Sunday, December 30, 2007

A New Year's Resolution

This always seems to happen to me every few months. I get the urge to do a complete overhaul in my wardrobe. I look at the majority of my closet now and see nothing but drabness and I hate everything.

Why oh why did I buy so much brown clothing this fall? A turtleneck, dress, sweater, and blouse? What was I thinking?

I know exactly what I was thinking: because of my paleness I thought brown could be a nice neutral and a softer alternative to black.... thats what all the beauty books say and it got embedded in my brain and I bought brown without thinking about whether I actually liked the color. But I have finally realized that brown does absolutely nothing for me. My new year's resolution is to buy no more brown.

I will seek out jewel tones. Emerald green, royal blue, deep purple.... but no more brown.

Some reminders for myself, who cannot seem to resist brown:


I think I can do this.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


I went out shopping tonight to get some last minute Christmas gifts. I was only supposed to be gone for a short while because I only needed two items. I headed out to my local Ross and walked into the store with my mind set on what I was going to purchase. Then I caught my reflection in one of the mirrors... My outfit was stretched out and wrinkled from being worn all day, I had some small pizza stains on my pants, my black sweater was covered in lint/cat hair/ my hair, my skin was pale with all my makeup having worn off, my eyes were red, and my hair was frizzy/straight/limp/no style as usual.

Suddenly I had the urge to find a dress. Something sophisticated, stylish, flattering (like seriously, I thought I was going to find this at Ross?). I proceeded to search the racks for my magic dress. I didnt find it but I picked up seven dresses anyways and I headed to the dressing room. I then proceeded to stand in the fitting room for twenty minutes analyzing every dress, glancing at my flaws, cursing my paleness and red eyes. Nothing made me feel good.

I left Ross and headed down the sidewalk to TJ Maxx. I was determined to find something to buy that would make me feel like the person I wanted to be. You know- someone that didnt look so tired, so disheveled and boring. I glanced at the dresses at TJ Maxx and remembered my experience at Ross. I headed to the shoe section. Shoes! Shoes would solve my problems by adding some much needed pizazz. I spent 30 minutes looking at shoes and trying them on. Nothing made me feel like a new person.

And then I realized what I had been doing for the last hour. Nothing I would buy tonight would change the reality of who I am. I am not a fashionista. My eyes are red. My hair is limp and frizzy. My skin is beyond pale. Nothing I can buy will make me feel better about myself.

Sure I would get a temporary high from buying some pretty shoes. But then the guilt would come. Did I need those shoes? And I would look at myself in the mirror wearing my pretty shoes and see that I still looked the same from the feet up.

I quickly purchased the gifts I originally set out to buy and headed home with no magic dress or shoes in hand.

I feel a little sad now, but triumphant that I succeeded in overcoming the desire to use shopping as a temporary fix. So many women practice "retail therapy" without even knowing it. Remember to ask "why" before you buy (eh, I didnt really mean for that to rhyme...)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Banana Republic Bedford Handbag

Where: Ebay
Cost: $75

Yes, this is quite expensive if you are used to paying thrift store prices, but a good handbag can last you a really long time. The leather on this bag is so luxurious and the hardware and construction are sturdy. It truly is the only bag I have been using since I got it back in September.

Ebay is a great place to purchase nice handbags. This one was not even used. It originally retailed for $198 so I did get quite a bargain. Clothing is tricky on ebay unless you are sure of your size in a particular brand. And you can even get burned purchasing shoes.... but handbags always fit.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Winter Skin Must- Haves

These items save my skin all year round, but are especially useful in the dry winter months.

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Body Lotion. This is by far the best body lotion I have ever used (granted, I have only experienced drug store brands and the occasional bath and body works- no fancy stuff here). It is high in glycerin so it is absorbed quickly and the smell is pleasant (not overpowering and not grandma-ish). Acutally now that I think about it, the scent really reminds me of Calvin Klein cologne circa 1997 - I think it was CK-one. Anyways this is the only body lotion I will ever buy again.

Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream. Again. Best hand cream I have ever used. Back when I was in college in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, it would be so cold and windy walking around campus that it was not unusual to see people walking backwards to avoid the wind hitting their faces. Even with my hands in gloves and shoved inside my pockets, they would become chapped and dry. I tried this lotion after seeing the commercial about how the Norwegian fisherman use the same formula. I have never bought any other hand cream. I go through about 1 tube a year because "a dab will do it". And at around $4 I cant really think of a better deal. I go for the frangrance free version of this stuff because the fragrance the last time I smelled was too medicinal.

Dove Sensitive Skin bar soap. I use this all year round because it is gentle and I love the little dove imprinted in a brand new bar. I enjoy the smell of the soap (even if it is unscented), it smells like clean to me. My doctor told me a few years ago that especially in winter time, it was not necessary to wash all of your body with soap. She recommended this soap, used sparingly on only, uh... certain parts of the body. I have not had an issue with flaking skin since. This soap also doubles as my facial cleanser, recommended by my dermatologist.

Smith's Rosebud Salve. I discovered this last year and am almost done using my first pot. I am already planning my next purchase. I use this on my lips but also on my cuticles and elbows. It is very pretty to pull out and ofcourse I love the vintage feel of the tin. This comes highly recommended by beauty editors in all your major magazines, yet this is something that is very affordable.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Polka Dot Silk Blouse

Where: Consignment Boutique
Cost: $2

Old Navy Denim Jacket

Where: Consignment Boutique
Cost: $6

The grey pants are not secondhand. I got them from Express about a year ago. I am wearing my Ferragamo flats. I need to find a better way to take pictures of myself. I was trying to set the automatic timer on the camera and as I was walking away it took this. But it is good because you can see the details like the ruffle on the blouse and the nice lines of the jacket.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I've Been Tagged!

Wow I feel like a real blogger! How exciting! Marjorie at My Inner French Girl has tagged me for a meme.

What four things do you love most about living in France? I do not live in France but I have been very inspired by the culture for the last few years.
  1. The French value quality over quantity. This goes most famously for food, but also in their wardrobes. Yes I shop secondhand, but I am very picky about what I bring home. Its easy to go crazy at a thrift store where everything is so cheap, but discretion is necessary to avoid a closet full of junk.
  2. The French have a healthier relationship with food. No obsession over fat grams here! The French eat real food and they eat until they are satisfied. If you do this and listen to your body, you will be at the weight you are meant to be (which may not be as small as you want but you will be happier following these rules). Use real cream in your coffee, eat cheese, and use real butter. For more info read The Fat Fallacy by Will Clower.
  3. The French love cheese. I love cheese. All different kinds. I eat several types daily.
  4. The French adore that which is old. This includes antique furniture, wine, and even women of a "certain age". Americans are obsessed with youth and value the newest technologies. Secondhand often has a stigma attached to it in the US. If it is not brand new then it must not be that great. Obviously I disagree.
What four most memorable jobs have you had?
  1. "Comp Shopper" for Target. I went undercover in Wal Mart stores to determine the prices of thousands of items. I reported back with Wal Mart's prices scanned in a special machine. I got caught by the manager of Wal Mart and all the employees gave me dirty looks everyday. It was pretty much the worst job ever. (FYI Wal Mart has these people for Target too).
  2. Right out of college I worked as a research assistant for a major university's project on pond management techniques in the Southeast. My degree was in Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise. Go figure.
  3. Cashier at the University Bookstore. What a great job (I am being sincere, I really enjoyed it!). I sold sodas, candy, and condoms to my fellow students for three years.
  4. My current position as a Nutritionist in public health. I tell moms that their kids need more than kool aid, fried chicken, and chips to survive. As you can tell it has made me a little cynical.
Four quirky things about the way I eat (and drink):
  1. I avoid "faux foods" like high fructose corn syrup but crave diet soda daily. I can not help it. Nothing tastes better in the afternoon than an ice cold can of chemicals.
  2. I could eat bean burritos everyday (homemade) and have for four days straight.
  3. I can feel pretty good after one glass of beer.
  4. I like eating my ice cream out of a cup. No bowls please.
What are your four favorite foods?
  1. Mexican Food (I love it all)
  2. Sushi
  3. Tea
  4. Cheese
Four recipes you cook all the time?
  1. Lasagna.
  2. Bean burritos (see above).
  3. French onion soup
  4. Frozen pizza (but I doctor it up with peppers, mushroom, and spinach). That counts right?
Because I enjoy their styles, I am going to tag Allie and Shar.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Banana Republic Red Merino Sweater

Where: Goodwill
Cost: $3.29

Olive Banana Republic Chinos

Where: Goodwill
Cost: $3.79 plus $10 hem = $13.79

Three Strand Beaded Necklace

Where: Consignment Boutique
Cost: $6

Ferragamo Flats

Was at work when I realized "My whole outfit is secondhand today!", which I thought was pretty cool. Then I came home and took this picture.

