Feminist books we both should read

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A few years back (in 2006!), I wrote a post about the feminist book canon, according to me. I am embarrassed to say that I have done a terrible job, since then, of keeping up with the new books that have been released in what I once thought would be my academic field, and what is still the field I imagine myself getting back to. To try to inspire myself (and maybe you, as well?) I thought I'd take a look and make a list of the newer books that look to be worth reading. I'm not recommending anything here--there is nothing on this list I've read--but here's where I feel like I should start if I am going to get back into reading academic feminist work.

(Please note that my choices, as before, are almost 100% United States oriented. This isn't at all because I don't think other countries have important feminist books to read, it's just that my training is in US history and that's pretty much all I know about.)

Margaret Sanger: A Life of Passion by Jean H. Baker

I don't actually know much at all about birth control pioneer Margaret Sanger, so I think I'd be well served to read the new biography of her, written by Jean H. Baker, set to be released in November. Baker is a prolific biographer, and I enjoyed another of her books, Sisters: The Lives of America's Suffragists.

Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World by Leslie Simon

I doubt Geek Girls Unite, due out next month, is an academic tome, but I am more and more interested in work about fandom, particularly female fandom, and how it coincides with art and politics and academia. This one is on my list especially because I thought so highly of Whedonistas: A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them.

Those Girls: Single Women in Sixties and Seventies Popular Culture by Katherine J. Lehman

This is exactly the type of book I've been obsessed with since undergrad--a combo of women's history and media studies. Due in October, it's Lehman's first book, but has positive reviews from the likes of the brilliant Ruth Rosen, so I think it's probably worth a look.

College Women In The Nuclear Age: Cultural Literacy and Female Identity, 1940-1960 by Babette Faehmel

This one really excites me--the task taken on by Faehmel, in her first book (released just this month), is to explore the place of collegiate women in the age of the "Feminine Mystique." If the reviews I've read are correct, she eventually argues that while the post-WWII G.I. Bill was great for men, it hurt women. Can't wait to read that.

Women, Work, and Politics: The Political Economy of Gender Inequality by Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth

Mostly out of laziness, I've tended to ignore the feminist economists. I need to stop that, as the older I get the more I realize it's allll about money. This book, written by a Harvard economist and a Yale political scientist, and claiming to tie the most micro level (household) to the most macro (international economics), might be a good place to start.

Battling Pornography: The American Feminist Anti-Pornography Movement, 1976-1986 by Carolyn Bronstein

I am absolutely fascinated by this book, released this past July, as it is the first I've seen that takes a historical, two-sided look at the feminist porn battle of the 70s and 80s. This particular fight is one of the internal struggles within the movement that I am most unsure about, so I'd love to read an account of the original argument.

The Rise of Enlightened Sexism: How Pop Culture Took Us from Girl Power to Girls Gone Wild by Susan J. Douglas

As far as I'm concerned, Susan J. Douglas is a straight-up genius. Her book Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media has influenced my thinking as much or more than any other. So, I'm really excited she released this new book last year, taking on the more recent "girl power" media blitz and how it has backfired. This one is pretty much at the top of my list.

America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril, and Liberation by Elaine Tyler May

Elaine Tyler May is another feminist historian for whom I have the utmost respect. Her book, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era, is amazing. So who better to write a long-overdue history of the influence of the Pill in the lives of American women? I suspect this book will be the best kind of cultural history, both fascinating and accessible and incredibly informative.

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s by Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz wrote The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, which I have probably recommended to four dozen people. I heard her on NPR being interviewed about this new book recently--it's an interesting premise, a look at how and why women reacted so strongly to Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique. What we should all be reading instead of watching Mad Men...

Naked in the Promised Land: A Memoir by Lillian Faderman

Released in 2004, this book is older than the rest of the list, but I wanted to mention it because I have been wanting to read it forever. Lillian Faderman is a lesbian feminist force (she's written several lesbian history books, including a new one, Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians, which I am sure is worth reading), and I often find autobiography and biography to be the best way to really "get" a writer (I loved Andrea Dworkin's autobiography so much I wanted to marry it).

Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle edited by Dayo Gore, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard

Even today, there aren't as many well-done books on Black feminism as there should be. This, however, has potential to be one of them. The contributors list is distinguished and the premise--to take a look at the Black women who had just as much to do with Civil Rights as their more famous male counterparts--is a good one.

Pedestals and Podiums: Utah Women, Religious Authority, and Equal Rights by Martha Sonntag Bradley

This is another slightly older book, but I've heard so many good things about it, I wanted to include it. Bradley, a professor at University of Utah, gives a great account of the LDS influence on the International Women's Year (IWY) conference held in Utah in 1977 and the battle over the Equal Rights Amendment. The book is apparently based heavily on oral historical accounts given by Mormon women in Utah, which is a great basis and one I'm very curious to read.

I could go on and on, but rather than completely overwhelming both you and myself, I'll stop here for now. Anything on this list strike your fancy? Want to read it together?

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New Beauty Test Tube Review and Giveaway!

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First, a bit of housekeeping--the Uncommon Goods giveaway is now closed. Thank you to all the participants and congratulations to the winner, Sarah M!

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I am excited to review one of the curated subscription services I mentioned a couple of week ago. The service, New Beauty Test Tube, is a quarterly offering from New Beauty magazine. Four times a year, recipients receive a "test tube" of beauty products, some full sized and some sample sized. An issue of New Beauty magazine is also included. Test Tubes are $29.95 each, plus $8.95 shipping & handling (a total of $38.90).

Beginning my subscription was easy--the New Beauty Test Tube website isn't difficult to navigate. However, there is no option to order a single Test Tube, so ordering one is beginning a quarterly subscription. You can cancel at any time, but I don't see an easy way to do so on the website. This is something of which potential customers should be aware.

Shipping was quick--my test tube was sent out only two days after I ordered it, and I received it three days later. Packaging was also good, with the plastic "test tube" itself contained in a box and all of the products arriving in good shape. My only complaint is that unlike the makeup bags or small cardboard boxes used by other beauty sample subscription services, I can't think of a re-use for the plastic tube itself. Still, that's fairly minor, and it is clever packaging.

My Test Tube contained the following:

-New Beauty Magazine ($9.95 cover price)
-full size L'Oreal Elnett Satin Hairspray (retail $8)
-Macadamia Natural Oil Get Hooked Pack (retail $12)
-deluxe sample size Dr. Brandt Pores No More Vacuum Cleaner (.4 oz, full size is 1 oz @ $45)
-sample size Orlane Super-Moisturizing Concentrate (.11 oz, full size is 1.7 oz $125)
-full size Mally Evercolor Starlight waterproof eyeliner in Midnight (retail $15)
-full size Your Best Friend Posing Plum lip liner (retail 2 for $24)
-sample size Spa Ritual Handprint Hand Serum (.25 oz, full size is 4 oz @ $60)
-sample size Lash Food eyelash conditioner (1.5 ml, full size is 8 ml for $69)
-gift card for $20 off a $100 order at Spalook

If my math is correct, the total value of the products, not including the gift card (which is more like a coupon code), is $99.73. The website claims a $150 value, which I don't quite see even if I did count the coupon value, but still, a pretty good deal. The products themselves are a mixed bag. I'm not at all excited about drugstore hairspray or questionable purple lip liner, but the Macadamia oil package, eyelash conditioner, and moisturizers are all worth a try. There doesn't seem to be a way to customize the box--my account is not, for example, customized with my hair and eye color, skin tone, or beauty concerns--so I'd assume there are going to be a few things I don't have any interest in every quarter. Still, there was enough I did like in my first Test Tube to justify giving it another try next quarter (the next box is expected to ship in December).

So, sound like something you want to try? I have one Test Tube to give away to a lucky winner! Leave me a comment with something you'd like to see in your Test Tube to enter. Extra entries for FB'ing, Tweeting, or mentioning this giveaway on your blog. Please leave a separate comment for each entry. Contest will run for two weeks, ending Thursday, October 13. Good luck!

I have not received compensation of any kind for this review--I purchased the New Beauty Test Tube I reviewed. However, the contest winner will receive their prize courtesy of New Beauty Test Tube.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.04

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I really, really wanted to write another glowing review of last night's Sons of Anarchy episode. The first three episodes of the season were so stellar, my hopes had gotten up too high, I think. And so, I set myself up for last night's disappointment.

Don't get me wrong--episode 4 wasn't bad, it just wasn't as good as the previous ones. The pacing that I've been enjoying so much just wasn't there. I think because the bulk of the episode took place with the Sons in one location (Arizona) and the supporters (Gemma, Tara, etc.) in another, it reminded me of last year's Ireland split, which was difficult to pace. For some reason, part of the strength of the show is how it mostly takes place in Charming. It seems always to lose a bit when there is a location change.

