It’s my birthday this week (Thursday) and I thought it would be nice to celebrate by offering a giveaway to my fabulous readers.  Since it’s still going to be pretty cold for the Northern hemi for a little while, I thought some nice warm mittens and gloves would be perfect (and winter will be in the Southern hemi before you know it).

This giveaway is open to everyone, everywhere!

The gloves are knitted alpaca gloves from Village Shoes (they aren’t affiliated with this contest, but they are awesome and you should still check them out.)  I won these gloves in a contest, but I’m allergic to alpaca, so I want to pass them on to someone who can give them the love they deserve.  They really are gorgeous, and very soft and warm.

I handknit the mittens myself, using Elizabeth Zimmermann’s mitered mittens pattern.  The yarn is a soy/wool blend, and it is very soft and warm.

The winner will receive both pairs!

To enter this contest:

  • Leave a comment on this post telling me what the coldest temperature that you’ve ever experienced was, and where you were when you experienced it (for me, it was 13 degrees, in North Carolina.)
  • For an additional entry, follow my blog using Google Reader, Bloglovin’, or any other service, and let me know how you are following my blog in a second comment.
  • For another entry, tweet about this contest on Twitter, including @dianalynnsmiles in the tweet, and post another comment here letting me know that you did so.

That’s three chances to enter!  Be sure to post a new comment for each entry.  This contest will go until midnight EST, Friday February 26.  I’ll announce the winner on Saturday.

I am certainly not an expert on Ebay, but I’ve learned a trick or two about how to find (and win) really great clothes, shoes and accessories, so I figured I could share a few tips.

  • Tip #1: Know what you are looking for ahead of time. Ebay is not really a place for serendipitous browsing unless you have a lot of time on your hands to sift through a ton of crappy items to find that one elusive gem.  When I go on Ebay, I am always in hunt of something very specific.  Perhaps I am looking for a pair of Fluevog boots, or a J Crew cashmere sweater, or a pair of non-black leather gloves.  If you just search for something extremely broad and non-specific, like “red dress”, you are going to have to look through tons and tons and tons of items that you have absolutely no interest in.
  • Tip #2: Search for brands you already love.  Not everyone on Ebay offers returns, so it isn’t really the best place to experiment with new brands you know nothing about.  Google reviews on a new brand if it’s something you haven’t tried on in a physical store before.  Try to have a good idea of what your size in that brand is before you start searching.  I always keep saved searches on several of my favorite brands that I know work for me, including Dansko, Fluevog, Boden and J. Crew.
  • Tip #3: Save your searches!!! I cannot emphasized this tip enough.  I would say that about 95% of my Ebay purchases have been found through saved searches.  This saves lots and lots of time for you, and allows you to make sure you don’t miss anything that you’re interested in.
    • To save a search, enter your search in the search bar, such as “Dansko boots”.  Once you get your results page, you can limit your findings to what applies to you.  In my case, I select “women’s shoes” on the side bar, and limit the sizes to 8 and unspecified (sometimes sellers don’t check the size box).  Then, look for something like this:
      “18 items found for dansko boots in Women’s Shoes: 8 [ Save this search ]“.  Just click “Save this search” and Ebay will e-mail you anything new that turns up in those search parameters for a designated amount of time.  I get about 20-25 of these e-mails every day for different things I’m interested in, and looking through  those e-mails is so much easier than searching for 25 different searches manually every day. (Note: the e-mails will only show you nine of the most recent items posted.  To see everything, there is a link in the email that you can click on)
  • Tip #4: Add items to your watch list. Whenever you are interested in an item and think you might buy it, add it to your watch list.  If you want to get an idea of how much a certain item goes for, add it to your watch list.  I check my watch list a couple times a day to remind myself of what items I’m considering.  Generally, I never end up bidding on many of those items, but I still like knowing what I’m interested in.
  • Tip #5: Search general and broad. Maybe you know that exact name of the shoe that you’re looking for.  But maybe a seller doesn’t.  And maybe, you are itching to get a pair of Fyre 8R Engineer Boots, but a seller simply lists them as “Black Frye boots”.  If you have searches going for both “Frye Engineer Boots” and “Frye Boots”,  you’ll find that posting either way.  And sometimes, if a seller doesn’t put the name of the item in the listing, it doesn’t get as much attention, and you could end up scoring your dream item at an excellent price.
    • Added tip:  if there’s a certain term that you want eliminated from your search results, put a minus sign in front of it.  Thus, searching for “Dansko -clogs” will show all listings that contain the word Dansko but do not contain the word “clog”
  • Tip #6:  Read listings very carefully and ask questions early. Always read every section of a listing.  Look for measurements, fabric content, imperfections.  Look at the photos.  Check the seller’s feedback ratings.  If you have any questions about an item that aren’t answered in the listing, send the seller a message as soon as possible.  If they’re good, they’ll get back to you before the listing closes.  If they don’t, it’s not worth biding on anyhow.  Most sellers are very willing to work with you and will gladly provide details about the item and additional pictures if you ask.
  • Tip #7: Determine the absolute maximum you are willing to pay for an item, and stick to it. It’s really easy to get sucked into the thrill of online auctions.  Someone outbids you, but you really want that item, so you bid again, and again, and again.  Next thing you know, you’ve won that item, paying three times more than what it’s worth.  Before you bid, decide on how much you are willing to spend, and stick to that, even if you get outbid.  Sometimes, you have to be willing to let stuff go.
  • Tip #8: Never bid until the last five minutes of the listing. Now that you’ve saved all your searches, that perfect pair of vintage Fluevog pumps comes up.  And you want them desperately.  So you bid several days before the listing ends and you are massively outbid.  You sulk for several weeks.  What you could have done is waited til the last five minutes of the listing (preferably the last sixty seconds) before putting in your maximum bid, so other bidders wouldn’t have much time to outbid you.  I’ve won many, many auctions this way.  Bidding early just ends up raising the price most of the time.  Wendy B. swears by “sniping” services, and while I haven’t tried it yet, it sounds like it would be very effective.
  • Tip #9: Resolve any problems with seller before leaving feedback. Did your item not turn out to be what you expected?  Was it mis-represented in the listing?  Always send a message to the seller with your concerns if something isn’t what you expected it to be.  Many will be willing to work with you, offering a return or refund, rather than getting bad feedback.
  • Tip #10: Always leave feedback.  Did you get your item in a timely manner?  Did the seller answer all communication?  Did they resolve any problems you had?  Then go leave some positive feedback.  Ebay thrives on feedback, and leaving sellers positive feedback when they do a good job helps them, and it’s just plain nice to do.