Hmmm.... I love the pants and necklace and ofcourse my beloved flats, but this sweater doesnt look very good. I kind of look frumpy and a little too old.

Sweaters are difficult for me to feel like I look great in. I have broad shoulders and a large chest compared to my hips. I prefer looser fitting sweaters that dont cling to my shoulders or chest but this one is a little too loose. I think I will save this sweater for hanging around on the weekends...

Another good thing about secondhand style: not a huge loss. I think I can spare $3.29

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blue Pumas

Where: Ebay

Cost: $24.95

A more stylish alternative to ugly cross trainers, these shoes are good for walking and when you have to be on your feet all day. I had a pair of burgundy puma anjan's for four years before retiring them. This fall when I went online to find their replacement, I discovered that they discontinued the style.

Ebay is a great place to go when this happens. I found these new on ebay for 24.95 (plus S&H but I dont remember how much).

Forgot to mention that they were regularly $65. Oh yes I love a good deal.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Black Leather Knee High Boots

Where: Mission Thrift Store
Cost: $6

I love tall leather boots. I have loved them for years, dating back to my first pleather black knee highs from k-mart in tenth grade (I wore them with a denim pencil skirt and a purple v- neck sweater with hoop earrings- quite chic for my age if I say so myself). I currently have three pairs in rotation right now: these low heel black ones, a low heel brown pair, and a high heel brown pair.

It's an addiction that could possibly be quite expensive. But when you find good quality boots for $6 (yes, these are real leather) that are comfortable and worn regularly, its easy not to feel guilty about having so many pairs of boots.

Monday, December 10, 2007

French Onion Soup

So blogger is not allowing me to upload pictures.

I made my version of french onion soup tonight. It is a frugalicious soup that always makes me feel fancy for some reason.

  • Slice 2 onions very thinly (use white or yellow- doesnt matter)
  • Get a big pot and liberally coat the onion slices in oil (canola, olive, whatever you have)
  • Cook on medium until the onions are unrecognizable
  • - this is the secret. the onions must caramelize to get that slightly sweet taste. alot of restaurants do not allow the onions to cook long enough.
  • Your house will smell like lovely food cooking.
  • Add beef broth (homemade, canned, from bullion cubes)
  • Simmer for a while
  • Add cheese and a hunk of bread (i have used provolone, swiss, and mozzarella before)
  • Enjoy!
This is my easy version. Of course if you wanted the more traditional version you would have to make croutons and broil to turn the cheese brown.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Banana Republic Merino Wrap Sweater

Where: Goodwill
Cost: $3.29

This is a brown merino wool wrap sweater by Banana Republic I found at Goodwill this past weekend. Someone probably donated it after accidentally washing it because it seems a little shrunken. But I think it works fine! I would layer a wrap sweater anyways!

I have been seeing alot of nice wool sweaters at my local Goodwill lately. It is finally getting cold down here so people must be cleaning their closets out.

One other neat detail about this sweater is that the sleeves are slit a few inches up from the wrist so it flares out a little. I hate sweaters that are bulky, so merino wool is a nice way to stay warm without adding any extra volume. The tie feature of a wrap sweater also emphasizes the waist making this style of sweater more feminine than your standard heavy knit crew neck sweater.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

7 For All Mankind Jeans

Where: Consignment Boutique
Cost: $33 plus $18 alteration = $51

Now I can KIND of understand why some women pay hundreds of dollars for designer jeans. These truly are different than any other average jeans I have worn. The material feels nicer, they fit better than any jeans I have ever owned, and they don't stretch and become baggy by the time the day is over. I did have to pay a tailor $18 for an original hem alteration on these jeans ( I am only 5'3" and almost always wear flat shoes- embrace the shortness!), but a pair of jeans that flatter me AND are sooooo comfortable is worth the total cost of $51 to me. I wear jeans at least 2X a week all year round, so the cost per wear is very minimal.

