Saturday, October 31, 2015

Blue November & No Spend November

    Do you ever get on a kick?  I do.  Pretty often actually.  I get an idea in my head and suddenly that's all I can think about.  Maybe it has something to do with the delayed gratification of internet shopping, but when I decide there is something missing from my closet, I usually end up with way too many of it and way over my spending budget.  
    For years I only had two purses, one black and one brown.  The black one (my favorite) really needed to be buried and mourned.  It had been the perfect purse for so long, I hadn't really even used the other.  But, now it was literally falling apart, and it was time for a new one.  Over the summer I decided that I now was the time to give up my favorite purse, and switch to my far second favorite until something better could be found.  For my next carryall I decided to mix things up and get a novelty purse.  I found one, and it was cute and inexpensive, so I ordered.  
    While I was waiting, I went to my local thrift store and found a nice bag in an outrageous color for about $6, so I bought it.  Pretty soon the novelty purse arrived and it was as darling as it was impractical.  For a carryall, it carried almost nothing.  Meanwhile the loud purse worked with only one or two outfits and also couldn't hold all my stuff for our busiest days.  So I searched again.  And again.  And again.  And each time I found something that was wonderful.  Each time I thought this is the one, but each time it turned out to be not quite right for all occasions.
    By the end of summer I probably had acquired a dozen purses ranging from $3 to $30.  Do the math on that and I'd spent way more than I'd ever intended.  They each worked for a specific situation; none of them worked for anything and everything like I'd hoped.  I loved them all, but my closet was overflowing.  I took a step back to gauge the messy mound of handbags and clutches.  When did this happen?!  I vowed to never let it happen again.  And yet...... 
    I saw a blue dress that I fell instantly in love with, but the reviews were abysmal and the price tag was inconceivable.  The search for a modestly priced doppelganger was on.  And now I am practically drowning in blue dresses of every sort.  Not even three months later and I've done it again.  
    Rather than let this failure get me down, I choose to see it as a triumph.  After all, they were all dresses I'd drooled over at some point in the past and managed to find for a bargain.  And doing a theme month might be a fun challenge.  Even though we're in the full swing of autumn with all its red orange and gold, I'm feeling blue is my go to color this month.  Plus the name Blue November sounds so musical.  So in the weeks to come get ready to see more blue on the avenue.
    In addition to Blue November, I'm declaring November 1st as the beginning of No Spend November.  It's time to get back to a budget and to refocus on saving for the future instead of letting every little blue skirt turn my head.  For the past 5 years or so I offset spending by selling unwanted items.  Four months ago I closed my eBay store.  It's too difficult to keep up with while living here and my final sale was to a person who proved to be one of the nastiest characters I've ever encountered.
        After a month long ordeal with this unhappy person, it just seemed like a sign: no more shops; no more resale.  I'll just hang on to what I've got from now until I live closer to a thrift shop with a good donation drop off.  The downside is that it hurts my budget not to have a little extra spending money on the side.  It also causes a lot of clutter which I cannot stand.  But, maybe the clutter is a good thing.  Maybe it will remind me that I have so much, I don't need more.  And the smaller budget will enforce that I can't get more. 
    I mention all this for two reasons: 1.  just to vent.  2.  to be accountable for a goal I've set myself.  I managed to go cold turkey on my Bejeweled habit with great success, so I'm hopeful for this endeavor as well.  It feels good to be accountable here for my commitment to saving for a month and I hope you'll join me for Blue November.  Send me your favorite Blue Dress pics and I'll use them in my posts this month.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A Dress on the Wild Side

    Moderation in all things.  I must have said or thought it a million times.  If I have a mantra, that's probably it, because it works in so many areas of life from the major issues to the minuscule.  Looking at the big picture a little chaos keeps life interesting and a little crazy keeps a wardrobe interesting too.  Too much chaos in life or the closet is just well chaos.  Start dressing crazy and people will think you are crazy.  So, when you find a really off the wall piece, don't disregard it right, find a way to bring some balance to it.  Just turn the crazy dial down a little.  On a recent browse through ThredUp, my favorite online thrift store, I saw this really wild dress, but for some reason I kept coming back to look at it.  (If you're new to ThredUp use this link to save $20 off your first purchase  http://www.thredup.com/r/WKVOY5 )   



