Love letter to magazines


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Silly magazine cover courtesy of BigHugeLabs.
I've recently re-discovered my love of magazines. I've long been a magazine lover. My subscriptions to Sassy and Rolling Stone were lifelines when was a preteen and teenager in Elkton. I even wrote my senior thesis at Reed about Ms. magazine. In the years immediately post-college, I remember working the "free trial" system to get months of free issues, then canceling as soon as I started getting charged for them. I'd read anything I could get for free--Maxim, Catholic Digest, Runner's World, it didn't matter--and if I couldn't stomach reading it, it was always good collage material. It was at that same time that I discovered the magazine recycling bins at the public library, where you can get old issues of all kinds of weird things for free.

In recent years, I've been flush enough to actually pay for my subscriptions, and happy to do so, as the magazine, like the newspaper, is threatened by online competition. Mark, too, is a lover of magazines, and visiting his family has shown me that he came from a magazine loving people as well. So, I decided to share with you a history of our lives in lists of magazine.

Magazines that were around my house when I was growing up
Reader's Digest (I still miss the Word Power feature)
Sports Illustrated
Ladies Home Journal
Field & Stream
National Geographic (my grandmother used to read this to my infant brother)

Magazines that were around Mark's house growing up
Better Homes & Gardens
The New Yorker
The Economist

Things haven't changed that much--I'm pretty sure I saw all those titles at Mark's parents house this visit, along with Vanity Fair, Wired, and at least two floral design titles. My folks still get all the old favorites as well (besides maybe SI, they may have let that lapse), and have added a couple more outdoorsy titles and Every Day with Rachael Ray.

As for Mark and I, we run a magazine heavy household as well. It started with a flurry of more indie titles, most of which aren't even around anymore (anybody remember Nervy Girl?). Slowly, we've built up an arsenal of favorites, and a list of titles we've tried that just don't work for us. As I'm doing annual re-subscriptions, I'll share our lists.

Stuff we have previously subscribe to but don't anymore
The Economist
Travel + Leisure
Gourmet (RIP)
Cooks Illustrated
The Atlantic (formerly Monthly)
Food & Wine
Real Simple
Mother Jones

Stuff we get now
The New Yorker
This Old House
Ready Made
The Bark
Martha Stewart Living

Stuff we're going to try or re-try this year
Real Simple
National Wildlife
Portland Monthly (that oughta make me nice and homesick)
Anthology (I'm really excited about this one)

Finally, a list of titles I've loved and lost (because they don't make them anymore)
Budget Living
No Depression

So tell me--what do you read religiously? Pick up on occasion? Miss ferociously? Let's hear it for magazines


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What did you get?

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I'm absolutely of the belief that Christmas isn't all about presents, and that it is too commercial, and giving presents is far more my focus than getting them. All that being said, who doesn't love to open a gift? I got some great things this year, so I thought I'd share my favorites. Please, feel free to share yours in the comments.

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I've been wanting a Broken Plate Pendant for years--they've seriously been on my wish list since early 2007. This year, my mom got me one for Christmas! The workmanship is fantastic--just as great in person as on the site. I can't wait to wear it.

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My other fantastic Mom present is wine from home--it hasn't arrived yet, but will be shipped early next week. My aunt works at the Brandborg Vineyard & Winery, so I'm sure at least some of the bottles will be from their collection. I'm hoping for some Bradley Vineyards and River's Edge Winery selections as well.

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From Mark's parents, I got the state bird and flower print set from Dutch Door Press I cooed over last month: Oregon, Texas, and Virginia. I can't wait to get them framed and hung.

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From my Mark himself, I got a bunch of fantastic stuff. One of my very favorite things was the set of Bambud Bamboo Earphones in my stocking. They are a cute, eco-friendly twist on something I really desperately needed and just hadn't gotten around to buying for myself. I love gifts that are things you use often--they remind you of the giver every time you use them.

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My other favorite present from Mark is also an eco-friendly, gorgeous take on something needed--the Ironwood Gourmet Acacia Wood Pizza Peel. I've been complaining about not having a peel, but never would have bought such a nice one. I'm hoping I can find a place to display it so it won't have to hide in a cupboard.


As for Mark, my mom was the big winner when it came to his gifts. She got him an autographed copy of Mark Bitterman's Salted: A Manifesto on the World's Most Essential Mineral and a Salt Starter Set from Bitterman's gourmet shop, The Meadow. It's hard to out-foodie Mark, but he was impressed. Good job, Mom!

My favorite of the gifts I gave was the one I came up with for Mark's dad. Mark's dad is a fairly recently retired guy of intense intelligence and curiosity, and he has recently (last year or two) become very interested in 16th century history. A month or so ago, I came up with the concept of a "course in a box" for him. I grabbed the syllabus from for a really interesting sounding course on how the Inquisitions played out in different parts of Europe, bought all the books for it (used, of course), and gave him Reed in a Box. He was amused, and had only already read one of the ten books, so I consider it a success.

All in all, we had a lovely holiday on the gift giving and getting fronts. Hope you did, too!


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Final 2010 goals check-in

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This is it, last one! I can't say I am happy with where I stand in regards to my 2010 goals, but at this point in the year, there is nothing to be done but to commit to doing better in 2011!

1. Take at least one overseas trip.

2. Read 30 books.
I'm at 24 read and 2 in progress. Not gonna get to 30. This disgusts me. When did I stop reading?

3. Get to a healthy size.
This was pretty much a fail.

4. Save $500/month.
Again, fail.

5. Give 5%.
I still haven't done the tax math, but I think I pretty much did this one.

6. Start retirement savings.

7. Join something.
This was such a stupid goal.

8. Write a novel.
Decided against this one.

9. Create something.
This is another stupid goal, but I'm going to say I accomplished it, just due to the reemergence of Tiny Shiny Things jars.

10. Remember birthdays and send cards.
I don't know what my actual success rate was here, but it wasn't bad. 70%, maybe? I'm counting it.


