christmas eve check-in

I hope you enjoyed my 12 Days of DIY December posts and maybe were tried a few projects! I'm now back at the family homestead and was thrilled to see that my mom made a lovely card garland inspired by my post.

Since a lot of my posts were of the theoretical nature, I just wanted to take some time this merry Christmas Eve to share a little bit of what I actually did for the holidays at my apartment!

The secret to an awesome Christmas: lots of lights! As you can see, I embroidered and hung some stockings over the built-in, but never quite got around to glitter-spraying my magazine trees (it's been snowing like the Dickens around here, but I'm sure I'll find some use for glittery spray paint...). I tried something a little different for my card display this year, using a giant bow and hanging the cards on a Christmas ribbon underneath with the most adorable tiny red and green clothespins. I have a batch of homemade Kahlua infusing atop the fridge, which should be ready for gifting on New Year's - better late than never! I also made an ornament wreath, though I don't have a good picture of it hanging. It wasn't my most successful experience (I should have gotten more ornaments), but I like it anyway! And, of course, I did some intense cross-stitching, but I can't show you that! (It's sitting under the tree, shhhhh.)

Not too shabby a showing for this holiday season, I think. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday filled with great people, good food, and even better times. Merry Christmas!

shop indie this year

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

"But Jennifer," I hear you say, "buying something is the opposite of DIYing it." This is technically true, but for the last day of my 12 Days of DIY December, I really wanted to remind all of you that if you don't have the time/tools/skills/energy to DIY, it's super awesome to support independent and local businesses. They're DIYing (DIT? Doing-It-Themselves?) it so we can enjoy their expertise. Since I moved to the city, I've become so much more aware of the amazing artisans working in Milwaukee - and I'd bet there's a great community of creators in your city too! If you are in Milwaukee, Local First Milwaukee is a great resource to find locally owned businesses, but don't forget to do your own digging and exploring too! You never know what you might find.

Buying prints from artists, checking out handmade items on Etsy, or exploring the creations of local makers is a great way to keep the DIY spirit in the holidays and find gifts that the special people on your list will be (hopefully) surprised and thrilled to see! It's great to wrap something up that you know was made with love - even if it wasn't your personal love, I think it still counts!

And that brings us to the end of the series - whew! Posting every day was definitely a change from posting...approximately not ever, but it was pretty great in addition to being tough! I hope to virtually see you again before the holidays come, but in case I don't - Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

personalize your christmas stocking

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

The one thing I really miss in our apartment (apart from a proper tree, sigh) is a fireplace for stockings. Luckily, there's a lovely built-in in the dining room with an arch that should be just perfect for leaving our stockings - I'm not sure how Santa will get in, but once he does, he won't be able to miss them there!

Somehow, the only member of the household who has a stocking here is Logan the cat. I plan to rectify that quickly, and once I do - I'm going to personalize my stocking!

If you have the time, making a stocking from scratch is totally possible and a great project. But with the big day coming up so fast this year (SO fast, oh dear), I'm just hoping to get what I can done. And that means putting a special touch on a store-bought stocking.

Now that I've gotten into cross-stitching, I have a bunch of embroidery floss just sitting around in my craft stash. Obviously, the answer is clear - add a little embroidery to a stocking! I love the classic simplicity of just an initial, but it might be fun to do a short word (refer to my decorating with words post for examples of short holiday-themed words, if you're stuck) or simple design as well. It'll depend on the stocking and where the wind takes me! (AKA how much time I have - how is it two weeks from Christmas Day? That can't be right.)

bake peppermint bark shortbread

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

I first made this recipe back in 2010, my senior year of college (oh, those bygone days!). It was for a cookie exchange party, although somehow it seemed like my household ended up eating the majority of them did that work out?

Anyway, this is my recipe recommendation for all of your:  chocolate & peppermint bark cookies by Cookin Canuck. These cookies combine three great tastes of the holidays: delicious buttery cookies, rich chocolate, and sharp peppermint. These are three of my favorite tastes all year round, in fact, so it's great to have an excuse to throw them all together! The best part is that (say it with me) - they're easy! A lot of holiday cookies are beautiful and delicious, but they require a lot of effort. It is definitely a great time of the year for slow, luxurious baking, but if you have limited time, limited counterspace for advanced cookie maneuvers, or just want to slot in a low-hassle sweet alongside your other more complicated recipes, these are a great option.

I also think these cookies would be optimal if you're looking for a treat to mail; since, like peppermint bark, they can be cut unevenly. No worries about sugar Santa or his reindeer being beheaded through jostling! These will be just as delicious if they arrive in one piece or in ten.

make a diy christmas cat toy

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

We humans can't wait to see what Santa has left in our stocking on Christmas your cat can get in on the excitement too!

When my roommate requested a cat-themed project, I was a little dubious. Cats are destroyers, not crafters, and are much more likely to get tangled up in a ball of yarn than knit a charming tea cozy. But a craft for a cat? I knew that Martha would have an idea - the baby sock cat toy! Just fill a baby's sock with dried catnip, stitch it closed, and dangle it from yarn. It's easy and just begging to be holidayfied!

12 Days of Christmas baby sock set from Baby Aspen
How adorable are those? Obviously, these are more socks than you would need for this craft, but if you have a lot of felines on your list (and/or some actual babies), these would make incredibly charming AND seasonally appropriate cat toys! I'd be tempted to add some felt or fur at the cuff to really accentuate the "Christmas stocking" feel, but that would depend on the destructive nature of your cat. Add some red, green, or white yarn and you're ready to tease your cat in holiday style.

decorate with recycled magazines

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

I now live in a household where both inhabitants work on the editorial staff of magazines. This means there are a LOT of magazines in the house. I hate just recycling them (such a waste!), so I decided to figure out a way to transform magazines into holiday joy. Turns out, there are a lot of options!

One I've actually already tackled this year is creating magazine "trees."

Isn't it cute? It's basically the easiest craft you can imagine too. The materials required are one magazine. That's it. Just rip off the cover, fold each page, and you have a cute little paper Christmas tree. No muss, no fuss. I'm still deciding if I want to take the next potential step and glitter it up - it would definitely look cute, but I kind of like the paper look. Maybe I'm just a magazine nerd. Imagine a little forest of these on your shelf, each one sparkling a different color.

Another way to get some paper in your tree might be:

Pinned here
This one is made with felt, but I think it would be cute with glossy magazine pages (or even more darling with book pages!)

You might also make a classic paper garland from old magazines, or craft a holiday collage. There are a ton of options for upcycling old magazines in crafty ways - just in time for Christmas!

make hot cocoa mix from scratch

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

There's a reason that a cute mug and the fixings for hot cocoa have become ubiquitous as Secret Santa gifts and on the bake sale tables of winter fundraisers: it's adorable, inexpensive, easy, and who doesn't love hot chocolate? Add in the mug, some marshmallows, maybe a candy cane, and you have a delicious treat suitable for just about anyone on your list. But this year, you're going to kick it up a notch. How, you ask?

This year you're going to make your cocoa mix from scratch.

