Monthly Archives: December 2015

Anna’s adventures in thrifting: From fuzzies to the perfect vintage dress

Resale apparel scares me. And I know I shouldn’t admit that because I’m an eco-girl who knows that buying previously owned clothes (instead of new) helps our environment. In my head, I am a cool thrifter, one that finds awesome deals, colorful items and makes them work. But that never really happens.

Last Saturday, I woke up in a go-get-them mood and decided to check out a resale shop and a farmers’ market on the other side of the lake, I hadn’t been to yet. Full of optimism and actually craving a bit of shopping (see this happens to everyone, also the low consumption folks :)) – I started at the resale shop:

  • Man, it’s unorganized in here.
  • Wow, that’s a bad print. Who bought that to begin with?
  • Ooops, I stepped on that purse. Hope no one saw me.
  • There goes all my inspiration. Bye, bye.
  • That cardigan is actually cute! But oh, it comes with a fuzzies-party.

Is it just me? Or is this a reflection of what is happening here? Would it be too much to ask that the store be tidy? That there’s a minimum acceptance level for the clothes they take in?

This happens to me over and over, and I don’t like it. People who live in ‘trendier’ areas of the country, or of this city for that matter, must have better luck thrifting than I do. I must not be the type of shopper the resale places are targeting, I may be too inside of the box for this. Or is it as simple as me being a spoiled shopper? (Hey, don’t answer that!)

I left the resale shop and went to the farmers’ market. To my surprise, in a strip mall located right by the market, I spotted a small “antiques” sign in front of a shop called Vintage Revival. Intrigued, I went in, browsed, and immediately said to myself; “I want to buy everything in here”.

Miraculously, when one goes from “resale” to “vintage”, the whole setting changes. The boutique was organized, cozy and smelled nice. Items gathered together – went together, and were set up in proper arrangements. Jewelry, clothes, deco, art, locally handmade soaps and creams, artisan crafts, and old photographs covered the place.  The few dresses they had, hanging inside of an antique closet, looked like they were taken from a Mad Man set. Which one must be mine!?

With earrings I "inherited" from my mom on right... and headband on the left.
With earrings I “inherited” from my mom (right) &  the original headband (left).

I decided that a round neckline, sleeveless vintage dress with orange and yellow flowers was the perfect choice for me. I tried it on and though the fit was not 100% perfect, I just loved it so much already that I had to take it home. The storeowner believed it was a custom-made dress from the 60’s and she was so happy I wanted it. It also came with a matching headband (which needed a few stitches at home to get back to its previous glory). There are no labels what so ever inside this dress, so not only previously owned, but also, most likely, made in America, handmade with love and one of a kind. Thus this dress hit the spot on all shopping rules, not forgetting “support small business”. Price tag? 15 American dollars. Oh, the excitement! (Of course I had my reusable bag with me, and recycled the paper receipt.)

This dress will we worn to work – dressed down with a cardigan – or worn in Mad Man style for parties, costume parties and around the house when I feel like being vintage-glam. Back when I lived closer to my grandma, I used to scavenge her closet all the time for hidden gems from the old days. Re-discovering my love for vintage made for a great, successful shopping excursion.

My Mad Men dress with my cigarette free hand.
My *NEW* Mad Men dress and a cigarette free hand. The pose seemed appropriate.

I will not give up on resale just yet. I will keep looking, checking, browsing and visiting the thrift stores, hoping that one day a gorgeous outfit will appear – fuzzies free.

I must overcome my resale fear, and frankly, my own judgmentalness. 2016 might be the year I will do just that. I’ll keep you (blog) posted :)

Another day, another award. Such is the life of an eco-blogger.

A very interesting thing about blogging is that there’s a “spam box” linked to the blog, which collects all the spam-comments that get posted. I, for one haven’t figured out what the spammers gain from commenting on blogs, but maybe there’s some cyber logic to it. I check my spam box from time to time, because sometimes a real, sweet comment ends up in there by mistake. Last week while browsing thru the “Go to this link to get more search hits” and the “I appreciate your writing, did you write this yourself?” (yes, I get lots of those!), I found the most wonderful not-spam-comment from a fellow blogger in there, I had been nominated for an award!

versaTo be precise, Home Grown Heaven, a smallholding blog I follow, had nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award. The blogging community is wonderful that way, we support each other and get inspired by each other, and sometimes, if one is lucky, an award pops up. This is actually my second ‘win’ this year (bursting with pride), as No Need for Mars, a great Zero Waste blog I read, nominated me for the Liebster Award back in August.

