Thursday, November 19, 2015

Reading Resolution Reflections

 "I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."

With the recent world events and alarming responses by many Americans, I've been reflecting on such passages from Nelson Mandela's Long Walk to Freedom.

Finishing Mandela's autobiography was one of my New Year's resolutions, and I finally completed my goal during Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon on October 17. To my recollection, the only book that took me longer to read from cover to cover was The Bible. I believe I spent 2.5 years reading The Bible straight through and over 1.5 years reading Long Walk to Freedom.

Fittingly, I find myself looking to both epic stories for strength during these times. I find myself asking "What would Jesus do?" and "What would Mandela do?" Before anyone gets their panties in a twist, as a Christian, I am not equating the two by any means. I just think think back to Mandela's words, and I am inspired to try to act in kindness and love to those whose behavior is fueled by fear, ignorance or hate.

“I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there is mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” 

I realize if I, and those like me, continue to just remove the racist, xenophobic and otherwise prejudicial people from our lives, those angry people will only associate with and be influenced by the like-minded, hateful mob. Divisions will only grow deeper.

 “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Get Fit 2015 Progress

Thanks to stores filled with holiday decorations and manufactured "war on Christmas" stories already spreading around social media, I was reminded of how little time we have left in 2015. With 50 days until the new year, I realized now would be a good time to check in with my resolutions.

I think I set my sights high with 10 different resolutions, but overall, I've made progress on each one.

One of the accomplishments I'm most proud of relates to my first resolution: Walk the dog more. Although we haven't walked Gizmo five days a week, we do take her for longer and more frequent walks.

As a result of walking more, as well as exercising more in general this year, I've lost 7 pounds while gaining a little muscle.

Granted, 7 pounds isn't a big number, but I'm a small woman who wasn't medically overweight to begin with. I just have room for improvement. I have made my personal goal for the year!

In total, I'm down roughly 16 pounds from my heaviest. Self-five!

My chronic health problems combined with my back problems (including but not limited to: a spinal compression, a disc extrusion, wedging and one crooked spine) limit my actively greatly, but I've resolved (and promised my mom) to make getting orthopedic help with my back a priority.

I just finished a fitness feature for a local magazine and had to decline offers for workouts at the cool places I covered due to my back problems. But working on the story, and especially being back in a gymnastics gym, has only fueled my motivation to remedy my back and continue on my get-fit goal.

Hello, new (second-hand) skinny jeans and top!

So a striped shirt isn't the best way to show off my weight-loss, but it's my new favorite fall fashion, purchased while Halloween costume hunting. It reminds me of something my Gramma wore, but in good way. The memory just adds to its coziness.

Tan and black striped Dress Barn top with gold buttons: $4 Deseret Industries
Elle dark wash skinny jeans: $1.50 Thrift Town (half-off sale)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

DIY Thrifted Bride of Chucky Halloween Costumes

Hi! I'm Chucky. Wanna play!?!

For Halloween 2015, Aaron and I dressed up as the killer dolls Chucky and Tiffany.

A look into our respective closets and Halloween costume stash inspired the costumes. We already had the blue overalls from our Super Mario 3 and Princess Peach costumes, and I already had the motorcycle boots and leather jacket; Aaron gave me the jacket when we started dating over 11 years ago.

We hit up a number of Sacramento-area thrift stores on the hunt for the two key missing ensemble pieces: Chucky's striped shirt and Tiffany's bridal gown.

We found both items right away at Mary's Thrift Store in Citrus Heights, but we tempted fate and waited to buy them until we did a sweep of 3 Goodwills, 1 Eco Thrift, 1 The Thrift Store, 1 Deseret Industries and 1 Thrift Town to ensure we bought the best.

What can I say? I'm obsessive and thorough. Luckily our items were right were we left them when we returned to Mary's on the weekly half-off Wednesday sale.

My Jessica McClintock dress was $4 and Aaron's shirt was $1.50 at most. Aaron didn't want to roast on Halloween in a long-sleeved shirt.