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Year End Meme


For the seventh consecutive year, I give you the Year End Meme:

1. What did you do in 2010 that you'd never done before?

Was unemployed for more than a few weeks.

2009: Sold a house. Worked from home.
2008: Buckled down and actually made progress towards financial stability.
2007: Had to wait until the tail end of the year, but I left the U.S.!
2006: Left a well-paying dead-end job for a less well-paying job with more potential. Agreed to spend Christmas away from my family. Bought a new car.
2005: Bought a house.
2004: Got a well-paying job.

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I didn't do as well with my goals this year as I did last year--if I'm generous, I give myself 4/10. But I'll try again next year!

2009: I achieved 8/13 of the goals I set for 2009, with partial progress towards several more. I'm very happy with that, and I plan to set 10-12 new goals for 2010.
2008: I used All Consuming to make a list of resolution/goals last year. Mostly, they are underway or more long-term. I've done well, all in all. I also had a goal of watching one movie and reading one book each week. I made the movie goal (I'm at 69 movies for the year right now), but am falling short on the book goal (currently at 49, many of which I didn't finish). And yeah, I'll make more.
2007: Last year's resolutions, or goals, really, are here. I basically failed on all counts. Bah.
I will probably answer this question more completely once I get back to Texas and my real life and all that, but basically, in 2008, I have to get my shit together financially. Really.
2006: I kept some of them, worked on others. I'll probably make more. I always make them.
2005: I already went over this, but I kept 3/4 of them from last year, and made 12 new ones for this year.
2004: I honestly can't remember.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

Yep, I have several online friends with 2010 babies.

2009: Over and over again. Our awesome neighbors in Texas had a little girl in August; my cousin had a beautiful baby boy on March 1, my HS friend R. had a baby girl on May 2...and there are likely some I'm forgetting.
2008: Yep, some online friends had a baby, and my cousin is expecting in February.
2007: All over the damn place! There are four new little boys in my life this year.
2006: A couple of very good online friends had babies.
2005: Nope, though some e-friends are closing in on their due date.
2004: Not that I can think of, but someone close to me did adopt.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

No. I'm really thankful for that.

2009: Sadly, yes. My grandmother died early in the year, and we lost Leo in October.
2008: Nope. I'm starting to feel like I'm pushing my luck here...
2007: No, thank God.
2006: No.
2005: Yes.
2004: Not that I can think of.

5. What countries did you visit?


2009: None again! But this one is going to change in 2010.
2008: None. :(
2007: Norway! And the airport in England.
2006: None.
2005: None.
2004: None.

6. What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010?

A steady job for the whole year. A pregnancy.

2009: Once again, it's hard for me to think of something I really lacked in 2009. Time with my family is the first thing that comes to mind. I'd like to have more of that.
2008: I can't think of much I was lacking in 2008, honestly. I guess I'd like to be finished paying off the debt the most.
2007: Ability to stick to my goals. Days when my allergies are not killing me.
2006: A feeling of control.
2005: Fufilling work.
2004: An idea what I want to do with my life.

7. What dates from 2010 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I'll remember the crazy job stuff in November and December for a long time, but not the actual dates.

2009: I turned 30 on August 28, so I'll likely remember that. Leo died in early October, but I already can't remember the day without looking it up. I thought I'd remember the day I made my last credit card payment, but I don't. It was mid-spring, I think.
2008: Once again, I got nothin' when it comes to dates.
2007: Dates almost never stick in my head.
2006: I don't tend to remember things by date.
2005: Early July--Chance died.
2004: Hrm...can't think of any particular dates. It honestly hasn't been that momentous a year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

It's come at the very end--being offered two really enticing jobs!

2009: Moving across the country with a truck full of dogs and cats, probably. Finishing paying off my CC debt. Finishing my NaNoWriMo novel.
2008: Finally paying down so much debt!
2007: Finally finishing my god-forsaken masters degree.
2006: Getting through calculus, expanding our family to include Ata and Esme.
2005: Buying the house.
2004: Rescuing the puppies.

9. What was your biggest failure?

This period of unemployment and savings running down has certainly felt like a failure, but I don't think it will stick in my mind that way.

2009: Probably not losing more weight, though I honestly don't feel all that bad about it. In general, I've felt pretty successful this year.
2008: Not sticking with my exercising. Gotta get back to that.
2007: Losing even more control of my finances. And continuing to gain weight.
2006: Not getting out of debt.
2005: Failing to lose any substantial weight.
2004: Taking a year off from school.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Nope, I've been really healthy again.

2009: No, I've been really healthy. Even my allergies are pretty well controlled.
2008: Nope.
2007: Food poisoning that was pretty much the worst thing ever. Plantar faciitis that makes me angry at God. Allergies that do the same.
2006: Nothing major.
2005: No more than usual.
2004: I smashed my toe, but nothing big.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My super cute new car!

2009: A lot of Christmas presents for folks who could really use them. And far fewer for my family, who really don't need them.
2008: Can't think of anything major.
2007: I have no idea. Most of what I bought wasn't worth it, probably.
2006: Our Element.
2005: Again, the house.
2004: Hmm...not sure.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

I'm extremely proud of my friend Emily, who has done some amazing things with her life this year. Her behavior definitely deserves to be celebrated.

2009: Never thought I'd say this, but my dad's did. He's doing something selfless right now, even if there are benefits in it for him. Something I don't know if I could do. I admire it.
2008: Honestly, mine did. I have worked hard and accomplished a lot this year.
2007: My mother continues to amaze me with how she handles her constant pain with good grace. My brother seems to have grown up a lot, which is great. And I am continually inspired by the parenting of my friends N. and Z., S. and C., and S. and T.
2006: Susan's.
2005: My fellow Texans post-Katrina.
2004: Mark

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Maybe other people's behavior isn't depressing me like it used to, because I can't think of anybody in particular.

