October 31, 2013

I, SWANKENSTEIN

Happy Halloween, everyone!

I'm very pleased to report that I finally thought up a Halloween costume worthy of my days of yore.

I give you: Swankenstien!




Get it? I'm Frankenstein, but I'm swanky. I have glitter-laced scars and rouged skin over my green. My bolts sparkle. This is the best of both worlds, kids. A princess costume and a monster costume all in one.



Again, I have to apologize for the ABYSMAL photo quality here. Between the dim lighting in our apartment and using the self-timer, my minimal photography know-how is suffering. I'm learning!


Cannibal Jack is alight in our window, and safe as a kitten, thanks to a battery-powered tea light.

I learned something fascinating about jack-o-lanterns today, and it's made me extra certain to keep mine going through this wonderful eve... Apparently, as Irish legend has it, a soul called "Stingy Jack" was thrown out of both heaven and hell with just a turnip and a piece of coal to aid him on his search for home. He hollowed out the turnip, put the burning coal inside, and used it as a lantern to light his way through the dark night. The pumpkins of Halloween, our jack-o-lanterns as they're now termed, originally served to guide such lost souls, and the scary faces we carve on them frighten away those spirits will ill-intentions.

How cool is that?!

So guide a soul home tonight -- or perhaps just a trick-or-treater to your door!
Light your jack-o-lantern and have a safe, scary, happy Halloween!

Last Minute Halloween Costumes

I wrote this post for Chic Galleria recently, but I wanted to be sure to share it here as well!

This is the first year I can remember that I haven't had any idea what I'm going to wear for Halloween. I'm straight-up ashamed! I used to prep for Halloween like I was being graded on it. Tonight I'm scheming hard, but with 24 hours to go, I might end up opting for one of these choices myself!

Also, let it be said here that I have zero tolerance for people who won't even stoop wear a silly headband or face paint for Halloween. Get Real. No is cool enough to go "as themselves" for Halloween.

Except for Michael Jackson in the "Thriller" video.


1. Burglar

 


Who doesn't like wearing black and comfy everything? Not to mention being genuinely warm on Halloween. Skinny jeans, boots, and a top of your choice (I like a good turtleneck, some stripes, or a badass leather jacket) are all probably in your closet right now. A black knit hat or ski cap should cover your hair, and remember to bring on the bling!

2. Porcelain Doll 

 


This one requires more cosmetic attention than the others, but it’s still simple to create the “doll” look with basics from your makeup bag. (Scroll halfway down here.) Cover your face with a pale foundation or powder. Widen the eye by penciling white eyeliner both outside and inside your lower lid, then apply fake lashes. Add lip gloss and lots of blush. Curls, satin, bows, and patent shoes will complete the look!

3. Holly GoLightly



Doesn’t everyone want to live out Breakfast at Tiffany’s for one day? But... but I don't look like Audrey Hepburn!  Shut up. You will. With your best little black dress and some costume jewelry (pearls & diamonds, please), she'll channel right into you. Tiaras and opera gloves can be luxury or simple. Fix your hair in a high, loose bun — and don’t forget your sunglasses!


4. Runaway Bride

 


Looking for an excuse to give that wedding dress another wear? Of course you are. It was like eight hundred thousand dollars. Even if all you have is a little white dress, it's easy to connect the dots with a veiled headband and a bouquet. Amp up your cleverness with a pair of tennis shoes, and you're a Runaway Bride.


5. Sultry Spy


 
Since a trench coat is at the top of every must-have list for the classic wardrobe, you must have one somewhere. AmIright? Be sure to add a pair of sunglasses and red lips. Heels, a fedora, and/or a notepad will distinguish the look.

BAM! Now you never have an excuse not to show up to a Halloween party not in costume again. You're Welcome.

October 25, 2013

Pumpkin Crazy


Welcome to my first outfit post! I'm so excited to have finally figured out how to deal with the camera timer and tripod correctly -- now I just need to work on image quality (sorry for the graininess.)

