2010 Goals Check-In #1

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Wow. We're a month into 2010 already. Time to check in on my goals!

1. Take at least one overseas trip.
No progress yet on this one.

2. Read 30 books.
I've read (or listened to) 3 books so far this year, with three more in-progress. 30 per year is 2.5 per month, so I think I'm in good shape here.

3. Get to a healthy size.
I am working very hard on this goal right now and I'm making steady progress. I am down only a few pounds, but I feel stronger and better every day, and I am making very good choices as far as what I eat, not just restricting calories by eating less of the same crap. I think I'm doing very well with this goal so far.

4. Save $500/month.
I've set up a direct withdrawal from my checking account to my savings and made my first $500 monthly deposit about a week ago.

5. Give 5%.
This one has required a lot of thought. Once I arrived at the amount I felt most comfortable giving (as a percentage of income), I decided to set myself up as a monthly giver to several organizations of which I am particularly supportive (I intend to post about those specific organizations at some point, so I won't go into them here). Those monthly donations add up to about 3.5% of my take-home income. The other 1.5% is reserved for one time donations to things as they come up. Obviously, this month, the big thing was relief for Haiti. Next month, I'll probably give the 1.5% to the V-Day organization. My goal is to even out at about 5% of my take-home for the year, and I think I'm on the right track. My hope is that once I get used to giving 5%, I can increase the percentage to a true tithe.

6. Start retirement savings.
This is done! I opened a traditional IRA, funded if fully for 2009, and plan to fund it fully for this year as well.

7. Join something.
No progress on this goal. I'm still not even quite sure what I was thinking when I made it a goal. It is pretty far outside my comfort zone. Probably I'll put it off for a few months, unless something that seems perfect appears.

8. Write a novel.
Again, not one I'm working on right now.

9. Create something.
I'm doing a bit of this, in fits and starts. I've made a few bath products in the past couple of weeks, for the first time since we moved here. I'm working on some printed tea towels for a swap. Baby steps.

10. Remember birthdays and send cards.
I sent out a passel of birthday cards in January! I didn't realize how many people I know were born at the beginning of the year. With my Google calendar all set up to remind me a week before anybody's birthday, I hope I have this goal well underway. One thing is that I need to find somewhere better than Target to buy cute and funny cards--if I am going to go to the trouble of sending them, I want them to be cool. Really, I should be combining this goal with #9 and making my own cards, but I don't think I'm quite there yet.

All in all, I'm very happy with my January progress. Here's to a good start!

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Eating out is something Mark and I have enjoyed doing together for our entire relationship. Portland was the high point--there are a million great restaurants there, and new ones popping up all the time. In Austin, we explored some, and found a few spots, but compared to what we'd come to expect from Portland, we were disappointed.

Here in Virginia, we haven't had time since we moved to try many places. However, when Mark's parents were here in September, we did go into The Wine Kitchen in Leesburg for some lunch. We didn't plan it, just happened to walk by the restaurant while we were exploring Leesburg. And it was great--we had a light lunch, each had a glass of wine, and improved our afternoon considerably.

It was with this good memory in mind that Mark asked if I wanted to to The Wine Kitchen for dinner on Saturday. We hadn't been out anywhere nice in ages, so I was really excited about it, and I was not disappointed.

We started our meal with the charcuterie plate ($10). The highlight of the meats was an Italian bresaola--I hadn't had bresaola before, and I loved it, particularly paired with the stone-ground mustard The Wine Kitchen provides. The Spanish Serrano ham was good, too, though not the best I've had by any means. I was very disappointed, however, by the domestic (from Iowa) pork belly. It really tasted like raw bacon, and was both extremely fatty and very tough. We also go the marinated olives ($4), which Mark was disappointed to find were pitted, ruining their texture, but I thought were pretty good, and a very generous portion for the price--we couldn't finish them.

Along with our first course, Mark had a taste of Majella Sparkling Shiraz 2005, from Coonawarra, Australia ($4 for the taste) and I had a flight of tastes of three pinot noirs: Terrazze Pinot Nero, 2008 from Provincia di Pavia, Italy; Rosella's Vineyard A.P. Vin, 2006, from Santa Lucia Highlands, California; and Klee Pinot Noir, 2008, from Willamette Valley, Oregon ($13 for the flight). The Wine Kitchen pours a generous taste--I'd say it's more like a half glass--so I think the prices are very reasonable. Mark didn't like the sparkling shiraz, and neither did I--it tasted like carbonated port and was way too heavy for a pre-dinner drink. The Oregon Klee pinot was very good, the California OK, and the Italian antiseptic tasting, to my palette, but I learned to drink wine in Oregon, so take that for what it's worth.

