I haven't been doing a lot of thrifting lately--time has been extremely short. And when I do thrift, I tend towards the practical. Yesterday wasn't really an exception on that count--my biggest finds were a pair of Not Your Daughter jeans and two pairs of Loft slacks. However, I also snagged a couple of slightly more interesting vintage things:

Buch Belgium casserole

Buch Belgium casserole

This casserole dish is marked Boch Made in Belgium at the bottom, and I believe it is circa mid-late 60s. I found similar dishes online, but not in this pattern. Anybody recognize it?

Wooden spool thread

I cannot resist wooden spools of thread. I don't sew. I have absolutely no use for them, and yet, they call to me. This new-in-package set of Belding Corticelli Poly-Bond Bel-Waxed sewing thread is probably my best wooden spool find ever. Again, I think late 60s's-early 70s? The boxes are marked with the original price--30 cents each!

Been thrifting recently? What have you found?

Hooking up with Thrift Share Monday at Apron Thrift Girl!

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Though I am a reasonably good driver, I'm a little bit "car nervous." I get lost a lot. I have a hard time following written directions (or the map on my iPhone) and driving at the same time. I recently got my first flat tire and I completely flipped out. I have a tendency to lock my keys in the car and leave my lights on. (OnStar FMV cannot unlock the doors like the embedded system, but can send roadside assistance/locksmith.) Forget about talking on the phone and driving--I won't even answer an incoming call, much less make one when I'm behind the wheel (Oprah would be so proud!). These things have always just been the kind of little annoyances that are part of being who I am. It never occurred to me that there was something I could do to address them. Then BlogHer asked me to review the OnStar FMV Mirror, and everything changed.

For those not familiar with it, the OnStar FMV Mirror is an after-market add-on, comprised of a rearview mirror and a small microphone, which allows vehicles not built with OnStar service to access some of the same services factory-equipped OnStar cars have. Currently, at Best Buy, the system costs about $375, with basic installation included, and the service is either $18.95/month (for just the emergency and security features) or $28.90/month (for everything). (Retail price for the system is $299, with installation in the $75-$100 range, depending on installer/store.)

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After receiving my OnStar package in the mail, my first step was to get it installed. OnStar recommends using a professional installer. I went to AV Sound Design in Herndon, VA. The folks there were great and my installation took only a couple of hours and presented no problems. When I picked my car up, my original mirror had been replaced with the OnStar mirror, which is similar in shape and size and doesn't pose any visibility issues. A small microphone was also installed just above the windshield--it's so subtle I didn't even notice it right away.

After my mirror was installed, I pushed the blue OnStar button to call the service center and get it all set-up and registered. During this call and every other call I've made to the service center, the OnStar advisor to whom I spoke was pleasant, friendly, and competent. Setting my account up was easy and within a few minutes I was ready to use my system.

Luckily, I haven't had a need to test the system's emergency service or accident response capacities. However, I have been through the other things it can do. It has provided me excellent turn-by-turn directions and I've set up the Bluetooth connection with my phone so that I can make and answer calls while I'm driving. Both work very well. I particularly love that when I need directions, I can call an advisor to find them for me, rather than just asking a machine--this way, when there are two locations with the same name, or something doesn't seem quite right, the advisor can sort out the issue before sending the directions to my system. It's the perfect combination of human and non-human interaction.

I expected to enjoy the Bluetooth and turn-by-turn directions features of my OnStar system, and I do. What surprises me, however, is how much I am also starting to depend on the access to an OnStar advisor I have at the touch of a button. It is much like being at a hotel with a great concierge--the advisors are helpful, polite, and accessible. If I'm in a new part of town and can't find a coffee shop, or see a construction issue and am not sure how to get around it, the advisor can help me and seems happy to do so. I was afraid, before I got the system, that calling in to it would be much like calling "customer service" at most companies--I'd likely be met with someone who was either rude or simply unprepared to do what I needed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. However OnStar is training their service advisors, they've got the right idea.

