Monday, March 31, 2014

It's deadline week!

So naturally, I'll be a bit quiet around here. And to illustrate why, I'm using the art and words of Hyperbole and a Half's Allie Brosh. (I really hope this doesn't violate copyright or anything, as this is excerpted from Allie's book, which is awesome incidentally; I found the images on Imgur. Allie, if my posting this makes you sad, please let me know and I'll take it down immediately after I stop squealing over the fact that one of my favorite writers/cartoonists contacted me. Also to my readers, that's not an affiliate link to buy the book, it's just a regular link, but I think you should buy it anyway because it is amazing.)

part 1

Around this time I typically give up, telling myself lies like "I work better under pressure anyway" and "This will be really easy to knock out in half the time you were given to write it." (If my editor happens to be reading this, please know that I actually started this one wayyy earlier than I usually do with stories...I may even turn in the first two of my three stories early. So that's good!)

part 2

Here's where I parcel out the work I have remaining and realize I'm going to be dropping absolutely everything for the next several days, or in this case, week.

part 3

I'd also like to point out that in the nearly 10 years I've been writing for print sources and websites, I have yet to actually miss a deadline. So that's good, too.

Disclaimer: None of those drawings are mine. Not one. Please don't think I'm stealing or being otherwise sneaky. If you like that content, buy Allie's book or visit her blog. Because they rock.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Fiscal Fridays: March clothes budget

Well guys, this month was not the prettiest on the clothes budget month. I went over my $100 budget by more than half, but I'm really not beating myself up over it this time. I started the month with the plan of going to Burlington Coat Factory and stocking up on some much-needed winter wear from the clearance rack, and I knew I'd probably go over-budget in getting all of it. But dropping $130+ at Burlington sure beats spending three times that much next winter, when everything's full-price, so in the end it's all good.


1. (BRAND) (WOOL?) dress coat. Because all my coats are ridiculously casual. | $40.
2. (BRAND) synthetic fill winter coat. My down one is starting to wear out, and it fits all wrong; the elastic usually hikes up and exposes my lower back. This one covers my butt AND has a fur-lined hood. Win. | $40.
3. (BRAND) rain coat. This was a bit of an impulse buy, but I didn't have any decent rain gear. This one has a warm partial lining on the inside, and the hood is removable. | $40
4. Infinity ring from Amazon. I bought this teeny little ring to wear as a placeholder for my engagement ring on rock climbing trips. I tend to get anxious when there's nothing on my left ring finger now. It's ridiculous. Anyway, this ring is small enough that it doesn't get in the way when I'm climbing, and I can leave my real ring securely locked away someplace safe. Lately I've been wearing it daily on my right hand. | $11 {exact}
5. Merona chain crossbody bag from Target. I had pinned this as a "future purchase," as I seriously lack in the "fancy purses for fancy situations" category. Then Pinterest emailed me to tell me that the price dropped by half. Needless to say, I snagged it. (Though it later went on sale by another $5. Womp womp.) | $13.50 {exact}

Grand total, with tax and without all the rounding I did above: $153.95. Hey, I'm not complaining.

Thursday, March 27, 2014


So I sign in to Flickr this morning to upload the photos I was gonna post for today, and I see this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 7.23.05 AM

I've put up with the weird and frankly inconvenient formatting changes on the site itself. (What used to take one click to grab the HTML code for each picture now takes four or five. Really?) I managed to avoid the data storage caps. (Though who knows how long I'll be grandfathered in?) And I've put up with intermittent non-Pin-ability for some photos. But this is just annoying the heck out of me. I don't use Yahoo, and that's with good reason. I'm not signing up for a stupid Yahoo account. So congrats Flickr, you're about to lose a customer.

So that said, what photo sharing site do you guys use to host your blog pics? I used to use Imgur, but stopped for some reason a year or two ago. Can't really remember why, to be honest. Space limitations, maybe? Anyway, if you use something else, please let me know!

Ok, rant over. Here's what I really wanted to post about today.




blouse: The Limited via Discount Fashion Warehouse
skinnies: Forever 21
boots: Target
necklace: Express via DFWh
bracelet: Etsy

In other news, it looks like I might finally get to start going outside for outfit photos again soon! Can I get a woop woop? I'm sure y'all are bored to tears of these Ikea curtains. I know I am. (Not in a life sense, just in a blog sense.) I hate talking about weather on the blog, as it just seems like lazy writing, but lately it seems like weather is all I can think about. I need window-opening temperatures! I need shorts-friendly evenings! I need fresh air and sundresses! And while I did edit these photos a little on the cool side (d'oh!), the color of my skin is definitely telling me that I need some sun in my life! Le sigh.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Store spotlight: Marmi

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this post, though I did receive a gift bag with a $50 gift card and a few product samples from other Easton stores as a thank-you for attending the opening event. All views and opinions are my own.


