Two of a kind, three of a kind...full house (or should I say full closet)?

When it rains, it pours. It's kinda weird--I've never bought 2 of the same thing, be it in the same color or not, until a couple of weeks ago. During my shopping spree at FIDM, I bought 2 of the same cami at $1 each. The day before, I bought 2 of the same school emblem shirts because the 50% off sale was in its final days. Since anything with school insignia on it tends to be expensive because of licensing fees and all, I thought it was a great deal. The shirts were roughly five bucks each, and I intend to hack the sleeves off of one of them and turn it into a regular t-shirt.

I think it's perfectly fine to buy duplicates of basics. If they're going to be worn a lot and thus wear out more quickly, it makes sense. When it's cheap, why not? Heck, when K-Mart had a sale of dress shirts for $1.50 each, my dad loaded up on them. Most men's dress shirts look the same, so colleagues won't mistakingly think that you're wearing the same shirt from the day before.

Now let's change a variable: color. With basics, that's not a problem. It's useful to have t-shirts in a variety of colors. However, when it comes to a trendier item, that might not be such a good idea. Once the trend passes, you end up with two things that are out of date. Unless you really, really, really like that item and like it enough to wear it beyond its trend lifetime, put that second color down. Having 2 of the same thing is more of a problem for clothes than for shoes, I think. Shoes don't seem to be as susceptible to the change of trends.

Caveat: while it's nice to stock up on basics, let's not go overboard with it. After all, closet space is limited.

That's it for my personal opinions. What do you think about buying in pairs and trios?


My FIDM Shopping Spree

Ah, I finally get a chance to post this. Taking pictures of everything is so time consuming!

It's been almost a week since I last posted, but if you recall, I had just gone on a shopping spree. I bought so much stuff that I had trouble carrying everything home. Was the trouble worth it? How much damage did I do to my wallet this time? Let's see...

I've always wanted a wrap dress, but I haven't found the perfect (cheap) ones. On this trip, I got two. Both of them had small colored markings on the back at the neck, which are covered by my hair anyway. I doubt that anyone is going to look up close. $2.50 each.

I'm always on the lookout for interesting outerwear, since I'm always wearing the same few things. I think that my best find is this F21 number. It's a jacket! It's a dress! It's...something that can pass for either.

When I picked it off the rack, it was missing a button. While I was trying it on, I found the said button in my pocket. Sweet! No one has to know...$2.50 it is.

I've gotten to like shrugs, even though I hated them back when they were really trendy. They're so versatile on warm days that turn cold when the sun goes down, and they're perfect when I go to school (the outdoor temperature tends to be way warmer than indoors). The buttons were originally all black, but one was missing. Since finding a replacement button would be more expensive than the shrug itself (which was $2.50), I decided to replace both buttons.

The replacement buttons came from a $1 bag of mixed buttons that was also sold in the store. It took me a while to sort out all the buttons when I got home, but now I've got lots of cool buttons for future projects! I even sent a set of nautical-themed buttons as a free gift to one of my Etsy customers.

Two pieces of outerwear looked cool, but in retrospect, not very good buys. Take a look at this long hoodie:

It's nice and long, just the way I like it. A hole was cut out of where the label was supposed to be, but it's covered by the hood so I didn't mind. I'll patch it up eventually. What I didn't notice was a big piece of fabric that was cut out of the band at the hem. I didn't catch it until my mom pointed it out. Bummers. At least it's on the inside, so it's not visible. Not the best value for $2.50 considering I've gotten near-perfect clothing at that price.

And then there's this:

I've been looking for a long sweater that serves as a sweater dress. There was a big slash in the back, right over my butt. I figured that I'd sew it close and it should be OK, but my sewing job is very much visible. I wouldn't go so far as to say $2.50 down the drain, but it's definitely not the smartest buy. To fix this, I'll be doing applique designs on the back. I'll show you the results once I have time to get that done.

I love this sweater! The cheery color and the puffed sleeves take the boringness out of the turtleneck. I'm wearing it right now. There was some separation at the seams of the neckpiece, but that was easy to fix and covered up when the turtleneck flap is folded down. Definitely worth $1.

