Thursday, January 1, 2015

Who the Hell is Zella?

Edited to add
My new blog,, is up and running fully. I will no longer be updating this blog, so please update Bloglovin'/bookmarks/whatever and come visit me there.

It's a new year, and I've got a new blog! Crazy shit, right? Come visit me at my new home, Zella Maybe.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's a whole new year, baby...

In just a couple more days, it will officially be 2015. Exciting, right? Doesn't that sound like a year out of science fiction? Like back in the 60s, they thought we'd have flying cars and children grown in vats by now.
New Year's, of course, is the time when everyone starts thinking about self improvement. It feels like a great time to shed the old, dead skin of the last year, and emerge a radiant new you - sometimes figuratively, sometimes quite literally. Although one day in the middle of winter is much like any other day in the middle of winter, I still think it's useful (or at least fun) to take a chance to make a clean break from bad habits, or resolve, at least for a little while, to create some better ones. Here are my resolutions for 2015.

1) Push my boundaries a little more.
I can be a little complacent. No, that's a lie - I can be really complacent. It's probably my biggest failing in the life, that I never put the effort in to be great when good, or even just ok, will do. On the one hand, it means that I'm not a worrier. The stresses in life don't really get to me, because I've set up my life to be relatively stress free. I don't really want to coast through life anymore, though. This year, I'm going to really push myself, professionally, creatively, and socially. If I want a fulfilling job, I have to go out there and prove to people that I should have it. If I want to publish a short story (or hell, a novel), I have to start with at least finishing a rough draft of something. If I want to make new friends and have a more active social life, I have to go out and meet people in the real world.
These aren't new thoughts, but they're ones that I'm determined to put into practice this year.

2) Save some money.
I've never been great about saving. I have a tendency to feel like any money that I have is there to spend; so long as I don't spend more than what I have, I'm doing ok. Of course, that ignores the reality of living paycheck to paycheck, and I try not to think too much about what would happen if I had a massive, unexpected expense, or got hurt, or lost my job.
It can be hard to resist that siren song of a new dress or pair of shoes, and I am hellaciously good at convincing myself that I should buy things that I want to buy. When you're young and bad with money, people kind of laugh at it. At least when I was in college or had just graduated, I had the excuse that I didn't make enough money to be good with it. I don't really have the excuses of youth or poverty anymore, and it's kind of embarrassing to admit that you can't hold onto a dollar when you've got a good job, reasonable bills, and are edging up near 30. Especially since I'm contributing more towards joint expenses in my house, I really need to buckle down and start setting some money aside for a rainy day. Looking towards the future, Brian and I still want to take that trip to Japan, and someday, we might need a down payment towards a house. Me right now is the same person as me of the future, and me of the future is going to be pretty pissed that I didn't figure any of this shit out when I had the chance.

3) Explore different fashion eras.
While I would describe my style as "vintage/eclectic," a lot of the vintage that I currently own is very much in the 50s/60s New Look mode. I tend to find those styles flattering, and I don't see myself ever leaving them behind. However, lately I've been craving different silhouettes, different styles, and the different attitudes that come with them. I would love to channel the jazzy flapper, the languidly sensual 30s dame, the 60s pop art girl, even the 70s bohemian. This year, I want to make some serious inroads into those different styles. Maybe some of them won't work on my body. Maybe I'll put a new dress on immediately realize that that look just isn't me. Or, maybe, I'll discover a new favorite era or silhouette, and wonder why I didn't give this look a try ages ago. As the saying goes, you never know unless you try.

So that's me. What are your resolutions going into the New Year? 