Now, the rules.  The two awards work in the same way, you nominate a few blogs you love, share them on your page, thank whoever nominated you and include a link to their blog. So, first, very many thanks Mrs. Fairweather at Home Grown Heaven!

Before giving the Versatile Blogger Award to anyone, one must “Consider the quality of the writing, the uniqueness of the subjects covered, and the level of love displayed in the words on the virtual page”. That being the criteria, I’m much honored! I was given the award with the following motivation (made me so happy):

Made Right (Here) – Anna couldn’t quite believe that Chinese garlic was a thing here but it’s actually really hard to buy garlic not grown in China, which is ridiculous considering I live in Ireland. Her blog has encouraged me to think more about what I do buy and where it comes from.

Next, I should select 15 blogs or bloggers that I’ve recently discovered or follow regularly. Pick blogs or bloggers that are excellent! And nominate those 15 bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.

This is really hard for me to do. I do read other blogs and enjoy browsing from time to time, but for a blog to make it to the top of my list it better be dang good. I nominated five blogs in the Liebster Award process, which you can find here. I don’t want to nominate the same ones again so here are my nominees (it’s not going to be 15, ok?):

  1. The Delicate Tension. I discovered this blogger (Liz) when she shared a trailer to a wonderful mini-series about people working in Cambodia’s garment industry. Reading her content; he words are full of passion, wit and joy. Whenever it has been a while since she’s published a post, I miss her blog in my feed. She writes about slow fashion and shares the amazing custom garments she sews and her up-cycled fabulous thrift store finds.
  2. Forage and Forge. A bit of zero waste, a bit of homegrown, a bit of philosophy, a bit of homeschooling. All with wit, smarts and excellence. The tag line for this blog is “Sustainable living in Suburbia” and aren’t we all trying to master just that?
  3. Home Grown Heaven. Yes, the blogger who nominated me is actually one of my own favorites. It’s a dream of mine to one day grow my own food and have a few chickens running around a house with solar panels, on the country-side . This blog is inspiring, hopeful and well written. Maybe I can home grow too?
  4. Made in USA blogs. Not that anyone writing articles on this subject impresses me with their heartfelt writing (not that kind of blogs), but since I am on a mission to shop local, it’s a must to stay updated on this topic. There’s Made in USA News, which collects stories from different outlets about stateside manufacturing. There’s the Simply American blog whose library of brands and posts is extensive, and there’s the Clothing Made in USA blog, focusing on just that.

I hope you take the time to check these blogs out. (Since I only managed to list a select few, looking them all up sounds like a manageable task ;))

Utah in the air. Happiness in my heart.
Utah in the air. Happiness in my heart.

Finally, I must tell the person who nominated me 7 things about myself.

  1. I am having a hard time starting this list, despite the fact that I love to talk about myself.
  2. Some days I draft a plan in my head of how my husband and I would make our escape from the Walking Dead, should they be closing in.
  3. I’ve had so much Washington State Riesling this year, I am currently having a hard time drinking any dry wines.
  4. My best vacation ever was a 9 day road-trip in Arizona and Utah, with my husband in 2014, visiting the National Parks.
  5. English is my second language.
  6. America’s overconsumption is what inspired me to start this blog.
  7. My celebrity crushes are Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, judge (with the best accent) on the X Factor UK and Prince Ea, vlogger, planet promoter and mastermind.

Two awards in one year, and a blog that keeps growing (very slowly but still!). I love writing and I love that people are actually reading about sustainability! One can be nothing but grateful for support like the type Home Grown Heaven has shown, by giving me the award. Thank you! I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present!

And on that note – Happy Holidays everyone!

