laurapants: Craft, Cooking, Creativity

Will the Clarisonic be my skin care miracle?

Ever since we moved to Sonoma County in March, my skin has been kind of a nightmare. The water here is much harder than the water in Alameda County (who would have thought that our city water would be so much better than the country water? Sad but true), and my skin has been reacting badly. And I’ve been trying everything I can think of to bring things back into balance: I tried using rubbing alcohol rather than soap and water to wash my face, on the recommendation of a friend. I tried using a witch hazel toner after washing my face with soap and water, to get rid the remnants of soap scum that hard water supposedly leaves behind. I’ve tried various potions and serums and treatments. But I’m still getting nasty pimples that take FOREVER to go away.

So after doing seriously extensive research, I decided to splurge and by a Clarisonic Mia2. I’ve heard great things from friends and other bloggers about how clean and clear it leaves their skin. And I need some clean and clear these days.

So far I’ve only had it for a few days, and my initial impression is positive: I do notice that my skin feels a lot smoother after washing. But will it be the miracle I’ve been looking for? Will it make the difference for me that it claims to make? Is it worth the kind of ridiculous price tag? I’ll let you know…

Posted on May 27, 2014 by 3 Comments

Wardrobe Architect: Developing a Core Style

What does it mean to have a core style? Isn’t style by its very nature changeable? Certainly I’m not going to wear the exact same clothes decade after decade. Any throw-back Thursday picture on Facebook will give you a good reason to keep your fashion tastes current.

And yet, for most people there is a thread that remains the same as trends come and go. Identifying your core style is about recognizing that thread. When we are aware of what we like and feel comfortable in, we’re much less likely to buy those weird, trendy things that sit in our closets untouched because they just aren’t us. That’s the idea anyway.

For this activity, Sarai encouraged her readers to look at the answers they gave previously about their lives and histories, and to begin to attach those to some kind of aesthetic. The worksheet asks questions about how you feel when you’re wearing your favorite clothes, who your style icons are, and what words describe your life and your tastes.

I put together a Wardrobe Architect board on Pinterest, which has been an indispensable tool during this whole project. Based on this exercise, I started gathering images that reflected the words and phrases and style icons I identified.

I managed to distill what I think is my “core style” into five words: classic, comfortable, tasteful, understated, and quirky.

It might seem that quirky doesn’t really fit in with the rest of these words, but it makes complete sense to me. I love to add one offbeat element to whatever outfit I’ve pulled together, whether it’s wearing Chucks with my dress pants or a leather cuff with a vintage dress. To be honest, to most people the little touches I add probably aren’t all that offbeat at all, but to me, they add a little something different to my otherwise super business-casual wardrobe.

And my style icons? Who else?

The always pulled-together and elegantly casual Audrey Hepburn:

Tastefully sexy Marilyn Monroe:

Classy and confident Katherine Hepburn:

And the fun-loving, silly, and still totally classic Zooey Deschanel:

Who are your style icons, and what five words would you use to describe your core style?

Posted on April 11, 2014 by Leave a comment

The Wardrobe Architect: Style in My Life

The first week’s Wardrobe Architect assignment involves figuring how different elements of your life affect your personal style choices. I love pondering my own navel, so this was probably more fun than it should have been for me.

A girl with bright red hair and a red t-shirt posing in front of a silver and black curtain in a college dorm room

Me as a wild and reckless youth

I was a youngun’ in the 1990s, the age of “alternative” fashion, Manic Panic hair dye, and oversized flannel shirts. The evolution of my personal style really began when I was in college. I started to gravitate toward a kind-of-vintage kind-of-punk thing, but at that point, I really didn’t know what my style was all about, so it was mostly kind-of-nondescript.

Two girls in a bar, wearing black, laughing

Me as a carefree n’er do well

But the beginnings of a fashion sense were there.

A girl in a flowery dress, with a young boy looking over her shoulder

Me and my little bro, back in 2000

I was raised to value neatness, and looking presentable. I rebelled against that pretty strongly as a teenager, but I know that those values are part of how I dress now. I don’t believe sweatpants should be worn in public, nor do I believe that leggings are pants. I think it’s important to look nice when you go out into the world. Thanks, Mom!

That being said, I live in California, and life out here is pretty casual. My colleagues wear jeans and t-shirts. My social life doesn’t involve clubbing or movie premieres or wild parties, so flashy fancy clothes have no real place in my life. And while I believe in looking presentable, I also believe in being comfortable.

Girl wearing a loose top, cardigan, and jeans

Me now, in a pretty typical work outfit

That picture above really looks like I’m crying, but I swear I wasn’t. It was just an early morning.