Not pictured: two Forever 21 gray rayon camisoles at $1 each. I usually don't buy two of the same thing, but there were no flaws at all and I can always use camisoles, so why not?

Total: $19 plus change after accounting for sales tax.

I have no regrets.


A note on laptop warranties

After seeing the comments from the last post, I thought I should spotlight Brian's comment as well as clarify my own position on it. Here's what Brian said:

If you're going to spend less than 15% of the value of the laptop on a longer warranty, I would seriously consider it. For many, it's your most critical computer in your life, period... and if you're a broke-*ss law school student who can't afford to plunk down $500 for a new motherboard or $400 for a new LCD, hell, it works out in your favor in the end. Smaller things like harddisk crashes and batteries dying are more of a toss-up, but heck for 10-15% you usually work out even there. I would have very few qualms about spending $950-1200 instead of $600-800 on a nicer laptop with a 2 or 3 year warranty if I was in such a situation.

What he said is right. Brian is the first guy I'd call if my computer starts doing funny things, so I trust his opinion completely.

What I meant when I was opining about warranties is this: I generally don't go for them, given my past experiences with extended warranties, but if I were to get a warranty for anything, it would be for a laptop. However, I took a calculated risk not to get a warranty for a number of reasons. Lack of disposable income tops the list. I have a desktop computer that handles the more intensive applications; all I really use my laptop for is to take notes for school (though I've been increasingly relying on it for other things), so my laptop wasn't literally my whole life. I used to back up my data very regularly (I should start doing that again), so I wouldn't lose everything. I have friends I can call for help if something goes on. On the flip side, I also knew that if my laptop konks out, I'm pretty screwed. In the end, I decided that if I take good care of my machine, I might be able to avert bad things, and hence my choice was made. My cheapskate side won out, even if it is not the most economically efficient way to go about things.

Thanks everyone for a good discussion. Do continue to share your thoughts and experiences! It'll help us all make more informed decisions.


Making you laptop last longer

My shopping binge post is preempted by 1) the fact that it's cloudy today and my clothes didn't dry and 2) the death of my laptop's power adapter. I thought that the adapter would cost $20-30 to replace, maybe $50 tops, but I had to spend $90 including tax!!! Now I'm kinda regretting my shopping spree. To make matters worse, the adapter I bought only powers the computer, but it doesn't charge the battery. Given the fact that my whole life is on my laptop, and that I need it for class, I didn't have much choice but to spend all that money. Fortunately, I found some places online that sell Dell adapters for a fraction of the price, so once I can get my hands on it, I'll return the one I'm using. I can live with a restocking fee--consider it a "rental fee," and at any rate, it's better to be out $10 than $100.

This mishap got me thinking about how to take care of a laptop such that maintenance costs could be kept down. Many of us bought laptops just before we started law school, and quite a few people have had their laptops die well before graduation, some tragically in the middle of final exams. Hopefully my laptop will at least last through the California Bar Exam at the end of July . . . it would be a disaster if it dies on me right in the middle of it. For goodness sakes, I don't spend thousands of dollars for a three-day-long test just for kicks.

It's not accidental that my laptop outlived my power adapter. I knew that laptops are more fragile than the desktop, and accordingly, I took great care of it. In contrast, my power cord took a lot of beating because I'm bending it and folding it each time I get out of class or have to move elsewhere. I never thought about it breaking down until I saw the cord fraying here and there a few weeks ago. By the time I got around to taping it up, it was too late.

Here are some things that I consider to be important in extending the life of the laptop:

1) The things we can control the best are the physical, external factors. There are quite a few of those...

-A lot of people put their computers in rolling backpacks, which are good for the back, but bad for laptops. All the bumps from rolling around translate into vibrations that damage moving parts, such as the hard drive. This is the reason why I prefer carrying my laptop in a bag or backpack. But of course, if you have back or other musculoskeletal issues, it's better to protect your body. After all, a machine is replaceable even though it's expensive, but there is no easy fix when it comes to personal health.

-Keep your drinks as far away from your laptop as possible. It sounds like a no-brainer, but I can't tell you how many times I've heard people accidentally spill coffee on their laptops. If you're going to be in close quarters, have your drink in a spill-proof container. A few drops might still spill out, but it probably won't be enough to ruin anything.