What are your favorite Ebay shopping strategies?

Dansko Sela Sandals   $35 on Ebay

Gap filled: White sandals

We just wrapped up week 3 of my Great Shopping Plan of 2010, and so far I feel like it’s going quite well.  Because I’m still looking for a permanent, full-time job, I’m allowed to spend $125 a month on clothes, shoes and accessories, focusing on filling gaps in my wardrobe and shopping local, second-hand, and hand-made as much as possible.  After last week, I had $80 left for the month.

I didn’t really buy much this week, mostly because I was just too busy to go shopping.  Also, I’m trying to save a bit of money to go thrifting on my birthday next Thursday.  So I only bought one thing this week: a pair of white Dansko Sela sandals.  Now I realize that to many up North, it may seem crazy to be buying sandals in February.  But the fact is that we really only have a few more weeks of cold weather left in Florida, and after that it will be hot until October.  Sally at Already Pretty has talked before about shopping for the dominant season where you live, and that’s what I’m doing here.  I really, really wanted to have a pair of white sandals last summer, and these filled that gap, so I know that I’ll be wearing them a lot.

The sandals were a mere $35 on Ebay, so that leaves me with $45 left to spend this month.  I buy a lot of my clothes and shoes on Ebay, and several of you have asked for some tips and advice on how I find items there.  I wrote up a post on that, and it will be up tomorrow morning, so stay tuned!

I generally tend to be about five days behind in posting outfits.  This helps to keep putting posts together from being too stressful, because I don’t have to worry if there simply isn’t time to take a picture of an outfit one day.  Thus, this is actually what I wore on Valentine’s Day.

To be honest, I don’t really take the holiday too seriously.  My first job was working for Hallmark Cards, so I’m a bit disillusioned at the commercialization and pressure that tends to come with Valentine’s Day.  My boyfriend and I kept it simple.  He gave me some chocolate, and we relaxed and watched movies and cooked a really tasty dinner of mashed potatoes and gravy with turkey and brocolli.   This outfit was the perfect compliment to a low-stress, relaxing day, and the floral pattern kept it a bit romantic.

When I picked up this blouse off the sale rack at Anthropologie last week, it was mostly on a whim, because I was attracted to the pattern.  I didn’t really expect to get it, since I have so many sleeveless patterned blouses.  But now, I absolutely love it, and I think it’s going to become a wardrobe staple for me in the coming months.  It’s funny how you sometimes find your favorite items when you least expect to.

What’s one of your favorite wardrobe items that you stumbled onto without really looking for?

Blouse: Anthropologie
Salmon Layering Tank: The Limited (via Revolve)
Cardigan: J Crew (via Ebay)
Jeans: Express
Shoes: Born Codder
Necklace: garage sale
Ring: from my mom
Bangles: Jill Popowich

Quote: Anatole Over Paris, by Eve Titus

Some people like to dress in head-to-toe black for the entirety of winter.  To me, that just feels too depressing.  I like lots of fun and happy colors in my outfits.  The only time I  ever wear head-to-toe black is at funerals.