Last post, I mentioned that I attended the grand opening of the new Marmi store at Easton on Friday. If you've never heard of the store, don't worry. I hadn't either, until Amanda of Girl About Columbus reached out on the store's behalf to invite me to the event. And man, am I glad she did!

The store was gorgeous, and the shoes and accessories were all just phenomenal. Take a look:




More often than not, you'll find me talking about budget fashion here on VM. Places like Discount Fashion Warehouse, Target, Old Navy, thrift stores, and so on make frequent appearances around these parts. But I think it's important to have a few high-quality investment pieces in your closet as well, and that's where Marmi comes in. Because girl, those shoes are SERIOUS BUSINESS.



I'd be lying if I said the price tags didn't intimidate me at first. Truth be told, the only item in my closet that cost me more than $100 is a bridesmaid dress from last year. But as I become more thoughtful about my fashion purchases, planning them in advance and avoiding the impulse buy, I find myself more willing to really invest in quality pieces. "These flats are nice, but I don't think I'd make them an investment piece," I thought to myself as I perused what the Marmi store had to offer. And then I tried a pair on.

You guys, I am not exaggerating when I say it was a life-changing experience.

See, Marmi specializes in shoes that fit "uncommon" sizes and shapes of feet. They have widths ranging from narrow/slim to extra wide, and sizes 4 to 13. (Sidenote: Ally, have you shopped here before? They have crazy-cute styles that you might not find anywhere else.) As for me, I have an average width across the balls of my feet, but my heels are pretty narrow. A lot of pumps and even flats tend to slip off the backs of my Achilles tendons. I thought it was just something I'd have to deal with. Turns out, that's a common issue, and Marmi's shoes are designed to address it. The shoes taper, y'all!

And let's talk a minute about arch support. Typically, this is only something you find in ugly "practical" shoes, or with the aid of a shoe insert. Marmi offers a lot of shoes with built-in arch support that give you comfort without sacrificing style. Some even have memory foam-esque material inside! And because the brand focuses on making shoes that you can spend the whole day in, you won't find a single stiletto or ungodly high heel in the store. I swear I felt like I was standing on tiny pillows.


If you're wondering, those shoes up there that I tried on are the Vaneli Sigrid (green in the top-right), Vaneli Sheary (plain black in the bottom-right), Sesto Meucci Acantha (brown in the bottom-right) and Vaneli Chrissie (black w/ buckles in the left and middle-right). It was a true test of my willpower to tear myself away from all four of them, as my March clothes budget was already spent at that point. Somehow, I managed.

Now, the major car repair I mentioned in the last post means my clothes-buying budget is on temporary hold. (And it makes me doubly glad I left the store without blowing some major cash on the shoes I fell in love with.) But as soon as the temporary hold is lifted, you better believe I'm gonna save up some serious dough and invest in some comfortable and timeless heels and flats!

Have you ever been to a Marmi store/tried on their shoes? What did you think?

Monday, March 24, 2014

Butt kicking weekend

If you read that post title in a positive tone (as in, I kicked butt this weekend!) I'm gonna go ahead and stop you right there. Rewind. 'Twas my tush that got tackled.

It started innocently enough. I went to the grand opening of the Marmi store at Easton (more on that later this week, promise) and a little fish-fry dinner that my friend's parents hosted for a bunch of us. Matt and I got home around 10, and I promptly fell asleep on the couch. I didn't think too much of the super-early bedtime, blaming the wine and a long week.

Saturday we got up early to take my car to the garage; a teeny tiny leak in my power steering line had progressed to a full-blown, actual leak, so I figured it was time to stop topping off the power steering fluid every few weeks and just get the hose replaced already. Except it wasn't just the hose anymore. All those months of me "just topping it off" (ugh I know, don't tell me, Procrastination Queen right here) wound up seriously ruining the pressure in my entire power steering system. So now it all needs to be replaced. The whole. Damn. Thing. On top of that, two of my tires had impact bubbles from hitting potholes and were at serious risk of blowing out. They were really old (they came with the car when I bought it four years ago) so I decided to let them replace them as well. Total bill? Upwards of $1,400, all told.