The episode's major thematic arc, using the SAMTAZ club and their decision to sell drugs and the events surrounding it as a way to highlight the danger zone SAMCRO is in, didn't really work for me, and I still can't quite figure out why. It could be that it was all just done a bit too neatly. It could be that SAMTAZ are brand new characters, never heard of before, and I couldn't make myself care about their Club dynamics at all. Either way, it felt a little bit forced, and not feeling forced is one of the things I generally really love about the show.

There were, however, a few things I liked a lot about last night's episode. One was the cinematography of the road shots--the way the light was filtered, the camera angles, everything was just beautifully shot. This isn't something I typically notice, as I'm very wrapped up in character and story and less in tune to how things look, but I noticed it several times last night.

Another thing that impressed me was Piney. I don't think that William Lucking has often been used to his full potential in the show, and he is beginning to be in this story line. To have him be the one who pushes Tara to expose the letters, or pushes Jax back against Clay, fascinates me. It's one of the things I am most looking forward to seeing play out this season.

I also really enjoyed the interaction between Gemma and the new police chief's wife, Rita. Once again, I was struck by the balance between truth (Gemma does, I think, really care about saving the park in Charming) and manipulation. I've been hearing some murmurs of displeasure at seeing the "softer" side of Gemma this season, but so far it works for me--I think the mix between real feeling and power struggle in Gemma is part of what makes her so great as a character, and being able to convey it so clearly is part of what makes Katey Sagal so impressive in the role.

I'm still on the fence about the story arc concerning Juice's race. Once again, other members of the Club (this time SAMTAZ's president, Armando, played by Lobo Sebastian) give a pretty strong impression of being mixed race. How does that jive with Juice being so worried about SAMCRO finding out his father is Black? I'm not writing it off completely yet, but it still seems pretty strange. I'm curious and a bit concerned about how it's going to play out.

Finally, I have to say a word about Tara. She's...growing on me. I still think she and Jax have the worst chemistry in the world, but I liked her scenes with Piney a lot. I am beginning to wonder, if it all comes down to it, if Tara really wants out of the life. Even if she won't admit it, she seems to be increasingly comfortable with it, and I wonder if that's going to factor in to whatever big club-splitting drama is coming down the pike.

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A few fall fashion ideas I don't hate

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I haven't been posting much about clothes lately. The main reason for this is that I have been massively unthrilled by fall fashion this year. For some reason, I just can't get excited about fall clothes. My fellow style bloggers have not had this problem, and many of them have done a great job with rounding up collections of the best fall styles (check out Allie's Fall 2011 Fashion - How to Update Your Current Wardrobe for the Season and Sally's 2011 Guide to Boots, to start). However, since I am still going to have to leave the house dressed every day, and just putting a cardigan over the stuff I wore all summer seems like a bit less effort than I ought to make, I decided to force myself to find the good in fashion this fall. And there are a few styles I like. Or, at least, don't hate.

Dolman sleeves

Dolman tops

Old Navy loose shirt
$25 - oldnavy.gap.com

Long tunic
$15 - alloy.com

Old Navy dolman sleeve top
$12 - oldnavy.gap.com

Long top
$17 - alloy.com

Three Dots v neck tee
$43 - bluefly.com

I like shirts with the wide, loose Dolman sleeves for a couple of reasons. The first is practical--I have really large upper arms, and often long-sleeved shirts that otherwise fit bear sleeves that are too tight for me, which never happens in this style. I also like the body balancing properties of this style, for the wide shouldered (which I am). The other thing about this style is that it's very comfortable and feels slouchy and casual, which I like a lot for fall.

Long cardigans

Long cardigans

J crew cardigan
$50 - jcrew.com

Long sleeve cardigan
$20 - target.com

Long sleeve cardigan
$23 - target.com

Old Navy v neck cardigan
$29 - oldnavy.gap.com

Boyfriend cardigan
$23 - target.com

H M long cardigan
£25 - hm.com

Missoni cardigan
$50 - target.com

There are very few styles of cardigans I don't love, but long cardigans, even though they often have stupid names like "boyfriend" or "grandpa," are my favorite. There are very few bad body image days i can't conquer with the help of a butt-covering cardigan in a color I love. So, I'm happy that this style seems to be in this fall. I particularly like some of the budget options at Target, except that they are all so damn tight-sleeved they don't actually work for me.

Skinny belts

Skinny belts

Banana Republic wide belt
$40 - bananarepublic.gap.com

Banana Republic wide belt
$25 - bananarepublic.gap.com

Belt
$9 - shoplovemartini.com

Belt
$34 - lodis.com

Leather belt
$38 - lodis.com

Jigsaw leather belt
£29 - jigsaw-online.com

Forever21 skinny belt
$4.80 - forever21.com

Zara braided belt
$15 - zara.com

H M braided leather belt
£7.99 - hm.com

Zara leather belt
$30 - zara.com

Zara leather belt
$5.99 - zara.com

For me, last fall and winter were sort of Belts 101, where I learned to wear belts, using mostly wide and elastic models. This fall and winter, I'm moving into upper level classes, using skinny, colorful belts to not only create a waist, but also accessorize. I love how many different colors and styles are available, and that I can use my waistline to wear fall colors like oranges and yellows that I wouldn't let near my face.

Big scarves

Big scarves

Esprit floral scarve
$25 - espritshop.com

Gap scarve
$35 - gap.com

Purple scarve
$20 - delias.com

Sheer scarve
$18 - modcloth.com

Madewell wool shawl
$40 - madewell.com

Fat Face printed scarve
£18 - fatface.com

Forever21 woven scarve
$11 - forever21.com

Forever21 paisley scarve
$9.80 - forever21.com

Just as my belts are getting smaller, my scarves are getting bigger. I wore a lot of scarves last fall/winter as well, but this year, they're bigger and more cozy and bundled, and I approve of that. I'm also looking forward to branching out in terms of color and pattern, and wearing scarves that are really the focal points of my outfits.

Boots

Boots

Lassen side zipper boots
$139 - zappos.com

Steven shoes
$150 - zappos.com

OTBT zip boots
$142 - lorisshoes.com

ALDO knee boots
$130 - aldoshoes.com

Eric Michael slouchy black boots
$210 - nordstrom.com

Vince Camuto zip boots
$210 - vincecamuto.com

Frye wooden heels
$228 - bloomingdales.com

Banana republic shoes
$198 - bananarepublic.gap.com

I was going to skip talking about boots on account of it being so obvious, but they really are, as far as I'm concerned, fall's saving grace. I love boots and if there is one thing that makes me completely happy about the cooler weather, it's the return of boot appropriateness. Boots are great in all their shapes and styles, but my favorites are low-or-flat heeled tall ones and mid-height ones with buckles. I'm still stubbornly wearing my Franco Sarto Motos, since they don't make anything similar in my size anymore. I hope they last forever.

So what great fall trends am I missing? Leave me a comment and help me get excited about getting dressed!

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BlogHer swag giveaway update

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Winners of my BlogHer swag giveaway, did you think I forgot you??

Sorry about that! My basement, including my craft room where my giveaway stuff resided, flooded. Nothing for the giveaway was damaged, but the resultant disorder put me behind in mailing out the packages. Thanks for your patience! And hey, sneak peak?

BlogHer swag giveaway boxes

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A few of my favorite tastemakers

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Some of my favorite bloggers, and the ones I most emulate, are what I think of as "tastemakers." Sometimes, they're fashion bloggers, some times home decor, and sometimes life bloggers with exceptionally good taste. Since I started reading blogs, these bloggers have stood out to me, become my favorites, and influenced me greatly. As I try to position myself among them (knowing, of course, that I'm a pretty small fish in this pond), I thought it might be fun to call out a few of my favorites.

Mighty Girl
Mighty Girl Maggie Mason is the first blogger I identified in my mind as a "tastemaker." Back in the day, before she sold them, Maggie ran Mighty Goods, Mighty Junior, and Mighty Haus. These "shopping blogs" highlight specific items, for self, kids, and home, respectively, that Maggie found cool. And she's got great taste. The minute I started reading these blogs I knew I wanted to do something like them, though it is now many years later and I still haven't really done it. I can't remember offhand anything I've purchased on Maggie's recommendation, but I know there have to have been a few things.

Dooce
My other early tastemaker idol was Heather Armstrong at Dooce. For several years, Dooce has had a "Daily Style" section, and some of the things she has highlighted there have been phenomenal. The one I remember most clearly, which immediately went on to my wish list, was Charley Harper's An Illustrated Life book. Heather posted about it in July 2008, and I still want it.

