweaters that many of the styles had no buttons.

I do have a few thick sweaters for work, but they're anywhere between 6-10+ years old. Wearing the same zip-up sweater and the same black button-up sweater-coat does get a little old, particularly when the holes I've patched up are starting to get bigger and bigger. I'll keep wearing them of course (since I love them so much), but clearly I needed newer sweaters for a more professional look. I was hoping for something in a different style. After looking at various sales sections and finding nothing, I was willing to pay full price for something that will last as long as the sweaters I already have. That's when the buttonless snag came in--even though I was willing to pay for a good sweater, a good sweater was hard to come by. Feeling defeated, I had to settle. I wasn't willing to shell out too much money for something that wasn't perfect. And I needed the new sweaters right about now.

What ended up happening was this: I got 2 sweaters, both are $30. They have their own pros and cons, but they serve their intended purpose of keeping me warm, each in its own way.

The first sweater came from Forever 21. Since LA weather ranges from warm to cool on any given afternoon, I wanted a sweater that I can layer with. The quality isn't the greatest, but it does have buttons that go all the way up and the cut is really cute. Because I had such a hard time finding the right sweater, this is one of the rare times when I'm willing the make the trade-off with regard to quality. The short sleeves make this sweater perfect for a warmer Fall day (yes, we had an 85-degree day a week ago), when a long-sleeved sweater would leave me cooking during the day. I layered it over a long-sleeved shirt and it works just fine.

The second sweater was purchased from Target. I found one in a larger size hung on the wrong rack, then I went off to find where the rest of the sweaters were. Even though this one doesn't have buttons, the belt does keep it wrapped pretty well. It is surprisingly warm given how light it is, and the color looks great. Unfortunately, there's a huge minus that I didn't discover until I went to work with it. The angora-blend sweater not only sheds--it molts. Clumps of fibers were left behind on my chair, and all over my black pants. I took it home and gave it a good hand wash, and the shedding dramatically decreased. The shedding should stop after another wash, but for now it's good enough.

Not the best shopping experience for sweaters, but I did find a couple of other things that made the trips worth while. I bought the Charlotte Russe shirt with brown piping and puffed sleeves at (gasp!) full price as well. I wanted the shirt on first sight, since it's a nice work staple. I knew that I can afford to buy it, but it was weird to let myself to go ahead to buy it. After all, my first instinct is to ask if something is on sale, so I felt like I was doing something wrong. It was far more natural to buy the red hoodie off the clearance racks at Target. It's very much like my Mike & Chris hoodies, and I don't have to go to a sample sale for it.


Happy Halloween!

Hope you all have had a safe and fun-filled holiday. I'm still pretty stuffed from the potluck we had at work, but I gotta eat something for dinner. Yes, it's 10 pm and I still haven't had dinner. I was very well-fed.

We had a costume contest. The costumes had to be "office appropriate." I didn't win--the winner had a fabulous costume--but I didn't have to spend any money on mine. I took clothes from my closet and came up with a new concept for an existing theme.

Call this Little Red Riding Hoodie.


Strict Scrutiny

Hello again, folks. I apologize for not exercising due diligence when it comes to blogging for these last couple of weeks. Work got really busy, and when I come home, I have to cook, eat, and build up inventory for the holiday season. Once I get my license to sue, my crafting time would probably be drastically reduced, which is why I'm bulking up now. I'll still be blogging at least once a week, though I hope it'll be more than just the once.

OK, I'm done making excuses. On to the regular swing of things. Yesterday I actually went on a shopping spree, which is something I haven't done in a while. Another thing I haven't done in a while was to *gasp* pay full price for things. That's right, I actually paid full price. I've searched through many discounted items to find what I was looking for to no avail, and so I had to take that drastic step. You'll see what I got over the course of the next week or so, as I start wearing them.

Usually the things I buy are rather cheap, so I never had to worry about the possibility of returning them. At most, the damage would be a little snag or dirty spot--nothing that would have deterred me from buying or making the purchase not worth it. But with higher-priced items, I do worry about finding something wrong with it once I get home. If I'm going to spend more money on things, I expect them to last for a while; I don't want to think about that costly mistake every time I don my apparel.

Yes, that little phrase was totally intentional. We're getting closer and closer to the holiday shopping season, and it's time to really pay attention. When I bought a full-priced sweater from Forever 21 yesterday, I took a look at the store policy like I've never done before. To my surprise, they now allow only store credit and exchanges, no refunds. It wasn't like that before, to the best of my recollection.

I have no intention of returning my sweater, but this is good information to know when I start shopping for Christmas presents. I don't know if the policy will change for the holiday season, but that goes to show little details like this can sneak by if you don't pay attention. This isn't limited to Forever 21--other stores have either changed their policy permanently or roll out special policies just for the holidays. You certainly don't want your family and friends to be stuck with gifts that they don't want or can't use. Just something to think about when you start gift shoppinig.


