santa cruise

Today is the first day of school, but I'd like to stay in the last days of summer for just ten more minutes.

On Thursday, Jordan went off the map and drove us to Santa Cruz on the end of a back-to-school shopping trip to The Great Mall (next post. next post.). If you've never had the pleasure of visiting this strange little place, I'd highly recommend it for a day trip.  It's the quintessential beach town - one good street, more seagulls than people, and a lot of tourists - but is also home to UC Santa Cruz, so there's a ridiculous amount of hipster college students everywhere. This one-off combination has led to a place that is home to sock shops, a pizza joint whose shirts are collected around the world, and three all-you-can-eat vegetarian Indian buffets. Jordan says there's more to it than that, but honestly, those are the best bits.

The Boardwalk is the crown jewel though, and for good reason - it's the one of the last places around where you're allowed to get on blatantly unsafe rides. All in the name of the kind of sheer terror that is a cornerstone of incredible fun. You may think I'm joking, but most of those things start shaking suspiciously when someone sneezes too hard. It's great. The whole places is covered in a fine layer of sand as well. Tastes incredible on a hotdog or chili cheese fries, and the lightly sanded Bavarian Almonds are a must. Absolute pinnacle of culinary art. 

All jokes aside, the Boardwalk is a cultural icon not because of its creaky boards, or impressive sunsets, or even its typical California beach. It's weathered millions of tourists and gallons of saltwater and remained a place that undeniably feels like summer. The bright, cracking paint, and the top 50 hits piped out of speakers that sound older than the artists performing through them, those are accoutrements of this cotton candy scented time freeze. Even on a cloudy Thursday, at 60 degrees with a cold breeze coming off the Pacific, it felt like the right place to spend the summer with your friends. If you have those.

It was the perfect way to close off what has truly been a whirling and sunburnt summer. But now it's time to pack it in, and pretend that fall has arrived, so that it won't seem so sad to spend the next 16 weeks in a classroom.

Summer '16,
you did good.

x Justina

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


#soworthit - bts with jcpenney

all pieces from JCPenney

*Commercial male voice* It’s back to school time!

When it comes to back to school clothes shopping, we talk about the latest styles, looking cute for football games, the most stylish shoes. But we don’t talk about budgets, getting dressed half-asleep at 5:30 in the morning, or running across campus several times a day. You know, the reality of being me/a college student.  Put down the pajamas, I’m not saying we sacrifice real outfits, just that we think about this a little differently. Back to school can be affordable, and still cute, which is what JCPenney sent me out to prove.

I picked up the pieces for this cute lil look at my local store, which, *sadly* is not one hosting one of the groovy Girls Night In events styled by JCPenney, (But yours might be!! check it out). I was looking for a few things. Pockets, easy to pull together, and a solid statement piece I can wear a lot, because unique dressing gets harder and harder the closer and closer you get to midterms. Fact. Clearly, I found what I was looking for in this Arizona cardigan. My hope is that the bright colors and a solid cup of coffee can get me through morning classes. The peasant top underneath is also a win-win- it’s comfy, but looks a little more pulled together than a regular t-shirt, perfect for my schedule, which involves dashing from English Lit to the newsroom. 

Honestly, the hardest part about back to school shopping (other than, you know, wearing it all back to school) is getting it done, and this was easy, breezy, and resulted in a beautiful cardigan. 

x Justina 

ps. JCPenney sent me to explore their store, and paid for the trip, but you guys know the deal: cardigans can’t buy my love. 

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


elephant's trumpet


I live in suburban Northern California. I've never seen an elephant in the wild, and I've also never seen an elephant thats not stuffed in a tiny enclosure,  being dragged along by a chain, or made to participate in a group activity. I don't like doing those, and I know the elephants don't either. Unfortunately, thats the only contact most of us have had with them. Their captivity in circuses and tiny zoos is a human manipulation often masked as "conservation', which is basically us putting a band-aid on a problem we created. Elephants are being poached left and right. In some fairly recent numbers, "left and right" meant every 15 minutes.

