Fashion Post: Goodbye Ill-Fitting Clothes

It’s been awhile since I wrote about my slow progress in making my wardrobe smaller but better fitting. Since May, I hadn’t bought all that much, and I was fine with that. I got rid of a few things here and there, but wasn’t replenishing my closet. I’m pretty sure the green blouse below was the only thing I bought in June, July, or August.

splendid-salon-z-green-jersey-colorblock-blouse-product-1-5101167-836148565_large_flex

This month, though, I found myself saying “wait, why am I wearing this stuff?” more than once, so it was time for a little update.

First up: my raincoat. It was nice when I bought it…for $20, at Target, six years ago. It served it’s purpose, but it had lost it’s lustre (originally a nice dark navy, it was now just a washed out blue), and I wanted something that had a few more buttons higher up. The coat I had didn’t button until about six inches below my neck, which sort of defeated the purpose of bundling up to protect against the rain.

So this beauty from Kenneth Cole is on the way (well, the one I bought is a bit darker but I can’t find a photo of it). And thanks to HauteLook, I got it for $60 total, including shipping. I’ll take it! The new one hasn’t even gotten here yet, but the old one is already in the trash. I’m determined to continue the one-in-one-out policy for the forseeable future.

kennethcole_trench

And then yesterday my little spending splurge continued…I still had a $50 Visa giftcard from Christmas, so I decided not to count the first $50 I spent after work towards my budget. I stopped by Victoria’s Secret for some new bras (yeah, seriously, one of my “why am I wearing this ill-fitting garment” moments revolved around a bra). And thennn I went to Uniqlo and bought a nice black tee for work and two pairs of skinny jeans. Promptly returned home and discarded old bras, old tee, and two pairs of Old Navy jeans.

So in one month I got rid of six ill-fitting things and replaced them with much better quality items. I went over budget a little bit, but since I hadn’t spent any money on clothes last month I was able to justify the whopping $5.00 over that I ended up being. In a fit of “must get rid of all the things!” I also grabbed three H&M summer dresses that I didn’t wear at all this summer, and one pair of Banana Republic cords that I bought on a whim last year even though they were two sizes too big. Those guys are all in a bag ready to be donated.

No more whims, no more “well, it’s on clearance!” justifications. I’m getting there.

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Scrapbooking Vacations with Project Life

(Hiatus temporarily lifted because I’m so excited).

I’m committing to Project Life. There, I said it. But it’s not what you think! It’s a scrapbooking technique (come on, you know that complaining about the NHL is about as controversial as I get).

Becky Higgins’ Project Life is a really smart and efficient (yet visually appealing) way to document your life in photos. Many people use it to document the everyday, and make one layout of photos per week, or five per month, etc. With journaling cards, binder pages with differently sized photo inserts, and divider pages, it’s a nice hybrid between a photo album and a scrapbook.

I follow a few scrapbooking/design blogs (namely Paislee Press), so I had heard about Project Life awhile back. At the time, I swept it under the rug. It didn’t apply to me. I didn’t take pictures that regularly, and it wasn’t like I had kids that were a constant source of adorable photo ops. So I looked over the website, thought it was a nice idea, and moved on.

Now, the lovely scrapbook that D gave me for Christmas 2011 is still sitting empty. It’s gorgeous, it has a rich leather cover and is its own box, perfect for archival materials. I’m generally a scrapbook perfectionist, and this one was just too good to mess up. I was anxious. I wanted to break it open and work on it, but I didn’t know where to start. I knew I wanted to focus on trips that we’ve taken together, but I didn’t want to start going through pictures and trying to decide what to print. As someone who has gotten used to working in digital, going back to paper scrapbooking was going to be a transition.

But then, aforementioned Paislee Press designed a PL kit. Cue the angels singing.

