Tuesday, April 29, 2014

ten outfits under $35.

Time and time again, I’ve told you about how much I enjoy bargain shopping. It’s the thrill of the hunt and the feeling that you got a super great deal on something, and therefore you are the champion of the world.

Twice, I have put together blog posts showing off some of my best bargain finds. The first time around, all ten outfits I put together totaled less than $40. The second time, my budget took a big cut, and all outfits were less than $30.

This time, I’m making my limit $35. They’re still damn cheap outfits, but let me tell you: finding outfits that totaled less than $30 was TOUGH. And since I don’t reuse my clothes for these outfit blogs, everything I’ve showed you already is off limits. And since I used some of my very cheapest stuff for the last blog post, it would be awfully tough for me to find ten more $30 outfits. Also, there are occasions where I probably could eke out an outfit under $30, but the exact pairing that I want is just a little over the mark. And here’s the thing: I’m not going to post an outfit on this blog that I wouldn’t wear as an actual outfit, and this time around, that means raising my limit to $35.

I am enacting one more change: even though I said I don’t reuse my clothes for posts, I am making an exception for shoes. It’s actually kind of tough to find shoes cheap enough for this blog post. So in order to keep doing these outfit posts (and I don’t know about you, but I kind of enjoy them), I’m going to have to reuse some shoes. You’ll have to forgive me.

I also let myself use more gifts than I have before. These blog posts are mostly about my bargain shopping skills, and something I’ve been given as a gift doesn’t really apply, as my bargain shopping skills and I had nothing to do with it. However, I have limited my inclusion of gifts to jewelry only, which isn’t absolutely essential for an outfit. Wearing jewelry isn’t as important as wearing pants. (Some may disagree, but that’s where I stand.)

So anyway, that’s what’s new. Otherwise, the same rules apply as always: no foundation garments – tank tops, etc – as part of my total. Why? Because then it gets boring and complicated. Also, the prices may not be exact, but I have estimated to the very best of my memory and am pretty sure I’m right on – give or take a few cents. And I did my best to include items from as wide a range of stores as possible. As much as I’d love you show you only outfits from Goodwill, I thought you’d like a little variety. So please enjoy the third installment of my top ten cheap outfits – this time, it’s ten outfits under $35!

(a disclaimer about this set of photos: James and I ran around taking these pictures on a rainy Monday afternoon - so you'll have to forgive the windblown hair and me looking slightly cold. but you'll get a mini-tour of our yard!)

dress – Maurices – $9.95
pearls – Etsy – $6
wedges – Target – $14.98
TOTAL = $30.93

Maurices is my go-to place when it comes to cheap dresses. You just have to keep your eyes open: every now and again, they have some kind of gigantic clear-out sale where they’re practically paying YOU to take their stuff. This dress was a great fund. I’d been keeping one eye on it for a while, but I certainly wasn’t going to pay $40 (its original price) for it. When the price eventually fell all the way down to $9.95, I was there to snap it up. And we have got to talk about my string of pearls. I had been looking for a string of pearls in your regular Targets and mall stores, because who doesn’t want a string of pearls? (And when I say “pearls,” I mean fake pearls. Just so we’re clear.) But I couldn’t find much, and the strings of pearls I did find cost north of $25. For FAKE pearls?! Give me a break. Thank goodness for Etsy – if you’re unfamiliar, it’s like a gigantic craft fair. You can get handmade jewelry, paper products, vintage hats… basically anything you could ever want that’s crafty and/or vintage, you can find on Etsy. That’s where my pearls came from – they’re real, and because they’re not quite white and not quite round, they weren’t very expensive (especially after the twenty Paypal dollars I’d earned from taking internet surveys, which I’m totally not counting towards the outfit total). Etsy for the win.

suit – Salvation Army (Winnipeg) – $12.75
flats – ZooShoo – $17
necklace – Vintage Pearl – gift!
TOTAL = $29.75

