Tuesday, September 16, 2014

top ten Tuesday: childhood books.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to read. I spent much of my childhood with my nose buried in a book – I would even bring a book along when I went out to eat with my family. (Rude, I know. Shame on me.) I blew through every elementary reading assignment – I was up to my neck in free pizzas from Book-It, and I eventually needed a second plaque for all my Accelerated Reader gold bars. I read the elementary school library dry, and the day I got my Brookings Public Library card was one of the best days of my young life.

So it’s no big surprise, really, that I ended up with an English degree and working in a public library. For an avid reader like me, being in close proximity to thousands of books every day is basically heaven on earth. I read more now than ever, thanks not only to the sheer convenience, but I am constantly making mental reading lists as I’m out and about on the library floor. Ever since I started working here, not having anything to read (previously a very real concern of mine) has not been a problem.

But I’m not here to talk about the books I read now. My love of books began long ago, and I want to talk about the books I loved most as a child. These are books that I can read now – twenty-some years later – and the memories of the first time I read them are as clear as day. So allow me to present my top ten childhood books!

(Note: I did cheat a little bit in some – ok, most – cases by counting a series of books as one entry. But you’re just going to have to live with it.)

(Another note: with the exception of Goosebumps - sadly, I no longer own any Goosebumps books - all of the photos of these books are the books from my own collection. You can tell because there's a cat named Mona in several of these pictures.)

See how beat up this book is? Obviously well-loved.
My first pets were cats – cuddly farm cats who would rub up against your legs and occasionally fall victim to the school bus. These cats were strictly outdoor cats, so I lived vicariously by reading about lucky children who were allowed to have house pets – and these pets, I might add, had a much longer lifespan than any of mine. (See: school bus.) Peppermint is the first book I can remember truly loving. It’s a picture book about a runty white kitten who is born in a candy shop. The candy shop owner names all of the kittens after candy and sells them – but nobody wants Peppermint. (My heart broke for Peppermint – as an emotional three-year-old, I wanted so badly to take Peppermint home and give her all the warm cuddles and canned tuna that she could ever hope for, but as you know, it’s hard to take a fictional cartoon kitten home with you.) Peppermint lives in the candy shop for a while, and her white fur gets all dirty and dusty. Finally, a little girl – the special little girl that was MEANT to have Peppermint – comes into the shop, sees Peppermint, and is in love. Peppermint and the little girl live happily ever after. When it comes to stories about cats and dogs, I love a good happy ending.

Ramona series – Beverly Cleary
Ramona Forever was the first Ramona book I ever read - that copy
sitting on top was given to me by my grandma Lorraine.
Beverly Cleary has a way of writing that perfectly captured the thoughts and feelings of a young overly enthusiastic girl. I’m counting the entire series as one entry because I couldn’t possibly choose my favorite Ramona book. Each and every one of them had chapters that hit home with me in such a way that it felt like Beverly Cleary was living inside my head. Remember in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 where Ramona throws up in class and is completely mortified? That was (and still is) one of my worst nightmares. And it’s not just Ramona herself that makes the series so good. The dynamic between Beezus (the older sister) and Ramona (the younger sister) is spot-on, and while I liked Ramona better as a character, I felt an awful lot of sympathy for Beezus. As an older sister myself, I understood very well Beezus’s desire to just be left alone with her book. I reread the Ramona series not too long ago, and those books were just as good as I remember.

The Little Duckling
The Little Duckling is one of only two picture books to make my list. It’s about a boy who finds a duck egg and – with the help of an incubator – hatches it. He names the little duckling Henry and raises him – he even teaches Henry how to swim in a kiddie pool. Henry is happy as a pet duck (he even goes on walks and sits with you while you read), but he knows there’s something more out there. When Henry becomes too big for his pool, the boy knows it’s time to set him free. The book ends with Henry happily swimming off into the sunset, and – this is true – finds a lady duck almost immediately. I would’ve killed for a pet duck like Henry.

Roald Dahl
This is an action shot of Mona knocking over my copy of The Witches.
I’ve never met a Roald Dahl book I haven’t liked. Some, however, shone above the rest. My absolute favorites were (and still are) Matilda, The Witches, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The BFG. Roald Dahl’s stories are equal parts wonder and sarcasm, magic and harsh reality. He creates the most wonderful characters – a friendly giant who collects dreams? A reclusive candy magnate who has no qualms with putting ill-behaved children through the ringer? Witches who have square toes and wear wigs? A principal who was a champion javelin thrower and hurls students as such? And of course, the wonderful characters have equally wonderful adventures, and the good guy always wins in the end.