    Was it totally nuts or was it totally unique? Or was I totally nuts for liking it? There's a fine line and I felt like this print was walking it, but I decided to take a chance on it.  When it arrived, I immediately thought I'd made a mistake.  Maybe it was just too out there.  Still there was something pleasant about its odd color palette and bold strokes print.  "Well, you're my crazy now, so let's see what I can do with you," I thought, and put it on the rack of "ideas in progress."   
    That deep orange is hard to resist in autumn, but since I didn't have anything in that shade to use as an accessory and had zero interest in buying something new to go with a dress I hadn't yet come to love, I decided to dig through my mountainous stack of cardigans and tights to see what I had.  Since I love mustard yellow and this dress has plenty of it, I made it the focus color and then went with neutrals for the rest.  This outfit is still pretty bold but it makes sense now--quirky or whimsical instead of crazy.




    
    I have to give props to my "fashion team" here.  This cute little camera purse was spotted by my first born at our favorite local thrift store.  She knew I'd love it and so she grabbed it and proudly marched it right over to me.  She knows me so well and I am one proud mama.  For about $3 (originally $26, so she's got an eye for a bargain too) this cute case is now used to hold all my camera accessories when we travel and fits perfectly in my camera bag.    
    The gorgeous vintage suitcase was found by my dear mum.  I sent her on a mission for cool vintage luggage and she delivered.  For about 10 years I've been wearing the same style of sunnies, so on a recent trip to Harajuku I finally found an update to those old boxy lenses with my mum and the girls giving them the thumbs up when I tried them on.



Shop the Look:
Dress by BB Jack Dakota from ThredUp.com
Camera Purse from thrift store
Ring & necklace hand made by me
Charter School Cardi in Honey from ModCloth
Qupid Heels from ModCloth.com

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Is It All About Looks?

    
    Looks don't matter.  We've all heard that since we were children.  And it's true.  And it's not true.  We absolutely shouldn't judge based on appearance, but like it or not, that's exactly what happens, because how you look is a visual representation of how you feel about yourself and your life.  A lot of people are going to (even unintentionally) pass judgement based only on that.  We have senses to tell us about our world and sight is one of them.   While I do believe in dressing appropriately for the situation (for example the workplace is no place of a mini skirt and leave the plunging neckline at home if you're heading to church) I don't believe in dressing to please others, especially the gazillion strangers you'll meet in your lifetime.  We can only control  the message we put out there, not how others interprets it. 
 
         No matter how hard you try, someone at sometime in this very sensitive day and age is going to get offended over something.  (I once bent over to grab my toddler as she ran down an aisle at a theater and as I did so my t shirt fell forward and exposed some cleavage.  I had no idea it happened, but there was a woman there who knew me and was so shocked by this brief flashing that she felt she had to warn me about dressing more modestly.  How absurd!  I took her advice for what it was worth--nothing.)  Ultimately it is most important to dress in a way that pleases the one person whose opinion and comfort matters most: you.  That is what I do and there is peace in it.
    Recently I made a new acquaintance.  She confided that she had seen me around and didn't like me.  I was speechless.  We'd never spoken before, we're not in the same groups, I'd never snubbed her.   What possible reason could she have for not liking me?  I asked and she said that I "just seemed stuck-up."  Really?  Based on her seeing me walking down the street while she drove past in her car?   Yeah, that was it.  She had driven by as I was walking down the street a few times and made her decision based on my appearance alone.  She decided that because I looked nice, I would probably be judgmental of someone like her who dresses the part of the tired and stressed out mom-- old t shirts and torn up jeans that don't fit properly.   She decided that that's who I was and she would therefore hate me before I had a chance to hate her. 
    As someone who's been that tired stressed out mom, I'm more prone to sympathy over criticism.  I've been through my own struggles and gained a lot of confidence in myself along the way.  Here's the funny thing about confidence:  when you have it, you don't really think about others so much.  Judging others is for people who are frightened of being judged themselves.  I like who I am.  I love my life and I feel like how I dress is just a reflection of that.  I don't really care what other people wear if they're happy.  I may have seen her and thought, "oh the toddler days, I remember them well,"  but I certainly wouldn't have thought she was a bad mom or a bad person.
    There's a saying I heard decades ago and though I've tried to find it again, my search has not yielded anything.  The saying went like this  "What do you hate?  By this you will truly be known for it is surely what you will become."  As an astute observer, I've seen this saying ring true more often than not.  The nagging wife who exclaims she just cannot stand when women nag their husbands.  That person on Facebook who never has anything positive to say  but complains about all the negativity on the internet.  The man who is so overprotective of his child so she won't be bullied, but ruthlessly bullies his wife and neighbors.
    I wondered in the hours following my new acquaintances admission if she saw the hypocrisy in her prejudice.  I wonder if she saw the way her own fear and insecurities had kept her from something as wonderful as friendship with someone (even better, friendship with someone unlike oneself).  I believe very strongly in living life deliberately, so of course in my ruminating I must also look at my own life and my own hang ups see where I am limiting myself.