Say what! I'll be straight with you, dear readers, I didn't even know you could make a cocoa mix from scratch. I was vaguely aware that people made hot chocolate from scratch, but it all seemed like way too much work when a few spoonfuls of the stuff from a can was so tasty. But it turns out you can totally make your own cocoa mix from scratch, and it's not even that hard. All you need is chocolate (duh), cocoa powder (easy), cornstarch (got it), sugar (no sweat), and a little salt. Et - voila! Hot cocoa made from delicious chocolate and adjusted to the sweetness level of your choice. The full recipe is here on Serious Eats - which, FYI, is probably my favorite food-related site out there, so definitely poke around after you've made a cup of your delicious homemade cocoa.

If you're really looking to take this to the next level, might I suggest combining two of the 12 Days of DIY projects: homemade hot cocoa + homemade kahlua? Heaven.

decorate with diy holiday letters

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

Perhaps it's the English major/editorial assistant in me, but I absolutely adore decorating with words. Cross-stitching a cute little motto? Heck yeah! Typographical art? Sign me up! Which means I definitely have my eye on those cardboard and wooden letters you can get at craft stores. They are just begging to be zhushed up for the season.

Spray-painting them gold would be an excellent and glittery choice, but you could also mod podge on some scrapbook paper for a lovely seasonal pattern. I kind of love the idea of using the pages of a book (A Christmas Carol, anyone?) to add another level to it. Paint on some candy cane stripes! Make them look like a wreath! The possibilities are endless. This one would be a little bit tougher, but I am totally obsessed with it:


Premade letters don't have to enter into the crafting. I absolutely adore this example of some very simple text (it might even just be posterboard?) in a non-traditional holiday color that would definitely brighten up your room for the holidays (pun intended!).

If you're really hardcore, you could attempt the light-up DIY marquee letters that are all the rage these days. Basically, any time you take some letters, make them pretty, and spell out a word, I'm ready to embrace it. Hang it on your wall, set them on your mantel or a windowsill, just share the beautiful wordy love.

Not sure which word you would use? Try some of these: Merry, Joy, Xmas, Noel, Ho Ho Ho, Santa, Jingle, Holly, Snow.

display your holiday cards

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

Yesterday we talked about making holiday cards, so now it's time to hit the flipside - how are you going to show off the cards that you receive?

There are plenty of inventive DIY options for displaying holiday cards. You can, of course, set them up on a mantel or windowsill for simple admiration. Just sit back and bask in the glow (or, more likely, spend your time doing some other holiday task!)

Or, you can mix it up a bit! Last year, I kept it very simple...simple enough that I feel a little silly calling it a "project," but hey. It's my blog!

I bought a set of Christmas ribbons at Michaels and created a little card garland to hang on the wall. I used one pattern for the length of the garland and used another pattern to create two little bows to hang on each end. Then we hung the cards up with binder clips. If I do this again this year, I would pick wider ribbon for more dramatic effect (and to sustain the weight of the cards - oof!), and I would love to get more Christmassy clips; perhaps red binder clips or red & green paper clips would do the trick! This option was, as I said, ridiculously easy, but also made sense since (being the first Christmas my roommate and I spent in our apartment) I had no idea how many cards we would get! It turned out to be more than I expected! I had planned the length of the garland to not dwarf the few cards I was planning to get, but it was great to be able to add more and more.

Another easy way to display holiday cards is on the fridge; you might have seasonal magnets already, but if not, why not DIY some adorable ornament magnets like these from Young House Love?

One of my favorite card display options is the classic clothespin wreath.

We have one of these at my parents' house, and you get to display your cards AND have another wreath in your house at the same time! What's not to love? I'm not sure if I'll have time to make one this year, but it's much easier to make than I would have expected! Plus it's one of those things that you'll use year after year once you've made it.

send a diy holiday card

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

While I was out with a friend this weekend, a popular topic came up: When do you know you're old enough to start sending your own Christmas cards? I'm not sure where that mystical date line is, but I say start sending a card whenever you darn well feel like it!

But why buy a pack of cards at the store when it's way more fun (and super easy) to make one yourself! With just the tiniest (tiniest!) bit of tech know-how, you can make your own holiday card to share with friends and family.

For example, I made this guy in 5 minutes on PicMonkey. (Yes, that is an Inuyasha plushie hanging out on the windowsill amongst the Christmas lights.) They have a ton of great seasonally themed overlays and graphics you can use, plus a variety of fonts to add whatever additional message you like! Pick a great holiday-themed shot, of your home or you and your loved ones, and start editing.

I really wanted to do this post with a picture of me and the cat wearing hilarious holiday-themed hats, but I think I'll save up any good karma I might have in case I actually do decide to attempt that for the Christmas card. I have a feeling it will only occur once (if at all!).

Once you've designed your image (Photoshop it if you're a fancy person who actually owns/knows how to use graphic design programs!), you can print it through any online printing service like Snapfish or VistaPrint. They both actually also offers a card-making service, I believe, so if you have a great photo that you don't want to tweak too much, you can cut out the middle man and just go for it!

I may not be at the age that I'm "expected" to send a Christmas card, but I do love the idea of sending a cute DIY postcard off to my nearest and dearest to remind them that I'm thinking of them during the holiday season! Who knows - maybe the plushie will make the final cut!

learn to cross stitch

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

I have a secret to tell you about cross stitching. The only two things you really need are a pattern and patience. That's it!

Cross stitching is a great craft to try out because of the low entry cost. No expensive supplies or special machines - just get yourself a hoop, some fabric, a needle, and some embroidery floss and go. There are tons of lovely patterns available for purchase, and plenty that are shared for free too!

Patterns: Wigglytuff, Tattoo font, Joker & Harley
 These are some of the cross stitch projects I've done. They look pretty good to me, and I really just jumped in a total beginner. It's been a lot of fun, though as a word of warning, recognize that a more complex pattern might take longer than you expect. I almost squinted my eyeballs out of my head to get that Wigglytuff done in time for the birthday!

When looking for a pattern, it's best to find one that's marked suitable for a beginner, though if you can get a look at it and see what kind of stitches it requires, you should be okay. If it's all the basic full stitch, no matter how complex it looks, just keep making Xs and you're good to go! Just take your time and keep a close eye on the pattern. I'm partial to this one for sale on Etsy, but there are also a lot of great free patterns collected on this Pinterest board. A lot of cross stitch patterns easily available are a little more old-fashioned/country-style than my personal tastes run to, but just keep looking! There's a great community of crafters who have created patterns suitable to all tastes.

Pick out a pattern today and start today - a cross stitch is a great decoration and a great gift.

make a holiday wreath

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

Hanging a wreath on your door is the best way to say "hello, holidays!" Growing up, my family always hung a big real evergreen wreath on the outside of the house, but wreaths made from fresh boughs get expensive and (sadface!) they only last for one Christmas. There are plenty of beautiful wreaths available in stores (I drooled over more than a few last time I was in Target), but there are so many ways to make your own wreath. I'm hoping to craft one this month yet, so here are a few ideas!

