Monday, August 15, 2016

some things I have learned about camping.

James and I recently returned from an - and I don't use this word lightly - epic road trip. We journeyed from our home in southwestern Minnesota to Chicago to Niagara Falls to Toronto to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Door County, Wisconsin, and back home again.

And we did it with the help of a tent.

Let me back up. If you recall, James and I had our first tent-camping experience two summers ago, and I dare say that it was disastrous. I had given tent camping a chance, and it had failed me. Never again was I to make my bed in a tent.
This is a picture of our campsite from June 2014. It looks idyllic, but don't let it fool you: it was hell on earth.
That is, until the following summer.

Last summer, James and I took a road trip to Colorado and back, and we spent two nights in a tent. Turns out? Tent camping in Colorado and the Black Hills is waaaaaaaaay better than camping in mosquito-infested southeastern Minnesota. Plus, the campsites were pleasant (KOA!), and my mind was soundly changed. Tent camping was off my shit list.

James and I kicked off our summer 2016 camping season with a trip to Duluth. We spent the night in a campground outside the city, testing out our camping mats for the first time. This August saw us taking our most ambitious road trip yet. We planned to cover six states and one international border in seven days - and we were going to do it by camping our way there. We stayed in Illinois, New York, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and we made it out (mostly) unscathed.

So two summers and nine nights in seven states by no means makes me a camping expert, but I have learned a thing or two.

If you can help it, always go with a KOA or a state campground.
KOA was a lifesaver when we first stumbled across it while camping in Colorado. James and I aren't the best at planning our evening stays, and we needed to find a campsite fairly late one evening. KOA not only let us book online (as it was after office hours), but they had no set time by which you had to be in the campground. When we camped in Rapid City, we didn't get to our KOA until after 3 in the morning - and it was no big deal! Our campground in New York State was a part of Four Mile Creek State Park, and it was glorious. They also allowed online registration, and they also had no curfew. Those two things are musts for travelers like James and me: typically flying by the seats of our pants and not figuring things out until after office hours. Plus, we have found KOAs to all have a consistent quality, which is important. No errant hairs in the showers and all that.

The campgrounds we stayed in while in Lanesboro, Duluth, and near Door County were all privately owned, and they were all weird as hell - the Wisconsin campground especially. First of all, we had to be in by 10pm (and we busted our asses to get there by 9:53pm, thankyouverymuch). This weird-ass campground was smack in the middle of a town, and it was one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen. Who the hell camps in the middle of a town? We checked in, and as James was filling out the registration form, he asked the manager (a middle-aged man with white hair) if he needed both our names on the form. "Nope - just HER name so I can call her later!" So registration came with a side of sexual harassment. When it came time to pay (cash only, of course), I got out my wallet. This man was downright incredulous that a woman could or would pay for anything. He acted as if he was unsure if he should take my cash, and looked at James as if, any second, James would chime in and say, "Silly woman! You KNOW you're not allowed to handle money. Now go make me a sandwich." But James said nothing of the sort, and the manager did eventually take my cash. But he sure left an impression on us.

The next morning, as we walked to check out of our campsite, everyone sat outside their campers (we were the only tent in the place) and stared. Unapologetically STARED. I guess non-locals are a novelty at that campground, but you can bet they'll never see THESE non-locals again.

Be on the lookout for coin-operated showers.
We have been unfortunate enough to stay at not one, but two campgrounds that required quarters in exchange for a shower. The first time was in Lanesboro (one of a great many things that went wrong), and we were fortunate enough to have enough quarters stuck in the seats of the car for each of us to purchase four minutes of hot water. The other coin-operated shower was in the Duluth campground, and we were prepared: it cost fifty cents for eight minutes, and I went in with seventy-five. I put in fifty cents, but I found myself wanting just a little more time when my eight minutes was up. I put in my last quarter, and… nothing. Turns out you can only buy hot water in eight-minute increments. So, covered in soap, I put my pajamas back on and headed out to the car, hoping James would have finished with his shower and be waiting there (as he had the car key). But, as is always the case in situations such as this, he wasn’t. So there I stood, dripping, in the parking lot, feeling a bit miserable, until James emerged and let me in the car to retrieve more quarters. You know where you don’t have to pay extra to shower? KOA. Speaking of showers…

You will never have to wait in line for a shower.
I was initially kind of nervous about how long I’d have to wait for a shower at one of these campgrounds. I’d always scout the bathhouse the night before and find that there were between two and four showers (or, in one case, six unisex showers) for a full campground. And you know how many times I had to wait for an open shower? NOT A SINGLE TIME. A few times, I was even the only one in the shower. Either no one was on the same showering schedule as me, or no one else showers while camping. In any case, it worked out smashingly for me. However, you won’t get so lucky with a spot at the sink. While not everyone showers, they do all brush their teeth and do their hair. And, one morning in Four Mile Creek State Park, one of the sinks in the women’s bathhouse was occupied by a ten-year-old boy who – no shit – brushed his teeth from the time I got in the shower until the time I left twenty minutes later. While brushing his teeth, he creepily sang the ABCs while staring at the women around him. This is the stuff of nightmares.