*These gorgeous photos are the work of the talented artist Yvette Inufio.  Find her work at www.yvetteinufio.etsy.com









Monday, October 26, 2015

Snuggle Up: Cozy Sweatshirts for the Chilly Days Ahead

    When the sun is a little slow in rising and then drifts shyly behind thick clouds all day, I find comfort in a hot cuppa and a cozy sweatshirt.  I wish I could snuggle up under a blanket and watch a silly movie all day, but I have work to do even when the sun is on vacation.  So, the tea must go in a thermos,but the comfy shirt stays on.  I've always had a personal rule against wearing sweats out of the house, but with such cute styles out there, sweatshirts have gotten a whole lot classier.

    My personal top pick is this little heather gray number which has recently joined my wardrobe.  It's soft and comfy and pretty classy for a sweatshirt.


Democracy Die Cut Tie Back Sweatshirt sizes S--XL for $69


Feeling Foxy?  I love this Take a Sly Stance Sweatshirt from ModCloth for $49.99 in  S M L


Classy & Cozy?  I'm in love!  Rhinestone Sweat Shirt from Forever21 for $24.90 in S M L


Great texture and visual appeal on this Lace Panel Sweatshirt from Charlotte Russe for $21.99 in S M


Two bold prints from AnthropologieBrocade Spliced Tee for $88 in XS-XL


Emblazoned Blooms Sweatshirt for $88 in XS-L

Me-Ow.  Love this Cat Print Sweatshirt from Forever21 for $17.90 in Small

Saturday, October 24, 2015

On a Barrel Roll in Ivory: ootd

    If a little is good then more must be better, right?  In this case, the answer is yes.  One of my favorite dresses is the On a Barrel Roll dress from ModCloth.  It is perfect in every way from the fit and the cut to the shade of blue.  I wasn't looking for another dress just like it, but I found one anyway.  It is the same exact same dress (although by a another brand) in ivory with a black print and I love it just as much. 
    I've been in that position when you see the perfect top and so you buy one in every color, but the truth is that's never really a good idea.  After a while your closet can start to look like that of a cartoon character who wears the same thing everyday.  
    So, even though I've found this dress in the same style for a third time in purple with a different print, I won't be buying any more.  I'm all through at two (that's my modified version of the "one and done" saying), but I have no regrets over owning two of these interesting and figure flattering dresses.




Shop the Look:

On a Barrel Roll Dress in Ivory by Fervour
Denim Jacket is a thrift store purchase
Peach Purse by Nila Anthony from shopjeen.com
Flourish at the Fete Flats in Peach from ModCloth.com
Bow Belt is a thrift store purchase
Pink Rose earrings are handmade by me

Friday, October 23, 2015

Travel: The Many Faces of Fuji

Sunset
    Our gypsy lifestyle isn't always easy.  In fact it can be quite lonely.  Our loved ones are always asking us to come "home" for a visit, but we are rarely able to due to the cost of travel.  For a while we tried to make a visit home at least every other year, but right now we're so far away that plane tickets alone would cost the same as a nice used car.  And since we'll be needing a nice used car or two when we do get back on native soil it seems crucial that we save as much money as we can. 
Early Dawn
    No matter where we move there are always folks who say they'll come to visit.  We always respond that they are welcome, but we've come to extend that welcome with the knowledge that few if any ever will come and it's usually around the time that they see how expensive it is to go anywhere that "things" suddenly come up to prevent them from making the trip.  But, some adventurous relatives or ours did make it over the big blue ocean to spend a couple of weeks with us and it was so wonderful.  We couldn't have asked or hoped for a better time.  
Middle Dawn with the Clouds Drifting in
    It's good for the soul to see the world, but it is even better for the heart and soul to be with those who know us so well and love us unconditionally.  That has been the one thing missing in our travels  and this time with family was at once restful and energizing.  During their time here we were able to show them a few of our favorite places as well as visit new places with them.  
Late Dawn
    The crown jewel of the trip was our stay at an onsen at the foot of Mt. Fuji.  There really is nothing to compare to throwing open the curtains and seeing the sun rise over this most majestic mountain. We were told before we came to Japan that we'd inevitably take a million pictures of Fuji, and that's what I was counting on.  But fate or rather the weather had other plans.  Of our three trips to the mountain, this has been the only one in which it hasn't been completely covered in clouds.  So, I decided to get all one million photos right then, just in case we never get another clear view.  I won't post all of them here, just a few of my favorites as the sun set and then rose and then as we climbed a little way up the side.