Yes, friends: I bought a suit at the Salvation Army. It’s not a suit that I’d wear on a job interview or anything (it’s less SUIT and more “suit”), but I can definitely wear it to work, and those pants are awfully versatile. This suit didn’t come from just any Salvation Army: this was a Salvation Army in Winnipeg that James and I visited on our honeymoon. (It’s not too often you hear “Salvation Army” and “honeymoon” in the same sentence, but you have maybe learned to expect that from me.) The Salvation Army itself was super dirty (as was its clientele), but I came away with not only a suit, but a purse and a pair of jeans. The shoes came from the internet – and one of the beautiful things about ordering stuff online is the possibility of coupon codes. Whenever I order something online, I do a quick search to see if there are any coupon codes out there. The answer is usually no, but in the case of these shoes, I found a $5 off coupon! That’s almost a 23% discount! And the necklace? A Christmas gift from my sister – they’re spoon handles stamped with my initials.

shirt – Plato’s Closet – $10
shorts – Goodwill Brookings – $4.25
sandals – GoJane – $11.84 (20% coupon)
TOTAL = $26.09

There’s not a lot to stay about this outfit besides the obvious: LOOK AT MY SHIRT IT HAS A KRAKEN. I don’t buy things at Plato’s Closet very often, but when I do, they’re completely awesome. Case in point: kraken. I do have to mention the shorts: I went to the Brookings Goodwill one day and, much to my good fortune, stumbled across a cache of American Eagle shorts – all with original store tags on them, all in my size. I bought three pairs, and this is one of two pairs that you’ll see in this outfit post. The sandals came from a website called GoJane, and there’s almost always some kind of coupon code that you can apply to your order – in this case, 20% off. I do love coupon codes.

Can you spot the Great Dane in this picture?
Silver jeans – ebay – $22
shirt – Savers – $3 (half-off day)
cardigan – Country Peddler – $2 originally, $0 with credit
belt – Rue 21 – $.33
flats – American Eagle – $6
TOTAL = $33.33

I’ve talked to you before about the dangers of Savers on half-off day. It’s not for the weak of heart. The Sioux Falls Savers has narrow aisles and just a handful of fitting rooms (where NOBODY obeys the six-item limit), and there’s no discernable line for the fitting rooms, so you just have to zip in as soon as you see one open. It’s every man for himself at Savers on half-off day. That being said, I’ve gotten a lot of great stuff at Savers on half-off day, this crazy shirt included. The cardigan came from Country Peddler – a consignment store in Brookings. I take my old clothes there all the time, and of course, I have to do a little looking around. This cardigan was marked down to $2, but I had some outstanding credit, so they just subtracted the cardigan from my credit total. In my book, that makes it a free cardigan. The belt is two sizes too big, but I got it as a three-pack for one dollar. For thirty-three cents, I can punch a few holes in the belt, loop the extra, and call it a day. Oh yeah, and these pants? Totally got them on ebay. (This experience provided a very important lesson for me: I’m not cut out for bidding on ebay. I get all jittery and nervous and can barely handle it – I thought I was going to have a heart attack while waiting for the bidding to end on these jeans.)

dress – Redeemed – $10 (honeymoon discount)
belt – Maurices – FREE! (came with some other dress)
flats – 6pm – $16.99
C wax charm – Hobby Lobby – $3 for supplies
TOTAL = $29.99

Remember the honeymoon discount? Here’s a recap: James and I were in Winnipeg for our honeymoon, and we ended up at a consignment shop called Redeemed. The owner of the shop found out that we were Americans (“Oh, we LOVE Americans!”) on our honeymoon, and she gave us a very generous “honeymoon discount:” a blazer and a dress were marked down from $60 total to $20 – AND she threw in a $20 gift certificate to her store’s second location. She was so kind to us – total strangers – and totally reinforced the stereotype that Canadians are nicer than everyone else. We should all try and be a bit more Canadian, eh??