Great Illustrated Classics
Mona swoons for the Great Illustrated Classics.
I don’t remember how old I was when these books showed up at our house, but they were a gift from my grandma Lorraine – a former elementary school teacher. I ate them up. They’re exactly what they sound like: classic novels with an illustration on each page. I read each and every one of them, but I had my favorites: I couldn’t get enough of Treasure Island, and I read Oliver Twist time and time again. This was my first introduction into what could actually be called literature, and it was much more palpable when you knew anything you didn’t understand would be explained in an impressively penned illustration.

The Fudge series – Judy Blume
Mona would like me to quit taking pictures of books and
feed her already.
Just like Beverly Cleary and the Ramona books, Judy Blume’s Fudge books were perfect renditions of young life. However, Judy Blume goes beyond Beverly Cleary – age-wise and issue-wise. Where the Ramona books end when Ramona is ten-ish, Peter and Sheila make it all the way to twelve – and if you remember being twelve, that’s when shit starts to get serious. Sure, the Fudge books have the classic sibling conflicts (Peter v Fudge), but there’s some deeper stuff, like self-acceptance and conquering fear. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone could have a REAL childhood without reading Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary.

books about girls at the inn
For the life of me, I cannot figure out what these books are called. Even Google can’t help me. There were four of them, and they all came from book orders. (Remember those? Book order days were the best.) These books were about two sisters who live with their parents in an inn on the east coast somewhere (they’re not homeless; the parents run the inn). There are all sorts of spooky adventures – they help three ancient sisters find a skeleton key, they explore secret passageways under the island, and they run into mystical creatures called kelpies. The books were certainly intriguing, and I read them over and over. I’d love to reread them now, but that’s not going to happen until I figure out what they’re called. Seriously, it’s driving me crazy. I even remember the sisters’ names: Molly and Gwen O’Brien. Ring any bells? Anyone??

Harriet the Spy
Who doesn’t love Harriet the Spy? Every kid who has ever read that book immediately started carrying around a little notebook, writing down observations. But hopefully you learned enough from the book so that you didn’t write down ALL your observations – after all, that’s what got Harriet into trouble in the first place. It’s a good lesson for real life, as a matter of fact. I, too, hauled around a spy notebook and jotted down my youthful ponderances, but it was short-lived. When I discovered that my deep thoughts about the world around me weren’t actually that deep, I gave up. It’s probably just as well – as Harriet could tell you, no one likes a spy.

Goosebumps – R L Stine
One of many that I owned in the late 90s.
Ahh, Goosebumps. Remember the utter joy of a brand new Goosebumps book? You could run your fingers over the slime-inspired Goosebumps logo and feel those little raised goosebumps. I loved these books, but I had to keep them hidden in my room – my sister, a notorious chicken for most of her young life, thought the covers were too scary. There were SO many Goosebumps books, and I could occasionally persuade my parents to buy one from the book order. Alas, I don’t remember a whole lot of the Goosebumps books – there was one about a ventriloquist dummy that I liked, and I really enjoyed the Goosebumps short story collections, but my favorites were the books where you chose your own ending. (I realize that Goosebumps was far from the first to do this, but it was the first time I’d ever seen it.) The choose-your-own-ending book set at an abandoned carnival that I recall being especially thrilling.

Fear Street Saga
Mona questions my literary choices.
I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but every main character in every Goosebumps book is twelve years old. Every single book. The Fear Street books are basically Goosebumps for the slightly older reader: the kids are teenagers who live on a cursed street, and their adventures are a little more grim. I never read a whole lot of the Fear Street books… except for the one my mom picked up at a garage sale. It was book two of the Fear Street Saga: the epic and chilling tale of how Fear Street came to be cursed. I read book two, loved it, and wound up with books one and three. Basically, it boils down to a family feud during the witch trials: a judge named Fier burns a girl named Goode at the stake because he doesn’t want his son to marry her – and the Goodes curse the Fiers. Gruesome misadventures follow over two centuries. I recently found all of these books at a used book store and bought them in a nostalgic haze. They’re awfully cheesy as I reread them fifteen years later, but I still find myself intrigued. R L Stine sure knows how to hook his readers.


