Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Moving day tomorrow!

I've spent the past several evenings packing up my apartment in anticipation of my move tomorrow. The truck is reserved, the cupboards are cleaned out, my books are in boxes; the only things left to be packed are my TV (my sole source of entertainment, since my internet was shut down on Sunday), my clothes, and my toiletries.
While three years might not sound like a long time to some people, it's the longest that I've spent in one place since I moved to Chicago. Up until then, I'd moved, on average, once every nine months for five years. It's hard to feel like you have any stability when you're hopping from one place to another like that. It really wasn't until I'd been living in my current place, soon to be my old place, that I started to feel like Chicago was actually home.
There are good memories and bad ones associated with it, like there would be with any place you call home for a few years. In the time that I lived there, my father and stepmother both passed away, as did my dog. I lost my job a couple of years ago and was panic stricken about it, and cleaned compulsively to try to distract myself from how scared I was that I wasn't going to make it.
It's also where I was when I found out that I got my current job. I had my first kiss with the love of my life sitting on my porch. I've cooked countless meals in the kitchen, napped on the couch in the living room and been woken by the bells ringing the hours in the church across the street. I can't say that the past few years have been the happiest of my life, but they've definitely been some of the most formative.
And you know what's weird? I'm going to really miss the fence in the back yard. It's such a great place to take outfit photos.
But I am really excited for a fresh start in a new place. I'm going to be living with my boyfriend, which is an exciting change. We'll still have a roommate, at least for now, but that's not such a bad thing. I've made a lot of changes in my life recently, and I think having a new apartment might help solidify some of them for me. 
We'll see how the move goes tomorrow, and how well I like the place once I've settled in. It's hard to know how a place is going to feel until you get everything in. Then you realize that your clothes don't fit in the closet, but the bathroom is so perfect, and you might need to get some new furniture for the living room. For now, I'm feeling optimistic.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Five Links to Love

1. January Jones, you are a secret DGAF hero Betty Draper does not care what you think of her, and I love that. 
2. Women wear too much makeup because they mistakenly think men like it My kneejerk reaction was that maybe women aren't wearing makeup, too much or otherwise, for other people, but for themselves. And then I actually read it. You should too!
3. Types of curl All the different kind of curls that you can make with various irons. This could be really helpful if, like me, you like reading beauty and hair tutorials, but don't always know what they're talking about.
4. Bill O'Reilly blames Beyonce for everything Bill, Bill, Bill. You are such a confused guy. I get that you're worried about teenagers having sex, but they're not having sex just because Beyonce (who is, in fact, married, and quite famously so) said that sex is fun. Trust me, they've been doing that for a long, long time. The important thing to do, and the thing that actually works, is to educate them about how to keep themselves safe, healthy, and happy while they're doing it.

5. FIG I'm moving on Thursday, and I am so excited to decorate a new house. Ok, so I can't have the gorgeous hardwood floors that this place does, but the clean, open spaces, white and navy color scheme, and dark wood accents are dreamy, but still doable.

Monday, April 28, 2014

We really need to stop calling so many people racists

When was the last time you had a productive conversation with someone that you called a racist, or a misogynist, or an -ist of any kind?
I'm not saying there aren't misogynists and racists and other bigoted people out there, or that we shouldn't call them out on it. You can't force people to change their minds, though - you can only open their eyes to what's going on in front of them. That requires civility and openness and a willingness to have a real dialog, and you don't get that when the first thing that comes out of your mouth is "you are such a racist!"
It's funny, but Avril Lavigne is kind of what got me thinking about this whole thing. She's got a new video out, and it's bad. The song is terrible in a bland, soulless, but still sort of earworm-y kind of way, and the video is her bouncing around in a pink wonderland like a spazzy eight year old hopped up on candy, blank-faced Japanese women dancing behind her.
avril lavigne, hello kitty, cultural appropriation, japan
While it might offend my ears, it doesn't really offend my sense of cultural sensitivity. I think it takes a serious love and understanding of Japanese culture to make a J-pop video, and that's basically what she's done. Would it have been preferable if, for example, her backup dancers has looked like they were having a little bit of fun? For sure. You really shouldn't use people as props, and I understand the criticism that Asians seem to be perpetually regarded as someone's sidekick. But is it racist? Not really.
I think that we need to have another word for things like that. When you think about the history of racism and racial subjugation, you think of things like mass murder, enslavement, and widespread oppression of the native culture. That's racist! That's really, awfully, totally, terribly fucking racist. And obviously there are still racist things going on today. The suppression of the black and minority vote. The ongoing issue of white flight that is dragging down city schools across the country. The way the penal system is rigged against black men. That's also racism at work, and it's something that we, as a country, still have to do a lot of work to address.
Avril Lavigne bopping around talking about Hello Kitty is something else entirely.
I get the desire to use the strongest possible terms to call out racial insensitivity, but I don't think it's productive. If we call Avril Lavigne racist, it minimizes what that term means when we need to apply to the really significant forms of racism, like the ones that I mentioned. 
It's so hard to define the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation. For me, cultural appropriation tends to be rooted in ignorance, someone seeing something and going "ooh, pretty!" and taking it for themselves, with no regard for what it means in the context of the culture. The bindi craze back in the 90s is a great example of this. Teenage girls everywhere were gluing them to their foreheads because Gwen Stefani did it, with no knowledge of or interest in what it meant to Indian women. War bonnets in fashion shows are the same kind of thing. But what about wearing a kimono, doing yoga, or wearing dreadlocks?
We definitely need to have a dialog about that kind of thing, and I think it's fair to tell the person that they're being culturally insensitive, and why. However, they're unlikely to take on the message if they feel attacked, and isn't the point of all this to help people realize what needs to be done to make the world a better place?
I am as guilty of overstating my case as anyone. I've realized recently, though, that I still value the goodwill of people that I might disagree with about some things. There are people out there that I might consider lost causes, or even enemies, but there are also people with whom I diverge politically, but still love and respect. In those cases, conversations can get very heated, but we still manage to stay civil with each other.
It would be a little Pollyanna-ish of me to say that if you're nice to everyone, eventually they will come around. Nope. Never in a million years. But it's important to maintain a degree of respect and civility in our discourse if we ever intend to accomplish anything, and we can start by not throwing around the word "racist" quite so often.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

