Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Uncommon Goods = Uncommon Gifts

This post is sponsored by Uncommon Goods but all opinions are my own.  

The month of March for us kicks off almost four months of one gift-giving event after another.  We've got at least three birthdays in March, then comes Easter basket season (and I'm always game for two or three cute, creative gifts for Easter baskets and not just candy), my moms birthday, Mother's Day, more birthdays, inevitably a few babies born, and then Father's Day book-ends this season of gifting.  I feel like I hit a wall around mid April and my creative juices run dry in terms of what to get for the next gift that makes me excited about giving it.

Except--there's this great company called Uncommon Goods that provides just that….'uncommon' gifts that you can't find just anywhere and that will make just about anybody happy to unwrap what you've given them! And they make it pretty easy to narrow down what you're looking for with their pre-made gifts lists like birthday ideas categorized by gender and age or personalized gifts or gifts by price and on and on.

Additionally, I really love the idea of supporting stores that give back in some way, make the world a little better, and work hard to be sustainable in a variety of ways without sacrificing creativity, trendiness, or aesthetic appeal.  So the cool thing about Uncommon Goods is that they let you choose which nonprofit organization, out of four that they support, you'd like them to donate a $1 to for every purchase you make.  I love that!  Everyone will feel a tug in a bit of a different direction when it comes to supporting a cause and I think it's fantastic that they give some autonomy to their customer in that regard.

So, in preparation for all the gifts I have to purchase coming up I've highlighted a few of my favorites…..and by 'my' favorites, I mean I like them as much for me as I do other people.


This personalized gold birch cuff is amazing!  I love that little heart detail.  Perfect for Mother's Day this year!

Also fantastic in the personalized gift category is this book about becoming a big sister.  (They have a big brother one too.) I know a little girl who qualifies as a super big sister that would like this book.

These earrings look like they could easily become an everyday staple piece. They're small, go with anything, and just unique enough that you won't get sick of wearing them six out of seven days of the week.

So, I know…kind of strange to give someone a stuffed heart as a present but here's the thing…Georgia is obsessed with the human body as a result of science class this year so I love the educational value of this toy and I think a heart would be a cute present for someone you love, and where are you going to find something like this other than at Uncommon Goods?

With patio season soon to be upon us a set of cool new drink glasses would be a great gift for someone and these mixed tape glasses that you can write peoples names on with a grease pencil (included) are so fun.

So My Story Begins….I actually own this onesie for Crosby and I can't think of a better new-babygift.

This USA map that you can rub off state by state with a coin as you visit each one is so perfect for kids and adults!  Georgia would think this was fantastic.  She makes me proud that she loves geography so much.  She must have a former history teacher as a mom or something.

These coasters are just beautiful.  Mother's Day?  I think so.

Another great baby gift, or first birthday present….these foreign language blocks come in Spanish or Mandarin and teach kids some basic vocabulary and are pretty and would make your nursery look super intelligent when strewn across the floor.


And that's just nine ideas from Uncommon Goods!  Their site is bursting with more amazingness.  So, the next time you have gifting-block check them out.  I bet you'll find the perfect thing!

Friday, February 27, 2015

This & That.


Merry Friday from this little guy who has found his voice and loves it so much he thought we should all hear his shrieks and conversations from 3-5 a.m. this morning.  Good thing he's the cutest boy in all the land.  At least my land.  

Some good stuff to click on this weekend if you're interested…..

This weird article on Scary Mommy is kind of about adoption. Kind of not.  Just…..weird.  Love to know your thoughts.

I harbor some love for Russell Brand as fantastically strange as he is.  And he trails off a bit at the end, and I can't tell if he's wearing any clothes....but….mostly….pretty good words here.  And sure we could dissect parts of what he says and who he is, but don't lose sight of the main point.

J.Crew can always make normally ugly things look amazing like these and Target can always knock off J. Crew with 200% accuracy and a fraction of the price.

This made the rounds last week and I say 'no-way' was this not staged.  No.Way.

Georgia would give her left arm if I bought her one of these for her birthday.  It's the most sustained gift idea she's ever begged for….we're going on about a year now and I just think…….this looks like a fall down the stairs and a trip to the ER.  Talk me into it if you must.

I really liked Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In, but I also really like this article and perspective on "Leaning In" from Jessica Williams.  It's freeing.  The last paragraph is the best.  Just read that if you can't get past the title.