I didn't get a chance to blog about it, but I made this super cheap and easy yarn wreath for Halloween. All you need is a foam wreath form and some yarn! I added black ribbon and some paper letters for a little extra flair. It took me around an hour to wrap the wreath to my satisfaction, and I was really happy with the results! This would be great in a forest green for Christmas, or maybe a sparkly white or gold. If you go green, I think it would be utterly charming to add some of those round red pushpins like little holly berries! Add a big bow, and you're all set.

This year I've had ornament wreaths on the brain. Everybody here knows I love a little glitz and glam, and it's just so sparkly! This tutorial makes it seem pretty easy (though not as easy as the yarn wreath!), so I might make a trek to Target and the local dollar store to pick up some fun ornaments. (I have other decorating plans involving ornaments as well, so I could use a stash).

And, of course, you can always grab a simple vine wreath and zhush it up with ribbons and glitter and bling! As long as you have a glue gun and are ready to experiment, making your own holiday wreath can be a snap. Put it on your door, or just on a wall, and be ready to welcome the holidays in!

make your own kahlua (or other infused liquor)

In order to celebrate the season the best way I know how, I'll be posting the 12 Days of DIY December here. Check back every day for something new to make, bake, or create to get ready for Christmas!

Infused vodka is a delicious addition to any holiday party bar, and it's so easy to make some to enjoy and to give. Forget the cloying fake fruit flavors you get off the shelf - make this one a DIY project and enjoy the delectable fruits of your labor in the year to come.

There are a lot of great recipes and tutorials online for infusing spirits with fruit, herbs, and even bacon, so I thought I'd focus on a recipe I've had success with: DIY Kahlua. It's true - you can make your own delicious coffee liqueur, perfect to add to hot cocoa, coffee, or any other seasonal beverage. This one needs to sit for two weeks, which is why I'm sharing it first! If you plan to make a batch or two to give out (or serve), get started now.

From a vintage homemade cookbook, "Favorite Recipes and Restaurants"

4 cups sugar
3 cups water

Boil 20 mins and let cool.

2 oz instant coffee
1 cup boiling water

Mix and let cool.

1 quart vodka
1 vanilla bean

Split bean lengthwise and mix everything together. Shake well. Let stand 2 weeks at room temperature before using. Shake once a day during the two weeks.

Strain out the vanilla bean once you're ready to decant the kahlua.

Use a funnel to pour your liqueur into some pretty bottles, like these from the Container Store. Add a label and maybe a bow, and you have a lovely and delicious DIY gift for any of the adults on your list! This would pair great with a cocoa kit (coming soon!)

Be prepared for everyone to be super impressed when you shrug and say "Oh yeah, I made kahlua from scratch for Christmas this year" - and then to reassure them that you didn't build a still of some kind out on your deck. It's just the magic of infusion!

milwaukee spots: cafe centraal

I've posted before about restaurants and places I've loved in the Milwaukee area, and today I'm adding another to the list. This one is even more fully vetted than the rest because I go there kind of all the freaking time.

Cafe Centraal is pretty much the destination of choice for my roommate and I, whether brunch or dinner is what we seek. I have yet to see someone order something bad...the first time I was there, I did get a dish I didn't like, but it was my own mistake for ordering something that had chorizo in it and somehow thinking it wouldn't be too spicy for me?? That was a silly decision. And that dish isn't on the menu anymore anyway, so no harm done! Everything else I've had has been excellent, as with the rest of my dining companions. If you go for brunch, get the sugar donuts. They come with a berry cream cheese. Get the big order. No matter how many of you there are. You won't regret it. My personal favorite dishes so far are the Grand Cafe Club (which has green apples on it! Crazy but insanely delicious) and the Bay View Burger (mmmm burger). I also ate the pig tails without actually realizing they were literally pig tails, and they were utterly delectable.

Centraal is well-known (along with its sister restaurants) for their beer selection. I don't drink beer, so I'm afraid I can't vouch for the quality, but I can vouch for the fact that there's a giant book filled with all the beers they have and that their staff takes classes (!) to learn more about beer. Friends assure me that it's very good, and I trust them! I've always been happy with one of their specialty cocktails or a garden-variety mixer.

I was, in fact, at Centraal last night for trivia (which occurs every Thursday at 8!). It's such a great way to spend some time with friends while challenging your mind too - and an excuse to eat at Centraal, of course. We weren't too shabby last night (tied for fourth!).

Basically, this is a place to go. The staff has always been super friendly and attentive, the food is always delicious, and I'm a big fan of the atmosphere. Fickle Kitsch gives it four forks for highly recommended!

autumn inspiration

In the month (ouch!) since I last posted...fall has appeared!

Mostly...we still got into the 70s this week in Wisconsin, but you can feel that hint of fall in the air. It smells like sweaters and apple cider, and I am welcoming it with open arms. True Fall Confession: I don't like pumpkin. No pumpkin lattes, muffins, candles, or pies for me! I am all about the apples once leaves start changing.

I had the best intentions of doing a fall shopping list post, but...then I accidentally went fall shopping before I had a chance to write it. So instead, here's a little bit of an autumn inspiration post!

Everyone loves a sweater in the fall (right?) I love sweaters layered with heavy classic fabrics like this skirt. My big obsession with sweaters for this fall, though? LEATHER.

That's right, got myself a sweater (a tunic-length sweater, which is my other favorite) in this gorgeous forest green color with a great leather detail on the collar. It's probably my mental connection between fall and great boots, but leather just goes great with knits.

I love everything about this look. The vibrant dress, patterned tights, cute boots, cuddly scarf. I'm really excited to recreate it with some of my new pieces - no pics yet, unfortunately, since I only got the chance to wear a sweater once before we creeped back up into the 70s, but yay! I'm always a fan of texture tights, and I'm excited to try layering them over my colored tights this year. Double warm! (Maybe?)

I also picked up a fall staple I've been craving for a long time that I'm super super pleased with:

Ohhh yeah, it's a bomber jacket! I saw it across the store and there was a swelling choir of angels. Brown (faux) leather, studs, zippers, great detailing in the stitching...I'm totally in love. I haven't had a good fall jacket besides my trench for a long time (which is great, but not so versatile for day wear). Gotta say, I feel totally bombin' in this jacket (hey-o!). The top is also new, featuring another of my favorite fall details:

Studs! There's also a stud gathering the sleeves at just 3/4-length, and they are so fabulous. A little bit of a hard edge on a very floaty feminine garment, such a big fan.

And that's my fall haul so far - I can't wait to get the chance to wear the rest of my new pieces (another sweater, a gorgeous blazer, and that dress!) and to pick up the last few things I'm still looking for. I haven't broken out the boots yet, but I have the perfect outfit in mind. As always, follow me on Instagram to see all the latest! (Plus cat pics.)

ipsy glam bag review: july

Remember how I said I was going to do a full write-up of everything I got in my first glam bag from ipsy? Well, when doing my video review of the August bag, I realized I hadn't actually done a review of July. we go!

