Sunday, May 31, 2020

Reusing Ruffles

My quarantine secondhand shopping continues, courtesy of a nice birthday gift card to ThredUp from my aunt and uncle - thanks, Aunt T and Uncle B!

(Pro tip: Don't forget to tell your family and friends about your eco-shopping goals, and you may get a pleasant shift in gifts!)

For some reason, I was feeling super feminine, likely in reaction to all the sweats and tees I've been wearing while working from home. I'm eager for the days when I can dress up at the office or for a night out again.

Not quite ruffles, but I loved the ruched neckline and bold floral pattern on this Calvin Klein blouse. I can see pairing this with a blazer for client meetings. It was listed at gently used condition for $15.98 (73% off of $60 retail).

Next up, this new with tags Ann Taylor Loft blouse. I love the delicate ruffles, and plan on wearing this as a great day-to-night option. A steal for $21.99 (65% off $55 retail). 


Cute but casual, this mustard sweater from J. Crew is lightweight and good for spring or fall. Plain enough color to go with many things, but I like that the ruffles add a little feminine touch, so it's not your everyday cardigan. Like new condition, this was $31.99 (74% off of $110 retail).


Finally, I keep adding to my collection of "day to night embellished black flats". I love that the ruffle on these Francesca's flat is functional, securing the shoe to my foot. These were like new condition for $27.99 (48% off of $48 retail).


I'm all set now for when things start to reopen... or if I decide to up my game for my office video calls. :) 

If you've been laid off during this pandemic, don't forget online consignment as a way to make some income, as well as stock up on interview duds as you reenter the workforce. All of the above came to just under $100 in like new condition, or 64% off of the $273 retail value.




Saturday, May 16, 2020

Secure Those Slipping Shoes

I got these cute flats off of Buy Nothing a while ago. I love the scalloped front edge detail, and they're generally really comfy. Except, with the first step, it was immediately evident I couldn't wear them all this. There wasn't just a little slippage - my full ankle came out with every step. I just knew that I would spend more time trying to keep these on by gripping my toes than would be worth it, so I needed to find a way to secure them or move on.


A couple You Tube tutorials later (Example 1, Example 2), and I had my method planned; I would add an ankle strap. You can do this to secure loose shoes, or if you just want to mix up the style.

The first step is the add a loop coming up from the back of the shoe to feed the strap through. Now the inside of my shoe already this small piece of elastic inside. If you're doesn't you can still do this project, but you'll need a sturdy needle to sew through the back of the shoe. With this in place, I can secure my loop to this piece of elastic instead.


Next, I feed my loop material, a strip of black material about 2-3" long, through the elastic in the back, and sew a couple stitches to form the loop. The length of the material depends on where you're securing it on the shoe and how far you want it to stick up (that is, how wide of a strap you'll be adding). The material also depends on the finish of your shoe and appearance you want. I chose a black elastic from an old bra strap!


Add a couple more stitches to secure your loop inside the shoe. You can see how it sticks up about an inch past the top of the shoe.


Then, simply feed the strap of your choice through the loop, and secure around your ankle! Some people choose a true ankle strap with clasp. I've chosen a piece of ribbon that I can tie in a big floppy bow. Alternatively, you could choose something embellished like a pearl anklet.

If you choose something like a nylon ribbon, you can finish the edges by holding a lit match to the edge for just a second. The heat will melt the edge and prevent it from fraying.



Since we didn't secure the ribbon to the loop, you can swap that part out as you like, changing it to fit your style of the day. Or if you started this project just for style (not to secure the shoe in place), you can remove the strap entirely, and tuck the loop into the back of the shoe.

With this 10 minute fix that costs less than a few dollars, you can save a pair of shoes that were not usable and even change the look to give them the value of several pairs of shoes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Ways to Honor the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day #QuarantineStyle

It was the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day today. This year feels like a weird year to be celebrating anything. We can't go out for the usual tree plantings, litter cleanup events, or other group events. However, let's not let the unusual year prevent us from a moment of reflection.

