My Favorite Planners

Sorry for the quietness around here. We’re finally back at school, and for all the planning I did for THAT, I neglected to do enough planning for here on the blog so I could have some posts scheduled. I knew I wasn’t going to have time this first week to write new content, but I guess I just couldn’t bring myself to actually admit it and plan for it.

My bad.

But we’re back today with the last of the Back to School Week posts! Which is, ironically, about planners!

I’m very picky with my planners. If I don’t like it enough, I simply won’t use it. There have been years where I’ve gone through 5 or 6 in the quest to find something I like enough to keep me organized. And so I’ve gathered here what I have, over the years, narrowed down as the best.

At least for me.

Now, I prefer my agendas to be yearly rather than academic – the academic planners worked for me while I was in high school and college, but as soon as I hit grad school, I feel like the yearly format (Jan-Dec) simply work better for me. I guess I have more to do in the summers now! But all of these options do have an academic option – except the Lilly Pulitzer, which is actually an August-December of the following year format, so works as an academic planner anyway.

Agenda <3

First, we have the Vera Bradley agenda. I used this one a few years ago (in a different pattern of course), and was astounded by how well it held up over the whole year. The pages inside are nice and thick, so I could use my favorite gel pens without worrying about bleeding or transparency, and the set up is great, with weekly/monthly pages that have lots of space to write under each day. That said, they have seemed to have changed these a bit since I used them – mine had a hard cover protecting the spiral binding so that it didn’t get all squished and warped by catching on things in my backpack. So I can’t speak to how well the binding holds up anymore, but based on my experience with the next planner, I wouldn’t be hopeful.

Second, we have a Lilly Pulitzer planner. I used this for about six months last year (again different pattern – I just picked my favorite of the new ones), and I loved the set up. It was pretty similar to the Vera Bradley in almost every way actually… except the stickers it came with were nicer. That said, I was disappointed with the binding. Within a few months of floating around in my backpack the spiral loops ended up all squished and janky. I ended up having to switch out for a new planner over the summer. Now, that said, I’m very hard on my planners, so if you’re someone who keeps theirs in a purse, or, well, isn’t as rough and tumble with their stuff as I am, this is totally a great thing.

Third, we have the one I’m currently using this year, a simple Moleskine. It’s plain, black, and boring, yes. But the setup on the inside is SO GREAT, particularly for me because I keep all my planning together in one thing – blog and personal. This Moleskine doesn’t have a monthly view, but the weekly is pretty fantastic. Why? Because there’s a whole lined page next to each week for notes and other stuff. I use the living daylights out of this feature. Grocery lists, blog post ideas, to do lists, you name it. It’s awesome. It has also held up tremendously well to the beating it gets hanging out in my backpack – the lack of spiral binding is a huge plus. In the end however, I must admit that I’m missing my pretty patterns and colors, which is why I think for next year I’m going to try something new, which I’ve also included in the collage.

The Kate Spade planner seems like it would be the perfect lovechild of the Vera Bradley and the Lilly Pulitzer planners – with a covered binding so that it would hold up better. The only question is going to be if, come December, I feel like spending $40 bucks on a planner is worth it for the visual appeal, or if I should just bite the boring bullet and buy another Moleskine because of how perfect the functionality was.

Do any of you have a perfect planner? What’s your agenda of choice?

It’s Back to School Week!

Welcome to “Back to School” Week here at Magpie! I’m dedicating this week of posts to that amazing and exciting (or dreadful, depending on who you are…) feeling of the ever-approaching first day of school. We’ll kick this week off with a discussion of…

BACKPACKS.

Yes, backpacks. I love them. I’m out of grad school for 4+ years now, and I still haven’t transitioned away from them. They’re just so much more functional, and so much easier on my back than the more adult messenger bags, or having to carry several totes around in addition to a purse. They’re seriously great.

Now, I’ve been using the same backpack for going on 16 years. But as I wrote some of the more in-depth back to school posts for this week, I got to thinking… what would I buy if I had to do it all over again?

Well, luckily it’s not that hard to imagine – to Polyvore I went.

Backpack Love

1) First we have a cute little flowered Jansport. Jansport seems to be the most popular brand around campus, although I can’t speak to the durability since I’ve never owned one. I love the pattern on this one – floral, but without being TOO “My So-Called Life.”

2) Number 2 is a Vera Bradley Campus Backpack in my absolute favorite Vera Bradley pattern ever – Pink Elephants. This is a pattern they discontinued a number of years ago, and when they did, I sort of hopped off the Vera Bradley bandwagon. I have a few non-pink elephant things, but honestly there just hasn’t been a pattern since that I like as much. However, apparently they do still make the Campus Backpack in Pink Elephants, and I have to say I’m tempted. I have used the daylights out of my other Vera Bradleys, and they all still look pretty good for how tough I am on them.

