I hope you have a great Christmas. Mine's a work in progress. I'm "on beeper" for my company, trying to put out e-fires at hospitals around the country. I do have the whole series of Arrested Development to keep me company, though.
I may not post much for a week or so, but never fear; like a phoenix or a runny nose, I shall return.
I am talking about LearnVest. I first heard about this on The Nate Show, and I recently saw a little mention in a magazine. An investigation ensued.
This is a website dedicated to uncomplicating our finances. Retirement, taxes, insurance, real estate. It's all there--and more. And it's all free. They even have a daily e-mail. (Check!)
I've only spent about thirty minutes at this point, but so far it is excellent. It's easy to see how this could have an Etsy effect (wherein you start out looking at one thing and find yourself, three hours later, with so much more in your mental inventory).
Confession: The site is targeted at women. Don't care. They break it down, Outkast-style. Ok. That's a bit strong, but for real, it's simple and easy to follow, without condescending to the reader. I really recommend this to everyone, but it would be especially good for younger people who are just graduating and starting to work/save money. Spoiler alert: one of my resolutions for 2011 is to learn more about investing and jump on it.
Ok. So the gifts aren't mini, but this should be a fairly concise guide to finding something for most people on your list, most under $20. Tah der. Remember to buy locally when possible, too, but these are some ideas for those with limited options and/or time. Please bear with me and read on until the end. It's worth it! Promise.
Oh, and the rules I gift-shop by.
1. Shop year-round. (Whoops. Well, this guide is a great place to start, if you're a little behind. And you'll know for next year.) This strategy allows you to constantly browse for items on sale or out of season that could be useful later. Think birthdays as well.
2. Only buy it if you're sure it's something the person will use, read, display, eat, play with, or wear (this can be the trickiest one--see #4).
3. Is this something you'd rather have for yourself? If you answered yes, then get a duplicate. You'll only come to resent your loved one.
4. Consider the person's lifestyle. Are they trying to watch their weight? Well, stay away from Godiva. If she's a T-shirt and jeans person, avoid fancy jewelry or sweaters. She will not wear them. I had to learn this lesson from some of my family members.
5. Only give a gift card if it's a last resort or you just want to help them purchase something they've mentioned that you do not want to spring for. Hehe. Is the person just impossible to buy for? Do they already have everything they could possibly want? Have they dropped no hints throughout the year? You can always donate to a charity in their name. I like St. Jude and Gilda's Club. The organization will usually mail a card to the "in honor of" person, and your donation should be tax deductible. It's a win-win.
Without further ado, here are some ideas that should be crowd pleasers.
2011 Planner from Dozi on Etsy. Confession: I ripped these right off of Freck. She won't mind. They're great and a steal at $11.50 each.
Silver bowls from Jamali Garden. Ina would approve. These are $12 each, and you could present one as-is or fill it with candy. Ghirardelli squares, anyone?!
Aveda's Shampure Candle. This is my new favorite thing. The candle with recycled/reusable glass container is $32 and burns for about 50 hours. The refill candle is $22. It's an earthy scent, so girls and guys should dig this.
Stationery from Rifle Paper Co. I feel that paper is always a good gift. This set would be ideal for dog lovers, but Rifle has an excellent selection for other people in your life. The price is $16 for a set of 8. That's only $2 per card (with envelope), which is not too shabby. For a licensed character at Hallmark, you'll spend twice this. Also consider something like this for children. It's never too early to teach good manners (like sending thank you cards) in this day and age.
How to Be Popular at FredFlare. You cannot go wrong with cheeky books. The cover alone is worth the $13.95.
iPod case from Byrd & Belle. Yes, I blogged about these before, but they warrant a second look. Angie, the designer, makes cases for just about any Apple product your techie's heart could desire. This one is $26, and it will be unlike anything s/he will see in stores.
Hopefully this guide has given you some good ideas. I don't have a promo code or a giveaway or anything except a thank you for taking time out of your day to visit Specs Appeal, throw a little comment love my way, and share part of your lives with me. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season.
