DIY-ish VHS tape purse



Last week I saw this purse on Forever 21. It was one of those things where something catches your eye and you get excited about it but then you look closely and realize it's not as awesome as you originally thought. I mean, the concept is AMAZING (especially for a rabid movie fan like me!) and the attention to detail is pretty great. I don't know if you can see it in my photos but the bag is embossed with "Be Kind Please Rewind" and "Open this side only" along the top of the purse.

Unfortunately, it says "VHS and Chill" on the label *vomit*

It also has a cheap chain for a strap (actually not the one pictured here. I threw mine in the garbage as soon as I got it -- I hated it THAT MUCH lol -- and just grabbed this one from another bag in order to take the photos.) which is acceptable if I'm just hanging something up in my room for storage or decor but if I want to actually use it and wear it, I never wear bags with chain straps.



Anyway. So I obviously bought the bag anyway. And I thought if anyone out there is as obsessed with novelty bags (esp. movie themed ones!!) as I am, and wants to be able to wear this one without Forever 21's tacky slogan, I better share what I did to my bag :)

You'll need:

This VHS bag from Forever 21
A black shoulder strap (I got mine from amazon here)
Vinyl sticker paper
An inkjet printer
My VHS label template* (download here)

*If you want to make this more personalized, you can take a photo or scan a label from your own VHS collection and print it on the vinyl sticker paper. Just make sure it's sized to approximately 3 1/4" x 2 1/8" to fit over the F21 label.




I scanned the label from one of my old VHS tapes and then in photoshop I wrote in the titles of my favorite movies. I alternated pen styles so it would look like I had recorded on the tape on different days, and I crossed out one title like I had recorded over it. If you don't have photoshop, you can just print out my label template and then write directly on the label in sharpie.

Attach your strap, cut out the label (I did slightly rounded corners when I cut it out to mimic an old VHS label) and attach the label to the bag. Since it's vinyl it'll be more weather resistant than a regular paper label and it should hold up to wear-and-tear if you use the bag.

I'm so excited about this bag now! I can't wait to wear it to the movies!



March photo challenge prompts!



It's time for another month of photo challenge prompts! I'm most excited about doing #27 in March. I might want to do a little IG story video to go with it too!

Even if you haven't participated yet this year, feel free to jump in for March! :) Just tag your photos #brilliantphotoaday so everyone can see them! It's so fun to browse the hashtag, especially on days when the prompts include pictures of pets, haha! :)

I did order a chatbook of my January prompts but I actually still don't have it in hand to show you yet! I've been having issues with my mail delivery (my mailman has consistently been marking my items as "notice left" but not leaving me a notice in the mailbox, so I need to obsessively check tracking on things in order to actually get them delivered. I was in Florida when my chatbook was out for delivery and by the time I got home they had shipped it back to the sender! It doesn't even require a signature [even if it did, my parents were home] so this is all very frustrating and weird.) Anyway. They sent me a replacement so as soon as that arrives (assuming it is ACTUALLY DELIVERED) I will definitely share it here! :) Sorry, didn't mean to go on a huge USPS tangent but it's honestly driving me crazy right now..

the sun will come out right now



I had some health problems for a big chunk of January, and I'm finally starting to feel good again. You know that first "well" day when you just wake up feeling better than the day before? Food tastes wonderful, everything smells amazing, you finally put on makeup and remember that it is ACTUALLY POSSIBLE to not look like a zombie. I still don't feel 100% but I'm SO glad that I'm on the mend because I'm leaving for a short trip to Disney World on Sunday!

I'm just flying down for three days (one in the parks) but I'm really looking forward to it. I haven't been back in over two years! Considering I used to be an annual passholder, that's pretty sad. But this is my first time back with contacts, so I'm finally going to be able to watch Philharmagic without layering the 3D glasses over my glasses! And I can wear sunglasses outside without sacrificing my vision! It's all very exciting.

I tried to take a close-up of my sweater/brooch combo, but the sun came out in full force and my blinds started casting striped shadows all over my room and I couldn't keep my eyes open without squinting! Tbh though I'll take it! I feel like it was raining for the last like.. three weeks? The sun is definitely very welcome, no matter how many photo ops it might ruin ;D



memories are made of this



I feel like this bag deserves its own post here on Scathingly Brilliant. If you've been following for a while, you might already know that this bag is the STUFF OF LEGEND. The earliest mention I could find is from 2012, and then I brought it up again in 2013, and once again in 2014. I even talked about it (although it wasn't included in the final copy) in an interview about my Delia's catalog collection just last month. It's been at the top of my ebay wishlist for at least a decade now. I have literally searched some variation of "roxy strawberry bag" every month for years.

It's funny how memories change over time -- I am positive now that I had the bag in high school (I found a photo of me in front of my locker where the straps of the bag are visible. It's like I'm engaging in narcissistic archeology here) but in the past I referred to it as a bag from middle school, and 'circa 1999' (it's more likely 2000-2001.) I mentioned once that I sold it on ebay, but now I think I might have either given it to my grandmom, just lost it entirely, donated it to Goodwill... or sold it on ebay. Who knows.