Since most people are starting the Halloween fanfare this weekend -- my Facebook feed has been awash with everyone's upcoming costume party, pumpkin patch, and corn maze plans -- I figured there was no better time to feature this pumpkin shrug. It's new addition to my wardrobe this season, and I'm having a great time finding equally rich autumn tones to pair it with. Normally I'd choose a more earthy neutral for a base color with something this warm, but the black skirt and fishnets seemed more befitting for Halloween. Worn with this gold & white striped cami, I felt quite a bit like a candy corn!


I also managed to carve a pretty absurd pumpkin, which I've christened "Cannibal Jack." (He eats all the smaller pumpkins.)



 Happy Halloween!


Shrug: Target
Cami: Banana Republic
Skirt: Frenchi
Fishnets: Primark
Boots: thrifted
Earrings: American Eagle

October 24, 2013

Fall Playlist 2013

I'm sorry that this season's playlist lacks artistry -- my computer's default paint program is totally useless, and I have yet to invest in Photoshop. As such, it takes ages to make one of those collage-y things. You'll just have to appreciate my glorious block lettering on its own.

For every upbeat, good-times tune I had on my summer list, this one has double the moody ones. I'm not sure what it is about this time of year that makes me introspective and solemn, but my year-to-year autumn music preferences never fail to reveal the tendency. Autumn is beautiful to me in that it is equal parts toasty and frosty, vibrant and barren, festive and desolate.



October 20, 2013

Decor Details

I found these photo leftovers in a folder for last month's blog posts -- oops! Thought I'd share some of my favorite decor ideas that resulted from August's Style Cure month. I hope they inspire you toward some fall decorating of your own!


My college roommate, K, and I found these coasters in the storage area of our first apartment. 
They bring back fond memories of our times there!

Had to reserve a separate shelf for these bad boys. Yes, there are two copies of Half Blood Prince.

Closer detail on one part of London series I unearthed at Salvation Army. So glad for this find!




Another one of J's fabulous paintings. I admired his so much, it inspired some art of my own...

After college, I went through my class notes and cut out all the doodles I'd made in the margins. 
Hopefully I did as much learning as I did weird drawings!


J took the liberty of putting this above the stove. Ironic, since he's the real cook around here!

A chocolate torte I made for a dinner get-together in September. Find the recipe here!

Earlier this month, I had the great honor of helping my friend create centerpiece bouquets for her wedding. 
It made me wish I was a florist! She graciously let me take this one (and the little pumpkins!) home.


Happy Decorating!

October 17, 2013

Autumn Recipe: Chocoblock Cookies




Good morning, everyone! Are you ready for dessert?

I'm quite excited about this recipe share. For one thing, this is the first cookie I can say is entirely my own; no recipe followed, created purely from years and years of baking knowledge (and baking failures -- believe me, there were some big ones!)

Second, I have managed to channel my top three cookie components into a single specimen. These little guys are teeming with texture, crisp around the edges (yet gently yielding in chewiness), and aren't terribly over-buttered or -sugared.

Third, I can finally say I've made something worthy of sharing. That means I deserve to name it after myself, right?


Rachel's Chockablock Cookies

Ingredients

-1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
-1 tsp baking soda 
-1 generous shake each of cinnamon and ground ginger
-1 less-generous shake of salt (about 1/4 tsp)
-1/2 c. Earth Balance original buttery spread (You can go full butter if you want to, but I promise this stuff satisfies.)
-1/2 c. dark brown sugar (Leave that white stuff ON THE SHELF!)
-1 egg
-1 generous splash of vanilla (about 1 tsp)
-1/2 c. rolled oats (Not the instant kind, now -- the good, hearty kind you cook on the stove.)
-1/4 c. chocolate chips
-1/4 c. orange-flavored cranberries (Purchasable at your local Trader Joe's dried fruit section!)
-1/4 c. sweetened coconut flakes
-1/4 c. roughly-chopped walnuts (Keep 'em chunky!)