Mosquitos in Wisconsin will follow you into the shower and bite you as you shampoo.
No shit.

Camping saved us about a billion dollars.
Honestly, James and I didn’t camp our way through this Niagara Falls trip because we’re super outdoorsy and love to sleep on the ground. We did it because there was no way in hell that we could afford six nights of hotel stays on top of 2500 miles worth of gas costs, plus all the other expenditures that come with a week-long vacation. Allow me to demonstrate with some math. I paid an average of $30/night for our tent sites. Six nights of camping times $30 = $180. Friends, that is likely what we would’ve paid for ONE NIGHT in a hotel in the Niagara region during the height of the tourist season. Let’s pretend that we would’ve been able to find rooms around $120 each night. If we would’ve paid $120 (give or take) per night to stay in hotels, our cost would’ve skyrocketed to $720 – for lodging ALONE. That cost is simply not feasible for two people such as ourselves if we want to, you know, pay our mortgage and buy food and stuff. Thanks to tent camping being an option, we paid about a quarter of what we would’ve paid to stay in hotels – and even half of what we could’ve paid to stay at fleabag Motel 6s at $60/night. Tent camping allows us to be fiscally responsible while seeing some really cool places, and that is a winning combination.

Never EVER count out rain.
As you recall, my first-ever tent camping experience involved a torrential downpour. I got lucky for the next several camping nights – dry as a bone, and some nights even had a slight breeze. However, we can only be lucky for so long. For the last two nights of our Niagara Falls trip, James and I camped in the rain. Thankfully, it was less of a rain and more of a constant mist, but it was damp nonetheless. By this time, we’d had enough practice pitching our tent that we could do it relatively quickly and stay dry-ish. The problems came overnight. Somewhere in our little tent are leaks – and that’s to be expected, as we’re guessing that this tent (originally a gift from my parents to my sister that James and I have since adopted) is at least fifteen years old. The tent doesn’t leak from the roof (would you call it a roof?), but from the sides. We would wake up after a rainy evening with tiny puddles lining the sides of the tent, and the edges of our blankets would always be soaked.

Camping is SO much easier with the right stuff.
This one may be obvious, but I didn’t actually invest in legitimate camping gear until it became clear that we were camping our way to Niagara Falls and back. Until that point, we had camped a total of three times, and I wasn’t about to spend a bunch of money on gear that we’d rarely use. In preparation for this trip, I purchased camping mats, camping towels, and a battery-operated camping fan/lantern. All of these things proved their worth – camping mats meant we didn’t sleep directly on the ground, and the fan provided some much-needed white noise to distract us from the drunk neighbors – but none more so than the camping towels. They were advertised as quick-drying microfiber cloths, and I was eager to try them. Last summer, James and I camped only two nights on our Colorado trip, but we brought along regular towels. Of course, those didn’t dry well in the car, which meant that they stunk, which meant that our entire car stunk. Not so with the microfiber towels. We draped them as best we could in the car’s hatch, and they were always dry within a few hours. And – even after six nights of camping and a day of swimming in Lake Ontario – they didn’t smell. Microfiber towels for the win.

Camping forces us to get up and do stuff.
James and I are in no way early risers, and I find that to be a major flaw – especially on vacation. I want to pack as much as I can into my vacation waking hours, but I also find myself reeeeeeeally wanting to sleep in. So I sleep in, and then I’m wracked with guilt about the things I could’ve done while my lazy ass was still in bed. Camping totally solves this problem. In a hotel room, it’s awfully easy to sleep late – it’s quiet, you have a (hopefully) comfortable bed, and your room is temperature-controlled. Not so with tent camping. By about 7am, your neighbors are starting to get up, and they tend to be pretty noisy – especially if they brought children with them. It’s also starting to get kind of hot in your tent, and chances are your back kind of hurts. Obviously, you can’t really sleep, so you might as well get up, right? Thanks, camping!

Nothing will make James angrier faster than rolling up camping mats in a hot tent.
Pro tip: make sure he’s well-fed and that you do this BEFORE you shower.