For a second course, we split the Parisian herb gnocchi ($12). Served with roasted brussels spouts, pearl onions, and a balsamic vinegar, browned butter, and ricotta sauce, this was sublime. I don't love gnocchi in general, Mark doesn't love brussels sprouts, and yet we both loved this (though in retrospect, I'm not sure why we ordered it). The gnocchi were soft without being at all mushy, the brussels sprouts were just a bit crunchy, the pearl onions were sweet, and the sauce was perfect. This is a bit rich, though--I'm not sure I would want a whole serving as an entree. For a split starter, it was perfect.

I didn't have to give my entree much thought. I had the "chicken and waffles" ($12) .The Wine Kitchen's take on this classic is actually battered and fried farm-raised quail over cornmeal and herb waffles, with bacon caramel syrup. If that sounds good to you, trust me, it's better. The quail was done perfectly, and it was wonderful with the syrup. Mark also really liked the waffle, but I wasn't as big a fan of it--I wanted to be lofty and soft inside with a crisp outside, like a cornmeal Belgian waffle, but it was more Eggo-textured. Still, the overall dish was a huge success. I'd order it again in a heartbeat.

Mark went for the braised short ribs ($16). His dish was simply not so impressive as mine. The ribs themselves were fine (and it was a generous portion), but the red wine sauce served on them was lackluster. I was intrigued by the red grits the ribs were served with, but they ended up tasting much like grits with tomato sauce in them, and the texture was in the in-between area, not quite grits, not quite polenta. The pickled vegetable salad, however, was excellent, and was a wonderful accompaniment to the heavy beef and grits, adding a crispness that would have been lacking otherwise.

With our entrees, Mark and I each had a flight of wine tastes. I chose the Hills of Italy ($10), which included: Barbera D'Asti Collina La Mora, Barbera, 2007, from Piedmonte; Benotto, Nebbiolo, 2006, from Monferrato; and Chianti Riserva, Renzo Masi, Sangiovese, 2006, from Chianti. The Barbera and Sangiovese were both very solid, not great, but very drinkable. I didn't care much for the Nebbiolo, as it had a dusty taste to it that was too strong on my palette. Mark went for the Righteous Staff Selections ($12). His flight included: Yalumba , Riesling, 2008, from South Australia; La Palazzetta, Brunello di Montalcino , Sangiovese , 2003, from Tuscany, Italy; and d'Arry's Original, d'Arenberg, Shiraz, Grenache, 2005, from McLaren Vale, Australia. I didn't sample his Reisling, but loved it. The Sangiovese was very respectable and would fit right in with the wines in my flight. The high point of his for me, though, was the surprisingly good Australian Grenache, which I loved and will definitely look for again.

For dessert, I was all set to get the Caramel and Sea Salt Torta Palla ($7). Then, however, our waitress offered me the a port and truffles flight ($14), which I couldn't refuse. Mark ordered the Torta Palla and we split both. I didn't get the names of my port offerings, but the tawny was excellent (the other was a LBV that was a bit strong for me). The truffles were quite good. We were surprised to find we both loved the milk chocolate and cinnamon one the most, but the dark chocolate and Earl Gray garnished with lavender was also quite good. The third truffle was a ruby port and dark chocolate version, which I thought was overpowered by the tawny I was drinking and didn't care as much for.

Mark's dessert was my hands-down favorite part of the meal. Two balls of very good, very dense chocolate cake were covered with an excellent hard chocolate shell (not waxy at all, with great flavor). The balls were topped with heavenly homemade caramel sauce, sprinkled with strong sea salt, and garnished with what I believe to have been sweetened and whipped mascarpone. Every element of the dessert was perfect, and it was all fantastic together. I was stuffed to the gills by the time it arrived, and I ate my half with gusto anyway.

As far as atmosphere goes, The Wine Kitchen is a much different place for weekend dinner than for weekday lunch. It was very crowded and noisy. We arrived just after 6pm and got the last open table, and for the rest of our meal, multiple parties were standing up in the middle of the restaurant waiting for a clear table. Our second round of wine was delayed quite a bit, in part because our waitress couldn't make her way through the mob. Still, I like the place, it's comfortable and not pretentious in the least.

