Wednesday, February 11, 2015

stitch fix : box 5, review 1

confession: i've jumped on the bandwagon, both with stitch fix and now with blogging about it. just what the internet needs, right? another stitch fix review. but, i enjoy looking through other bloggers' reviews, so i figured why not?

first, what is it? : stitch fix is a clothing subscription service.  you fill out a style profile, specify what you like and aren't interested in receiving and set budget limits. then, they pair you with a stylist, mail you 5 things as often as you want (i get mine once per month), you pay for what you keep and mail back what you don't want. if you keep everything, they give you a discount.

there's a $20 styling fee that, if you buy something, you can use towards that item. the part i missed when i signed up was this: the styling fee is not a one-time thing. you have to pay it with each box. i don't have an extra $20 just floating around each month to spend on nothing, so this part, especially when i don't like the items in my box for reasons i said upfront i knew (pants length, fit of particular items, patterns), makes it a bit of a struggle sometimes.

i wanted to blog about my experience because i feel like most stitch fix reviewers around the internets are 100%, totally crazy about stitch fix and, well, i'm just not. it's fun to get a box of clothes picked for me, and it really does feel like christmas when i see that fedex delivered my goods. however, i've had mixed success with the items they've sent. 

the point, in part, is to have someone pick things for you that are kind of a stretch- you know, the things you wouldn't tend to gravitate toward in the store or that don't match everything already hanging in your closet. or, if you're me, things that help you look more like a well-dressed adult and less like you're going camping.  however, turns out i'm a little opinionated. with my limited budget and preference for about how things fit, i haven't felt the same magic warm fuzzies as everyone else. maybe these cool lady bloggers report slam dunks because they're less picky and have bigger budgets or something. i don't know for sure.

i like the service enough to keep trying a new box each month, but i haven't reached the point where my boxes aren't joy with also some disappointment mixed in.

anyway. if you sign up with my referral link, i get a small credit towards my fixes (that i would definitely appreciate!) but, this is all paid for with my hard earned dollars, and my opinions are my own. it seems silly to say that, but there it is.

excuse the poor photos, awkward hair, bad lighting and funny backdrop. safe to say i could definitely not pass as a fashion blogger. now, without further adieu: 

number one: pixley paloma dot print back cutout knit top ($54) in black and white.
i thought i'd hate the fit of this the second i saw it coming, given it's pleated at the neck. however, when i tried it on the fit didn't bother me at all because the fabric draped rather nicely. this shirt was soft, comfortable, had cute little details and, tied with my most favorite thing ever (stripes), it had polka dots.
i knew i wouldn't keep this one, though, because of the cut outs on the back/ shoulder blades. don't get me wrong- i love me my yoga muscles. but i stated in my style profile that i want things that are timeless, and while the print of this one fit, the back cut outs definitely did not. if it weren't for both the price and the cut outs, i'd probably have kept it. 
verdict: returned

number two: liverpool colleen straight leg jean ($78) in dark wash.
the denim was soft, the wash was great, the pockets were in the right place. the price, for a pair of designer jeans, seemed fair. the idea that someone could magically find me a pair of jeans that fit from miles and miles away seemed too good to be true. (they sent a pair last month that, if they had been blue and not black, i definitely would have kept.)
which brings me to the fit. i keep leaving feedback that i don't want ankle pants, and my stylist didn't send me those this time around (i've received two pairs in previous fixes), but instead sent petite ones despite my having specified i'm not interested in petite sizes. i'm not sure how it's possible to be 5'2" and not be petite, but i'm not. these pants, with a 28 inch inseam, are case in point. 

(puppy beds to the right. you're welcome.)
if i wore them on my waist where they were supposed to sit, they were about 2-3 inches too short. if i wore them lower, where i like to wear my pants, they were just about long enough but then did this weird baggy thing around the fly and my thighs. (that's at least an inch, maybe two of fabric folded over in the photo below.)
verdict: returned. rise: too high. inseam: too short. please, stitch fix, trust me when i say i am not petite.

number three: 41hawthorn solana colorblock cardigan ($68) in navy and peach.
i thought i'd hate this one when i saw it coming. i gave it a shot and tried it on and to my surprise, the color blocking seemed less awkward than i initially thought. however, it was itchy, dry clean only, the buttons pulled funny, the color blocking didn't line up in the front and, for $68 it was far from perfect.