Moral of the story? Camping is fun and cheap, but it is full of potential mishaps - and if there is a mishap to be had, James and I will have it. Camping season 2016 may be coming to an end, but stay tuned for more tenting misadventures in 2017!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

three years of marriage!

Today, James and I have been married for three years.

Three years? That's it?!

James and I have indeed been married for three years, but we have known each other for eleven (!!!) and have been a couple for nine. That means we've been a part of each other's lives for almost FORTY PERCENT of the time we've been alive.

So yeah, three years of marriage doesn't really cover the scope of our relationship.

But you know what does? A PHOTO ESSAY!

Instead of blathering on and on about how James is the best (which he is), I'm going to give you a picture for every year that James and I have known each other.

I'm doing this for several reasons. First of all, EVERYONE gets married in the summer, so this is one of many anniversary posts you'll be seeing during wedding season - and I might as well make it slightly more interesting for you. Secondly, James and I just saw a movie where, in reference to a couple just falling for each other, a passerby says, "Oh, you're in love. How gross for everyone." James and I laughed and laughed, so I'm going to try to make this as un-gross as possible. 

So here you go - eleven years of James and Calla. (Let's pretend we both look as young as the day we met.)













Now that you've looked through these pictures once and marveled at how cute we are, go through them quickly a second time and watch us age - like a flip book!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

let's talk about tubing.

When I was a kid, every spare minute of every summer was spent at Lake Poinsett. We'd pack up our plastic shovels and fun noodles and hang out on the sandy beaches of the state park. We spent a few summers camping during the brief time my parents owned a camper ("why camp when I can see my house from here?" was my mom's philosophy), and all subsequent summers have been spent either on the boat our at the Lake Poinsett cabin of our dear friends the Clellands.

As long as I can remember, summer meant Lake Poinsett.

The precise date escapes my memory, but I believe that my parents got our first boat when I was around eight. Before that point, I had spent little to no time in boats. Little did I know that the boat held the key to the best summer fun I could ever imagine: tubing.

Not long after the boat came along, my family acquired two canvas-covered inner tubes. These tubes had handles and long ropes that you could tie to the back of the boat, and you could hook up both tubes at one time. I can't tell you what my first tube ride was like, but it must've been glorious, as I spent the next five or so years doing nothing but tubing.
This is the only photographic evidence I can find of my early tubing days. This photo is from summer 1998, and you can see Dad floating on a tube in the background. Darrah is in the water next to him, and on the back of the boat are my cousin Greta, me, and my cousin Adrienne.
If you have never had the pleasure of being hauled around on a rubber tube behind a boat, let me first tell you that you have no idea what you're missing. Get out and do it right now. But let me also outline for you some important tubing basics.

  • First of all, when I'm talking about tubing, I'm not talking about the gigantic couch-tubes that have taken over in the recent past - I'm talking about black rubber inner tubes covered in fabric. Sure, we've dabbled in the two-person and three-person tubes, but it all comes back to the single-person, no back rest, just business inner tubes. No luxury there.
  • Tubing is the most fun when there are two of you riding. Riding a tube alone is fine, but as you know, fun things are more fun when someone is doing them with you.
  • If you do coerce someone into riding a tube with you, you have the option to hang onto the handles on the other tube (and your compatriot does the same). This attaches the tubes together and makes it harder for the driver to knock you off. If you do not do this, the driver can then ram the two tubes into each other and send you flying. That being said, keep in mind that it’s better to be the heavier of the two tubers.

  • There are really only two ways to ride these tubes: on your knees or on your back. (You can also ride on your stomach with your feet sticking out the back of the tube, but you are pretty much guaranteed to fall off. Don't even bother.) I have always favored riding on your back: you sit with your butt in the middle of the tube and hang on. You are a bit more likely to fall out when you ride like that, but if you ride on your knees (knees in the middle of the tube - which is possible because of the canvas covering), the water beneath you will beat up your knees like nothing you've ever done before. Also, you have to be of small stature and rather flexible to be able to ride this way, so it’s best left to small children.

  • Make no mistake: tubing is no leisurely cruise around the lake. Even the calmest of tube rides must still move at a pretty fast pace, because if the boat goes too slow, the tube submerges. If you have the “right” driver, tubing can be a fight for your very life. More on that later.

  • Hand signals are an important part of water sports, and tubing is no exception. The signals are as follows: thumbs up for faster, thumbs down for slower, and a throat-slitting motion to stop. My friend Sarah and I invented hand motions to indicate that we wanted to be pulled in and out of the wake (a swerving motion) and to request that the boat make a 360-degree turn and drag us through the resulting enormous waves. We would live to regret that last one.