I like the prices at The Wine Kitchen, too. The tastes are usually $3-$5, and the flights $10-$16, so it's a great way to taste some wine. The food, too, is very reasonable for the quality and size.

There may well be other great places locally--we'll definitely keep looking--but I think Mark and I may have found our special new date night place here in our new home, and that's a good feeling to have.

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Yet more thrifting in the 'burbs

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Now that I've had a bit of thrifting luck, I'm itching to keep going. So, yesterday, I gave a couple of local stores another shot, then headed south to a store I'd heard good things about in Centreville. This is how it went down:

I hit The Closet in historic downtown Herndon first, making sure I was there early enough to look through the entire jam-packed store before they closed at 2pm. The store was wall-to-wall people; you couldn't get around in it at all without bumping into people, which I hate. That said, the stock didn't disappoint. I picked up two pairs of jeans for myself, one from The Gap, one from American Eagle (and a size 16 long is not something you see in thrift stores often), for $4.50 each; a set of brand new cloth napkins for I think $2; four new-in-case stamp sets from A Stamp in the Hand, all with their original $22 price tags on them, for $2 each; and a new in the box Bodum French press (I break them so often I like to have a spare around) for $5. I had a bit of a tense moment at checkout when I realized The Closet is a cash-only establishment (yes, turns out those do still exist), but they kindly held my purchases while I went to the ATM, so it all turned out fine.

Next, I hit Herdon-Reston Bargain Loft. When I went there before, I though that I might well make some discoveries on another trip, and I did. I got four nice martini glasses (the one kind of classic bar ware we were missing) for $1 each; a Williams & Sonoma tea pot with a strainer (something Mark has been asking me to find for him) for $7; and a little antipasta plate that I thought was cute for $.50. One thing I saw that I have no need for personally but would be a good find is a new-in-the-box Senseo machine for $30. Looks like retail on it is about $70, so that's a decent deal. I also have to note that the women who were working in the store were exceptionally nice and wrapped my martini glasses really carefully so they wouldn't break, which I appreciate.

Next, I hit the Herndon Salvation Army. I didn't buy anything there, but I did notice that the have some very nice furniture. I spent several minutes lusting over a mid-century dresser that I knew Mark would hate (I wish we didn't have such opposite tastes!). It was marked $79, but completely worth it--it was in great shape, with the drawers all going in and out smoothly, and hadn't ever been refinished. I'm still kicking myself a little bit for not going for it.

Lastly, I headed down to the Clock Tower Thrift Store in Centreville (6031 Centreville Crest Lane, Centreville). This store isn't quite as exciting, I didn't think, as the Clock Tower in Falls Church. It's a bit smaller and doesn't have quite as good a collection. That said, I did score a silk and cashmere Ann Taylor wrap sweater for $6, and a set of never-used Vera napkins for $1.50. I haven't decided whether to keep the napkins or put them up on Etsy--I kind of like them, but Mark hates them, and I know there are collectors of Vera's table linens all over the place.

All in all, another good day. I'm completely energized now. My next trip will probably up to Leesburg, where there seem to be about five stores within a three block radius, and then on to the Blue Ridge Hospice Thrift Shops in Purcelville and Berryville. I don't know if I have any local WINOW readers, but if I do, please leave me a comment and tell me your favorite thrift spots! I can't wait to check out all the rest of the options.

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Date night threads, 01/23/10

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A while back, I posted my daily outfits for a bit. One of the major reasons I did it was because there are a few blogs I really love that do it: What I Wore Today; My Wardrobe Today; Already Pretty; Work With What You've Got; etc. I was also, at that time, really interested in re-defining my style and dressing in a way that felt more authentic.

Well, I'm thinking of picking the habit back up. Clearly, I won't do it every day--I work from home now, and frankly, most days I don't get dressed. However, working from home and not getting dressed most days has made me all the more interested in looking and feeling ood on the days I do go somewhere. So, on those days, I'm going to try to share.

Tonight, Mark and I had a date night. We went out to a nice, but casual, dinner. I wore a knit, empire-waisted black, gray, white, and red patterned top I picked up a year or so ago at Ross (can't remember the brand and I cut the tag out because it itched); black overdyed trouser jeans from Ann Taylor Loft; black suede pointed-toe boots with sequins up the sides from Annie; and a red abalone necklace I picked up somewhere in Austin. I like this outfit a lot--it's stylish and a bit sophisticated (at least the trouser jeans and pointy boots feel that way), but still very comfortable. I felt good in it.

