Saturday, May 21, 2016

popping in to say hello || europe trip sneak peek

I just wanted to say hello with a real-time post! I know I haven't been keeping up with people online this month very well -- I just got back from my trip overseas. I'm jet lagged, which means I'm sitting in my favorite coffee shop in my hometown at an ungodly hour for a Saturday (I got here at 8:15 a.m. Indiana time, which is unheard of normally for me...) I have ten more days out of town* but back in the states at a slower pace of life it's easier to hop onto a laptop and reply to messages, comments, and post a few things.

*Being away for a month makes me sound like such an unemployed bum. But guess what! When I get back, I start a job! At a library! In downtown Dallas! Can life get any better? No, it cannot.

Suffice it for now to say that France and Iceland were both amazing, but I have to say that Iceland absolutely blew my mind, and if I had to pick only one destination for the rest of my traveling life, it would be Iceland. I'm going to post pictures and experiences slow and steady, to give myself time to chew over everything I got to see and do the trip justice.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite pictures from our first day, when we landed in Paris and hit the pavement for a whirlwind walking tour. Props to my amazing mother for putting the entire trip together -- she's the best travel agent!

I'm going to set about replying and catching up with my blog peeps now...


Kira xoxo

Monday, May 16, 2016

a little bit of beauty blogging || my makeup stash

I recently went through my beauty bag and sorted through it a bit in an effort to minimize, which I do with everything periodically. After playing around with makeup for a few years (I only really started wearing it in college) I've established my consistent favorites!

Since I have few enough makeup products to actually encompass them in a single post, I figured, why not, I'll do a little "what's in my stash" post.

Lip Products: the "Favorites"

These are my favorite lipsticks. Mainly, each of them has three qualities that make them the top of my list: moisturizing rather than drying, the color isn't too bright (so, good for everyday wear) and not too expensive. From left to right: Kate Moss Matte Rosetto, a Clinique "chubby stick" that my Sister-in-Law gave me from a sample pack she received, Julep "It's Balm," and Burt's Bees gloss.

Lip Products: "The Dramatics"

These two are my good-quality "dramatic colors," which are my go-to for intense lip color but I wouldn't wear on an everyday basis; a No. 7 from Boots in a dark red, and MAC Ruby Woo.

Lip Products: The Rest

These are products that I like enough to keep in the wings, but aren't necessarily my go-to unless I want a subtle color difference from one of my preferences. From left to right: a Julep matte gloss, two Clinique lipsticks (also from my sister-in-law's samples that she passes along to me) and two red shades from the Julep Jazz Age Paris trio.


I have a really limited collection of eye shadow. I've played with different colors, but I have hooded eyelids that don't show shadows off very well, so I don't really feel the need to keep a zillion options in my collection. I like matte neutrals and I have a palette of Physician's Formula shimmer strips (I think the one designed for green eyes) in case I want to look a little glitzy.  It's also nice to have mostly neutrals because I can use the colors as contour or eyebrow powder for touching up. I rely mainly on eyeliner and mascara for my eye effects. Left: A Clinique neutrals sample palette. Top left: Too Faced Natural Matte palette. Top right: Julep baked eye shadow sample. Bottom right: Physician's Formula Shimmer Strips.


I'm not super picky about eyebrow product, but I do like having wax on top of powder, so I buy the E.L.F. eyebrow kit in medium.


I have tried several foundations and BB creams and always come back around to the very first one I tried, which is Covergirl. It annoys me a little bit because Covergirl isn't cruelty-free (and neither are several of the other products I've listed, the ones that aren't are either very old from before I "went" cruelty-free or were gifted to me) but other skin products, the Aveeno BB cream above included, eventually give me breakouts. If anybody has any cruelty-free or vegan foundations to recommend, I'd love to hear it. I need something that's non-oily and very pale! I love the Cover Girl Oil Control line because it goes on as a liquid foundation but once dry has the mattifying effect of powder. Plus, it's not oil-based, and has never made me break out or feel horribly greasy!