This also reminds me that another good thing about shopping secondhand is that it frees up some extra cash for alterations. Very few women can walk into a store and have clothing off the rack fit them perfectly. Almost always something about the garment could be tweaked to make it fit better: a shortening or letting out of the hem, waist taken in a little here, sleeve shortened there. So even if you buy new off the rack, you would still pay extra for an alteration for the best possible fit. It is definitely worth it to pay 10 extra dollars for a tailor to hem your pants or skirts to the desired length rather than be annoyed by the item dragging the floor every time you wear it.

I have simplified my life by wearing only flats or low heels. That way all of my pants can be hemmed to the same length. I have finally admitted that high heels do not work well with my career or lifestyle. You would want to hem your pants to correspond to whichever shoes you would typically wear with those pants. For example, you may have a pair of black trousers that you wear on special occasions with stilettos that would have to be longer than your chinos worn with ballet flats to work.

Moral of the Story: Even with the extra cost of an alteration, you will still save money by shopping secondhand and you will look better in your clothes!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Red Wool Pea Coat

Where: Consignment Boutique
Cost: $33

This is the red wool coat I mentioned in yesterday's post. I had always wanted a red coat and I was actually putting off buying a new one this year. I figured my 8 year old charcoal grey pea coat would do fine for one more winter. But there was no way I could NOT get this coat when I saw it. It was everything I had been dreaming of. I think red is a great color for a winter coat. It is still classic but a little more exciting than your standard black, grey, or camel coat. I anticipate this one lasting me another 8 years...

Monday, December 3, 2007

Pretty Blue Knit Gloves

Where: Goodwill
Cost: $1

Not too exciting to many people, but I find pleasure in these little gloves.

I enjoy them because the color goes great with my red wool coat and they are longer than many of the knit gloves that you find in stores like Target and Wal- Mart. When it finally gets cold enough down here, I will feel pretty and feminine wearing them.

This is also a good opportunity to mention that many Goodwill stores across the nation carry overstocks from major stores in the area. For instance, my local Goodwill where I do alot of my shopping always has stuff that is from the Target nearby. These are often items that are new with tags and first quality. The stores get a tax break for donating them.

I believe that these gloves must have been originally from target. They were brand new, never worn and mixed up in a big pile of new winter hats, scarves, and gloves from Target.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Houndstooth Banana Republic Look Alike Scarf

Where: Goodwill
Cost: $1

Went out yesterday morning (my usual Saturday morning route of my favorite consignment boutique and the Goodwill down the street) and I had some great luck. One of my favorite finds was this scarf. It is really soft with no pills and will look great with both of my winter coats. I thought it looked familiar. Then I remembered where I had seen it before:

Yeah. A similar scarf is on the Banana Republic website now for $49.50. Obviously the banana republic one is probably longer and better material. And it might be worth your investment if it is the only scarf you will buy for a few years. But I love scarves and buy several a year because they really add that something special to your outfit for not alot of money. So I choose to purchase cheaper ones, but more of them. The exact opposite of what you would want to to with shoes or other materials of clothing.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

J Crew Look- Alike Cheetah Belt

Where: Goodwill
Cost: $1 (for real)

I love J Crew. Sometimes I will actually suck it up and order something from them. But mostly I use their catalogs and website for daydreaming and inspiration.

I must have had the secondhand gods smiling down one me when I spotted this belt in my local Goodwill. I swear there was a beam of light from heaven shining down on it amongst the beat up brown leather belts and plastic pieces of crap. This belt is an exact replica of a 60 some dollar one I had been drooling over from J Crew's Spring/ Summer collection '07. It was in terrific condition and actually appeared to have never been worn. I am not sure if it is real leather/ calf hair like the J Crew one but it sure looks like it. Even the nickel buckle looks the same. I wish I had a picture of the J Crew one to compare.

The tartan shirt is actually J Crew (bought new off of ebay for half price) and you can tell by my mixing of patterns that I stare at J Crew catalogs alot.

Other things that I am wearing will be discussed in future posts!