Episode 14: Sweet Tea


Today’s episode turned out to fit beautifully with the September challenge over at Gauche Alchemy, so I decided to run with it! While not all of the songs are strictly “country,” they all have some aspect of down home earnestness, a twang to go along with the back-beat, or something else that makes them fit in my head; there’s even a bit of the rolling zydeco rhythms in there in tribute to my beginnings in Louisiana. And an apology for my voice, today, I’m still getting over the cold that prevented me from putting out an episode over Labor Day weekend as planned. Hopefully we’re back on track again with this episode and I’ll find a good time for the “missing” set of songs to fall into place 🙂

Sweet Tea—Kim McLean 
If You Feel Froggy—Freighttrain Jones
That Texas Girl—Late Model Humans
Mercury In Retrograde—Sean Wiggins
Space monkey—Jim Hodgson
Rolling Back To You—Codie Prevost
Hard Way Home—Runaway Dorothy
Need a Little Squeezin—Copper Box
Zydeco Junkie—Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band
Strip Tease—Musical Spa
As Far As My Heart Can See—Norma Jean Martine
Evelyn’s Green—She Swings, She Sways
One Monkey Don’t Stop The Show—Dann Schumann

Of course, this isn’t my only contribution to this month’s Gauche Alchemy challenge. To go along with the music I painted up an old pair of lace ankle boots into appropriate dancing shoes. Check out today’s post over at gauchealchemy.com to see and read more about my project and find out how to enter your own inspired creation for a chance at this month’s prize.


And on a technical note, can I just say how much easier it is to create this podcast now that I’ve started using Adobe Audition?! When I started podcasting I used Garage Band because it came on my my Mac and it was fairly user-friendly. Since Minnie the Mac finally gave up the ghost last year, I was kinda dreading how I was going to put the episodes together and, truth be told, it was part of the reason I kept putting off relaunching the podcast. I know a lot of people use Audacity (the fact that it’s free helps) and I downloaded it to edit some songs for our wedding last year. It’s okay, but it wasn’t as intuitive as I’d hoped; even reading the help and tutorial files didn’t help all that much.

Now, Audition is cheap, but since I subscribe to Adobe’s Creative Cloud service anyway for Illustrator, Photoshop, InDesign, Lightroom and (more recently) Premier Pro, it was nothing extra to download Audition as well. And even though the process of putting together the podcast still involves selecting and rearranging the playlist to the point where I’ve listened to the whole thing about 5 times before it’s all said and done, using Audition means that the actual putting-together of the show takes about as long as listening through it all once more time. Even the transitions that took forever to fiddle with in Garage Band are automatic in Audition, to the point where I maybe have to tweak one each show.

So, you know, if you’ve ever thought of creating your own podcast on whatever subject or in whatever format, I can’t rate Audition highly enough for making the technical aspects super simple.

[/end PSA; no affiliate links just a really happy customer :)]

It’s More Than Just the Dress

Third Time Wife, Wedding Planning

With the dress procured, what else to wear was still up for debate.

Let’s start from the bottom and head up.

When I tried on my dress I was wearing 3″ heels (pretty standard for me) and they were just about perfect for the existed hem. While they are not the shoes I will be wearing on the day of the wedding, they at least gave me an idea of what I needed to look for.

Have you ever wondered how much room your shoe collection spans?

Have you ever wondered how much room your shoe collection spans? (personal photo)

To say that I have a thing for shoes would be putting it mildly. I haven’t counted recently (there’s been no good reason to), but the last time I wondered enough to do so I counted 85 pairs, and I’ve bought several since then. I’m definitely in the triple digits by now.  And most of them are heels because I find it painful to wear flats for more than a day. (I have Achilles tendinitis in both heels that developed several years ago, amusingly enough while I was wearing flats a lot thanks the multiple dance practices a week–usually it’s caused by wearing heels too often, not the other way around.) I also just love the confidence boost a good pair of heels can offer, and definitely have my favorites for when there’s an important meeting at the office.

So when I considered what I wanted in a pair of wedding shoes, I knew it needed a decent heel, preferably a platform for stability, closed toe, and an ankle strap to keep me from accidentally walking out of them–security is key! It was a while before I found my ideal wedding shoes, and for a while something like these (found via Offbeat Bride) were definitely a contender.

Images via ShopRuche.com

I’m definitely on the colored-shoe train, but not because it’s trendy: I just can’t stand white shoes (fallout from surviving the ’80s) and don’t want to buy a pair of shoes that I’ll never wear again.

