Friday, February 26, 2016

five for Friday: five photos from UMM freshman year.

I don't know what's gotten into me, but lately, I've been awfully nostalgic for college. Maybe it's this time of year: February is notoriously dreary, and I find that the best way to get through the blah factor is to get out and do stuff. Even though James and I live way the hell out in Luverne, we have friends and family that brave the drive to see us - and we, in turn, brave the drive in the opposite direction to see them. And that's awesome.


Adult life means you can't hang out with your friends all day, every day. College meant exactly that - your friends were your roommates, your classmates, and your coworkers - sometimes all three at once. It's a lot easier to muddle through a long winter when you are up to your eyeballs in great people with whom to commiserate. All day. Every day. Winters in college just didn't seem as long as they do now. (I'd venture a guess that my 40-minute-one-way commute is mostly to blame for that.)

I am also nostalgic for college at this particular moment because adult life is WEIRD. In college, my number one stress was always homework and exams. What am I most stressed out about at this particular moment in my life? TAXES. LIKE A BORING ADULT. In college, freaking EVERYTHING was exciting - and a lot of it was stupid shit that was totally awesome but nothing you'd ever do now. My friends and I went on midnight bike rides to the mysterious west side of town. We hosted theme parties that involved the attendees decorating shirts in honor of Heath Ledger. We wrote newspaper articles about Crocs. We adopted dogs on a whim. (His name is Buddy, and he's the best.)

I don't do anything that ridiculous any more. My life is unquestionably full of good stuff, but my excitement bar has been far lowered. The other day, I was super psyched because the picture frames I ordered came in the mail. Read that last sentence again and just try to tell me that I'm not a boring adult.

As someone who is closing in on 30, I realize that it's not necessarily a bad thing that I do adult things like order picture frames online and wait anxiously for them to arrive. There comes a time when one must outgrow college behaviors: mostly, acting like the complete lunatic. And let's be honest: we are all lunatics, but after college, you're just supposed to hide it better.

I really shouldn't compare college life and adult life: it's apples and oranges for sure. But college was awesome: I had the best time, and I met the greatest people there (including my husband). UMM was straight-up amazing.

So here's what's happening after that rambling introduction. We've established that I love to take pictures, and I have a shit ton from college. I have chosen my five favorite photos from my freshman year, and I'm going to do the same for my sophomore, junior, and senior years. (I'm already concerned about how to narrow down the pictures from senior year... that was the BEST.) 

Travel back with me, then, if you will, to those glorious by-gone days... way back in 2005, when no one had a smart phone and my freshman friends and I excitedly signed up for accounts on this new thing for college kids called Facebook.

This, friends, is where it all began. This was move-in day: August 2005. My entire family brought me to Morris - including my siblings, who TOOK A DAY OFF FROM SCHOOL DURING THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL. I was beyond excited, but just as beyond terrified. This picture was taken after we had hauled in all my college belongings, set up my loft bed, and unpacked. (If you look closely, you can see my red retainer case on the little stand by the bed.) My family was mere minutes away from heading home, and they all appear more-or-less gleeful to leave me in a different state. I also seem to be fairly confident, but years later, my mom informed me that as they left me in my dorm room, I looked "like a deer in headlights." Thankfully, I got over the deer in headlights thing.

As you well know, college band was a big part of my UMM life. From day one, I was involved in concert band, jazz band, or both. I was not a music major (fun fact: at the time, I was a psychology major. like every freshman ever.), but I was welcome to play my clarinet to my little heart's desire. It was because of band that I met the most wonderful people - nearly all of my UMM friends were in the bands, and one of them was even the guy I married. My family was pretty pumped that I had joined the band, and they came nearly every concert band and jazz band concert. This picture is from my first concert. It was October, and my family trekked to Morris for the homecoming concert. I was so excited: not only did I get to play with this fantastic ensemble, but my family would be there to hear me! I was (and still am) moved that they would give up their Sunday and make the five-hour-round-trip journey to hear me perform in a long concert - and by "hear" I mean "see me there holding my clarinet and assume that I was playing as it was basically impossible to pick my sound out from the din." I had also been in school for nearly two months and had found my footing, so I was thrilled to be able to introduce my family to my new band friends. Freshman year was a time of miracle and wonder, and that is the truth.

