Sunday, October 28, 2012

Where in the world is Maggie San Diego?

Where have I been this month? I certainly wasn't hanging out in the blogosphere. This month has been a little cray-cray for several reasons:

1. Weddings-one in NYC and one in State College. Lots of travelling over the weekends. I caught the bouquet in the second wedding, which wasn't a challenge as no one else went for it. After I caught it, I remembered why the bouquet wasn't a prize. Hello, unknown, just as embarrassed man touching my leg! I will never, ever go for that bouquet again. Happily, in the first wedding, I had my own bouquet and I didn't even have to suffer through bad stranger touch to get it!


2. Work-Oh my job, I am so grateful to have you, but sometimes you wear me down. It was the paper grading that did me in this time. I know, I know-I agreed to trekking the mountain of 7th grader papers when I signed up to be an English teacher. This month, however, the mountain tossed down an avalanche and not even a search and rescue doodle with a thermos of hot cocoa could save me. I feel more caught up now. Just in time for the next essay.

To power up for a long day of grading, I like to start with a nice fruit smoothie.

Sitting desk

Now a standing desk, which unfortunately requires some alternate footwear. I am so ashamed. 

3. BIG Financial Decisions-

a. I consolidated my federal student loans through Direct Loan Consolidation. My grace period ends in November, and I wanted to be all ready to go. I also chose the repayment plan that best suits my life/budget/plans. It was a scary process and I am sure that things will go wrong before it is all settled, but I don't want to have 3 different loan holders-Sallie Mae, AES, and FedLoans. To all my recent fellow graduates with terrifying student debt, we should all have a debt free party in 2080.

b. I set up an IRA through my work to start saving for retirement. My company has a financial adviser and he helped me to choose a plan and paycheck deposit amount. If you have not done this, you should really look into it. It doesn't have to be a huge amount every month and it really adds up in the long run if you start early. Suze Orman says that you don't miss what you don't have and to deposit as much as you can in your IRA/401K. I remember listening to this on a Suze Orman tape (what??) when I was younger and it stuck with me. Check with your company to see if they have a financial adviser you can meet/have a phone conversation with. It was not fun (I had stress neck spasms like I did in high school), but I am relieved and proud that I did it.

c. I bought a freaking car. Me. Me! I bought a car! This is a huge deal.

I have no hair color loyalty-darker now.
Since college, I have driven my 1997 Subaru Legacy Outback. That baby and I have been through a lot together: a blizzard in the mountains of West Virgina, roadtrip to the Outerbank Banks and Key West, a move from PA to Miami and back, countless trips from home to college (4 hours each way), up to Boston, through the streets of Harlem, back and forth to grad school and student teaching. Subie has 208,000 miles on her and has become less dependable and more expensive. It seems that this model from 1997-1999 had engine trouble and needs a new head gasket (replaced by my parents), converter (replaced by my parents), and transmission (yet to go). I was planning on buying it from my parents but with the increasing repairs and poor gas mileage, it seemed time for me to get a new vehicle and retire the Subie to the farm (this is legit-I am not putting her down).

So, I went through the car buying process. became my best friend. I realized a deep anxiety around dealers. I am sorry, they stress me out (neck spasms, again). I scanned and I checked NADA and Kelley Blue Book values. I made a list of my high priorities in a car to keep my head on straight when the dealer started talking and things got overwhelming. My criteria included comfort (the Subaru was a little worn out and not too nice for long trips), good gas mileage, dependability, and under 12,000. I found this little baby:


A 2008 Hyundai Elantra with 15,000. I likes it. I likes it a lot. Financing was a pain in the tush, but I got it sorted with the help of a banking fairy godmother (5% was just not acceptable). Warning: Having car dealers and banks pull your credit score actually hurts it! Proceed with caution.

Owning a car and all the associated costs is nerve wracking, but another important "grown up" step. I could not have done it without my fah-jah. My advice to first time car buyers? Get someone who has car buying experience to go with you. They know what questions to ask and when to bargain (turns out that I can barter for trinkets in Chinatown, but not a vehicle). Thanks, Dad!

4. Odds and ends-

A new bed! I picked it out of an IKEA catalog. 


Apple crumble made by moi during the 2nd presidential debate

Perfect petite pan. From ma mom.

Doodle shenanigans

Carving pumpkins with someone special. Mine is the owl.

There are my excuses for the long hiatus from Blogger (oh, and Blogger had some photo uploading problems that kept me away too). I missed cyberspace, and hopefully life won't bowl me over in November and I can post more consistently. Goodness knows that October is going out with a bang...

Stay dry, you all!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Never Have I Ever

wedding bells in the village

Put up three fingers. Put down a finger for each if you have done any of the following:

1. Been the maid of honor in your best friend's wedding.
2. Eaten a macaroon (pistachio).
3. Driven in New York City.

Before this weekend, I would not have put down a single finger. But this time, I would have lost the game, and I am so glad!

beautiful, agonizing heels

I loved the red and gold together.

a lovely little detail

I had a whirlwind of a wonderful weekend in NYC. I got to see so many friends, meet amazing new people, eat fantastic food, get my face done at Tom Ford in Bergdorfs and a blowout at Rita Hazan, cuddle a sweet baby, and generally have a glamorous time.