My favorite products, and the ones that end up flattering my face the most, are eyeliners. I love a good cat eye! Above are the best products I've come across so far. L to R: Almay eyeliner in a brown shimmer. This one isn't great for cat eye sharpness, it goes on more like liquid eyeshadow, but it's still flattering. NYX liquid liner -- the best eyeliner I've found so far for cat eye! The brush is really sharp and the eyeliner washes off really easily without leaving raccoon splotches, but it still stays pretty sharp throughout the day. Below: Two eyeliner pencils, one in purple and one black, which I use on my waterline.


I don't use blush except when I'm going for a full face on a fancy occasion. On the left is my Tangee blush palette (I've since stopped using the lipstick; as much as I liked the color, it was very drying over multiple uses), which is a satisfying bright pink, and on the right, a nice neutral bronzer. I don't know the brand; as it's department store makeup from...cough...when my mom was in college... that wrong? If it's wrong I don't want to be right and all that. It's really lovely and good quality powder, even if it's 30 years old (oh god). Someone tell me if it's going to give me some nasty 80s-makeup disease.

Call me irreverent. I'm not that into makeup collecting. :P

What are your go-to products?

Any recommendations for cruelty-free substitutions in my stash?


Kira xoxo

Thursday, May 12, 2016

a weekend road trip to arkansas

Recently one of my best friends, who is currently pursuing graduate school in Florida, came to visit us for five whole days! I felt so lucky. She's a geology nut, and I love hiking and exploring state and national parks, so while she was west of the Mississippi we wanted to take the opportunity to explore some geological interest. Originally our plan was to hit Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo, but rains were making the trails unusable and threatened throughout the weekend, so instead, we turned east toward Arkansas.

We hit three major parks / sites; Crater of Diamonds State Park, Hot Springs, and Devil's Den. It was a fantastic weekend (and no, I definitely don't wear vintage when part of the weekend plans include digging in the dirt for diamonds)!

Crater of Diamonds State Park

Crater of Diamonds has outdoor recreation, but is probably best known for its 37-acre plowed field where guests are allowed free dig to find diamonds and other precious gems. The average is 2 diamonds found in the field per day. You can go out, dig, scrape, and search, and then bring your finds back to the identification station. We didn't find anything "precious," but there's a plethora of really beautiful rocks running in veins through the field. We took home some common-but-interesting-looking finds like agate and mica.

Ruby was even allowed. Her favorite part was wading through the creek that ran along one side of the field -- it was a hot day!

The single "uncapped" hot spring at the end of Bath House row. The water from the springs is about 140 degrees Fahrenheit -- definitely not something you can quite dip your feet in!

Hot Springs, AR and Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs was my favorite site of the three. It's an unusual National Park, encompassing a swath of forest within the valley town. The downtown area of Hot Springs is a stunning main street with fabulous architecture. "Bath House Row" runs along one side of the main avenue, which ends with Park Hotel, a gorgeous 1920s structure. The bath houses have used the hot water from the springs since the 19th century. Two of them are still operating as spas.

There are trails and hiking in the National Park, too. We walked along the Promenade, a paved path running along the bluff behind the bath houses. Breaks in the trees along the Promenade allow for really pretty views of the city a few stories below. There's also an overlook tower on top of one of the mountains in the park, which rises 20 stories and allows for really pretty views of the Ozarks stretching around the city. Because we're crazy, we bought tickets and took the stairs. What can I say, I wanted the Fitbit cred.

Devil's Den State Park (20 miles south of Fayetteville, AR)

After dinner in Hot Springs, we drove the three hours to Fayetteville to stay the night for the following day at Devil's Den State Park. We drove at night during a thunderstorm through Ouachita National Forest, which was quite the spooky experience!

Devil's Den had some fabulous hiking trails. X and I hiked two different loops, one of which ended with a large rock overlook. Ruby hiked with us the whole way, for a total of over six miles. We tried giving her a break riding in the backpack, which she accepted for about a quarter mile, but then she started whining to get down. Our little corgi always has to lead the pack!

All in all, our Arkansas trip was amazing. I definitely didn't know prior to our exploration that Arkansas has so much to offer. I definitely want to go back to Hot Springs for a little getaway -- and maybe dress the part, too!