The Elephant Pant company is working to change those numbers to something nicer, like maybe someone observing an elephant in a positive non-abusive environment every 15 minutes, something you can do at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It's a rehabilitation centre whose entire herd is made up of rescued and "retired" elephants, and also one of The Elephant Pants' beneficiaries. Tomorrow, August 12th, for their World Elephant Day Sale, they'll be donating 10% of their profits directly to the park. That'll buy a lot of plantains.

As for the pants themselves: I'd appreciate if everyone stopped making fun of me for wearing them so often. They're REALLY comfortable and have POCKETS okay. You'd do the same thing if you had some. (Which you could.) 

(But get them tomorrow)
(So the elephant park gets toys)

x Justina  

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


travel | side piece

all photos taken with a fujifilm instax + iPhone 5

Sallie and I are masters of taking the absolute longest route anywhere we go, sheerly because, like any good improv actors, we'll always say yes. Wanna drive through a tree? Yes. Want to take this side exit into a totally dark corn field to look at the Milky Way? Yes. Want to stop on the side of the road because you see a woodcarving of Bigfoot? Absolutely yes. 

As spectacular as our scheduled programming is, we do our best work, and have the best adventures/sing-a-longs/trademark one-liners when we're places we never planned to be. There's some strange stuff on the side of the road. Especially in California. So here's a short introduction to taking the long way:

1. Pre-load all playlists, and always make sure they're at least three hours longer than you'll need or else you'll end up listening to Rae Sremmurds "Come Get Her" 13 times. 

2. You're wandering, but your signal might not be, so update your family/stalkers/internet friends every once in a while so they know you're alive. 

3. Before any trip, stop at a grocery store, and buy these things: 
  - a loaf of real hardy bread, preferably sourdough
 - things to dip/smear/pile on this bread
 - large bottles of either tejava unsweetened tea (sallies), or orangina (me)
 - a salami
This will keep your nourished and friendly for your entire trip.

4. Take photos of everything, as many times as possible, just in case one of you is in a huge rush to free up space and deletes the only video proof of you squeezing a large truck through the aforementioned hole in a tree.

5. KNOW WHERE YOU ARE. Can't stress this enough - going off the beaten path is great as long as you know how to get back to it. Especially when driving, you don't want to run out of gas in the middle of nowhere with only that mysterious "GPRS" signal that is just a actually just a lie.

When it comes down to it, pack some snacks and just say yes...

.. and then what? 

x J

ps. Sallie dropped her phone in a toilet, and can't read this post, so she has no idea what I've said about her. 

pps. she really is an absolute party

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


baby's got back

shirt: wild blue denim
pants: element eden
shoes: coolway usa

The back on this shirt is a classic case of something looking extremely challenging, and then being extremely challenging. Like how much back is too much back? I still don't know.

I felt like I needed to at least TRY to use it as something other than a glorified dress-topper, and so, in an effort to make the whole thing simpler, decided to combine it with the only harder-to-wear item in my closet: these pants. They're WHITE and FLORAL and CROPPED and CUFFED ON THE BOTTOM. I've had them a solid two years but have always been way too scared of them and the stains I was sure would immediately destroy them if I dared to wear them in public. But as always, the promise of wiggle room and pockets pulled me in.

THIS OUTFIT WAS SO COMFY. I wore it to wander around the market and pretend I could tell the difference between central valley and northern peaches. (psa: central valley are squishier and generally sweeter. I guess.) Unexpected side effect of being fully covered with an open back? Perfect temperature. Even though it was 103 degrees. That's almost...40 degrees celsius for those of you who live in places with seasons.

I'm currently in Humboldt, which is much too far north of the wall for you to worry about locating on a map. It's foggy, and below 70 degrees, which feels faintly unnatural to me. I can already feel myself losing my healthy tan.

