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.


Getting away from it all

I just came back from a 2-day getaway (well, more like a day and a half) to Temecula's wine country, and it was really, really fun. While it may seem stressful to pack everything into that short time period, it was definitely not so. In fact, I think it's better than long trips because there's less to worry about.

This was my "bar trip." I can't afford to do anything fancy like other people do, but going somewhere local with friends (and splitting the bill) makes it much more affordable. Because I was going insane from cramming for the bar, my wonderful friends did all the planning work. They are great bargain hunters by their own right, and they did a superb job this time. All I did was to pick the choices they offered.

Lodging is probably one of the biggest expenses when it comes to travelling. There's the method of finding the cheapest possible, then there's the method of finding the best value. There was a hotel that was really cheap, but it was right by the freeway and not picturesque. Then there's someplace fancy in the heart of wine country, but offers a summer special that costs an extra $15 per person. We all agreed to take the latter, and it was undoubtedly the best choice. Take a look at the views we got when we step out onto the private patio attached to each "villa":

Those grapes were quite yummy (very sweet), even though the skins were thick and there were huge seeds inside those little grapes. The evening view was great, too.

It was such a great value because the extra money we paid wasn't much, but we got a lot in return: spacious rooms, a beautiful bathroom with jacuzzi in it, which we didn't because we used the one by the pool after we've had a nice refreshing dip in it. On top of that, each room has a free bottle of wine, and we got 4 tickets for wine tasting, which normally costs $10 each.

It really pays to go on the weekdays. I'm not sure if the winery/hotel's special deal would be valid on the weekends, but very often they are not. Another good reason to go on the weekdays is to avoid the crowds. Some of the tastings we went to were quite hectic...think of what would have happened if a larger group was around.

My friend had booked us a wine tour so that we can do all the different tastings without worrying about driving. The tour was around $80 (including tip and lunch), and we were taken to 4 different wineries. Most wine tastings cost $10-$15 each for trying 5 different wines, which meant a lot of that $80 is attributable to the transportation services. If you want to save more money, doing your own driving (when you've had a break to sober up, of course) will save you even more money. The tour guide gave us a "passport" that includes discounts for tastings and/or purchases at other wineries, which came in handy when I bought something on the morning before we headed home.

For the best value when it comes to tasting, do your homework before you get to wine country. Find out which wineries offer deals, or if your hotel gives coupons. Some wineries have 2-for-1 tastings, which are great if you're going with friends or a significant other.

Look at how much stuff we bought collectively!

The one on the wine rack is the complimentary bottle from the hotel. See that tag? If you see tags on hotel things, read them carefully! In this case it told us that it's free, but a lot of times a tag means it'll cost ya. We saw a couple of bottles of water with the $2.95 price tag. Good thing we paid attention.

Finally, going on vacation also means spending money on food. Eating out is expensive, but it most cases it can't be avoided. However, breakfast is generally easy to tackle--things like granola or protein bars don't require refrigeration. If your room has a microwave, you're in luck. You can heat up leftovers from restaurants, which will make another meal.

When I got home, I found another UPS package at my door. Good thing that wasn't stolen, either. I'll talk about the contents next time.

p.s.--thanks for a wonderful time, girls! You guys are the best.


Things that happen while I'm out of the house...

1) As you can see from my Budget Gourmet posts, blending everything by hand is incredibly laborious. I had a small number of points left on my Lexis Nexis (legal search engine) account to cash out after graduation, so I decided to use them for a hand blender. UPS left the package in front of my apartment unit, and I stumbled upon it when I got home. Good thing no one stole it.

Woohoo! Now I'll be able to eat my stuff sooner.

2) Apparently my Do The Hustle necklace made the front page of Etsy! Too bad I didn't get to see it, but someone was nice enough to let me know. I'm pretty happy about the unexpected attention, though. I've always admired the stunning works that make Front Page, and now I get to join the illustrious group. Woohoo!

If any of you reading this is an Etsian who also made front page and made a screencap, please let me know if you're willing to share!


Budget Gourmet: Espresso Cheesecake

Now that the bar is over, I have some time to relax a little bit before looking for a job. Because money is really tight, this break won't last long. The financial crunch also means I can't spend much money during this "vacation." Not much of a problem--it just means I can't eat out much (which I don't do anyway) or shop for clothes. Other than I pair of white eyelet shorts I bought from Express to replace a pair of shorts that no longer fits, I don't need any more clothes. One big thing I have to cut back on is jewelry supplies, which is hard...I need more beads to have a variety, and sometimes money has to be spent to make more. I made my one last big purchase right before taking the bar, and now I'll just have to stick with what I have.

Just because I can't go out and eat doesn't mean I'll miss out on good food. I can certainly make my own! I'm not a big dessert person, but one of my favorite desserts is cheesecake. It also happens to be fairly easy to make. Here's my pictorial of the cheesecake making process. I tend not to measure, so you'll need to turn to an actual recipe if you have to measure.

Before you start, preheat the oven to 350F and leave the bricks of cream cheese out to soften. Usually 2 bricks are enough to make a small pan, but you'll need more if you want a bigger pan. I used 4.

Instead of wasting money buying a graham cracker crust, I made my own. It's very simple--just crumble some graham crackers by placing them into a Ziploc bag, squish the air out, seal, break them into smaller pieces, and roll over with a rolling pin. Make just enough crumbs to fill out the bottom of the pan, then melt a few tablespoons of butter. Pour that into the graham cracker mixture, mix, then spread out to cover the bottom of the pan.

In a large mixing bowl, throw in the softened cream cheese, add some sugar, and try to beat until it's soft. I don't have a mixer (yet), so I didn't get it nice and smooth...just good enough so that it's not too chunky. Then I added in a fresh shot of espresso. If you don't have an espresso machine, you can add coffee instead. Espresso and cream cheese smelled great!

Add in a couple eggs and beat it into the mixture. I also added in an 8-oz container of sour cream--not required, but I've seen it on some recipes. The mix I had was pretty thick, so I added in some milk to thin it out.

Pour it into the pan, bake for 30 minutes to an hour, depending on how long it takes for the surface to brown, then take it out to cool. Easy, right?

You can add chocolate or caramel syrup, or you can skip it. Your choice.

I used a big pan, so I had quite a bit to share. One tupperware was kept for my household, one went to school to share with my fellow bar-crammers (there were 2 of us regulars), I ate one of them at school, then the other two went to friends. Not bad when I spent about $7; one slice costs at least $3 in many restaurants.