Countdown to 2015

MHL NYE thumbnail(A little too late for this post. I wrote it a couple of days ago and intended to post it with the video but I’m still new at filming and editing, and we had a show for which to prepare. Still, I hope you find this relevant. Thank you! And Happy 2015!)

I don’t know if you guys have New Year rituals, but I do. And I say “I” because I made them up. Made them my thing. Every year my family would do the usual NYE things like Noche Buena (where you eat at midnight — or stuff your face, more like), light up fireworks (we were more of a sparkler-kind-of-family), and shake our piggy banks to usher in prosperity. In addition to that, and I don’t know if they were just playing a prank on me and have rolled on the floor laughing in the privacy of their bedroom after I do this every NYE, they made me jump several times at the strike of midnight. Why? They said so I can get taller.

Despite my doubts about the traditional authenticity of that last bit, I still do it now and will do it this year even though I know my chance of gaining a vertical inch is as imaginary as pixie dust. I also continued with the shaking of the piggy bank but with my own twist: I’d go shake it all over the house, making sure I get to every corner — no exceptions. In my head. this will not only let me be prosperous for the whole year, but also drives out the stale energy in the house. We eat well at midnight (or this year, will start cooking at midnight because we’ll be coming from a gig), then toast to a new year. And then there’s the more challenging task beforehand, a countdown to the new year, to get the house in order and make everything neat and tidy. This was something I formed in my head, that whatever the state of my room (then) and house (now) is in will be a reflection of how it will be for the whole year. Sometimes I don’t actually make it before the new year strikes, but I’ve made the concession of continuing to get the house in order 3 days after NYE. The act of cleaning in the very new year is a good thing, I’ve decided in my rule book mind, and is very much allowed. Ever since I married Bronne, he’s had to let me have my way on NYE. We jump at midnight, make noises with our piggy bank and noisemakers and parade around the house to be rid of stagnant vibes. Then we eat and make a toast, the rare times we drink wine together. I am a lucky lady to have a husband that goes along with my made-up rituals.

So, 2 days before NYE, my house is a mess. Stuff everywhere. Clothes on the floor. Boxes. Laundry baskets filled to the brim. There is much work to do and not a lot of time. What a daunting task I’ve imposed upon myself! But it’s real to me, these rules. The ritual, though made up, has been made alive by my belief and trust in it. And, if there’s one thing I know to be true, the things we believe, and not imposed by others, are the ones that become real to us.

So here’s the video I made with Bronne and our band mascot, Joyful. It includes outtakes and bloopers. We learned a lot from doing it, argued, made a mess, cleaned, and had so much FUN! I hope you enjoy!

 

 

Getting it Right

It may be a trite but I’m going start the new year with resolutions. A new beginning! –> It’s a cliché but I really want one.

To help bolster my resolve as 2015 ushers in, I created my first vlog and uploaded it on my new YouTube channel to illustrate the sorry state I am in and how I’d like to rise above it. I had been planning to make one for some time now but got bogged down by how it should be produced. But, the other night, I couldn’t sleep and I just got the urge to leave my sleeping husband in bed, sneak into my wardrobe room and record myself and a couple of dresses on King Pig, my phone/camera. So it’s not the best quality in terms of video and audio, but it’s pretty authentic and true. I know it’s sincere when I’m embarrassed at the sight and sound of me.

So, 2015 is still a few days yet, but I’m clearing the path so I can forge ahead with my journey to a better health, body, and spirit.

Outfit of the Day: Peplumed and Booted in Black

We had a very satisfying day, the highlight of which was performing at an open mic of 20 talented songwriters in Duluth, Georgia (see Eddie Owen Presents).  It was a freakishly cold day and that meant only one thing — time to awaken the sleeping jackets!

OK. . . I look like a duck. Quack.

This jacket was a thrift store find. I bought it for 3 reasons: 1) it’s well made, 2) it’s velvet but matte, and 3) it has a peplum.

I love a peplum. I was unaware that it made a comeback recently but I don’t care much for trends. In fact, I love peplumed garments because they remind me of bustles, which will probably never be resurrected.  Sure, Vivienne Westwood made a go at it and they looked smashing on the runway. But I can’t see a modern woman sporting a bustle.  Can you? How would she drive her car without flattening the thing? Just imagine her making a grand entrance to a party with deflated bunched-up fabric against her bum. Sad.

Peplums are like demure bustles. They say, “I want to make your butt look bigger, but not too much, OK? Heehee!” Why exactly this excites me, I can’t say.  It sure does amuse me.  Maybe it’s because I like a little humor in what I wear.

I confess: I’m a little knock-kneed.

A view from the top!