really, with that color blocking? it looks like a mistake.

number four: desires hampstead sweater ($64) in off white and teal.
this one i really liked. the shoulder seams are a little wide and it was a tad shorter than i'd prefer, but i think i can fix the length with a little blocking. the color is perfect and the buttons on the shoulder are an adorable addition. i pulled the tags off with the intention of keeping it though the price is more than i'd like, but then noticed there was a small hole under the arm. 

i emailed stitch fix customer service to see what they could do and am hopeful because they are so very fantastic. i'm not kidding when i say they are the reason i have stuck with this service despite my disappointment with my earlier boxes. stay tuned.

verdict: keep, but waiting to see about the hole under the sleeve to see if i can exchange it.

last, item number five: la made ida striped dress ($98) in navy and white.
i had visions of wearing this dress to work tomorrow with tall brown boots, a brown belt and a mustard yellow scarf.

i wanted to love it. i really did. out of everything, i was most excited about seeing this on my shipment list. the stripes, the color, even the fabric were spot on. it wasn't too thin, wasn't too clingy or too short. the price was steep, but i specifically requested this item so i can't fault stitch fix for blowing my budget. the big bummer, though, was how weirdly the stripes fit across my bust. i checked with the google to see if maybe there was something that i'd missed about how it fit other people, but nope. i'm the only one.

 i'd have maybe bitten the bullet and bought it if it weren't that the stripe situation made the dress feel dumpy. i tried it with a wider belt to see if that would make a difference, but that made it gather in the back and pull funny across my bum while not fixing at all the situation in the front.
frown face to match the frowning stripes. 

verdict: returned.

so, there you have it. a very non fashionable, not-cool-lady-blogger take on stitch fix.

will i do it again next month? yes. am i a little sad about this box? yes, but in part it's because really all of these things were very close to working, but just didn't quite cut it.

HSTs: a scrap baby quilt

earlier this week i posted about the wedding quilt my mom and i made for my cousin.

as i was trimming my work on my side of that quilt, i decided i wanted to use the small triangle scraps for another project. hubs has a friend from grad school whose wife just had their first baby this morning, and as i had wanted to hand make them (and baby B!) something anyway, it worked out rather well. (plus, i figure they'll miss this post as they're in the hospital and i won't have to feel badly about sharing their quilt with the internet before i share with them.)

i used the first method pictured on this tutorial to make my flying geese, which resulted in quite a bit of fabric waste. i'd have been disappointed in that had i not decided to use the scrap fabrics on a smaller quilt. i spent an afternoon listening to the serial podcast and stitched all the cast-off triangles together, added a grey border because it was rather small without and picked an orangey red for the binding. 

this color scheme is kind of a branching out for me as i tend to stick to the cooler end of the spectrum. i do love how these turned out.

Monday, February 9, 2015

flying geese: a wedding quilt

while growing up, my cousin kim was one of my best friends. born 6 weeks or so apart, our families lived maybe a mile down the road from each other, and we would frequently spend time at one another's houses or with the rest of our 8 cousins at grandma and grandpa's. 

our moms wanted the two of us to be close friends, too. as littles, they even dressed us in complimentary halloween costumes (one year we went as jack and jill) and though i can't say with certainty, i imagine beyond halloween most of the rest of my wardrobe for much of my young life was also handed down from younger-but-slightly-taller kim. i remember being devastated when, after my first day of kindergarten (orientation? registration? it was 25 years ago), i was told that because my parents lived out of district i'd have to instead attend a school 45 minutes in the opposite direction without my cousin. i was so bummed, and not just because the elementary school kimmy got to go to had a sandbox and playground equipment inside the classroom. 

into middle and high school, our friendship continued. we'd go to summer camp the same week, had a handful of friends in common, ate lunch together, learned to play the guitar at the same time. we graduated from high school the same year, walked across the same stage and shook the same hands to get our diplomas. to this day, my cousin kimmy remains one of the kindest, sweetest and most generous people i know.

a few years ago, kim found a guy who she was serious about. they dated (and dated and dated) and, at long last, he asked her to marry him. as husband and i had lived in india the year prior to their wedding and were struggling to put money back into our bank account, we weren't able to make it home to celebrate them on their day. (i'm still sad!) fast forward to one year and three months after their wedding and i finally finished this handmade wedding gift!