  • When you are waterskiing, you generally look for the smoothest water possible. Tubing isn’t as finicky; you can tube in much choppier waters than you can ski in. However, the rougher the water, the higher you will launch when your tube hits a wave. And I do mean launch.

  • Be prepared for every muscle in your body to ache the next day – especially if you are anywhere north of 20 years old. Seriously.

  • Unlike waterskiing, tubing requires little to no actual skill. (This is, of course, why I gravitated towards it.) All you need to do is sit there and hang on.

  • Your tubing experience will depend completely on the driver. Ninety percent of my tube rides have been with my dad at the wheel. (The other ten percent is split between my mom – a gentle and kind driver – and my brother – a bloodthirsty and ruthless driver.) Dad is neither kind nor bloodthirsty, but if he is driving the boat when you are in a tube, you can expect a wild ride.

Tubing with Dad meant one thing: you had better be prepared to hang on. Dad was not shy about hitting white-capped waves at what felt like a zillion miles an hour, and you were pretty much guaranteed to barrel-roll through the air. Dad's ultimate goal was not to throw you off your tube: if he truly wanted you off, he could have you gone in a matter of seconds. What Dad wanted was to put you through as much of a watery roller-coaster ride you could take before you a.) did indeed fall off, or b.) leapt off the tube before a worse fate could befall you.

As a boat driver, Dad had a number of tricks up his sleeve. Besides the 360 (in which Dad turns the boat completely around and hauls your sorry self you through the boat-created tsunami waves), Dad loved to throw your tube outside the wake, fling you around there for a few minutes, and then take a sharp turn in the opposite direction. And I mean SHARP. It was during those moves that your chances of falling off increased exponentially. You suddenly became hyper-aware of your surroundings and had a quick and terrifying realization of the fate that was about to befall you. As soon as Dad would start to make that turn, there would be a fleeting moment of total stillness before you and your tube were flung into oblivion.
Pictured: my cousin Monica being flung into oblivion.
That being said, tubing rarely resulted in any serious injury. Sure, we would hit the water at what we thought was a break-neck speed, but aside from the brief stinging pain that comes with skin smacking water at high-ish speeds, we tended to emerge unscathed. One time, however, many years into my tubing career, Dad sent my tube careening out of the wake, and I flew off my tube, into the air, and hit the water face-first. I resurfaced with a bloody nose, which was less painful and more a badge of honor. Dad felt terrible, but I felt like find of a badass. A tubing injury still counts as a sports injury, and that was the closest I would get to an athletic injury. And, when you're ten, everyone knows that sports injuries are cool.

Dad's role in my tubing experience wasn't limited to driving the boat. No, indeed: Dad would sometimes join us as a second tuber. Remember how I said that it's better to be the heavier of the two tubers? Tubing with Dad is a prime example. Dad was not of the opinion that you should hang onto one another's tubes for added stability - he wanted to tube independently, and therefore crash into one another as the boat whipped you in and out of the wake. As Dad was bigger than us kids, his tube colliding into yours could be enough to throw you off. If you managed to survive the impact, that still did not ensure your safely. Dad would then perform what became known as the Oreo: he would actually drag your tube (with  you in it) out of the water, set it on top of his tube, and ride like that for a while - two stacked tubes. Then, when the moment was right, he'd toss you off. There was no surviving that one.

For nearly all of my natural-born life, I have been saddled with a crushing case of nearsightedness. I didn't get contact lenses until I was sixteen, so most of my tubing years were spent in a myopic haze. That was usually fine - it wasn't until many years down the road when I tubed with my contacts in that I realized tubing is way scarier if you can clearly see what's coming. However, I did miss some truly great sights thanks to my poor vision - the great sight being the legendary Poinsett pelican.

I was happily riding in the tube one summer day when I could hear some indistinct exclaiming coming from the boat riders. Squinting, I could just barely make out a large white blob floating on the lake in front of the boat. Seconds later, this same white blob rose into the air and flew away. I didn't think much of it - it had been a bird, big deal - until I got back in the boat. The lucky sighted people in the boat told me that the pelican had been struggling to get out of the water and away from the boat - it was trying to take off, but couldn't. Finally, it opened its mouth and spit an enormous fish right back into the water, and it could finally fly away.

I wish I knew how many childhood hours I clocked in a tube. I certainly don't tube as much as I used to - believe it or not, finding time to tube was a lot easier when I a.) had no employment obligations, and b.) lived five minutes from Lake Poinsett, as opposed to the nearly two hours it takes me to get there now.

