Take a Bow

[Edited to add close-up of shoes.]

I'm all grown up, yet I still can't resist the charm of bows. I don't wear them in my hair anymore, since I'm way past that stage, but less obvious forms of bows are unexpectedly cute and "age-appropriate."

[Marc by Marc Jacobs lop-sided bow ring, Calvin Klein slingbacks.]

The silver slingbacks are the saving grace for all of my dressy outfits, since silver goes with just about anything. The bow-on-top-of-a-bow adornment fills the visual void below the hemline or peeps just so from the hem of pants, and the silver color makes the bows glamorous instead of girlish. I bought them from DSW a couple of months to go with a rosy pink dress for a wedding, since none of my other footwear seemed to work with that color and the expected weather conditions. These shoes performed quite admirably--they continued to shine even after they got rained on, splattered with mud, and sank into the water-logged ground during the reception. After one good rinse and wipe, they were ready to go with blue dresses (i.e., for Christmas) and jeans for other occasions.

The ring is somewhere along the lines of my Pink Head Hello Kitty ring: it's almost too cutesy for adults to wear, but the operative term is "almost"--it toes the line without crossing it. I should be a bit abashed to wear such an overtly youthful accessory, but I'm not. It's shiny without being girlish, and the off-center placement of the bow just works. Quite a gem from the accessories clearance section during Nordstrom's after Christmas sale.

What do you think about bows? Do you wear them? Do you avoid them? Do you secretly wish you can deck yourself in them? I don't think anyone is ever too old to wear them; it's just a matter of finding one right for you or the particular occasion. While I don't believe in "dressing one's age," I do think time and age do influence personal style. I certainly dress differently now than I did 10 years ago, mainly due to changes in responsibilities, lifestyle, and other circumstances.


Blue Shift

There's always more than meets the eye, as the saying goes. Speaking strictly in terms of the color wheel, red would be the "warm" color and blue a "cool" color. Hence, it is easy to say that red is the color to wear for parties because bright colors evoke a burst of energy, and darker colors are to be avoided because they are too subtle. But blue is not dull and devoid of the high-powered glamour that festivities demand. Indeed, it's quite the opposite. If you look at color as a spectrum from a scientific point of view, blue light is rather high-energy because it has a short wavelength, while red is actually at a lower energy state.

As hard as I've tried to find the perfect Little Black Dress, I could not find one. I think I'm resigned to the fact that I may never find it, but that's fine. Instead, I've been finding blue dresses. Blue is subtle yet captivating. It slowly simmers with electricity.

[For the work Christmas party: Richard Chai for Target dress, vintage coat, Goldenbleu clutch (a sample sale find), Target diamond-patterned tights, D&G mary janes.]

I tried on the rose-print version of the dress here, and bemoaned the fact that I could not find the blue one. By the time I got around to looking for the clearance section of the Target website, it was all gone. Luckily, I found it in my size on eBay for a fraction of the cost, and it fits perfectly. It was meant to be. The dress actually hits right above the knee, despite what the camera angle suggests.

This Christmas seems especially cold, since an arctic storm rolled through. I've been told by several folks coming from the East Coast that when they got here, California was actually colder than from whence they came! Frigid weather like that tends to put a damper on my plans to wear a dress (I'm a warm-weather wimp). This year I didn't have to choose between warmth and vanity--while I was at Bloomingdale's to do some Christmas shopping, I found the perfectly fitting wool shift dress on the clearance rack for about a third of the original price. It has literally taken me a good few years to find a shift dress like this--something in a gorgeous matte fabric, elegant but amenable to being dressed down, classic with a modern twist. The button details on the shoulder, the subtle gathering at the collar, and the ribbon detailing on the sides and back are just perfect. This is clearly a dressy dress, either for special occasions or with a cardigan/blazer for work, but it is very easy to dress down. On the same shopping trip, I splurged on a hooded leather bomber, which has also been on my shopping list for quite some time. It is the perfect mate to the dress, among other things. Given how badly the stock markets are tanking, I dare say I can get a better return for a select portion of my year-end bonus on these two pieces than I would have if I put it in my 401(k). It's far more comforting to see the cost-per-wear ratio plummet than to witness the same for stock or cash value. (I'll leave my thoughts on deflation for some other day.)

[Diane von Furstenberg dress, Gap scarf (the gift from last Christmas that keeps on giving), Ray Bans, Michael Kors leather hoodie, Target tights, Ciao Bella booties. For the family Christmas gathering, I traded the tights and the booties for a pair of silver slingbacks with a cute bow on it.]


Last Minute Gift Ideas

[Edited because I used the word "thought" way too many times.]

I never thought I'd place myself in this position, but I haven't completely finished my gift shopping yet. That's what happens when I have to hunt down the bacon, drag it home, and fry it too. I'll be out the door soon to complete my mission.

There are plenty of heavy discounts in the retail sector as the stores try to court last minute shoppers, especially the stores slated to get the ax. The discounted items can be fairly eclectic, and I really like the idea of putting gift sets together--instead of spending money on just one thing, which may look dinky, the same amount of dollars can be stretched into something more. I am not kidding about this--this year, $40 got me a nice combination of things for 10 or 11 different people, which is a fraction of people I got gifts for, but every bit of savings helps. On top of that, a good amount of non-perishable deals can be kept for other gifting occasions later in the year.