So, Project Life entered the picture again, this time as a viable option. I’m cheating, of course. I’m using the PL products not to document everyday living, or one particular year, or one momentous occasion. Instead, I’m using it to document the travels that D and I have taken, and those that we have yet to take. The more I thought about it, the more perfect it was. Project Life has custom binder pages, and some of them are just large envelopes, great for adding brochures, ticket stubs, etc. And because I’m meticulous, I thought that if I laid everything out exactly beforehand, I would know which pictures I wanted to print (and more importantly, in what size) to get the most real estate out of the photo paper.

The kit was made available on Amazon today, so after months of waiting anxiously, I put it in my cart and it will be on its way soon! Now its time to meticulously create my digital versions and get photos sent to the printer. The scrapbook itself won’t even be halfway filled, meaning there is plenty of space for future exciting trips…like our upcoming trip to Montreal!

 

On Missing Academia, and Finding a MOOC

This time last year, I had just started some summer courses. After frantically trying to figure out if I could finish my graduate program in the summer instead of returning in the fall (and realizing that I could), I had found some online classes to finish my elective requirements. Applying as a non-degree student was easy, but issues with getting my transcript to my home institution and barely turning my paperwork in one day before the deadline was a bit more difficult. It was a stressful couple of months, but when it was over, reality set in: I was done with graduate school! I was done going to class after a full day of work, I was done waking up early to get to the library to write papers on a Saturday morning, I was done dealing with the world’s worst elevators every week.

One year out though? I miss it. A lot.

I only took one year off between undergraduate and graduate school (and to be truthful, I only waited a full year because after a year of full-time employment at the college I work for, they help you pay for graduate school). Being surrounded by college students is a constant reminder that I can’t count myself among them. They complain about finals and papers (and yes, I did that too), but I find myself wishing I had those things on my to-do list again.

And so I signed up for another online class, for a MOOC. Assuming that not everyone that reads my blog stays up-to-date on the latest happenings in higher education, a MOOC is a “massive open online course”. It’s not quite a traditional seminar class, or even a traditional lecture course in a large theater. Instead, websites like edX house courses that are a mixture of readings, videos and quizzes. They offer courses from professors at prestigious institutions like Georgetown, MIT and Rice, and the content is available over the course of several weeks, so you can complete it at your leisure. If you finish the course and pass the exams, you get a certificate of completion.

edX logo, via edX

logo via edX

Do they count for anything? In most colleges, not just yet. Should they? Well, that’s a big, ongoing debate in higher education circles. For some (like me), they are a great way to stay fresh and learn new things. From a professional standpoint, taking one of these courses is a good way to get first-hand experience so I can actively engage in the “MOOC debate”.

So, I signed up for “Ethical Reasoning 22x: Justice” by HarvardX. Let’s see how it goes. If I like it, great, I’ll get a shiny participation certificate to download. If not, it was free, no harm no foul.

If you’re interested, check it out! Classes do close (once the “semester” ends, registration closes), and new ones open frequently. Some of the current offerings through edX are things like “Human Health and Global Environmental Change” and “The Ancient Greek Hero”. The ones coming down the pike sound intriguing also, like Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science:

Top chefs and Harvard researchers explore how everyday cooking and haute cuisine can illuminate basic principles in physics and engineering, and vice versa.

Let’s not kid ourselves, I already signed up for that one. Have you ever considered taking a MOOC? How else do you satisfy your need to be a lifelong learner? (Besides reading voraciously, I already do that.)

Fashion Post: Loving and Letting Go

So, this year I’ve reduced my monthly budget for clothes. I wasn’t spending the full $150/month anyway, and with an increase in rent and utilities (I didn’t realize how nice it was to split bills with three other people!), fashion was the first thing to scale back on. To sequester? Too soon?

I’ve been really good at tracking my purchased and buying a mix of things I need, and things I want. Using Jessica’s trusty list of closet staples, I have been meticulous with the voice in my head saying “do you need that?”. I had to buy a dress for a friend’s wedding, but I made sure I could also wear it to work and out to brunch without looking overdone. I got rid of my trusty black pencil skirt in the move because it had to go, but I just bought a new one from J. Crew on a great discount. For almost two years I’ve been saying that I need to go about fashion this way, but until the last few months, I hadn’t really been doing that.