-Keep your work area well-ventilated. It's never a good idea to let your laptop cook itself. In spite of its moniker, it'll be good if you don't block all the vents and fan holes with your legs, blanket, or comforter. If you'll be working on such a surface, pick up your laptop once in a while to let heat dissipate.

-Don't multitask when you're handling your laptop. I didn't see it happen in person, but I heard one girl say that she had dropped her laptop when she was paying attention to something else. The laptop still worked, fortunately, but a hit like that has got to be pretty damaging.

-Don't put stuff on top of your laptop, especially on the side with the LCD screen. Things won't fall apart right away, but give it time and it might happen.

-Make sure there's nothing on the keyboard before you flip the screen down. I've seen cracked LCD screens on no less than 5 computers.

-I've seen quite a few girls carry their laptop in their big tote bags, entirely unprotected. You never know if one of them will trip and fall. At least use a laptop sleeve--it's not very expensive, but it offers a lot of protection.

-There's a lot more things that I'm forgetting, but feel free to chime in.

2) To make the hard drive and CPU work less hard, I keep things uncluttered. That means defragging once in a while and keeping unnecessary programs off the start-up process.

3) This goes for all computers--guard against spyware and viruses. Software comes free, so there's no reason to not protect yourself. At my old job, I often chatted with the IT guys. It's amazing how some computer-illiterate people have 5 different versions of the same virus running amok on their computers. We all know not to open strange attachments, but it doesn't take that step to get a virus anymore. Catch them critters before they wreak havoc.

4) When I bought my laptop, I also bought a spare battery to go with it. Now I'm glad I did, since my laptop's model has long been discontinued and it would have been hard to hunt down a new part, not to mention expensive. If you're looking to buy a new laptop, maybe that's something worth considering.

5) When it comes to extended warranties, I generally wouldn't waste my money on it. Maybe it's because I'm not afraid of replacing parts myself (I've helped assembled a few computers before), or maybe it's because more than half my friends are engineers and people who are extremely knowledgeable about computers, I don't know. What I do know is that the likelihood of things breaking down within the warranty period is generally slim. True to Murphy's Law, things often go kaput immediately after the warranty expired, so extended warranties do no good. However, because of the mobile nature of laptops, they do tend to break down more often than other forms of electronics, and some of my friends have had to send in their laptops for repair. The value of extended warranties is really a toss-up in this case, so it really depends on an individual's particularized circumstances (gosh, I sound so much like a lawyer).

Happy Lunar New Year, and Happy Presidents' Day!


Not guilty...but should I be?

Sorry for the lack of posting--running a business and going to school at the same time is quite taxing. When I'm not studying, I'm making things.

Since I had to run errands in Downtown LA yesterday, I figured I'd go shopping to make my trip worth while. I ended up going on a huge shopping spree. In the past month, I felt guilty over buying a couple of pairs of jeans and a hairclip. Yet, I felt absolutely no remorse about buying so much stuff that I had a hard time lugging everything around.

Should I feel guilty about it? Stay tuned for the next post. I'll show you what I got and how much I spent later, but I have to wash the said clothes first.


Crazy Outfit Idea Number...forget it, I lost count

It's been an exciting but also exhausting week. There's the launch of my new business, and of course the usual things: school, editorial work for school, housework, etc. The only shopping I've been doing nowadays is for craft supplies (more on that another day), and I bought a hairclip from an Etsy seller (more on that on another day as well). I'd say that I'm making pretty good progress as a recovering shopaholic. =)

I've been continuing to dig deep in my closet in search of things I haven't been wearing. I came across a C. Ronson dancing skirt that I bought from Le Train Bleu a while ago. I haven't worn it much as a skirt because I've only worn it a few times for actual dancing. And why would I do that? Because the slit is a bit high for everyday wear. I've worn it as a top a few times, but the wide elastic waistband can make it a little awkward sometimes, not to mention that volumnious skirt worn as a top = dangerously close to maternity wear.

