My First Influenster Box

I’m not the greatest housekeeper in the world. Clothes left in the dryer for days. Clothes left on the floor where I took them off. I can’t blame it on my kids (don’t have any), husband (don’t have one of those either), or my busy, busy lifestyle (nope). Usually I would prefer to read a book rather than do chores. I’ve even left a sink full of dirty dishes in the kitchen sink for what seems like forever. It’s a MIRACLE that I haven’t been overrun by critters by now. (Don’t worry, it’s not bad enough to get me on a reality show.)

Well, the folks at Influenster must have a secret camera set up in here, because the very first box I received from them contained 2 full-size bottles of Palmolive Soft Touch dishwashing liquid. One is Aloe based and the other has Vitamin E. To top it all off, my apartment complex installed a brand new faucet a day earlier. All signs pointing to getting my dishes washed, yes?

So I rolled up my sleeves and dived in, so to speak. I had been using a store brand liquid before and after a couple of days using the Palmolive Aloe, I threw it in the trash. The difference in my how my hands felt afterward was the main reason. I keep an industrial size bottle of lotion next to the sink because my hands would feel like sandpaper after washing dishes (probably why I didn’t like doing it). This isn’t an issue with the Palmolive, however. I haven’t needed to immediately moisturize since I’ve started using it. And, yes, it lathers up well, cuts through grease, and leaves dishes sparkling, but my hands are important to me, too.

Oh, and I stopped in the middle of writing this post and washed my dinner dishes. I may be reformed…

I received this product complimentary for testing purposes from Influenster in exchange for my honest opinion.

My Top 20 Books of 2011

As of this writing, according to Goodreads, I have read 266 books this year. That’s a lot. A good number of them are romance novels that only take a few hours to consume and since losing my full-time job in May, I have lots of extra hours in the day. None of those appear on my “best of” list, however, so those of you who don’t read that genre don’t have to worry.

This list is in no particular order and consists of the books that I gave 4 and 5 stars this year on Goodreads. I have included links to the full reviews on my blog. Here goes:

Zone One by Colson Whitehead

My Soul to Take by Tananarive Due

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Hurricane by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Pym by Mat Johnson

Surrender the Dark by L.A. Banks

Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman
A very clever novel about an man who aspires to leave the corporate world and be a great American novelist. Unfortunately, his father has already achieved great notoriety as just that. Lots of funny anecdotes about the workplace.

The New Kids: Big Dreams and Brave Journeys at a High School for Immigrant Teens by Brooke Hauser
Exactly what the subtitle says. Interesting stories about teens who have emigrated from all over the world and the lengths they have to go through to get an education in this country.

Class Warfare: Inside the Fight to Fix America’s Schools by Steven Brill
Outlines the real problems in our schools today and gives a great history lesson on how they got that way. Especially eye-opening was the information about teacher’s unions and the power they wield.

The Gift by Elle

The GQ Candidate by Kelli Goff

The Shopping Diet by Phillip Bloch

Voice of America by E.C. Osondu

The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate

Peace From Broken Pieces by Iyanla Vanzant

 If Sons, Then Heirs by Lorene Cary

Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World by Kathy Freston
An easy way to ease into the vegan lifestyle.

So, there you have it. Sorry it was so long, but I just couldn’t limit it to just 10. 

The Shopping Diet

by Phillip Bloch

Because of my chronic underemployment, I’ve never had a shopping problem. I am definitely not a shopaholic and upon initially reading this I thought this book wasn’t for me. But I think that this book can be helpful for anyone.

Phillip Bloch is a fashion stylist to the stars and regular people who can afford him. As a professional shopper he is more than qualified to offer advice on curbing your overspending and cultivating a closet that works best for you. Written like a diet book including sections called “Digest This” and “Battle of the Bulge”, Bloch even has a clothing pyramid based on the FDA’s old food pyramid.

Unlike other books on shopping and fashion, Bloch doesn’t bog you down with a lot of glossy photos of clothing that may be out of style in a season or two. Instead he packs real world advice on being stylish without landing in debtor’s prison.

Fabric Purchases

A few posts ago, I talked about creating a core wardrobe including some nice boring pieces for work.
Right after that had an incredible sale and it just so happens that it was my payday as well.
This is what I got:

Nice and plain, right? The top piece is 5 yds of black wool stretch suiting material that I think was about $5 a yard.  The second piece is 5 yards of a Ralph Lauren chino fabric that I have been stalking since they got it in a few months ago. It had been marked down to $1.95/yd! There is still some left, but don’t everybody take it all!  The third piece is about 2 1/2 yds charcoal grey wool stretch suiting – same as the first piece.  The last piece is a couple yards of black poplin probably for a button down shirt.  I only wanted to spend $40 and with a 30% off coupon and free shipping under $35, I was able to stay within budget!  I ordered it on Friday and received it on Tuesday – even with that Monday being a holiday.  Plus they send you some motivation:

Help Wanted

Position – Target Chaperone

Rate of Pay – internship
Duties – Accompany me on shopping excursions to Target.
Make sure I only buy what is on my list.