-Fragrant candles with shiny caps look way more expensive than they are. Sometime last year, I picked some up for $3-$5. In fact, they look great enough that I am completely comfortable with giving just that one thing as a gift.

-Bath and body products are always useful, and they can easily be paired with other things for a themed set, like towels and candles and slippers for a luxe spa set.

-Some may say that gift cards show a lack of thought, but I've always been an advocate of them--the recipient can get whatever he or she wants. However, the downside is that the person will know just how much you've spent. It shouldn't matter, but in reality, sometimes it does to some people or their family members, especially when everyone are at the same gathering. I usually get around that dilemma by pairing it with something inexpensive but complementary, like popcorn and candy with a movie gift card.

-CDs and DVDs require some understanding of the recipient's tastes, but I think it would work out just fine even if there isn't enough time to do homework. Since it's free for the recipient, he or she can experience something that he or she wouldn't have picked out for his- or herself. Who knows? You just might open that person's eyes to something new and exciting.

-Make-your-own gift baskets much less expensive than the pre-packed variety. It also shows that you've given it some consideration and effort. This is probably the ultimate last-minute gift--places like CVS and Walgreen's are typically open even on the holidays, so you can literally wait until the 11th hour (though I'd advise against it) and still be hailed as that sweet and caring person you really are, but just didn't have time to express.

-Mani/pedi set. You can get a set of $1 nail polish of all different colors, and maybe throw in a nail file and some foot cream. Yet another last-last minute gift that can be put together by heading to your local 24-hour drugstore.

-Lastly, something as simple as a thoughtful handwritten note or a handmade work of art can mean more than any gift on the market. A jar of origami cranes or stars is colorful and very affordable. Once I made a bunch of origami cranes, in fairly large sizes, and used them as cards on which I wrote my thanks to each individual recipient; it was very well received and proudly displayed by the recipients, even by those I did not expect to find it moving. At the end of the day, even the ol' cynical me truly believe that it's the thought that counts.

Happy Holidays, everyone. I hope you will enjoy this season wherever you are and with whomever you keep company.


Fit to Print

Due to my work commitments, social commitments, and the general holiday bustle, I hardly had time to post. In fact, I hardly even have time to finish my Christmas shopping, and I don't think I've ever been this behind in this regard. The state of the economy is not good, but at least good deals are abound for the 11th Hour shoppers. Some of the deals are incredibly astonishing, especially from stores that I wouldn't imagine myself buying from. I'll try to finish up this weekend if I can, and if not, at least I have a couple more nights left.

I managed to squeeze in a little bit of shopping at the Ontario Mills outlet mall a few days ago. There were quite a few store closing sales, including the Virgin Megastore. I've already picked up some DVD's and CD's from Circuit City, but the discounts were not that low (just 25% for DVD's) while the pickings were slim and jumbled in a very chaotic store. The Virgin Megastore, by contrast, had 40% off CD's and DVD's, and the stock was well-organized and diverse. I ended up getting gifts for a good number of people in one fell swoop, saving a ton of cash in the process. My vision for one of the gifts is a package of DVD's, along with some snacks to go along with the movie enjoyment, so the sale was perfect.

I went into the Saks Fifth Avenue outlet with the expectation of picking up some makeup for my sister, but this was the one time when the selection disappointed me. Nothing really stood out. Fortunately, the rest of the Saks outlet had a really big sale--50% off all clearance items, including merchandise that look new and shiny as opposed to the typical half-yanked-and-beaten-up condition on things relegated to the clearance racks. Since I have plenty of solid-colored clothes, the only thing I wanted was something with an interesting print, so shopping was easy--no need to sort through the racks, just walk along and see if something pops out. Sure enough, this print dress did, at just $25. Given what it is, the silk jersey dress is a steal. It is clearly a summer dress, but I had no trouble winterizing it at all.

[Express turtleneck, Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress, Mike & Chris coat, Target tights, Christian Lacroix flats (I wear them so frequently that I think I've already gotten a return out of the investment)]


Lock and Stock

Upon the expiration of my student days, I could no longer frequent the Friday sample sales in Downtown LA. I used to be able to get ridiculously good deals on samples that felt like they were made for me, plus the sample sales introduced me to the work of a lot of LA designers who are not yet household names. Even if I don't buy anything, it was still marvelous to take a look at the clothes for the aesthetics and structure.

Black Friday was the extremely rare day when I was not in the office or otherwise working. I took that opportunity to a) visit the sample sale once again, and 2) try to pick up some cool Christmas gifts for members of my family. Since it was in the aftermath of a major holiday, there were slim pickin's, but I did find a couple of very good deals that didn't break the bank.

[Revolver Los Angeles top, Da Nang jacket, Paper Denim & Cloth jeans, Christian Lacroix flats (yes, I've been wearing them a whole lot).]

