What I Wore Lately

I have started doing random mirror selfies or iphone timer photos while I'm out so I have some outfit photos for when I discuss my wardrobe on this blog. It's the only way I'll ever have photos of what I'm wearing. (Which means also what I'm buying.) And I kind of like photos better when they're just an everyday snapshot of wherever I was, though I'll admit that I walked into Urban Outfitters with the intention of using their selfie mirror for that first picture because I hadn't worn that dress in a while and I wanted to mention that I've had it for years and it's still going strong -- a credit to Make It Good. But mostly I've just been sticking my iphone on some apartment stairs on the selfie setting, setting a timer and stepping back 10 feet. 

While trying to reset my budget, I've been reading a lot of personal finance and lifestyle blogs. It is mostly all the same concepts over and over and over again. But I am just one of those people who needs to hear the same thing reiterated 100x in various formats if it's a habit I'm not naturally inclined to practice. That's just how I am. I don't fight it. Frugalwoods is one of the blogs I've been reading (they are pretty hardcore) and I tagged this quote:

Nothing is more fulfilling than relishing what you already have and reveling in gratitude for what we've been given. I'm never happier than when I do this. And I have to remind myself to feel this way - it's a conscious decision I make to step back and express thanks for everything I have in life.  But when I do, I'm overcome with serenity. And all I did was recognize what I already have! The mind is a powerful partner in our financial and life journeys - if we allow it to guide us towards insight and reflection, it's incredible how much gratification we can generate on our own. {from this post}

It applies to everything but as it relates to this blog, it covers clothing and makeup and housewares too. Before I only used to post stuff when I'd just purchased it but nowadays I just want to post a snapshot of what I do actually wear -- regardless of when I purchased it. That helps me remember I have stuff I like. And I appreciate it.

Make It Good dress from a few years ago
slip on thin-style Vans
tote bag screenprinted by local artist whose name I can't recall
and a mason jar of coffee with a Cuppow lid + faux bois jar cozy

Simka Sol cactus t-shirt dress
sweatshop sandals from last year
same tote bag
Klean Kanteen insulated water bottle with cafe cap

Make It Good dress from this year
same tote bag
Insecta cut out oxfords from last year or the year before
same mason jar + Cuppow + cozy

Po-em day dress
Clyde's Rebirth necklace
Insecta cut out oxfords, same as above
same tote 

Everlane linen blend shirt
Everlane black short chinos
Insecta cut out oxfords, same as above

These Everlane pants are not at all "flattering" but I love that. I hope they look intentionally ridiculous and not just extra disheveled and ill-fitting -- it's a fine line. But I'll be wearing them until I tire of them in one way or another even if part of that is being beet-red-faced embarrassed that I walked around like this, I'm sure.

I'm trying to grow in my angled bob to a longer bob. Mostly for less haircut maintenance which means less money spent and less time spent getting haircuts. I am only going as far as a long bob. I can't handle longer hair. It is clear that I live and die by minimal hair-washing and dry shampoo and this has just been reinforced by dealing with bleached and tinted hair since bleached hair is drier (so wash it less) and tinted hair fades quickly (so wash it less). My strategy for growing in hair used to be just bobby pinning everything up in the awkward phase buuuut this round I have a 70% undercut right now so that's not possible. So I'm just trying to center part (aka "nerd part") my hair and tuck it behind my ears. If it gets tragic, I'll get the curling iron or rag curlers out but let's not be hasty.

So get ready for some nerd parts.


Review: Sell By Mail with Buffalo Exchange

Howdy! Recently I decided to try Buffalo Exchange's Sell-By-Mail option since I had a pile of clothes packed up and just sitting in my closet. I was tired of bringing stuff to Beacon's Closet and Buffalo Exchange stores are just way further from me than I'd like to have to haul a bag to as a special trip. The clothes in this stack were a mix of brands - some Free People, Mata Traders, Urban Outfitters, vintage, etc. Half were off season and half were on-season. You can see the mix below:

  • 4 dresses (all Urban Renewal)
  • 2 jackets (Gap, Ann Taylor) -- boooring
  • 1 sweater
  • 1 cardigan
  • 4 short sleeve shirts (1 Free People, 1 Mata Traders) 
  • 3 long sleeve shirts (one Zara, 2 vintage) 
  • 1 pair of American Apparel Pants 

How it works:

You request a bag to be sent to you via an online form. The deal is you can fill the bag they send you and whatever they don't buy can be shipped back (for a hefty fee) or you can donate it to their monthly charity $1 sale. Once you fill your bag, you drop it off at a UPS location. When Buffalo Exchange receives the bag, they scan it and you receive an answer as to your bag's status within 5-10 days.