2009: A long time friend. It's really sad.
2008: Much of the nation's, surrounding the election.
2007: Michael Vick comes to mind right off.
2006: Most of our national and local politicians'.
2005: Where should I begin?
2004: Mine, but only on occasion. Everyone who voted for Bush.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Expenses while nothing was coming in. And too much shopping.

2009: Moving isn't cheap. Life in NoVA in general. But a lot of it is going to savings, too. And we paid off our car.
2008: Citibank.
2007: Gah, I don't know. Stupid stuff I could have done without, mainly. Lots of thrifting. Clothes for my multiple sizes.
2006: Tuition, junk.
2005: Target and The Goodwill.
2004: To the black hole where it always goes...

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My friend E's pregnancy.

2009: Mark finishing his Ph.D. Moving. Working from home.
2008: Making progress. Our trip to Boston last spring.
2007: My trip to Norway. Finishing school. Discovering Buffy. BlogHer.
2006: Howell and Melinda's visit, going home in July
2005: Going to Boston, going to Ann Arbor, cutting my hair.
2004: My Midwestern adventure

16. What song will always remind you of 2010?

Jamey Johnson's "Stars in Alabama."

2009: The version of "John the Revelator" from Sons of Anarchy.
2008: That silly one from Juno by the Moldy Peaches comes to mind.
2007: The one Lindsey sings in Angel.
2006: The Leonard Cohen tribute soundtrack, especially the Teddy Thompson track.
2005: Nothing comes to mind.
2004: Pretty much anything by Mary Prankster

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
 a) happier or sadder?

Overall, a bit sadder.

2009: Happier. Or, at the very least, more content.
2008: happier
2007: About the same?
2006: sadder
2005: About the same, I think.
2004: happier

b) thinner or fatter?

Lots fatter.

2009: A little bit thinner.
2008: thinner
2007: Fatter fatter fatter.
2006: fatter
2005: A bit fatter.
2004: fatter

c) richer or poorer?

Much poorer.

2009: Substantially richer.
2008: richer
2007: Poorer. Though I actually make more money. Go me.
2006: poorer
2005: Definitely poorer.
2004: richer

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?

I think I just wish I'd done more overall. Less treading water, more action.

2009: Traveled, as always. I'm a broken record.
2008: I'd like to have traveled more. And gone to BlogHer. But those goals were pretty much antithetical to the debt pay down goal, so I guess I'm happy with what I did.
2007: Traveled. I always wish I had done more of that.
2006: Making the most of my time.
2005: Saving.
2004: Excercising

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?


2009: Watched TV.
2008: Worried about money.
2007: Making empty promises to myself.
2006: Shopping
2005: Spending.
2004: Sleeping

20. How did you/will you spend Christmas?

In Minnesota with Mark's family--it's very nice and relaxing.

2009: In Oregon. It was lovely.
2008: In Minnesota with Mark's family. Very much looking forward to it.
2007: In Oregon with the fam. It was great.
2006: With Mark's family and the dogs.
2005: I spent it with various and sundry family members.
2004: Hanging out with the extended fam

21. Did you fall in love in 2010?

No, but I stayed in love, which is even better.

2009: Every day.
2008: With a couple of beagles, yes.
2007: No new love, but the same old love is going swimmingly, which is just as good.
2006: Yes. A couple of times. And stayed in love, too.
2005: Yes, with Leo.
2004: Didn't fall in love. Remained in love.

22. What was your favorite TV program?

Sons of Anarchy.

2009: Sons of Anarchy.
2008: I really loved Deadwood.
2007: Buffy Buffy Buffy!
2006: House
2005: Hrm...probably Entourage or The Wire.
2004: What Not To Wear or Plastic Surgery: Before and After

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

Yep, my two-day boss.

2009: Yeah. A friend's husband. Hate hate hate.
2008: Sarah Palin
2007: Michael Vick.
2006: No. But I am intensly irritated by some people I wasn't at this time last year.
2005: Yeah.
2004: Yes. I know more people now that I did at this time last year.

24. What was the best book you read?

Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman

2009: I didn't read anything I really loved this year. The best book was probably The Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth.
2008: Fun Home
2007: Hmm...several come to mind. The Midwife's Tale. Packinghouse Daughter. But the discovery of Marion Winik is probably the best literary thing that happened to me this year.
2006: Counting Coup
2005: Pack of Two by Caroline Knapp.
2004: The Time Traveller's Wife

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Jamey Johnson

2009: I'm not sure I made any musical discoveries this year. How sad is that?
2008: Over the Rhine
2007: Grace Potter and Christine Kane.
2006: Rufus Wainwright (yep, slow on the uptake)
2005: Lyle Lovett.
2004: Mary Prankster

26. What did you want and get?

A really great friend.

2009: A work-from-home job. A sold house.
2008: A lower credit card balance and a lower number on the scale.
2007: A trip to Europe. My masters.
2006: A new car, an iPod, time with my mom
2005: Leo and Atticus
2004: Time off from school, a decent job, a KitchenAid mixer

27. What did you want and not get?

I did not magically become a thin person with a big savings account.

2009: More time in Oregon. More time with Leo.
2008: A $0 credit card balance and an even lower number on the scale.
2007: A paid off credit card.
2006: A savings account, a cure for my allergies
2005: Chance to live; a new job.
2004: A clue as to what I want out of this world, God

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

The Millenium Trilogy

2009: Watchmen. Whip It!
2008: This is England, Juno
2007: I can't think of what I saw this year that were new, but The Farmer's Wife was wonderful.
2006: Kinky Boots, The Science of Sleep
2005: Good Night, and Good Luck, Capote, Walk the Line
2004: Hmm...Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, maybe?

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

31, and if you guessed dinner with friends, you're right!