Already Pretty
Already Pretty's Sally McGraw is well-dressed. She's also got a talent for explaining why the things that work do, and how she puts things together to flatter her figure and her fashion priorities. We actually don't dress all that much alike, but I can't even count the number of times she's worn something and I've had to have it. Recently, Sally inspired me to buy my first "nice" bag--a Foley & Corina.

Wardrobe Oxygen
Alli at Wardrobe Oxygen has probably sold me more stuff than any major advertising campaign, ever. She's perfectly put together, in a way I strive towards and only very rarely get to. I can't begin to tell you the number of things I've bought on Allie's recommendation or by her example, but I know they include NARS Orgasm blush and thread bangles. Plus, she turned me on to Ebates!

Young House Love
I'm a fairly new reader to John and Sherry Petersilk's home renovation and decoration blog, Young House Love. I may actually have been the last person in the free world to know about it. Since I've started reading, though, I've added a ton of John and (especially) Sherry inspired home decor items to my wish list. Pretty much every time John and Sherry post about Home Goods, I end up there. I love the mix of old and new, mass-produced and DIY, of John and Sherry's style.

Girl's Gone Child
Rebecca Woolf at Girl's Gone Child is my maternity wardrobe hero. (No, before you ask, I am not pregnant.) She maxi-dress based looks she wore and posted about while pregnant with her twins were absolutely amazing, and they are only the tip of the iceberg in her "Gone Style" section. I really, really want the newspaper animal heads she used to decorate her twins' room. For my living room.

As I look over my favorite tastemakers, I see a strong common thread. These bloggers all have unique style--they aren't afraid to pick things just because they like them, or to mix upscale and bargain, new and old, etc. None of them is *trying* to sell me things when they post--they are simply sharing things they love. Marketing doesn't get better than that, and, for my money, neither does blogging. I'm inspired.

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I've been interested in consumption and buying things, both on a personal level and on an academic one, for a long time. When I was in college, I took a fantastic history course on the rise of consumer culture in the U.S. We read tons of great stuff, but two books I remember in particular are Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture by University of Pennsylvania history Kathy Peiss and Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market by University of Delaware historian Susan Strasser. Given that it's been more than ten years since I read either book, you have to take my analysis only for what it's worth, but one thing that stuck in my mind from both of them was the importance of packaging in advertising and sales. In Strasser's book in particular, I remember a long discussion of the move from "goods" to "branded goods," and the concurrent importance of logos and packaging to tell one brand from another. In the current marketplace, with millions of brands and generally more options than you can count on two hands for any one product, these things have gotten only more important. Clever and beautiful packaging sells things.

Being aware of this doesn't make it work any less well, at least not on me. I LOVE good packaging. I absolutely buy products based on packaging, especially when I don't otherwise have a preference between similar options. Good packaging makes a product I purchase feel a bit more like a gift, and that absolutely has value.

I'm going to try to start sharing little things that I like with you a bit more often here on WINOW, since picking out and writing about the millions of little objects, the stuff, of our lives seems to be one of my more unlikely talents. To kick that effort off, I thought I'd show you some of my favorite packaging.

Benefit Cosmetics
I like the makeup Benefit makes because it's good makeup, but I was absolutely initially drawn to the packaging. It's colorful, they use interesting fonts, and they tend to go with quirky, humorous, and sometimes tongue-in-cheek product names and descriptions. For example:

The turntable-styled compact and matching box, along with the lingo (it comes in "deep" and "lite") draws the eye to Benefit's Some Kind-a Gorgeous foundation. It's aesthetically pleasing, and it evokes the sort of 50's/60's Hollywood startlet glam feeling that Benefit infuses into their whole line.

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I am a complete sucker for a box or a kit, and in part that's because I feel like I'm getting more for my money (though that is rarely true), but in part it's because seeing smaller versions of things, nestled cleverly together, makes my heart sing. Combine that feeling with the clever name, colorful, eye-catching packaging, and feeling of luxury (the "gilded" mirror, the smirking princess on the box) of Benefit's I'm glam...therefore I am and I'm gonna be sold.

Method Home Care & Personal Products
When I first saw Method products at Target, I was drawn to the display like a moth to a lightbulb. The packaging immediately makes you think clean, modern, minimalist thoughts. Just what you want in cleaning products, especially those that are going to sit out on your counter. Even though I don't even like most of Method's scents, I keep buying some of their products just because I am so drawn to that look.

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I don't mind the "Orange Zest" and "Lemon Verbena" scents of these Method wipes, but honestly, it's the Orla Kiely-like print on the container that keeps me buying them, as well as the silly cleverness of calling them "Antibac Wipes."

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I could try to convince myself that I buy Method hand soap for the variety of scent options or the way it foams, but in reality, it's all about the shape of the bottle and the way the brightly colored soaps shine through the clear plastic, with its understated labeling, like prisms.

Sheffield & Sons for Bloom
I don't like Bloom grocery stores, at all. However, they knocked it out of the ballpark with the packaging for their in-store spice line.

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The reusable, apothecary-influenced cylinder containers, the color and font on the labels, the corks...there is no bad here.

Bonne Maman Jam
I don't even like jam all that much, but every time I pass a shelf full of Bonne Maman jam in the store, I have to stop myself from scooping it into my cart. It's just such a perfect package.

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From the great classic shape and incredible re-use potential of the glass jar to the almost-handwritten-by-Grandma looking label to the cute plaid lid, everything about the Bonne Maman package says it's good jam. And it is.

Zhena's Gypsy Tea
I definitely have a hierarchy of packing materials. Plastic is the bottom rung, paper or cardboard above it, glass above that. At the top of that hierarchy is the reusable tin. And nobody has a better tin than Zhena's Gypsy Tea.

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It's not just that the size and shape of the cylindrical tin are perfect, though they are. What's even better is the lack of external label and attractive romantic icon. If I liked tea even a little bit, I'd have stacks of these.

Rogue Beer
I love Rogue the most because they make fantastic beer. However, they've also got amazing labels.

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The combination of the simple color schemes, the similarly-postured but brew-specific icons, and the amazing capital letters and star logo does me in every time. Love.

Vosges Chocolates
Vosges chocolate is amazingly good. The perfect packaging, however, is what makes it such a breathtaking gift.

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The simple lines of the purple abstract heart gift box Vosges uses serves to frame the truffles perfectly. It's like chocolate art.

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Vosges' crazy line of chocolate bars are fantastically identifiable, each with its own signature color and a cover picture of some of the specialty ingredients. The innovative Vosges logo doesn't hurt, either.

Navita's Naturals
I haven't tried the products from superfood company Navita's Naturals yet, but the packaging certainly makes me want to.

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I love the simple bag design and the abstract organic shapes, but the color coding and the matte ink does me in.

Twist

Twist sells sponges and other eco-friendly cleaning products, which isn't exactly a fun and whimsical business. Their packaging, though, is fun and whimsical at its best.

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Bright colors, a minimalist design, a cool geometric logo, and some of their packaging can be cut out and made into little bird houses. How freaking cool is that?

The Show Wine
I try to pretend I know enough about wine to choose it on some grounds besides the label, but with a label as great as The Show's, it's hard.

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How much do I love that bucking bronc logo? And the explosive color background? The font? Perfect.

This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg--tons of well-packaged products exist out there, and they are getting better all the time. For thousands more examples of awesome packaging, check out TheDieline.com.

What about you? Leave me a comment and tell me about some packaging you really love.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.03

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clay with cigar.jpg

Three episodes in, I am comfortable saying that season 4 is going to be the best season of Sons of Anarchy to date. All three of the episodes have been action-packed, perfectly paced, well-written, and immaculately acted. Just like in the previous two weeks, last night's episode slowly pulled away the layers on each character, saying less with more, showing each character's motivations a bit more without hitting you over the head with them. I've always loved the show, but it's really hitting its stride now.

In specific, last night I had my eye on Bobby. More than any of the other club members, Bobby is aware of what is happening to Clay, how he's losing his psychological grip as he loses his physical one. Bobby's reactions in the scene where he and Clay meet with their Native American ammo-making contact are absolutely spot-on perfect. Fantastic acting on Mark Boone Junior's part, and really good direction by Peter Weller.

The other strength of last night's episode, for me, was the guest appearance of Marianne Jean-Baptiste as neighborhood matriarch Vivica Potter. Vivica is badass, in charge, and hilarious. The begrudgingly respectful conversation between she and Jax was one of my favorite SOA interchanges ever. I like seeing the show branch out a little bit in the kinds of power it displays.

