Monday, October 28, 2013

How to Make a Star Wars Shoulder Harness

For my Mara Jade Halloween costume, a prominent feature of the costume is the shoulder harness. It's not exactly something you can buy on amazon, so I set out to make my own.

First, I started with the most important feature: the buckle.

From looking at this image, I created my own three dimensional model in a solid modeling software (perks of being a mechanical engineer). I based the width of the flanges on the width of the leather straps I bought from Hobby Lobby (1.5 inches with holes spaced an inch apart). The holes in the flanges were 6mm in diameter for screws and nuts I had on hand. The rest of the dimensions I chose just to recreate the look of the buckle, while making sure it wouldn't be flimsy enough that it would break in wear. I added in some filets and curves and voila! Star Wars buckle! (If you would like a copy of my solid model files or a dimensioned print to make your own, send me a note on my "Contact Me" tab.)

With my model and very lucky access to a 3D plastic printer (yay perks!), I ended up with this:

If you don't have access to a 3D printer, you could also mold it out of clay, glue together different pieces (like a coaster and some paint stirrers), or if you're really handy, carve it out of something.

I originally tried to paint it to look metal with some silver craft paint, but it really didn't want to go opaque. However, some aluminum colored spray paint went on brilliantly. If you make this yourself, trust me, choose spray paint.Be careful, though, because metallic spray paint is notorious for paint transfer, so make sure to also hit it with a coat or two of clear sealant.

With the buckle in hand, I just needed to make the two leather shoulder straps. Since I didn't want to waste leather by just guessing at the lengths it should be, I made a prototype using string (I made my prototype before paint just to make sure I didn't accidentally chip the paint). After several failed attempts, I came across a length that worked.

From hole to hole, 25 inches worked well for me (I'm 5'6" and wear a medium at Target if that helps any). I cut each strip an inch longer so that there would be 1/2 inch extra once the holes were added. It's probably the shortest I would go, an inch or two longer would still work nicely, too.

I created the holes in the leather similarly to the ones I needed for my floating shelf: nailing the strips to a piece of scrap wood. On one end of each strip, I angle the holes so that the leather would lay flat against my back. The first hole was half inch from the end of the strip and the second hole was an inch, with an inch distance between the two holes.

Once I screwed it all together, you end up with this:

I'll post more pictures later in the week of my completed costume, but this shoulder holster is definitely the coolest accessory. You can barely see it from the front because my hair and cowl cover the straps, but it's so epic from the back. Epic, I say!

{Sidenote: if you do use screws to hold everything in place, be careful sitting in chairs so that the screws don't damage things if they end up being a little too long, like mine.}

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stitch Fix Review: The Appeal

Click here to read my first review of Stitch Fix and an overview of how the process works.

Click here to read my second review.

Click here to read my third and most recent review.

If you read my last review, you will know that I was thoroughly disappointed in Stitch Fix. Throw-in-the-towel disappointed. It's actually been four months since I gave up on this concept.

If I quit the Fix, why am I trying again? Purely on the hope that any combination of the change in weather to autumn clothing or additional time to hammer out the kinks of their 'beta' phase will result in a box that is actually styled for me.

Look, I'm really not looking to be blown away. My expectations were very, very low. The only criteria I really had was that the box feel like it was meant for me. Meaning two things: 1) No flowy polyester tops and 2) NO FLOWY POLYESTER TOPS! After glancing over the content of my other Stitch Fix boxes, over 50% of the items were flowy polyester tops, even though I specifically said no polyester. Granted, I did end up keeping two if those blouses, but a large part of the decision to keep them was the fact that I'd lose the $20 fee for the box if I didn't keep something.

Now you fully understand my mindset, here's what they sent me!

Look! No, polyester blouses! A step in the right direction! Here's the break-down!

Santos Stripe Detailed Crew Neck Sweater by Tulle, $58. There were a lot of great qualities to this sweater. The knit was thick and dense. There was the cute detail on the back of the neck with a button closure. The colors were pretty and vibrant. Unfortunately, the pros did not outweigh the cons. The stripes were really unflattering, drawing all the attention to my belly. And a pull-over sweater is really not practical for Arizona. Back in the box.