I went fairly neutral with makeup, too. What you see here is Smashbox primer; Korres concealer; a very small amount of Laura Mercier Illuminating tinted moisturizer mixed with my regular moisturizer; Clinique Almost Makeup powder; Cargo blush in Polynesia; Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil in 1999; shimmery champagne shadow from this palette by The Body Shop; Lancome Definicils mascara in black; and Bare Escentuals Buxom Lips gloss in Brandi.

There's nothing really spectacular about this outfit or the makeup, but it felt good to me, like a really nice, pretty, natural night out combination. I'll probably wear it again.

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Another go at NoVa thifting: Falls Church

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This afternoon, I found myself needing to waste some time in Falls Church, so I thought I'd give another go to thrift shopping here in the great state of Virginia.

And it was better! It's still not great--it's not Austin and it's not going to be--but it was better! I made actual purchases, at least.

First, I hit Unique (2956 Gallows Rd, Falls Church). Unique is this area's answer to the thrift mega-store. It's a mostly for-profit enterprise, from what I can tell. It's huge--a warehouse--and well-organized. Unfortunately, 99.9% of what is there is crap. When I thrift, I am looking for either new or like-new items at prices much cheaper than they would be new, or vintage or hard-to-fine items I couldn't find new. What I am not looking for is been-used stuff that I probably wouldn't have wanted even if it were new.

That being said, if you're patient, Unique can turn up some worthwhile items, few and far between as they are. The high point sections seem to be the clothes, where I didn't spend much time today. I did browse the ladies' jackets, and found several nice ones. The prices were too high by my reckoning, though--used Old Navy should never cost $10, and no used jacket should be $50 in a thrift store.

But I did come home with a few things. I bought: a set of six blue and white patterned Japanese finger bowls ($.99); a new-in-package set of Emilie Henry ramekins ($4.49); a copy of bell hooks' Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center ($.99); a copy of James Beard's Beard on Bread ($1.41); and a set of green linen napkins that look new ($3.49).

Next, I went further into Falls Church to the Clock Tower Thrift Shop (2860 Annandale Rd, Falls Church). Clock Tower is a non-profit store benefiting "Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). This is a really tiny store, and it's very crowded. You can barely walk between the racks. However, there are real gems here. I didn't look a lot at the clothes, but the dishes and housewares were full of vintage things I know a collector would love (there was a tea set from the 50s I really wanted to bring home). There were also at least a half dozen nice wool scarves and a big basket of vintage stockings that I'd have been all over if I was a smaller size. However, I was dismayed to see a used jean jacket marked $25. It was Calvin Klein, but come on--that's consignment price, not thrift. Finally, the vintage jewelry section, though it's all cluttered up behind glass and hard to browse, is amazing.

Once again, I managed to pick out a few things to bring home with me (I easily could have brought several more things, but I was trying to be good). The glass pitcher was a bit spendy at $8, but I've been looking for one just like it (that size and heavyweight), so I went for it. The noodle bowl is lovely and was $2. Finally, I was stoked to find new in package, locally hand-made beeswax candles, also $2.

My last stop was just a couple of blocks away from Clock Tower, a store called Joseph's Coat (3022 Annandale Rd, Falls Church). Joseph's Coat is a thrift shop benefiting the Bethany House DV hotline and shelter program. It's a much larger space than Clock Tower, but much smaller than Unique. The first thing I noticed was the stellar book section--best one I've seen here. I recently vowed to stop buying books that I don't for some reason need to own rather than just read (i.e. no fiction unless I really love it, mostly cookbooks, art books, and feminist books), but if I hadn't, I could have gone nuts. The furniture was also quite nice--there was an early 70s slipper chair in great condition there for $69 that I really wanted to bring home (but didn't because Mark would have hated it). Housewares are another strength--lots of full sets of dishes and older glassware. I didn't look closely at the clothes, but my glance turned up a few decent brands and things with tags on them.

It was at Joseph's Coat that I found my favorite score of the day, a bright red tin bread box, for $6. I think it's reproduction and not vintage, but it's super cute, and I've been wanting a box for the half-loaves of bread always cluttered on the top of our fridge. After much hemming and hawing, I also picked up a new condition coffee table book on DaDa. The book was $20, which seemed ridiculous to me for thrift prices, but it's really nice, and I felt slighted for not letting myself buy novels, and I haven't bought any art books in a long time, so it came home with me too.