Making Our Way Up the Mountainside
     If there is one thing I've learned from all my years on the road it is that the most memorable and special time are those that are shared.  What a blessing to be able to share this view with so many people that I love.




Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Searching for That Perfect LBD

    Continuing from my last post about Little Black Dresses (henceforth referred to as LBDs)  I wanted to take just a moment to highlight some of my favorite LBDs on the market right now.  I truly believe they are an essential to every woman's wardrobe, whether it's a cocktail party, graduation, or even a funeral (yes, I know it's a little morbid to plan for that sort of thing, but let's face it, they're a part of life)  a little black dress is something that's perfect for all occasions.
    It's important to find one that speaks to your style and flatters your figure.  And, just because it's black doesn't mean it has to be boring.  Just as with the Lavish Alice dress that caught my eye, the right LBD has something special about it.  So, in this post I'll feature a variety of lengths and fits, but all with a little oomph.

First up is this adorable little bow belted dress from ModCloth with side cut outs.
Classic Twist Dress in sizes S M L for $59.99

This dress from Forever21 has some serious style with mesh panels, a full length skirt and halter neck.   Mesh Panel Maxi dress in sizes S M L for $22.90

I am crazy about this dress from Unique-Vintage.  The sweetheart neckline and full skirt make it a timeless look.  Stop Staring! Mad Style Swing Dress in sizes S M L XL for $172.00

This dress by Catherine's has all my favorites for a romantic classic dress: Lace, three quarter sleeves, and a knee length hemline.  Scalloped Boudoir Dress in sizes 0X - 4X for $158.00


This Asos dress is classy, understated with a midi waist and detail pleating at the bust.  But most importantly it is oh, so figure flattering.  Asos Midi Dress in US sizes 0-14 for $72.00



And just in case this Lavish Alice dress has captured your heart, there are a few shops on Ebay that still carry it for $20-$50 (not including shipping)
NWT Size 12UK for about $52 + $25 shipping

NWOT Size 12 UK for about $50

NWT in Sizes 6, 10, 14 UK for $45 + $20 shipping

New with Defects in Size 6 US for starting auction of $19.99 + 3.99 shipping

That Perfect Little Black Dress: ootd

    Date night was coming up, and since it only happens about once every two or three years, I wanted to have something special.  I went in search of that perfect little black dress.  When I saw this little number by Lavish Alice, I'll admit I wasn't instantly drawn to it.  The reviews on ModCloth were somewhat mixed and the grommets and lace up sides felt a little like a throw-back to my high school goth days (everyone's had a goth phase, right?)  But, I really loved the way one of the contributors wore the dress.  It looked classy and elegant on her.  Now that my angst-ridden teenage years are long gone, and I have fully embraced colors, I find that I have a noir-deficieny in my closet.  So, lately I have been on the lookout for that perfect LBD, and when this dress came around again, I took notice. 
    It was originally $79.99 and eventually on sale for $47.99, but even at 40% off it was more than I wanted to spend on a dress I hadn't made up my mind about.
    Recently I started seeing them listed on Ebay and when one popped up in new condition, I took a closer look at it.  I messaged the seller and found that she was willing to come down a little on the price, so for $35 this little black beauty became mine.  
    The dress is two sizes larger than what I normally wear, but since most of the reviewers said it was way too tight, I figured buying bigger would be the right way to go.
    Even with a larger size, I had to wiggle into this dress and loosen it the sides.  Definitely put it on before you do your hair or all that time with the curling iron and the hair spray will be for nothing.
    Not to worry, a slightly messy up do goes great with this dress, and if you're looking for a unique and stand out LBD, I highly recommend this one.