Rocks Rock

For all the seriousness in the office, a little levity is a good thing.

My new, affordable, and decidedly unstuffy office decor from Magic Yam also doubles as hand warmers...makes sense for a cold office. I'm all about dual-use =)

Let's start with the service and packaging. The proprietress is super-friendly, and the packaging is so cute that I didn't want to rip it open:

The contents are even cuter. Check out the tags with similar yet different rock piles:


And here they are sitting next to a free stress ball. They fit right in! Lumpy the Coal is made of black fleece, and Grumpy is made of felt. Both of them are really soft and well-stitched.

Excellent workwomanship, great service, and cute overload--definitely a great value. I've waited a long time to be able to afford little things like this, and they're worth the wait. I think that's all the toys I'll have, though...any more than these will make me start to look unprofessional.


The Perfect Pants...nope, not this time

How hard is it to find the perfect pants? That's a rhetorical question. I found the perfect jeans before I can find the perfect pants for work. Funny, huh?

Work pants are pretty standard in colors. I have a lot of black, and they serve faithfully for years. But black starts to get boring after a while, and contrary to conventional wisdom, black doesn't go with everything. I wanted to find something gray, or brown, or beige. The ones I have now are starting to fray or no longer fit right.

Last weekend I was actually ready and willing to shop, but alas, I ended up spending a lot of time in traffic and wasn't able to find what I was looking for. A perfect pair was found at the Banana Republic outlet, but alas, it was $80. Sure, I may be ready and willing to shop, but not that willing (they call that an outlet price?). I did, however, find a pair of olive chinos. They're comfortable, durable, and even though it isn't perfectly tailored, the fit is amazingly good for $12. Besides, a "drab" color like that is the perfect counterpoint to jewel-toned shirts:

(And here's the entire ensemble)

Banana Republic isn't the first place I'd go for great deals, but when I get lucky, I get really lucky. Several years ago, I found a nice striped top for just $5. It's still a regular in my outfits. And now I've scored again. Unfortunately, a sweater I've been eyeing is no longer available, and the dress shirt I got on sale last time is no longer on sale. Oh well...we can't always win.

It's gonna be a while before I can buy those $80 pants. November is approaching, which means my private student loans are coming due. Unless I pass the bar and get that attorney's paycheck, it's back to belt-tightening again. At least this time there's a little bit more breathing room.


Ring, ring

I've lusted after this ring for quite some time. I had to look away many a time because of insufficient funds. Finally, I could afford to buy it, so I treated myself:

There are lots of bubbles in the green amber, and that's the way I like it--more things to refract light. It's so pretty! The price is really affordable given that it's sterling silver.

The green goes with the day's color scheme, which is a change from the prior day. This time, the shirt is brilliant but the outerwear is dark. I like this effect too.


Lawyers Love Ross (and great bargains in general)

It's funny how much I've been talking about shoes lately, but shoes and clothing have been great topics for breaking the ice when I entered new social circles. A sense of style is one thing we all have in common, no matter what our styles are. A simple "cute shoes" or "cute outfit" can lead to a longer conversation. Fashion ain't shallow, folks--it's called networking and "professional development."

Seems like I'm not the only one who thinks that cheap $15 shoes are capable of being more comfortable than some expensive pair, yet just as professional-looking. A couple of us were wearing Ross shoes today, after chatting about it the other day. Totally awesome.

My suit is a cobbled-together effort. It looks expensive because it is--at full retail price, that is. The $25 blazer came from a crazy BCBG warehouse sample sale from a couple of years ago, and the $20-or-so skirt came from Loehmann's. The skirt is actually a shade darker than the blazer, but it works pretty well because the difference is barely noticeable. I'd rather have the top lighter than the bottom, since the difference is less apparent that way. $17 dress shirt hails from from Target. The shoes, of course, came from Ross. Instead of some expensive brand, they're just good ol' Rampage for around $15. As long as they look sophisticated and are comfortable, they're going to hearings and depositions with me.

Here's a close-up of today's color scheme--blue, beige, and green. Dark dress shirts are great for dressing up boring beige suits. If you don't like blue, try other colors like berry red or emerald green...anything but white. The green ring came from Etsy just days ago. I'll show a closeup tomorrow.


The Shoe Stays On

If you look at my work clothes pictures, you'll notice that my black peeptoe pumps get a lot of airplay. A lot. If variety wasn't the spice of life, I'd be content with wearing them every day. They were the Nine West pumps I bought from the outlet store several weeks ago, and I absolutely love them. No need to put on sneakers to go out to lunch, because they're that comfortable.

