A New Start. . .

Dear [Your Name Here],
Do you have any clue how much I appreciate you? For taking time out of your busy day to read my thoughts and look at my outfits, I want to say thank you. I also need to let you know that the time has come for me to put the blog on "pause" to pursue other endeavors. What does the future hold? I'm not exactly sure, but I am excited to find out. Goodbye, for now.
XOXO,
Carmen

P.S. I didn't turn off my auto-renew for the domain name, so it's going to be up and running for at least another year. Feel free to enjoy all my older posts!

Caleres Fashion Entrepreneur Competition - Recap

"Hello, Sharks. I'm Carmen, and I'm here seeking $200,000 for a 10% equity stake in my company called. . .uh, my company that does. . .um, My company?"

One Cool Cat

 
Anyone who knows me, knows that if my home is one degree less than 73, I'm "freezing." So, I should love summer, right? Well, I do. . .but not when it's technically supposed to be fall - or winter, for that matter. Purely for fashion purposes, I like cooler weather. Don't get me wrong - it is nice not to worry about a bulky coat. Now that I'm managing 3 wardrobes - mine, Ruby's, and Flora's - fewer layers makes outfit planning a wee bit faster. But when mid-November hit and the highs were still in the 60s, I'd had enough. 

Rock The Bells


Vest: Avalon Exchange; Pants: c/o Tobi; Necklaces: Thrifted; Cropped Turtleneck: Nordstrom; Shoes: Luichiny
I think out of the pants silhouettes, I’ve worn it all: skinny, boyfriend, cropped, low-rise, high-rise, flared, raver huge, gaucho, Capri, palazzo, boot cut (feel free to stop me anytime). Out of all those cuts, my favorite is flared. No, it’s not because they are considered “on trend” right now, although that does make flared jeans much easier to find in mainstream stores. It’s that flared pants have a cool quotient unmatched by any other silhouette. Here’s why.

The Green Door & The Purple Dress

Dress: c/o Tobi; Booties: Luichiny; Purse: Thrifted; Earrings: Claire's
'Outdoorsy' is not typically a word people use to describe me. Sure, I love being outside when the weather is nice (read: at least 70 degrees). Chilling on a sandy beach somewhere is my idea of heaven. But the ‘let’s-go-on-a-5-mile-hike’ type of outdoorsy? Not so much. I haven’t been camping since 6th grade. The tent Brian got a “great deal” on 2 years ago remains in its original packaging. But, I’ve spent more time outdoors since having kids than I probably have in my whole life, except perhaps when I was a kid. And you know what? I love it.

Ooh, Watch Me!

jord frankie 35 watch zebrawood and navy

My husband always laughs that I am “un-saturatable.” He can’t understand how I can watch the same Lifetime movie 10 times - clearly not getting the appeal of watching an obsessed lunatic stalk a likeable-but-clueless target. “We’ve already seen this one,” he says and tries to reach for the remote during a Criminal Minds or SVU marathon. “I know, but it’s so good!” I reply, holding firmly onto the remote and pressing record before I let him change the station. (Yes, I know – I’m awesome.) He is baffled by how I can listen to the same songs I’ve been listening to for the last 20 years (gulp). What can I say? Familiarity is comforting. And music was way better back then.

Fringe Benefits

black fringe Tobi dress
Dress: c/o Tobi; Shoes: Diba True; Choker: Bronx Diba Shoe Outlet
"Who doesn't love fringe?" Heidi Klum asked her fellow judges on a recent episode of Project Runway. I thought about it for a minute, and realized that she's right. There's something about fringe that gives any look a "wow factor." Maybe it's because fringe has such amazing movement - you literally swing from place to place. Perhaps it is fringe's ability to look boho, edgy, or both depending on the outfit. Regardless, fringe is fun. So, when the team at Tobi reached out and invited me to select something from their catalog, a black fringe dress stood out.