Another thing I liked about the scenes with Vivica, as well a the sub-plot being constructed around Juice's racial heritage and what that means to his place in the club, and the race of the new sheriff, is that the show is looking like it's going to address race in a way it hasn't before. At first blush, I wasn't crazy about the idea of Sheriff Roosevelt using Juice's Black father as leverage over him. It wasn't like SAMCRO ever thought Juice was White--he's portrayed as Puerto Rican--and Happy clearly isn't 100% White either. Why should we believe anybody will care that Juice has a Black father? However, after thinking about it, I think it could unfold in interesting ways, so I'm reserving judgment and hoping for the best.

Katey Sagal is stellar in every single episode of this show, but I loved her particularly much last night. The combination of manipulation and, perhaps, a kernel of truth in her "confession" to Tara about John Teller's abandonment and the beginning of her relationship with Clay was superbly done. Even though I knew everything Gemma knows about the JT letters Tara is holding, I wasn't sure how much of what she was saying to believe. Watching the scene, it was so easy for me to put myself in Tara's shoes--she knows Gemma, and knows her capacity for manipulation, but there's something else going on, too. Absolutely amazing.

I honestly can't say enough good things about this show right now. Every episode I watch draws me in deeper and leaves me with a greater respect for the cast, the crew, the writers, and especially the pater familias of the whole deal, Kurt Sutter.

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For the most up-to-date curated subscription list, please see the May 23, 2012 re-post of this post.

I love magazine subscriptions. In part, this is because I love magazines--my attention span is just about magazine article length and I like pretty pictures. The bigger reason, though, is that I love love love mail. And reoccurring mail is my very favorite. I've been a Columbia House used-to-be-Record Club subscriber at least a dozen times. I'll sign up for a sample of just about anything. I just like it when something comes in the mail for me.

Turns out, I'm not alone. Lots of us love receiving mail, and when it's good mail, something we picked out, or, even better, a surprise that was curated for us? (Curated, in this case, just meaning selected based on our likes/dislikes by some sort of authority.) We're sold. That's what drew me to the independent business sample boxes I've reviewed here before, and to Birchbox more recently. And I'm so enamored with Birchbox, I started nosing around for more things like it.

And I found far more than I'd expected I would. Turns out, these "curated subscription services," wherein you receive periodic shipments of something that was either picked for you, or picked by you from options picked for you, are sorta the next big thing. They're popping up everywhere, for all sorts of products, and they're hot hot hot. I found dozens of them. And I did not find any sort of comprehensive list. So, I thought I'd try to fill that space and provide a list.

Please realize that I have NOT tried all of these, or even most of these, services. This list is not an endorsement; it's simply an overview of what I found in this space. And it is, but necessity, a work in progress--most of these companies are new, and some will fail, and new ones will pop up. So please, if you see anything I omitted, or anything that is here that doesn't, as you are reading this, exist anymore, let me know and I'll update.

Now, for what I found:

(A note on pricing: many of these services have a price cut if you sign up for several months at once. For the sake of simplicity, the prices I am quoting are their highest prices, generally for a single month.)

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Beauty

This is the biggest category, by far. Tons of people are hopping on the Birchbox train. The ones I found are:

United States
Birchbox: 3-5 deluxe makeup/beauty samples each month, curated, $10 including S&H. This is one I can vouch for--I've had a subscription for nearly a year, I love it, it's more than worth the $10/month.

For my Birchbox reviews, go here, here, and here!

Julep Maven: 3-5 nail polishes and treatments each month, curated, $15 including S&H.

Yellow Box Beauty: "Makeup of the Month Club," curated full-sized makeup and beauty items, monthly, $34.95/month + $7.95 S&H.

Beautyfix: 8 full-sized makeup/beauty products, selected by you from a group of options, sent quarterly. $49.95 including S&H.

For my Beautyfix review, go here!

New Beauty Test Tube: deluxe makeup/beauty samples, some full sized, curated, sent quarterly. $29.95 + $8.95 S&H. I'm going to try this one, so I'll let you know how it turns out.

For my New Beauty Test Tube review, go here!

Smallflower Bath of the Month Club:curated bath products, sent monthly. $85/3 month subscription.

Added 9/21: GoGoGirlfriend: Similar to Birchbox, trial-sized beauty products sent monthly. $12.99/month for monthly boxes or $6.98/month for bi-monthly boxes.

Added 10/17/11: The Little Black Box: This is one of several monthly sample boxes for independent/handmade beauty products, as well as other things like candles and edibles. Boxes are $20/month including S&H.

Added 10/17/11: Out of the Box Sampler: Out of the Box sampler is another sampler of independent and handmade businesses. It is available for $22/month including S&H.

Added 10/17/11: Makeup Monthly: Makeup Monthly offers clubs for nails, makeup, or beauty care. The clubs are $20, $30, and $35/month respectively, including S&H, and subscriptions are available for 3, 6, or 12 months.

Added 03/05/12: The Look Bag: The Look Bag is a Birchbox-esque sampler box offering 4-5 beauty samples in each monthly offering. It is curated by celebrity beautician Damone Roberts. The cost is $10/month, S&H included.

For my Look Bag review, go here!

Added 03/19/12: The Soap Box: A quarterly offering of 8 mini-sized bath products from Fortune Cookie Soap. $19.99/quarter, S&H included.

Added 03/19/12: Kara's Way: 5-10 eco-friendly beauty samples, sent monthly. $15/month including S&H.

Added 03/19/12: My Glam: 4-5 beauty product samples, sent monthly. $10/month including S&H.

Added 03/19/12: Beauty Box 5: 4-5 beauty product samples, sent monthly. $12/month including S&H.

For my Beauty Box 5 review, go here!

Added 03/19/12: Beauty Army: Up to 6 samples of our own choosing, delivered monthly. $12/month including S&H.

For my Beauty Army review, go here!

Added 04/02/12: Sindulge: Monthly delivery of 4-5 sample products selected by beauty experts after customer chat conferences. $12/month including S&H.

Added 04/02/12: Sample Society: A Birchbox-like offering from Beauty Bar, sends 5 deluxe sized samples and a mini-magazine each month. $15/month including S&H.

Added 05/23/12: CurlBox: For $20/month, including S&H, subscribers receive 5-7 samples of products intended for curly hair.

Added 05/23/12: Beauty Cache: Seasonal/quarterly boxes include various deluxe samples and one full-sized "mystery" item. Cost is $29.95 plus S&H.

Canada
Loose Button Luxe Box: 4-5 curated deluxe beauty samples, sent monthly. $12/month including S&H.

Glymm: 4-5 curated deluxe beauty samples, sent monthly. $10/month including S&H.

Added 10/17/11: Sweet Delight Divalicious Sample Box: Sweet Delights Divalicious box focuses mostly on handmade/independent beauty products. Boxes are $26 Canadian including shipping to Canada or the US.

Australia
Little Red Box: deluxe beauty samples, sent monthly, not yet launched

Haute Box: deluxe beauty samples, send monthly, not yet launched

Added 10/17/11: The Lust Pack: The Lust Pack is a monthly 5-6 deluxe sample delivery. The cost is $14.95/month including S&H.

UK
Glossybox: 5 curated high-end beauty miniatures, sent monthly. £10.00/month + £2.95 S&H.
Updated 04/02/12: Glossybox is expanding to the USA soon!

Bonbon: monthly artisan lip balm, £5.00/month, delivers throughout Europe. Not currently accepting new members.

Added 10/14/11: Amarya Beauty Box: For £10 per month, Amarya sends at least one full-sized product, along with multiple samples or trial sizes.

Added 10/14/11: Bourdoir Prive: Works just like Birchbox-- £10/month including S&H and they send 5-6 deluxe samples.

Added 10/17/11: Carmine: Another one in the Birchbox model, Carmine sends 5 "deluxe product miniatures" to subscribers each month. The price is £10/month plus £2.75 postage.

Added 10/14/11: FeelUnique Beauty Box: Offers a monthly subscription to 5 deluxe beauty samples for £9.95/month including S&H.

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Kids/Parenting
This seems to be the currently fastest-growing category. I'm intrigued by it, especially as a gift option.

United States
Citrus Lane: 4-5 curated baby products, tailored to baby's age (newborn through 18 months), sent monthly. $25/month including S&H.

For my Citrus Lane reviews, go here and here!

Bluum: 4-5 deluxe baby-related product samples, sent monthly, $12/month including S&H.

Little Passports: information about and "souvenirs" from a different country sent every month, geared towards kids. $11.95/month plus S&H. I really, really love the idea of this one. If anybody out there does it, please drop me a message--I'd love to run a review.