Sometimes it's necessary to upgrade to more expensive shoes if you need to be on your feet all day. They don't need to be all that pricey, either; mine were $40. But a higher price tag doesn't guarantee comfort. I've ran into shoes that retail for the high 2-figures and they're stiff and they hurt. Conversely, I've found really cheap shoes that were ridiculously comfortable. If I'm going to pay extra for shoes, I shouldn't have to spend weeks and even months breaking them in. They may be a just little bit stiff at first, but after walking for a few steps, the shoes should mold to your feet. But how do we know that they're going to be comfortable in the long run?

It seems easy enough at first. Obviously, trying them on will give us a clue. The toes shouldn't all jam in at the pointy part, and your big and pinky toes shouldn't hurt from being squished by the sides of the shoes or from being rubbed against the stiff uppers. But there are other qualities that we can't observe just by wearing the shoe--it's time to run a little field test. Don't forget to actually touch and feel the shoe in detail. Run the upper between your fingers just like you would with fabric, and bend a little. Is it flexible to the touch? If the upper is also soft and smooth, they should be easy to your feet. If it's not flexible, you'll have to decide whether they're cute enough to justify the pain of breaking them in. Also, push on the insole to see if there's any cushioning, especially for the balls of your feet. Finally, bend the shoe a little to see how flexible the sole is.

Having cute but not necessarily comfortable shoes is fine in my book, with a caveat. If we want variety but don't have much money, the trade-off has got to come from someplace. It's not like we wear those shoes every day, anyhow (t-shirt/jeans/sneaker days, anyone?). But having one or two comfortable, classic pumps for work goes a long way. If you have to be on foot for extended periods of time, bad shoes are going to cause expensive podiatric problems somewhere down the line. People say that pain is the price of beauty, and "no pain, no gain." There's a bit of inevitable truth in that, but make sure that the price isn't going to be more than you can afford.


Lunchtime Excursions

Lunchtime is starting to get expensive. I try to bring my lunch a couple of times a week, but people at the office tend to go out a lot. New girl, fitting in, etc...you get the picture. Unfortunately, it's an unavoidable expense at this point. I try to go for the less expensive items on the menu, and I get water instead of soda.

Another source of lunchtime expenses come in the form of retail. I've often heard of people doing their shopping at lunch, but it was a foreign concept for me. Doesn't eating take a lot of time? However, now it's a lot more plausible because a huge shopping complex is just a block away from work. Since I bring my lunch to the outdoor area, which is a nice place to eat, I'd pass through the shops on my way back to work. I found these two things on the clearance racks, which are great for the type of dress code in my office and adds variety to the sea of blue that I've been wearing lately:

Practically everyone knows that wearing all black lends a sophisticated air. It's just not my style, that's all. However, different shades of the same color can be pretty fun to work with. The top is $8, and I love how it's casual with jeans but sharp with black pants. I always go for something that I can wear off the clock, and this fits the bill. That bangle is a new acquisition from the Target clearance section. Houndstooth and bangle don't usually go together, as the former is more work and the latter trendy and casual. The combination is a bit preppy and perfect for the job.

It's nice to bring a bright color into the mix. I wore a black cardigan over it, which helps tone down the brightness, but it's entirely appropriate when worn alone. I love the lace/crochet detailing at the collar.

Have no fear--these lunchtime shopping excursions will be the exception to the norm. I haven't turned into a spendaholic. First of all, meals are already costing me money that I could have otherwise saved or spent on cute goodies from Etsy. Second, this article scared me straight. I can't tell you how lucky and grateful I am for having this job, since I know a lot of people who are having trouble finding one. I need to save up for the impending increase of student loan payments, and in the event I become unemployed again, I need to have some money to live on. Contrary to what the article and some commenters said, I never came into this career expecting 6-figure salaries. I came in knowing that I want to work hard and have a successful career, but I also want to have a life, which necessarily results in a job that pays less. Even if I get that kind of salary (which probably won't be for a while), I'm not going to live it up because I want to get rid of my 6-figure loan ASAP.

It's nice to be able to live comfortably, and with my experiences living on a shoestring budget, it won't be a problem regardless of what salary I'll get. Back in the days of my first career, I didn't make much, but I was still able to pay for rent, food, clothes, and had leftovers for savings. Sure, it's nice to be able to do more now, and I'd be lying if I say I don't have an urge to buy nicer things because I've been deprived of that opportunity for so long, but I simply can't lose sight of the debt. It's dangerous to fall into the mentality that I have money to spend, since that money is already destined to go somewhere.

This post isn't going to end on a depressing note, however. Some of that earmarked money is going into a 401(k). Being fiscally conservative now will allow me to have a wonderful retirement. Yes, I'm just starting my new career, but it's never too early to think ahead.


Clothes, shoes, make-up, band-aids, and groceries

Where can you get all these under one roof, and cheaply?

One answer is Costco's, but you need a membership. WalMart is another option, though I avoid shopping there in protest of their unethical corporate policies.