Denim on Denim on Denim


denim top, denim skirt, denim shoes
Denim top & Skirt: Thrifted from Avalon Exchange; Heels: Luichiny
There’s something about wearing too much of one thing that I find very appealing. Some matchy-matchy stuff drives me nuts, but when it comes to clothing, I tend to believe that more is more. A leopard vest with leopard shoes? Yep. A butterfly purse to match a butterfly shirt? Duh. Two floral prints at once? Obviously. Heart-shaped glasses and a heart-pattern dress? Is there any other way to wear such an outfit? I mean, if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it.

Smile, This Is Parenthood

Smiley Vest: Avalon; Choker: Hot Topic; Jeans: Forever 21; Off-shoulder Top: H&M; Shoes: Luichiny
It’s 2am, or something like that. You gave up on looking at the clock a long time ago, since it doesn’t really matter. You haven’t slept more than 3 hours at a time in weeks. Your body feels as if it’s been hit by a truck. You head hurts. You’re hungry, but too tired to eat. You want to wear something cute to work the next day, but are too exhausted to plan an outfit. You feel like crying because you can’t see any reprieve in sight. When you’re a parent, there are no “days off.” Not that you especially want one, because you miss your kids like crazy when you’re not with them. What you want is for time to stop, for you to be able to get some real, restorative sleep for as long as necessary, and then to resume your life, with energy to have fun with your family. You start to wonder how much money you would pay someone for sleep. You have a stroke of genius about an idea for a new business: a service that allows you to “buy” sleep. You start practicing your Shark Tank pitch for the sleep-buying company. You start drifting off. . .

Guitar Hero Style

I’ll never forget the summer I was pregnant with Ruby. In addition to getting my blog up and running, my goal was to become an expert Guitar Hero player. I couldn’t believe it when a friend introduced me to the game. It was incredible! Two of my most beloved activities – listening to rock music and playing video games – fused together? Aw, yeah. I loaded up on every Guitar Hero (and its MTV twin, Rock Band) I could find at the used video game stores. (I did my gaming on a PS2. And yes, Guitar Hero had already been out for a several years before I “discovered” it. Don’t judge.)

Pins & Needles Design Competition: #Emerging6 #PNSTL


If you've been on pins and needles waiting for another fashion event to hit St. Louis, you can exhale. The 8th annual Pins and Needles Design Competition hosted by Brainchild Events is coming up on August 11, 2016. It will take place at the brand-spanking-new venue called the Majorette. This year's crop of designers includes the aptly dubbed the Emerging 6: Andrew Clancy (Nashville, TN), Marcel Coleman, Jr. (St. Louis, MO), Richard Cotto (St. Louis, MO), Laila Fattal (Brooklyn, NY), Morgan Mason (St. Louis, MO), and Wiki Wang (St. Louis, MO). One artist will take home a $15,000 prize package to help launch his or her career. I was fortunate to get the backstory on one of the artists, Marcel Coleman, Jr. His road to the competition took a shocking, awful turn, but no doubt helped him create even more incredible work. Read on. . .

Blue Monday: Denim Dress

Dress: Goodwill; Belt: Rue 21; Necklace: Flea Market; Shoes: Diba True
A couple of weeks before baby Flora was born, I went to the Goodwill with my mom to stock up on hospital essentials: comfortable pants, button-up shirts, nightgowns, etc. I had learned from my experience with Ruby that it is infinitely more bearable being in the hospital while wearing one's own clothes. (Not only are the hospital gowns chilly, there is zero cuteness about them - and y'all know how much I value cuteness.) I quickly found what I was looking for at the thrift store, but of course had to do a walk-through to look for post-pregnancy duds.

Jumpsuits: One and Done

forever 21 tribal jumpsuit
Jumpsuit: Forever 21; Choker: Rue 21; Shoes: Just Fab; Purse & Earrings: Thrifted; Shades: Bronx Diba Shoe Outlet
When it comes to jumpsuits, very little can top the one-and-done appeal. After all, you put on a garment equipped with a top and a bottom, and boom - you're dressed. With my new busy-mom-of-two status, anything that can streamline my outfit process (without sacrificing my signature style) is much appreciated. I found this jumpsuit gem during a rare mall trip last winter and the clearance pricetag made it a done deal. Paired with a vintage clutch and black cutout flats, I've worn this jumpsuit anywhere from work to hanging with friends to family outings. Have you found a versatile jumpsuit yet?