And poof, there went the chairs, armoire and sectional I had been planning to purchase this spring. Not to mention some of my savings on top of that. I honestly can't think about it too much because I just get too pissed off. Our couch really sucks.

(To be fair, I know that this isn't that big of a deal and I should consider myself fortunate that I'm able to swing a surprise bill that high. But our couch really, really sucks.)

The rest of the weekend is a blur of being exhausted/achy/migraine-y, dragging myself to dance rehearsal and the grocery store (with Matt's help, because I still am carless), and falling asleep on the couch half an hour into what was supposed to be a Netflix marathon. The latter happened more than once.

Long story short? My bank account is devastated and I'm probably sick with the mumps, Lime disease from playing in the woods two weekends ago or just some plain ol' flu-type-thing. Psh.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Big feels and clothing woes




sweater/blouse combo: Express via Discount Fashion Warehouse
skinnies: The Limited via DFWh
boots: gifted (but they're from Old Navy)

So this sweater/blouse combo thing is actually one top. The blouse-y bit is a sheer tank top that's sewed to the sweater at the shoulders. It's way cute, and really comfortable, but holy crap is it proving to be a pain. First, it's way sheer in the back, so I have to wear a nude cami under it to avoid showing the world my bra. Or at least, I have to do that if I want to wear this to work. Which I did a few Fridays ago. Second, the fact that the sheer bit is only attached at the shoulders means putting this thing on takes like 10 minutes, between untangling and pulling it over my head and getting my arms in the right places. I feel a bit like a toddler learning to get dressed. Third, it's "hand wash only" and HELLO I can barely bring myself to do regular laundry every week, let alone wash something by hand. I wore this outfit like three weeks ago and this sweater is still sitting in my laundry pile, smirking at me. I think I'm just going to throw it in the wash on the "delicate" cycle (and then air dry it) and hope for the best. Seriously, hand-washing clothes: Ain't nobody got time for that.

And ugh can we talk about how beat up these boots are? I got them for Christmas two (or three?) years ago (thanks, Mom!) and I've worn them at least once or twice a week every fall and winter since. I love them. I'm not ready to let them go. Poll time: Is it worth it to pay someone to re-sole a pair of Old Navy boots that, let's face it, probably cost less than $50 to buy in the first place?

In other news, holy crap it's nearly the end of March and I'm about to be hit with a quintfecta of work-related stress-triggers. Yes, I said quintfecta. It's like a trifecta, only there's five things and none of them have to do with racing. That's how serious this is. It requires the creation of new and weird words. Long story short, I have to put out two newsletters, meet two freelance deadlines and send an email blast in the next two and a half weeks. Sooooo...once again, I may be sporadic around here. I'm getting better at saying no to extra projects, I swear. This is actually my workload after I've said no to one or two things.

P.S. I just looked back over this before posting and there is a LOT of weird emphasis in this post. I guess I just have a lot of big feels today...

Monday, March 17, 2014

Photoshop tutorial: Fixing a dim/noisy photo

Hello all and happy Monday! Did you have a lovely weekend? I suppose I can't really complain about mine, although as always it feels like it was just too short. How's that petition for a four-day workweek coming, amiright?

Anyway, I'm coming at ya today with a Photoshop mini-tutorial of sorts. As I was editing the photos from our bouldering trip last weekend, I came across a few that turned out just horribly. I hadn't taken the time to adjust my settings, and as a result, my subject was completely dark and noisy, while the edges of the photo were in full light. Fortunately, I was able to fix it in about 30 seconds, thanks to the wonderful magic of Photoshop's RAW editor.

Original photo, as viewed in Photoshop RAW.

If you have this same issue, you can easily fix it yourself. You just need the following:

1. A RAW photo file that's too dark. (This won't work on JPGs, folks, which is why you should ALWAYS put your DSLR on RAW mode.)
2. Photoshop CS5 or later with updated RAW plugins.

Before I delve into this, I want to talk a little bit about camera settings and why your photo might be too dark. If you look at the settings in the top-right corner of the screenshot above, you'll notice that I was working with a f/5 aperture and 800 ISO settings. The ISO might be a tad high for outdoor shooting, but given the amount of shade I was dealing with, it isn't the worst mistake in the world. Regardless, if I had even bumped it up to 400, I would have had less issue with noise. My real problem was my shutter speed, which was 1/2500 s. While a fast shutter speed was vital for catching all those action shots, this was a bit too fast for the light level I was dealing with under that rock.