For the final touches, I added fabric paint and Sharpie to color in some thicker stripes on his shirt and made him a "Good Guys" patch from jean scrap.

Aaron covered a pair of old Vans in red Duck Tape, and I fashioned a choker out of tights and a gemstone from my craft stash.

For the makeup: Aaron first applied mineral powder foundation to color his face more orange and doll-like and then created the signature scars. He used a red Halloween makeup crayon and then went over it with liquid bandage and clear top-coat nail polish. A dust of mineral powder over the scars reduced some of the polish shine.

My makeup was simple mineral powder foundation, heavy eyeliner and eyeshadow. I used my crayon eyeliner to really accentuate the eyebrows. For black lips I used a cranberry red lipstick combined with black shadow. You can also mix black eyeshadow and lipgloss or even mix shadow with petroleum jelly to create a black lip when you don't have black lipstick.

For the final touch, I got the Chuckey heart tattooed with Sharpie.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

DIY Halloween Decorations on a Budget

Every Halloween I get a little more crafty and the house looks just a bit more awesome as my outdoor Halloween decorations grow in number and size.

This year, I added the Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington garage, a large garbage bag spider for the porch, new garbage bag ghosts, a duct tape Ghostbusters logo ghost, a garbage bag grim reaper silhouette and tombstones made from political yard signs.

The only outdoor Halloween decorations actually purchased this year included two packs of candy corn lights from Home Depot and a foam skull from the 99 Cent Store at half off for about $9 total.

Here's the rundown of my decorations:

Michael Myers: Old Halloween costume stuffed with furniture foam.

Grim Reaper Silhouette: Black garbage bags. I looked at pictures and then free-handed it with scissors.

Ghostbusters Logo: Duck Tape, cardboard and furniture foam.

Window Lights: Repurposed Christmas lights passed down from Aaron's childhood Christmas decorations.

Spiders and Web Netting: Free from Aaron's old work, originally 99 Cent Store.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Halloween Decor: 3D Ghostbusters Logo

If there's something strange, in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?


"I could make that!" It's a common utterance that either my husband or I make when browsing decor. This time, the self-assured proclamation came from my husband while we were browsing Halloween decorations at Walmart. The big-box retailer had a 3D ghost that stuck to windows with suction cups. 

My husband is a handy guy who is more than capable of designing all sorts of cool things, from crafts to furniture, but he doesn't always follow through on his many ideas. I didn't put too much stock into his claim until he bought white and red Duck Tape for the project and got right down to work.

Here's how he did it, and how you can create your own 3D Ghostbusters logo in 10 simple steps.


Soft foam (like furniture foam)
White and red duct tape
Black duct tape or black craft foam
Optional: Hot glue gun


1.) Cut a section of soft foam for your bust. We have an abundance of furniture foam on hand, picked up for free on Craigslist, so that's what Aaron used. It's also how we stuff a life-size Michael Myers.

2.) Squish the foam into the head shape you desire and then tape into place. For quality crafts, we like the name-brand, Duck Tape. For heavy-duty taping, Gorilla Tape is a super-strong beast. When you are sure your shape is perfect, you could also secure the shape with hot glue.

3.) Cut arms and fingers from the foam and tape or glue onto the ghost.  

4. Add a single layer of foam for a flatter lower body.  

5.)  Cover your Ghostbusters ghost with white duct tape. This gives your ghost a nice bright, white color and it waterproofs your project, so you can hang it outside Halloween after Halloween. 

6.) Cut cardboard into the circular outline for the "no" logo, fitted to the size of your ghost. Aaron used a cereal box.

7.) Cover the circle with red duct tape. 

8.) Measure and then cut a strip of red duct tape for the slash across the circle. Affix the red strip across the circle at an angle. Then cut another strip to place across the sticky side of the tape.

9.) Insert your ghost into the sign; make adjustments as necessary.

10.) Create the face with black duct tape or with black craft foam hot glued onto the duct tape.

You can add suction cups to hang your Ghostbusters ghost logo on a window, or you can add fishing wire and hang on a wall or a door.

