Current Blog Series: The Vegan College Cookbook

By the way, I am having some issues with photos in older posts not displaying properly. I am looking into the source of the trouble, and they should be back online soon. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Food Finds Friday: Fall Favorites

First, I would like to apologize for so much alliteration in the title. It was just so perfect. Alright. So, first of all, dear vegans, Fall is coming, and with it, the jealous lusting after pumpkin spice lattes that still aren't vegan. (Though, if you have seen those ingredient list things circulating the internet, you're probably a lot less jealous now.) I'm sorry to say that I have yet to come up with the perfect vegan pumpkin spice latte. I'll work on that. But I have found some delicious things that will make it all better. (Hopefully.)

First, Archer Farms hot chocolate. I'm pretty sure it's available at Target exclusively. I haven't checked all the flavors they have, but FYI, not all of them are vegan. I do know that the dark chocolate, peppermint, and coconut macaroon flavors are vegan though. I like making them with either coconut milk or almond milk, which makes them super-creamy and wonderful. If you're a fan of Mayan/Aztec hot chocolate, you can add a VERY SMALL dash of cayenne pepper to your dark chocolate powder to give it that tiny extra kick. Be SUPER careful though. The only way to fix it if you add too much pepper is to make a ton more of the hot chocolate, and mix them all together until it's deluded enough. (Then you'd probably have to store the rest in the fridge and reheat it when you're ready to drink it.) So, while it's not a pumpkin spice latte, I hope this is a fall beverage you'll enjoy.

The other find I have for you today actually IS pumpkin spice. However, it's not a drink. Pumpkin Spice WAFFLES, everybody. These are gluten-free, AND vegan. On top of that, they're made with super-healthy things like quinoa and flax. OMG. I cannot express in words how delicious these are. My little sister, who is neither gluten-free, nor vegan, ate an entire box of them while I wasn't looking. This might be my new answer to "If you were stranded on an island with only one food, what would it be?" Last time I checked, Whole Foods had them on sale. Try them! You will like them! You will see! I think I'm going to go clean out my freezer so I can just load up my freezer completely full of these. (Perhaps I should just come up with a gluten-free, vegan pumpkin spice waffle recipe on my own. OMG SO YUMMY.) This is fabulous as breakfast or dessert. Or both.

Do yourself a favor, and go try both these things. After you've tried them, I'm betting you won't miss the PSL (Pumpkin Spice Latte) at all. VEGAN PUMPKIN POWER! Let me know how you like these in the comments below! Also, If you have found any other fabulous pumpkin things, let me know! I want pumpkin all the things.

Friday, August 15, 2014

How to Be Vegan and a Little Less Poor: Part 2

Hi everybody! So in my last post, How to be Vegan and a Little Less Poor: Part 1, I gave 5 tips for saving money on food purchases. I talked about couponing and the rebate apps that I personally use. I'm really happy that a lot of you found it helpful! A few people asked me though about other ways to save money on vegan products. One of the ideas that was mentioned was purchasing items in bulk. That can be a really great way to save money. So, I'm going to start out 3 tips on how to bulk-shop, and then give you 3 bulk products that you should always keep on hand.

Tip #1: Check the price per unit. Whether the unit is ounces, grams, milliliters, or whatever, you'll only save money if the bulk price is a smaller price per unit. If you're at a bulk store like Costco, this can be a little more difficult, because they don't have regular sized items to compare to. (Though, you can always pull them up on a smart phone.) I know there were several times I went to a bulk store and found a product I normally buy in regular sizes, only to realize that I wasn't really saving any money by purchasing 5 times as much of it. If you're buying a bulk item at a regular store, you can often compare it to a similar, pre-packaged product.

Tip #2: Buy what you like. Bulk purchases aren't always the best time to try something new. You're running the risk of getting stuck with a whole lot of something if you don't end up liking it. If you're willing to take that risk, then that's up to you. For example, I've found gluten-free, vegan veggie burgers at Costco before, and they're pretty good. I had never seen that brand before, so I didn't know if I was going to like it, but I just decided that I'd find a way to make myself eat them even if I didn't like them. (Even though, as it turns out, I did like them.)