3) I fell in love with this beautiful Kipling backpack, really for the pattern alone. It’s bright, beautiful, and pink without being too super girly. Downside? They only seem to sell this pattern in the UK, so for me buying it would be a bit of a hassle – but all word says Kipling is a very durable brand, so if I was buying a backpack, I feel like it’d probably be worth it.

4) Because I really can’t in all fairness pretend backpack shop without including a Hello Kitty option. Because honestly, for what this very light foldable backpack probably lacks in durability, it would definitely make the top two merely for the pattern. I really do have a problem.

5) Last, but not least, if I was doing it all over again, is the standard L.L. Bean Book Pack. This is actually the backpack I currently have, and I’ve gotta say – based on my experience – this would probably be the smartest choice. I got mine as a Christmas gift in 6th grade from my Aunt, and even after 16 years of super hard use, it still looks pretty much exactly like the picture (after I run it through the washer, anyway). The only thing that’s different is mine is monogrammed, and doesn’t have a headphone hole. And they’re not actually that expensive – the bang for your buck is crazy. I’d definitely purchase this one again if I had to.

Now I’m thinking I may need a new backpack just for variety’s sake…

What would you get if you had to do it all over again?

So Yesterday I Got Contacts

Sunglasses Love

 

My eyes are weird. I’m near-sighted in one eye, far-sighted in the other, have a focusing problem in one, and an astigmatism in the other. My glasses are SUPER expensive as a result, and since losing my vision coverage (turned 26 and aged out of my mom’s super awesome benefits) I have been terrified to go to the eye doctor for fear my prescription changed and I would have to get a new pair of glasses, which in the past have run (WITH insurance help) anywhere from $500 – $700 dollars.

Yuck, right?

However lately I’ve been getting some pretty bad headaches due to spending more time outside than I usually do. I’ve been glasses only basically since I got them in 8th grade. Apparently the focusing problem meant that contacts would cause a bit of an issue for whatever reason, so sunglasses are not something I’ve been able to wear. The cost of my prescription means no prescription lenses, and just taking off my glasses to wear normal sunglasses leaves me blind enough to cause a headache anyway.

So the longer the summer has creeped on, the worse things have gotten. Finally last week as I was driving my grandmother around, I had enough. I was squinting up a storm and had a tension headache already starting at 11 am. It was time to bite the bullet and make an appointment to see if there was something we could do. Way back when, my eye doctor had told me that there was a chance that the focusing problem might improve once I hit my mid-to-late-twenties and officially stopped the major hormone and eye shape fluctuations that come with growing up. And so I called and made an appointment, my fingers crossed that that had happened, and also that my glasses prescription hadn’t changed one iota, because there’s no way I was going to be able to afford new glasses.

Well, I had my appointment yesterday, and miracle of miracles, I got lucky! My focusing problem had indeed gotten better. Is it gone? No, but it’s improved enough so that the lenses moving around on my eye won’t make it worse (or something… idk I was 15 when they explained why it was a problem to me in detail). AND on top of that good news, my glasses are still A-Okay!

WOOOO! No $600 bill to beg my parents for help with!

But anyway, I’ve only had these contacts since yesterday, but already I’m obsessed with the possibilities that stretch out before me. As soon as I left the doctor’s office I ducked into Claire’s and picked up some cheap pairs, and then stopped at my parent’s to round up all the pairs I had accumulated as gifts over the years. I’m officially sunglasses obsessed.

And so as I tend to do when I find a new fashion obsession, I went Polyvore shopping. I apparently love tortoiseshell frames and bright, color pop wayfarers. It’s awesome how much I feel like sunglasses open up my summer wardrobe. Now, the challenge is going to be to find pairs like these ones I found on Polyvore that I can actually afford. Ideally, in a 2 for $6 deal like these pink ones I got at Claire’s.

2014-08-05_01-43-37

They make me feel so sporty!

DIY Adjustable Wire Charm Bracelets

Wire Charm Bracelet header

One of the (non-career related) benefits of teaching college students – adjunct though I may be – is that it helps keep me on top of fashion trends. Some I’ve by far already aged out of (apparently midriff shirts are a thing again?). But others I’m totally still young enough for, and the wire charm bracelets I’ve been seeing everywhere are right up my alley.