Little Black Dress Exhibit: From Mourning To Night

Missouri History Museum Lindell & DeBaliviere in Forest Park, St. Louis MO
(314) 746-4599 www.mohistory.org
So, I've never been a history buff. I doodled, worked on outfit plans, and slept with my eyes open through most history classes in high school and college. (Sorry, professors.) Being focused on the present and future, it was hard to forge a personal connection to the past - rendering the majority of my history classes yawn-inducing.

Stripes & Florals & Babies

The epitome of photobombing!
Hi all, I'm back! To blogging, that is. My brief hiatus was courtesy of the birth of my second little girl, Flora Lucile on May 20. For those of you who are baby-name dorks like me, a little background on her name. We initially found it in a baby book. I loved it instantly, and Brian liked that we could call her "Flo." It made the short list (along with Reese, Claudia, and Rosetta), but what catapulted it to number one was its relative rarity. Only around 100-140 little ladies in the entire United States are given the name Flora each year. Sold. (And the fact that it describes my favorite pattern did not go unnoticed.) In an awesome twist, we learned that her great-aunt also had the moniker. (We had wisely kept the baby name under wraps until the birth.) Lucile is for her great-grandmother. So far, she is living up to her name as a beautiful, unique gal.

Waddle, Baby


"So, when are you due?" a coworker asked me. I get that question a lot now that the baby bump is large and in charge, so I was unfazed. "Just a few more weeks to go," I said with a smile. Most people say such nice or encouraging things once I answer that I was floored by her response. "I figured," she replied matter-of-factly. "I was watching you walk by my desk and thought, 'she's starting to waddle.'"

The Little Black Jumpsuit

Jumpsuit: Bronx Diba Shoe Outlet; Necklace: Rung Boutique; Shoes: Goodwill
All photos c/o Elizabeth Wiseman Photography
You are cordially invited to a private tour and viewing of the Little Black Dress: From Mourning To Night exhibit at the Missouri History Museum. My eyes lit up as I read the details of the event. I had been invited to look at a collection of gorgeous dresses with some of my favorite local bloggers. Um, of course I was going! As I kept reading, I noticed the suggested dress code: "creative cocktail." No problem - until I read further. Each blogger was asked to wear her favorite little black dress. Easy enough and definitely apropos for the viewing. Assuming you're not 32 weeks pregnant. My smile started to fade. . .

Electroforming At Craft Alliance - Week 3

For my final week as an electroforming goddess at Craft Alliance, I had every intention of going out with a bang. The instructor encouraged us to bring in whatever we chose for our last project, and my plan was to metallicize an origami dress or button-down shirt. (That would have been majorly cool, right?) Per usual since I’ve begun juggling full-time work and motherhood and pregnancy, my last minute planning was not conducive to any origami projects. Never fear – I had a Plan B: a mini umbrella, like one you put in a cocktail (or mocktail, as is the case for moi). Here are the before and after pics:
I drilled a tiny hole in the top of the umbrella so I can wear it on a necklace or hang it from somewhere.
When I arrived in class, I learned that my bottle and stork from week 1 were determined to float. This meant that only a portion of the items actually turned to metal. We ran it through the bath again, this time with strategically placed wires to weight them down. Here’s how they turned out. Not bad, huh?

After their first runs in the bath, the pinkish part turned to metal while the brown part did not on the bottle. Only the stork's feet got a good dose of metal.
See how it now looks fully covered? 2nd time was the charm!
This one came out much better the second time, too. Perfect? No. But interesting, conversation starter? Perhaps.
Project #2 was the calla lily hairpin. I was most excited about this one, since it’s not only ready-to-wear, it contains flowers from my bridal bouquet that I’m still obsessed with. (See pics from that day here.) It took several tries and magnifying goggles to coat every nook and cranny with copper paint, but the meticulous work was well worth it:

