Under Construction

Abstract silver leaf and pastel stripe acrylic painting by Carly J. Cais

I was playing around with pastels swashes of acrylic color, overlaid with silver leafing on canvas, and created this artwork. I find it especially soothing to look at in the midst of chaos.

Things are looking a little funky right now as I’m redesigning the entire website.

It’s in for a major overhaul – new branding, new focus, everything. Everything will be in place soon – and thanks for your patience while I switch things up around here!

Enter to Win Sock It To Me’s Annual Global Design-A-Sock Contest – $2000 Grand Prize

Portland’s own Sock It to Me is calling artists of all ages and talents from around the world to submit a uniquesock design for a chance to win up to $2,000 in cash along with a big batch of products, and have their winning design manufactured as part of Sock It to Me’s next fashion collection!

Unicorns, hot dogs, pugs, bacon – whatever your inner artist aspires to – think up a cool design and sketch it for a chance to win! Download your entry form here, and submit your funky, awesome design below!

Submit your Entry Form For a Chance to Win

Good luck, you guys!
Can’t wait to see the awesome designs you come up with!

Fun Fall Fashion Work Chic with JCPenney

FTC Disclosure: This post is part of a paid campaign with SheKnows and JCPenney. The opinions featured are my own. My full Disclosure Policy is here.


When it comes to Fall Fashion I’m all about chic and work-appropriate, as I just started a brand-new full-time job where I have to look polished every day. Luckily, JCPenney is here to help, with the JCPLookbook.com which has a number of ideas for styling your fun (and affordable!) Fall outfits. jcpenney-fall-fashion-outfit-2-handbag-chic-steals

Normally I tend to dress a little more “dressed up” than necessary – because you never know when your next client is walking through the door, or when you’ll close a sale, or when you might need to go to a business dinner after work. And starting from a point of being dressed up makes it easy to transition to an evening-appropriate outfit by just switching out jewelry and darkening makeup. Dressing more conservatively makes me feel empowered because I never feel under-dressed for the situation. I feel ready to tackle head-on whatever life may throw at me. I recently teamed up with JCPenney to shop their latest in Fall fashion and put together some outfits that make me feel empowered.

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Here are my new favorite Fall outfits found at JCPenney:

Nicole by Nicole Miller Sleeveless Print Panel Sheath Dress and Kelsie Tote, FIERCE rhinestone rose gold bangle (avail. in stores)

LOVE this printed sheath by Nicole by Nicole Miller (who’s celebrating it’s 10-year anniversary at JCPenney!) – it’s a statement outfit all in one and can be finished off with just a few accessories to complete it. I added in a rose gold bangle with “FIERCE” spelled out in rhinestones found at JCPenney’s Accessories department to remind me how I feel when I dress chic.


Worthington Black Diamond Stone Necklace, Curvy-fit Straight-Leg Pants (black)

Pants that fit well are hard to find, but these Worthington trousers truly skim over my curves and make my legs look long and slim. Paired with a rhinestone necklace and cool jacket, they’re perfect for a Monday meeting or a Friday dinner.


Worthington Black Diamond Stone Necklace, Zipper Envelope Skirt (black/white geo)

I’m a sucker for the monochromatic look, and this Worthington skirt is super eye-catching but conservative at the same time. Looks gorgeous with a pair of a pumps and a chic Nicole by Nicole Miller handbag!


YMI Wanna Better Butt Destructed Skinny Jeans (DIY’d with cut off legs), Nicole by Nicole Miller Kelsie Tote

Finally, for my days off, I need a pair of jeans I can live in but can dress up for a date. These YMI jeans are destroyed just the perfect amount (and really do make my backside look better!!). Find them in the JCPenney Junior’s Department.

So here’s my question for all of you: What makes you feel empowered? Leave your answer in the comments to be entered to win a $100 JCPenney gift card!

Let’s get ready for Fall! Follow JCPenney on:

Facebook / Twitter / Pinterest / Instagram / YouTube / Google+ / We Heart It / Polyvore

Or check out the JCPenney official website here.

And don’t forget to check out JCPLookbook.com to see more ideas how to wear Fall fashion!!



Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post

2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post

3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post

4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 9/16/2015 – 10/16/2015

Be sure to visit JCPenney’s brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

Review: Chic DIY Style Jewelry with SOUFEEL

FTC Disclosure: I was gifted a SOUFEEL charm bracelet and charms to write a review about the product. I received no other compensation. The below opinions are my own. My full Disclosure Policy is here.

soufeel-bangle-charms-chic-steals1Recently the kind folks over at SOUFEEL contacted me about reviewing their sterling silver bracelets and charms. After I checked them out and saw that they had a similar style and feel to the ubiquitous PANDORA bracelets but at a lower price-point, I said sure!

soufeel-bangle-charms-chic-steals2 Here are a couple facts about the brand:

SOUFEEL bracelets and charms are made from .925 sterling silver and top-quality materials, and can fit other brand-name bracelets like PANDORA and Chamilia (at a fraction of the cost!). They offer FREE SHIPPING worldwide with orders over $50 and a 365-day return and exchange guarantee. You can also receive a Free Bracelet with any order over $99.

The best thing about SOUFEEL that you can choose your own bangle, charms, stoppers, and decorations, to make a DIY piece of jewelry that completely reflects your style. (Or that of a loved one!)

soufeel-bangle-charms-chic-steals3I chose charms in a sleek silver, black, and crystal palette, intending them to be neutral and go with everything. My bangle is made from:

Sterling Silver Basic Charms Bangle   /  Black and White Magic Charm  /  Sparkly Brightly Stopper Charm (Out of Stock) Pyramid of Egypt Charm  /  April Birthstone White Crystal Barrel Charm  /  A String of Round Dots Stopper Charm

When the bracelet and charms arrived I couldn’t get over how beautifully they were packaged: they would truly make a great gift just as-is, no wrapping required. The charms are all high-quality and to me, indistinguishable from other brand-name sterling silver charm bracelets. soufeel-bangle-closure-chic-stealsAnd the catch on the bracelet, though a little tricky to open the first couple times, closes so securely you won’t lose anything (and the bracelet won’t slide off skinny wrists like mine – something I struggle with all the time!)

soufeel-bangle-charms-chic-steals4SOUFEEL has also provided Chic Steals readers with an exclusive coupon code to use on any order:

Use coupon Cais5 to receive 5% off your order!


Thank you SOUFEEL for working with me – I’m delighted at




The Aftermath: This is All That’s Left.

this-is-all-thats-left-announcement-chic-stealsThis has been an enormously difficult post to write, and I have struggled for many, many months over what to write. What not to say, what to reveal, whether I should, whether I shouldn’t.

I have been hinting numerous times over the past year that something awful has been happening in my life, something personal that threatens everything I know and love. This is what happened in 2014:

On May 12, 2014, my husband for 10 years, partner for 14 (all of my 20’s and half of my 30’s), person who I wrote about my love for and commitment to in this post on our anniversary, and father to our dear 8-year-old son, left us in order to move in with his affair partner.

This was someone who he should absolutely not have been involved with in any way (regardless of the violation of our marriage vows and our trust in him and all that) – but it was someone who both professionally and legally he had absolutely no business being involved with at all.

It blindsided and absolutely devastated me.

There had been hints of difficulties leading up to him walking out; he had expressed being unhappy but wouldn’t cite what it was exactly that was wrong. I had been struggling for 4 years with being hypothyroid and being overwhelmed with the symptoms of endocrine system collapse in 2013, and had tried to getting healthy the priority for some time. I had not paid enough attention to him, he said, I had made him feel like I did not care. I had been focused on eating right, exercising, and trying to get a job so I could build a career and help support our family.

I worked as hard as I could once he expressed this to me to fix our relationship, to make him the number one priority, and to show my feelings for him. He responded by becoming increasingly withdrawn and angry even over the smallest thing, putting me down in front of our son and saying nasty things to me, and “working” longer hours.

When I found out that he had only been working an average of 11 hours a week and had instead been spending the remainder of his time elsewhere with someone else doing certain things – and the horrific details of what he had done, it was the worst shock I ever had in my life.

I could not eat or keep food down, I could not sleep more than a couple hours a night due to anxiety, stress, and shock. I lost 7 pounds in the first 10 days. Everything I ate came up again. I survived on oatmeal for weeks, since it was the only thing I could keep down. I was overwhelmed with panic and anxiety, having no idea what was happening and what was going to happen. I ended up losing 27 pounds total over the next 4 months, having panic attacks in the middle of the night, my heart pounding, unable to draw breath.

