Moving Woes Part III: Kitchen Reno on a Budget

Sunday, December 22, 2013

When you're renting on a budget, there are a few things that you know you're going to have to accept. Not only are things in your apartment going to be profoundly ugly, but there is this handy thing called a lease that prevents you from making basic improvements (like painting). For me, those few things I had to accept were all in my kitchen. Let's go over the problems: 

1. Heinous McDonald's red brick tile flooring. Seriously. I know this brownstone was converted to apartments in 1979, but what was the contractor thinking? Impossible to clean, I spent hours in May de-funkifying the floor with Comet and a combination of weapons - toothbrush, sponge, paper towels and a scrubber brush. To complete my effort, I threw two jute throw rugs down and said, "to hell with this." 

Old, rehashed picture. Sorry, y'all.

2. The most horrendous fixtures known to man. Oxidation doesn't lie. In their former life, these fixtures were shiny, smooth and, confusingly, stylish. Merely sharing this before and after with you makes me cringe...

How has nobody done this until now? Because nobody with pride lived here before me. That's the only explanation. Super cheap upgrade (fixture was $1.97 from Lowe's, Scratch Cover tale, below). 

Now, for the larger cabinets, I couldn't find fixtures to match the existing holes. Merely removing the weird decorative fixtures immediately made the room look less sad and offensive, so they remain nude for now. Problems I face in remedying this: the holes from the ugly fixtures are too close together and to fix this, I'm going to have to buy wood putty to fill in the odd holes and buy (and by buy, I do mean probably end up borrowing) a drill to create holes for the super sleek new fixtures that I've yet to buy but will look awesome. Consider this a two-parter. 

Wait, it's not 1999, it's nearly 2014. I'm a realist. 2014? Not yet. Not in this kitchen. 

3. Offensive cabinets. For reference, glance above. Diss-gusting (see what I did there?)! Ugh. For my neighborhood (nice), my perks (Private roof deck! Gigantic closet! Original hardwoods!) and rent (dirt cheap), the cabinets make sense. You make some compromises. Or  eventually, you give in and do something you've been planning on doing for MONTHS - douse those puppies in the Old English miracle product, Scratch Cover. For wizardry buying purposes, look for this at stores:

This product is messy, but simply genius. Again, before and after pictures, people. Amazing!

4. Ugly window. Pretty sure this window may be original to the building. It can't be cleaned, produces its own sweat (it can be a humidity-free, beautiful day and moisture magically appears in/on the glass) and is in general, ugly. To solve this problem, I bought a tension rod from Target (under $4),a tea towel from Ikea ($.79) and prayed the tea towel would look better than kitchen curtains (cows, chickens and other potenial dinner victims - including fruit and veggies - belong nowhere in decor). Voilà! Not horrible!

Believe me, this kitchen has a looooong way to go, but doing just a few things (which, sidenote, took about three hours and required consumption of two Excedrin Migraine caplets to deal with cleaning product/Scratch Cover fumage) made a huge difference! I will post pictures when my renter's renovation is complete! 

The Eames Rocker Replica: A Dumpster Chair Upgrade

Thursday, December 12, 2013

In 2011, I was getting in my car to head to work when I saw chair legs sticking out from a dumpster nearby. After debating work arrival timeliness for a nanosecond, I hopped out of my car and pulled the plastic chair out of the dumpster. The chair had turquoise paint all over it (likely why it ended up getting thrown away), but the paint easily washed off. For the last two and a half years, that chair has been in either my bedroom or my living room.

It's not a horrible looking chair, but as a I slowly upgrade the rest of the furniture in my apartment with mid-century pieces, its replacement became inevitable. For months, I've been telling myself that I would get a replica of the classic Eames rocker to replace the dumpster chair. I've found several and have been closely watching their prices (you can find them on the subscription-based retailer Dot & Bo for $160 or so). I also recently spotted an original pair for $300 at a Mid-Century warehouse here in Philadelphia. Not cool for my cheapskate budget. Then, Overstock sent an email with a deal too good to pass up - the rocker replica in white (masked as the Vinnie Cradle Chair) for just $88 with free shipping! Without any second guessing, I made the decision to buy from Overstock. 

