settling in

It's aliiiiiiiive!

Yes, it's true. Contrary to appearances, this blog is still alive! What have I been doing that's so important? Well...moving. Whoever said that moving was easy was lying to you. (I don't believe anyone has ever said that moving was easy.) Who would have thought a person could accumulate that much stuff? And yet once I was in the apartment, many trips to Target were necessary for more stuff! Mysterious...
Dining room, circa moving weekend. Check out that sweet built-in!

As of now, House Snark is still very much a work in progress, which is both fun and frustrating. Just like every shelter blog tells you, making a well-appointed home takes time. I would rather make do than run out and spend a lot of money buying things that I'll probably regret (also the running out and spending a lot of money isn't actually an option right now. Budgets!), but it's sometimes hard. Kaitlin and I both really want to have an organically created home, with lots of things that are handmade, vintage, and just plain old awesome. Sometimes that means living without a dresser (hello!) or a coffee table (hello again!). But problem solving happens - I've got clothes in my closet, obviously, as well as in storage crates on my IKEA shelf (I would show you but one of those crates is holding my underwear and...I don't really feel we've reached that level of intimacy, Internet.) and a pair of folding chairs have served admirably as places to set computers, plates, and beverages while sitting on the couch.

Speaking of the couch, that's one thing that I am really pleased with. Neither Kaitlin nor I had a couch going in, and I knew that was something that would be really important to both our day to day life (where else are we supposed to watch Downtown Abbey* and play Mario?) and really difficult for us to get into the apartment on our own (we both drive compact cars and, PS, are delicate noodle-armed young maidens). So the couch needed to be set before move-in day. My mom agreed to be my shopping buddy (she drives a Ford Escape!), and we made a plan to visit a local used furniture store to check out the selection and possibly stop by to check out the clearance section at Steinhafels.

But the used store turned out to be a lot less local than we thought, and I'm afraid of bedbugs, so Steinhafels became the first stop and, well:
With cameo appearance from my mom's foot
I even WANTED a grey couch! It was on my secret mental list (because I didn't want to want it too badly) and there she was, waiting for me in the warehouse clearance section (which is PAST the normal clearance section and is, indeed, in the warehouse) looking pretty as a picture and comfy to boot. Not to mention all clearance was an additional 15% off THAT DAY ONLY (oh sales, you do enliven my blood and bring the caps out of me). In the end, the couch B A R E L Y fit in the car (I had to ride with my knees squashed against my chest because the seat was pushed forward all the way) and was in the neighborhood of 45% off. Not too shabby! Plus, I was right about the comfy thing (I'm sitting on it right now, so I would know.)

Next up on my list is to hang some art and continue to deck the halls. I'll share some more pictures once things are more to my liking. I ordered some curtains for my bedroom that I'm super in love with, so hopefully they'll look just as good in my room as they did on the internet.

Until then, blogizens!

*OMG Downton Abbey! I somehow hadn't seen it before, so K and I are working through it. All of Lady Mary's outfits are TO DIE FOR. Possible post upcoming.

apartment hunting: success!

Not that kind of Rent...
When I last posted about my apartment hunt, it was a wishlist for my "someday" apartment that I hoped would be coming soon. That was back in May but, happily, someday has come! The fabulous Disdainbrook and I signed have signed a lease and are now officially renting a lovely little apartment (dubbed House Snark).

I won't lie, the searching was rough. I spent hours on Craigslist, sifting through spammers and aggressively ugly (and poorly maintained) apartments. Not even gonna lie, after the thrill of finding a place, my second thought was "I don't have to spend every night on Craigslist anymore!" Freedom is sweet. But in the end, perseverance (and a little good ol' fashioned luck) is what made it happen. We visited several places, some (one) doable and others not. We weren't overly picky, in my opinion, but we knew what we weren't willing to compromise on and, much like in the dating world, we were looking for Mr. Right, not Mr. Right Now.

And Mr. Right, indeed! I didn't really remember what I'd put on the original wishlist I'd posted, so out of curiosity's sake, I went back to take a look. And, well, see for yourself!