Where have you been exploring lately? 

Have you ever been to Arkansas?


Kira xoxo

Sunday, May 8, 2016

an "advertising" opportunity

I've messed and futzed a little bit on this blog with commercializing and putting in sidebar ads, and usually go back to my default of adlessness with the goal of keeping my voice unfettered by affiliate links or obligation.

While I still don't have imminent plans to all-out commercialize, I would love to have a place on my sidebar for blog or Etsy buttons! I know that everyone wants traffic, whether to make money or friends, and trading buttons is something I'd be totally into! Alternatively, I would be interested in trading guest posts, interviews, or blogger spotlights. (Shoutout to Simply Alexandra -- I have a review post I need to rustle up for the lovely things you sent me; that'll be coming up soon!)

My modest online presence is why I'd prefer to "advertise" in this way, rather than trying to get corporate affiliate status. I don't get exorbitant amounts of traffic -- I get around 100 pageviews per day, if Google is being honest with me. I tie my blog into my Instagram (retrodorothy) and participate in blog events and parties, which situationally increases my traffic, but I don't spread my social media very thin. I network by interacting directly with other bloggers and online community members. That's just what I'm comfortable with, and what I'm here for!

If this is something that interests you, shoot me an email! kira.a.brennan(at)!


Kira xoxo

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

a new endeavor

I'm somewhat addicted to trying new things. I joined multiple clubs in college, I like to learn new languages, and I pile on hobbies and interests like I'm at a buffet. It's funny, because I think of myself as being very introverted and set in my ways, and yet, when I reflect on everything I've done with my time, I realize I'm pretty diverse in my interests.

When I moved to Texas and got a studio room all to myself, I started thinking...whoa, the world is kind of my oyster. I have space, I have privacy, we have a little bit more spending money than in college. So what did I do?

Well, I set up my sewing room / studio. I have a desk, I have a work table, a sewing machine table, and my ironing board, as well as a huge stash of art supplies to work with. You'd think that was enough to keep me busy, but noOoooOooOooOoo...

...I had to go and buy a violin!

My parents never forced me into music lessons as a kid. We did a lot of other extracurriculars. I picked up piano when I was about twelve or thirteen, and took about a year of lessons, but other than that, my musical abilities have been limited to playing a small number of piano pieces and...Spotify appreciation. And I'm not even that good at keeping up with contemporary music, but that's a different matter.

Ellie has played viola for most of her life. She played in the Purdue Symphony Orchestra for the duration of college, and I went to a lot of her concerts. I've always been about 80% inspired 20% jealous that she has an instrument she can play, and that she learned so young, so that music is basically a native language for her.

When she visited Texas for the first time, we got to talking about the fact that I could pick up an instrument if I so chose. Nothing was stopping me, not even housemates who would have to deal with the screechy sounds of a beginner string instrument! So, Ellie helped me pick out a basic violin, and she even gifted me the first Suzuki book.

I'm mostly self teaching, which I know in many ways is a bad idea. I'll concede that it has the potential to cause bad habits to build up. While we had the money to splurge on the beginner kit, our budget doesn't currently have space for consistent, professional lessons, although once in a while I'm planning on springing for a few. For now, what I'm doing to practice on my own consists of the following:
  • Practicing for at least 30 minutes per day. Half an hour is a pretty standard time allotment for anyone learning an instrument by daily practice.
  • Consulting frequently with Ellie on issues of music theory and form. Since she plays viola in an orchestra setting, she has a strong familiarity with string instruments and set me up with the basics: tuning, care of the instrument, posture, etc. I'm pretty sure I annoy the crap out of her when I'm practicing because I text her about every little development.
  • Using multiple books and watching multiple videos on YouTube to compare teaching and beginner playing methodology. I've got the first Suzuki book, as well as several other beginner string / theory books, and I watch multiple videos, about 2-3, per practice session. I watch introductory videos, professionals playing, and tutorials. Different online teachers present and articulate things differently, so I can check to see if something seems universal or particular to one violinist. I also try to compare classical teachers versus fiddle teachers (I would love to be able to fiddle one day in the very, very distant future.) 
  • I practice in the bathroom mirror to watch my form. I don't have the eye of a teacher, but I can watch my own body better based on what I know from my various resources.
I'm primarily focusing right now on matters of form and the kinetics of playing, because I don't want to lock in any bad habits I'll have to undo in a few months. (Although I probably will no matter how hard I try, because I don't have constant supervision from an expert.  This is just a risk I'm accepting.) I'm resisting the temptation to leap into song tutorials and sheet music beyond the range of the Suzuki lesson I'm on.

