Thursday, January 31, 2008

On the upside, vampires avoid me

I want to go to the Benefit counter at Macy’s during my lunch break and try various magical lip treatments, but my garlic breath/general garlicky aroma (lingering from last night’s dinner) is so bad I’m pretty sure the girls at the counter will be like “What the fuck? I’m not getting near her!”

My life is tough.

Maybe my breath will be better after I eat lunch?

Trip Report: I went, I got made over, and I walked out with $60 worth of BeneTint and brow shaping stuff. Yee-ouch.

Pry my cash from my cold, dead hands

Here's where my cheddar went in January. Cheddar, of course, is a synonym for "money" used by people who aren't lily-white like me.


$20 makeup brush

$20 black dress

$25 haircut

Eating Out:



$40 on insurance co-pays (in related news, the Great Cervical Cancer Scare of 2007 has resolved. I don’t have cancer, yay!)

~$40 on other miscellaneous expenses (i.e. bar tabs and a DustBuster. It’s weird I put those in the same category, eh?)

So I did pretty good this month being a total cheapskate. I’m sure my friends hate me, but that’s ok. Also: I was able to transfer a thousand bucks into my savings account this month! Holy fucking shit, Batman.

Sadly, February might be a doozie. Valentine’s Day lurks in the middle of the month, and seeing as I’ve been wasting my time seeing a total shitbag, I’ll probably go on an expensive, self-destructive bender for a week or so. Or I’ll find a sweet guy and take him out to dinner, which will probably cost me lots of moola -- but on the upside, I might actually have someone to feel up on the one day a year when having someone to grope is of utmost importance.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Things I've learned so far, part 2

I'm digging through other blogger's lists of "things learned." The writer of a blog called "Beauty Tips for Ministers" has a great one. Here are the items on her list that resonated with me the most:

14. It’s up to you to get enough sleep. Don’t play the dangerous game of bragging how you never get enough rest. This is an American disease of workaholism, competitiveness and punishing schedules. See that you get sufficient sleep; your body needs it.

15. Have someone or something in your life to which you can rise every morning and say, “I love you” and mean it with all your heart.

23. Relationships are not about someone making you happy, but about two people having an opportunity to practice the spiritual discipline of love. It is not anyone’s job or responsibility to make you happy, not even your spouse’s.


I'm entranced by this choker from etsy seller ballandchain. The rhinestone arc is from a flea market, and it looks like it's seen better days. I can't decide if the necklace is really interesting and cool, or really uggo.

Am I crazy or is this necklace kinda ugly-cool? And am I crazy for wanting to wear it, like, now?


This is the sort of inexplicable humor that makes me laugh for three days straight. And then watch the video again, and laugh for another three days.

[ via ]

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Black + gray

This dress

and these shoes

would make a pretty killer outfit, no?

Things I've learned so far

I read, and loved, this post on the Happiness Project about keeping track of "things learned." I can never resist the opportunity to make a list, nor reflect on the principles I try to live by.

So, here's my list of Things Learned in my 23 years:


  • Whenever you have an extra dollar, put it in savings.
  • If you have a particular skill, offer to share it with the worthy organizations and people that cross your path. Pro bono work will enhance your skills, relationships and self-esteem.
  • Buy secondhand whenever possible. Doing so will save you money and help the environment, and over time you will learn to appreciate the beauty of pre-loved items.
  • Being rich has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with how much love, gratitude and happiness is in your heart.


  • Never give in to the lure of a sale. A low price is not enough to make you love an item you would otherwise not buy.
  • Wear shoes as expensive as you can afford. They will be comfortable and last longer than cheap shoes.
  • If a pair of shoes is a little tight, don't count on them to relax. Pass on them and find a pair that fits.
  • Never wear plastic on your feet, especially in summer.
  • Always wear shoes you can walk in. You never know when a sit-down event will turn into an adventure.
  • If a restaurant is empty, don't eat there.
  • Many of the most popular restaurants serve crappy food.
  • When in doubt, eat at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant.
  • When shopping for clothes/accessories/cosmetics, buy only what you love.
  • When at Trader Joe's and you see something you like to eat, buy two instead of one.
  • Diamonds are not all they're cracked up to be. This goes for most things that are fetishized.
  • When buying antiques, always turn an item over before buying it.

Joy and Kindness

  • Whenever you want to shout or cry, laugh instead.
  • Habits are fine, as long as they are productive habits that feed your long-term wealth and/or happiness.
  • Take care of something: a pet, a plant, a family heirloom. It will teach you that to give love is to increase your capacity for love and empathy.
  • Be nice to your parents. You never know when you will need them.
  • If someone pisses you off, kill them with kindness.
  • A true friend is a treasure.
  • Karma may not be real, but acting like it is real will make you a kinder, more compassionate person.
  • Treat others how you would like to be treated. This will never, ever let you down.

Common Sense and Counter-Intuition

  • Never throw up into a headwind.
  • Easy, short bursts of housework increase my energy and make me feel a disproportionate sense of accomplishment.
  • Always wear sunscreen, and bring a small bottle of it wherever you go, in case you decide on a whim to go for a long walk, play on the beach, etc.
  • If you're going to do something, do it right. Don't give into the lure of putting forth a half-assed effort.
  • The first person to raise their voice loses the argument.
  • If you want something, ask nicely for it. You'll be surprised by what you get simply by being calm, polite and laying out your case.
  • Fake it til you make it.
  • Accept compliments with a gracious smile and a thank-you.
  • Accept criticism with a gracious smile and a thank-you.
  • Where there's a will, there's a way.
  • Learn how much alcohol you can handle, and stick to your limit. This is a social skill as important as being a good conversationalist.
  • When in doubt, put cheese on it (food) or sleep on it (ideas/decisions).
  • Never write something on the Internet or in an email that you wouldn't want published on the front page of the New York Times.