My time tubing has also been cut down because of my fairly new-found ability to waterski. I learned how to waterski just a few short summers ago, and I'm still pretty thrilled with myself. Skiing is a lot of work and always leaves me with days' worth of sore muscles, as I am old and out of shape. So that means that, right now, given the choice between waterskiing and tubing, I'm going to stroll on the side of skiing. I'm sure I can do both, but maybe I'll do that when I don't have to work (aka, use my arms and legs) for several days following.
Here's my cousin Taylor and me. Can you see our expressions of joy/pain?
So tubing is great. If you haven't done it, I suggest that you do. Those gigantic tubes with the backrests, your Big Mabels and your Super Mabels, are all good and well, but that's not real tubing. Tubing is a black canvas-covered inner tube. Tubing is hanging onto the handles so tightly that you can’t unclench your fingers at the end of the day. Tubing is seeing your life flash before your eyes before you spiral into the water. Tubing is exhilarating, a tad painful, and you can pretty much count on getting water up your nose.
Here's my cousin Taylor in a magnificent wipe-out, and I'm certain he had a fair amount of water up his nose.
Tubing makes you feel alive, water-up-your-nose be damned.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

on this day in 2004: excerpts from a journal, July edition.

20 July 2004

I am a lucky bastard.

So I was driving home from Brookings today (in Susie - her scratch is fixed and she looks brand new!) after I dropped Darrah and Mitch off (we got Nick's and brought it to Grandma J's house). I was messing with the radio buttons because I wanted to reset them; plus, my CD player had died. Therefore, I wasn't really paying attention as I entered the speed trap that is Oakwood. All of the sudden, I see this white car coming towards me. Only as I looked at my speedometer (60 in a 45 zone) did I realize that I was facing a police car. I watched in the rear view mirror as the police car turned, but didn't come after me. Whoo hoo!

This morning before I left for Brookings, Dad looked at me, then at Darrah, and said, "Is she taller than you yet?" I answered that she has been for a long time. He said, "Don't worry... you probably still outweigh her." I said, "DAD!" and of course, he couldn't stop laughing. He eventually said (between gasps for air), "You know, if you were fat, I wouldn't say things like that." When I saw Mom later this evening, I informed her of Dad's joke, and she said, "Now, Tim, don't make fun of our chunky daughter." If I ever develop an eating disorder, they're why!

Later this evening, I reminded Dad of his "if you were a fat girl, I wouldn't say things like that" statement by saying, "So I should worry if you stop saying those things?" Dad said, "Wow, that pretty much gives me free reign. In that case, you're fat and ugly, too." What a nice family!

I was watching Hook the other day, and Dustin Hoffman plays Captain Hook. Dustin Hoffman rules. Anyway, that would be the coolest role in the entire world. A pirate, and a supervillain pirate at that. 

Speaking of pirates, I'm totally going to order a shirt off the internet that has a picture of the Jolly Roger on it and reads "we prefer buccaneer-Americans." It will be mine. Oh yes... it will be mine.

Current music: I have recently made Crapfest VII, so I am listening to "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger. 

(editor's note: Crapfest was a series of burned CDs I made in high school. each Crapfest volume was full of songs along the same line as "Sister Christian": terrible songs, but totally awesome. and now you know.)

Monday, June 20, 2016

on this day in 2004: excerpts from a journal, June edition

20 June 2004

I had the worst dream last night.

(Editor's note: I am not going to type out said weird dream because no one wants to hear about other people's dreams, let alone read about my dream from twelve years ago. Plus, this journal entry is long enough already. Moving on.)

I worked at 7 am yesterday. So sleepy. I drove Susie, so a bunch of my coworkers (Deb, Amanda, Shari) got to admire her. I worked at the retreat center, so I couldn't remember where anything was - it was embarrassing. I was supposed to get off at 1, but we were backed up on dishes, so I ended up staying until 230. Mom called around 2 and told me that Ethan and Sheri were there. I finished up with the dishes, did my timesheet, grabbed an Herbal Essences highlighting kit (Deb was trying to get rid of them), and left.

When I got home, Ethan and Sheri were indeed there. Mom asked about my highlighting kit ("what color?"), and Ethan said, "Basically the same color she has now. You should do it! Or sell it on eBay." I love Ethan and Sheri. They spent a long time debating whether or not Sheri would pet a rabid cat. When they left, they took time to admire Susie ("everyone should have a stick shift at some point in their lives") and show us their new car: a grey Honda Accord. Spiffy. Before they left, Sheri told me that she has the same shoes as me (the big clunky Adidas shoes that are SO comfortable and I love). I will miss my awesome relatives.