Kidding. (a little)

x J

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


mixing it up

boots: CAT
shorts: H&M DIVIDED
shirt: Style & Co 
bag + sunnies: TOMS

The aesthetic of this outfit is definitely vodka mom in LA. You know, the one who has a solid colored Starbucks cup, enrolls her kids in "crystal therapy" at the local yoga studio on the beach, and takes out all her frustrations with life at SoulCycle. For further reference, check out my favorite instagram account, overheard in la

I'm not usually a patterned shorts person, mainly because until H&M intervened, I A. owned one pair of Levi's cut-offs that were getting the job done and B. always felt like they were too difficult to style for me to bother with. Also, due to my icy black heart, I am cold all of the time, and excessive skin exposure under freezing AC's is not a winning scenario for me. But now, the tables have turned. Mixing them in with my excessive chambray collection has led to a series of outfits that are summer-appropriate, but don't make me look like I maybe got dressed out of my laundry pile. (shh)

It's getting to that point in the summer where we're too far along to do "summer stuff" but also there's still another month until we go back to college. Honestly, I'm ready to get along to sweater weather and piles of pie. Or at least, I think I am right now.

Just wait until that first puddle soaks into my shoes.

 x J

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


gotta stash it all

overall dress: cotton on
t-shirt: cotton on
sneaks: converse
sunnies: TOMS

Overalls and I go way back, and most of you have witnessed it firsthand. As much as I love them though, there is always the slight chance that you look like a five year old. That's my usual day-to-day aesthetic, but sometimes even I feel pressure to dress like an ~adult~ occasionally. Hence, an overall DRESS. All of the pockets, with none of the playground jokes. 

I found this one from Cotton On a thrift store for $6 and if that's not a true American success story, I don't know what is. I've dreamed of wearing an outfit like this since I started blogging and first found my fashion alter in Swedish minimalism. Light wash denim, and monochromatic stripes are a match made in heaven, and I've been pursuing perfect combinations of  them this whole time.

Other things I've been pursuing: Pokemon. I only downloaded that stupid game to make fun of Jordan, but six days later I'm nine levels higher than I expected and have taken way too many walks to my local poke stops. It's problematic. I'm getting a TAN.

Although, I suppose if I actually were catching Pokemon, this would be an ideal outfit. All those pockets to stash 'em in, you know?

x J

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


trust me, it's in here

eye palette: stowaway cosmetics

Anyone who knows me also knows that at any given point in time you can find snacks, chargers for a range of electronics, the electronics they plug into, two smaller purses, and at least three Starbucks cards in my purse. It's very big, very heavy, and could support my entire life for up to two weeks. There's no base uncovered. There's also no relief for my poor shoulders, or the people I routinely smack with it. So every once in a while, just for laughs, I'll switch to my Small Purse. It's the exact size of a pocket in my regular bag, and forces me to "prioritize", aka dump the full cosmetics range I'm hauling at any given point.

That's where Stowaway got me with this eye palette. Not only am I always down for ~innovative  makeup solutions~, IT'S SO TINY AND CUTE LOOK AT IT. It's literally the size of a business card. I've managed to save several looks from slipping off completely with it, and it saves me having to explain my gel eyeliner at TSA ("no ma'am, it's not a liquid. swear.").

I was also pleasantly surprised by the color range. As a person whose skin tone is regularly described using a variety of coffee based-drinks, it can be really hard to find individual products, let alone palettes or collections, where I can use more than one color without looking frosted. The lightest color here is a shimmer, and worked as a bomb last-minute highlight. Major key to The Justina Look.

While writing this, my brother meandered out of the house with his keys, phone, and wallet in his pocket. Because he has real pockets on his clothing.

Life is unfair. 

x Justina

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


TRAVEL | it's how far up

This was maybe one of the scariest things I've ever done for a blog post, and I never saw it coming. I'm not scared of heights, so the 8k foot ascension above the Sonoran Desert on the Palm Springs Aerial Tram sounded like a great idea when they invited Sallie and I aboard. Then suddenly, I was in a glass bubble that was slowly rotating up a cable into the San Jacinto mountains, and....it was incredible. 