I may have hinted at this before, but if you're not signed up for one or all of Real Simple's free daily e-mails (or the magazine itself), you're missing out. Today's message was no exception. There was a nifty link to several decorating ideas. To wit:
It's all about the life of Judd Foxman, a non-practicing Jew (it comes into play!) whose wife cheats on him with his boss. Oh, and Judd's father has just passed away. He returns to his New England childhood home to observe the shiva (see?) with his mother and siblings. In case you're not familiar, which was me until reading this book, shiva is a Jewish tradition in which the close relatives of the departed person mourn his death and welcome co-mourners for seven days.
It was fascinating enough just to learn more about this practice, but throw on some family drama, childhood memories, and a ton of hilarity, and you have a real winner. This was seriously a book that pained me to put down; I have since checked out Tropper's Everything Changes, which is very much in the same vein of being addictive. (See what I did there. Vein. Addiction. Drugs. Hehe.)
Favorite quote from this book, spoken by Judd's older brother:
At some point, being angry is just another bad habit, like smoking, and you keep poisoning yourself without thinking about it.
Ok, ok. Back in the summer I posted how I always go for relatively inexpensive watches. It's true. Or was. I saw this and had to have it.
It's a Citizen Eco-Drive, and I'm crazy for it! A month ago I saw this same watch in GQ and thought how nifty it would be. And I'm not the kind of person who usually runs out and buys something just because I saw it in a magazine.
Plus, I decided that since this one is solar-powered and never needs a new battery, I should not feel guilty about spending a tiny bit more than a few Timexes. It's still not a Rolex or anything like that. Granted, I am the slightest bit terrified to scratch it, but I know I'm in good hands. My pals Steve and Missy, who own Steve's Jewelers back in my hometown of Union City, have got the hookup. In the event that I have a watch or jewelry question, they always know the answer.
And they happen to carry Citizen. I sent Missy a picture of this one, and they had it in stock. Color me green!
I do like the band it came with, but it was a little too military for everyday wear for my taste, so I switched it out with this one.
I found it at J.Crew for $20, and it's a lot more flexible and classic than the green one. Of course I'm still keeping that one to mix it up, but the gray is my go-to band now. Plus, it's kind of cool that this is a custom creation and no one (at least for many miles) has this same watch/band combination.
I really don't know why I have not yet blogged about Modern Family.
It's genius, really. My pal Ashley had been trying to get me to watch it shortly after it premiered last year, and I'm glad I finally came around. Normally I shudder at "family" comedies and sometimes really wanted to sue the vile CBS because everybody does not love Raymond. But Modern Fam is different. Because it's actually funny. And it's on ABC on Wednesday nights at 9/8 Central.
TV veteran Ed O'Neill plays Jay Dunphy, the patriarch of this crazy extended family. He marries the spicy, much younger Gloria, who has a (hilarious!) son named Manny. His daughter Claire (Julie Bowen, also a vet) is married to the delightful Phil, and they have three children. Then there's Mitchell, the son/brother who, with his partner Cam, have adopted the adorable Lily.
The show has already racked up Emmys, including Outstanding Comedy Series. If you're not watching yet, click here to see a bit. You won't be sorry.
Oh. This post was going to be about last night's episode, in which they celebrate Manny's birthday at Maggiano's, which I also love. But I decided to make this an official endorsement. Enjoy!
If you're looking for a particularly season-specific book, I think I've found it.
This is Tess Callahan's story of April and Oliver, childhood friends whose lives remain intertwined, for better or worse. Upon the sudden death of April's younger brother Buddy, the title characters are reunited after growing apart post-high school. Oliver is the preppy, quiet law student, who is engaged to the seemingly perfect blonde Bernadette. April is the tough-exteriored bartender whose dark hair matches her mood.
As you can probably tell from the rather striking composition of the cover, this is not a feel-good story. But it's not a total downer, either. What happened in their respective pasts that caused them to turn out the way they are? Are they ever going to just hook it up and end the suspense? Way before the end of the story, I wanted both of the main characters to succeed, in spite of their challenges. And even though part of it takes place at a beach house, you still get that sort of crispy, cool feeling that's present throughout most of the book. I read it in bed, as I often do, and it was a nice one to snuggle up with.