Just opt out of it – and then it’s already a wrap

I already posted the ultimate eco-friendly Christmas gift list last year, so I won’t attempt to outdo myself, but I’d like to write some more about gift wrapping.

Growing up, my mom would always try to save the wrapping paper from Christmas and birthday gifts. We had a habit of opening gifts real gently to “keep” the surprise  as long as possible, by undoing the string, the tape and unfolding the paper slowly, which meant that most of the time there was decent looking paper to save. I used to think “Is paper so expensive that we must wrap other people’s gifts in previously used, wrinkled paper? Why is mom saving it?” But I get it now.

Throwing it away would have been wasteful. Money wise, even if we’re only talking dimes, and planet wise. (Love you mom!)

I just got a Barbie moped! Wrapped in previously used paper? Maybe!
I just got a Barbie moped! Wrapped in previously used paper? Most likely!

As an adult I try to limit packaging and wrapping paper as much as possible. I’m so lucky; my husband is not the most grandiose wrapper and always opts for using something he finds in the recycling bin (newspaper, old box, outdated map), and never any tape. Yes, his gifts are easy to spot at a birthday party and normally trigger quite a few smiles. With a signature style like that – who needs a card?

Now, just in case someone reading this really wants to wrap their gifts up nicely for Christmas, and is not sold on my husband’s recycling trend (!?), here’s another idea; fabric bags! I recently saw that there are fabric gift bags all over town now. Specifically, I saw a bunch (imported, unfortunately, from India) at the Container Store.

There’s something about fabric that tells people that the bag is not a disposable item and should not be thrown away. I think these bags look really cute and if you are handy, they’d be super easy to make yourself! Two sides, stitching and drawstring are basically all you need. I found this tutorial on PositivelySplendid.com – get sewing! (Now, don’t go buying a made in China sewing gauge…)

I have checked more than a few tags – all paper gift bags are made in China (dyes, waste, plastics, import!). They create landfill waste (methane!) and they cost a lot of money (loss!). What’s the reason to buy them again?

How are you all dealing with the Christmas wrapping waste?

bags

Want to read last year’s fantastic (*wink wink*) Christmas gift guide? Click HERE.

Style of the day: Just a little bit bossy

Before I went on the not made in China challenge, I had never bought a statement t-shirt. The shops I used to like and shop at never really had any cool ones, and I’ve never been the type to buy a random “Just do it” or “L’amour” style print. Where’s the statement in that?

Thanks to the challenge, I have broadened my horizon when it comes to clothes and shopping, and I have actually just bought my second statement tee. This time it’s right on the mark.

Nailed the posing again. Obviously.

It’s simple; I’m not bossy,  I am the boss. It is true that I do have two direct-reports at work, but that is not the kind of boss I’m talking about. I am the boss of so many things, just like most people. I’m the boss of my opinions, my style, my actions and my mood. I’m the boss of who I spend my time with, what I say, what I eat, what I trash, what I buy and what kind of people and businesses I support. AND I am the boss of my blog!

This cute one was printed in Washington State by Aleah Shop on a t-shirt made by Bella + Canvas, based in California (more west coast stuff!).

Before I bought this 20 dollar shirt, I emailed Aleah Shop and asked where the actual t-shirt was manufactured, hoping they wouldn’t reply “China”. Within an hour they got back with me and said: “Made in USA”. Grand!

Well, it was, until I got the t-shirt and the tag said “Made in Kenya”. I have nothing against Kenya, per say, but it wasn’t what I expected to see, and as you know, tags don’t lie (ok, sometimes they do, but that’s only when it’s in their favor to lie, like saying”Made in USA” when it’s not).

I decided to get back with Aleah Shop to let them know that the tee was in fact very imported. They replied to my email almost immediately, mortified, apologized many times and told me that in no way had they wanted to mislead me. Apparently the boxes they receive from Bella + Canvas with blank tees inside, say “Made in USA” on the box, and I guess they never noticed the actual tags…

Looking through the Bella + Canvas website; they do mention international locations along with their LA facility. A statement from that site says: “Kind tees are our kind of tees. Bella + Canvas has been manufacturing in the U.S. and internationally in a no-sweatshop, humane, sustainable way since day one. Doing things the right way has never been up for debate.”  They guarantee a 100% sweat-shop free tee, and say they make millions of shirts in the USA every year. I must admit, they sound like the kind of company I would support and promote, but stretching the truth with “Made in USA” labels on boxes is not cool. Period. And that’s not me being bossy.