The best reason for the system, though, is the one I haven't had to use and hopefully won't. In an emergency situation, the system can alert an OnStar Advisor who is immediately connected into your vehicle to see if you need help. The Advisor can use GPS technology to pinpoint your vehicle and contact the right emergency service provider. That's great for peace of mind. I have a family member who spends the majority of her work time on the road, driving between several locations of her company over several hundred miles. I'd love it if she would get an OnStar FMV--not only would it replace the GPS and Bluetooth devices she now uses with one mirror, but it would provide an extra level of security for her when she's on the road. Were it within my budget, I'd also get an OnStar FMV for each of my friends with small children--both because the Bluetooth and navigation capacities would help to reduce their distractions while in the car and because I'd love for them to have access to the emergency response services.

I absolutely plan to remain an OnStar subscriber after the trial period I was gifted for this review has ended. It's not an overstatement to say that the OnStar FMV has changed the way I drive. For my fellow nervous drivers, I definitely recommend it.

To learn more about the OnStar FMV mirror, visit the Facebook page and/or visit your local Best Buy store.

To read other BlogHer reviewers' thoughts on the OnStar FMV mirror, check out the BlogHer Prizes and Promotions section.

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Surprise! Awesome jewelry at...Chico's!

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I was recently gifted a set of fantastic lucite bangle bracelets, after I'd admired Mark's mom wearing the same set. This isn't the first time this has happened--I've admired her jewelry and received my own version before, and I think it's great and so generous. This particular instance surprised me, though, as the set was from Chico's.

Chico's is not a store I think of for accessories. Frankly, it's not really a store I think of at all. It is filed in my mind with other "older ladies'" stores that I'm not ready for yet. So I was surprised to like the bracelets so much. On a lark, I went to the website to check out the other jewelry offerings.

Y'all, Chico's has great jewelry. It's mostly chunkier, more modern stuff--not a lot of demure or classic type pieces--and the quality seems right good for the moderate prices (it's not super cheap, but neither is it especially expensive, and right now it's buy-one-get-one-50%-off). Most of it is available in sets, and I think it gets a bit overwhelming when put all together like that, but there is a ton of potential in the individual pieces.

Here are some favorites:

Corbella Bangles, $39

Dani Bangles, $34

Clarice Bibb Necklace, $49

Jadira Long Necklace, $48

Edra Ring, $39

Emilina Necklace, $48

Elyza Ring, $49

Kerani Earrings, $35

While my look around the site confirmed that I'm still not the right demographic for Chico's clothes, the jewelry was certainly a revelation. I guess this just goes to show you have to keep an open mind and a sharp eye--great things can come in unexpected places!

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I got in a bit of a heated discussion yesterday about dress codes and school uniforms (big shocker: I'm against both) and it got me to thinking about the ways in which my style is constrained (and expanded) by my job. I work in a professional environment with a business casual culture, heavy on the casual. There are lots of khakis and polo shirts here, and I often see non-Friday jeans. Overall, I'd say my clothes are on the upper end of the spectrum here. And I make certain sacrifices, or compromises, to make sure that's the case. I do try to dress well, and professionally, as part of the image I want to project.

On the other hand, though, there are several "professional dress" style choices that I just refuse to make, at least unless or until I absolutely have to. Mostly, I've been able to get away with these refusals to compromise, at least so far. That may change, though I doubt it will change in my current job.

Want to break it down?

Today, I am wearing a pretty typical summer work outfit:

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I'm wearing:
-blue and white patterned silk skirt (thrifted)
-navy Land's Cap Sleeve Lightweight Cotton Modal Drape Top
-teal Ralph Lauren belt (thrifted)
-bronze Me Too wedges (Nordstrom Rack)
-teal and blue beaded cuff bracelet (no idea)

To me, the compromises I'm making when wearing this are obvious, but probably not so much to the outside observer. This whole silhouette, with the knee length, a-line skirt, fitted top, and sensible shoes, reads to me as "work." Though I like these pieces, and like the way this looks, it's not something I'd probably wear in a non-work situation. The color palette is also subdued, reading as professional to my eye. It's modest, covering thighs and shoulders, not showing any cleavage. I am wearing subtle, work-appropriate makeup. I shave my legs and armpits. Because I work in a crowded cubicle, I don't wear scented products or perfume to work. These are all compromises, things I might choose to do differently in a non-work environment.