Bonus, they are TOTALLY DIYable. Which is great for me, since most of the actual brand name bracelets are hella expensive (for my budget anyway) at about $30 a bangle. That said, the actual bangles (I do own one – Jim bought me one for my birthday!) are made of much higher quality materials, and are far sturdier than my DIY version, so just beware.

I had many of the materials needed beforehand (tools, wire, jump rings, and some charms – many still unopened! Craft supply stashing has its benefits sometimes). After raiding my stash, these bracelets cost me a minimal amount of money. However, if you’re starting from scratch, this project may end up costing as much as one of the original bangles – the pliers you need can run the bill up pretty easily. That said, you’ll be set up to make a whole bunch instead of just one, plus the pliers (at least in my experience) pay for themselves in jewelry repair beyond this project. I can’t tell you how many necklaces and earrings I’ve salvaged and fixed over the years with my set.

Tools

Tools:

  • Flat Nose Jewelry Pliers
  • Round Nose Jewelry Pliers
  • Wire Cutters

(here’s a set of jewelry pliers on amazon that aren’t too pricey)

Supplies

Supplies:

  • Thick Jewelry Wire – I used 16 gauge dead soft wire that I got forever ago at Michael’s (they’re all the same brand – luckily I still had the tag on one coil!)
  • Large-ish Charms to match your wire
  • Jump Rings (or you can make your own out of the wire – I have a whole stash of them, so I didn’t bother.)
  • Small charms for accent purposes – I bought a variety from Michael’s and Hobby Lobby

wire start

First, take your wire, and cut enough to go around your wrist tightly about one and a half times – the circumference of the wire I used means I cut about this much:

cut wire

Next, bend each end like so:

bend ends up

There should be a little more than half an inch for each bend – enough to loop over the wire comfortably. Then, if needed, bend the wire in so the ends overlap by about an inch and a half, like so:

bend wire in

Then, take your round nose pliers and bend one of the little “tails” over the wire above it, trimming off the excess and then using your flat nose pliers to clamp it down so the wire won’t escape, as the following three pictures (hopefully) illustrate:

round nose pliers step one

First Bend

finish first bend

Repeat the process with the second “tail:”

second bend

Once you finish the second bend you’ll have a bangle base that looks like this:

Finished base

From here on out, it’s a breeze. Open up a jump ring…

open charm jump ring

… and attach your main charm to the bangle base between the two wire bends.

charm attached

Then take your little accent charms…

little charms

… and attach them to the main part of the bracelet. And Voila! All done!

bracelet all finished

Each bracelet takes about three minutes once you get the hang of the bends. I had a bunch of charms (I admit I went and bought more, even) and so within 30 minutes I had a whole bunch of bangles! They’re not nearly as nice as the real ones, but I like the fact that I can make them with any charm of my choice, and they’ll certainly do for now. At least until I can actually afford to treat myself to the real ones!

Finished Bracelets on

Enjoy (and don’t mind my pasty pale arm)!

The 12 Beauty Products That Keep My Routine Quick and Simple

12 Beauty Products That Keep My Routine Simple

 

So I certainly do not claim to know what I’m doing when it comes to makeup or skin care, or really anything that’s traditionally “girly.” In fact, most traditional trappings of “girly” tend to just be a major pain in the ass for me – I’m honestly a major tomboy at heart. Give me jeans, a band or university tee, and sneakers over nice clothes any day of the week. That said, as I’ve gotten older I have found myself wanting to, well, not look like I’m still 16. So despite my best efforts, over the years I’ve just kind of had to develop a beauty/makeup routine.

But no matter how long I’ve been using makeup, simplicity is still everything to me – quick, easy, no muss, no fuss is the name of the game. Some mornings I’m lucky if I have 10 minutes to spare before I have to be out the door (and honestly, I end up leaving the house without ANY makeup due to time constraints more often than I’d care to admit), and as a result I noticed that I ended up with a very narrow “core” collection of products that I can apply in a hurry and still end up looking good.

Finding these were all a matter of luck and trial and error, but at this point I’ve narrowed it down to a list of 12 must-haves for me. And even though the internet is awash in amazing beauty tips (most of which are far too complicated and involved to spark my interest), in case there’s anyone out there like me, I figured I’d share

Naked Palettes

1) Urban Decay Naked and Naked 2 Eyeshadow Palettes: I don’t wear eyeshadow often, but when I do, these two palettes are my go to supplies. Neutral colors are my jam – I’ve never really been one for loud eyeshadow (honestly, more from ignorance of how to use it than anything else) and so when my mom decided she didn’t like her original Naked palette and handed it to me, it immediately became the makeup item I use most. Downside? They’re pricey at $54 dollars a pop – I’m lucky I got both of these for free (Naked 2 was a Christmas gift from my Aunt). But they’re eyeshadow, so they last a long long time.