Babba Box: curated monthly box with all supplies needed to do 3-4 projects with a 3-6 year old child. $29.99/month including S&H. This is another one that really intrigues me, and I'd love to run a review if anybody has used it.

Added 10/11/11: KiwiCrate: much the same model as Babba Box, KiwiCrate is a monthly delivery of supplies for craft projects suited for a 3-6 year old child. It is $19.99/month including S&H.

Added 10/17/11: Tiny Tots Sample Boxes: These boxes focus on indie/handmade items for children. Each box has 15-20 samples. Boxes are $23 in the US, $33 in Canada, and $58 in other countries, including shipping.

Added 10/17/11: Fluff of the Month Club: Cloth diapers! For $22.50/month including S&H, you receive a cloth diaper delivery. Subscriptions are available for 4, 6, or 9 months, and you choose the style and size of diaper you want.

Added 10/17/11: KraftyKid Craft Clubs: KraftyKid offers lots of different options, with basic clubs, deluxe clubs, and clubs for teachers. They have clubs available for 3-6 year old kids and 7-10 year old kids. Prices vary.

Added 03/13/12: Wittlebee: Along the same lines as some of the clothing basic clubs for men, Wittlebee sends a monthly box of clothes for your child. The box includes 8 basic items (leggings, onesies, etc.) each month and costs $39.99 including S&H.

For my Wittlebee review, go here!

Added 03/19/12: Honest Company: A selection of self-selected eco-conscious diapers and/or household and bath and body products, sent monthly. Price dependent on products selected.

Added 03/21/12: petiteBox: 4-7 "mommy and baby" products sent monthly. $25/month including S&H.

For my petiteBox review, go here!

Added 03/27/12: Green Kid Crafts: Monthly delivery of three open-ended craft kits for kids, focused on green supplies and international calendar awareness. Available in three, six, and twelve month subscriptions for about $15/month, including S&H.

Added 05/23/12: Spark Box: For $34.95/box , including S&H, Spark Box sends a box of four or more educational toys. You keep them for four weeks or more, and when you return them, you get another box.

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Green Products

Another large and growing market! I have to admit, this one is counterintuitive to me--what's green about sending packaged products through the mail? Still, I'm intrigued.

Blissmobox: you choose between curated monthly collections of eco-friendly and organic products in several categories (this month had a beauty box, a tea and snacks box, and a romance/sex box, other months have had cleaning/laundry boxes, summer snack boxes, etc.) $19/month + $3 S&H. This is another one I'm planning to try out, so watch for a review in the future.

Eco-Emi: curated green/natural product samples delivered monthly. $15/month including S&H. Available outside the US for $30/month. Currently has a waiting list for new customers.

Goodebox: curated monthly samples of green beauty, health, and wellness products. $15/month including S&H.

For my Goodebox review, go here!

Uncover Me Naturals Soap of the Month Club: monthly delivery of six bars of natural soap. $25/month including S&H.

Added 10/12/11: Conscious Box: a curated monthly collection of various environmentally conscious products, based on a monthly theme. Products include food and health and beauty offerings. $19/month including S&H.

Added 10/20/11: Herbaria Soap of the Month Club: A smaller scale soap-of-the-month offering, Heraria sends 1 hand-crafted bar each month, for an $88 annual subscription cost.

Added 03/19/12: Pink Moment: 6-10 eco product samples, delivered monthly. $14/month including S&H.

Added 03/19/12: Green Grab Bag: 6-10 eco beauty product samples, sent monthly. $15/month including S&H.

For my Green Grab Bag review, go here!

Added 05/23/12: Kara's Way: 5-10 eco beauty samples delivered each month for $15/month including S&H.

For my Kara's Way review, go here!

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Food

There are a ton of these--everything from the ubiquitous "Beer of the Month" to the more interesting "Bacon of the Month" or "Cheese of the Month." For the sake of brevity, I'm only including the curated ones I found here.

United States
Turntable Kitchen Pairings Box: This is a cool concept. Each month, they deliver a food and music pairing--a limited edition 7" vinyl two-track along with a downloadable digital mixtape, and the recipes and ideas for a dinner party to go along with the music, along with 1-2 premium specialty ingredients to make them. Not exactly up my alley, but fascinating. $25/month including S&H. Not currently taking new orders.

Foodzie Tasting Box: curated monthly delivery of 6 gourmet food samples. $19.99/month including S&H.

Lollihop:monthly box of 8 single-serving healthy snacks. $22.75/month including S&H.

Healthy Surprise: monthly delivery of curated healthy vegan snacks. Prices vary by package size: $33/month + $5 S&H for 5-10 snacks through $250/month including S&H for 70-80 snacks.

PaleoPax: monthly curated selection of 5 paleo snacks. $20/month including S&H.

Steepster Select: 3 2-3 oz pouches of curated premium loose leaf tea each month. $19/month including S&H.

Craft Coffee: 3 12 oz bags of coffee, curated from different small roasters, each month, along with tasting notes. $24.99/month including S&H.

Added 10/14/11: Black Box Dessert Club: High end desserts, varied based on your region, right to your door! This club is not cheap--a single month is $65-$85 depending on the box--but contains 6-8 full size artisan desserts.

Added 10/14/11: Foodiholic: For $39.99/month including S&H, Foodiholic sends your choice of a ready-to-eat or ready-to-prepare food box. The first contains 4-6 new ready to eat items and some celebrity chef ideas for enhancing them, the second contains ingredients and recipes for a memorable meal. The selections are personalized to your diet and taste preferences.

Added 10/17/11: Adagio Tea of the Month Club: Adagio makes really good tea. Their tea of the month club, available in 6 or 12 month increments, and in flavored, herbal, black, decaf, and green & oolong varieties, sends two bags of loose tea (enough for approximately 80 cups) every other month. Prices are $39-$49 for six month and $69-$89 for twelve month subscriptions.

Added 10/17/11: Kettle Chips Chip of the Month Club: For $74.99 for a 3 month membership, Kettle Chips sends monthly deliveries of 5 4-oz bags of chips, including classics, hard-to-find flavors, and sneak peeks of unreleased flavors.

Added 10/17/11: Pasenella & Son, Vitners: Vino & Cookbook of the Month Club: This one is interesting--each month, they send a white wine, a red wine, tasting notes, and a cookbook. Price is $49.99/month, plus S&H.

Added 10/17/11: Citizen Bean: Every month, Citizen Bean sends a pound of sustainable small-batch roasted whole bean coffee, along with extras. The cost is $79.99 for three months, $129.99 for six, and $219.99 for a full year.

Added 10/17/11: Anchor Chip of the Month Club: Every month, Anchor sends regional, unusual potato chips. Subscriptions are available in 1, 3, 6, 9, and 12 month increments of various sizes, starting at $13/month.

Added 03/19/12: Love with Food: Monthly delivery of samples of 4-5 gourmet food products. $14/month, S&H included.

Added 04/11/12: Samplrs: Monthly delivery of 4-6 full-sized products from local food artisans, all packed in a reusable canvas bag. Vegetarian option also available. $29.99/month including S&H.

Added 05/23/12: NatureBox: For $19.95/month, including S&H, NatureBox sends 4-5 full-sized packages of "healthy, locally-sourced snacks."

Added 05/23/12: Yumvelope: $21/month, including S&H, gets you a minimum of six full-sized natural snacks, drinks, and desserts.

Added 05/23/12: Gothambox: For $20/month, including S&H, Gothambox sends a box of food products from your selected city (current options are San Francisco and New York). For every subscription, the company donates a meal to the hungry in the chosen city.

UK
Graze: Nutritionally balanced single-serving snack boxes, however many days/week you'd like. £3.49/box including S&H.

Added 10/17/11: The Chocolate Tasting Club: The Chocolate Tasting Club charges £18.95/month including postage, for which you get a box of 32 hand-selected chocolates. The selections are different every month, and recipients can choose between Classic, Dark, Purist and Elements boxes.

Clothing/Accessories

United States
Jewelmint: Jewelmint is the big player in this space right now. For $29.99/month including S&H, you pick a piece of jewelry each month from a collection curated to your taste by celebrity entrepreneur Kate Bosworth. This is club to which I subscribe and I am very happy with it so far.

Stylemint: Stylemint is from the same parent company and uses the same business model as Jewelmint, only it's t-shirts, not jewelry. $29.99/month including S&H gets you a t-shirt of your choice. The celebrities behind the style and curation are the Olsen twins.

Shoedazzle: Shoedazzle is another big player. It works the same way as the previous two programs, with the recipient making a monthly selection among a curated field of choices. This one is $39.99/month, though, and the selections are shoes and handbags. The celebrity name is Kim Kardashian. Shoes only up to size 11, though!