  • Make exercise joyous. Slaving away in a gym is not joyous: dancing, hiking and cycling are.
  • Don't rely on pills to cure all your minor aches and pains. Go to the root of the problem. Maybe you have a headache because you spend too much time at the computer; maybe you ache because you're not getting enough sleep. Address the root, not the symptom.
  • Be respectful, friendly, outgoing and forthcoming with your doctor, and you will get the best care.

Relationships and Emotions

  • Constantly being the Martyr or Victim will get you sympathy in the short run, but in the long run it will make people lose respect for you.
  • Feeling resentful is like taking poison and expecting another person to die.
  • If a member of the opposite sex doesn't like you, there's little you can do to change that. Forget him/her and move on to someone who actively appreciates you.
  • You’ll find love as soon as you stop looking for it.
  • Being pretty is not enough. It helps to be charming, pleasant, open-minded and adventurous.


  • Age brings wisdom. Making mistakes is one of the few ways to truly learn.
  • 90% of computer problems can be solved by A) restarting the computer or B) jiggling cords.
  • I am not a morning person, and there is no shame in that.
  • If you want to learn more about a certain subject, read a book about it.
  • Strive for excellence, not perfection.
  • Embrace skepticism, but reject cynicism.
  • Seeing what works for others is one thing. Finding out what works for YOU is quite another
What are your own "things learned"?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shopbop sale alert + biased picks may be full of loud prints, unforgiving fabrics and daring cuts that only look good on models, but they have some bangin' sales and right now is no exception. I found lots of goodies mixed in with not-so-goodies.

Diane von Furstenberg Hendrix dress, $182
Recommended for ladies with slim shoulders and a nice ass. (If this was a fashion magazine the phrase would be "curvy derrière" or other such nonsense, but let's call a spade a spade.)

AKA New York dress, teal or gray, $125
Silk in pretty colors? Yes, please! I would cinch the belt a lot more, though, or replace it with a patent leather belt of some sort.

T-Bags bell sleeve dress, teal or black, $63
You might recognize this dress from my stylebook. I still like it. It looks soft.

Seaton henley tee, various colors, $29
I am obsessed with Henleys. I like how Henleys look sporty and relaxed, even when they're worn by uppity bitches like me.

T-Bags off the shoulder dress, blue and black, $62
I don't need to tell you that I'd rock the hell out of this dress. Also, it pains me that the leggings rend still has legs (heh). I thought that trend was old in, like, 2003.

Rachel Pally seamed sheath dress, various colors, $99
More leggings! Anyway, this dress is cute if you're teeny-tiny.

Foley + Corinna printed kimono top, $115
Finally, a print I actually like! I would suggest that you pair this flowy top with skinny jeans, but then I'd have to kill myself.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Comfiest murderer ever?

From The Morning Call:

"Allentown police had suspected William Torres of dealing drugs in the city. But an undercover narcotics investigation yielded much more, and resulted in Torres, 21, being charged early Saturday with two counts of homicide. ... Torres was driving on Turner Street Friday afternoon when he was pulled over by police and arrested. He was wearing a hooded sweartshirt [sic] with a skull-head pattern on it, pajama bottoms and fuzzy lion-faced slippers at the time. He was still wearing the get-up when he was arraigned after midnight at Lehigh County prison."

I'm just wondering how the hell you can drive in such bulky fuzzy slippers.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Windows Shopping at Nordie's

Here is the fruit of some preliminary Windows Shopping before I head down to Nordie's on my lunch break to spend my $100 gift card (thanks, Grandma!). Based on these picks, you could reasonably conclude that I primarily wear coral, blue and white. You'd pretty much be right. Ok, I wear black too.

Show off those collarbones, girl! I definitely plan to buy this, unless it looks like crap in real life.
(Update: Tried it, liked it, bought it. Definitely a winner!)

Free People fleece hoodie, $128
Out of my price range, but still cute.

BCBG Max Azria Boatneck top in white, $68
I like the black version of this top too, but can I just rant a little about how 95% of cute blouse styles are only available in black and maybe white? What about those of us who love color? You have no idea how many blouses I've passed over because they were only available in black.

Free People ribbed tee in Melon Ball, $38
I dunno, I just like this. Melon/coral is universally flattering, and I adore scoopnecks.

BCBG Max Azria Stripe Ruffled Silk Blouse, $158
Again, out of my price range, but showcased here simply because it's kyuuute.

Honorable Mention / Newest Shoe Crush:

BCBG Max Azria 'Daja' Pump, $210
I vowed to buy no shoes this year, and plan to stick to my promise. Still, I would love these in black and maybe the nude pink. If anyone out there has been looking for a pair of classic pumps, go check these out. Extra points if you paint the soles red and pretend they're Louboutins.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Holy shit!

A comment left on Apartment Therapy - the Kitchn made me suddenly remember Trader Joe's salty caramels. I bought them once because they looked intriguing, and...dear God, they were sublime. I would guiltily scarf, like, six at a time and then swoon on the couch, savoring the salty-sweet aftertaste for as long as possible. I blame it on my low-salt diet.

But do they still exist? I haven't seen them in ages. I think they might be a seasonal product.

I'm actually going to do a supremely dorky thing (me, dorky? Never!) and call my local TJ's to see if and when they will carry them again.

Anyone else know of any sublime products that disappeared for some unknown reason?