Chris and I joined The Blacklist party late…..I know.  But….the music on the show?  Why doesn't anyone ever talk about how amazing it is...or do they and I'm oblivious?  I watch every show with Sound Hound open.  This song, this one, and this one can't be played loud enough.

Here's a cute little DIY from one of my favs.

I pre-ordered this book this week because Shauna could write ingredient labels and they'd be riveting and poignant and clever.

I need to make these soon.

Wheeeeeeeeeen will it be hot? In about four months.

Please tell me you read these weekly?  No?  You should.

I've fallen in love with Zara all over again since Crosby was born because their designers were clearly in the top of their class when it came to making little boys clothes....and women's clothes.....and little girl clothes too....and probably something for your man as well. 

Looking for an excuse to buy this bag....but I don't have one...maybe you do.

Happy weekend!  It's March on Sunday.....here's to coming in like a lion!

And P.S. for the record….the dress is cream and gold.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fanny's Dream. And Passion. And Happiness. And Just Being Happy….Where You Are.

That's a good long title that I'm sure will do well in terms of SEO.  But I'm sticking with it.

Georgia brought home a book from library day at school this week called Fanny's Dream by Caralyn Buehner.  We read it together and it was clear from the get-go that it was an adaptation of Cinderella.  Farm girl who wants to be a princess hears the mayor is going to throw a ball so she waits, and waits, and waits and waits for her fairy god-mother to come and transform her into a vision so she can race down the hill to the ball.  But she never comes.

Instead, Heber comes.  (Super attractive boy name if you're in the market by the way.) And Heber tells her that he's no prince (we know--your name is Heber) but he can give her a good life and they'll be a great pair and he lists all the ways she'll be taken care of; chivalrous ways to be sure…..not necessarily living in a castle kind of ways however.  She thinks about it for an hour. Mind you, this is about 58 minutes longer than the real Cinderella considers marrying Prince Charming--so Fanny really gives it a lot of consideration and weighs out the pros and cons. In the end, she decides to choose Heber because the fairy god-mother is for sure a no-show at this point.

The book then chronicles Fanny & Heber's life for the next few years; a nice little house, they make each other laugh, they have cozy nights at home, they have three great kids, and on and on.  And finally…..finally…….six or seven years in……..the fairy god-mother shows up and tells Fanny that now she'll change her into a princess and she can marry the prince because the mayor is throwing another ball.

But….

Fanny looks over her shoulder, back at her quaint little house where she knows her husband is reading to their three kids and she thinks about her life and she tells the fairy god-mother, "No thanks."  And my favorite part--the last line of the book--when she walks back into her house and Heber asks her who she was talking to outside she says, "My fairy-godmother Hebie."  And he replies, "Yeah, and I'm the Prince of Sahiba."

And she smiles at him and says, "Close enough. Close enough." 

And my gut reaction at the end of the book was, "Awesome--Debbie Downer."
But then I kept thinking about it and it struck me….why did I think that was a downer of a book?  Wasn't it realistic?  In a good way?

Fanny learned one of the most important lessons there is to learn.  A lesson that I don't think a lot of young people (and I include myself in that category) are learning today; in an era that speaks Pinterest quotes and self-help books that spout 'you better get every last thing you want and desire and dream about and feel passion about…..or life isn't worth living' crap.

I think the ability to choose happiness, to learn happiness, to be realistic about happiness is waning, dwindling, and being eclipsed by PASSION.  And this eclipse is changing our definition of happiness…..and not in a good way.

I am so weary of people talking about finding their passion.  Finding what they're passionate about it and doing it. Only doing it if it's their passion.  Leaving others in the dust if they can't get on board with their passion.  Realizing that where you are right now in life isn't really your passion--so go ahead and abandon everything you're currently doing…..to find your passion.

The word passion feels about as stagnant to me as describing something as "epic."

Just. Stop.

And also…..I fear there's a whole lot of me, me, me wrapped up in finding all of our passions.

Don't get me wrong.  I think it's great to find something you love, something that lights your fire, something that motivates you to do more……..but as a society I believe we're putting a lot of our eggs, maybe all of our eggs, into the passion basket.

When I see memes like this………


all over Pinterest I wonder what "happy" really means?  Because there's no way I believe that you shouldn't do something unless it makes you happy; assuming we're talking about the most used definition of the word happy.  