Instructions

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with silicone mats, butter, or spray for easy removal.
2) In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt.)
3) In a second larger-sized bowl, combine butter/substitute of choice and brown sugar. Blend with hand mixer or stirring-utensil-of-choice until light and fluffy -- or, you know, the best you can do with a spoon. Add egg and vanilla and beat until fully incorporated.
4) Slowly add the flour mixture to your wet mixture, folding until combined.
5) Add oats, chocolate chips, cranberries, coconut flakes, and walnuts all at once. Fold evenly into the dough. (If you're not using a mixer, you may have to knead with your hands at this point.)
6) Prep the dough into little balls, about two inches wide. Place on prepped cookie sheet and press down slightly, so they'll spread more easily.
7) Set tray in oven on whatever rack you want. Cook until the sides are crisp and golden. (In my oven this took precisely 14 minutes.)
8) Remove and let cool. Or don't let cool -- that's cool too. The point is, you have delicious cookies now, and you get to eat them. 
You're welcome.

 


October 12, 2013

What I Learned My First Year Out of College

You know how magazines like Time and Life feature those "Year in Review" articles that highlight the biggest happenings of the era? I always liked those, so guess what? You're getting one. Except it won't cover anywhere close to a decade, and the events won't be nearly as momentous.

As you may remember if you're an avid reader of my blog (I know you're out there somewhere, avid reader...), I started a project last August after a trip I took to New York. The purpose was to highlight my inspiressions -- what inspires me month-to-month, what I'm obsessed with at the moment -- and also to challenge myself to continue learning beyond the walls of a university.

Well, learn I did. And some hard lessons, at that!

DISCLAIMER: The first lesson I learned is that I have zero sense of schedule/time when left to my own devices. You know that person who makes a very thorough, very neatly-organized shopping list, then promptly forgets the list on the kitchen counter and now can't remember whether she needed bread or bread flour (though, incidentally enough, she can remember exactly how she color-coded the different food groups)? Yep, that's me.

In other words, I was absolutely certain I had announced my Inspirsession Schedule in September -- when I was supposed to start the project.

But of course I didn't. Instead I posted it two full months after the project had technically begun in my brain, because life, as usual, got in the way of my best scheduling intentions.

The punchline here is, due to my inherent forgetfulness, I am now a full month ahead of schedule rather than behind -- and I'm feeling pretty damn good about myself.

But none of that likely even matters to you!

So, without further ado, here is my year in review:


September: Makeup & Face-Paint


Lesson 1: There is no perfect red lipstick. I don't care how much the women in Clinique squeal when they think they've found yours, once you take it home and put it on, you will still be certain there's another one out there that suits you better. These tubes are like dudes -- you have to find one that fulfills the most expectations and just commit already.

Lesson 2: If you get a scar somewhere it might see the sun in the next year, SPF it. Every. Single. Day.

Lesson 3: I am awesome at Halloween makeup, and I know nothing about everyday makeup. Instead of the cute cat-eye liner thing, can I just be a cat and call it good?


Were these bat-shit expensive face-paints worth it? Totally yes.


October: Dance

 

Lesson 1: The best thing to do when you're at a dance audition and you really don't know the steps as well as you should? Just hurl yourself into the steps you know semi-well. We're talking legit hurling here -- flinging limbs and "letting the divas fly off the stage," as Mr. P puts it. At least you'll show yourself a good time!

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Lesson 2: You are never too old to start dancing, or start dancing again, or dance around your kitchen while you hold a hot frying pan, or dance to the copier, or dance in the shower, or humiliate yourself at a dance callback. You are never too old (or too cool) to dance.

Lesson 3: Blog about that one time your boyfriend offered to take dance lessons with you, because a year from now you will find it, and then you can remind him blackmail him.

Will you be seeing me in any upcoming PNB shows soon? Signs point to no.


November: Sewing and/or Knitting

 

Note: Okay, I rocked this inspirsession. Can I just say that in two months I taught myself how to knit socks, beanies, berets, fingerless gloves, and mini stegosauri? If I could channel that kind of commitment into my day job, I'd be solid gold.

Me, if I were actually solid gold.

Lesson 1: The best kind of knitting is knitting to your favorite TV show. 

Lesson 2: The second best kind of knitting is knitting while you're sick. (Takes your mind off the snuffles.)

Lesson 3: Count and recount your rows. Especially if you're engaged in any of the activities outlined in Lessons 1 or 2. Otherwise your hats will end up infant-sized and your socks will end up elephant-sized.




 Will I be knitting well into old age? Absolutely.


December: Running

 

Lesson 1: Do not suddenly decide to become a runner in Seattle in December.