Backstory – I went to Target Wednesday to buy B12 vitamins (I eat a largely vegetarian diet and humans only get vitamin B12 from animal sources).
This is what I walked out with:

and no B12 vitamins.

What I’m Not Sewing

This blog, if you can’t tell by the title, was originally meant to be a sewing blog. Unfortunately, because of my current body image and fit issues, I haven’t been sewing at all. I am hoping to change this soon. But in the meantime, take a look at:

I am not sewing any of this fabric that I have painstakingly organized in this fabulous, ghetto shelving system (cardboard boxes):

I am not using any of these patterns (I have more; these are just the ones in my current size), to sew the above fabric:

I am not using these machines to sew the above fabric using the above patterns:

I am not using this “Wall of Inspiration” to inspire me:

I am not finishing these U.F.O.’s (unfinished objects, for the uninitiated):

I am not turning these jeans into a skirt:

I am still buying patterns:

(off subject – I got a signed copy of the latest Alexander McCall Smith book from Susan, it came the same day as these patterns from Vogue)
I am still buying fabric, too, but there are no pictures.
So, hang in there with me and I promise to have at least one completed project before the summer is over!

20. Bringing Home the Birkin

My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag
by Michael Tonello
started 4/27 finished 5/5

I have developed quite a handbag fetish in the last 5 years or so. When I was in college the main goal was to somehow get a Lo.uis Vuit.ton purse, and my boyfriend at the time was able to come through with that one (Thanks, Todd). Then maybe ten years later I wanted a Coach purse, and my friend who worked at a department store at the time was able to help out in the discount department (Thanks, Melody). In between those purses and after that, I carried a succession of manly, but attractive backpacks and totes bought mostly from the G.ap. They were big and had lots of pockets & compartments and because I don’t have a car, I carry a lot of stuff and they were perfect.

But then the purse market started to realize that there were a lot of women were like me and they started making purses bigger and bigger, with lots of pockets & compartments and they were attractive and still feminine. I started to take notice. The Grandaddy(Grandma?) of them all is the Hermes Birkin bag.

Michael Tonello stumbled upon them by accident. A successful business owner and hairdresser, Tonello decided he wanted a geographical change in his life. When a friend offers him a job with a new company he was starting, he moves to Spain. As luck would have it, the friend doesn’t get the financing he needs and now Tonello is jobless and in a multi-year apartment lease in Barcelona. To earn some cash he sells a Hermes scarf he only wore once on e-Bay. The response was so immediate and lucrative that he begins buying up scarfs all over Europe and reselling them on e-Bay to customers in the U.S. (where most of the designs are no longer available).

One of his regular customers lets him know that if he can get his hand on one, she would be very interested in a Birkin. See, you can’t just walk into an Hermes store and ask to buy one (as Tonello would soon find out). In most stores they aren’t even on display and if they are you will be told that they are reserved. If you are lucky and connected, you can be placed on a waiting list and maybe get one in 2 or 3 years. Always up to a challenge, Tonello was able to come up with a system that netted him lots of bags for resale by traveling to Hermes stores all over Europe and even South America and Japan. He sometimes enlisted the help of others and even wrote a small field guide to the different type of Hermes employee that you will encounter and what strategy to use to ensure success.
Humorous and at times touching this is a good compliment to the Simon Doonan book,
Eccentric Glamour and Deluxe.

17. Shop Your Closet

The Ultimate Guide to Organizing Your Closet with Style
by Melanie Charlton Fascitelli
started 4/5 finished 4/15

I don’t know why I continue to read organizing books, closet organizing books in particular. I live in an apartment and can’t make any major changes structurally to the space or the money to buy lots of special boxes from the Container Store (no offense to them, I love them). In our store this is shelved in the Home Management section. It belongs in the Appearance section with the other style books, because the focus was on building a good wardrobe and then placing it in a well organized space. The author owns a closet organizing business in New York and knows what shes talking about it, but the book was too all over the place for me. Browse through it at the bookstore before you buy it.*

*Bookseller’s note: After browsing, if you decide not to buy it please don’t leave it in the chair. Either reshelve it or bring it to Customer Service and we will do it for you. Oh, and don’t leave your coffee cup and granola bar wrappers in the chair either, we do have trashcans.

Recipe for Disaster?

Two weeks ago I met Janie and Joy, my friends from Los Angeles, in NYC to catch the opening weekend of Cat on A Hot Tin Roof. This trip was attempted before last November to see The Color Purple before Fantasia left, but the stagehand strike kept Broadway dark.

This is the picket line that we couldn’t cross. Joy and I were both sick that weekend and spent much of it traveling back and forth to Manhattan in a NyQuil-induced haze. We had fun just exploring different neighborhoods and visiting the Whitney Museum for a Kara Walker exhibit.