How it worked out for me:

Requesting the bag is easy and packing up the big bag they sent was a breeze. Finding a UPS store was minimal work and I was able to just bring my bag with me to Manhattan on my way to work and it wasn't too much of a hassle. The email updates they sent were timely and let me know exactly what where my fat bag was in their process and managed my expectations about when I could expect another update. 

I felt like donating the clothes they didn't purchase was fine - if it didn't get purchased it was going to our textile recycling drop-off anyway so it might be more likely to get used if it goes to a $1 charity sale vs what a NYC thrift store would price it as anyway. This made me a little envious of this $1 charity sale with the huge volume they get - imagine the deals! I figured they at most take 30% of what they receive.

Off-topic, of course because hi have you met me
I'm always jealous of thrifting and resale shops elsewhere. In NYC we have a "pay to be VIP" Housing Works sale, which may be why I never ever ever can find anything to buy at Housing Works. (Seriously do only '90s career women into synthetics donate there?) While I support their mission in general, I hate that VIP concept. I prefer my shopping to be egalitarian. (I know, I know, it's for charity.) Then there's the "bring gloves and dig through dirty bins" for both Goodwill and Housing Works. I have done the Housing Works warehouse "Buy the Bag" situation once and I could not find one thing I wanted to purchase much less pay like $15-25 for bag. I literally found a pair of Taxi the tv show-themed boxer shorts that made me laugh but that was the only redeeming inventory. NYC is a little too self-important in the used clothing resale area.

Circling back from my tangent -- how did the Buffalo Exchange sell-by-mail work out for me in terms of cash dollars? ZERO. They literally did not buy ONE thing. I figured they'd buy one or two of the Urban Renewal things and I'd get like $3 credit but this was a bit of a shocker. But also, like, shrug emoji. Whatcha gonna do, amirite?

How it worked out for others:

There weren't very many reviews online. I did dig around before I tried it and didn't see many reviews raving about selling by mail or pissing on it, either. This time around the ol' Google, however, I unearthed this bitter throw-down of an in-store experience which I thought was  worth posting. It is titled "I hate the Buffalo Exchange. Like, totally." There are several complaints that really don't have much to do with Buffalo Exchange buying clothes in that post but the fact that they didn't buy anything from her and then took her shoes out of the donation bin to put on the retail racks is really amazingly asshole-ish. I'm sure this is the exception but, wow. What the hell.

Let me know if you ever try the Buffalo Exchange sell-by-mail option (or if you have already, you pioneer person). I'm curious to see if you have as much crap luck as I did or if you offered the magical combination of cuts and patterns to the Buffalo Exchange God.


Plastic Free July - Day 12: So far, so good yet so far, so bad

Since the start of Plastic Free July I don't think I've taken one coffee cup, plastic bag, straw or plastic utensil. So that's been a success. That's what I signed up for! But I have also been looking at my groceries and a lot still comes in plastic, even though I try to shop from the bulk aisle. I know I didn't sign up for that level of Plastic Free July, but it's impossible not to think about it now. You would think our food co-op has decent bulk options (because it's a crunchy co-op) but there is only half a row of bulk bins. The rest of our "bulk" is pre-bagged in plastic baggies and bar-coded. So it's been a bit of a struggle and I'm trying to figure out which item (or two) we buy regularly that could be purchased bulk elsewhere, to start. 

In an effort to make my food so I can avoid waste (a packed lunch is transported single-use-plastic-free!), I've been trying out a few new recipes. The last week or two (or four) I just ate rice, beans and a vegetable (or kimchi) for lunch every single day. Thanks to the Instant Pot making it so easy, we regularly buy dry beans and rice in plastic-free bulk. And while I can usually hang in there with duplicate meals ...4 weeks straight of rice and beans actually started to break me. I'm only human.