TL;DR: My ISO was too high, which resulted in a grainy (noisy) image, and my shutter speed was too fast, which resulted in a dark (underexposed) image.

So. Here's how I fixed it in post-processing.


First, I adjusted the Exposure slider to lighten the entire image. I then adjusted the Highlights slider down, to fix the glare on the properly-lit folks in the foreground, and the Shadows slider up, to further lighten the background of the image and the climber on the wall.


Next, I zoomed in on the climber to check the grain. The best way to do this is to pick a face or patch of vibrant, solid color (like her clothes), preferably something within the formerly dark area, and zoom in to 100%. See how grainy that is? That's the noise created by my high ISO. Back when I had CS4, I would have just had to deal with this for the most part. But CS5 and CS6 have some truly amazing noise reduction tools, so that's what we're looking at next.


In the Detail tab (the icon that looks like two triangles), you'll find the Noise Reduction sliders. First I bumped the Luminance slider up, then the Color slider. (The Color slider may not be necessary for every image, and to be honest, I'm still figuring it out. Just play around with it to see what works for your image!) I didn't touch the Luminance Detail, Luminance Contrast or Color Detail sliders for now. So now my noise is gone, but the image looks a tad soft/blurry.


Enter the Sharpening sliders! I increased the Amount slider and decreased the Radius slider just a tad, then bumped the Luminance and Luminance Detail sliders up a touch to compensate. (I forgot the arrows on this image. My bad!)


Zoomed out, you can really see the difference in the entire image. Here's the original again, for comparison:


And there you have it! A quick and easy fix for underexposed and/or noisy photos, as well as a little lesson on why you should always shoot in RAW mode, not JPG!

Now, a quick question for you: Did I jump the gun by not providing definitions of RAW/JPG files? Or are you already familiar with the differences between the two? Sound off in the comments and I'll write a little addendum to explain, if it's needed!

Friday, March 14, 2014

I'm waking up

Ah, spring. It's on our doorsteps. I can feel it. Although the temperature rise is almost imperceptible -- it's a two-steps-forward-one-step-back shuffle between 60 degrees and snowing -- it is certainly present. And with that ever so slight rise in temperature, I can feel my blood begin to circulate through my veins again, waking me up from the dormancy of winter. I'm ready for patio happy hours and lazy Saturdays by the pool and rock climbing weekend trip adventures and sunsets at 9 pm and just generally feeling like the couch and Netflix are no longer my best friends.

And, although I really do love the sweater-skinnies-boots combo, it's getting kind of stale. I've worn variations of this outfit at least twice a week this winter, if not more, and I'm ready for skirts and dresses again. For sandals. For short sleeves and short shorts and tank tops!




sweater and skinnies: The Limited via Discount Fashion Warehouse
boots: gifted (Old Navy)

GAH! Spring, y u no here yet??

Seriously though. Highs for the next week and a half, in order: 53, 37, 42, 53, 58, 47, 38, 57, 60. Who am I kidding? I'm in Ohio. This is spring. Excuse me while I go cry until summer.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Travels: Bouldering trip to Stone Fort

So I've been talking about this semi-spur-of-the-moment trip for a week now...which is about how long Matt and I had known about it before we left, haha. Our friends had been planning it for some time, and we kind of hopped on the bandwagon in a moment of spontaneity. All I can say is how thankful I am to have two amazing bosses who don't mind me leaving for a long weekend at the drop of a hat.

(Monday morning) "Hey Angela, can I have this Friday afternoon and next Monday off to go on a climbing trip?"

"Sure, Emma. Have fun!"

Counting. Dem. Blessings.

Anyway. I've already briefly discussed the difference between sport climbing (which is what I've posted photos of here in the past) and bouldering (which you're about to see photos of in a moment). But to re-summarize, bouldering is climbing rocks with no ropes. It's (usually) not as terrifying as it sounds, because the routes are lower to the ground and you always have crash pads and spotters to break your fall. So where a sport route could be anywhere from 30 to 100 feet or more, a bouldering route is usually 10 to 30 feet or so--and those 30-footers are not for the inexperienced.