The first is a top/dress (depending on your hemline preference) from Revolver, which seems to embody a casual "California" style. There was a rack of clothes with a price list of 25 dollars for tops, 40 dollars for dresses. I picked up this lightweight blue v-neck number with a simple yet striking print made of multi-colored circles. I don't know if the name of the label itself inspired the pattern, but either way, it looks really cool. The material itself is soft (2 sheer layers), and the garment as a whole is flattering, comfortable, drapes well, and just easy to wear, something I can just throw on and feel just a little more dressed-up. Other pieces on the rack were pretty and edgy, but this particular one screamed my name.

When I went to pay for it, I figured it was a tunic as opposed to a dress because it was a "bit" short. Alas, I was wrong--it was deemed a "dress" (once I got home, it all made sense), but I was charged the price of a top. Perhaps the fact that I even needed to ask struck a chord, but hemline specifications aside, I was very happy to get a great deal. I look forward to future collections, particularly pieces that could be worn in less chocharular ways.

One line that I never heard of until my Black Friday sample sale shopping was Plastic Island. The Fall/Winter collection pieces were very cute, particularly white blouses with black lace detailing. I ended up not buying anything of the newer collections, but I couldn't resist the box of $5 dresses. Like the aforementioned "dress" I got, this dress is emblazoned with a circular print as well. While the dress was panned by the "press," and the retail price would have been grossly overpriced, $5 is pretty reasonable for something that I can wear loose with a fitted jacket or cinched with a belt. It is quite a versatile piece.

[Plastic Island dress, Converse One Star for Target jacket, Sigerson Morrison sandals, Forever 21 bangles and Livestrong bracelet, Ray Bans.]

Despite my penchance for solid colors, I guess deep down, I like circles.


Bread or Circuses? Or Bread and Circuses?

If history serves as a guide, succumbing thoughtlessly to decadent desires will bring about ruin. But that's not to say that bread and circuses always spell doom and disaster. After all, we all need to eat, and given the pressures of modern life, a little bit of folly may actually be necessary to keep us sane.

Given the tough economic conditions today, everyone are getting less and less of both. Although I am fortunate to be in fairly good standing, I am nonetheless concerned about what tomorrow may bring, so I have definitely cut back on eating out. I've been bringing leftovers for lunch more frequently (including all week this week, just like the old days). I've also noticed that brown-bagging is on the rise for everyone else, just as cafeterias and restaurants have become less crowded.

In an environment where people are preferring day-old bread over the daily bread in order to save some dough, you can bet that discretionary line-items like clothing and entertainment are going by the wayside. Clothing can be optional, but sometimes laughter is still the best medicine for mental health; it may be urgently needed now more than ever. However, the last thing we want is having to make a choice between nourishment and fun. Fortunately, thanks to the public libraries, you can have your bread along with a side of the circus (sans clowns, of course).

According to the LA Times, there has been an upswing in the usage of libraries. People have been cancelling their Netflix subscriptions to save some money and checking out movies from the local library for free. I've long shunned the library for movies, since the one back in my hometown had a very lousy A/V selection. Now that I have access to a library that is at least 10 times the size of that dinky library, I should take advantage of it more often.

Unfortunately, due to the fiscal emergency in California, I'm concerned that free won't stay free for long. Either some libraries may close, or fees will be charged. Either way, libraries will still be a great source of relatively cheap thrills.


Sak'd and Pillaged

I think this article sums up what I saw at the Beverly Hills SFA over the weekend, except the shoe clearance racks I saw were a lot emptier. Apparently some SFA's had an even crazier scene.

In some ways, I think "equalizing the playing field" can be a good thing. Given the dizzying prices on designer goods, sometimes I wonder if fashion has lost its meaning. Surely fashion is defined by more than a currency symbol followed by a string of numbers, or by the hollow ring of "exclusivity." Exclusivity is inevitable (as exquisivity often comes at a great cost in materials and labor), but it doesn't have to become a mean-spirited vehicle for social competition. I won't beat a dead horse by repeating my diatribe against "luxury" status symbols, but maybe "flooding the market" would remove the ugly, elitist subtext of fashion. It might be wishful thinking that it may even part the sea of eyesores called logo-print handbags, but a girl can dream, right?

Not Your Average Plain (Mary) Jane

Over time (and many trips to the Loehmann's sales racks), my denim collection has grown quite a bit. This has enabled me to divide my jeans into several groups: some for heels, some for flats. A few for the highest heels, and most for lower ones. Although I'm pretty sensible about trimming the hem to a practical length, I did hold out on a couple of pairs of jeans and kept the inseam at its very long original length.

One pair of jeans that I never took to the tailor (or my own sewing machine) was the pair of "skinny flare" Fidelity Denim jeans, which I picked up at a sample sale for $20. They made my legs look longer, and I wanted to keep it that way. Sometimes I would fold the cuffs to wear them with flats or low heels, and sometimes I would let out the hem and wear one of the few pairs of shoes that were tall enough to keep the hem from dragging on the ground.

