Recently in Ramble On Category

Happy Mail updates

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As busy as things have been recently, I'm happy to report that I've been able to sneak out a couple of Happy Mail deliveries, both to the kids of friends.

My friend E. has almost-two year old twins who are obsessed currently with dustpans. They can scoop AND be used as guitars! So, when I saw plastic dustpans with bear and frog faces on them in the dollar bins at Target (I think, but it may have been at Dollar Tree...), of course I grabbed two and slapped stamps and labels on them. Only one of them made in intact, the other broke in transit, but I'm told the twins were thrilled with their mail and are happy to share.

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More recently, another trip to the $1 Spot at Target (one of my favorite places!) netted me some super cool Crayola coloring rolls and washable mini markers:

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A quick snip of the plastic on each end of the tube and I could hide the markers inside, then tape it back up and slap on some labels! A set each went out to the two young sons of another friend. They haven't arrived yet, but I remain hopeful they'll get there intact!

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Sent any surprise mail lately, Happy or otherwise? I still have a ton of ideas for these little bombs of joy, so I am hopeful I can keep it up!

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I am doing a happy mail project. I am sending anonymous postcards to people in my town who have beautiful yards, saying thank you for making our area so beautiful. It's like a treasure hunt now when I drive around, looking for nice yards and scribbling down addresses.

Oh oh oh, I hope I remembered to say thanks for the Happy Egg Mail! I love getting happy surprises in the mail, of any variety. Even a postcard is enough to make my day, and I should make more of an effort to send some joy out into the world via the USPS. Thanks for the reminder!

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Hair hair hair

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So, in the midst of the general body related angst post-pregnancy life brings, there is one bright spot. I really, really love my hair.

This is not typically the case for post-partum women, who lose hair in big handfuls after their babies are born, which is then replaced by "dumb baby hair"--little whispy growth around the hair line that doesn't look right. And I've experienced both of these phenomena, but I am still in hair love. I'm sure this is partially due to my hair being so thick to begin with that the post-partum loss doesn't even bring it down to a normal amount, much less make it thin. It also has to do, probably, with my hair being one of the less effected parts of my body--unlike the rest of this mess, it feels like it's still more or less what I started with. Mostly, though, I think it's down to prenatal/nursing vitamins. Those things are healthy hair magic.

I've had virtually the same hair cut for at least four or five years now, and I'm not sick of it. It's long, layered, and when I can be bothered, blown straight. Even back in my pink hair days (remember those?) it was more or less cut the same way it is now. I've been thinking lately, though, that I ought to try to branch out a little bit with styling. That's where this great tutorial comes in. Watching it, I actually believe I, with my hands all full of thumbs rather than nimble fingers, could maybe create that style (well, I'd have to buy the tools/products first, but after that). Doesn't she make it seem easy?


After you watch the video, be sure to enter the contest! And if you try this style, find me on social media and show me how it turned out!

Sweeps rules:

http://www.blogher.com/hair-sweepstakes-official-rules-week-4

Prizes & Promotions page on Blogher.com:

https://www.blogher.com/blogher-tv-weekly-hair-style-sweepstakes

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For me these are the pink hair days.

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How's that gratitude thing going?

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As I mentioned when I went through my yearly goals, one thing I want to focus on in 2013 is gratitude--that is, instituting some sort of daily gratitude practice into my life. I decided that the best way to ensure success in this was to at least start out with something easy. Something, perhaps, in an app?

So, I got Gratitude365. And, for the last month and a half or so, every night before I go to bed, I open it on my iPad (my iPad tends to live next to the bed so that I can surf/read when I am nursing the baby and before I go to sleep) and enter a few things for which I am grateful. Nothing is too small, and I don't worry about repeating things from previous days, I just enter whatever comes to mind. It doesn't take more than 60 seconds.

Most days look something like this:

Nothing earth-shattering, most days, just things that I've noticed enjoying or being thankful for throughout the day. The baby's sleeping turns up quite often. Food is mentioned frequently.

The app is simple to use, and you can add photos, which I think is awesome, but don't use so far, since I typically am not on my iPhone. It provides the view above, a calendar view showing which days have entries, and a list view that chooses (at random, I think?) one of your entries from each day. That one is sort of fun to flip back through:

So it's definitely easy, but is it helping me to maintain a more grateful outlook about my life? I think it is. I notice more and more as I go through my day I take note of things for which I am grateful (sometimes I remember them at the end of the day, sometimes I don't). And on particularly trying days, it's definitely helpful to go back through the things for which I previously noted my gratitude, and most of them are still true/relevant.

After doing it for long enough to make it a habit, I'd definitely recommend this app for those who are new to gratitude journaling.While it may not be the most creative or inspirational way to keep track of things things for which you are grateful, it is a very easy and convenient way, and that seems to me to be an excellent first step.

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Making life easier: new online tools I'm trying

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As always, I'm on a quest to improve my online life with fancy tech tools and shortcuts. Recently, I've found a few I really love, so I thought I'd share. Realize, as always, that I may be years behind here and I wouldn't know it. If I am, feel free to laugh.

1. OverDrive
I think I've mentioned that I recently started using my iPad as an ereader. OverDrive is the software my library (and a lot of other libraries) uses to allow me to download borrowed ebooks (and audiobooks) to my various devices. I love it. It's easy to use and so far works seamlessly.

2. Zemanta
Zemanta is a fantastic blogging tool that you can get as a plugin for your platform or as a browser add-on. It instantly suggests related articles as you write your post, as well as possible tags and images. It also provides the option of creating automatic links in your text, without the need to go to a website and C&P. I've only just started using it, so I'm not familiar with everything it can do yet, but it seems like an absolutely fantastic way to both blog faster and more efficiently and make connections that might be difficult to come up with on your own.

3. Apple AirPlay
My laptop is too old for AirPlay, but my phone and my iPad aren't, and I cannot tell you how exciting I find the ability to send Downton Abbey to my AppleTV wirelessly from Amazon Prime Instant Video. It pretty much makes my life.

4. C25KFree
Everybody has heard of Couch-to-5K, right? Well, I started the program a few weeks back, and I am aided immeasurably by a free iPhone app, C25KFree. It's a super simple to use interface, and it allows you to play your music/audiobook with minimal interruptions for instruction. Love it.

5. Simple Timer
This one is basic, but it does the job. It's a Firefox add-on that puts a teeny little timer in the corner of your browser, which you can use to count up or countdown. I am doing some hourly freelance work right now, and it's the easiest way I've found to keep track of my time, especially since it's dead simple to pause and re-start it when I click off my work window and over to Facebook or my email or something.

Hopefully someone out there will find one or all of those suggestions as helpful as I'm finding them. Please leave me a comment and tell me about your latest tech toy or discovery--I'm always on the lookout!
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I enjoy overdrive a lot, and I was enjoying c25k as well. I will probably get back into that one when I have more access to a treadmill again.

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BlogHer swag, unpacked

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I didn't get to go to the BlogHer conference this year, since Buzzy was only a few weeks old. Selling my ticket was the right decision, but I was still really bummed not to be able to go--I love the conference and look forward to it every year. To moderate my disappointment at not being able to attend, my amazing friend S. collected a box of excellent BlogHer swag and sent it to me.

There is really nothing in the world I love more than getting a box of stuff in the mail, y'all.

And I know some of you are stuff hounds, too, so I thought I'd show you what BlogHer had for me this year, in my absence, courtesy of S.

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What's in there??

-Alberto V05 Silky Experience Moisturizing Shea Cashmere Shampoo & Conditioner
-Pantene Medium-Thick Hair Solutions Professional Level Damage Repair Ampoules
-On The Fly Bottle Warmer Small Starter Kit
-Softcup Menstrual Cup
-evologie e system Intensive Blemish Serum and Stay Clear Cream combo
-Foot Petals Killer Kushionz Full Insoles
-reusable evo '12 bag from Gemline
-C.O. Bigelow Mentha Organics Sheer Lip Tint in No. 601, Barely There & Metha Lip Shine in No. 1190, Cinnamint
-Circo Long-Sleeved Toddler T-shirt, black with skulls
-Wittlebee Clothing Club onesie
-Specific Beauty Exfoliating Cleansing Cloths
-Cloud B Baby Mimicking Monkey Rattle
-$5 Carter's Gift Card
-Baby Anti Monkey Butt Diaper Rash Powder & Diaper Rash Cream
-imPRESS Press-On Manicure
-Olay Regenerist Wrinkle Revolution Complex
-Proactiv Clarifying Night Cream
-Nuance Salma Hayek Blackcurrant Intense Hydration Hair Mask
-Trojan Vibrations Vibrating Tri-Phoria Intimate Massager

Pretty good haul, right? I'm especially excited about the bottle warming kit and other baby-related stuff.

Did you go to BlogHer? Tell me about it! Tell me about your swag!

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I have to admit, some of that was courtesy of the evo '12 conference, and the Target skully shirt was courtesy of me.

Because Max refused to be interested in it and 2T was the smallest size they had, and I had to buy it for SOMEONE.

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Beauty Blogger Sample Swap Haul!

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You all, I just had the most fun. A few weeks back, I saw the call for participants in the Summer Beauty Blogger Sample Swap from Shannyn at Frugal Beautiful, and I scrambled to sign up. As you know, I get a jillion or so beauty sample boxes, and no matter how great they are, lots of the products in them are things that just aren't my cup of tea. So, I had a big box of stuff to give away, and the swap allowed me to send some of that on to someone who might like and to get a box of someone else's samples in return! Score!

I was partnered with swap host Shannyn herself, and I was really happy with the box I put together for her (see her reveal post on what I sent!). I was also stoked a few days later, when I got my box from Shannyn!

This was my haul:

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The rules of the swap called for sending "6-8 beauty & skin care samples and ONE full sized small beauty product"--as you can see, I got a lot more than that!

Shannyn sent:
-Mary Kay Color Cards in "Berries" and "Chocolates"
-Mary Kay Nourishine Lip Gloss samples in "Fancy Nancy", "Gold Rush", and "Sugarberry"
-Lauren Brooks Cosmetiques ColourFusion Lip Glaze sample in Guava
-a cute package of 3 Seedballz
-Sparklehearts Soft Conditioner sample
-Violent Lips Temporary Lip Tattoos
-Natural Newborn Bug Stopper Soap sample
-L'Oreal Kerastase
-WaterColors Water-Based Nail Enamel in San Francisco
-Beyond Coastal SFP 15 Daily Active Sunscreen
-Befine Daily Moisturizer and Befine Exfoiliating Cleanser sample packets
-Burt's Bees Radiance SPF 15 Day Lotion sample
-Trident Layers Juicyberry/Tangy Tangerine gum
-Amore Pacific Moisture Bound Skin Energy Hydration Delivery System & Treatment Cleansing Foam
-Taylor Swift Wonderstruck perfume sample
-ChapStick LipShield 365

A fun assortment, right? I liked that Shannyn included so many different types of products, including a few non-beauty items, like the fun gum and Seeballz! I haven't tried in Mary Kay stuff in ages, so the lip gloss samples and color cards will be fun to play with. The thing I'm most excited about, though, are the Amore Pacific skincare products--those look really promising. I also found it really fun to guess/remember which boxes originally sent certain products I recognized (like the lip tattoos and the water-based nail polish). All in all, I thought this swap was a great time and I loved participating. I'd even consider hosting a similar one in the future--would I have any takers?

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I'd definitely be interested.

I'm in. Please let me know when the next swap is ...

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What's the opposite of a minimalist?

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For years, I've been reading about minimalism. In my head, I call it "The Cult of Minimalism," because there seems to be an almost-religious fervor to it sometimes. And something about reading about it has always both appealed to and irritated me. I'm alternately fascinated and turned off. (For those who haven't felt inundated by minimalism, I'm talking about books like Living the Simple Life and The Simple Living Guide and blogs like The Everyday Minimalist). I get the idea, and I don't disagree with the general premise that we have become huge over-consumers and it takes a toll on everything from our wallets to our psyches to the planet. However, it seems that no minimalist philosopher is satisfied with preaching minimalism for just those reasons--it has to go farther. We have to believe that minimalism will make us HAPPIER.

And that's where it falls apart for me. I don't think minimalism would make me happier. My attempts at, which have all been abysmal failures, haven't made me feel much of anything other than frustrated. Not only have I not reached enlightenment, I never even get to self-congratulations. Minimalism, for me, has simply been something at which to try and fail.

Yesterday, I read a minimalist blog post over at Young House Love, which, as a home renovation/decor/design blog, I don't think of as a place where I'm going to find a ton of simple living advice. The Young House Love family, as it turns out, are minimalists when it comes to grooming/personal care and cleaning supplies. The blog post listed the small handful of each type of products they have and use.

I am the polar opposite. I'm not much of a minimalist about anything, but when it comes to grooming/personal care stuff, I'm whatever the minimalist opposite is (suggestions include maximalist and maxinista). I'm a collector. I'm, I'll cop to it, a hoarder. And, upon first reading, the post at YHL made me feel gluttonous, spoiled, and like a big freaking slob (OK, so the slob part is actually true, but I won't digress).

Then I started thinking about it, and you know what? There is nothing wrong with NOT being a minimalist. I hoard beauty products because I love them. They're a hobby. If they weren't important to me, it would be easy not to collect them. Other people collect other things, which are important to them. And yes, some people place little or no value on "stuff" at all, and have only what they truly need, and that's admirable. But of all of the admirable lifestyles and qualities towards which I want to work, it's honestly not that high on the list. I'm OK being a "stuff" person.

So, in the spirit of fun and because, after I got over my butthurt, I found peering into John & Sherry's shower and makeup bag just as appealing as I always find that kind of voyeuristic blog posting, I thought I'd show you some of the least minimalist areas of my house. As I looked around for what to include in this post, it occurred to me that I'm not the only non-minimalist who lives there--Mark likes to collect things that are important to him, as well. We're opposite, in some way--I have an easy time throwing things away, and a hard time not bringing things in, while Mark hates to throw things out but rarely brings in anything new--but we end up in much the same place.

First, a couple of Mark's non-minimalist cabinets:

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This is a cabinet filled almost completely with tea and tea-paraphernalia. Dude LOVES his tea. I can't make any excuse for the complete lack of organization--I took these pictures on the fly on a typical Wednesday night, no staging, so this is reality. There are, by my count, five teapots in that cabinet, as well as four cup and saucer sets, two alternate tea-making devices, and at least two French presses (though we actually own five, and that's more me than it is Mark). There are also no fewer than 50 varieties of loose and bagged tea, some of which have been with us for at least ten years and can't possibly still be any good. It's a battle I refuse to fight. If tea is his thing, let the man have his tea.

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This is our spice cabinet. At least it's a bit better organized than the tea zone! I'd say this cabinet is pretty well Mark's pride-and-joy. The picture doesn't make it clear, but that bottom shelf? Holds, at last count, 17 varieties of salt. With the exception of the small selection of vinegars and honeys at the right side of the middle shelf, everything else is dried spices. Does he use them all? I'd say 75% of them are in pretty regular rotation.

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This terribly lit picture is our bar. OK, to be honest, it's one of our two bars--we also have a standing wine bar, which is just as crowded. I'd say Mark and I are equally responsible for this collection--we both really love barware. Nothing in this picture (besides the actual liquor!) was purchased new--it's all either been gifted (the awesome art deco champagne glasses, the highball glasses, most of the shot glasses), handed down (the silver-rimmed cordial glasses, as well as several items you can't see in this photo), or thrifted (just about everything else). Turns out bar ware is really, really easy to thrift. So much so that I've pretty much put myself on a time-out from buying it lately, since there is no place left to put it. However, I love having it, I think it's a neat collection, and some of it (pint glasses, wine glasses, champagne glasses, high ball and low ball glasses) gets used a lot. Some of it (ice bucket, margarita glasses, martini glasses, shot glasses, swizzle sticks) never gets used, but I still like having it around.

And, because I'm being honest, I'll now move on to my "collections." Blessedly, Mark and I don't share a bathroom. This means that the master bathroom, which is "my" bathroom, is free to be completely overtaken by my stuff. Which it is.

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These are the products currently living in my shower. I actually don't think it's too bad--it's certainly been worse--but compared to the three bottles in the YHL shower, it's a lot. They are:
-Lush Turkish Delight Shower Smoothie
-Veet Hair Removal Gel Cream
-Head & Shoulders Itchy Scalp Care with Eucalyptus Shampoo
-Herbal Essences None of Your Frizziness Conditioner
-Australian Bush Botanics Body Scrub
-Lush It's Raining Men Shower Gel
-One Love Organics Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm
-Balea Sensitive Shave Gel
-Suki Exfoliate Foaming Cleanser
-Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
-LaRoche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel

With the exception of the Veet, which I need to throw away, every one of these products gets used within a typical week. There's also a razor in there somewhere, but it ducked the photo.

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This tray sits next to my sink and holds most of my non-shower daily use products. These include, in the cup:
-toothbrush
-Tom's of Maine Sensitive Toothpaste
-floss
-thermometer
-scissors
-nail clippers

And outside the cup:
-Tom's of Maine Long-Lasting Wicked Fresh! Mouthwash
-Suki Concentrated Balancing Toner
-Arcona Tabula Rasa Pads
-Skin Perfection Seven Seas Mask
-Degree Ultra Clear Red Satin Deodorant
-tweezers (those should be in the cup)
-hairbrush
-Origins Ginger Souffle Whipped Body Cream
-Bliss Lemon & Sage Body Butter
-Clairvoyant Beauty Depuffing Cucumber and Cranberry Eye Gel
-Korres Wild Rose 24-Hour Moisturizer
-Dr. Hauschka Rose Body Moisturizer
-Bio-Oil

Again, almost all of this is used within any given week, much of it every day. The only exception I see is the Tabula Rasa pads, which are way too harsh for my skin and I should get rid of.

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The windowsill holds yet another collection of currently-in-use products, though none of them are daily users. They are:
-almond oil (I put this in the bath when I have super dry skin)
-Flutterby Beauty Honey Bee Moisturizing Mist
-Haunt Batik Skin Glossing Oil
-another Haunt skin glossing oil (not sure which one)
-Aveda Smooth Infusion Style Prep Smoother
-Moroccan Oil Glimmer Shine Spray
-Macadamia Natural Oil Healing Oil Treatment
-Oscar Blandi Protein Mist for Restyling Hair
-Orofluido
-Jonathan anti-frizz balm of some kind
-some other kind of hair oil
-Alterna Bamboo Style Boho Waves Tousled Texture Mist

This is stuff I don't use so often. I wash my hair twice a week, and I put some sort of oil in it afterwards (usually the Orofluido), but that's the only regular use these products get. I'll occasionally use the body oil sprays after a shower, and even more occasionally try to do something else with my hair that requires some other product, but most of this stuff is just sitting there, expiring.

That doesn't seem all THAT bad, right? Well, you've seen my makeup before, so there's that, too. And then there's the stuff that's not in use yet...

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This is my sample product drawer. Yes, it's as big a drawer as it appears to be. I get a lot of curated subscription boxes, plus I buy a lot of things that come with free samples. When I get a sample of something, it goes into this drawer if I think I'll want to try it someday. If not, it goes into my swap/giveaway box. Then, when I'm traveling and need a small size of something, or when I want to try something new, I raid this drawer. Several of the daily/weekly use products you saw in the previous pictures started out living in this drawer.

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This is my full-size product drawer. When I buy something full-sized I am not ready to use yet, or get something full-sized in a subscription box, it goes in here. This drawer also holds the extras of things I buy in multiples, like toothbrushes and deodorant. I try not to keep more than 2 or 3 of the same type of product open at once (for example, two shower scrubs or two moisturizers), so that I have variety on a day-to-day basis, but keep my counter/shower clutter down some. Things that are waiting for their turn live in this drawer.

There's also a top drawer, but it's pretty sparse--it just holds things I use often that aren't out, for whatever reason, like eye makeup remover, face wipes, face wax, etc. There is also a shelf of perfumes and toners (for some reason, I have a lot of toners) that I forgot to photograph. But this is most of it.

Yeah, like I said, not a minimalist. But I'm oddly un-attached to this stuff, in a way. If it all burned in a fire, for example, I wouldn't miss it. I'd probably just start re-collecting it. And I LOVE to give it away. For me, it's more about the draw of new items, of trying new things, and of having a lot of options, than it is about holding on to specific things. I think I'm a bit odd that way--maybe more of an accumulator than a hoarder?

There is something oddly freeing about taking pictures of your cluttered up stuff and trying to make sense of them, to explain them to someone else. I kinda recommend it.

6 Comments

We use the same kind of conditioner, haha.

I totally get it. For some reason, I can control the stuff that comes into & stays in the house. My problem comes into play when I travel. I cannot, for the life of me, travel light. I have to bring just about everything in my bathroom with me when I go out of town. Too many pairs of shoes, too many changes of clothes. This became crystal clear to me when I was attempting to "backpack" through Europe during collage. Oh, I had a backpack all right. Plus a full sized rolling suitcase that I would have to stow each day at the train station. I did it, but it was a constant pain to my traveling companions. There are just some things that I cannot minimize. :)

Having a lot of stuff does not equal slob. This stuff is organized. I am a slob. Believe me. :)

It does my heart good to see the Zingerman's spices in your cabinet.

Agreed... Some of our collections sure make us happy!

Minimalism for the sake of minimalism is pointless, IMO.

The key to not being a hoarder is to use stuff, which you do. This post reminds me that I need to set some of my pretty stuff out and use it before it goes rancid.

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Easing back into social media, and the tools I use

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In the first few months of my pregnancy, while I was absent from the blog, I was largely absent from other social media as well. I spent some time on Facebook, but I abandoned Twitter completely, and I dialed just about everything I did online down. This was, for the most part, due to my complete focus on myself and how bad I felt--that's all I would have posted about anyway, and who wants to hear that every day? Now that I'm back with gusto, though, I'm looking at the ways in which I use social media and the tools I use a bit more critically. In a couple of months, I am going to have a baby, and by all accounts, that's going to seriously curtail the amount of time I have to dedicate to my online presence. Yet, I don't want to go silent again--I like being plugged in to this world, and I don't want to lose that. So I'm trying to build an arsenal of tools to help me interact more productively, not miss anything big, and stay "plugged in" when I have less time to do so. I'm also working on doing a better job promoting this blog. I think this is a good blog, and it should have more readers, more followers, more comments. I know it is up to me to make that happen, though, and so far I have been abysmally bad at it.

So, here's what I've been using. I am hoping that this post will generate other suggestions!

First, the hardware: I am an Apple girl all the way. At home, I use a four or five year-old MacBook Pro, which I love. I also have an iPad 2, which I know I am not using to it's full capacity, being as mostly what I do with it is surf from bed, and an iPhone 4s, which is probably also underutilized, as it mainly serves to allow me to text, take occasional bad pictures, and talk on the phone on the occasion when I can't avoid it.

Now, the software. If you're Internet savvy, none of this is probably going to be new to you. I am about a hundred years behind when it comes to this stuff. Still, there are tools I've grown dependent on, so they're worth mentioning:

1. TweetDeck
My relationship to Twitter has never been strong. I just don't like the interface, and, until I recently (finally, thank you to my friend Rachel!) discovered Tweet Deck, I hated not being able to easily manage viewing and posting on both Facebook and Twitter in the same place. Enter TweetDeck. It's an easy interface, it allows me to see both my Twitter and FB feeds, together, and it allows me to choose, with each post I make, whether I want it on just FB, just Twitter, or both. Since I use Facebook and Twitter really differently, and have different circles of friends on each one, this is really handy. My family, who are mostly Facebook users, are a lot more interested in my constant pregnancy updates than are my Twitter friends. I interact with companies/brands far more on Twitter. Twitter promotion seems to be better for the blog, but linking to blog posts on Facebook means I'm going to get comments from friends/family. All of those things can be easily taken into account. I also like that I can run TweetDeck easily as an app on both my phone and my iPad, and as a Chrome extension on a PC. What I don't like, however, is that I can't use it on my Macbook without using Chrome or Safari--it won't run on Firefox, my preferred browser, and my OS is too old for the Mac App. That's a bummer.

For those who don't already have me on FB and/or Twitter, I can be found here and here.

2. Pinterest
I love Pinterest. It appeals to my inner sense of "oooh, shiny!" Making Pinterest boards and looking at all of the cool things other people find is, for me, a very pleasant way to spend hours. Hours that I soon won't have to waste. So, I'm trying to figure out what role Pinterest should have in my new Internet life. I know a lot of people are using it for blog promotion, but I'm not sure it's right for this blog--I feel like I'm missing something key, at least as far as brand interaction and how much I love to introduce other people to products that I enjoy, but I'm not able to put a finger on it at this point. Still, I have to shout out to Pinterest because it amuses me so greatly. To find me there, click here.