(Bolded points were top priorities)

  • Location - I'd like to be close enough to downtown to go back and forth easily but in a neighborhood that's relatively quiet. Not college student-land. Check! It's in our top choice neighborhood, which is close to the city but has a great mix of neighborhood-feel and funky flair
  • Clean/well-maintained Check!
  • 2 BR/1 BA Check!
  • Separate dining room OR den - K and I are both writers (obviously) and would love a shared office space. Personally, I'd lean towards dining room because I also would like to entertain Check! We have a lovely little dining room (complete with a built-in with leaded glass!)
  • Hardwood floors Check!
  • Historic charm Check! Built in the 1920s with many original features!
  • On-site laundry Check! (and it's free too!)
  • Non-hideous kitchen Check! And much more spacious than most kitchens we saw
  • Parking for 2 - preferably at least one that comes with the unit, the other can be street parking Check - one garage & plenty of street parking
  • Central air - Uncheck :( But there is a window unit that comes with the apartment, and we knew that was a longshot in the historic buildings we were looking at

  • Preferably upper level Check!
  • Walkable to restaurants/groceries Check! (Well, the winter might keep us in our cars a bit, but there's a lot of great stuff within a mile)
  • Tall shower - we are both tall ladies Check!
  • Outdoor space for DIY projects Check! We get our very own private porch - great for projects and entertaining!
  • All but one point on my wishlist? Not too shabby, if I do say so myself!

    My biggest tips for new apartment hunters like myself are: never give up (never surrender!) and be ready to act. It was tough trying to coordinate two very different work schedules (I have a standard corporate schedule with no availability during the day, Kaitlin works a variable retail schedule that changes week to week), and there were a few times that we set up an appointment for a showing a few days in advance only to be called and told that the place had already been rented. The same was true in the case of the apartment that became ours - I asked for a showing on a Sunday, we saw the place on Monday (due to a serendipitous series of events that gave Kaitlin the night free), decided that night we would take it, filled out applications on Tuesday, were formally offered the place on Wednesday (and immediately accepted), and signed our lease that weekend. The rental world moves fast, especially when you're looking in a popular area. It's scary, but when you see the right train coming, you just have to be ready to jump on board and ride that baby all the way to tenancy. 

    I'm nervous (and horrified by the length of my to-do list), but I'm so excited to finally put all my blog-reading and pinning to good use. And, of course, to share our ideas and projects with all of you! Westward ho!

    milwaukee spots: coquette cafe

    Last Sunday, my lovely little sister turned twenty! Yikes! Luckily, I was able to face this inescapable proof of my own mortality in the best way possible:  with celebratory brunch!

    We all know brunch is totally fetch right now (is it too late to make fetch happen?), but this was my first foray into the downtown brunch scene. As resident foodie (or the closest thing), I was placed in charge of researching the possibilities and presenting the birthday girl with her options. In the end, there was a clear winner:

    Photo taken from my phone during brunch - I love technology!

    Coquette Cafe (warning: site features autoplay music if you wait too long!) is located in the city's Historic Third Ward, serving "authentic bistro fare." Their menus are available for perusal in the website, and one look at the brunch menu convinced us that this was the right option (plus the fact that they serve brunch all the way through 5 o'clock; we would be arriving at 2, which is sort of a no man's land as far as brunch-serving restaurants are concerned). It features both brunch-y fare and many of their usual entrees, so there's an option for everyone.

    The restaurant is really lovely and charming, and the staff was warm and attentive. Of course, the number one question is, as always, "how was the food?"

    I am not a great food photographer. Trust me, it was super good.
    I had the salmon cakes with poached eggs and bernaise sauce with a side of dauphinoise potatoes. It was absolutely divine, and I say this as a person who isn't particularly fond of eggs (but who loooooves salmon and bernaise sauce). I also had a mimosa - because, brunch! - and that was also very good. My sister had the pain perdu (brioche french toast with carmelized pears, candied pecans, maple syrup and a side of bacon), my mom had chicken confit crepes, and my dad went traditional with an order of coq au vin. All of the dishes received thumbs up from their respective diners.

    All in all, I definitely recommend Coquette Cafe to any eaters in the area. It was my parents' second time eating there - they'd gone for dinner something in the neighborhood of ten years ago, and they said that nothing has changed. As far as I'm concerned, nothing needs to! The prices are definitely more on the side of "downtown" as opposed to discount (brunch meals range from $9 sandwiches and omelettes to $23 hangar steak) but I felt they were reasonable (of course, I wasn't the one paying, so...your mileage may vary!)

    What's your brunch destination? I've read a lot of great things about the brunch scene in Milwaukee...hopefully I'll be able to investigate some more!

    ootd round-up

    Did you know that I wear clothes everyday? Like, every single day of my life? It's true!

    I've only very rarely posted OOTDs to this blog because a) I don't have a tripod or a fancy camera or a friendly photo-taking slave to help me get good shots and b) I generally don't feel like my everyday outfits are worthy of commemoration. But now I have Instagram and, by definition, those photos are allowed to be a little funky and self-taken! And maybe knowing that I'll be posting pictures occasionally will help me inspire to be fierce every day.

