Sticking it to the marketers (or, how to ignore seasonal marketing)

8.29.2014

I have these thoughts every year. It's time I finally spelled them out.

I know Labor Day is coming up on Monday, and that means no more white shoes (to whoever still owns white leather shoes), probably no more white jeans if you're following the rules, and welcome burgundy and plaid and earth tones. But I'm not having it. This whole change in clothing before the change of the season (the fall equinox isn't till September 23!) just makes me grumpy. Every year. And here's why.

  • For one, it's still dang hot outside, so I am not ready to swap my gladiators for riding boots. Nope.
  • Two, I love summer and living in Oregon, it doesn't start until around the 4th of July anyway, so I've really only had a month and a half of this! I still haven't worn that swimsuit I bought in June (first one I've bought since before our honeymoon)! I request an extension!
  • Thirdly, those first two reasons again - it's still summer, I'm not in denial and I love it!, and I am not ready to give it up just because the fashion industry and back-to-school shopping economy demand it.

Seriously, every year this time of year, I just want the ads and new store inventory and few too-fashion-forward people on the street to leave me be and let me keep wearing and loving my cut-offs!

(I am really predictable. I just did a search on my blog search bar for "not ready for fall" and yep, several early September posts came up, plus some early October ones like "...Finally, fall fashion." So I'm definitely predicting I won't be ready to wear and share and be excited about fall clothes until about a month from now!)

Go away, aggressive season change-rushing marketers


So when the fall fashion magazines start coming in early August, piling up because I am totally not ready to read them then, and the stores run out of sizes in shorts and tanks and start putting out the Halloween stuff, I just feel a little inconvenienced by it all.

I finally gave in and read my 700+ page magazine toward the end of this month. (At least 300 pages were ads for jeans and coats and other "fall fashion" things I will not be buying any time soon or ever.)

...with spreads like this. I mean, I can see how the hat and jacket and fair isle print are cute, but... it was 90 degrees the day I took this! I was sweating on my camera strap! It just seems a little cruel!

A gift to procrastinators


Also, I went into Old Navy the other day and averted my eyes from the new merchandise of cords and hoodies, and beelined to the clearance where the white shorts are. Big fan. If you're like me and almost never make it to the store, now's the time to pick up the summer stuff you haven't bought yet. I guess we can use this weird scheduling to our advantage and stay at our own pace while also avoiding paying full retail.

Learning to be less responsive to marketing in general


This has to be a super weird thing for a blogger to say, but I'm not your typical fashion blogger and I don't have any big clothing companies backing me. This season change (from my favorite season to one of the biggest shopping seasons) and the rush from the stores and advertisers to buy, buy, buy new stuff is a reminder that most of that marketing stuff (any time of year) is a push to separate us from our hard-earned money for stuff that won't really make our lives better.

I've gotten much better at saving money rather than spending it on clearance tees I wear once - partially because who has time to shop anymore?! - but from now through the holidays, resisting the messages gets a little harder. I think if I can make it through to October before buying anything long-sleeved, I'll be pretty happy!


Rant over. Stepping off soapbox.

But, if you're with me, stand strong!! Resist, and enjoy the sun while you can!

It's daring! It's... a romper!

8.26.2014

Something new!

Earlier this summer I noticed the romper trend had taken a more neutral tone. I've never been 100% on board, but seeing the playful and easy-to-wear styles in basic, more grown-up colors like solid black or beige made me think, maybe I could make myself one of those!

I've never ever ever made a romper before, and I rarely make shorts or pants (or even fitted or tailored skirts) because dresses are just so much more fun and easier. Some fun fancy work work in the bodice, gathered or pleated skirt, zipper or elastic, done. Happy to report it was pretty much the same with this pattern! The shorts are so simple (just center seams, pockets) and the elastic casing at the waist is really easy, so this went together so fast - even faster than a dress, actually, since there's less fabric to hem and sew together! (It's Simplicity 1355.)

The front is kinda plain, but the back has a deep criss-cross V. Which makes this a great swimsuit cover-up! Or cute over a bright tank.

I think of it as a grown-up romper.