You'll have to forgive the weirdness of this picture. It was super cold out.
Silver jeans – Maurices – $25 (buy one get one free)
flats – Y’s Buys – $3
shirt – Country Peddler – $6 originally, $0 with credit
upside down fleur de lis charm – Hancock Fabrics – $.06
bracelet – gift from James
TOTAL = $28.06

Dresses aren’t the only things that go on super sale at Maurices. One glorious day, they were having a “buy one clearance item, get one free” sale, which was in addition to their usual “40% off the lowest marked price” clearance sale. I got two pairs of Silver jeans (read: usually expensive) for a total of $50, so splitting the difference makes them $25 each. That is nothing short of a steal, my friends. You’ve seen my Y’s Buys shoes before, but I must reiterate that I almost never buy shoes from secondhand stores. These are an exception that I’m glad I made. Finally, the charm: I rarely go to Hancock Fabrics, but James needed to go there to get some stuff for school. I perused the jewelry-making aisle and came across a pack of four New Orleans themed charms... for twenty-five cents (making the individual charms about six cents each.) Sold. The bracelet (it’s made of spoons) was a gift from James – he got it at a flea market for two dollars. He learns from the best!

t-shirt – Forever21 – $4.80
scarf – Forever21 – $10.80
sandals – Gap Outlet – $7-ish
shorts – Goodwill Brookings – $4.25
TOTAL = $26.85

On the whole, I am way too old for Forever21. However, there are two exceptions: basics and accessories. Striped shirt? Basic. Green scarf? Accessory. I steer clear from the rest of the clothes, making the odd allowance for a pair of pants. But for everything else, my Forever21 days are over. These shorts are the second pair from my Shorts Jackpot Day at the Brookings Goodwill.

maxi dress – Country Peddler – $18 originally, $0 with credit
flats – 6pm – $16.99
pennyfarthing charm – Michael’s – $2.75 (employee discount)
TOTAL = $19.74

Yes, this is the second time you’re seeing these shoes. But can you think of shoes that would go better with this dress? I didn’t think so. I have been rather lax on my survey-taking lately (who wants to do that when the weather is nice?), but I took surveys like a champion in the winter. That little extra bit of internet survey money gave me a nice discount on these shoes, the string of pearls from the first outfit, and other things here and there. (Yes, I know that the Paypal money could’ve been cashed out and sent to my bank account, but I earned it taking ridiculous surveys about things like paper towels. According to me, that means I don’t have to count it as real money, and I don’t have to count it towards my outfit total.) This is the third (but not the last) Country Peddler item on the list today – once again, I bought it with my store credit. Come to think of it, I don’t even remember the last time I actually had to PAY for something at Country Peddler. That is a beautiful thing. The charm – which is totally a pennyfarthing – came from my days as a Michael’s cashier. Employee discount to the rescue.

shorts – H&M – $12
t-shirt – Old Navy – $4.75 (buy one, get one free)
turquoise necklace – Hobby Lobby – $7 for supplies
flats – Target – $7-ish
TOTAL = $30.75

Hey! Shorts that aren’t from Goodwill! These are from H&M, and they’re one of the few things I’ve purchased there in the past couple of years. H&M and I have a tumultuous relationship. When I lived in Minneapolis, I went to the H&M in the Mall of America all the time, and it was always a madhouse. I would either find a million things that I wanted, or nothing at all for many visits at a time. Whenever James and I go back to the cities, we usually end up at H&M – and almost every time, there’s nothing that appeals to me. I want the old magic back; I want to be a stylish Swede like them! But since I’m not into harem pants and crop tops, H&M and I are on the outs right now. But I did find this pair of shorts, so there’s that. 

A skirt like this just begs to be twirled.
t-shirt – Target – $5
scarf – American Eagle – $6
skirt – Country Peddler – $8 originally, $0 with credit
heels  DSW  $12.98
cuff bracelet – World Market – $8.49 (mysterious coupon)
TOTAL = $32.47