But regardless of how fuzzy my memories of when and where I had it, the image of the bag itself has always been crystal clear in my mind. And when I typed in "roxy strawberry bag" on ebay last week and saw it show up in the results, I knew immediately I had FINALLY found it again. I don't think I've ever added something to my cart and completed checkout so fast in my entire life.

Getting it in the mail the other day, holding it in my hands again, I immediately flashed back to being ~13, sitting in the passenger seat of my parents' station wagon, Delia's catalog in hand, emphatically making my sales pitch to my dad. We didn't have a ton of money and I didn't beg for pricey items very often, so the ones that I did ask for, the ones that I did get, stand out in my mind: an oversized Adidas coat in 5th grade (I STILL have it and it's STILL my play-in-the-snow coat!); a pair of wide-leg Limited Too jeans in 6th grade; a Roxy shoulder bag with embroidered strawberries from the Delia's catalog.

Things don't matter that much, but memories do. And sometimes the two are so intertwined that the things take on a significance much, much greater than their thingness.

ps. thingness is a word! I thought I was making it up at first but then spell check didn't underline it, and I googled it, and it is a word. You learn something new everyday...

February photo challenge prompts!



It's one week until February, so here's the list of prompts for my #brilliantphotoaday 365 instagram challenge! If you didn't participate in January, feel free to hop in now! You don't have to do all 365 prompts, you can choose to join in one month, a few months, whatever floats your boat! :)

I had so much fun looking through the photos on the hashtag in January! So many incredibly clever interpretations of each prompt, and SO MANY CUTE PETS OMG.

I'm going to order a book of my challenge photos at the end of each month as a little incentive for staying motivated. I ordered one a couple weeks ago that's all photos of Arrietty, and I can't wait for it to come in the mail! I used chatbooks (not sponsored) and I'll let you know what I think of them when my book arrives, in case you want to do the same thing. They let you search your own photos by hashtag, so I think it should be really easy to make #brilliantphotoaday albums. I think it would be even cooler to wait and do it at the end of the year with all 365 photos, but I'm impatient and I want the instant satisfaction of seeing each month as I go along lol :D

an introvert's guide to activism



Ever since I started blogging here and running my own online business, I've tried to refrain from politics in any public online platforms. I've always felt that talking about religion or politics is a really easy way to end a friendship, and I applied that rule to the internet as well. Better to be quiet about the things I care about, or else people might not want to be "friends" anymore. I regret this. Immensely.

My senator, Cory Booker, wrote recently, "In the cause of justice: never stay silent just so that others can remain comfortable."

I don't know that my tiny voice could have made any difference in the years since I started blogging, but my silence spoke volumes. I am ready to change that now. And if you were/are in a similar state of mind, I hope you'll reconsider as well. This goes for liberals and conservatives. If we voice our opinions with a sense of consideration and respect, we can easily engage each other with the same level of admiration and camaraderie that we reserve for DIY posts and room tours. Politics doesn't have to be divisive. We can disagree about issues and still love each other.

With all that being said, I have a very heavy heart today. I'm worried about civil rights, health care, women's rights, and tweet-triggered nuclear warfare. I'm sad that we're replacing an intelligent, cultured, impossibly kind President with someone who doesn't read books, mocks the disabled, and sexually harasses women. I'm sad that my dreams of seeing a woman being sworn in today were shattered.

I've been wanting to do something more substantial than sitting home crying over Buzzfeed photo posts of President Obama playing with kids. I want to DO something. BUT... my introversion usually keeps me on the sidelines when it comes to any real organizing and activism. I'm sure a lot of other introverts (progressive or otherwise!) must have this same problem, so I put together a little list of things you can do that should hopefully fall within your comfort zone, while still making a difference.

1. Donate money. I feel like this goes without saying, but it's a great way to help out without being around other people. I didn't want to physically volunteer much last year, so every time I felt guilty about not doing phone banks or canvassing, I made a donation to Hillary. Even $5 here or there makes a difference in the long run!

2. If you're a maker, create a one of a kind item and auction it on ebay or instagram. Donate the entire amount (or entire profit) to charity. (A few organizations that could really use the help right now would be the ACLU, the NAACP, and Planned Parenthood.)

3. Create a challenge for yourself and set up a crowdrise fundraiser for charity. You can do literally anything. I raised over $200 for Random Acts a few years ago by chalking up my driveway for an entire day. It was just me and my brother, at our house, no socializing necessary. It can be an endurance test ("I'll pogo stick for five hours straight on periscope if you donate!") or a simple task ("I'll share a cooking video of my favorite apple pie recipe if I reach X amount of donations!") The sky's the limit.

