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!

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 He responded by becoming increasingly withdrawn and angry even over the smallest thing, putting me down in front of our son and saying nasty things to me, and “working” longer hours.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.


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!



Meet My New Line of Jewelry: Glitterthorn

guinevere-necklaces-glitterthorn-jewelry-sunflareHello friends!

It’s been a long time in the making, but I’m finally ready to launch my new line of jewelry: Glitterthorn, an edgy, boho collection featuring rough, organic stones and crystals, accented by epoxy, metal leafing, vintage chains, and Swarovski rhinestones.

Here are the first 2 designs I’m rolling out:        guinevere-necklaces-glitterthorn-jewelry

{  Guinevere  Necklace  }

Clear quartz point pendant with black epoxy resin and gold leaf [sealed], on goldtone cable chain with pyramid charm at clasp. Can be worn at 17″ (between choker and princess length) or 28″ (rope length). Comes in Large or Small.

guinevere-necklace-large-glitterthorn-jewelryLarge = wider crystal point, around 1 and 3/16″ long and ¾” wide.


Guinevere Necklace { Large } – $36

[shown worn as the long length]

guinevere-necklace-small-glitterthorn-jewelrySmall = thinner crystal point, around 1¼” long and ½” wide.guinevere-small-necklace-glitterthorn-jewelry-on-model

Guinevere Necklace { Small } – $29

[shown worn as the short length]


{  Isolde Necklace  }

Crystal geode slice pendant, surrounded by black epoxy resin studded with Swarovski crystal chatons. Silvertone flat cable chain and silvertone pyramid charm at closure. Long length: vertical geode slice, 24″ (opera length) chain. Pendant = approximately 1½” long and 1″ wide at widest point.


Isolde Necklace { Long } – $42

The stones used in this jewelry are unique – please allow for natural variations on their organic beauty.

guinevere-necklace-large-glitterthorn-jewelry-on-model-wildflowersMore designs coming soon – I can’t wait to share them with you!!

This has been a labor of love of mine for such a long time, I’ve many times second-guessed myself and felt like it wasn’t ready to share just yet. But if I keep stalling I just may never do it! I’m still working on the logo, putting together an Instagram for Glitterthorn (to share behind-the-scenes and new designs, as well as offering pieces for purchase), refining my Etsy store, deciding on packaging…etc. etc. But they say to do something that scares you every day, and to jump in feet first before you feel completely sure. I’m not completely sure what I’m doing, but I love making jewelry, and I know I want to share it with the world. Thank you so much for all your support and encouragement!

Glitterthorn Jewelry is Now Available through my Etsy store here!

Questions? Comments? Let me know!




Announcement: New Edgy Boho Chic Jewelry Designs Coming Soon…

glitterthorn-jewelry-designs-preview-carly-j-caisHello friends!

I’ve had a ton of things going on, been revamping my life, and doing a lot of soul-searching lately, as well as diving into new, exciting (and a little scary) projects. I teased the above image out on my Instagram awhile ago, and I’m finally getting close to launching my new line of handmade, edgy boho chic jewelry.

Glitterthorn has launched!

Check out the full post here – and they’re available for purchase here.

What do you guys think?

Stay tuned for more…coming oh so soon! I can’t wait to share with all of you :-)



How to Take Headshot Portrait Photos that Reflect Your Blog’s Brand


Portrait photography is definitely not my strong suit, and it’s even harder when YOU are taking a photo of YOU. It’s so much easier to work with someone who knows what they’re doing and can make you relaxed enough to take a great fun photo for your blog headshot.