I just added another pair of sky high heels to my collection, which I wore with those long skinny flares yesterday. At 4.5 inches, these are probably the highest of the high heels I own, surpassing even my tall wooden platform sandals that I took to wearing frequently. However, these are not the sleek stilletos that you might imagine. To the contrary, the heel itself is very chunky, and it has an interesting brushed-metallic sheen (although the heel is really made of acrylic). And these are not the pointy toed pumps that one would picture as a high heel, either. Instead, my new shoes are a pair of patent leather mary janes with a t-strap--classic and subtle yet unexpected, just the way I like them. The elongated t-strap and the structured heel make the mary janes less skippity schoolgirl and more sophisticated schoolmarm.

I first became intrigued by these decidedly non-"Plain Jane" footware when I spotted them in the Saks Fifth Avenue online sales section. They are a splurge, but considering what they are, it was a pretty good deal--they were 70% off and under $200, which is a very significant (and rare) discount for "luxury" goods of its kind. Apparently other people also recognized the good deal, and the online store eventually sold out of those shoes. But after hearing a family member talk what good deals he got from the brick and mortar store over Thanksgiving dinner (and my family is definitely not the sort to shop at such establishments), I decided to make my first-ever trek out there to see if this was true. Indeed, the selection was better than what was online, and the pricing was pretty much the same (and in some cases, even better). I was there to try to get a new briefcase-type bag for work (because the limitations of my existing one are starting to manifest themselves), but I could not find one that was acceptably priced, so I moved on to other parts of the store.

Although the recession kept most people out of the regular-priced section, swarms of women descended upon the shoe clearance section. While others jostled over the 70% off Jimmy Choos, I kept my eye on something else entirely. Having an attraction to offbeat footwear has its benefits, as one pair of the above-mentioned mary janes in my size remained on the racks. After the shoes came home with me, it didn't take long before I put them to work, quite literally. Because the heels are so high, it took a little bit of getting used to walking in them, but once I got a hang of it, it's nice to have a pair of high heels that do not get embarassingly jammed in the cracks between slabs of concrete during my hurried sojourns to and from court.

Yesterday's casual office outfit: Old Navy twist collar top (which I picked up from the clearance section after the Black Friday Madness was over), Nave coat, Fidelity Denim jeans, Dolce & Gabbana mary janes

(Ruffles framing a twist. Almost like a pastry or something like it.)

Today: Splendid puff-sleeved tee with abstract patterns (from the most recent warehouse sale), Mike & Chris peplum jacket, BCBG skirt (which, surprisingly, I haven't been wearing with the matching suit jacket), Target dark gray tights, Dolce & Gabbana mary janes


Visions of the Present

Halloween has come and long gone, so what happened to all the things I wore for my costume? As I mentioned before, I never buy a costume for the sake of dressing up. All the components are ready-to-wear. This year's ensemble was decidedly futuristic, but the pieces also very here and now. Here are some snapshots of what I did with the clothing and accessories.

The dress:

[Old Navy dress worn as top, Converse One Star for Target jacket, Gap skirt, Givenchy wooden sandals. The necklace is one of my earliest designs.]

The tights and hairband:

[Claire's hairband, my own dagger necklace, Mike & Chris shrug, Gap knit tank, Forever 21 skirt, Express tights, Nine West sandals, Kenneth Cole bag (my everyday bag).]

Almost forgot about the boots!

[Express hat, Mighty Fine t-shirt, Mike & Chris vest, Target bag, Isko jeans, Target boots.]

The sunglasses:

[Donna Karan sunglasses, my own Chomping Through the Meadows necklace, Gap dress, Target bag and tights (with dots!).]

Here's what happened to the other pair of sunglasses that I planned to wear with the outfit but ultimately didn't. They are so sleek that I call them "secret agent glasses." It was yet another great $30-and-under find at Loehmann's.

[Miu Miu sunglasses, Old Navy blouse, BCBG blazer, my work phone. Not shown: dark jeans with gold Christian Lacroix flats]

[UPDATE: They're shown now!]


Happy Turkey Day!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope that everyone will enjoy a wonderful time with your loved ones. A few days ago, I came across a newspaper editorial in which the author extols the holiday as her favorite. What she said is true--it is a wonderful holiday because it's not about consumerism, like Christmas has become. It is a time to spend with those we care about and to show them our appreciation.

Given the economic mess we're in, I find this Thanksgiving to be especially special. While life has its ups and downs, the concept and holiday of Thanksgiving is constant. I am especially grateful for having what I have this year, of things big and small. One of the little things I enjoy is being able to shop at Trader Joe's. It is certainly a step up from the budget markets I've been limited to for years, and it provides nutritious, definitely interesting, sometimes quirky, and most importantly, accessible and affordable fare. Since it is on my way home from work, I have been stopping by quite a bit for groceries in order to save time and gas money. I love going by the free sample section and try out the foods. Once I tried a small square of this one--so fresh, not overly sweet, and simply delicious--I had to bring one home.

My Thanksgiving outfit this year is a lot more toned down than usual. Some may say it is not festive at all, since the colors are so dark, but I just want to be comfortable on one of my few days off. The bracelet adds a dash of holiday cheer, and the flats are festive, aren't they? My feet hurt from walking around in heels for a few hours yesterday, so I decided to go with flats.