Tip #3: Don't buy too much. When purchasing in bulk, make sure you'll have enough space to store what you don't immediately use. For example, have some sort of a dry, sealed container to keep your nutritional yeast in. It won't keep well in the little plastic bags the grocery store provides. (My cats apparently really like nutritional yeast, and they can easily tear those bags open.) I sometimes go crazy when I'm at the grocery store, and one time in particular, I ran out of freezer space before I could fit in all of the bulk veggie burgers. I put some of them in my fridge, but I couldn't quite eat them fast enough, and a whole case of them went bad. If you are getting so much that you can't use it before it spoils, you're not saving money, you're wasting it.

Alright. Hopefully those ideas can help guide your bulk-shopping. Next, I have a few ideas on what to purchase in bulk. If you're at a bulk store, and you can find bulk products that you like, knock yourself out. But, here are a few staples that you should always keep on hand.

Product #1: Quinoa. Quinoa is a seed that is most often eaten as a grain. It is one of the only plant-foods to have complete protein. That means that it contains all of the protein variations that people need to be healthy. Quinoa is a very versatile food that can be eaten in salads, baked in foods, used as a flour, eaten plain, etc. There are so many yummy and creative ways to eat it. It doesn't have a very strong flavor, so it can be added to just about anything, and it can be a great part of any meal. (Even breakfast.) Quinoa is basically the seed equivalent of tofu. I have purchased it prepackaged at a bulk store, and I have also purchased it in a bulk bag from a regular store, but I eat it a lot, so I always buy it in bulk. (Bonus tip: Costco has pre-washed bulk-packaged quinoa, which makes preparation a lot easier.)

Product # 2: Nutritional Yeast. I haven't seen a pre-packaged bulk bag of nutritional yeast, though I know you can sometimes buy cases of the canisters of it. I haven't done the math on that though, so I don't know if it's a good deal. I normally buy nutritional yeast in scoop-it-yourself bulk bags at Whole Foods or Earth Fare. Nutritional yeast is another great source of protein for vegetarians and vegans, (or anyone really,) and I use it in a variety of recipes. I would definitely recommend keeping it on hand.

Product # 3: Dried Beans. For me, I always go for chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and black beans. Those are the absolute best in my opinion. They're very versatile, they store well, and they aren't too hard to cook. (As a bonus, there are several ways to make soup broth with the water you re-hydrate them in, which gives you a little more value for your money.) Beans are a great source of protein for vegetable based diets.

Of course, these aren't the only products I purchase in bulk. I also have bulk oatmeal to either eat as oatmeal, or make into flour. I buy spinach in bulk sometimes, and peanut butter, (I would totally buy sunflower seed butter in bulk if I could find it at a bulk store,) and other assortments of fruits and veggies. (Those can be a risk sometimes with a mad dash to eat them all before they spoil.)

Anyway, I hope this has been helpful! If you have any other suggestions, I'd love to hear them. If you think I should blog about another specific aspect of making a vegan lifestyle more affordable, let me know, and I'll get right on it! Let me know what you thought by leaving a comment! Thank you so much to all my lovely readers! Happy shopping!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How to be Vegan and a Little Less Poor: Part 1

Hi again everyone! I know I keep saying how I'm going to post way more regularly and have tons of interesting things to tell you, but I keep getting really busy and not having a lot to say. I'm sorry. But guess what? Today I have something really awesome that I want to share with all you lovely people out there. (Before anyone asks, I'm not getting paid to promote this stuff either. They're legitimately my own personal recommendations.)

One of the biggest concerns that people frequently tell me, and one of the main reasons people hesitate to go vegan is that sometimes vegan food can just be downright expensive. (Now, I know there are tons of cheap recipes in the Vegan College Cookbook, but sometimes, it's still a tad expensive.) But even if the money isn't a problem for you, it never hurts to have more of it right? So, I'm going to give you 5 tips and recommendations for how you can get the vegan products that you want, and have a bit more money when you're done.

My first tip is perhaps a bit obvious, but always check for coupons! Alternative milk products always have coupons out. Brands like Silk, So Delicious, and others have lots of coupons available all the time. Normally. you can find them just by doing a quick search on the internet. Other times, grocery stores print out coupons with your receipts, so hang on to those. I frequently get coupons for veggie burgers that way, because they give you coupons based on what you already buy. The best part is, frequently, you can stack coupons with other deals and savings, especially if it's a manufacturer's coupon. If you've gone to the store, and forgotten to check for coupons, you can normally pull the coupons up on some sort of mobile device, so you can access them really easily.