And here are my vintage Dr. Martens 20-eye lace boots. I got them for a steal at Ebay from a very nice seller. They are unique because they don’t have the trademark yellow stitching DMs usually have.

Haha, I say that now but, to be honest, after I bid on them, I started sweating bullets when I noticed too late the lack of yellow along the sides.  “Fake”, my brain whispered.  Maybe . . .  Then Bronne pointed out another disturbing thing: the soles are not the usual transparent DM soles with the ridges.  “FAKE!!!”, my brain screamed.  As the end of bidding neared, I stared at my laptop and willed someone to bid even just a mere 50 cents higher than me.  But, alas, I won. And the evil shoe gods laughed with glee.

Then I did a little googling. OK, a lot of it. I learned that DM does produce non-yellow-stitched boots and their soles are not always transparent. In fact, these were Made in England and they have a registered no. on their soles that can be traced and thus proves THEY ARE NOT FAKE. So take that, evil shoe gods. Who’s laughing now, you cruel clog deities!

Anyways, I love these boots. I’m very partial to combat-looking boots. Probably because they remind me of my dad’s army boots. My dad is/was the best man I know and his choices and actions have shaped my life tremendously. He was a proud military officer, but a gentle man. He used to bring us to his barracks when my brother and I were kids and we christened his men, according to their physical appearances, after characters from the comic strip, ‘Beetle Bailey’. I was mesmerized whenever they did their formations. And their marching chants to the rhythm of boots against the ground were music to my ears.

Why I included this photo, I don’t know. I hate my face sometimes. Especially tonight. I thought I looked good but this photo, snickering, proved otherwise. But I’m posting it to memorialize my hair, to show everyone WHY NOT TO CUT YOUR OWN HAIR.

Yes. I cut my own hair. Back in the Philippines, my mom usually cut my hair. When I wanted to get pampered, I would walk to the next street and have our neighbor cut it. She ran a salon from her living room. It smelled of dye and burnt hair from hair dryers. No fancy salon sinks here. Clients bend over to get shampooed from a bathroom-type sink, their crowns often greeted by the faucet jutting out — bonk!  Anyways, my hair loved Nancy-the-friendly-neighborhood-hairdresser.  It thrived after she cut it.

So, because I can’t imagine anyone else cutting my hair here, I started doing it. It’s not so bad NOW. But there was a time I didn’t have my glasses on and I cut my hair. Hahaha. That was 2 months worth of hat-wearing.

And because Bronne wanted to memorialize his outfit, I’m including it here.

Look at him. His eyes are half-closed but he still looks great (grumble!). Guess who cuts his hair? (Evil grin.)

This is Bronne’s signature look: black top and red pants. It took us a long time to find him red jeans and I think we got these at Marshall’s or Ross, two of our very favorite shops. Actually, we call them our treasure haunts.  We go through the racks until we find a treasure and for a bargain, too. I got my first pair of Dr. Martens from a Ross.  Bronne found two very nice Ben Sherman button-downs for a song (“♪♫ Twenty Dollars! Twenty Dollars! ♪♫). Often we leave empty-handed, but that just makes the treasure hunt more exciting each time!

His red-striped Addidas sneakers. I almost typed ‘rubber shoes’ which gives you a clue how ancient I am.

Who am I kidding? I practically revealed it when I mentioned the comic strip, ‘Beetle Bailey’.

Bronne has a collection of belt buckles. This, I think is one of his top three faves. He’s Superman, my husband, and his kryptonite: belt buckles and British-branded shirts!!! This superhero goes weak-kneed at the sight of a unique buckle or a Ben Sherman shirt. On sale, of course.

And lastly,

Bronne sandwiched between red pillows, having a conversation with Ladybug. He’s telling her about our open mic experience, which was pretty good. But, boy, were we tired tonight.

I wanted to be in this photo but Katie refused to take our picture. What a diva.

Shoe-crazy

I confess that I’ve recently gone shoe-crazy.  I bought several pairs online within this month alone. So ashamed am I of my spending spree that I’ve yet to tell Bronne how many pairs I’ve bought exactly. Just now I took a pause to count them all.  I cringe.

But here I am, all covered in shame-induced goose pimples, blogging about my new shoes — several of which I’ve yet to receive.  Despite my shame I knew that, once USPS and FedEX came to drop my purchases off at my doorstep, I’d be too thrilled to feel remorse.  Only today I received a very big box containing my thigh-high boots. Bronne remarked how beautiful I looked as I beamed happily when he handed me my package. That made me feel a little guilty.

I can justify my recent footwear frenzy with two reasons: First, an important upcoming birthday. More than any occasion, I’ve always treated myself when I’ve a birthday coming up. Second, I wanted to reward myself for having lost weight recently — YAY!!! Still, treating and rewarding oneself is a far cry from my shoe-shopping extravaganza.