The chair came with in two pieces, the seat and the base. The screws and an allen wrench needed to complete assembly were included in a baggy. No instructions were necessary, and I easily had the chair together in under five minutes. For $88, this is a sleek replica and instant upgrade from the dumpster chair (which is now hiding under a blanket in what I'm now calling the corner of shame). 

The chair is temporarily sold out in white on Overstock, but they still have a gorgeous baby blue option. Overstock, a site I'd never search before for mid-century replicas, has a lot of options to choose from, and many of their deals are two chairs for the advertised price (which is a steal when lookin at other replica sites). A great new resource in my home furnishing arsenal. 

P.S. Also, I was really confused to discover that Christopher Knight not only has a line of furniture available on Overstock, but dude is rocking a serious soul patch. Yes. That Christopher Knight. Peter Brady. Pork chops and applesauce.

Frye Rory Scrunch from 6PM!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anybody who knows me knows that I am a total Frye junkie. I already have way too many Fryes, so I've not been looking recently. Then, I had a minor fiasco with my black campus boots (it involves a heel falling off and me only owning one pair of black boots and instead of sending them to Frye for a repair, using Crazy Glue to fix the issue). Since then, I decided if I found a great deal on a pair of black Frye boots, they would be mine.

Fast forward to Black Friday, and 6pm had a HUGE sale on Frye! As in brand new boots for up to 70% off! I limited my search on their site to black boots with a heel (as my campus boots have just a small heel). I settled on the Rory Scrunch. The word "scrunch" turned me off a bit, but I watched the product review and looked online and on Instagram for images of the Rory Scrunch. Fortunately, the boot does not scrunch and is exactly what I was looking for! You saved $248? Highway robbery! 

Thrilled to have found such a great deal on these and can't wait to start putting them to good use! 

Thrifted Tippi Heart Me and a Shopping Rant!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Growing up, my family had a Black Friday tradition. My mom would pile us in the minivan and head to Woolrich, PA (not a far drive from my hometown) to pick through the irregular and discontinued items at the Woolrich company store. I hated shopping when I was a kid (a shocking and little known fact), but I loved the Black Friday trips to Woolrich (probably why I also love wool, tweed and plaid). We did this every year until the sales weren't good anymore. I remember my mom voicing her disappointment and piling us all in the car to head home without next year's winter coats. 

We didn't shop on Black Friday day after that, but the lesson my mom unknowingly taught me was lasting. The majority of Black Friday sales no longer feature the lowest prices, yet hype defeats rationale and the throngs of people who wait in line for a tv or toy on Black Friday are the same people who gave retailers the balls to open on Thanksgiving. Stay close to home on Thursday and Friday. If you must shop, do so locally and support your community, or stay in your pajamas, eat leftovers and shop online.

Now for serious business, I have been in love with J. Crew's Tippi Heart Me sweater in every color variation since 2011. I am not in love with the price of the sweater however, so when Forever 21 and Old Navy offered there versions, I bought a navy blue with red heart knockoff. Then, yesterday I was flipping through my favorite online yard sale, where I saw that some crazy person was selling a new with tags Tippi Heart Me sweater (a wool and cashmere blend) in navy with a kelly green heart for $6 (you can buy them on eBay for $50+). Before the day was out, the sweater was mine. Here's how I wore it:

Sweater: J. Crew Tippi Heart Me, $6
Shirt: Gap oxford, $9.99
Skirt: Gap, super clearance ages ago
Tights: H&M, this season ($12.99)
Booties: Lucky Brand, past season
Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7012 Brown Tortoiseshell (this season-use FIRSTPAIRFREE to get your first pair for the cost of shipping)
Bag: Coach, vintage Willis, $30 
Jewelry: Stella & Dot, all past season

$8 Buffalo Check Skirt

Friday, November 22, 2013

Every once in a while, I peruse eBay for random things that I like. For example, I open my eBay app (second in danger to my finances only to the Etsy app) and will type "Pendleton," "Frye" or "buffalo check." Then I end up watching five items and never buying them.