Every time I look at this picture, I have to smile. This is the very first picture of James and me together. It would be nearly two years before we started dating, but by this point (December 2005), we had been great friends for months. James was the very first UMM friend I made - it was move-in day, and we were both signing up for concert band. We became fast friends, and I loved hanging out with him. James was not like any guy I had ever met before - there was just something about him that I really liked. I could count on him to make me laugh or to lend an ear when I'd had a tough day. I absolutely love this picture - first of all, look at how YOUNG we are! And our so-very-middle-2000s clothes! But more importantly, look at how happy we are just to be sitting on a shitty couch next to each other. Of course, neither of us had any idea that we were sitting next to the person we would eventually marry. But goshdarnit, we sure are cute.

James and I bonded over many things: bad jokes, late-night chats, a love of Mountain Dew... but the thing that brought us closest together was swing dancing. UMM had a Swing Club that one could attend every Thursday night, and it was there that we learned how to swing dance. But wait - let me clarify. That is where JAMES learned to swing dance with (gasp!) another girl, and he would then come to my dorm room and teach me what he had learned. (Sophomore year, James ditched his swing partner and took me on instead.) I never knew how to dance - probably because the only dances I attended were full of high schoolers who were either grinding up on each other or doing the middle-school slow dance. But James taught me how to swing dance, and that has opened up so many doors for me. I found out that I actually really loved to dance, and James and I would swing dance at the thrice-yearly UMM jazz dances. As we got older, we would swing dance at other people's weddings, and then at our own. And now, we teach swing dancing classes at the library. And it all began at UMM! This picture was taken the night we performed as swing dancers in this bizarre UMM Jazz/Morris Community Theatre holiday show. A weird experience, yes, but we sure had a good time practicing in the parking lot.

Remember the UMM jazz dances? They were held in December, February, and April. The December dance was a holiday dance (obviously), and the February dance was Valentine themed (obviously), and the April dance was... uhh... whatever. There was a tropical theme once, and this picture was from one of two toga-themed dances. I had been a failure and had not gotten a toga, and God only knows what I'm wearing instead. (WHY SO SHINY??) But the reason I love this picture is not because of the togas (or lack thereof). The person in the picture with me is my dear friend Sara, who would become my partner in UMM crime for the next three years. She was integral in getting James and me together, and she encouraged me through long nights of English and art history paper writing. Sara and I moved into a house our junior year and stayed there through graduation, and I cannot WAIT to show you those pictures in the next installments.


The five freshman year photos are pretty heavy on a "new beginnings" theme. Move-in day, my first concert, my first picture with James, James and I learning how to swing dance, and my first picture with Sara. SO MANY NEW THINGS, and they all have turned out wonderfully. Stay tuned for part II: sophomore year! (Hopefully, the sophomore year and on pictures won't be quite so grainy, as I acquire a digital camera at some point during that year. No promises, though.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

reflections on Valentine's Day.

(So I know I’m a day late – or three– and a dollar short with this one, but bear with me. My schedule has been a bit hectic as of late, so my Valentine’s Day story is showing up after Valentine’s Day. I’m ok with it if you are.)

I am no romantic. I can’t sit through a romantic comedy without making cartoon gagging noises. When a customer at the library asks for a romantic fiction recommendation, I rely 100% on the trusty old internet… as I have never read romantic fiction. Hell, even James’s and my wedding was light on the romance – it was heavy on “we are totally perfect for each other in every nerdy way,” but no mushy stuff. 

No, I am no romantic. 

But you know what?

I kind of totally love Valentine’s Day.

With my aversion to all things romantic, you would think that this is highly unlikely. You know what makes it even more unlikely? 

That fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend with whom to share Valentine’s Day until I was the ripe old age of 19. 

And that’s damn old, considering most of my high school classmates had gotten their first boyfriends out of the way by about 13.

So why on earth would I enjoy this sugary-sweet holiday, even during my boyfriend-less high school years when whether or not you had a boyfriend was basically a measurement of your value as a human being? 