[ In case you're doubting that these salty caramels exist, they're reviewed here. ]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Superstar of the day: Redhead (ice skater?)

Is it just me, or is this woman indescribably beautiful?

I love her dress, even though it looks suspiciously like an ice skating costume. I love her lips. I love her skin (beautiful skin means beautiful person, after all).

In the end, this one goes in the makeup inspiration folder. I am all about miles-long black lashes, perfectly smudged eyeshadow and a bit of color on the cheeks to liven up an alabaster complexion.

Oh yeah, and I love how she's perfectly arranged on large swathes of flokati, too.

[ Image via Facehunter ]

Jezebel: The jury is still out

"Jezebel reads like a women-only dorm room conversation at a college for the retarded." - Gawker commentator Thehonjudgesmails2
I religiously read for reasons I can't really explain. (That could be said for most of what I read on the Internet, I suppose.) It's supposed to be a send-up of women's magazines, gossip rags and reality television. Its fashion coverage is abysmal. It publishes paparazzi shots with impunity and faithfully summarizes everything that tabloids report, despite decrying our celebrity-fetishizing culture at every turn. It makes fun of the fluffy articles printed in all sorts of publications, then turns around and asks readers' opinions on equally fluffy subjects.

But every so often it will bring up a story that sparks an interesting discussion about something I care about: women's place in the workplace, raising children, getting married, rejecting stupid fashion and beauty trends, managing finances, sexual health, and so on.

Jezebel first debuted about seven months ago, and I loathed it at first. The writing was awful and the overall tone and message uneven, disjointed and self-congratulatory. Its sense of humor was crude, and its bloggers lacked any real insight or direction.

So, I hated it at first, but they hired more writers/editors and hit their stride, and one day I realized that it had been weeks before it had pissed me off.

I'm still sort of torn on Jezebel. The fashion coverage still annoys me, and even though it purports to approach things from a feminist perspective, it falls into most of the anti-feminist traps that mainstream magazines and media outlets fall into. It's written by a bunch of young New Yorkers who think making jokes about drunkenness and drug use is the height of comedy and sometimes bring attention to themselves in a way that I really don't like. The site thinks it's edgy, and any sort of media outlet that purports to be edgy usually comes across as trying waaaay too hard.

To its credit, though, Jezebel has attracted an amazing base of commentators. They have truly intelligent and funny opinions and insights, and - weirdly enough - reading lots of comment threads has helped me crystallize my positions on a variety of issues.

If pressed to explain what they're *really* trying to promote through the site, I think Jezebel's writers and editors would talk in circles (as they are wont to do). In a way, Jezebel exemplifies all the things that women hate about themselves, as well as our thoroughly cynical, dishonest culture - all while preaching honesty, empowerment, enlightenment and equality.

Inasmuch as I admire honesty and transparency in people and institutions, I continue to hate Jezebel. It makes money off of the same things it purports to reject - celebrity paparazzi shots, consumerism, reality TV, and trends of all sorts.

This is all a very roundabout way of saying: I don't know. I don't know about you, Jezebel.

(Does anyone else read Jezebel out there? What do you think?)

Economizing, part 2

Hmm, I guess today is advice day on Forever Chic. Here's a useful tidbit from the SF Chronicle's article on how to survive a recession:

Monitor your investments. When the stock market is gyrating, it's tempting to sell stocks out of fear or buy them out of greed.

If you are long-term investor with a well-diversified portfolio and are comfortable with your allocation among stocks, bonds and short-term investments, there's no reason to be making any big changes.

If you are not comfortable, not diversified or need the money in the next year or two, take advantage of up days in the market to rebalance your portfolio.

Duly noted, in light of my handwringing on Tuesday.

Une femme

Contrary to the stereotype that most twentysomethings are upstart shits who don't have the foresight to listen to the wisdom of older, smarter people, I was most delighted by these wonderful bits of advice written by une femme d'un certain age. I plan to refer to them often.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


"The main thing to worry about during a recession is losing your job and not being able to find another one. Stay on good terms with your parents. You never know when you might have to move back in with them."
That's a quote from this thread on It made me a bit sick to my stomach because I value my independence more than anything. Frankly, I would live in the ghetto with seven roommates before I ever moved back in with my parents.

All this recession talk has me a little jittery; as a young'un, I could fall prey to the "first hired, first fired" thing. However - and this is a big however - I work in an industry that happens to be booming, and my specific job skills are in high demand. My agency's taken on several high-value, high-profile clients lately. We're riding high, and if anything, my agency could never afford to lay me off.

Still, I think my savings binge has come just at the right time. Saving money is never a bad thing, and that goes doubly when there's a recession over the horizon. So, it means I may have to curtail my spending a little bit. Big deal - I should do that anyway. (And indeed I have been.)

My IRA has already lost money. As a new investor, I play the "login to my account every night and check out my running total" game, and after sinking by a couple dollars a day, it had lost $50 yesterday. Today, I can't get my total because of "system updates." I know that I haven't actually lost money until I pull money out of the fund, and the whole idea of an IRA is that it's kept long enough to ride out natural fluctuations. Still, I wonder if I invested at the absolute worst time. And should I wait for stock prices to fall before I invest a bit more money? Or should I forget it and simply get my savings account as fat as possible? Should I look more closely at what I'm investing in?

My thoughts don't really come from a place of dread or worry. They mostly come from a place of curiosity. It's been drilled into me that the choices we make determine our quality of life, and that's true. But external factors come into play, too.

Monday, January 21, 2008

I'm a (makeup) maaaaaaaaniac

I think I broke my brain, because I'm on an organizing/decluttering binge and can't seem to stop.