I've been trying to switch it up with not beans and not rice but still vegan and tasty and not super expensive. (While I haven't tried any of their recipes yet, I noticed Budget Bytes has a vegan category.) Some of the recipes I tried out are below -- most of the unpackaged stuff is produce and some things came in glass. But a lot came in plastic, too. More than I would have thought.

(this version has the tempeh bacon recipe)

First of all, it is not lost on me that both tofu and this tempeh have soybean content but I maintain that's not the same thing as beans-beans. You know what I'm saying. 

Back to figuring out which pantry staples we buy that I can figure out how to get package-free. Tofu? Pasta? Those are the ones I'm thinking about focusing on. I love Bridge tofu so that won't be that easy to replace with equal quality (seriously - it's quality tofu) but the pasta should be easier.


How it fits: Everlane Slouchy Chinos

Back in June I said I was going to scale down (to zero) on buying new clothing. Reused, resale stuff is okay. I'm actually just getting around to wearing everything I bought new back in May or June - like these Everlane slouchy chinos. Can they still be called chinos if they're black? Apparently. 

I bought these in a larger size and decided to keep them - even though I should have returned them. I am unsure why I couldn't figure out that they didn't fit me like, at all. I thought it was just the bagginess of the style at the time. (Duhhhrr.) Now I have the extra work of trying to sell them. These are the 4's and they're already plenty baggy. I'm typically a 28 in pants but I have junk in the trunk so I purchased the 6's as per their size guide. But the 4's were plenty spacious for my junk. Also they are ridiculously comfortable. I would wear these every single day and have a boxy pleated pants shape forever if I felt people wouldn't notice. 

I'm 5'2" and these are basically way below ankle length on me yet on the Everlane models they look about 6" shorter. Just giving you fellow shorties a heads up re fit. 

I originally posted this on IG as a prime example of the "DGAF I'm in my early 40's" look I have carefully cultivated, with my pleated pants, faux Birks (vegan!) and my "it's stretchy and small so it won't look too wrinkled" t-shirt. I've just come to terms with the fact that in terms of wardrobe care I still function like a high school stoner even though I'm basically accidentally straight edge and a pretty functional adult in a lot of other areas of my life. So I just work with that low bar and try not to give myself high maintenance clothing these days. (Both in care and also in "curating" "outfits" and stuff.) If I accidentally purchase hand-wash garments these days, it's a mega bummer and of course I never realize until after I've worn it and I'm in the process of dumping it in my laundry bag for the first run. 

They always tell us to be our authentic selves. So that's me. High school stoner level of wardrobe maintenance skills. And that's fine. 


Plastic Free July and My Budget: A Very Effective Tag Team

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was trying to body slam my budget these days and that's coincided with the kick off of Plastic Free July, and my focus there is on reducing single-use plastics. Both of these are more of a perspective shift than I'd like to admit because I wish I were naturally more of a rockstar in both areas. But I'm not. Just a puny, lazy, self-serving, instant-gratification-loving human here. Your pal, Jesse. 

There is some overlap between "greening" your consumption (which often means taking it down a notch or five) and saving money, as many niche blogs before me have pointed out. And I'm definitely seeing the same synergy play out in my life these days. My perspective on both turns into "Okay, what do I absolutely need and how can I plan to do it in the best way possible?" For budget reasons, "best" means ethical and decent quality for the cheapest possible and for Plastic Free July it would with the least amount of plastic possible.

For both, that means I focus on stuff lower to the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid. Barring fixed expenses like rent, food is the main thing at the bottom level. And the thing that pops up two levels up from that is social stuff. Wanting and needing to connect with friends but in a way that is plastic-light and not too spendy.

img source here

Food and social stuff are the two areas where I have a significant level of flexibility with money and plastic. For both, planning in advance as much as possible saves me a lot of painful failures.