My next tip is use the Ibotta app.

When I first heard about this app, I thought it sounded a bit too good to be true, but it's completely legit. Ibotta has cash rebates for specific products and stores. I primarily use it for groceries, though, they have rebates for lots of other categories like clothes, beauty products, pet supplies, restaurants, electronics, etc. Many of those categories have rebates for a certain amount back when you spend another certain amount, which is great if you were going to shop there anyway. But anyway, back to groceries. Ibotta has a lot of different products that can be purchased from a lot of different stores. They have rebates for stores like Walmart, Costco, Bi-lo, Walgreens, Whole Foods, and more. They products they offer rebates for changes, but they often have rebates for So Delicious, Enjoy Life, Peace Cereal, and several other vegan-friendly brands. Sometimes they also have rebates for fruits and veggies, and the brand doesn't matter. One nice thing is that you are earning the rebates on top of whatever sales or coupons you use to buy the products, which means you can get a phenomenal value for these products. Also, as the app advertises, you are rewarded with cash, not just with more coupons. You can send your rebates basically straight to your bank account, which is super-convenient. And, it's really easy to rack up a lot of cash from rebates. Honestly though, one of the most amazing things about this app, is that it lets you benefit from teamwork. Sure, you can be saving money all by yourself. But, they have things like teamwork bonuses as well. Your team is made up of any people you refer or are referred by and / or any people you know connected social media who also use the app. In any given month, when you and anyone in your team redeem any rebates, it goes toward the teamwork bonus. There are multiple levels of the bonus, but basically, when you and your friends are earning money, you earn even more money. (Of course, these can be completed by yourself, but it's easier to complete them with friends.) If you're new to Ibotta, and would like to be in my team, use the referral code "arbiza" when you sign up, or send me a message using the Contact Form on my blog, and be sure to include your email and a note saying you're interested in an invite to this app. You'll probably get a ton of money just from all the rebates I've redeemed, just FYI. Obviously, not all the products they offer rebates for are vegan, but you don't have to buy them. So, it's okay. Ibotta has a minimum cashout of $5, but that's really easy to earn.

Tip # 3 is use the Checkout 51 app.

This app is similar to Ibotta, but not exactly the same. For starters, it's really only for groceries. It's a little bit easier to use, and it doesn't matter what store you buy the products at. However, there aren't any kind of team bonuses on Checkout 51, and there aren't quite as many different rebates available. But, Checkout 51 frequently has a lot of rebates for fresh veggies and fruits, and a lot of their other rebates aren't brand-specific. That means that when they have a rebate for bread, you could get gluten-free, vegan bread, and they'd still give you the rebate. Checkout 51 also has some rebates for vegan brands though, like Earth Balance. Checkout 51 has a minimum cashout of $20, which might take you a little bit longer, but it certainly isn't hard to get. Checkout 51 also has a weekly drawing for $500 that you qualify for if you spend at least $60 on any single shopping trip during the week. (Trust me, $60 sounds like a lot, but it's way too easy to do.) Sometimes the rebates on Checkout 51 overlap with Ibotta, which means you get rewarded twice! Twice is nice.

Another tip is to use the Receipt Hog app.

This app rewards you for groceries (and also convenience store trips,) but unlike Checkout 51 and Ibotta, it doesn't even matter what you buy! Any groceries from anywhere earn you coins on Receipt Hog. The more money you spent on a trip, the more coins you earn, but you get rewards no matter how much you spent. You can also get spins on the Receipt Hog "slot machine" for every receipt you upload after uploading at least one receipt per week for 5 weeks straight. You won't always get a reward for this, but you have the opportunity to earn a few extra coins. You can redeem coins either for a $5 check in the mail, or a $5 Amazon gift card. It takes a little bit more time to earn the rewards on this app, but you can get rewards for whatever you want from whatever store basically. On top of all that, you can use this app to get rewards in combination with the other apps for sure, because it doesn't matter what you bought, or where. If you'd like an invite to this app, send me a message using my Contact Form, and let me know you are interested in an invite to this app.

My last tip for today is use the Punchcard app.