    Here's a selection of some lovely outfits I've worn to work in the past few months:

    It's interesting to look at outfits together like can definitely see what my favorites are (hello, black cardigan!) and what the basics of my office style is (cardigan + top/dress + tights/socks, generally). A lot of my work style is based around comfort; while I like to be cute, I have to consider whether an outfit is something that I'm going to be able to wear for 10 hours at a stretch (from getting ready in the morning to changing into my lounging clothes at home) including three stretches of commute, a walk from the city lot for my second job, and a lot of sitting. You can also tell at the end that I got a shiny new app that allows me to make collages which I really's nice to be able to show off accessories or shoes within the same pic (I have some shoe shots that I didn't include in this collage - you can view all of my instagram shots on your computer here).

    Looking at the composite also reminds me of things that I want to buy to fill in wardrobe gaps - new trousers and more stylish socks (which I get a huge kick out of wearing) chief among them - as well as things that I have in my closet already and should really make an effort to wear more often - certain sweaters and my blazer (I haven't worn that thing in forever!).

    Do you have a formula for putting together work outfits? Are you in the habit of recording your day-to-day looks? Have you ever had someone walk in on you taking a picture of yourself in the mirror (awkward.)?

    autumn incoming

    Illustration by the lovely Claire Whitmore
    Yesterday I wore a dress with tights and today I wore a sweater. It can mean only one thing:  autumn is coming! As much as I love the lazy days of summer...well, let's be real, they aren't that lazy when you're a grown-up and I'm more than ready for the heat to break and a cool breeze to blow in from the north! I'm ready for changing leaves, pumpkins (but not pumpkin-flavored stuff, yuck), Halloween, chilly nights spent curled under a blanket, cups of hot cocoa, and, of course, fierce fall fashion! Even though I'm not in school anymore, fall still feels like a fresh start.
    Source: Uploaded by user via Jennifer on Pinterest

    I've always loved crisp autumn weather. Outerwear is one of my truest loves, and fall (in Wisconsin, at least!) lets you play with coats, hats, scarves, and all sorts of outer accessories without being too worried that you might freeze to death (thanks, winter). I'm still hoping to find that perfect trench, but for now I have a lovely teal trench-style coat that my mom picked up for me to protect me from the wind, rain, and mid-level chill of the fall.

    I am ridiculously in love with this look. The coat is beyond gorgeous (great color, great texture, those CUFFS), but the scarf is a perfect capper. Something as simple as tying a loose scarf into a bow really can make an outfit into something special. I believe this is at the end of a fur collar, but it could be done with any scarf you already own, provided that it's long enough to tie and still have enough length for a bit of drama. Obviously her hands are in her pockets, but I would imagine topping this look off with a pair of sleek leather gloves. I've always wanted leather gloves, but it really doesn't make sense - most of the time, even though I have gloves, I just shove my hands in my pockets anyway. Last year, I got a pair of those fabulous hybrids sometimes known as "glittens," which are a little silly/cutesy, but I can wear them while I drive, so haters to the left. (Besides, I'm a little silly/cutesy, so it works out.)

    Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

    Shoes! And tights, hurrah! I love charcoal tights in the autumn - they're tremendously versatile - and pairing them with a bright pair of shoes is such a lovely idea. Jewel tones are definitely the name of the game when the weather gets cold; keep your style warm all through the season with vibrant, saturated colors. As I'm sure you all know, your shoes are definitely a place for a little bit of extra fun in the wardrobe. Obviously you can't show up at the office in 5" lucite heels, but I've noticed plenty of fresh and funky shoes on otherwise conservatively dressed ladies - rock on, ladies! I actually just bought new shoes (nothing bright, unfortunately, but my wardrobe was actually lacking in cute neutral flats - who could have guessed?) and I'm excited to keep playing with footwear this fall.

    That's what's got me shivering with anticipation and reaching past the sundresses in my closet for some long sweaters! Other things that I'm interested in this fall: colored trousers, socks over tights, bright lipstick on grey days. What are you looking forward to? Fashionwise or otherwise! Even if you're one of those foolish people with poorly functioning tastebuds clamoring for the return of Pumpkin Spice at Starbucks...I love you anyway.

    avenging fashion

    Like the rest of the free world, I went to go see The Avengers earlier this summer. I loved it (of course, Joss Whedon and superheroes? What's not to like?) and as I do, I was inspired to make some outfits. "This will be great!" I said to myself, "A very timely post!" Except then I sat on the outfits...and sat...and then it felt too late but, hey, that's okay! Comic-Con was coming up! Once again, it would be a timely and appropriate post!