Revved up by my latest makeup purchase, I spent some time on the MAC Cosmetics Livejournal Community (not as lame as it sounds, I swear) and watched a few makeup tutorials on YouTube (here's some sassy girl who cracks me up).

Some of the MAC girls' Livejournal posts were about how they organize their massive makeup collections (collections that probably cost the same as a compact car, I might add). And so I pulled my butt off the couch and started looking for a cup in which I could stow my makeup brushes, because in my heart I knew dropping $20 brushes in my cosmetic bag to collect lint was a damn shame.

I turned up nothing. I knew I had to get creative. Before I knew it, I'd pulled this green ceramic thrift store thing* off my bookshelf and arranged my makeup on it. I wiped down the vanity bench, put away less-used products, and organized everything so in the mornings I can find everything easily.

I'm such a dork. A dork with pretty makeup, though.

Here's the full spread. The epicenter of my beauty routine, if you will. I don't have a Before picture, but just imagine a lot of chaos and confusion.

*Seriously, what is it? A relish tray, perhaps?

Thrilling Addendum

In the spirit of being, like, a good blogger, here's what you're seeing in the picture:

MAC eyeshadow in Satellite Dreams (bought at Nordstrom, but I didn't see the color on their website. I looove this color, and it wears like a dream)

MAC paint in Bare Canvas (totally important...I smear a little bit on my eyelids before applying eyeshadow, and it keeps the eyeshadow from creasing or sliding off my naturally oily lids)

LORAC eyeshadow in Harmony
(an impulse buy at's a foolproof, neutral peach shade)

Smashbox eyeshadow trio in Microfilm
(my newest addition, and it's a winner! I especially like the lightest color, which is a fantastic, barely-there highlighter for the browbones and tear ducts. I need to buy another angle brush so I can use the dark brown as eyeliner, though)

Smashbox eyeshadow sets in Beam and Flash (the Beam palette was my first "real" eyeshadow purchase, and it's amazing. I think every woman should own it. The colors are universally flattering, it adds subtle sparkle and depth to your eye area, and it wears so well. The shadows in these Smashbox palettes are luminous and sheer compared to the shadows that come in the eyeshadow trios. They're pretty foolproof and Beam in particular is a great "beginner" palette.)

Sephora Face & Eye Travel Tool Kit (nice-quality brushes for less money than MAC brushes. I cringe when I remember the days of applying eyeshadow with my finger. It looked terrible.)

Blinc Kiss Me mascara (the only mascara I can wear without wanting to rip out my eyeballs. It's gentle in every way, and comes off without soap)

Covergirl powder, $6 at drugstores (applied on top of Olay moisturizer with SPF 15, of course)

I fail(ed) as a housekeeper

Today I finally broke down and bought a broom.

Does that statement disgust you? Does it make you wonder, "Gosh, this girl's lived in her apartment since August and hasn't swept once. What, pray tell, has she been doing instead of sweeping her apartment?'

The answer, I suppose, would be: a lot. A lot of things I probably shouldn't talk about on this blog.

To tell the truth, I've been limping along with a Swiffer sweeper and, later, a microfiber cloth used on the Swiffer sweeper instead of a Swiffer (I love saying Swiffer). The Swiffer, environmental horror that it is, did a decent job of picking up medium-sized dry objects on the floor, but didn't perform a mopping function, nor pick up very large or very small objects. The microfiber cleaning cloth did a slightly worse job of everything, though it could be used dry (and made a decent duster) or wet (as a decent makeshift mop).

But, I needed a broom. One of those quaint old relics of the 19th century.

I guess I fancy my little apartment a bachelorette pad; a cozy refuge for sinful deeds, the cooking of spicy and garlicky foods, the imbibing of alcohol, the reading of banned books. The gritty, backaching business of cleaning didn't really figure into this scenario.

But I cleaned as I went along. I really did. I deep-cleaned my bathroom as the new year dawned. I used up a pack of Swiffers in record time, and started using my microfiber cloth with wild abandon as soon as I bought it. I dusted regularly. But still, in my bare feet at night, the moment would be ruined by an errant tortilla chip or rose petal on the floor. Sitting there, mocking me.

In addition, I shed a lot. Long blond hairs, by themselves, are fairly invisible, but somehow they weave together with grayish lint of indeterminate origin (my belly button, maybe?) to form filthy dust bunnies of the worst sort. As I walk by on my usual paths around the apartment, they congregate in corners, or scuttle under the bed, table or couch.

They are horrible, but as of now, they are all in the trash can. Because I finally bought a broom.

I present to you...


and Valencia!

I'd been throwing around names for weeks, and now I'm finally settled. I think the names are fitting, don't you?

PS. I need to polish my bed. Maybe I'll do that tonight.

Everything reviewed

Today, for some unknown reason, I remembered the fabulous website Everything Reviewed. It hasn't been updated in ages, which is a damned shame, but the most recent review is terribly appropriate. Here's an excerpt from the review, which is a review of shopping.

I was in a shop in Holborn the other day, considering a pair of shoes, and a woman was saying to her friend, "See, you could wear them with jeans OR with a dress. They're a bargain", as if wearing jeans or wearing a dress is pretty much the sum of all human experience, or the scale, and wearing jeans and a dress at the same time some kind of harmonious middle point where you feel your own oneness with the universe. I left empty-handed, feeling quietly superior, then went to Topshop and bought a pair of shoes that don't actually fit me at all in any way, though I keep on trying them on hopefully, in case my feet have shrunk in the night.

Read the full review here. I couldn't capture its full brilliance in a short excerpt.