Somewhere along the way up, the terrain changes from dusty desert to a heavily wooded forest, closely resembling those where I live, far in the north of the state. It was an oasis unlike what you'd typically expect in a place where average temperatures can, and regularly do, reach 116 degrees fahrenheit. An alpine forest, the state park is significantly cooler than the land below it. Walking into the ground lobby, where you board your tram, and then the lodge at the top of the mountains, I almost forgot where I was. It reminded me of lodges in Europe, with their rickety wood paneling and dark restaurants. Outside, you feel like you're in a National Park ad, with the few tourists who found this gem, and the regulars who know where to locate a good hike meandering among the meticulously maintained paths. 

According to the guide, you pass through five different biomes on the way up, and it's easy to believe. The landscapes change drastically. Or maybe it just looks like that because they're getting smaller and smaller.

10/10 would recommend taking a bit of a hike up to the Tramway if you're looking for something different to do - or even just the slightest bit of a cool breeze in Southern California.

x J

ps. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway runs year round, minus holidays, and tickets can be purchased online up to 24 hours in advance. 

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin


go to camp

all photos taken with fujifilm x30

I realized today that every year around this time I disappear for a week, but don't really talk about why beyond saying "I'm going to camp". I've been saying that for eight of the last ten years I've been in 4-H, and I decided that this was the year in which I share with you all why it's so special for me. 

Four years ago, after occurring every summer for decades, my camp did not exist. Three years ago, we endured a stomach virus, rain, loss of electricity, and over three quarters of our staff, campers, and adult volunteers falling ill. Two year ago, we barely made the minimum attendance for campers. This year, Sacramento County 4-H Resident Camp had a full staff, a waitlist of kids wanting to attend, sunshine every day, and I was Camp Director. 

When you’re a kid, like I was (a long time ago), getting off the bus at camp, it’s all fun. You make icebox candles, play in the lake, and throw water balloons at your group leaders. You lie in the crunchy grass next to your new best friend and look at the stars you can’t see from your home in the city.  When you’re a staffer, getting out of your car two days before the campers arrive, you can already feel the fun and sunburn setting in. When we unload the hundreds of pounds of food we need, you hear the clamor of two hundred happy people sharing a delicious meal. You shove your co-leaders into the not-quite-swept-out corner of the cabin with the spiders. You sleep deep that night, knowing you won’t again for a while, not without at least five little hands shaking you awake for a bathroom run.

At the start of the week, you don't know the kids those hands are attached to. Some are 4-Hers, some aren’t (yet). They come from different neighborhoods, different socioeconomic backrounds, and vastly different lives. Camp is a special place where all these kids come together and learn a lot about life without even realizing it. Through our programming, we teach them not just arts and crafts, but about healthy relationships, self reliance, and the importance of engaging with your community. We also instill a sense of pride in their program, which is seen when the camper becomes the staffer. I’ve been attending camp since I was 10 years old, and have served on staff since I was 15.

There’s a reason camp is special, and it’s different for everyone. For me, a city girl who is severely allergic to mosquitoes and doesn’t like to go camping, camp is a family formed in a program I love. Camp is starting committee meetings in December, and spending hours interviewing staff to add to that family. Camp is having serious discussions with nine year olds about the importance of the bedtime stories we tell at the end of the day. Camp is knowing that every morning, for one week, I am given the privilege to shape a childs life. Over the years, that has shaped me as person. 

I consider  4-H Resident Camp my project of excellence, aka the best thing I've done as a 4-H'er because it hasn’t just changed me - it’s changing a child, a community, and itself, every summer.

It's also drastically changing my skin, because hundreds of bug bites over the years have left me looking rough man

x Justina 

ps. if you want to learn more about the California 4-H Program, or my camp, feel free to email me or click here. 

follow A Bent Piece Of Wire on twitter|facebook|bloglovin