In the Mood Intimates Gift of the Month Clubs: Several monthly options, all curated, including Panty-of-the-Month, Camisole/Bustier-of-the-Month, and Bra-set-of-the-Month. Prices range from $18-$90/month.

MeUndies: Not-yet-launched subscription service for both men's and women's underwear.

Send the Trend: Similar to Jewelmint, only it includes non-jewelry accessories. Clients pick from among a curated set of options. $29.99/month including S&H.

Threadless 12 Club: I kinda love this one. Every month, you get a handpicked t-shirt from Threadless! Think of the variety you could amass! $200/year for US participants; $250/year for international, including S&H.

Added 10/14/11: Sole Society: Basically the same model as Shoedazzle, Sole Society charges $49.95/month including S&H for your pick from a curated selection of shoes.

Added 10/17/11: Solmate Socks Sock of the Month Club: This one amuses me. Available for adults or kids, you get a pair of funky mismatched cotton socks each month. There are 3, 6, and 12 month memberships--the 3 month is $65 including S&H, and kids' socks are a pair-with-a-spare.

Added 10/20/11:Stitch Fix: Stitch Fix sends a shipment of clothes, based on your personal style quiz, and you keep and pay for those you like and send the rest back.

Added 04/16/12: Dive Bar Shirt Club: Monthly delivery of an authentic t-shirt from a US dive bar. $22/month including S&H.

UK
StylistPick: Similar to Shoedazzle, a curated monthly selection of accessories and shoes, based on our style profile. You select what you want to have sent your way. £39.95/month including S&H.

Canada
Panty by Post: monthly curated pair of deluxe panties. $18.50/month plus S&H, international available.

Books and Magazines

Books are another area that has been doing of-the-month clubs for a long time, and there is no way I could list them all here. However, I'm going to mention a couple.

United States
Indiespensible: I absolutely love Powell's Indiespensible book club. Every six-to-eight weeks, they sent a first edition of a new, independent book, along with some other "goodies," typically thematically connected to the book in some way, or local to Portland. The cost is $39.99/shipment, including S&H, and international shipping is available for $12 more.

Just the Right Book: Coming from another independent bookseller (yay!), R.J. Julia Bookseller in Madison, CT, Just the Right Book is a curated book club that has options for kids, teens, and adults. The selections are curated to individual tastes and get this--they guarantee you'll like what they send! The service can be purchased on a monthly, every-other-month, or quarterly basis. Prices vary depending on specific program, but average about $24.99/month.

Stack America: This one I'm excited about. Every two months, you receive a curated collection of indie magazines. Lots of it is likely stuff you aren't going to find in your Barnes & Noble. You get at least one magazine, plus extras, every two months. Subscriptions are annual and cost $75.99 in the US, with options for international shipping at higher rates.

Added 10/20/11: Chin Music Press Books Rx: Billing itself as "mail-order medicine for your mind," this club sends a curated quarterly collection of independent literature and art, all chosen to fit a given theme. The cost is $40 for each shipment, including S&H to the US and Canada.

Added 05/23/12: GiftLit: Starting at $24.95/month, GiftLit sends an expert-curated book each month to the child, teen, adult, or family you choose. As a bonus, all books can be returned/substituted by the recipient.

International
Stack: Stack is the international version of Stack America. The basic service is the same, but the magazine choices and shipping options are international, and monthly or annual services are available. Prices vary depending on where you're located.

For Men

The subscription model is traditionally more heavily marketed to women, but a whole lot of man-specific services are popping up. A few of them:

United States
Hiskit: Birchbox for dudes. 3-5 luxury samples, delivered monthly, $12/month including S&H.

Manpacks: This one is about convenience, more than curation--men can sign up to get quarterly shipments of necessities they choose--shirts, socks, underwear, shaving cream, condoms, etc. Prices vary based on what's in your pack.

GuyHaus: GuyHaus is the same basic model as Manpacks, except that it's just for toiletries. Men pick what they want and how often they'd like to have it delivered. Prices vary depending on what the client picks.

Sababu: The Undershirt Club: Set to launch in December, Sababu Conscious Clothing sends two ethically made undershirts quarterly, for $20.

Trunk Club: Trunk Club is all about curation--they send a complete "trunk" of clothes, including 8-12 items. Prices vary depending on what is in the specific trunk. The subscriber keeps/pays for what he wants and sends the rest back.

Added 10/19/11: His Black Box: His Black Box offers a personalized selection of 5 travel sized products each month, based on a survey of age and tastes. The cost is $12/month including S&H.

Added 03/27/12: My Platinum Box: Monthly delivery of 4-5 sample sized men's grooming products. $10/month including S&H.

Added 04/12/12: Birchbox Man: An offering from Birchbox just for men! $20/month including S&H for men's grooming product samples.

Canada
Added 10/14/11: Bread and Butter: Bread and Butter is a monthly men's skincare subscription, based on a natural product and minimal packaging ethos. Kits are customized to the client and run $35-$49 Canadian each, with free shipping to the US and Canada.

UK
Added 10/14/11: Wibba: Wibba is a curated monthly delivery of "man stuff," further described as "toys, gadgets, games, or gizmos." It's £14.95/month.

Germany
Mansbox: Though I can't read the German site, I believe Mansbox is the German equivalent of Manpacks, offering a subscription service for undershirts, underwear, and socks.

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Art & Craft

I am more than a bit fascinated by the art-by-subscription model. I had no idea it existed, and there are several price points and options.

United States
Alula: sends limited edition original textile art quarterly. $300/year.

Papirmasse: monthly delivery of a limited edition print by an unknown artist. $5/month in the US and $10/month internationally.

Little Otsu: Another one by which I am super intrigued. For $15/quarter, you get two original "art books." The books are gloriously illustrated mini-books about anything in the natural world. This would be such a fantastic collection to start.

Tota Press: A handmade letterpress card-of-the-month subscription! Each month brings two cards and costs $13 including S&H. International subscription is available for an additional $2/month.

Sunrise Fiber Co. Yarn Club: Each month brings a skein of hand-dyed yarn (you pick the weight), a goodie of some sort, and a dessert recipe that ties in with the yarn colors. Subscriptions are available for 2, 4, or 6 months, at $22/month.

Added 10/14/11: Mercier Beaucoup: Mercier Beaucoup offers 3, 6, or 12 month stationary subscriptions, each month with 3 assorted handmade cards. The cost for the 3 month option is $36, plus $5 flat rate shipping.

Added 10/17/11: Three Irish Girls Pick of the Knitter Club: If you know a dedicated knitter, you probably know about the amazing yarn from Three Irish Girls. The Pick of the Knitter club offers your choice of weight and number of skeins each month, in either a solid or a handpainted colorway. Price depends on the weight you choose and subscriptions are available in three month intervals in the US, Canada, or internationally.

Added 10/17/11: Three Irish Girls Sock Yarnista Club: As the name suggests, this club is for sock yarn. Each month, members get a selected high-end sock yarn, a pattern, and possibly extras. Membership is available in 3, 6, and 12 month intervals, in the US and Canada and internationally. 3 month US membership runs $94.

Added 10/17/11: The Irish Girls Stash Menagerie Club: This is the 3IG variety club, sending a selected type of yarn each month, along with extras. Membership is available for 1, 2, or 3 skeins a month and in 3 or 6 month increments. A single skein 3-month membership is $72 in the US.

Added 03/19/12: WhimseyBox: 4-5 curated craft product samples sent monthly. $15/month, S&H included.

Added 03/27/12: Art in a Box: Monthly curated delivery of one piece of original art from a San Francisco area artist, selected based on your taste profile. $50/month including S&H, minimum three-month subscription.

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Miscellany

I have to tell you, this is where my heart lives. The subscription programs for things that seem only very vaguely subscribe-able. this is the market I want to see grow and flourish. And I think these are a good start:

United States
Lost Crates: Couldn't love this more if I tried. Lost Crates is a curated stationary subscription--each month brings a new crate of pens, pencils, paper, and associated etcetera. It's $38/month including S&H. This is one I'm trying, so stay tuned for a review later this fall.

Updated 04/11/12: Lost Crates has grown! They now have a $38/month Eco box, a $68/month Housewares box, a $48/month Foodie box, a $48/month "Found in _____" box, a $38/month "Jack's Picks" box, and two "petite boxes," a $20/month "Petite Stationary" box and a $28/month "Angie's Picks" box, all in addition to their original stationary box!

For my Lost Crates reviews, go here and here!