While there are so many books I loved as a child (don’t even get me started on Little Golden Books) and many more that I loved as I continued through school (Gone With the Wind! Flowers for Algernon!), these are the books that really stick in my mind. These books helped instill in me a lifelong love of reading, and what’s not to love about that? Reading them now is like revisiting an old friend, and I can still feel the same joy and excitement I felt when I was reading them twenty years (!!!) ago. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

let's talk about Bob and Calla's photo shoots.

You almost certainly know this about me already, but I’d better restate just to be sure: I love to take pictures. Ever since I took my first disposable camera on a trip to Denver when I was eleven, I am rarely found without a camera. (True story: throughout high school, I carried at least one disposable camera in my pencil bag at all times. Camera phones were MADE for people like me.)

And what does every photographer need? A willing subject. My friends were often said subjects, but one friend was more willing than others – and that friend was Bob.
Bob and I became good friends in spring 2003 when we played Jesus and Satan (respectively) during church services in Lent. Bob never seemed to mind my incessant picture-taking: while some friends would eventually begin to moan and groan, Bob was ready for his close-up.

I told you about how Bob took my clarinet senior pictures – that, my friends, was only the beginning. I graduated in 2005, and Bob and I had a relatively carefree summer ahead of us.
In between our part-time jobs and our movie project (remember that?), Bob and I spent our time taking pictures of each other – most of the time they were goofy, but once in a while, one of us would take a picture of the other that actually looked good… dare I say great?
The one that really set us down the portraiture path was a picture I had taken of Bob in Hillcrest Park in Brookings. 
He liked it so well that it became one of his senior pictures – and we realized that since both of us were so good looking (and a touch narcissistic, yes?) and had an eye for backgrounds and poses, why not make the most of it? The possibilities in the world of amateur portraiture were simply endless.

Our photo shoots started out around my parents’ house – easier access for wardrobe changes, plus there were plenty of country-fied backgrounds that would contrast perfectly with our fancy clothing.
Like old grain bins.
 Bob was the stylist, and he chose the wardrobe – and would often be in charge of hair as well. The wardrobe covered several decades, from my grandma’s 1950s prom dress...

...to my mom's 70s spring wardrobe...

...to a torn up 80s bridesmaid's gown...
Yes, I'm on my parents' roof.
...to garments that Bob himself made.
Again with the roof.
The longer we did our photoshoots, the braver we got. It didn’t take long for us to use up all the backgrounds at my parents’ house, so we’d take our photos at the parks in Brookings...

From McCrory to Pioneer to Hillcrest, no park was safe.

...or around the Terry Redlin Center in Watertown.
People were staring.
The best photos were invariably the ones we took at abandoned buildings. Growing up in rural South Dakota has its perks, and one of them was the proximity to picturesque uninhabited houses. It was in one of these houses that we planned to film our movie, but the abandoned house next door to that one became a prime photography location.

When it came to our photo shoots, Bob and I were fearless. We tramped through long grass, inspecting each other for ticks at the end of the shoot. We gingerly stepped around dead raccoons and cowpies. We army-crawled through barbed wire and electric fences – and, when necessary, fled from angry livestock (and once from a pair of gigantic turkey vultures). Anything for the sake of our art.

Bob printed a few of these for his senior pictures, but on the whole, our photoshoots had no real purpose. It was something fun (and cheap!) for us to do, and we loved thinking of ourselves as artsy portrait photographers. Bob and I spent two whole summers (and at least a couple of college breaks) doing our photo shoots, and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

(Because you couldn’t possibly have seen enough fancy pictures of Bob and me, here are a few more for the road…)

The pink prom dress was a clear favorite.

We had our pouty model faces down pat.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

let's talk about senior pictures.

Senior pictures are both a blessing and a curse. Most seniors are pretty ok with dressing up and having someone take artistic pictures of them – pictures that you then get to hand out to your friends and listen to them  gush about how great you look. The curse part comes decades later, when the clothing and the hair and the poses are all way out of date, and your once stunning senior pictures provide fodder for your kids to make fun of you.

My senior picture experience was a little different.