I used to distrust online shops. I believed that most of them aren’t legit or are just out to dupe you of more money when you’re about to check out.  But, about 2 months ago, I bought 2 pairs of Doc Martens at the outlet shop, mjrsales.com. I got them for way less than half the price because they were both “New with Defects“.  What defects, you may ask? Both pairs had the word “sample” written on their soles. Because I don’t walk around exposing the soles of my shoes to people, I was fine with it.  So happy was I with my new purchases that I allowed myself to venture to another online shop . . . then another . . .  then another . . .

Though I went shoe-crazy, I shopped only for great deals. There are lots of nice-looking low-priced shoes out there, but not all of them are made well and with choice materials.  I’m not into trends. I buy clothes and shoes that I feel good about and I know will last me years.  So I did my research on shoe labels and read reviews on fit and construction on shoes that I really liked.  Not all of them passed my standards.  When they do, I’d ask myself, “Am I willing to pay this much for this fantastic pair of  footwear fabulousness?” Often, the answer was no. But, guilty me, a few times the answer was OMIGOD–YES!!!

An example of a “OMIGOD–YES!!!!” moment would be when I saw this pair here:

The Messeca Coraline Pink Tie-Dye Wedge

I love shoes that are either quirky/fun or dark/deadly.  The Messeca Coraline in Pink Tie-Dye falls into the first category and I saw myself enjoying many Springs and Summers wearing them.  I know they were the IN shape  two years ago and now lower-priced copies abound online.  I don’t know how original Messeca‘s design is.  My only concern was how stable and easy-to-wear they were. I wouldn’t want to be strutting around in my quirky and fun wedges only to wobble clumsily to the floor. That would be no fun. But I chose to believe the reviews that said they were pretty comfy and stable, and I bought them.

Comparing different shops, the Messeca Coraline’s original price ranges from a jaw-dropping $350 to a still head-shaking $170.  But, after some googling and coupon hunting, I got them from karmaloop.com for — wait for it — $27.16, including shipping!  They’re still for sale, too, so if you like ’em, go to this page and see if they have your size!

I didn’t have to wait long because Karmaloop.com sent me my wedges in two days! Here are some (phone) pics.

The tie-dye uppers are made of real leather and the heel is made from light wood, not plastic which I  hate.  The suede-like foot bed keep your bare or socked feet from sliding forward as you walk.  And the soles are rubber and keeps  klutzes like me from slipping!

POSITIVES: They’re quite comfy and, if you’re used to walking in heels, easy to walk in. NEGATIVES: They wobble a bit on uneven ground and walking downhill can be a challenge — not unusual for wedges, though.

The Messeca Coraline Wedges are high but the hidden platform makes the height manageable.

I’m not a pink-loving girl but I love these shoes PRECISELY because they’re tie-dyed pink.  Bronne felt iffy about the color and we both agreed that a darker color would probably fit my mostly-black wardrobe better.  Then today — what a coincidence! — I chanced upon another pair of Messeca Coralines at ashburyskies.com:

The Messeca Coraline Multi-Metallic

They were on sale from $169.95 to $59! But despite my footwear-frenzy, my frugal self surfaced. I knew I wasn’t going to part with almost $60 for this pair, especially after paying less than half of that for the pink tie-dye ones.  So I went coupon hunting again and found one that takes $20 off any purchase. So I got them for $39, with free shipping, I’m quite happy-ashamed to say.  Hey! They’re still on sale and in 3 colors, too, so click this and find out if the site has your size!

That’s just the tip of my shoe-crazed iceberg, folks. And I’d rather not talk about my other shoes. Yet. 🙂

MHL Project: Spats from Dad’s Old Leather Jacket

A contraction of spatterdashes, spats are a type of footwear accessory covering the instep and ankle. They first came out in the late 19th century from military origins.  They were worn to protect shoes from dust, mud, water, etc.  You’ve probably seen them before but didn’t know what they were called.  I sure didn’t.

Spats and the tropical heat and humidity in the Philippines do not mix.  You’d be a fool to wear long socks — much more if you wear spats.  But here in Georgia, with it’s cold and often windy fall and winter months, they are great for keeping your legs warm.  Also, I like the way they look on my legs. 🙂

My latest project is to make spats from my dad’s old leather jacket.

I wish I had the photo of my dad happily wearing his Wilson’s leather jacket.  He bought it in Hawaii in the 80’s when he was touring the US with a theatre troup.  When he came home to the Philippines, with it’s tropical and humid climate, he never got to wear it again.  It hung in my parent’s closet for a decade.  He took it out once to clean it with mink oil and officially gave it to me.  It was too big for me but my brother didn’t want it.  I cared for it after that, cleaned it the way he showed me.  But I never got to wear it.

