Friday, December 28, 2007

Oh god my feet hurt

I've just finished a VERY fun-filled day in the Nob Hill (I think) neighborhood in Portland (also called the Alphabet District, maybe?). It's a shopper's dream, stuffed to the gills with women's boutiques, shoe stores, lots of smelly/frilly gift and soap shops, and a smattering of home decor. And plenty of cafes to keep you sated between rounds of retail therapy.

About 3:30, my feet completely rebelled. They are sore and covered with blisters. Turns out that schlepping around on 3.5-inch heels is not always the best idea. But that was not before I scored a beautiful cream-colored cardigan, a black trench that hits at the hip, and a royal blue dressy top with a cowl neck and silky detailing on the back. I had fun chatting with store managers and employees, sampling the foodstuffs, ogling vintage jewelry, trying on lots of clothes, and snapping lots of pictures of the beautiful Victorian houses that ringed the shopping district.

Tonight, the plan is to go to some theatrical production or other...I think it's sketch comedy. And I hope a hot, comfort-food-type dinner will be in there somewhere.

Last night, I convinced my cousin - a notorious teetotaler - to have a beer with me. He claimed to be buzzed hours afterwards, even after we'd inhaled a rich, caloric dessert at a dessert place called Pix. Is that even possible?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A San Diegan in Portland

Portland is so fun and so, so cold. Today is my first day on my own, using my cousin's loft in the Pearl District as my launch pad. I ventured out to pick up some things at Rite Aid about an hour ago, and during that walk I nearly froze to death. No kidding. My cheeks still feel as if they are set to escape my face.

On the plus side, though, my cousin's loft is a decorator's dream. If I do nothing else today, I'm going to pick up some paint chips from the store nearby so we can start mulling over colors.

Urg. So cold. At least it's not snowing like it did yesterday, though!

Friday, December 21, 2007

24-Hour Party People

I went to a party sponsored by Belvedere Vodka last night. I wore a purple minidress, gray tights bought at Ross during my lunch hour, and my knee-high black boots (it looked cute, I swear). It was the first time the boyfriend had seen my new boots, and he wasted no time in describing then as "fuck-me boots" in between sips of free dirty martinis and vodka-cranberries.

But they don't have a stiletto heel! I protested. And the toe is only slightly pointy! And they're not made of that terrible, slightly shiny fake leather that many mass-market boots are made of!

So I guess any knee-high boots are automatically fuck-me boots. I suppose I'm ok with this, considering I wear them under pants most of the time and the knee-high aspect doesn't even register.

Also, at the party (which was stuffed with lovely little twentysomethings, of course), a VERY wide margin of women were wearing very similar boots - with skirts and dresses, of course.

However, I was the only one wearing gray tights, not black. I win.

(The hotel's decor was fantastic, by the way - I'm so angry I didn't bring my camera. The VIP area had wonderfully wide, shiny, tufted black pleather couches/lounges, cool little tables and a great view of the dance floor. And the bottle service menu thingie was chock-full of $2,000 wines. Oh and there were hilariously campy go-go dancers who changed outfits about every 20 minutes. Fun!)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"Blue is the new green"*

Haven't you heard? Blue is going to be the big, big color of 2008. Pantone (bless their hearts) named Blue Iris - a deep blue with an undertone of purple - as Color of the Year, and blue featured prominently on runways - which means blue is set to trickle down to retail stores in a major way. So get ready!

Color trends are a bit silly. If a certain color makes you look putrid (for clothes) or doesn't work with your house's light (for paint colors), it's not going to magically look good if it's a "trendy" color. (People who paint their walls a trendy shade of lime green, I'm looking at you.)

However, I think blue is one of the most versatile and beautiful colors. It can be fun, funky, soulful or classic. Everything from teal, aqua and sky blue to cerulean, indigo, slate blue and navy are fair game.