In the middle of last week, I decided to go back to the family home for dinner. Right as I was leaving work, I got a text message from my sister with an odd request: bring home some band-aids and mayo. I was a little bit annoyed since I had a long day at work already, and then I had to sit through an hour's worth of traffic, spend another half hour travelling to, search, and then stand in line before I get to go home. I didn't want to do more driving than I needed to, so I decided to go to a plaza that had both a Target and a Food4Less. Mayo is obviously cheap at a place called Food4Less. Quality band-aids (the ones that don't fall off, don't hurt, and have packages that don't turn yellow over time like the cheapy 99 Cents store kind) tend to be more expensive at supermarkets, so I can head to Target for that.

I ended up doing all my shopping at Target because, surprisingly, it's a great place for non-perishable groceries. And the band-aids were inexpensive.

Target's affordable and gourmetesque snack selection has always been fascinating. Where my family lives, there's no such thing as Trader Joe's, Bristol Farms, or Whole Paycheck--stores that exist in trendy, relatively affluent areas that are the antitheses of my hometown. But I've never considered it to be a great place for groceries until I got extremely lazy and decided to explore the aisles on my way to the checkout line. Some things were more expensive than the grocery store, which was expected, but the bullseye-branded items were very competitively priced. At that point, I had already picked up some Target brand band-aids. There wasn't any Target brand mayo, but the Best Foods kind was priced equally with what I've seen at other markets, so I didn't mind picking it up. I also got a can of Target vegetable-and-beef soup, which appeared to be comparable to Campbell's Chunky soup, only cheaper--99 cents. I had it for dinner tonight, and it definitely tastes better than the cheaper supermarket-branded soups I've gotten.

Apparently Target is good with this kind of thing, but I didn't get the memo earlier. At least I get the message now.


Blue-collared and uncollared

Blue used to dominate my wardrobe, then I diversified. Now it's back to square one. While building a work-worthy collection, I'm turning back to the blues. It's safe yet different from the whites, grays, and beiges.

Working near a big outdoor mall can be a dangerous thing. I've done a little bit of lunch-time and after-work shopping there. And there's a Target nearby, too. It's convenient for items that I need right away (such as an $18 Spiderman fleece blanket as a birthday gift), but I'm staying the heck away from it as far as clothing goes. The one in my hometown is already doing me in.

The Loehmann's close to my work is much smaller than the one I usually go to, but it has some pretty good basics. I wanted to get tops that would be suitable for work but can be dressed down for play. The blue Rebecca Beeson sleeveless top is nice and soft, and only $5. The black one by the same designer is around $10, but the understated details are worth it. There's a flap that drapes from one shoulder to the other--graceful details in a conservative sillouette. It's a great contrast with my vintage thrifted skirt.

One of my lunchtime excursions netted me this $8 batwing top. It's really more of a treat, but I love the color. If I wear my black t-shirt from Target underneath, it'll be perfect for work. Both of them have collars of the same shape, but the black t-shirt provides a lot of coverage.

My hometown Target came through for me yet again. Right before I started my job, I needed dress shirts. I love the color and the satiny sheen of this blue one. On a trip to another Target, I found the Isaac Mizrahi for Target cardigan. I don't like the twin-set look, but I do like something like this. Not bad for about $15.

Actually, this whole outfit is a Target outfit except for the thrifted vintage skirt. I bought the shoes at the end of last Spring's clearance.

Casual Friday means blue jeans. Actually, jeans are acceptable in my office even if it's not Friday, but I'm the new girl and want to make this job permanent, so it's better to dress up a little more. I bought two pairs of Fins Denim jeans from a discounter sometime last year. Boutiques like Le Train Bleu had them for $100+; I bought mine for $10 each. The non-stretch pair has broken in really nicely and fits perfectly without being tight...I love it! The darker wash--which I love--is perfect for a more professional environment.

Maybe I ruined it (my mom seems to think so), maybe not (personally, I think it's cute), by pairing the jeans with a $5 cropped jacket sample I picked up from a Forever 21 store somewhere in Alhambra. That store bears the original name, which was Fashion 21, and the sale racks held a fabulous selection. Where else can you find a cropped jacket sample like this for $5, and then a nice, warm peacoat for $20?

I'm just very lucky to have a job that lets me indulge in my style whimsies, both in terms of the dress code and the disposable income. With all sorts of obligations, primarily student loans, I'm not gonna go overboard with spending, but it's been quite a few years since I had the ability to buy clothes without feeling guilty. I'm enjoying the moment, that's for sure.


Behavioral Patterns

This is probably my first post on unrelated things within the same theme. Usually my topics are very compartmentalized, but sometimes change is good. "Compartmentalized" sounds too neat and a tad boring.