The thing is, I have plenty of shoes around our wine color, but none of them are comfortable for an hour plus of standing around OR they’re way too tall. So I think I’m leaning a bit more towards cream or brown. I think it’s just a case of I’ll know it when I see it. Which is exactly the case when I found these Madden Girl shoes via Zappos.

image via Zappos

image via Zappos

I took them for a test-run at a charity event in April and I almost counted them out. They’re the first shoes I’ve worn in ages that rubbed blisters on my little toes–definitely not something I’d count in the pro column. But then I tried them on with the dress (which, by the way, still fits perfectly a year later–no alteration fees in my future!) and they were the perfect height. Unless something else comes along that’s even better I think I might just add some moleskin or other friction barrier to the littlest piggies and go with it.

As to the rest of the ensemble, I’m not planning to don a veil, so there’s the choice of hair decor to decide (remember, the girls loved me in a tiara, so that’s certainly an option). I’ll wear the journey necklace Mr. Road Trip gifted me on our first Christmas together and maybe a dressier version of my usual hoop earrings, so jewelry is mostly sorted out.

There’s also the matter of the jacket or sweater to cover my shoulders. I spent part of last winter knitting a cropped cardigan as a test for my wedding-day ensemble (patterns seldom work for me as-written, I always have to use the knit-and-see approach), only to find it matched the shade of ivory of my dress pretty much spot on! It still needed a little bit of dressing up, though, which brings me to: the bling.

I love the trend of sparkly belts, so plan to make one for my dress in cream beads and tiny ivory pearls. I’m also considering some trim to peek out just under the folded cuff along the top of my dress, and then edging the sweater’s neckline with the same beading so everything looks like a set, not just disparate parts.


The beaded neckline of one of my favorite shirts | personal photo

This shirt I’ve had for ages, and it’s one of my favorite pieces to wear. It’s a Henly-style top, but instead of buttons, both plackets are covered with this piled-on beading and that’s what I’m thinking will look best for the accents on my outfit. It’s a fairly simple technique, it’s just a matter of assembling the supplies and getting it done (tutorial to come).

What pieces are you still hunting up for your bridal ensemble?

How Do You Walk in Those?

64 Arts

As we’ve continued to explore the Art of Dressing, we’ve discussed both shoe obsessions and storage options and are moving onto the simple (yet daunting to some) matter of navigating in them.


Even though I don’t specialize in skyscraper heels, I’ve got my fair share of high-enough ones that prompt the question from time to time.

A Selection of my Higher Heels

A Selection of my Higher Heels

Fact is, I walk in them the way anyone walks in any shoes: with a heel-toe motion and by not losing my balance.

But, for the curious let’s look at a few things that will greatly improve your chances of strutting your stuff without becoming a moving violation:


To All the Shoes I've Worn Before

from my comic, to the tune of To All the Girls I've Loved

Wearing heels is like standing on tippy-toes: your weight shifts forward. Unlike being on tippy-toes, though, high heels give you a kick-stand and you need to take advantage of that kick stand or you’ll just wear yourself out.

The natural inclination is to walk on the balls of your feet and–don’t get me wrong–that’s going to happen, but using both parts of the shoe (the toe and the heel) will give you more to work with. Stand straight in your heels and you should feel your calves and thighs tightening a bit and your butt lifting. Your shoulders, though, need to relax back a bit to counter-balance that lean-forward feeling.

One more note: bend your knees a bit as you walk, it’ll make the mechanics of the steps easier and get you to a smooth stride that much sooner.


The biggest problem I’ve ever had, walking in heels, is remembering to shorted my stride. The higher the heel, the shorter the step. Don’t try to be a supermodel stomping it down the runway. Even if your blessed with legs up to your neck, it’s best to take shorter steps and more of them. Think of it as a great workout!

Also, as I said before, it’s a heel-toe step just like you do in tennis shoes. Unlike being in tennis shoes it’s not a smooth roll across the sole, but keeping in mind the heel-to-toe movement will help you avoid stomping, clomping and wrecking yourself down life’s hallways.


All About the Shoes Illustration

A quick shoe sketch from a 2010 convention.

Three words: Slow. Your. Roll.

Along with the shorter step, take your time with each–especially when you’re learning–to prevent a stumble. If you’ve really got to be somewhere quickly: wear flats and switch into your heels when you get there. When you’ve acclimated to higher altitudes, then you can hustle where you need to without worrying about spraining an ankle.