I read in church today and completely guessd on some crazy pronunciation (Gerasenes), and I got it right! Woo hoo! Mom later asked how I knew how to pronounce it, and I told her it was a lucky guess. When I was done reading, Pastor Svaren (Pastor Odland is in Minot, ND) said, "Thank you, Kayla." After the service was done, Keith Wendland came up to me and said, "Thank you very much for reading... Kayla!" I love the Wendlands. Bob leaves for 4H Performing Arts camp today and stays through Saturday. Who am I going to go to the movies with?

For Father's Day, I gave Dad a bag of peanut M&Ms (like he asked) and a card that says, "Happy Father's Day, Foo!" On the inside is a drawing of Mr T saying, "I pity the foo who don't have a happy Father's Day!" There's also a picture of a dead pheasant, a stalk of corn, and a caption reading "maybe next year" (Dad told me that he wanted me to kill pheasants for Father's Day).

During lunch today, Allison called me and asked me if I wanted to hang out. When she got to my house, she said, "I miss my Calla-shaped friend!" We went to the Watertown mall, where I got a Slinky shirt and a Muppet shirt (and longed for the belt with alligators on it). To Target from there, where Allison bought a hot dog. I found a really spiffy belt there that I'm going to buy when it gets all cheap. We tried on some dresses there, which was fun. Allison wanted some flip-flops, so we continued to Walmart. Nothing there; onto ShopKo. So much cool crap there. We found the flip-flops, and they had more cool shoes than any other place we'd been. I tried on some blue and yellow plaid ones, black ones with silk flowers on them, and red ones just like that. I ended up buying the plaid ones and a maroon shirt with a kangaroo on it. Allison bought the black flower ones and some gingham ones. I told her that I'd take us to Twisters in Susie to buy us cones. Back home, we switched cars. I proved that I can indeed drive a stick! At Twisters, we both got small chocolate cones. When Dana saw me, she said, "Hey, do you have my shirt?" I just looked at her and said, "No." She said, "Well, I want you to bring it in this week so we can wear it for this weekend." I informed my parents of this, and Mom thought I should give it to Dad, let him wear it for a day around the farm, go to Twisters, take it off right inside, and hand it over. Dad says that I should call Dana, tell her that I won't make it to Twisters this week, put it in a bag on the front porch, and tell her to come and get it herself. My parents have great ideas!

Today when Dad was trying to watch TV, he told me to stop my jibba jabba, foo. Too funny.

I'm reading an article in Newsweek about the new Batman movie. Direct quote: "The new chapter, which will hit theatres in June 2005, is called Batman Begins - presumably because Batman Sucked the Last Time So We're Starting Over was too clunky." Did I mention how much I love Newsweek?

Speaking of Batman, there were many pairs of Batman sunglasses in Target that I will buy someday. They're little kid sunglasses, but they fit me pretty well. Me and my pinhead.

Current music: "Breakfast at Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

ten outfits under $35, part VI.

Friends, it’s that time again. We have arrived at yet another cheap outfit blog.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of putting these outfits together. I have also decided that it’s also good for my brain: I have to use math (well, math up to 35) and creative thinking to put together the best possible outfits within my set limits. And then I get to show you!

This is my sixth blog post where the outfits are $35 or less. You can find the other five by following the links: part I, part II, part III, part IV, and part V. Before I settled on $35 as my perfect dollar amount, I also wrote posts about outfits that were $30 or less and $40 or less.

You may recall how I decided on $35 as my perfect amount. Way back in my first cheap outfit blog (waaaaaay back in 2013), I gave myself a $40 limit. However, putting together an outfit under $40 did not present much of a challenge for me. Just THINK of all the things you can wear if you have $40 to spend! So I cut my limit by ten dollars and tried outfits under $30. But then, I ran into the opposite problem: while it was certainly a challenge to find outfits for $30 or less, I couldn’t add anything to the outfit that would make it stand out. Accessories were out of the question. Allowing myself a $35 limit not only makes me think hard about what I can and cannot put together, but it gives me enough room to add accessories and really make the outfits what I want them to be. So $35 it is.

As always, I must go over my rules. (If you are familiar with this series, feel free to skip over the rules. I’m not ashamed to admit that I totally copied and pasted this from my last cheap outfit blog.)

1.) I won’t include an outfit just for the sake of it being cheap. I put a lot of thought into these outfits, and any that you see here are outfits that I would wear in public.

2.) All of the clothing items you see here are new to the blog, with two exceptions: shoes and belts. I have been reusing shoes for a while now, mainly because if I couldn’t reuse shoes, this blog series would’ve been dead a long time ago. This will be my first blog post where I reuse belts, and it’s for the same reason. I only have so many belts, and sometimes, your outfit just needs a belt. Since I’m reusing these items, I won’t tell you about them unless they are new to the series.