Susanna Metallic Dot Crew Neck Sweater by Kensie, $78. I really liked this sweater. The knit was nice, the two tone affect from alternating the direction of the knit to form polka dots was adorable, and the yarn had metallic flecks in it. It was really nice, but it wasn't worth the price. I couldn't justify spending nearly $80 on just a top. A nice, structured jacket or dress, maybe, but not a simple pull over sweater. Back in the box.

Justin Floral Print Cowl Neck Tank by Hourglass Lilly, $48. I really wish Stitch Fix had more tops like this one. High quality cotton and slimmer fits. Unfortunately, I didn't keep it. I have a similar shirt from H and M for less than half the cost. The cowl neck was too low and the pattern was a little outdated. Also, the fern leaf right across my belly kind of highlighted it. Back in the box.

Zoey Interlocked Triangle Charm Necklace by Bay to Baubles, $32. I love this necklace. I have wanted one of these for quite a bit. The intertwined pair of charms. My eyes had been on circular ones, but the triangles are adorable. The chain seems a bit short, but I love the style and the quality. In a change of pace, the quality and price seemed to line up. It stays!

Ken Windowpane Print A-line Dress by Collective Concepts, $78. I really didn't like this dress initially. It was very boxy on the hanger. On me, though, the cut was more flattering than I expected, but not great. The material was terrible, polyester. And the print really wasn't doing anything for me. Back in the box!

This box was probably close to being my favorite, tied with the first box. However, I finally grasped the problems I've had with Stitch Fix during these trials.
  1. This box was better than the previous three, but the price and quality really don't line up. I have my price setting to the $50 to $100 range, with the exemption of jewelry. I really wanted Stitch Fix to introduce me to high quality staples, but it has been mainly average quality trendy pieces.
  2. They don't know how to dress women with different body types. While I do love my body and I am at a healthy weight and size, I will admit my shape can make me difficult to dress. I carry a lot of my weight high on my hips, it's who I am and I accept it (and detailed thoroughly in my style profile). Yet, the clothes I was sent tended to either be flowy, trying to hide it completely and turning me into a tent, or highlighted it, making me look worse. I did some research into other reviews from other women on Stitch Fix and the was a definite pattern to the ones who loved their boxes: their bodies were designed for clothes. No quirks. Slender bodies who could probably make anything look good. Take that how you will...
  3. The lack of variety in the Stitch Fix 'closet'. Even though you have to take a style profile quiz before your first box, you better fit into the Stitch Fix 'style' before you consider signing up. I really hoped there would be more staple pieces, like classic button up blouses, cardigans, blazers, and trousers. The boxes tend to lean trendy and girly, in the cuts and prints. 
At this point, I don't know if I will try Stitch Fix again. Like I said last time, I may try again if I can get some proof that things have changed. That the odds of me being happy with a box have gone up. Right now, I just don't know. Not a strong appeal.

*This post was not sponsored by Stitch Fix. All opinions are my own.*

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Review: Essie Matte Top Coat

A while ago, I bought L'Oreal's matte nail polish as a substitution for the Essie matte top coat, which I couldn't find in stores. I was disappointed with the L'Oreal version, so I finally pulled the trigger and ordered it from Amazon.

It goes on like any normal top coat, for me, after two coats of a color. It dries incredibly quickly, much more quickly than a shiny top coat. And, this my be a pro or a con depending on how you look at it, but if you are painting it over a shiny base coat, you can see where you've applied the top coat. Also, the polish was a cloudy white color until I painted it over a deep red and transfer tinted the bottle. Hopefully it won't taint any future colors I paint it over.

It's a nice top coat and it has a nice effect, but it's nothing spectacular. It's not as matte as the L'Oreal polish and quickly buffs itself smoother with normal finger usage (that's a weird phrase...). And it's not any strong or more protective than a shiny top coat, giving me about two days of coverage before it starts to chip. The following picture is after roughly 48 hours, the same amount of time when I took pictures for my L'Oreal review.