Quarterly Co: This one baffles me. You choose a "cultural icon" and receive a quarterly box of physical objects curated by that person. I'm intrigued, however, by the tagline "each shipment tells a story." Sadly, there are no current subscriptions open, or I'd try it. Subscriptions are $25/quarter.

Toys4Tails: Dog toy of the month club, curated based on your dog's breed/size. Several subscription tiers are available, starting at $14.95/month.

Added 10/14/11: Good and Lovely: The business model for Good & Lovely is a period pampering pack. On your selected date each month, they send you a box of your selected variety of pads or tampons, as well as whatever extras you request (Midol, heating pads, wipes, etc) and a selection of soothing treats (chocolate, tea, bath products, etc.). The base price is $19.99/month, with more for add-ons.

Added 10/14/11: Feliz Box: Feliz Box is basically the same thing as Good & Lovely, but with less customization--you simply choose tampons or pads and they decide the rest. The cost is $14.99/month.

Added 10/14/11: Swuni: Similar to Good & Lovely and Feliz Box, Swuni is a monthly menstrual product delivery. However, you simply receive and pay for the product(s) you choose--no curation.

Added 10/14/11: Ohco: Like Swuni, Ohco is a monthly delivery of whatever you select. They do, however, include health and beauty samples with their shipments.

Added 10/14/11: Umba Box: The Umba Box is a monthly delivery of a surprise handmade item--accessories, home goods, jewelry, bath products, stationary, etc. It's $26/month including S&H and subscriptions are available for 3, 6, or 12 months.

Added 10/17/11: Z Box: The Z Box is a monthly collection of items sold on Zibbet. Two sizes are available--for $8.75 you get 8 samples, for $18 you get 15-18. Both prices include S&H.

Added 10/17/11: Lighter of the Month Club: This one is odd and possibly brilliant. For $32.95/year ($8 more internationally), you get four stickers each month with which to customize Bic lighters.

Added 03/19/12: Cravebox: 4-5 samples of products including housewares, health products, beauty products, pet products, and food, sent monthly. $10/month including S&H.

UK
Not Another Bill: Probably the most clever of the programs I found, this subscription promises something in your mail each month that is NOT a bill. It could be just about anything, but it'll be something that the curator, Ned, is surprised and excited by. The price is £15/month including S&H in the UK, £18 in the rest of Europe, and £20 in the rest of the world, all including S&H. Couldn't resist this, so I'll be reviewing when mine arrives.

Jangneus Design: This one is delightfully quirky. Each month will bring a colorful, Swedish-designed cleaning cloth--you pick your color scheme. Subscriptions within the UK are £25 for the year, including S&H. International subscriptions may be available, they ask prospective international subscribers to contact them.

Added 10/17/11: I have to point out Global Giving Project of the Month Club. This is a truly great idea. You choose a monthly donation amount, and each month a charitable project is selected for your money. You receive an email each month telling you about the project. How great an idea is that?

Added 04/01/12: BarkBox: For a monthly $25, including S&H, BarkBox sends a box of four or more dog-related products. Making it sweeter, 10% of each box's sale price goes to canine rescue organizations.

For my Barkbox review, go here!

Added 05/23/12: KLUTCHclub: For $18/month, including S&H, get a box with at least $50 worth of health, wellness, and fitness products and services. Currently aimed at women, men's version to be released soon.

In doing my research for this post, I was very indebted to:
Subscription Commerce (#SUBCOM) Matrix by Sean Percival
Boxing Up Social Commerce: Hot Opportunity? by Paul Marsden
Blissmo Launches Monthly "Blissmobox": Delivering Curated Eco-friendly Products to Your Door! by Priti Ambani
What Will The Big Winners in Subscription Commerce Look Like? by robgo
Several articles at Springwise

Added 10/14/11: Subscription service startups are the hot new thing by Harrison Weber

Added 10/14/11: Directory of Subscription Commerce Clubs by Paul Marsden

Added 03/19/12: Subscriptionboxes.com

Added 05/23/12: 10 Kid-Friendly Subscription Boxes Parents Will Love by Jeana Lee Tahnk

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One Stop Gift Shop: Uncommon Goods

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I like to buy gifts. I like to get gifts, too. My partner, unfortunately, is not huge into either one. However, after almost a decade together, he's learned that he doesn't have an opt out clause, and he has progressively gotten better and better and buying me gifts.

It helps that he figured out a way to make it easy on him. And I liked his way so much, I've recently taken a page from his book.

The magical solution? Uncommon Goods.

For those not already familiar with it, Uncommon Goods is a web store with the following vision:

UncommonGoods (www.uncommongoods.com) is an online marketplace offering creatively designed, high-quality merchandise at affordable prices. At UncommonGoods, we believe that creativity and the expression of individuality represent two great human treasures. We have set out to create a business that makes uncommon goods accessible to everyone.

And they succeed. They have a huge variety of products, all "uncommon," and many handmade and/or made with recycled materials. Mark tends to buy nearly all of my gifts there. Some favorites have been:


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Birth Month Flower Necklace, $48

I think these pendant necklaces, commemorating birth months with their traditional flowers, rather than stones, are fantastic. Mark got me one for my birthday last year.

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Caia Koopman Cases, $30-$36

When I started carrying business cards, Mark bought me this gorgeous, quirky Caia Koopman case to carry them in. I get compliments on it all the time.

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Recycled Tin Flower Art, $40

Mark got me the first of these two recycled tin art pieces for my birthday last year, and I loved it so much he got the other one for me for Christmas. They now hang as a set in the hallway of our house.

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Sari Scarf, $48

The blue version of this gorgeous scarf, made from recycled silk saris, is one you might recognize if you've been reading here for long--I've had it for several years and I wear it all the time. I love mine so much, I bought Mark's mother an earth-toned version for Christmas, and she wears hers all the time, too.

For Mark's birthday earlier this month, I decided to follow his example and go for all-Uncommon Goods gifts. The site is large and varied, so I started with the recommendation section: Gifts for Men (found here: http://www.uncommongoods.com/gifts/by-recipient/gifts-for-men). They divide their recommendations in all kinds of ways, with sections for each member of the family, each age range, by the amount you want to spent, or for various types of personalities--there is Gifts for Dads (click here), Gifts for Brothers (click here), Gifts for Moms (click here), and so on. There were a number of interesting things in that section, but nothing struck me as perfect, so I headed over to Recycled Gifts to see if anything caught my eye. Bingo!

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Growbottle, $35

The first thing I picked out was the Growbottle. It's a system for growing indoor (windowsill, basically) herbs hydroponically using a recycled wine bottle. I knew Mark would love it, and he did--when he opened his, it was the first present he started playing with. I splurged and got the basil, chives, and mint versions. Yay for fresh herbs this winter in a container that is fairly cat-proof (no dirt) and easy on the eyes!

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Retired Wine Barrel Lazy Susan, $125

I stuck with the recycled section and found my next gift there as well. We eat a ton of antipasta at my house, and when there are more than two people at the table, that's a ton of passing little dishes around. This recycled wine barrel Lazy Susan is not only gorgeous, and completely in keeping with the kind of decor Mark likes, but totally practical. It lives on our dining table now and we've used it several times already.

Mark's final gift was one I found by accident while browsing jewelry for myself:

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Ebony Wood & Stainless Steel Men's Ring, $45

This I bought simply because I love the look of it, but it's also handmade in the USA, which I find to be a huge bonus!

Overall, I love Uncommon Goods because it's an easy place to get unique gifts for a wide range of people. It's not just a place for Mark and I to get presents for one another, but I can easily find gifts for our parents, friends, and other family members there as well. The packaging is environmentally sustainable, and they do eco-conscious gift wrapping (in unbleached recycled boxes and/or bags made from recycled t-shirts). They also have a blessedly easy to navigate site, and I've never had any sort of shipping issue. I recommend them very highly.

So...can you see yourself buying a gift at Uncommon Goods? How about a little something for yourself? How about with a $50 gift card? To win one, do any or all of the following (be sure to leave a new comment for each entry):

1. Take a gander at the Uncommon Goods site and come back and tell me your favorite product and who you'd gift it to.
2. Tweet a link to their family page!
3. Sign up for the Uncommon Goods email list.
4. Vote on possible new Uncommon Goods products with their voting tool.
5. Share this contest and my blog on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other social media site floats your boat.

This contest with run for two weeks, ending Thursday, September 29.