[BCBG sweater, Mike & Chris suspender skirt, my own Daisy Chain bracelet, Christian Lacroix metallic gold flats]

I'll be busy with working this weekend, but I'll definitely squeeze in some Christmas shopping in the form of sample sale shopping. I'm not going to stand in those crazy lines and freeze my butt off only to get indoors and find that all the good deals are gone. The malls will be avoided by me like the plague, but the electronics stores might have the deals I want this weekend.


Statute of Limitations

Time sure flies by quickly. About this time a year ago, I became a new member of my profession. Last weekend, I sent out many congratulatory messages to classmates who got the good news. I still have a long ways to go before I can consider myself a seasoned veteran, but I'm finally starting to feel at ease and settled in.

One issue that I still contend with is how to look professional yet still retain an individual style. My office attire can be somewhat creative and colorful, but my "suit day" outfits...not so much. Suits present an inherent limitation to what I could do. I try to brighten things up with some accessories and colorful dress shirts, but in the end, I remained very...generic.

The longer I've been in the work force, the more my style changed. To my dismay, I gravitated more toward black, gray, blue, and beige--all the "boring" colors, even on days when I do not have to wear a suit. As much as I tried to go back to my more colorful ways, I realized that this more conservative style of dress is here to stay, and I will have to accept that. I just don't feel like wearing those bright colors anymore. At the same time, I do not want to feel like I am stuck in a fashion rut.

This week I decided to remind myself that a limited, muted palette does not have to be boring. Limitations do not have to be constraints--they sometimes challenge me to rebel a little, forcing me to work the system and still come up with something new. I've always been an advocate of keeping things simple and create interest using a mix of contrasting shades and textures. Hence, I decided to build an outfit piece by piece, like layering paint with a palette knife. Since I hate going around with matching jacket and bottoms on my suit days, I decided to make myself come up with non-matching suit outfits using shades of only two "conservative" colors--black and beige. Yesterday's outfit is something that I can actually wear for court. I did not have as much success today, but it was still something fun and put together.

Yesterday: Theory blazer, Forever 21 charcoal gray vest, Mike & Chris bow top with bell sleeves, Studio M black trumpet skirt, Target black tights, Payless black patent pumps.

I got this jacket on the cheap when I was in Minneapolis, but because it has no matching bottoms yet, I've been struggling to figure out what to do with it. Now I finally have the answer. The patterns and textures of all the pieces are very different, yet they work really well together.

Today: J Crew black wool funnelneck sweater (with some white wooley fibers mixed in), Sublet Clothing cardigan, Development blazer with thin white pinstripes, $1 belt from Ross (which I have had for ages), Banana Republic skirt (from clothing swap), Kenneth Cole purse, Target black tights, Ciao Bella black peeptoe oxford booties.

Since I went with the light jacket/dark bottoms combo yesterday, I decided to go with a dark jacket/light bottoms ensemble today. It is not as streamlined as yesterday's outfit, since the layers of sweaters bulge around the middle. The funnelneck sweater is shorter, so it refused to stay tucked into the skirt. It would have also helped if I pressed the front of the sweater with an iron; the button holes seem to be all stretched outward. While I would never wear this to court, it is a fun office outfit.

I am glad that I finally found a pair of oxford booties I can live with; it has been a very, very long search. I wanted something comfortable with a slender heel, and it had to be on the cheap side (of course). While I am not crazy about the peeptoe part, it is something I can live with--it is not noticeable when I wear black tights. The positives trump that comparatively minor complaint. The price was right (having a DSW $10 off coupon helps), and the comfort is as good as it gets--it doesn't even feel like I am wearing sky-high heels.


Elements of Surprise

[Edited mainly for grammar, plus a few neglected details. Writing while tired is never a good idea.]

Business travel can be weary, but I try to take advantage of being able to do a tad of sight seeing, if only on the way to the airport. It's fun to explore someplace new, especially when I don't have to pay for the plane ticket. At any rate, the exploration may help if I choose to go to that locale again when I travel for fun.

Here are some potentially money-saving observations I made so far from business travel, including but not limited to my most recent trip:

-With respect to accomodations, you get what you paid for...right? Well, it depends what you're looking to pay for.

Last year I took my licensing exam at a pretty fancy hotel. Quite a few people stayed at the hotel, since they were going to take the test there anyway. A good number of people decided to pay less and stay at the other business-travel type hotels a block or so away (i.e. Holiday Inn Express). Luckily, due to the sweet, generous kindness of a friend, I did not have to do either, but I've heard stories from friends in both camps. The nicer hotels get you a pretty room, a fancy gym, the use of a pool. With the cheaper hotels, you get a clean room (albeit not so nice), use of a less fancy gym (if there is one), sometimes a kitchen, or if not, at least a refrigerator and a microwave.