2009: 30, and you guessed it! Out to dinner with friends!
2008: I was 29. We went out to dinner with our friends.
2007: I went out to dinner with friends. I was 28.
2006: I was 27. Went out to a great Indian dinner with all of my local friends.
2005: We had a small dinner party at our house. I turned 26.
2004: I was 25. We went to a hilarious stage presentation/showing of Dirty Dancing and to brunch the next day

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Finding a satisfying job faster.

2009: I can't think of a single thing. I guess I'm really satisfied.
2008: That $0 balance.
2007: Again with the debt repayment.
2006: Getting out of debt
2005: A different job.
2004: Finding God

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2010?

You know, I really like scarves.

2009: Tentative steps towards dressing like a grown-up.
2008: Trouser jeans are definitely work appropriate.
2007: Can you believe I spent money on these clothes?
2006: My stomach finally catches up to my ass
2005: "The same clothes as last year, only tighter."
2004: I. love. yoga. pants.

32. What kept you sane?

My online peeps. My Mark. My animals.

2009: My amazing circle of online friends. Writing.
2008: The animals. My online pals.
2007: The animals. Mark, much of the time. Blogging.
2006: My dogs. My iPod.
2005: Mark, my pets.
2004: Chancey.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

I haven't been paying a whole lot of attention to public figures lately, I guess, because I can't think of anybody.

2009: Michelle Obama, maybe. I'd love to have that kind of grace.
2008: Obama.
2007: Spike.
2006: Zidane
2005: Viscerally, Angelina Jolie and Adrian Grenier. Emotionally, Johnny Cash.
2004: If "fancy" is code for "want to bang," I'd have to go with Angelina Jolie. Again. Still.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?

I was pretty stoked about the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

2009: Health care "reform," natch.
2008: The presidential election.
2007: Would you hate me if I said I stopped caring?
2006: Local arts funding
2005: capital punishment
2004: Capital punishment

35. Who did you miss?

Still Leo.

2009: Leo.
2008: The same people I always do. The Nichols', my mom.
2007: My mom. I always miss her.
2006: Tony. Sandy.
2005: Chance.
2004: My mom

36. Who was the best new person you met?


2009: Beck. :)
2008: I'm not sure I met anyone new this year...
2007: Hmm....I have made some excellent new online friends. And I am awfully fond of my new small friends.
2006: Minnesota group
2005: Hrm...lots of people, but my two sistercousin's fabulous boyfriends, Jeff and Eric, come to mind right now, since I just saw them.
2004: Em/Brooke/Terri/Flea/Eisbar. It was a great trip.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010.

Even in a job interview, be who you are. If you don't, they'll find out eventually.

2009: My life isn't what I'm planning, it's what I'm doing, right here, right now. There is never going to be enough time.
2008: The struggle doesn't ever get easier.
2007: It is not enough to say you are going to do something. You have to actually do it. And international travel is so not that hard.
2006: It is better, sometimes, to be kind than to be right.
2005: Never underestimate the power of dog.
2004: That I actually can make a difference in someone's/something's life with a little effort.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

Well, he hands you a nickel
And he hands you a dime
And he asks you with a grin
If you're havin' a good time

2009: Who knows what the future holds/Or where the cards may fall/But if you don't come out west and see/You'll never know at all
2008: We sure are cute for two ugly people.
2007: Four legs good, two legs bad.
2006: "If I've got to remember that's a fine memory."
2005: "This is home/it's where I want to be/this is home/let's make a family."
2004: I'll come back to that one. Have to think on it.


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Post-Christmas Sales: Where I'd look first


It's time for the last hurrah of the ultimate season of consumption, the post-Christmas sales! Since I seem to lately be trying to refashion myself a blogger of all things buy-able, I'd be remiss not to point you towards a few of my favorites. Since I have absolutely no plans to draw my butt out of the warm, comfy, and well-stocked house through the snow tomorrow to do ANYTHING, they're all of the online variety:

Boden Winter Sale: Oh how I love Boden. Right now, they've got a whole passel of things on sale up to 50% off. Things seem to stay on sale for a while there, so there probably isn't a hurry that way, but sizes do sell out rather quickly. I'm a particular fan of their dresses, and I've got my eye on the Chelsea dress, though it's still expensive at $84 (marked down from $128), and the extremely cute Holland Park dress, which is marked down from $138 to a much more reasonable. $55.

Philosophy Year End Sale: Philosophy calls their year end sale "spectacular," and I think that might be an overstatement, but lots of things are 40% off, and most of the gift sets and holiday-esque stuff are marked down. The awesome flavored lip glosses are $6, rather than $10--I hear great things about the Peppermint Bark flavor.

Sephora Sale: The checkout code EXTRA gets you an extra 20% off all of the already on-sale merchandise at Sephora, which is worth checking out. My picks are the Sephora Favorites Give Me Some Lip set, marked down from $40 to $30, so $24 with the code; the Benefit Femme Metale kit, marked down from $38 to $28, so $22.40 with the code; and the Tarina Tarantino Magic Hour Cream Shadow, marked down to $9.50 from $19.50, so $7.60 with the code.

Bath & Body Works Hello, Yellow! Sale: I'm not a huge fan of Bath & Body Works myself, but I know I have some readers that are, so I have to mention they've got stuff up to 75% off right now. Classic lotions are $3 each (regularly $9.50). There are also big markdowns on gift sets and products that are being discontinued.

Ann Taylor Semi-Annual Sale: Ann Taylor has had stuff on sale constantly for the past two months, but this may be the best one yet. There are a ton of things marked down, and you get 40% off your entire order with code SAVE40. I am intrigued by the Ponte Slim Leg Pants, which started out at $98, are on sale for $59.99, and will be $36 with the coupon code. I'm also loving the One-Shoulder Cascade Dress, originally $228, on sale for $149.99, and down to $90 with the code.

Ann Taylor Loft: The deal here is pretty much the same as Ann Taylor--lots of stuff marked down, and an additional 50% off anything that isn't new merchandise with the code SALE50. My favorite thing is the Metallic Croc Pencil Skirt--originally $79, on sale for $39.99, $20 with the coupon code.