As always, expressing a trend in accessories is the way to go. Wearing a blue necklace (featuring stones like lapis, tanzanite, sapphire or chalcedony) with blue jeans and a top in any color will give you a classic, balanced look. Blue is also lovely when it's popping against a background of white, gray, and especially orange, yellow and pink.

Here are a few ideas to get you on the blue bandwagon:

Dark blue sapphire necklace, $24.95

One-of-a-kind repurposed necklace, $18

My Blue Heaven necklace, $32

[The necklace at the top of the post is Blue jade toggle necklace, $28.50]

I hope you enjoyed this trio of posts about jewelry. Here are the previous installments in case you missed them: Aged metal jewelry and bitchin' statement jewelry.

* Quote courtesy of JWT, a marketing and advertising company quoted in the New York Times. I wasn't aware that companies can speak, but apparently they can.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Three Cheers for Ugly!

My alma mater, UC San Diego, got named #13 on a list of America's Ugliest Colleges by someone who can't spell "architecture." Err...ok.

The main architectural problem facing UCSD is its age. It's young - it was only founded in 1960. So there are no cool old buildings like you'll find at Berkeley or any of the Ivy Leagues. And the buildings it does have are all aggressively modern, which I can appreciate even if some of them at downright weird.

And, um, our library (left), - named for Theodore Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss - looks like a fucking spaceship and is surrounded by little canyons, which I may or may not have hit golf balls into on several occasions. Also, in the picture on the left, you'll see a winding path. That's the snake path. The snake has a head. Yeah. UCSD has the market cornered on subtle, weird art installations.

And we have the Sun God (right), which looks like a psychedelic chicken. The Sun God Festival is held in the spring of each year. It's one day where everyone gets drunk and horny, skips class and actually sees the sun rather than just studying, crying, and taking caffeine pills all the time.

Maybe UCSD isn't pretty, but it's quirky. And it's right near the beach!

Love Letter

I met the most amazing woman yesterday. Ok, she's my new gynecologist. I love her. She's got a slick accent (Israeli maybe?), a brash yet educated and rational way of speaking, and a beautiful office.

I could go on and on about the office.

The actual exam room felt like a fucking spa. It was painted a warm tan, with an accent wall (!) in a pretty putty color. The floor had the appearance of nubbly brown slate. Plants and little ethnic touches were everywhere, offsetting the posters with pregnant bellies and reproductive systems and stuff. There was a large window looking out on the sunset.


The stirrups had cozies! Little blue silk covers with a little fringe of beads. No cold plastic here, no siree. I totally laughed at the mental image of a nurse (or the doctor herself) buying the cozies and slipping them over the cold, uninviting stirrups. Heh.

Oh yeah, and there was a cute accent chair with an accent pillow that I recognized from Pier 1. The pillow was brown, with large dots organized in a grid pattern, in various coordinating shades of brown/blue/tan. Tasteful stuff.

And they gave me little ankle socks to keep my little feetsies warm. Whoo-hoo, free socks!

The doctor totally got me excited about SAFE! SEX! And getting tested! And called me a "strong, healthy woman!" Yeah! And she wrote an insanely long list of infections my boyfriend should get tested for! And I'm totally gonna spray it with perfume and hand it to him!

Sometimes, it's the little things that matter.

"Why are some cats softer to the touch than others? Is it possible I have the softest cat in the world?"

Today's hearty chuckles brought to you by Slate's Unanswered Questions of 2007. Be sure to vote for your favorite!

(As a Humane Society volunteer, I always like to test the relative softness of all the cats. Right now, the champion softie seems to be Thomas, a long-haired marmalade kitty. Congrats, Thomas!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

How to wear boots, courtesy of Riikka in Helsinki

I would totally make out with this girl. She's short and curvy, yet works the hell out of teeny-heeled boots. Also, like all the stylish Finns on Hel Looks, she claims to have little interest in fashion, shopping or material possessions. Love!

[More Riikka here]

Milwaukee Loves Mustard

On the left, we have Lars in Oslo. On the right, Milwaukee (his real name) in New York. They share a love of British comedies (lie), dirty martinis (lie) and mustard-colored scarves (truth).