I wasn't real happy while I was going through five years of infertility treatments.  But I did it anyway.  Because we wanted to try and figure out what was keeping us from getting pregnant.  Nothing. That's what.  No answers.  So……..a lot of happiness in that. 

But we did it.  And ten years later, I suppose I'm "happy" we went through it because the end of that twisty road led us to Georgia and eventually Crosby.  However, if someone could have told me after year one of Clomid shots and one IUI after another that it wasn't in the cards for us to get pregnant and we should just stop right now and pursue adoption and had I really been in the right frame of mind to hear that advice and act on it, I probably would have been much happier along the way. 

We kept at it though even when we weren't happy.  Even when it really blew….we kept at it.  I guess I'm glad meaningless Pinterest quotes weren't so prevalent ten years ago.  

And Fanny?  I believe that at the end of the book she was happy.  Really happy.  It might not have been what she'd dreamed of all those years ago and it might have been a lot of hard work, being a farmers wife……because life is hard work, but she realized while she was waiting for her fairy god-mother that it's pretty unrealistic to depend on someone else (or something else) to come along and bestow happiness upon you.  It's really a mind-set, a choice, a daily decision, something you have to work at, and something that might just creep up and surprise you one day because you've put so much effort into getting there, even when it hurt…..even when it meant giving up something you thought you really wanted.  

So really…..do things that you love, that you feel passionate about, that make you act like a better person. But, not at the expense of others, not because you don't feel 'happy' right this minute, and not because you think something or someone will solve something hard for you that you don't feel like putting the effort into yourself.   There are no reliable fairy-godmothers.  Fanny knew that; hers was seven years late.  

We know that.  
We have to acknowledge that.

And when we do, we might find that what we originally thought was going to make us happy wasn't really it.  


Totally unrelated picture other than we're happy.  

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Great Kid Birthday Gift Ideas

With Georgia being in kindergarten we've been getting a lot of birthday party invites lately!  And sometimes, I scratch my head a little over what to get.  I realize that some of the items here wouldn't qualify, price wise, as a gift for a classmate…..but we've all got other kids we buy gifts for too…..some of them in our family….and a good idea….is a good idea!


1.  Lush…..Fun.  This stuff is………fun.  It's like play-doh soap for a kids bath.  You can get it in a variety of colors and it also turns their bathwater a great color.  It smells good, is all natural, supports a great cause (proceeds help to build play grounds in under privileged areas), and can be used as soap or shampoo.  Plus, it's only $6. Add a cool bath poof and you've got yourself a unique present.  

2.  Little Passports.  This is a subscription service and it's one of the best I've tried.  We've been doing it for over a year now and every month a creative envelope from a different country arrives with age appropriate information, a souvenir, a post card, and some stickers for your child's "passport."  We hung a huge world map (provided for you) on the wall of G's play room and tape new information to it every month.  You can order a month-to-month subscription, a six month subscription, or a year long subscription for someone.  She is pumped every month when a new envelope arrives.  The luster definitely hasn't worn off. 

3.  Sew Cool Sewing Machine. We got this for Georgia for Christmas and it one of the most played with toys we've ever gotten her.  There is no thread, no exposed needles, and kids her age (five and up) can manage this all on their own and sew little pillows and other creations just like that.  It surges two pieces of felt together when you run them through the machine and it's so fun to watch kids get so excited about something they've made all on their own.  The little kits that are sold separately to make even more stuff are also super cool!

4.  Rody. Georgia got a Rody horse when she was 18 months old and she still plays with it.  She dresses it (funny), uses it as a pillow while watching movies (odd), jumps it all over the yard in the summer (expected), jumps it all over the house in the winter (a test of my patience), and even has slept with him in her bed (because kids can pile the strangest crap in their beds).  I think a toy that has stood the test of time for over four years is a good bargain. 

5.  Play Teepee. So, not the cheapest gift--maybe one to go in on with someone else…or you can always find a cheaper one somewhere else…like Etsy.  But the play value in these is spot on.  Plus--they are so easy to move.  We bring ours out to the yard for picnics in the summer, to the basement, it's always up in the playroom and it's a variety of things during almost every game Georgia plays, and she's brought it to the living room once or twice to watch a movie in.  