What may be more easy to spot are the compromises I am refusing to make, or at least refusing to make so far.The most obvious one, I think, is that I don't make any effort to cover my tattoos. I have a tattoo on my foot, one on my inner ankle, and one on my upper arm, all of which I show at work. Another obvious one is my hair--I wear it long, usually loose, and most often, untamed. I occasionally beat it into blow-dried submission, but not that often. I also have obvious and often fly-away grays. It's not a particularly "professional" hairstyle. Other things are less clear--for example, what I am wearing on top here, and what I typically wear on top, is a knitted shirt. It's pretty much a t-shirt. I really dislike how I look and feel in button downs and/or blazers, so I avoid them whenever possible. I have a pile of t-shirts I would't wear to work, of course, but one like this, which is in good shape, a nice cut, and an unfaded color? I wear them all the time. I also get a lot of my clothes at the thrift store, which may not be clear by looking at me, but is a fairly non-typical way of building a professional wardrobe.

Right now, I think I'm striking a good balance. I think I look good at work, but I also free like I'm being true to myself. Striking that balance is absolutely my goal.

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They say it's my birthday, an Etsy list

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My birthday is right around the corner, and, as has become my habit, I want to have a...subtle suggestion list for anybody who might want to get me a gift. This also gives me the opportunity to highlight some of the Etsy shops I've had my eye on lately, which is always a fun thing to do. So, my birthday wish list, all via Etsy:


I have been after a yo-yo necklace from cookoorikoo for ages now. I love everything about them--their size, the great fabric choices, the vintage embellishments. Some are even on sale right now!

I learned about the state shape necklaces made by tru.che when they were rudely ripped off by Urban Outfitters, and have wanted one ever since. Which one? Oregon, of course!

Lisa Rupp's hand-designed floral dishtowels are so, so beautiful. And we all know I have a bit of a dish towel obsession...

The tiny air plant terrariums offered by TortoiseLovesDonkey are pretty much the cutest thing I have ever seen, and they get cuter the more of them there are. I'd love one of the 3-month subscriptions, where they send three tiny air plants each month for three months to help you build your own tiny collection.

I think I may have shared these on the blog before, but I am still absolutely crazy about the scrap wood art pieces made by paint square. And I have a partner who loves to buy me art....hint, hint!

I really, really, really want a custom Sohomode tea dress. Really really bad.

I've been wanting a silver cage ring, and this one from The Silver Artisan is the prettiest I've seen.

I could go on and on, of course, but these are my current favorites. Anything you know I should add?

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Addendum: why no commitment ceremony?

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There is one thing I forgot to address yesterday when I spouted off about marriage: why we're not interested in having any kind of commitment ceremony. Over the years, we've been asked a number of times if we wouldn't like to have some sort of ceremony/celebration--basically, a wedding without the marriage license. Once upon a time, we considered it, but it has never really appealed to either of us, and at this point I think it's safe to say we're not going to do it.

Basically, I see three reasons for this type of ceremony:
1. It's an excuse for a party/celebration.
2. It serves some sort of spiritual purpose for you.
3. It signals to the people in your lives that you are serious and asks your community for its support for your relationship.

None of these reasons resonate with us. While I love a celebration, I'm not much at all for ceremonies, and Mark is even less so. It's not just weddings we don't like (though neither of us like weddings)--we both skipped our graduate graduation ceremonies, too. Rites of passage, as expressed ceremonially, are important markers for societies--from a sociological/anthropological perspective, I get that--however, I feel certain that the rest of y'all will go on feeding those social needs even if we opt out. Given the number of wedding invitations I still get, I'm fairly sure I am not a pioneer, starting an anti-marriage ceremony trend. Put simply, a commitment ceremony would be a good answer if we didn't want to be married, but wanted to have a wedding. But we want to have a wedding even less than we want to be married.