I wore a mustard-colored tank top today. I like to think I share a little bit of mustard love with Lars and Milwuakee here.

PS. Why do Scandinavians always look so fucking happy, especially compared to New Yorkers? Even the teenagers on (shot in Helsinki, obviously) look happy, healthy and well-adjusted. Fuck them.

Fun Facts about my Christmas Shopping

  • It's very nearly done!
  • It was conducted almost entirely on etsy (notable exceptions: handmade items and a Nordie's gift card), which leaves me to hope and pray that my items will arrive in time!
  • It's the reason I'll be living on potatoes, pasta, rice and other cheap starches for the next three or four months!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Mystery of the Lost Sweater

My large wardrobe, coupled with my fruit-fly-like attention span, makes for a lot of misplaced clothes. Once, I realized that one of my favorite white tank tops had been missing for months. At that moment, I decided I wanted to wear it, and wear it now. I finally decided my friend (who, at that point in time, borrowed clothes with impunity) had, erm, repossessed it. I summoned all the appropriate righteous outrage...and then found the tank top crumpled in a random box (I was in the midst of moving).

Now that it's downright nippy in San Diego, I started wondering where my plum-colored sweater went. Y'know, the pima cotton one from Nordstrom. My friend definitely hadn't borrowed it, so what then hell happened to it?

I checked the hamper, the Lane chest and finally the dark depths of my closet. Turns out it had fallen off the hanger and wedged itself into a crevice of my closet. Ah-ha! Just as I had suspected.

What I really need is a computerized system to keep track of all my clothes...not unlike the one that Cher had at the beginning of Clueless (the finest film ever made, by the way). It would keep track of winning outfits, suggest new combinations, automatically put dirty clothes in the hamper, keep me from under- or over-wearing a particular garment, and keep all my ducks (sweaters, jeans, tops, etc.) in a row. Seriously, why hasn't anyone invented this yet?

I saw the sign (and boy, was it shiny!)

I love gilded signs. They seem to be reserved for law firms, title companies, stately old hotels and European pubs. They lend the business a sense of gravitas, even if it's just a crummy little law office or vomit-encrusted drinking hole.

I actually think gold and a lot of other metals look better as they age. New, bright gold - especially fake gold - can look tawdry. But aged gold has had its disposition mellowed out; it whispers softly rather than screaming "hip-hop diva" or "blinged-out soccer mom."

Anyway, using cool gilded signs as inspiration, I looked for aged metal jewelry on etsy. I don't know if you know this, but etsy is a treasure trove of artists who find vintage jewelry elements (beads, broaches, pendants, watch fobs, keys, what have you) and brilliantly rework it. I pretty much have to change my pants after I browse through my favorite sellers' stores.

Golden pheasant necklace, $35
This, folks, is the necklace that started it all. I bought it recently and cannot take it off. Lucky for you, there's another one available. Well worth $35!

MaryBeth necklace, $29

Paint it Gold earrings, $32
Though the brass is heavily oxidized in this picture, you could carefully polish it for a more golden patina.

'Gin' necklace, $38
This is perhaps my favorite of the bunch. Be the envy of all your friends on Friday and Saturday nights! (or whatever other nights you drink...I'm not judging.)

'You are my nectar' necklace, $84

[The gilded signs at the top of the post are from my Flickr favorites.]

Note: You'll notice this post is labeled "old crap." That is not a dig at any of the beautiful objects described herein; rather, it's my cheeky nickname for all the antique objects I absolutely love, covet, stroke lovingly, etc.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Superstars of the Day: These People

Today I am making candied grapefruit peels for my grandfather. I tried the recipe on a whim a few years ago, and the sweet, tart, summer-colored little peels became an instant family favorite, with my grandfather in particular putting them away by the dozen and begging me to make more.

The recipe is not labor-intensive, but is time intensive. Boil; boil; boil again; that's pretty much how the recipe goes. In between boilings, I am -- what else? -- looking to the Sartorialist for fashion inspiration.