Sleep deprivation has either made me go crazy or just insanely creative (I'd like to think it's the latter). After staying up all night to meet an editorial deadline, I felt like dressing better so that I can feel better for the rest of the day. I spotted the skirt and decided it's time to wear it as a top again. Then I saw an orange tee and thought the colors go together. Then perhaps inspired by a laurel wreath-like necklace I just made for sale, I decided to wear it like a toga by pulling up the hem and pinning it at the collar near my shoulder with a lapel pin I made:

Here's a gratuitous artsy shot of it:

Since the outfit is so crazy, I decided that covering it up a little would make it look better.

Later on, I tried out what would happen if I pulled the hem up to the other shoulder. Hmm...not bad!

I ended up not going out after all yesterday, thus saving the people of my neighborhood from such a blinding sight. Today I decided to revisit the idea in the attempt of coming up with something that won't have to be covered up to look good. It helps that I've finally gotten the chance to do my laundry and have more to work with:

I'm gonna head out soon looking like this. Maybe I'll change into jeans...


The $431+ Background Check (and what I'm doing about it)

If money begets money, then I hope that spending money will also achieve the same result somewhere down the line.

I've already alloted an insane amount of money toward my bar prep courses, and I've had to spend money on various things such as getting fingerprinted and the Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam (it was actually harder than I'd expect, and I expected things like "don't sleep with your clients," "don't misappropriate funds," "don't hold client meetings at Starbucks," etc.). You'd think that the state bar would ease up on fees for us poor (in more ways than one) students, but no.

One of the last things I have to do before signing up for the California Bar Exam (which is sure to cost me some 3-digit figure) is to submit a moral character application. The state bar wants to make sure that I'm not a substance abuser, thieving scoundrel, or some axe-murderess (apparently the conventional criminal background check, which I've also had to pay for, isn't enough). Not only do I have to go through the trouble of accounting for where I've been and what I did at all times since age 18, but I've had to call up a lot of people asking them to be willing references. After I'm done filling out this thick, thick packet, I'll have to send it in along with a check.

This is the $431+ background check I referred to in the title of this post.

Although my credentials give me a really good chance of getting employed soon, the reality is bleak. I know quite a few people who have passed the bar but have trouble landing jobs. This year I borrowed enough to cover large expenses such as the bar courses and enough living expenses to hold me over until I'm done taking the bar, but it might not be enough in the longer term. I didn't expect the moral character form to cost that much, and this unpleasant surprise has further strained my finances. One thing is obvious: I'll have to make some money before then. My courseload and class schedule this semester makes it virtually impossible to get a job, so I have to do something else.

Those earrings you saw in the last post are on sale now. That's right, I've launched a new business! Given all the bureacratic mess I've had to deal with, I didn't expect to be able to go live so soon, which is why I was a little cryptic in the comments. My very expensive education finally came to a good use outside of its intended context--decisionmaking would have been infinitely harder if I hadn't taken a couple of business-related classes. I never imagined I'd be doing this, and I don't expect to make much money, but it's definitely a good academic-practical project (albeit a very stressful one). Let's see how this goes...


Waaay Off the Beaten Path

Over the weekend I had to go to LAX to pick up my brother. Seemed like a routine trip, but leaving the airport was anything but ordinary. For whatever reason, all of the on-ramps to the 105 freeway were closed! I followed detour signs like a wild goose chase, and in the end, it brought me to unfamiliar territory. I didn't know how far I had to drive until I can get back on track, so at my brother's advice, I took Artesia Blvd. I knew that in the end I would hit the 91 Freeway and it would be smooth sailing from there.

I was still fuming about the crazy detours when I realized that maybe the detour was a good thing. Near the very end of Artesia Blvd., there is a wonderful store in Gardena called Marukai. There are quite a few Marukai chain supermarkets in Southern California, but the one I went to wasn't a full-service supermarket, and it wasn't a membership store either--it's a retail store chock full of wonderful Japanese goodies. Everything was 98 cents (the emphasis is on was). To my dismay, the prices of many goods have gone up to $1.50 or more, but I understand that the owners have to raise prices once in a while to survive and thrive.