carlyjcais_2012headshotI’ve had the same sidebar headshot for 3 years (above, taken by Dave Lim) simply because I liked how I looked in the photo. I’ve also had another photo on my About Me page (if you recall, that particular photo was pretty horrible) for about 5 years. I’ve been going through a brand audit of Chic Steals and felt that my head shots didn’t really reflect my blog topic and focus. They needed to be lighter, brighter, closer – and more depicting chic, creative, crafty living instead of just my head in front of a forest.desktopcomposite_aboutpage headshot_behinddiamondSo after playing with a couple different ideas, I settled on a photo of me in my home office in front of a wall that I decorated with gold washi tape in a triangle pattern. (Similar to what I did with my DIY Geometric Bathroom Makeover wall here.) I chose on a white-and-gold palette since I felt that was in line with my blog branding. carly-j-cais-headshot-with-diamondI did make a little sparkly gold prop as the silhouette of the diamond in my logo, and utilize the DIY paper glitter diamond paperweight I made in this post here. carly-j-cais-at-deskFor the overhead and sitting at the desk laptop shots, I styled the desk with my DIY Gold Succulents in Geometric Origami planters, the origami diamond paperweights, and a variety of crafty materials to touch on the “making” theme of my blog. The only piece of jewelry I wore was the DIY Free People Wrapped Quartz Bangle that has been really popular online since I shared it.

My good friend Josh of Joshua Johnston Photography took my photos, and though we shot in the late afternoon and the light was fading inside, his lighting techniques were still able to bring out all the little details and make everything white and bright. In all it took an hour and a half, and the finished photos were awesome – and, I felt, much more fitting with the look and feel of my blog.

So are you experiencing some difficulty with deciding on the perfect headshots for your blog or website? Here are 8 steps to get portrait photos you’ll love:

pinterest-how-to-take-head-shots-that-reflect-blog-brandHow to Take Headshot Portrait Photos for Your Blog That Reflect Your Brand

1) Spend some time looking at your blog. Are there colors or elements that you could incorporate into a shoot? Do you feature the same items over and over again? What “goes together” and what doesn’t? (like using a forest background for a crafty blog…which doesn’t make any sense)

2) How can you accomplish what you want in the least cluttered, most direct way? What would make sense as a background? Can you make it, fake it, or is there a place you know that would be perfect for the locale?

3) How about props? Would they be more specific and tie a photo of you into what you write about better? Reiterate your branding or logo somehow?

4) Sketch some ideas out on paper, having in your head a firm idea of the colors and layout of the elements. Where do you want your head to appear? Should you be looking at your content to draw people’s eyes to it? Looking at the reader to connect with them? Looking away so that you’re an object of admiration and having fun by yourself? What are you trying to sell with your head shot?

5) Allow enough time to be able to properly style out your photos and capture them in the best light. Do you need to shoot during the Golden Hour? How long will it take you for hair and makeup? How about styling your props?

6) Choose a lens that has the least amount of distortion for the face: ideally, 85mm. If not, 50mm will also do quite well and create that soft blurred background. Use a tripod if you can, especially in low light situations!


7) Unless you’re used to modeling (or modeling by yourself!), shoot with someone you know well and who you’re comfortable with, preferably someone who makes you laugh. That way your smiles will be genuine and your eyes light up in your photos, which is difficult to fake. You’ll also have someone to interact with which can come out in the final images, creating more of a connection with the viewer. Don’t be discouraged if you have to take a ton of photos to get any you like. Some the framing might be right, but you have a hair out of place. Some your expression might be weird. Keep them all and look at them later.

8) Go through the photos on a large screen, ideally after some time has passed. That way you can apply a fresh eye and be more objective with the ones you choose. Choose ones that you like a lot then compare them against one another. If you like them, your readers will too. Post-process, upload, and announce your new pictures!

Thanks, Josh – I couldn’t have done it without you! Check out his website for prints of cool landscape and nature photography – especially Oregon waterfalls!joshua-johnston-photography

Joshua Johnston Photography

Do you have any tips for good blog headshot photos? Please share in the comments!


I actually helped Josh build the website and optimize it for SEO, learning the Smugmug platform [aff. link] in the process. I’d highly recommend it if you’re a photographer looking for a no-hassle way to sell your prints and photos as digital downloads – since they take care of all the order processing and fulfillment for you!