My Week in Geekery: Pulp Appreciation

I've always had an affection for pulp, schlock, and camp, and I realized recently that I've been consuming a lot of it. I read the John Carter of Mars books a few years back when I was working overnights at a hotel, and I recently discovered that one of my favorite authors, Stephen Lynch, has a web serial that's inspired by it called Queen of the Iron Sands. It's a really fun read, a great take on pulp sci-fi with a female hero and a sense of meta irony. I've been working my way through it whenever I have some spare computer time for the past few weeks, and I've got that sense of panting anticipation that I know people must have had for the newspaper serials of the last century.
Right now, I'm also reading Stephen Hunt's Secret of the Fire Sea, the fourth novel of his Jackelian series. It is, in a word, delightful. I've enjoyed his previous novels from this series immensely; he's part of what I would consider the New Weird, and he effortlessly blends disparate genres into something that is at once familiar and strange. In any given book, he's got everything from Dickensian orphans to Cthulu-like gods to Aztec-inspired human sacrifice to a fallen Atlantean civilization. He is very derivative, but what he does with established tropes is inspired and playful.
Freshly arrived from my Netflix queue (yeah, I'm one of those people that still has a DVD subscription) is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It was not popular when it came out in 2004, but under recommendation I decided to give it a shot. I haven't watched it yet, but I have high hopes for a movie in which giant flying robots attack New York City.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hats make you look cool. Seriously.

I know a lot of people who say that they aren't "hat people." Hell, I used to be one of them. Hats have definitely lost a lot of their cachet in the past few decades, moving from an element of style that was all but legally required to be a part of polite society to something that is only worn by the uniquely stylish or the uniquely douchey.
Well, good news, everybody - you too can be uniquely stylish! Or at least make other people think that you are.
My journey into hattedness started pretty recently, when Brian gave me a 1960s black pillbox hat for Christmas to go with a baby blue swing coat from the same era (any guy who buys you accessories is a keeper). It was a serious lid, and though I loved it, I had some concerns. It looked good on me, but how the hell was I going to keep it on my head? And what if people laughed at me?
Well, no one did that. In fact, people were stopping me on the street to tell me how much they loved my hat. And keeping it on is actually really simple - hat pins. I'll go into more detail below.
A well chosen hat has a way of elevating an outfit. I'm not talking your standard baseball cap or fedora - there are hundreds of unique styles out there, and chances are if you spend a little time trying them on, you will find one that works for you. They don't have to be expensive either. I've accumulated quite a few hats now, and I haven't paid more than $50 for any of them.
hat collage
Clockwise from top left: Beaded hat, $18; yellow hat, $16; sweater that I tied around my head after dying my hair, free; straw hat, $12 
I tried to come up with some tips for finding the right hat, but honestly, it just comes down to one thing - spend some time playing around with them. You honestly never know what will look good on you until you put it on your head. I once tried on a hat that consisted of straps of felt, a ball of fur, and a veil. On the table, it was pure WTF-ery; on my head, it was fabulous. I passed it by, only to be sad when I came back to find someone else had bought it.
So, hat pins.
Hat pins are great, but you do have to be kind of careful with them. Stabbing yourself in the head isn't fun. What you want to do is put them through the hat and underneath a section of your hair, which is what anchors it to your head. It is helpful to take the style of hat into consideration when you're doing your hair - the taller the hat, the more volume you'll want. If you're not teasing or curling your hair, figure out where you want to put the hat pin and put a couple of criss-crossed bobby pins in your hair there. Thread the hat pin underneath that, and it'll hold it on place nicely.
I only have a couple of hat pins, but I'd like to acquire more in the future. When not in use holding your hat in place, they make excellent little brooches as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

I'm officially a freelance writer

I submitted an article a while back to I love the website and have been known to spend entire afternoons reading page after page, especially the It Happened To Me section. Well, It Happened To Me: I got an article published on xoJane.
It Happened To Me: I quite polyamory because I fell in love with a man
I'm so excited!

Monday, April 21, 2014

A mid-century modern Easter birthday

Easter was yesterday, and so was my birthday. I remember the last time my birthday fell on Easter - I was turning 15 and I was so pissed about the whole thing. I wasn't a party having kind of girl, but I at least wanted my own cake. Instead someone just stuck a candle in the bunny shaped cake we made every year for Easter and called it a day.
My birthday got a bit swallowed again this year, but in a way it was kind of nice. I just turned 27, and non-milestone birthdays just aren't as big of a deal to me as they were even a few years ago. Friday night my boyfriend took me out for dinner and drinks at CH Distillery, where our new roommate works. The food and the cocktails were amazing, and I think I'm going to be spending plenty of time there in the future.
gleaming silver stills
Just look at those big, beautiful stills. 