Punchcard is one of many apps that allows you to earn mPOINTS. Your mPOINTs can be redeemed for a variety of products and giftcards, though the absolute best value is the $1 Amazon giftcard, FYI. (Other apps include a fitness tracking app called Nexercise, a super-fun, How To Train Your Dragon game called Dragons: Rise of Berk,  and for iPhone users, you can also earn mPOINTS with the MyPlate app by Livestrong.) Punchcard rewards you for uploading pictures of your receipts from grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and actually just about anywhere. (I'm including this app though because you can get rewarded for grocery receipts.) Again, you can use the same receipts to earn rewards on this app as you could on all the others. (Plus some.) When you upload a picture, you get a chance to spin their little "wheel of fortune" which will give you a certain amount of mPOINTS. You can earn bonus mPOINTS by sharing to a social media website. (You can always immediately delete the post.) When you go to claim your mPOINTS, you are frequently given even more bonus opportunities, like taking quick surveys, watching short videos, viewing some other sort of ad, or downloading and launching a promoted app, (which you can always immediately uninstall.) It's really easy to earn enough mPOINTS for a $1 amazon card especially if you use multiple apps that earn mPOINTS (Have I mentioned that the How To Train Your Dragon app is super-fun?), though you can only get 1 of any given reward per week. This app is a little bit less exciting than the others because you can't just get cash from it, but like I said, if you are getting those $1 Amazon giftcards every week, they add up. If you're a poor college student like me, that means slightly cheaper textbooks, (which turn into real money when you re-sell them at the end of the class.) Or you can also, you know, buy just about anything on amazon, like new gadgets or clothes, all of which are important.

Alright everyone. Thanks for reading, everyone! I know this was a bit of a longer post, and I know I recommended a lot of apps. But seriously, they don't take that much time, and they can help save you lots of money on products you'd be buying anyway. I really hope you found these tips helpful. If you know of any other apps that help you save money on groceries or other vegan / cruelty-free products, PLEASE let me know in the comments. I will love you forever!

Monday, June 30, 2014

CTTVCC: Micro-Ritos

Hello Everyone! This recipe is on page 155 of PETA's Vegan College Cookbook. This is a particularly easy recipe. As is often the case, it makes a LOT of food. I'd recommend cutting the recipe in half unless you're making enough for you and a few friends, or unless you just REALLY love burritos. I know it's been a while since I did a Vegan College Cookbook post, so here we go!

The recipe calls for:

  • 1 (8-ounce) bag vegan chicken or steak strips
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar salsa
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black or pinto beans
  • 1 (10-ounce) package Mexican-style vegan cheese, grated
  • 1 package (10-inch) tortillas
  • 1 bag boil-in-bag brown or white rice (optional)
I chose to use Beyond Meat Grilled vegan chicken strips. They're gluten-free too.


I used Target-brand salsa, and Earth Fare brand black beans.

I didn't have any Mexican-style vegan cheese, so I used half a bag of Daiya Cheddar shreds, and half a bag of Daiya Mozzarella Shreds

I made my first burrito on a 10-inch tortilla, but the tortillas kept falling apart, and that much burrito was a little bit too much for me to eat. So, I switched to little 6-inch corn tortillas of some obscure brand. I also decided that since the rice was optional anyway, I'd substitute quinoa to make the burritos have a bit more protein. Besides, I had precooked quinoa sitting in my fridge taking up precious space.

Here is what mine looked like:

As the picture makes very obvious, this is horribly ugly. But then again, you wrap it in a tortilla so you don't have to look at it. The physical attractiveness of this food is indirectly proportional to the yumminess. (That means it tastes great!) 

So, if you chose to make the recipe differently, or even the same as I did, I'd love to hear how it turned out. Please, leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the recipe!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Food Finds Friday: Faux at Trader Joe's

I love Trader Joe's. It's a cute grocery store, it has lots of gluten free and vegan products, and it's inexpensive. We got one in my city a few years ago, and since then, I've fallen in love. While I could go on for ages about the wonderful things I've found there, this post is going to focus on only faux dairy products.
First, they have some amazing soy coffee creamer. (Not to mention amazing coffee.) I love this stuff. It's delicious, and it helps me survive mornings.

Next, I've found the most wonderful vegan cream cheese there. You may recall a post I wrote a while back that compared different vegan cream cheeses. Oh my. If I'd found this stuff then, I would have included it. This is the most delicious vegan cream cheese I've ever tried. The texture isn't 100% like the real stuff, it doesn't taste 100% like the real stuff, but guess what it is 100% of? BETTER!  Oh my goodness. I make whatever excuse I can to eat it. It's amazing. Love at first bite.