The summer of 2004 was the summer in between my junior and senior years of high school, and traditionally, that’s when you get your senior pictures taken. I, a rather ugly duckling at that point, was more or less indifferent as to who took my senior pictures. It was a necessary evil, and the only thing that really mattered to me was that I could have one senior picture in my Muppets t-shirt.
My mother – bless her heart – did her very best to convince me to put a little more effort into my impending senior pictures. She took me shopping for senior picture outfits and happily accompanied me to the photography studio (which was actually just our neighbor’s basement). 
We tramped through forests and weeds and went through at least six outfit changes, and Mom stuck with me through one dorky pose after another.

My senior pictures came back just as I was making the slow transition from girl-with-little-regard-for-makeup-and-fashion to girl-who-actually-cares-what-she-looks-like. It was early in my transformation (I was at the girl-who-is-attempting-eyeshadow-and-eyebrow-plucking stage), but even then, I could see what a hot mess I was just a few short months ago. And, even though my photographer was the nicest lady, posing seniors was just not her forte.
This happened.
Mom set up a one-outfit last-ditch photo session for me at an actual photography studio in Brookings. She did this with the hopes that I would actually do something with my hair, but as you can see, that didn’t exactly happen. I had just gotten this goofy shaggy haircut, and I thought it looked just fine. Yet another case of 20/20 hindsight.
It was better than that last group, but not by much.
A few months later, I was looking back at that picture with regret. It was around February 2005, and I had completed my transformation from ugly duckling to swan (or, at least a less ugly and better groomed duckling). Senior pictures had already been submitted, and I was kicking myself for being the girl with the Muppets getup. I hadn’t handed many of my senior pictures out, as some of them were almost too dorky to see the light of day. (It’s been ten years, and I’m still cringing.)
I mean, COME ON,
By this point, I had been carrying a disposable camera with me at all times for at least a year and a half. I had taken some artsy (or so we thought) pictures of Bob, and we always had fun doing it. I don’t remember who had the bright idea, but we thought it would be hilarious to take some faux senior pictures of me looking all serious with my clarinet. Everyone knows that senior pictures with band instruments tend to be the most ridiculous, and we figured that’s what the outcome would be – but since they’d be intentionally ridiculous, they would become awesome by default.

One frigid February day, Bob came over to my house and picked out my senior picture wardrobe. I’d spent most of the morning curling my stupid hair, and I’d be damned if I’d let the snow and cold stop us from taking pictures. We took pictures all around the house and even ventured into the snowy South Dakota tundra.

When the pictures came back from the developer – yes, they were on film – we were downright impressed. These jokey clarinet pictures were by far the best of my senior pictures! I quickly had them made into wallet prints and distributed them to my friends. These pictures were the ones that I placed in my graduation invitations, and these were the pictures on display at my graduation party.

These senior pictures opened the door to two entire summers filled with photo shoots. Bob and I spent every nice day and almost every spare moment with our photo shoots (stay tuned for that story). But it all began with my clarinet senior pictures.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

let's talk about ice breakers.

Who remembers their first day of kindergarten? I sure don’t, but it’s safe to say that my teacher probably had each kid stand up, announce his or her name, and say something about him or herself. (Five-year-old Calla probably would’ve told you that her favorite color is red.) It usually wasn’t much, but it was a little something to help your teacher and your new classmates get to know you.

I did similar exercises whenever I found myself in an organized group of relative strangers – mostly for summer camps. (At one church camp, we were asked to give our names and our favorite Bible verse. I was immediately branded a heathen when I said, “My name is Calla and… uh… I don’t really have a favorite Bible verse.” GASP!)

These little activities are generally known as icebreakers. Some are pretty basic (name, something about yourself) while others are much more complex. It wasn’t until I got to college that I was introduced to the true beauty of icebreakers.

Until that point, I saw them as a nuisance. Icebreakers had mostly been done in groups of people I would almost certainly never see again (honestly? most of the time, I was counting on it – have you met some of the weirdos who go to church camps??), so why did I care who their favorite Backstreet Boy was? Granted, I had a bad attitude: I never went to camp (be it church camp or Norwegian camp) by choice, and I could think of thousands of things I’d rather be doing.