i wanted to make a sort of collaborative quilt with my mom for kim and her husband, in part because i loved the idea behind my postal service quilt so much, and partly because our moms did what they could to facilitate our friendship while we were growing up (even now i count them moderately responsible for our friendship!)

i knew that matching fabrics (especially whites) would be tricky across the miles, so mom and i settled on an earthy color scheme and decided to each buy our own, mom taking off white and me bright white for our respective backgrounds. we each made a series of 3x5 inch flying geese in our own fabrics for our side of the quilt. mom's side has neutral khakis, mustardy yellows and earthy browns and mine mostly oranges, greys and reds. i love how it turned out- complimentary but not matching, and modern even as it uses a more traditional quilt design. 
here's mom's side
and here's my side.
and there it is. thanks for your patience, kimmy. i hope you like it. :)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

sadhus and traveling with a backpack

i'm a little paranoid when it comes to trusting airlines to ensure my baggage will arrive at my destination, especially on international flights. upon my arrival i stand, minute after anxious minute, staring at the baggage carousel and dreading the moment the belt stops moving and i am still luggage-less.
since losing my luggage on a direct flight from new delhi to new jersey more than five years ago, i pack as lightly as i can, taking only what fits into a hiking backpack. even before my tragic lost luggage experience, i preferred to take what i could carry on my back instead of dealing with suitcases and rolling bags. (i know it doesn't help my 'perpetual high schooler' image, but have YOU ever tried navigating a wheeley bag through an indian train station?)

the thing is, carrying all your stuff in a backpack means you have to carry all your stuff on your back. when you spend 3 months in india enjoying the company and hospitality of friends, it means your luggage better have expansion options, or you work out, or ideally, both.

on one particular trip, mom and i happened upon a large group of sadhu holy men clad in saffron and dreadlocks on their way to a religious festival. happening upon pilgrims is not unusual in a country as large, diverse and observant of every religion's holidays as india, but i was- and am- particularly fascinated by these babas. the idea that someone could be so completely sold out for their faith that they give up all they have and wander the country in search of god and the significance of life? fascinating.

mom and i sat, probably making small talk, on the train platform waiting for our train to roll in. probably also repeating the calls of the chai and cool drink wallas and the hindi language announcements over the loud speaker. every so often, i'd glance over at the sadhus draped over giant piles of rice sacks and other burlap wrapped parcels, wondering what sorts of things they'd seen throughout the course of their lives. they'd not-so-casually look in our direction often, as is the standard in a culture where staring at foreigners isn't considered rude.

my favorite part of our interaction was not how we seemed as interesting to them as they were to us, but what happened just after. upon hearing our train arrival notice, i stood up and maneuvered my backpack onto my back. several months into this trip, it was already rather heavy. i'd bend a knee, hoist my pack onto my bent leg, turn it so the straps were facing me and put one arm through. then, in a quick motion, i'd stand up straight and slide my other arm through the remaining strap. then came the awkward lean-forward-and-hike-the-pack-up-so-i-can-hike-my-salwar-down move, followed by a buckling of the hip belt and a readjusting of my dupatta/ scarf. by the time i had accomplished this fairly routine task this time, i had amassed quite an audience. it made my day when one sadhu nodded his head at me, and then flexed his biceps and made the sort of huff one would expect from a weight lifter, smiling in my direction in acknowledgement of the absurd feat of strength utter ridiculousness i had just managed.  

Monday, December 22, 2014

christmas: the search for gifts

when we were little, my brother and i were usually not on each other's side about anything.

i remember falling from a tree in elementary school and landing so hard on my back that i couldn't breathe. as i laid on the ground terrified and gasping for air, i managed to ask my brother, who had witnessed the whole thing, to please go get one of our parents. he told me to go get them myself.

this is not to say that i was an angel for a sister, either. at one point in our lives, i had my brother trained when he was asked what was wrong to stop crying, suck in his breath and reply, 'nothing.'

i'm not sure how our parents ensured we made it to adulthood.

we usually managed to put the kandyce v tyler (aka butthead v fungus) feud temporarily to rest around christmas, primarily for the purposes of convincing santa we belonged on the nice list. and by that i mean searching our house for christmas presents when our parents would leave us unattended.