Best of San Diego Craigslist #6

1950s blonde wood desk, $175

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Sucked dry

I gave blood yesterday, and honestly, it knocked me on my ass. It's been over 24 hours now, and I'm still, like....*clunk* Granted, I had busy days yesterday and today, but I'm not my usual sparkling self. In fact, I'm ready for bed at 10:30. Ten-thirty!!!

It's not true community service unless it turns you into a weak, enervated slug, eh?

Makeup boner!

Today I dragged myself to the mall (evil vortex it is) to see if Sephora would take this eyeshadow palette off my hands.
I'd had it for months, and made me angry every time I used it. The gray was too dark for me and didn't blend, the vanilla was a sickly chalky white, and the middle color an ugly mushroom tone that did nothing for me. It's definitely one of those "cute in theory, terrible in practice" palettes. I'm sure it looks fine on other people, but not on me.

Of course, I didn't have the receipt, and I was nervous about whether they'd take it back. Luckily, Sephora is all kinds of awesome, and I exchanged it for this:

The brown is totally matte and looks like cocoa powder, the light color is as described (shimmering vanilla) and the green is hot stuff. It's a fairly bright green, which I've been looking for. I have a very subtle, sheer army green that I wear all the time, but I wanted something with more impact. By the way, I don't wear bright eyeshadow colors like a douchebag - I blend them into the crease. It's flattering and subtle, really.

Anyway, smiles all around. What did I do before Sephora?

[ Makeup palettes, $28 at Sephora ]

Edit: I reviewed Sephora on Yelp because I love it so fucking much.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finishing touches count

Earlier this week I was tickled when Dooce highlighted her love of IKEA plants and Kardemumma planters. Though the style of my home is totally different from the style of hers, I share her love of these cheap, sleek ceramic planters. My thrift store spider plants look like hell in the brown plastic pots they came in, but dropping them into the planter makes all the difference in the world.

Finishing touches, people, finishing touches. Also: OMG I LIKE THE SAME THINGS DOOCE DOES!

[ Kardemumma planters, $1.99 at IKEA ]

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Yelping like it's hot

I finally got set up with Yelp and it's fucking awesome. I'm having so much fun tearing down restaurants I don't like (diplomatically, of course), waxing poetic about how much I love antique stores, and adding friends (because, as Petunia Face pointed out, the Internet is like a cocktail party, and you don't want to be that loser talking to yourself and/or your G&T.)

So if you're on Yelp, add me as a friend or read my reviews. Of course, it would be best if you're in the same city as me so our restaurant-loving, bar-hopping selves frequent the same places, but it's not necessary.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

When in doubt, use bamboo

[This is the second in a series of extremely nerdy posts about calligraphy. Here's the first post in the series.]

There are many ways to skin a cat, and there are many different tools you can use for calligraphy. You can use a brush, an automatic pen, a felt-tip pen, a dip pen, or a pen fashioned from bamboo or even a carrot. If you can make marks with it, you can do calligraphy with it.

When I was a teenager, bamboo dip pens were my favorite. Rather than going to the store for bamboo, I pilfered my mother's tomato stakes (thin pieces of bamboo) and fashioned them into pens using an X-Acto knife. They work quite well, though my mother wasn't too happy when spring rolled around and she was faced with floppy tomato seedlings.

Here is my current arsenal of calligraphy supplies. During art school, my mother collected quite a few calligraphy nibs. She gave them to me when I wouldn't leave her tomato stakes alone.

Inheriting this amazing selection of nibs was one of the times I realized that sometimes, old things are better than new. You see, calligraphy nibs are made of steel, and they take time to break in properly so they leave smooth marks and don't dig into the paper. Thanks to my mother's futile attempts at mastering calligraphy in art school, these nibs were pre-seasoned and broken in beautifully - not perfectly, since I'm a leftie and I wear in the nib a little bit differently, but still leaps and bounds ahead of the jagged pieces of metal you'd buy new.

In the background of that picture, in the white box, is gouache - my medium of choice. It's basically opaque watercolor paints in a tube I can thin and mix as I wish. Gouache works well with dip pens. On the right is a box of calligraphy inks, which I rarely use. They often have iridescent flecks or a gritty texture I don't care for. Plus I like custom-mixing colors. Not shown: plain old watercolors, India ink, masking fluid, or Japanese-style ink I grind myself.

A close-up of my drawing implements. Leftmost is an automatic pen with an gold-plated nib. Automatic pens aren't my favorite because they don't offer the control of dip pens, but this pen is pretty good. The gold plate is like butter compared to steel, which is a good thing.

Next up is a bamboo pen (not homemade, but I doctored the tip).

Third is a poster pen - a dip pen with a very wide nib. You can't do particularly sharp lettering with the poster pen, but at least it's big.

Last, inherited from my mother along with the arsenal of nibs, is the thing you stick nibs into. The body of the pen, if you will. This is a nice one, but in the past I've gotten by shoving nibs into the end of a piece of bamboo.

If this post had a take-home message, it would be: "It's important to have the right tools for the job. But if you don't, use bamboo."

Tackling New Year's Resolution #1: Don't be a bastard about money

I'm getting my personal finances in order this year, and it feels so good. The feeling of living well, saving money and making wise purchases is so much better than the momentary high of retail therapy. At least that's what I tell myself.