My last favorite to mention now is maybe not really faux dairy, because most sorbet doesn't have dairy anyway, but if you think of it as fake ice cream, I think it counts. Trader Joe's mango sorbet is divine. I adore this stuff. In moderation of course. My sister on the other hand, would eat the whole carton while I'm not looking if I'm not careful.

I hope this has been helpful! There are so many other wonderful things at Trader Joe's, like vegan yogurt, tofu, vegan hot dogs (they're also gluten free by the way,) etc. And I plan to write about more amazing finds from there soon. Have you find anything wonderful at Trader Joe's? Let me know about it! Leave a comment, and share with your friends!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Original Recipe: Vegan Chicken and Broccoli over Spaghetti

Alright. So first things first, the name isn't 100% accurate. Honestly, you can use whatever pasta you want. Of course, whatever noodles I use are going to be gluten-free as well, and I prefer using more string-like noodles like fettuccine, angel hair, or even pad thai noodles (obviously not with pad thai sauce for this.) But like I said, really any pasta will work. This is a variation of a favorite recipe in my family, and my family has traditionally used spaghetti.

So what you will need:

  • a regularly-sized package your choice of pasta, cooked (gluten-free if needed)
  • 2 cups unsweetened alternative milk (I prefer flax milk)
  • 2 tbs. corn starch
  • 2 tbs. vegan butter
  • garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 small package of frozen broccoli, thawed (you can use broccoli with other veggies mixed in)
  • 1 package of vegan chicken, chopped to bite-size (Beyond Meat is good for gluten-free people)
  • vegan cheese, parmesan or mozzarella 
  • microwave-safe pan that will hold all the pasta and also fit in the microwave, greased
  • large microwave-safe bowl
How to make it:
  • In microwave-safe bowl, melt vegan butter into alternative milk.
  • Add cornstarch to the butter and milk, and whisk until evenly mixed.
  • Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste.
  • Mix thawed broccoli and chopped vegan chicken with the cream sauce.
  • Spread cooked pasta evenly over the bottom of the pan. 
  • Pour chicken, broccoli, and sauce over the pasta.
  • Sprinkle on desired amount of vegan cheese.
  • Microwave for 10 minutes on high or until veggies are hot. 
  • Allow to cool to an edible temperature, and enjoy!

WOAH! That's so simple! Really. It's not very hard. It's also very satisfying because it has carbs, veggies, and protein all in one dish. If you want to look fancy, you can serve it with salad and / or vegan garlic bread, or you can eat it by itself.
Let me know if you tried it! Let me know if you made any alterations or substitutions, and how they turned out! If you have any pictures or reviews on this, I'd love to see them. I want to know what you thought. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Runway Wednesday: Vaute Couture

Before I start, I'd just like to apologize for posting this so late in the day. But, OMG. I am so excited to know the results of PETA's 2014 Vegan Fashion Awards! Looking at the winners, I'm really inspired. If you haven't already read the results, check them out here. I really think I might have found some new favorite brands. I think I'm already addicted to Vaute.


 I need it in my life. Here are some of my favorites (women's wear) currently on their website:

The Lisa In Waxed Canvas-Multiple Colors (This was the Women's Outerwear Winner)

Kristina Dress In Organic Velvet-Black

I Can't Even Look At You In That Fur Boyfriend Sweatshirt-Grey

Love Is Mighty Pumps

As a side note, the children's wear is adorable, and the men's wear is very striking. I wish I'd been able to purchase a certain extra-long, black peacoat for my boyfriend. Unfortunately, it's sold out, and I'm a poor college student. I never could have afforded it. 

Quite honesty, I probably would have included links and pictures to practically every item on the site, but that would take the fun out of it for you! If I didn't post your favorites, leave the link in a comment! I'd love to see what you love! May all of your hearts be full of love, and my all your endeavors be fabulous!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Original Recipe: Nearly-Instant Taco Wrap

So, this is a really basic, simple recipe. I'm pretty sure a 5-year-old could make it without even making that much of a mess. I don't know why, but I've been craving tacos a lot recently. And so I make them. And I keep on wanting them. Does that mean they're my favorite food? I don't even know. Maybe it's because these are actually pretty good for you, and they're so ridiculously filling. I make them gluten-free and vegan, (obviously,) and they're super-easy to make free of whatever else you need it to be free of. They could be a snack, or a meal. That all depends on how hungry you are, and how much you make.