Garnet Hill Annual Winter Sale & Clearance: I've noticed really strange things about sales at Garnet Hill in the past, and this one is no different. Certain items are just oddly cheap. The ones that stand out to me right now are gorgeous Christmas items: I love this set of knit sweater ornaments (down to $9 from $28), and the super-cute Hable Christmas stockings are half price ($24 from $48).

There is, obviously, a ton of other stuff on sale all over the place. However, were I to be shopping today (which I am not, I swear...), there are some sales with which I'd start my search. Happy hunting.

Mid-day update:

There were, of course, some great sales I forgot when I wrote this. Since telling you all about them seems to help me to stop pushing the "buy" button, I'm doing an update.

The Body Shop Mother of All Sales: The Body Shop has been running huge sales throughout the holidays, and they've got another one now. Body butters are $10, there is 3/$10 makeup (I love the Shimmer Cubes Palettes), and there are tons of gift sets on sale up to 60% off.

Lush Holiday BOGO Sale: Lush doesn't have real sales that often, so it's worth jumping on when they do. Right now, all their Christmas stuff is buy one, get one free. Doing that even one better, all the year round pre-wrapped gift sets are also BOGO! It's a while supplies last situation (lots of things are already out of stock), and the max is 10 freebies per order. The website is alternating between being unbelievably slow and completely down, though, so attempting an order may be a frustrating experience!

Banana Republic: Through today, BR has an additional 25% off their already reduced items with code BRSALE25. Always in need of work clothes, I'd think of ordering the Martin Fit Winter Wool Trouser in black (regular $110, on sale for $93.99, reduced to $70.49) and the French Cuff Shirt (regular $59.99, on sale for $39.99, reduced to $29.99). If you happen to be a size 6 (the only size left in stock), I also really love the silk pintuck v-neck tunic (regularly $69.50, on sale for $34.99, reduced to $26.25).

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Scenes from Christmas


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dangerous_woman_lg.jpgI read my fifth book for 12 Books, 12 Months in record time. Possibly, that's because I loved it so much. Or, possibly, it's because Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman has a few more pictures than it does words. Either way, it was a quick one.

Read this book. If you don't read any of the other books I read for this challenge, read this one. It's so much fun. I knew quite a bit about Emma Goldman's political life before I picked it up, but not much on her personal life. The graphic novel combines the two seamlessly, with dialogue that comes mostly from letters, and is supplemented perfectly by Sharon Rudahl's illustrations. I'm not a graphic novel person--I admire Maus, and I loved Fun Home--and I was skeptical of a biography in this format, but it works perfectly. It's informative, entertaining, and nearly impossible to put down.


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Christmas cards


Here's something you may not already know about me: I LOVE Christmas cards. My very favorite thing about this time of year, more than the food or the shopping or anything, is going through the mail every day to see who we have cards from. I love hearing from people I don't talk to often, and I especially love it if they send pictures or, the holy grail, a form letter describing their year. Seriously. I realize a lot of people think these things are stupid, but I adore them.

And I do them. Every year. In droves. This year, I sent out 75 cards. I've received 17.

Yeah. I'm more into it that most people, I guess. Still, I'm sure there are lots of you out there whose addresses I don't have. So I wanted to "send" you a card as well, here on the blog. If I had your real life location and could put it in the mail, this is what you would have received:

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It would be accompanied my version of the form letter I love so much. This year, it reads:

December 12, 2010
Hello Family and Friends,
Isn't it hard to believe we're already at the end of 2010? It's actually been a pretty stable year for us here in NoVA--no moves, no new pets, and (more or less) no new jobs! We're still living in Herndon, still enjoying our three cats (Atticus, Esme, and Illy) and our wonderful dog (Ata), and Mark is still doing rewarding work for long hours at HHMI Janelia Farm. Grace is finishing her telecommuting project for JET Software Solutions, so she's started looking for a local full-time job. The search has been pretty good--lots of possibilities and quite a few interviews--but nothing has quite worked out yet. Keep your fingers crossed! In the meantime, Grace is keeping busy with a few freelance jobs and a lot of holiday baking!
Our big event of 2010 was the trip we took to London in October. We lucked out and had wonderful weather while we were there, and we spent eight days enjoying it! We saw most of the major sites: the Tower of London, the London Eye, Kensington Palace, and more markets and museums than you can count. We also ate extremely well, with stops at gastro pubs, Indian restaurants, Turkish restaurants, and teahouses. We stayed at the Zetter Hotel in Islington and would absolutely recommend it to anybody considering a London trip.
We visited Oregon twice this year (once for Christmas 2009 and once over the summer, to attend Grace's cousin Jessie's wedding), as well as making a trip to visit Mark's parents in Minnesota in July. In Oregon, we enjoyed tons of local wine and coffee and were able to drift the Umpqua River (Mark's first time doing that!). In Minnesota, we spent two lovely days sailing (Grace's first time doing that!). Though it's difficult to live so far from our families, we're very happy we get to visit them often. Mark's parents have also visited us here in Virginia, most recently at Thanksgiving, which was a wonderful time and a great meal.
We continue to be absolutely enamored with our lineup of pets, though we still miss Leo. Adding a second dog to the mix has been under consideration for months, but the right one has not yet come along. Still, we'd be very surprised if you were to receive a 2011 Christmas letter that doesn't mention a new addition.
This year, we'll be spending Christmas in Minnesota with Mark's parents, brother, and sister-in-law. We're looking forward to the occasion, which, if history is an indication, will be marked with fantastic food, lots of cookies, and freezing temperatures! We hope this letter finds all of you safe, happy, and warm. Our best wishes go out to you for 2011.
Mark, Grace, Ata, Atticus, Esme, & Illy


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Remember when I went to London and drooled over everything fabric at Liberty? Remember how high I said the prices were? Well, today I found a little piece of heaven. At my local Marshall's and TJ Maxx stores, of all places, they are selling Liberty fabric patterned note card sets and journals!