With COVID-19, we are seeing some unplanned, positive side effects. With stay at home orders and business shutdowns, there are no more commuter cars on the road and reduced manufacturing. You can see dozens of before-and-after pictures like the following, from around the world (Asia, Italy, California), showing visible reduction in air pollution.

An atmospheric map of China:


And an on-the-earth view of India: 


While the shutdown efforts may feel extreme and won't be entirely replicable when things return to "normal", let's figure out what we can bring forward. And in the meantime, it seems harder to maintain some of our good habits: restaurant delivery/takeaway with disposables have replaced ceramics and cutlery, Starbucks started refusing reusable mugs even before stay-at-home orders, and online shopping replaces reusable shopping bags with shipping packaging. Let's figure out where we can contribute now.

Here are several ways to honor the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day.

What You Can Do Now: 
  • Many of us have moved the majority of our shopping online. When shopping on Amazon, choose "Frustration-Free" packaging if possible. If it's an option, you should see it as a filter on the left-hand side, as you are refining your search. Or search for Frustration-Free up front. 


  • If shopping on Amazon, message cs-reply@amazon.com to request minimal plastic packaging inside your orders. This will help those non-frustration-free orders to do things like replace the plastic air-filled pillows with crumpled paper. 
  • Shop Amazon Smile (smile.amazon.com), now available on the mobile app too by navigating to Menu > Settings > Amazon Smile. This allows you to designate a charity of choice, and Amazon will make a small donation on eligible purchases. There are many available charities/non-profits, included many with a sustainability mission. 
  • When online shopping, you can still do second-hand. Consider options like thredup.com, swap.com, or Poshmark.
  • Reuse your disposables. Just because they are marketed as disposable doesn't mean you can only use them once. The plastic cutlery I've been receiving with my takeout has survived multiple rounds through the dishwasher. A single reuse of a disposable means you're reducing your waste by 50%. 
  • Are you making fabric face masks to wear when grocery shopping? Make your masks out of worn textiles, for example, a retired bed sheet. 
(old sheet + seam ripper = fabric and elastic for masks)
  • Plant a tree or get a houseplant. You can get plants at stores that are otherwise essential, for example grocery stores and hardware stores. Take advantage of spring and get some green in your home.
(new tree brings joy and breathes carbon dioxide)
  • Start a food garden. Whether getting a starter from the garden section of a hardware store, or regrowing food from your produce scraps, growing food has the general benefits of growing plants, and also makes you more food self-sufficient.  
  • Mend clothing. You may have some extra time at home now to catch up on that mending pile. And if you are a beginner, this is the perfect time to practice with worrying so much about the end result. 
  • Gather donations. Just because you can't drop off your donations at a thrift store, doesn't mean you can't gather them in the meantime. For some items like clothing, online sales are a way to deal with donations if you want to move them before physical stores reopen. 
  • Shop produce online. Subscription clubs like Imperfect Produce allow you to get fresh fruits and veggies while avoiding the store crowds. They will now even take back the box they deliver food in. 
  • Switch to a bidet. No better time to consider alternatives than when there's a shortage of toilet paper!
  • Use food scraps to get creative about cooking. Keep small amounts that don't seem like a small serving to combine into an interesting salad or buddha bowl at the end of the week. Keep the trimmings from your veggies to make homemade veggie broth. 
  • Eat your leftovers! If you want to mix things up, just freeze those leftovers, and you'll soon have a stockpile. 
  • Switch to reusable feminine products. With a shortage of those necessary products at stores, no time like now to invest in washable pads, period panties, or a menstrual cup. 
  • Continue to use online marketplaces where safe and available. Some groups like Buy Nothing are reducing posting to essentials only. Find the groups that allow you to buy and sell, read their safety guidelines, and use "porch pick up" for free items.
  • Save your delivery packaging for reuse. Larger boxes are great for moving or storage. Smaller boxes and envelopes for are good for shipping and by small businesses. I put out a weekly stash on the curb and have it claimed each week. 
(boxes with free sign on curb disappear within an hour)
  • Repair something around your home. Now is a perfect time to learn a new skill and prevent the need to shop for new things.
  • Once you've gathered your donations, choose a t-shirt that isn't ideal for donating, and turn it into face cloths/makeup wipes. Simply cut into squares, and you have the softest reusable tissue.
  • Stream more, buy less. Replace impulse buying movies or magazine from the Target end-caps with some of the amazing free content that is being provided by cultural institutions. From museums to Nasa archives, to at-home musical concerts, there is tons of content to enjoy.
  • Pick a favorite snack food and perfect an at home recipe. Love snack applesauce or granola?Identify containers to portion and replace single use snack packs. It will be easier to develop a new routine now than when you are in the hustle of your daily commute. 
  • Use what you have for household essentials or in your pantry. Were you saving staples like condensed soups or cans of beans for a quick dinner? While they may have a long shelf life, it's amazing how often I come across the one that got lost in the back and expired 2 years ago. Rotate your essentials and use them up. 
  • Use what you have for activities or gifts you have yet to get to. Receive a book for Christmas and have yet to crack it open? Get bath and body supplies for your birthday two years ago and haven't used them up yet? While you can't do certain activities that are closed, treat yourself to the things you can do and were planning to "get to someday". 
  • Try a solid bar shampoo or conditioner. It's an ideal time to experiment with new products. Dry products avoid the plastic bottle packaging, and save shipping fuel by concentrating the size and weight of the product. 