Roll on perfume oil by demeter: "salt air" scent

My most used item from the bag! It's a really nice, fresh scent and the roll on makes it really easy to apply (the other perfume I wear is imps from BPAL, which I'm always afraid I'm going to spill everywhere when I open them.) I'm not a big fragrance person, but this just kind of smells clean. I'm a fan!

Pouty pop crayon by Pop Beauty: "fuschia flirt"

The item that most drew my eye when opening the bag! I like that you can vary the intensity of the color depending on how much you put on. The payoff is nice and the color lasts fairly well, but it doesn't feel particularly moisturizing on the lips. Not a dealbreaker by any means, but not something that's going to replace my special favorite lip colors.

Eyeshadow set by BH Cosmetics: "California Collection"

These are okay...I need to experiment with them a bit more, but I wasn't thrilled with the texture the first time I tried it. I was putting some on in the morning before work and the shadow was pressed very tightly, which made it difficult to get a good color payoff. I've only tried the one (work appropriate) color so far, though, so I'll need to experiment more. But I'm kind of spoiled when it comes to eyeshadow; after years of toiling away over drugstore palettes, I pretty much exclusively wear Urban Decay now.

Mineral sunscreen by Coola

It's sunscreen. It's unscented, which is a bonus (who likes the smell of sunscreen?), but other than that there's nothing super remarkable about it. It went on smoothly and it didn't feel heavy on my face, and didn't feel greasy when I touched my face later. It's organic, which is nice. I'm one of those rebellious pasty people who doesn't often wear sunscreen, though, so this is unlikely to become part of my everyday routine.

Weather proof hairspray by Big Sexy Hair

I really don't use product in my hair (ew, crunch factor), so I don't have the most nuanced opinions on hairsprays. I tried this one on my bangs, and maybe I didn't put enough on but I didn't see/feel much of a difference. My hair didn't feel crunchy, which was a plus, but I didn't notice it holding in place any better than usual either. I'd try it again if I needed to set my hair (I've been having a hankering to get back into vintage styling again!) so I don't have to actually buy hairspray, but another one that I wouldn't use everyday.

And that was July! All in all, I was satisfied and enjoyed trying new products I wouldn't have purchased myself, but I'm really excited about my August bag! Which you can go ahead and watch...right now:


style cure: post 2

The Style Cure soldiers on!

I've been keeping up well (I think) and am totally overflowing with Thoughts and Feelings about my room. We were assigned to pick our room and, as I said, my bedroom was the obvious choice. It's the space in the apartment that's mine, and I really want to class it up.

For the weekend, we were sent on a style treasure hunt. Unfortunately, I was out of town much of the weekend (at my grandparents' house, which is a lovely place but not necessarily one I would recreate for my own living space), but I did start doing some online treasure hunting! I started up a board on Pinterest for the Style Cure to keep all my inspiration in one place. I'm going to keep pinning and try to seek out some more inspiration in real life too throughout the project.

I also made the first BIG PURCHASE for my snazzy new room today, but I think I'm going to keep it to myself until I see how it looks in the space. I'm really excited, though, and I think it will be a real gamechanger for the room. Fingers crossed!

Today is outbox day! I have some t-shirts that I need to get rid of, but for the most part the problem is there isn't ENOUGH stuff in the room, not too much.

There's enough ideas swirling around in my head to keep me going through the rest of the month, but they're starting to take form in my brain. Hopefully at the end of the month I'll have something to show for it!

apartment therapy style cure: the beginning

I have now lived in my apartment for 8.5 months, and things...are fine. Fine, but not awesome. I had this idea, you see, that my first apartment was immediately going to be the prettiest girl at the ball, an extravaganza of fine taste worthy of many a shelter blog. That is not the case. Don't get me wrong, I love my apartment! There are a lot of things in it that I love; I just haven't spent the concentrated effort on "designing" that I thought I would. It can be hard to set time aside for decorating when you're living your life. Luckily, Apartment Therapy to the rescue!

At the last minute (yesterday evening), I decided to sign up for this round of the Apartment Therapy Style Cure. Basically, AT will be sending me an email every day to give me a task or project related to redesigning a room and, when the month is over, the room will be redone! I will admit that I'm pretty terrified by this prospect. I've never done a room, properly. I've never painted a wall or done a large scale DIY project. The only furniture I've ever bought is the couch from which I write this post! But my bedroom in particular has been the part of the apartment that I really want to feel like "me" but doesn't at all. It's just sort of...there. All my stuff is there, but no one would look at it and say "Oh, that's Jennifer's" (unless they recognized my stuff).

So...wish me luck, gentle readers! If any of you want to muddle along with me, you can either sign up at the link above to receive your daily email, or just keep your eye on the AT website for new posts on the Style Cure. I'd love to know if you're doing it too, so drop a comment below if you want to share in the adventure! I'm going to try really hard to keep up with this, despite this being a super busy season for work (and for FUN. Yesterday was my birthday, by the way. I got older! It happened!)

pinterest attempt: german manicure

Yesterday was Germanfest, the best of fests! For those that don't know, Milwaukee is the home of many ethnic festivals, most of them the largest of their kind in the US. Germanfest has always been special to my family; we are of German heritage, for one thing, and for another, my parents actually got engaged at Germanfest. We go every year, enjoy delicious food, great music, and just generally have a fine time.

This time, I had an idea for a thematically appropriate manicure inspired by something I pinned, so here is my very first attempt at bringing Pinterest into the real world:

Doesn't look too hard, right? So I picked up some red & yellow nail polish (I already had black because of course) and some stickers and set to work!

Okay, not quite as beautiful as Pinterest promised. But all in all, a fairly successful experiment! If you couldn't tell, I am not actually that good at painting my nails. I have shaky hands, and I haven't actually done them that often...back when I was living at home, my mom would paint them for me (I know, I know). But overall, I'm pretty proud for my first attempt at level 2 nail art. I love that it's such a flexible technique. The middle one with two colors would be great for any kind of sports team-themed manicure (or, perhaps, Gryffindor nails?), and well, it just looks cool.

My biggest problem was with the nail colors smudging (even after I waited until they seemed completely dry), but I think that's mostly due to the quality of my polish (the $3 Sally Hansen X-treme from Target). I also had some issues with the stickers leaving residue on the nails (which then were difficult to remove due to the aforementioned smudging problems). I'm not sure entirely how to fix that...decreasing the stickiness by handling them more would help, but I don't know if that would diminish how effective they are blocking the polish. It'll take some experimenting to get right, but I'm pretty confident! It was a lot of fun to have some German pride on my fingernails while I was enjoying spanferkel and Bavarian chocolate torte to the sweet sounds of polkas and German guys singing Gangnam Style. Yup, that happened. Ich liebe Germanfest!

unboxing: ipsy july glam bag

We're doing something a little bit different for today's's a video! (Say what!) I've decided to try my hand at vlogging; I'm still ficklekitsch over on Youtube, just with words coming out of my face and all that good stuff.

