Friday, September 23, 2011

Give Second-Hand a Second Chance

Oh my. It has been far too long since I've said hello! Unfortunately, my dress is still near completion. I have been helping out at Rob's workplace the last two weeks, and that has been eating up some of my free time. But I now have an incentive to get it done: I'm going back to Nebraska to visit next week and I will be seeing my grandmother! I want to show her my handiwork, so I really need to get it done.

I took the time at the beginning of the week to go through my son's dresser and exchange out the too-small clothes for bigger sizes that I've had packed away. As I put pants, t-shirts, socks and hoodies into the dresser, I started taking a mental note of where I had purchased most of this stuff. And, of course, a majority of it was from second-hand stores. I think that second-hand stores sometimes get the stink eye because they're misunderstood. While they do have some low-quality and worn out items, they are also chocked full of vintage items leftover from estate sales, clothes that somebody just got too fat for (Or too skinny for? Does that happen? Haha!) or clothes children outgrew before they really had a chance to wear them out. Yes, there is also a lot of outdated stuff, but that's your chance to jump on the high-waisted, '80s jeans bandwagon that's currently running rampant amongst the lower 20-somethings right now. And won't it be more fun to tell your friends that you only paid $5 for your electric green cigarette jeans that very possibly could have been at a Billy Idol concert instead of $49?!

The other misunderstanding about second-hand stores is that the shopping mentality you walk in with is akin to how you would approach a department store: on the contrary, you are not going to get everything you want or need in one visit. Thrifting must be done piecemeal. You will most likely just find a few good things at a time -- boots, a skirt, a belt, sassy t-shirts for your one-year-old. If you're thrifting somewhere like the Goodwill or Salvation Army, your chances might be higher of finding more goodies. Honestly, my child only wears BabyGap, Gymboree, and Old Navy because I have been lucky enough to put a wardrobe together for him piecemeal. I just find a hoodie here, some pants there. The same thing goes for my own wardrobe.

The final misunderstanding about second-hand stores is that you're going to find what you're looking for right away. Oh, no-no-no-no-no! Give yourself at least a good hour to look around if you're on a specific item-seeking mission. Thrifting requires a little digging. So go prepared to roll your sleeves up and rub elbows with the regulars (Ahem, that's me). Some stores make it fun by creating displays, and most will even have jewelry counters. Get to know the people who staff these places; as you become more familiar, they'll tell you about something that was just brought in so you won't have to dig as much!

Don't limit yourself to just thrift stores, too. I have a friend who goes to clothing swaps a couple times a year, and I also check eBay and consignment shops (which are like the cream of second-hand stores). With that, what you pay for your thrifted items is all subjective -- it's what you deem is a good deal. If you're into name brands, do your homework to ensure that what you're buying in one of these latter mentioned shops isn't over-priced. One of my most treasured finds are some vintage Frye boots I got on eBay.

With that, I must be honest and admit that I don't buy everything second-hand. Some things just must be new, if you get my drift (and I guess that could be subjective too...). And I'm also not above a good sale in a department store! The bottom line is cost and quality. And I have been able to find both for my family's clothing budget and for my hobbies.

Do you thrift? What's your best find?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Lost Art of... Slowing Down

So much has been happening around here! I don't know if it's the gallons of coffee I've been consuming, the fact that temperatures have dropped to a comfortable level or just the end of a project that has been inspiring me to be productive. After pinning a sleeve on to the dress, I needed to give my back a break so I stitched up this funky lace doily corsage:

I don't even remember when I bought these, but these doilies are all handmade and starched. The buttons are from a giant button jar -- I LOVE finding those.

To give the corsage an anchor, I sewed a large button inside two pieces of felt, then stitched both the doilies and the pin on.
This gives you perspective on its size.
I also made some major progress on the dress! At this point, it just needs one more sleeve and the zipper sewn in. I have yet to decide how to finish the bottom hem, but I will keep you all updated. Unfortunately, while this pattern has been easy enough to figure out, there are a few steps left out of the instructions, such as finishing the hem on the sleeves and how to alter the pattern according to your own measurements. The bust is also somewhat wonky at this point, but I have easy plans for fixing that.