I would be happy to wear this on a headband or pin.
So, there you have it! It was a blast meeting the other artsy types in the class and seeing their clever projects. (One classmate used the plastic pieces that hold 45’ records. Another woman used tiny animal bones she collected from train tracks!) My future as an electroformer is uncertain, mainly because I don’t have the space for the necessary supplies (nor do I want tiny hands exploring the fun baths and machines). Yet, if I ever have access to a studio, it is a fun way to make unique jewelry and accessories. None of my projects turned out to perfection - as our instructor frequently reminded us, the electroforming process is unpredictable – but that doesn’t lessen the pride or enjoyment I experienced in making them.
Freshly painted projects waiting to go into the electrolyte bath.
Students carefully cleaning off their electroformed pieces.
Do you have any visions you have been wanting to bring to life? Don’t let fears of not being “creative enough” or not having prior experience stop you - get yourself signed up for a class! The folks at Craft Alliance maintain a supportive, down-to-earth environment. Have you ever learned a new artistic skill? How did it go?

Thanks again, Craft Alliance and ALIVE Influencer Network for giving me the tools to develop my delightful new artwork.  

Electroforming at Craft Alliance - Week 2


Craft Alliance is located at 6640 Delmar Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63130; 314-725-1177
Photo credit here
About a half hour before this week’s class began, I went into a mini-panic. I’d raced home to have at least 30 minutes to spend with Ruby, had absolutely no idea which “porous” item to bring in to get electroformed, and was trying desperately to ignore the rumbling in my hungry belly (sorry, baby). I resigned myself to using whatever I could find in our front yard until I saw it: the adorable fake bouquet of calla lilies I bought years ago as part of a display in my office. Would this work? It definitely met my standards of quirky and pretty, but I wasn’t sure it was something that could be properly copperized. I threw it in my backpack, grabbed some cheddar goldfish, and made it to class with about 30 seconds to spare. (Just in case, I picked up a pine cone in the Craft Alliance parking lot.)

The class began with a look at last week’s projects. They looked amazing! We got a brief math lesson on how many amps we needed to course through the rectifier based on how much space our items took up in the bath. The instructor then placed each one carefully in the electrolyte bath, hooked up the necessary wires and anodes, and turned on the machine. My baby bottle and stork decided to float rather than immerse themselves in the bath, but Jen assured me that once the process started, they would start to fall into the bath.

Insects were a popular theme.
Electrolyte bath. Yes, that is a regular cooler. Whatever works, right?
This week, our task was to use something porous, which is a bit more difficult to work with. My creative classmates brought in everything from bones to pasta to dried flowers. I was delighted that my miniature calla lilies were perfect for electroforming, and one classmate had a brilliant idea: why not make a hairpin out of it? I plucked one of the million bobby pins hidden in my hair, attached it to the bouquet, and got to work. We first coated every nook and cranny of our piece with a protective sealant. Once that dried, we put on 2 coats of the copper paint. As you can see, my calla lilies looked pretty frickin’ cool:



How did it turn out after being electroformed? Stay tuned. . .I’ve got one recap left, and I’ll be live tweeting during the final class.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about my rumbling belly, the goldfish didn't cut it. I made a pit stop at White Castle on the way home. I got a veggie burger, so cut me some slack. (It was strange, but decent.) Baby #2 won't get any more White Castle again for several years. Right? We'll go with that. I mean, Pizza Hut is so much healthier anyway.

St. Louis friends, do you want to take a jewelry-making or some other incredibly crafty course? Check out the Craft Alliance web site and stay in the loop by following them on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.


P.S. Thanks, ALIVE Influencer Network and Craft Alliance for helping me realize my jewelry-designer dreams!

Electroforming at Craft Alliance - Week 1

This next series of blog posts will be a trilogy, as I’ve signed up to take a 3-week crash course in Electroforming at Craft Alliance. Electroforming can be described as a process that lets you create metal jewelry elements out of an organic object or keepsake. Cool, right? (I had originally planned to take a class on Wood and Found Objects Jewelry that was cancelled at the last minute. All of the metals classes sounded fun, so finding a replacement wasn't tough.) I had no clue what to expect, but brought a bunch of random trinkets to my first class to see what could be electroformed.
 