I had the same experience when I travelled recently. I always want to save money, whether for myself or for a client. With accomodations, I only care about having a decent, comfortable place to sleep, and Internet access for work. It'd be nice to have a refrigerator to store leftovers so that I could eat it the next day instead of leaving behind food at the restaurant. But there lies a balancing act. The budget hotels usually do not have free Wi-Fi, but the mid-tier ones (like Marriot Courtyard) are more likely to have that. Some of the budget or mid-tier places also have breakfast in the morning; the quality may vary, but it saves a few extra bucks. The more expensive hotels, ironically, often do not have free Wi-Fi access in the rooms, if at all in the hotel--it's an amenity that costs extra, which is often infuriating, considering that a room already costs a lot. Also, based on my experience, the likelihood of getting a free breakfast is inversely proportional to the quality/image of the hotel. In any event, the mid-tier and higher-grade hotels do not have the refrigerator or the microwave. I'm assuming that the nicer hotels are assuming that those who can afford to stay there tend not to be part of the brown-bagging crowd.

If I'm travelling for business, I could live without the refrigerator and microwave, since staying connected and comfortable is more important. But if I was travelling for pleasure, I'd probably opt for the cheaper places--I would only care to have a clean bed to sleep in, and since I'd be vacationing, emails could wait. And as an added bonus, I can save on food.

-When driving in a different locale, pay attention to the roads and fellow roadies. Go with the flow of traffic. It can cost a lot if you don't.

I'm used to roaming amongst LA drivers who take speed limit signs as a suggestion rather than as a rule. Thus, I am often surprised to find people actually obeying speed limit signs, either elsewhere in California or in another state. When I was in Arizona, I was driving around rather nervously--there were tightly-packed photo enforcement zones on the freeways. I'm not sure how fast one would have to go before triggering the cameras, but I have no desire to discover that for myself. Curiosity, after all, does kill a cat. The lethal dose is somewhat higher for human beings, but you get the idea.

-Filling up a rental car before returning it can be tricky. The places with cheaper gas prices tend to be in the outlying areas, but if I fill up there, I would not have a full tank by the time I get to the airport, and I would get dinged for it. I usually would try to find a gas station that is near the airport, but far enough out that the price would not be affected by a "proximity tax" of sorts. It is still tricky to pin down that appropriate target distance, but I'm working on it.


All the Trimmings

The crazy weather and smoky air has not been very good for me. It is insanely hot during the day, yet cold once the sun goes down. I've come down the sniffles, and it couldn't have come at a worse time--I have lots of work to do and have to hop on a plane again tomorrow afternoon. I've been trying to stay cozy my new sweaters in an effort to keep things from getting worse. It's nice to wear something practical and not appear too frumpy at the office.

Two weekends ago, I spent a little bit of time at the Mike & Chris sample sale. I wasn't there for very long because of an unfortunate incident that morning, but I'm glad that I got to browse for a little bit; if rumors are to be believed, it might have been the last one that I got to go to.

There was a lot more stock than previous sales, but sadly, very little by the way of deals. I went there for the purpose of getting a leather jacket, but I walked out without one--given the current economic landscape, it is simply not prudent to spend $400 on a leather jacket, much less on one that is not exactly what I want. There was a $10 box of pleated blazers, but there were few takers, since it was all extra-smalls, and even that ran pretty small. It fits my torso perfectly, if a bit tight around the arms, but it's perfect for the office or for the weekend, which is when I wore this. The pleats on the front, back, and the edges of the pocket are super-cute and very well-placed.

I also picked up a fairly conventional hoodie. While it was was only 50% or so off and hence not the best deal, it was something I've been eyeing ever since the last sample sale. I love the pretty yet subdued sage green color, along with the "pop" from the neon yellow trim. It is a great casual, kickback piece that will go a long way. Since it is so warm and cozy, I can see myself wearing this a lot for my travels.

Maybe I should throw this into my bag right now so that I'll have something warm to wear for my flight tomorrow. It is supposed to be 49 degrees by the time my plane touches down.



OK, short posts like this isn't my "normal" program, but I just had to throw this out there.

I was in Sacramento today and had to fill up the tank of my rental car before returning it. I was debating whether to fill it at the Safeway gas station in a town near the airport, or whether I should wait until I get to the last gas station before the rental returns.

I ended up going with the latter, and I'm glad I did. Regular unleaded was $2.19 per gallon. $2.19!?! I haven't seen a price like that for what seems like years. Unfortunately, when I flew back to LA, gas prices seemed to be running in the opposite direction. The first gas station I saw after getting off the freeway had the same gas for $2.43. This is a 20-cent jump from about a week ago. Let the sulking begin.

How much is gas in your neck of the woods?


After the Flood

So many ideas, so little time. A flood of things have kept me busy lately, including work, chores I didn't get to do because of work, jetsetting for work in the next few days, catching up on more work, a flood, and things I didn't get to do because of the flood. And yes, when I said "flood," I meant a literal flood. Of water. In my apartment. Fortunately, the aforementioned actual torrent is no longer around, thanks in part to the good folks from the LAFD and one civilian cleaning professional. Although my personal space escaped unscathed, this unexpected event is pushing me to get rid of my junk and clutter, such that both the soiled and unsoiled areas can be thoroughly cleaned. I really should have done this a long time ago.

Regular posting will resume when the tide of things to do recedes. That'll take maybe another week or so. Next time I'll talk about the latest installment of the Mike & Chris sample sale. I only managed to go for a quick peek due to the flood, but at least I got to go.