3. Feedly
I love Feedly. I was a Google Reader user for a long time, but I like Feedly's "magazine" interface even more. I read a lot of blogs (though part of what I am trying to do right now is cut my number of subscriptions down--always tough!) and I love to be able to categorize them, easily see who has new content that I haven't read yet, etc. I also like the ease of Feedly as a Chrome extension, which is how I use it on a PC, or a Firefox add-on, which is how I use it on my MacBook, or an iPad app.

4. Polyvore
If you've been around here long, you know how I love Polyvore! It's the tool I use to create the outfit sets for Dress You Up. I'm a much less advanced user than a lot of the folks on Polyvore, but I love what it allows me to do as far as mixing bunches of clothes and accessories from different places and showing them to you! I also love that it has a "Clip to Polyvore" button you can install on your browser (just like Pinterest's "Pin It" button), so that when I am shopping online and see something I like/want to use, I can quickly and easily add it it. It's so much easier than the ways I tried to "online shop" for people before. You can see all of my Polyvore sets, including all the past Dress You Up sets, here.

5. Google Analytics
Like so many bloggers, I am beholden to the alter of Google Analytics, which tells me how many visits my blog is getting. I really wish I didn't care, but I do. I'm afraid, however, that I am badly under-utilizing the tool. All I really know how to do with it is go in and see how many unique visitors I've gotten within a specific time frame, and maybe compare that to another specific time frame. MAYBE I can tell how long, on average, folks are hanging out here. I know I should be able to do more, including figuring out when I should be posting for the highest possible traffic, and what types of posts are garnering me the most eyeballs. But I do not have that kind of brain, and can't figure out how to do that without a tutorial. Anybody got a tutorial?

6. Dropbox
Dropbox is a new and very, very welcome addition to my online life. I have it installed on every device I touch regularly, and I use it just about every day. For those who were under the same rock I was, it allows you to put documents or photos or whatever in your "dropbox" on at one location and then access them from another location! Brilliant! I guess it's basically the same thing as Google Documents, which I also use, but it's a lot easier to use--you just drag and drop, rather than going through an upload process.

7. Flickr/Photobucket
Though I use them both, I'm not super thrilled with either Flickr or Photobucket right now. They both do what I need them to do, as far as storing pictures (Flickr) and allowing me to share them easily (Photobucket). However, I don't like the editing capabilities of either one. I used to like Picnik on Flickr, but now that they have switched to Aviary, I'm less excited. And the editing capabilities on Photobucket are, to my mind, pretty bad. I do, however, love that I can easily take photos on my iPhone or iPad and share them as links or on Facebook or Twitter, using Photobucket, and I keep it around for that purpose. Flickr I have years of archives on, so I'm not likely to abandon it anytime soon, either. To fine me on Flickr, click here (my Photobucket is pretty much transitory holding space and not really worth visiting).

8. InvisibleHand
InvisibleHand is a Mozilla add-on that I am finding really useful for online shopping, especially as I look at baby stuff. When you are looking at a given product, it alerts you with a banner on the top of the browser if you can get the same thing at a lower price elsewhere. Apparently, the search includes about 580 retailers in the US, UK, and Germany. It's saved me bucks a few times and it's a no-brainer to install and use.

9. Google Calendar
While I have used Google Calendar in the "keep track of birthdays" sense for years, I have only recently started using it more seriously. And by "seriously," I mean that I have more than one calendar now, and that I have learned to share/invite. Two things for which I am finding it very useful are keeping Mark aware of baby-related appointments (midwife, baby care class, etc.) and tracking when all of my various subscription boxes are ordered, ship, and arrive. This message has been brought you by The Year 2004.

10. StumbleUpon
StumbleUpon is another one I have been using, though not well, for a long time. I love the idea, both as a means of promotion and as a way to find cool stuff, but I find the actual act of Stumbling really awkward, and it's something I almost never remember to do. Plus it seems more and more dead lately. Is that the case? Are the cool kids using something else now and nobody told me? If not, you can find my StumbleUpon page here.

Really, that's the core of my arsenal. I have a few other things on my iPad, but nothing I use often. I feel like I must be missing out on some awesome things, but whenever I try to find them I end up on some "100 Apps EVERYBODY MUST HAVE!" list and my eyes glaze over. Given the amazing advances in what is available on the Web over the past few years, I feel like I could be doing a lot better job in both streamlining my online time AND building blog traffic, but I'm a bit overwhelmed by the idea. So...I'm enlisting your help. Looking over what I use and how I use it, what am I missing? Is there something that could replace one or more of my current tools and be more effective/efficient? I know there are experts out there--help a tired pregnant lady out?

9 Comments

I am a very basic social media user (facebook, a few blogs, and one big message board), but I do think you are completely underestimating the time you will have to dedicate to social media. I know in the first 2.5 months, I had TONS of time to use social media (while nursing, while rocking, while bouncing, and with various wraps, I even could contribute). Use the first while to figure out what works for you so when you go back to work you have your streamlined system- that's when all the time disappears. (Next week for me- sadface).

I am also not a savvy. Some of the software you are using I even never heard. I am trying Invisible hand add on for google now. Thank you very much.

Seeing your mention of the midwife made me curious about the process you used to decide about your prenatal and birth care, if you don't mind sharing. I'd be interested to hear your perspective on the options that were available to you.

The iPad will help until baby learns how to use it, and that is sooner than you ever would think.

Let's see, I just got a Mac and iPad 6 months or so ago and haven't had a ton of time to explore stuff for me.

I am excited to try Feedly.

Dropbox - use them but not for any sensitive information.

pinterest - I am on pinterest but I have a love/hate relationship with it. I love beautiful photos but the people who seed pinterest moderate their comments by deleting anything negative. One technical thing I haven't figured out how they will work around - images disappear from websites all the time. I found a broken image and broken link to something I pinned. Oh and last complaint. Too many people post "inspirational" quotes that make me want to be snarky. Especially fitness quotes.

I thought stumbleupon was dead.

I play words with friends on my ipad while the 2 year old takes a bath (with me sitting right next to him) Oh and iMessage! Keep in touch with friends.

Make it easier to 'follow' your blog. Maybe It's because I'm navigating with my phone, but I can't find where to subscribe to your blog?

On the subject the other reader mentioned re: blog posts they'd like to see, I'd love to see one about the financial impact of a baby and how you're planning for that. Hugs to you and Mark!

I had missed Kati's comment the first time I was looking at this post. I had the same experience she did - if I was smart enough to start nursing at the computer with a Boppy in my lap, often kiddo would just fall asleep for a while and I could use the computer. Was easier to read than to write but like she said, wraps could help with this. I wish I had been a little more goal directed about that time but (a) I was tired and (b) I was tired. I did end up working like this, though, quite often, since my PT job back then was mostly curating content and not writing. I think if I'd had a smartphone, it would have been way easier.

StumbleUpon is dead to me. They fucked up their categorization stuff so badly, I would pin an article about No-Bake Energy Bars and no matter what category I picked, they would override it with "energy industry" and similar shenanigans. I used to find really interesting stuff to read using it and then not so much, so I quit.

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Am I going to become a Mommy Blogger?

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I was asked recently, in what I assume was a serious way, if I am becoming a Mommy Blogger/if What if No One's Watching? is becoming a Mommy Blog.

After my initial response ("Of course! Have you seen the Mommy Blogger market share?!"), and subsequent wave of irritation, I decided this question was worth a public answer. Chances are, if one person has asked it, others are wondering as well.

I don't plan to become any kind of blogger other than the one I've always been. What if No One's Watching? has always been, and will remain, a personal blog. I blog about what I am interested in blogging about at any given time, and that's not going to change. Right now, that means I'm blogging quite a bit (though not exclusively) about pregnancy, as pregnancy is what is foremost on my mind. I'm sure that it will also mean blogging quite a bit about kid-related stuff, as having a kid, especially a new kid, is going to put those topics on my mind quite a lot as well.

To my way of thinking, this isn't really a whole lot different than any other time I've gotten interested in something and blogged about it a lot (which has certainly happened, many times, since the beginning of this blog). All of these subjects (Buffy, makeup, clothes, politics, whatever) have been interesting to some readers and boring to others. I suspect parenting-related posts will have a similar impact. Jokes about the brand relationships it could help me achieve aside, I have no intention and no wish to move to a completely parenting-oriented blog. I like blogging about a lot of different things, and I've never had the attention span to stick to one topic, even when I have tried to. The thing that will remain consistent on this blog is the only thing that ever has--me.

All of that being said, I am excited to do some "mommy blogging." Heather Armstrong's letters to her first daughters on Dooce, are among my favorite things written on anybody's blog, ever. I want to do that. I want to do it for me, and for this kid, and if any of you are interested in reading it, that's great, but if not, you can just skip those posts. I won't be offended.

I also have a lot of ideas for posts I want to write about feminism and pregnancy, and feminism and parenting. These are hard ones to think through and write, which is why you haven't seen any of them yet, but they are still percolating in my addled brain. Again, I think those will be of interest to some of my regular readers, but if they aren't, they, like everything else, can be skipped. I know there are people reading now who don't give the slightest damn about makeup, or clothes, or Sons of Anarchy, and I would assume they just scroll past the posts on those subjects. I don't see why parenting topics would need to be any different.

So, does that answer the question?

5 Comments

Oh! I'm looking forward to reading your letters to your child. I enjoyed reading Dooce's to her daughters. The letters convey the tenderness as well as the joy and constant chaos of having a child. :)

So... can you tell me exactly what defines one as a "Mommy Blogger?" I've often wondered. Because one blogs about children, is one then nothing more than a Mommy? Oh, the discussions this could open up!

I love blogs that aren't limited to one topic and reflect the blogger's range of interests. I have tons of interests myself and write about whatever I feel like. Except for on the food blog but that's because it made sense to me to separate recipes out from my personal posts. So I'm happy you're going to stick to what you're doing.

Incidentally, I fiercely object to anyone referring to me as a "mommy". Not even my kid does that. But in spite of my strong dislike for that word - I think -parenting blogs have brought a lot of good work to the blogging world. There are definitely a lot of truly crap parenting blogs but there are quite a few out there that make me feel so much less alone in my worst parenting moments, that can make me laugh about the tough parts and remind me to appreciate the good moments. So while I rarely read blogs solely dedicated to parenting - I do value them.

And I am enjoying getting to read about your pregnancy journey though I'm not commenting so much to keep myself out of hot water.

I'm not sure if I've ever commented on your blog before, but I've been lurking for quite some time. I've really enjoyed your pregnancy posts, as I just had a little girl 6 weeks ago. I'm struggling to figure out what direction to take my food blog. Whenever I start to write a post, it usually ends up being about my daughter who is, while cute, not so tasty. I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how your blog evolves once you have your baby!

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Since folks are so curious, and the winner has already been identified, I thought I'd put y'all out of your misery and let you know what was in the scrambled basket picture for my discount store love giveaway.

First, an unscrambled glance:

IMG_0112-1.jpg

Now then, what's in there? And where's it from?

*Australian Bush Botanics Body Wash in Peach Blossom & Wild Lime (TJ Maxx)
*Fibra Natura Yummy 100% Superwash Merino Wool yarn in Raspberry (Tuesday Morning)
*Smart Planet Collapsible Eco Lunch Box (TJ Maxx)
*theBalm Black Tie Kit (Marshall's)
*BioSwiss Aluminum Travel Bottle Set (Big Lots)
*eeBoo "The Little Book of...Make Your Own Stories" notebook set (TJ Maxx)
*Le Creuset small silicone spatula (TJ Maxx)
*Lilly Pulitizer Mini Notebook in Desert Tort (TJ Maxx)
*Bic Mark It Color Collection, 5 piece (Big Lots)
*UT Wire Flex Ties, 5", 8-piece pack (TJ Maxx)
*Chronicle Books Stitch-It Kit (TJ Maxx)
*Piccadilly Essential Notebook Small-Graph (TJ Maxx)
*Potter Style "What I Read" Mini Journal (TJ Maxx)
*Branch & Twig colored pencils (TJ Maxx)
*Liberty Note Cards (TJ Maxx)
*Helen Lang Love Birds Note Cards (Marshall's)
*Pink Fashion Duct Tape, 2" X 15 yd (Big Lots)
*Fringe Studio No. 1 Grapefruit Scented Soaps (Marshall's)
*Burt's Bees Tinted Balm Shimmer Combo in Red Dhalia & Fig, (Big Lots)
*Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day All-Purpose Cleanser, 2 oz, Lavender (Marshall's)
*Mrs. Meyer's All-Purpose Cleanser, 2 oz, Lemon Verbena (Marshall's)
*Forget Me Not Grow Kit (Big Lots)
*Sunflower Grow Kit (Big Lots)

A bizarre collection, maybe, but I think everything in this giveaway rocks, and it gives a good idea of how wonderful discount stores can be for gift-type items, especially stationary and bath & body type products. And now I'll stop harping on this, I swear. For at least a week.

2 Comments

squee! I'm so excited! Thank you Grace. Between my daughter and I, there's not a single thing in that box that isn't going to be very well loved, I promise. And I will admit, I had no idea you could find so many cool things in discount stores. I will have to look for more than just clothes in Ross.

what a great basket. Thanks for sharing it

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Six months in...

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And I am so ready to be back to blogging. Pregnancy has gotten leagues easier recently, and I'd go so far as to say that I feel pretty stellar. I miss blogging. A lot. I really want to get back to doing it regularly. But now that I'm out of the habit, every time I try to write a post I feel like it is stupid and trite and nobody will want to read it! I need to regain my previous arrogance self-confidence!

So...help me out, those of you who are still hanging out there. What would you like to see posts about? I have lots of thoughts on lots of aspects of pregnancy and future-parenthood, but that area is so well-trod in the blogosphere I'm afraid to get into it. I've been reading lately, so I could post book reviews. I could post outfits, if only for your amusement (turns out I don't dress well when pregnant). I've been having lots of kinda interesting class-related thoughts and doing some writing elsewhere around that lately. None of it quite seems right here, though, in this very transitional feeling space. So give me a push?

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I honestly would like to hear your pregnancy/future parenthood thoughts. I think that you offer something fresh and you've definitely made me consider some things I hadn't previously thought about, or at least not in detail. So I say go for it. Blog what you know, and what is current for you, is what I say.

You might not know how you feel yet but how about fashion sacrifices you make because of baby? When I had my oldest, I gave up heels because I was still off balance and I was afraid I'd plunge forward while carrying her. I also gave up wearing stuff that made breastfeeding difficult. What sort of stuff will you find yourself compromising on?

Oh and I really need help sandal shopping. I default to sports sandals (think Tevas) because I think all other sandals look stupid on me.

If you have time, a quick post of baby and feminism would be interesting.

Feminism, specifically pregnancy and if / how it challenges or changes your feminism? Even if it's discussed often, I feel like you'd have something interesting to say about it!

I've really missed the Dress You Up posts. And I'd love to hear book reviews.

All of the above?

I love hearing about class from you. And just anything about the process of becoming a mother!

Any post is a good post!

I still yearn for your makeover advice posts, even if you never get to my submission - I just love that series so much!!

I like your book reviews, I've added a couple books to my "To Be Read" list because of them. And I like Joanna's suggestion too.

Oh My God Please Do A Post About A Summer Hat For Cody Please I Beg You.

I know the caps look funny there but all caps would have looked worse and I am BARELY restraining myself.

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Notes from the pregnant trenches

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18 weeks

Thought you all might want to see what I'm looking like these days. The picture above is from last week, so I'm a wee bit bigger now, though not much. Things are progressing nicely, as far as I can tell, though I still hate being pregnant more than anything else I've ever experienced. I'd love to return to blogging regularly, but it would really just be a litany of complaints at this point, and nobody wants to read that. So, just a note to let you know I'm still here, pushing on, and getting bigger every day. Hope you're all well!

2 Comments

Thanks for posting this, babe, it's good for those of us who are far away!

You look fabulous and very happy! Take care and keep us updated.

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Hiatus

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So I haven't been here for a while, and in reality, I'm not going to be here for a while longer. I really love blogging, and I really miss blogging, but pregnancy has ended up far more difficult than I ever could have expected. I have hyperemesis gravidarum, which basically just means relentless nausea, and am having a really hard time doing anything beyond the most basic things necessary to keep myself together and employed.

I hope to get back to blogging before this pregnancy is over, but at this point I can give no guarantees. I'll miss you all. Be well.

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I wish Baby Buzzkill was being a bit less...buzzkilly. Thinking of you, hang in there.

You've been blogging for eight years - if you need a break, you need a break! Take care of yourself as best you can, and we'll be delighted to see you again when you get back.

So sorry to hear about the hyperemesis. Sucks. Be well!

Oh best wishes to you, and hopefully it will ease up as your pregnancy progresses!

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The big news

| 6 Comments

So, clearly I am a very bad blogger lately. I even wrote half of my Sons of Anarchy post last week and then never finished or posted it. But there is a reason. For once, I have a pretty viable excuse.

I'm pregnant, ya'll. 8 weeks. Due June 26.

And it's bad. So sick, so exhausted, so unable to do anything beyond the bare minimum to keep life and limb together. I'll get back to blogging--I have tons of things I want to write about--but posts are probably going to continue to be sparse until I get a bit more energy.

And yeah, I'll totally post pictures of my enormous belly, as soon as I get one. Promise.

6 Comments

I think that is a pretty good excuse ;)

Congratulations! I hope you start feeling better soon.

Congratulations!

Congrats! Just think of all the thrifting you can do as soon as you feel better. It's a whole new world!!

:)

Oh my gosh, I am so glad to hear that! I thought it was going to be bad news!

Now that you have told the internet, does that mean I can start mailing you stuff?

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An ode to the age of Apple

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apple-logo-2.jpg

Steve Jobs' death has me thinking about computers, and the difference they have made in my life. I am, I think, a bit on the cusp of the online generation--I didn't have a computer or access to one as a kid, aside from a brief stint of playing Math Wizard or some such on a Commodore 64 my stepmother owned. There were, I think, four or five(?) PCs in my high school lab, but no Internet access. My first personal computer was given to me as a high school graduation present. It was Toshiba laptop that must have weighed 20 lbs and shut itself off every night at midnight like it was possessed.

Tempermental Toshiba aside, though, my first year at Reed (1997-98) was when the computer age got real for me. Reed's lab was full of shiny, candy-colored iMacs (Steve Jobs was a non-graduated alumnus). I got my first email address, my first ICQ account (boytoy--I was a much different person at 17). Being online turned slowly from a curiosity to a way of life.

imac.jpg

And in the nearly 15 years since, it has become more a way of life every year. The Toshiba was followed by a line of Dells, each one better than the last. I continued to use Macs at Reed and then later in job situations, so I was always fluent in both systems. And, like so many others in my generation and class, life changed when I got my first iPod (I think in 2002).

my-ipod.gif

Now, as the commercials said, I am a Mac. I do all my real personal computing on a MacBook Pro. I have an iPhone (first generation, will probably need replacing soon) and an iPad 2. I love the look and feel of Apple devices. I love the performance. I think the price is worth it. Nothing else I've seen or used has compared. In my suburban, upper middle class 30s, I am Apple's demographic, and I buy and will continue to buy their products like a good demographic should.

macbook-pro.jpg

These devices improve my life in ways that are hard to quantify. I can write without the save-every-2-minutes-it-might-crash fear my Toshiba taught me. I can communicate with something that fits in my pocket, something that fits in my bag, or something that lives on my couch. i can listen to music and even surf while on the treadmill. More and more, my world is online--that's where my most of my friends live, it's how I stay in touch with my family, and it's how I stay in touch with myself. And these devices go a lot way in facilitating those processes.

Put simply, I think Apple is better. I still use a PC at work and it can't compare with my Macbook Pro by any measure. I've had lots of other cell phones, and my iPhone blows them all out of the water. And the iPad? Well, that's simply the best toy ever. Yes, I realize there is a certain level of cultural snobbery in buying Apple, but there's also a pretty distinct performance advantage. They make good stuff.

So that's my epitaph for the late Steve Jobs. Thanks, Steve, for making such good stuff.

3 Comments

I wanted one of those colored iMacs so bad. I'm a recent Mac convert, but man, I love it.

Heh. I am a Mac too. Two of them at work, two at home, iPhone. I hope they can manage the transition and keep making good stuff.

Poor Steve Jobs. I didn't know he had a cancer. Sending prayers for his family. It's a pity he died at such young age.

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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.

1 Comments

Aw thank you so much! And to be mentioned with so many other AMAZING blogs and people, I am terribly honored!

If you haven't already found out, don't get your thread bracelets wet - they will completely unravel. With Emerson in my life, most have fallen apart on me (though I think it will be a fun project to recreate them!).

Again, thank you. :)

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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.

benefit i'm glam.png

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.

antibacwipes_lemonvebena.jpg

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."

HW_hibiscusflower.jpg

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.

spices at bloom.jpg

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.

4 Comments

I am a sucker for Method and Bonne Maman as well. My co-op briefly carried this French yogurt that came in little glass jars. I have no idea what the name of the yogurt was as the tops were not normal lids but the yogurt was good and the jars some of which I still have are adorable.

It's so true that packaging makes the product. If the packaging isn't appealing you won't buy it at all.

I buy Method products for the same reason - I like how they look.

And if you haven't tried Vosges chocolates, they are a fabulous splurge. Yum.

Yes!!!!! This entire feature speaks volumes to me...I love love love the beauty of a well designed package/product/label and your sheer enjoyment shines throughout this piece., did i just read (and knowingly nod in agreement) to the turn of phrase "makes my heart sing" -!?!- YES!!! This is it, exactly!!!

Wow!

I could happily sit and read updates to this everyday!! You've certainly sparked my curiousity and I'll be looking out for your next installment of beautifully designed/crafted/lovingly made packages/labels....

🐱

Leave a comment


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

19 Comments

Very neat! Thanks for posting some for other countries too. I can't believe there's a 'beauty' one for only $10 in Canada. Neat to see all the things that people want shipped to them.

I had no idea any of this existed. Fascinating!

I signed up with Loosebutton.com to receive my first LuxeBox in October - can't wait to see what's inside!

Thanks so much for the list! I'm going to give some of these as gifts for the holidays this year!

I want them all. This is amazing!

Thanks for doing this! I'm bookmarking for Christmas gift ideas for my sisters!

Wow, what a cool idea. I'm a total mail junkie too (as long as it's good mail). I see quite a few that are tempting.

Very nice! I belong to a similar service for sock yarn and patterns. Something for everyone!

Thank you for posting this!!! I am going to try that BabbaBox one this spring, I think...and I am definitely going to have to give Birchbox a try!

I'm very excited about these. There aren't a lot that ship to me yet, but I ordered the Luxe Box, and there are feedback pages for most of the ones I'm interested where you can ask to be notified when they start shipping internationally. The one Customer service rep I spoke with also said that the more requests they get, the faster they'll start that service. I'm planning to order from Not Another Bill as well, in the next month or two.

I hope you update regularly with goodie pics so I can live vicariously through them.

this is awesome! keep us posted if you hear of new ones!

You forgot Stitch Fix! They are amazing and I love their clothes. Click here for their website: http://l.aunch.it/u9be or you can read my post about it: http://itsgreeninseattle.com/post/8785781281/get-your-shopping-fix-at-home-with-stitch-fix

Wow! LOVE this!! Will absolutely be checking some of these out!! Thought I'd also mention:

http://www.stackmagazines.com/ - though I've not yet used this service I've definitely been tempted!!

( I love love LOVE magazines!! If I could subscribe to all that I love I'd be a happy kitty!! 😄 actually, on that note, are there any read-and-pass-them-along services/groups...anyone???)

Also I just spotted this t'other day / and also am thinking fun Xmas gift:

http://www.peopletree.co.uk/women/goody-bags

- excellent post!! - i'm fast becoming a fan of What if No One's Watching!!! 😄😄😄


Great post. Excellent research!

These subscription businesses are great, pretty incredible how creative they’re are getting.

I’d also recommend checking out monthlygifter.com (http://monthlygifter.com). It’s a marketplace for unique and local subscription programs. Full disclosure, I’m also one of the founders, but we love these clubs, and want to spread the good word about them as best we can!

Best list I've seen...

Can also add: Klutch Club

You should add standardcocoa.com too! It's a craft chocolate subscription service. Major yum! You get super hard to find chocolate and learn about the chocolate maker too... tasty and informative- what a great combo.

Great benchmark ! Did you ever find a "cultural stuff" service ? With a curation of books, comics, CD's (!), BluRay, invitations to exhibitions, ... I'm fed up with searching new cool artists, graphic novels, etc

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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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They say it's my birthday, an Etsy list

| 3 Comments

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?

3 Comments

wow, I hope you two change your mind about kids. you're pretty self centered- it's all about Grace.

http://www.etsy.com/listing/60136158/light-purple-pebble-leather-handbag
This is the bag we were talking about at breakfast.

As for the previous coment? Haters are going to hate.

I am IN LOVE with the dress.

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BlogHer swag giveaway!

| 29 Comments

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!

29 Comments

Am I the first? I want to see maternity fashion. ;)

Yep.

I'd like to see more about how you think the place/way you were raised impacts the choices you are making now.