The (unfortunately) big thing that has always influenced my fashion choices is body image. Wah wah, what a girl I am. But pretty much since I was 14 I have shied away from anything revealing. No shorts or short skirts, no sleeveless shirts, nothing too revealing. I’m a prude, apparently. I used to dream about those bathing suits from the 1900s. I’m learning to appreciate my figure, but I still am not a huge fan of revealing clothing. You won’t see me in a midriff-baring anything any time soon.

So what sticks out in this analysis, for me? I like comfortable clothing that has an element of classic, vintage style and an element of quirky, punk-ness.

Two young girls in the 1980s, playing dress up.

And apparently, I was a real fashion plate at 10. Yup, that’s me, on the left, with the fabulous bangs.

Next, we dive into defining a core style, one that remains constant through the ever-changing dictates of fashion’s fickle ways.

If you want to ponder your own life and your relationship to fashion, download Sarai’s awesome PDF worksheet. Who doesn’t love a worksheet? You can find more details about this week’s assignment on her blog.

What are the core things that stand out for you about your life, and how it might impact your clothing choices?

Posted on April 10, 2014 by 2 Comments

The Wardrobe Architect, Laura-style

Last January, one of my favorite pattern makers and sewing bloggers, Sarai of Colette Patterns, introduce an awesome series/project called The Wardrobe Architect. The idea behind the project is to begin to thoughtfully plan a wardrobe, rather than to make and buy clothing willy nilly and eventually find that you have a closet full of things you don’t really like.

Now, I am a total sucker for anything that involves planning, especially if there are regular assignments to tackle. I love assignments, and yes, I was a complete school nerd. I love projects! And I have been feeling like I want to start building some coherence into my wardrobe, some sense that the clothing that I’m putting on my body, and especially the clothing I’m spending so much time making, suits me, works well together, and makes me feel confident. This project could not have come along at a better time.

I’ve actually been completing the assignments all along, but it didn’t even occur to me to share my work here until now. I haven’t been a very good blogger lately. So let’s make up for lost time!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share the work that I have done on my Wardrobe Architect project, and hopefully inspire you to dig in and start planning your spring and summer wardrobe, too. It’s been a really enjoyable project so far. If you’re interested, and don’t want to wait for me and my behind-the-times ass, check out all of Sarai’s fantastic Wardrobe Architect posts. And check back soon if you want to hear about my own explorations, and perhaps get some inspiration (I hope).

Posted on April 7, 2014 by Leave a comment

How I Quit Smoking

I started smoking when I was 15. I was always one of those kids who wanted to grow up fast, and smoking made me feel grown up. I hung around with my trouble-making, pot-smoking friends, sitting in front of the Taco Bell after school smoking and being total idiots. Back then, cigarettes were still relatively inexpensive. I remember buying a pack of generics for $2, and for an extra twenty-five cents we could get Marlboros. They hadn’t yet put high taxes in place and a lot of gas stations and liquor stores would still sell cigarettes to underage kids, so it wasn’t that hard to get them.

My mother HATED that I smoked, which, frankly, was probably reason enough for me to keep doing it at that point. I was such a little asshole.

I smoked all through high school, and I remember getting to college and being so stoked that I could finally buy cartons of cigarettes. I started smoking a lot my first year in college. Like, up-to-two-packs-a-day a lot. That eventually evened out, but from the time I was 18 until I was about 27 or 28, I was smoking at least half a pack a day, and more if I went out drinking or partying. Which, let’s be honest, I did a lot. I loved smoking. It felt glamorous, it felt cool, it made me feel a little edgy.

I know there were times in that period when I thought about quitting, but I never really wanted to. I knew I should. I knew it was a gross habit. My mom still hated it. But it was just too daunting to try to quit all at once.

It probably took me about five or six years to quit smoking. I did it bit by bit, breaking connections and habits one by one. First, I stopped smoking a cigarette with my morning coffee. It was a fairly simple thing, just cutting that one cigarette out a day. Then I stopped smoking at work. I don’t really remember why I stopped smoking at work, and yes, I would very occasionally still go out on the street and have a cigarette if I was having a stressful day, but for the most part, by the time I was 27 I didn’t usually smoke my first cigarette of the day until 5 in the evening at the earliest.

Eventually, by the time I turned 30, I really only smoked when I went out drinking. Which, ok, honestly was still kind of often. At least a few times a week. And then I tended to smoke A LOT. But when I turned 30 I moved across the country by myself to a small town where I didn’t really know anyone, and I stopped going out so much.

By the time I was 32, I was only smoking once every two weeks or so. I had, over time, broken all the daily habits of being a regular smoker. It took me another year to finally decide to quit altogether, and by the time that happened, it wasn’t that hard at all. It was just about breaking that one, final connection, between drinking and smoking, which was actually a connection between socializing and smoking. And when I did quit, it happened really organically. I didn’t set a date or have a plan. I just decided I was done.