Okay, you’ve practiced in the hallway enough and now you’re ready for a real-world road test. Before you head out with your head held high, look down to see if any of these potential pitfalls await:

  • Slick, high-shine tiles, most often found in shopping malls and banks. The loss of traction is worse than that fourth turn in a race track–this is the one time I advocate not using the kick-stand and concentrating your steps on the balls of your feet to prevent the heel from sliding out from under you. Wear lower heels if you must have height for your shopping expedition.
  • Uneven brick or asphalt found on sidewalks and parking lots. These have been the only places I’ve actually fallen off my stilts (skinning my knees in the process). The trick to looking stable in these unstable surroundings is to slow to a measured stroll and test each step before you commit to it.
  • Grass and sand are no friend to high-heels, either, I’m afraid. Not only will your heels sink in softer versions of each, but dirt and grime will discolor and damage the finish of the covered-to-match heels that are so common (and pretty) these days.

A Few More Tips

If you’re new to heels, don’t start with stilettos! Going straight from flat to four inches is a recipe for disaster. Start, instead, with a 2-inch stacked heel and get used to the posture and stride changes before moving to taller and thinner heels.

If you’re going to be wearing heels one evening and you’ll be on your feet more than not, go easy on your feet and wear your comfiest shoes during the day so your feet won’t be worn out before your evening starts.

Heel Liners

Heel Liners

If the fit isn’t perfect, there’s something you can do about it. While I’ve never had great experiences with the stick-in foot pads that go under the balls of your feet or under your heel (they always shift on me, making things worse) there’s one insert that I swear by: heel liners. A major pit-fall is stepping out of your shoe and the steeper the arch of the sole the more possible it is that your heel might be a little loose in the shoe (yes, even with ankle-straps buckled). Heel inserts add padding inside the heel cup as well as narrowing the fit and grabbing your heel before it slips out and causes a spill.

And, one more lesson from my own personal experience file:

One of the few pedicures I’ve ever received, I thought it made perfect sense to have sandals ready to wear out of the salon. Preferring heels as I do, I have this great pear of strappy sandals with a low, stacked heel that seemed imminently sensible.


I slipped and slid nearly out of the shoes on the way to the car and, when I got to my next stop and was trying to walk around a local craft fair I was having to fight to keep my footing on the hilly paved paths (it was held at a local park).

Sure, my toes looked great but I nearly fell a couple of times. Lesson: take the flip-flops to the salon and wait a few hours before trying any to-die-for shoes.

All the world may be a stage, but breaking a leg for luck is only a figure of speech.


Now that we’ve thoroughly covered the shoe ground, let’s walk back into to the closet and tackle the never-ending battle of clothing clutter…

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Shoe Storage

64 Arts

If you’re going to indulge in a lot of anything, you’ve got to be able to store it so you can use it and not waste your time or money. The Art of Dressing continues, below…


Remember the opening scenes from Overboard (start about the 9:00 mark if you’re in a hurry), where Kurt Russell builds Goldie Hahn an amazing shoe closet? I love that shoe closet (more than I loved the movie) and I absolutely lust after the walk-in closets with the wall-o-shoes feature that are in so many movies and television shows. Oh, to have the space for that!

Instead, this girl’s gotta economize on space just like she does her shoes.

The Good

Did you know the best container (in my mind) for shoes is the box they came in? It’s true! Not only is it perfectly sized for the style of shoe, it even has the color, description and (sometimes) drawing on the outside to let us find them when they’re stacked up neat and pretty. I keep as many shoes as possible in their original boxes stacked no more than 4-boxes-high to avoid an avalanche when I want that one particular pair on the bottom.

Slippers and Tennis Shoes in a Basket

Soft shoes in a soft spot

But, wait, what about shoes whose boxes become damaged or, worse, bought at an outlet center without a box of any kind?

For boxless pairs I prefer modular racks or shelves. The ones from most big-box home stores work fine but usually need some extra shoring-up as the connections will fail without much effort. Some poster putty or hot glue in the wells will help keep the metal rods in place. Cubbies are great if you prefer flats or flip-flops but large shoes can get scrunched in such a confined space, wearing them out and damaging their structure.

For slippers and other soft, seldom-worn shoes (for me, this includes tennis shoes) I like a big basket that can comfortably contain them and looks prettier than a jumble of soft shoes in the bottom corner of the closet.