Saturday I did have a party with some of my closest friends. It was actually kind of a joint endeavor - my boyfriend's roommate was having her birthday party that night as well, so I just kind of rode her coattails. It worked out nicely, since we could be part of the bigger, crazier party if we wanted to, or retreat to Brian's room to just hang out and talk if we wanted to be able to hear each other. Things that I enjoyed included:
1. A Narwal Head
A woman in black with a narwal head mask points
A man wearing a narwal head mask spears a blonde woman in a plaid skirt with a turquoise bolero
A woman in a turquoise bolera and plaid skirt does a Rosie the Riveter pose while wearing a narwal head mask
I do love this skirt from Trashy Diva, which I've mentioned previously. The bolero is a find from Vintage Underground that, according to the label, was made with love by someone named Phylis. 

2. The fact that my friends all have random things in common
two young women with brown, pixie cut hair lie on a bed and look at a book together
One of my friends saw a copy of The Adventures of Asterix that Brian was reading to brush up on his French, and immediately had to plop down and look through it.  She's a polyglot, and French is one of her languages.
a white man in a black hat and jacket and an indian man holding a copy of the graphic novel the deadwardians look into the camera and smile
Another friend was impressed with Brian's collection of graphic novels. He ended up lending him a copy of The Deadwardians, where the vampire elite fight zombie plebs in Edwardian England.

3. Acro-yoga!
a young woman in a yellow shirt lies on the ground holding up a young indian man using her legs
"I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky..."

Sunday was Easter, and I ended up going to two brunch/lunch events. I didn't do a great job at pacing myself, so I ended up almost painfully overstuffed by the end of the day, but sometimes the food is just too good to resist. I made 3 cheese baked eggs for both events, the recipe for which I'll post at a later date.

I wanted to look as much like an Easter egg as possible. Mission accomplished. I love this lilac gingham dress, and paired with a yellow cashmere cardigan and matching pillbox hat, I felt like a walking, talking Peep.
The was, finally, really nice out. Brian and I spent a significant amount of time out of his aunt's deck.
Brian's family is delightfully retro, and that manifests itself in interesting ways. One of them is this jello dish - lime jello with crushed pineapple, cream cheese, and green olives. Strange as it sounds, it was really enjoyable.
This highly doubtful expression is from before I tried it. I promise.
They were even kind enough to get me a cake! It even matched my dress, though no coordination occurred.

Overall, I had a lovely weekend and a wonderful birthday. I'm so glad that I got to spend time with my favorite people, eating, drinking, dancing, and having fun. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

How to dress vintage for not that much money

In my last post I talked about how I don't like to pay a lot of money for clothes, and I mentioned that I put a lot of time into looking for good deals. I do want to share a few pointers that might be helpful for finding your own deals, and let you know about some of my favorite, reasonably priced stores.

1. You know how a lot of online stores have email lists you can subscribe to? Yeah, you should do that. Gmail now has a feature where it separates you emails into different types. When I'm in the mood to buy something, I'll scroll through my promotions folder and see if any of the stores that I like are offering special discounts. I regularly get coupon codes for 10, 15, or 20% off. Sometimes, when you subscribe, they'll ask for your birthday. It benefits them because they collect information about what demographic shops with them, and it benefits you because the ones that ask for it usually send you a birthday coupon.
2. Another way to learn about special offers and flash sales is to follow stores you like on social media. Some stores will use them for exclusive offers and discounts that they don't offer anywhere else.
3. Get familiar with sale cycles. Spring and summer clothing comes into stores around February, so that's when winter gear will be the cheapest; cold weather clothing comes in around September, so that's when you'll want to buy summer clothes.
3a. Of course, the corollary with that is to not buy anything too trendy. You may not be wearing it for a while, and you don't want people to literally look at you and think, "man, that's so last summer."
(If you only ever buy vintage clothing, the previous two tips maybe aren't as useful. However, I supplement my wardrobe pretty heavily with items from stores like Topshop, Zara, and Asos; they, and a lot of the other trend driven stores, frequently have items that have a vintage or retro feel to them, and it's well worth it to check them out. I particularly recommend checking out Their sale section is larger than their selection of full priced merchandise, they offer a lot of different styles at a lot of different price points, and they have free shipping with no minimum purchase.)
4. If there's a vintage store in your area, try to get in there regularly. My store in Chicago is Vintage Underground, and as I've mentioned before, I'm there often enough that they'll give me a little bit of a deal on things. Second-hand and vintage stores often have some leeway to negotiate, especially if you're a familiar face that they know they're going to see again. I might only spend $20 when I'm in there, but I'm a loyal enough shopper that it adds up.

I spend way too much time on Etsy, but my lost afternoons are your gain. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite shops.
1. Voyeur Vintage
Voyeur Vintage is a smaller store, but they have a great selection of apparel and accessories from the 50s and 60s. Clear photos and accurate measurements (a must if you're shopping for vintage online) make shopping her store easy.

Turquoise Plaid Skirt - $38
2. Bloomers and Frocks
Bloomers and Frocks has a wide range of clothing, accessories, and shoes, and she sorts her store by size, a feature that I always appreciate.

Red Chiffon Shirtdress - $58
3. My Vintage Hat Shop
My Vintage Hat Shop is, well, my vintage hat shop. They have a large selection of unique vintage hats sorted by era, and if you like them on Facebook, she regularly offers discounts.