Friday, December 26, 2014

2014: Outfits in Review

It's the day after Christmas and all through the house, everyone's grumpy and looking for coffee because they might have added a little too much "spirit" to their eggnog.
My Christmas was pretty fun - dinner with my boyfriend's family on Christmas Eve, then board games and booze on Christmas morning. We're actually continuing the festivities this Sunday since his parents have been busy moving house and want to host us out in Indiana, so it's going to be an extended holiday this year.
I did get my Vintage Secret Santa gift in the mail, but I haven't had a chance to take photos yet. It's really fun and cute, and I should have photos up on Instagram pretty soon.
But anyway, I didn't originally intend to do a post like this. I don't really mind when other people do them, but doing them myself feels a bit... silly? Repetitive? Of course, part of that is the personal perspective - I don't remember other people's outfits with the same clarity that I remember my own, so when other people do a retrospective, it just makes me go "oh yeah, that was cute," rather than "yeah yeah, seen it, done it, whatever," which is my reaction when I do it.
Actually, I had another post planned, but that depended on me being able to take outfit photos earlier this week, which of course didn't happen. Pretend you're listening to The Beatles do Yesterday as you gaze upon my year in outfits.
Yesterday, I thought Blossom meets Pretty in Pink was a pretty good look...
Yesterday, I didn't realize that having a light source behind me meant my photos were going to be really dark.
Yesterday, I could still do victory rolls (oh, for those halcyon days!) and hadn't figured out how to do exposed stomach very well.
All my troubles seemed so far away when I was blonde and could do a killer beehive. And look, I was finally figuring out how light works!
I believe my pinup look was a little goofy, but damn. I looked pretty hot, right?
Suddenly, I realized what natural outdoor lighting can do for a photo.
Now I need a place to hide away from narwhals.
Why my hair had to go - well, repeated amateur bleachings didn't really do it any favors. Quelle surprise.
There's a shadow hanging over me... Wait, no, this is bright and sunny and totally cute. I love my Americana dress.
And then there was that one time I looked like a hooker getting the shakedown on Miami Vice.
Yesterday came so suddenly. That's why I look so surprised. Oh, and I learned how to accessorize!
Someone must have said something wrong, because I look so pissed. Could just be my RBF though.
Ok, giving up on the "use the lyrics from Yesterday" for captions, because the song isn't that long and I took a lot of pictures. It was muggy as hell that day and my camera lens got all fogged up. But hey, abs part 2 works way better.
Kissy face!
Doubtful face.
Concerned face.
My face is better than your face.
Staring at the sun face.
Ka-pow! Pants!
Bam! 60s!
Best. Dress. Ever.

So, what have I learned this year?
1. Natural, diffuse light and a windy day make for the best photos.
2. I need to come up with some more poses that don't involve my hands on my hips. I am not, in fact, a little teapot.
3. I change my hair like some (really gross) people change their underpants.
4. Have fun with my style, don't be afraid to experiment, but don't wear a mini unless I've got tights on because otherwise everyone gets a look at my bum.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Tteokbokki - Korean Street Food You Can Make At Home

I love traditional fall and winter foods as much as the next girl - once the weather starts to cool down, I'm all about roasted meats and veggies, slow cooked soups, and more carbs and cheese than you can shake a stick at. Sometimes, though, you just need a palette cleanser, something to shock your taste buds back to life after months of comfort food.
Last week, I mentioned that I have a weakness for Asian junk food. That's accurate, but I also just love Asian food in general. I've never met a cuisine from that continent that I didn't love, and I've tried a lot of them: Indian, Thai, various regional styles of Chinese, Nepalese, Vietnamese, Korean. When I was in New York, I even took a ferry to Staten Island to try Sri Lanken food, and it was totally worth it.
I always felt a little intimidated about actually cooking these dishes for myself. I'm used to thinking of these kinds of food as restaurant food, something that you have to be a specialist to know how to prepare. That's certainly true of some dishes, but if you can get your hands on the ingredients, there are plenty of Asian dishes that are no harder to prepare than a good spaghetti.
Every time I go to the Korean spa, I have to get a plate of tteokbokki (also spelled ddukbokki). Have to. It's a deliciously spicy dish made with chewy Korean rice cakes and a fermented red pepper paste called gochujang, and it tastes like heaven when you've sweated your last three meals out through your pores in the insanely hot King Sauna. I was having a serious craving for it even after I left (probably fueled by the tteokbokki flavored chips I bought), so I actually looked up a recipe. Surprise - if you have access to the ingredients, it's pretty easy to make.
Ttekbokki Recipe via Serious Eats
Serves 4 hungry people
3 Cups Water
3 Tablespoons Gochujang
1 Tablespoon Chili Pepper Flakes
1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce

1 lb. rice cakes (tteok)
5 oz. fish cakes, sliced into triangles
5 oz. napa cabbage (about 1/3 of a head), sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, chopped fine (or to taste)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Combine all ingredients for sauce in a large pan, whisking until gochujang paste is dissolved. Bring to a boil.
Add rice cakes, and reduce heat to medium. Boil, covered, for 7-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until rice cakes are soft.
Add cabbage, fish cakes, and garlic. Reduce heat to a low simmer until sauce beings to thicken, approximately 10-15 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally to keep rice cakes from sticking.
Add sesame oil if desired, and serve.

I made a thing!