The one thing I will say for weddings is that, like funerals, they bring together families and friends who otherwise don't often see each other. For that reason, even though weddings themselves make me itch, I make a point to attend them. Once again, though, I don't see our not having a wedding as making a whole lot of difference here. Maybe I am shirking off my social obligation to create an excuse for a family reunion, but I'll make up for it by hosting Thanksgiving or something.

Commitment ceremonies and alternative weddings also serve an important spiritual purpose for some people, and I respect that. If you subscribe to a faith which values lifelong partnership and considers the makeup of your household a religious or spiritual matter, then I can completely see the importance of having that ceremony. However, as a person without faith of any kind, who is partnered with a fairly committed atheist, this reason just doesn't apply to us.

The third reason is the only one we've ever given any real consideration. If we were to have something that extended family members and friends could look to as our "wedding," it would give them a basis by which to understand our relationship, and an opportunity to support it, via their presence (or, you know, their gift cards). I can definitely see why someone would go that route, particularly if s/he were from a family for whom this type of thing is very important. Luckily, Mark and I both have parents who are very supportive of our decisions to live our lives by our own standards, even if they don't quite understand our reasons, and who take our relationship just as seriously as they would if we were married.

Even if our parents weren't supportive, however, I'm not sure Mark and I ever could have made ourselves put on a show just so other people would feel more comfortable with our relationship. The truth is that while support and community from those who love us is great, and we're very happy to have it, nobody lives in our house but us. At the end of the day, the most important thing is for us to be true to ourselves, and I'd have felt like a huge fraud if we'd decided to have a commitment ceremony we didn't want just to please family/friends. Part of this is simply my contrary nature--I can't fathom doing something as big as a commitment ceremony just because it would make other people happy.

Because I know there are some inquiring minds, I will disclose that Mark and I do have a domestic partnership agreement, via his employer. We have no state or federal status, but have filed domestic partnership paperwork with his job in order for me to be included on his health insurance. I'd have preferred not to do it, but practicality won out over my preference. I recognize that having this option is a privilege, and that there are some circumstances in which my feelings about marriage would make absolutely no difference and we'd get married because it was what we needed to do to stay safe, or healthy, or together. This post, and the previous one, have not been intended to denigrate the ways in which other people choose to live their lives, but rather just a little explanation of why, at least as of right now, Mark and I have made the choices we have.

But, you know, feel free to send me sheet sets and small kitchen appliances.

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Still not married, thanks for asking!

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My mother was recently accosted by a distant friend or family member, demanding to know what was wrong with Mark and I; what was standing in our way; why, after so long together (ten years in September), we hadn't "taken the next step"? Why, this person was anxious to know, aren't we married?

Mom, God bless her, gave the party line--that I'll think about getting married when everybody can, and not a moment sooner. I think that's a good answer, and generally has the benefit of steering the conversation away from my personal choices and towards a greater political analysis. But, in truth, at this point in my life, my political reasons for not getting married barely scratch the surface. Even if there was a universal law protecting the right of same sex couples to marry, I still wouldn't do it.

The truth is much simpler, much more basic: I don't want to be married. Mark doesn't want to be married. We're nearly ten years into our relationship, completely committed to each other, a family--but neither of us feels any need to formalize that by way of marriage. Actually, that's not exactly right, either--it's more than not feeling a need, it's that we are put off by the idea. We have put in place the legal documentation necessary to take care of each other in case of a tragedy (well, most of it, anyway), but beyond that, we prefer our relationship as it is--organic, without any name, without any state-or-church mandate. Marriage doesn't symbolize anything good for us--it has a history with which we're not comfortable, and a present with which we see leagues of problems. Marriage isn't a next step we're dragging our feet on--it's a step we've consciously chosen to move around. We're not pre-married; we've created an alternative to marriage, one that works better for us.

This is a legitimate choice. In fact, it's ridiculous that I feel the need to justify it, or that my mother feels the need to justify it for me. Are the married majority asked to defend their choice to take part in that institution? Not often. It is, in the great majority of cases, a choice that is supported, celebrated, and even treated as an accomplishment. Well my healthy, happy, decade-long relationship is just as deserving of support and celebration as any marriage. We don't need it--we're doing just fine on our own--but we deserve it. I am proud of my relationship, of my family. I don't appreciate it being denigrated for not following the prescribed path.