Off White Straw Hat with Veil - $37
4. Vacation Vintage
Vacation Vintage is another smaller store, but I love their selection of dresses. They feature everything from the 40s through the 80s, but there's a curated feel to their collection that I like. Definitely follow them on social media for discounts.

50s Dusty Rose Party Dress - $82
5. Very Vintage Store
Very Vintage Store is a lovely store with highly curated merchandise. She seems to offer flash sales on a somewhat regular basis. The merchandise that I've ordered from the store has arrived promptly and in great shape.

Mediterranean Blue Maxi Dress - $61

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Quantity vs. Quality

Whenever I read articles in magazines about "streamlining your wardrobe" or "the investment pieces every woman should own," they regularly recommend buying fewer, more expensive items. The term investment piece kind of says it all, right? It's an investment, something that will somehow pay dividends in the future.
The thing is, I hate spending a lot of money on one item. Sure, that item might be amazing, but for the cost of, say, a Marc by Marc Jacobs handbag, I can have two vintage dresses, a pair of shoes, a new lipstick, a cute headband, get a haircut, go out to a nice dinner, and do a couple of other things as well. I can't help but feel like I'll get more satisfaction over having a lot of shiny new things to play with than just one.
I think I have a good eye for quality, and since I take good care of my clothes even cheap things tend to last. I did once tell someone that my superpower is finding the most expensive looking item in forever21, and that's actually pretty true. I'm willing to put a lot of time and effort into combing the internet and my local stores for the best deals.

This 1960s shift dress was only $16 at Vintage Underground, my local vintage store of choice. 
The problem with that is that sometimes I end up compromising. When I'm shopping I usually have a pretty specific idea about what I want - a below the knee white skirt full enough to fit a petticoat, or a plain baby blue dress with short sleeves or no sleeves. And sometimes I find precisely what I want, but if it's more than what I want to spend, I'll end up with something that fits my price, but not my vision. Maybe that white skirt ends up being pink, or the dress is printed with long sleeves. Often enough, I'll still absolutely love what I've bought, but then all of the ideas that I had about what to do with the piece have to be reworked. I might even end up buying more new stuff to go with the item that I just bought.
It's a habit that I recognized years ago, and I really have tried to break it. I've told myself time and again that if I can't have the right thing, I shouldn't buy anything. My habits mean that sometimes my wardrobe wanders off on tangents. "Well, I bought this, and it wasn't quite what I was looking for but it was still really cute, so then I bought this to go with it, but then that was the only thing that I had to wear it with and it's so cute itself, so then I bought these..."
What makes it difficult to break the habit is that the only downside is that I always feel like I need to buy more things, and that's not really a downside because I like buying things.
I have a pretty nice wardrobe. I've definitely fallen in love with pieces and spent more than I should have, but who hasn't done that once in a while? That said, as a rule, I don't pay more than $100 for a dress or $60 for a skirt. The vintage market is kind of overpriced right now since there are more people out there competing for fewer items every year, but there is still great stuff for the taking if you put some time into it.

The skirt is the bottom of a beautiful 1940s suit that I got for $50, while the top was on sale for $10 in the men's department of Urban Outfitters.
While I definitely believe that there are pieces worth dropping extra money on, I just don't know if I'm the person to do it. I like having a large wardrobe with a lot of different options to suit whatever mood I'm in that day. And frankly, I think that's fine. I know that there's been a lot of pushback lately over fast fashion and a movement to get rid of extraneous items in your wardrobe, but I don't feel any guilt over buying the things that I love. Other people can choose quality over quantity, but I'm a pretty firm believer in the philosophy that more really is more.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Go ahead, call me a cupcake feminist

Have you ever heard the term "cupcake feminism" before? I hadn't until a couple of days ago. I googled something like "feminism and vintage fashion" (full disclosure, I just wanted to see if my blog was on the first 10 pages, which it wasn't. I really have to step up my SEO game), and an article called Half Baked: The Trouble With Cupcake Feminism came up.
It was a really interesting read, actually. I am pretty clearly the type of woman that she's describing. I like twee dresses and baking and buying shit off of Etsy. I loved one of the phrases that she used to describe the aesthetic - "Rouged, lipsticked, cinched at the waist, she performs big-F Femininity as the drag–show that it is." What I didn't love was where she went with the idea; that the women who fall under this umbrella are playing into the hands of "the enemy."

One of the primary tools of patriarchy is to divide women into the good and the bad. I find it highly problemtic for feminists to do the same based purely on an aesthetic. The author, Meryl Trussler, does make it clear that she doesn't think that anyone is "letting down" feminism, but the implication is still there that "cupcake feminists" are somehow in opposition to the "hairy dykes" that people apparently traditionally think of as the face of feminism. Cupcake feminism is feminism that's been rebranded to make it more palateable for the masses, packaged up with a pretty bow so that people can point to someone and say, "look, not all feminists are ugly and never get laid!"
It's hard for me to fully articulate what I disagree with here, but I want to give it a go. It's kind of a call back to the last post that I made about feminism and femininity - I don't like it when other people put their own preconcieved notions on me. I perform my femininity in a way that makes me happy, in a way that I find both subversive and aesthetically pleasing. If someone wants to appropriate that, to point to me and others like me to say that we're a better brand of feminists because we're more overtly sexy, or because we like traditionally feminine pursuits, that's on them, not me. I won't take responsibility for the assumptions that other people make about me, although I will make a point to contradict them if I disagree. The way that I look doesn't make me better or worse than anyone else, or vice versa.