Setting Sale

For LA fashionistas, this weekend there are sample sales galore: Grey Ant, Steven Alan, Miss Me, etc. And there's also my favorite: the Mike & Chris sample sale. I really, really, really want one of the leather jackets, and sample sale time is probably one of the only times I can get one. Never mind that I already have a lot of Mike & Chris items--they're so versatile and I wear them all the time, so having more won't hurt because I know they're worth my hard-earned cash. Too bad I won't be able to go until Saturday...unless my Wednesday work thingie in Downtown LA stretched into Thursday (hehe).

You can find the information on various sales here.


Politically Motivated

The people who know me best know that I'm pretty outspoken when it comes to politics. I've always felt a strong sense of duty to head to the polls, particularly because it's a privilege that many people around the world do not have.

At the same time, I feel equally strongly about not pressing my beliefs on others. Hence, you won't find a whole lot of political content on this blog, if any. The only thing I would urge is that citizens should go out and cast their ballots. Most people I know gain satisfaction from their civic participation. If that satisfaction is not enough to drive you to the polls, maybe a few Election Day freebies will:

-Krispy Kreme (mmmm...) is offering a free star-shaped donut with red, white, and blue sprinkles to those who sport an "I Voted" sticker.

-I'm sure that most people have heard about the Ben & Jerry's free scoop of ice cream deal on Tuesday (between 5-8 p.m.). I heard that the company had some concerns that the voting requirement would run afoul of some state election laws, so they're offering that free scoop to *everyone*!

-Today the New York Times website had a big ad that tipped me off to another freebie: Starbucks is offering a free cup of brewed coffee to those who say they voted.

If you hear about more, let us know by leaving a comment.


Visions of the Future

As I mentioned last time, my costumes have always been comprised of things that I can wear during other parts of the year. As a fan of futuristic design, I had quite a few things on hand to assemble into something a little out of the ordinary.

The centerpiece of my costume is a silver tank dress I picked up from Old Navy's several months ago. It was something that I would wear during any particular time (though many others seem to disagree, as they were abundantly available on clearance), but I knew that I wanted to wear it on Halloween. Subsequently, I had a few months to figure out what exactly I was going to dress up as. The idea coalesced somewhat within the past week, but it did not completely solidify until 4 hours before the party started. During the workday, I completely concealed the shiny dress underneath a cardigan and long A-line skirt. I left the knee-high boots in the car; I was not entirely convinced that the color of the boots would go with the dress and other parts of the costume. I brought 2 pairs of sunglasses that could potentially work, but I hadn't decided which pair would work better.

After my work commitments were completed for the day, I went to the mall to find the little things to complete my costume. Luckily, I happened to be located across the mall that day, so getting to the mall wasn't that much of a hassle. The first thing I looked for was a pair of electric blue tights. I've always wanted it, but never got around to buying a pair until now. After walking into a couple of shops and not finding any, I was beginning to wonder if I was a little too last minute. Fortunately, the salesgirl in one shop that *didn't* have the tights told me that I can find that color in Express, and Express did indeed have exactly what I was looking for.

The next thing I needed was a broad white hairband. That was easy enough to find--Claire's had one.

Having located the tights and the hairband, I continued strolling around the mall to look for a pair of white boots. It was pretty difficult--many pairs I came across were not anything that I would continue wearing, so the costs are not justified. When I finally found a pair that would be great for everyday wear, I realized that white boots were too bright and would take attention away from the dress and tights. Hence, I abandoned my bid for white go-go boots.

The last thing I needed to complete the costume was a prop. I wanted a cheap and futuristic looking gun. That was supplied to me by KB Toys. The little gadget lights up and makes noise (a little too much) when I pushed the button. It was simply perfect--now I won't have people asking me who the heck I was dressed up as.

The choice of eyewear was a game-time decision. I tried on each pair of my sunglasses for a guest at the party, and picked the one that both of us thought worked the best.

Without further ado: my Fembot costume. I also threw in a few shots of the fly eyewear for good measure.

[Claire's hairband, Donna Karan sunglasses, vintage lucite bubble necklace designed by me, Old Navy dress, Express tights, Target boots, toy gun from KB Toys]


Costume in Disguise

Halloween is just around the corner. With the economy being the way it is, a wear-once-and-toss costume probably isn't the wisest idea. At the same time, we can all use some fun and levity to forget about the stress for a while.

One simple costume I've worn for a party this past weekend was a pirate costume for a pirate-themed party. It was an outfit I put together literally at the last minute, since I didn't know if I would finish my work in time and be able to go until, well, the last minute. It's all very simple, and you probably have some if not all of the items in your closet--one top with thin stripes (preferrably in dark colors), one pair of wide-legged pants, and a large scarf wrapped around and tied behind my back. You can add a cheap eye patch for an extra-piraty touch, or add a few tats with an eyeliner. You can also throw on a few beaded necklaces as booty. Yar!