I've got baby on the brain for obvious reasons, but this stuff is so adorable! Now, which pieces would make fun jewelry?
The class was small – only about 5 ladies of various ages and experience in jewelry-making. The teacher, Jen Bradford, immediately put everybody at ease with her disarming, quirky personality. She has years of experience in all types of jewelry-making (her earthy, handmade pieces are amazing). Although she described electroforming as “finicky,” she said it’s her favorite medium. If it’s not obvious from the name (which is wasn’t to me – preggo brain, perhaps), electroforming involves electricity. A device called a rectifier converts alternating electric currents. You suspend an object that’s been painted with metal into a “bath” of copper solution. The wires from the rectifier run electric currents through the bath and several hours later, you’ve got a custom piece of metal jewelry. (If this still sounds confusing, I feel you. Simple version? I painted an object with copperizing paint, let it dry, and then had it suspended into the bath. When I come back next week, we’ll retrieve the items from the bath and see how they look all Metallica’d out.)
The white radio-looking box is the rectifier. The cooler will house our  jewelry materials while the rectifier does its thing.
I chose the stork and the baby bottle toys for my first crack at this. I super-glued little rings on top so the toys can be hung from a necklace or earring.
Our pieces are going to look something like these, hopefully,
For the first week, Jen instructed us to use plastic items like toys to electroform. She had some army men and bugs available, but l looked thorugh my trusty trinket bag and decided upon a plastic baby bottle and stork that I found at the Green Shag Market. Assuming it comes out looking halfway decent, both will make very unique and fitting pendants for a necklace. I originally wanted to keep some of the plastic un-copperized, but Jen cautioned that you need an uninterrupted current of electricity for the process to work, so you can’t have a piece that’s un-touched in the middle and then metalicized at the end. Jen also let us know that even if you do everything “right,” electric currents are not always predictable; it’s a true process of trial and error. I’m hopeful that Baby #2 really wants Mommy to rock the baby-themed jewelry, so I can’t wait to see my pieces next week! My goal is to end the class with at least one wearable pendant.
Here's our instructor in the studio.
Lots of machinery in here. A crafty gal could get into lots of trouble here. LOL
Next week, we will be using more “porous” materials, such as dried leaves or flowers. I haven’t decided what I’m bringing in, but a previous student did a piece of lace that looked awesome. Any suggestions for me?

Are you interested in learning about jewelry-making or artistic projects with other mediums like fiber or wood? Visit craftalliance.org to learn more. They have classes that are one afternoon, 3-weeks, or 6-weeks to fit most people’s schedules. You can also follow Craft Alliance on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. If the suspense of how my jewelry turns out is too much for you, I will be live-tweeting during next week’s class (Thursday evening) J.  


P.S. - Thank you, Craft Alliance and ALIVE Influencer Network for making my crafty dreams come true!

Sparkles + Bump

Ruby loves to try on my stuff. Especially the crazy, chunky, waaay-too-big-for-her shoes that have garnered astonished looks from people who can't believe I'm (gasp) wearing high heels while pregnant! The other day, she strutted her stuff in my platform wedges, heart-shaped sunglasses, and silver sparkly cross-body purse. (Trust me - she was rocking those platforms.) My heart swelled with pride. Not just because she is quickly becoming a mini-fashionista in her own way. Because, even though she likes to wear my clothes, she is not afraid to be her own person. She always wants to live life to its fullest and isn't afraid to take risks. Ruby, at the tender age of 2, inspires me.

So, as my pregnancy progresses and my baby bump gets bigger (7 months and counting), I am committed to continuing to live my life to the fullest, too. And that includes sticking with my signature style. Leggings have become my go-to wardrobe staple for 2 reasons: 1. They are comfortable. 2. Leggings fit nicely under my bump. 3. Leggings hug my legs, unlike my "skinny" maternity jeans. That may just be a problem for someone with bird legs like myself, but leggings nonetheless are something every pregnant woman should embrace.

