[self indulgence]

On Etsy, people can create what are called Treasuries. They are lists of items within a particular theme and showcases different artists (it is against the rules to use it for self-promotion). Being in bar review hell, I decided to create one called "res ipsa loquitur," which means "the thing speaks for itself." It's actually a term involving negligence, but I'm not gonna bore you with the scholarly specifics. I picked abstract artworks because a lot of people say they don't know what the heck they're looking at, but I find beauty in them. In other words, the artworks speak for themselves.

This morning I found out that my Treasury made the front page of Etsy. I was so stoked! It was only a few fleeting hours, but front page is kind of a big deal.

[/self indulgence]


Transferred Intent

There's only a month to go before the bar exam. Life is stressful and miserable right now, but "frivolous" things like crafting and fashion gives me some semblance of normalcy.

Last week I had my 6-hour simulated exam, followed by 2 days of reviewing the answers, 8 hours a day. After that second 8-hour day, I was just wiped. My fridge was empty, and my mental gas tank was getting close to the E. Since I've seen other people blog about their fabulous vintage finds and realized I haven't gone thrifting for a while, I decided to make a trip to the Goodwill. The supermarket was on the same street anyway. I got 3 interesting tops, and I'll show them on separate posts. It's gotten too hot to wear 2 of them, and one of them needs a little minor repair, but I just couldn't pass them up.

A while ago, I talked about babydoll tops. It's hard to find the right ones without the preggo look. It seems like a couple of things make them work: pleats in the right places, or fabric that drapes the right way. I didn't think that most of the huge tent dresses and blouses would work for a lot of people because they either look like muumuus or maternity wear. However, I think some loose tops can look very good when belted, as Eli of Thrift Eye has demonstrated. Most of the time, the belt is magic.

With this in mind, I decided to take the plunge and buy a striped top, probably from the 80's and home-made, since there are no labels on it. The puffy sleeves aren't my thing, but the colors, stripes, and pleats in the front make this top the cutest thing. My intent was to belt it, since wearing a large belt with my last oversized vintage find works pretty well, as you can see here:

You've seen this green top before, also in its belted form.

To my chagrin, the belting job didn't work very well for my new top this time. Maybe if I had a wider belt, it might work better. Maybe if it didn't have puffy sleeves, it might have looked better. Maybe if I had a wider belt that fits right at the waist, it would have looked better (though my attempt to force a fit did create an interesting twist, if you will). Fortunately, the top actually looks good without the belt, especially with the sleeves rolled up a bit. I didn't think tent dresses would look good on me at all, but I guess you never know until you try it. This particular one also has pleats across the front, and the fabric drapes pretty well. That's probably why it works for me. It looks even better when I layer a shrug over it.

You can judge for yourself.


Upcycling: The Reveal

I was going to hold off until next week, but I guess it too easy to guess...or did my pun of a title give it away?

It looks easy to cut out the shapes, but it really isn't. When you cut out parts that are very close to each other, the whole section can cave in. Judging by the number of holes there are, you can tell how many failed attempts it took to get things right.

The last picture shows the pebbled side where I got the shapes of the Mitosis earrings. If things go my way next time, more parts of the jug will be used and less wasted. The only part I don't use is the bottom, since it can be a bit dirty. The top portions are pretty clean.


Upcycling: Project 2

Bernie took a stab at what the main ingredient is, but at this time, I will neither confirm nor deny. For those of you who want to keep playing the guessing game, avoid looking at the comments until next week, OK? No peeking!

Here's project number 2. They're going up on my shop soon. You guys get to have a first sneak peek--don't you feel special?

I love the pebbled texture. I call this set of mix-and-match earrings "Mitosis." I know, they look like sunny-side-up eggs, but that's sort of the point.

Next week I'll show a picture of the material's source. It's a lot harder to work with than you think.


Upcycling: Milking materials beyond the last drop

The things I do the procrastinate...tomorrow I have a 6-hour simulated exam. Tonight I still have to do a 1-hour simulated essay. I swear I can't remember anything right now. I'm probably going to flunk tomorrow's exam, but I won't let it happen when it comes to the real thing.

When I started making jewelry, one of the things I thought about was recycling materials such as soda cans. I wanted to use the aluminum to make spirals, but pretty soon I scrapped that idea. For one, the edges are probably too sharp. It is not my intention to leave anyone with cuts on the face, or worse yet, become a modern-day Van Gogh. Also, after I took Trademark and Copyright classes, I realized how much of a problem it could be. If I were to make them, I won't be able to sell them. I'd rather not be sued, thank you very much.