I would buy it again, but I don't know if it met my expectations. It needed to be more matte and more protective, but it'll be a fun novelty every once and a while.

Monday, October 14, 2013

What's In My Handbag?

A while ago, I asked the internet which purse I should buy: a teal satchel or a caramel messenger bag. I pulled the trigger and you should have know. Mama ain't afraid of no color.

And since Papa's got a brand new bag, let's see what's living deep inside of it.


1.  My sunglasses case. I don't normally carry sunglasses, but they do reside in my car. The case is storage when I'm walking around in stores.
2.  My wallet. A gift from Dan on my 23rd birthday. That was probably my favorite birthday. We rented a cabin in the mountains and it snowed the night before. We barely made it to the cabin due to the bad roads, but it was perfect. And I love the wallet, even now with the gnome missing half of his face.

3.  Gum. I am always within arm's reach of a piece of dessert Extra.
4.  Dinosaur playing cards because you never know when you'll be in desperate need of cards.
5.  A notebook of post-its. Nothing seems to get done unless it's tasked out on a post-it.
6.  My camera.
7.  My cellphone. It's probably about time to get a new one, but nothing's striking my eye so motivation is pretty minimal.
8.  My make up bag! And now, for a "What's in my bag within my bag?" Whoa...

          1.  Hair ties and bobby pins. (Hehe, first time there was a typo, 'booby pins')
          2.  Eye liner, Jemma Kidd in the color 'Supermodel'.
          3.  Rimmel Show Off Lip Lacker in 'Celestial'.
          4.  Cover up stick.
          5.  Compact mirror. Present from my mom ages ago.
          6.  Revlon Balm Stain in 'Romantic'.
          7.  Maybelline Colossal Volume Mascara.
          8.  Rimmel Show Off Lip Lacker in 'Aurora'.
          9.  Chap Stick, SPF 15.

...and back to the other bag!

9.  My work badge.
10.  Some pencils for trivia.
11.  My keys! I'd misplaced most of my extra keys when we moved house, so for the longest time, I just had my car key and my house key. A couple of weeks ago, I found them all again! My tiny pocket knife, the one my Dad bought me to replace the first one he bought me after Ohio airport security took it away from me (what damage could anyone do with a knife that small?). The 'Carolyn' lanyard my sister bought me for watching her cat. The 'I'm Not Sorry' lanyard that got me through grad school.

I've written about it before, but my advisor in grad school was a horrible person. One of the worst people I've ever met. To survive that year and a half, I had to apologize a lot. It was all about stroking his ego. I routinely swallowed my pride and said I was wrong and I was sorry, but this lanyard reminded me that they were just words to get through it as quickly as possible. That I wasn't really sorry. That I knew I was right.

Anyway, that's all I've got!  The bag could probably hold a bunch more, but this is all I could ever really need. After a month or so of carrying this bag, the Sydney Satchel by Fossil, I'm pretty impressed and it deserves a little review. I wish it was a little more structured, but I imagine it would be stiffer if I carried it like a satchel, not like a cross-body. The quality is high, the zipper is strong, and I haven't noticed any dye transfer from the leather.

I made a good choice.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Transitioning Your Wardrobe to Fall

If you're like me, your closet is just full of bright colors. Love me some vibrant tones. They are my wardrobe samples in spring and summer, but they are so much harder to incorporate in fall and winter.

But I think I've figured out the trick for making them work all year: surround them in neutrals.

My bright coral Ponyo dress is suddenly appropriate for the cooler weather when it is the only non-neutral in my outfit. Cover it a bit with a breathable blazer, a big necklace, and some ankle boots and you've got yourself a cute little outfit.

Coral Dress

While the green tone of my satiny, billowy top is definitely on the cool side and more appropriate for the upcoming months than my coral dress, the cut makes it much easier to style for warmer months. By layering over another tank top that's tucked into a high-waisted, knee length skirt, it adds the necessary layers and coverage for fall. Pair with some ankle boots and a bright lip if you're feeling daring.