My closet could use another purge, I think. And unfortunately, the dress I wore yesterday is most likely going to be one of those casualties. I hate getting rid of clothes that I love. It’s easy to get rid of jeans that have a hole in them, or sweaters that have gotten so pilled that I shouldn’t leave the house in them. However, it’s those middle-of-the-road clothes that are harder: sure, they’re a little stretched or faded but they still work! They’re so comfy! I still love them!

No. I need to start letting go. And I need to start with this dress.

I can’t find a picture of myself wearing it, so I’ll have to describe it instead. I bought it at a street fair four years ago (like, four years ago this weekend, I went to the same street fair again on Sunday). It’s black with some white stitched flowers, knee-length, with some eyelet lacing. Guys, eyelet detailing is back in now! I should totally keep it! But when I was sitting on the subway yesterday morning I noticed that the lace is still a nice black, but the rest of the dress has faded to the point where it almost looks like navy blue. In my apartment lighting I couldn’t tell, but on the train and at work it was noticeable. And it looked weird.

I love this dress, but it isn’t of the highest quality and it’s not like I can refurb it to make the dress a nice, new looking black anymore. So it has to go.

…that being said, when I got home it somehow managed not to end up in the garbage.

Someone give me advice on how to be ruthless letting other things go. Because at some point I’ll probably have to tackle my bookshelves too, and I’d rather not do that whilst sobbing over every volume I deem “free market” worthy.

Embracing My Space

Not MySpace. That ship has sailed.

The beau and I managed to find an apartment, thank goodness! After some stressful evenings of back-to-back viewings, a “sorry, we chose someone else” rejection, and some evenings full of opening Photoshop and making sure our furniture fit into spaces we’d measured, we are set. Done and done. Same borough, same subway stop, same commute, which is almost more than I could have hoped for.

There are good things and bad things, of course (I can’t imagine any apartment in NYC in my price range not having any cons), but overall I’m pretty pleased.

Pros: 

  • Two common areas. One is smaller and right in the hallway, but it’s a great size for our bookshelves and one of my dressers.
  • Two bedrooms. One is smaller (seeing a theme here?) but since we only need one bedroom (living in sin!), the other one will be a dining room. Yes, I’m going to have a dining room and it’s going to be glorious.
  • The bathroom is a pretty good size, and you don’t have to walk through any bedrooms to get to it.
  • See above re: commute and proximity to all of the fun places I am in close proximity to now.

Cons:

  • The kitchen is small. Like, apartment-fridge and apartment-oven small. There is enough space to put a kitchen cart for some counter space without looking too conspicuous so it isn’t so bad. But as someone that does enjoy cooking, its going to be an adjustment.
  • The living room only has one window, and it’s shoved in a corner. Not a ton of natural light in the room I plan on spending most of my time in, but at least it’s got window.
  • The main bedroom has no closet, so we’re going to get creative with a tension rod and some curtain panels. The second bedroom (dining room) does have a closet so it will give us enough space for both of our hanging clothes, plus some extra storage.

So, there it is. I’m pretty pumped. I’ve been spending more time than I care to admit looking at Apartment Therapy, various organizing blogs and (of course) Pinterest to get some ideas for how to make the space our own. I have been so lucky to have wonderful roommates the past (almost) four years since moving to Brooklyn, but living with so many people didn’t leave much room for me to take pride and own my common spaces. That’s surely a defect of mine, everyone else seemed to be fine, but still. I’m excited to be able to have full control (with the beau, naturally) in all creative decisions.

Most importantly, our couch will match the chair I have in my reading corner right now. It’s amazing what something simple like matching seating will do for one’s self-esteem about a room. I know it’s going to take time to pull it all together, and I know I will be frustrated when it isn’t to my exact liking right away, but I’ll have to deal. I have big plans, I need the time, money and patience to make it happen.

I can’t wait to share it!