This is not a compensated review--I just love this store. The gift card, however, is courtesy of Uncommon Goods.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.02

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Wow. Just...wow. I liked the season opener last week, but last night's Sons of Anarchy was simply fantastic television. The show was perfectly paced, balancing dramatic conversational scenes, moments of levity, and action. It gave the viewer a strong sense of where every single one of the characters landed in terms of the events that are underway without ever seeming overly expository. It had beautiful scene juxtapositions--particularly the beginning sequence wherein Clay & Gemma; Jax & Tara; and Opie & Lyla talk about what happened to the Russians. It was shot well, the dialog was tight, and everything in it happened for a reason. Once in a while, a show hits an episode just right, so that it's apparent that the creator, writers, directors, actors, and everyone else involved know exactly what they're doing. SOA 4.02 was one of those episodes.

In terms of what it said about where the show is going this year, the episode left me with more questions than answers. I'm wondering how seriously I am supposed to take Clay and Jax when they worry about money. Nothing in the previous three seasons has led me to believe that either of them is in dire financial straits, and Clay and Gemma, in fact, struck me as fairly well-off. I get that being outlaw doesn't come with a retirement plan, but they own the garage, right? Shouldn't that provide some sort of income? I wonder if the concerns about money are, in both Clay's and Jax's case, a patsy for a more basic fear of leaving the Club and never being somebody again. With SOA, neither of them are anything special, and neither of them have any idea what else to do.

Then, of course, there is the ongoing mystery of what happened to John Teller, and now what Unser has to do with it. Did he commit suicide and Unser and Gemma covered it up? Did Clay get him killed? Was Gemma involved? Did Unser cover that up? None of these ideas seem quite right to me, so it will be interesting to see that progress. I'm also curious about how Tara is justifying not having shown Jax the letters Maureen sent, or told him about them. Is she protecting him? Herself? Does Tara really want to get away from the Club, or is the Old Lady thing starting to appeal to her?

The most interesting bit of intrigue, though, at least for now, is how the Club will decide on, and, I assume reconcile itself to, running drugs. The scene between Jax and Clay early on, when they reach their agreement regarding the drug mule deal, and the ones with Bobby and Clay and then Bobby and Tig discussing it later, were extremely well done. Bobby seems set to play a bigger role this season, being, in some way, the voice of reason for the Club. I'm happy to see that, as I think the character has been a bit underutilized in the past.

Another underutilized character who is getting increased screen time and tearing it up is Opie. I LOVED Opie in this episode, especially as he played off Jax. It's been a while since we've see the alternate love and tension between the two of them, and it's a great dynamic. Opie also shows an amazing level of self-awareness, both in his comments to Jax about the potential drug running, and in his assessment of Lyla ("I love her, but she's not Donna."). I wonder about this stability, though, and how long it can last.

I have only two complaints about last night's episode, and neither is very serious. First, I think Gemma is going off the rails a little bit more than seems justified about the letters. I mean, obviously there is something she's hiding, but her level of paranoia seems strange. Secondly, Chibs is almost non-existent. There had to have been some serious aftermath of the Irish situation for him personally, and I'd like to see that.

Once again, I'm awed with what Kurt Sutter and his team have put together. Can't wait until next week.

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Wednesday morning quarterback: SOA 4.01

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As I've mentioned here a few times, I love television. A lot. More than most. And since I love TV, and love writing and talking about TV, I thought maybe I'd start an occasional feature here on ye olde blog wherein I do some light analysis and review of what I'm watching. The trouble with this plan is just that I very rarely watch anything when it's actually on--I usually wait for the DVD, or at the very least catch up at my leisure via DVR. That's not as much fun, or as interesting to read, as the up-to-the-minute stuff. So, I'm going to try to watch a few more shows live. One show that I will always watch live, however, because I can't wait a second more than I have to for it, is my very beloved Sons of Anarchy.

For those who aren't already on the SOA train, you can catch up, and you should. Seasons 1-3 are available on DVD, they are only 13 episodes each, and they are absolutely worth your time. Last night was the season premiere of season 4. Be forewarned--I'm going to have spoilers in my thoughts. I don't see the point in trying to talk around what I actually want to say, so if you aren't caught up and want to be surprised, you should probably stop reading. I probably also won't go into all the season 1-3 back story, so if you haven't seen the show, it might be a bit confusing.

All that said, let's get down to last night's episode.

In the pre-season ramp-up to the show, Kurt Sutter had quite a few interviews and stuff where he talked about how season 4 is going to be all about Charming and the internal stuff that is happening to the Club. The premiere dug right in with that, showing the incarcerated members of SOA (Clay, Jax, Tig, Happy, Bobby, and Juice) getting out of Stockton after 14 months inside and coming home. I very much liked the first scene montage, and the song it was set to, Joshua's James "Coal War", was as perfect as any piece of music on the show has ever been, which is really saying something. Wonderful. I had goosebumps by the time they showed the opening credits.

From there, it was mostly good and often great. There was a little scene early on between Gemma and Tara, wherein Gemma tells Tara how well she handled Jax's being in prison and Tara tells Gemma she couldn't have done it without her, which I found exceptionally interesting. Since Tara found the letters Maureen Ashby meant for Jax, she knows that John Teller was suspicious and afraid of Gemma and Clay (a la Hamlet). Yet her fondness for/appreciation of Gemma in the scene seemed sincere. This leads to one of two conclusions: either Tara is torn in her feelings about Gemma, or she's manipulating her. I'm torn as to which I think it is.

Which brings me, actually, to my major gripe about the episode. Jax and Tara have an extended post-coital conversation about how Jax is going to leave the Club and their little family is going to escape and have a normal life. I don't buy this for a whole bunch of reasons. The biggest issue I had was the cavalier way Jax wrote off his mother, with "she's just an Old Lady." Yeah, she is, but she's also his mother, and unless I have majorly misread their relationship through three seasons, he loves her. Even if she'd allow it, which she won't, leaving her wouldn't be that easy. Beyond that, though, I am just sick of Jax's lack of real introspection, given his constant navel-gazing. He spent 14 months in prison thinking about leaving the Club? Did he give any thought to what his life would be like without it? Without the Club, Tara and his sons are ALL he has--no other family, no other friends, no job skills (which he did mention), and most importantly, no identity. Sons of Anarchy is who Jax is. Him trying to change it from within is one thing, and, for me, believable, but leaving? Yeah, right.

Also? Jax and Tara have the chemistry of flat paint. Really. I like both actors, a lot, but they just don't have any sexual heat at all.

My other, more minor gripe, was just that I wanted to see more of the minor characters in the episode. One of my favorite parts was the little scene where Tig, Happy, Chibs, Juice, and Kozik discuss what they're getting Opie as a wedding present. It's a tiny scene, but very funny (particularly the part about Happy being so cheap he reuses condoms). Scenes like that make the show for me--each character is so interesting, and each actor is able to do so much with so little time and so few words. SOA has a pretty stellar cast of actors, and I love it when they're able to play off one another.

Another major strength of the episode was the Unser element, and the scenes between him and both Gemma and Clay. I liked each scene on its own merits, but I really liked them in juxtaposition. Gemma is concerned about Unser, for his own sake. He's in her circle now, someone she cares about, and she's treating him as such. Clay is concerned, but only as far as Unser is useful to him. I go back and forth on the relative ruthlessness of Clay and Gemma, but those two scenes really painted Clay as the worst of the two, and I think he ultimately he is. I am also really hopeful about the story arc for Unser himself. He didn't do time, but the events in season 3 ended up hurting him worse than anybody else (well, except Otto).

And Otto! I so hope Sutter continues to suck it up and be in his own show more than he really wants to, because I love Otto. The more beaten and brutal he gets, the more I like him. There is no bullshit with Otto--he's straight up thug. I think the show needs that.

Finally, I thought the end of the episode, with the parallel of some of the Sons' most violent and behavior ever and the tacky sweetness of Ope and Lyla's wedding, was perfect. I was stunned and absolutely impressed with the cruel efficiency with which the Sons committed multiple homicide, and the reactions of each individual member (or lack of reaction in many cases) struck me as absolutely right. I'll definitely be watching Juice. Doing the equivalent of leaving heads on stakes at the end of the episode, just in case anybody was wondering who really runs Charming? It was the icing on the cake. Beautifully written, Sutter.

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Winners! (BlogHer swag giveaway)

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I'm so sorry for the delay--I completely spaced out on picking winners for my BlogHer swag giveaway.

As promised, three winners:

15

Revvie | August 12, 2011 3:34 PM | Reply
Facebooked!

23
Little Miss Moneybags | August 16, 2011 9:45 AM | Reply
I've just discovered your blog, thanks to your "still not married, thanks for asking post!" so I'll have to do some more hunting before I can tell you what I'd like to see more of. At this point, I like what I see!

21
Ashley H. | August 13, 2011 10:32 AM | Reply
I'd love to hear more about your fur babies.

I'll be emailing each of you. Thanks for playing!

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