So today I got my first glam bag from ipsy in the mail; ipsy is a subscription beauty service that sends out a monthly bag with some neat product samples for you to try. It seems like a great way to explore new brands or products for a low cost ($10/month!)...I'll have some more detailed information on each sample once I have time to investigate them, but for now, please enjoy this video of me opening up the bag!

If you enjoyed the video, please subscribe for more! And, as always, hit up my RSS feed for delicious Fickle Kitsch delivered fresh to the feed reader of your choice every morning whenever I feel like it. Let me know if you like having a video included in the post every once in a while (I'll still be mostly words and Polyvore sets, don't worry!)


I recently attended a company picnic at the Zoo, and while I saw a lot of cool things (fighting tigers! pettable stingrays! an improbable number of Duck Dynasty t-shirts!), what most inspired me was watching the octopus climb across the glass of its tank. You might not know this, but I totally love octopuses. They're weird and a little bit creepy, and so so cool.

So I whipped up a little Polyvore set, in case you'd like to bring some of the creepy coolness of our eight-legged ocean friends into your style or home:

tentacular spectacular

Fabulous, right? I'm deeply in love with that scarf, and wouldn't the morning be better if you were sipping your "wake up" beverage out of such a bright and tentacley mug? (Fun fact: mine is water! I don't drink coffee.) The totebag is a straight up cute version of the octopus, and I really like the pseudo-Victorian vibe I get from the rug. It would be a great way to add a little bit of off-kilter class to a space.

Have you ever found style inspiration in the animal kingdom? Would you decorate with tentacles or does it all just look like so much kalamari to you? ...mmmm, kalamari.

summer style: bright color and bold pattern

It may not be an original style concept, but I don't care. My summer wardrobe for this year is all about bright colors and bold patterns - I've even dyed my hair a brighter shade!

In the past, I really haven't been much for pattern or even especially bright colors. I tend to gravitate towards blacks/grays and jewel or autumnal tones, and wear a lot of solids or occasionally "classic" patterns (windowpane, pinstripe houndstooth). But for some reason, when I was shopping for my new summer outfits I was seriously feeling like getting my peacock on. Everything I tried out was bright and cheery and I loved it!

And I've been getting way more compliments on my outfits than usual, so I guess the world digs a little peacock action! When you've got a wild pattern, it says "Look at me" - and if you feel like you're rocking it, you're glad it does! I've been feeling a lot more confident in my style I've reached the point finally where I have enough pieces in my wardrobe and enough accessories that I'm putting together looks I'm really happy with almost every day. (Of course, that combined with a blogging drought - a lot of that was due to my failing computer, but I have a new one now so I'm jumping back in the saddle!)

In addition to these dresses, I bought two more day-appropriate dresses from Target including my very first maxi dress (what can I say, in the summer I like to have my legs free!), but my wardrobe still isn't quite complete. I don't have any sandals, so I'll need to make a jaunt to Marshall's or DSW to make sure that when the heat really turns it up my feet will be able to breathe.

Just between you and me, when I'm strutting down the street in these, I definitely have RuPaul's "Glamazon" going through my head. Let's all werq it out - dance party at the end of the post! (Warning: not entirely SFW!)

summertime (and the livin's easy)

It's finally summer! Which means it's super hot in my apartment...hooray? Whatever - at this point in the summer, it's all such a welcome change after winter that I'm happy to deal with a stuffy apartment now and then. That's what fans are for!

Hello, blog! Long time no see! As you may have heard in the previous paragraph, the weather in Wisconsin is finally getting warm and, believe it or not, I've been doing things. Occasionally even outside-things! Still, I miss blogging and have made a goal to make it part of my schedule again. If I have time to watch Shark Tank, then I have time to write a blog post.

There are a couple cool things I've been doing lately - I'm really enjoying my new job, and it just happens to both put me in touch with a lot of great things going on around the area and sometimes we even do fun things as an office. For example: this Thursday we went on a cruise down the river as a staff outing!

I'd actually never been on a boat in the Milwaukee River; I went on a similar sort of trek in Chicago, but it was great to see the skyline I know and love from a new perspective! Plus, floating down the river, enjoying fancy appetizers in the warm sun instead of being at my desk? That was pretty awesome too.

And I went to Bay View Gallery Night, where I strolled the streets, saw cool art, and ate some chips. It wasn't as fun as it could have been, since I didn't end up connecting with the people I was planning to meet there, but it was still pretty cool. I didn't get too many pictures of the art because I was busy looking at it and wrangling a purse, my phone, and a cup, but trust me - there was some great stuff! My city is awesome.

Plus, cross stitching! Having a new hobby is fun! I've always had crafty urges, but a hard time actually finding a project I could stick with. This is my second cross stitch, and I think I may have found my craft! I have a bunch of ideas for new projects. My roomie is already worried that we'll run out of space for me to put my projects...I intend to bring that concern closer to reality!

That's what I've been up to! I'll try to have more fashion/home/all that good stuff content coming soon - what have you been up to at the start of summer?

hair care update

I noticed that my post about washing my hair with vinegar and baking soda has been getting popular again, so I thought I'd do a little update on what the state of my hair care is now.

First, I do not do the vinegar/baking soda thing any more. I did mention in the post that I had trouble getting the right ratios, and I never was able to figure it out satisfactorily. My hair would be really lovely and soft for a while, and then steadily get drier and drier until I basically had a head full of straw. Not cute.

I switched to a pretty standard Garnier Fructis for a while, which also gave me drying problems. But then, back in January I got my bangs and a new color and committed myself to finding a shampoo/conditioner that would not make my hair sad. I was very very close to resigning myself to using Aveda products; both my long-time salon back in the 'burbs and the new salon I went to in the city are Aveda concept salons, and I really have always been happy with how my hair feels (and smells!) after treatments there. The problem, of course, is that these are "salon quality" products, so their full sized bottle of their basic shampoo is $35. I don't know about you, but I do not have that much room in my budget for my hair.

So I researched! I searched high and low, read dozens of testimonials, browsed online drugstores, until I finally found a product that sounded right for my hair. And so far, I'm still happy with it!

I use Yes to Cucumbers, the color-safe shampoo/conditioner in the Yes To...  product line. It's sulfate, paraben, petroleum and SLS free and smells like cucumbers! It actually makes me think of some cleansing mask my mom (I think?) once got for me when I was smelled strongly of cucumbers and was a clear goo that you rubbed on your face until it set and then you peeled it off like you were a lizard shedding skin. That is...not actually relevant to my enjoyment of this product, but there you go!

One of the biggest pluses of Yes to Cucumbers (besides the fact that it leaves my hair soft and healthy) is that you can buy it at Target! It's in the organic hair product section (I had to hunt for a while in my local store) and is regularly priced at $7.99 apiece for shampoo and conditioner. When I bought it, they were each a dollar off - even better! I'm thinking about trying out their new exfoliating scrub, Yes to Grapefruits - if I do, I'll let you know!

What's your hair care regimen? Are you one of those lucky souls who can grab a bottle of Suave and be good to go, or do you have picky diva hair like mine?

secret obsession: wigs

I just started a new job this week (yay!), so what better way to celebrate movement forward in my fancy career-oriented adult life than a post exploring one of my decidedly dorky and non-adult passions?