Stila eyeliner

2) Stila Stay All Day Liquid Eyeliner: This little tube was a godsend for a liquid eyeliner dunce like me. It’s constructed so it feels more like a brush marker than any other liquid eyeliner I’ve ever used, which makes it exponentially easier for me to control – it pretty much feels like using a wet pencil. It made winged eyeliner possible for the first time in my life, and I couldn’t be happier about that – I’ve always loved a good cat eye. It is pricey (it is Stila after all), but in this case I think it’s worth it. Bonus: Totally stays put. Even after I’ve accidentally rubbed my eyes after a long day.

Aveeno moisturizer

3) Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Moisturizer: Best moisturizer I’ve found for my acne-prone skin. It’s light, not greasy, but still has enough punch to address my perpetually dry spots on my cheeks and nose. Bonus: contains acne meds so it helps keep my skin from breaking out.

Urban Decay primer

4) Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion: I don’t wear full eye makeup often. Because it’s a rather rare occasion, when I do it’s easy for me to forget that I’m wearing it and totally screw it all up by rubbing my eye or something. So when I do put a bunch of effort into my shadow and liner, you can bet this stuff is going underneath it – it’s by far the best primer I’ve used so far. It won’t protect from a full on eye-rub, but it keeps it all in place through all my stupid accidental touches and scratches; long enough for me to remember, “oh yea, I’m wearing eye makeup and shouldn’t do that.”

hello kitty palette

5) Hello Kitty Noir Eyeshadow and Lip Gloss Palette: My other “go to” palette – this time for colors. Unfortunately this one was a limited edition and is hard to find anymore. This was another christmas gift, bought for me because I have a slight Hello Kitty problem, that ended up not only enabling me to toss huge amounts of old cheap makeup (it was a collaboration with Sephora, and so is good quality shadow) but has made working with color a bit more accessible for me. It includes browns, purples, greens, and blues all in handy color coordinated rows – taking the guesswork out of what to use where. Additionally, while they are colorful, they’re still on the more muted side. It allows me to break out of my little makeup box without going tooooo far for my own comfort. Bonus: The lip glosses are pretty great too!

urban decay eyeliner

6) Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Pencil: I love this eyeliner. It’s a pencil, but still gives you a nice, bold, gel-like line. Fast, easy to use, and stays on super well even without primer. A staple in my super-quick-oh-shit-I’m-going-to-be-late makeup routine. Downside: like most Urban Decay products, it’s pricey at $20 for a full size pencil. But Sephora and Ulta often have little sets of them on sale around the holidays.

full n soft mascara

7) Maybelline Full N’ Soft Mascara: This has been my mascara of choice since I was first allowed to wear it – in fact, this brand was the very first tube of mascara I ever owned. And I still love it. Perfect for everyday use – defines while staying soft and without being too flashy or clumpy. My only complaint is that they stopped making the Black-Brown color and that Very Black is now the only option.

Batiste dry shampoo

8) Batiste Original Dry Shampoo: This stuff was a life saver for me. My hair is thin and straight and limp – and because of that, the “shine” that comes with healthy hair actually translates into looking greasy on me (it’s actually WORSE when it’s freshly washed, believe it or not). This stuff not only mattes up the finish, but adds texture so that I can actually put my hair up. Due to my financial fast, this is a product I’ve relegated to emergency use only – I’ve switched to a DIY version for every day (post coming soon) – but it’s not quite the same.

stickey

9) CND Stickey Base Coat: This, in combo with #10 is what enables me to paint my nails and have them last for more than a day. Lovely stuff.

instadri

10) Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Clearly Quick Top Coat: Part two of my “keep my nails from chipping for more than a day” combo. Thanks to this and the CND, I can actually make a manicure last for the work week. Bonus: SUPER fast drying, but doesn’t cause shrinkage the way Seche Vite can.

lemony flutter

11) Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter: Lovely stuff. I’m not good about keeping up with my hands, and so Lemony Flutter is a god send when things get really bad and everything starts cracking and peeling (gross, right? Nail blogger I am not). I put it on before bed and by the time I wake up in the morning I can see a visible difference. Downside? Again, pricey. But it lasts forever – I’ve had my current tub three years now.