Here's what I've done so far:
  • Put $1,500 in an IRA with USAA
  • Opened a checking account with USAA and put $600 in it solely for discretionary spending. Having my discretionary spending in a USAA account is ideal because USAA debit cards can be used at any ATM - USAA refunds all ATM fees (up to ten withdrawals a month, or $15 in fees).
  • Tucked away my Macy's and Nordstrom gift cards, rather than spending them right away
  • Not used my credit card at all (i.e. no online purchases, and I'm paying for gas and groceries using my debit card)
  • Brought my lunch to work at least 4 of every 5 workdays, and eaten dinner at home
  • Steered clear of coffee shops when I'm alone (i.e. not meeting a friend for coffee)
Next steps:
  • Put at least $500 more in the IRA
  • Track my discretionary spending, and budget accordingly. If I can stick to $100 a month that's great, if not that's ok, but I still want to give myself a limit each month simply for the sake of discipline
  • Keep track of my Washington Mutual checking account (from which I pay bills) and transfer money to my savings account when I can. I do this anyway, but it will be more significant now since my credit card bill is smaller or nonexistent.
  • Figure out how much I should aim to save each month. It's sad I haven't yet figured this out yet, but relatively recently I got a new job and a much more expensive apartment, so cut me some slack. By the way, my mother and other people say saving 10% each month is good, but I think that's way too low considering I don't have children or high transportation expenses, and my clothing budget is slashed.
  • Do my taxes and deposit the refund into my savings account or IRA. (Note to self: need to find W-2 from previous job! Eek!)
  • Consider moonlighting/other sources of income. My full-time job only requires 35 hours a week, so I might as well devote some of my free time to The Man, right?
And that's it! Probably the hardest part was assembling all my financial documents into one expandable folder. I'm terrible about keeping track of papers, especially those that come through the mail. I opened a USAA checking account awhile back, and lost the debit card before activating it. So I had to order a new one. I make stupid mistakes like this a lot - but luckily my mistakes don't include stuff like marrying a deadbeat or buying a BMW on impulse. Hee!

Rules of thumb

Dooce blogged about a site called Rules of Thumb. Here are my favorites from the "Clothing" category:

Wait one year before throwing out a piece of clothing. If you haven't worn it in a year, you will never miss it.

When in doubt, overdress. It is easier to dress down than up.

If a person is poorly dressed, you notice the clothes. If impeccably dressed, you notice the person.

If you have to convince yourself that you want a particular article of clothing, don't buy it - you'll be adding another dust collector to your closet.

This last tip is my favorite. It's another way of saying, "If you love it, buy it. If you don't love it, don't buy it."

I would go even further and say that my personal clothes-shopping motto is, "Only buy something you want to wear out tonight." It's never failed me. I've quickly arranged dinners out so I can wear a new dress, skirt, top or pair of shoes that I bought earlier that day.

Edit: Here's another fantastic rule of thumb from the site - "Never go cheap on your bed or your shoes. You will be in one or the other your entire life."

Best of San Diego Craigslist #5

Two brown leather Knoll executive chairs - $400 for the pair

Monday, January 14, 2008

Making calligraphy modern

When you hear “calligraphy,” what do you think of? Wordy wedding invitations rendered in an almost unreadable copperplate? Fancy Biblical quotes hanging in your grandmother’s sitting room? Diplomas, certificates and awards, with your name inscribed by some unknown person?

I made some quick-and-dirty thank-you cards last night and set out to give them a modern twist. The style of the lettering is my default - a simple italic. What really makes these cards look modern is the placement of the word “danke” – it’s justified to the right and almost runs up against the bottom of the card. For a very quick job, I really liked how these cards turned out.

Through this project and others, I hope to show that calligraphy doesn’t have to be stuffy. It doesn’t even have to be feminine, fancy or flourished. It can be easy to read, masculine, streamlined, and thoroughly modern. It can be at home on your rockabilly-themed wedding invitation or a Nirvana lyric hanging on your wall.

I’ve been practicing calligraphy for 13 years now, so I’ve had a lot of time to think about how calligraphy is evolving. It’s really important to me that calligraphy gets with the times and that people realize that it’s not just ultra-ornate Copperplate; it’s a lot of different styles, including modern styles with the visible imprint of the individual calligrapher. These cards show the unique imprint of my hand and eye, including the fact that I'm left-handed.

The adventures of the left-handed calligrapher

This week I'll be blogging about calligraphy, a craft I've been teaching myself for 13 years. Stay tuned - the first post (with pictures!) should go up tonight.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Old crap in its natural habitat

As promised, I tore up some antique stories today. I didn't hit gold - all I brought home was a beautiful ring that cost $5. I did see a mirror and a mirror tray I might go back and buy if I still like them next week.

All in all, the antique store I visited in Portland had a lot more stuff that skewed to the taste of casual collectors like me. The La Mesa antique stores had plenty of beautiful stuff, but a lot of it skewed toward cutesy stuff your Scottish-Terrier-obsessed Great-Aunt Martha might have - not stuff that's "cool" enough for he average yuppie (me) to take home. And there was nary a mid century nightstand or credenza to be found! Oh, the horror. Still, I had a blast and plan to visit more stores around the area next weekend, because I have no life.

Friday, January 11, 2008

On a mission

Vintage ceramic hands. Photo from restyle's Flickr stream.

Jazzed up by all the fun I had at the Stars antique mall in Portland, I'm going to invade all the major antique stores in San Diego. I've poked around a few, especially those in Hillcrest, but it's time for an all-out assault. No old crap will escape my gaze or grubby hands.

Besides wanting to inhale dust for the fun of it, I'm on a mission to expand my collection of vintage mirrors - including hand mirrors and mirror trays. I would also like one of those ceramic hands that were used as glove molds (I think) - they're great for rings/necklaces. But who knows what old crap will call out to me?

My short list includes:
Tomorrow I'll probably hit up one of the antique malls. I figure they'll be a good starting point.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Quickie fashion inspiration for today. Even if the colors don't work for you, the silhouette's still a keeper. I love the long, drapey hoodie combined with the sleekness of her super-long legs, acccentuated with the colored tights.