Enter: the University of Minnesota, Morris. UMM has all of its incoming freshmen spend one day there during the summer – they break you up into groups, and you sit through some welcome sessions, register for classes, and get campus tours. Then, when you show up for good in the fall, they have freshman come a few days early and spend that time in “orientation groups” where you travel around as a pack and do a bunch of activities to help you get your mind off the fact that OH MY GOD MY PARENTS JUST LEFT ME AT COLLEGE AND SUDDENLY I AM TERRIFIED.

Icebreakers were a big part of both of those sessions – but they weren’t the lackluster icebreakers of my youth. These were COLLEGE icebreakers –and you could be just about as crude as you wanted to.

Not that these games were always crude. The college icebreakers were just more fun and more challenging than any icebreaker I’d played before. Even the simple icebreakers were more fun because they turned into a competition. I remember sitting in a giant circle with a bunch of total strangers, and someone would start by saying their name and something that they liked that started with the same letter of their name: my name is Calla and I like caterpillars. (Which is true.) The next person would then say their name and what they liked, plus the name and item of the person in front of them: my name is Mona and I like meth. Her name is Calla and she likes caterpillars. The next person would then have to repeat both of the names and items behind them: my name is James and I like jam. Her name is Mona and she likes meth. Her name is Calla and she likes caterpillars… and so on. The first person to screw up is out of the game, and you keep going around until the best man wins. (Or until you run out of time.)

Another game we played in our orientation groups was the celebrity couple game. (Which, as you may imagine, only works with an even number of people.) Everybody has a piece of paper stuck to their back – you don’t know what name is stuck to you. You have to wander around asking yes or no questions: you’re trying to figure out who you are, and you’re trying to find your match. So if you approach someone, the first thing you might ask is, “Am I a male?” He or she will look at the name on your back and answer accordingly. You will look at the name on their back and answer questions that they might have, but you also need to determine whether or not they’re a potential match. For example: if you stroll up to someone who has the name Bert fastened to their back, you would assume that their match is Ernie. If you know that you are a male, you’d probably want to ask if you’re a fictional character or if you have a stunning unibrow. If you know that you’re a female, it’s safe to assume that Bert is not your match, but you would want to ask a question about yourself all the same. (If you’re feeling adventuresome, you can include couples that aren’t necessarily male and female, like gin and tonic or yin and yang.) The ultimate goal is to find your other half, and while it’s not really a competition, you don’t want to be the last idiot standing. 

My other favorite icebreaker from orientation week was the most complicated of all. This game requires paper, pencils, and a table. Every person gets a piece of paper and a pencil, and each person either writes a sentence or draws a picture. (You do it so it’s every other.) Then, you pass your picture or your sentence on to the person next to you. If you get a piece of paper with a sentence, you draw a picture of what’s going on in that sentence. If you get a piece of paper with a picture, you write a sentence about what you think is going on in that picture. When you’re done, you fold the paper over so only your sentence or picture is visible. You pass it onto the next person, and the cycle goes on from there. Once the pieces of paper have made it full circle, you open them up and see just how far off the end result was from the original. It’s like telephone, but on paper, and it never fails to be completely hilarious.

Icebreakers were also a major part of college band camp. Oh yeah: college band camp. (They called it a “retreat,” but we knew better.) During one weekend each September, the UMM concert band packed up and went to a church camp. The goal was to welcome new members and get a whole lot of practicing in before the October homecoming concert.

The first night of band camp was the best night, because you didn’t do any practicing and just played the shoe game for hours. The shoe game requires a large space and a bunch of people willing to run around in their socks. Everyone takes their shoes off and arranges them in a giant circle. You remove one pair of shoes so that you’ll have one more person than you do pair of shoes. Everyone stands behind a pair of shoes except for the lucky person who is in the middle. The person in the middle of the circle tells you their name and something about themselves: “My name is Calla, and I play the clarinet.” Everyone who shares that in common with the person in the middle must leave their space and run to a different pair of shoes – and the person in the middle runs, too. There will be someone leftover because of the strategic shoe shortage, and that person then stands in the middle and does the same thing.

Unlike the other icebreakers, there really is no end to the shoe game. You just quit when you feel like it – or when you’re winded from too much running around while laughing hysterically. You learn a whole lot about each other during the shoe game – almost certainly more than you want to, but that’s absolutely the point. The shoe game is how we learned that our German director was once a techno DJ and used to drink a pint of vodka each night while in the German army.
My director can drink more vodka than your director.
Sadly, since college, there hasn’t been much of an opportunity to play these ridiculous icebreakers. Maybe I should MAKE the opportunity. I don't have to wait until I'm tossed into a group of strangers: icebreakers are even more fun in groups of people that you already know. You just never know what you're going to learn.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

top ten Tuesday: outfits under $35, volume II.