bon weekend!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where to Thrift

Oh, hello pink Theory chunky pumps. Yes, I will buy you for $4.
After my first blog post about thrifting, I received a question about good thrifting locations. Of course, I am very well-acquainted with the thrift stores in my area and I know their sale days (50% clothes on Wednesdays at the Salvation Army) and which store is best for home-goods, books, clothing, accessories, etc.
How I love bright vintage sheets. My grandmother had some just like this!
Very Wes Anderson wall decoration.
However, my very specific recommendations wouldn't be of much use to those living even 60 miles from my locale. Therefore, I have constructed a list of where to generally look for good thrifting opportunities. I have lived in many different areas in the past 7 or so years, so I have had experience with good and bad thrifting and I have noticed some themes:

1. Urban areas aren't always best. 

You would think that thrifting would be amazing in cities like New York, right? Wrong-o. I would love for someone to correct me on this (give me a store name, street address, and nearby subway stop!), but I have found thrifting in NYC  (Manhattan)  to be horrible. My biggest gripe? The price. Way, way too expensive.

I think I know the reason for this. Hipsters. Do not thrift where cool people thrift. They grab all the good stuff and drive up the prices. I like to thrift in areas where customers are predominantly moms looking for a good deal on kid's clothes and older men and women checking out books and baskets. I saw a hipster at my local, most frequented thrift store-once. I sighed when I spotted him and prayed that he wasn't indicative of a coming influx of straight-leg-jean-wearing-artfully-ruffled-hair-sporting-The XX-listening cool people. Shudder. It was a disaster. He swiped a robin egg blue vintage suitcase that I had my eye on ($2.00!). I was planning on using it for under the sofa quirky storage. He was probably planning on bringing it back from whence he came (probably NYC...probably Brooklyn) and poking people on the subway with its slightly cumbersome angles. I hope I never see him again. I like to be the only person looking out for somewhat wacko vintage finds and I don't want to compete with anyone cooler than me (it is terribly hard not to be cooler than me).

2. Sometimes urban is okay.

Hey, I know I just dissed NYC for thrifting and implied that urban areas are a no-go. However, I want to officially explain an exception. The culture of some cities does not foster hipsters and focuses on the new and the flashy. These cities are more materialistic with an emphasis on of-this-season fashion and style. If you see more than one billboard advertising plastic surgery in a one square mile area (bonus points for if the board shows before and after pics with lots of skin), it is very likely that you are in one of these cities.

Miami, I am looking at you!

I briefly lived in Miami a couple of years ago. I cannot say that I much cared for this city. While I was happy to leave it behind, I get a lump in my throat when I recall the thrifting.
Hipsters don't seem to exist in Miami. I think they might melt in intense sunlight. Therefore, there is not too much competition. Also, there is a large elderly population in South Florida in general, so that adds beautifully to the vintage stock. People in this type of urban setting seem to get rid of a lot of really nice, new, and high-end apparel items. Additionally, you have groups of people not originally from outside the United States that donate even cooler gear (my favorite thrift store in Miami-Dade County broadcast their announcements in Spanish, Creole, and English). I don't know if LA is like this (I often associate Miami with LA, but maybe that is just a side effect of the Kardashians), but if you come across a flashy urban area and you don't notice anyone wearing old-school Ray Bans, throwback kicks, and fabulously worn t-shirts, go look for a thrift store.

Honduran leather boots that I must guard with my life from my sister.
Classy sassy.

3. Rural is meh. 

I like in a relatively rural area. If you go one direction from my house, you reach a small city. If you go another, you get to the deep rural Amish country. I'm talking hitching posts at the grocery store here. I absolutely love the charms of the rural life. It's beautiful, there are neat farms (even one Amish farm that raises camels for infant milk research at a big hospital!), and great produce. However, thrifting in these really rural areas is a real bust.

I think people who work off the land and raise animals tend to keep their clothes until they wear out and do not donate much. When you were a kid, school clothes would become play clothes after you wore them out. I think for people who do more physical activities like animal raising and crop farming, the same process applies: they just turn their nice clothes into work clothes and then wear them until they are ready for the rag bag. This economical and practical policy may benefit the original clothes owner, but it does not make for happy thrifting.

If you want cool shopping when you are in a rural area, go check out farm stands and Amish markets instead. You can get fabulous produce, meats, cheeses, breads, desserts, and soap. Now that's what I call shopping locally!

4. Your best bet are small or mid-size cities. 

For the best thrifting, go check out mid-size or small cities. Large towns can even work, especially if there is a really high-end college or hospital in the area. These places have more supply than rural and less demand than urban. I like to look for the places that are the dumping grounds for "ladies who lunch." You can usually get some lovely conservative items here. I see a lot of Talbots and nice leather shoes. You can also search for the stores that get the most donations from older people to find vintage and retro pieces.

Pretty and on-trend.
I love kids' books!
I always keep an eye out for Pendelton wool. 
Oh my god, Cher! This dress makes me feel quite "clueless."

Whew! That was a long post. Of course, I am joking about my disdain for hipsters. I own throwback Ray Bans, TOMS, and a couple 50/50 Hanes t-shirts, so I cannot cast stones. I just like being the big fish.

When it comes down to it, successful thrifting really depends on consistency. You have to go often and accept the hit or miss nature of the hunt. Thrifting isn't like walking into the Gap. It takes time and patience. You won't always find something that works and it can be really frustrating. But, oh, when you do get that awesome, unique item for a steal, the thrill is totally worth it.