If anything, I'm a brownie feminist.
Another blogger who responded to the original article talked more explicitly about the implications of DIY and crafting culture, and how that's pretty much the sole province of women with a certain degree of privilege. I think one of the phrases that she used was "poverty tourism", and she took serious issue with the fact that women were doing it not because it was cheaper, but because they liked the aesthetic. I'm not a crafter, so I don't really take personal offense to the statement, but that just seems like a silly thing to say. "Wait, you're doing something because you like it? What about tearing down the patriarchy? Bad feminism!" While she's right that it is still important to fight for income equality and gender parity, it seems terribly judgemental to assume that they don't. Just because you're a feminist doesn't mean you can't have a hobby.
I think what it really comes down to is that I don't want to be dismissed. I get the critiques about feminist culture, and the ways in which it lets down a lot of people. We really do need to work on being more inclusive of minority women, poor women, trans women, and the rest of the women out there that have serious issues that aren't being addressed the way they should be by modern feminism. The #solidarityisforwhitewomen trend on Twitter didn't come out of a vacuum. However, the way forward is not to dismiss a substantial subset of the movement as mere "cupcakes." Feminism is about inclusivity, about fighting for equality, not tearing other women down.

Monday, April 14, 2014


Short story:
When I first started thinking about blogging, I wanted to do something that involved vintage pinup art and dessert recipes - it other words, cheesecake and cheesecake. However, the name Cheesecake and Cheesecake was already taken, so I shortened it a bit to Cakes and Cakes.

The reason I mention this is that while I love pinup photography and illustration, it's not something that I've ever really thought I could do myself, since I've never been very photogenic. I take my picture all the damn time now for this blog, though, and I've realized that that's not really true. You'd think years of watching America's Next Top Model would have already shown me the value of knowing my angles, but it wasn't until I spent some time trying to take good photos that I figured out exactly what that meant.
I decided over the weekend to take some pinup style photos, and while there was some trial and error, I'm really pleased with how the exercise turned out. I found this tutorial from pinup model Cherry Dollface really helpful when it came to posing. Here are some of the photos that I thought turned out well.
a blonde girl with glasses wearing a white bandeau top, blue anchor print shorts, and a gray and yellow wedges poses pinup style against a mint green wall
a blonde girl with glasses wearing a white bandeau top, blue anchor print shorts, and a gray and yellow wedges poses pinup style against a mint green wall
a blonde girl with glasses wearing a white bandeau top, blue anchor print shorts, and a gray and yellow wedges poses pinup style against a mint green wall
I should note that I did do a little photoshopping for color correction and to get rid of my clunky thermostat.

I do want to share a few things that I learned in the process. Nothing big (I think the Cherry Dollface tutorial that I linked to covered the really important things), but stuff that seemed to really make a difference.

1. Make sure your clothes fit really well. These shorts were a little big in the waist, and I was sucking in my stomach because I was taking photos of myself without a shirt on (like you do), so the gaping of the waistband was fairly obvious. I ended up pinning the shorts in the back to get a better fit.

2. Higher heels really do make your legs look better. Relative to my height, I have a long torso and short, very muscular legs. Wearing higher heels visually changed those proportions.

3. If you're leaning against a wall, put your weight on your hips, not your shoulders. Too much weight on your upper body flattens out your arms and makes it look like you have bingo wings.

4. Make sure you can see. I normally wear glasses, and when I took them off for some of the pictures, my eyes went unfocused and my face just looked weird. Vague and glazed is not a good look.

I'm interested in hearing what people think of my first attempt at a photoshoot. It feels a little strange to post photos like this, but I do enjoy this style of photography, and I'd really like to play around with it a bit more. I would love to do something like Vavoom Pinup Photography, where they do your hair and makeup and provide you with cute outfits, although it's a little expensive for my budget.

Friday, April 11, 2014

My Week in Geekery

This week, I'm in love with Scarlett Johansson. She's always been beautiful and charismatic, and she has some serious vintage style chops, but she's never struck me that much as an actress. I was really impressed with her voice work on Her - it's seems like it would be so difficult to bring a character to life using only your voice, and she absolutely sold it. She brought the same nuances and engagement to Captain America: The Winter Solider as super spy Black Widow. She was funny, sarcastic, smart, vulnerable, and tough. I love a woman who can kick some ass, and she kicked all the asses. One of the things that I loved about the movie is that the defining relationships were not romantic, but friendly. Cap and the Black Widow are friends, co-workers, and allies. Sure, they share a kiss, and yeah, it's pretty hot, but they still have a fundamentally platonic relationship. I can't wait to see what they do with that chemistry in the Avengers sequel that's out next year.
I'm really intrigued by the next couple of movies that she's involved in. Opening in wide release this week is Under the Skin, in which she plays an alien who preys on men. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and her performance in particular has been highly praised. It's also one of the few sci-fi/fantasy movies coming out that isn't a sequel or a reboot, which is exciting in its own right.
She'll also be starring in Lucy, which opens in August. Everything about this hits my happy buttons - Luc Besson wrote and directed, it's about a woman who takes revenge on the mob after she's used as an unwitting drug mule, the drugs they sewed up into her abdomen gave her super powers, and it's Scarlett Johansson dealing out the ultraviolence. Midnight showing, anyone? Click here for the trailer.
A beautiful green eyed blonde woman (scarlett johansson) lying on a bed wrapped in cream colored satin sheets