The Bad

Shoes Under Storage

Shoes Under Storage Unit

A thousand curses upon the As Seen on TV Shoes Under Space-Saving Shoe Organizer. Oh, it looks great on that commercial, sliding out from under the bed with no problems whatsoever. Admire the strong, sturdy-looking sides and dividers.


First, it comes in a very small box (relative to it’s unfolded size). Second, there’s nothing sturdy or stiff about it: it’s a floppy box that takes ever ounce of it’s structure from the shoes placed inside it. Third, while you can certainly pull it out from under the bed, pushing it under to begin with involved much shoving and smashing–espcially if you use a basic metal bed-frame that isn’t quite as tall as the Shoes Under would prefer.

I, being an optimistic fool, bought two of these “gems” when Todd and I moved in together and I lost my walk-in closet. Imagine my disappointment.

And, yet, I didn’t return them (for one thing, I hate returning purchases). With all their faults, they are better than nothing and I had a lot of shoes that were sans box and not a lot of space in the new closet. So I made do. The interior dividers are flimsy but that does take care of the pesky squish-factor for larger-than-flats pairs, you can just slip the tops of ankle boots under the divider. It now occurs to me that sheets of plastic canvas cut to fit the bottom and sides of the organizer, tacked with a few stitches along the edges, could provide the needed support.

I’ll let you know if that works.

The Ugly

Now, this last one is a bit controversial because I know a lot of people use it and some big names had promoted it as a very good solution to shoe clutter:

Clear plastic shoe boxes.

First, the good points: clear plastic means you can see the shoes inside and their uniform size means they will stack well on shelves.

Unfortunately, all I can see are the down sides.

Uniform size is not ideal for women’s shoes that can range from ballerina flats to ankle boots with varying heel heights. One size does not fit all.

Plastic doesn’t breathe. Getting uncomfortably real for a minute, here: feet sweat. In shoes all day an unpleasant odor can develop. Yes, there are sprays and powders and sachets and perfumes, but all a plastic container is going to do is lock all that inside until you open it again and, well, it’s not going to be pleasant. Not only that, the moisture that gets trapped in the box with the shoes (whether from sweat or rain) could damage the shoe’s materials.

    IF you choose to go this route, save those little packages of desiccants that come with new shoes, purses and other goods of this ilk. Those little packets will absorb any moisture in the plastic shoe boxes for quite some time (you can also find the material in bulk at the hardware store in the dehumidifiers section). Pieces of (clean!) panty hose filled with baking soda or activated charcoal and tied up tight can help alleviate odors.

    I prefer to save the plastic boxes of any sort for organizing my craft supplies.

    (Dis)Honorable Mention

    Hanging Shoe Organizer

    Hanging Shoe Organizer

    Hanging shoe organizers can be useful when you’ve got a bit of spare closet space but no ready shelf space, true. But a few caveats when looking at these for your shoe-organization salvation:

    • Look for canvas or mesh pockets over clear plastic–what you lose in a bit of visibility you’ll gain in breathablity.
    • The sturdier the hook, the better–especially when you’re holding 2 sides worth of shoes. A single hook may stretch out over time and you’ll find your shoes slipped out and scattered on the floor. Look for a double hook, a sturdy sleeve or reinforce that single hook with some extra bungee-cord support.
    • Load it carefully and only once it’s hanging up in the spot you intend for it to stay. These pouch-style organizers depend on gravity and balance to keep the shoes in place and when that’s tampered with the shoes tend to go flying. (As we experienced most recently during the move.)

    And if you have one of those stellar shoe closets you see in movies and model homes?

    I’m totally jealous.


    Next week we’ll be tackling how to walk in heels and revisiting closet issues in our search for a stylish and creative life.

    *Disclaimer: If you purchase anything from the Amazon.com links in this post or any other on the site I get a whopping $0.04 on the dollar (or something like that). Can’t blame a girl for trying!

    Don’t Let Having Only 2 Feet Stop You

    64 Arts

    We’re picking up our discussion of the 16th Art: The Art of Dressing with some sole-ful discussions on stylish footwear.


    “Ugh, you haven’t moved your shoes, yet?”

    That was Mom, about 2 weeks ago.

    It was 3-something in the afternoon and we’d been loading and unloading trucks and cars and schlepping boxes and bins since just before 10 that morning. One week before Christmas, the old house was emptying out and the new one was filling up (at a much quicker rate) with furniture and all. those. boxes.

    And, no, I hadn’t moved my shoes, yet.

    See, Mom knows how many pairs of shoes I have. 85 to be exact (87 now, actually, if you count the 2 new pair of slippers I added this winter, and I do).