A few months ago, I put together a blog post that featured ten outfits that cost me $35 or less. Previously, I’ve done outfits totaling $40 or less and outfits totaling $30 or less.

I have come to the conclusion that $35 is my sweet spot. Outfits under $40 were too easy, and outfits under $30 were too tough. Under $30 was doable, yes; but raising my limit to $35 allows me to make a REAL outfit: jewelry, accessories, whatever. So $35 it is!

That being said, when I put together my last $35-or-less outfit post, I found myself left with a lot of really great outfits. In the meantime, I’ve added a few more bargain pieces that just begged to be added to a cheap outfit. And that’s why I have (yet another) cheap outfit blog post for you!

A quick recap of my rules: I won’t post an outfit on this blog that I wouldn’t wear as an actual outfit – so anything you see here is something that I would gladly wear out in public and not something I just threw together for the sake of it being cheap. I will not reuse any clothing item from past blog posts except for shoes. I will include gifts, but only jewelry (and I’ll try not to do it too often). No foundation garments – tank tops, socks, etc – as part of my total. Prices are almost always exact, but some are from memory – and those are probably within fifty cents. Finally, I included outfits from as many different places as I could. Who doesn’t love variety?

With all that out of the way, please enjoy the fourth (fourth?! whoa!) installment of my top ten cheap outfits!!

Silver jeans – Maurices – $25 (buy one get one free)
sandals – JCPenney – $3 (fall super sale)
shirt – Goodwill Brookings – $3.75
necklace – gift/Sears (Grandma paid $2.80)
TOTAL = $34.99

Whenever I do one of these cheap outfit blog posts, it’s almost a guarantee that you’ll see something from Maurices. Maurices has THE BEST sales – you just have to know when to look for them. I got these jeans as part of a “buy one clearance item, get one free” sale. The clearance items were already 40% off their original price – so buying one pair of jeans at $50 got me a second pair for free (you saw the other pair on the last under $35 blog post). Splitting the difference gets me $25 jeans – and Silver jeans, no less. The red shirt was a should-I-get-it-should-I-not kind of thing at Brookings Goodwill. I’d tried it on and loved it… only to spot a hole in the sleeve. Since I am domestically challenged, I figured that there’s no way I could fix it and promptly put it back on its hanger. I left Goodwill… and then turned around and bought the shirt, deciding that if I totally messed up sewing up the hole, it would only be $3.75 lost. Luckily, I did an ok job, so my $3.75 is safe! The necklace was a gift from my grandma Sheila, but I know for a fact that she paid $2.80 for it at Sears (she is as proud of good deals as I am).

dress – Modcloth – $26.99 
sandals – Target – $5-ish 
necklace – gift
TOTAL = $31.99

Modcloth is another one of my go-to websites. They have the loveliest clothes, and while they appear a little expensive on the surface, they’ll give you some good deals if you watch out. I bought this dress around Christmastime when they were giving 50% off their new arrivals. And can I say how much I love maxi dresses? It’s just like wearing pajamas all day, except classy. The sandals were a steal at Target because they’re size 5: while my usual size is 6 ½, sandal sizing is a bit different, so Target’s size 5 fit like a charm. Luckily for me, not many people have tiny freak feet that can squeeze into a size 5. The necklace was a gift from James for my 23rd birthday – it was the first item he’d ever bought from a jewelry store, and he likes to say, “This is the first GOOD present I gave you!” (We started dating when I was 20. I have stories.)
pants – Goodwill St Paul – $3 (half off for yellow tag day)
shirt – Savers – $1.99 (half off day)
cardigan – Target – $5.38
shoes – Target – $9.98
necklace – arts festival/Hobby Lobby – $7 for charm, $3 for chain supplies
TOTAL = $30.35