For food during the week I typically:
  • make my own cold brew coffee and use a travel mason jar (don't ask about soymilk - it's organic and cheap thanks for the food coop but still in a tetrapack)
  • eat a banana or toast - not terribly plastic-free given the bread and butter but this week I've upgraded to making scones with ingredients that mostly come from bulk and that are using a bag of dried cherries we were gifted a while ago
  • bring my own lunch in a leak-proof metal lunch bowl (usually some form of rice and beans which usually come from the bulk section at our coop with a vegetable of some kind) -- or maybe a sandwich in a wrapeat wrap (yum peanut butter and pickle sandwich)
  • dinner at home (some of this is packaged - like tofu or pasta) and some is package-free like veggies or beans

For food on the weekends, when I'm more likely to go out, in the last 5 days I've been:
  • suggesting picnics where I can better control the food I'm eating and what it's packed in (and carry my spork and cloth napkin around with me)
  • suggest eat-in restaurants within a decent price-point ("No straw, thanks!")
  • get sandwiches at take-out from places where I know I can get it wrapped in paper
  • Buy beverages from places that can refill my mason jar or purchase cans that can easily be recycled
  • carry a snack in my bag so I'm not stuck with having to buy a wrapped Cliff bar if I get really hungry when I'm out (snacks can be in a wrap mat, a mason jar or a small metal spice container)

Obviously people eat to be social -- or is that just us vegans? (Kidding. But truly, every vegan I know loves food so hard.) So a lot of what I wrote above doubles for what I do socially that helps on both the budget and plastic fronts. 

Otherwise, this is some of the other stuff I've done socially:

  • walk in the park or through various tree-lined brownstone neighborhoods (bring a water bottle and snack)
  • okay it's only been a month - help me out! besides parties, some trail walking and picnic hangouts, I haven't done much else so far. (We brought peaches and vegan sausages to the 4th of July bbq - both were affordable and also the peaches were not packaged). I know I want to do volunteer dog walking and head to the beach. But other than that I haven't thought of much else to add to this list. I would probably be happy if I just attended picnics all summer anyway as I'm mostly into talking and hang-out culture and chilling but, in case you have other ideas...

If I'm looking at the top of that period (self-actualization, creative activities): 

I used to do more crafting projects in friend groups or in organized workshops but these days I just wait until I'm really in the mood so I can focus on them at home. This lets me try to figure out what's working and what's not -- more of a focused learning project than a group activity. I was interested in the Brooklyn Brainery Block Printing on Textiles workshop -- but then I realized I'd already taught myself how to do this to a certain extent. (Saved $65 I guess.) I do love the Brainery and learning in a workshop environment so I imagine I'll take more classes there in the future if it's something I feel like I can't teach myself. So, that covers cost. I'm trying to be more thoughtful about projects that don't involve plastic or waste...but it's a work very much in progress. 

The summary:

Overall, the more I set goals on going plastic-free and on reducing my spending, the more my mindset turns to focusing on my values. I get to thinking about thoughtfully planning purchases (with the roadblocks of plastic and cost) and it does start to extend to other questions about my habits. Why do I buy so much for convenience? How can I keep going to eliminate plastic from my everyday purchases? How can I be more mindful about supporting businesses I want to stay around when I do spend my money? Can I get into the habit of having a smaller purchasing imprint? Will this help me donate more money to causes I want to support?

Not sure where I'll land but I'm hoping that both exercises push me towards some more thoughtful habits long-term. Curious to hear if anyone reading this has run into similar thoughts about their habits, too. 


Jaunty Dame's June Challenge: Finish 3 Projects. I kicked ass.

I participated in Jaunty Dame's June Challenge: Finish 3 Projects. As per usual, I was a little tardy. The 4 projects I suggested had to do with managed undesirable clothing -- 3 block printing projects and one sell-by-mail project for a stash of decent but not-for-me clothing I still had languishing in my hall closet. Here's where I landed.

Block printing 1-3 projects: 

I finished two of them -- the Po-em dress that I loved in style but not in color and the brown cloth napkins I bought for $1 per package, with the thought that I'd practice block printing on them. I already had the block, paint and roller but hadn't yet carved the stamp or done the actual block printing, so this challenge was a nice kick in the butt to get it done. 

They are currently "curing" for a week and then they can be washed in cold water. We'll see then how well the block printing paint holds up. 