And, of course, because I don't like posting wall-of-text blog entries, I had to ham it with my cheap-o violin. Except with the remote shutter button I couldn't actually take real playing pictures.

But then I remembered there's such a thing as a self timer on my camera. Even if it doesn't focus properly. (Any experienced violinists out there notice anything off? Tell me now...)

Have you ever taught yourself an instrument? 

Have you picked up music later in life?

What new things have you tried lately?


Kira xoxo

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

revisiting the walkaway dress!

I've been meaning to pull out my first successful sew, this classic Butterick 4790, to do a better set of pictures with it, petticoat included! This dress taught me so much about sewing. It also was really the piece that launched my confidence, since I learned that I could make things fit better by strategically improving on a pattern block.

Putting it back on a few months after improving via other sewing projects, I realize it has some flaws, but it's still pretty darn good. It was fun to twirl around in it for a while!

I tried throwing a light sweater over it, even though Texas is already experiencing 85 degree weather, but I just wanted to see how it looked. Not bad, I think. It buckles a little bit so it's not the smoothest looking ensemble, so maybe a waist-length cardigan would work better. Speaking of which, does anyone know of a good web site, like Downeast Basics, that would sell affordable waist-length cardigans in different colors? I have a zillion cardigans, but almost all of them are slouchy hip-length ones that are more meant to go with jeans and leggings than nipped-in vintage-style dresses...

I'm also taking a break from vintage hairdos for a while unless I can find some that will consistently stay without the aid of teasing, yanking, or adding product. (So...maybe just pincurls?) I've put my hair on a very delicate "recovery program" so to speak, babying all the damaged ends for a while. My hair in the next dozen or so fashion posts may look pretty boring!

Dress: Me-made
Petticoat: Amazon
Shoes: B.A.I.T. Footwear
Necklace: Mother-in-law gifted I think? I have tons of strings of fake pearls, they've all come from different places!
Earrings: I think sort of stolen from my mom when I was little :P
Hair clip: Lilla Rose

What's the first project / garment that really gave you confidence in your skills?

Do you still wear handmade items you made a long time ago?

Have you ever tried the Walkaway dress pattern?


Kira xoxo

Monday, April 25, 2016

a saturday at the (dog) park

On Saturday Joe and I decided to get out and about rather than being our typical homebody selves. Being the parents of an energetic herding-breed dog, we thought it would be really cool to go to the UFO Disc Dog State Championships and see some Frisbee dogs strut their stuff. I found out about the event from a herding breed meetup mailing list, so we brought Ruby along! She loves outings, and had no idea what she was in for when we put on her harness.

Neither Herbie (my family's first corgi) nor Ruby has ever taken to catching a Frisbee mid-air, but they both love fetch and will "work" until they run their little nubby legs into the ground, true to their breed. Had we trained them differently, I think they would have had a blast with disc dog games. It was so cool to see the diversity of dogs competing in freestyle and toss-and-catch rounds. Joe, who grew up with big dogs and misses having a large breed in the house, was delighted. We sat watching until we both started to get pink from the sun. Put sunscreen on our grocery list; we're not used to the outdoor season yet, even though we're down south...

Despite not being one of the "athletes," Ruby attracted a lot of attention, as corgis are wont to do in public. I was told by some of the enthusiasts and even a judge that corgis do indeed participate in disc dog sports. Lo and behold:

Maybe my little old corgi could learn a thing or two.


Kira xoxo