Remember how I used to work at American Eagle? This scarf is one of the few things I have left from my American Eagle days (along with the leopard shoes from earlier in the post). Working at American Eagle gives you a pretty sweet discount – 40% on regular priced things, 25% on clearance, and that’s on top of whatever promotion they’re running at the time. Once in a while, we’d even get an additional 50% off of everything, and it was like Christmas. Or, it would’ve been, if I’d had any money to spend. This scarf is one of the few purchases I made when I was working in Denver, and even then, $6 was a whole lot to spend on a pink scarf. I’m glad I did, though – this scarf (along with the leopard shoes from earlier) is one of the few American Eagle things I have left. Most of the other stuff has since found its way to consignment shops and Goodwills, but this scarf is holding strong. And check out this skirt! It is the hugest skirt I’ve ever owned, but I love it. SO MUCH. It just makes me feel fancy. I’m kind of at a loss as to where to wear it, but don’t worry – I’ll make it happen. The bracelet came from World Market, which is one of my favorite stores on earth. They have everything from shower curtains to jewelry to wine and pancake mix. It’s my go-to place for Christmas presents. However, World Market is a bit dangerous: I always spend more there than I intend to. I went to World Market with two $10 coupons: one for my birthday and one for rewards points. I almost bought this bracelet, but I ended up buying a chevron throw and two pillow shams instead… but went back the next day to get the bracelet. I didn’t have any coupons left, but the cashier scanned a coupon from her pocket that gave me $1.50 off the bracelet. Score! Final note on this outfit: I found these shoes in the clearance section of the Roseville DSW, and they were marked down 70% from their original $59.95. Throw in my $5 off coupon, and you have yourself a pair of really cheap shoes.


Well, we’ve made it through ten more outfits! This latest round included items from a total of 25 different locations: 27 if you consider gifts from two different people! We have six mall clothing stores, four thrift shops, three consignment stores, two craft stores, two online shoe stores, one outlet store, one big-box store, one shoe store, one online auction site, one fabric store, one of whatever World Market is, and one gigantic online flea market – plus the two gifts. Not a bad variety, if I do say so myself!

I hope that you don’t get tired of these cheap outfit posts, as I really enjoy putting them together. Until next time, happy thrift shopping!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

ode to my iPod.

Dear iPod,

I knew this day was coming. It’s been coming for a long time, but I just didn’t want to admit it.

I remember when I first brought you home. It was January 2007, and I had just returned to college after Christmas break. For years, I had wanted an iPod of my very own – and it was finally going to happen. Hipster Boyfriend and I drove to St Cloud to spend my Christmas money at Best Buy. Hipster Boyfriend, being the hipster that he was, tried to convince me to get an older version – there must’ve been something about the teeny-tiny colorless screen that spoke to him. But when I saw you in the case, all shiny and black, I knew you had to be mine.

You were the biggest and best in Best Buy that day, and it was love at first sight. You not only had space for thousands upon thousands of songs, but you could also store pictures and video. What a high-tech and beautiful thing you were. I’ll never forget the thrill I felt when I used your scrolly wheel for the first time. I wanted you to last forever, so I bought you an aluminum case – as I have a propensity for dropping things, I didn’t want you to fall victim to my butterfingers. Only the best for you, iPod.

We were inseparable from the very beginning. I loaded you up with every last song that I had, but you had room for so much more. I had just started working at the college radio station, and all the new and wonderful music I discovered there went straight to you. During my stints as a radio show host, I would play some of my favorite songs just by plugging you into the station’s equipment. (Hipster Boyfriend and I got into countless spats over musical choices, but iPod, I knew you’d never judge me.) It was because of you that I was able to play songs like “Faith” and “I Would Do Anything For Love” on air – songs that a proper college radio station would be loath to have in its music collection.

You were my saving grace when I worked at the college newspaper. The paper came out every Thursday morning, so Wednesday nights in the newspaper office were hectic and loud. I could so easily turn you to shuffle and count on you to block out the hubbub around me with the perfect mix of songs. You never failed. And the few times I went to the gym at UMM, you were there to make me feel like less of an idiot.

When I moved to Denver for a summer internship, I don’t know what I would’ve done without you. I had to ride the bus to and from my internship every day, and the ride was long, loud, and often smelly. Sometimes, a book just isn’t enough to distract me, but I could listen to you while I gazed out the window to the busy Denver streets. Then the noises and smells of public transit didn’t seem so bad.

After Denver, I moved to New Orleans – a 22 hour drive from my parents’ house. My sanity was only kept intact through your good graces, iPod. The radio can only do so much. At the end of my stay, Dad flew down to New Orleans and drove back with me. I think he appreciated you as much as I did.

You kept me company during my many walks to Target when I lived in Minneapolis. I lived close to downtown, so I’d walk to the Nicollet Mall after work. With you in my pocket, iPod, I found myself walking further and exploring more than I ever would’ve without you. There’s something about those earbuds and many thousands of songs at your fingertips that makes you lose track of time. When I moved to Sioux Falls, you continued to be my walking/biking partner.