See? Wasn't that easy?
If you don't live somewhere where these ingredients are easily available and don't want to order them online, there are a few substitutions you can make. There isn't really anything you can sub in for the gochujang, but if you only want to order one thing, that's easy to get and will last you just this side of forever. Instead of rice cakes, throw in a couple of bricks of ramen, although you'd want to add them after you've simmered the sauce for a while and added the other ingredients. I ate a couple of pieces of the fish cake while I was cooking the dish, and it actually tastes really similar to imitation crab meat. If you sub out both of the main ingredients, obviously the dish will have a very different texture, but the flavor profile should be very similar.
If you are on a restricted diet, it's pretty easy to customize it to suit your needs. Vegetarian or vegan? Use tofu that you've frozen and thawed (it'll give it a denser, chewier texture) instead of the fish cake, and add a little nori to give it some of that fishy flavor. Gluten free? Skip the soy sauce and check the label on your fish cakes to make sure they're ok for you.

Has anyone else ever tried cooking traditional Asian dishes before? What did you think of the process? Would you ever try this dish?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Makeup Tutorial - Christmas Bitch

I feel like holiday beauty ideas can be kind of repetitive. Red lips, gold shadow, cat eye liner, or shimmery brown shadow with rosy cheeks and lips. It's all very pretty, but it tends to blur together after a while. There's wholesome, Norman Rockwell winter beauty, but there's also stark, bleak, frozen tundra winter beauty. I wanted to try something a little more along that vein, something that was still really pretty and wearable, but not your typical look. It's a little Robert Palmer girl, a little goth, and really fun.
 One note that I should make is that I didn't realize how weird the low angle of shots made things look until after I had finished putting on all the makeup. Whoops. I guess that's what test shots are for. I hope things are still pretty clear.
I did this at the end of the day, over the minimal makeup that I was already wearing for the day, but the instructions are pretty much the same as they would be if you were starting with a clean face.
My starting point.
Start, as usual, with foundation. I used a little heavier hand that I normally would, and went it and corrected all the little spots and dots and blotches with concealer. I dusted on a light layer of powder to finish and set. 

My brows were already filled, but I elongated the shape and rounded the arch, giving them a slightly exaggerated appearance. I also still had on the mascara that I'd applied in the morning, a fairly heavy coat on the top and a lighter coat on the bottom.
For the eyes, I started with a base of silver eyeshadow. Using my finger, I applied Maybelline's Color Tattoo in Silver Strike all the way up to my eyebrows. Then, I applied the shimmery charcoal shade from my Pixi palette to my crease with a small brush, blending it upwards towards my brow for a cut crease effect. With liquid liner, I made a straight line under my lower lash line, adding a slight, downward flick at the inner corner. I also tightlined my lower lash line.

I wanted to keep the look pretty frosty, so I skipped blush in favor of highlighter. I used my silver cream shadow (including the leftovers from applying my eyeshadow) to highlight the tops of my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, and my cupid's bow. I also brushed a light bronzer under my cheekbones for some added definition.

For the lips, I was looking for something along the lines of frozen berries. I wanted it to be matte, but not too perfect. I used my OCC Lip Tar duo in red and blue to blend a deep berry color, then blotted it until it was just a stain. I applied it well within my natural lip line, minimizing my lips a little bit. It might sound weird, but I feel like it makes my eyes look bigger.

This is a great look for casting sultry glances over your shoulder - all big eyes and glimmering cheekbones. It might not be your every day style, but I think it could be an awesome look for New Year's.

So what do you guys think? Is this a look that you would be interested in trying out for a night?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

My Chicago Christmas Plan

While I'm terrible about decorating, slow about getting presents for anyone other than myself, and in possession of a rabid dislike of that holiday classic to end all holiday classics, It's A Wonderful Life, I still really enjoy Christmas and Christmas related activities. (How's that for a sentence? I wanted to put in a lot of clauses. Get it? Clauses? I'll see myself out.) While I've lived in Chicago for the better part of 10 years, there's a lot of stuff that my city has to offer that I've never experienced. This year, in the run up to Christmas and New Year's, I'm going to try to work some of them in, and enjoy a new tradition.

Ice Skating in Millennium Park
I actually did this last year for all of about half and hour. I don't have the best balance anyway, so sticking me on sharp metal blades on hard, unforgiving ice was only just short of disastrous. Nevertheless, Brian and I are going to try to make it a tradition, first grabbing a drink at the beautiful Palmer House bar and then heading over to the park for a skate. This year, I'm wearing a petticoat, and possibly some butt pads.

This is right down the street from where I work, so I have no excuse not to go! Ok, yes, it's total kitsch, but that's kind of what Christmas is about, isn't it? They've got lots of crafts and trinkets, as well as food and hot mulled wine, which I've never had and would love to try.

Lincoln Park Zoo Lights Festival
Lincoln Park Zoo is a Chicago institution. It's in Lincoln Park, which is itself pretty scenic, it's close to downtown, and it's free. Every year, they make a beautiful light display, and I've heard from a nearsighted friend that if you have poor vision (which I do), it's a lot of fun to just wander around and enjoy all the shimmering, flickering halos of light.