    ...yeah, that worked out well. But now The Avengers is coming out on DVD and also, who cares about timely when it comes to superhero-inspired fashion? Superhero-inspired fashion is ALWAYS appropriate. This is the motto that I live by. (You can see my past pop culture fashion posts right here! DC heroes (and a villain), Buffy Summers and Hogwarts houses.)
    captain america

    The lady who draws sartorial inspiration from Captain America is one classy broad. I tried to incorporate vintage flair into this look, with a pretty and structured coat and some pearl earrings, along with America-colored sweetness. There are stripes and a very sensible bag, and of course I couldn't resist the compass necklace (a bit of an extra nod to Captain America).

    iron man

    Tony Stark is Iron Man, so I tried to work a little bit of both into this look. Obviously, the red and gold are Iron Man colors, but I think that the effortlessly cool rocker flair is a look that Tony would emulate. An easy tank top (for when you need to get at your personal ARC reactor ASAP), hot skinny jeans, boots, super cool aviators and some rockin' metal accessories. Boots are obviously both functional and stylish, and the bag is, again, a cool satchel ready to be filled with all the necessaries for being a superhero, genius inventor, or mogul.

    the incredible hulk

    Last but not least, the Hulk! This one is also a bit of a balancing act between the Big Green Guy and Bruce Banner. Green and purple made their way in for obvious reasons, but I also tried to include touches of Bruce, both in the floaty easy style of the dress, the pretty yet practical sandals, and got a little bit cheeky with the glasses necklace. I love having some fun with accessories - you can have a lot of freedom there if you play your cards right (I actually have an upcoming post on that very topic! Stay tuned!). Plus, a backpack, most sensible of all, to keep your things safe while you travel the world and tool around on an old motorcycle.

    These are the three I designed so far; if you'd be interested in seeing outfits for Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, or even Loki (my personal favorite, even if he's not actually an Avenger and is "evil" or something), let me know! The pop culture inspired outfits are a ton of fun to make, any suggestions are welcome.

    product review: qtcase iphone cases

    I was recently contacted about doing a review of an iPhone case; I don't have an iPhone, but I love cute cellphone cases and am so looking forward to my turn to have one, so I was happy to play with it for a while. Luckily, there was an iPhone in my house that I could test it out on!

     Oddly enough, my dad wasn't the biggest fan! I don't know why - it suits him, don't you think?

    The case from QT Case is very nice; when I saw them on the website, I was worried about how strong the ears would be, but I've tugged on them and messed them around and they seem pretty tough. It appears to be molded out of a single piece of silicone, so everything is well attached. The case was a little bit loose around the phone (it's an iPhone 4S) - it stayed on, but I'm not sure that I would trust it getting jostled around in the bottom of a bag (but would you really just dump your iPhone into your purse with no protection?). Bunny ears aren't quite my style, but I can see it working really well with a super-femmey and slightly quirky look (maybe Lolita?) or as a somewhat classier version of the Playboy logos that were so popular for a while (are they still popular? I hope not. Not my taste, thanks!). I could definitely see the brand expanding to feature other animals (cat ears, anyone?) and I know they're planning to add more colors to the line-up (the cases are currently available in the blue seen here, pink, and yellow). QT Case also donates 10% of sales to the Susan G. Komen Foundation - in the interest of transparency, this isn't a charity that I personally choose to support, but I always appreciate a business trying to do something good in the world.

    In summation, the case didn't get submitted to most rigorous of testing, but it seems solidly made and is certainly very cute for the right aesthetic. I hope to see a variety of styles and of devices (since I'm the proud new mother of an Android phone) at QT Case in the future! The cases retail for $29.95 and can be purchased on the QT Case website.

    Disclaimer:  This product was sent to me for the purposes of the review. I was not compensated in any other way for the review and the opinions expressed in this post are 100% my own.

    summer 2012

    Summer isn't technically over yet, what a doozy! As you may have guessed from my disappearing act, I've had a very busy summer. For one, it was the first summer I'd worked full-time the whole way through, like a BOSS grown-up, but it was also filled with more adventures (mostly musically related) than ever. A quick run-down of the big ones? Why sure!


    Summerfest is the world's largest music festival, and it takes place right here in Milwaukee (damn straight). I've gone one of the 12(!) days when there was a band I really wanted to see, but this year the Summerfest Gods smiled down on me and my sister and I went down three nights. For an S-Fest veteran, that's small potatoes, but it was a lot for us! We went down to the grounds after work on a Thursday and Friday (I work only a block and a very large parking lot away from the festival grounds) and then all day Saturday. On Thursday, we saw Imagine Dragons, a great band whose album isn't even out yet! On Friday, it was AWOLNATION, which has my vote for best concert of the summer (also a cool "emerging" band called Hell & Lula, check them out!). And Saturday we braved the heat, sitting on hard metal benches all day until the sun went down and Cake performed. By the end, I was incredibly sweaty (and I was sore from all the bench-sitting), but filled with rock n' roll spirit!