Since I moved to Sioux Falls, James and I have taken countless road trips – and iPod, you’ve been around for every one. We’ve driven to Minneapolis at least thirty times, along with many trips to Brookings – not to mention our side-trips to Omaha, our engagement trip to Rapid City, and our big honeymoon road trip to Canada. For crying out loud, one of the main reasons that I bought the car that I did was because it had a plug-in just for you. And oh! The playlists! You helped me introduce James to so much new music, and you helped me to further appreciate what I had. From listening to Car Talk and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me podcasts to holding David Bowie musical appreciation sessions to simply enjoying my cache of 90s pop music, you’ve made our road trips that much better.

While road trips are your specialty, iPod, you were also an invaluable airplane companion. Since you came into my life, you’ve been on trips to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Cancun, Connecticut, and New Orleans. Nothing makes a plane ride fly by (see what I did there?) like an iPod chock-full of music.

But iPod, you’ve gotten temperamental in your old age. It’s to be expected: you’re seven and a half, after all, which is terribly old in iPod years.

You’ve lived a good life, iPod. I took care of you, and you took care of me. But some things are just inevitable. It’s been a few years since I first noticed that you had a hard time holding a charge, and lately, I can barely get you turned on before you will shut off on me. I know you’re tired. You’ve worked hard all these years, and now you’re ready for a rest.

It breaks my heart to have to part with you. You’ve been with me through thick and thin, always ready with just the right song to cheer me up. You were my first iPod, and I’ll never forget you.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

on turning 27.

Today is my 27th birthday.

I know everybody says this as they’re getting older, but I don’t feel like I’m 27. I feel like a twenty-seven-year-old should be eating salads for lunch and attending poetry readings and growing herbs in their backyard and going running every morning and drinking green tea.

Guess who is doing none of those things?

Twenty-seven seems like one of those milestone birthdays where I should start feeling/acting like an adult – when I should stop having cereal for dinner and watching cat videos on the internet. But what if I don’t want to?

On my birthday, I tend to regress and be overcome with childlike excitement. The sun shines brighter on my birthday, and I always wear a special outfit. I have to spend the day reminding myself that I’m a grown-ass woman and can’t go all five-year-old and tell everyone that it’s my birthday.

So much for adulthood.

I rarely feel older/more mature on my birthdays, save for the ones that have some kind of privilege attached to them: 14 and getting my learner’s permit, 16 and getting my regular license, 18 and registering to vote (I was way more excited about this than being able to buy cigarettes and lottery tickets), 21 and buying booze (this one was important), 25 renting a car (which I have yet to do).

To be fair, I have quite a few more milestones under my belt on this birthday than I did on my last one. Since my last birthday, I have gotten married, been on honeymoons to Canada and New Orleans, bought a house, been promoted, and adopted a cat. Twenty-six was a busy year.

But what comes at 27? I blew through milestones in the last year, and so the only ones left are get a dog (yes please!) and have kids (no please!). I can see only one of those things happening in the next year – bet you can guess which one.

I think I’m ready for 27. When I was a kid, seven – for some reason – was my favorite number, and they say it’s a lucky number. Maybe that’s why James and I started dating on 7/27/2007 and – six years later – got married on 7/27. So my 27th year can be nothing but good, right?

After all, my 27th birthday landed on a beautiful spring Saturday – it’s already off to the best possible start!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

the Easter Dog.

Remember my parents’ black lab, Shadow?

He was the sweetest, happiest dog that I’ve ever met. All he wanted was to be where you were, and he’d love you forever if you scratched his belly.

Shadow died this past November. The first time I came to my parents’ house after Shadow was gone was strange. It was the first time in more than six years that I hadn’t been greeted by a drooly black lab with a thumping tail.

This Easter promises to be just as strange as the first time I came home and there was no dog waiting at my car door. Why’s that? Because of the Easter Dog.
It was Easter 2010, and for some reason, we got the hare-brained (HA!) idea to put a set of rabbit ears on the dog. My sister was stationed in Arizona with the Air Force, and it was her first Easter away from home. We thought that taking a goofy picture with Shadow (whose forte was goofy pictures) would lift Darrah’s spirits.