It is so rare for me to read pattern instructions, but I actually did with this one since it was a new bodice style. Simple shaped rectangular straps, front and back facings. Would be pretty as a drapey dress, too!

The grey knit is the perfect slinky weight. And stretchy, so the fit was easy!

I know rompers are typically summer garments, but it's still been a million degrees here lately so I'm definitely still open to one-garment outfits with plenty of breathing!

Plus, you probably could dress it up or down with a blazer or tights or something once it gets cooler. Although that makes me a little nervous now. I think easing into romper-wearing with a neutral knit is as far as I can go for now! ;)

Two-step painted dye napkins for summer

8.21.2014

It's summer, and I'm milking every last minute of it. So I'm still going to talk about outdoor dye projects like these dye-painted napkins!!

After I tie dyed the dress I shared last week, I wanted to do more with that One-Step Tie Dye stuff and I had several more colors to choose from. I also had these white cotton napkins from a craft workshop I went to taught by my pal Jenni of A Well-Crafted Party. In fact, this idea is entirely hers. You can even see me in the corners of these photos from the event, painting napkins with navy blue dye for 4th of July.

After I played with the squirt bottle method for my tie dye stripe dress, I thought I'd try squirt bottle patterns on the napkins. Turned out that didn't really work for precision or soaking in the dye in the right place, so I went back to the painting method.

It was really nice to have the easy-to-use squirt bottle to mix the dye in, though, and have it available to squeeze into the dish. But mostly I just painted my sort of ikat-ey diamond pattern on.

As it goes in summer... I let the napkins dry outside in the 90+ degree heat for a couple hours, then washed them in the washer with detergent. They came out lighter, but still a bright color!

Then I pressed them (they're 100% cotton) and folded them. I made eight! Will have to have a summery dinner party sometime so I can use them all.

I had fun doing imperfect but still mostly balanced ikat diamond patterns on them all. They are all slightly different!

Of course perfect for outdoor dining!

I highly encourage you to try it if you want a fun and easy project before summer's up!


Photos of happiness - mini-break weekend

8.19.2014

We had a very short, but still magical, getaway this weekend to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

Pre-note: Also, while I know it doesn't sound like the most relaxing way to spend a Saturday, I did enjoy getting a lot of coding done for some gallery pages for the blog that I've been meaning to do for the better part of the year. Now you can click on TUTORIALS! and DRESSES! in my navigation bar and see photo galleries of (not all, but most of) the tutorials and dresses I've shared! (So since the blog name switch over, if you are looking for more sewing content, it is even easier to find than before.)

But mostly, I enjoyed a very peaceful, low-stress weekend with family in an amazing place.

Husband's grandparents live at the top of a hill overlooking the Strait of Juan de Fuca and looking out toward Victoria, Canada, with pretty much a 330 degree view of the beautiful ocean, so remote it feels like a different world. I'm so grateful we get to spend time with them (and his immediate family) a few times a year. We went up on Friday and came back on Sunday. I got some great relaxing time in!

The sunsets look sort of like this. (I tried to capture them. That's ocean beneath the fog out there - the Strait of Juan de Fuca.)

The sunrises look something like this. (I just couldn't capture the amazingness of the bright red sun coming up in the colorful sky!)

Our mornings look kind of like this.
I wake up with the sun coming through the big windows where we sleep, so I was up at 6:10 both mornings with some time for coffee and a book to myself. Then time to make everyone a big breakfast around 9 (I volunteered!). I love cooking delicious, nourishing food for lots of hungry people.

Kept company by everyone reading and talking at the table.

They pulled out some incredible old photo albums of my mother-in-law and family long ago. Family breakfast time with memories.

I love the assortment of coffee cups and water glasses and magazines and books that builds up and morphs throughout the day when there are so many of us there.

The rest of the time is mostly just hanging out! Like true vacation.
More reading and relaxing later in the day. Amazing views from a favorite reading/talking spot on the north side of the house.
Sometimes we go down to the rock beach at the bottom of the hill, or into Port Angeles proper to visit the bookstores, but this time I stayed at the house and practiced doing nothing. Aaaaahh....