Quiz time! What do the following women have in common?

If you guessed boots, you would be correct! Looking at ideas for how to rock boots in non-boring ways, I was struck by how many fashionistas pair boots with black pants (and black tights and leggings, of course). I love all these looks, though for different reasons.

The girl in the first picture is special because the bagginess of the dress is balanced by her slouchy boots. The eye is drawn to her bare shoulder and then her legs, which look wonderfully slim since they're bookended by a roomy dress and slouchy boots. A tighter dress might have made her look hoochy, but the baggy dress gives her a perfectly laid-back look.

The woman in the second picture obviously has a great body, and she's maximizing the length of her legs by pairing high-heeled boots with black skinny jeans. She's created an uninterrupted line from her hips to the tips of her toes. Also, that leather jacket is amazing.

Sometimes the boots-over-jeans look is pooh-poohed because it cuts off the length of your legs. Despite this totally valid criticism, I still think it's cute. But wearing black jeans with black boots gets around this problem, and allows you to show off every inch of your boots while protecting the cuffs of your pants from the weather. The girl in the third picture (who must be a model) is a perfect example - her legs look a mile long, though I don't have the slightest idea how she's able to ride her bike in what appears to be an extremely high-end, high-heeled boot.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Currently crushing on...

This dress, from Active Endeavors. Wouldn't it look great with black tights and my new black boots? Or maybe my purple T-straps, as long as they coordinate without being too matchy-matchy?

Friday, December 14, 2007

A list of things I would like for Christmas, but won't get because my family hates me or something

  • Soft, solid color scarves in funky colors - teal, cerulean, sea green, lavender, blush pink, coral, magenta, plum or lemon yellow
  • Vintage or vintage-inspired jewelry (especially necklaces)
  • Funky tights in dark tonal colors (I have black tights covered, but maybe plum or gray?)
  • Makeup. Always, makeup. And makeup brushes. I like Smashbox and MAC eyeshadows in particular, as well as lipglosses (I blame my cousin's fiancee for getting me hooked on Stila lip glaze)
  • Books about politics, environmentalism, astronomy, geology, organic farming, art, culture, sociology, etc.
  • "Planet Earth" on DVD
  • "Weeds" on DVD
  • "The Sopranos" on DVD
  • A Netflix subscription
  • Prints/posters for my home
  • Letterpress cards or calendars
  • Calligraphy/art supplies (always welcome)
  • Money for grad school (hey, a girl can dream, can't she?)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

If the boot fits...

There exist certain unassailable truths.

Burritos taste best when you're drunk at 2 am.

Traffic in LA is always worse than you could ever imagine or expect.

As boring, stupid or low-paying your job is, there are lots of people doing much worse.

Right when you least expect it, Nordstrom will hit you with an amazing deal.

So, I was in Nordstrom today to get a gift card for someone as a Christmas present. I browsed the shoe section real quick, just for kicks, and I couldn't help but wander over to a sad little corner of where there were sale boots. Most of the boots were hideous cast-offs, but then...hello! I spotted some supple leather and tugged at a tall black boot.

Anyway, long story short, these boots are amazing, they fit and look great, and I got them for $138 (50% off). Oh and they're Michael Kors. Hooooooooly shit.

I can only conclude that I have superior shopping karma.

Bitchin' Statement Jewelry

Dainty jewelry has its place. But for day-to-day wear, throwing on just one piece of jewelry - one that adds a significant dose of color and style to your ensemble - is often a really good strategy.

It's easy to buy a large bead/pendant (I love big, irregular, faceted stones) and string it on an appropriate chain. Try poking through your local bead shop or buying raw materials on eBay or etsy. I've also found that Macy's is a decent source for chunky, fun jewelry, as long as you have a strong sense of what works on you and what is cheap crap that's not worth buying (avoid plastic; look for real stones and strong construction).