What You Can Do When We Return to "Normal":
  • Continue to work from home. Even 1 day per week is a 20% reduction in commuting.
  • Switch to a rideshare or public transit for the days you go to the office. 
  • Keep track of the changes above that were easy for you, and maintain them as we move forward. 

Cheers to you for whatever you're able to contribute amidst this crazy time, and Happy Earth Day. 


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Thrifting, Quarantine-style, Part Deux

Last week, I shared with you the online thrifting I've been doing to keep some sort of normalcy while the world is anything but normal these days. Well, the remaining items of my shopping spree arrived this week, and I couldn't be happier.

First, I got this sheer, gauzy, ballet-inspired skirt from Lularoe. Seafoam with metallic gold accents, I'm sure I could wear this to either a night at the theatre or a mermaid ball.


And last, these black slacks from Talbots. These were a pleasant surprise. From the pictures on the site, I couldn't tell that they had the khaki tuxedo stripes. Fortunately for me, I've been seeking tuxedo slacks for a while. Not into surprises? No worries, thredUP has a return policy (usually site credit).


For both of these, I paid $42.98. Compare at $147 new, and I saved $104.02 (71%). 


I can't believe these like-new quality clothes were given up. Others' loss is my gain, and I can't wait to show off my new spring wardrobe on my video calls, or when we eventually return to being out in public.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Survival Skills aka Growing Your Own Food

There's nothing like a global pandemic zombie apocalypse, and the resulting shortage of certain staples at the grocery store, to encourage you to become more self-sufficient and live off of what you have.

It's been a weird year for gardening. We've had a cool early spring, and where normally I'd have tomatoes transplanted already, this is the first week that I'm starting to think about putting plants outside.

So between feeling stuck inside with quarantine, and not feeling like I can plant outside, my mind has gone to "What can I grow from scraps in my kitchen window?" And this year, I'm trying out lettuce and cabbage for the first time.

Lettuce and cabbage are supposed to be super easy - you simply put the leftover core into a shallow bowl of water, and they'll grow roots and more leaves. I gave it a try with a cabbage (from St. Patty's Day corned beef!) and two heads of romaine. There are already very promising signs after about 2 weeks.


Here you can see about 3" of new leaf growth from about 6 new leaves on the romaine. 


Here you can see a few new leaves budding on the top of the cabbage... 


... as well as several healthy roots. 


Now that they have new growth (and it's finally getting a bit warmer outside), it's time to transfer them to soil. Using an enriched soil or compost, bury the roots and leave the leaves exposed. 


I chose to plant in ceramic planters, only because it's been too cold to prep my garden bed. Some guides have said that I should use the amount lettuce of I've grown at this point and call it quits. Others say that I can keep trimming to soil level and get knew regrowth. I'm looking forward to seeing how many rounds I can go. 