Lesson 2: Do invest in good running shoes. Asics are my personal fav.

Lesson 3: If you hate running because...
           ... everyone is looking at you: run at night or in the morning while it's still dark out.
           ... you "get caught up in your form": run through a Christmas-light-lit area. Ultimate distraction.
           ... it's so completely mindless you want to strangle something: play the alphabet game while you run and/or run toward a shopping complex to reward yourself with some thought-provoking browsing.

Am I likely to run a marathon in my lifetime? No.


January: Film Acting & Editing 




NOTE: I'm still very interested in Film Editing -- just not when it takes time away from watching movies and hoping I'll get an acting job.... which is most of my free time.

Lesson 1: Acting is like writing in the sense that the more one actively digests, the more one learns. Thus, I am entitled to watch Mad Men and Netflix's Oscar Picks as often as I like. Research, baby.

Lesson 2: You can totally learn your lines three minutes before you go into a scene... but you probably shouldn't.

Lesson 3: If it feels fake to you; it looks 10 billion times more fake on the screen.

Do I favor film acting to stage acting? In many ways, yes. 


February: Business, Money Management & Finances 

 

Lesson 1: Mad Men will teach you everything you need to know about business, with some glaring allowances.

Lesson 2: Mint.com is an amazing resource, but it still has a bundle of flaws which can DRIVE YOU CRAZY. Like the fact I can't categorize a basic transfer to my savings account every month without totally screwing up my Goals. (*pauses to adjust nerd glasses*) Thanks, Mint.

Lesson 3: Worrying about money is as useless as worrying about anything else; the more you do it, the less fun you'll let yourself have, and the less fun you have, the more you think you'll need money to have the fun you're not having. Then you'll worry all the more, because you'll have deluded yourself into thinking you need a lot of money and a lot more fun.... It's one horrible carousel of a mind-funk. In a way, I'm glad no one ever gave me the impression my degrees would guarantee me a paycheck; now I just thank heavens I have any money at all!

Am I still a Grinchy-Scrooge money-grubbing penny-pincher? A little, yeah... 


March: Weight Training and/or Yoga


Lesson 1: Both YouTube and DoYogaWithMe have a plethora of yoga videos, and they're FREE. This is a great way to sample what's out there before you sign up for a series at any one studio.

Lesson 2: From "Marching on Home to Stand on My Head" --  "Wherever you go, there you are, and you'll probably feel better being there if you exercise."

Will I fulfill my mother's dream and become a yoga teacher? Not likely, though it's starting to look a lot better than my other day-job options....


April: Cooking "Truth Month"; or Doing-Little-More-Than-Vegging-Out-to-Paulie/Johnnie/Georgie/Ringo

 


Lesson 1: If you're going to designate a month to cooking, be sure to set a screen time limit for the amount of YouTube Beatles videos that are bound to distract you -- all. month. long.

Lesson 2 Rant: Before you post something on Facebook, seriously question your motives. Ask yourself if, prior to the internet, you would have immediately phoned your friends to share this information. Would you have called your best friends and family to announce you were engaged? Probably. Would you call everyone you know to brag about the fact you saw Kevin Spacey in an airport? If you have any social skills whatsoever, you'd probably wait until the perfect moment -- like when you're trying to impress someone at a party -- to divulge this little scrap of awesome. I'm not asking everyone to start a Facebook confessional here, but do consider how the My-Life-Is-Awesome post might look to those around you, and do question whether your "entertaining anecdote" is more self-servicing than actually entertaining for the rest of us.

Lesson 3: The truth is, I love the Beatles.

Is there anything more charming than the fact that, after probably a decade of not speaking to one another, Paul McCartney and John Lennon were finally able to reconnect over the fact they now shared a hobby of baking bread? No. Just, no.


May: Thrift Shopping 

 

Lesson 1: When you set out on a mission to buy something at a thrift store, it will elude you. Thrifting is like treasure-hunting, but without the map and a hoard of pirates to do the dirty work for you. You have to dig, and you never know what you're looking for until you find it.

Lesson 2: When furnishing an apartment, there are two places in Seattle I can strongly recommend: the bottom floor of Value Village on Cap Hill and The Salvation Army in the ID. Great finds!