I bought the Speedball fabric paint in a bit of a a-duh moment. I feel like it's what everyone uses for this kind of thing and it wasn't until after that I thought to check their site for any animal testing policies, which yielded zero information. (Nothing annoys me more than a product site that doesn't include an animal testing policy in their FAQs.) I did find this site, which states that this line of Speedball paints is vegan. But I also submitted an inquiry directly to Speedball re their animal testing policy. {Edited to add that they responded in just a few hours with the following: "We do not have any written company policy, but we do not test any of our products on animals."}

Sell-by-mail to Buffalo Exchange:

Kit requested, received! Package sent! It should be arriving at their facility today. We do have resale shops in Brooklyn but a bunch of this was out of season (thought almost the season they're buying for at this point during summer) and I also felt like sending it to one central processing place might up my odds of stuff getting sold. Also, whatever doesn't get purchased by Buffalo ends up in their annual dollar sale, which made me feel like it was more likely to get used versus what would happen if I tried to sell it here and failed (it would go to our textile recycling drop off, which gets sorted for thrift store sale but also so much of that ends up overseas too). A few things were brands they request (Urban Outfitters in the form of Urban Renewal, Zara, Gap, etc.) in addition to some Mata Traders and Free People. 

Next round, I'll try Slowre, as I suspect I'll have some Everlane and in the bunch. I did email Gretchen months ago re some other items I had that I just ended up bringing to Beacon's Closet because I was making a trip anyway -- but next time I'll actually follow up and do the Slowre thing. (Slowre, by the way, is pronounced Slower. I figured I'd save you the eternal grief that I have because I read it as Slow-ree and now that's how I read it in my head every single time. Same with Petit Vour - instead of Petty Vore my brain reads it as Petite Vore. Sue me, I didn't take French class ever in my life.)

We'll see how well the goods do when they land in Buffalo's lap for sorting. But I did manage to get the first three steps done (getting the kit, packing my stuff and dropping it off at a local UPS). It's out of my hands now - and my closet is slightly less cluttered. 

As you can see, they send you a pretty substantial bag to pack up:

This is just 1/3 of the stuff I jammed into that bag. I took photos so I could figure out what might have been sold (if they give you details the way Beacon's Closet does) and what didn't do so hot:


DIY Dry Shampoo: Cheap & Easy

One of the very consistent things in my life is that I will go over budget. There are times I'm better about correcting this than others, and this month is one of those times. I am in overdrive as a Budget Master. (Still over budget a month later - but slightly less so.) This is the month I also ran out of one of my favorite dry shampoos, which was the last of all my backstock of dry shampoo. And I just could not let myself pull the trigger for a $12 small container. But I use dry shampoo all the time. Like, the only meme-type thing I've ever been inspired to create is this:

I remembered that there were some DIY recipes online and since the type I use now is powder anyway (vs spray), I thought it wouldn't hurt to try. After scanning a bunch of tutorials online, I came up with this recipe based on pretty common kitchen supplies I already had on-hand. This version is for lighter hair and works pretty well. When I had dark hair I could not use this type of dry shampoo because it showed up too light and very matte on my dark hair. If you have dark hair, there are some DIY tutorials online that involve cocoa powder if you're interested in trying them out. 

Dry Shampoo Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1/2 tablespoon arrowroot powder
  • 5+ drops of lavender essential oil

Instructions: Put the ingredients in a bowl. Whisk! Fill an appropriate container. Some of the DIY tutorials instruct you to use a makeup brush for application so you can keep it in a wide-top container. I chose to refill a dry shampoo container I already had around. 

I can't begin to estimate how cheap this was because it was a few spoonfuls of cheap kitchen ingredients for all of the mandatory ingredients -- it was definitely not anywhere near $12, and it smells better than the store-bought version I had, too. If I had to guess, this probably cost well under $1 to make.

P.S. -- My previous backstock of dry shampoo was Batiste! I used to love Batiste, as it was a light spray, it was marked vegan and it was available in local stores. Until I learned Batiste wasn't actually vegan because it wasn't actually cruelty-free as their parent company tests on animals. Also some vegans have received some very strange customer service from Batiste where Batiste is claiming that a) they are Leaping Bunny certified when they aren't and b) it's proprietary info as to whether they're sold in China or not (China requires animal testing for some products).  Batiste is still on the pending list on Logical Harmony's site due to no response after several tries.