Like this? you might also like:
Halloween Decorations: Political Yard Signs into Tombstones
Halloween Decorations: DIY Flying Monster
Halloween Decorations: Floating Goblin
DIY Halloween Costumes for Adults and Couples
Stuff a Life-Size Michael Myers

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DIY Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington Garage Door

So I was Googling "Nightmare Before Christmas decorations" for Halloween and came across a picture of a Jack Skellington garage door decal on Pinterest. My immediate California girl response was like, "That's hella sweet!"

I clicked the Pinterest pin and found that the giant decal used to be sold on Etsy for $75.

And I was like, "Dang. That's a lot of money. But it's still pretty cool. I bet I could make that!"

So I did.

Or at least, the thrifty version.

For my Nightmare Before Christmas Jack Skellington garage decoration, I used 2 heavy-duty yard waste bags for the eyes. I could have used just 1 bag for the eyes, but I kept the bags doubled up -- that is, I didn't pull apart the two sides. I figured the eyes would be a little sturdier and darker that way.

I snipped and snipped to create the eye shapes. Once I had the eyes to my liking, I stapled the two sides together. I used Duck Tape (the name brand, not the cheap stuff) to affix the eyes to the garage. I used more Duck Tape to add the corner lines of the eyes. I used remnants of the cut up bags for the under-eye swoop and the nostrils.

The mouth is all Duck Tape. I started with a straight line of Duck Tape centered below the nose and then cut and affixed additional strips to angle the sides of the mouth up toward the eyes.

Finally, I added a few razor slits through the Duck Tape on the mouth where the tape crossed over the split lines of the automatic garage door. This way the tape doesn't get sucked into the splits when the door rolls up to open.

It was as simple as that. I didn't even need a ruler or pen.

With 2 trash bags and Duck Tape, Jack Skellington materialized on my garage door for what I would say is a pretty awesome, thrifty outdoor Halloween decoration.

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to Upcycle Political Yard Signs into Halloween Tombstones

My favorite holiday season is here. The season where I get to turn my modest suburban home into a creepy attraction filled with dead bodies, goblins, ghost, and of course, Michael Myers standing watch at the window, day and night.

Every year I like to add to my outdoor Halloween decor, but I like to do so without spending any money.

The first reason for this is obvious: Making my own decor fits best with my thrifty, low-budget lifestyle. The second reason has really made itself known to us after the fact: People love our homemade, upcycled and DIY decorations the best.

We get far more compliments and "That's creepy!" comments on the flying monster we assembled with a graduation robe and mask and gloves from the 99 Cent Store than we do the light-up Marcus the Carcus from Target buried in the front yard.

When it comes to outdoor Halloween decorations: Original stands out.

Turning those old political yard signs into Halloween tombstones allows you to create original Halloween decorations because you can customize the tombstones however you like.

We had two political yard signs saved in our garage, so my husband and I each chose an awesome real-life figure to memorialize. I selected the legendary horror writer, director and producer, Wes Craven, as he just passed away this year. My husband chose the crazy bassist from the Ramones, Dee Dee Ramone, because, why not?

Here are the steps:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Mary's Thrift Store and My Polka Dot Obsession

I've only visited Mary's Thrift Store twice, but I have a love-hate relationship with it.

Located in a rundown shopping center next to a Dollar Tree on Auburn Boulevard in Citrus Heights, it's the epitome of a hole-in-the-wall store.

Whoever runs it puts little effort into promotion, decor, customer service, organization and modernization. The employees barely acknowledge your existence until it's time to check out or you have a question. You won't find any social media for the store outside of a handful of mostly outdated Yelp reviews. The store doesn't offer much in the way of men's, children's, electronics or housewares.

Despite all its lacking, the store has a great women's clothing selection.

You just have to devote time to browsing.

The clothes are somewhat organized by color, but good luck finding sizes. The store staples its prices onto the size tags of the clothes. Sometimes I'm able to read the sizes, sometimes not. It's a guessing game.