Shop the Look:
Lavish Alice Dress
Qupid Heels
Marie Claire Purse
Earrings are handmade, but these cute coral roses by PeachTreeLane are really similar.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Artist Spotlight: Elisa Lazo de Valdez & Visioluxus


    October is the month of the macabre and while I didn't begin writing this feature with the intention of posting it in time for Halloween,  there is no denying the dark nature of this artist's work.  I suppose some things are just meant to be.
     I first stumbled onto the work of Elisa Lazo de Valdez and her studio Visioluxus while searching for some nautical decor on Etsy.  I've always loved the mysterious beauty of the sea.  With names like "Mermaid's Corset" and "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" given to these gorgeous black and white photos, I was instantly drawn to Elisa's work.  
    However, there was one photo in particular that I was taken with.  The piece was called "His Ghost" and looked so remarkably like my husband, who was away at that time, that I was moved to tears.  
    As I searched her studio, I was so struck by the depth and grace of her photos.  I have never encountered work with such a haunted opulence; I have been a fan ever since that first view.  I am so pleased, so honored to be able to present her work and her studio Visioluxus.  
Bleu Avenue:  Elisa, thank you so much for talking with me.  You are such a gifted artist, what does photography mean to you and how/why did you chose it as a medium for your creativity?
Elisa:  I don't think photography in and of itself is particularly meaningful to me, it is simply a tool to create imagery in an efficient and low cost way. I have a degree in design and illustration and worked in pencil, ink, paint, etc. for a long time. I would shoot images as reference for my illustrations. At some point I realized I could build creative imagery in the real world and then photograph it. With the advent of digital cameras this became a resourceful way to experiment. I also really enjoy the interaction between model and photographer. 


B:  What is the creative process like for you?  Do begin with a theme you'd like to explore or is it more like a single idea? 


E:  My creative process will sound a little ridiculous to anyone who likes to plan. I try and expose myself to interesting and stimulating art, movies, fashion, literature, travel and so on. I have bits and pieces of inspiration and ideas floating around in my head all the time. When I meet with a photo model I create the idea for the shoot on the spot, based on the weather, my mood, what I dreamt of that night, the model's vibe, any weird props I found, what colors my MUA might be into that day, if I feel like going on location or not. It is extremely free form. Sometimes I fixate on certain prop idea, and then build the shoot around that when the model arrives. It is rare that I have a fixed idea in mind.

B:  I was first drawn to your studio by the nautical themed pieces, but there are so many other genres you explore so beautifully.  Do you think of your work as being eclectic or is there a particular style that you identify with?
E:  I think eclectic is a good word, most often my work is described as "dark". My personal point of view is to fuss around with what I'm shooting until it feels creepy. Sometimes this falls in the surrealist realm, sometimes the dark art ideal. I don't identify with a particular style but I do love the elegant gothic aesthetic. 

B:  "Elegant gothic" is the perfect way to describe it.  You have some amazing props and costumes;  do you design them yourself? 

E:  I do create most of the props and costumes for the shoots with a lot of creative pinning and acres of loose fabric. I think you would be surprised at what is just loose fabric clipped and pinned together. I also wield a mean glue gun. The wardrobe is all thirfted, minus what the models may bring with them to the shoot. I prefer vintage or timeless clothing that adapts itself to different styles. My husband, Phillip Valdez, is a very talented paper sculptor who makes masks and headdresses at my request for various shoots. I rarely shoot with designers clothing, but I have had the great pleasure to work with the very talented and ethereal Kambriel on many occasions, and own some of her pieces that get used quite a bit.  Gina Campbell has been my hair and makeup artist for the past 2 years, and she creates wonderful looks for the models. For the more complex hair and makeup work I often have examples to show her, but she interprets everything into her own style.
B:  Having the right team can mean so much when you're trying to get exactly what you imagine to become real.  What is your dream project? 

E:  That's an interesting question. I don't really have a specific project I've been yearning to do. Shoot in a real castle maybe? My dream situation is to shoot whatever I please and be able to pay the bills at the same time. As this has yet to happen in 12 years, my goals for the future are to shift away from standard photography and go back towards illustration, but this time in the digital arena using my photography as a starting point. The work of Ray Ceasar, Nekro, Oleg Dou and Erwin Olaf's more fascinating digital manipulations (like the "Royal Blood" series) are all inspiration for that transition.
B:  The title alone gives me chills, I can't wait to see wait to see what the future has in store for you. 
 
 

 Keep up with Elisa's work at

http://www.visioluxus.com/