Each time I go, I'm suckered by the kitchenware and stationary sections. Everything is just so cute--the prints, the shapes, just about all the other cutesy qualities I could think of! Things are still affordable, but knowing that they cost a little more is enough to keep me from picking up everything in sight. I wound up with a small but very sturdy bag (great for small but heavy things), a notebook, and some "message cards."

The "message cards" are basically business card-size card stock. I bought them with one thing in mind:

Ah...much more presentable.


Bag Surgery (otherwise known as Hand Sewing Fiasco of 2006)

Here's the long-overdue recap of what I did to replace the lining of my thrifted bag. You may recall that back in November, I posted this picture with a promise to follow up at a later date:

Now I finally have the time to do it, though not necessarily the right words.

I had to replace the lining because there were stains and holes in it. There was no way I could have used the bag without the lining because the bottom was sticky, and I didn't things poking at the cutout portion and cause damage. Removing the old lining was easy--just snip off the thread here and there, and the entire thing pulls apart. The rest was a challenge, to say the least. In retrospect, I don't recommend anyone doing this without a sewing machine unless you're patient and can handsew really well. I got the job done, but it was so frustrating that it's almost not worth it. Still, I'm making this crash course available for any of my sewing-machine-less cohorts who would like to try it.

The first thing I had to do was to find the right fabric for the lining. I went to the FIDM scholarship store because their fabric is a dollar per yard, and there is a great selection. There was a few bolts of yellow fabric, but I wanted something that was suitable for a lining, preferrably something more durable than the original cheapy plastic lining. I consulted with one of the students who worked there, and she directed me to this beautiful yellow fabric--shiny on one side, dull on the other, and the fabric was tough stuff. I bought a yard and couldn't wait to get started. A yard of fabric seems like a lot, but for someone who hasn't been trained in the fine art of sewing and have no sewing machine, it's just enough for me to mess up a few times with.

I wanted to do as little cutting and sewing as possible, so I decided to get the fit of the bag by doing this:

The lining would be the bag within a bag--I would sew it so that it's just big enough to fit inside the red bag. To measure, I just used the red bag as a mould. Obviously the accuracy would have been better had I took actual measurements, but I wanted to get things done faster. I used a pencil to trace the outline of the bag so that I know where to sew. I wanted the shiny side to show on the inside of the bag, and I also wanted to hide my ugly seams. So, I did the markings on the shiny side so that I can sew along the lines, then flip the lining bag inside-out.

It's very important to get this "measuring" part right, because if you're off (especially where the lining attaches to the main bag, all that sewing will go to naught. This is exactly what happened with my first attempt. As it turns out, the top of the lining bag was too narrow. I didn't find out until after I've finished sewing the lining bag. Oops. I ended up turning it into a shoe bag:

Pretty? Yes. Getting there? Not so much.

Anyway, back to the prepping-to-sew part. It's not like we're just sewing two pieces of fabric together and we're done, because this particular bag is not flat. The bottom of the bag has depth, which means the lining has to follow suit. For the bottom corners of the bag, I decided to do what I'd normally do when I wrap gifts, only this time I'm wrapping the fabric around the red bag (the edges of the fabric are on the sides of the bag). Once I folded the corners, I made a few stitches to keep the corners in place. Only then did I take out the red bag.

For the next couple of hours, I just sewed upward along the lines, starting from the bottom corners. Not all that hard to do, just time consuming. When I finally got to the top, I wanted the top edge to look pretty, so I folded it over and sewed some more:

I flipped the lining bag inside-out. Now it's Easyland no more. Sewing the lining onto the red bag was really cumbersome. It didn't help matters that I tried to be creative and wanted the stitches to be blue (so that all three primary colors would be there).

I started at one edge of the red bag, threading the needle through holes created when the old lining was sewn in. Then, I threaded the needle through the lining. Up and down we go...where it stops, I really wanted to know. It felt like it took forever, especially toward the end, when one hand was stuck in between the lining and the bag.

In the beginning, my stitches were much more meticulous, but as you can see, I sorta gave up toward after a while and just wanted to close it up without regard for aesthetics (the bottom right is markedly better than the bottom left). After all, no one will pay close attention to the inside of my bag. I got the job done eventually, but I can't say I'm too happy with my work. I am, however, happy about the fact that the bag is useable once again.