I love the climate and ecosystem up there. It's just like my summer camp in the San Juan Islands, where I spent 5 happy summer sessions and felt so relaxed and at peace. The trails and fields and plants around the grandparents' property bring me back. It even smells the same.

It's a little surreal that it was really just hours ago that we were there. A happy, relaxed oasis, 5 hours from home but close enough that we can visit a few times a year for these incredible weekends!

A simple knit dress, which I then tie-dyed! Tutorial

8.14.2014

If you ask me... it's hard to say which is cooler about this dress: that I made it out of a twin-sized fitted bedsheet, that I traced a tank top to cut it out instead of using a pattern, or that I tie-dyed it striped. A knit tank dress that's tie dyed? And super comfy? It doesn't get a whole lot more summery than this. I love summer. (I'm not alone! This post is part of the Tie Dye Your Summer project!)

I mean, you can see how excited I am about this.

And I have a tutorial for you! I'm sure you hardly need one, but I documented the process nonetheless.

Striped Tie Dyed Knit Dress Tutorial


You will need:


  • White cotton knit dress or tank (I made mine from a 100% cotton jersey bedsheet)
  • Tulip One-Step Tie Dye Kit 
  • Plastic bag for keeping the dress wet in for 24 hours while it sits
  • Grass (optional - I don't trust myself squirting dye indoors.)
That's pretty much it. It actually comes with rubber bands and plastic gloves, although I used my own thicker rubber bands to make wider white stripes.



1. Make the dress. Does that count as a step? If you're using a storebought tank or dress, skip this part. If you're like me, trace a favorite tank over the fabric as a pattern, giving generous seam allowances since the jersey may not stretch as much as a ribbed tank. Use a zigzag stitch to sew the long seams, and finish seam allowance edges if you don't have a serger.

 2. Make stripes in the dress with rubber bands. I spaced mine approximately evenly apart.

3. Add water to the One-Step Tie Dye bottle and mix with the powdered dye. 

4. Squirt dye in alllllll over the rest of the dress. (This bottle technique would work great for doing different colored stripes on one garment!)

I used two bottles!

5. Follow the instructions for letting the dye sit, and washing the garment. I put mine in a plastic bag for 24 hours, then rinsed it and washed it a couple times by itself. Color is totally set!

That's it!

Knit dresses in the summer? In the top 2 most comfortable things you can wear.

The only downside to this approach? I forgot that the thread doesn't dye! I used poly thread on cotton, and as you can see at the hem and neckline... the thread stayed white. So, try 100% cotton thread, I bet it would take the dye!


This post was sponsored by Tie Dye Your Summer and I Love to Create.

Working on "while," and reading the manual

8.12.2014

One word I've noticed myself overusing recently is "while."

The way I use it in my head it means, "during the time that; at the same time as," but ironically, it also means "a period of time" (implying taking longer than a few seconds) and "to pass time in a leisurely manner." The way I use it is not leisurely.

I've been a multi-tasker for a real long time now, but recently I've been evaluating my impulses to do more than one thing at a time.

"While"

For example, I often come home from the gym hot, sweaty, and hungry, so I start dinner by chopping veggies and seasoning things and get a pan or two going. Then I turn the burners to Low and run upstairs for a quick shower. I was a little nervous the first time I did this (potential to burn!), but after it was uneventful and I've tried it a few more times, I've gotten more confident. (Sure, statistically it's more likely to burn, I'm sure, but I don't often have a problem burning things when I'm a few feet away, either, so... #stilllearningtocook.)

This practice (cooking dinner while showering) saves me some time, and gets me clean and eating a delicious dinner earlier than otherwise. But I think it has some negative effects, too. It's not stressful, exactly, but moving from one thing to the next back and forth does keep me on edge a little. (And after understanding the science behind eating in a calm state from husband's Mindful Eating Challenge, I'm especially aware of that feeling before eating.)

Even over the weekend (supposed to be relaxed! Weekend!), I did the ol', "I'll unload the dishwasher while my eggs cook in the frying pan," of course not paying enough attention to the eggs, resulting in overcooked eggs, which made my grumpy.