While I will always be loyal to my favorite guys, barring a catastrophic outbreak of lactose intolerance, I have a new discovery in Nashville. It's Pinkberry. And it's de-lish.
Yum is really all I can say. I'd heard about Pinkberry from magazines and blogs (it seems that stars are usually seen cavorting about with those little containers), so I thought it was time to check out the new location on West End Avenue. Oh, and in case you're wondering what it is, let me clarify. It's fro-yo, yo! (I didn't know for the longest time. I wondered if it was snow cones or frozen berries or what.)
Ashley was down with that, so we hit it up on Saturday night. They have several flavors of yogurt and a variety of fresh fruit and fully machine-made candy toppings. I picked chocolate (duh) with chocolate crispy drizzle and a chunk of waffle cone. Ashley got two mini swirls of pomegranate and mango. We were both on cloud nueve. Unless you like that super-tart, not very sweet flavor, steer clear of the original.
Of course it's not health food by any means, but it's a fairly smart way to treat yourself. Nonfat or low-fat yogurt. Active cultures. All that. But also tasty.
I'm hooked on lip blam. You may remember that from a while back, but in case you're new, this brings you up to speed. And I just realized that I started this post with the same sentence as the older one. Oh well. I'm nothing if not consistent.
Anywho, I had read about the brand Jack Black and how awesome their lip balms are. On my last trip to Sephora, I decided to give them a whirl. I'm glad this happened.
Jack Black is a men's line, which means that it's sort of low on the frills factor. These lip balms are not too shiny or sticky, and they really work. Plus, they have some SPF going on. I'm for that. I've taken to putting them on before bed, and I'm hoping that they pass the test of the dry winter air.
Ok. I'm a tad late with this, but I wanted to share.
I made these whoopie pies to share with my pal Emily on Halloween, when I helped her pass out pounds and pounds of candies. She lives on this crazy-cool street, and it was bonkers. There were kids everywhere. My favorite was a girl wearing a sweater vest, cool glasses, and scales down her back. I asked what she was; she said a thesaurus. Loved it.
I got this little word puzzle from a co-worker last year, and it's hung in my cubicle ever since. Check out those directions. Circle the correctly spelthalloween words. And is RIP in this context really a word? Again, love it.
I hope you had a fun Halloween and ate plenty of candy.
Gregory Maguire is a name that you may not be very familiar with. It's one of those that you've probably heard a few times (like Mitt Romney or Barry Diller) but are not quite sure who they are. Well, I have a word for you. Wicked. Wicked, to be more precise. He's the author who inspired the hit Broadway musical with his version of the Oz tale.
Maguire takes classic children's stories and reworks them in a way that is fairly unique. He usually throws in a dash of intrigue, a romance, and a deeper, more grown-up sense of magic.
Lost was the last of his big-people books that I had not read. (He also writes truly kiddy books, which I'm sure are great.) It seemed to hold the same promise as his other stories, but it fell flat. And quick. It was sort of a pastiche of Ebenezer Scrooge, Jack the Ripper, and a modern-day writer who travels back to her ancestral home in England. Quite simply, there were too many references and not enough cohesion in the storyline. I did make it to the end, but I really didn't care how it turned out. (See also: this season of Project Runway.)
Let me say that I really enjoyed the Wicked series. Ok...the third book (A Lion Among Men) could have been completely left out, but the first two books more than make up for it. I loved Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister and Mirror Mirror, too. You can see his other books here. I definitely recommend reading from his catalog, but don't start with Lost, or you may not get much further.
Have you ever seen the show Iconoclasts on the Sundance Channel?
It's great. Robert Redford produces this show, which brings together two standouts in different fields who interview each other. This weekend it was Cate Blanchett, one of my favorite actresses, and Tim Flannery, a fellow Aussie friend of hers who studies climate change. This was right up my alley, but imagine my surprise when I saw Cate's crazy-cool specs.
I love them...and her. Not everyone could pull off such a dramatic (ha) frame, but she is one of the few. The show comes on Saturdays at 9 Eastern/8 Central, but they re-air episodes all the time. The week before it was a re-run of Fiona Apple with Quentin Tarantino.