So, the other day on my lunch break, I searched for "buffalo check" in womens clothing. About halfway down the list of items was a classic wool buffalo check Gap mini skirt, new with tags, in a size 4 for $8 (buy it now). Shipping was only $3.

Do you remember Gap's 2009 holiday collection that featured a ton of classic plaids, including a perfectly impractical 3/4 sleeve buffalo check wool wrap coat? I still dream about that coat. Well, this skirt, I was pretty sure, was part of that collection. Without even questioning sizing (I can range from a 0 to a 4 in Gap bottoms), I bought the skirt. It arrived yesterday, fits perfectly and is indeed from the '09 holiday collection.

Score! How I wore it:
Shirts: Gap striped long sleeve tee (past season), American Eagle denim shirt (past season)
Tights: black knit, H&M ($12.99, this season)
Boots: black Frye campus boots 
Jewelry: Alice Temperley for Stella & Dot

Bass Saddle Shoes and Sandee Royalty Skirt

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I have been smitten with saddle shoes since seeing Moonrise Kingdom. Suzy, one of the main characters, rocks some serious ensembles in the film, all tied together by her saddle shoes. Naturally, I began looking for deals. I started out by following my gut - Bass Shoes. When penny loafers were all the rage when I was a kid, this is where I (or, more importantly, my mom) turned. Surely, if you sell penny loafers, you're not messing around with saddle shoes either. 

Fortunately, my gut was right and Bass had a large selection of suede, leather and patent saddle shoes in a wide variety of styles. What sold me on the Bass Glenbrock? A nice little heel. As much as I love the look of a flat and admire them on others, I am a short girl who always loved playing dress up with heels. High heeled saddle shoes? They would be mine, although it would take several months of hemming and hawing and recommending them to a friend looking for shoes to go with a great dress before I finally bought them on sale for $29.99 (with free shipping) from (they are reduced even more now). 

I kind of pride myself as being that person who has an outfit for everything, and the Bass Glenbrock shoes deserved their the form of my favorite skirt from Sandee Royalty. I can think of about seven Sandee Royalty skirts that would look amazing with these shoes, too, which may have me already thinking about my next purchases. Her skirts are so well made, fully lined, perfectly pleated and come in fun prints (on gorgeous fabric). 

Outfit details:
Sweater: Gap, last season
Belt: Banana Republic, old
Skirt: Sandy Royalty, past season
Shoes: Bass Glenbrock,

The Accidental Fitted Coat

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Two weeks ago, I went away for a long weekend of rest and relaxation with my best girls. I spent one night at my parent's house, and in true me form, left one very important item at their house when I left - my dress coat. Normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, except on Wednesday, I accepted an invitation to a gala for Friday night...Friday as in two days after Wednesday. Gala equates dress coat. Shit! This called for an accidental purchase (falls outside of planned budget). 

Not one to shy away from a challenge, I spent my lunch break on Thursday at the local mall trying to find the nicest, cheapest dress coat. I tried on several between Forever 21 and H&M, where I settled on a gorgeous sale item. Their Fitted Coat (what they actually call it online) is a gorgeous dark blue with gathers at the front and back that highlight your waist. There is also a surprisingly non-offensive pleather belt included. The jacket normally retails for $79.95 but I snagged it for $34.95 (thanks to a winter sale). 

For the price, the coat is lined, tailored quite well and completes any look (according to my constant wearing of it/highly scientific research)! Definitely wish they had this in other colors. Love how happy I am with this accidental purchase! The rest of today's outfit details: 

Bag: Vintage Coach, $30 (online yard sale)
Glasses: Derek Cardigan 7012 in black-fade, this season ($9.95, code FIRSTPAIRFREE,
BON JOUR Fingerless mittens: Forever 21, this season ($5.80)

So...what did I wear to the gala? In 2003, I bought a BCBG layered tulle gown to wear to a fundraiser that I had helped organize. My date stood me up and married a lunch lady (not that night, but eventually - not that anything is wrong with lunch ladies, just stating facts). I have zero pictures of myself from 2003 in the dress (never keep evidence of tears shed over a guy), but happily have some photos of me putting the same $400 dress to use 10 years later! 