I do it before bed, too. "I'll just brush my teeth while I pick out my clothes for tomorrow." (Likely result: toothpaste down my chin, dropping folded pants on the floor.)
Instead of enjoying my space, I might be running from one thing to the next while the stove is on. (Photo by Nakalan.)

These examples of "multi-tasking" (although I've heard there's no such thing, just switching quickly back and forth between thoughts/tasks) are probably not helping me out in the long run, really. On the one hand, practical! Cook dinner while showering. On the other hand, stress-inducing! Counter-productive to good lifestyle choices like making myself delicious dinner from scratch.

But brushing my teeth while walking around my room in the half-dark? Just dumb. Texting while driving? We KNOW that one's dumb. The risk? Not worth it.

In almost all cases, my urge to multitask comes from my desire to get more done in a short amount of time. A desire for efficiency, lack of waste (of time). So if I'm skimping on the task and doing it poorly (or needing to do it again, like after burning dinner or only brushing one side of my teeth), I'm not saving any time at all. Realizing this, I thought back to one of the biggest take-aways I had from Happier at Home when I read it years ago now (follow-up to The Happiness Project, which I also really appreciated).

Read the manual

One goal in the book that really stuck with me was, "Read the manual" - take the time that you need to prepare for a task, and it will go more smoothly, be less frustrating, and probably take less time (at least in the long run, if not also in the short run). 

So, I went back to my marked-up, sticky tab-bookmarked copy of it and re-read the section. "Read the manual" in Happier at Home is one of the author's goals for the month when she focuses on Possessions and her relationship with them. The example is the household appliance that sits on the counter, unused because it's too complicated to figure out until you read the manual. I was never a manual-reader myself (with new toys, new electronics, whatever it was) but I've taken this goal to a more figurative place. From the book:

"'Read the manual' was helpful on a metaphorical level, as well, to caution me to make necessary preparations and not to expect instant mastery. Did I have the tools I needed, and did I know how to use them? Was I actually looking for the pull tab or the 'tear here' mark that would allow me to open a package easily instead of struggling needlessly? Was I giving myself time to study and learn? Too often I skimped on preparation time...'Read the manual' reminded me to take time to prepare."Happier at Home

Yep, I totally know those feelings. When I think about it, it seems totally silly to rush through something rather than taking the steps I know I need to take.

That doesn't mean I always do it, though.

So, I'm making a goal for myself for the next while. I don't know that doing something "while" I do something else is always a bad thing, but I want to give myself a warning when I notice it cross my thoughts. I want to think through the steps that I know are required, and remind myself that if I do them, the task will be easier and more successful.

I imagine you know what I mean! I love thinking of "Read the manual" as a reminder to prepare - it might help you, too!

A major floral maxi dress for a very special wedding

8.08.2014

I know I said just last week that I've made so many dresses in the years of running this blog that it's a little tiring sometimes to enjoy the fun of designing something new. But special occasions like the one I made this dress for are different.

I'm so happy for my oldest friend from childhood, who just had an amazing wedding last weekend! It was at a totally rustic venue up in the hills north of town, on a little lake and surrounded by big trees and shade. Seriously such a beautiful and peaceful setting, and huge guest list including people of all ages so it was a very fun, casual, happy event.

I've been thinking about what to make to wear for her wedding for a long time now, as I shared with my ideas in this post. I really loved that lavender floral Anthropologie halter, but I had the hardest time finding a fabric that would capture the mood. I seriously went to the fabric store three or four times looking for something. Eventually I gave up on the color family and gave up looking for a knit or breathable cotton, and bought the last of the bolt of this "photo print" floral crinkle chiffon at JoAnn.

I wasn't able to find the perfect lavender tropical print, but I did like the high neck halter idea from my original inspirations. I pulled out a pattern I bought years ago but have never used, Simplicity 2579 (pretty sure it's out of print). It was fun to make a style I don't do often!

I seriously bought the last of the bolt and it was quite a stretch to get this maxi out of it. So I had to piece the center front midriff panel. Oops.