4. If you're too short on funds to make donations *but* you do need some new t-shirts or tote bags, make a purchase from a charity shop. You'll be helping the organization, and every time you wear the item it's free advertising for them! Here are some shops to start with: Everytown (gun safety), The ACLU (civil liberties), Planned Parenthood (women's health), The Brady Campaign (gun safety), Greenpeace (environment), Organizing for Action (progressive activism), Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ rights)

5. Volunteer to do phone calls with an extrovert friend or relative. My dad and I teamed up to do calls for Hillary last year, and we developed a system where he would dial the number first and pass the phone to me if he got an answering machine. Then he'd start dialing the next number. This way I wasn't uncomfortable talking to a (potentially hostile, unfortunately) stranger but I still got to help out. We knocked out a ton of phone calls very quickly with our system, so I like to think it might have been even more effective than if I was making calls separately! :)

6. Volunteer from home with micro-volunteering. There are a lot of websites that list tasks you can complete from home. Some match you up with the task based on your skills and interests, and some just list various tasks based on their time or difficulty. Some suggestions are Help From Home, UN Volunteers, and VocaliD, an organization that lets you record your voice (from home!) so that people who are unable to speak can have a unique, human voice instead of a mechanical one!

7. Support the institutions that are currently under threat. Have your breast exam done at Planned Parenthood. Borrow books from the local library. Visit art museums. Watch PBS and listen to NPR. Frequent immigrant-owned businesses. Go to National Parks.

8. Participate in marches and rallies. You don't have to talk to anyone. If you're uncomfortable standing in a large crowd, hang towards the back. If you're going to a rally alone, bring a book. If you're marching alone (and it's not a silent march) you can always slip in one earbud so music can keep you company. Bring a large sign and hold it up high so you can just peek out over it. It's do-able!

9. Write letters to your lawmakers. Phone calls are apparently the best barometer of public opinion for Congress, but letters are your next best bet if you're an introvert. E-mails and tweets go mostly unnoticed, so write it up or print it out, put a stamp on it and mail it!

10. Art. This has been my own refuge the last two months and it can be yours too. Paint rally signs for friends who are more outgoing and active than you are. Make buttons and t-shirts and patches and stickers. Knit for charity (this is a cool idea!) Act in and attend politically relevant plays. Watch and review and recommend politically relevant movies (ie: A Face in the Crowd, Born Yesterday, Meet John Doe, Citizen Kane, Duck Soup, American Madness) Art is a sanctuary for those of us who cherish making it and admiring it. It's also a very necessary part of any thriving culture, and it's one of the things that is being threatened right now. So create it, stand up for it, buy it, enjoy it, support it. Now more than ever.

HUGS, guys!  xo

starry night



Ok, so the painting on my skirt is actually "Wheat Field with Cypresses" but I think Starry Night makes a much better blog post title. Either way, it's still Van Gogh!

I've had this skirt for so long that I don't actually remember where it's from, but I don't think I've ever worn it! I bought it years ago with the intention of wearing it on my next trip to an art museum and ... I guess that means it has officially been years since I stepped in an art museum (I didn't even visit The Louvre when I was in Paris! WHAT?!) You guys, I was an art history major in college! This is unacceptable! Stumbling upon this skirt in my closet reminded me of this egregious error and now I'm planning on making 2017 the year of the museum. I'll probably start with Princeton since it's closest (and free!) but I have my sights set on the Met. I went once, years ago, but I only visited the Egyptian wing.

Unrelated (although related to the outfit) but remember my New Year's resolutions? I finished the book I wanted to read (loved the first half, not in love with the second half, but I'd definitely recommend it anyway!) and I have stuck to my commitment to only buy vintage and/or bell sleeve clothing. I know its only 13 days in, but it's something! This shirt was one of the bell sleeved additions to my closet. This particular type (fitted past the elbow and then a full-circle bell at the end) is my absolute favorite so I had to snatch it up!




shirt - forever 21 | brooches - vintage | skirt - idk | shoes - bait footwear

good things



I've been keeping a good things jar since 2012 (which SOMEHOW was 5 whole years ago already!) and it's one of my favorite traditions. If you're not familiar with the concept, you just find a jar (or bowl or cookie jar, whatever) and throughout the year, whenever something good happens, you scribble it down and put it in the jar. On New Year's Eve you open it up and read through all of the good things that happened that year!

My 2016 jar was busting at the seams (the lid wouldn't even stay on, it was so full!) Of course I include the big things, like Paris and Rome and seeing The Killers in concert, but my favorite ones to read on NYE are the smaller day-to-day things that you might forget by the end of the year. My mom made me soup when I wasn't feeling well. I got ice cream with my dad in the summer. I helped my brother fix up the backyard before a cookout. I spent a night binge-watching tv with one of my friends. I also include inside jokes which, by the end of the year, usually make NO sense. I wrote down that me and my mom went "galavanting to find feminine needs" I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT MEANS NOW. I also write down funny stories, like the things that cause side-splitting bursts of laughter (which inevitably seem less funny than the laugh attack at years end, lol!)

I also throw in mementos like ticket stubs, wristbands from concerts, metro cards, and a seashell from each visit to the beach (I write down the date with sharpie on the back of the shell before I add it to the jar!) In January I collect up all the good things and put them in an album along with corresponding photos from the previous year. It might seem hard to remember to write things down at first, but it really becomes second nature as time goes on. I'm so glad I stuck with it, because once I wrap up my 2016 album I'm going to have five whole years worth of scrapbooks filled with good things and happy memories :)