liberty notebook.jpgWhat is the madness of which I speak? The Liberty Art Fabric Stationery Collection! In its entirety, the collection consists of note card sets, journals, address books, and notebooks. My stores had just the cards and journals, but there were four varieties of each (with four more varieties within each box of note cards). My online searches haven't come up with anywhere else in the US these can be purchased--they are available at Amazon UK, though, for sale prices between 5.99 and 7.99 pounds (on sale!). In dollars, that's $9.32 to 12.43. At TJ Maxx and Marshall's, I scooped up the journals for $4.99 each and the note cards for $5.99 per box (and yes, before you ask, I did buy one of each). The quality is excellent--beautiful prints, and the journal covers and outside of the note card box are the actual fabric. These would have easily fit in at the actual Liberty store--they'd just have cost 3-5 times as much.

In keeping with the British theme, Marshall's and TJ Maxx have also been carrying a few things by Cath Kidston. So far, I've only seen her Dream Home Journal ($5.99 instead of $13.57) and a few small accessories, but I'm holding out hope for aprons and tea towels.

It's not just the Liberty and Cath Kidston stuff that has me going back to Marshall's and TJ Maxx once a week these days, though. I'm finding at least two or three great finds on every trip. Another thing I was delighted to see recently and greedily scooped up in duplicate were gorgeous soap sets by Fringe Studio. The sets I got, which are two very large bars of soap packaged in a great vintage floral-esque tin, were $7.99 each and I'm pretty sure they must be last year's design, because I can't find them online anywhere. They're gorgeous, though, and the scents--Rose Cassis, Grapefruit, and a Orange Currant--are fantastic. I don't think Fringe Studio makes anything that isn't lovely. If you want to pay full price for it, you find it at places like Anthropologie.

chinese laundry socks.jpgAnother thing I scored at TJ Maxx/Marshall's recently (I use the two interchangeably because I can never remember what I got where, and they tend to have very very similar stock, at least here) was trouser socks. I am partial to the Chinese Laundry variety, as they come in fun patterns, fit my feet, and hold up pretty well. A six-pack of them (two pairs black, two pairs gray, two pairs purple!) was $8.99. Retail? Well, they're $26.45 at Shoebuy!

Andes30.jpgFinally, I have to give a shout to Tuesday Morning, a store I don't frequent as often as Marshall's or TJ Maxx, but which impresses me on occasion. Today, I found a whole bunch of hand-dyed wool Andes yarn on the shelves there, for $5 a skein. Beats $11.25!

This discount store round up may need to become a regular feature here, as great as the stuff I'm finding recently is. Remember, everything at these stores is limited time only, so if you're after anything I've mentioned, better look for it now!


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bad girls cover.jpgMy fourth book for 12 Books, 12 Months was supposed to be Young, White, and Miserable: Growing Up Female in the Fifties by Wini Breines. Unfortunately, when I went to begin this book, I couldn't find it. Anywhere. It wasn't on any bookshelf. It wasn't in any of the dozen or so boxes of as-yet unpacked books stacked up in my office. I'm sad to say I don't think it survived the move. I did a huge book purge before we left Austin, and it must have been purged.

I could have bought another copy, of course, but it seemed to me that it would be more in keeping with the intention of the 12 Books, 12 Months project to simply pick another book from the "to be read" pile that's always growing under my bedside table. So I did. And the book I picked was Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave, edited by Ellen Sussman.

As the title suggests, Bad Girls is a book of personal essays by female writers, all centered on the broadly defined topic of misbehavior. The best essay in it, and the reason I bought it, is Pam Houston's heartbreaking and funny story about flirting with an attendee at her father's funeral. There are, however, other high points. I was particularly impressed by Joyce Maynard's defense of writing in her autobiography about her affair with J.D. Salinger. My black horse favorite of the essays, however, was Ann Hood's "Lying," which is all about making up stories about ourselves to tell to strangers, just because we can. That's the kind of bad I can sink my teeth into--not really salacious, and not hurting anybody, but just...naughty.

That said, a lot of the book's essays fell pretty flat to me, especially those from better-known authors. Erica Jong's explanation of how the bad girl she's always peddled in her fiction is...fiction? Left me with a big, "duh." Mary Roach's exploration of the power of confession didn't really work for me either. That said, the essays are all quick, easy reads, and I bet it took less than two hours total for me to get through the whole book, so it's not like you'll be wasting a ton of time if you read it.

One last note, which I hadn't even thought of until looking at the book's page on Amazon, but is a good point: if you're looking for "bad" to mean "sexy," you're in the wrong place. A few of the book's essays deal with sexual themes, (including editor Ellen Sussmans' "Consider the Slut," which is pretty great), but most don't. Misbehavior here is not always adult misbehavior (there are several stories about the authors' childhoods) and the subject matter it not always titillating (see Jennifer Gilmore's bulimia essay). The upshot, and I think the point, is that, especially for a woman, "bad" can mean almost anything.

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Ann Taylor Loft: covering my butt for work


Though my stay at my previous job was brief, it was long enough for me to realize that I have a serious lack of work appropriate clothing--most of what I thought would be work appropriate previous to my first day really wasn't, it turned out. My first day was also Cyber Monday, so the first thing I did upon getting home that night was to place a big order at Ann Taylor Loft. I wasn't all that hopeful about things fitting, but everything was 40% off (as it still is!), so I thought I'd give it a try.

My order came today, and I was shocked at how well most of what I ordered worked. Of the nine things I ordered, I kept five of them.

First, the things I sent back:

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Tall Everyday Wool Pants in Graphite Melange, $89.50.

I don't get the point of unlined wool pants. I mean, they're right out for me due to allergies, but even if you weren't allergic, wouldn't they be uncomfortable? And a VPL nightmare? Anyway, these are unlined, so they were an automatic no.