On the bolt, it looked light pink to me, but then I put a white cotton under it (since I also had a hard time finding the right lining, ugh!) and it really brightened it up. Plus, white cotton is a much nicer lining for summer than anything whatever candy pink poly lining I was going to find. (And SO much easier to sew with!)

After I made it and was looking through my scans, I saw this magazine page (March 2014). Trend: "Super-Modern Florals." Yeah, I'd call my hot pink flower photo fabric a super modern floral! It is a fun, bold trend!

Oh, and the dress on me? It was great for a hot evening!


It was really special to have a new dress I made just for the occasion. Events like this don't come up all the time, so it's fun and exciting and fulfilling to make something new! Plus, I love summer events and a chance to dress up!

Life-saving breakfast quiches/egg muffin cups

8.05.2014

This recipe is the greatest! In deliciousness and practicality. Win-win for those of us who do too much... but also love breakfast.

I refer to them as "egg muffins," but I don't think that's an accurate name since muffins are defined as being made from a batter or dough (yes, I Googled "muffin definition" for this post. Ha!). They're sort of like quiches, but I always think of quiche as having cheese in it, which these are excellent without. (Also, I just Googled "quiche definition" and apparently quiche means egg pie on pastry dough. Although I've made crustless quiche before, so rules are made to be broken!)

I first saw this idea in the recipe section of The 21 Day Sugar Detox, which we got for Christmas. There are Buffalo Chicken Egg Muffins (page 100) and Broccoli & Herb Egg Muffins (page 101). I wasn't crazy about either of those flavor combinations, but I did have some leftover cooked broccoli one evening before husband and I both had to leave the house early the next day. So I modified (simplified, really) Diane's egg muffin recipes and used the broccoli plus chopped up, cooked pieces of our homemade bacon. Not only were the muffins delicious the next morning, and so convenient... they kept me full much longer than just fried eggs do! (I've gone through a lot of health changes in the past 5 years, and I've been really grateful to learn things about myself like what fuel works best for me what time of day. I now know that uncomfortable empty stomach feeling I used to get every morning at 9:00 at work was hunger, because my nonfat, high carb breakfast went through me like a race car. I feel so much better when I get some high quality fat and protein in the morning!) 

I've seriously done this four or five times now, and I love starting my week off by prepping my egg muffins on Sunday night - I eat 3 every morning, so these last me Monday through Thursday! (Plus the Bulletproof Coffee husband makes for us!) So Friday's the only day I have to get downstairs a little earlier to cobble together my breakfast.

I just love how easy and predictable these are. Every time, they come out great and pretty much the same. So simple - 8 eggs, some veggies, some meat, some salt, some pepper. Every time, cook for 30 minutes, end up with 12 tasty egg muffins and pop easily out of the silicon cups. (I like things that are predictable.) 

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 to 1 cup veggies (cooked or raw depending on what they are (raw greens bake fast enough to work), but if you do cooked you end up with more veggie density!)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cooked meat (I've used chopped up pieces of our homemade bacon, or homemade pork breakfast sausage in small pieces)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt or to taste
  • 1/8 tsp pepper or to taste
Seriously, so simple. Basically 3 ingredients, if you don't count the S&P. Use whatever veggies and meat you have on hand Sunday night!

Instructions:


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk eggs, salt, and pepper together in a bowl. 
  3. Add chopped veggies and meat of choice, stir.
  4. Ladle into 12 silicon baking cups in cupcake pan. (I'm not a big fan of silicon anything, but for this recipe they work really great and make clean-up easy. Just means I come home from work with 3 empty cupcake cups in my lunch bag many days, ha!)
  5. Bake for 30 minutes. (Mine have predictably taken 30 to 35 minutes, depending on what's in them. Check yours at 30 and add another 5 minutes if needed.)
They are just beautiful and big and puffy when they first come out of the oven, but they depress a little as they cool.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator once cooled.

(Unspoken step 6.: Start your morning less stressed knowing you have a tasty and filling breakfast waiting for you, with no work required!)

P.S. The cute napkins were a gift from Hen House Linens. They make the muffins look summery, don't they?

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