Or, you can find tons of inexpensive, handcrafted, readymade statement pieces on etsy. I don't think I'm the only person who's been gravitating away from mass-market jewelry and toward one-of-a-kind pieces, especially when they feature such gorgeous stones, expert construction, cool vintage elements, and amazing prices.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Statement jewelry is fun because it's all about playing with proportion and scale.

A piece of jewelry that's overwhelming on one person will be relatively miniature and insignificant on someone else. Keep this in mind if you're buying a gift for someone (or for yourself).

It is possible to go TOO large, especially if you're young - many style experts say large statement jewelry is best for women over 50, as large pieces sometimes look too gaudy or costume-y on young women. For the most part, though, I think this rule can be bent in today's free-for-all fashion landscape; I tend to believe that a big, beautiful gemstone, bead or pendant is beautiful on nearly anyone, as long as it complements the person and her outfit, rather than overshadowing it. If you're petite and have, for example, delicate collarbones, a chunky piece of jewelry may make you appear all the more petite and delicate - or it may overwhelm you. Get a feel for what makes a statement without going overboard, then go nuts with your favorite colors and gemstones.

Resources: Bitchin' Etsy Jewelry Makers

The following etsy sellers all sell great statement pieces. Many feature vintage elements, because I'm biased toward a vintage look and recycled/found elements.
Did I miss any great etsy jewelrymakers? Tell me in the comments!

The Wisdom of Teenage Girls

Perhaps this story sounds familiar to you: You have a curling iron, but have little idea how to use it.

Folks, this technique is for you!

As this fetching teenage girl shows us, it is possible - nay, advised - to curl your hair using your flat iron. I repeat: your flat iron! Who knew that the younger generation was so crafty?!

Though the technique takes a bit of practice to master, I can personally vouch that it is quicker, easier and more foolproof than curling your hair with a curling iron.

Also, if you simply want more body and some loose waves, the technique works really well - just don't flip your wrist as much as you would for a full curl. You can get voluminous, lively Fembot hair* in just a few minutes - a technique that's perfect for days when your hair is unwashed and flat, you're hungover, you've lost your pants and you need to be at work in two minutes.

Needless to say, I curled my hair using this method for last night's holiday party, and was thrilled with the results. A++++, will try again!

* At least I can. I can't speak for girls with super-fine or super-straight hair. If your hair doesn't like to hold hold a curl, try spraying hairspray on a strand as you curl it, rubbing in the hairspray, and then curling it. Also, spray your hair at the roots to maintain volume.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Flattish Boots

So Lindsey asked for some recommendations for flat or flattish (up to 2" heel) boots. And so I set out to find her some.

Unfortunately, I live in the Land of Tiny Humans, a land where "flat boot" really means "boot with 3-inch heel." I can't tell you how many times I found a "flat" boot, only to find out it was way too tall.

Anyhoo, despite my Short-Person-O-Vision, I think I've found some boots that just might fit the bill:

Oh God, the Choices

I'm pretty excited for my work's holiday party tomorrow. I'll be rocking my black Karanina dress, favorite suede T-strap stilettos, and a jade necklace from my grandma that dates from the 1920s. And a hot guy on my arm, of course.

Now the question is: how do I style the damn dress? The possibilities are all so tempting:

I've mastered the styling shown in the first picture, and can verify it looks good. I also like the look of the big X on the back - and the possibilities shown in the last picture are awfully intriguing. I'm not really feeling the upside-down Y styling, but I'll give it a test run.

Any opinions on which style is best?

I would post pictures of myself demonstrating the various styling options, but I am not that high a caliber of blogger quite yet.

By the way - Though the dress is from Summer 2006, it's still available - in limited sizes and colors - here and here.

I'm going to P-town!

So y'all thought it was a good idea for me to go to Portland over Christmas to help decorate my cousin's apartment and see other assorted relatives. And I thought it was a good idea, too.

Of course, when I told my mother about this plan, she went absolutely apeshit. Apparently Christmas isn't Christmas unless she has her favorite kitchen elf (me) to cook meals, do chores, etc.