each year, in the week or two before christmas, our parents would inevitably head out together and leave us home for an hour or two. and each year we'd team up and scour the house. one of us would be in charge of heading upstairs to crawl in the cubbies underneath our parents' bed, one of us would search the storage shelves in the basement. if we came up empty, in a christmas miracle we'd work together to pull out the tallest ladder in the garage, set it up and one of us (usually me) would climb into the rafters and see if any gifts had been stashed up there. the one of us left on the ground was charged with keeping watch for the telltale sign of headlights at the end of our driveway. though what we'd have done if our parents had come home while one of us was perched in the upper reaches of our garage, i'm not quite sure.

searching the rafters required a unique skill set involving strength, agility and a particular kind of fearlessness to climb a ladder, throw a leg over, and then hoist oneself up onto the wooden beams and onto the makeshift plywood flooring. my memory of exactly how this works is rather blurry, most likely because remembering how dangerous it was to dangle by one knee ten to fifteen feet over a concrete slab floor seems unnecessary. we never did find gifts in the garage, though with the devil-may-care attitude i've had towards most all of the slightly insane things i've done in my life i deemed it absolutely necessary to leave no stone unturned.

i've gotten much better about not ruining surprises, and hubs and i shared with each other this past week that we even both use the same hiding spot for gifts for each other- the top shelf in our own side of our shared closet. but as i think of heading home for christmas this week i can't help but wonder where my parents have stashed our gifts and if my brother would be game for a little treasure hunting.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

weathering a midwestern winter

growing up on the outskirts of a smallish sized midwestern town, my brother and i and our neighborhood friends often turned to the woods behind our houses for adventure. in the summers, we'd find tall, dead tree trunks or long branches and construct lodgepole pine style teepees and dream of being brave enough to spend the night in them. we'd climb the hunting blind up in a swaying old pine tree and watch the woods for hours. we'd hike out to the pasture of texas longhorn cattle and wonder what it would take to provoke them into a red-cape waving, spanish style bullfight. we even once had a babysitter who would take us out to the clearing in the middle of the woods, crawl around with us in the tall grass and instruct us on how to make a proper crop circle. she promised she'd call it in to the local authorities when we'd finished, but to my knowledge she never followed through.

in the winter, we'd spend inordinate amounts of time exploring. after our fairly regular ice storms, we'd strap on our ice skates and skate through the woods. (i may have never been downhill skiing, but i've been downhill ice skating!) we also invented (or thought we did anyway) an activity we called "monkey jumping." after a particularly sizable lake-effect snowstorm, we'd dress in several layers of bulky winter clothing (the more layers, the better cushioning they afforded), huff it out to the row of pine trees on the edge of the clearing and get to climbing. we'd climb up as far as we could to the thin, pliable branches or trunk near the top and cling to them as they bent downward. if everything went according to plan, the bent tree branches would deliver us into the lower branches of the nearest tree in the line. we'd then climb to the top and repeat. occasionally these pine trees would fail us, a branch would snap or bend too quickly and we'd end up dumped on the ground. not easily deterred, we'd scramble up the nearest tree and try again. the best among us could monkey jump along the entire line of trees without touching the ground.

as children we thought we were creative and resourceful, driven by long, cold winters and our fairly rural location to a unique genius. when recounting this memory to friends recently, i learned that as kids in the greater chicagoland area they too had monkey jumped their way through long winters. the only difference? they called it tree surfing. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

the official wanderlist

wanderlist: a list, by no means exhaustive, which inspires at times crippling wanderlust in list's creator.

this has been a post-in-progress for years now. some of these destinations are more feasible than others, of course, but a girl can dream.

// please leave your input in the comments section. i'm certainly open to suggestions.//


photograph glaciers, preferably from a kayak (zodiac also acceptable.)
see pancake ice for myself.
learn basic rescue techniques.

see patagonia + tierra del fuego.