All in all, a great day of thrifting. The best one I've had since we moved here, and I feel myself getting reinvigorated to do serious, browse-through-all-the-clothes, takes-all-day trips. Stay tuned!

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Blog I Love: Obsessive Consumption

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Everybody else on Earth probably already knows about Kate Bingaman-Burt, and her blog, Obsessive Consumption. Just in case you don't, though, I have to tell you.

It's so simple and so genius. Kate draws the things she buys, and posts the drawings on her blog. It's only one of her projects--she's go a book coming out in March, she gives talks, etc. But the blog is what really works for me. Her little quirky drawings and the way they make you think about the tiny things you buy every day...there's just something about it that gets to me.

So, if you don't already read Kate, go forth and do so. You'll thank me.

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Haiti: where to give

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Unless you've been living under a very large rock, you know that the situation in Haiti is pretty awful right now. Thousands and thousands dead, untold damage, people with nothing. They need a LOT of help. So, this morning, I was looking around, trying to figure out the best place to give, and I thought I'd share my findings with you:

WorldVision: WorldVision is an international Christian-based organization working on humanitarian issues affecting children world-wide. Charity Navigator gives them a four-star rating, with a score of 60.34.

AmeriCares: AmeriCares is an international disaster relief organization, not religiously affiliated. AmeriCares is based in the U.S. but has projects world-wide, focusing on disaster relief and medical outreach. Charity Navigator gives them a four-star rating with a score of 61.28.

Habitat for Humanity: Habitat is a Christian-based organization focusing on providing housing for those who need it, both within the U.S. and worldwide. Charity Navigator gives their international branch four stars and a rating of 60.78.

Feed the Children: Feed the Children is a Christian-based international organization focusing on providing food, medicine, and clothing to people in need. Charity Navigator gives them four stars and a 69.19 rating.

Doctors without Borders: Doctors without Borders is an international organization focusing on providing medical care in high-needs areas. Charity Navigator gives them four stars and a 61.23 rating.

Red Cross: The Red Cross is probably the most well-known organization and the one that gets the most donations in times like these. It is an international organization focused on emergency response and disaster relief. Charity Navigator gives the Red Cross three stars and a rating of 54.62.

Hands Together: Hands Together is a Catholic-based organization dedicating to helping the poor, particularly in Haiti. Charity Navigator gives them four stars and a rating of 67.36.

Hope for Haiti: Hope for Haiti is another Haiti-focused organization. It is not religiously based and focuses on empowering Haitians in the areas of education, health care, and nutrition, but also runs a disaster relief program. Charity Navigator gives it a four star rank and a rating of 64.82.

These are clearly just a few options. Charity Navigator has provided a list on their site of organizations they evaluate who have Haiti programs; there are several more highly-ranked options there. They also provide some pretty good advice on how to choose where to give and why.

For me, it's a combination of which particular work I want to support the most (medical, housing, food, whatever) and the organization itself. Out of personal preference, I don't generally give to religiously-based organizations (note: this is NOT me saying that nobody should, just that I prefer not to when there are other options). In a situation like this one, I'm also more inclined to give to an organization with a history working in the country in need--Haiti--as they're more likely to have a good idea what is needed and where, and already have some structure. So, this time around, I'm directing my dollars to Hope for Haiti. But really, anywhere you give is better than not doing it at all, you know? So if you've got any extra cash at the moment, please do think about putting it towards these folks who need it pretty desperately.

One more thing: if you have the cash, please don't donate on a credit card. The CC processor gets part of the donation that way, and you really want all your money to go to folks who actually need it, right?

Also, if you have other organizations you want to suggest, please leave them in the comments. I'd be happy to add to the post with your suggestions.

Additional suggestions from WINOW readers:

World Society for the Protection of Animals: WSPA is a non-profit focusing on animal welfare worldwide. They do work with companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife, as well as disaster relief work for all types of animals. Charity Navigator gives them two stars and a rating of 49.96.

Yele Haiti: Yele is a grassroots organization working for the betterment of Haiti. It was founded by Wyclef Jean in 2005. It has not been evaluated by Charity Navigator.