My secret obsession (which is not so secret anymore) wigs.

I love this wig. I bought it at LeakyCon last year to show my Slytherin pride (I told you this was a dorky passion) after many years of poring over wigs on Ebay and drooling over cosplayers with elaborate faux-hairdos. Last weekend, for lack of anything better to do, I put on a full face of makeup and my wig and took selfies in the bathroom. Obviously, I lead an exciting life, but for real - it was a ton of fun to play dress-up, even if I didn't have anywhere to go. (Also, this was the first time I'd done a full-face of liquid foundation since my spackled and raccoon-eyed days as a high school theater nerd with no idea how to apply makeup. Hopefully I've progressed since then.)

Part of the fun is the chance to be extreme without consequences. A couple people thought I'd really dyed my hair when I posted the pic on the right to Facebook, but this was the day before I started a shiny new business casual job - there's no way I could get away with green and silver hair, no matter how fabulous. But with a wig, I can pop it on and be that cool girl with the alternative hair for a while.

I'd always thought wigs weren't for me because, as I've mentioned before on this blog, I have a really big head. Woe is I. But this one from Arda Wigs fits great, no adjustment needed, even without a wig-cap. If I were actually going to wear it out (which I'm working up the courage to do), I probably would secure everything a little better, but for now I just pin back my bangs and put my hair into a ponytail and tuck it inside. They're super reasonably priced too, and it seems like good quality to me - I don't know enough about wigs to make a full review/rec, but I would definitely say Arda is a great place to get your first wig if you want to experiment a bit. They also have a bunch of tutorial videos to help you care for and style your wig (I haven't done anything crazy with mine, except for adding a few braids.)

The rule I've made for myself is that I can't buy another wig until I wear this one out in public OR if it's for a specific costume I'm working on. That said, I'm going to have to pluck up the courage soon, because I have my eye on a few more (you can see them on my aptly named I Want That board on Pinterest.)

Have you ever worn a wig (for a play maybe, or just for fun)? Am I the only one who yearns to have pink hair one day, blue the next, and long flowing locks on alternating Thursdays?

giveaway: zinio digital magazines

True confession: I'm a magazine hoarder. I used to keep every issue of every magazine I got in a box in my closet - and I got Entertainment Weekly for several years, so it was a LOT of magazines! When I moved out, I had to throw them all away. It was hard...I remained convinced that someday I would really need to find one of those articles again and what was I supposed to do now that I'd thrown the magazine out???

Of course, I never did go back to an article in all the years I kept those magazines in my closet, because (surprise) it's really hard to find a specific article in a slipper pile of paper (mostly bent too...I wasn't very nice to my magazine stash)! Luckily, we live in a beautiful modern age where all the content you could ever want is at your fingertips!

Zinio is the world's largest newsstand, providing digital issues of pretty much any magazine you can imagine. Seriously - I spent a while flipping through their categories and I saw pretty much every magazine I've heard of plus a ridiculous number than I never had! Everything from Smithsonian to Rolling Stone to Cosmopolitan to Taste of Home to Cigar Aficionado which I'd never heard of but apparently has Jeremy Irons on the cover this month (YUM).

And all these thousands of digital magazines? You can read them on your laptop, your iPad/iPhone, or your Android-powered device! I love the idea of flipping through Dwell on my tablet - we're all addicted to home/lifestyle blogs (or is that just me?) but I'll admit that I do miss real magazines. It always feels like a treat to sit down with one at the salon, and now I can have them with me without any of the guilt of recycling!

But what's really awesome about Zinio is that they're giving 9 readers a FREE subscription to the magazine of their choice! That's right - nine of you will get to choose from the thousands of titles Zinio offers to read on your computer/phone/tablet/wherever!

To enter:

1. Follow this blog (duh!)
2. Comment here and tell me which magazine you'd like to get for free! (This doesn't have to be your final choice, no pressure!)
3. Make sure you leave your e-mail so I can get in contact with you.

The giveaway will be open for a week; I'll accept entries through midnight CST on Saturday (3/30). Winners will be randomly selected.


Note: In order to receive your subscription, you'll need to provide me with your first and last name to pass on to Zinio. This will all be conducted privately through e-mail, and I'd never use the information to Facebook stalk you or anything weird like that!

I'm sure all this magazine talk has you raring to go, and winning a single subscription won't be enough to quench your thirst for content. Lucky for you, you magazine fiend, Zinio is running some awesome deals right now - but you have to move quick! Through the end of the month (3/31), get $5 back for every 10 you spend on a new subscription (don't you love when that happens?) and five of their titles are available for just $5. Personally, I'm eyeing up Midwest Living (that's where I live!) and Eating Well. They're also having a 2-for-1 deal on select titles: get a 2 year subscription for the price of one. If I already got Eating Well, maybe I could try Boating - I could get into boats! This deal is good through 4/2.

Basically, now I'm facing having a hard-drive filled up with magazines instead of a box in my closet...but these will be searchable and significantly more portable!

Disclaimer: This giveaway was sponsored by Zinio. I was compensated for this post with a subscription for myself.

how to: start a book club

When you reach a certain post-college age, it can be difficult to find people to befriend. No longer are you milling around a confined space with all people about your age. No more classes to introduce you to a new crop of people who share your interests every semester, no floating down the dorm hallways looking for open doors, no happening upon a drum circle out on the quad (or was that just my school?). Nope, you have to actually make an effort to find people you want to spend time with. There are lots of meet-ups and activities you can pursue to meet people who share your interests, like dance lessons and knitting circles and cooking classes, but my choice was one that any English major might make:  a book club!

A book club is easy, fun, and (best of all) can be entirely free if you want it to be! Here's what you need to do:

1. Find some friends! Book clubs work best with a mix of people, so encourage your friends to invite their friends along, and everybody will meet someone new!

2. Pick a book Your book club might have a theme or genre, like sci-fi or travel books or books by authors whose names start with "G." Or maybe you'll just read whatever sounds fun!

3. Pick a place and time to meet Rotating between members' apartments is always fun, as is meeting in a coffee shop. We've found that meeting at a book store with a cafe is optimal, because you can get your snacks and beverages and then investigate the shelves to find your next pick!

4. Read!

That's all there is to it! I've borrowed all the books our book club has read from either the library or a friend, so it's only cost me the occasional frappucino (mmm frappucino). We've read a wide variety of books: everything from young adult to nonfiction to modern literary novels. It's a lot of fun to try a new book every month (which seems to be the optimal schedule for our group...enough time for everyone to find and read the book without people feeling rushed or overwhelmed), particularly when it's one you might not have picked yourself.

For bonus points, set up rules. In our club, if you miss a meeting or don't finish a book, your "punishment" is getting skipped when it's your turn to pick a book. It's not much of a punishment since our club has settled into a core group of four, so you're never too far away from your next pick, but it's a nice incentive to make time for reading. In your group, the punishment might be buying the rest of the club cookies.