What you will need:

soft tortillas
vegan taco filling (as in fake meat)
vegan sour cream
vegan cheese
fresh spinach

What I use:

And spinach. 

What to do:

Place a tortilla on a microwave-safe plate. Spread desired amount of vegan cheese out over one side of the tortilla. Add desired amount of taco filling in a column on the center of the tortilla, leaving about 1.5 inches of space from the end on one side. Microwave for 30 seconds to a minute. Add desired amount of spinach on top of the column of taco filling. Add desired amount of sour cream to the column as well. Fold the end with space up and the sides in so that you can eat it with your hands. Enjoy!

Here's what mine looked like:

Words. Cannot. Describe. (And I will proceed at an attempt at verbal description anyway.) This is really super-amazing. I still don't know if it counts as a recipe. . . Because You aren't really COOKING anything. . . Whatever. This counts. So good. I said it was pretty good for you at the beginning of my post. It is. veggie crumbles / taco filling has a TON of protein. Fake cheese also has lots of protein. I'm pretty sure even vegan sour cream has a decent amount of protein. And let's face it, as delicious as iceberg lettuce is, spinach has way more goodness in it, like iron, calcium, antioxidants, etc. 

I'd love to see pictures of your own taco wraps! If you made these, let me know how it went! What did you think? Did you like it? Is it your new favorite thing? Did you make any awesome changes? Hit me up! Leave a comment. Can't wait to hear how things went!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Runway Wednesday: Improving the Duct Tape Mannequin / Dress Form

Alright, so some of you might be wondering: This girl is a fashion major at university. Surely she has access to REAL mannequins. Why would she want a form made of duct tape? Isn't that a little bit amateur? (Now, some of you probably had no idea I am a fashion major, or you just weren't wondering. Just hold on.)

For those of you who WERE wondering, I do have access to regular dress forms at school. So why am I interested in duct tape dress forms? Well, first off, I don't like having to go in to school to use the mannequins, since I'm a town student, and they right size form is hardly ever available. Also, the sewing lab at my school has really stupid hours.

 Second though, I actually PREFER duct tape forms for couture garments. Why? I'm glad you asked! While the mannequins at my school have moveable shoulders, which is really nice for putting clothes on them, they are very standard-shaped. That's cool for ready-to-wear clothing. But for custom clothing, things get difficult. 

Let me explain. My favorite design method, especially for custom designs, is draping. (As opposed to flat patterning.) For those of you know don't really know what that means, it means that I use magic to throw fabric at a mannequin and turn it into a piece. Actually, It just means that the garment is shaped directly on a mannequin without a pattern. Duct tape mannequins are just as customized as the model or customer, because you're basically using duct tape to cast their exact shape. So, you know the garment will fit them. Additionally, regular forms tend to have very shallow layers of stuffing before you get to a hard shell. This makes it difficult to stick pins directly into the form. Duct tape forms are stuffed without a hard shell, so you can push pins right in, very easily. This is really convenient for draping, since you need the pieces to stay in place while you're shaping the garment. Personally, my dress forms look like giant voodoo dolls while I'm constructing clothes. I need those pins to stay there. Another big advantage of duct tape forms is they display those custom garments better, due to the custom fit. Displaying a couture garment on duct tape? Isn't that a little trashy? I don't think so. There are plenty of decorative tapes if you want to make things look nice. You can also sew fabric covers for the dress form, or you can decoupage decorative (or minimalist) paper over the duct tape to make it look professional.

So, why do YOU need a duct tape mannequin / dress form? Well, maybe you don't. But if you're into DIY projects, they frequently require pinching / folding / pinning / cutting fabric on yourself, and it's a whole lot easier if you have a body double. If you make a lot of your own clothes, it's nice to have a custom fit, and it's nice to be able to display projects you're not currently wearing. Even if you don't make your own clothes, they make good decorations! You get to feel really fancy if you display your favorite ensembles on a mannequin, and all your friends will be jealous. Or, you can display things you don't get to wear frequently, such as prom dresses, wedding dresses, bride's maid dresses, costume / cosplay outfits, or any other ensembles that you obviously wouldn't wear every day, instead of putting them in storage or hiding them in the back of your closet.