Still, the idea of "upcycling" remains intriguing. It's a good way to conserve resources, and a cheap way of getting starting materials. A couple of nights ago, I really wanted to worm my way out of studying Contracts. A crafty lightbulb went off in my head, and I got to work with my Xacto knife well into the night.

I made quite a few things. Since I'm pretty busy nowadays, I decided to stretch this project out over the next few posts. Take a guess at what I made this out of:

I love it, and I've been wearing it for a couple of days. Before I assembled it, I showed the pieces to 2 people. One guessed right away because there were two different textures, while the other could not. In a couple of days, I'll show another project I did with the exact same type of materials.

The answer will be revealed sometime next week. The material, that is--the method remains proprietary ;-)


Kill Dirt, Save Trees

My roommate and I did quite well with paper towels. We started out with a pack from Costco, and months later, we still have a lot left. Imagine how much money we saved by getting them from Costco AND conserving them.

What's our secret? Much of the time, we use kitchen towels to dry off our hands instead of paper towels. When paper towels are used, we tear off only as much as we need, even though the perforations are only for large sheets.

I try to make as much use of the used paper towels as possible. This is something my family taught me to do since I was a wee wisp of a girl--while it's still damp, we may as well use the paper towel to wipe down dusty surfaces. After all, the water we wiped off our hands is clean.

Using paper towels judiciously will save money in the long run, and it's environmentally sound. It's a good way to go.


Image is Everything

Well, not everything. But there's something to be said by the power of glossy images.

I love playing around with StyleDiary. It's a great way to keep track of things I'm wearing. Since I have the tendency to be stuck in, say, a particular color scheme for days at a time without conscious awareness, a picture diary helps me spot these trends so that I can get out of a rut. I also love looking at other people's diaries. One of my favorites is by a woman with great tastes--a mix of vintage and designer brands. Recently I saw her wearing a very cool jacket. The jacket was a bit big and deconstructed, like some of the expensive avant-garde pieces I've seen. Imagine my surprise when I saw that not only was the jacket from Target, but so was something else she was wearing. I've always believed that it's not how much you've spent--it's how you wear it. Yet, I was blown away by how well she wore it. I think that her style is awesome, and it's enhanced by her excellent photography skills and poses.

That brings me back to today's topic: glossy images. We all know that things look better in fashion magazines than they do in real life, but that's not the point. The point is that you can put together a polished look with inexpensive clothes, but it's all in the way you present it:

-To make up for what cheap clothes lack in quality, it's important to for the clothes to fit. Something may be cheap, but if it doesn't fit, you're getting the double whammy--suboptimal quality + bad fit = not something you'll wear a whole lot.

-After the fitness issue is resolved, make sure the clothes are clean and not wrinkled. For bags and shoes, keep them clean and shiny/streak-free, if necessary. Streaks can be a problem for fake leather goods.

-Next is how you wear it. Look sharp by thinking about what layers you want to add, what accessories you want to adorn yourself with, what colors match. If something needs to be tucked in, tuck it in. If something should be buttoned up, keep it buttoned up.

-Last but not least, wear your clothes with confidence. Stand up straight, smile. Look like you're comfortable in your own skin. I think attitude is what really makes and breaks an outfit. Some people can wear outrageous things that I wouldn't think of wearing, but the outfits look right on them. I think they're the ones who pull it off because their positive attitude makes that style/outfit all their own.

To wrap up, here are my sorry attempts to do artsy photography for my latest purchases. I wanted to illustrate that through (sometimes) clever styling and trick photography, cheapy items can instantly become glamorous. It's really all a matter of presentation.

I think I did pretty well with the sunglasses, but not so much with the shoes--the lighting is just off and my shoes are bit dirty. In the case of Payless, I think they've really improved their image. It's probably the same quality (more like lack thereof) as before, and there are some rare cute gems just as before, but the way they present the shoes in ads nowadays gets me to think, "Hmmm, I think I'd like to wear that. Payless has some pretty cool stuff!"

Issac Mizrahi for Target sunglasses--about $5 from clearance bin:

Sunglasses break or get lost easily, so there's no point in spending that much for a pair unless they're really unique.