In recent years, I've more or less ceased evangelizing about why I think marriage is a bad idea. When I look back at the last post I made about why I'm not married (in 2006!), I find it a little bit cringe worthy. I no longer correct people who assume Mark and I are married, at least not unless I am likely to have a long-term relationship with them. Mostly, I don't care if the world assumes we're married--that's the model we typically work with in this society, and married is indeed how we appear. Though I still think there are social and political consequences to marriage far beyond what most people consider, I am also more honest with myself than I used to be. If I wanted to be married, if marriage appealed to me on any emotional or visceral level, I would probably talk myself into it--politics be damned. It simply doesn't. The decision to opt-out of marriage is a personal choice, and it's one I am happy enough with that I feel less and less need to defend it.

As Mark and I move into our second decade of couple hood, and into the firmer, more adult footing of our mid-30s, I rarely think about us not being married. It's simply not important anymore. I see no way in which our lives would change if we were legally wed, except that the occasional nosy friend or relative would have to get worked up about something else, and we'd have nicer towels. Though, never having been married, I can't guarantee that a wedding wouldn't be a magical threshold, the other side of which would look completely different than my current reality, I just don't buy that it would. And frankly, if I thought marriage would change anything between Mark and I, that would be one more reason not to do it--we don't need changing.

So, I'm thinking of putting together a registry, as if Mark and I were going to get married. That way, the next person who asks can be directed there and told that, if it would make them feel better, they can get a present for us and pretend we tied the knot. It will be very convenient--the wedding date can be whenever they'd like, and there will be no obligation to actually show up! What do you think?

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BlogHer swag giveaway!

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IMG_5150

This is a bag. A bag of swag. This bag of swag came from BlogHer, where I hunted and gathered it from vendors, parties, the swag exchange room, and occasionally the sidewalk. It represents the sum total (well, minus a few small things I hoarded for myself) of my take from the swag extravaganza that is BlogHer.

And I'm giving it to you!

I decided before I even went to the conference this year that I wanted to gather up as much good shit as I could find and give it away. However, I may have slightly underestimated the mass. I believe I have enough here to pack up THREE flat-rate boxes. So that's what I am gonna do.

To enter, leave me a comment and tell me something you'd like to see here at WINOW in the next year. I am hoping to make some changes and really start improving my game, and I need your help to do that. For extra entries, FB or Tweet about this contest, or WINOW in general, and leave extra comments telling me you did. Don't forget to leave an email!

The contest will run for two weeks, until August 24.

For the curious, there are products in that bag from/sponsored by:
-Koko Accessories
-Snapfish
-Lowe's
-Evite
-3M
-Babeland
-Jewelmint
-Eden Fantasys
-As Seen on TV/Cool TV Offers
-Healthy Women
-Red Envelope/Shari's Berries
-Dr. Scholl's
-Anti-Monkey Butt
-Mighty Leaf
-HTC
-Philosophy
-LG
-Hershey's
-Cotton Incorporated
-K-Mart
-CVS Pharmacy/Minute Clinic
-Star 50 Handbags
-Modify Watches
-fresh & easy
-Growums
-5-Hour Energy
-essie
-flip flop wines
-Best Buy
-Softcup
-Mom's Clean Air Force
-RoseArt
-Dove Chocolate
-Paper Coterie
-WaterPik
-Coffee-mate

A huge thank you to all of these sponsors, as well as the ones from whom I didn't collect. I'll get you next year!

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Showing off my uniform

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I woke up late today. That makes 4/4 days this week I've woken up late, and probably something around the 80% mark all-time. I do not wake up well. I also do not pick out my clothes the night before--I'm a morning dresser. If you're thinking that this explains a lot about how I dress, you're right! I do have a tendency to stick with formulas, where I know if I grab one thing each from A, B, and C categories, it will probably work.