    174 Shoes. 2 Feet.

    I’m no Imelda (not by a long shot!) but even I realize that it’s kind of a ridiculous number.

    Not for the usual reasons other people give or ask:

    • You only have 2 feet.
    • Why do you need a dozen (or more) pairs of shoes all the same color?
    • You hardly wear this pair (or that pair, or a handful of specialty shoes).

    But because it’s an awful lot of shoes. And moving then requires my entire trunk and then some.

    In fact, when I was getting ready to write this post ages ago (aforementioned move = delay reason and then some) I took out all the shoes I owned just to see if they’d take up the entire hallway.

    85 Pairs of Shoes

    All 85 Pairs

    They did.

    (Arranging all those shoes, by the way? I did it twice to get the best arrangement. Best thigh workout ever.)

    But I’m no Carrie Bradshaw–my shoe collection wouldn’t even cover the down-payment of an economy car, much less a condo in NYC. They’re not big brands, most of them cost $20 a pair or less (I love shopping sales!). But they’re mine and I like them just as much as if they’d cost hundreds each (maybe more since, should something happen to one it’s not the end of the world).

    And a lot of them? Are 5 years old or more. Some even go back to 1999 and one pair in particular goes back to 1995!

    That’s right. For the investment-minded (regardless of the initial outlay), having 50+ pairs of shoes and wearing most on a regular basis means that each individual pair sees much less wear and tear than those residing in merely a 3-shoe-closet.

    Granted, my microfiber stretch black boots with the faux-patent dominatrix-style straps along the back and toe ($22, Marshalls, at least 4 years ago) get a lot of wear and have had the heels replaced once (best $11 ever spent). Other shoes need a trip to the cobbler for some minor repairs along the same lines and I do have some favorites that could stand to be swapped out when the right ones come along (or the old ones just give up).

    But 85 87* pairs of shoes seems just about right to me.

    Unlike clothes shopping, shoe shopping is great.

    There’s less in the way of awkward size moments and, pretty much, what you see is what you get. A good heel can make your calves and butt look amazing. A good flat can keep you running errands all day while feeling fab instead of frumpy.

    One day, perusing the shoe section of the local Bealls Outlet I came across a pair of black leather, platform ankle-strap heels by Sketchers. I didn’t even know such a thing existed at the time but there they were, outlet priced and on sale even more. Would you believe that they rung up at $0.49? Seriously. And those shoes have served me well for 3 years, at least.

    A couple of years ago a local boutique had the unfortunate need to go out of business. Polka Dot Shoes will be sorely missed–their demise a product of the crashing economy and a force of nature that flooded their Lake Ella shop–but I’ve got 9 pairs of their inventory (purchased for under $100 total) to remember them by. Todd and I swung by their sale that morning, I pulled everything that looked remotely interesting and was in my size and in 15 minutes had the stack down to the ones I wanted and we went to brunch. That day or the next it was Todd’s turn: he needed a new pair of all-purpose black work shoes and it took 3 stores and a couple of hours for him to finally decide.

    And women get the bad rap as shoppers 😉

    My criteria for new shoes:

    1. Will I wear them? Ever. It doesn’t have to be every day or even every week, but I have to know at least one outfit or one occasion where they would be perfect. Keep in mind: a colorful shoe looks amazing with an all-black or contrasting color ensemble.
    2. Is the price right? When you’re on a budget (and aren’t we all?) it helps to know your comfort zone as far as cost goes. For me the upper limit is now in the $40 range, though if I find a sale I’m a happy camper. But just because it’s on sale, doesn’t mean it’s automatically coming home with me, which brings me to…
    3. Does it fill a need? This is a big one, for me, because I already have so many shoes. If it’s another pair of black heels, for instance, it needs to stand out from the rest in a couple of ways to justify the expense and the storage space it’ll take up in my closet. But I also keep a mental list of shoes to be on the lookout for: right now it’s a good pair of gray heels and black and brown stacked-heel loafers to replace a couple of pairs that are wearing out.

    Notice I didn’t say anything about comfort–it’s a secondary consideration for a really great pair of shoes. Fit is important, sure, but a little pinch here or there can be worked around if you play your shoe cards right.

    *Soon to be 88 when my next Shoe Dazzle order comes in. Just like the Haunted Mansion… there’s always room for one more!


    Up Next on the 64 Arts? Our Style Discussion takes a practical turn as I share my shoe storage tips (for both home and away) as well as tips for walking in heels without becoming a moving violation.