In addition to my husband very suddenly leaving, he began levying numerous threats towards us,showing up at the house unexpectedly, coming and going as he pleased, removing possessions in front of our son (whom he told that “Daddy’s job requires me to work a lot of nights, so I’m just staying at a hotel near the airport rather than make the long drive home”). He told me that I had to leave the house, our home, and go live with our son in an apartment. He told me that he would be taking our son to Japan and that I would never see him again. He hid all his wages in a secret bank account so there was no money coming in from him. I couldn’t use any money in our bank account for food or gas to take our son to school, because the mortgage was auto-withdrawn from that bank account and would default that much sooner if I did.

I’d been a stay-at-home mother for 9 years, as required by my husband and his parents, who told me repeatedly over the years that a mother’s place was in the home, raising her child, and that I should not work. I had nothing to survive on except the money I made from this blog. I began selling things on eBay so I could buy food for my son and me, gas to take my son to school, and cover his therapist’s bills. I desperately searched for work, applying to any and everything remotely related to my skills and background, but with no recent work experience or references to vouch for me except those from school, I had very few options. What stay-at-home mother with no recent work experience could go from earning only a couple hundred dollars a month on a part-time blog to instantly earning $50,000 a year?

I begged my husband not to do this, to work on our marriage, to reconcile, to do what was in our son’s best interests. He would not listen, and insisted his own life was his biggest priority.

On August 29, 2014, he filed a petition for dissolution of marriage with the Oregon court.

I was plunged into 7 months of unbelievable insanity, where my husband assisted by his lawyer (who had convinced him that this was how it was done in the United States: hire a lawyer, and you can dissolve your marriage for only $2000! – LOLOL) embarked on campaign to completely humiliate and financially devastate me in every way possible.

My husband (who was a Japanese national, having gotten his green card through me) never disclosed his international stocks, his bank accounts, his credit cards, or his position at his father’s company in Japan. I disclosed every penny I had (which only amounted to a few thousand dollars) – so on paper I looked like I was the one with all the money. I was denied from the Oregon Bar Association’s Modest Means program (that provides lower-cost attorneys) since my case involved international issues and was far too complicated for anyone to take one. Instead, I had to hire an international family lawyer to fight the egregious lies being recorded about me on the paperwork he and his lawyer and filed, to prevent any sort of international kidnapping, and to protect me and my son’s most basic rights. Oh, and since Oregon is a no-fault divorce state, everything my husband had done was immaterial in a court of law.

I begged my husband to not do this, to stop with the lawyers, to not financially devastate me because in the end I would not be able to take care of our son and keep his life stable, that our little boy would be the one who suffered the most. The person I was still legally married to sneered that he had to use a lawyer to protect his interests since I said crazy things like I would get the house, I would get child support, I would get spousal support. I pushed and pushed to just hire a mediator and saved money. He was, as he had been for years, still living off his parents’ credit card and money, he said, was of no issue to him: his parents were rich and could pay as long as it was necessary.

On March 27, 2015, I was forced to accept a settlement where I got a completely inadequate amount of child support (since my husband was working only 19 hours a week when it was assessed). I did get a lump sum spousal support (instead of monthly since he refused to agree to it) which went to cover bills and debts and refinance the house, and, most importantly, I got the house – and was able to make stable the only home my son has ever known, so he can grow up here with all his friends in our neighborhood.

It was either accept the settlement or pay another $20,000 and force it to Court, where the judge said she would be deposing my father-in-law as to the full extent of money my husband had been using. My husband said that his father had lawyers in Japan and would fight it. I could choose to rip apart his family and their privacy to lay bare the full extent of his resources in Japan – and get the judge to award me some of those resources on paper, that in reality I would likely never see – or I could fold and accept a completely inadequate offer, which included no other support or obligation to helping pay our son’s school costs, daycare fees, sports fees, or even support for the dog that he left with me (since the girl’s place that he moved in to did not allow dogs).

I could stand or I could fold.

I stood for my marriage, my vows, and my family for as long as I could.

I looked around, and I was the only one standing.