Our club is a pretty casual read + talk set-up, but it would be a lot of fun to expand the concept: you might have a book & food club where the host prepares a treat inspired by the book or a book & movie club where you watch the film adaptation after you read and discuss the book. The possibilities are endless - the point is hanging out with new friends, thinking and talking about books, and enjoying some new stories!

This month's book is The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, which I just finished last night (it's on the top of the stack in the photo above). We'll be meeting up to talk about it in two weeks, and I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks!

dream a little dream of spring

True story: the other day, I thought to myself, "Hey...isn't there a time where you can...just wear skirts and no jackets and not be cold? What is that?" Yup, I forgot what spring was. Anyone who lives in a northern clime can probably relate. So I thought I would look ahead, past the darkness of winter, and share a little bit of springtime.

retro spring

Ahh, can't you just feel that warm breeze? Spring is all about color, of course, but I'm not married to the traditional pastels. Why say "oh, hey, here's a little color" when you can say "WOW, here's a lot of color!"? (I take the same stance on chocolate, cookies, and episodes of the greatest sitcom ever, Frasier.) I was feeling a little retro feminine flair when I made this outfit: pair the bold, fun skirt with a sweet pretty top (love that bow!). Like the rest of the fashion world, I'm obsessed with these metallic toed flats and darling little leather satchels. The earrings call back to both the chevron and geometric trend without being overly trendy and top it off with a chunky bracelet in a contrasting color. Since it's springtime, you'll obviously need an adorable pair of sunglasses too. I would pair this outfit with a classic trench, just in case you end up in some spring showers. Man, I just want to put this on right now. Why is there still snow on my stoop?

I'm also excited for...

DIY! There's a great deck off the back of our apartment that I think will be perfect for any kind of outdoor projects, like spray painting. Secret confession: I have never spray painted anything. Not even once. What have I been doing with my life??? Every DIY blogger I follow has shown me how something s simple as a can of paint can transform a piece from bland to bold. I've had this project over here waiting on my Pinterest for 6 months. 6 whole months, and look what cute stuff I could be doing with a little lace and some paint? I'm definitely hoping (as I previously mentioned) to paint our new bookcase and after that, who knows! I'm still on the hunt for a dresser for my room; if I pick one up at the thrift store, it very well could end up getting a fresh coat of paint (there's a new Habitat Re/Store that just opened up the street AND a brand new Goodwill about to open, I'm going to be second-hand heaven!).

Speaking of the deck, I'm SO excited to finally make use of it! There are already some cafe lights strung through the railings, but there's so much more to be done. The deck might be half covered in snow now, but it could look like this:

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

Wow! Upholstered furniture may not be in our future, but I definitely want at least a cute cafe table and chairs. Sitting outside on the weekends, writing blog posts in the sun? Hanging out with the lights on at night, enjoying the breeze with my roommate? Sounds just about perfect.

I can't wait for spring.

things to do: brewcity bruisers

When I was in college, the movie Whip It came out. The local roller derby team sponsored a premiere with free posters and such, so I figured I would check it out. I loved the movie (female friendships! awesome music!), but more than that, I was super intrigued by the sport. I wished I was tough enough to be a roller girl (for reference, I somehow managed to scrape my hand on the couch yesterday. The couch!), but the fact remained that I still hadn't seen a live bout. Well, no longer! Last night I checked off one of my year goals: I attended a roller derby bout! And it was awesome!

Warm-ups! Everybody was already blurry and this was the slowest part of the night!
The Brewcity Bruisers are Milwaukee's rollergirls; the league is made up of four teams, so really, it's two bouts for the price of one. Last night, we saw Crazy 8s vs. Maiden Milwaukee and Rushin' Rollettes vs. Shevil Knevils. Each bout has two periods, so we got plenty of halftime shows too! Halftime for the first bout was a dance performance by the Beerleaders; during the second, there were Racing Beers ala Miller Park's Racing Sausages (if you aren't familiar,'s a quintessentially Milwaukee thing, kind of hard to explain. Basically people dressed as anthropomorphic sausages (or in this case, beer bottles) race one another in a humorous fashion). The main halftime between the two bouts featured a bout by the Micro Bruisers, the youth derby league. Man, I wish I was that awesome when I was 8-17 - maybe I would be tougher today if I'd been doing derby instead of whatever it was I was actually doing (reading, probably, or theater. Both worthy hobbies, but not lending to athletic prowess).

For an $18 at the door/$15 in advance (or with a promo - K and I got a discount for bringing nonperishable items for a food drive) ticket price, you get an awful lot of bang for your buck. There was a communist lime cheering on one team, beerleaders slingshotting t-shirts into the cheap seats, and rollergirls going flying into the crowd seated around the track (K and I decided to stay off the ground level in some real seats for our first outing). If you're not familiar with the rules of the sport, don't worry! The announcers give a lot of information in their play-by-plays, and it's really not hard to pick up on the basics. Even if you aren't sure what's going on, it's always exciting to watch!

K and I came home with the urge to make our way to the local roller rink to strap on some skates ourselves (for some much slower, hopefully less hip checking fun), and are definitely planning to hit the next bout on March 9th - if you're in the Milwaukee area, put it on your calendar now and prepare for some high-speed fun!

home improvement: writing nook

This weekend, I added another room to our apartment. It didn't take any construction permits (and trust me, you don't want to see me handling power tools) or even good ol' fashioned magic - just some simple rearranging! I even did it all by myself to surprise my lovely roomie when she came home from work. The cat mostly got in the way.
From the first time we saw our apartment, I was brainstorming how we could set up the slightly odd living room. The illustration below will show you what I mean! The previous tenants had their TV blocking the front nook with the couch against the back wall, leaving the entire nook empty and useless (I think they put a litter box back there? Whatever.)
Man, how long has it been since I did an MS Paint illustration of something? ...not long enough, you say?
Look at all that wasted space in question mark land! I wasn't about to let a perfectly good nook go to waste. My plan was to put the TV on the back wall and stagger the couch in the middle, leaving enough room to access the nook. I put my desk back there as a kind of console table. Which was cute, but not really functional. So the wheels in my head started turning around and around, like they do. I eyed up the desk. And I eyed up the wall. I'm not especially gifted in spatial reasoning, but I was Pretty Darn Sure that the desk would justtttt fit alongside the outside wall.
In a surprise boon, I got some free furniture from my mom's newlywed boss (mazel tov!), and the new bookcase I brought home was just the motivation necessary to do a little switcheroo. Switch switch it went, and suddenly, we had a writing nook/office where naught but "behind the couch" was before!

I have so many plans for this nook; there's a decorative craft project I'll hopefully be undertaking soon, and I'd love to brighten the space up with more art (Belle is lonely!). Once the weather gets warmer, I plan on repainting the bookcase, so I'll have to start pinning ideas for that! (Right now I'm sort of feeling ombre on the inside? Maybe a stencil? Anything goes!) Obviously we have to decide what sort of things we're going to keep on the shelf - leaning towards more decorative, since just out of sight there are three massive bookcases double-shelved with books with more books in the built-ins AND an entirely separate shelf K is keeping in her room. Maybe I can put some of my pretty coffee table books out (they were banished from the proper shelves for being non-regulation size).