Look out when Charlize Theron meets Jane Goodall. It promises to be a (insert-clever-monkey-joke) time.
It includes such jewels as Doodlebug, Lateef the Truthspeaker, and Krust. If you click the link, you can roll over the image for a magnified view. Be sure to look for categories like Familial, Virtues, and Audacious Misspelling. I know some of my fellow children of the 90s will appreciate this as well.
At 20 bones, I'd say it's a flippin' steeeeel, yo. Yeah. I took it there. What?
I usually read Valet each day during lunch at my desk, or if I go out, I may or may not read it while taking a mini-break from work. They're sort of hit or miss, in terms of what is actually wearable and/or affordable for most American guys, but they always have something entertaining.
Today it's an assortment of home decor items based on clothing style. The post is called Try This At Home. This collection is called "Urban Rake," which made me smile. I'm sort of a mixture of three of the four featured styles. Can you guess which one did not make my list?
I'm mildly obsessed with Warby Parker and have been thoroughly enjoying my new specs. Even though I probably won't be buying more frames any time soon, I still find myself perusing their website every few weeks.
Here's the most recent discovery.
Isn't this awesome? They've made a new version of their Japhy style in this nifty pink shade, and $50 from each sale goes to the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Style and substance. That's a rare combination these days.
And now it is mine. It's a duvet cover, and the color is sea spray, which is sort of a blue-gray. Go figure. :)
I had a coupon for 10% off, so I picked this up, along with the 2011 Linda & Harriett calendar. It's so awesome that Liz from L&H is selling her calendar through a national retailer like West Elm. You can find one at your local store or through her website.
If you're thinking of buying one, though, now is the time. Last year I don't think they lasted through Thanksgiving.
I'm also going to try to pick back up with more regular blogging. Things have been a little tricky lately. I hope you're all doing well.
(pictures from westelm.com and lindaandharriett.com, respectively)
Do you happen to remember this post on the first Flavia de Luce novel? Well, I'm happy to report that I picked up the second book, and it was equally entertaining.
Just like last time, Flavia is up to her old tricks, but now there's a new mystery afoot. It all starts when a shady puppeteer and his mysterious female companion show up (or rather break down) in the town of Bishop's Lacey. Of course Flavia senses that something is fishy from the first minute, and she's completely right. Throw in some good, old-fashioned town gossip and a rich, visiting aunt, and you've got a few hours of entertainment.
Again, this is a fun story of intrigue, science, and humor. Best line of the book: Boil me dry! Flavia is always using really odd expressions, and I'm into it. Alan Bradley continues to do an excellent job of writing from the perspective of a young girl, even as she begins to mature and see the world in two different ways.
If you have not read the first book, then, really, what are you waiting for? The weather is about to get cool, and these would be the perfect start to your hibernation.
...and then promptly back to our seats to revisit some classics, especially after seeing these reimagined movie posters on the unfortunately named EveryGuyed. I love the simplicity and the graphic punch, and even for the few movies in this lineup that I haven't seen, I know exactly what they're getting at. Yes, I just ended a sentence with a preposition.
I first saw these linked from Valet and then again over at Manifold Destiny, but that won't stop me from posting here.
This past weekend I got to go home and visit some friends, including Lexie and James, Holly and co. (including Stella!), and my mom and brother.
Here is a picture of me with that sweet baby. Isn't she precious? She loves her Toms. Sorry. And those are my new Coltons from Warby Parker.
This is my other new pair, called Thompson. This shot was back from the demo days, and I tried my best to doctor the picture within an inch of its life.
Originally I thought that the Thompsons would be the go-to, everyday frames, but the more I wear the Coltons, the more I like how they're just slightly oversized and funky. My mom called them tiger. She meant tortoise but wouldn't concede. It wasn't worth the argument. Believe me.
One weekend ago I enjoyed a mini-field trip to the Adventure Science Center here in Nashville. My pal Ashley and I went on a Sunday, when it was free. And what fun we had. It made for nice memories, especially when I was on call for work this past week and weekend.