3.) Something new about shoes: in the past, I have tried to only use a pair of shoes one time per blog post (or twice, if I was really desperate). However, I found myself putting together outfits that aren’t as great as they could be because of my limited shoe options. I also found myself keeping shoes that I almost never wore just because they were at a low enough price point for me to make outfits with them. No more, my friends. As a consequence, you’ll be seeing the same shoes more often than you used to. I hope you’re ok with it. If you’re not, don’t tell me.

4.) I will include gifts, but under only two circumstances: jewelry with no price or clothing with a price. If the gift is jewelry, its price will not be added to the total. (And chances are I don’t know the price.) If the gift was an item of clothing, I will include it ONLY if I know the price, which will contribute to the overall outfit total.

5.) Foundation garments (socks, tights, tank tops) will not be used as part of the outfit total.

6.) The listed prices are almost always exact. The longer I’ve been doing this, the better I’ve been at keeping a list of cheap items with the potential for this blog – and I note the prices ASAP. Some of the items are pretty damn old, though, and I have listed those prices from memory. And those prices are almost certainly within fifty cents. I rarely forget a good deal.

7.) In my last cheap outfit posts, I have said something about each item of clothing featured in each outfit (unless it was a pair of shoes or a belt that you had seen before). Turns out? That's kind of monotonous. If I buy a shirt at Goodwill for two dollars and that's the end of the story, then I shouldn't bore you with anything extra that I pulled out of my ass just so that I could say something (ANYTHING!) about said shirt. This time, I'm only going to tell you about the clothing items that either a.) have an interesting story, or b.) I have thoughts on. And trust me, I have a lot of thoughts.

8.) Lastly, I tried to include items from a variety of stores while still maintaining the quality of the outfit. It gets rather dull to see clothes just from one or two places. Then this blog might as well be a clothing catalog, and no one wants that.

Now that we’ve taken care of business, please enjoy the eighth (!!!) edition of my top ten cheap outfits!

shirt – Maurices – $5.24 (75% off clearance price)
pants – Maurices – $25.50 (25% off)
shoes – DSW – FREE! ($29.99, $20.15 and $10 off)
necklace – gift from Mark and Maria
TOTAL: $30.74

This is just the first of many pairs of colorful jeggings (yes, jeggings) that you'll see on this blog in the coming outfit posts. I love them for so many reasons - they come in super fun colors, they're stretchy and comfortable, they're good for work and a thousand billion times better than regular dress pants, and I can always get them on sale. The only downside to them is that they have no front pockets. Yes indeed: the front pockets you see are totally fake. I have a couple of pairs of jeans like this, too, and I really don't appreciate it. I know that because they're jeggings, they're supposed to be as skinny as possible, but seriously - just because I'm wearing jeggings doesn't mean I don't have shit to keep in my pockets. And do you see my necklace? It's a BIKE! Mark and Maria (James's parents) gave it to me for my 29th birthday, and I sure do love all things bike.

shirt – Country Peddler – FREE! (org $12 but used credit)
pants – Forever21 – $17.91 (10% off)
booties – Old Navy – $2.97
belt  – Forever21 – $5.90
necklace – Amazon – $3.99
TOTAL: $30.77

I am the not-so-proud owner of a pair of broad shoulders, and button-down (or button-up, if you prefer) shirts have long been trouble for me. A button-down would have to be rather large across the shoulders so as to fit me there, but the shirt would then inevitably be too large everywhere else. I would be left looking sloppy, bulky, and manly. So... not great. This is one of the few button-down shirts in my closet, and I dare say it fits me pretty much ok. And pretty much ok is good enough for me. I don't own very many pairs of pants from Forever21 as they are made to fit anorexic pre-teens, but I really love this pair. The moto detail on the knees makes me feel like a badass... or as badass as one can be when wearing them to work at a library.

dress – Modcloth - $18.89 (70% clearance + 30% off)
booties – Maurices – $12
necklace – Etsy/Hobby Lobby - $4-ish for supplies
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
TOTAL: $34.89

I have waxed poetic about the Modcloth house-cleaning 70% off clearance sales before, and this is one of two dresses you will see in this blog that came from such an occasion. The 70% off dresses always start out way out of my price range, but I sure am happy to keep my eye on them and hope for the best. And sometimes? Sweet success. There is a downside: anything you buy at 70% off is nonreturnable, so you'd better hope that you like it and that it fits. And if not? I never spend more than $30 on my 70% off finds, so the loss wouldn't be huge - and I can always take it to Country Peddler! I am not the strongest jewelry-maker that you've ever met, but I Frankensteined this together out of two necklaces I never wore. Now it's one necklace that I wear all the time, even though the ends of the anchor are weirdly stabby.