I don’t think my Phase-Out approach is a very typical way to quit, but it worked for me, and I think it’s a pretty good technique. Because instead of trying to break a really big habit, one that might have lots of connections in your life, you can focus on breaking one smaller habit at a time, until eventually, all the emotional and physical connections to smoking are gone. If you’ve tried to quit smoking without success in the past, maybe a more gradual approach would work for you. Try to identify the times that you smoke, and connections you have: Do you love to have a cigarette with your coffee, or after dinner? Do you smoke when you talk to your sister on the phone? Do you have to have one on your drive home from work? If you can identify some specific times or places or situations that are connected to smoking for you, you can start to break those connections one by one. That way, it doesn’t have to feel like a big, drastic life change. It feels smaller and more manageable.

Since I “officially” quit smoking, I have smoked probably about 3 or 4 times, it’s true. In almost all of those instances, I was, ahem, perhaps a bit tipsy. But none of those instances made me feel like I was in danger of starting again, because it just wasn’t a part of my life anymore. I feel like a non-smoker. And it feels pretty good. My mom is pretty happy about it, too.

Posted on April 7, 2014 by Leave a comment

Spring, glorious spring

Oh, hello there. Remember me? I don’t blame you if you don’t. It’s been awhile.

Fall and winter were a blur of commuting, working, more commuting, traveling, apartment hunting, and finally, moving. During the months that I was commuting from Oakland to Sonoma State everyday, I didn’t have much time left for anything else. It felt like everything dropped by the wayside: friends, cooking, crafting, reading, exercise…my life was nothing but my car, and work, an hour on the couch with my husband in the evening, and sleep.

The good thing about all of that is that I love my job. I work with great people, who are open minded, resourceful, thoughtful, and who want to do great and awesome things. And the work environment really suits me: I’ve learned about myself that I don’t thrive in hierarchical, top-heavy organizations (but I don’t really know anyone who does). At Sonoma State, I work on a team of true collaborators. We make the decisions about what we do, not some Director or manager. And I’m trusted to make the best decisions about my area of responsibility. My enthusiasm for my work is about 1000 times greater when I feel like I have control over it. So even though I’m working harder than I have in years, I feel engaged and excited and I really enjoy the time that I’m at work. It made the two-plus hours in the car every day bearable.

But just barely. And so finely, when the hubbub of the holidays and our various work travels settled down, we started planning a move up to Sonoma County. It was hard, really, really hard to leave Oakland. I don’t know if I’ve ever loved a city the way I love Oakland. But I hardly got to spend any time in it!

After more than a month of searching, we finally found a house to rent only a mile from the campus, in Rohnert Park. Rohnert Park isn’t the most exciting place to live. It’s pretty much the definition of suburbia, and when we buy a house, I hope we don’t buy here. But it’s livable, and I love that I can walk to work again. And our house is pretty awesome.

We’re still finishing up the two upstairs bedrooms, one of which will be an office/guest room and the other my craft room. The craft room is close to being done; I’ll share some updated photos soon. And the books are finally unpacked. I’m in the process of taking an inventory right now, because yes, I have too many books. And I’m a librarian, so I feel like I have to have an up-to-date catalog of my collection.

Living in the suburbs has been a big change for me, but I think Sean is loving it so far. We have a great backyard, which now has a fire pit and some patio furniture, thanks to my awesome husband. And I’m getting used to having my free time back, so I hope to be posting here more in the future. And making more things, and cooking more things, and reading more things, and generally having my life back. Yay!

Thanks for your patience during my prolonged absence!

Posted on March 21, 2014 by Leave a comment

I’m back! And sick as a dog.

It has been a full month since I last visited my little web home, and I’ve missed it here. Our wedding was wonderful. The whole weekend was full of fun and so much love. It was like a happiness parade.

Sean and Laura on the wedding day.

Photo courtesy of Nicole Lewon

Then we went to Hawaii for two full weeks. Amazing. We did so much, but still had time to feel relaxed and to loaf around on the beach. We went for a helicopter ride, we went kayaking, we hiked the Na Pali coast and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We went horseback riding in the Waipio Valley. We took a snorkeling cruise. We got really tan. It was a really wonderful vacation, and yes, we’re still pulling our photos together to share.

Then we came back and I was ready to get to work. I was excited to get to work! And I immediately contracted the plague. Alright, it’s not the plague. At first I thought it was just a cold, but now a nurse thinks it might be strep, so I’m going for a strep screening today.

At least I have the perfect remedy for illness:

A bottle of bourbon and a bottle of honey sitting on a counter.

I especially love this honey for my hot toddies. It was a gift from my Aunt Cathie, and I think it has extra healing properties, with the ginger and the bee pollen. And it’s tasty.