Looking for all the vintage materials for this project has really made me long for something I never even experienced: the actual eras these materials were made in. Things were slower then, made better, people took their time. I think of my grandmother making a dress as a young woman; I imagine the elderly woman behind me pinning her hair back and putting lipstick on to go dancing. I try to imagine how fast and autonomous the bustling world around older generations must seem. I also imagine how much more social women were back then. No Facebook. No Twitter. No cell phones, emailing or blogging. It makes me want to unplug, but I know I probably never fully could. As busy as I sound, I have been doing even more handwritten letter writing than normal and making my gestures count more. Smiling at people, trying to be a better listener.

Make your gestures count. Take time for others. Call instead of texting. Write a letter after calling. Start now.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Meatloaf is a No-Go

The last week has been spent battling a new request for "normal" food from my husband and my growing aversion to... normal food. I have a few dishes that are more nostalgic than "favorites" -- tuna sandwiches, the occasional pot of mac'n cheese (and even then, I am compelled to sprinkle blue cheese crumbles in it) and a good, stacked ham sandwich. As I started to think it over, I don't make things like spaghetti, lasagna or meatloaf. I don't make meat-and-potato combinations very often. We had one of Rob's work friends over for dinner a few weeks ago, and I managed to crank out a version of the lavender honey chicken from a few weeks ago -- sans the lavender -- with some garlic mashed potatoes... that I also snuck parsnips into. And get this: I made gravy. I shocked even myself.

I also don't make very many things twice. I enjoy dishes for the food experience they offered me at that moment, and then I move on. I am the same way in restaurants. The few things I have made more than once can be counted on one hand: California rolls, hummus and my friend Marie's fish tacos. In fact, I made these just last night and consumed the last of them for lunch today. These are light, small and I can eat 10-12 of them in one sitting. With the adobo, cilantro, garlic and lime, these embody almost everything I love about a good dish: texture, flavor, aesthetics and zip.

With that, I must say that I won't turn down a "normal" meal nor am I saying that traditional recipes or methods of cooking are bad. I just prefer to do it a little differently, is all. If my grandmother placed a plate of meatloaf in front of me with a dime's worth of ketchup, I'd eat it and wouldn't say a word. And I'd scrape all the "scraps" together at the end and eat them in one big bite -- just like I was taught -- even if it meant that last bite had meatloaf, Jell-O and gravy in it.

The dress is still in progress. I hope to have more pictures of some assembly soon. Somebody finally discovered the drawers on my craft chest... Nothing is safe now.

Happy Friday to everyone. :)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Say Goodbye to Summer, Honey

I can't say that it's quite autumn yet, but I am definitely feeling like it's around the corner. Autumn is a very sentimental season for me. It's the season that a good friend lived with us for a while, it's the season of new beginnings for learning and the season of reunions in my experience. As I am slowly eeking my way out in a new society, I'm open to how and where Montana will be taking me this autumn.  I have been warned by longtime Montanians that Montana autumns are short and sweet... and are quickly pushed aside by the fierce Montana winters.

It was below 70 degrees yesterday, and I loved it. I can't wait for temperatures that necessitate tights, boots, scarves, layers and funky coats. I've already decided that the dress I'm making will look just lover-ly with a clashing slip peaking out the bottom with knit tights and tall leather boots... now I just need somewhere to wear it.

I'm still going to yoga 2-3 times a week, and even summoned the courage to try out the advanced yoga class. I only had to break posture a few times to rest sooner than everyone else and I am definitely sore today, but I'm glad for the added challenge. The dress is coming along -- I only have a few more pieces to cut out and then I'll be ready to start the sewing!! Keep your fingers crossed that the alterations I made to the pattern will still mean that it fits in the end.

I'll leave you with this: a salad with blueberries, blue cheese, scallions, honey-caramelized walnuts over fresh greens and Annie's Lemon & Chive dressing with a slice of French bread grilled in the residual honey left over in the pan.

Don't drool too much. Have a good weekend!