City Lights

It feels like I was just home for Thanksgiving, or at least I just uploaded my pictures from then onto my computer, but my Dad is actually traveling down to Texas this week to celebrate an early Christmas with the Houston branch of the family later this week!  The boyfriend and I bought a little live tree from Kroger that we're hoping to nurse through the hot summer (and protect from cats) so that by next year it'll be a slightly bigger live tree.  In between editing papers and collecting data this week (and caroling with my a cappella group), I'm hoping to sort out most of the rest of my Christmas/ Chanukah shopping/making- I've finished one scarf and I'm planning to get someone on my list a subscription to Whimseybox (it's a craft sample box in a similar vein as Birchbox and a new project from Alicia of Dismount Creative).  That still leaves me with a rather terrifying amount of knitting and sewing for projects that seemed totally doable at the beginning of December and lots of gratitude for the Amazon prime student membership (free shipping is the best, but when it only takes 2 days it's even better), but most of the people on my list and an appropriate gift are starting to come together.  And when all else fails, there's always baked goods wrapped up with a pretty bow.

Since I'm a grad student and make $2/hour, and I have a reasonable amount of patience for crafting, it's mostly been handmade gift guides that have caught my eye this year.  Here's a list of some that I've been looking at for inspiration: (there may be some projects that end up being gifts to myself, plus she links to quite a few other gift guides that for the <insert descriptive here>) (there's even diy gifts for pets included)
And of course, there's Pintrest (that links to my diy board, which isn't all Christmas gifts, but there are a lot of ideas floating around on that site).

(Images above were taken from the Hancock Observatory in Chicago)

eShakti discount and how I occupy myself during seminars

Hey all- remember that dress I wore that I got to review from eShakti?  That dress continues to get wears even though I bought it in the summer and it's now the Houston version of blindingly cold (so 30s to 50s, and I'm fully aware that anyone from the North would laugh at me for saying that.  I would laugh at me for saying that), so I feel pretty comfortable endorsing how much I like and use that dress.  Well, the folks there were kind enough to send me a promo code- CUPCAKE0811- that was created for ya'll to get $20 off when they shop at eShakti, and it's valid till 31st December, 2011.  In the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to let you know that if you use this code, I would get store credits.

On an unrelated note, being a grad student means that I am encouraged to attend many seminars.  Some of these I'm totally jazzed about (like today where the speaker gave a really comprehensive view of drug development in my field of study- and it was a really well done talk).  Sometimes though, the talks that I attend are less relevant to what I'm working on or totally over my head, and I am plagued by the problem of zoning out during seminars (this happens even during talks that I'm excited about and interested in-it's something that I struggle with).  And so my careful notes start drifting towards to-do lists and clothing design ideas and lately, sketches of what I'm wearing.  

I actually managed to get a real-life comparison for the one of the right. You might notice that in real life, I have hands.  And facial features :)

I've actually tried doing some outfit doodles at home now and the bf saw them, asked me about them, and then asked me if I was going to upload them to the blog (which cracked me up, and I thought was really adorable).  Considering how well I'm doing on making time to take pictures and how often I'm in seminar, it might be time to change the format of my outfit posts :)

Outfit: Dress: La Posh Style/ Cardigan, belt, leggings, socks: Target/ Boots: Steve Madden Girl Via Delias

Committed to sparkle motion

Oufit: Sequins: Express/ Skirt: Target/ Jacket: Banana Republic/ Shoes: Target/ Belt: Target/ Earring: Handmade/

I used to be a minimal sequins kind of gal, but fell deeply in like with this shirt over the summer.  The theme for my sister in law's bachelorette party was sequins, so I made the rare decision to buy something specifically for a purpose (which I haven't done since being invited to my first wedding as an adult where I found myself scrambling frantically around the Galleria (mall) to find something that was appropriate and fit well- I'm pretty sure that experience was traumatizing enough to explain why I now have too many dresses for all occasions hanging in my closet).  This shirt is not the sequins that I wore to that party- it was the back-up sequins that I bought along with an insanely fabulous dress that I wasn't sure I had the courage to wear (turns out I did), but I couldn't manage to return the back-up as planned.  Now I'm bound my the rules of my closet to manufacture occasions to wear sequins.  Like Wednesday.  Wednesday can be a holiday now, right?

Friend Friday: Heather goes on about books edition

I know, it's been a long time since I've participated in one of these, but the theme this week is books and reading, and that's one of my great long-lived passions- has been since I first discovered how amazing losing yourself in a good book was.  I was actually scolded as a kid for reading too much (and sometimes walking while reading- which I swear I was actually great at even though I'm a huge klutz).  Now that no one is around to stop me, my bookshelves are stacked dangerously high, and I  almost always have a book in my purse.  There's a lot of text here, so read on if you're okay with me running my mouth about books, but if you want to scroll past it to look at pictures of pretty clothes, it's okay.  We can still be friends.

November is the national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo), and since Katy of Modly Chic and organizer of FBFF (Fashion Beauty Friend Friday) has been working on her next young adult book for the last several months with very little progress it got her thinking...what's everyone reading?