I’m about to head to the doctor’s office. Then I think I will spend the rest of the day writing because, my friends, it’s NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and then I’m supposed to fly to Louisville, Kentucky on Wednesday to give a presentation at LITA Forum. One day, I will actually make it through a full week at work.

Posted on November 2, 2013 by 1 Comment

Let the ride begin

The families are starting to arrive. The festivities are getting underway. At this point, all we can do is let go, and have faith that all the planning we’ve done will let this machine move forward without a hitch.

In three days we’ll be married. And then we’ll be flying off to Hawaii for two much-needed weeks of relaxation and sunshine. It feels so odd, to have put so much time and energy into preparing for this event and to have it suddenly here.

Woohoo! We’re getting married!

Posted on October 2, 2013 by Leave a comment

The Wedding Body

In the months leading up to our wedding, despite the fact that I do have a brain, and most of the time it functions, I thought I was going to be able to transform my body into something lean, toned, and taut. Let’s be real here: I’m a short, curvy lady, with something of a bottom. My hips are 44 inches around, and I have a little pooch of a belly. My legs are pretty solid. I am not, nor have I ever been, lean. My arms will probably always jiggle a little bit.

I’ve had a pretty solid fitness routine going for the last few years, but for some reason I thought I’d be able to amp it up even more in order to achieve this mythical bridal body. But real life happened, as it does. And besides, I don’t really want to exercise more than an hour a day. I have other shit to do. So the months passed, and I kept thinking this super-body would appear somehow. But the fact is, I’m pretty much the shape and weight I’m going to be. If I wasn’t willing to take extreme measures, nothing was really going to change.

And I don’t want to take extreme measures. Because that aforementioned brain is a feminist one, and I knew in my heart that all this bridal body stuff was a myth, and offensive, and mentally unhealthy.

But that’s just the thing. Even though we know it’s not healthy to obsess over our bodies, to obsess over what we’re eating or how often we’re exercising, we can’t stop. Ok, maybe I should only speak for myself here, but…I know I’m not only speaking for myself. I knew that an impending wedding, during which I would be the center of attention and have hundreds of pictures taken of me, was guaranteed to increase my stock of body woe and self-consciousness. And I didn’t really know what to do about it.

Now I’m less than two weeks out from the wedding, and I look pretty much the same way I did the day my partner proposed to me. A part of me is disappointed. I have to be honest about that. But…it’s only a tiny part. Mostly, I feel the kind of self-acceptance that has eluded me for most of my life. Because I look pretty much the same way I did the day my partner proposed to me, and guess what? He proposed. He certainly wasn’t waiting until I lost a few pounds, the way that I have put off too many things in life because of some twisted idea about what I look like, and what I should look like.

It’s odd, these mixed feelings. I doubt I’m ever going to completely shake the desire for a firmer bottom, but realizing that I’m going to look the way I look at my wedding, and that I’m going to look beautiful, that has done more than a lifetime of reading feminist body acceptance pieces and trying to think positively has ever done. It feels like all of the body-positive thoughts I’ve had before have just flitted on the surface, but this time, this feeling is sinking a little deeper. It has settled in just a tiny bit more.

Two weeks from now I’ll be on a beach in Hawaii in the first bikini I’ve worn since I was 17. And I won’t look the way I imagined I’d look. But I will look like me, and I’m sure I’ll be having a great time.

Posted on September 25, 2013 by 2 Comments

In the thick of it

Sitting here to write this, I feel like I’m stepping into the eye of the storm. It’s a small moment of stillness in what has otherwise been a month of frenetic energy. Time is passing so unbelievably quickly: Our wedding is in less than two weeks! I’ve already been at my new job for a month! How the heck is it September 23rd already?

Right now the storm consists of a million tiny details, swirling around constantly in the back of my mind. I have lists floating around on every scrap of paper I can find, schedules and notes and calculations about how much wine we should buy and who still hasn’t RSVP’d and what photos we want to be sure are taken by the photographers. There are a few errands still to run, a few crafts still to finish, but despite the constant feeling of mild panic, everything is under control. Everything will get done. And I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have so many people contributing their time and energy and creativity.

The biggest struggle for me right now is the 2+ hours I’m spending in the car, commuting to and from work everyday. And the things that are being sacrificed are things I HATE to sacrifice: Yoga and exercise. Having the time to cook lovely meals. Sewing. I feel like I get home from work, eat dinner, and the next thing I know it’s time for bed.

The wedding will be here before we know it, and it will be awesome. The two weeks we’re spending in Hawaii afterwards will be much needed (and I feel like we might be looking forward to that more than the wedding itself, at this point). And then we’ll be back, and I’m sure a whole new storm of activities and projects will begin.

Yup, it’s a storm. But it’s a pretty great storm, and it will all be so, so worth it.

Posted on September 23, 2013 by Leave a comment

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