I thought that for this summer, my dressing formula, or uniform, would be maxi dress-based. It hasn't worked out that way. I know people have all manner of differing opinions on this, but, for me, maxi dresses don't feel all that office appropriate. I keep trying, but it isn't something I'm comfortable enough with to base my uniform around. Instead, I have been relying heavily on the following:

printed knee-length skirt, generally a-line or full + fitted plain colored top + sandals or flats

Today is no exception:

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Sometimes I wear a belt. I usually wear a necklace and/or bracelets. But I go back to this formula time and time again.

Want me to prove it? Between June 1 and now, I've captured the following variations in photographs:

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As far as formulas go, I think this is an easily wearable and generally cute one to have, but my goodness--I think I need to branch out!

Do you have a dressing formula, or a uniform you reach for day after day?

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Playing with color

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As I was getting dressed this morning, I was thinking about color. I thrifted this skirt a few weeks ago, and I like it a lot, but I find the lavender and yellow color palette really challenging. I don't generally do pastels, or light colors in general, and I'm never quite sure how to mix them in on the rare occasion I do find a piece I like in that color range. I've tried the skirt on with black on top, and with white, and neither of those options thrilled me.

So, this morning, I decided to step outside my comfort zone a little bit and try the pastel skirt with a bright, but also unexpected for me, color on top. After trying a couple of things, I decided I liked this bright coral t-shirt best. There isn't, as far as I know, a color wheel explanation for the combination of lavender and coral, but they're really working for me. I added a green stone necklace and metallic shoes and was done!

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Also, a bonus shot of the recently shaved Illy!

I'm wearing:
-Isaac Mizrahi for Target lavender with yellow butterfly skirt (thrifted)
-Old Navy Ruched V-Neck Tee in Coral Sizzle
-Me Too metallic wedges (Nordstrom Rack)
-"L" typewriter key necklace (gift)
-green stone necklace (gift)

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Everybody, Everywear: Pattern Mixing

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Everybody, Everywear | Pattern Mixing

I was jazzed that this month's Everybody Everywear challenge is pattern mixing. I've been attempting pattern mixing a lot this summer, in a fairly subtle way. Though I'm hardly an expert now, I am slightly more confident in doing it than I was in June. So, today, I went with what has worked so far:

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I'm wearing:
-Merona thrifted skirt (#1 summer wardrobe staple!)
-Gap thrifted blue and gray striped scoopneck tee
-Softspots purple suede wedges
-silver owl pendant (from Ebay, I think)

This skirt has been my pattern-mixing go-to. I've done it a couple of other times:

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I've also made a couple of pattern mixing attempts without it:

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What do you think? Are you a pattern mixing yay or nay?

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Why my favorite blog is a podcast

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I read quite a few blogs. There are a couple of hundred in my feed reader (and let me give a recommendation to Feedly here--kicks Google Reader's butt up and down the block) at any given time, though some aren't updated regularly and some I rarely read beyond the headline. And I've been reading blogs regularly for a long time. I can't tell you when, exactly, I started, but it's been years.

I was from the beginning, and still am, interested in blogs mainly for the stories. I read fashion blogs and few other photo-heavy text-light sites, but mostly, when I am reading a blog, it's because I want someone to tell me a story. For me, that's where the love started. And it's more and more rare, these days, at least in the blogs I find. There are a few really good storytellers still telling their stories on their blogs, but a lot of the best ones have moved on other things.

Which is why, these days, my favorite blog isn't a blog at all.

Around the same time I started reading blogs, or maybe a bit later, I started listening to podcasts. One by one, they began to bore me. Some took only an episode or two, some took months, but my interest in each of them dwindled. Except one: Croncast. Started in 2004, Croncast is a conversation between Kris and Betsy Smith, a married mid-30s couple with two kids who resided in the Chicago suburbs for years and have more recently relocated to NYC. They just tell stories. They talk about their lives. And they are really, really good at it. Amazingly so. They're touching, they're interesting, they're entertaining, and they are really, really, really funny. Their podcast has always reminded me of the best story-telling blogs, and unlike most of the bloggers that initially turned me on to the genre, they're still going strong, and are even better than ever.