    State Fair

    I'm really not a huge State Fair person. Sure, deep-fried food on a stick is always entertaining, but as I've gotten older, I'm way less interested in spending time in smelly animal barns than I used to be, and the weather always seems to be dire. But this year, one of the headlining bands was Neon Trees (whom I'd seen opening a show last fall and had been jamming out to on the radio all summer) so, that's right, sister & I headed off the fair. Even though it was both hot and rainy, we still had a good time - my godparents came up to meet us, so the whole fam hung out for a while before J and I set off for the stage. We ate: cheese curds, cream puffs, deep-fried scallops on a stick, all-beef hotdog and a cheeseburger from the Cattleman's Association, and cotton candy (well, J did). There was even time for my favorite "traditional" State Fair activity - checking out the prize-winning food and textiles! There were some gorgeous cakes in there. And the show was great too - it stopped raining by then, and Shiny Toy Guns opened and were a pleasant surprise (although I started coveting the female singer's undercut! Bad self, fall in love with office-appropriate hair!).


    Did you know I'm a huge nerd? I think you did. If you recall the lengthy post I wrote about Severus Snape and the implications of sorting, you will probably know that I'm a huge Harry Potter nerd. So when a Harry Potter convention popped up a mere three hours from home, obviously I packed up all my best house gear (Slytherin pride!) with Disdainbrook and headed down to Chicago! It was really the highlight of the summer. We actually didn't end up going to any Harry Potter panels (...oops?), but we saw a ton of awesome panels by awesome young adult authors (including one of my favorite of any authors, John Green), participated in epic wizard rock concerts and dance parties, and saw the final installment of Team Starkid's A Very Potter Musicals LIVE AND IN 3D!!! (I'm looking forward to seeing what the version they eventually put up on youtube will look was definitely an experience to see it live...all 5+ hours of it...) 
    Wizard rock!

    (If you couldn't tell, I'm pretty obsessed with Instagram now. You can follow me @ampersandjay. Just before Leaky, I got my very first smart phone, which was another big source of excitement this summer!) Basically, when they announced the dates for next year's in Portland, I started mentally planning my attendance so - yes, it was awesome. My first convention!

    But perhaps the most exciting summer moment came just this Thursday - I got a(nother) job! It's part-time, but it's in my field and it seems like it'll be a great place to work. And, on the plus side of part-time, I'm going to be able to stay through on this temp assignment through the end (which actually got extended...gosh, I haven't posted since then, did I? Oops!), which is fab. Looks like the best of both worlds! (Did you go to a Hannah Montana place? I've never even watched that show. Let's pretend no one did.)

    How was your summer? It feels like the Really For Real end for me since J is moving back to school this weekend - plus, I've done so much fun stuff, that must be a whole summer's worth!

    state of the union

    I hope all you Americans had a happy 4th of July! Mine was pretty laid back, but it was followed by three days (well, two long evenings and one full day) of music festival-ing. I saw some great bands, had lots of laughs with my sister, and didn't get heat stroke or even a sunburn! I have some fun posts in the pipeline (including a neat product review!) but I was thinking about how projects on blogs always just kind of disappear into the ether - they happened, you posted, it's done - and I wanted to give a little update on how things were going.

    I tweeted about the Sally Hansen Polish Strips I reviewed in this post, but I have to reiterate here:  they were horrible to remove! I don't know if it was because I left them on longer than advised, but the adhesive used on the strips got gummy and everywhere. I was scrubbing at them with nail polish remover and all it seemed to do was push it around. I still have a little residue on my nails - proceed with caution!

    My bookshelf brightening project is still a smashing success! I was a little worried that the paper might bubble up in the heat, but it's all smooth and lovely as ever.

    Finally, the tablet case I purchased is still doing a great job! It's started to wear a tiny bit at the corner and some of the fabric on the inside has started to fray, but that's user error - it's where I hook my stylus, and putting it on and off has worn at the fabric a tiny bit. I'm still totally in love with it and it's kept my baby safe and sound through thick and thin and daily travels to the office shoved in my tote with my lunch, umbrella, passcard, notebook, and all those other important work-related things! The tablet is also a homerun - I actually finished my very first full ebook on it last week and it was a lot of fun! I don't know if I'll start buying a ton of books that I don't already own, but it's an excellent resource for checking books out of the library (the ebook I checked out, by the way, is called The Paris Wife and I heartily recommend that too! It's about Ernest Hemingway's first wife...I read it for my book club [I'm in a book club now! How grown up and literary is that?] and can't wait to discuss it with the ladies!)