6.  Puppet Show. This becomes so much more than a puppet show stage.  It's great for magic shows, singing shows, a curtain for a stage act, a backdrop for play, and obviously something to hide behind.  

7.  Cootie. Loved this game as a kid and I feel like I hardly ever see it anymore in the game closet at most houses.  I think games for kids that teach concentration, sequencing, and motor skills are great gifts!

8.  Brightlab Lights. These are so beautiful and are just big cotton ball lights!  And you can create your own custom colored strand if you'd like or purchase one of their pre-made color combinations.  And while I think these would be a creative addition to any kids room, I wouldn't stop there.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Right by my side.

An ode to Georgia.
On becoming a big sister….
all of a sudden.
And doing it with all the…
excitement,
love,
trepidation,
intensity,
and care that a big sister should have.

I'll never forget Georgia, that morning, November 11th, when you came downstairs and told me you didn't feel good.  And I gave you a hug and told you I loved you and asked you what didn't feel good and you just said….you felt hot.  And you did. You had a fever.  So we took care of that and then told you…..

we were going to meet a baby that morning, daddy and I, that hopefully we'd get to bring home to be your little brother. And you got tears in your perfect eyes and then you shrieked and laughed.  Because that's what you do, even when you are horribly sick (and now we know that you were) you push through and love life--every single drop of it, always.  And you said you were so excited and that finally, finally, finally you would get to be a big sister.

It was so fast.  We didn't even know our last night as a family of three was our last night.  We didn't get to prepare you, talk about what that change would look like, how life would feel different, what a brand new baby really meant, and how amazing you were going to be at all of it even when it felt hard.  And I cried about that.  I was worried about it and felt guilty and missed you and we hadn't even left yet.

And then we did, and you got sicker, and sicker.  And I just wanted to be home with you and introduce you to your new little brother…and just be with you…..because being with you makes me feel like me.  But we couldn't leave the hospital with him yet and it felt like a lifetime away from you as you headed to the hospital yourself.  And I knew you were safe and you were with people who loved you so much and you'd be okay….but……

just…..but.

And finally…..when we got home….you showed us….how you were meant to be Crosby's big sister…..a little brother born just for you.

You take it so personally when you can't get him to stop crying.
Probably, because normally, the minute he sees your face he flashes one of his famous little lazy smiles.
His first laugh was for you.  Naturally.
He is amazed by your energy (as we all are) and you can mesmerize him for a 1/2 hour as you dance and shake all of his rattles.
You can't get close enough to him.
You told me once that you love him so much it makes you want to cry.
And then right after that you told me it wasn't fair that he got to go to bed later than you.
You beg for him to be able to have a sleepover in your room.
You tell him you can't wait until he'll wrestle with you.
You are dying to give him his first bite of rice cereal next month--I think you're more excited about it than your birthday.

And the list just goes on.
You're doing an amazing job G. It was a whirlwind ride for us all back in November…..and you are just awesome at your new big sister job.  It makes me love you more everyday…..and I just didn't know that was possible.

You are right by my side all the time.  Helping, making me laugh, hugging me, you've even wiped a tear off my face a time or two when I was just so tired, and telling me just what I need to hear most of the time.  You're an amazing almost-six year old……just amazing!

And I don't think it's any coincidence that you loved this song all summer….and now….it makes so much sense.  And we've played it so much since November, even Crosby gives a little smile when he hears it.  It's your song--yours and the Cat Man's!  Love you G!


Monday, February 16, 2015

I Love It…..That Valentine's Day…and I Always Will.


It was a favorite of mine growing up and still is.  Even as a single girl with no boyfriend I loved Valentine's Day.  I think it's sweet and pretty and cute and not this huge blown up, overdone, drop hundreds of dollars on it holiday. We don't really buy gifts or go out for expensive dinners usually.  But we do eat lots of cinnamon candies, wear hearts, and paint our nails red.  Who wouldn't like that?

Last year I started a Valentine's Day tea party tradition with Georgia using the antique tea cups that I got from my grandma.  It's super simple.  We make a little craft, have some heart shaped cupcakes, a little bit of candy, and the girls of course, try some tea. I love it because it plants the idea in Georgia's head that Valentine's Day is about something sweet to do with your friends and that holidays can be fun with simple and special traditions.

A few pictures…….