Bronne didn’t get to meet my dad but I knew my dad wouldn’t have minded him to have his jacket.  Before he left for Georgia, I showed Bronne the leather jacket and it fit him perfectly.  Plus, Georgia’s winters would assure that it will get worn again.  I was glad that it was going to have new adventures with a new owner three decades later.

It spent two months travelling in a crate with the many things I couldn’t leave behind.  Maybe I didn’t pack it carefully enough (although I thought I did); maybe it was the many years it hung unused in my parent’s jam-packed closet.  Whatever it was, the moment Bronne put my dad’s leather jacket on, the seam along the spine and right arm ripped.

I deliberated on how to mend it, or if it could still be saved.  One thing I was sure of, it won’t get thrown away or donated.  Just thinking about how my dad beamed while wearing it in his Hawaii photo, I knew I had to keep it or, at least, a part of it with me.  Two years after I stored it along with my other future projects, I finally made my mind up to make my own spanking pair of spats.

Here they are:

It entails sewing but it’s not that hard and is inexpensive, too.  Aside from the jacket, I used seam binding, two leather strips, two 8-inch garters, two buttons, needle and thread, some alligator clips, and a pair of scissors.

I prepared a gif slide show to show you how I made it.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask via comment section.

The leather strips I used came from leather pants I thrifted recently.  The garters I used have holes in them for buttoning.  I salvaged them from some old clothes I got from freecycle,but I’m sure you can get it at any craft or fabric store.  I thought mine were black but they turned out to be dark blue and it shows in the photo.  But they helped hold my spats up and kept them from turning round and round while I walked.  I wore them for a whole evening at an art exhibit and they stayed in place like a good doggy.  Plus, they received a couple of nice compliments so they’re very pleased.

I’m planning to turn the rest of the jacket into a leather vest, since I don’t have one (and have always wanted a none-sleazy-looking one).  It’s going to be a challenge because the leather has lost its strength and suppleness.  But I’m going to do it so watch out for that.

I hope this inspires you to upcycle your old stuff, or maybe even to make your very own pair of spats.  Happy upcycling! 🙂

MHL Project: Tip Basket with Foldable Legs!

The ubiquitous tip jar.

Imagine any street or coffeehouse musician and you’d see a tip jar in your mind’s eye.  I, for one, have always felt uncomfortable with it.  First off, Bronne and I have several instruments to set up, cables to plug, and sounds to check before a performance.  The tip jar is a detail we can do without.  Second, and more importantly, I’ve always felt uneasy putting it out which is strange because I’d never feel contempt for any musician who has one.  It isn’t the ‘playing-music-for-money’ part that I dislike.  I think a tip jar could be seen as another means of measuring how one’s gig went. . .

How did we do today?

Oh, we got $10.  Not bad considering there were only 3 people here.  

. . .  and, head count, applause, and compliments, aside, do I really need another means to make myself feel insecure?

But many times in the past when we didn’t bring a tip jar, people would come up to us asking for it.  Some, with their dollar bill on hand, would awkwardly stand in front of us and  place their tip on my keyboard or at my feet.  Some would actually advise us, “You guys should have a tip jar.”  So to prevent any more discomfort or awkwardness for these people who show us their appreciation, we started putting one out.

We’ve been using a small basket we bought from a thrift store for 50 cents.  One of my concerns during set-up is where to put this darn tip basket.  We can’t put it on the floor.  We can put it on a chair but, because we play an 88-key keyboard, bells, and 2 guitars and use 3 mics with mic stands and 2 music stands, we take up space more than the typical duo.  Putting the tip basket on a chair would just create more clutter.

A few months ago, we went to another thrift store and bought half-a-music stand for 79 cents.  We couldn’t find the lyre.  I had the feeling the legs alone would come in handy some day, so we bought it.  And a couple of weeks ago, I thought of putting one and one together to eliminate this tip jar concern from my mind.

All it took was a needle and sturdy twine, glue gun and sticks, a small square cardboard, clear tape, and a chopstick.

I sewed the basket to the legs by hooking the twine around the clip (where one adjusts the height of the stand).  I used the glue gun to keep the twine in place and to make the basket more stable. Finally, I wrote THANK YOU on a small cardboard and covered it with clear tape to keep it from getting dirty.  I cut a slit at the end of the chopstick and slipped the cardboard in.

I know it’s such an easy little project but it sure made a huge difference for our band mascot, Joyful, who’s in charge of the tips.  He seems to really appreciate the tip basket’s handiness and compactness.

Was it Plato who said, “Necessity is the mother of invention”? It’s true in this case.  Design doesn’t have to be complicated and practicality often brings about elegance.