    That's basically the state of things around here - how are all of you doing? Anything new and exciting? Projects or purchases that aren't holding up like you expected them to (or exceeding your expectations!)?

    diy: bookshelf brightener

    I've been wanting to do something about my boring old Target bookcase for a long time; it's black when everything else in my room is light-colored wood and it kind of weighs the whole place down, plopped off to the side like some hulking beast. Painting it was a possibility, but that seemed like a ton of effort for a pretty low-quality piece (I was also afraid to sand it and bust through to whatever might be underneath the "wood"), especially since I might end up putting it somewhere entirely different in the future. My first thought was to line the shelves with wallpaper, since all I could find in my price range was gingham and weird old flowers -  all the cute contact paper was hideously expensive.

    Why, hello there, shelf liners from TJ Maxx. How are you doin'?

    You guys, why didn't anyone ever tell me they sold home stuff at TJ Maxx. Oh right, probably because I would NEVER LEAVE. (Okay, I did leave, but just so I could do a project. I will return! For the deals!)

    As soon as I saw this paper, I was in love and I knew that it was time to make it happen. This bookcase was going to get a facelift! Or her makeup done, as is more apropos.

    The Before

    The During

     All my poor books hangin' out on the floor, like dangerous little stacks of enchantment. I did enjoy having Neil Gaiman staring up at me from the back of American Gods (which is a great book, by the way, one of my very favorites. Check it out!)

    The actual process of lining the shelves started out VERY easy - the top shelf comes out! I was able to measure the liner out along the length of it, leaving extra room, and basically wrapped it like a present, just folding the overlap down and smoothing it all out. The liners are the best kind of sticky - not too difficult to handle, but I had no doubt that they would stay in place once they were stuck. The middle shelf was a little trickier since it didn't come out, but the bottom shelf was the real struggle. It goes directly into the bottom of the case, so there's a strange little lip that isn't really deep enough to wrap the liner UNDER, but there's no real way to line it up right (no way for me and my inability to cut a straight line, at least). The good news is that it's far enough own that I don't think anyone is really paying attention!

    The Sort-Of After

    The Actual After

    And ahhh, the books let out a sigh of relief once they were returned to their newly decorated home. All in all, this was a super easy project (like, an hour's worth of time, maybe? I probably spent more time rearranging my books on the shelf than actually putting the liners on) that brightens the whole thing up nicely and is easily removable, in case I change my mind! Chalk this one up for Team Me.

    product review: sally hansen salon effects

    Confession time: I can't paint my own nails. Yes, I've done it, but rarely and poorly. My hands are just too wobbly; I make a mess even when I'm painting with my right hand, you don't even want to see what happens when I've got the nail brush in my left! With practice, I'm sure I could get better, but usually I just pressgang whoever happens to be around (a friend or my sister, usually) into painting them for me. It's always been depressing that the beautiful nail art I admire could not be mine...until now!

    Sally Hansen Salon Effects nail polish strips; they come in a variety of patterns, little stickers that harden into a polish-like coat with no dry time or spills or effort!

    The polish strips are pretty easy to apply; there was a little bit of fumbling, but I think that had more to do with my own low dexterity (obviously I need to get some safety scissors and work on my "small motor skills" like I made the toddlers do in play group) than actual difficulty. They looked pretty great once they were on! From close up, it's pretty clear that they're stickers, but from the normal distance that you view someone's hand, I don't think you'd be able to tell, especially if you didn't know it's not a fancy manicure.

    Unfortunately, there were already a few small chips by the time I woke up the next morning. This pattern doesn't show chips too badly, but a different one would make it very obvious. The inital chips may have been related to poor application, but they continued to chip throughout the weekend, and I really wasn't doing anything particularly rough on my hands (as if!) - just some sleeping and shopping. Weirdly, most of the chips are on my non-dominant hand...mysterious! The other major downside? The sticker adheres at your cuticle but it isn't really ON your nail, so when it sets, it forms a hard ridge that's just slightly separate from your nail. Just big enough for, say, a few strands of hair? Yep, these things snagged my hair while I was trying to wash it in the shower:  not very pleasant.

    Basically, these are really cool, but probably aren't a great long-term choice and definitely won't replace actually painting your nails. I think they'd be a terrific option for a special event, when you could apply them the morning of (or even later - no drying time!) and then not care if they chipped afterward. I have another set waiting for me (they were on a two for one sale) so I'll give another pattern a go and let you know if a (theoretically) superior application helps any of these issues.