I used to wear solid colors almost exclusively. It was easy, and it was cheap, but somewhere down the line, it also became boring. I expanded my solid colors collection to bright orange, green, and even hot pink--much better, but I wanted to be more adventurous. Adding clothes with prints on them was not easy. It was hard to find the right print, and I usually stayed on the conservative side. But once I started embracing crazy patterns, there's no going back.

While I was studying for the bar, I went on a thrifting run. I got a couple of things I couldn't wear then due to the hot weather (which breaks my usual rule of wearing something ASAP instead of buying and forgetting about it) but now that the weather has cooled down, it's time to bring them to action. One of them is still in need of repairs, but the other one has already entered the rotation.

I still can't believe I bought this top. What really got me interested was the tie-neck style. The pattern was at once crazy and unique. I really wavered back and forth before plunking down a couple of bucks for it. When I was in the store, I tried on the top with gray cropped pants and my electric blue heels. It looked great, which is why I bought it. But once I got home with it, I wondered if I had gone crazy; I liked it, but it was clearly ugly.

The weather has finally cooled down enough for me to wear this cool-weather piece. I thought about wearing it with plain dark jeans, but it just wouldn't do. The pattern felt too busy, so I wore my new Target tee over it. Perfecto! It's still crazy, but tastefully so.

Some would call this a "hipster" outfit. I don't consider myself a hipster at all, but I don't care. Wearing the blouse to work is a bit much, but it's a really fun weekend piece.

Patterns permeate other aspects of my aesthetical leanings. A lot of my jewelry designs are centered around mathematical patterns, which is why I arranged a bunch of drawings of patterns on the wall in this particular fashion:

It's a bunch of patterns within a single pattern. My sister originally did all these squares for a class project examining lines and curves. She made tons of these, and I took the leftovers she didn't use. It's been a couple of years since I've had these, so I'm glad that I can finally put some of this free art onto my walls. To make things interesting and to cover up as much of the pillar as possible, I made things stagger a little bit. Everyone who walked by my office stopped to marvel at it. I think that even if you can't draw, you can achieve the same interesting effect using brightly colored cardboard (my personal preference would be blue). It's a cheap and cute way of bringing modern art to your home or workspace.

I still wear solid colors most of the time, but it's nice to break out of the mold.


No such thing as a free lunch?

As they say, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Or is there? I got free lunch a couple of times courtesy of work, but I've also pulled a couple of 12+ hour days this week (which is why I haven't posted very frequently). I wouldn't call it bartering, though...I guess you can say I choose to stay there. But I'll end the philosophizing here.

So perhaps lunch isn't free, but lunchtime freebies are. Yesterday Maybelline had a big trailer parked at a big outdoor mall near my work, and they gave free samples. This is probably the most generously-sized free sample I've ever gotten. It's the exact kind of Great Lash mascara that you can buy at the store. I've always wanted to try it out, and now I can. They also had a "mascara bar" with makeup artists standing ready, but I had to get back to work.

I need to bring my lunch there more often. I love free samples.


If the shoe fits...

...then you acquit. Of all charges of spendthriftiness.

Sorry, being around trial lawyers all day, I've adopted their sense of humor. I absolute love my new job. We work hard, but we play hard as well. The dress code turns out to be a lot more relaxed than I thought, but it's still important to have a couple of good pairs of pumps, particularly for court days.

Remember the pair of shoes with worn out heel caps that I was going to throw away? My good friend has counseled me wisely and changed my mind. Other than the heel caps, they are in great condition, and perfectly-fitting shoes are really hard to find--I went both high and low for a loooong time and was never able to find a worthy replacement for them, which proves the point. So, I'm gonna keep them until I have the time and more money to get the caps replaced.

In the meantime, I still needed shoes that won't make me sound like a horse clomping down the pavement. I went to the Citadel outlet mall in the city of Commerce. It's not as great as the outlet malls in the desert regions, but it's easy to get to without having to sweat it out. I walked all through the various shoe stores and didn't find anything that looked like my old pair and priced like it. In the end, I had to settle for what I found in Nine West. This was a good settlement:

These are a bit expensive in my book--$40--but they are incredibly comfortable (and not as shiny as in the picture). The leather upper moulded to my feet really well, and the peeptoe style is so cute and retro.

At the time, they had a buy one get one promotion, so I ended up getting these for $10:

I'm not sure what happened, but either my foot got bigger overnight or I didn't have the luxury of an extended try-on at the store. They fit fine when I was there, but they were particularly tight at the toes when I wore them the next day. They are incredibly cute and will probably do quite well once I've broken them in, but even if I fail, $10 is an acceptable loss.

At least now I'm well-stocked in the career shoe department.


What a $12 haircut looks like

You all know that I'm cheap, and you also know I like to be stylish. It may seem that the two are mutually exclusive, but they don't have to be.

People are often shocked that I think a $40 haircut is too expensive. What do you pay? They'd ask. It used to be $10, then price went up, or the stylist isn't available and I have to go to another. Still, most of the time I spend no more than $15-30.