So we dug an old headband out of the closet, fashioned some rabbit ears out of construction paper and glue, and taped them to the headband. We had a hard time keeping them on the dog – not because they bothered him, but because he was JUST SO EXCITED that we were there that he couldn’t hold still. Story of his life. Mom manned the camera and got a bazillion pictures of our struggles with Shadow and his ears, and sure enough, they made Darrah laugh.
The following Easter rolled around, and we’d had so much fun with Easter Dog 2010 that we decided to do it again. That year, we tried to get Shadow to hold an Easter basket, which proved to be damn near impossible. He loved to sit up on his butt and beg, but he was much more interested in slobbering on the plastic Easter eggs than posing with them.
Easter 2012 found us repurposing the old black headband – this time, with flowers. I dug around in my old room to find silk flowers, which I proceeded to glue all over the headband. This was the most labor-intensive Easter Dog headgear, but it looked appropriately ridiculous.
(November 2012 saw the first Turkey Dog, but we’re talking about Easter here. Moving along.)
For Easter 2013, we stuck with the flowers and made Shadow into a sunflower. It was a FREEZING cold Easter day – 2013 was the year of the April ice storm, and it sucked – but we braved the frigid wind (and Shadow braved another year of our antics) to get our annual picture.
Now, Easter 2014 is upon us, and Shadow is no longer around to let us put silly Easter things on him. It will be really strange – it turned into a great Easter tradition (and Shadow, like a true black lab, loved the attention), but it’s a tradition that will have to be put on hold for now.

If our cat wasn’t such a bitey jerk, Easter Cat could be a new tradition, but nobody wants stitches for Easter.
Thanks, but no thanks.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

let's talk about cupcakes.

I’ve got cupcakes on my mind.

Yeah, I’m thinking about cupcakes – not just because they sound delicious right now (I AM SO HUNGRY FOR CUPCAKES), but because cupcakes are GENIUS.
There were cupcakes at not one...
...but TWO of my bridal showers last year!
Fancy cupcakes have been a thing for a while now, but seriously: why weren’t they a thing all along? Think about it: they’re small, portable, and way less messy to frost/serve/eat than a full-size cake. You don’t need a fork and a plate for cupcakes, whereas cake demands it. Plus, it’s easier to experiment with weird flavors. You can bake just one weird-flavored cupcake, and if it sucks, you’re only out one cupcake versus an entire cake.

Oh, and wedding cupcakes? BRILLIANT. Instead of having wedding cake for all our guests, we (like many other couples) opted to get a whole ton of cupcakes instead. This was better in SO many ways. It eliminated the need for all those extra plates, and we didn’t have to persuade any of our relatives to serve cake. Best of all, cupcakes = more flavors! Instead of being limited to one flavor that our guests may or may not like (or marble cake! blech!), we got to serve them three flavors of cupcakes. I heard no complaints.
When I was a kid, I was torn between birthday cupcakes and a full-on birthday cake. A birthday cake was better for blowing out candles, but it was much easier to eat the cupcakes – I could stuff a whole cupcake in my mouth, but alas, not a piece of cake. Cupcakes were the better choice if you were planning on bringing treats to school. (Which was every year. Do you have any idea how angry elementary schoolers get if the birthday person doesn’t bring treats?)

I don’t remember exactly when cupcakes became so trendy, but I do remember a specific cupcakes-on-television experience that made me aware of just how popular cupcakes had become. I had come from Minneapolis to visit my parents, and Mom and I were enjoying a lazy day watching TV. On came DC Cupcakes. It wasn’t until that point that I realized cupcakes were a serious business. They make sculptures out of cupcakes, for crying out loud.