Every little girl has a favorite animal.  So we made glitter Valentine's animal necklaces out of plastic animals spray painted with an eye hook screwed in the back of them.



And a few weekends ago Georgia and Chris went to their first daddy/daughter dance.  It was adorable. Adorable.  Between these cute little Valentine's Day celebrations and Crosby only getting up once a night most nights….finally……February is my favorite month of 2015 so far.



Love.  It's fun to celebrate it.  Love for friends, and kids, and everything sweet!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Most Improved Award Goes To…...

Stitch Fix!

I just got my sixth or seventh Stitch Fix box.  I have been pretty 'eh' about my fixes so far--save for a handful of items--that I really did like.  To note, I received a pair of black leggings a few fixes back that I love, two different dresses that are fantastic, and a pretty cool over-sized tribal print cardigan.  Everything else has been just so-so.  I did get a dress one time that I thought was amazing but it didn't fit right; kind of unusual, because I feel like the sizing has been spot on in general.

But this week? My box was kind of perfect.

First though--how does Stitch Fix work if you're new:

1.  Create an account.
2.  Answer their style profile questions (this is kind of fun) and select the range of prices you'd spend on various clothing items from outerwear, to shirts, to bottoms, to accessories.  I've played around with this a little bit to see if I got better stuff at different price points--I haven't noticed a significant difference.
3.  Let them know what kinds of items you'd like to regularly see and what kind you never want to see. I have indicated that I never want to get accessories--and they've held true to that.
4.  Sign up for your first fix!  Warning--sometimes there is a long wait (a month or two) before there is a date available for your first fix.  Don't lose heart!
5.  For each fix there is a $20 styling fee that will be automatically deducted from your bank account as it nears time for you to receive your fix.  You'll get an e-mail when your fix has shipped and once you receive it you'll have three days to try the stuff on and decide what you want to keep. If you keep nothing you'll lose your $20 styling fee.  Whatever you do keep the $20 styling fee will be deducted from your total.  Additionally, if you choose to keep everything in a fix you get an additional discount off the whole lot.  This can be pretty substantial sometimes!  You'll get a pre-paid mailing envelope to send back whatever you don't want!  It's easy peasy.
6.  If you didn't like something from your fix you can leave detailed feedback at check out. You can also leave your "stylist" a note about what you'd like to see in your fix next time. When I was participating in Dressember I asked for an entire fix of dresses and they sent me five great ones!  I kept two and one of them is one of my favorite dresses that I own.

So here we go.  I asked for very basic items this time around in very basic colors. I wanted black and gray and white.  I wanted easy to style pieces to that didn't require a lot of fuss or ironing or tank tops underneath (my pet peeve).  And since your stylist will consult your pinterest style board if you have one, (and it definitely helps) mine sent me a surprise that is my favorite based on something I pinned a while back.

This jacket.  Yes.



I've been drooling over a leather jacket that Naomi from Love Taza has been wearing lately but at $275 (on sale), it's just not in my budget, so this one kind of gives me the same feeling.  I honestly didn't want to like it when I saw that it was coming but I do, I just…..do.  It's pretty good faux leather (and that's hard to come by) and the more I put it on, the more I like it.  Definitely a keeper.  

These sweaters.  They are basic, but different, and I can wear them with jeans or skirts and pants to work and I can wear a lot of different accessories with them. 



This first one is just gray and black but the color blocking is in an interesting pattern and I love the buttons down the back.  



And then this one is cream on top, black on bottom, and has charcoal gray sleeves.  I liked how necklaces looked on this sweater, that it wasn't V-neck, and was loose and so comfy. 

And then this open front cardigan.  Hello pockets. 



This thing is crazy soft, hangs heavy and those pockets on the side are huge--the whole fold that you see is pocket.  I could fit Crosby in one of them and Georgia in the other.  And I can wear this with almost everything in my closet.  It's basic--but such a good basic.  

So, I mean--I really loved this fix.  I know that it's not crazy exciting color wise--but that's okay with me.  I like shopping enough that I'm happy to provide my own crazy; it's hard to have someone else pick that out for you.  And that jacket--I'm just really pumped about that thing.  I only returned one thing this time around! 

Give stitch fix a try if you haven't yet!  It's kind of fun to get a box of surprises on your front porch! And if you don't love your first one--don't give up on it…..they get better and better!   

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