Green Vest over Skirt

Lastly, the year's staple: bright jeans. In summer, I would probably color block these with a top in a completely different shade, like cobalt or indigo. However, for fall, I like to make it a bit preppier by topping it with a crisp white button up and if it's really chilly, my moto jacket.

Red jeans

Other tips for dressing for this time of year:
  • It's all about the ankle boots.
  • Keep your footwear neutral in color.
  • In my brain, fall is for gold jewelry, winter is for silver. 
  • Be careful with flowy tops. It's very tricky to layer over a flowy top without it looking scrunched and messy. Save them for the top layer, if possible. 
Granted, take my tips with a grain of salt as "fall" in Tucson means the temperature is finally under 90 degrees.    

Monday, October 7, 2013

And so the Craziness Begins

After this past weekend, I'm quite lucky I'm still standing. Maybe not standing, at least in one piece. Where shall I begin?

Well, Saturday morning Dan and I hit up a bunch of garage sales and estate sales. One of the estate sales was really high quality stuff, especially for an estate sale. They tend to be, to put it politely, not my style. Everything went half off at 1PM, so we came back with the trailer hooked up to the Jeep and hoped the pickings were still good. The metal chemical cabinet and a mid century modern dresser remained so we grabbed them up for $150. I've never dealt with such disorganization and chaos than that estates sale, but it was worth it to walk away with this baby. Aren't the details gorgeous? The only downside? We have absolutely nowhere to put it, so for now, it lives in the middle of our entryway.

Unfortunately for us, we decided to do all of this right before we were supposed to help my sister move. So after hauling these heavy pieces in and out of a trailer, we got to spend the next four hours loading and unloading all of my sister's stuff. This was only a small fraction of it.

Then, as a thank-you, she took us out for Chinese food. In the middle of our appetizer, the whole plaza lost power. Luckily, our food had just finished cooking, Dan had a flashlight, and the restaurant was small, so it was a blast. We propped the flashlight up like a lantern and gobbled down our food. We were also lucky that Dan had some cash to cover the bill since the credit card reader was down.

And that was just Saturday. Sunday, we started the morning with a nice long walk around the antiques fair with arms that felt like jelly. All I got was a lovely sunburn and a fight with Dan in the middle of an elementary school soccer field over how many tools he has.

To end the argument, he promised to use the ones he has more, which led to him starting to cut the tiles for the fireplace. We couldn't find the 4"x4" marble tiles we wanted for the edge, so we bought some 8"x12" ones and Dan cut them down.

So, in the fireplace that is officially taking forever, we are slooooowly making progress. Hopefully we can start actually sticking them down over this next week. It MUST be done by Christmas time!

Friday, October 4, 2013

My Baby is Growing Up

Today, my car hit one hundred thousand miles. The big 100,000.

To most people, this probably isn't that big of a deal. To me, it's huge. My car, my baby Tick, he's starting to get up there.

I've mentioned my car before, but for a refresher, he's my 2001 cherry red Volkswagen Beetle. My parents bought him brand new in May 2001 and he's the only car I've ever driven. He's been a big part of the last 12 years of my life.
  • My two friends and I made a big entrance at the eighth grade dance when we got dropped in 'the cool car'.
  • I stared out the window dreamily from the back seat on the way home from that same dance after I had my first dance with a boy. Two boys that night, actually. 
  • I took my driving test in it. I failed the first one and passed the second the next morning in it.
  • It's how my friends found houses and parties because they could spot my car out front. 
  • I've sobbed in it when I found a note on the windshield telling me my boyfriend was cheating on me. 
  • I've driven upstate three times to see Dan when he worked in Flagstaff for the summer, one trip to the Grand Canyon, once to San Diego for Sea World and the Zoo, and once to Phoenix for a Dashboard Confessional concert that went horribly, horribly wrong. 
  • He's been constantly ridiculed for smelling like crayons. Apparently Volkswagen uses an adhesive that smells like crayons when heated. Beetle + Tucson summers = Crayonmobile.
  • We've survived one encounter with a red Camaro that couldn't read street signs. 

So, as weird as it sounds, here's to my Tick. May we have another 100,000 miles full of memories together.