Being broke and busy with studying meant haircuts had to wait, but since I start my new job on Monday, I decided to get a nice cut before my schedule is booked again. My stylist usually knows my hair well, which is why I kept going back, but this time the results leave me with a love-hate relationship with my haircut. She was out of the country for quite a few months, so it appears that she forgot my preferences. I ended up getting choppy bangs that I didn't have before, and my hair is shorter than I normally would like. I left the salon unhappy, but over time, it doesn't seem as bad.

This is what a $12 (plus tip) haircut looks like. My mom cautioned me against going to those $5 places, but a $12 place does a pretty good job, even when it's an "off" day:

Hopefully this isn't too trendy for the office. At any rate, I have a bit of time to let it grow up before I have to look, well, lawyerly.

Hair notwithstanding, today ended on a good note. I finally scored 2 pairs of comfortable shoes. They're a bit more than I'd usually shell out for, but after spending days searching for the right shoes, they're great ones to "settle" for. More on that next time.


Back to Work Shopping

It's hard to believe, but I'm re-entering the work force for good. No more schooling for me. I'm done. Reality is setting in.

A couple of days ago, I was in a bit of a panic. I realized that I had nothing to wear for work. When other people say they have nothing, they often mean they have nothing they liked. I was pretty serious when I said I had nothing--sure, I had a few business-casual things, and I have quite a few suits, but the firms I worked at were more on the casual side of the dress code. I need enough items that would last me for at least a week. To make matters worst, my favorite pair of kitten heel black pumps from Target--the pair that served me faithfully for 3 years--have finally been worn to the hilt. It is simply not worth paying a cobbler to have the heel caps replaced.

So I spent Labor Day weekend wandering throughout the mall in search of dress shirts. And wouldn't you know it, the stores with shirts that fit me the best (Gap and Express) were also the most expensive. There was no way I was going to plunk down $45 for a single shirt. No luck with shoes either. I felt like Goldilocks--the heels were either too high, too flat, or too uncomfortable. Nothing was just right.

I'm still in search of the perfect replacement shoes, but my search for dress shirts is more or less over. Target was the perfect place to stock up. I bought a dark blue dress shirt with a satiny sheen for (gasp!) full price! Of $18, as opposed to twice as much. I found a 3/4 sleeve white dress shirt for a little over $8 on the clearance rack. Finally, I picked up a simple black top for a few bucks; I can wear it for work or casual times, which is great.

Tomorrow I need to go get a cheap (but good) haircut.


Happily Scrappy

I decided to spend the last days of "freedom" doing lots of crafting, celebrating my newfound employment with friends, and doing more work to spruce up the pictures in my store. Remember how I got some photo props from the Big Lots cookware department? Well, I'm still working on perfecting the technique of taking pics off a stainless steel surface. Not quite there yet, but it does produce a cool futuristic look:

The cooling rack has actually been indispensible. I use it to prop up the cookie sheet, and I'd hook earrings on the overhanging part of the cooling rack. So much for using the cooling rack for its intended purpose. Oh well...not like I'm going to be baking cookies any time soon. It's so incredibly hot these days!

Still, the cookie sheet alone is not going to be enough to bridge the gap between the black leather and stark white backgrounds. I wanted a neutral-colored surface like wood. I have a mahogany-colored bench (courtesy of Target), but the surface is too narrow for jewelry photography. Oddly enough, Ikea solved my problem, and not in the way you'd expect.

When I went to Ikea about a month ago, the end of season clearance was on. Lots of things were marked down to a ridiculously low price. I hit the cookware section, hoping to find some interesting (and cheap) thingamabob to serve as a photography surface. Didn't find anything. In fact, I didn't find anything of interest until I was about to leave. I noticed some colorful plastic plant pots for sale for 25 cents each, and they were of a pretty good size. Once I saw them, I thought they'd be good storage receptacles for knicknacks, so I got 3 of them (2 blue and one green). Recently I started using them in a different way than I've earmarked--they work very well as small waste buckets. I'd use one to catch snippets of wire as I'm making jewelry.

Then, as usual, my last stop was the as-is department. They sell the craziest things sometimes, ranging from floor boards to sofa covers to drawer fronts. I wasn't surprised that drawer fronts and sofa covers weren't flying off the shelves; after all, unless you have the exact same model of the sofa or storage units AND you were in need of a cover or a drawer front (what are the odds of that?), they're practically useless.

Or are they?

The big hunk of a drawer front was exactly what I needed--it was small enough that I can carry it around and big enough for me to put large necklaces on. I could even use the piece of wood as a work surface if I wanted to. The best part is that I was only out $2.

It really is the perfect surface to bridge the gap between black and white. The color is neutral, and the surface reflects light the way my black portfolio pictures do--just the cohesion I needed.