Here's a close-up of the bookcase:

It's a cute pale blue in real life, but it has a few dings (probably from when SOMEONE was trying to haul it in and out of the back of a Nissan Versa...oops) so refinishing is on the list. Oh, and up on top is a peek at an easy and quick "project" - I framed a page from my alma mater's calendar. This one is of the old-fashioned mailboxes student receive their mail in. Old-timey, black and white, a secret personal connection, AND free? Sounds like a winner to me!

As always, pics are from Instagram. Follow me there to see it all in real time!

rec: challenge accepted

This is probably brand new shocking information for most of you, but I have a little bit of a procrastination problem. One only has to take a look at my history of blog posting (or dish-doing...) to realize the sad truth. I'm a procrastinator. I put stuff off, then I feel guilty for putting stuff off, and then I put stuff off more because I feel guilty about it and I don't want to face it, and et cetra et cetra the vicious cycle continues. I know a lot of folks have the same problem (especially internet folks - big ups to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, all of you beautiful timesucks), and I'm happy to say that I can recommend a website that's helped me a lot:

Challenge Accepted/ is awesome. The concept: earn EXP for completing tasks and level up, just like you would do in a role-playing game. It seems simple, but for me, at least, it really works! The points don't "mean" anything, but having a tangible reward (seeing the points add up and getting to a new level) is super motivating for me. Suddenly, cleaning the bathroom doesn't just get me a clean bathroom - it gets me points! Much like an arcade, where many hours and many quarters would net you enough tickets to receive some plastic trinket that you could probably buy for a single quarter, it's not really the prize that motivates you; it's the escalating success and the feeling of accomplishment.
The site is also super intuitive and easy to use. There are three nested categories: Tasks, Quests, and Odysseys. You can do a solitary task list or create a sweeping plan with multiple layers. Personally, I have a bit of a mix; I have a "Chores" Quest to which I'm constantly adding tasks. I also have a "House Snark" Odyssey with separate quests for each room/DIY projects/etc. so I can keep running track of things that I want to do. I have a quest for writing that rewards me every time I get another thousand words done (I also get points for making blog posts, which might explain the upturn...), one for fun so I can still reap the rewards of succeeding at recreational tasks like beating Super Mario for Wii, one for beauty/fashion since I get lazy and forget how much I like doing little things to stay fabulous (I got points for getting my bangs, and this week I get points for wearing makeup everyday). Basically, the possibilities are endless! You can categorize each task with a "skill" or "attribute" (most of mine fall under "Cleansing," "Adulting," "Wordsmithing," and "Drudgery") but it's optional. You also get to decide the level of difficulty of each task, and you'll be awarded points accordingly.
There are still a lot of exciting things coming down the pipeline; I follow the creators' Tumblr, and I'm pumped for a lot of the upcoming changes (especially an expanded social system). It's both interesting and cool to be getting into a site that's still so new; I was one of the first 600 people to sign up, I believe, and they've already blown past 1000 and are still growing. I highly recommend checking the site out; if you're a nerd who tends to put off everyday tasks but could grind for hours to get your character levelled up, it's practically mandatory.

Now if you excuse me, I need to go check off "write blog post"!


Once again, the cat was out of the bag on instagram before I came to announce it here...

I got bangs! Also had my hair colored, but really the bangs are the big news. I've never had bangs before in my whole entire life. But I've been wanting to do something different with my hair/look, and some thick blunt bangs were always something that I'd yearned for. Call me a hipster, but there's something about a fringe of hair just brushing the tops of chunky black frames that makes me say "brava!" (The color is more of a deep red in person, and it should lighten up in the next week or so.)

With bonus Historical Disney Belle print in the background
I love them! It's going to be a bit of an adjustment for me, since I need to blow dry them straight and I usually just let my hair air dry with...pretty much no input from me. It does what it wants! But I'm willing to give it a go for the sake of fashion. Also on the table is the products I use in my hair. I asked my stylist about my shampoo/conditioner woes and I got a wrinkled nose in response to the brand I'm currently using. Obviously, they'd like to promote their own products, but I do think it might be time to bite the bullet and buy something salon-quality. I have notoriously uncooperative hair, which somehow is always an inch away from being dried out AND an inch away from looking slimy and weighed down fresh out of the shower. I'm also interested in trying a product without sulfates and parabens. Right now, I think I'll probably stop by the salon and pick up travel-sized versions of the products the stylist recommended to try out - but I'd love any suggestions you guys might have (especially if your hair is a ridiculous prima donna like mine).

What do you use in your hair? What was your last big change-up?

boots boots boots

Let's get some shoes! As many of you know, I've been on a quest for boots. "But Jenny," my mom says when I tell her I need to go boot shopping, "didn't you just buy boots last year?" Yeah, mom - last year! But, really, my boots from last year are still kicking...the problem is that they're heeled boots, which are fine, fresh, AND fierce, but not really suited to long days of walking on the frozen tundra. I think that my mom may be a convert though; when we went shopping, she was the one who got the fanciest pair of boots! I must be rubbing off on her...

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a certificate for a pair of boots and, quelle suprise, my sister got the same thing! (In an entirely unrelated incident, Dad gifted Mom the "boots of her choice" as well! It was a Very Merry Bootmas in the Zowie household.) So off we ladies set for DSW, my current favorite source for all things footwear related.

There was much trying on, not a little angsting about beauties that didn't come in my size, and even some unrealistic lusting over a pair of bright red boots (I still love them! You can't change me!) But in the end, we all ended up with what we needed. My boot shopping requirements were pretty simple - they couldn't be brown, since my other boots are brown; they needed to be easy to get on and off (zippers were a big plus); and, of course, they had to be mader for walkin'.

I already shared shots of the beauties who came home with me on Instagram, but here they are:

Why yes, I do now own a pair of shiny silver boots. Thank you for asking! I love both of my new pairs of boots, and I especially love the fact that, along with a well-timed sale and the DSW Rewards certificates I had squirreled away, I got both pairs under the limits of my Christmas gift! Merry Bootmas to me!

Because it's been a long (looong) time since I made Polyvore sets, I thought I would whip up some outfit options for my boots.

preview booties

For my silver babies, I went with a day look which is actually pretty similar to how I actually wore them. They look great with slim fit colored pants, either for tucking in or going over the top. I totally fell in love with this owl sweater, and thought the neutral tones went really well with colored pants and a scarf. The bag was just too cute, and the whole quirky casual ensemble is topped off with some funky earrings.

fido bootie

I've always loved mixing hard and soft. My family will tell you that the Christmas I got my first pair of combat boots, I wore them to Christmas dinner with a red velvet dress. TRUE STORY. So, to pay homage to one of my first adventurous ensembles, I paired my new combat booties with a slightly more sophisticated red dress. A pair of patterned tights adds some interest and another element of soft, along with some pretty sparkly earrings and bracelet. For a last touch of "hard," I couldn't resist this brass knuckles-inspired spiked clutch. Fierce (literally)!


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