Being the nerd that I am, I decided to take my DSLR out and get some much-needed practice shooting in Manual for something other than my outfit photos (which, let's face it, are stupid-easy to shoot). Below are some of my favorites, but there are more! Check out my Flickr album, which has something like 150 more photos, or my Instagram, which has iPhone shots of some of the routes I did and some of the damage to my hands (haha), if you want to see more :) (Disclaimer on the Flickr album: It is taking for-ev-er to upload these high-res images, so if you try to click through it on Wednesday afternoon, you might not see much. Sorry for slow internets.)

Stone Fort is a bouldering field next to a golf course on top of a mountain in Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee. That might be one of the coolest/most random sentences I've ever typed on this blog. This picture is taken at the top of the trail head, which leads into the woods on the left there.

Jay climbing Fire Crack Flake (bottom and right) and Spare (top).

Bobby on Spare. This photo actually was horribly over-exposed (it took me a while to remember to check my settings for every new location/angle) and I couldn't fix it in Photoshop. I could, however, make it look like a straight-up advertisement photo. Not bad?


Me on Needless Things (left) and Marcy and Matt on The Wave.

Bobby, Marcy and I on Brian's Brain, aka the bane of my existence. My new summer goal: train and get stronger so I can tackle this stupid problem. I was so close...and everyone else got it.

No idea who that woman is, but she was freaking badass. She climbed Tristar, which is nothing but a crack and teeny finger crimps, like it was nothing. See her audience? Matt, who's a pretty good climber, couldn't get it. On a non-climbing sidenote, this photo got some really cool editing. I think I'm going to use it in a mini editing tutorial on correcting exposure and noise in Photoshop RAW.

Bobby, Jay and Marcy on Graham Crackers, the biggest pile of NOPE I've ever seen. That sketchy mofo was something like 25 feet up, by my guess, and hard. Marcy decided to jump down from about 3/4 of the way up when she realized she might not make it to the top.

Just a cool face in the rock.

One of my favorite shots from the whole trip, mostly because I achieved the exact look I was trying to get. Hooray for figuring camera stuff out!

Sunrise on the lake by our campsite on the second day.

I wish I knew what I did to capture these awesome rays...

Matt working on These Feel Like Your Sister's up top. (I don't know who named that one, but I'm seriously worried for his/her acquaintance's sister.) Bottom is Marcy, Nick and Bobby doing a fun dyno to that jug up top. (Dyno = dynamic move, typically a jump that forces you to catch yourself at the apex. Jug = a nice, big, friendly hold that you can hang on for dayssssss.)

More goofing around with focus.

Matt and Nick working on Swingers. They and Jay worked this problem for something like five or six hours total, and they got reeeeally close to getting it. Something tells me I won't have to twist too many arms to fanangle a return trip :)

Marcy, killing it on the last climb of the trip on the third day. The Swollen Goat--another problem that I don't really understand the name of, haha.

Bottom line: I didn't think I'd be a big fan of bouldering, for some reason. I've never been more happy to be wrong in my whole life. My fingertips are still a little rough/cracked, but I'm already looking forward to our next trip!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Oh, hello there!

Yup, I'm still here. Remember that "upcoming climbing trip" I mentioned last Tuesday? Yeah, it was this past weekend. It was rather spur-of-the-moment and took us out of town from Friday afternoon through Monday night, and it was a bit different from our normal climbing trips in that it focused on bouldering, which is done on lower climbs and without ropes. I can't wait to tell you all about it, but first I have to edit the 200-some pics from the trip! (I brought my DSLR and got some incredible shots as a result. I actually took more than 500 photos, but a lot were repetitive and/or poorly shot, so I was able to narrow them down quite a bit.)

I'm hoping to finish up those photos tonight, but in the meantime, here's an outfit!



sweater and necklace: Express via Discount Fashion Warehouse
slacks: thrifted
flats: Target

This sweater might just be one of my new favorite things. It's a nice olive green with gold studs down the arm (which pair well with these studded-heel flats) and I love it. I'm actually pretty bummed that I got it so late in the year, because now I can only wear it a few times before it gets packed away for the season. We're supposed to get some snow tomorrow (WTF Ohio, it's 65 degrees today!) so it looks like I'll at least get to wear it once more this week or next.

I must have been in a bad mood when I took these pics. Almost none of the shots had a decent facial expression going on! Oh, well. Expect to see this bad boy again around these parts before spring officially thaws the frozen tundra formerly known as Columbus ;)