pampers

12) Pampers Sensitive Wipes: I saved this one for last, because I’m sure many of you will find this one bizarre. Because they’re baby wipes. Like, for wiping poop off baby butts. But honest to goodness, these things are the best and most effective makeup removers I have ever used. I had always struggled with makeup removal, particularly eye makeup, and after years of issues had settled on just avoiding makeup as much as possible since the only thing that seemed to work were those super expensive makeup remover wipes (most liquid eye makeup removers irritate my eyes and skin), and buying them for everyday use just wasn’t in my budget. But then I was tipped off to the baby wipes thing by a fellow cast-mate in my college opera as a solution to removing stage makeup (which is basically like trying to remove permanent marker – it’s awful). A few swipes and it’s all gone. It was supposed to be just for heavy stage makeup, but when the opera was over, my skin was clearer and healthier than it had been in years despite having basically been spackled over for the last week, so I just kept using them. A bit of experimenting with brands, and ultimately I settled on these Pampers Sensitive Wipes as the best for make-up removal – just as effective (even on eye makeup!), but gentle and doesn’t dry my skin out when I do use them daily. Bonus: they’re WAY WAY cheaper than the branded “makeup remover wipes” and honestly work better and are less drying.

Any of you fans of these things too? Do you have any recommendations for me?

[disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned above in any way – I’m just a happy customer!]

I Have a Sweater Problem…

All pulled out

…A very big sweater problem. And it’s just a tad out of hand, as you can see.

While I must admit that some things are a little tighter around the middle area than they used to be, I’ve been relatively the same size on top for about a decade now and my taste really hasn’t changed that much. I’ve never been really daring when it comes to trends, so most of the items I go for are pretty classic (or as more than one person has put it “boring”… I like classic better) kinds of styles. As a result, nothing really gets purged unless it shrinks or felts in the dryer.

However, until this new financial situation of mine hit, the buying never stopped. Sweaters ended up stacked and piled three and four deep in the spaces I did have for them, and I still had a horrifying amount left over to shove into storage containers. And as they say, out of sight, out of mind. Every year I end up forgetting what I have and wearing the same 10 sweaters all winter.

And that was okay… when I had the space to store all those sweaters I wore once every few years. I don’t anymore. My closet in this new apartment is literally 1/3 the size of what I’ve had in every other place I’ve lived (that INCLUDES college dorms!), so the massive sweater collection proved to be an even trickier issue to deal with this winter. Basically by January I had resigned myself to the fact that I needed to do a ruthless purge. So as I dragged everything out to put into storage for the spring and summer, I came up with a plan.

worn sweaters

First, I took out every sweater I had here and set them all out on the bed, sorted into two piles: those I had worn this winter, and those I hadn’t. The pile of sweaters I’ve worn can be seen above, the unworn below. From there, I sorted the unworn sweaters and took out any I knew for a fact I wasn’t going to wear again – whether that be because they were from my HS days when I preferred my sweaters to be much tighter than I’m comfortable wearing them now, or because they’re just old, pilly, and clearly on their last leg (arm?).

Even after disposing or donating what I knew I could that moment, I was still left with a sizable unworn pile. But at least now I’m down to a collection that fits into the two underbed boxes I use to store my off-season clothing.

The plan is to do more sorting once I pull them back out next winter. When that happens, I will try on each and every sweater; the ones that don’t fit me at the beginning of winter will surely only get worse as I gain my winter weight, and so those will immediately be donated.

Ideally I’ll be left with a collection that’s been pretty much halved, and then from that point on I need to hold myself to a rule of “one for one” – for every sweater I bring in, one’s gotta go. At least until I have that dream home with the giant walk-in closet…

Sweaters I havent worn

…but I suspect that will always just be a pipe dream.

Are you a sweater junkie like me? If not, what’s your clothing vice?

Getting Gutsy with Emerald Jeans

Yet another Playing with Polyvore Pop Jeans feature – this time with my Emerald Jeans. I bought these last year when Emerald was the Pantone color of the year, and just never really got around to wearing them. After playing around a bit on Polyvore, I feel really silly for neglecting them, because of all my color pop jeans, I feel like these work with color blocking the best! So many outfits I could have worn! I could have actually been on trend for the first time in my life!

Ah, C’est la vie… I guess I’ll just have to rock them this year instead. Better late than never I guess. Although, that may not be the smartest thing to say about fashion… fairly sure I’ll never wear that popcorn shirt again – 2002 can keep those forever as far as I’m concerned.

I’m starting to feel more confident about my sense of style as I put together more of these sets – I’m really hoping it starts showing in my actual wardrobe choices this year. As always, I stuck with pieces that are similar to things I have (yes, I have an emerald and blue purse – though mine’s tartan, not color blocked… what can I say: I have a pretty big purse and shoe problem). I think my favorite is a tie between the blue and green set, and the one with the rabbit sweater (which will be my gift to myself come next paycheck).

What’s your favorite?