The prices and sale days vary, but Wednesdays are where it's at. Half-off all used items. The store has a small selection of new clothes from stores such as Ross; prices are slightly discounted.

On the hunt for my Halloween costume, I made my second stop at Mary's on a Wednesday. Walking the aisle of Mary's extensive formal and semi-formal dress collection, I found a couple of Halloween maybes, but only walked away with an everyday dress.

It was a "guess at the size dress" that turned out to fit perfectly once zipped up in the crappy dressing room.

(I really wish the owner of this store would just invest a small bit of money to install hanging hardware in the dressing rooms. Carrying heavy, floor length gowns into a dressing room with no place to hang them is a pain. I'm not revealing my Halloween costume yet, but it gives me a chance to buy a pretty dress.)

When I stepped out from behind the curtain to show Aaron the dress, his response did not surprise me.

"It looks good, but don't you already have a dress like that?"

"Well, yeah, but this is one is still different; it's perfect for all weather, and it's only A DOLLAR FIFTY on sale!!"

Is there such thing as too many polka dot dresses? I don't think so.

Buying this dress reminded me of an article I read recently.
Researchers concluded that buying stuff doesn't make us happy. And I agree becoming more materialistic isn't going to make you happy. But I don't think the researchers considered thrift chicks such as myself.

You better believe that buying this navy, polka dot, All That Jazz swing dress for $1.50 absolutely made my week! And it's not a short-term happiness. Every time I wear it, I will remember I paid $1.50 for it and was able to reuse something someone else had discarded.

Not to get all soap-boxy, but ethical reasons motivate me to shop second-hand. I try to do my best not to contribute to the fast-fashion industry, which has numerous social, economic, environmental and health consequences around the world.

Plus, shopping second-hand is fun. I find thrifting to be a bit of an adventure. To borrow from the sage words of Forrest Gump's momma, "You never know what you're gonna get." 

I'll probably be back to Mary's Thrift Store for my Halloween costume. I just wasn't ready to commit so early in my search; crafting the perfect Halloween costume is serious business.

I recommend checking out Mary's on a Wednesday. Just prepare yourself for a little size-searching frustrating.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sacramento Bands and Art at Chalk It Up 2015

Chalk It Up is one of my favorite Sacramento festivals. The Labor Day weekend festival brings together local artists and musicians for a free three-day event that raises money for arts education grants in the Sacramento area. This year, Chalk It Up celebrated its 25th anniversary. It's been really cool to watch it grow bigger and better every year.

This year I caught the last two bands performing on Labor Day, Honyock and Drop Dead Red.

Check out the 2015 Chalk It Up pics below. 

For more chalk pics, see my favorite selections from Chalk It Up 2014.
Drop Dead Red

(Click to enlarge and flip through the Chalk It Up 2015 gallery.)


Monday, August 31, 2015

5 Clothing Hacks: Simple Solutions to Common Clothing Problems

Problem: White deodorant marks on clothes. 
Solution: Foam from a clothes hanger.

This is such a simple trick I wish I would have known years ago. Even though I saw this clothing hack demonstrated on TV, I still had my doubts about its effectiveness. But when I got "invisible solid" deodorant (does such a thing really exist??) on my Mr. T Experience tee, I remembered the hack and put it to the test.

I used the foam from inside a dry cleaner's hanger. You can cut the foam off the hanger, but I really like this hanger, so I kept it on. To remove the deodorant marks, rub the hanger foam directly onto the deodorant marks. The foam acts as a magic eraser, and the deodorant marks really do just disappear.

Problem: Pull tab of the zipper fly won't stay up.
Solution: Ring from a keychain.

Since most of my wardrobe is thrifted or from Ross, I occasionally run into problems with difficult zippers that refuse to stay up. Or maybe it's not the clothes, and it's my belly. Either way, I'm not down with walking around with an open fly. 

To keep the pull tab of the pants zipper up in its proper upright position, simply thread a thin keychain ring through that little hole on the zipper tab. When you zip yup, simply fit the keychain ring around your fly button. (Thick keychain rings work, but they tend to add a bulge.)