What makes leggings even cooler? Sparkles. Lots and lots of sparkles. Add a rock tee, a kimono, and choker, and me and my bump are ready to roll! 

Kimono: Savers Thrift Store; Tank: Target; Leggings: Thrifted (bebe); Shoes: Just Fab; Choker: Rue 21
My favorite little photobomber crashed the shoot - and added a mega-dose of cute!
"I want picture, Mommy!"
Say "cheese!" The leather jacket was (or technically still is) my mom's from the 70s. Someday, I hope one of my lil' gals will wear it.

Fade To Black

Dress: Forever 21; Tights: Hue; Necklace & Hat: Vintage heirlooms; Choker: Rue 21
I tend to avoid wearing solids, as they inexplicably make me feel plain. Black, however, is exempt from this opinion. Wearing an all-black ensemble has something inherently cool about it that is irresistible. The midnight black shift dress ("non-maternity," I must add - notice the absence of any telltale ruching) provided the perfect incognito-ish look for a tour of the Thaxton Speakeasy. For the finishing touches, I donned my grandmother's 1920s sparkly hat and my trusty Luichiny 1970s-inspired platforms.

The Thaxton Speakeasy, for those of you who have yet to experience it, is described as a modern-day, underground lounge. True to the days of prohibition, the Thaxton is only open to the public on weekends, and a secret password is needed for admission. I was recently treated to a tour of the historic building and a mini-cocktail lesson. (Out of respect for my daughter-to-be, I declined to sample anything, but they looked extremely tasty.) The building has 3 levels prime for unique pictures and private events. (And, any time a bar's owner rocks a zoot suit, you know it's a fun place.)
Thaxton Speakeasy, 1009 Olive St., St. Louis, MO
Photo c/o Judd Demaline
On the upper level, they have a bathtub-turned-bar. Gives a new meaning to "bathtub gin."


Frozen Lunch at Eckert's Farm

What could be better than sleigh ride accompanied by a snowman?
Have you seen the movie Frozen? I've only seen it once and my daughter Ruby has never seen it. Yet, that didn't stop us from having a blast at Eckert's Farm in Belleville, IL for the "Dine With Anna and Elsa" lunch! While my family and I attempted to dine together in the Country Restaurant (with an extremely active 2-year old, that lasted for about, oh, 5 minutes), the two glorious sisters entertained guests with popular songs from the movie. While she sat obediently in her booster seat, Ruby munched on the snowball-like powdered donut holes and the blue ice cream float. She was enchanted by Anna and Elsa's costumes, but after she realized it wasn't a show just for her, she pulled me out of the restaurant into the lobby to play with the multitude of toys. Luckily, we could still hear the music. And the nice workers gave us a box to bring home whatever we were unable to eat.

After lunch, we reluctantly skipped the massive line to take a picture with Anna and Elsa, and instead headed to the Country Store and Garden Center to have a photo shoot with Olaf and Sven. The old-time store was so cute that I wanted to do some shopping, but of course Ruby made a beeline for the impressive toy section. While my husband kindly stood in the reasonably-long line for photos, Ruby and I got a kick out of the small petting zoo. Our photo op with Olaf bordered on disastrous until Ruby's mood inexplicably shifted and she sat in the sleigh long enough for the photographer to snap a pic. (She created such an initial fuss that I was surprised the rest of the people in line didn't clap for us after our photo was done!) 

We saw some kids getting their faces painted which looked fun, but the excitement proved too much for Ruby and we took her home. Despite the mini-meltdowns, the squeals of delight as Ruby saw the animals, princess, and queen assured us that she had a wonderful time. And, despite spending much of it running after her (par for the course with an adventurous daughter), so did we. The entire experience was chock-full of opportunities to make joyful family memories.   

Want to bring your little ones to join in on the fun? Register here. Have you been to Eckert's Farm? What did you think?
My lil' princess.
Blue jello is always a hit.
All photos by Ashley Jewels Kuenstler
P.S. Thank you to Eckert's Farm and the Midwest Influencer Network for sponsoring this post.