Payless peeptoe wedges, $6 on clearance:

I snagged them while running an errand. I rarely shop for shoes at Payless, but once in a while I'd go in to see if there are stellar deals. This pair fits the bill. I know that white is a summer color for shoes, but I never did like pure white. It's a bit blinding, and just not for me. These cream/off-white shoes are perfect! I've been wanting the green version of these, which is a Spring style, but this cream color is even better. Spring, summer, whatever. Close enough for me.

These aren't glamour shots by any means, but just to show how the shoes look like when they're on. They're so versatile--I can dress them up or down:


UV = ultraviolent

Summer is here, and so are the many people hitting the beach in bikinis. Even the landlocked have their day by the pool, or in shorts, summer tops, or flirty little skirts. Don't forget to put on sunblock! UV is really bad for the skin.

This is certainly not the case of "what doesn't kill us can only make us stronger," but "what doesn't kill us can make our lives better," with one important caveat--that we harness the force safely. Solar panels have been in use for years as a source of energy. The initial setup isn't cheap, but over time, the savings can be phenomenal. Other than solar-powered calculators, most of us don't have the luxury of enjoying this technology, but there's another use for solar rays that cost us absolutely nothing.

The very thing that kills our skin cells can also be used as a disinfectant of sorts.

Think about it--UV is used to irradiate things all the time. It works by frying the DNA of nasty little critters. Obviously, it's a bad idea to stick ourselves under the sun, but I think it can be a good way of disinfecting thrifted items. If the items can be washed, sunning it a good additional step. If the items can't be washed at all (like shoes and decorative items) but you're weary of the germs, why not stick it under the sun for a while? As long the material won't crack or fade under the heat or light, it should be a viable option. If cracking and fading is a possibility, either avoid this method or keep the cooking time short.

I remember my mom used to tell me to let used books sit in the sun for a while. I thought it was a silly idea and didn't do it, but now I've come to realize why it's a good idea. I don't like to do something simply because everyone does it--just because people it's a routine practice doesn't make it right. However, many conventional wisdoms, ancient practices, and traditional therapies do have an underlying scientific/logical reasons to justify them. It's just that the practitioners are way before their time and haven't found a "why." If I can see a rational basis for a particular method's effectiveness, I'd be happy to consider it. It's just more intellectually satisfying than "because I said so."

Just to be clear, UV is not the end all and be all. It won't kill everything, but it's a chemical-free and hassle-free way of cleaning. Lysol and possibly alcohol are still needed to reach the deep dark corners of shoes that can't be reached by sunlight.


Nose Above Water

It's now two weeks into my bar review course. Last night it finally hit me that I've dug my self a pretty deep hole.

We've covered 3 subjects so far, and I slacked because I was feeling under the weather. These last 24 hours things really hit rock bottom. I was sick and did terribly on a practice essay that I had to turn in, and this morning I was much worse and just couldn't follow the lecture. After a good lunch and a bit of downtime at home, I feel much better, but I've come to realized that it is time to really crank it. To all those who are going to take the bar in the future, here's my advice to you--no matter how tired you are, stick to the schedule. Study like it's time for finals, but don't burn yourself out. It's gonna be a loooong ride.

That said, expect fewer posts but the same great quality. Quality is always better than quantity, right? The posts will also be on the pithy side, which must be a welcomed relief for you all. As far as the subject matter goes, there will be a slight shift. Obviously I'll have pretty much no time to shop, but I still have a reserve of resource-saving ideas to share. I'll also be doing some crafting in lieu of bashing my head on the wall, so I'll talk about them a little bit more. For a couple of months, this will be more of a fashion/craft/frugality cross-over blog.

Now back to dealing with nasty cross-over essay questions on the California Bar Exam...le sigh...


Tooth and Nail (nail optional)

My Xacto knife had been busy lately. Last time I recycled scraps of cuttings and turned them into cards. This time I made a graduation present with them.

How's that relevant to Hot Off the Sales Rack? Let's rewind a little bit.

As a bargain hound, I do pretty well with buying things I need. Most of the time I use it right away, but sometimes they just sit around because I don't have time to do anything with them. Over time, these neglected goods cease to be a bargain if they remain unused. I've recognized this as one of my weaknesses, and I deal with it accordingly. I keep track of what's not being used so that a) I remember I have them in the first place and not go out to buy more, and b) sometimes they come in handy in an "emergency"--not the life-or-death kind, but the gifting kind. Sometimes you just couldn't figure out what to buy for a particular person, or you didn't have time to get one and it's too late, or you just plain forgotten about it.