Hmm. A year is a long time. I'd love some thrifting how-to. And more dress you up.

Facebooked and tweeted.

Maybe fitting room reviews when you go shopping? Those are always fun.

I loved the Happy Housewife theme....and philosophy on how to balance home, life, work, and shopping.

I would love to see another great series like the happy housewife series. I think that was my favorite time on your blog.

Just started reading. I'd like more posts about your thrifting strategy... I feel like I'm rarely successful because I don't know what I'm doing.

I just started reading, and I'd LOVE to see more about hard to fit body types. Like my butt is a size 10, but the post baby tummy flap makes me a 14....that kind of thing.

I really liked your happy housewife series. That was actually what got me started reading your blog. Other challenges like that would be interesting. I also like your dress me up posts.

I really enjoy your style makeovers, and I'd love to see more of that. I also really like seeing all of your thrifted stuff, and I'd love to read more about how you go about the process of thrifting and actually getting good stuff out of it. It can be overwhelming!

I'd REALLY love to see more random pics of your animal babies, and stories about them. I love the housewife cooking, especially. I have lacked the ability to cook real food for so long now that I really like seeing other people's ideas!

I'd love to see you do some mental health writing, mostly because I'm always interested in hearing new voices but also because I think it's something that needs to be raised again and again in social consciousness. Too many people write off mental health issues as fringe or odd when the reality is that 1 in 5 of us will have to come to grips with mental illness at least once in our lives.

Tweeted!

Facebooked!

I like when you do makeup reviews and I am excited to read what you write about the upcoming season of SOA.

I like plus size fashion info. and makeover/question answering.

This is kind of a weird contest, because I could have gotten my own swag, but I suck so very much at it and I'd love to see what you found.

I'm always a sucka for more animal stories. You know how I am.

I would love to see more reviews!!

I'm another one who loved the Happy Housewife series -- maybe a Happy Housewife on the Weekend series?

I'd love to hear more about your fur babies.

I'd love to see more about finding a style that suits you. It seems like you and a lot of outfit bloggers look so comfortable and "yourself" in your clothes, something I find hard to manage. It's also interesting to read what others have to say about their style :)

I, too, am a new reader (from the Remixers list!) so I apologize if you've written something on that and I just haven't gotten to it yet!

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!

More thrifting! More showing us what you end up doing with your new thrift findings around the house!

Awesome stuff. I love your thrift posts and I'd love to see more! I'm a thrift store junkie and I love seeing what other people find!

Love to see lots more thrifting and thrifting info.

I would love to see more giveaways
tbarrettno1 at gmail dot com

Hi Grace,
I love reading your blog. Mostly I love the fashion stuff like your 30 for 30 series. That and the thrifting. I also love reading everything you Weirton body acceptance sine that is an issue I struggle with.
I would like to see recurring topics, or series like posts. Like when you did the 50's homemaker.
And more food posts. I love reading about restaurants you and mark go to.
Keep it up.
Yael

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Lazier-than-the-Pioneer-Woman iced coffee

| 7 Comments

photo (19)

Over the course of the past few weeks, I've seen at least a jillion references online to the brilliant iced coffee directions/recipe given by Ree at The Pioneer Woman. As a big coffee snob myself, I, of course, tried Ree's method, and I think she's spot on. The iced coffee that comes out of her recipe is delicious.

I also think it's too much work and takes up too much space for someone with a single, regular-sized fridge. Large containers and cheesecloth? These are things those of us without big-ass ranch kitchens (not to mention those of us who don't actually cook) might not have. So...I worked on a modification for my lifestyle. And I think I've perfected it, so I'm gonna share it with my similarly ill-equipped (or, you know, lazy) readers:

1. Before I go to bed, I grind up a big French press worth of coffee beans. I used good beans. If you aren't going to use decent coffee, I pretty much think you should just skip this. I don't measure, generally, but for the sake of science, I did measure last night, and it's about 10 coffee scoops worth of grounds. More than you'd use in a regular hot French press by about a third or so. I put that in my French press and then fill it with water from my Brita pitcher. I know I should stir, but I don't want to get a spoon dirty, so I just kinda try to pour the water over the grounds enough that it all gets wet. I put the top on the French press and push it down very slightly to ensure that all the grounds are trapped, then I go to bed.

2. In the morning, I push the press down like a regular French press of coffee and pour the darkly brewed java in a water bottle to take to work. One mostly-full French press fits perfectly in my tall Oggi stainless steel bottles--17 oz, I think?

3. When I get to work, I fill my plastic tumbler-with-lid-and-straw (adult sippy cup!) with ice, then sprinkle about 2 tsp of sugar over the ice, then dump two individual half-and-half containers over that (oddly, though I drink hot coffee black, I like my iced coffee slightly sweetened and lightened). Then I fill the rest of the cup with the cold coffee from my bottle. The bottle will make three of these. I make sure the lid is screwed on tight and shake it up really well, then sip and slurp away!

4. On the weekend, I replace the office-provided sugar and half-and-half with my own skim milk and brown sugar simple syrup, but the rest of the process is the same.

Is this as good as PW's recipe? Not quite. However, it takes no time, no supplies I don't already have, and it's pretty darn tasty.

Long live the lazy and caffeine addicted!

Note: The photo above is my current iced coffee, in my cube, taken by my iPhone. Much like my cooking, my photography is not exactly in Pioneer Woman's league. We all do what we can.

7 Comments

Oooooo I like this very much!!!! I am going to try it out tonight. :)

I really need to try this!

See? This? This I can do. Large rubbermaid vats of cold coffee? not so much. Significant bacon for you.

Iced coffee is awesome to make at home because you can do it any old way as long as you let good coffee grounds soak in water and have a way to filter it. I have a Toddy maker now, which is nice because it is super easy and not at all messy. But I used to do it with a glass jar and a coffee filter and that worked fine, as well. That Pioneer Woman recipe looks way too awkward, with the giant containers.

Awesome. This, I can do.

Looks refreshing!

Brilliant. I need a cold coffee recipe for someone whose attention span is ->

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BlogHer '11: My Itinerary

| 2 Comments

Disclaimer: If you aren't at all interested in BlogHer or my conference plans, go ahead and skip this post.

You had to know it was coming--this is my first in a series of pre-BlogHer conference posts. See, it's coming up next week, and I am EXCITED. I love the annual BlogHer conference so much. This year has shaped up to be an extremely expensive one for me (cross-country plane tickets are not cheap right now, and neither are hotels), but it's absolutely worth it. However, since I am spending so much, I have promised myself to absolutely make the most of the conference this year. There is an increasingly popular sentiment from BlogHer old timers towards going to the conference but not attending much, if any, of the programming. I understand this sentiment and have ever subscribed to it in the past, but this year, I really want to "get my money's worth" and take in as much as possible.

That means an itinerary. I am not married to this plan, but it's what I'm thinking right now.

Thursday: Pathfinder Day
Pathfinder Day is something new this year--a full-day small group session the day before the official conference starts. I'm going to be attending the session with Ree Drummond and Kathryn Finney, "My Blog as Media Company." I'm honestly not sure why I picked this one, since What If No One's Watching? is far from media company status, but I'm sure I'll learn a lot. The session blurb is:

How to monetize and widely distribute your content, building an ever-larger media footprint. Spend the morning talking strategy, and how to organize yourself to achieve scale. Spend the afternoon exploring whether achieving that master plan is your dream come true.

On Thursday night, I plan to hit the Expo Hall and the People's Party, followed by the Queerosphere get together.

Friday: Day 1
On Friday, I will hit breakfast, but skip speed-dating, as it gives me hives. Then I'll start on sessions:
Session 1: I'm going to start out on the Minding Your Own Business track with the
"Bad Blogger Pitches (The Other Side of the PR-Blogger Relationship" session. As I'm interested in building my reputation and possibilities as a product reviewer, this seems like a really good place for me to start.
Session 2/Session 3: After lunch, I'll hit my second session. I think I'm actually going to go for the double full-afternoon option, in the The Write Brain track, "Essential Blog Content Development Workshop." I've been chomping at the bit for more writing-centered sessions at BlogHer since I first started attending, and I am psyched to see this programming this year and can't wait to take advantage of it.

On Friday night, I want to take in at least some of the Voices of the Year Community Keynote, and then I'll be getting my party on. I'm not sure which parties I'll be attending--depends largely on what my friends want to do. I'm a big fan of Sparklecorn, though, so I'll likely spend some time there, and I'm intrigued by the Open Mic idea, so I want to check that out.

Saturday: Day 2
I'll do breakfast again on Saturday, then hit some more sessions:
Session 1: I haven't decided on my session for this slot yet. I'm intrigued by two options. First, I'd like to check out the Minding Your Own Business track session, "
Your Blog Can Make You a Social Media Marketer," but I'm also interested in the sponsored session, "The Path to Healthy Financial Balance," since that's sort of one of my issues right now. I'll have to wait and see how I'm feeling about it then.

I may or may not take in the lunch keynote, and I think I'll skip the first afternoon session and see what other trouble I can get into at that time. I do want to be back for the last session, though, as Karen Walrond has a session on "Owning Your Beauty: If We Change the Conversation, Can We Change the Culture?" on the Change the World track.

After that, I'll either attend the closing keynote (I am curious about what kind of speaker Ricki Lake is) or take another break, and then I'll see what the night holds with parties.

Wow. Now I'm REALLY excited.

Are you going to be there? What are you doing? Is my schedule missing something awesome? Leave me a comment or get in touch with me--I'd love to hang out!

2 Comments

I am super excited! I need to go look at what sessions are available before I go so that, like you, I have a plan. Last year I didn't plan ahead and then it was so tough having to decide that morning what I wanted to do. I loved the sessions last year. I'm not so keen on the parties, though I admit I had a lot of fun with you guys at Sparklecorn (watching the dancing was truly priceless).

I would really have liked to do one of those all day sessions but I booked my flight for Thursday so I won't even get there until midday. Should have planned better for it.

um. where the fuck is MAKE OUT WITH LAURA?

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Some thoughts about honesty, and my face

| 1 Comment

photo (1).JPG

Extreme close-ups of my face are not my favorite photographs. It's not that I don't think I have a nice face--I'm pretty much good with it--it's just that it feels invasive, seeing a photograph of what you peer at most closely in the mirror. It feels like someone is looking at you far too hard. I also don't like photos of myself without my glasses--I feel naked and not-me.

So why publish the picture above, which I just snapped with my iPhone? Because I've been talking a lot lately with a number of folks about truth in blogging, about the creation of a persona, and about how much this blogger or that blogger really is who she seems to be. And I want to make a point here--there is no What If No One's Watching persona. This blog has grown from my online journal to something a bit (only a bit...) more structured, with more focus, but it's still just me here. If something I write doesn't ring true, if it seems like it's here because I was paid to do it, or because I am trying to drive up traffic, or because I think it would be good for my "brand," then we've got a problem.That allergy-eyed slightly hook-nosed mug above? That's me. That's all you here here at WINOW.

Have a good weekend.

1 Comments

I hate the idea of becoming my own brand. Brand culture is just not something I can ever really embrace. But I understand why people do it. Closeups of faces do reveal truths. I love them. I like taking them of myself because I'm more comfortable with the intimate truth about myself than the big picture.

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Amazon, don't you know me at all?

| 4 Comments

The other day, my email contained this gem:

gotmilf.jpg

Based on my purchase of a book of essays about women and body image, Amazon suggests I buy a book entitled, "Got Milf?: The Modern Mom's Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great, and Rocking A Minivan." The connection they are making, I guess, is one about body positiveness, but they kinda missed the mark.

4 Comments

I think it means the same people are buying both. Which is, if you think about it, mildly hilarious and totally doesn't surprise me.

That recommended book sounds gawd awful to me, even as a mom who already feels fabulous, looks great, and doesn't rock a minivan, but does rock a family Subaru...

Hysterical.

Hi Grace,

Guess what? I'm Sarah Maizes, the author of "Got Milf?" I came across your post and had to say hello.

Would it surprise you that your skepticism is my favorite response?! Just give me a chance to change your mind and see that this book is JUST a fun book - FILLED with humor about soooooo NOT feelin' "hot" but accepting we as moms are beautiful the way we are. E-mail me back if you'd like the opportunity to change your mind. :)

Either way, I hope my reaching out to you at least made you laugh.

All the best,

Sarah Maizes

Well that was strange in a Jack-in-the-Box kind of way.

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Incredible vintage stuff Tuesday

| 6 Comments

So I missed Thrift Share Monday yesterday. I have a good excuse, though. I was in New Jersey, attending the funeral mass for Mark's grandmother. She was an incredible woman who had a wonderful, full life and died at 96. This post isn't about her, though--though I was blessed to have known her, she's not my story to tell.

This day-late post is about her house and the treasures within.

I've heard stories about this house for years. It's a connected duplex, with two discrete halves connected on both the first and second floors by hallways, with a shared basement and attic. Though I've never seen a set up quite like it, apparently it wasn't all that uncommon back in the day. For many years (from the late 1940s or early 1950s, I believe), the house was occupied on one side by Mark's grandmother, her husband, and her four children (one of whom is Mark's mother) and on the other by Mark's great aunt (his grandmother's sister) and her husband. Through all that time, there have been almost no changes to the house or its contents. Mark's aunt, who is a bit older than his mom (maybe about 70?) told me she remembered the house being re-sided when she was a little girl, and a roof being put on when she was a young adult. The washing machine and dryer in the basement, as well as the boiler, were replaced in the 80s. Other than that, everything is pretty much the same.

Which is to say, it's pretty much my idea of heaven. Mark knew it would be, and prepared me, but I still ran around exclaiming over everything I saw in a way that was probably not quite polite, given the occasion. There wasn't a piece or two of nice mid-century (and older) furniture--there were rooms full. Every totchke, every glass or cup in the kitchen, every square of wall paper--it was all perfectly, resplendently, old. There was almost nothing there I wouldn't have picked up and considered buying in a thrift store.

But there were two highlights.

First, Mark and his dad took me down to the basement to show me where Mark and his brother and their cousins had spent so much time as children. It was a basement--work bench, laundry, etc. Except that every thing on the work bench, every can of varnish or paint, had a pristine mid-century label. As I was oohing and awing over them, I almost missed the chairs.

The room was more or less lined with perfectly lovely mid-century lounge chairs. Several wooden framed ones with cushions, and two absolutely perfect turquoise naugahyde ones. I gasped, ran over to them, and began to pet them lovingly while Mark and his dad laughed at me.

Then, later, Mark took me up to show me the "kids' bedrooms" in the attic. On an exposed shelf, I noticed a row of pristine vintage hat boxes. When I mentioned them to Mark, he grabbed one and looked inside.

They were full of perfect condition vintage hats, circa 1930s-1960s. There were probably six hats, wrapped in tissue paper, in each of the four or five boxes. Church hats. Party hats. Feathered headbands. Mark's great-aunt was a jazz singer. She kept costume hats. And they are all in perfect shape.

I so nearly cried. Just touching this amazing collection was a privilege. Being able to see these things in their native environment, before they are separated and given away, or sold, or (please God no) thrown away? An unbelievable joy.

This, my friends, is why I thrift. To be able to see these things that have lived such long lives, and occasionally to bring them home with me. But seeing them like this, as they were used in the lives of people I know, is so much more amazing. I am so honored to have been invited to take a peek.

6 Comments

While your squeals of delight may not have seemed appropriate for the occasion, I can imagine that Mark's grandmother would've been happy that you loved her home and things - just another way of celebrating her life. I'm sorry for your loss.

Wow! What an amazing story. I would have loved to be there! Are there photos? So sorry for your loss!

I agree with the first commenter. She probably would have loved your appreciation for her cherished belongings. My next door neighbor's mother died a month ago today, and she is having to clear out her mom's thing today (along with her sisters), because their stepdad wants it all gone. It is so sad that no one has room for it all, and a lifetime of collectibles will just be split up and mostly sold off. I am glad that you are someone who will treasure and maintain whatever does end up being passed on to you. Cheers! (I came across you through the link on Apron Thrift Girl's blog.)

My semi-grandparents (long story but the cousins of my grandfather - all grandparents died before I was born) had the most amazing collection of furniture, art, decor, randomness. My semi-grandma was very proud of her collection, bought with their paltry funds as newlyweds, inherited from relatives, or scored by her yard sale/picking ways (she was the original American Picker). She used to say she buys for her own pleasure, but the pleasure of her relatives hoping they will find them just as lovely. She used to say things like, "When I die, be sure to get this, it's worth money and I got it by..." and then would tell some amazing story.

I think the joy you had would bring joy to his grandmother. I know it would have to mine!

Grace, I'm so sorry for your and Mark's loss. Though it does sound like Grandma had a full and wonderful life! I am rooting for you to get the chairs, because A. You will love them. Not just "Oh I think they are FABulous' but will actively, happily, appreciatively, love them. B. I am a chair JUNKIE. Can't get enough of them, astounded by the number of mid-century chairs I find at my local Goodwill for 10 bucks. I'm not kidding. I am running out of room for them, and I'm considering letting go of the Danish modern settee I have because I can't find cushions for it and apparently, I'm never going to make them, despite having bought upholstery fabric for the very purpose. SIGH. I digress. C. Because they are a part of your and Mark's history, and what even better treasure to have than things that have a story. D. CHAIRS. Yum. It would be a Good Thing for them to come to you, and I hope that whoever is to make the decision will realize you are the best person to get them, for all the reasons stated above, and more.

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Trade me up!

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trade me up.jpgApron Thrift Girl has done it again! In conjunction with Amy from The Thrifty Chicks, she is starting a new project: Trade Me Up. Here's the scoop:

Here's how Trade Me Up works. It's like many of the other sharing opportunities here. If you'd like to take part, find something that you'd like to trade whether it's goods or a service. Write a blog post about the item with a photo. Also write out your wishlist of items that you'd absolutely love. Think big. Think crazy big.
Come back to ATG and add your link to your blog post where your Trade Me Up item is posted. For those taking part in Trade Me Up make sure to spread the word to your friends, acquaintances and blog readers. Anyone can offer you something. Share on Facebook, Pinterest & Twitter. Tell friends in your area what you are participating in and see if they'd like to trade.

I am so in.

Here's what I currently have available for trade:

A vintage cookbook from Maine, 1967:
Maine cookbook, 1967

Three Ben Steibel for Mikasa Duplex plates:
Ben Steibel for Mikasa Duplex plates. 1970s

13 Jackson Custom China Paul McCobb Falls Creek pattern saucers
Jackson Custom China Paul McCobb Falls Creek pattern--13 saucers

Three Franciscan plates
Franciscan plates

A 1950s West Bend bean pot
West Bend bean pot--circa 1950s

Small Winfield China Oats pattern platter
Winfield China Oats pattern small platter

Steubenville Pottery Co. Fairlane pattern small platter
Steubenville Pottery Co. Fairlane pattern small platter

Nelson Lebo salad plate
Nelson Lebo salad plate

6 Homer Laughlin/Syracuse dessert bowls
Homer Laughlin/Syracuse--6 dessert bowls

1950s Royal Stetson Royal Maytime china--1 dessert bowl, 3 bread plates
Royal Stetson Royal Maytime china--1 dessert bowl, 3 bread plates, c. 1950s

Yogurt maker (don't think it has ever been used)
Yogurt maker

Anybody interested in any of that?

Things I'd like:
1. A guest posting spot on a high traffic blog, or a high-profile blogger to guest post here on WINOW.
2. Catherineholm pieces of any kind.
3. Mexican pottery in the same style as my little owl.
4. Vintage wooden animal carvings.
5. Someone to sew for me.

8 Comments

The only thing I may have or sometimes find are vintage animal carvings. I will have to look around and keep you in mind.
I am not sure how I am going to do the trade up yet, but please come visit me and read my take on it.

I'm interested in trading for those Homer Laughlin dessert bowls (I thrifted a similar set within the last couple of years and we use them ALL the time), but I don't have anything on your list. I'll poke around what I do have and see if I can come up with another trade that you might be interested in.

What type of sewing are you wanting?

If I can find them, I have some of the Mexican animals and would love to trade for the Homer Laughlin (I actually thrifted the cups and saucers in that style back in the fall and would love to complete a set some day!!)

Oh, just saw you have another interested party in the HL.

Let me look thru my junk and get back with you! :)

Me again...I only see a couple of Pyrex pieces in your thrift posts, but I have a bunch I'd be willing to trade for those dessert bowls if you are interested. Do any of these pique your interest?

* Full set of cinderella bowls, small and medium round bowls, small round casserole w/ lid (Forest Fancies pattern)
* 1 1/2 quart bowl in okay condition - someone may be able to clean it up more (Yellow Rainbow Stripes pattern)
* Small round casserole dish w/ lid (Shenandoah pattern)
* 1 1/2 quart divided casserole dish w/ lid (Black Snowflake pattern)
* Medium round casserole dish w/ lid - gold on white and large cinderella bowl white on gold (Butterfly Gold pattern)
* An extra lid or two for small round casserole dishes

http://www.pyrexlove.com/vintage-pyrex-pattern-guide/

Thank you for visiting my blog! I think ATG's idea is really great! I can't wait to hear how it all works out!

I'd be interested in the yogurt maker..what type of sewing are you needing done? You can see examples of my work on my blog (link above) or my shop at www.froggygirldesigns.artfire.com.

I love that Nelson Lebo salad plate. The colors are gorgeous.

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Some thoughts on blog direction

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I've been giving a lot of thought lately to where I want to go with What If No One's Watching? in the near future. The more I blog about clothes, makeup, decor, shopping, etc., the more feedback and audience I seem to be drawing. When I asked you all what you wanted me to blog about, the great majority of you picked topics in that realm. This really surprises me. I've always tried to temper my posts about these things with other topics, because I thought too many of them might be boring for you all, but that really doesn't seem to be the case.

So...I'm thinking I'll roll with the changing focus that seems to be moving of its own volition at this point. I like to blog about clothes, makeup, thrifting, decor items, etc. Those subjects may not be "serious," but they make me happy. And if you like to read about them, then what would be better?

I'm not saying WINOW is now a beauty/fashion blog exclusively. I still just don't have it in me to be a single-subject blogger, regardless of expert advice. But I am going to start focusing a little more on the general category of "style." I considered starting a new blog for this endeavor (I even bought a domain for it), but in reality I don't see myself contributing regularly to two personal blogs, so I think it makes more sense to just let this one morph.

So, what can you expect to see here?

1. I am extremely happy with how the first post in the Dress You Up series turned out, and plan to do a lot more of those. If you would like to be a subject, PLEASE email me at gracemitchellwriting@gmail.com.

2. I am also really enjoying doing the Super Style Icon series, and have come to a reasonable solution as far as picture use, so I'm going to continue doing those posts.

3. I plan to continue posting along with Thrift Share Monday, as I really dig that community and it's always fun to show off my thrifted finds.

4. I am hoping to increase the product reviews and giveaways I do here, even if I end up having to fund some of them myself. I do seem to be slowing breaking into this space, though, so look for more of that content in the coming months.

5. Though it may not fit neatly in with the other categories I enjoy discussing, I intend to keep talking about money and finances here, because I think it's important and good for me. Like broccoli.

Other than that, I'm pretty flexible. I want to write about things that interest me, but I also want to write about things that interest you--especially things that move you to comment and join the conversation! I've noticed a huge uptick in comments with my 30for30 posts--does that indicate you'd like to see daily outfits posts more regularly? It's a complete time suck, so I'm not sure I can commit to doing it every day, but I could do it on a more regular basis if folks are interested. I also plan to keep working off the suggestion list I got with the Lush contest entries, which should keep me busy for a bit!

So here's what I'm asking you to do--help me build my audience. If you read and enjoy this blog, recommend it to someone! You can do it easily online (via Twitter or Facebook or a shout-out on your own blog), or even just mention it to a friend. I want this community to grow and I'm very happy that we seem to slowly be doing just that. There have recently been a number of comments from new folks here, and that makes me just about as happy as I can be. Let's keep up the momentum!

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Blogging for fame and fortune

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I was syndicated on BlogHer.comY'all! I did something rad today! I achieved a goal! I got a post syndicated on BlogHer! Please please please go over to my post on navigating the unemployment system and show me some love?

This bit of good news reminds me of something I was going to share with y'all anyway. I'm trying to get people to read my blog. I mean, I've always liked it when people read my blog, but lately, I really want a bigger and more involved audience, so I'm taking steps to try to make that happen. It's nothing Earth-shattering--I'm doing more contests, posting more regularly, becoming more involved in other blogs I like (which I am really enjoying for its own sake), and using Facebook and Twitter to promote myself--but it seems to be slowly working. I took a look at my Google Analytics today and learned that while my visits are actually down about 4% over the past month, time spent on the site is up over 40%! People are hanging out longer! My Feedburner tells me that I have 116 subscribers, up from an average of 71 since it was installed. These are not huge numbers by any means, but they're a good start. And if you are one of the new folks, welcome! I hope you'll stick around.