End goal? If I only get 1 round of small leaves regrowth, I'll still save 25% on my produce purchasing. Hopefully, I can go multiple rounds, reducing my shopping by 50% or more.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Shopping while Self Quarantined

These are certainly interesting times. One of the things I miss most while being stuck at home is my regular thrifting outings. I want to keep my life as "normal" as is possible given the situation while also being a bit conservative (because who knows what will happen to the economy).

Not only can we continue to support the businesses we love, but we can also keep our regular browsing and shopping cadence while stuck at home, and still keep our eco values while brick and mortar thrift stores are closed.

If you have been laid off or had a reduction in hours, you can use your unexpected free time to do some spring cleaning and get some income. Online sales are a great way to keep things going while keeping your distance from others. You still have a customer base with some of us stir-crazy folks. Direct sales (through sites like Poshmark) will get you the most, while consignment or second hand  sales (through sites like thredUP) will give you less but take some of the work off of you.

Last week, I occupied some time with "browsing the racks" at thredUP, and ended up with quite the good shopping cart. I ordered 5 items, and here's what's been delivered so far:

First, this great short elephant kimono. What? I don't like elephants (says the girl with an elephant pendant). Having loved some of the kimonos I rented from LeTote, I knew I wanted to add this style to my wardrobe. Cool and lightweight, it's an easy way to dress up some of my basic tees.


Then, this floral blouse, which was new with tags! This can be worn from day to night, from the office to date night. With these voluminous sleeves, I'll plan to wear this with heels to balance my proportions.


Fortunately, I also got some great heeled boots! Three-toned black, navy, and grey, these booties will go with most things, and I can see wearing them with pants or dresses. I love the chunky heel for comfort and stability, and they coordinate with the other items in my basket.


Things I like about shopping on thredUP: they measure the clothes or tell you if they are showing "default sizing". Note: sometimes they measure flat instead of around, so you need to make assumptions or move on if the size looks too small.  They also provide condition. I often select items that say "You might confuse this with new!"

They've been running a lot of promotions recently. Everything I bought this week was an extra 35% off.


Total, I paid $44.97 for these 3 items, compared to $140.99 new, a $96.02 (68%) savings!

Outside of thredUP, I was also glad to have Goodwill remind me about their online presence. Most of their listings are auction style, so you can spend quite a bit of time checking out what is about to expire as well a never ending rotation of new items.

Best wishes to you all, and hope e-commerce helps you sell or shop safely from your home.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Saving a Scratching Post (Easy DIY Repair)

T and I have quite an active kitty, Toby, who just turned 10 this year. He's having a mid-life crisis renewed burst of kitten playfulness, and is going nuts on anything he can scratch. Fortunately, we have scratching posts in several rooms for him to take his energy out on. Unfortunately, they are starting to get destroyed (and look messy) after a few years of abuse. The good news is it's super easy to clean up with just a pair of scissors and some glue. I chose a hot glue gun. You could also use fabric glue or wood glue.

Exhibit A (Before). There is frayed rope on much of the scratching post and a few ropes that are completely ripped loose. 

First, clean up all the loose shreds of twine. I trimmed some of the shreds on the post too, but didn't go nuts because I didn't want to leave it bald!


Next, add a row of glue onto the bald part of the post and press down one of the loose ropes into place. Because these were completely frayed at the ends, I twist or braid them, and continue to glue down until the end is secured. Repeat for each loosened rope.


Exhibit A (After). Not brand new, but way less straggly than when we started. No loose ends or loose shreds of twine.


Exhibit B (Before). This post has the twine barely holding on to the batting ball and the base.


First, I squirt a line of glue onto the base, to secure the rope. I go a few inches at a time, one row at a time, re-winding the rope in the spiral that it was originally. I don't want to go too fast, or my glue will dry before I can get the full spiral laid down.


I repeat with the batting ball, gluing and laying down one row at a time, spiraling around the ball form.


Trim a few loose strands of twine, and viola! Just like new. Exhibit B (After).


Just about 10 minutes of time saved me from replacing worn, ratty toys (at about $20 each), and will give Toby many more hours of scratching time.