So, this trip was planned for a couple months now and of course I waited until the last minute to begin agonizing over what to wear to the theatre. Here, in Atlanta, people seem to show up in anything: what they wore to work that day, jeans & sneakers, etc. But I was raised to dress up when you go to a performance, because it is an event. My current lifestyle doesn’t include any dressy clothes since I only go to work, back home, the fabric store, Target and occasionally the movies. Perfect opportunity to make something new, right?

The first pair of pants didn’t work out. I finally settled on a silk blouse that I could wear with an existing pair of pants. The only problem is that I would have to make it the night before my flight. Guess how that turned out. By 10 p.m. I was exhausted (my normal bedtime is around 8:30 or 9), in tears and cursing my hard to fit body. The blouse is now a UFO (unfinished object for you non-crafty types) and will be finished sometime soon. The sleeves are fabulous, though!

Did I mention that my cycle was on and my hormones were making me extremely bitchy? Ya’ll know I am not like that normally….(crickets)

(Un)fortunately, it was windy, rainy, and cold for most of the weekend and nobody saw anything but my coat and soaked through tennis shoes. We had a great time despite my hormonal breakdown. I can’t remember much of what we did on Friday night, but it involved a lot of rain, 2 meals, and some window shopping.

On Saturday:

  • a stop in at the conference that was the main reason for Joy being there and breakfast where we met a beautiful young student/model from Kenya who is in college in Dallas. She was spending her spring break by herself in NYC, because you haven’t really seen America unless you go there.
  • a fabulous boutique in Harlem where we met a woman who was recovering from breast cancer who asked Joy (who has an almost shaved head) about hat options.
  • a requisite visit to Carol’s Daughter (before their website I used to ask people who were going to NY to pick up stuff for me).
  • the shoe floor at Saks (for the male salespeople as well as the shoes).
  • the play. Fantastic performances by all, especially Anika Noni Rose.
  • some great guacamole (can’t remember the name but it was 2 doors down from our hotel).
  • Janie & Joy head back to Harlem for a little nightlife. I can’t hang that late at night.

On Sunday:

  • the weather Gods gave us a break and finally cleared away the clouds and let the sun shine down.
  • several stops on the subway were closed for maintenance so we found ourselves down by City Hall where a couple squirrels tried to jack Janie for her almonds (the only criminal activity we saw all weekend – the guys trying to sell tokens in the subway don’t count, that’s business).
  • wound up on the street that my celebrity crush lives on (don’t ask me how I know), but dissuaded by Janie and Joy from walking up and down hoping that he comes out of a building.
  • found a quaint (I never use that word) brunch spot with fantastic turkey sausage.
  • walked from Soho all the way back to our wonderful hotel on Park and 26Th.
  • headed to JFK (not my favorite) for our flights home. Maybe Janie and Joy will blog about their adventure.

We had a fantabulous time and are all enamored with NYC and hope to return soon.

Procrastination Sewing

I didn’t plan for this to happen (procrastinators always say this). I have known about this trip for 2 months and here it is the day before and I still don’t have anything special to wear. (Un)Fortunately it will be cold and rainy in New York this weekend and I can get by with jeans since I will have on a coat most of the time, but I wanted to dress up a little for the theatre (I never dress up in my real life). Yesterday I was hit with some serious cramps and nausea (at least my cycle will be out of the way – sorry male readers) and I only had enough energy to wash and twist my locs…no sewing done. Today I woke up feeling better and I found an easy McCall’s blouse pattern that will sew up quickly…I just had to go and buy it. Hancock’s is having a 99cent sale on McCall’s patterns. Off I go.

I get there early and head straight for the pattern drawers. All of the patterns that I want are new and start with the numbers 56.. However, the latest ones they have start with 55… The new patterns haven’t been put out yet! So off I go to the book to search for a comparable blouse pattern that I can still get for 99 cents. While I am looking (and not liking what I see), one of the employees comes over with a big box and starts restocking the patterns. She has the new ones!!!! I will have first pick!!!! While I wait for her to finish, I look around at fabric. I am not planning on actually buying any because:

  1. I have placed myself on punishment again and I can’t buy any more fabric until I actually complete a wearable garment.
  2. I am going on vacation tomorrow with very limited funds and I don’t want to dip into my monies.
  3. I never find any good fabric in this brokedown store anyway.

Of course I found this really cute fabric (I am a sucker for certain color combinations – and this brown/light blue is one of them) on the $2.00 table so I got 5 yards. Later the cashier tried to charge me the original $3.95 price but the cutting table lady came to my aid.

These are the patterns that I picked up:

I am making the belted version using this silk jacquard (excuse the wrinkles).

These are three scarves that I have crocheted for friends while I get back in the groove of crocheting. I hope to now move on to more ambitious projects.

Now, I am off to make my blouse!