Because I don’t see Valentine’s Day as a day to celebrate romantic love. To me, it is (and probably always will be) a day when you appreciate all the awesome people, places, and things in your life. Valentine’s Day is for ALL: not just those of us who are coupled-up, but EVERYONE who loves and is loved.

I have my parents to thank for this. For as long as I can remember, Mom and Dad had Valentine's cards for us - always specific to each child. Lion King for me, Power Rangers for my sister, whatever car my brother happened to be into at the time. And of course, these cards were accompanied by our favorite candy.

As I grew older, all the boyfriended-girls were getting flowers delivered to the school on Valentine's Day - their names were read over the intercom as they were asked to pick up their flowers in the office. Indeed, I had more or less resigned myself to never hear my name called over the intercom on Valentine's Day. Until one day... I did! I arrived in the office with trepidation, wondering what I had done wrong or which one of my siblings was sick. To my surprise, I found a bunch of red carnations waiting for me with a note wishing me happy Valentine's Day from Mom and Dad. My heart? Melted.

Elementary school Valentine's Day was also totally awesome, but incredibly stressful. In my elementary school, you were expected to provide a Valentine for each and every person - this was not a hard-and-fast rule, but everybody would know if you didn't. And then you were an asshole.

It was stressful not just because you had to provide a Valentine for each kid in your class, but you had to provide the RIGHT Valentine for each kid in your class. You had to reserve the super-awesome ones for your best friends, and you had to make sure you didn’t give cheesy ones to the boys. You couldn’t have them thinking you liked them. And you couldn’t give the popular girls the Valentines that said things like “Let’s be friends, Valentine!” for fear of appearing desperate for their friendship. It was an amazingly delicate balance, and I spent hours agonizing over which Valentine would go to whom.

I was, and still am, a world-class over-thinker.

Emptying out your Valentine box was unquestionably one of the highlights of the school year. You got to soak in all the nice things the cards said, and you got to gorge yourself on pink-and-red wrapped candy. (And ceremoniously chuck the conversation hearts into the garbage. Those are the worst.)

This year at work, we had a Valentine exchange. I suck and therefore forgot about it until the night before and found myself dashing to ShopKo at the eleventh hour in search of Valentines. And you know what I found out? Valentine cards now are much more elaborate when I was a kid. I bought two boxes: one set came with erasers shaped like bunnies, and the other set was watercolor dinosaurs, complete with a little watercolor sheet and a teeny plastic brush. Back when I was giving Valentines on a regular basis, you were lucky if you got heart-shaped stickers with your Valentines. The times, they are a-changing.

But anyway, the Valentine’s Day work exchange was absolutely dandy, even though I dropped the ball and didn’t get a fancy Valentine’s Day box made like I should have. Next year. If I remember. Because I suck.

Valentine’s Day, of course, is not all about cards and candy and gifts. Many of those who hate Valentine’s Day will bring these things up: a commercialization of love. I totally get that, and I don’t need a card or a gift to appreciate Valentine’s Day. All I really want is to spend time with people I enjoy. (Though who am I to turn away a gift? James got me the most delightful sparkly shoes for Valentine’s Day this year, and I just want to spend my days staring at them.) James is a total believer in buying flowers for Valentine’s Day – one year in college, he went out and bought flowers for all of his female friends. James is a gentleman and a romantic, and I am still fairly stunned (and glad!) that he ended up with a non-romantic like me. 

Spending time with James on Valentine’s Day can be trickier than you might think. James is a music teacher, and his annual Minnesota Music Educators Association conference often lands on or right around Valentine’s Day. When it does, we have made a semi-tradition of meeting in the cities and squeezing in a few hours of Valentine’s Day joy. It’s usually too cold to do much of anything except eat (enormous cupcakes, if you please), which is one of our favorite past-times anyway.
Pictured: enormous cupcake.
In college, not only did James have to go to this convention, but he was also in a band called Funky Gumbo. They would play each and every New Year’s Eve, and each and every Valentine’s Day. Also every weekend. Funky Gumbo was the worst. One year, when James was booked to play on Valentine’s Day (a Saturday, no less), my parents made the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Morris to have Valentine’s Day dinner with me. They joked about me spending Valentine’s Day with my parents, but you know what? I loved it.