Anyway. This t-shirt fits like a dream, feels amazing and looks so awesome. (My friend said it was cute, but I think it’s cool.) I am not sending it back – not over Kenya.

A more stylish one (?) of me in the new tee & an old trench coat I love.
A more stylish one (?) of me in the new tee & an old trench coat I love.

Aleah Shop has lots of other cute prints, like “Mom Life”, “Thankful” and “Girl Boss”to name a few, as well as coffee mugs with statements. Their customer service proved to be quite remarkable, obviously, talking to me A LOT about “all them tags”… So go check them out on Etsy (by clicking here) and support this small business!

 [Details in LookBook] (Photo credits: Shutterluv by Ashley.)

Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree… when disposable beats reusable

It’s that time of year again when we all start talking about Christmas. Christmas plans, Christmas wishes, Christmas time off from work, Christmas weight gain, Christmas spending…

My husband and I don’t do the gifting every year and we probably have less than 10 Christmas decorations, but I actually love this holiday! For me, it’s all about cooking, listening to music, being all around cozy and drinking spiced hot wine (“Glögg”). Favorite Christmas album? Destiny’s Child’s 8 days of Christmas. Sassy harmonies combined with jingle bells – sign me up! (And give hubby a pair of ear-plugs.)

It's the real deal.
It’s the real deal.

Now, let’s talk Christmas trees!

Did you know that the most eco-friendly choice is to buy a real tree each year, instead of buying and reusing an artificial one?

A Swedish nonprofit I follow, the Nature Protection Organization, published an article about it last year, which is where I first read about it.

Before your go “hurray” and head on over to Wal-Mart’s parking lot, there are a few constraints to consider. You need to make sure your tree was grown sustainably, preferably organic, and comes from a nearby, healthy forest (or farm). You’ll probably have most luck shopping with a small vendor or straight from the owner to assure that you’re getting a happy tree.

The tree should then be cut and composted, used for heating (if you have a high efficiency furnace) or collected by the municipality for use as heating material or be composted, large scale, when the season is over.

Unless someone in the family is allergic, a real tree is also a safe choice for your home.

Taking a closer look at the option, an artificial tree, there are several (obvious) reasons as to why this type of tree is worse for the environment than the real one. First, the artificial, plastic Christmas tree was transported here from far away; most often from China, may have been manufactured un-ethically and generally contains chemicals.  It comes wrapped in plastic, inside a cardboard box with ink on it (waste!). And when it’s time to get a new one, should it get old and worn, it’s not recyclable and ends up in landfill (waste!). Even if you use it for as long as 10 years, a real, locally grown, sustainable tree, should still be better.

There’s an exception; if you already own a plastic tree, of course, using that one again is the best choice!

We had guests for Christmas last year so we said yes to the mess of decorating our house (a little). We went with a real tree, obviously, which we picked out at the local farmers’ market. We decorated it with homemade paper decorations, popcorn string, Mardi Gras beads, the few ornaments we already had, and the main attraction was a colorful string of lights from Taiwan. I’ve never been into the multi-colored lights but it was the ONLY box of lights I could find not made in China! See, this challenge is forever pushing my boundaries of style.

This year, it may just be the two of us for Christmas and we haven’t decided if we’re having a tree or not, yet. If we are, we will do a style-repeat from last year since it was such a looker!

What do you think? Artificial or real?

Picking out the tree. Notice the wonderful "Christmas weather" #Houston
Picking out the tree. Notice the wonderful “Christmas weather” #Houston
Making the popcorn string took a long time!
Making the popcorn string took a long time!
Wow, look at them classy lights! Ella & Ben are very cute though, and I spy American made New Balance sneakers in the background.
Wow, look at them classy lights! Ella & Ben are very cute though, and I spy American made New Balance sneakers in the background.

My Swedish (speaking) readers can read the article HERE.