If you don't want to fuss over the clothes, go crazy with the makeup while wearing something quite ordinary; it'll be a rather shocking contrast. Liberally and creatively apply your reddest lipstick for a bloody frightening effect. Go goth with lots of black eyeliner and a $1 tube of black lipstick...Halloween is the one time you can live out your Goth fantasies without repercussions.

Current events also offer a lot of inspirations. Turn your vision of Joe Sixpack into a reality. If beer gut isn't your thing, it's easy to pull off a Joe the Plumber look, too--overalls are in no short supply at thrift stores, and most people are bound to have a wrench around the house; just add a "Hello, My Name is Joe" sticker and you're ready to go.

I'll most likely be at a deposition on Halloween, and thanks to the typical LA traffic, it'll be hard to have time to get ready. It'll be a challenge to convert my costume into something business-like during the day and wear it as-is when I head straight to party. I think it's possible...

Do you have any ideas for costumes with common things around the house and closet?


Tis the Season (and the Reasons)

The Fall clearance and warehouse sales are here. Weak retail sales have also resulted in significant markdowns far earlier in the season. While I've curbed spending for myself (I did sneak in another pair of comfortable flats before my shopping ban...oops), it doesn't mean I'll skip them. That's because it's time to start shopping for Christmas.

Some people have expressed surprised when I tell them that I'm starting my Christmas shopping now. They become even more shocked when I tell them that I used to shop year-round, when I still had the time. But it has been my custom and practice to find something special that I know the recipient will like AND to get a great price on top of it, and I'm not about to change that now, especially when the economy is bad. It takes time to find the right gift, so if it isn't perishable, why not snag it when you find it, rather than regret it later when it's gone?

However, there is the issue of making sure that it is something that person is absolutely looking for, wants, or needs. Otherwise, the gift may need to be accompanied by a viable return receipt. Return periods tend to be rather limited, so that has to be taken under consideration. But then again, the return periods during the Christmas season may be even more limited than the regular year. Now is arguably a part of the "regular year," and it's close enough to the holidays but not quite in the holiday season, so it might be the best time to start shopping.


If Only Time Was Free

Free time. What's that?

I have quite a bit of work on top of travelling for work to do this week (just came home after hours of work and driving), so I won't be doing any posting until next week. Since my other pending work trip later this week involves 2 very, very, very long drives to and fro, I might be a bad girl and reward myself with a stop by a normally faraway outlet, which happens to be on my way home. Every traveller needs a rest stop every now and then, right? ;-) [UPDATE: work trip got cancelled, but lots of work remains. I'll miss the outlet, but I'll also miss the traffic, so I guess it's even.]



Fabric Contented

What good does a good deal on fabric do if I don't make use of said fabric? Last week I sat down and got through a few projects that I've always wanted to pursue.

My primary purpose for buying a sewing machine was to hem pants. However, since my machine did not come with a blind hem foot, that project had to be put on hold for quite some time. It was a while before I managed to procure one from a sewing products store in the Garment District of Downtown LA. Then more time elapsed before I found time to actually sew. The sewing process took a very long time, since I haven't done this before. In the end, I had a pair of wearable pants, which was good. The job isn't perfect, but since the pants are black, no one can tell. The next pair of pants will come out looking better for it.

Once I got started, I couldn't stop sewing. I decided to make 2 pouches--one for holding some sewing notions, and the other for holding some personal effects in my purse. I drew my pattern on an Arts insert in the newspaper, since the paper is nice and thick (and recycling is good and free). Then it was time to cut the fabric, which wasn't hard--a light, stiff cotton lining and a canvas fabric for the outside.

The fabric was easy to cut, but sewing them was a struggle. I had a hard time getting the tension right (and I'm not sure I ever completely succeeded). I did the sewing notions bag first, since it won't be seen in public. I made a few mistakes here and there, so the bag ended up smaller then I had planned. And for some reason, I just couldn't get a button hole done. I gave up on it, since I don't really need an enclosure for this bag.

I moved on to the bag that would see daylight. Unfortunately, I sewed in such a way that the wrong side of the lining was turned outward. At least the print still shows, but I could see that the project was not going to go well. To my surprise, sewing the rest of the bag was not quite so bad. However, the button hole came back to haunt me again. I believe that the thread I used was just too thick, since the machine jammed again, and again, and again, even though I got the settings right. In the end, I cheated and created my button hole with a zigzag stitch instead of using the buttonhole foot and function. It ain't pretty, but it got the job done.

My sewing binge ended after I finished my chiffon scarf. When I first bought this fabric, I knew that I wanted to make a scarf out of it. I also knew that hemming the edges of the delicate chiffon material was going to be a challenge. The blind hem foot made things easier, though the corners were still a struggle. The feeding dogs kept on eating the corners. Still, a scarf is a scarf is a scarf. I'll just consider the slightly-frayed corners as a "special feature for a handmade look." I love the print, and I like wearing it with a "tough" outfit--the light chiffon softens the look just so.

[BCBG green sleeveless top, Joie denim moto jacket, my own scarf, Miss Sixty pants (which I just hemmed), black and white plaid Nikes]

Total cost of materials: less than a dollar. Struggling and cursing and finally getting a finished product and a great learning experience: priceless.