Also, I was sad that the plan would not allow me to visit my beloved grandparents.

However, thanks to my resourceful grandmother, I have a plan! I'm flying up to Reno on the 22nd, and my grandparents will pick me up from there and take me to their house. My aunt and uncle will be there for an early Christmas, and I will hitch a ride up with them to Portland.

Then merrymaking, decorating the apartment, visiting relatives, etc. will ensue.

On January 1st, I'll fly back home from Portland.

It's lots of traveling, but as long as it involves little or no driving on my part, I'm ha happy camper. And best of all, I can see tons of relatives AND enjoy Portland! Hallelujah!

Of course, between plane tickets and medical care costs stemming from my mutinous cervix, I'm feeling oh-so-broke. I plan on buying relatively inexpensive handmade gifts from Etsy, and making some goodies (truffles?) at home.

Anyone have hot tips for places to go in Portland? I'll be there for nearly a week. I plan to eat and drink myself to death when I'm not hitting up cool home decor stores, but details/tips are always welcome.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Purple Shoesies!

My latest frivolous footwear purchase is a pair of PURPLE! PATENT LEATHER! T-STRAP HEELS! They are fabulous. I found them at DSW* for 40 bucks. When I brought them home, I realized they are uncannily similar to these Dolce Vita T-straps at (see left), which I have been lusting after lately (complete with happy tail-wagging and excited grunting). Except mine have a rounder toe and a slightly lower, much chunkier heel. Mine also have white contrast stitching.

In theory, purple shoes are totally bizarre. But they actually look really nice with jeans and aren't OMG PURPLE - they're pretty subtle (despite being shiny) and a nice variation on the usual black or brown.

And, they suit me.

when I was younger, I was completely averse to dark (especially black) shoes. I kid you not. Perhaps it's because I have alabaster skin and light blonde hair - I can't successfully wear black shoes unless I have a good amount of black elsewhere in the outfit. Brown, metallic, burgundy, gray, or purple shoes are less severe, and compliment my skin and hair without drawing the eye directly to my feet.**

Oh yeah, and I also noticed that purple shoes are everywhere:

(The last pair are made by Frye and available here; the others are at Zappos and can be browsed here.)

So hey, maybe give some purple shoes a try? They're not as weird as they first seem. More importantly, we'll be shoe buddies.

* DSW is right next to Marshall's, where I was stocking up on undies, bras and kitchen knives (helloooo weird combinations). I think I need to have DSW permanently ban me or something, but then how would I satisfy my shoe cravings?

** As a child, I remember wearing pastel-colored leather strappy sandals and, later, Converse low-tops in slate blue and a very small plum-and-white checkered pattern. Later, in my early teens, I branched out to buying shoes at Ross/Marshalls - a bad idea, on the whole, but to my credit, I once found a pair of scandalously cheap, very cute Doc Martens Mary Janes there. Yes, they are black. I still wear and enjoy those Docs, whose awesomeness and comfort show no signs of abating.

[ Dolce Vita T-straps, $138 at ]

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Today's Farmer's Market Haul

  • A big bag of smallish Yukon Gold potatoes, to be cubed and cooked with olive oil and garlic, then showered with shredded cheddar cheese
  • A basket of sweet tangerines, to be devoured guiltily at all hours of the day and night
  • Three pomegranates, to be lovingly dissected and savored

As you can see, I showed serious restraint today.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Stop me, before I kill again

December is always terrible for my pocketbook. I never know what to buy my 67 million* relatives for Christmas, so I distract myself by buying little presents for myself. Then I buy gifts for everyone on, like, December 23.

Latest damage: the hoodie at right, bought at a charming little store called Karmaloop and made by a charming brand called Gentle Fawn. I destroy sweatshirts with remarkable speed, so whenever I can get a nice one for $40, you can bet I'll spring for it. Also, this model is as cute as a button and I have a not-so-secret girl crush on her.

*Ok, I exaggerated a bit. I only have 66 million relatives who are expecting Christmas gifts.