    Hooray, a terrible webcam photo! The nails, after two weeks. Impressive, huh?

    So, I sat on this post for two weeks (as I do) and have revised my opinion somewhat. These little buggers have held on, for real! The chipping is definitely getting more significant, but they are really solidly on there and most are fine. The non-dominant chipping has right hand is almost perfect still. So, I'll upgrade these to a solid 4 out of 5. Try 'em out if you get a chance!

    apartment hunting: the wishlist

    That's right, folks, I'm moving out! ...eventually. Okay, okay, stay with me:  as someone who watches a lot of HGTV, I obviously would like my apartment hunt to be just like that:  a helpful (yet sassy) real estate agent takes me to three equivalently priced but subtly distinctive domiciles which I consider the pros and cons of before selecting the one I like best. Fast-forward to me three months later, all set up and thrilled with my new digs! Unfortunately, there is very little fast-fowarding in real life, and I won't have a real estate agent (which is probably for the best...the sassiest ones are all in Canada) to help me along. But even away from HGTV and in the gritty real world known as The Internet, the process of apartment hunting is truncated and glamorized. Most of the apartment-hunting experiences I see are written by people who already have apartments, which is the best place to give advice from, but not quite what I'm looking for to relate to as I (slowly) embark on my own first hunt. Lucikly for you, I've decided to fill that gap with my own real-time apartment hunting adventures. This gives me something to blog about (yay!) and an outlet for my repressed apartmenty desires.
    So, first up, the wishlist. Picture this appearing in split-screen while I talk about what I want, in classic HGTV fashion. Of course, I won't be on this adventure alone; the (future) apartment is to be shared with (surprise!) none other than the wonderful Kaitlin Disdainbrook, who I'm sure has her own list of wishes that will butt up against mine (as all HGTV pairs must...hopefully I'm the wife in this scenario, the wife always gets her way). The bolded elements are my must-haves.

    • Location - I'd like to be close enough to downtown to go back and forth easily but in a neighborhood that's relatively quiet. Not college student-land.
    • Clean/well-maintained
    • 2 BR/1 BA
    • Separate dining room OR den - K and I are both writers (obviously) and would love a shared office space. Personally, I'd lean towards dining room because I also would like to entertain
    • Hardwood floors
    • Historic charm
    • On-site laundry
    • Non-hideous kitchen
    • Parking for 2 - preferably at least one that comes with the unit, the other can be street parking
    • Central air
    • Preferably upper level
    • Walkable to restaurants/groceries
    • Tall shower - we are both tall ladies
    • Outdoor space for DIY projects

    • So that's my preliminary list! I've just been browsing the listings to figure out what neighborhoods are going to be the best fit for our personalities (and the price...oh yeah, the budget, frequent crusher of HGTV dreams), so I'm sure things will evolve as I start to see actual places, but at least there's a starting point! Hopefully soon I'll be able to jump out of hypothetical browsing and start hunting in earnest - until then, I'll try to keep my hopes high but my expectations in line with my budget - the greatest lesson TV has taught me.

      blog rec: his black dress

      One of my favorite parts of blogging is seeing how people have found my site. I thought I'd get a fair number of hits from people looking for clothes, some for DIY projects (oops, maybe I should post some of those), maybe some who stumbled upon me thanks to my sparkling wit ( least one, right?), but by far the most popular search bringing visitors to my blog? Crossdressing.

      Yep, that post I did about the joys of crossdressing has served as a beacon, welcoming those wondering about "crossdressing," "classy crossdressing," "crossdressing tube" (???), and even "crossdressing dirndl" (obviously a two for one hit with my dirndl appreciation post) And I'm happy to have them! I really do love crossdressing (in its variety of flavors) and perhaps I should take the hint to post about it more often!

      Today, I want to recommend a blogger who challenges the notion of "cross"-dressing. I am all about transgression and boundary crossers, and Michael Spookshow of His Black Dress is definitely a boundary crosser.

      His Black Dress documents the daily outfits of a man who advocates for "men's fashion freedom": he asks why dresses, skirts, heels, and jewelry should be reserved for women. Ladies wear sneakers and jeans...why shouldn't a gentleman be able to wear a pair of cute pumps and a pretty dress? In my opinion, no reason! Pretty clothes are fun and I'm totally in favor of anyone who finds them pretty rocking it out. That said, it takes a lot of gumption to be willing to individually and personally challenge social norms with your daily apperance, and I really admire anyone who's willing to go for it. Shine on, fashion warriors!