A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theater
This one might be a little outside of my rather miniscule budget, but my neighbor is Bob Cratchit. No, really! A Christmas Carol has been running at The Goodman Theater in Chicago for the past 37 years, and he's been doing the Cratchit role for the past seven or eight of them. The Goodman is a pretty prestigious theater, and this seems like the sort of Christmas tradition that gets very firmly engrained if you take your kids.

Double Feature at The Music Box
The Music Box is an independent theater, and one of my favorites. They do Rocky Horror every month (although, like most people, I usually only go around Halloween. Sorry, kids), and show tons of second run and independent films. This year, they've got two Christmas-themed double features - White Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life, and Home Alone and Die Hard.
I can't really explain why I hate It's a Wonderful Life so much. It just irritates me. George Bailey's constant freakouts, Clarance's bland platitudes, the little girl with her annoying, piping voice - it all just coalesces into me sitting on a couch rolling my eyes so hard they almost pop out of my head.
I love White Christmas, though, despite the fact that it hinges on the most incompetent eavesdropping  the world has ever seen.

Chocolate Chestnut Pie at Bang Bang Pie Shop
I have heard from numerous friends and loved ones that Bang Bang Pie shop is the place to go in Chicago for pie, biscuits, and candied bacon, and yet I still have to set foot in the place. A serious oversight on my part, and one that I really want to rectify for their seasonal chocolate chestnut pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. 

What are some Christmas traditions in your area? Is there anything that you're particularly looking forward to?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Giving the brownies all their spice

Here's me in a pretty dress. I'll get back to that in a second.
But first - can I just live at the Korean spa?
For those of you who haven't experienced a magical place like this, a Korean spa is more of a health spa than a luxury experience. You walk in, and they give you an over-sized set of what are basically cotton pajamas. There are Roman-style baths (hot, hotter, and ice cold), and a steam sauna, which are gender segregated because everyone's naked for this bit. If I ever have kids, I'm taking them there all the time, because nothing promotes a positive body image like seeing a wide range of normal, naked bodies.
When you're ready, you can slip on your comfy jammies (no shoes or socks - the floors are heated) and head out to the common area, where there are a variety of dry saunas that range in temperature from about 80° all the way up to the Sudatorium, which tops out at 275°. When you leave, you're warm, happy, relaxed, and usually stuffed with Korean food. It's just about my favorite place n the world when it's cold out. You can even stay overnight, like I did, and it's really cheap - only $15-30, depending on if you get a Groupon and how good the deal is.
Just one of the 7 or 8 saunas. They're all supposed to have special properties, although the only one that I remember is that the charcoal room is supposed to purify.  Afterwards, I always go to the big Korean supermarket next door and pick up some treats. I don't eat a lot of junk food, but Asian junk food is kind of my jam. If I can't read the label and there's a picture of some kind of dancing seafood on the front, I'm all over it.
Oh my god so goooooood. Ddukbokki chips.
I also picked up some treats for my face in the form of a bunch of snail extract sheet masks, which already seem to be helping my poor skin. They also gave me some little samples of BB cream, and holy crap is it nice. I will definitely be investing in more Korean skin care products in the future, because it really works.
Korean skin care may or may not involve actually skinning people and wearing their face. I mean, that's one way to get prefect skin.
The other really fun thing that I got to do this weekend was wear the dress that I bought myself for Christmas. I mentioned it here, and when it arrived, it was just as beautiful as I had hoped it would be. It's the kind of dress that reminds me why I love vintage so much - it's really well made and still structurally sound, even at 60 years old. The fit is pretty much impeccable. It's maybe a tiny bit tight in the shoulders, but the waist and bust just fit like a glove. Thank you so much for making my dress dreams come true, Very Vintage!
It's a 50s dress with a dropped waist, so I thought I'd add a little 20s flavor to the styling. I set my hair with sponge rollers, and while the final product was a little wilder than I had originally envisioned, I thought it still added a little bit of flapper to the look.
Ok, maybe a little Bride of Frankenstein, but that's cool too.
It was really warm out this weekend, up near 50°, so I hardly even needed a jacket. I was really happy to have an excuse to wear this beautiful velvet cape again, though.
Another thing that I was really happy to be able to bust out again - these killer leopard heels and my back seam stockings. I figured if I was going to do it up, I was really going to do it up.
Oh, and here's a picture of my in full hair and makeup and my nightgown. I just feel the need to remind you all that I'm actually pretty after the serial killer/sheet mask photo. It doesn't have to put the lotion on its skin! I don't even own a hose!
So, what's your favorite dress (or other item of clothing) that you own? What makes it so perfect to you? I'd love to see some pictures, if they're handy. ;-)