Only at Goodwill in St Paul can you find a pair of J Crew pants for three dollars on half-off day. Goodwill will have half-off days for certain color tags, and I happened to snag these pants when the yellow tags were fifty percent off. YES. Both Target items came from an end-of-season clearance sale, which is when they’re practically giving stuff away. And the shirt from Savers: I’ve told you time and time again about the dangers of half-off day at Savers, so I won’t bore you. I’ll just remind you that if you ever decide to brave half-off day at Savers, you’d better wear steel-toed boots and have your affairs in order. Finally, the necklace: the ferris wheel charm came from the Brookings Summer Arts Festival: my favorite place ever and home to cool stuff/great food/the best people watching of all time. I made the fancy chain myself with supplies from Hobby Lobby, where stuff is always on sale (or you can download a coupon to MAKE it on sale). Viola.

dress – Maurices – $10
shoes – Shoe Carnival – $12.50 (buy one get one ½ off)
earrings  Lewis Drug  $.99
TOTAL = $30.49

Here we go with Maurices again. This dress came from one of their big house-cleaning sales where they round up a bunch of stuff and mark it all at one flat price. Dresses happened to be $10, and this one happened to be perfect for work. Shoe Carnival always seems to have a buy one, get one half off sale, and these lovely shoes were part of it. I almost never go to Shoe Carnival, but I’m glad I did – these shoes were not only the last pair, but they were on clearance, which meant I got them for half off the clearance price. Cha-CHING! You don't usually think of Lewis Drug for your jewelry needs, but I was picking up a couple of things there and happened to wander by their jewelry display. The pearl drop earrings were priced at $4.99, which was awfully reasonable already, so I picked out two pairs. Lo and behold, they rang up as ninety-nine cents. I love Lewis. 
Converses – Converse Outlet – $15
shorts – Goodwill Brookings – $4.25
shirt – Wet Seal – $10
necklace – Forever21 – $4.80
TOTAL = $34.05

If you are a Minnesotan (or even a South Dakotan), you are probably aware that there is an outlet mall in Albertville, Minnesota. Outlet malls aren’t usually my thing, but I do like this one: if only for the Columbia store, the Fossil store, and the Converse store. It’s not too often that you can find a pair of All Stars for the paltry sum of $15, but I did just that at the Albertville Converse outlet. These shorts are the third and final pair from my Brookings Goodwill American Eagle shorts jackpot – three pairs in my size, all with the tags still attached. I have to tell you, too, that I’m fully aware that I’m too old to shop at Wet Seal, but I got this shirt when I was 23 – I may have been too old for Wet Seal even then, but I don’t think I’m too old for the shirt. That’s what counts, right?
shoes – Target – $7-ish
necklace – Claire’s – $7
dress – Goodwill Brookings – $6
bracelet – World Market – $10.95
TOTAL = $30.95

Funny story about this dress: Mom and I were in the Brookings Goodwill years and YEARS ago, and we were rifling through the overstuffed racks. I almost never have good luck with dresses at Goodwill – most of them have shoulder pads, after all. Mom dug this one out of the fray and suggested I try it on. I saw that it was a few sizes larger than I would usually wear and politely declined. Mom insisted, so I tried it on – and it is probably the most magical dress I’ve ever owned. It clings and flows in all the right places, and I hope this dress lasts forever. I bought the necklace at Claire’s… seventeen years ago. It was during the height of my Titanic craze, and Claire’s was selling fake Heart of the Ocean necklaces. I had ten dollars to my name, so I went to Claire’s, fully intending to buy one. When I got there, I found – much to my dismay – that the necklace was out of my price range. (I think it was $11.25 or something.) Instead, I bought this little necklace: after all, it looked vintagey and like something someone on the Titanic might’ve worn. And it was a good choice: I’ve gotten way more use out of this necklace than I did of my Heart of the Ocean (which I received for Christmas that same year). And let me say this about World Market: it is one of my favorite stores EVER. I do a ton of my Christmas shopping at World Market – from crazy food to fancy pillows to colorful scarves, you can find something for anyone and everyone at World Market.

skirt – Goodwill St Paul – $3.99
cardigan – Target – $7
necklace – Charlotte Russe – $10
flats – Y’s Buys – $3
ring – H&M – $5.95
TOTAL = $29.94