In the years since Funky Gumbo, I’ve been able to spend more Valentine’s Days with James than not. In 2010, he and I had just moved to a tiny garage-turned-apartment near the cities. I was working as an unpaid intern and juggling four part-time jobs. James was student teaching. We couldn’t afford to go out for dinner, so we bought a frozen pasta meal for six dollars and dined on plastic lawn furniture on our only two plates. And it was really quite nice. 
Can you see that the vase is actually an empty alfredo jar?
Honestly, I don’t know if I’d be so pro-Valentine’s Day if I didn’t have James. We have been together for almost nine years, and that’s lots of time for me to enjoy Valentine’s Day. The older you get, the more it is expected for you to have a significant other with whom to spend days like this. Lucky for me, I do: and a great person, at that. But if I didn’t, I probably would have soured a bit on the concept of Valentine’s Day. I’d like to think that I wouldn’t, but me being me, who knows.

But that’s not the point. The point is that I grew up appreciating Valentine’s Day as a bigger picture holiday – like Thanksgiving is not just about the food, but about the things you are thankful or, Valentine’s Day is not just about having a date, but about all the people you love to have in your life and who (hopefully) love to have you in theirs. 

Valentine’s Day was on a Sunday this year, so James and I ate gigantic burgers in northeast Minneapolis and walked around downtown as much as the biting cold would allow us. 
The night before, we had gone to Gasthof  zur Gemutlichkeit (a German restaurant) with my parents and our cousins. We ate about a million kinds of breaded pork, were serenaded by an accordion player, and toasted by saying, “Ziggy zaggy, Ziggy zaggy, oi  oi oi!” 

That is my kind of Valentine’s celebration.

So that is why I – the non-romantic – love Valentine’s Day. To me, it’s all about spending time with great people. And luckily, I know a lot of those.

Friday, February 5, 2016

on this day in 2005: excerpts from a journal.

So, given my blogging propensities, you may not be surprised to learn that I was once a rather prolific journaller. 

Full of the thoughts of a teenage Calla.
Not too long ago, I unearthed this journal trove from my parents' house and dragged them all back to Luverne with me. They sat in the basement for a good while...

...until I got an idea.

Would it be fun to see what I was up to on this day in 2005? Or 2004, or whatever year I happened to be journalling?

So I did.

And friends, it is painful.

It's amazing to look back and see what was so important to me then versus what is now. What tiny, insignificant things occupied my brain - almost all of which I had forgotten about until browsing these journals. So ridiculous.

And what better thing than  to share them with you?

I must warn you: there is no way in high hell that I'm going to type out these journal entries in their entirety. That would be too embarrassing, even for this blog. I'll be giving you the CliffsNotes version of the journals (notice how I don't call them diaries? THEY ARE NOT DIARIES. I had SOME self-respect, thankyouverymuch). But I will have you know that while I am not including the whole journal entry, what I do include will be exactly as it appears in the journal. I may remove an embarrassing sentence here and there, but I am not changing words. 

To start us off, I have a journal entry from February 5, 2005. I was 17 and a senior in high school. One final thing you should know: I was never great at journalling every day, so many of my entries cover multiple days. And... here we go.

The pink leopard-print journal was a gift. Don't judge.
FEBRUARY 5, 2005
Ok, since there are more than ten pages left in here (editor's note: I was reaching the end of this particular notebook), and tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday (which will, hopefully, require more than ten pages), I'm going to finish out this diary/journal (editor's note: huh... I guess I didn't have the self-respect that I thought I did) right here and now, beginning with yesterday: Friday.

Bio held a test for us. When I was going up to get my test, I shook Meagan's hand and wished her luck. Tiff tried to crush my hand in her handshake, and Bob said, "Look, her fingers are turning purple!"

Today was cleaning day, and I vacuumed, dusted, and washed. Then, Mom and I were off to Sioux Falls to get my prom dress. Our first stop was Marshall Field's, of course. We made a beeline for the dresses, but the only two left of my dress were size 9/10s. I was so sad. Luckily, the saleslady said we could order one. It will take seven to ten days, and it will be shipped straight to our house. I'm so excited... I have a prom dress!