Well, now that we've covered that, let's move on to the real purpose of this post. I'm not going to actually tell you HOW to make one of these things. How rude. Why not? Because there are TONS of tutorials on the internet. I don't need to just be a repeat. This post is all about how I'm making these dress forms BETTER. The basics are the same. I have 5 tips for you to make sure that you have the best duct tape dress form that you can!

Tip #1: Wear a giant trash bag under the tape. Some tutorials will tell you to wear a t-shirt that you don't like under the tape. You cut through the shirt and it is destroyed and lost when you remove the form from yourself. I don't care if you don't like the shirt. That's a waste. There are much cooler things you can do with shirts. Especially shirts that you don't like. That's why I suggest wearing a cheap trash bag under the tape. The best length for dress forms / mannequins that aren't a whole body is to cut off approximately where the fingertips reach on the thighs and go up part of the way up the neck, and out to the edge of the shoulders. Because whatever you're wearing under the tape will shift as you put the tape on, you might end up needing two bags, or perhaps one trash bag with a grocery bag taped to the bottom. But if you use shirts, this will ruin two shirts potentially, and that's just sad. And let me tell you, you do have to wear something under the tape. I don't even want to think how painful it would be to get the form off without a barrier in between the tape and your body. Oh, and girls, wear a bra under the bag and the tape. Just be really careful when you cut the form off. That way whatever garments will fit you with a bra on, whether it's built in or separate. I guess if you'd rather not, that's your business. 

Tip #2: WRAP THE TAPE COMFORTABLY! People. This is HUGELY important. The first time I made a duct tape form, I wrapped it really tightly because I thought that all the layers of tape would build up and make all my pieces too big. Guess what? They didn't. What ended up happening is my clothes were too tight and I had to let everything out. Not cool. Another reason to put the tape on comfortably is you'll squish your body into the wrong shape. My first form was really lopsided, lumpy, and weird-looking. Tragic. This is especially important if you're a girl, which is probably the majority of you (or at least your models and customers.) Remember what I said about wrapping too tightly changing the shape? You want your chest to be the right shape. If you wrap too tightly, you'll lose the definition of the chest and end up with an awkward uniboob look, and nothing you make will fit. This is just a NO. In order to make sure you have that shape right, you must use pre-cut pieces of tape. It also might be helpful to carefully cut the pieces down the length of the tape, that way you can be more precise. This technique is also helpful if you're wanting to make a mannequin with separate legs instead of a true dress dorm. 

Tip #3: Don't skimp on the tape. My first dress form was only 2 layers thick, which meant it didn't keep it's shape well. I've had a lot more success with 4-5 layers. I wrap 3 layers while it's on the model, and then seal up the holes, and add another layer over the whole thing. A bonus tip about the top layer: wrap it the cross direction of your other layers. (Up and down instead of side to side.) This adds strength to the dress form. If you wrap all the layers in the same direction, gravity will pull your mannequin apart. Here's a work-in-progress example of wrapping cross grain:

(The tragic dress form with the red tape did not have cross-grain tape, and kept pulling apart. That's why there's red tape. I had run out of the silver tape, and I kept having to repair it with the red.) Another reason to add a layer over the top after the dress form is sealed up is because sometimes after you've stuffed it, you find spots that didn't get enough stuffing. For me, this is almost always the neck and chest. I frequently have to cut it open again, and add more stuffing to those places. I tape it back up when I'm done, but the final layer helps make sure that won't pop open. Wrap a cross-grain layer even if you're going to decoupage over it all. There is no such thing as too strong when it comes to these things.

Tip #4: Don't spend a ton of money on fancy stuffing. You have to pack the stuffing in really tightly, so you almost always end up needing more than you expected. Some tutorials will tell you to stuff your form with Fiber Fill. Well, you'll need a TON of that stuff, and it's not always very cheap. Others will tell you to use wadded newspaper, but that's not always very effective. An easy filling is destroyed hosiery. My mom had a ton of stretched out and torn pantyhose and tights around the house, and she was perfectly happy to let me get rid of them for her. I also use fabric scraps that are too small or ugly to do anything with. A great place to find these is around a serger if you have one. Yarn, string, and thread scraps are also good. If that's not enough to fill up your form, my go to stuffing is paper from the shredder. If you don't have enough paper shreds, go through your junk mail stack. I'm sure you'll have plenty of shreds in no time. With so many options for filling, there's no reason to spend money on it unnecessarily. Admittedly, sometimes I have to use some fiber fill when adding stuffing to the neck and chest, but if you don't want to do that, save your fabric and string scraps for that. It's just really hard to get paper shreds in re-opened holes. 