Best Friends Animal Society: Best Friends Animal Society is a Utah-based animal sanctuary and rescue network. In Haiti, they will focus on pet rescue, once that is possible. Charity Navigator gives them four stars and a rating of 60.71.

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Lush BOG2

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I'm not trying to enable anybody or anything, and you all know about my mixed feelings about Lush, but I gotta tell you:

Christmas items are buy one, get two free.

You're welcome. Or, perhaps, I'm sorry.

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Dear NoVa thrifting, why do you suck so much?

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Yesterday I left the house bound and determined. I was going to do it. The wealthy people surrounding where I live on every side have to be throwing their barely-used shit somewhere. There has to be good thrifting. My failures on previous trips had to be coincidental, or me not looking in the right places.

I made a list. Nine thrift stores, spread out throughout the suburb in which I live and the closest ones around me (Herndon-Reston-Sterling-Ashburn, for those in the NoVa know). Nine stores. Fortifying Starbucks. How could I go wrong?

I came home five hours later with nothing. Not a single blessed thing.

I wasn't out to be picky. I was looking for clothes for myself or Mark, small housewares (lamps, bowls, barware, kitsch), stuff for the pets, anything giftable...or just anything that caught my eye. I've spent thousands in thrift stores over the years. I am not a hard sell. And yet, nothing.

Let's break it down.

I started close to home, in Herndon. My first stop was at the Salvation Army Thrift Store (2421 Centreville Road, Herndon,‎ (703) 713-6691‎). In Austin, I never lowered myself to stepping into a Salvation Army. I don't like their politics, and I never found their stores to be all that anyway. Here, though, I was bound and determined to give all my options a fair try.

It's not a terrible store. It's large, well organized, and clean. There were some possibilities in the furniture section--nothing we needed, but a few things that weren't complete crap. The book section, though small, was well priced and had up-to-date books. The kids' clothes looked promising. But the housewares were dismal (think old off-brand Tupperware and glassware that obviously wasn't supposed to spend so much time in the dishwasher), and the clothes I looked through all seemed to fall into that unpleasant zone between vintage and current. Nothing for me there.

Next, I hit a charity store, the Herndon-Reston Bargain Loft (336 Victory Drive, Herndon, (703) 437-0600‎). The store benefits the F.I.S.H. (Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help) program. It's a small store in a mostly-abandoned office park. This isn't a bad place--it's mostly houseware type stuff, very little clothing. Prices are a bit on the high side, but I could definitely see the possibility of treasures here, in the "we got this out of Grandma's attic" vein. Though I didn't find anything on this trip, I'd go again. It's never going to be a place where I'll find a lot of stuff, but I could see running into an occasional treasure, and it's a pretty pleasant shopping experience (I'm pretty sure I was the only person under 70 there).

To finish out my Herndon rounds, I hit the two thrift stores I'd seen within a block or so of each other in what Mark and I persist in calling "historic downtown Herndon." The first is The Closet (845 Station Street, Herndon, (703) 437-7652‎). The Closet is a charity shop. Its story is kind of neat, actually--it's a joint effort between several local churches. It was the best store I visited all day--packed to the gills with potential. However, it was very crowded, and I got there at about 1:45 PM, not knowing that they close at 2 (the store is only open from 10am-2pm Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday), so I didn't get the chance to look around as much as I'd liked. I did see a pretty good book selection (I notice several current books on CD, which I don't see all that often), and a decent-looking craft section (lots of new-in-package stamping and scrapbook stuff). The clothes that I could get to looked to be pretty high quality as well, but the crowding made it hard to tell. I'll definitely try again another day.

The other downtown Herndon thrift store is FAITH (Ste 2A, 795 Center Street, Herndon, (703) 766-3396‎). FAITH stands for Foundation for Appropriate and Immediate Temporary Help, and the store benefits local humanitarian efforts through that program. FAITH is a Muslim-based program, though they will help anyone as per their website, and the store reflects that. It's a really small space, and I'd say about a quarter of it is dedicated to scarves, abaya, and similar clothing. Another large portion of the store is taken up with children's clothing and toys. I doubt I'll visit again, since neither of those areas of merchandise is of much interest to me.