I wore this outfit to my nephew’s’ 2nd birthday party.  I wanted to be comfortable and warm, since there would be lots of standing outside and kneeling down to play with toddlers.  The length of the dress and the leggings helped to preserve some modesty, while the boots, sweater, and scarf kept me nice and cozy.  I think I’m going to be wearing this scarf I just got at Anthropologie quite a bit.

I always get my nephews and niece books for their birthdays, because I feel that books have greater long-term worth to the children than toys, and most of them have plenty of toys anyhow.  I got my nephew Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, and it was so cute, because when his mom gave him the gift to open and told him who it was from, he got confused and tried to give it to me.  I eventually had to open it for him and show him the book to explain to him that “No, this is actually for you”.  Too adorable.

Do you like to dress colorfully in the cold months, or do you prefer neutral ensembles?

Dress: Boden (via Ebay)
Sweater: Ralph Lauren (garage sale, re-conned)
Leggings: Target
Boots: Fluevog Heather (via Ebay)
Scarf: Anthropologie
Purse: Timbuk2

Quote: Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire!, by Jane O’Connor

I took four years of French in high school, and while I’ve forgotten most of the language, I continue to have a love for all things French.  Apparently, quite a few Etsian’s share my franchophilia.  Here’s some gorgeous items for when you feel a bit of “Je ne sais quois

Je T’aime Necklace  $34

Chocolate and Steel

C’est La Vie  $15.75

Maru Maru

Sterling Silver Eiffel Tower  $29

Just Jaynes

Dusk in Paris Earrings  $10

Run Wild Horses

Sarabeth Necklace  $26

Savvy State College

For several weeks, I thought I had lost this cardigan.  I searched all over the house, checked the lost and found box at work, but I couldn’t seem to find it anywhere.  Then one day, I remembered that I had recently moved my handknits to a different drawer while reorganizing my studio.  What a relief!  Nothing feels much worse than thinking you lost a cardigan that took you a few months to knit.

Finding my cardigan gave me the perfect excuse to wear my new belt that I got at Anthropologie last weekend.  I think I’m one of those types who likes to wear new things right away.  I’m really, really happy with this belt.  It filled a definite gap in my wardrobe, and I can tell it’s going to get plenty of use.

I’m really beginning to love wearing scarves tied up like this.  They keep my neck nice and cozy, and they still allow me to add an additional pop of color with a long necklace.  In this outfit, I echoed the color of the necklace by wearing a turquoise bracelet.  I really love mixing yellow and pale blue/turquoise.

Do you like to wear new things right away? Or do you prefer to save new items for a special occasion?

Long sleeve tee: Issac Mizrahi for Target
Cardigan: Minimalist, handknit by me
Jeans: Express
Boots: Dansko Nena (via Ebay)
Belt: Anthropologie
Necklace: Chocolate Cake Jewels
Scarf: Bought in Chinatown, NYC
Purse: Morelle Charlotte
Bracelet: ??, gift

Quote: Don’t Take Your Snake for a Stroll, by Karin Ireland

Curious to know how I wrapped my circular shawl in the outfit post from earlier today?  Here, I’ll show you how I did it.

First, you fold the shawl in half, with the right side on the outside.

Then, drape the shawl over your shoulders, with the two ends hanging in front.

Tuck one of the ends over behind your shoulder, underneath the shawl.

Then drape the other end over the other shoulder, on top of the shawl.  Secure with a shawl pin or brooch, or leave it loose.  Voila!  You now have a chic circular shawl wrap!

Some people consider the circular shawl to be solely something that old-fashioned people wear to church.  I disagree with that view.  There is no reason why a circular shawl can’t be worn in a modern, stylish ensemble.  With this outfit, I aim to prove the nay-sayers wrong.

Here, I wore my circular shawl as a delightfully warm capelet.  It’s amazing just how warm and comforting lace weight merino/silk yarn can be.  I decided to keep the rest of my outfit very simple, because I wanted this shawl to shine.  I wore a simple black cashmere sweater and jeans, with pops of tan and a green bag to echo the color of the shawl.

I’m of the opinion of that if you knit something, and it turned out nicely, you should wear it.  So many knitters hide their knits away, afraid to take them out for fear that their hard work might be damaged.  But what good is it if you never wear it, if you never get to show it off?  I agree with Sally’s philosophy of “wear everything all the time“.

What items do you own that you are sometimes hesitant to wear?  What is holding you back?

(Look for a tutorial on how I wrapped my circle scarf later today!)

Coat: Colebrook
Sweater: J Crew (via Ebay)
Belt; Anthropologie
Jeans: Express
Boots: Dansko Nena (via Ebay)
Shawl: Pi Shawl handknit by me
Purse: Easy Spirit Outlet

Quote: If I Ran the Zoo, by Dr Seuss

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