Imagination saves us money. Who would have thunk that? It does pay to be a dreamer sometimes.


Straight Talk

You've heard me gripe about skinny jeans. They work for some people, but they just never work for me or other people who became sausagefied because of them. The tappered legs only emphasizes the hips. However, I wanted a pair of straight-legged jeans that I can wear with some loose tops; it just doesn't look as streamlined with boot-cut jeans.

My want has been in want of satisfaction for several years. I simply couldn't find a pair of straight-legged jeans that fit me like a glove and not be shoddy or expensive. It's always been hard for me to find well-fitting pants, so it was no surprise that I couldn't find anything per my specifications...until a few weeks ago.

My last purchase before the great tightening of the belt (and still tight) was rather accidental. I had to play chauffeur and wait around for the passenger, so I decided to look for 2 specific items--the ever-elusive straight-legged jeans and a shrunken vest. At the time, I had a little bit of spending money courtesy of my Etsy gig, so I decided to treat myself to a little something. I walked into Nordstrom Rack on a whim, since I've never been able to find anything there (too hectic). Lo and behold, I found the Holy Grail within minutes.

I managed to snag a pair of J Brand straight-legged jeans for $28 plus tax (around $31 total)--60% off the Nordstrom Rack price, and way more off from original retail. If you've read this blog for a while, you know that I'm not into the branding craze, but these jeans really are great. They're stretchy, slimming, and make my legs look a lot longer. The straight legs balance out my wider hips, which is why they look so good. The hem is quite long when I'm wearing flats, but they look decently cuffed up, since the cuffs don't flare out badly like bootcut jeans do. They look flared in the pics below, but they're really not. When I wear heels with them (no cuffs, of course), I actually look tall.

It's quite a bit to spend on a pair of jeans (at least for me), but it's money well-spent. I absolutely love them! They look great when I'm wearing a loose top, and perfect for casual days.

One note on sizing--even within the same brand, the sizes vary. I tried on a pair of the same size but in a different style (turns out to be the pegged-legged type), and I couldn't even get them on. This pair, however, is a perfect fit.


Survey says...

Wow, I can't believe that it's been a week since my last post! Yup, I've been really busy. I've been job hunting and taking care of some exciting business dealings. When it's all wrapped up, I'll tell you about it. [UPDATE--I just found out that I am now employed. Whether it'll become a permanent thing is another story, but it's a great job and it'll pay the bills.]

If the rising costs of utilities don't urge you to conserve, maybe extra freebies will. My astute roommie told me about a program from the Southern California Gas Company--if you take an energy survey, you'll get a free energy and water saving kit comprised of several aerators for your faucets, which reduce water use by up to 30%, and a free showerhead which also cuts down on water usage. We just installed them. Not only is there an improvement in water flow (beats the old crusty aerators that came with the apartment), but we're saving water. The widgets are incredibly easy to install. All you need is a wrench.

Since the offer ends at the end of the year, and the kits are available only while supplies last, you might want to take advantage of it. If you're not in the SoCal area, look up your local utility company's web page to see if they have a similar offer. It's totally worth it!


Front page treasury (again)

I was pretty stoked when the Treasury I created was picked for the Etsy front page this morning! Unlike last time, when I missed my own item being featured, I caught it this time.

The theme I used was 2047, inspired by "2046," the movie I got with my LexisNexis points (yay for free DVD's!). It's a good arthouse flick for those so inclined, but it's definitely not something to watch when your parents or children are in the same room with you...

When my friends and I were watching the movie, we were ooohing and ahhhing at the clothes and shoes the women wore. The setting was Hong Kong in the 1960's, so the wardrobe was a mix of East and West. Notwithstanding what *some* of the characters did for a living (or maybe because of it...I don' t know), they looked glamourous. I'm typically not into the beehive hairdo, but when combined with a form-fitting cheongsam or swingy dress and heels, it works. You can take a look at some of the pics here.

While the 1960's wardrobe had me drooling, my inspiration for the treasury came from the futuristic scenes. Wong Kar Wai's idea of the future is apparently very colorful--much more preferrable than the sterile, colorless minimalism that other sci-fi movies feed off of. The colors are combined with the typical metallic surfaces, which reflect the colors stunningly. I like metallic--if you recall, I took a chance on that silver cropped jacket, and I have a metallic green bag from Target. The green bag made its appearance when I took it with me on the wine trip, and I can't wait to do more with the metallic jacket soon.

I've been on a futuristic kick lately. I made these, but alas, I can't wear them. There are just some things clip-ons can't do.

Which movies inspire your style?


My $140,000 sheet of paper

A recent trip to the post office is a fine example of what the magical "Number 11 bus" can do, as my family jokingly calls it. The 11 is formed by the two stilts called legs. There are so many benefits--some obvious, some not.