{vienna, austria at christmas. image here.}
explore a christmas market. drink gluhwein.
visit a wine garden.
photograph the hundertwasserhaus.
go back to saint wolfgang.

hike to the monastery. visit some mountaintop stupas. see what this happiness index (and human rights abuses towards non native bhutanese) business is all about.

visit brussels and bruges. drink some trappist beers.

sit in a hammock on the beach, preferably on one of the cayes.
{tibet. not really part of china, but in china. image here.}
visit tibet.
alpine slide off the great wall.

costa rica:
sit in a hammock on the beach.
ride a horse on the beach.
visit the cloud forest.
see a sloth.

see dubrovnik and the dalmatian coast.

czech republic

{london, england. image here.}
visit london. photograph the typical tourist sites.
meet benedict cumberbatch.
determine the meaning of stonehenge.

cairo:: visit the pyramids, sail on the nile, shop in the khan al-khalili, see some whirling dervishes! smoke hookah in fishawy's.
siwa:: go sandboarding on the great sand sea. spend the night in the desert. learn one phrase in siwan.
bahariya:: visit and photograph the black desert, white desert.

visit the rock churches of lalibela.
explore the omo valley.

faroe islands
{montmartre, paris, france. image here.}
live here.
visit mt. saint-michel.
take hubs to see the eiffel tower.
spend a day reading along the seine.

get better photos of the berlin wall.
eat more currywurst!

santorini + the greek isles.
consume my weight in gyros.
see the cliffs of loggas beach, mykonos and zakynthos.


{westfjords, iceland. image here.}
drive the ring road.
see the northern lights.
explore the national parks.
learn to pronounce one thing in icelandic.
buy an icelandic sweater.

agra:: see the taj mahal, agra fort
darjeeling:: drink some tea in a tea estate! (did this in the nilgiris and it was wonderful!)
punjab:: learn to bhangra!
jammu + kashmir:: photograph the houseboats in shrinigar, trek (or not) in leh, ladakh.
tamil nadu:: take hubs to kodaikanal.
kerala:: backwater sunset boat ride. kathakali performance.
play holi.
visit the deserts and palaces of rajasthan.
experience the kumbh mehla, preferably without dying or being trampled.

see for myself the beautiful, snow dusted mountains hemming in the city of tehran.
determine from experience if every iranian is as beautiful as i suspect them to be.
visit the lotfollah mosque.
{giant's causeway, antrim, ireland. image here.}
drink a guinness in dublin.
stay in a guest house with a thatched roof.
get in a traffic jam of sheep. photograph lots of sheep.
play on the giant's causeway.

stay in the old city in jerusalem and wander the streets. visit the wailing wall and the dome of the rock.
eat some falafel!
take a boat ride on the sea of galilee.
swim in the mediterranean.

eat lots and lots of pizza. drink all the wine.
ride a vespa.
stay in cinque terre.
walk the streets of verona, because i'm a romantic at heart.

{safi, morocco. image here.}
explore the mountains. and the desert.
consume copious amounts of mint tea. and shakshouka.
shop in a souk. photograph some camels and all the doors.
get lost in the medina.

because all i've seen of the whole place looks like a dr seuss book set in the desert.

see the windmills at kinderdijk.
iceskate the canals in winter.
visit friesland and middleburg, just to see where my family is from.
celebrate king's day (formerly queen's day, celebrated on my birthday.)
visit a cheese market.

see the himalayas.
travel to pokhara with just a camera and a backpack of necessities.
visit freak street in kathmandu.
travel to southeastern nepal and see the refugee camps to better understand my refugee friends and their context.
{norwegian fjords. image here, by my friend amanda who gave me the idea to camp these.}
camp the fjords.

experience the beauty of the swat valley.

photograph the wall.
visit bethlehem and see the church of the nativity.
help with the olive harvest.

{cuzco, peru. image here.}
hike the inca trail.
see machu picchu.
photograph some lamas in their natural habitat.

drink port.
explore the mountains of the azores.
seafood seafood seafood.

castles and old city squares. plus, you know. dracula and vampires.

saint basil saint basil saint basil.

isle of islay: scotch. plus lagavulin, laphroaig and bowmore.
the isle of skye.
sheeps and thatched houses.
the lochs and the hills in the mist and the fog.

{alhambra door, andalusia, spain. image here.}

explore southern, moorish spain.
photograph alhambra.
eat tapas.

anywhere in the swedish countryside. basically all of scandinavia looks magical.

eat fondue.

damascus:: shop in the old souk.
visit the krak des chevaliers.

sit on the beach in bora bora.

{istanbul, turkey. image here.}
fly in a hot air balloon over cappadoccia. stay in a cave hotel.
visit the grand bazaar in istanbul and purchase some pottery.
haya sofia, sultanahmet and topkapi palace.

spend a week on the beach in ha long bay.

multiple-country trips:
the hippie trail.
cairo to capetown.

// as i said before, this isn't exhaustive. suggestions? let me have 'em.//
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