dress – Tyanas – $21.48
booties – Maurices – $12
TOTAL: $33.48

Tyana's is the one clothing boutique in Luverne, and I totally love it. They have great stuff, and it's affordable (obviously very important for me). And once in a while, you can find a real score in the clearance section. I don't remember how much this dress was originally, but it was on clearance when I bought it. I am forever on the hunt for affordable long-sleeved dresses, and this one is quite excellent.

dress – Modcloth – $26.99 (70% off)
booties – Old Navy – $2.97
belt – Modcloth  FREE! (came with this very dress)
TOTAL: $29.96

Here's the other 70% off super-clearance dress. This one had some negative reviews on Modcloth (pro tip: ALWAYS read the reviews), so I was a little iffy, but I (obviously) chanced it. The print is freaking adorable. There are foxes. FOXES.

sweatshirt – Style Encore – FREE! (was $10, 50 % off + store credit)
Silver jeans – Maurices – $33.29 (50% off and 10% off)
shoes – DSW – FREE! ($29.99, $20.15 and $10 off)
scarf – gift from Megan
TOTAL: $33.29

Shirts with deer heads on them were very much a thing this past fall and winter, and I most definitely fell victim to the trend. This color (dusty purple? mauve? who knows) was also super-trendy (see: jeggings in the first outfit), which worked out for me - ever since seeing tons of this color on Gossip Girl (yes, I watched the whole series on Netflix last winter. go ahead and judge me.), I've been wanting to add some to my wardrobe. These jeans, like the jeggings in the first outfit, also have fake front pockets. SO ANNOYING. But like the other jeggings, they're stretchy and delightful, so I'm willing to overlook.

dress – Lauriebelle’s Boutique – $33.60 (20% off)
heels – Modcloth – FREE! (came with weird heel, couldn’t exchange, full credit)
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
TOTAL: $33.60

I have a love/hate relationship with maxi dresses. So many of them make me look a.) pregnant, or b.) like a sister wife. (Forgive me, for I have used that analogy before, but I don't have a better one.) The problem lies mainly with sleeveless maxi dresses. They're all fine and dandy in my summer downtime, but if I wear them to work, I need a cardigan. Cardigan + maxi dress = sister wife. I got this dress at a boutique in Tea called Lauriebelle's, and it was the last in my size - AND the entire store was 20% off that day. Not only did I get to add another elusive long-sleeved dress to my closet - I finally found a flattering work-appropriate non-cardigan-requiring maxi dress.

sweater – Country Peddler – FREE! ($11, used credit)
jeans – ebay – $32.99
heels – Modcloth – FREE! (came with weird heel, couldn’t exchange, full credit)
bracelet – gift from James (Unglued)
TOTAL: $32.99

It's been years and years since I've purchased jeans on ebay, but I went through a short phase during which I got several pairs from ebay. (That was pretty much the only way I could afford "new" jeans.) There are only a couple of pairs left in my closet (mostly because I was too poor to eat when I bought them, therefore purchasing them in a size much smaller than I wear now), but this is one of said pairs. The bracelet came from my current favorite store in Sioux Falls: Unglued. It's downtown, and it's full of candles, jewelry, art, and all sorts of great handmade stuff. You should totally go. You'd love it.

shirt – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $9, used credit)
Silver jeans – Maurices – $31.50
booties – Old Navy – $2.97
belt – Country Peddler – FREE! (was $5, used credit)
TOTAL: $34.47

I am in love with the color of this shirt. I don't know what you'd call it exactly (fuchsia?), but I love it. Even though I purchased it in my correct size, it's pretty enormous, hence the belt. You'd be amazed at the number of outfits that can be saved by a belt.

shirt – Maurices – $13.50 (buy one get one half off)
jeggings – Maurices – $18 (buy one get one 50% off, $7.50 off)
booties – Old Navy – $2.97
TOTAL: $34.47

Remember those jeggings from the very beginning of this post? Here's another pair. Olive green is my new go-to neutral. It's the perfect color for pants: it's as versatile as khaki, but without the blah factor. Also? Dirt and stains and stuff (very real dangers when working at a library) don't show up as easily. Olive green is the way to go.


My friends, we've reached the end of yet another cheap outfit blog. Stay tuned, for there are always more cheap outfits in my closet, just waiting for me to show you!