So I folded, and did to my son the unthinkable, the unforgivable as a parent. I signed a document that split our family into two, that now drags my son from here to there and back again all within one week, that destroys his template of a marriage and an unbroken family. I had absolutely no choice to do this to him, and the guilt will haunt me for the rest of my life.

And here now, is The Aftermath.

I survived. My son survived.

I came out of it in one piece (though often I never thought I would), with the support of family and friends, some whom I will be indebted to for the rest of my life.

I lost social circles, in-laws, people whom I trusted. I found family, friends, and people to trust. I found support where I never thought I would find it.

The person I used to be married to still sees our son once a week or so when he is around. Apparently he’s quit his job and after a month of traveling around the world, he’s now a month in Colorado training for a new job.

But it doesn’t matter. I secured my son’s home, my son’s school, his routines, and his life. After working 4 part-time and freelance jobs to make ends meet, I finally have a full-time job that I love and that I can support myself with. Most of my possessions I still have. I’ve sold what I don’t need or want, and cut back. I’ve cut our monthly expenses as far as I can go. I am surviving.

I felt I needed to share with all of you, my readers, the truth of what happened, of why I’ve slowed down in blogging, why it has been immensely difficult this past year and a half to write about fashion and DIY and what had begun to feel, to me, like very trivial things when my life was being turned upside down.

I am not saying that I was good and the person I was married to was bad, because nothing is as simplistic as that. There were things that I could have done better, ways that I could have prioritized my relationship more, old hurts and difficulties I should have dealt with earlier in order to improve our relationship. I could have communicated better. But I never would have chosen this as an option for dealing with a tough relationship, especially once there was a child involved.

It is very difficult putting myself out there on the internet like this, showing how vulnerable I am to the world. But I am done keeping other people’s secrets.

All I know is this intensely personal and difficult experience has allowed me to grow and learn about strength and resiliency in a way I never could have, and provides valuable life lessons in moving forward. Of course one of my major reasons for not putting it out there was the potential harm to my son, in him finding out the truth about what his father did. I still have to lie to my little boy every day (as dictated by all the parenting books, therapists, and advice out there): in verbally accepting full and equal responsibility for what happened in our family, in never saying a bad word about his father, in never sharing the gory details and instead sympathizing with the pain my son still experiences. Someday I will share with him and answer his questions honestly in order to hopefully impart life lessons about choosing the right person for a long-term commitment, someone who shares the same value system – and how to make a commitment actually work for the long term.

Someday I will know how to impart those lessons.

Just not today.

Thank you for reading, and for sticking with me and this blog through the slowdown of posts, the lack of good advice, and the overall somber and melancholy tone over the past 18 months. I appreciate each and every one of you so much, and it is in part due to this blog and my dear readers that I made it through to the other side.


A Truly Radiant Wardrobe Every Day, Inspired by ARM & HAMMER™

FTC Disclosure: This post is part of a paid campaign with the makers of ARM & HAMMER™ and BlogHer. All opinions expressed are my own. My official Disclosure Policy is here.

Sometimes it takes stepping back and re-evaluating your life to discover the radiance within – and I’ve found that by paring down my possessions, specifically the contents of my wardrobe.

After many years living in the same home, you often fall into a rut, surrounded by things you don’t necessarily need or use anymore.

That was me, living with my son in our home in a small town just outside of Portland, Oregon. There was so much clutter, so much excess, that over the past year I embarked on a mission to purge. To get back to basics. To find what makes me shine among all the needless items amassed from years of DIY’s, crafting, buying, being gifted things, and just general mindlessness when it came to holding on to things.

So I began a mission of frugality: to cut back everywhere I could, not only in bills and general consumption, but also in items I had in the house. Items that I did not use – and that were full of memories of times that were not so happy, that dragged me back into a past of dullness and dust every time I looked at them.


I cleaned out my closet from 7 years of holding onto stuff I wore. Handbags, jewelry, accessories, coats, jeans, tops, lingerie, dresses, skirts, knick-knacks… nothing was immune, and I ended up getting rid of 3/4 of what I owned. It was then, once I had eliminated 75% of what I owned, that I discovered something amazing.