Should I have bought this Mad Men-esque floral print tea gown when I had the chance? YES YES YES ATHOUSANDTIMES YES, you fool!!


June:  French Language

 

Lesson 1: Like the free Yoga lessons, there's a great smartphone app called "Duolingo," which allows you to quiz yourself in almost any language. It's free, fun, and practically mindless. A great life-upgrade from Angrybirds. (Are people still playing that these days???)

Lesson 2: It's a lot easier to find an excuse to eat French food than speak the French language. Oops.


Lesson 3: If you can find time to walk, you can also find time to enjoy the occasional pain du chocolate and verre de vin. I'm honestly tired of dealing with people who deprive themselves of the good foods in life under the claim they don't deserve them -- or that their body suddenly can't process them. Unless you have a psychological issue and/or eating disorder, get moving, get moderating, and get over your gluten-free* self.

Pourrais-je survive dans France ajourd'hui? Considering I had to type all of that into Google Translate, non.

*If you are legitimately, doctor-proscribed gluten-intolerant, I apologize for this.


July: Photography

 

Lesson 1: Some Instagram Filters are coy mistresses that can only be replicated by the shrewdest of Photoshoppers.

Lesson 2: If you want to learn film photography, you might as well learn to develop your own photos. Film printers are sadly being phased out. Even if you can manage to find one, you're paying higher amounts for less color quality. Sad days.


Am I still in complete awe of how fashion bloggers take their outfit post photos?  YES. TEACH ME YOUR WAYS!
 

August: Minimalism 

 

Lesson 1: I am not a minimalist, and I probably never will be.

Lesson 2: For wardrobe minimalism, follow two principles - (a) toss or donate a similar item when you buy something new and (b) only buy pieces that work with what you've already got. There's no sense in buying a shirt if you don't have pants to wear it with. Unless your that's your bag. (P.S. -- If you're baffled by the art of what "works with" what, I suggest checking out DesignSeeds and the Sherwin Williams Smartphone app.)

Lesson 3: There really is something detoxifying about taking a chunk of "stuff" out of your life.

Have I finally unlocked the baffling secret of "A place for everything, and everything in its place."? Not even a little bit.


Other Important Discoveries:

 

1) Don't lose touch with your friends from college. Some of my friends live close enough that we can still grab the occasional drink. Others I catch up with on the phone month-to-month. Still others I've only managed to write a couple postcards to, but we still make sure to see each other when we're in the same town. You really do meet these people for a reason, and it hurts when they're gone.

2) Cars bumpers are meant to be ruined, and if you live anywhere without a garage, it's bound to happen. Don't bother fixing it -- just get over it.

3) If you establish a regular bedtime, you'll discover energy you didn't know you had -- but it will ruin your ability to go out with your night-owl friends.

4) All of the horrible things you hear about office day-jobs, punching your card, and "the daily grind" are true -- and even worse when you're a young, self-entitled recent graduate. The clock resets itself to that place where people can (and will) tell you you "don't have enough life experience yet" to make decisions/comprehend/manage etc. Oddly, you start to envy your friends who already look thirty.

6) Bobby pins are supposed to lie on your head wavy-side-down. Who knew?!

***

So what's on the horizon for next year? I've had a few ideas about how I'd like to center my blog for 2013-2014. First, I thought I'd like to repeat the month-to-month schedule of inspirsessions, but judging from my amount of focus last year, I really think it is better if I have a more flexible schedule.

That said, I'd like to post more frequently, incorporate more photos, and focus on fashion and food posts, since those are what I've always enjoyed the most. I'd also like to do more "How-to" blogging -- I don't know how much I have to share in that regard, but this is one of the more useful, less narcissistic offerings of the internet, and I think it would be a fun challenge to get involved!

I'd like to do food posts of complete meals I think up, and cocktails which complement them. I want to feature photographs of beauty I notice on my drive to work. I hope I can finally learn self-photography well enough to finally bring my outfit posts to life. Mostly, I want to uphold what I set out here to do: to chronicle my fascinations with the world as they morph and grow -- and hopefully to inspire others along the way.

Hear's to another year of learning!

-LGPQ