I strolled around the mall after that, buying a sweatshirt at American Eagle and a Nordic sweater at Hollister (I got it for $10, used to be $50). Mom and I split loaded fries at Ruby Tuesday, and then we headed home. It was a fun day. Dad did call once, asking how many cases of beer would fit in Susie. Heh.

Well, here I am on the last page-and-a-half. This crazy little pink leopard-printed thing has taken me through quite a bit in the past weeks. (Editor's note: this particular journal begins on December 29, 2004.) We've seen a DeGrassi marathon, bangs for Calla, a play with a beefsteak tomato (editor's note: I was in a play that required me to wear a red sweater and proclaim that I looked like a beefsteak tomato), my final All-State audition, college acceptances, a prom date found, and a prom dress purchased.

Current music: "The Only Living Boy in New York" by Simon and Garfunkel


We have successfully traveled back eleven years into the mind of a seventeen-year-old me. Stay tuned for more of these... what can I say? I'm a glutton for punishment.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

ten outfits under $35, part V.

Will I ever get tired of putting together cheap outfits to show you? I don’t think so.

Putting together these cheap outfits is honestly a blast for me. It requires some creative thinking and a wee bit of math, so doing this is clearly good for my brain. Besides, what fun is finding a great deal if you can’t show it off?

This is my fifth blog post where the outfits are $35 or less. You can reread the others if you please: volume I, volume IIvolume III, and volume IV. 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.

How did I decide on $35 as my limit? I initially started with $40 as my total, but putting together an outfit under $40 was a little too easy. So I cut my limit by ten dollars and tried outfits under $30. That was significantly more challenging, which I enjoyed – but when my price ceiling was that low, it was tough to truly make an outfit. Sure, I could do it, but the outfits were the bare minimum. I didn’t have any room to add the little touches that make an outfit fun, like accessories.

As always, I must go over my rules.

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. However, I find myself putting together outfits that aren’t as great as they could be because of my limited shoe options. For that reason, I will now allow myself to use a pair of shoes multiple times per blog post, but I'll try not to go crazy.

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.) 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.

With all that out of the way, please enjoy the seventh (!!!) edition of my top ten cheap outfits!
dress – Modcloth - $26.99
booties – Old Navy – $2.97
buckle bracelet – gift from James (Wall Drug)
TOTAL: $29.96

This dress. Oh, this dress. I am a definite fan of Modcloth, but I am definitely not a fan of their prices. I saw this dress ages ago and loved it. The price, though? Not so much. I am on a seemingly never-ending search for ¾ and long-sleeved dresses. They are tough to find, and when I do find them, they are usually frumpy times 1000. This one wasn’t: it was, in fact, perfect. Except the price. I added it to my Modcloth favorites (a list of stuff that you like, but aren’t ready to buy) and kind of forgot about it… until the day I got an email from Modcloth touting their 70% off sale. And what do you know? There was ONE of this dress left. In my size. It was a final sale (like all Modcloth 70% affairs), but I was willing to risk it. My boots came as sort of a surprise: they were marked as $12-ish, which is still a good deal. When I brought them up to the register, they rang in at $2.97. And that was that. Me = delighted. The bracelet was a gift from James when we went to the Black Hills to celebrate our first anniversary. I don’t care how corny it is: you just can’t go to the Black Hills without stopping at Wall Drug.

cardigan - Maurices - $8.75 (75% off lowest price)
pants - Plato's Closet - $10
boots – Dollhouse – $15 ($10 off + $15 Paypal survey money)
TOTAL: $33.75

Funny story about this cardigan. I bought it around Thanksgiving last year, and Maurices was having a sweater sale where they’d give you something like 50% off the regular price. That was a pretty good deal, and I really liked the cardigan, so I bought it. Fast forward to spring. I’ve worn this cardigan tons of times, but it’s a hair too big and is always stretched out at the end of the day. I’ve spent the last few months wishing I would have gotten a smaller size. Lo and behold, I was browsing the clearance rack at the local Maurices, and there it was: that very same cardigan. One size smaller. And priced at 75% off the lowest marked price. So now I have two cardigans, and the larger one is in storage. Just in case. I bought these pants at Plato’s Closet after a certain amount of hemming and hawing as to whether or not I could pull of mint pants. I’m still not sure, but they are comfy as hell and have ankle zippers. That’s good enough for me.