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Sensationally Soft Cowl Neck Sweater in Dark Gray Melange, $49.50

This one I dithered about. I liked the cut and color, but I honestly didn't think I would wear it. It didn't seem layerable, and there was a seam up the back, which looked weird to me.

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Dolman Sleeve Knit Pullover in Tango Red, $49.50

I liked the cut of this light sweater a lot, but the red was just too Manic Panic for me. If I liked any of the other colors, I'd exchange it, but none of them are really speaking to me.

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Drapey BF Button Down in Gravel Gray, $49.50

This just looks really weird on. It's wider than it is long, I swear, and the collar and part of the placket are made of jersey, I think. There was really nothing at all I liked about it.

Now, the things that I kept!

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Tall Ann Herald Trousers in Charcoal Pinstripe, $79.50

These are a much nicer pair of trousers than the picture lets on. They're polyester, but they feel very nice and have a great drape. I also really like the very dark gray color and the subtle pinstripe. I think I'll wear these a lot.

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Tall Herald Mini Weave Trousers in Black White Mini Weave, $79.50

I like these trousers even better! The black and white mini weave scared me a bit, but really they just look to be a nice medium gray, and the wide leg shape is so good for me (all about balancing the butt!). This brings my total number of work appropriate pants up to three!

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Sensationally Soft Scoop Neck Sweater in Dark Tranquil Blue, $49.50

I love this sweater! It's so nice and soft, the color is beautiful, and the sleeves are long enough (which is so rare in my world). It's a great shape and size, too--I could easily wear it alone, but it will also work for layering.

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Scoop Neck Sweater in Beet, $44.50

Another long enough scoop neck sweater, with sufficient sleeve length, and this time in a beautiful beet color with a back button detail. LOVE.

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Long Sleeve Twist Neck Detail Sweater in Twilight Magenta, $49.50

Finally, I got this lovely super lightweight twist-neck sweater in this great medium magenta color. It's so light I can easily wear it under a suit jacket, but covers plenty to take the jacket off, which is something I've been looking for (since all my under-suit shells are sleeveless. I love every color it comes in, too--I'm tempted to order another one.

My order came with a stack of $25 off $50 order coupons, and the 40% off plus free shipping holiday sale is still on, so it's really all I can do not to order a few more things. Given that I don't currently have a job, I'm trying to resist. That doesn't mean you can't order, though--if you need new dressy work clothes, I'd recommend it.


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Etsy gifts: the kiddie edition


As promised, I wanted to share a few kids gifts ideas from the wonderful world of Etsy. I am not buying for many kids this year, but if I were, these are things I'd consider:

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Pick Three Babushka Russian Matryoshka Cloth Dolls, $42

I absolutely love the Babushka dolls made by Tadpole Creations. They are SO adorable, and there are tons to choose from. I think they'd be great for babies up to older kids, and the ideal would be to pick three, because everything's cuter in a set! The dolls are 8" high x 3.5 " wide x 1.5" deep and machine washable, and individual dolls are $14 each.

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Custom Fancie Heroes and Villains, $40

I love everything Fancie Fannie's makes so much, it took me forever to figure out what to highlight. These little hand-painted wooden dolls are pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen, and the store features everything from Harry Potter characters to Star Trek's line-up to custom sets. Prices seem to be about $5/doll, so sets run from $15-$45 or so, depending on the number of dolls included. A perfect low-tech answer to some high-tech kiddie loves, I think.

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Modern Christmas Lounge Set, $42

There a lot of people on Etsy selling baby clothes. One of my personal favorites, though, is Mountain Aven Baby. The clothes aren't cheap, but they are truly beautiful. The lounge set above is only one offering. Other favorites are a reversible holiday dress ($42) and all manner of appliqued tees and onesies. Definitely special occasion, picture-day type clothes, but I always feel better about giving my money to a small business than to Gymboree, don't you?

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Fun Felt Foods Sushi Deluxe Tray, $30

Felt food is another thing you can find 1,000 versions of on Etsy, but c'mon, is anything cuter than this felt deluxe sushi set? For those who don't want to push raw fish on the kids in their lives, Sam McLean designs makes plenty of other felt food, too. But I like the sushi.

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5X7 eco friendly nature themed alphabet wall cards, $32

One of the many reasons my hypothetical child will likely have an intense dislike for me one day is my insistence on decorating with the alphabet. I LOVE kids' alphabet cards of various types. These ones, from Art and Philanthropy, are both lovely and on sale for 20% off. It gets better, though. Art and Philanthropy has sets in Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Hebrew, German, and Swedish. It's honestly all I can do not to buy the vintage French farm animals set for myself.

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Boy's personalized magnetic dress up doll, $30

So I'm not alone in thinking paper dolls are the coolest thing ever, right? Sandy Ford Design makes personalized paper dolls, based on photographs of the recipient. Neat, right? For $20, she'll do a PDF of the doll and five outfits, which you can print out on any paper you want (including magnetic paper for magnetic dolls), or for $30-$35, she'll print and trim the magnetic doll and outfits for you. She does adults, too. I'll admit it. I want one.

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The Elephant Hat, $22

Tell me these fleece hats with animals on them aren't the cutest thing ever? They are made by Katie Segel at My Kids Lids, and she's also got birds, cats, dogs, crabs, monkeys, frogs, and various monster varieties. I'm no expert, but they totally look like something that adults would think was super cute but kids would also find fun.

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Mr. Ethanol, $25

Oh yeah. Crocheted molecules! They're cotton, they're scientific, and they're adorable. Sold by Prime and Plush, there are several varieties available for Geek, Jr. Another of my favorite is ice, which is water with a scarf on.