I didn’t seek out cupcakeries until I moved to Sioux Falls in 2011. Actually, “seek out” might be the wrong phrasing. I worked close to downtown, and I stumbled across a little bakery called Oh My Cupcakes. 
Oh my.
And they were AMAZING. Their cupcakes are dense and delicious, and they even make cupcakes that are part (if not all) cheesecake. I made sure to bring James there, and he was smitten. (And they must’ve liked us, too: we went there once near closing time, and they sent us home with half a dozen of free cupcakes because they were a day old and didn’t want to throw them out.) 
The face of utter joy.
Oh My Cupcakes has since moved from downtown, but I still make my way there when I need a cupcake.
Or two.
Ever since then, I’ve really been digging the fancy cupcakes. James and I take a lot of roadtrips, and we do our best to sample cupcakes wherever we go. We’ve had cupcakes in Brookings, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Minneapolis, and New Orleans. 
Omaha cupcakes.
New Orleans cupcake.
Minneapolis cupcake.
Sioux Falls is also home to the Queen City Bakery. Their cupcakes are a different breed than those at Oh My Cupcakes - while Oh My Cupcakes makes fancy flavors and bakes very dense cupcakes, Queen City Bakery sticks with the standards (chocolate, red velvet) and excels. Queen City Bakery cupcakes are moist and fluffy, and their frosting is perfection. 
Perfection, I tell you.
Though many have come close, we haven’t managed to find cupcakes quite as good as those right here in Sioux Falls. But that doesn’t mean we won’t keep trying.
James makes some mean cupcakes from scratch.
Best husband ever.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

let's talk about our Heath Ledger party.

Once upon a time in college, I lived in a junky house on Third Street in Morris, Minnesota. There were five of us living in that mold-infested house, and all five of us were in band. (Three of us were in concert band, and all five of us were in jazz band. NERDS.)

This was my junior year: 2007 – 2008. In the fall semester, we’d hosted a fair amount of parties: that’s what college houses are for, right? Since all five of us were in jazz band, we became the default Jazz House. That meant it was our job to host the after parties for each jazz concert/dance, and we accepted our responsibility with pride.

However, there were only three jazz concerts and three jazz dances throughout the school year, and what kind of sorry excuse for a college house would we have been if we only hosted six parties from August to May?

So we filled in the weekends with theme parties. I’m not talking your simple costume party (though we did host some excellent Halloween parties). Our themes were always a bit bizarre, but we never had any complaints. We had an “I Heart New York” party, which was just an excuse for us to wear the “I Heart New York” shirts that our roommate Sara had brought us.
We had a wine and cheese party, where we ate fancy Danish cheese and drank cheap wine. We had a candy party, where we bought tons of questionable (read: cheap) candy and served it up to our guests.
Chocolate cherry flavored Hershey's kisses, perhaps?
We had a Dinosaur Fantasy party, to which there was no real point – but three of us had dinosaur t-shirts, so that was that.
Here's my dino shirt: courtesy of WalMart.
There is one theme party, though, that trumped all the theme parties we’d had or would have. That, my friends, was our Heath Ledger party.

It was January 2008. We had just returned to school after winter break, and the first weekend of the spring semester called for a party. (Obviously.) However, Sara and I (the usual theme-choosers) were at a loss as to what our party’s theme should be. We were still debating when we heard the news: Heath Ledger had died. Maybe we’re bad people, but our initial reaction was “THERE’S OUR THEME!” followed by “Aww, Heath Ledger!”

But we had a slight problem. The concert band had scheduled a retreat during that first weekend. (WTF?) The concert band always had a “band bonding weekend” in late September where everybody went to a retreat and played games and a whole lot of music and had inappropriate conversations, but this was the first time they’d done one in January. I had quit concert band in spring 2007, but I rejoined in time for spring semester 2008 – but since I had joined a little last-minute, I used that as an excuse to snake out of the band retreat. (Also, did I want to pay $75 to go to a lodge and play my clarinet for two days? NO.)

However, many of our concert band friends still had to go. Our solution? We’d toast them at the party and have a good time all the same.

The next step in our Heath Ledger party planning was to gather supplies. Sara and I bought out the grocery store’s supply of Heath bars, and we rented a copy of Brokeback Mountain. We hauled out our colorful Sharpies and decorated Heath Ledger t-shirts.

I still have mine, and it's as awesome
today as it was in 2008.
Our party was AMAZING. We handed out our Heath bars and kept Brokeback Mountain on a loop. We made a Heath Ledger poster that all the party-goers signed, and we drank many toasts to Heath Ledger and our poor unfortunate friends at band camp. 
And you know what? It was the best theme party ever.