Having exhausted my options in Herndon, I moved on to Reston. Feeling that the issue here may be that the locals are into consignment, I made an exception to my usual "no consignment stores" rule and hit Vogue to Vintage (1631 Washington Plaza North, Reston, (703) 787-5700‎). This is a nice little consignment store--I tried on a gorgeous leather jacket that was marked $30, and had it fit, I'd have bought it in a second. The store seems to cater to a slightly older clientele, and it's all women's clothes and accessories. I saw a few pairs of designer jeans, a Betsey Johnson bag, stuff like that. Nothing that I just had to have, but, as far as consignment stores go, it's probably worth visiting. As a bonus, there's a used bookstore and a children's consignment store (Small Change Consignments) in the same little shopping center. The center also houses the only indie coffee shop I've seen here.

After my consignment detour, I moved on to Sterling. In Sterling, my first stop was the Goodwill (22405 Enterprise Street, Sterling, (703) 444-5186‎). I tried this store once before and was unimpressed, but I thought I'd give it another shot. In Austin, the Goodwill was always the #1 go-to store. No need to give this one another chance--everything in here is old. Not vintage, just old. Worn out, sad, depressing. I was in the store for less than five minutes, just like the last time I visited.

The next Sterling stop was the Good Shepherd Alliance store (Ste 113, 20921 Davenport Drive, Sterling, (703) 444-5956‎). Once again, a store full of worn out stuff. I don't think I even picked anything up.

Finally, I headed to Ashburn. First, I attempted to go to the SACS Family Store (21673 Beaumeade Circle, Ashburn, (703) 858-2700‎), but I drove around a business park for fifteen minutes and couldn't find it, so I gave up. Then I went to the Ashburn Good Shepherd Alliance store (20684 Ashburn Road, Ashburn, (703) 724-1555‎). Much better than the Sterling version, this store had the most potential of any I saw, other than maybe The Closet. Decent sized, well organized, with some cool stuff. The neatest thing I saw all day was there--this awesome Melissa & Doug tree house toy. It was in new condition and was $45, which is less than half retail, so not bad, but not the bins. There were a few OK housewares (though nothing we need), and the clothes looked pretty good.

So, in summary:
Try again: The Closet (Herndon); The Herndon-Reston Bargain Loft; SACS Family Store (Ashburn); Good Shepherd Alliance Store (Ashburn); Vogue to Vintage (Reston)
Skip: Salvation Army (Herndon); Goodwill (Sterling); Good Shepherd Alliance Store (Sterling); FAITH (Herndon).

It was depressing. I can see the potential to maybe find something every once in a while. If I visit The Closet every week, for example, I'm sure I'll grab a few cool things. But it's clearly just not going to be the way it was in Austin. And my question is still lingering: where are all these upper middle class suburbanites dumping their barely used stuff? If anybody out there knows, please let me in on the secret!

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January Out of the Box Sampler review up

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Go over to my review blog for my review of this month's Out of the Box Sampler box.

After having such a good experience with the December Out of the Box Sampler, I ordered myself up a subscription to the OOTB service for 2010. I thought it would be really great to get the boxes at what would feel to me like random, having not ordered them each month. The first one came yesterday, and I was right!

Please? Nobody is reading my review blog. It's sad.

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Limited Time Only: Tiny Shiny Things Jars!

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Tiny Shiny Things JarsOK, does everybody remember my Tiny Shiny Things jars? I made quite a few of them a year or two ago, sold a couple, gave more away, and then stopped.

Well, I'm ready to make some more. About 1/2 dozen more. I have supplies already, it's just a matter of putting them together. And I want to use them for a benefit or fundraiser of some sort.

So, here's the deal: if you want one, make a donation to your favorite charity. Size of donation and charity is up to you--whatever you think is fair. Then drop me a note and let me know, and I'll send you a jar. Just let me know if it's for a kid (and approx age) or an adult.

First come, first serve.

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2010, you'd better treat my people right

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I've been slowly catching up on the 2K or so posts in my Google reader, and there is a common theme I keep running into, in posts from IRL friends, online friends, acquaintances, and folks I don't know at all:

2009 sucked.

Almost without exception, 2009 was brutal. A lot of people lost friend and family members. Even more lost jobs. Several suffered ill health ranging from the consistently annoying to the actually life-threatening. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did.

So I'm gonna put this out here right now: 2010, you'd better be nice to the folks I love (and those I like, and those I don't know at all). You'd better bring health, wealth, happiness, good food, nice vacations, cute babies, lazy Sundays, hot showers, great sex, and whatever the hell else will wash the bitter taste of 2009 out of the mouths of my peeps.

If you don't, I am so gonna kick your ass into 2011.

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