Tip #5: Put something solid in the neck to help it keep the right shape. I didn't think about this when I made my first duct tape dress form, Marie Antoinette, and she had a tragic, untimely ending. See:

This is just sad. Duct tape is pretty strong, but it's not THAT strong. What I suggest to put in the neck is a peanut butter jar lid. It's about the right shape as it is, but if it's not quite big enough, you can always use another kind of lid, or you could wrap a bit of duct tape around the outside of the lid until it's wide enough. Here's a dress form I made with a lid in the neck:

Isn't that so much better?

It's also helpful to put something sturdy inside the shoulders, waist, and hips. I suggest hangers. If you don't want to waste your good hangers, there are plenty of stores that give you the hangers that come on the clothes. (Kohl's is one I can think of off the top of my head.) You can also use broken ones, like if the hook is broken off. Regular hangers are good for the shoulders and hips, and small skirt/pants hangers are good for the waist. If you can't find one small enough, you can just break a cheap hanger down to the right size. If you don't put these in to stabilize the form, the shoulders might droop, and the waist and hips will round out. What I mean by that is, they'll squish in at the sides, and out at the font and back. You don't want a sausage dress form. 

I really hope this was helpful for you! If you would like to share any additional tips, or tell me whether these worked for you, I'd really love to hear it. Leave me comments! If you thought these tips were useful, share the love! Share this post with your friends! I really do love hearing your feedback! It's nice to hear that what I'm doing is worth my time! Now go out there and create something amazing!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Food Finds Friday: Chocolate Edition

As I've mentioned recently, I've found some pretty impressive things in grocery stores recently. REALLY impressive. For any chocolate lovers out there, (this should be just about everyone in existence,) I've found some absolutely DELICIOUS ready-made chocolatey desserts. (Are you drooling yet?) I'm going to be sharing 2 items that are both gluten-free, and vegan. Both can be found for sure at Whole Foods, and probably several other health food stores. Are you ready?



1. Zen Pudding

This pudding if so rich, you'll forget you're a poor college student. Or maybe that's just me. This stuff is really great though. I totally enjoyed it. I had to make myself ration it out, or I would have eaten the whole pack of four in one sitting. They have several flavors, including chocolate, vanilla, chocolate and vanilla, and chocolate almond milk (depicted above.) It is a tiny bit more on the expensive side though. While I really enjoyed it, I probably won't buy it often, especially when there are several Vegan College Cookbook recipes for chocolate pudding, such as Break-Up Pudding! If you make the pudding yourself, there's more to go around. So, my final verdict is: it tastes great, but the price is not right.

2. The Piping Gourmets Whoopie Pies

The Piping Gourmets Rolls Out GFCO Certified Gluten-Free Whoopie Pies

For the love of everything beautiful in this world, thank you for existing. So far, I've been able to try the first 3 flavors from the left. Let me tell you: they are amazing. If I had to choose between being rich and famous and having a lifetime supply of these, it would be a pretty tough toss-up. They come frozen, and personally, I think they taste best thawed, but they taste fine frozen too if you really cannot wait. If you're cooking dinner though, and you get one out to thaw while you're cooking, it'll be ready for dessert. These are so rich, and so yummy. It's very difficult to describe them with words. If you spoke whoopie pie, I'd get one out and roll it around on the keyboard so you'd know. . . These taste perfectly real, except for that they're so good, it's unreal. They don't have that I'm-an-allergen-free-version-of-a-delicious-food taste to them. I have no idea how to make something this delicious! I'm perfectly happy to buy them. I think this is love. Final verdict: Oh, kale yeah.

Alright, well I'm going to wrap this post up now, because I want to go eat another whoopie pie after talking about them so much. I hope these product reviews were helpful! If you have any products to suggest for review, leave a comment saying what I should try!