And now, for a discussion that will likely infuriate some of you...
Why should I worry about spoiling Game of Thrones for people?
The first book in A Song of Ice and Fire, Game of Thrones, came out in 1996. A Clash of Kings followed two years later, and the book that the series is currently covering, A Storm of Swords, came out in 2000. Just to make my point really explicit, that is nearly fifteen years ago. If this book was a person, it would be getting a learner's permit and making bad decisions at parties. I started reading the books at about that point, so I've known for close to a decade and a half who lives and who dies. I was one of hundreds, if not thousands, of people who literally jumped up and down for joy when I found out GoT was being made into a series, and by HBO, no less. I don't claim to speak for all the nerds out there who have known and loved these books for as long or longer than I have, but I think a certain segment would agree with me when I say that if you can't be bothered to read the books, why should I bother to keep my mouth shut when I know there's something exciting in the next episode?
I got into a little bit of an argument with my boyfriend over this last week. Episode one ended, and the previews foreshadowed a death that people have been panting for since the moment they met the character that's being knocked off. In my excitement, I said, "yes, finally! I hate him so much." The other people in the room who knew what I was talking about gave me a very stern lecture about how if I couldn't keep my mouth shut, I shouldn't bother coming, although I'm not sure if the non-readers actually noticed or not.
Not everyone who's really into the show is going to have read the books beforehand, but once they realize how awesome it is, why wouldn't they just read them? The books are fantastic in their own right, and as an added bonus there wouldn't be thousands of people with advance knowledge that they don't have, just lurking around waiting to spoil things for them. Why am I responsible for guarding their willful ignorance?
My boyfriend pointed out how arrogant that is, and I honestly can't disagree. I'm clearly privileging my desire to talk about something that excites me over their desire to be surprised. Even though I'm very happy that GoT has become such a hot property, I feel a little smugness that I've known about it for years now, and a little irritation that something that I've loved passionately for so long is a trend for other people. Those are ugly feelings to admit to, but they're there.
So, long story short, I'm going to try to avoid spoiling things for my friends because I'm not a total asshole, but I'm not a good enough person to be totally ok with it. Agree? Disagree? Want set me on fire? There's no wrong answer there.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Clearing out my lightbox

a blonde woman with half of her face made up and the other half bare
Eyebrows. I can has them.
I've seen some really interesting photos of women with half done faces, which show just how powerful makeup can be. I use a fairly light hand, but you can see how big of a difference it makes here.

a blonde woman in a green skirt, blue sweater, and leopard heels

I noticed recently that when I upload photos from my camera to my computer, if there are a lot of similar shots it automatically converts them into a .gif. I didn't use these pictures for anything because they were so dark, but put together like this it looks like I'm doing some kind dance.

a woman with a blonde beehive hairdo leaning against a wall wearing a short sleeved black sweater and pink and turquoise plaid skirt with large white buttons

I picked this skirt up at the Trashy Diva store in New Orleans, along with a matching crop top that I will definitely be busting out once summer really hits. They're both on sale here.

a woman leans against a fence in the background, while in the foreground a young man makes a funny face into the camera

My boyfriend, Brian, stayed over last night and was amused by my photography process.
"I'm going to photobomb you!"
"It's not really a photobomb if you tell me about it."

Finally, a story in four acts.

"I want a close up, take a photo of me by this picture."

"Aaaahh, I knocked the picture off the wall!"

"Ok, think I got it."

"Success! The picture is safe."

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Six Links to Love

1. Sterner Stuff: Why Sansa Stark is a Political Powerhouse. I'm not gonna lie - I've never been that into Sansa. I mean, when you've got fierce little Arya, Brienne of Tarth, Cersei Lannister, and, in the tv show, Olena and Margaery Tyrell to compare her to, it's hard to get that excited about her. However, this article raises a valid point. She's not stupid, she's not useless, she's just in the weakest position of any major female character in the series, and she uses the tools available to her to negotiate some harrowing circumstances. Her charm, decorum, and ability to hide her true feelings are what have kept her alive, if not unharmed. I have to wonder if Cersei wasn't wrong when she said she was a little bit like her when she was young.
Ok, but this is some epic durp face. 

2. Chronically Vintage: Miss L Fire Shoes I've been drawing so much inspiration from Jessica of Chronically Vintage lately. She has a real sense of elegance and great taste, and her website is a great source if you're looking for vintage shops or reproduction brands. I am dying for a pair of Miss L Fire shoes after she showcased these gems. The styles are fabulously vintage in style but with a modern sensibility. I think I might have to invest in this pair for the summer.
3. Mississippi Sex Ed Class Compares Women to Dirty Pieces of Chocolate I went to school in rural Colorado, and we also got abstinence only, sex-negative sex ed. Women who have sex are compared to toothbrushes, to gum, to pieces of chocolate, which have no value after they've been used. This is an incredibly damaging message to send to impressionable teenagers for a lot of reasons. Girls who have sex are considered worthless sluts, both by others and often by themselves, and boys become entrenched in the virgin/whore dichotomy. As Elizabeth Smart, who is quoted in the article, says, it can also make life even more difficult for girls who are raped, or undergo other traumatic sexual experiences.

4. The Color of His Presidency American politics grow ever more tense and divisive, and as much as I'd love to lay that all at the feet of the Republican party, liberals and Democrats haven't exactly been open to discourse either. Accusations of racism and totalitarianism fly from both sides of the aisle, and it's not getting us anywhere. Entrenched politicians are unwilling to act decisively for fear of losing an election, and their cowardice is a problem in its own right, but it doesn't help matters that every statement that actually says anything is going to be dissected in the most partisan way possible. Unless we start actually listening to and thinking about the ideas that the other side is putting forth, the days of America the Beautiful are over.