I discovered that when you own less, there is less to take care of. Less time you devote to taking care of it for one thing! (Dusting, cleaning, dry-cleaning, ironing, putting back on hangers, organizing, mending.) Less mental space that it takes up. Fewer memories tugging at you, less of the past rising up to meet you every time you open the closet. And with less choice, amazingly… you have more. Everything goes together, everything fits. The beauty of matching – and the beauty of space in between your garments. Suddenly, what felt cramped and ugly, became beautiful and radiant, simply by embracing less and leaving only what I truly loved. I uncovered this only through paring down to my essentials.

Just as I had to remove layers upon layers of old clothing to get to my core wardrobe of radiance, so does ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Rejuvenating Toothpaste prevents tartar from building up to reveal truly white teeth. But unlike an average whitening toothpaste, this revolutionary toothpaste goes beyond the surface to strengthen, clean and repair tooth enamel for a radiant smile in just 5 days.* (*Data on file.)

It took me a lot longer to clean out and paint my closet, and go through, pare down, and sell my possessions. But with this toothpaste, for less than a $4 investment, you can reveal a whole new smile in less than a week. It has a light and crisp mint flavor, and a cooling sensation that lasts.

In addition to the Rejuvenating Toothpaste, the Truly Radiant™ Collection also includes the ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Manual Toothbrush and the ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Whitening & Strengthening Rinse (with no alcohol or peroxide!) to complete your oral care suite.

Learn more about the Truly Radiant™ Collection by visiting the ARM & HAMMER™ website or following them on Facebook for special promotions and information.

You can also try the new ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ line of products for a chic steal with these coupons (and who doesn’t love coupons??!):

Save $1.00 off ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Manual Toothbrush

Save $0.50 off ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Rejuvenating Toothpaste

Save $1.00 off ARM & HAMMER™ Truly Radiant™ Whitening & Strengthening Rinse

I found my inner strength and radiance by cutting out the non-essentials and only keeping the things that empowered me and made me smile. How will you re-connect with your inner radiance? Leave a comment below to enter for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!

Entry Instructions:

No duplicate comments.

You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:

  1. Leave a comment in response to the sweepstakes prompt on this post
  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
  3. Blog about this promotion, including a disclosure that you are receiving a sweepstakes entry in exchange for writing the blog post, and leave the URL to that post in a comment on this post
  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.

This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older (or nineteen (19) years of age or older in Alabama and Nebraska). Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 2 business days to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 8/3/15 – 9/30/15.

Be sure to visit the Truly Radiant brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!



Announcement: Big Changes on the Way


Hi friends! I feel so grateful that you guys are still checking out my site and visiting, even though I haven’t posted in…gulp…weeks

And the reason is that there’s been so much happening. Like so.much. So many changes have happened and they’re beginning to pile up because I want to announce them all but I want to do it right. So here’s one:

I’ve been hired as the Director of Marketing for Simplifilm and will be starting there full-time very soon!

In this move, I will be bidding goodbye to Studio 3 (it’s been a GREAT year) and moving on. I love all my coworkers and will miss them a ton.

Simplifilm creates slick animated videos that explain hard concepts in less than 3 minutes. They’re awesome. Have a gander here. Working there I can use my background in animation, video production, motion graphics, editing, blogging, digital marketing, and social media. It’s such an opportunity and I’m super-excited about it!

So what does that mean for Chic Steals? Well, I’ll still be trying to keep up the blog but there will be some changes (announcement coming soon as to exactly what).

I truly value all of you as readers and don’t want to just stop blogging about fashion-y stuff and tutorials and the like…but it may take on a bit of a different form from here on out.

Thanks for sticking with me all these years, and here’s to the new!



Kollabora x Jo-Ann Fabrics DIY Instagram Instacation Magnets

Ever wanted to display all those beautiful photos from your Instagram feed into a craft easily and at home?

This is a fun project to turn Instagram photos into magnets commemorating a fun event or time. (AKA an “Instacation!”)

They’re surprisingly easy to make at home (and a number of the supplies used in this project are on sale right now!) Plus, you don’t have to use a 3rd part for the printing – you can just use a regular printer to print your images on cardstock. Print, cut, and stick and that’s it!

Check out How to Make the DIY Instagram Magnets here



FTC Disclosure: This post was part of a paid campaign with the Kollabora Network. The above opinions are my own. My full Disclosure Policy is here.