[ image via facehunter, I think ]

Breaking News: My rats think I'm neat, and the feeling is mutual

Like any new (adoptive) mother I feel compelled to be all obsessive and smug and regale everyone I know with stupid little stories no one cares about. So, forgive me.

The new baby rat playing on the bed.

Rats Flickr set, because I know you care sooooo much.

The new rats are settling in wonderfully. At first, the four-month-old baby was pretty unsocialized and afraid of me, but some gentle handling and hand-feeding of treats quickly got her up to speed. Same with the eight-month-old mama rat - she's naturally very placid, but wasn't sure about me at first. Also, she was pretty mouthy, gently nipping at fingers. Again, hand-feeding of treats did the trick. Now they both know the difference between "hand holding food" and "hand I shouldn't put my teeth on."

Now, whenever I pass by the rats' cages, they rear up and greet me, expecting treats. And they are happy to play on my bed and climb all over me like I'm a big, warm jungle gym.

Pinkie is still a very loyal and cheerful rat. Her tumor is growing every day, though it doesn't seem to be bothering her (not like one of my past rats, Blanca, that grew a tumor in her face). She has some nasty scabs, possibly because she has mites and she scratched her skin way too hard - but she was treated with Revolution when I adopted the new rats, and it looks like the scabs are healing.

The new rats are as-yet unnamed. I'm a big proponent of letting names reveal themselves; however, I'm also totally amused by non-sequiturs (how would everyone feel about rats named Gumby and Batman?).

I could do authors - Sylvia and Virginia for Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, for example, or Charlotte and Emily for the Brontes. Or public figures (Condoleezza Rice / Janet Reno, heh.)

Or I could just pick names I like: Lucia, Adelaide, Ruby. You know, the names I gave my Quints dolls when I was eight. Ruby or Scarlet would be appropriate for the baby because her eyes are a deep red, but that's totally uncreative.

I could name them after nymphs, which would be especially appropriate for the mom because she's a huge hussy (seriously.)

Actually, I just thought of Satine - the name of Nicole Kidman's character in Moulin Rouge. It's one of my favorite movies and (this is really super lame) both of the rats have really satiny fur. Maybe I could name the baby Ruby Satine for a totally pretentious, overwrought name that only a yuppie would think of? And the mom would be named after a nymph?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Allergies and Me

Today, a New York Times article about a mother on a crusade against certain potentially allergy-causing foods caught my eye.

The subject of the article, Robyn O'Brien, sounds a lot like my own mother. In fact, many things that Robyn says in the article could have come from my mother's mouth.

A little background:

When we were young, my sister and I showed symptoms of hyperactivity. After visiting several doctors that recommended medication, my mother looked for an alternative and put us on the Feingold Diet, a rather radical diet that's based on the assumption that hyperactivity, irritability, tantrums, and pretty much any bad behavior in children is caused by allergies. Allergies, in turn, are supposedly caused by artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives, as well as many fruits and vegetables.

Once she learned of this diet, my mother committed to it with an almost fanatical devotion. We went to Feingold Association barbecues with cotton candy, Hebrew National hot dogs and food made from scratch. My mom cooked nearly all our meals from scratch, and since she doesn't particularly like to cook, taught me and my sister to cook from scratch starting from a young age - I was a skilled baker by the time I was 12 or so. She didn't allow us to use any scented products, including soaps, shampoos and scented markers. She even made Play-Doh from scratch, since the coloring from mass-produced Play-Doh can apparently be absorbed through the skin. Products like body spray, hair dye, make-up, lotions, temporary tattoos, and scented candles were the enemy. She sent a long list of Permitted and Banned foods everywhere with us so teachers, camp counselors, friends' parents, etc. couldn't plead ignorance.

Over the years, though, she relaxed the diet as my sister and I became successful athletes, academic overachievers, and generally well-adjusted people.

Now that I'm on my own, I pretty much eat whatever I want, though I tend to avoid artificial stuff out of habit, and focus on "whole foods" like fruits and vegetables that I cook at home. As far as I can tell, I'm only allergic to almonds, possibly strawberries (which gave me hives when I was a preschooler, but I've avoided them since), and some heavily preserved/MSG-laden food (like Boston Market food, which is gross anyway). Many heavily scented products give me a headache, though I use lightly scented products (usually from Trader Joe's as well as Paul Mitchell hair products) regularly, as well as make-up from the likes of MAC, Stila and Smashbox.

I'm not a particularly focused person, and I have the attention span of a fruit fly, but for the most part I don't consider myself hyperactive or ADHD. I consider myself a creative type who switches from one task to another 50 times an hour, with no ill effects. I've never taken Ritalin or Adderall, nor had any need to.

I'm a little skeptical of the Feingold Diet. As the Wikipedia article notes, the main downside of the diet is social. I would go to birthday parties and not be able to eat cake or ice cream; when schoolmates brought treats into school, I could rarely sample them. I could certainly not trade lunches or share food with friends, though I started cheating on the diet quite a bit starting in fifth grade or so (not allowing a sweet-toothed child any candy or soda is really, really tough, though there are a lot of great all-natural sweets and sodas out there).

Face it: people bond by sharing food and eating meals together. For many people, refusing an offering of food is to refuse friendship. I always felt a bit weird and outcast because I refused food, and many of my friends' parents became hostile or confused when I could not eat anything they offered me while I came over to play. I still remember whe one of my best friends' mothers bought Breyer's peach ice cream for me. Breyer's, of course, is an all-natural brand. But I couldn't eat the ice cream because peaches are one of the banned foods according to the Feingold Diet. (Naturally, peaches are now one of my very favorite foods now.)