5.  Plasticland Killer Kraken Pillow I'm moving to a new apartment soon, and my boyfriend is in full agreement with me that a steampunk pad would be the bees knees. I'm thinking this kraken throw pillow might be a nice place to start.

6. The Kitchn: Minty Pea and Arugula Wonton Ravioli Doesn't this just scream spring? I'm determined to give it a shot this weekend, maybe with roasted chicken or tilapia.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blending the old and the new

I was really tempted, when I first got into vintage, to throw out all of my old clothes and buy a ton of stuff so that I could live in it it full time. Like most people, the initial thrill of getting into something new, something that just seemed so right for me, was intoxicating. There was a period where if it wasn't vintage (or at least suitably retro in appearance), I just didn't want to wear it. The printed pants, mini skirts, t-shirts, and loose sweaters that I was wearing a lot of just looked wrong. I'd created this new vision of myself in my head, and any clothes that didn't express that weren't appealing anymore, even if I'd previously liked it.
Of course, at a certain point practicality has to prevail. If you've only got two dresses, a handful of skirts, and a blouse or two that fit into your new and improved style, you're going to get bored with your wardrobe fast.
Now I'm actually glad that I didn't have the means to purchase a whole new wardrobe. Don't get me wrong - I own, and wear, more vintage every day, but I've remembered what I loved about a lot of the pieces that were already in my wardrobe. What you wear, in a very real way, is a statement about who you are, or who you want to be. I'm the quirky vintage woman, for sure; I'm also still the sporty woman, and the trendy woman, and the cool city woman. That doesn't go away just because I find a new aspect of my style that I want to express.

Tips for transitioning to vintage style:
1. Stay true to your personal aesthetic. I find it really helpful to think about my style in terms of adjectives. I would say that my style is youthful, ultra-feminine, and romantic, but with a tough edge. So long as a piece fits in with those descriptors, it'll probably play fairly well with the other things in my wardrobe, be it modern or vintage.
2. Be practical about your wardrobe needs. I ride my bike to work in warmer weather, and skirts just aren't that practical in that context. I've made it a point to find cute, high-waisted shorts and pants that might not be strictly vintage, but can read vintage given the right context.
3. Know the power of hair and makeup. New clothes can be really expensive. A new hairstyle or some makeup, not so much. When I first started getting into vintage, I was amazed by how much of a difference just curling my hair or wearing red lips and cat eye eyeliner made. They're easy vintage signifiers that can make even jeans and a t-shirt look retro and vixenish.
4. Invest in a few wardrobe workhorses. I realized recently that most days, I'll wear either a cashmere cardigan, a full skirt, or both. Some of them are vintage, some are new or reproduction, but either way they add a little bit of vintage flair to my other pieces. The specifics will vary from person to person, but if you know that, say, peter pan collar blouses or pencil skirts tend to give you just the right look, have a few of them in your wardrobe so that you can pull them out regularly.
5. Accessories are your friend. I've mentioned before how headbands, scarfs, flowers, and other hair accessories can rescue a bad hair day, and they can also help spice up your look if you're feeling a little flat. Likewise, some vintage bangles or a statement necklace can add instant flair and polish to an otherwise ordinary outfits. Belts are great defining a silhouette, and swapping heels for flats can make a fancier dress feel more appropriate for every day wear (and vice versa).

I think this outfit is a pretty good example of what I'm talking about. I've had this full skirted pink mini dress for a few years now. I paired it with a vintage yellow cardigan for some coverage in the cool spring weather. My nude shoes, which you can't see that well, have bows at the toes and a fun, goblet shaped heel. I used a thick belt to define the waist, which is a bit high on me, and I accessorized with a delicate gold necklace and my cat eye glasses. I like the overall effect, which is feminine and a bit retro, if not necessarily vintage.

Friday, April 4, 2014

My week in geekery

First and foremost, my week has been dominated by one man. He used to be the only wizard in the yellow pages; now he's pretty much the first and last line of defense between the human world and any dark forces that might threaten it. Harry motherfuckin' Dresden.
I'm a little late in getting to the latest book of the Dresden Files, Cold Days, but it was well worth the wait. As a Chicago resident, I love seeing my city get the spotlight, even though sometimes the geography of the city is hilariously wrong. Harry has always been geeky, sarcastic, and a tiny bit clueless, but he's also a total badass, and despite all of the changes in his circumstances, that hasn't changed. I was staying up late at night and avoiding my friends at lunch so that I could get some extra reading time in, and once I finished all I wanted to do was go back and reread the series from the beginning.
cold days
I'm also reading a book along with my boyfriend, The Telling by Ursula Le Guin (not to be confused with the movie of the same name starring a couple of Hugh Hefner's ex-girlfriends). Le Guin is probably best known for her Earthsea novels, and she's also won high acclaim for her Hainish cycle (including the 1969 Left Hand of Darkness, which netted her both the Hugo and the Nebula). Although I'd heard a lot about her, this is the first novel of hers that I've actually read. I suggested it for the two of us because Le Guin is considered one of the best writers in sci-fi and fantasy, and because she deals with the kind of social issues that I'm passionate about - gender, religion, race, environmentalism, and so much more. It's been hard to restrain myself from reading the entire thing. It's beautifully written, philosophical, and perfectly paced to draw the reader along. I will have to get my hands on more of her works once I'm done.
the telling
Another piece of pop culture that I was terribly remiss in not watching earlier is The Raid: Redemption. I'm a huge fan of action movies, and when this one came out in 2012, it was very well reviewed, and for good reason. It's a superb example of the genre - tense, engaging, heavy on action sequences without being too concerned about having a tricky plot. A SWAT team in Jakarta goes into a building to take out a mob boss, and they end up biting off more than they can chew. There's really not much more to it, and that's exactly what I like about it.
The Raid_Poster_MM
And finally, Game of Thrones, season 4 is premiering this Sunday! I've been a fan of the books for over a decade, and the series hasn't disappointed yet. I'm going to a viewing party, and there's already talk of a themed potluck. One guy is talking about making sliced dragon dick (aka pork chops). Should be sweet.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