There are, however, pieces of blog optimization advice I am just not willing to take. The biggest one I am ignoring is the advice to blog on only one topic. While I understand the reasons to do this, I just...don't wanna. I participate in a single subject blog (Heroine Content), and while I very much enjoy that, it's really limiting. As someone who started blogging completely for herself and who still does it first to please herself, that doesn't work for me. If pushed, I say my blog does have a single primary subject--me. As my interests wax and wane, so do my blog topics. It may not garner me as much traffic as another approach would, but it keeps me interested in writing, which I think is more important.

There are other canards that I haven't yet gotten into, but I am considering. I'd love to trade guest posts with someone, for example. I'm looking around for more blog carnival type activity to get involved in. And I'm working on legal ways to incorporate more pictures that weren't taken by my point and shoot on a timer. Most of all, though, I am really trying to listen to you all. If you want to see something here, I'm going to try to do it. So let me know if there's something you think I'm missing that would improve the quality of WINOW--I live to serve!

3 Comments

I don't get the guest posting thing. Whenever I go to someone's blog and they have guest posts because they are on vacay or something, I just quit reading. I don't want to read some random blog post - I want to read the people I like. Is that weird?

There will never be a better way to gain readers than to visit more blogs and leave meaningful comments there; meaningful being the key word. And congrats on the BlogHer feature...I am off to provide some lurve over there!

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How I (try to) manage my time

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One of the suggestions for new post topics I got for my Lush giveaway was as follows:

how you allocate your time! It seems like you're someone who has a lot of "systems" (tracking what you've read and watched, for example) and I wonder how you keep track of all of them, what sort of records you keep on a daily basis, and just generally what your days look like.

This cracked me up. I am definitely someone who has a lot of systems. Many of my systems don't work, or get used, but I love attempting them. And a few of them stick along the way. Still, I have a lot more theoretical record keeping than I do real life record keeping. Though I strive towards being an organized and systematic person, in reality, I'm just not.

My life has undergone a lot of changes recently, particularly in terms of time management. As I've mentioned, I transitioned in January from part-time work-from-home status to full-time work-at-an-office status. That was really only part of the transition, though. I am also still doing two part-time freelance work-from-home jobs, as well as spending more and more time each week on outside writing projects. Things are busy in my world. And all this busyness is requiring a few changes to my "systems" and a little more coordination. Which is a work in progress.

At present, my days/weeks look vaguely like this:

Weekdays
7:45: Get out of bed.
7:45-8:30: Teeth brushing, makeup, get dressed, make coffee, feed animals, take, upload, and edit pictures for 30for30, if possible, write 30for30 post
8:30-8:50: Drive to work.
9-5: Work (I generally eat lunch at my desk and don't leave the premises during the day)
5-5:30: Drive to the gym, change clothes
5:30-6:45: Workout
6:45-7: Drive home
7-10: Play with the dog, eat dinner (possibly make dinner), work on freelance jobs, read blogs, blog, read
10-11:30: Watch TV with Mark (currently The X-Files), no computers allowed!
11:30-11:45: Shower
11:45: Go to sleep.

Now, I only go the gym 2 days in a row, then I take one off. So I always have 1-2 non-gym weekdays. On those days, the 7-10 time frame activities just start earlier. And Mark and I don't watch TV together every night, either (though we do most nights)--sometimes the 7-10 activities go right up to bedtime.

On weekends, the schedule is a lot less rigid. I always go to the gym at least one weekend day, and usually spend about 1.5 hours there. Sometimes I go both days. We spend many weekend hours watching football (soccer). I quite often go thrifting on one weekend day, which can take 4-6 hours easily. We tend to cook more elaborate meals on weekends. We do nearly all of our household chores (laundry, any type of real cleaning, etc.) on weekends. We take the dog for long walks on weekends. And we try to go to the movies at least once every few weeks. Recently, I've also been needing to spend at least a good chunk of one weekend day working on freelance work or writing.

In all honesty, life is busier right now than I'd like it to be. I'm weeks behind on the TV shows I like to watch without Mark (Bones and American Idol). I never have as much time as I'd like to write. I'm barely reading (usually just for a few minutes before bed). I have a constant running list of things I want to get done and I never see the bottom. It's hard to complain too much about it, though--I'm too happy to be employed, and I get too much enjoyment from the time consuming hobbies (like blogging!) that take up so much of my time.

As far as my systems go, the ones I really use take up hardly any time at all. Whenever I finish a book or a movie, I take a quick minute and log it on GoodReads or AllConsuming (I have iPhone apps for both, but I am usually close to my laptop). I log my workouts using FitLinxx, which is provided at my gym. I use an Outlook calendar for my day job and a Google calendar to keep track of everything else (deadlines for freelance jobs, birthdays, when the dog needs his flea medication, everything). I've attempted various housekeeping systems and calendars, but failed spectacularly at all of them, and recently realized that I'm just not all that concerned about the cleanliness of my house. I automate whatever I can (bill paying, prescription ordering). And I am trying, more and more, to cut things that are neither profitable nor enjoyable out of my life altogether.

This is actually a subject that I'm really interested in reading more about--does anybody have any links to good blogs or posts about scheduling and time management?

2 Comments

Yay, thanks for answering my question! Sounds like life is a whirlwind! I can relate to that (despite my obvious mid-day blog reading. ;) ).

I guess when I think about it, I've got a few systems too - goodreads is one inspired by you, and by my goal of reading more this year! It really is simple to keep updated, and fits in so easily to my blog reading time.

Found your blog after Caryn Garner started hers... If you'd do a post about what you do with your hair before you go to sleep (blow dry it, add product, etc.), I'd love to hear about it.

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Topics to look forward to

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OK, when I asked y'all to enter my Lush giveaway, it was with a question about what type of content you enjoy/would like to see more of here and WINOW. These were the results:

-food (how you are doing with your resolution to cook more now that you have your new job, and how you handle meal planning and grocery shopping)
-Big Lots posts and TJ Maxx/Marshalls, more stores where you can buy "unexpected" gifty thing
-caring for multiple pets when both owners work
-recommendations for your favorite blogs
-how you allocate your time! It seems like you're someone who has a lot of "systems" (tracking what you've read and watched, for example) and I wonder how you keep track of all of them, what sort of records you keep on a daily basis, and just generally what your days look like.
-shopping
-more fashion stuff and makeup recommendations. Maybe some awesome low end versions of high end cosmetics?
-books/feminism/women's issues.
-how to use accessories with outfits, maybe some cool hair accessories
-more plus sized clothes, thrifting or not, the best for certain body types etc.
-more about your thrifting
-instructions about the home industry you have (had?) with beauty products
-product or company comparisons
-individual LUSH products and how to use them and ur faves
-books
-making outfits
-makeup
-magazines
-accessorizing
-tips for business and biz casual for the bigger woman
-posts exploring different worthy causes.
-work wardrobes
-music recommendations
-how you keep up with your blogging
-favorite products
-more food type of posts
-pre-work routine
-makeup recommendations

What a great list! These are ALL things I can post about in the near future. If anybody has anything to add, please do. I love suggestions.

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Living Out Loud 25: Always Learning

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This month's Living Out Loud question:

Tell us something you've always wanted to learn. If you could go back to school, money and time not-withstanding, what would you choose? Is there something you'd love to master but haven't figured out the logistics of who will show you? Do you think you'll make time to learn these things soon or is it something you're saving for "when you retire"?

I don't know why, but I had a hard time coming up with a response to this question. I guess it's because I feel like there were no less than 100,000 things I could have chosen? There are many, many things I'd like to learn, were time and money not deciding factors.

I've always wanted to be "expert" at something. To have some thing, no matter how small or arbitrary, about which I know more than anybody else. To be the top of some tiny field. I think this is a fairly common desire, but very few of us actually achieve it. There's always somebody ahead of you. In all honesty, this desire to be the expert of experts on some tiny subject is one of the reasons I've always wanted to get a Ph.D. Arcane though the subject matter may be, a Ph.D. dissertation is a claim to the ultimate expert knowledge in whatever its topic. Writing a book would serve a similar purpose, I guess.

I wonder, though, if that desire is really about mastery as much as about recognition. Do I really want to be an expert, or do I want to be regarded as one?

Anyway, returning to the original question--were time and money not an object, here is a very partial lists of things I'd like to learn:

-meditation
-sewing
-flying an airplane
-animal grooming
-knitting
-any second (and third, and so on) language
-fencing
-kickboxing
-successfully opening and operating a business
-cutting hair
-perfect waterline eyeliner application
-recognizing valuable objects in thrift stores
-drawing
-playing the guitar (or better yet, the banjo)
-sailing
-skiing
-tending roses

In reality, I don't see myself learning any of those things anytime soon. They are just not my priorities. Most of them would likely frustrate me in that special way things that don't come naturally have always frustrated me. In the spirit of positivity, though, I'm going to end this post with a list of things I *can* do--maybe if one of them is on someone else's list, I can be a better teacher than I am a student?

I can:
-drive a manual transmission
-make a fantastic pie crust
-sniff out the useful, if not the valuable, in a thrift store
-type over 80 wpm
-cut 100, or 1,000, or 10,000, words out of a document
-cry on command
-touch my nose with my tongue

Any takers?

4 Comments

Crying on command would be an incredibly useful skill...

Do I really want to be an expert, or do I want to be regarded as one?

That's a very good point! When I think about it, I wonder if it's the knowledge itself I prize, or sharing it? (In those rare times when I have something to teach.)

Being able to drive manual is really, really useful, and something I never got the hang of!

I love that you ended it on a positive note with what you can do. I wish I had thought to "make a list". It would have been too long though! stopping by from Living Out Loud.

I cry way too easily, but I can't cry on demand...that's a powerful piece of artillery there! Great lists.

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Etsy Love: Valentine's Gift Ideas for Men

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So this is being published later than I'd intended. I seem to be getting ahead of myself and ending up behind myself lately. Sorry about that. Still, in case you haven't already selected a Valentine's Day gift for the man in your life (or, you know, decided not to do so), here are some Etsy finds that I liked:

belt.jpg
ISHAOR handmade leather belt, $66

I love small, daily luxuries. Men often wear the same belt most days. What better than a handmade belt upgrade?

cufflinks.jpg
Tomatomade Sterling Silver Custom Map Cufflinks, $38

Cufflinks are hardly a new suggestion, but I love the romantic nature of this custom map pair--any location that holds significance for you and your boy could be represented.

mens chunky beanie.jpg
Moon Beam Hand Knits Men's Chunky Cable Beanie, $35

We have an issue at my house recently, whereby Mark steals my hats. I think it would be better if he had his own. I love this chunky beanie for it's simplicity and manliness, as well as the 70% wool 30% alpaca yarn--that ought to be nice and soft for his head!

shaving set.jpg
Orange Fuzz Deluxe Eco Friendly Shaving Kit with Beer Shaving Soap, $47

This is not the first time I've shared my love for shaving sets. I think they're a great dude gift. I'm particularly fond of this one because it's packaged so cleverly in a vintage wooden cigar box.

mugs.jpg
Dorothy Domingo Sea Mist Cups, Set of 2, $40

We are very serious about our weekend coffee in my house. And we have at least a dozen mugs for it. But we don't have perfect, make-you-happy-every-time-you-see-them hand-thrown pottery mugs. Wouldn't they be a nice addition?

russian bear t shirt.jpg
Jam Jam Tees Russian Bear T-shirt, $14.99

Maybe it's the dormant grunge girl in me, but I love a man in a graphic tee. This Russian Bear one is awesome--cheeky and graphically elegant!

These suggestions really just scratch the surface. Depending on what your particular model of man is like, there are a million other ideas available on Etsy or in other handmade markets. Go forth and buy handmade for Valentine's Day!

1 Comments

Those cufflinks are a really great idea... I love that belt too!

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Bring on the honey love

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Here's something you may not know about me: I love honey. The stuff itself is pretty good, but honey scented products of all kinds are really the way to my heart. Something about that sweet, fresh scent makes me think it's spring and all is happy. So, since it's something like 12 degrees here today, I thought maybe I'd share some honey love with you all. Some of my favorite honey things:

lush honey i washed the kids.jpg
Lush Honey I Washed the Kids soap, $7.95/3.5oz

My love for honey bath products began with this soap from Lush. A friend recommended it to me, and I was in love at first whiff. Lush describes the scent as honey infused with bergamot and sweet orange, and it's simply the perfect honey scent--sweet, not cloying, and so warm and sunny and smooth. I also love the layer of beeswax on each bar. Honey I Washed the Kids is my all-time, hands-down favorite soap.

locctaine lip gloss.jpg
L'Occitane Honey and Lemon Lip Gloss, $12/.8oz

Honey lip gloss is great in theory--smells great, tastes great, moisturizes well--but sometimes it can be sticky and cloying. This L'Occitaine gloss is the exact opposite--the mix of light honey and citrus makes it smell and taste great, without being a Lip Smacker, and it doesn't go on goopy at all. It's spendy, but it's worth it.

burts bees lotion.jpg'
Burt's Bees Naturally Nourishing Milk & Honey Body Lotion, $10/8.6oz

I avoid most Burt's Bees products, as many of them contain lanolin, to which I am allergic. This fantastically (though strongly) scented lotion, however, gets its moisturizing properties from sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, and beeswax--no lanolin needed! It's a very light formulation--almost runny--so it's not hearty enough to stand up to my winter dry skin, but it's great in the summer. It is also really affordable, usually $10 or less for a bottle. The bummer? The buzz is that this stuff is being discontinued. I need to stockpile a few bottles if that's really the case.

Violette Market Vintage Beekeeper perfume, $15
In my searches, I've found two really great honey perfumes. The first is Violette Market's Vintage Beekeeper. The scent is described as "Honey absolute, golden resins, clove bud, cinnamon bark, creamed vanilla accord, and weathered wooden hive." It's perfect. The clove and cinnamon undertones keep it from being too sweet, and the vanilla is very subtle. I can't smell the wooden hive in specifically, but there is definitely a note that keeps the whole scent grounded. I've been using it for more than a year and I adore it.

queen bee.jpg
The Poison Apple Apothecary Queen Bee perfume oil, $13/5ml

Poison Apple Apothecary's Queen Bee is my other favorite honey perfume. It's a less complex scent, more straight-up honey, and it layers better with other scents. I'm not sure I like it quite so much as the Vintage Beekeeper, but I do wear it often.

Haunt Batik Skin Glossing Oil, $12/4oz

Sometimes, I just don't feel like messing with lotion. On those days, I turn to body oils, and my favorite is Haunt's Skin Glossing Oil in Batik. Batik is described as "smoky beeswax & resin darkened honey," and that's exactly what it smells like. The smell a bit smoky and a bit stronger than I'd usually choose, but I like it a lot on occasion, especially before bed.A little goes a long way, so the 4 oz bottle for $12 is actually a pretty good value, too.

lush it's raining men.jpg
http://www.lushusa.com/shop/products/bath-shower/shower-gels/its-raining-men

I'd be remiss in ending this post without telling you about the new honey product that has me thinking about my honey love in the first place. I went to Lush the other day and immediately fell in love with the limited edition It's Raining Men shower gel. The gel is formulated with actual honey, for cleansing and moisturizing, then the scent is supplemented with the same yummy formulation as the Honey I Washed the Kids soap. This stuff is fantastic, and I'm very tempted to buy a case before they discontinue it after Valentine's Day.

Do you have any honey-scented favorites? Tell me in the comments--I'm always interested in trying something new!

1 Comments

I like honey scents as well (I'll have to check out the soap) but I love Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Chestnut Blossom Honey. On my warm skin it works.

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New job survival kit

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As I've mentioned a couple of times, I got (another) new job. I'm really really excited about it. I start on Tuesday, and it's in a professional environment at a big national company. It will be very different than what I've been doing for the past eighteen months (i.e. working from my couch), and pretty different from what I did before that (work at a state agency, a university, etc.). This job will be, for better or worse, my entry into "corporate."

For the past two weeks, I've been lining up my ducks like only a semi-neurotic can. I have been to the dentist, the eye doctor, the gynecologist, the dermatologist. I have purchased new glasses, new tires, new shoes. I have made lists upon lists upon lists. And now, as my final unemployed weekend begins, I find myself putting together my job emergency kit, to take with me on my first day and stash in my brand new cube.

Everybody's job emergency kit is going to be a bit different, I'd think, and just like peeking into someone else's purse, peeking into someone else's emergency kit should be fun. So here's what I've got ready to go in mine:

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Caldrea Hand Balm (Mine is actually from the Caldrea Target line, in the Olive Oil scent. I love that stuff, and it is on clearance right now for $2.99/tube.)

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Listerine Zero No-Alcohol Mouthwash (A small bottled picked up for $2.50 at Big Lots.)

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Orange Tic Tacs (Like Paulie Bleeker, I'm obsessed with them. They taste like Tang! I got a 4 pack at Target for I think around $3.50)

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Shout Wipes (A little pack of four of them was around a buck in the travel sized section at Target.)

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o.b. Tampons (Exciting contraband, I know! I only have one box left, and it's coming to work!)

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Degree Ultra Clear in Pure Satin (Again, Big Lots--$1.50, I think.)

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Tweezerman Slant Tweezers (TJ Maxx or Marshall's, I'm sure--I always have an extra tweezers or three around. I think they're usually $5 or so.)

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Tarte Natural Lip Stain Pencil in Enchanted ($24 at Ulta)

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Cover Girl LashBlast Length Mascara in black (I got a two-pack for around $5 in the Target clearance section. Not what I'd usually use, but no way I am letting expensive mascara dry out at work.)

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NARS The Multiple in South Beach (from a past Birchbox)

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Hue Tights in Black (purchased, I'm sure, in a two-pack from Marshall's or TJ Maxx for $9.99)

There are a few more things I know I need to add: dental floss, a hair brush and hairbands, and drugs (Midol, Advil, etc.). But other than that, I feel like I'm covered. What do you think? What's missing? What's in your work emergency kit?

9 Comments

KLEENEX! BECAUSE NO OFFICE HAS THEM!

Welcome to being The Man. It's pretty awesome in my experience.

I has a lot of desk snacks. and lip balm. And packing tape. Spare allergy meds. Tissues. Tylenol. Pepto. Nerf gun & ammo. Tea. A spare set of silverware (or disposables or plastic). Mug & waterbottle.

Other than yours I have quarters for the soda machine, emergency lunches (soup), utensils, mini fan, napkins, tissues, stamps, and daytime cold medicine

Love your list - I'd include ibuprofen and safety pins.

i was going to make a Paulie Bleeker crack and you beat me to it. hmph.

My company is big enough that it provides a lot of stuff for employees: free soda/juice/tea/coffee/springwater, OTC medicines of a dozen varieties, tissues, tampons, lyson wipes, hand sanitizer, hand lotion, etc.

Still, I'm a hand lotion addict and I have 3 different Lush creams, sewing kit, real silverware, salt shaker, half dozen emergency lunches (cans of soup, noodle bowls) and granola bars. I have a pair of flip flops for emergency foot pain, a shawl, a fan, a Bose iPhone sound dock (because streaming music is locked down), a plant, a photo of Pixel and a photo of Mark and I in Costa Rica. Toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, lip gloss, my own glass and bowl.

That's my long rambling list. ;) Good luck. I hope you love it.

I never even thought of having an emergency kit! lol

I LOVE corporate. Even though it's mind numbing after a while, I love the smoothness.

I especially can speak well of it now, as I'm leaving the most toxic workplace I've ever encountered in my life. It's a small, family-owned company full of backstabbing and personal attacks. Give me corporate professionalism any day!

I hope you had a GREAT day at work today!

I dont have a emerg kit for work yet but it may be a good idea... right now everything is kept in my purse mainly bc of my kid haha but that's a pretty list!
someone commented with soup cans great idea for when your running out the door! One thing for me is pepper.. always need it but is never found around! thx for sharing!

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Living Out Loud 24: Total Recall

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Back on track this month with Genie's Living Out Loud, #24: Total Recall. Here's the question:

I'm curious what moments in your life are vivid. What are your personal snapshots where you could describe the scene down to everyone's wardrobe and the song on the radio? Was there a particular scent in the air? Was it hot or cold? When it was happening did you think it would be a moment you'd never forget or did your sharp memory surprise you? Do you generally trust your memory?

I don't have a particularly good memory, at least not for my own life. I'm excellent at remember song lyrics. I can remember the phone numbers of all of my high school friends. But that's where it ends. My autobiographical memory is pretty sketchy.

That said, there are snapshots. Little pieces of memory that come through clearly. Mostly, I remember clearly how I was using my senses, more than remembering the scenery. And I almost always remember the smell. I walked through a department store men's section once recently and smelled the cologne my first high school boyfriend wore. That took my directly back to that time, in a really sensory way. I could suddenly remember how this black bodysuit (remember those?) with a waffle pattern I wore at that time felt against my skin. I could remember the exact taste of Big Red chewing gum. I could remember the cool smoothness of the beads on a necklace he gave me. But that was it. No actual events. No conversations.

Another example, and the one that hits me most often, is the smell of wet rubber industrial flooring, like is found sometimes in the stairwells of office buildings. That smell puts me in the stairway of my dorm my first year at Reed, every time. I don't remember doing anything particular there, I don't remember conversations, or even the stress and insomnia I know I was feeling at the time. I remember the ways my other senses were being abused, though. I can taste clove cigarettes in my mouth when I smell that wet rubber smell. I can feel the way my stiff BDU pants hung on my bony hips. I sometimes instinctively shake my head when I this memory hits me, fully expecting droplets of rain water to spray out all around my hair.

Not all of these sense memory snapshots are pleasant. I was sick a lot as a kid, and had pneumonia several times. Every time I get sick in any way that constricts my breathing, I go right back to that time. Unfortunately, I don't remember the warmth of my blankets or the taste of hot soup--I remember the constriction of my chest, the fear of not being able to breathe before I had a good vocabulary to share that fear. I remember the incredible ache in my bones. The smell of Vicks Vapor Rub is suddenly in my nose, and it's all I can do not to gag.

I really wish I had more clear memories. It's part of the reason I am crazy about taking a lot of pictures of things--I'd like my memories to be a bit less fractured. And they fade so quickly. To remember Leo, to see his face in my mind, I have to concentrate. I can remember the roughness of his fur under my fingers very clearly, and can even come up with his not-very-pleasant odor pretty quickly, but to actually remember how he looked, or any specifics about what he did, I already have to try. The visual memories I have--of him or anything, really--are almost all like still pictures, not like movies. I think some people are really lucky to remember things more clearly.

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I also remember smells and sounds much better than visuals. It's so weird sometimes to feel like I just got smacked upside the head with the past, just by walking by someone with familiar cologne.

I have the same types of things happen. I will smell a certain smell and it will take me back instantly to my childhood. And certain times I can recall specific incidences with clarity, actual whole conversations but not anything else around that period of time. Really weird what our minds choose to remember and choose to forget.

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Getting my frugal on: the monthly Big Lots trip

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I have been reading a ton of money saving and frugality blogs lately. In part, this is due to my plans to cut back spending drastically in order to meet hefty savings goals in 2011, and in part it's because I have this fascination-horror thing with extreme frugality that keeps me coming back for more even when I don't want to. Still, I had these blogs in mind when I headed over to Big Lots today. I generally go about once a month, just to see what is there and to restock the things I know I can get more cheaply there. Last time I went, I posted about it. I was awfully proud of my discounts that time, and I *think* I may have done even better today, so I thought, in the spirit of the frugal bloggers, I'd tell you about my trip again.

Today's haul included:
-1 box Kashi trail mix granola bars, $2 (regular price $3.89-$4.69)
-4 boxes Annie's Mac N Cheese, $1.20 each (regular price $1.99-$2.99)
-4 tubes Tom's of Maine toothpaste, $2.50 each (regular price $3.74-$5.34)
-3 cans organic Del Monte diced tomatoes, $.80 each (regular price $1.69 each)
-3 bottles Green Shield organic cleaner (bathroom, kitchen, and all-purpose), $2.50 each (regular price $3.95)
-1 package 38 Hefty UltraFlex 13 gallon trash bags, $6 (regular price $6.99)
-1 50 square foot roll Reynold's recycled aluminum foil, $2 (regular price $4.10-$4.99)
-3 15 ct tins Zhena Gypsy Teas Superberry Pink Tea, $2 each (regular price $4.90-$9.99)
-1 32 oz bag Aunt Jemina yellow cornmeal, $.80 (regular price $1.98)
-3 packages 4-count Fuji AA batteries, $1.70 each with $1 each rebate (regular price $3)
-2 packages 4-count Fuji AAA batteries, $1.70 each with $1 each rebate (regular price $3)
-1 3 pack Scotch Brite scrub sponges, $3 (regular price $3.99)
-1 2 pack Mr. Clean latex gloves, $1.20 (regular price $2.70)
-1 4 pack Bridgeport glue sticks, $1 (regular price $1.99 for similar)

I know what a true frugalista would say looking at this list--most of it I didn't need to buy at all! Granola bars and mac and cheese are convenience foods, I can make my own vinegar-based cleaning products, and I ought to be saving aluminum foil and trash bags. And I hear that, I really do. But the reality of my life is that some level of convenience is required. Besides, lots of things on this list are necessities--canned tomatoes and cornmeal are both whole foods, and I'm not about to go toothpaste free!