In addition, I don't like how my mother used the tenets of the Feingold Diet as a reason to blame every bad behavior on something I had eaten. Whenever I misbehaved, my mother would shake me and scream, "What did you eat??!!" Sometimes, a child is being a little shit for absolutely no reason. I got punished for cheating on my diet lots of times when, in fact, I had done no such thing. I chafe at the idea that there is always rhyme or reason to a child's behavior. (Of course, later, I did cheat on my diet, and has a period where I did badly in school - but I attribute that to being a rebellious, experimental teenager, not hyperactivity or food allergies.)

However, I definitely think that avoiding processed food, foods with artificial ingredients (Yellow #5 and so forth), genetically modified food (good luck avoiding those), hormone-laced milk, etc. is generally a good idea. It's the simple principle that the closer to the earth a food is, the better it tastes and the healthier it is. Thus I drink organic, hormone-free milk and eat primarily organic foods. And yes, I eat lots of ice cream and cookies and candies, including a bit of processed junk - perhaps to make up for the relative lack of sweets I enjoyed as a child. I still can't stand soda and generally back away from obviously dyed foods, like bright red pork at Chinese restaurants. I still love to bake and cook from scratch. I don't plan to ever make a cake from a mix.

After eating a "forbidden food" according to the Feingold Diet - anything from a tomato to a Reese's peanut butter cup - I don't think that I'm less able to focus or function normally. After eating something sugary I experience the usual energy spike, but nothing out of the ordinary. I feel like this is 50% simply growing up and getting over my hyperactivity, and 50% evidence that sticking to the Feingold Diet wasn't totally necessary in the first place.

Obviously, if a mother is faced with a hyperactive child, she should explore all the options. Ritalin is certainly over-prescribed in this country, and there are myriad reasons why a child can be an unmanageable bastard - anything from brain chemistry to bad parenting. These things need to be taken on a case-by-case basis. In some cases a blend of medication, diet and therapy/behavior modification strategies might be best.

Anyway, it was interesting to see that skepticism of the American food supply - from the perspective of allergic kids - is still alive and well. I do think the food supply is a minefield of genetically engineered, preserved, colored, processed junk, but I'm very skeptical of the assertion that allergies are on the rise among children. However, there's really no downside to feeding children whole, unprocessed, organic foods, except for a nominal increase in price and increased need to cook at home. However, I don't necessarily think that superbly restrictive diets such as the Feingold Diet are a cure-all suitable for all children, as some people would assert.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Superstar of the Day: Jordan from Scrubs

I may not have one of those newfangled "televisions" the young kids keep talking about, but it doesn't keep me from watching pirated episodes of my very favorite show, Scrubs.

Besides the oddly sexy Zach Braff (Dr. John Dorian), the goddamn hilarious Donald Faison (Dr. Chris Turk), and truly bizarre appearances by Tara Reid (some girl that Zach Braff's character has sex with), the foxy Jordan, played by 43-year-old Christa Miller, continually catches my eye.

Jordan plays an early-40s, acid-tongued powerhouse of a woman. Her character is from a wealthy family and has a tumultuous but loving relationship with the wacky Dr. Perry Cox, with whom she has a baby named Jack. She isn't afraid to call people on their bullshit, boinks Zach Braff's character purely for the sport of it, keeps Dr. Cox - and everyone else - in check, and always looks awesome. If I look half as good as her when I'm 43, I'll be psyched.

If I could capture Jordan's ass-kicking awesomeness in photos I would, but instead I'll settle for memorializing a few of her coolest outfits (with bonus funny facial expressions!):

For these reasons I proclaim Jordan the Superstar of the Day. So what if she's a fictional character?

Best of San Diego Craigslist #4

Good table for a small space, and slick Danish modern chairs with wonderful white upholstery that pops. I'm sold!

Crate & Barrel dining table and two Danish modern chairs, price negotiable

Best of San Diego Craigslist #3

For your cat-house-themed bedroom, opium den, etc.

Antique French country couch with side chair, $1000 [plus your firstborn to pay for reupholstering]

Best of San Diego Craigslist #2

Go ahead, negotiate this down to $200. I won't tell.

Antique waterfall dresser with original hardware, $285 [local delivery negotiable]

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Best of San Diego Craigslist

Ring ring ring ring ring ring KERMIT PHONE!

$35 on San Diego's Craigslist.

This spring, boobs are in

In honor of my finally opening up a Roth IRA, here are some goodies I will not be buying from Anthropologie. (But God, do I want to!)

Since I've spent today thinking about my (financial) assets, it's only appropriate that these picks are themed around how to enhance and embrace your own assets, especially if you're not particularly busty. Yeah, I amuse myself.

Bunting squareneck top , $48
Ruching adds volume in all the right places.

Photogenic top in Lipgloss, $68
Gorgeous, ultra-flattering color - and like the preceding top, the strategic ruching/draping will help enhance curves.

Isamar dress, $178
Amazing, easy-to-wear dress. Instant sophistication.

Gryphon tank dress in Yellow, $128
One of the best parts about being slim and not particularly busy is the ability to wear ultra-deep V necks with no fear.

Bluebell Wood dress, $148
his dress would flatter a variety of heights and figures, though I think it would look best on petite, thin girls (again, note the ultra-flattering V neck). If I was the marrying type I would totally get married in this dress. The back is gorgeous too:

And here's an unusual, neutral necklace to draw the eye to your gorgeous décolletage:

It's on sale for $70. You're welcome!