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Loose Vegan Mineral Eyeshadows, 5 mini jars for $13.50

Etsy can deliver presents for the older kids as well as the babies. For a newly makeup experimenting teen, how about a sample set of vegan mineral eyeshadows from Shiro Cosmetics? At $13.50 for your choice of five 1 gram shadows, that's not much more expensive that Wet N' Wild, and a whole lot better for your kid's eyes. Plus the color palette is awesome, with names like Wobbuffet and Moosh, and they come packaged in a nice organza bag. Stocking stuffer, anyone?

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Wooden Hedgehogs and Mushrooms, $25

Finally, I have to recommend the beautiful wooden toys made by Imagination Kids. The little set of hedgehogs and mushrooms I have here is too cute to pass up, and there are tons of other toys hand-crafted from "sustainably harvested wood, AP Certified non-toxic paint, and our homemade natural wood polish made from beeswax, jojoba oil, and essential oils." Check out the amazing advent calendars, too!

It can eat up hours (which I'll admit I enjoy more than I should), but I really believe if you browse Etsy for long enough, you'll find something for everybody on your list (and probably several things for yourself). For the uninitiated, hopefully this gives you a place to start.


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Product love: NARS


So I am having some serious product love recently, and I thought you should know about it. NARS has long been a favorite cosmetic company (Orgasm blush FTW!) , but they've gone above and beyond in my recent experience.

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NARS The Multiple, $38

Last month's Birchbox included a miniature version of The Multiple in South Beach (shimmering apricot), and I have used it several times since then. NARS describes The Multiple as an "all-in-one, cream-to-powder, multi-purpose makeup stick." I use it to add a little bit of color to my face if I'm not wearing any other makeup, and it does wonders just to give me a bit of a healthy glow in just a few seconds. I wasn't sure the apricot color would work for me when I first opened the stick, but it is actually very subtle and flattering. Best of all, once it's on, I can't feel it at all--it's not greasy and nearly weightless.

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Orgasm Illuminator, $29

Orgasm Illuminator is described as a "complexion enhancer." What it does for me is simple--it makes my blush last all day. I use a little bit of this light cream over my foundation and under my Orgasm blush, and I end up with blush that looks nearly exactly the same at 8pm as it did at 8am. I have no idea how that works, but it works. Ideally, I'd like blush that just lasts all day, but this is the next best thing.

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Powder Foundation SPF 12, $45

Confession: I kinda think liquid foundation is gross. The texture of it squicks me, and it always seems to go on too heavy in some places and not heavy enough in others. Cream foundation is better, but I have always wanted powder foundation, with it's easier application and not spilling all over things, to work out for me. Previous attempts at it, however, have proved useless--no different than just using powder. Until now. I was put off by the price, but I sucked it up and bought NARS Powder Foundation SPF 14 in Deauville ("light to neutral complexions with a perfect balance of pink and yellow"), and I'm never going back. The stuff is magic. It goes on easy, with its own sponge, and it truly does act like both a foundation and a powder. It's lightweight, it doesn't seem to be drying, and it does improve the look of my skin (though I still use a spot concealer underneath it). The staying power seems to be really good, too, especially in combination with the Illuminator.

With the addition of these three products to my makeup bag, I feel really satisfied with my current lineup. I have everything I need to create a quick day face (less than 5 minutes) or a more labor intensive night face, and I feel good about it. Awesome!


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Almost final 2010 goals check-in

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It seems really weird to think that next month's goals check-in will be the last one, the end result of my progress (or lack of) in 2010. And I'm already thinking about 2011 goals. More than anything, I guess this post is a warning (to myself) not to be too discouraged when I do my year-end analysis a month from now.

The goals:

1. Take at least one overseas trip.

2. Read 30 books.
I've read 22 books and have 2 in progress. Probably not going to make this one, unless I get a serious reading bug bite in the next few weeks.

3. Get to a healthy size.
In reality, the progress here has been negative. I haven't weighed myself, but based on how my clothes are fitting, I've gotten larger.

4. Save $500/month.
More negative progress-unemployment is not conducive to savings. At this point, I can only say that this situation had better improve next year.

5. Give 5%.
I think I'm going to end up pretty close on this one, when I get the year-end numbers. Maybe a bit under, but not much.

6. Start retirement savings.
Guess it's a good thing the goal was to START retirement savings. The account is opened and has last year's contribution in it. Not a penny from this year.

7. Join something.
I don't even know what this means at this point.

8. Write a novel.
As I said last month, this one I actually decided not to do.

9. Create something.
I made some Tiny Shiny Things jars last night, which was the first making of anything I'd done in ages, and it felt great. I'm hoping that if nothing else, December will be a month of creativity for me. All may not be lost on this one.

10. Remember birthdays and send cards.
Did much better with this one in November--sent cards to all three of the folks whose birthdays were on my calendar. Late cards, but cards. Baby steps.


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Closed doors and open windows


So the long and short of it is this: I am unemployed again. The new job about which I was so excited turned out to be a spectacular mismatch, and though I have no intention of going into specifics here, I will say that I suffered two very long and very miserable days, topped off by one of the most humiliating and enraging lectures of my life. It was not good. But the upside is that it only took two days to realize it wasn't going to work, so though I am back to the drawing board, I am back to it with relatively little time lost.

The whole experience has me thinking very hard about what it is I really want to do with my life. The career path I have been on for the past several years is one I more or less fell into, realized I could make a very healthy living at, and stuck with for that reason. It hasn't been intentional or even particularly well thought-out. When I began looking for jobs here, I automatically started considering positions that were the "next step" on that path. But maybe the path itself is wrong. Maybe, rather than searching in a panic for the next opportunity for which I can apply, which is likely to look quite a bit like the one from which I just came, I should be thinking about who I really am and where my real professional strengths lie. Just because I know I can do something, whether it to creation of technical documentation or writing and managing grants and proposals or whatever, does that mean I should be doing it? Should I be trying, now, while nobody is really dependent on my income but me and I have a few months of flexibility before things get really dire, to find something that's not just a good enough job, but a job I'll really love? A job where my natural strengths and personality can be seen as assets, rather than as something that needs to be worked against?


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