sweater – Old Navy – $12.99
Silver jeans – Maurices – $20.99 (75% off)
shoes – DSW – FREE! (org $29.99, had $30 in coupons)
necklace – gift from James (shop in Lanesboro)
TOTAL = $33.98

It’s not very often that the opportunity arises for me to tell you about a new addition to the cheap shoe cache – so I’m going to do that first. I am a big fan of DSW: they have super cool shoes, issue stackable coupons pretty frequently, and have a great clearance section if you’re lucky enough to catch it. I saw these shoes on their website, and I was the very fortunate holder of $30 in DSW coupons. The shoes were on sale for $29.99. Hence: free shoes. The sweater isn’t anything too exciting: an end-of-winter find on the clearance rack a couple of years ago. The jeans, though, were a pretty fantastic deal. As noted in the story about the cardigan (see above), Maurices will occasionally mark items down for 75% off the lowest price. It’s rare to find Silver jeans in my size at such a price, but these fit the bill. Well, almost. They were a 34 inch inseam, which I am not. Luckily, getting jeans hemmed is pretty painless. The bike necklace came from an ill-fated camping trip to Lanesboro, Minnesota. It rained the entire time and our tent leaked… but I did get a cool necklace (and a good story) out of the deal!

dress - Lillian's - $18.72 (gift from Mom, 30% off lowest price)
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
scarf - Plato's Closet - FREE! (was $5, used credit)
boots – Maurices – $12 (50% off, $10 in coupons)
TOTAL: $30.72

I wasn’t going to buy this dress. I tried it on, and it was SHORT. Much shorter than I liked. Dresses must be below the knee or bust. Mom and I were shopping in downtown Sioux Falls, and we pulled this dress out of the clearance rack. Shortness aside, I couldn’t resist the pockets and decorative zippers (you’ll notice that four of the ten outfits in this post have decorative zippers) and the color, and Mom liked it so much that she bought it for me. It ended up being cheaper than we thought, and I ended up liking it much more than I thought. You know how you have a handful of things in your closet that always get you compliments when you wear them? This dress is one of those items. And the shoes? Holy cow. I had been on a mild hunt for a new pair of black hiking booties. (I know. Kind of a weird thing to hunt for, but what can I say? I wanted black hiking booties.) Every pair I found was either too expensive or too ridiculous. I strolled into the Brookings Maurices one winter day and came across these shoes: the last pair, and amazingly, they were my size. And they were 50% off. AND I had $10 in coupons. It was a match made in hiking bootie heaven.

cardigan – Forever21 – $8.80
tank – Forever21 –  $7.80
pants – Maurices – $5.75 (75% off)
booties – Maurices – $12 (50% off, $10 in coupons)
belt - FREE! (came with pants)
necklace – gift from Mom and Dad (Riddles)    
TOTAL: $34.35

A few outfit posts ago, I told you about how I had sworn off of Forever21 for everything but accessories. The time has come to redact that statement. While I don’t get many of my clothes from Forever21, I will find something worthwhile every now and again. This outfit contains two of those worthwhile items. A good mustard yellow cardigan is hard to find, and I can usually count on Forever21 to deliver a good price-point. Also, I have a serious thing for decorative zippers: serious enough that I bought this tank top in two colors. (You’ll see the second one at the end of this blog.) I really don’t enjoy buying dress pants, but I was fortunate enough to find these for super cheap at Maurices. And the shoes? Holy cow. I had been on a mild hunt for a new pair of black hiking booties. (I know. Kind of a weird thing to hunt for, but what can I say? I wanted black hiking booties.) Every pair I found was either too expensive or too ridiculous. I strolled into the Brookings Maurices one winter day and came across these shoes: the last pair, and amazingly, they were my size. And they were 50% off. AND I had $10 in coupons. It was a match made in hiking bootie heaven. Finally, the necklace was a gift from Mom and Dad for Christmas 2014. It’s a key, which I love.