Like dresses, skirts are usually not too great at Goodwill. They tend to be long/frumpy/made of wool. This skirt is one of the few that I have found at Goodwill, and it’s one of my favorites. I almost never wear my gigantic cocktail ring because it’s so heavy and cumbersome, but I love it, so I keep it around for special occasions. (Like blog posts. Obviously.) And the zebra cardigan: I went through a brief animal print phase when I lived in Minneapolis, and this cardigan is one of the lone survivors. My zebra cardigan and I have been through a lot together: I wore it on my first day of work at the library, so it’s in the picture that graces my ID badge. I was wearing this cardigan the day I gave blood at the Bloodmobile and promptly passed out on the sidewalk. Ahh, memories.

sweater – Goodwill Omaha – $3.75
pants – Target – $8.48
flats – American Eagle – $6
pearl choker – Etsy – $13
alligator charm – Hancock Fabrics – $.06
TOTAL = $31.23

Omaha has about a zillion Goodwills, and James and I went to two of them during a trip last year. I didn’t find much, but I did find this sweater. The pants came from Target’s winter clearance sale, which is when I do the majority of my Target shopping. Leopard shoes? From the Minneapolis animal print phase – but I was lucky enough to score these (on clearance!) with my American Eagle employee discount. In the last post, I told you about my pearls from China – these pearls are from the same Etsy store, and I LOVE them. They’re real pearls, but I paid a pittance for them. They’re a little oblong and a little bumpy, but they’re real and go with pretty much anything. Finally, the charm (and it is indeed an alligator) came in a four-pack of New Orleans-themed charm, and the whole pack was twenty-five cents. Score one for Hancock Fabrics.

I love twirly skirts.
skirt – Effie’s Heart – $16 ($10 off)
wedges – Target – $14.98
t-shirt – Old Navy – $3.97 (clearance)
magnifying glass necklace – gift!
TOTAL = $34.95

Weird story about this skirt: I had never heard of Effie’s Heart before I ordered a shirt from Modcloth. The shirt arrived, and while it looked completely ridiculous (I returned it – thank goodness for free return shipping), I really liked the pattern. The label read “Effie’s Heart,” so out of curiosity, I headed over to their website. I found a ton of really expensive stuff… and a gem of a clearance section. By signing up for their email list, I got a $10 coupon right off the bat. Bonus: the skirt has pockets.
shirt – Country Peddler – $0 (used credit, was $2)
scarf – DSW – $11.95 ($5 off coupon)
jeans – Plato’s Closet – $12.80 (org $16 with 20% off coupon)
earrings  Spencer's  $1
sandals – Gap Outlet – $7-ish
TOTAL =$32.75

We’ve talked about Country Peddler before: the wonderful Brookings consignment store where I sell my old clothes and pick up a few new things while I’m at it. This shirt came from Country Peddler’s clearance rack, and I paid for it using my consignment credit: so I’m counting it as free. DSW is pretty generous with their coupons, and this one happened to be a $5 off coupon I got in the mail. DSW online only sells shoes and handbags, but the brick-and-mortar stores sell scarves, necklaces, and other fun stuff. This particular scarf came from the Mall of America, and it was the LAST ONE. Frankly, I don’t do a lot of shopping at Plato’s Closet any more – the Sioux Falls store is packed to the gills, and there are always tons of people. I really have to be in the right mindset. That being said, when I AM in the right mindset, I usually end up with something good. Plato’s Closet has stamp cards, and for every $10 that you buy or sell, you get a stamp. For every 20 stamps you get, you get a 20% off your purchase. I used to sell a ton of stuff there, so I’d have 20% off coupons all the time. These jeans came from one such coupon - $12.80. Not too shabby. Finally, a word about the earrings. You know what I look like and how I dress, so I obviously stick out like a sore thumb at Spencer's. I went in looking for a tragus stud and happened upon a "buy one, get one for one dollar" jewelry sale. Hence the sparrow earrings. Also hence me feeling like a huge square every time I go into Spencer's - which, in my defense, is less often than once a year. But for $1 sparrow earrings? Sure enough, I'll go to Spencer's.
Once again, we have completed another tour of my cheap clothing closet. This time, my items came from 30 different places! Whoo hoo! We’ve got eight mall clothing stores, three thrift stores, two big-box stores, two outlet stores, two online only clothing stores, two shoe stores, two consignment stores, two gifts, one drug store, one arts festival, one craft store, one costume jewelry store, one online jewelry/a little bit of everything store, one fabric store, and one of whatever World Market is.

So that’s it for this time around: ten more outfits under $35. Stay tuned for next time: I’ve got plenty more bargain outfits to show you!