Let me make one thing clear: I don't mean pawning off unused items as cheapy, inappropriate gifts. Ever heard horror stories like how Uncle Fred gave Anna a bottle of shampoo and her mom got some ethylene glycol (and oh, a bonus funnel!) as presents, because shampoo was the only thing left at his house and the gas station was the only place open late on Christmas Eve? Well, truth really is stranger than fiction--these things have actually happened before. You don't want to be forever remembered as the donor of the worst. gift. ever. If what you have is nice and a natural choice for a gift, then go ahead. But if what you have on hand is something too commonplace, either put it aside completely or think of it as a starting material for a thoughtful gift.

If you ever need a gift in a pinch, be resourceful. Look around and see if you have some other new, unused materials that you can use to create something special. You can put together a gift set of sorts, provided that you package things nicely and there's a unified theme (deodorant and olive oil don't mix, folks). If nothing else, you can make it a pseudo-gag gift: "What? We've been friends for all these years and all I get is a pack of socks? Oh wait--what's this envelop stuck to the back? 'Just thought you might need some laundry money to go with it.'" I haven't tried this myself, but it's something I thought up.

If you're crafty, you can make something out of the materials you've scrounged. Here's a project that you can use to make a gift or for your own home decorating pleasures. There's no need to be super crafty--just a little willingness to cut and paste is enough.

In law, there's one too many three-part test for the constitutionality of one thing or another. I may be sick of memorizing them, but I've got to admit, having that mentality saved my butt last week. My friend was about to graduate from dental school. I've been looking around for presents (ranging from tooth-themed goods to art for the office), but since I became too wrapped up with my own graduation and my bar review course started almost right away, it became too late for me to order the gift. I had no time to go shopping, and even if I went, I wouldn't know what to shop for. Then came yet another 1am inspiration. Why don't I make some original art for his office? I would have bought some anyway, but a more personalized version would be better.

So I set out to make this 3-panel tribute to dental health:

(Sorry for the dark pictures--I was still getting used to my new camera, and what appeared on the LCD screen was much brighter than the picture actually was.)

Days before the graduation, it became clear that I'd have to make something; store-bought things just won't do. I've been on a "Big Leafiness" cutting streak, so I wanted to do something along those lines, though I didn't know what exactly I was going to do. So, I looked around the house a bit. I bought these Ikea frames a few years ago for a decoration project. I used 3 of the frames and intended to use the rest, but I just never got around to it. Obviously, I'm not going to give a set of picture frames as a gift on such a special occasion. They became a starting material. After having these two key components--the vinyl and the frames--ideas really started rolling in. At 1am, I finally decided to do a teeth-themed set of cut-outs. It took me about half an hour to cut everything. Most people probably don't have vinyl around, but they do have paper and fabric scraps. You can use those in lieu of vinyl.

I knew that I wanted to paste them onto cardstock, but white was too stark, and all the other cardstock I had were either too bright or too dark. I wanted something with a creamy yellowish base. The next day, I went to two different stores in search of cardstock or thick paper--no luck at Big Lots, and even worse luck at CVS. CVS is obviously not the destination for paper goods, but it was getting late and I had few other options. Sure enough, CVS didn't have the cardstock I wanted--things were either too cheapy or expensive, and not in the right color either. As I was about to leave, it suddenly hit me--manila folders were perfect. Not only do they have the right stiffness, but they have the right color (the picture of the middle panel is the best reflection of the color). It was exactly what I needed, and only a fraction of the price of fancy paper.

So there you are--the only ingredients required for the project are frames, manila folders, anything you can use to make a silhouette, a pen (if you want to draw/write on the folder), and an active imagination. Simple, right?

After I was done, I put it in a box, wrapped it up with some Ikea (Christmas) wrapping paper and topped off with a toothy card from Less Than Three Designs. The card was the only thing I could make up my mind on early enough.

This is just one example of how common items can be assembled into a thoughtful gift. I'm sure there are many more out there, and as always, feel free to share yours!

(Nerdy legal epilogue: oh my gosh, I just realized that this post was pretty much written in an IRAC format. Have I been doing it all along? How screwed up is this?!?)