      This blog also reminds me of one of my favorite quotations from the chief Executive Transvestite himself, Eddie Izzard: "They're not women's clothes. They're my clothes. I bought them." Wear/style/do what feels glamorous (or unglamorous, if that's what you're feeling!) and right to you, regardless of who's "supposed" to be wearing it. Look to funky style icons like Tilda Swinton; she obviously wears whatever she damn well pleases, and though it might not be an outfit most of us would dream of imitating, there's no denying she works that crazy get-up. Confidence is always the best accessory.

      And with that little life lesson out of the way, definitely go check out His Black Dress because I deeply covet Mr. Spookshow's wardrobe. There's a dark rock'n'roll edge to his style while still being very...what we would usually call feminine. Fab? Mascuglam? Whatever you want to call it, it's super cool and definitely inspiring to ladies/gents/anyone who rebels against wearing pants. And lets be real, pants are pretty bogus.

      Have you ever worn something that was "meant" for someone of a different gender presentation? Do you daydream of a day where stores have "Dresses" and "Pants" and "Shirts" sections instead of Mens or Misses? You already know that despite my femmey heart, I do love to get my vest-and-tie on!

      milwaukee spots: the safe house

      This past summer, I posted about some fun places to get a bite to eat in Milwaukee, my home city. I was on that adventure with an old friend of high school, Ms. Gail, and since she was in town again last weekend, we had to hit up some more downtown spots!

      On Friday night, I met up with her at the Milwaukee Public Market (mentioned in my first Milwaukee post) for a little dinner before we started checking out the nightlife. We checked out several establishments, but my favorite was a place I've been wanting to visit for a while: The Safe House.

      Did somebody say spy?

      The door reads "International Exports Ltd.," but that's just a ruse to throw enemy agents off your trail. The Safe House is a spy-themed bar and restaurant that is a ton of kitschy fun. It's themed to the gills, and I love it. If you're not a fan of James Bond, 60s style corniness, or looking a little silly in the name of a good time, the Safe House is probably not for you. But if Bond, cornball, and silliness are your bread and butter (hello!), prepare for a good time!

      Once you enter, you'll be asked to provide the password before you can get into the bar proper. If you don't know, you'll be asked to perform some sort of humorous feat in order to prove your worthiness to gain admittance which, you will discover after getting inside, is shown on TVs in the bar area. It's all in good fun, but if you really want to avoid it, the password is...just kidding! What kind of spy would reveal that kind of sensitive information in public? I'm no double agent!

      Although Safe House does have a full menu, we just ordered some chicken tenders to munch on in the bar area. They were very tasty, but...they were chicken tenders. Nothing too out of the ordinary, so I can't really speak to the quality of the menu. I didn't end up trying any of their specialty drinks (which are wonderful and thematically appropriate and, in the tradition of these things, pretty pricey) but had a delicious amaretto sour. For younger spies, just keep in mind that after 7PM the Safe House is a bar and no one under 21 is admitted, but you can still come in for lunch or dinner to enjoy all the atmosphere!

      There's also a secret exit, if you're a particularly clever spy, which I'm sure you all are.

      Have any of you found your way to the Safe House? Is there a kitschy theme restaurant in your city you'd like to recommend? Comment below!

      lusting: opera gloves

      When the venerable Tom and Lorenzo said that opera gloves could be the hot new trend for fall, did I give a little fashionista gasp of joy? Yes, indeed, I did.

      Do you have any idea how happy I would be if opera gloves became an acceptable sartorial choice? No, you don't, because my joy would be unfathomable. I am crazy for over the top fashion choices (if you couldn't tell), and I'm dying to wear formal gloves in public without looking ridiculous. They don't even have to be opera gloves! Elbow-length would be totally fine by me! C'mon, fashion gods, do me a solid?

      How does one wear opera gloves? Well, I have a few ideas.

      a night (not) at the opera

      Dress it up! The obvious choice. A pair of opera gloves add a certain mystique and glamour to any outfit. You want to keep it fairly simple when going with a statement that strong; a dress with some visual interest, nice earrings, cute shoes. A clutch with a little bit of a bling keeps up with the fancy quotient without pulling focus.

      everyday opera

      Or dress it down! No, stay with me, stay with me. "JZ, do you expect me to wear opera gloves out and about on a totally average day?" Well, expect is a pretty strong word, I don't make your wardrobe decisions for you. But I believe you could. Take a super cute going-out outfit, nice top and jeans, walkable but stylish shoes, some sassy jewelry, and add opera gloves. What do you get? MAGIC! Well, maybe not magic, but I think it's pretty fab.

      Would you wear opera gloves?


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