dress - Country Peddler - FREE! (was $18, used credit)
necklace - Francescas - $6.50 (buy one get one 50% off)
belt – Modcloth – FREE! (came with dress)
shoes - Modcloth - FREE! (scuffed heel)
TOTAL: $24.50

Another Country Peddler gem. I don’t get to Country Peddler as often as I like, as I live in Luverne and they are located in Brookings. However, when I go there, I always come away with something fantastic. This dress is clearly a classic, and I feel damn sophisticated in it. Now, if only I had a place to wear it. I love turquoise, so this necklace was a no-brainer. I have to tell you that this outfit is probably my favorite from the entire series… and as of the end of this blog, I will have put together seventy (!!!) outfits for you. My, how time flies!

dress - Modcloth - $29.99 ($10 coupon)
shoes - DSW - FREE! (org $29.99, had $30 in coupons)
TOTAL: $29.99

I have to say: I LOVE this dress. I love the colors and the patterns, and I love the cut. I do NOT love that it’s staticky, but I guess I can live with it. I found it in the sale section of Modcloth, which is my very favorite place to buy clothes. It had gotten terrible reviews (mostly for the color), but I loved the colors and patterns enough to give it a try all the same. Lucky for me, my Modcloth clearance dress worked out just fine.

t-shirt – Old Navy – $4.75 (buy one, get one free)
pants - F21 - $24.93 (10% off)
heels – Modcloth – FREE! (came with weird heel, couldn’t exchange, full credit)
scarf – Country Peddler – FREE! ($15 originally, used credit)
TOTAL: $29.68

Here it is: the fourth and final decorative zipper. I have a feeling that these pants might be a little too badass for me, but you know what? I am kind of really loving them. But let me tell you about this scarf: I once owned an identical scarf that I got at (don't judge) Walmart, of all places. I lost it somewhere in Minneapolis around Halloween, and I thought it was gone forever... until I found its twin at Country Peddler. It was truly meant to be.

tank - Country Peddler - FREE! (was $6, used credit)
pants - Plato's Closet - $7.33 (was $10, used credit)
booties – Dollhouse – $15 ($10 off + $15 Paypal survey money)
bracelet – RIU Montego Bay gift shop – $7
TOTAL: $29.33

Oh, Country Peddler. What would I do without you? I probably never would've picked this shirt had it been on a rack in a store, but at Country Peddler, the price is always right. And it turns out? I totally love it! Same goes for the pants: I NEVER would've paid full price for these crazy pants, but they were worth a $7.33 risk. Which paid off, because I also totally love these pants. Normally gold damask isn't my thing, but I guess you just never know. I got the black bracelet in Montego Bay, Jamaica. We were there on a family vacation, and I bought it in the resort gift shop mere seconds before we were supposed to get on the shuttle to the airport. My sister has a matching bracelet, and I love to wear it and remember our glorious Jamaican days.

dress - Tyanas - $20
sandals – JCPenney – $3 (fall super sale)
belt – JCPenney – $2
necklace – Modcloth – $7.99
TOTAL: $32.99

Tyana’s is a clothing boutique in Luverne, and it’s been kind of a godsend. Luverne (believe it or not) is no shopping mecca, though there are a handful of fairly cute stores downtown. Tyana’s opened up a couple of years ago, and they had things that no other Luverne store did. Namely: stylish women’s clothes. I snagged this dress off their end-of-summer sale rack, and though I was initially hesitant about the blinding hue, I’ve come to really appreciate it. This necklace was originally something like $30 on Modcloth, which I thought was insane. I liked the way it looked, but there was no way I was paying $30. Apparently no one else was paying that much for this necklace: it showed up in the clearance section a few months later.


There we have it: another “ten under $35” blog post for the books. I’d be lying if I told you that I haven’t already started planning outfits for the next installment. I could plan these outfits all day long: it’s getting the pictures taken that presents the challenge. In any case, keep your eyes open for more cheap outfits. I’m excited already!