My favorite find today, though, was the batteries. Like many people, I'm sure, we go through a ton of batteries--remote controls, Wii controllers, electric toothbrushes, and on and on. And yes, these are modern, non-frugal luxuries, but since we have them and use them, it's better to get cheaper batteries than more expensive ones, right? After the rebates, the batteries I bought today were $.70 for each package of four. You can't beat that!

The other thing that impressed me was the tea. I'm going to be trying to cut back on my coffee consumption in the next few months, and I am hoping to meet some of my hot beverage needs with green tea. The problem is, I don't like unadulterated green tea, I think it tastes like dirt. My fingers are crossed that these teas, with their berry flavorings, will go down a bit easier.

There you have it. Me, moonlighting as a frugality blogger! How'd I do?

6 Comments

I miss big lots so much. I always felt rich there. :)

Good haul! I definitely think dedicating part of a budget to stock up items is a good thing. I think convenience foods more than pay for themselves if it means avoiding a meal out or unplanned lunches, etc.

dude. you and big lots. my hell.

so these are things you would have normally purchased anyway, right? that's my fear: buying stuff "on sale" that i wouldn't have purchased anyway.

have you seen the pyschodoodles on TLC who got six hundred dollars of groceries for three fiddy? but it was like TWO GROCERY carts of gatorade and i'm sorry, if your electrolites are that out of balance you need to see a doctor.

Not too shabby! I need to visit Big Lots, you buy a lot of the things I buy!

And I agree w. Heather re: convenience foods. Things like Kashi bars keep me from getting take out for lunch.

Laura, I can honestly say every single thing I bought I would have bought anyway, with the possible exception of the tea. I would have bought tea, but I may not have bought that type of tea. Anyway, yes, this time it was pretty much all stuff on my list.

I never thought of buying batteries at Big Lots. I'm so glad you posted that because now I will definitely look for those!

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Love letter to magazines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 Comments

Have you ever read Yes magazine? It's a good magazine about progressive people doing progressive things and making a real difference. I think you might like it.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/

I like mother earth news occasionally...but I love reading about how to do farmsy/green/hippie kind of stuff.

How are you liking readymade these days? I used to LOVE it, but then started to feel like it was getting awfully bougie...the projects seemed to be expensive and difficult, the people they were interviewing seemed pretty richy rich...I don't know. It almost didn't feel like DIY anymore. Do you get that impression at all? Maybe I was just in a mood or something. ;)

I love magazines. I don't subscribe to any now. I save them for special treats. I still love Elle after all these years. I love RealSimple. I love the gossip rags (worst of the worst, I'm aware). I have a collection of Cook's Illustrated that I treasure.

One magazine that's gone that I loved so much was called "Kitchen Gardening" by Taunton Press. I have them all. I had to get many of them as back issues.

I have to say the only things we are subscribed to these days are The Oxford American (southern lit) and Entertainment Weekly. I used to sub to so many of the magazines on your list but some went bad (Remember when Real Simple was actually simple and not about buying "essential" $500 blouses?) or have pissed me off somehow because I'm more of a 2nd wave feminist than a whatever it is the people at Bust and Bitch are.

My subscribed-to list is similarly long, possibly longer - to the point that one of my resolutions a few years ago was to significantly cut back on my subscriptions.

We actively subscribe to:
Self
Vanity Fair (which I love and find more manageable than The New Yorker)
Whole Living
Bon Appetit
Beer Advocate

We've been gifted:
Outside
Cooks Illustrated

I miss Blueprint, and I'm considering reupping on Real Simple.

ugh, too bad. It seemed like it began to change right when i subscribed, of course.

If Make is good, will you post a review? I'd love to hear what you think of it. :)

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What did you get?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I got spoiled. I got a Nikon DSLR, a Flip camera, "Cook with Jamie", which is a really fun read, Vampire Knits, the slicer/shredder attachment for my Kitchen Aid, and my 4 year old wrapped her favorite book and put it under the tree for me.

The best part, though, was watching my kids. The 4 year old was excited about everything, but especially the cookies and juice that Santa ate, the orange kitty she asked for in her stocking. The baby running around making sure that we all oohed and awed over her baby and her sparkly pink shoes. It was awesome.

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Post-Christmas Sales: Where I'd look first

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mid-day update:

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

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

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

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

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Christmas cards

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

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

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

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

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

2 Comments

I like the Christmas letters - even the braggy ones. I want to know what people have been up to. I don't much see the point in a card with no picture and no letter or note. So we send out a photo and a letter. A personal note might be better, but then I'd be sending out Christmas 2007 about now...

I love it, Grace. I want to be you when I grow up!! ;)

Sonya

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6 Comments

When you return to your home state, can you help me thrift? I need to learn how, please!

I love the Chinese Laundry socks/tights at my local TJ Maxx. Though...they are $6.99 for a six pack. I didn't realize TJ Maxx had different prices in different stores!!!

I did get a pair of curtain panels for $14.99 and a couple of candy stocking stuffers at TJMaxx today. I almost bought a Calphalon skillet but I still didn't want to pay $20!!!! Maybe after the New Year.

Holy moly! We lost our Tuesday Morning lately. But I do love some TJmaxx and Ross.

That yarn is beautiful.

See, all you have to do is talk about yarn and you get me to comment :P

The notebook is really nice as well.

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Etsy gifts: the kiddie edition

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

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Pick Three Babushka Russian Matryoshka Cloth Dolls, $42

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

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Custom Fancie Heroes and Villains, $40

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

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Modern Christmas Lounge Set, $42

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

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Fun Felt Foods Sushi Deluxe Tray, $30

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

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

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

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Boy's personalized magnetic dress up doll, $30

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

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The Elephant Hat, $22

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

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Mr. Ethanol, $25

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

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Loose Vegan Mineral Eyeshadows, 5 mini jars for $13.50

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

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Wooden Hedgehogs and Mushrooms, $25

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

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

2 Comments

Sorry Fancie Fannies, I'm up to here with sets of superheroes and villains that DON'T INCLUDE ANY WOMEN. It's pretty sad when the representation of women in the toys is even worse than the representation in the comic books themselves.

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We have a cheesecake WINNER!

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I was happy to see a total of 70 entries for my Chubby Girl Cheesecake giveaway! So, I put numbers 1-70 into random.org and I got...

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Our winner is our very last commenter, number 70!

I want a vanilla bean!!!

Posted by Liane | November 25, 2010 12:06 AM

Thanks for playing, everyone!

1 Comments

OMGGGGGGGGGGGG No way!!!

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Small Business Saturday: Get Your Etsy On

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In honor of the American Express Company's Small Business Saturday (which I didn't get asked to promote like some of my favorite bloggers did, but I'll give a shout out to anyway), I thought now might be a good time to introduce you to the Etsy shops I currently have my eye on. I'm not including gifts for babies or little kids in this post, because they're a whole separate Etsy animal, to my mind. These are just things I would like or I think would make great gifts for the adults on your list.

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Cash Budget Pouches, $35

I have no desire to to actually do cash based budgeting, but I love the fabric cash envelopes at Beauty that Moves. They can be customized with any labels you'd like, or left without labels, so I'm sure they could be used for something else as well. There's free shipping right now, and the fabric choices are awesome.

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Oregon (from Blooms and Birds of the 50 States), $15

Dutch Door Press makes the most amazingly cool letterpressed art, including my favorite set, the "Birds and Blooms of the 50 States." The Oregon (above), Virginia, and Texas prints are all on my Christmas list, and they're a very reasonable $15 each, or $40 for a set of three.

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Super Bike Party screen printed glasses, $31 for 4

Aren't these screen printed glasses from Vital Industries the cutest thing? I'm a total sucker for pint glasses in general, and I love the clean-yet-quirky look of these.

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Coffee lover flour sack tea towels, 2 for $20

I love tea towels. LOVE. They're one of those great gifts are both useful and fun.These illustrated ones from Girls Can Tell, showing all the parts of four different types of coffee makers, are so perfect. And for those who prefer a different hot drink? The tea version!

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Personalized cosmetic bag, $22.99

JuJu Baju bills itself as "best bridesmaids gifts ever," and it may well be, but I can tell you they make ADORABLE custom bags. My favorite are the cosmetic bags, which can be personalized with the recipient's name.

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Atomic Apron half apron, $25

Those who remember my Happy Housewife project know I love aprons. Right now, my favorite ones are made by Atomic Aprons. The $25 half aprons are just lovely--I love every single fabric they are offered in. I think there's someone on my list getting one!

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Original insect framed paper cuts, $80 each

Paper cuts are just so cool, and these ones of insects, in their old-school oval frames, are awesome. They're made by Tina Tarnoff, who also translates her work into great pendants and cards.

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Custom tea dresses in vintage fabric, $130

I love vintage dresses, especially the ethereal 50s kind. But they so rarely come in my size. The answer? Clearly custom made vintage-esque dresses, like these beautiful ones from Sohomode. I'm not the marrying kind, as you know, but I have to admit, the idea of a herd of bridesmaids in these (like so?). Makes me consider it for a minute.

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Magnetic sea salt kit, $35

Another thing I am always a chump for it things that come in sets or kits. Just seeing several of something together makes me want to buy it. That said, the herb, spice, and tea kits sold by Cook Outside the Box would make incredibly good gifts for a foodie. There is everything available from an "everything" spice kit with 24 spices (for $84) to small "make a meal" spice kits with recipes (from $14). The packaging is perfect, too, with the spices individually sealed in little glass topped magnetic containers. I just love these.

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Darwin Origin of Species Butterfly Art, $97.17

I probably wouldn't buy art for a present for someone I didn't know well, but were I going to, I'd definitely consider the pieces at Terrordome's Extractionarium. They are so lovely--cut paper pieces, mostly butterflies, made from maps and classic books. As a bonus, they're sold already framed, so you don't have to deal with that hassle.

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Unlucky - Gyotaku Fish Rubbing - Limited Edition Print, $55

Another Etsy artist with whom I am completed enamored is Fred Fisher. Fisher's prints are made using the traditional Japanese Gyotaku fish rubbing process, in which paint is applied to a fish and then cloth or handmade paper is pressed into the surface to create the print. Fisher's pieces are gorgeous, and at $45-$85, really reasonably priced for original art.

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10 Wrapped Samples Vegan Cold Processed Soap, $17

There are a ton of soap makers on Etsy, and I can't really recommend one over another. However, I love ">Prunella's packaging, and I think a set of ten little baby soaps in one's choice of scents for $17 is a great deal. Prunella has a ton of scents available, too--all EOs and natural scents, no perfumes. If you prefer full-sized bars, she's got any five bars for $24, or single 5-5.5 oz bars for $5.50 each.

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Unisex dino print underwear, $20

As a kid, I hated getting underwear as a gift, but c'mon, who wouldn't be stoked to receive a handmade, recycled fabric pair of unders from Sheso Designs? Both unisex and women's styles are available in a variety of mostly colorful retro type fabrics, most for $20/pair.

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The Color Study II Locket, $54

I love lockets, and these color study ones by Verabel are amazing. Verabel has tons of other vintage lockets as well, both with and without embellishments, from $24-$78.

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Manly Shave Gift Set with Clove Beer Soap, $30

I'm often told that men are much harder than women when it comes to buying gifts, and I think it's often true, maybe even more so when you're trying to keep your gifts handmade. A shaving set is a wonderful solution. There are a few for sale on Etsy, but I think my favorite is this one by Dirty Deeds Soaps. For $30, it includes a ceramic bug, a beer shaving soap, a badger hair shaving brush, and a set of instructions for an old fashioned shave. It's put together really nicely and I think it would make a wonderful present.

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Dorothy - silk, cotton and barkcloth yo-yo necklace, $21

Everybody is wearing a statement necklace these days, and I still haven't found one I love enough to commit to. If I do find one, though, I think it's probably going to be at cookoorikoo. Her amazing handsewn yoyo necklaces? On sale for $21 right now, in tons of great fabrics. Maybe I can justify an early Christmas gift for myself?

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Pacific Northwest Seed Bombs, $7

These I'm getting for stocking stuffers for sure--they're just too cute not to. Visualingual makes tons of different types of these little bags of "bombs," including herbs and regional wildflowers. They bombs are seeds mixed with red clay and worm casings, so that all you have to do it throw them on the ground and they'll germinate and grow all on their own. The packaging they're in is super cute as well--screenprinted linen sacks that could be easily reused.

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Lot of 25 vintage hankies, $22.99

Honestly, I don't know who I could get vintage hankies for as a gift, but I couldn't not tell you about Nathaniel's shop. Aren't vintage hankerchiefs amazing? And in lots, with themes, for great prices? If you've got a vintage lover on your list, it would be worth considering.

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Journal starting kit #24, $14.59

I think these journal starting kits by Rebecca Horwood would be amazing gifts for teens. For about $15, the kits include a plain basic Moleskine journal 20+ pieces of original ephemera, 4 pieces of craft paper, and instructions/hints on how to start making your own original art journal.

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Modern Animal Clock--Elephant, $68

Finally, I have to show you the amazing wooden animal clocks made by Decoy Lab. The elephant is my favorite, but there is also an owl, a squirrel, and a hedgehog. The clocks are made of maple veneer or bamboo and are so amazingly cute I could have one in every room.

That's probably a good start! Got any favorites of your own? Please share in the comments!

3 Comments

Neat! I lol'd at your bridesmaid comment. (I suppose that's an advantage to un-marrying. You never stop planning a fantasy wedding. Though wedded bliss hasn't really stopped me either!)

Etsy is such an interesting place to poke around, but there is so much there that I can get overwhelmed fast. Thanks for a quick tour of some favourite places!

Great ideas Grace, thanks!

Love so many things you found. You should be a personal shopper.

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London souvenir contest winner!

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We have a winner! A package of London souvenirs will be going out to commenter #12, Kerri!

I'm hoping my best vacation ever is this coming weekend when we visit my parents. It is as close as we come to vacation, and it should be beautiful in NC with the leaves changing.

Posted by Kerri | October 19, 2010 7:49 AM

Congratulations, Kerri!

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Big BenMuch as I would have loved for it to be otherwise, it was simply not realistic for me to bring gifts back from London for all my friends and readers. So, I decided on the next best thing--a London souvenir giveaway! This is a non-sponsored giveaway--all the things in my prize package are bits and bobs I picked up while in London. As it's stuff I picked out, it's the kind of thing I'd love to get when someone comes back from a trip--think exotic candy and foreign fashion magazines. Nothing super touristy, and nothing super spendy, just a few little things to make you feel like you were there with us.

To enter, leave me a comment telling me about the best vacation you've ever been on, or the place you'd most like to go. Same contest rules as usual--extra entries are available for Tweeting or Facebooking the contest, or turning a new reader on to my site. I'll draw the winner in a week. Good luck!

18 Comments

omg me! I am the Ultimate Anglophile!

Hmm... My best vacay was this last year. We were in the Rocky Mts. and we had GIANT MOOSE! right outside our camping cabin. They're BIG! Way bigger than cows. I'm just saying. HUGE! We also saw elk. The sky/clouds are SO BIG! when you are up that high. It's pretty amazing.

I think my favorite is still our trip to Bali - it was very relaxing but had lots of cultural stuff and sightseeing as well as delicious food, too :)

Yay!! Gracie is back!!!!

My favorite vacation was one Steve and I took to the Smoky Mts. We went hiking, stayed in a beautiful cabin, spent hours in a hot tub in 18 degree weather...it was just a very blissful time for the two of us. I can't wait to go back.

My favorite vacation was our honeymoon on Kauai. We even ordered room service! I'd love to go to Disneyland. :) Love the trip pics, looks like you both had a wonderful time!

My favorite vacation would have to be the one time I've been to Hawaii. I was amazed that you could see sea turtles and dolphins and moray eels just…swimming everywhere. Like, right outside out hotel!

Hi...new reader-found you through 'noro 1 skein' search...in re: your fab stash at a thrift store last year. As to vacay-I would love to go to Europe again...I went when I was 10 (dad's family lived in Belgium and France), and I always planned to go back...the ex and I were planning on going (even got holiday gifts like Europe on a budget books) but then I was very unceremoniously dumped holidays '97. Haven't had the income since then to fulfill this dream, though am glad that relationship is long gone :D

My favorite vacation is still the time I went with my family to visit my uncle, while he was working in Nairobi. The trip included a three-day jaunt to the Kenya National Wildlife Refuge, where I got to see a real-life lion kill and took a night-time safari! Saw a bunch of eyes glowing in the dark, like straight out of a horror movie. But you wouldn't believe the amount of stars you can see from there at night! It was beautiful, something I'll never forget.

The best vacation I ever had was with my spouse. Technically, we were scouting places to move (Portland mostly) and loving the city. For fun, we took a few days to drive down the coast and meet up with a friend in a small town on the Southern Oregon coast. We fell in love with it and it's the town we now live in and love.

Best vacation ever: totally impromptu trip to San Francisco with BFF and her kids over the summer. One day she texted me and asked if I was up for a roadtrip, and the next day, I was packing my stuff.

Dream vacation: Disneyworld. I've wanted to go ever since I was little, and I really want to take my daughter.

I think my favorite was this last one to Mexico in March for my sister's wedding. We had a great time.

I'm hoping my best vacation ever is this coming weekend when we visit my parents. It is as close as we come to vacation, and it should be beautiful in NC with the leaves changing.

I would love to drop everything and travel to Japan for a month with my husband and almost 8 year old. Imagining unlimited budget, the bullet train, and never ending supply of delicious food......sigh. I subscribe with Fastladder since Bloglines is soon to be no more. Thanks!

I used to work on a cruise ship, so I've been to a lot of amazing places, but my favorite vacation was a family trip that we shared with my mom's best friend and her family: 8 adults (4 parents, 4 grown kids) on a houseboat on Lake Mead. We didn't anchor ourselves correctly at night and ended up "beaching" ourselves and taking on water. We had to escape the boat, huddled on the beach all night as we watched the houseboat fall to its side as the sun rose. It was such a mess, but we laughed a lot.

My dream vacation is to go to Barcelona.

By the way - upon your recommendation, I bought Bondo boots, too. Just got them in the mail yesterday. Wearing them today. They are FAB.

My best trip was to a couple's resort near algonquin park in Ontario. We had such a good time. If I could go anywhere I would go out East, though.

My best vacation was a trip to Ocracoke in the Outer Banks. We kayaked, rode bikes, sat around enjoying doing nothing. It was the best.

As for my dream vacation? I would love to go to Zanzibar. Not only is the name cool, but come on - FREDDIE MERCURY! :) Also? It looks gorgeous.

I really want to do Scotland/Ireland pretty soon. And more of Italy. Still haven't been to Hawaii. I want to go to Powell's, too. That's a vacation destination, right?

i'd like to do the transsiberian railroad....

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Vacation in photographs

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We're safely home. Wonderful trip-I can't even pick a best part. The photos don't do it justice, but I thought I'd share a few anyway.

Heather at the Columbia Street Flower Market:
Columbia Road Flower Market

Sign seen from the bus:
Sign seen from the bus

St. Paul's Cathedral:
St. Paul's Cathedral

Latte served with a tiny ice cream cone at Fortnam & Mason:
Coffee and tiny ice cream at Fortnam & Mason

Houses of Parliment and Big Ben:
Houses of Parliment and Big Ben from the Eye

High tea at The Orangery:
Tea at the Orangery

Enjoying our last night with some room service:
Room service! Last night of vacation

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Yay! Progress on the goals, and a lovely time! London is one of those places I never tire of seeing photos from. Although the picture from the Eye of parliament and Big Ben reminded me of a Doctor Who episode!

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London, Day 6 & 7: The final chapter

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EP_Spell_large_2.jpgThis is it--our last night in London. Mark and I are both so exhausted we've barely got our eyes open. It's been a truly fantastic trip, though, topped off today by a visit to the Enchanted Palace at Kensington Palace and high tea at the Orangery on Kensington grounds.

I'm not particularly interested in the monarchy, or in royalty in general, but the mix of creepy fairy tale and bizarre art of the exhibition was just perfect for me. I loved every minute of it, and definitely found myself curious about the stories to which the displays were--sometimes directly, sometimes not--referring.

Yesterday, knowing we were running out of time, we put the vacation pedal to the metal and hit the British Museum, Burrough Market, the Victoria & Albert Museum, and Notting Hill. It was exhausting, but well worth it--the V&A is fantastic and we had great pizza in Notting Hill.

Photo via Enchanted Palace website.

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I didn't check in yesterday, because I spent the last few minutes of my evening, which I had previously reserved for blogging, trying to figure out how to alleviate the discomfort caused by a gigantic blister just at the base of my second toe. Before my next major trip, I need to learn to embrace sneakers as a legitimate fashion choice. Really.

Hard to believe, but our trip is already wrapping up--only two more days here! We've seen so much already, I shouldn't complain. Still, there are so many things we haven't prioritized or that haven't worked out, I know I'm going to go home feeling like a second visit here is in order.

To catch you up, we started yesterday with a visit to the London Eye, which I loved. What's there not to like about a huge Ferris wheel? It was clear out and the view truly was spectacular. After the Eye we walked around the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, and watched a pick-up football game played by uniformed schoolboys, for maximum Englishness. We had a pub lunch (steak and ale pie and mash for me) and then walked through Hyde Park and attempted to go the Kensington Palace, but were there too late, so just saw the sunken garden instead. Then we headed to Liberty. Wow. There were very few things in the store that I could justify buying at those prices (though I didn't leave completely empty-handed), but it was incredible. I see now what Anthropologie is trying (and mostly failing) to do. The fabric room was one of the more amazing things I've seen recently. It was breathtaking for me, a non-sewer, so I can't even imagine what it would do to my needle-inclined readers. We ended the day with an Indian meal near our hotel.

Today we headed to the Tower of London. As far as tourist attractions go, it's exceptional. The prisoner's graffiti alone is worth the price of admission, though I suspect most people are more interested in the crown jewels (turns out they're shiny). I also enjoyed the displays on torture and execution. Guess I'm just gothic that way. After the Tower we went to the little market at Whitecross Street for a street food lunch (I had some so-so pad thai and an excellent custard tart). Mark and our traveling companion friends were ready for a rest then, so they headed back to the hotel and I hopped a bus to Oxford Circus to check out Primark and Top Shop--couldn't help but get the goods on the clothes I inevitably choose from Polyvore. It was really crowded, and most everything was well outside my size range, but it was still a good time and I did grab a few new makeup products and a great Wonder Woman t-shirt. We got dinner at a nuevo English restaurant near the hotel, which turned out to be a mistake.

Oh, and I stopped at a shop for more Jaffa Cakes and flavored Kit Kat bars. Can't forget that!

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What a great trip! I love the gothic stuff. I've never spent more than a few hours in London (rode the train through it to get to Scotland) but I've spent some time in Scotland and I love visiting the dungeons. Last time I went I visited a castle with its own prison tower and someone had a lot of fun doing up a dummy prisoner. No prisoner graffiti though. I'd love to see that.

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London, Day 4: Klimt (and Jesus)

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Today, I saw this. And I nearly wept.

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Then I saw this, and I really did weep.

Then I saw about 50,000 pictures of Jesus.

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London, Day 3: Ode to the Jaffa Cake Bar

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I already knew I liked Jaffa Cakes. I'd tried them before.

However, I was not prepared for the Jaffa Cake Bar.

It's a Jaffa Cake, in bar form. More cake, layer of orange, dark chocolate.

And I'm going to need an extra suitcase to get my stash home.

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Also: Today we went to the Tate Modern, ate Turkish food, went to Fortnam & Mason, and had fantastic French tapas. And I still didn't get any tights.

1 Comments

Oooh! Oooh! Bring me some! I love those things!

So jealous. Wish I could join you guys. I heart me some London. Have a great time!

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London, Day 2: The Fashion Edition

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I spent a good deal of time today sitting on the top deck of a double-decker bus, stopped in traffic/construction, observing the fashion of the people on the street below. So, here's what they're wearing in London:


  • A ton of women's oxford type shoes.

  • Ditzy floral mini dresses

  • Tights (which I still have not obtained).

  • High-waist pants and shorts, with almost corset-like buttoning.

  • Scarves. These seem to be required by law.

  • Skinny jeans for men.

I expected to see more women in high boots and skinny jeans--there are some, but I think there are more at home than here. Here, the trend is definitely oxford style shoes, and skimmer flats. The scarf thing is ubiquitous. And the men aren't wearing as many of those weird slicked forward hairstyles as I expected.

Also? Things are closed on Sundays here. Like, everything. But that's the only complaint I really have. I kinda love it here.

1 Comments

Maybe it's too early in the year for boots? Love the omnipresent scarves, though. San Francisco was the same way - must be the damp and fog.