Yelling at Myself: Stop Buying Vintage Bags!

Monday, November 18, 2013

My recent obsession with vintage crossbody bags has reached maximum levels of ridiculous. Since August, I have been looking for a vintage 80's Coach crossbody (preferably Wallis). While searching on what is proving to be my downfall, an online yard sale, I found one for sale, new in its box! The price the seller was asking? $30. MINE! 

Isn't she pretty? Vintage Coach bags in varying condition can be found on Etsy ranging in price from $30 (a lot of scratches and flaws) to $85-$100 (and up for bags in excellent condition). I haven't stopped carrying this since I picked it up a few weeks ago! 

Funny story: I picked this up at the seller's house before I left on a trip and she offered me pancakes at her house. Hilarious.

Banana Republic Leather Jacket for $25

Sunday, November 3, 2013

I have been looking for a black leather jacket since the seasons started to change. Motorcycle jackets are everywhere, which is great, and I love them, but I refuse to invest in a fad. Last week, I logged on to my online yard sale site to list some shoes that I no longer wear. I wasn't looking to buy, but saw a post from a seller with a plain black leather jacket with pockets. I asked for some more details. Black leather, Banana Republic, given to the seller when her sister moved to warmer temps. The size? Extra small. The price matched at $25 (Banana Republic jackets usually run around $298). I organized a meetup, tried it on and exchanged cash for coat. Really funny, the seller knew my grandmother's neighbor. Such a small world!

Next up, last night, I was walking home from dinner when I saw a "free stuff" sign next to the road. Of course I had to walk by! Most of the stuff was junk, but there was a really cool handmade wooden chinese checkers set, which I took home, cleaned up and now have sitting on my coffee table. Another man's trash...

Elementary School Auction Gold (New to Me Overload, Part 2)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Two months ago, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when a post literally caught my breath. The contents of my elementary school (closed for a few years) were going to be auctioned off in early October. I absolutely loved my neighborhood elementary school. I remember playing tag between the giant pine trees at recess and when Mrs. Kreischer made pumpkin seeds and gave us her recipe (which I use to this day). I also remember falling off the stage after my solo in the fourth grade Christmas concert and watching Daryl VanKirk masterfully lip synch the Glenn Frey classic, The Heat is On, at a school talent show on the same stage. I could go on and on. I HAD to go to that auction and for more than nostalgia.
I wanted a vintage world map. And maybe another globe. My apartment's empty walls needed that auction. I excitedly sent an email to the auctioneer asking about the contents of the school. He looked beyond the ridiculousness of my message and sent a completely rational response. Pictures would be posted online soon, and when they were, I was disapponted...a lot of kitchen equipment, random lab specimens, desks and chairs. Still, I was determined to go.

That weekend, I travelled to my hometown and bundled up early on a cold Saturday and headed to my elementary school. The last time I was there was to watch my brother skateboard. The swingsets were missing their swings, the playground sad and lifeless. The school smelled the exact same, but I wasn't ready for how it looked. You know how you remember something one way, and then see it years later and it's totally different, but in the worst way possible? Yeah, that. I registered for the auction and walked around my school. There were teachers there hoping to buy back their own materials, Amish men hoping to buy textbooks for their one-room schoolhouses and people like me, looking to salvage something from their childhood. When the auction finally began, I couldn't believe the prices things were selling for. A room of desks for $6, uniforms to outfit an entire marching band for $4 and the random rattlesnake for $25.
As for me, I was thrilled with what I got - a box full of animal skulls for $2 (random, but I've been searching on Etsy for one, so buying a box of them for $2 vs. $75-$100 on Etsy for one was a steal) and an amazing vintage world map (the brilliant spring loaded kind that every teacher in the history of education wrestled with at the chalkboard) for $30. I have also been scouring Etsy for this exact same type of map, and couldn't find a halfway decent one for less than $150, so again, $30 was a great deal. Overall, it was the saddest/strangest day I've had in a long time, but I'm thrilled with my purchases and even happier that I was able to claim a piece of my school and my childhood. 