Image via
Top 5 6 books and authors that I feel like I can always come back to:

I tried to narrow it down to 5, but I kept adding things on and not being able to remove things- and I had a hard time picking favorites even within authors, so you're getting more than 5 (and the knowledge that I'm terribly indecisive).   I don't want to overwhelm you any more than this, so I'm cutting myself off, but please feel free to continue the discussion  if you're interested :)  I tried to put them in roughly the order that I read them in, but while some of the earlier books are aimed at a younger audience, they're still books I read and enjoy to this day.

A Wind in the Door and The Arm of the Starfish: Madeline L'Engle
-One of the most influential authors on my life, since I'm pretty sure that A Wind in the Door sparked my fascination with science and The Arm of the Starfish was one of the first things that interested me in Neuroscience (my chosen field of study).  Many of the same themes come up in a lot of her books (science, music, family) that I really appreciate, and I love her style.  Honorable mentions for this author are The Small Rain/ A Severed Wasp, which I didn't read until I was older, and act as beautiful bookends on one character's life (and were written at the beginning and end of MLE's career).

Court/Crown Duel: Sherwood Smith
-This is one of the first books that I remember loving as a kid.  Also, saving up my pennies to buy it at Crown Books (and those went out of business a long time ago).  I've later realized that my early attempts to write the next great novel were almost attempts at fan-fiction, before I even knew what that was.  Strong female lead, political intrigue, and one of those antagonistic romances that are great on paper (but would probably suck in real life).  It was originally published as two hardback books, so I  even wound up buying a second copy (paperback and had both books= way easier to transport).

The Black Swan: Mercedes Lackey
-A revisionist look at one of my favorite ballets (the music for Swan Lake makes me feel alive like almost nothing else).  It's got magic, love, and some sweet outfits, and I love that it turns the traditional story on it's head and the personalities it brings to life.

Hexwood: Diana Wynne Jones
-A little unusual in formatting, but very worth re-reading even after the novelty of the first time through wears off.  This is one of my long-time favorites, and even though I'm probably pretty close to memorizing the book at this point, it's still a comfort read for me that often gets taken on trips.  I'd like to choose honorable mentions for her, since she was a great and a prolific author, but I don't think I can pick.

The Salmon of Doubt: Douglas Adams
-Most well known for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which is hilarious and smart), but for some reason this odd posthumous collection of bits has been what's stuck with me most- first read when I was starting to think more carefully about certain things (like religion), and it really helped thinking through serious things.

Anything by Terry Pratchett, but particularly Small Gods and Night Watch:
-It would be hard for me to not include him on this list, since the bf and I have now amassed an almost complete collection of his Discworld books.  Most of his books are set in an alternate universe (much like our own except completely flat and balanced on four elephants on a turtle flying through space), which means that it falls under the sci-fi/fantasy umbrella, but in addition to being hilarious, these books are some of the smartest discussions of serious issues I've ever read.  Small Gods is probably the best one and Night Watch sticks out as one of my other personal favorites.  Also, the bf loves them, allowing me to live out my lifelong fantasy of reading in bed next to my bf.

The Eyre Affair and Thursday Next books: Jasper Fforde
-Much like Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, this author uses the fantasy/sci-fi genre to make smart commentary, and I actually laughed out loud while reading it.  It also involves more literary jokes than you can shake a stick at and allows the main character to do what I've always wanted to do: literally lose herself in a book.

Enchantment: Orson Scott Card 
-Revisionist (theme, I've got one) Sleeping Beauty.  I love that it pulls from history and Russian folklore influences.  Honorable mention for this author is Ender's Game/Shadow, which were super influential on me when I was younger.

Robin McKinley, particularly Sunshine, but also Spindle's End and Chalice:
-Her books have this magical hold on me, where I feel as though I'm being totally consumed by the book's world while reading through it (more so than even other good authors).  She does a lot of revisionist fairy tale/ mythology type things (which I love), but it's the way she writes and not just the content that puts her here.  It doesn't hurt that Sunshine (along with the TV show Pushing Daises) are among what I cite as influencing my love of baking. 

Neil Gaiman: American Gods
-Dark, gritty, and pulls together a lot of different mythologies- both the gods that we've forgotten and the gods that we've unknowingly set up in modern times.   I'm also a huge fan of Stardust (both book and movie) and Mirrormask (more so the movie than the book).

For what it's worth, I'm currently reading:

The Court of the Air by Stephen Hunt- an odd but mostly engaging read that I don't know how to summarize well (think steampunk mixed with elder gods and human sacrifice).

The Tortall books of Tamora Pierce- I'm not sure if anyone else was enthralled by the world of Alana the female knight, but it come up in conversation with friends over a few drinks, and it made me realize I was totally ready for a re-read (strong female lead! coming of age! fighting and magic!)  Unfortunately I read through them much faster now than I did the first time.

 For more people's thoughts about books, check out today's link-up post on Modly Chic