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London, Day 1 (in list form)

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Thoughts on London so far:


  • The trash in London smells markedly different than the trash in New York.

  • Hotels that let you check in way early when you've just come off a red-eye are a wonderful thing.

  • Malaysian food seems to be something like Thai meets Chinese, and is good, but greasy and meat-heavy.

  • Relatedly, Ipoh white coffee is the most amazing thing ever.

  • I could very easily spend the entire week walking around, listening to people talk, and looking at old buildings.

  • I brought three pairs of tights, and they are all too short. 90% of my planned outfits revolved around these tights.

  • Gilchrist & Soames BeeKind products are lovely.

  • Jet lag is real, and red eyes are brutal.

Tomorrow, we're going to:

My goal for tomorrow is to actually take my camera with me when we leave the hotel, so hopefully I'll some pictures to show you then! Well, that's my second goal. My first is to buy tights that make it all the way to my crotch. Wish me luck!

1 Comments

Wow! London. I'm so happy for you. Nothing makes me happier than international travel. Have a blast. I can't wait to hear your impressions of London. I've never been (yet!).

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The Sketchbook Project

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The Sketchbook Project: 2011
Thanks to Mary at Unmitigated, I now know about this. The Sketchbook Project. My friends, it's a little piece of brilliance.

The deal is:

Each artist is sent the same blank Moleskine sketchbook. We've only got two rules: first, the book must be used in some way - no sending us back an empty book or a completely different book! Second, the sketchbook must stay within its original dimensions (because we don't want to have to provide an extra suitcase just for your book while we're touring the country).

Each book will be given a barcode so we can easily catalog it into The Brooklyn Art Library system. Once we catalog it, artists will be able to track where on the tour their book is viewed and how many times someone pulled it from the shelf - we want to make sure you can stay connected with your sketchbook!

You pay $25, they send you a Moleskin. You use it for any creative thing you want and send it back. Then, the whole collection does a US tour, then is housed permanently at the Booklyn Art Library.

Tell me that isn't the coolest thing ever? Public art journaling! I'm so in, and I think you should be, too.

Get on it, if you're interested. There are limited books available, and registration is only open until 10/31.

3 Comments

That's so cool. Keep us updated. I want to hear more about yours.

Awesome sauce. Are you choosing a theme or letting them pick a random one for you?

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What's in the bag?

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Yesterday, Hillary asked for a picture of the contents of her readers' bags. It is her early birthday wish! Who am I to deny a woman a birthday wish?

This is the contents of my bag. It's pretty typical, except that my keys and cell phone are not pictured (because they only go in the bag when I'm headed out).

The bag itself is from Rose City Totes and was purchased at the Saturday Market in Portland. My friend Skye had one at BlogHer and I loved it so much I ran right out to get my own on my next Portland trip. It's the perfect size and shape and zips closed. I'd love a few more, especially since the print I picked, though really cute, isn't terrible in keeping with a lot of my clothes.

The little bag with the stenciled owl on it was a gift from an online friend, and it houses my traveling pharmacy--Epi pen, inhaler, migraine pills, allergy pills, Tylenol, etc.

The pink pouch with the hedgehogs on it is from The Dainty Squid, and I can't recommend it highly enough. So cute, great prices, has held up great (I've been using mine for over two years). It serves as my wallet and currently contains no cash and the following plastic: two debit cards (personal account and joint account); bank-issued Visa; Discover card; $100 Visa gift card I was given as a birthday gift; library card; driver's license complete with terrible picture; Sephora Beauty Insider card; Costco card; very old gift card from Best Buy; insurance card; coupon for a pair of free jeans in-store only at the Gap (who do not carry my size in store); and Unique (my thrift store) frequent shopper card (25% off on Thursdays!).

The tampons are self-explanatory.

The purple and white case houses a pair of oversized tortoiseshell sunglasses from Zenni Optical, where I buy glasses like candy. The case itself is old and I think from Target.

The black square with the rubbed off logo is the compact Sephora gives you when you buy a gift card. I bought a GC as a gift for someone and kept the mirror. I'm a selfish ass like that.

The square with the water aviator girl on it is my business card case, from Uncommon Goods. It was a birthday gift from Mark last year. It holds my professional grant writer business cards and some cards I collected from clients on my last business trip. They don't seem to have this design anymore, but they do still have the other card case I have, this one (which I use for personal cards).

The package of baby wipes are a thrifter's staple--I always have something similar in my bag, since hand washing facilities are not always available. I used to use hand sanitizer, but I really hate the way it smells and feels--baby wipes are gentler, and at least they get the visible scum off my digits. My very favorite things to carry, though, which I have but don't seem to have in my bag right now, are these individually packages wipes from Giovanni. They are expensive as heck when I see them at Target, but I've seen them in T.J. Maxx/Marshall's quite a bit recently and have been stockpiling them.

Next to the baby wipes are the inevitable pile of receipts and coupons that find their way to the bottom of my bag. In this collection I believe there is a Caribou Coffee receipt/coupon, a McDonald's receipt, and a receipt from a Turkish restaurant in Fredericksburg. Above that is the stack of change that meanders to the same place, right now just three quarters.

At the very top is a small black moleksin that contains my thrifting list, a pen, and a tube of Stila Pearl Shimmer Gloss.

Whew! I didn't think I carried much until I started typing it out! And Hillary is right, this is fascinating. I'm definitely going to be peeking in on her other birthday wish granters!

1 Comments

thank you so much for posting. I love the little hedgehog.

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Living out Loud 20: You won't read this anywhere...

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This month, Genie's Living Out Loud challenge was just too tempting to pass up.

Tell us some of your rules. Maybe it's how the toilet paper goes on the roll. Maybe it's something about finding the perfect mate. Maybe it's some lesson that involves hiring J. Walter Weatherman to teach your children a lesson about leaving notes. It could be one really important rule or a list of guidelines for living. But the best part is they're your rules.

Rules, y'all. I have a few. However, the real rule master at my house is Mark. Mark has tons of rules. In particular, Mark has Food Rules. Important Food Rules. Food Rules that he frowns deeply upon being broken. And, as they are a lot more amusing, and a lot easier for me to poke fun at, that my own rules, I'm going to share those with you instead.

Mark's Food Rules


  1. Cheese and seafood shall never, ever, ever mix. No exceptions.

  2. It doesn't matter how similar pie and cake are to pastry, the former two are desserts and the last is breakfast food.

  3. Bacon may be eaten at any time of the day or night.

  4. Tea and coffee are to be consumed altered to tooth-aching sweetness.

  5. If it costs less than $1, it is not food.

  6. There are cookies and there are biscuits. Biscuits are for tea-time, with tea, cookies are for before bed, with milk.

  7. Convenience foods Mark enjoys (Chips Ahoy, pretzels, Snickers bars) are fine. Convenience foods that Grace enjoys (snack cakes of all kinds, Doritos, McDonalds) are disgusting.

  8. Never eat anywhere with a drive thru.

  9. Unaltered fruit is suspect. To alleviate suspicion, it must be macerated, poached, or at least sauced in some way.

  10. Never eat anything that has been touched by a pickle. Pickles are from Satan.

  11. There is a difference between a pickle and a cornichon.

  12. There is absolutely no reason to make a simple version of anything if you have access to za'tar.

9 Comments

LOVE.

1 was also a rule espoused by my dad but i love mixing cheese & seafood.

I assume 5 does not count in a foreign economy? or for snickers bars? :)

number 2 is abhorrently incorrect. generations of moffetts have been eating pie at every meal, starting with breakfast.

in fact, if my memory is correct, they served mark (and jenny) blackberry pie for breakfast during the epic cross country drive.

Howell is correct. i support anything the moffetts want if it involves pie.

however, the moffetts DO break my culinary rule: spaghetti sauce should never involve vinegar.

I agree completely with the drive-thru rule and the pickle rule. The fruit rule is funny. I had a friend in high school who refused to eat fresh fruit or veggies because it didn't taste exactly the same every time. "You always know what you're getting with a Twinkie," he would say.

I'm still laughing at the pickles are from Satan one. That is too funny. I especially laugh because I personally don't really "love" pickles but all 3 of my girls order EXTRA pickles whenever we eat anywhere that has them!

I am with him on no cheese and seafood. Dairy and ocean things are WRONG, even though I don't eat ocean things.

Coffee is not to be served with sugar. It is serious adult food.

I'm with him on the za'atar. I put so much on my hummous that it turns green.

I agree with #2, #3, and #5. Some drive-thru food is not suspect, as are some seafood and cheese items. (But only with parmesan. ONLY with parmesan.)

ROFL. His food rules crack me up, mostly because they seem so random.

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Not unwound

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Logging job

I am in beautiful rural Oregon, at my parents' house. With the exception of one-probably brief-conference call tomorrow, I have no work obligations. I have no real social obligations. I could, probably, turn off my computer now and not have any pressing reason to turn it back on for the rest of the week.

This is the time I've been desperately needing to unwind. I've been traveling and working two jobs for months and I'm a tense, paranoid, ball of stress. I'm not eating right, exercising, or sleeping well. I'm irritable, panicky, and burst into tears easily. Life isn't bad--it's just busier than I can apparently handle.

And yet, I'm not unwound. I have the constant feeling that I should be doing something and I'm not. I'm still not sleeping well or eating right. My stomach is giving me a lot of problems. Last night, I had mystery hives. I'm worried all the time that there is someone I should be seeing, some obligation I haven't met.

My hope is that a couple more days of enforced down time (and less online time, which I've been pretty good about since we got here on Friday) will mediate whatever switch in my head is stuck on overdrive. By the time I head home, I really want to feel centered and competent again. This place, I know, is pure peace. I just have to figure out how to let it in.

1 Comments

:( This might sound dumb but its true in my case. Could the changing of seasons be having a bit of an effect? I am so weepy right now, some of its my stressed out hubby, some of its hormones, some of its friends moving, some of its not eating right, and some of it is its just starting to act like fall here. Infact I could cry right now. Why? Good question.

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Post BlogHer swag giveaway winners up!

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Go over to the review blog and see if you won!

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The writing on the...rack

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Though I thought the pictures looked pretty, I never really got the appeal of having someone paint words on your body and take photographs of it. I've seen a few people do it on their blogs (like here), but never had any desire to try it myself.

So, tonight, when I saw that Karen Walrond (yeah, I know, I'm her fangirl) was painting words on folks' bodies at a BlogHer art event, I didn't think a whole lot of it. Cool, not interested. But after a bit, walking around and seeing people and reading what they had chosen, I decided to give it a try. Karen wasn't doing the writing anymore, but another lovely woman (whose name I so sadly did not get) was. I thought of a word, got painted.

And felt fucking great for the rest of the evening. There's something to this.

Photo 172.jpg

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My best to those who built this house

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So I'm sitting here at BlogHer '10, and I am in serious awe.

This is not sarcasm. I'm not starting a post in which I am going to go on to complain about sexist t-shirts or mommy hegemony bad wi-fi or anything else. I'm honest-to-God floored.

This is my third BlogHer conference. Th first one, in 2007, had, I think, a few hundred attendees. The second one, last year, had more, but I'm not sure how many more. This year, there are 2,400 people, 95% of whom have to be women. 2,400 women, who write and take photos and talk and advertise and who are heard, all here together. As I sat at breakfast this morning and listened to BlogHer founders Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins speak about the state of the blogosphere, it hit me. These three women built this. Starting from what I understand was very, very little in 2005, they made this. And no matter how uncomfortable I am around this many people, no matter how much I prefer small groups and all of that crap, I am in so impressed with them, so in awe of them, and so fucking grateful to them for doing it.

I can't promise I won't log some complaints later, but really, there is nothing that could happen here to lessen how impressed I am. I've met all three of the BlogHer founders, though none of them for more than a second, and I've never had the chance to tell any of them how much I appreciate the impact they've made. This will have to do. Lisa, Elisa, and Jory--thanks.

1 Comments

Wow, Grace, thank you! Really appreciate you taking the time to say just this.

Hope you had a great time at BlogHer...see you in San Diego :)

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One more post about packing: toiletries and makeup

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I can't resist--I'm a sucker for completion (except for with that whole cleaning my house thing). These are the contents of my toiletries and makeup bags:

From top left: Downy Wrinkle Release spray, Arbonne Intelligence Self-Adjusting shampoo and conditioner, Tom's of Maine Crystal Confidence deodorant in Citrus-Zest, Giovanni Cleanse body wash in Grapefruit Sky, Clinique liquid facial soap, Scope Outlast mouthwash, custom Diablo Canyon perfume blend from Violette Market, rosemary mint body scrub from Flutterby Beauty, Tide To-Go Instant Stain Remover pen, Neutrogena acne spot treatment pen, Crest Extra White Plus Scope Outlast toothpaste , Target brand toothbrush, Yes to Carrots Deliciously Rich body butter, Clinique Youth Surge SPF 15 Age Decelerating moisturizer.

Most of these are not actually things I use at home. I use all of these types of products, but not these specific brands. However, I have some sort of constitutional issue with decanting my regular products into little plastic bottles to travel, so I have a collection of travel sized products that I raid for trips. These come from three places: free samples that come with Sephora orders, bags of unopened goodies I buy at thrift stores (both the Arbonne and the Clinique stuff I'm bringing on this trip were procured that way), or Target (the natural-ish beauty stuff section has great miniatures--the Yes to Carrots and Giovanni stuff comes from there). I actually like using different-than-usual stuff when I travel, based on what I can find in travel size, as it occasionally introduces me to something I really like and start using at home.

As a travel-by-bus bonus for this trip, I tossed all this stuff in my large makeup bag, rather than having fit it in a Ziploc. Yay!

On the cosmetic side, I'm bringing:

From top left: Blinc Kiss Me mascara in Black, Per-fekt Skin Perfection Gel in Luminous, Lorac Perfectly Lit Oil-Free Luminizing Powder in Luminous, Benefit Georgia powder, powder brush, blush brush, angled eyeliner brush, eye shadow brush, tweezers, Tarte LipSurgence Natural Matte Lip Stain in Hope, Buxom lip gloss in Brandi, Buxom lip gloss in Krystal, Smashbox Limitless Long Wear Lip Gloss in Forever, Nars blush in Orgasm, Benefit Lemon Aid eye concealer/primer, Sephora eye shadow duo #8, Stila eye shadow in Kitten, Benefit Boi-ing concealer in Light, Stila Smudge Pots eyeliner/shadow in Black, and Benefit Creaseless Cream Shadow/Liner in Stiletto.

This is complete day and night makeup for me, with a few lip color options because I'm fickle that way. Unlike toiletries, I don't have separate travel makeup--the are my regular products. The Per-fekt gel, Tarte lip stain, and Stila Smudge Pot are all new and I'm looking forward to trying them out.

And now you've got the whole picture--everything I'm bringing to BlogHer. Well, aside from the electronics that will be in my shoulder bag: MacBook Pro, iPhone, Canon Powershot digital camera.

Now, the more interesting question--what will I be bringing home?

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More thoughts on packing: BlogHer!

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I've been reading quite a few blog posts recently about packing. Partially, it's a search for decent tips, since I've been traveling so much, and partially it's a side effect of reading a lot of clothing/fashion blogs. I'm fascinated by how fashionable people pack. My favorite posts, I think, have been from Maggie Mason, who has a series called "Packing Light" that I've really enjoyed. Maggie and I have pretty different styles, but I freaking love the way she puts things together.

So, since I've been enjoying looking in on other people's packing (and, of course, reading the blog posts popping up every day about what to wear at BlogHer), I decided to have a go at telling you all my current packing routine. If I can swing it, I'll take pictures of my outfits while I'm gone and show you what I actually wore out of what I packed.

The trip is thusly: BlogHer, in New York, from Thursday-Sunday, plus a two-day pre-BlogHer detour to New Haven to visit a VERY stylish friend. Weather is supposed to be warm bordering on extremely damn hot, with the caveat that the conference is in a big hotel and those are always overly air-conditioned. I'm traveling by MegaBus, so I can only bring one suitcase, but don't have any airline-type regulations. So, I need to get everything I need into a regular carry-on type roller bag, plus my laptop/shoulder bag.

My first step is list-making. I know some people are list people and some aren't. I am a list person. Even if you aren't a list person, though, I don't see how you can pack for a trip of any length without list. Things just get left behind. So I always make a list. For this trip, the list was as follows:

Carry-on bag

  • Wednesday casual outfit

  • Thursday casual outfit

  • Thursday night party outfit

  • Friday casual outfit

  • Friday night party outfit

  • Saturday casual outfit

  • Saturday night party outfit

  • Sunday casual outfit

  • PJs

  • Underwear/bras

  • Swimsuit

  • Evening bag

  • Toiletries

  • Makeup

  • Accessories/jewelry

  • Brush

Laptop bag

  • Laptop & cord

  • Camera & cord

  • iPhone & cord

  • Business cards & case

  • Sunglasses

  • Medications

Looking at the list, I decided I needed four day outfits, two party outfits, and a couple of extra tops. Between those and what I wear to travel, I should easily be able to make up three party outfits and five day outfits. First, I went through my closet and took out all the pieces I knew I wanted to bring, either because they have worked well in similar situations (lightweight black wrap cardigan, denim skirt, purple maxi dress) or because I am really into them right now (black geometric tank, white off-shoulder Moroccan top, black Swiss dot shirt). I piled those up on the bed:

Starting with those things, I began to make outfits. The maxi dress is good for one day outfit, the denim skirt and black and white geometric tank are another, the white off-shoulder shirt can be paired with my skinny jeans (add those to the pile) for a third. For a fourth, I went downstairs to the laundry room and grabbed my new lime green eShakti skirt--I'm loving wearing that in hot weather, and paired it with a fitted black tank. Easy!

Party clothes were a bit harder. I have a lot of dresses I'd love to wear, but they tend to be of the crisp cotton variety these days (I'm loving a shirt dress), and those do NOT pack well. I decided I'd wear one of those on the bus tomorrow (bus wrinkling being probably a bit better than suitcase wrinkling) and picked out two of my non-cotton, packable dresses that will work for parties. Neither are my favorite, but both are fine, and an unwrinkled non-favorite is a better bet than a super-wrinkled favorite.

Looking at the outfits I'd amassed, I checked to make sure they'd all work with my black wrap cardigan. The dresses wouldn't, so I added my shorter black embroidered cardigan for those. Then I added two or three extra plain tank tops, which can be used to layer or worn alone with any of the bottom I'd packed.

Next came underwear, bras, and pajamas. I added those to the pile on the bed. Then shoes. I decided that everything I was bringing would work with either my black wedge heeled sandals and or my flat silver sandals. Since I know I'll be walking a lot tomorrow, I decided to wear those and give up a bit of suitcase space to pack the wedges.

Looking back at the list, I saw that I was missing my swimsuit and an evening bag, so I tossed my suit and my favorite little black and white wristlet on the bed.

Finally, I picked out jewelry to go with the outfits I'd chosen and packed it into my little divided box. Worked out perfectly!

OK, moment of truth time. I rolled it all up and put it in my suitcase. And...it fits! With plenty of room left for my toiletries and makeup and hairbrush, which I'll add after I get ready in the morning!

How'd I do?

1 Comments

You did great! :) I will confess to owning a book on packing effectively. It has been read multiple times - not because I have no reading comprehension, but rather gleaning tips previously missed. You're well prepared to have a great time!

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Let's hear it for the obvious solution

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I've been traveling quite a bit this summer. The more traveling I do, the better I get at it--I have a better idea of what to pack, know which advice to take (e.g. "pack all your clothes around one neutral so that anything can be worn with anything else" is NOT good advice for me), which space eaters are worth it (extra shoes) and which aren't (extra books), etc. There is one packing issue that I've never found a good solution for, though, and it's bothered me for years--jewelry. I pretty much always wear jewelry, and am especially fond of necklaces, so I always want to pack jewelry when I travel. However, all previous attempts at packing it have ended up with my spending precious vacation time untangling a wad of necklaces, and I've broken more than one. I knew there had to be as simple solution for how to keep this from happening, but short of putting each individual necklace in a Ziploc (which I considered, but seemed too wasteful and anal retentive), I couldn't come up with anything.

Until the extremely obvious finally occurred to me.

Those plastic boxes with dividers, used for tackle, beads, embroidery floss, etc. They make small ones. Big, huge, duh.

So today I went to Michael's, headed to the beading section, and purchased the perfect solution for less than $3. It's a smallish box, about 4.5" square, with two levels. One level is separated into two compartments (perfect for chunky necklaces), the other into eight smaller compartments (perfect for earrings, rings, and smaller necklaces). The box itself is small enough not to take up a ton of luggage space, and I'll be able to bring plenty of jewelry options without tangling anything up.

Taking the DUH factor one step further, I also purchased several of the bigger divided bead boxes. A necklace in each cubby in my jewelry drawer (yes, I have a jewelry drawer, like I said, it's kinda my thing) means no more at-home tangles, either.

I love solutions this simple and obvious. Just wish it had occurred to me a lot sooner. Hopefully my mentioning it will help someone else who has been irritated by this one in the past.

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The countdown to BlogHer begins!

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I was hard at work yesterday when my phone rang. Glancing at it and seeing an unknown number, I groaned inside. Unknown numbers usually mean work. Still, I answered. And to my surprise and delight, I heard:

"Grace? It's Suebob."

The lovely Suebob was calling to ask if I'm going to attend the annual BlogHer conference coming up in New York in a couple of weeks. I am! And I'm getting excited about it, too.

BlogHer seems to be one of those things that only makes sense to folks who are into it, if you know what I mean. For the uninitiated, it's a two-day conference focused on women and blogging. This is the 6th one (and will be my 3rd). The days are filled with panel discussions and hands-on technical classes, the evenings with keynote speakers followed up with parties. It is, as the website claims an opportunity for bloggers to enjoy "hands-on learning, rich discussions, opportunities to meet with the brands that support them and plentiful networking opportunities."

Which still doesn't really explain why I'm so into it, does it? The truth is, I'm kind of a half-assed blogger. As Suebob said on the phone to me yesterday, I'm not particularly interested in improving my blog or building my brand. I know I'm never going to blog for money, and that's fine with me, that's not why I do this. For me, blogging is about communication with folks I know (online or in the flesh) and having a reason and a platform to write. So, crass as it may sound, I'm not really there to learn anything.

The primary reason I love it is for the people I get to hang out with. This year I'm especially excited, because I'll get to room with and spend some time with my friend and Heroine Content co-blogger The Princess, who I left in Austin a year ago and haven't seen since and miss horribly. I'll also get to see the aforementioned Suebob, who is nothing but lovely and so much fun to be around, and hopefully Laurie, who I also adore and haven't seen since last year, even though we live in the same neck of the woods now. If I can spend even a moment basking in the rather glorious presence of Karen this year, as I was lucky enough to do last year, then I'll be completely happy. It goes without saying, I'd hope, that there are a ton of other folks I'm looking forward to seeing as well, or even being introduced to for the first time this year.

Beyond the specific folks I go to BlogHer to see, I also go for the general environment. Though it does get a little rah-rah girl power for my tastes at times, the fact is that there aren't a lot of times when 1,000 or so women convene on any space, take it over, make it their own, and enjoy the living hell out of it. Sure, it's less political action group and more sorority party, but at least it's *my* sorority, you know? These are, by and large, women with whom I feel really comfortable, and it's great to spend two days surrounded by them.

Another great thing about BlogHer is finding new blogs. Every year, after I return, I end up with an even more bloated feed reader, full of new blogs to read. And as time goes on, I whittle some of them off, but a few always hang on and become new favorites, and if I've met the mastermind behind them, I'm much more likely to be interested in their content. My favorite from last time around? Gotta be No Appropriate Behavior, the blog-child of Laura, who I was thrilled to get to know at BlogHer '09.

Finally, there's an atmosphere of fun and...luxury? at BlogHer that just isn't part of my daily life, and I enjoy the hell out of that. The swag is plentiful and sometimes incredible, the parties are great fun, and I get to spend three nights staying (at a VERY reduced rate) at the New York Hilton. Like I'm not gonna be into that.

SO! Are you going to be there? Drop me a comment so we can be sure to find each other!

Oh, that picture? That's me at the MamaPop party last year, with a giant cardboard Edward Cullen. Not a great picture of him, but it's cute of me, right?

3 Comments

Hey. I hear that Mary Ellen is going, and bringing Rini. Jealous. :)

Gee, Grace, I would have figured you for a "Team Jacob" kind of gal. Seeing as how he turns into a big fluffy dog and everything.

Has anyone ever mentioned to you that guys who sparkle are usually gay?

(I apologize, I just couldn't resist. Hope you have fun! :-) )

BlogHer does sound amazing! I haven't gone into that world (yet), but I'm always so amazed when I discover another great blog. So much fun to read and so educational, too. The world is such a different place now, with online socializing. Very, very cool. Have fun!

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Rockin' the real vintage dress!