I owe a huge thanks to my friend JC, who showed up to the auction just in time to find the map that I ended up buying...and to my fellow Riverside Elementary School alum, Tait, who lives three blocks away from me and has a ladder, power tools and the willingness to hang this for me on a Saturday.

New to Me Overload, Part 1

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Some months I blow my shopping budget. October 2013 is one of those months. After seeing the fall collections (and by seeing the fall collections, I am referring to the Vogue September issue), I became obsessed with fur. I know, my last post was about leather. Again, I won't buy new fur, but I will buy vintage fur. Now that the leaves are falling and I've broken out my winter clothes, the quest to find a good vintage fur stole began. I found the perfect (for me) mystery fur stole on Etsy from Flashbax, a Wilmington, NC based shop. I say mystery fur, because even though it looks like fox, it's soft like rabbit, but all one piece. For $30, I was thrilled to get it and even happier to find it didn't have any funky resale odors.

Next up, I have been killing my thrifted vintage Longchamp crossbody bag. Killing it to the point where I started looking for another crossbody. I was super excited to find the same seller who sold me that Longchamp with a gorgeous (the prettiest eggplant color) logo-free Coach crossbody bag (also $30). I arranged a pickup and have been using it ever since. LOVE it! 

Stay tuned, because I have more amazing vintage and thrifted finds to tell y'all about! As in eBay'd leather AND tweed pants and purchases for my apartment from my elementary school's auction this weekend. Out of control. 

Current Obsessions-Tweed Shorts and Leather

Monday, October 7, 2013

I absolutely love fall fashion. Fall itself is okay with falling leaves, pumpkin and apple everything and ample opportunity to watch the best movie with a main character named "Laurie," Halloween. The fashion - boots, wool, tweed, leather, gloves, hats, etc.- is what gets me.

This year, I'm particularly obsessed with tweed and leather. While cleaning out my closet this summer, I found two pair of tweed shorts from Gap (tags still on, apparently purchased for $9.99 each years ago). They fit perfectly and look great with tights and booties/boots. Super excited to have found these shorts, and add them to the countless tweed skirts, pants, blazers and hats already in my closet.

Next up, my problem with leather. I have always loved leather a little too much for somebody who also loves animals. I admittedly have a bad attitude about pleather, and much like anything in my life, I blame my mother for this. Anything less than leather is horrific to her. Period. But animals and stuff, you know? It's a tough call. That's why I decided that I wasn't going to buy any new leather clothing items. I would purchase used. Leather is huge this season, and my plan works great, as buying a new leather skirt would mean spending more than my entire monthly shopping budget. That simply wouldn't work, so used via Etsy or eBay would be the only way to go. 

Now, at the time I made this decision, I already owned two pair of leather pants, a leather skirt and three leather jackets (one I have since sold). I told you it was a problem. For my first used leather goods purchase, I went with social media (I really do shop this way a lot). In April, a girl I follow on Instagram (@zittajohn, who just had the most amazing vintage Vegas wedding ever-she met her husband on IG, too) was selling a gorgeous vintage brown leather pencil skirt for $20. I PayPal'd her the money, and a few days later, it arrived in the mail, fit like a glove and instantly became my favorite work skirt.

RIP long hair. 

Anyway, score one for my recycled leather plan! Fast forward about six months, and I was frantically searching for two things, black leather shorts and a black leather pencil skirt. Finally, I found a pencil skirt with my measurements for $17 on eBay. It arrived (with much confusion and a lot of effort to track it down as it was lost by USPS), but was too big (learn how to use a ruler, people). No problem-I hiked it up a bit and belted it, giving it a more structured look. Sorry for the crappy pictures, but it's a very grey morning here, making my apartment  dark and gloomy. 