I've been meaning to give Kris and Betsy's show a plug on the blog for ages, but was reminded about it this past weekend, when I had the pleasure of meeting and hanging out with Betsy at BlogHer. She's the same person in real life that she is on the show, which is to say entertaining, genuine, a ton of fun, and hilarious. The only thing that struck me as inconsistent between her portrayal on Croncast and meeting her in person was that the show never gives much indication that she's gorgeous. She's seriously great, and having met her, I feel even more strongly that Croncast ought to have a way bigger audience than it does.

Though it was free for years, and you can still listen to a ton of free episodes, Croncast is at this point a subscription show. It's not expensive, though, and they offer several options. Individual episodes are $.99 each, monthly subscriptions are $4.49, quarterly subscriptions are $12.49, annual subscriptions are $48.49, and $199 gets you a lifetime pass. Way more than worth it. In general, Betsy and Kris release three 25-30 minute shows a week, though, like any of us, their lives sometimes intervene and they miss a little bit of time. It's worth waiting for them to get back to it.

One of the things I thought about a lot while I was at BlogHer was that I want to do a better job calling attention to and praising other blogs that I love and read regularly. Though it's not a blog, Croncast is the first example of that. I cannot stress how much of a fangirl I truly am. Please, go check them out.

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Book review: Ape House

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ape house cover.jpg
I read a book! If you've been reading here long, you know how exciting that is. I used to be a huge reader, and in recent years, and especially recent months, I've just...stopped. I can't remember the last novel I read in one sitting. But this past week, on a plane from Atlanta to San Diego, I read Sara Gruen's Ape House. And I liked it a lot.

Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants, which is now a movie. I read Water for Elephants when it was new, in hardback, because I happened to pick it up at the library and was curious about the title. I love, love, loved it. So, when I was browsing at the airport Borders and saw her name on Ape House, I picked it up without even reading the back cover.

Ape House didn't move me in the way Water for Elephants did. It lacked the magical quality and the visual description wasn't as lush. I wasn't able to watch the scenes unfold in my imagination the same way. That said, it's a very good story and it was a fun read. The story is about a primate linguist and a reporter, both of whom are at difficult crossroads in their own lives, who meet by chance and work together in order to undercover a conspiracy that has removed six bonobos from a research facility and is exploiting them. The bonobos themselves are characters in the novel, though only through the eyes of the human characters (i.e. there is no attempt to get inside their heads as narrators), and they are compelling ones. The human protagonists, too, are sympathetic, particularly Isabel, the scientist. I had a bit of trouble relating to the journalist, John, early on, but warmed up to him as the book progressed.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the book, for me, was the afterward, in which Sara Gruen briefly described the factual basis of some of the books events. Primate research is something I try very hard not to think about, because I find it too upsetting. However, reading a fictionalized account of some of the issues made it a little more bearable to think about. The afterward, however, drove the truth and seriousness of the issue right back home. It's heavy stuff.

Finally, a note on Sara Gruen. I looked at her bio on Amazon when I was finding a picture for this post, and learned she tried her hand at writing fiction when she was laid off from a technical writing job. I totally feel like she's a kindred spirit. She's got two other books besides Water for Elephants (2006) and Ape House (2011): Riding Lessons (2004) and Flying Changes (2005). I'll be buying those.

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Another way in which I am not a fashion blogger

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So there are a lot of fashion/style blogs out there. I keep meaning to do a round-up of some of my favorites, but not getting around to it. And I want to join them. Kinda. But with something a bit more...real. See, I am never going to have expensive clothes, artistic poses, or (probably) even good pictures. I just show you the clothes I am wearing. Sometimes, they rock. Often, they look kinda bad. Like the capris I have on today. I keep trying to make them work, but they just...well, my first thought when looking at today's photos was that they bunch in the front and look like a diaper. Aren't you glad I feel equipped to give you fashion advice? At least the top is cute.

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I'm wearing:
-Eddie Bauer black capri pants (thrifted)
-Ann Taylor red, black, white, and gray print top (outlet)
-Naturalizer Oshee black flats (6pm.com)
-red interlocking circle necklace (old, no idea)
-silver charm bracelets (Ebay)

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