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My recent trip to Pittsburgh had many, many highlights (see my previous post with the cotton candy, for example). One of them, though, had to be the last afternoon I was there, when my friend Nonny and I headed to the Shadyside area of the city to do some vintage shopping. First, we stopped for a great lunch of crepes (hadn't had crepes in years, still love them, particularly with Nutella). Then, we hit a couple of great vintage stores. Pittsburgh vintage stores impressed me not just for their selection, which was excellent, but for their prices--vintage stuff I could actually afford!

The best place, by far, was a shop called Eons Fashion Antique. Among other treasures, there I found a long rack of 50s and 60s house dresses, in waist sized up to 36. Yes, that's right, 36. I never find real vintage stuff in my size (which, it turns out, is generally 18 or 20 in pre-vanity sizing)! And the dresses mostly had their original tags still on them! Amazing.

I bought three. Excessive, probably, but I couldn't help myself. They were between $22-$30 each! Less than $80 for all three, if I am remembering correctly. And last night, when Mark and I went out to The Wine Kitchen (excellent as always, though they were sadly sold out of the sea salt and caramel torta palla), I debuted one of them.

Vintage dress!

I don't think there is any question that this is the style for me--it works with all my assets and does a pretty good job of hiding my flaws. The question is, can I really dress like this every day?

6 Comments

That blue is gorgeous! I've always liked that sort of dress. Is it also called "shirt dress" 'cause I've heard that before. Anyway, it looks great on you!

You need to come back, and get more dresses!

I think you look fabulous in this dress. I keep trying to dress vintage but with my body it just doesn't seem to work. I think you could dress like this every day. It's such a classic look.

I'm in the "dress like that every day" camp. That's a great damn style.

Ooooh - FABULOUS dress! You should definitely dress like that every day. :)

That's a fantastic dress! I'm starting to think that high-waisted is the way to go.

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Don't I look like Jackie O? Just a little bit?

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Turns out, I LOVE sailing.

Me, or Jackie O?

Me, or Jackie O?

Me, or Jackie O?

For reference:
jack and jackie sailing.jpg

4 Comments

I totally see the resemblance.

definitely

You look fabulous!! Sailing definitely agrees with you! :)

Ah, that looks so relaxing and fun. Neat!

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Notes from the road

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I just returned home from the first leg of my summer travel adventures, which started with a business trip to Portland and ended with a pleasure trip to Pittsburgh. So far, so good. I didn't totally fail at packing, air travel treated me very well (including my taking a $400 travel voucher to return home this morning rather than last night, which I very much didn't mind doing), and I had a productive time in Portland a wonderful time in Pittsburgh. In two days, I start the next leg, a trip to Minneapolis to visit Mark's parents.

In Pittsburgh, I ate here. The dessert menu featured a "Six Penn Circus"--cotton candy, cinnamon doughnuts, whoopie pies, and Cracker Jack, all house-made. Oh hell yeah.

Grace with cotton candy!.jpg

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Holy sweet Jeebus! That looks crazy and good.

Are you coming to BlogHer? I was just thinking of the best parts of last year's BlogHer and you featured prominently.

My internet was down for a long time I am so happy to be back and catch up with your doings....thats kinda weird isn't? For me its like reading a novel, but there a real person behind these doings. Anyway, whats a woopie pie? Is that like Moonpies?

Cotton candy and cracker jacks - Yum!

Glad you're having a good trip.

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A contest and a plea!

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Since we moved to Virginia, my blogging has gone downhill. I can't say why for sure--I have the time, and I'm still very interested. Be that as it may, though, I am barely squeaking out a few posts a month, and I hate it. With BlogHer looming in the increasingly near future, I feel especially crappy about not providing my readers with any content, or myself with the outlet to write and communicate that I know I need.

So I need a boost. A project. A way to get back into blogging. I've been thinking for a while about what that boost might be, and I'm coming up blank. I started listening to this book, Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant. Basically, she started a blog to document her project of spending an entire year putting all of Oprah Winfrey's advice into practice in her own life (and the project later became a book). It's fascinating. It's not all about Oprah--it touches on all sorts of things. I've always liked stuff like that--people who do something every day and blog about it. The Little Brown Dress Project. All the blogs that post daily outfits. My friend El's husband's hat-a-day blog. Even my own History Making Women series. I like the idea of committing to doing something every day for a set period of time and following through on that commitment--it demands some discipline, which I could frankly use, and the rote-ness of it adds something to what you get out of it.

So, this is where you come in. Give me a project. I'm gonna decide on the time frame, and it's going to depend on what it is, but I want you to task me. Tell me what I should do.

And I'm serious about this, so there's a prize. Whomever gives me the idea I take up gets an extra special sample basket, made up of stuff from the Little Black Box and Out of the Box sampler boxes I get every month. Not just the stuff I didn't want, either--the good stuff. But here's make your suggestions fast, because this contest ends in one week's time, at midnight on Thursday, April 29. My plan will be to start my new task on May 1.

Go!

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I'm seriously going to get right on thinking about this. THe only thing I know is that it needs photos. Lots and lots of photos.

Every day, you must make up a convincing character background and today's intentions for one random stranger who crosses your path. For example, that young blond girl you pass on the sidewalk when you're walking your dog on Tuesday? Who is she? Where is she headed? Why is she out here at 2:00 on a Tues. afternoon?

That guy at the thrift store Wed.; what was he doing there? He's not your typical thrift store denizen. Flush him out!

Everyone's got a story. I want to hear them!

Draw something every day. At least a brief sketch, but more elaborate on days where the mood hits you just right. Scan and post it on your blog daily, with a short explanation of what you drew, why (if there is a reason), and point out the parts of the drawing you like best. After a set time-period, you'll see a marked improvement in your skills.

Last year (or maybe two years ago) I was part of a site that did a short post about local items of interest. it could be stores, landmarks, current construction, cool tree. Whatever...just take a picture and maybe a few lines about why you're posting. It would be cool to see what makes an impression, PLUS we get the added thrill of spying, I mean, seeing into your soul.

Choose one word (any word) each day and do a blog post about it, including a picture relating to the word.

Lame? hee hee sorry, I'm not very good at suggestions!

Every day, using only items that are CURRENTLY (5/1) in your house, make a new outfit complete with accessories. Blog about what you want to see change in your wardrobe, how to pare it down to a real working wardrobe.

Think of a new super power you wish you had everyday and how you would use it for good OR evil. Occasionally both.

I'd like to hear, daily, one thing that you were proud of/pleased about accomplishing that day.

'm a teacher by trade, so I'm wondering about the local history of your new place. There is so much to learn about VA! Maybe something called Past and Present, where you can find out more about your new home.

For 26 days, take one letter of the alphabet and make it your theme for the day. If you select "G" - then wear green, make food that begins with "G" - do an activity that beings with a "G" (should grocery shopping count?) or read something by an author with the last or first name beginning with a "G." I think it should be okay if you go out of order, as long as you cover all 26 letters. Yeah, you might have trouble with "X" and "Q" but you're creative - I'll bet you could come up with something. :)

Write down a list (say, 30 if you want to do a month long project at first) of Important Things To Me. Be they reproductive rights or the importance of a good cookie. Every day, write a blog post about why you believe in that Important Thing. No apologies, no self deprecation, just hey, this is what I think is Important and this is Why. It would get new readers to know more about you, and you may find our some things about yourself (good things!) you didn't realize before.

You've always been fascinated by religion, and you've gone through periods where you've genuinely wanted to be religious but just couldn't believe.

It'd be interesting to see you jump into a new religion every month for a period of time. Attend their services, read their texts, read about their history, reflect on the things that are unique/valuable/trashy/universal among them. Not just as an observer but as a real participant. I think it'd be too hard emotionally to do this with only one religion, which is why I'd advocate a multi-faith approach. You could conclude with a month dedicated to active disbelief, atheism/agnosticism.

Buy one of those "Today in History" 365 desk calendars or go to a website like history.com's "this day in history".

Then every day, write a little story about the people (real or imagined) and how they may have experienced that event. Or something inspired by that event.

However many days of thrifted outfits/accessories. A picture, a description of where you got the items, prices if possible. I think it mixes up things that you're really passionate about and good at, selecting clothes, and thrifting.

An entry given to me in another forum:

Here's what I think you should do:

1. Get one of those seriously enormous vintage housekeeping hints/domesticity books. The sort of thing filled with instructions on how to do things that you didn't even know people did (I'm supposed to be sunning my rugs?*) I have like six of these books. I could send you a couple. Also, have at least one modern book, just to check against.

2. Choose one thing or category of thing from the book and do it each week.

Sometimes this thing will be ridiculously out-of-date, and you'll have a funny post. You'll acquire skills on keeping your house in order, though, which you do want anyway. Also, I'd be really interested in your blogging your thoughts on gender and housework and such as they come up.

You can illustrate this whole thing with photos of you in cute retro cleaning outfits you get from etsy.

It would be awesome. A feminist stuck in the suburbs decides to undertake mid-century domesticity

A year of spotlighting the faces of why health care reform is needed. Specifically, the children and those forgotten by current health legislation.

Or, pick up a new flylady habit a day or similar. Far more pertinent to real life then!

Okay, thought I posted this before....

This is kinda based on an idea I have for my blog this summer (or starting a new blog for this) about my CSA share. The theme: "Work with what you've got." In my case it would be "Watch me not buy any produce in addition to my share and feed my family."

In your case, howzabout setting the goal that you will not re-wear any item of clothing you own until you have worn every other piece at least once? Underthings obviously excepted -- but special occasions and weather emergencies *not* excepted, so you might wind up with some interesting combinations.

Post a picture of everything as you wear it and you could post your inventory and check things off as you wear them!

Maybe you could start an interview series of all your neighbors?

Just go door to door, introduce yourself, explain that you're doing a blog where each day you try to interview someone in walking distance of your house?

What if you did a voluntary simplicity deal for your project? Everyday you commit to giving or throwing away one item that you don't really need. And for new items that come in, an equivalent amount of items go out - in addition to the one/day you're already doing.

Deciding whether a new item is worth the loss of an old one - and deciding which "old" item has to go - is a fascinating exercise into what makes up our emotional and psychological attachments. You might find, for example, that getting rid of clothing is ridiculously easy, but that getting rid of (insert something else here) is profoundly difficult. Being that naked, psychologically, would be a real challenge.

Pick a project that would change a little part of the world for the better. (My choice would be to start a school vegetable garden, but that's just me.) Blog the many steps along the way. The happy parts, the pitfalls, the sense of accomplishment.

Along the lines of your older Women's History series - but modern movers and shakers. Here's a list from Time's most influential issue that just came out:

http://jezebel.com/5527200/time-100-names-31-powerful-women

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Who, me, late adopter?

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I'll admit to being a late adopter. I didn't get a cell phone until 2002. My iPhone is two models old, even though I've had it less than a year. I resisted iPods forever and never moved beyond the original Nano. I don't know how to download music or watch television online (not anywhere but Hulu, anyway). It took me until it had been off the air nearly 10 years to watch Buffy. I never really like things until everyone else it completely over them. And I have always been completely anti-video game. The last one I remember playing with any enthusiasm was a Pac-Man game that took quarters to start, and I believe I had to stand on a stool to see it at the time.

But this week, the skies opened and I saw the light. The Wii light.

Seriously, y'all, I love it. I am embarrassed to admit it, and even more embarrassed to admit it like three years later than everyone else, but I love it. Bowling, golf, tennis, boxing (especially boxing), yoga, balance games, aerobics--I like it all. The game where I make combinations of numbers adding up to ten by thrusting my hips in their direction? Brilliant.

I think part of what I dig about it is that it allows me to do things that I am truly not coordinated enough to do in the real world, like hula hoop. I've always wanted to be able to hula hoop, and the Wii shows my little avatar swinging three at a time! And actual boxing might require me to feel actual pain, or even cause it in someone else, but I can beat the crap out of my animated opponent and feel no guilt.

Do I think it's going to solve all my exercise problems and magically remove 20 pounds from my ass and thighs? Not very damn likely. However, I do like that it has a feature that allows me to weigh my pets and track their weights. How incredibly odd to have added that! And though I think it's ideas about my "real" age (45) and BMI (solidly overweight) are bullshit, I enjoy the obsessive tracking of not only weight, but balance tests, that it engenders. I do so like to track things.

It is quite possible that my loving-bordering-on-romantic feelings for my Wii were jump-started by my realization, upon first getting on the Wii balance board scale, that my scale is, and has been since we moved, almost 15 lbs heavy. Nothing like magically removing 15 pounds from my self image to get me on your side. I suspect, though, that it's a bit more than that--the damn thing is just entertaining. It's fun for me by myself, though I hesitate to call it an actual exercise tool, and it's fun for Mark and I (so far we only have one controller, so we can only play golf and bowling competitively), and it's fun with friends. I'm interested in what other games I can get and what else it can do (I totally want a dancing game). I, God help me, see what all the hype was about.

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You would love Just Dance. The music is so fun, and you can dance with 3 friends if everyone has a wii-mote. Seriously, we love it. (And click through my blog to give 4% to Heifer International!)

My DD's favorite is the hip thrusting game too.

Have you actually managed to get Mark to play without sitting on the couch?

I still can't believe that Mark, sitting on his ass, did better than me at golf. Oh the indignity of it all!

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Never underestimate what I can misplace

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As I may (or may not, I'm not sure) have mentioned here already, I spent last week in Portland. I was in town for work, but I was able to squeeze in a couple of dinners with friends, which was great. On Thursday, I had most of the afternoon and evening free, so I borrowed my aunt's car (a very nice 2009 Jetta) and headed to my old stomping ground in SE Portland, where I had numerous cups of coffee (and bought six pounds to bring back with me). Having made plans to meet my friend Sarah and her beautiful little girl in NW a bit after 5, I headed that way at about 4:30. I had no trouble finding the restaurant where we were set to meet, and noted with satisfaction that I was parked very close to the restaurant. (Red Onion at 23rd and Northrup, by the way--it's very good). Since I was still early to meet my friend, I wandered around for a while, then met her and her daughter.

A couple of hours later, I dropped Sarah and her daughter at the streetcar stop and walked back to where I had parked the car.

Or, where I thought I had parked the car.

I remembered thinking it was close to the restaurant. I remembered that it was in the middle of the block, in front of an apartment building. It was, in my mind, on Northrup, between 22nd and 23rd. Or maybe, just maybe, between 21st and 22nd.

Except it wasn't. And it wasn't on Marshall. And it wasn't on 22nd between the two. And it wasn't on the next block. Or the next.

Did I mention that right around the time we left the restaurant, it started to rain? How about my boots, which had started pressing on my toenail in a bruise-inducing way midway through that afternoon--did I mention that?

I walked south--Marshall, Lovejoy, Kearney, Johnson, Irving, Hoyt, Glisan. I walked north--Northrup, Overton, Pettigrove, Quinby. I walked east--22nd, 21st, 20th, 19th. I saw the highway entry ramp. Couldn't have come this far. I retraced my steps. Made sure I hit every block in between. It rained. The temperature plummeted. I shivered. I stood on corners and mashed my thumb into the panic button. Nothing.

I retraced again. I started to get texts from Simon, whom I was supposed to meet at 7:30. It was 8. I put him off. Told him I was walking to the car. Then told him I was having trouble finding the car. He texted to ask if he should drive up and get me and drive me around to look for it. Feeling super foolish, and in tears, I accepted the rescue.

I continued looking while I waited. Retraced my steps another time. Saw at least a half dozen mid-sized silver cars that could have been it, but weren't. Got rained on some more. Started feeling the need to wring out my soaked bra. Cursed myself for not wearing a coat.

Simon picked me up. Asked where I thought I'd parked. Said we should look in a grid, with a plan. I didn't have the heart to tell him I'd already done that. Realized my laptop was in the car, so if it had really been stolen, my work was all gone.

Simon and I looked for a few minutes. He was just as bad as I was with thinking every mid-sized car was a Jetta. He asked if I was sure I didn't park west of 23rd. I said I was. I never go that way. There's nothing that way.

We looked for a few more minutes. Drove up 23rd, with the intention of turning down Northrup again. Stopped at the intersection. "Is that it?"

"Where?"

"There."

A half block off 23rd, before 24th, on Northrup. Very close to the restaurant. In the middle of the block. In front of an apartment building.

Yeah. Nearly two hours of looking time. It was less than a full block from the restaurant. Right where I parked it.

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2010, you'd better treat my people right

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

2009 sucked.

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

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

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

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A-freaking-men. I've never been so happy to see a year out as '09. It sucked in so many ways. 2010 will be better. It has to, it simply MUST!!

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Best tea of 2009

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I've been reading answers to the prompts from Gwen Bell's Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, but up until today, I haven't taken the time to answer one myself. For some reason, though, her question from yesterday, and particularly her response to that question, sparked my interest.

What's your favorite tea?

I've gotten into tea, surprisingly, over these past few months. For me, like for Gwen, it's both the beverage and the ritual. And there are two teas that jump out at me as best of the year:

Adagio Irish Breakfast: with a little whole milk and a little honey, the perfect morning tea. I even place my very beloved coffee with this some days. Other days, I have it in the afternoon, with cookies.

Numi Lavender Delight Flowering Tea: I picked this up at Marshall's or somewhere, because I love flowering tea, if only for the magical way it unfurls and fills the little glass pot. It's a white tea with hibiscus and lavender, and it's perfect before bed. The taste is very mild, and the experience is very tranquil.

Anybody else want to have a go at this one? What tea should I not miss in 2010? I have "fancy tea" on my Christmas list, so if anything cool shows up in my stocking, I'll let you know.

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I'll have to check out that lavender one!

i love blue eyes tea--it's cornflowers i think that make it blue. but it tastes like berry berry kix. :)

I like jasmine tea sometimes in the deep winter, because it smells so springy.

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Countdown to vacation

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I am having one of those weeks where anything that can go wrong does. I spill things, I break things, I stub my toes, and my VPN connection to work (the only method of working I have) is not working properly. My jaw aches from grinding my teeth, my temple aches from pounding my head against the wall.

But you know what? In a few days, it's all going to go away. In a few days, I'm going home. For Christmas.

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I have had to wear my bite guard during the day, to stave off the stress-induced TMJ!

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Indie Christmas shopping fail post

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For the last several years, I've put a lot of thought and time and effort into making sure I could feel ethically good about all of the Christmas presents I give. I've made sure they were used, handmade, or, if it was at all possible, purchased from independent retailers. And I've gotten very good at it. Last year, I don't think I gave a single "commercial" gift.

This year, though, I've completely failed in this task. Living in the suburbs, where I couldn't find an indie retailer if you paid me to, is a big part of it. Love or hate Austin, it was easy to shop indie there. There's also the fact that shopping in a brick and mortar store at all here, is horrible--everything is so crowded--so I've done nearly all of my shopping online this year.

So how bad have I been? Well, take books. I always gift books. I have a book loving family. This year, rather than spending hours browsing for them in a local bookstore, I ordered them from Barnes & Noble and Borders. My parents are getting clothes from Land's End. I've even ordered a few things, God help me, from Amazon.

I have made a few Etsy purchases, though, which makes me feel marginally better. I ordered some magnetic lockets from Polarity for my nieces (I've had my eye on those forever--I'm so happy to finally be giving them to someone). For my cousin's baby, I found an awesome wooden train made by a work-at-home woodworking mama at Woman Woodworker's Natural Wood Toys.

I still have about a third of my list left, and I'm hoping to buy a few more sustainable, moral gifts. I'm thinking Mark's mom might like some colorful printed kitchen towels from Pata Pri.

I shouldn't lay 100% of the blame on my new home. Had I not chosen to be lazy, I could have made the same commitment to indie and handmade gifts this year that I have in years past. This year, though, it just wasn't a priority. That' something I am going to need to try to make up for in 2010.

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hey oregonian, you ever hear of powells? :)

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Love Thursday: Where everybody knows your username

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I wasn't going to do a Love Thursday post today. I woke up grimy and grouchy and just plain angry, and it seemed like a real trial to think of anything I loved enough to want to rhapsodize about in a blog post. So I got up, made myself a cup of tea, sulked around a bit, and got online.

And then it hit me. I really love, and truly appreciate, the people I hang out with every day virtually. I've been in several of these "online communities," and they wax and wane and sometimes explode and then you have to go find a new one, but right now, I can't overstate how much I love the one I'm in.

I know this sounds weird to folks who don't do it. But you're just going to have to trust me. Imagine a place you can go, virtually, from anywhere, at any time of day or night, and almost always there is someone there who is awake and willing to chat you up. A place where a group of people, most of whom would probably not flock together in real life, due to differences in politics or age or region, who share each others joys and pains on a real-time basis. People who support you when life sucks and praise you when you do something good and tell you you're hot when you post your picture. What could be better than that? The only experience I've ever had in real life that came anywhere close to providing this much support and contact and community was living in a dorm in college. However, that came with a lot of really large drawbacks, like constant noise and communal bathrooms. This doesn't.

A lot of people are wary of "online friends." They may not really be who they say they are! Well, yeah, they may not. But people I know in flesh and blood have secrets and tell lies too, don't they? Human friendship, but its very nature, is risky. And it's also worth it. Way worth it.

So today, I want to give a Love Thursday shout-out to my online community, without whom I would feel very alone here. They're my rock, my shoulder to cry on, and the first people I talk to most days. I don't want to imagine life without them.

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:yes: I couldn't agree more! And you *are* hawt!

Love you too, Grace. And Stella is right. You are HOT!

Couldn't have said it better myself. :)

"The only experience I've ever had in real life that came anywhere close to providing this much support and contact and community was living in a dorm in college. However, that came with a lot of really large drawbacks, like constant noise and communal bathrooms."

And everyone sleeping with everyone else and then fighting about it.

Well, it's because you really ARE awesome.

AND I love hanging out with my online friends IRL too. Hugs.

I don't know which online community you are part of now but some of us at your old one miss you. Yael (einshme at the phoenix)

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Routine

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I have to get back into the habit of blogging. I want to be writing here on a daily or near-daily basis, both for myself and to try to regain the rather large chunk of readership I seem to have lost while on NaNo hiatus (and before that when I was just flaking for no real reason). The trouble is that I only think of it once I am already in bed. Both last night and tonight I had to get up from my warm and comfortable bed to blog. Which is not the habit I want to get into.

Habit is a weird thing. Mark is a great creature of habit--he likes routine, knowing what is going to happen when. I am, most of the time, the opposite. I tend not to do things the same way every time, or do them just because I've always done them. There is definitely good in this--it's easier not to get stuck in a rut when you're not dependent on habits. However, there's also a lot of bad in it--it's hard to keep to things when you have trouble developing them as habits.

Supposedly, it takes six weeks to make or break a habit. I don't buy that, or at least don't buy it as universal. For example, I'm a nail-biter. I've been a nail-biter my entire life. Several times, I have successfully stopped biting my nails, often for more than six weeks at a go. And, several times, I have started again.

Writing here is the same way. I've written daily or near-daily for months at a stretch, then fallen off to writing sporadically at best. Sometimes, it has to do with whatever else is going on in my life, but often, it's more a matter of what I feel like doing. Even when I'm writing daily, it never really becomes habitual--it's something I have to remind myself to do and make time for.

So, if you are someone like me, who doesn't establish routine easily, how do you go about getting yourself into a good groove? How do you reinforce things in your day-to-day life that you want to stick as habits? Is it even worth trying to do?

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I'm kind of in the middle on this. I like routine but sometimes it's hard for me to stick with things I know longer feel passionate about.

Maybe you could make a list for all the reasons you feel this is a good habit/practice and put it somewhere you'll see it.

You can also look at it as part of your job. You have to do certain tasks at work, maybe you could add this one in.

With that say I also think it has to be something you feel compelled to do, especially with creative things like blogging and writing.

Good luck, Grace. I for one am glad to see you blogging a little more.

I have a similar lack of routine in most things as well....(examples of my long-term ?needless? battles are getting up early, and yes, nail biting). My compromise solution is making monthly goals. I can often stick with anything for a month (no fast food, no nail-biting, no TV before bed, whatever). If it was important I can commit to another month. If I need a break from that "routine" or "habit" I don't renew that vow. So you reprioritized blogging for a month to make room for your novel. No problem and congrats on finishing.

I am an either/or person. When I am at home, I am a creature of habit. But when I travel, I am totally open to doing completely different things. Maybe this is why I like to travel so much.

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Behind

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I don't know if it's the amount of time I spend staring blankly at my National Novel Writing Month novel (I'm at 24,000 words, by the way--behind, but not terribly so), or the rainy weather, or Mark's somewhat frenetic insistence on making preparations now for the perfect Thanksgiving, but the hours in my days seem shortened lately. I feel chronically behind in a way I haven't for several lazy months.

Clearly, I haven't been blogging, but it's worse than that--I haven't even been reading other blogs. And it's NaBloPoMo, so I hope you'll believe me when I tell you my reader is truly out of hand. Other things I haven't been doing include all sorts of housework, any craft projects, thinking about Christmas gifts, and showering on a schedule appropriate for an adult woman obsessed with bath products.