The quest for leather shorts is still on, but hooray for the way my fall fashion is shaping up! Also, do not try retro pinup waves on rainy days. Your hair will look sad and fall flat the minute you walk outside.

Grey Jeans for Less

Saturday, September 21, 2013

I usually don't aimlessly go to the local mall, but on a night when the Eagles are playing an evening game and traffic is impossible, it's a great way to kill time before heading home from work.

Now, I love to shop, but ironically, I do not like to shop without a purpose, mainly because it has the potential to really throw off my budget. To help keep myself on track, I only let myself go to H&M and Forever 21 (I can kill a lot of time in both). H&M has some killer fall options - I am a big fan of mixing tough basics with softer pieces, and they have a nice mix of both available, but I needed none of it. On to Forever!

My weakness at Forever 21 is their denim. For those of you who don't know me, I used to be a designer denim snob. Major. $300 for Diesel jeans? No problem. My pug is named Diesel. When my entire life changed four years ago, I bought one last pair of jeans as a farewell to designer denim and vowed to not buy them again for a very long time. I was thrilled to find that Forever 21 makes jeans with an amazing fit. They literally work on every body type and last forever. They truly are the sisterhood of the traveling pants. Slowly, I have turned even my most cynical friends from various financial backgrounds into Forever 21 denim devotees. Given my praise for Forever denim, you can imagine how excited I was to see their jeans were on sale for $7.80. I do not need jeans. But the sale included grey jeans - a color I do not have, but have been lusting for. 

Hm. What's a girl to do? If you're me and have about 25 jeans in a variety of colors, you sleep on it. Then you wake up at 4 a.m. and look at images of grey jeans on Pinterest. Then you decide you must go to the mall over lunch and that you can't live without grey jeans, and for $7.80, you should have just bought them on day one. Lesson learned and grey jeans purchased! 

Short Hair=Instant Regret

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hair has never been a big deal to me. In fact, I've had really short hair most of my life. Within recent years, I've worn my hair long, and really like it. Every now and then, I chop it and donate it, and then I grow it long again...only to repeat the chop, donate, grow cycle all over again. 

In June, I had just moved and was in the mood to change everything about my life. The moment my hair length shortened, I instantly regretted it, mainly because my hair takes forever to grow. I have no idea why I didn't embrace my new look this time, but I did not...not even a little bit. 

After doing some research, I decided to start taking Biotin, Fish Oil supplements (something my eye doctor has been telling me to do anyway) and established a firm every other day (at least) hair washing routine in a futile attempt to speed up my hair growth. Now you can go online and research which fish oil supplement works best and what brand Biotin you should use and pay an arm and a leg to get something fancy, but I am cheap and went straight to my local CVS and bought their generic versions. Also, I experimented with about three different types of dry shampoo during this time. Big Sexy Hair Volumizing dry shampoo was by far my favorite, with Tresemme's option leaving my hair smelling okay, but looking worse than before I used their product. 

I started the regimen above in early June. It's late Setember and time to take stock of my efforts. Obviously, I have no idea if any of those things actually helped my hair grow, but trust me, the growth I've experienced over the last three months is highly unusual for me. I am super excited that I have some added length and will definitely think long and hard before chopping it all off again! 

Have you tried any unusual supplements to make your hair grow? Multiple people told me to take pre-natal vitamins, but even my hair stylist debunked that myth (it's pregnancy hormones, not the vitamins that can be credited to pregnancy hair growth). 

My People

Sunday, September 8, 2013

For those of you who read my old blog, you'll remember my absolutely love for "my people," or the craft fair vendors I frequent each fall. Fall craft fair season is my absolute favorite, as I simply can't have enough knits and/or leather in my life. 
Enter Bad Kitty Knits! Available on Etsy and central PA craft fairs, Bad Kitty Knits sells a really cool selection of knit cowl neck warmers, fingerless gloves, shawls, really cool knit and woven jewelry and, my favorite - head wraps. Super psyched to have gotten these two beauties for $23 yesterday!