My very expensive piece of paper arrived in the mail a couple of days ago. I had to go to the post office to pick it up because it was too big to fit into the mailbox. Being mindful that I've already paid a lot for this sheet of paper, and will have to spend many many more years paying it off, I decided to save money by walking to the post office instead of driving. I need the exercise anyway, since I spend each day sitting in front of the computer (looking for jobs) or making things for my store.

When I got to the post office, I finally saw how huge it was. At least it looks like I got what I paid for.

The supermarket was nearby, so I walked there with my big envelop under my arm. I had a hard time fitting it into the grocery basket...silly me, probably should have gotten the groceries first.

Walking is such a great way to save money, and when I don't have time to hit the gym, it keeps me healthy. It's an environmentally-friendly way of travelling. It's also a time and sanity saver, especially during gridlock time. It's a great way to see the sights of a town we usually hurriedly travel through; there are so many details I miss while zooming by at 35 MPH. Finally, there was an unexpected additional benefit for this particular case. I went to the market to buy cream cheese to make another cheese cake (much smaller this time), and I was hoping that the heat and all the time spent walking would get the cheese to be nice and soft when I got home. It didn't get all mushy (which is good), but it did help soften a little.

Given how frugal I try to be all the time, why would I be so extravagant with a piece of paper? I call it a good investment. To protect my investment, I'll work hard for years to come, and I'll get a stylish frame not from the place that sent me that piece of paper (the prices are absolutely ridiculous for a single embellishment at the bottom), not from a customized place, but from an affordable and stylish outlet such as Target, Marshall's, or Ross (which, despite of the daily chaos, has a very decent home goods department...more on that on another day). I've spent enough money already on this piece of paper, so I really don't need anything expensive and grand. No one is going to go up close to look at the frame anyway, and all a frame does is hold a piece of paper--a pane of glass, a frame, and some sturdy backing is good enough.

In case you were wondering, that piece of paper happens to be my spankin' new law degree =).


Gift cards for the drought

After experiencing the euphoria of being done with school and the bar, I'm feeling the blues from the state of unemployment. It's really hard to not feel helpless and hopeless after sending off cover letters (which I hate to write) and resumes (should I include this or that); after they leave my hands, I can do no more other than waiting and sending more resumes. I did quite a bit of planning before this stage, so financially I've been OK for the last few months, but a couple of monstrously large student loan payments have hit me hard and I'm really feeling the crunch now. It does light a fire under me and spur me to diligence on most days, but some days it only causes stress. The blistering heat certainly doesn't help matters.

As a result of all this, I've further tightened my purse strings. I try to avoid using the credit card so that I won't overspend, and I've further cut back on purchases. Fortunately, my Etsy store provides a little bit of monetary relief and allows me to indulge a little from time to time, but for the most part my spendings are for bare-bones necessities. I've drastically reduced the amount of supplies I bought and I'm making myself work with what I already have, which is actually quite a bit.

This is also a time when my saved-up gift certificates/gift cards come in handy, some for wants and some for pressing needs. It's a good thing to save a few for big retailers in case you really need something and not have the funds for it. I'm able to do this in CA because the gift cards don't expire here, but they might in other states, so it's best to check. Two types of them were in my possession--a gift certificate from Fred Flare (a Christmas present) and a couple of gift cards from Best Buy.

I've let the Fred Flare gift certificate gone unused for so long because I couldn't find something that I really wanted, and I saw no reason to buy something just because. But that changed last month, when Lucky magazine gave readers a 25% discount. A long time ago I talked about my strategy with maximizing the bang for the buck--I'd typically wait for a sale before spending money on something, and gift certificates are just like money (except it's your friend/family/etc.'s money), so I'd wait for a sale before spending mine. This time is no different from any other.

I tried to stay as close to the gift certificate limit and ended up getting this adorable, warm hoodie, which is perfect for the Fall, and a book. Total out-of-pocket cost was a little more than a dollar. Close enough. When I came home from the wine trip, the box was left at the door. Good thing it wasn't stolen.

The Best Buy gift cards really bailed me out this time. Electronics are expensive, so I saved my gift cards for the drought (I wish it were rainy right now...it's too darn hot). I absolutely need a working printer to print out resumes and such, and while I don't typically like the selection at Best Buy, that's what I have money for. Not that I foreclosed other options--I went to a few stores to look for better deals, and there was none to be found. So, I settled for an inkjet for now; I'll upgrade when I have the money. After using up both gift cards, I paid $12. That would have been pretty good if it came with a USB cable, but I didn't find out about the deficiency until I got home. I ended up going to Staples to buy a short one (which was also the cheapest) for $10. $22 total is not bad for a printer, but I wish I had more time to shop around for the cable.

Got a couple of interesting topics coming up, so stay tuned! Sorry about the infrequency of my posting lately, but I just have a lot of things to worry about right now. At the very least, there'll be one post a week.