So what am I doing, besides working on this book (and the book is just not very good, but I'm OK with that--done is important, good is not)? I'm organizing a Christmas Gift Giving program for some families who need holiday help on a message board I frequent. That's been really rewarding and fun. I'm walking my dog, which is good for both of us. I'm, along with Mark, making slow improvements to turn our soulless rental house into something more like home. I'm mourning Leo. I'm surviving.

Guess I just wanted to check in and make sure you all know I'm still out here and I'm OK. I'll be back in more force after November.

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Love Thursday: The writer in me

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I love to write. Or, at least, that's part of how I feel about writing. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember--compulsively, methodically, guiltily, and for the past few years, professionally. It's part of whom I am.

Until college, or just about that time, I had ideas of writing fiction professionally. I wrote a lot of stories, a couple of truly terrible immature novels, and quite a few embarrassing poems. And then I stopped. I can't say, exactly, why I stopped writing fiction. I think it was partially because I left home and my real life started to be more interesting to me, so I didn't have to live inside my imagination so much anymore. Partially, it was out of some idea of the type of writing that is serious and responsible--non-fiction. Plus, I spent so much time writing for school in college (Reed wasn't a multiple choice kind of place), it kind of killed my desire to write anything I didn't have to.

After college, I still didn't write much. I wrote emails. I started blogging. Eventually, I started writing professionally--technical writing, grant writing. It's nothing like writing for pleasure, whether you're writing fiction or not. The writing I do for pay is all about making things clear, simple, precise. It's craft, but it's not art. I don't mind doing it--in fact, I take a good deal of pride in a well written technical document--but it's not any sort of creative outlet.

Suddenly, a week or two ago, I started writing fiction again, all at once. Inspiration struck, from an odd place, and I started a story. Now I can't stop. I churn out a couple thousand words a day. I think about my story in the shower and when I am going to sleep. I weigh the pros and cons of what should happen next. I live inside fictional lives again. And I feel like I just picked something up that I dropped over a decade ago and have been missing the whole time. Everything about where I am right now feels wrong, doesn't fit. Writing feels right.

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I hope that as you write your surroundings start to feel more "right" to you.

I'm glad that you're back to doing something that you enjoy.

Hey Ms. Writer, how amazing to have tapped that well! Perhaps you could redirect a trickle into a Can I Sit With You? story (you know I have to ask...).

This is so inspiring!! Can't wait to read your latest...you've always been an AMAZING writer!

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Where do the batteries go?

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dog toy?
Seen yesterday while browsing dog toys.

I don't think my dogs are old enough for that kind of toy.

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That there appears to be ribbed for her pleasure. Whew! Is it warm in here?

Oh, my.

That's just wrong.

Maybe for the owners?

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Stuff that irrationally pisses me off

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  1. Matthew McConaughey
  2. Cat puke
  3. The constant lawnmower sound in my neighborhood

Hrm. I thought that was a longer list. Maybe I'm just not sufficiently irritable this morning. Matthew McConaughey does drive me batty, though.

I'm not doing a lot of blogging right now because I've been bitten with a fiction bug and I'm seeing where that takes me. I doubt it will take me anywhere--I've always kind of hated writing fiction, and I'm sure I'll hate it again in no time. Until then, I suggest reading Suebob. Her rant against the Susan G. Komen foundation is priceless. Exactly the kind of thing I'd like to be writing, were I not to have been distracted by fiction.

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I am irrationally pissed off at the guy across the street and his damned music - I can just hear the bass beat in the house and it is like being POKED over and over and over. Argh.

And I am so flattered that you linked to me! Thank you.

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Love Thursday: Other People's Children

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I love other people's kids. I don't have kids of my own. I may never have kids of my own. But I absolutely adore other people's kids. At first, when my friends started having kids, I was put out by it--nobody was going to be any fun anymore! They were only going to talk about their babies! All that child-free nonsense. But it didn't happen. My friends had kids, and remained my friends, albeit with some new demands on their time. And the kids each became a very important part of my life in their own right. My world hasn't contracted with the birth of each new friend-kid, it has expanded.

I wish I could show you pictures of the fantastic kids in my life, but since they aren't my kids to share with the whole wide Internet, I'm not going to do that. In fact, I'm not even going to tell you their names. But I will tell you that they are wonderful. They make me want to have babies of my own, of course, but they mostly make me very very grateful that I've been allowed to be in their lives. So, if you are reading it, and are the parent of one of the kids I love so much--thank you.

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I hear you ... most of the kids I know and love now have their own kids ... it's even better!

This is how I feel about my friends' babies. I'm lucky enough to count these babies as friends now, through my favorite adult parent friends.

What a lovely attitude. People with kids hear too often about childless friends who resent our children for interfering with our friendships.

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Collect

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As I'm unpacking the house, I'm noticing the things Mark and I collect. We don't collect any of the same things, of course--that would be too easy. Neither of us has formal "collections" that we put together intentionally--it's just the things that we accumulate. In Mark's case, cookbooks are a big one--there are nearly 100 of those piled up around here. He also has a small but redundant collection of Shakespeare books (four different editions of the complete works, plus a shelf or two of individual plays and a little bit of criticism). And he has 30 pairs of pants. For me, it's art books (thirtyish); craft supplies (bins and bins full, it's embarrassing); and more bath supplies (scrubs, washes, bombs, soaps, you name it) than I could count.

What does this say about us? When you look around our house, and see the things we have a lot of, what does imply about the way we live and the people we are? The cookbooks are pretty obvious, I guess, though not everybody uses those the same way. Some people don't love to cook, but do love to have lots of pretty cookbooks. Some people cook out of them directly. For Mark, they function as something between a coffee table book and a reference manual. He rarely, if ever, uses recipes directly, but he pores over them.

The art books are my analogy to Mark's cookbook collection (at least in terms of being a pain to move). They aren't references for me, though. I know only a very small amount about art--a year's museum job worth. So I guess I'm kind of an art book poseur. Having them, and having them out (they've always been in the living room in the houses we've lived in, instead of in the office or bedroom like the fiction paperbacks), makes me happy. They're almost accessories. The art and craft supplies are more functional--my urges to make art aren't all that frequent, but they are strong, and, especially given that much of what I ideally like to use has to be found and collected, I need to have lots of stuff available when the mood strikes.

So what about you? Look around your house. What do you collect? What do you accumulate? What's the difference? And what does it say about you?

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I've resisted collections in the most traditional sense, because I already have so much STUFF! But I certainly collect books (and not just cookbooks, though I have a lot of those). I have at least 50 Agatha Christie paperbacks (used, not worth any money), for example.

Also DVDs, though I try not to accumulate them beyond all reason. I have way too many possessions, but I try really hard not to have too many of any one category of thing.

I have too many purses, too many shoes, too many notebooks, too many pieces of jewelry, too many cloth napkins, etc. -- but none of these are items I seek out in the sense of a collection, and I'll try to keep it that way!

Easy. Me? Books, books, and more books. Husband? CDs and DVDs. I'm pretty sure our books and CDs number about a thousand each. How decadent.

Things to read. Books. Magazines. Newspapers. Papers from the kids' school. Random bits of paper. Frankly, it's starting to scare me.

I think I have big collecting tendencies. If things are in a series I really, really want everything in that series.

I have oodles of kitchen gadgets and a lot of cookbooks. I have untold amounts of yarn, fabric, and books pertaining to both. I have lots of books. I have a collection of those mini-quote books that I have an ongoing internal conversation about whether or not I want to get rid of them. I have a set of little jewelry boxes. And I have a big wicker basket full of stuffed animals hidden away upstairs. Oo- that reminds me of my also hidden flower fairies tin collection. So I guess I have both displayed and hidden collections! (Which reminds me of my hidden rock collection... told you I have a collection tendancy).

I seem to collect silver jewelry that contains stones or bone or wood.

I accumulate cat hair.

The difference between the two is that one is a socially acceptable thing to wear out in public, and the other isn't.

It says I'm an au naturel kind of woman!

I collect elephant figurines; crafting supplies (SO MUCH CRAFTING SUPPLIES OMG): fabric, yarn, scrapbooking supplies, odds and ends, zippers; books including cookbooks (mostly Ryan); Willowtree figurines; and you know that Ryan collects hats, but he also collects Sports "stuff".

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Art for my office

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One thing I am really excited about in our new house is having my own office/craft space. It's going to contain my desk and work stuff, as well as a large set of metal shelves to hold all my craft stuff, and possibly another small table for collage, if I can find one. The walls are off-white, and I'm not going to paint them. What I do want to do, however, is buy some art for the walls. Stuff I'll find inspirational and fun. So I've been browsing Etsy. Want to see what I've found?

This multi-media tree collage by Carambatack Design is, I think, something I've shown you before, but I just love it. It's the right mix of smart and creative and fun. The other work in the shop is great as well--especially the other trees. Wouldn't a whole series of them be great?

vast and amazing print.jpgAnother direction to go would be the great prints in the Freya Art & Design shop. There isn't one of them I'd turn down, but I think my favorite is "Vast and Amazing." I love the colors and the movement. And the fish. Again, wouldn't it be great to have a few of these, all grouped together?

I love the multi-media stuff. The Artful Apple has another series I adore. My favorite is "Perk." Wouldn't it look fantastic with "Relax" and "Sip"? Most of the rest of them are a bit too culinary for office decor, but I still really like them. Did you notice how they are collaged on to old cookbook pages?

I've been after Jen Skelley's exotic bird gocco prints for ages, and they're on sale, buy two and get one free! I think I'd choose "Mina" (shown here); "Spike," and "Waverly."

Still whimsical, but a bit darker, I love the work at The Black Apple. The Alice in Wonderland print set it awesome, but I think I'd have to go with the Books Print. And the Terrarium Print. And I love the Alphabet Print. You are My Needles and Pins, shown here, is probably my all-time favorite, though.

So, what do you think? What direction should I go?

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Have you checked out Trish Grantham's stuff? It seems like it's in the realm of style you'd like.

http://www.trishgrantham.com/

I bought this print for my office from felizswhimsy on Etsy. It's really gorgeous, very professionally done. It doesn't look like she has anything up for sale right now, but here is some more of her work. Maybe she would respond to email requests if you like any of her work.

I like Alice in Wonderland or the first set of tree prints.

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No wind left in my whirl

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My God, you all, I am tired.

Within the past three weeks, I have: sold my house, moved across the country with all my stuff and five animals, worked 50+ hours a week, submitted a grant, turned 30, started putting together a new house, had a consultation for my first large-scale tattoo, flown to Boston, attended three days worth of wedding festivities, flown back from Boston, and made a handful of major electronics purchases. I can't remember the last time I cracked a book, wrote in my journal, did any yoga, or even took a long shower.

But now, I swear, it's going to calm down. My schedule for the next few weeks looks remarkably clear. Tomorrow, I get the big exciting tat. Next week, I may take a short business trip. In one to two weeks, I'll start a regular, no overtime work schedule. And so my nice, normal, scheduled life will re-commence. This is good, because I am so done with being this busy.

Some people are made to live like whirling dervishes. They love moving from one high-stress, exciting thing to another, keeping lots of balls in the air, constantly moving. I always thought I'd be one of those people, and it was just the need of some exciting stuff to occupy me that kept me from it. The older I get, though, the more I realize that it's just not me. I really like having time to enjoy things. I like moving slowly. I like having lots of time to make things, read things, watch things, write things. I really, really like to get enough sleep--maybe even excessive sleep. I like to be at my house. I like having no plans. Periods where there is a lot going on and lots of things are changing, like the one I'm just coming out of, do energize me, but they also exhaust me, and not in a good-tired, "I'll sleep well tonight" way. They exhaust my spirit. They dull me.

I need to regenerate. I need to slough off the stress that has built up on me for the past few weeks (this whole summer, really). I need to establish a new routine and work myself comfortably into it. And I really need to start blogging every day again. I didn't even realize, until having so much time away, how much I've come to depend on daily or near-daily entries here as lifelines, both to myself and to the little community of readers that has built up here. Not being around here much lately has added a lot to my feeling off-kilter, and I am very much hoping this is the end of that period.

What I'm saying, I guess, is I'm back. Thanks for waiting.

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I'm glad you're back. I've missed you.

Welcome back. :)

I can relate. Although I do just fine inside a shaken snowglobe, I much prefer to let plans materialize as need requires instead of having life planned out to the nano-second.

I can do busy. I can do it well. But after a steady diet of busy, I crave some downtime - and I am a better me for it.

Best wishes as you settle into your new home and routine.

Have fun settling in. I always enjoy unpacking. Hope that everything settles in nicely.

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It's not a cul de sac, it's a pipestem

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We're here! Less than 24 hours in I can already seen the benefits of the big-ass house on the quiet street with lots of pretty yards and sidewalks.

Watch out, y'all. My Stepfordization has begun.

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I'm so glad that you're starting to adjust already!

Ok. But if you invite me to your PartyLites party, I'm not coming.

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Essentials

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Nothing teaches you what your essentials really are like moving.

We've spent all weekend going through the house, picking up items and asking each other "are we going to need this in the next week?" Usually, the answer is no, and into one of the countless liquor store boxes it goes. Turns out, there are really very few things we need in the next week. Some clothes, some toiletries (and I'll admit it, I kept more of those out than I strictly need), bedding, coffee making utensils, dog and cat essentials, and that's about it.

Which leads me to wonder: if I don't need it in the next week, why do I need it at all? How can it be that 95% of our stuff falls into a category of "not immediately needed"? Clearly, some of it is needed: dishes and pots and pans, for example, are not much needed right now, but are needed in general. Most of those liquor boxes, however, are full of things that could be (and in some cases, have been) out of sight for weeks now, and not really missed. Thirty or more boxes of books, for example. Six mirror boxes of art. The three Rubbermaid tubs I filled with clothes that I don't need in the next two weeks. Several hundred CDs. Countless boxes of stuff I can't even categorize, much less explain why we have.

Every time I've moved, I've moved with more stuff. For the first six or so years of living on my own, I had a room of stuff--a dorm room, a shared house. Then we moved here, and both of our rooms of stuff became a house of stuff, then a bigger house of stuff. Suddenly we really do need the 26 foot Penske truck and I am wondering when I got so weighed down.

And it's clearly only going to get worse. The house we're moving out of is about 1,200 square feet. The one we're moving into is 2,200. The next time we move, we're going to have even more stuff. But the amount of that stuff that we actually need, as evidenced by what we keep out for the last week? It's going to be exactly the same size.

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I am astounded to see how much I've ended up with just having lived in Korea continuously for the past two years - I might be subletting my place to the teacher subbing for me and I've been cleaning it all up hardcore. There's just so much of it all!!! And I only live in a tiny studio - I'd be a disaster let loose on a whole house.

So right.

We had a baby about a week after we moved last year, and so many boxes never got unpacked. If we didn't need *that* much stuff for a year, we do not need it! I've tried to be brutal with the throwing out lately. When I feel sentimental about a thing, I take a picture of it. Then toss it...

The last time I moved, I kind of had the opposite reaction. I took the opportunity to throw out a lot of old crap that I had (and could not justify holding onto anymore). The result was that I only took stuff that I actually needed or that really, for whatever reason, actually mattered to me. But then, when I loaded everything into the U-haul, I stood back and asked myself "Is this it? Are these meager possessions the sum total of my life so far?" It was actually kind of depressing that my entire life fit into a space that was, all things being equal, not that big.

I know the feeling. When i moved to boston, i brought a duffel bag, and a steamer trunk.

9 years later, even the thought of moving across town makes my lower back ache.

It is so true. I am moving in a few weeks and honestly I want to take nothing more than a suitcase, but the paperwork alone is overwhelming!

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Gonna do it when I get there...

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Over the past few weeks, I have noticed a disturbing trend in myself. I have a bad case of "gonna do it when I get there" syndrome.

The problem with this malady is that there isn't much for accountability. And if there is one thing I know about me and things I need to do, it's that without accountability they aren't gonna get done.

So, for posterity, these are the things I've caught myself saying I'll do when I get to Virginia:


  1. Exercise. In particular, commit to yoga.

  2. Change my eating habits. Eat vegetables. Eat food that I can identify. Stop eating fast food and packaged crap.

  3. Take care of my nails--both a manicure and a pedicure are much needed.

  4. Walk my poor neglected dogs.

  5. Do something about Illy's mats.

  6. Respond to several dozen emails.

  7. Stop wearing such embarrassingly bad clothes.

  8. Organize (and edit) my rather ridiculous bath product collection.

I am hoping that once we get to Virginia, I am going to be so full of new-life-phase hope and positivity that I'll jump right on this list. But, if I don't, somebody remind me to come back to this post, OK?

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5 things for which I am grateful

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I am sick--something viral, I suspect--sick stomach, achy, headache. Plus we're moving in a week. Plus we have had yet another round of expensive home repair issues. So, in general, it hasn't been a good day.

However, I am trying to focus on the positive recently. Lots of folks have have been talking about that, around the blogosphere and elsewhere, and it is, I think, good advice.

So. Five Things for which I am grateful, today:


  1. English Premiere League starts tomorrow.

  2. Mark was kind enough to go out and get me some Sprite and saltines, so if I can ever keep them down, they are available.

  3. Huey's new foster came by tonight and said he's doing great.

  4. Leo and Ata played for a while today, together. This may be the first time ever that has happened.

  5. I can go sleep on a comfortable bed with high quality sheets as soon as I am done typing this.

I'll be damned. I do feel better. I definitely need to do this exercise more often.

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New blog for reviews and giveaways

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Big exciting housekeeping annoucement on WINOW today! I'm starting a new, seperate blog for review and giveaways. There are two reasons for this. The first is that, due to the (reasonable and understandable) rules of the BlogHer Ad Network, I am not allowed to review or give away products worth more than $40 that have been given to me on the same page as my ads. This means that in order to do those reviews or give aways, I need an ad-free page. Secondly, some of the folks who read WINOW just simply aren't interested in my need to review every damn thing I come across. I love reviews--like reading them, like wriitng them. Other people feel differently, and I don't want to bog down this space with lots of reviews if folks aren't interested.

So, a new blog. The URL is http://www.noonewatching.com/reviews/. It looks just like this blog, except for no ads, Nothing new to get used to there. Please add it to your feedreader, or your bookmarks, or whatever.

To make sure I don't miss anybody, though, I am also going to post teasers to the posts I make there on this site, at least for a bit. So you can look for those as well.

I hope you'll enjoy this new venture as much as I plan to!

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I've mentioned before that I can't cook. Can't is probably too strong a word--it's more don't. And mostly, I don't because Mark is a very good cook, and I, even on my best day, am a very basic cook. I'm very willing to take shortcuts, and I don't make anything fancy. But, if it comes down to it, I am perfectly capable of feeding myself.

And, as it turns out, feeding others. Our neighbors are just about to have a baby. So, I wanted to take them a couple of meals for their freezer, since I know it's hard to cook during the first weeks with a newborn. I was a better person for this particular job than Mark for a couple of reasons. First, my style of cooking is much more suited to freezer meals than is Mark's. Secondly, Mr. Neighbor is quite picky and not too much into eating "weird" stuff. Finally, more than half of our kitchen is already packed, including a lot of Mark's fancy cooking equipment. And he's not so keen on cooking without it.

Given what I know about Mr. Neighbor's food preferences, and my own limited skills, I decided on two easy and easily freezable meals: lasagna and enchiladas. Keep in mind that these are the easy, lazy recipes. I know these things could be made better and cheaper without so many convenience items. However, given time constraint and the half-packed kitchen, convenience is a major factor right now. And, from the neighbors' perspective, it's got to beat McDonald's, right?

First, to the supermarket.

Ingredients for enchiladas

These are the enchilada ingredients. A package of 8 flour burrito-sized tortillas, a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts (a bit over a pound), two cans of enchilada sauce (one medium, one mild), a small can of diced green chilies, and a one pound bag of shredded Mexican blend cheese (a mix of pepper jack or even regular jack and cheddar would work too). If I were making these for myself, I'd use a can of diced olives as well, but I know Mr. Neighbor doesn't like them. The red sauce can be replaced with green sauce, and the medium and mild sauce combination is just my preference--any heat will work. I don't have any preferences regarding brands here, I just bought whatever I saw first.

Ingredients for lasagna

These are the ingredients for the lasagna. A tub of ricotta, a package of frozen chopped spinach, a box of noodles (the kind you don't pre-cook), a jar of sauce (if I am going to use jarred sauce, I really like Paul Newman's Sockarooni), a package of mild Italian sausages, and a one-pound bag of shredded mozzarella. You also need a couple of eggs, but I forgot to put them in the picture. A pound of ground Italian sausage would be better than the link stuff, but the store I went to didn't have any, so this will work. You could use turkey sausage if you prefer it. Do not, for God's sake, use cottage cheese in place of the ricotta. That's nasty.

Raw chicken breasts

The first thing you want to do is get the chicken breasts cooking. Heat the oven up to 400 degrees. Put a little bit of oil on a sheet pan, then plop the breasts down on it. Salt and pepper them liberally, then put them in the oven.

Splitting sausage

Next, get the sausage ready to cook. Because I used link sausage, I first had to cut it out of the casing and break it up into the pan.

Cooking sausage

Put it in a pan over medium heat. Keep it moving so that it doesn't stick.

Cooked sausage

After about five minutes or so, it should be broken up and cooked. Might take a little bit longer. You don't want to mess with undercooked pork, so make sure it's done.

Adding sauce to sausage

Add the jar of sauce to the sausage.

Finished sauce

Mix it up and heat it for a few more minutes until it's heated through, then take it off the burner.

Next, mix up the ricotta layer for the lasagna. You'll need the ricotta, spinach, salt, pepper, and a couple of eggs.

Ricotta mixture

Toss it all in the bowl and mix. If the spinach isn't thawed, make sure to break it up and squeeze out as much extra moisture as possible.

Cooked chicken breasts

For me, by this time the chicken will be cooked through (takes about 20-25 minutes). You know it's done when you can cut the largest breast in half and it's not pink the middle. You don't have to worry about how these look, so cutting them up to test them is no problem. Pull them out of the oven and set them aside to cool.

Lasagna ready to assemble

With the ricotta mixture and the sauce mixture finished, and the sauce cooled some, you are ready to assemble the lasagna. I am using two 8 X 8 disposable pans, since this is for our neighbors and I don't want them to have to worry about returning pans. If I were making it for us, I'd probably use two Pyrex pans of the same size, so I could freeze one for later and cook one for now. Using one larger pan (like 9 X 13) will also work.

Preparing lasagna pans

Prep the pans by spreading a thin layer of sauce over the bottom.

Lasagna noodeles first layer

Cover the sauce with a layer of noodles. I like using the noodles you don't pre-cook because the finished product ends up a bit firmer, plus it's easier. As a side benefit, they are exactly the right size for the 8 X 8 pans.

Lasanga with ricotta first layer

Next, spread about half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles.

Lasagna with cheese first layer

Follow with about a third of the mozzarella.

Lasagna with sauce first layer

Then about a third of the sauce.

From here, repeat the noodles-ricotta-mozzarella-sauce layers. This should use all the ricotta mixture.

Lasagna with cheese first layer

Then do another layer, this time just noodles-sauce-mozzarella. You don't want the ricotta mixture close to the top, so you end up with three layers of noodles, sauce, and mozzarella, but only two of the ricotta mixture.

Shredded chicken

By this time, the chicken should be cool enough to handle. Shred it up into a bowl.

Sauce into filling

Add one of the cans of enchilada sauce to the shredded chicken. I use the medium sauce in the filling and the mild sauce on top, but it really doesn't make any difference.

Peppers into filling

Next, add the chili peppers to the filling.

Cheese and filling

Finally, mix in about half of the cheese.

Readying pans for enchiladas

Prepping the pans works similarly to the lasagna, only use a bit of the other can of enchilada sauce.

Filling enchiladas

Put about an eighth of the filling into one of the tortillas.

Putting enchiladas in pan

Roll it up and stick it in the prepared pan. These big flour tortillas are actually a bit big for these pans--it would work better to use taco-sized tortillas for these pans. You can use corn tortillas too, if you prefer those.

Enchiladas before sauce

Repeat the rolling until you have two pans of four enchiladas each. Once again, you can do them all in a 9 X 13 pan if you want.

Enchiladas with sauce

Pour the remainder of the sauce over the enchiladas.

Finished enchiladas

Cover the enchiladas with the remaining cheese.

Finished and labeled meals

Now that everything is done, cover each pan with tin foil if they are going into the freezer. Be sure to crimp the edges down so they don't get freezer burn. Then I put the plastic tops that came with the pans on and labeled each one with what they were and cooking instructions. The lasagna should take about an hour at 350 degrees and the enchiladas about 45 minutes at 375. That assumes that they start out thawed, though. If they are frozen, it will take about twice as long.

There you have it. Freezer feeding for the terminally lazy. Each pan is 3-4 servings, depending on how hungry you are. Add a little salad from a bag and you're good to go.