My, what red lips you have!

I can't say that I hate the rain. I actually love the rain, when it's warm out and I'm properly dressed for it, or at least watching it come down from the comfort of my own home. After this interminable winter, though, I'm not really prepared to deal with more shitty weather.
Red lipstick is kind of my ultimate pick me up. If I'm having a bad hair day or just generally feel like I'm not looking my best, it brightens everything up and becomes the focal point for my face, drawing attention away from the things I'm not feeling so great about. It's also a great confidence booster, in no small part because any time you wear it, you will be inundated with compliments. "Oooh, I love your lipstick!"
I know a lot of women who feel like they can't wear red lipstick, but I think it mostly comes down to picking the right shade and just getting used to having something that bold on your face. It doesn't have to be an all the time thing, but for special occasions the right red is a great tool for making you feel like a million bucks.
If you're unsure about which red is right for you, take a trip down the Sephora or you local beauty counter. When you find one that you think you might like, take it home and just wear it around the house for a little bit. (Pro tip, though - take it off before you eat anything you have to open your mouth up wide for. Red lipstick smeared all over your chin is an absolute bitch to get off.) Once the initial weirdness of looking in the mirror and seeing bright red lips wears off, you'll realize that you don't actually look like a clown and can make a better judgement about whether or not the shade you chose suits you.
For application, I think it's best to keep things straightforward and easy. I like to put a thick layer of balm on before bed, which softens my dry, chapped lips. In the morning (usually as the last step before leaving the house, since I'm prone to getting lipstick on my clothes if I put them on after), I'll prep my lips with a little bit of foundation, which evens out the color and provides a good base for the lipstick to stick to. I apply one coat of lipstick straight for the tube, blot, and repeat. Any wonky edges I fix with the pointy end of the lipstick; if necessary, a q-tip and a dab of foundation are great for correcting any little mistakes.
Because lipstick is such a subjective thing, I highly recommend finding a place where you can play around with different brands and colors, like Sephora, Ulta, or any department store. Personally, I'm really partial to Sephora brand lipsticks, particularly the Rouge Cream line. They wear well, leaving you with a nice stain even after you take them off, and the color is creamy and opaque without being overly drying. They also clock in at under $13.00, so it's only a few bucks more than most drug store brands. The color I'm wearing in the photo above is called Passion Red.
Sephora Cream Rouge Lipsticks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bulgogi Tofu with Broccoli Rabe and Bell Pepper

I decided to make last weekend a four day weekend, and one of the things that I did was visit an amazing Korean spa on the outskirts of Chicago. It's called King Spa, and it's truly wonderful, and I recommend it highly to anyone who might get a chance to visit. 
After leaving the spa, my boyfriend and I decided to pick up some stuff at the massive Asian grocery store next door. If I had to pick a favorite style of cuisine, I would probably have to say Thai or Chinese, but Korean also ranks fairly high up there. There were a number of sample stations at the store, and one of the things that I tried was bulgogi beef. Bulgogi typically refers to marinated and grilled meat, and is roughly analogous to barbeque in American culture. Although I ended up passing on the pre-packaged marinated beef, I did have to pick up a jar of the bulgogi sauce. This particular version is intended as a marinade for beef, but it's equally delicious with tofu.
I'm actually a huge fan of tofu. It's not that exciting on its own (though tofu that's been crispy fried with a little bit of salt is delicious), but it's a great flavor sponge and source of protein. I sliced the tofu into steaks - one standard block of tofu makes about five good size servings - pressed some of the water out, and then poured the bulgogi sauce over the top before I left for work this morning. By the time I got home, it had soaked up a good deal of the marinade. I fried the slices on a hot skillet until they were a little crispy on the outside, and then poured a little bit of the leftover sauce over the top. I wouldn't recommend doing that last bit if you're using meat, but with tofu it's not an issue. For a side, I just quickly sauteed broccoli rabe and sliced bell pepper in sesame oil with a little bit of salt, cumin, garlic, and crushed red pepper. It's the sort of things that's easy on a weeknight when you come home and just want to eat food now, but it's also really good and really good for you.
I did pick up another awesome little treat for myself:
Isn't this adorable? I'm a sucker for Korean beauty products, and not only is the packaging ridiculously cute, the color is great, and really packs a punch. It's the perfect shimmery, plummy pink, and given that I haven't bought a new blush in probably a couple of years, I thought it was a good buy.
I haven't been cooking very much, largely because I'm splitting time between my house and my boyfriend's, but it was great to feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things. I'm moving in about a month, so once I'm settled in, I should be doing more recipe posts and meal ideas.