5.27.2015

Trench Coats and Closet Guidelines

Rick Blaine made it classy in Casablanca, Carmen Sandiego boldly donned red, and Inspector Clouseau proved anyone could wear it. The Trench Coat - a staple of closets around the world for years, and one of my "must have" classics.

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the look and sensibility that a trench coat offers. There were several years in the 80's when I tried to convince my mother to buy one for me from our local department store - a battle which I never won (apparently it made no sense to her for a 7 year old girl to go around dressed like Columbo).

In high school I finally got my first one - a solid black number, and massively over-sized for my small frame. The shoulders of the coat hit me somewhere between my actual shoulder and my elbow - but I loved it. It followed me to college in Boston and served me well for a number of years post-grad, until it found a new home with a friend moving overseas.

When The Hubs and I found ourselves in Paris, I casually brought up the idea of finding one that actually fit. We did some research online to see which shops sold trench coats, and then we hit the streets. We found what we wanted at Cama├»eu - something that fit both me and our budget - and I accessorized with a simple black scarf from a neighboring French shop.


I'm pretty low-key in my clothing tastes (as the Keds in these photos clearly prove), but this red trench has two things going for it:
  1. It makes me smile whenever I put it on
  2. I get complements on it from total strangers whenever I wear it
I think #1 is really the key. No matter what you claim as your style, or how you define your "look", you should always have pieces in your closet that make you feel good when you put them on. In fact, I would go so far as to say that...

Tweet: If it doesn't make you smile, you should think seriously about purging it from your wardrobe. 

I don't have a lot of rules for what to wear, keeping in mind that people are as unique as their closets, but I have developed a few...

Carrie's Closet Guidelines

  • Life is too short to wear things you don't like. Admit that you spent good money on the clothes you don't wear, but recognize that you're not getting that money back by leaving them in your closet. Donate them to your local charity and let someone else find a deal! 
  • OIOO - One In, One Out. In the first year of our marriage, Peter instituted the OIOO policy. Initially dismayed, over the last 15 years I've completely embraced the idea - to the delight of my husband AND our bank account. BONUS: it makes me choosy about what I bring IN the closet, because I have to already have something in mind to go OUT.
  • That high school weight (or shape) isn't happening again. Stop dressing for the shape you remember or wish you had and start dressing the shape God gave you. I adore pencil skirts - but my thighs have moved on, and so must I. 
  • Know your style and ignore the trends. When I was 8 years old I informed my mother that I wouldn't be wearing any clothes that utilized snaps or velcro, or anything with butterflies stitched on the pockets - so basically clothing from a typical children's department. While this limited what I had on my shelves, I was happier in the clothing I wore, and I carried that independent style with me into adulthood.
  • Wear your pearls. I wrote about this on the Busy Nothings Facebook page last year, but the point is pretty simple: if you're waiting for a special occasion to wear your good jewelry, you're missing out. My husband gave me pearls 11 years ago so I would wear them, not so they would sit in a drawer. If you lose them, it's no different than if they sit in a safe for 50 years and are never worn. 

Yesthere are larger, more eternal issues in this world then wearing clothes that make you smile, and true, not everyone has the luxury of being so choosy in what they wear, and some people are grateful to have even one pair of shoes. But the majority of us are not in a position of having just one pair of shoes. If you are anything like me, you have a full closet of clothes with items you don't wear, can't part with, and a compulsion to buy more. 

But here's a thought: if you and I were better stewards of what we spent our money on, we'd have more discretionary funds for helping others, less stress, and emptier closets. And if you're sitting there saying, "But Carrie, I like to shop and find good deals!" - I've got you covered! Start using your "power" for good - fill some Shoeboxes this year instead of filling your closets with another item you won't be wearing in six months.

Now off my soapbox... it's YOUR turn! 
What's your signature style? Your piece of clothing that makes YOU smile?
  

5.19.2015

The Day I Received A Goodie Box from @katflinn

Last November I apparently tweeted or retweeted something that entered me to win a box of goodies from one of my favorite foodie authors, Kathleen Flinn. You may recall that it's Kathleen's fault that I started cooking at all, thanks to being (briefly) unemployed and not-quite-literally devouring her book, The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.

Three years later I still follow her and when I saw an opportunity to win a copy of her newest book, Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good, I retweeted or did something of the sort to enter myself. It's all rather vague, but all I know is that in early December I received a direct message on Twitter from Ms. Flinn informing me that I had won the prize, and could I please send her my mailing address.

For a number of personal reasons December 2014 was a difficult time for me, and in the midst of it all I forgot all about the contest and the book until a BOX showed up at my door just 5 days before Christmas. Talk about a nice surprise!


I have always been a sucker for a surprise box of goodies - I mean, who doesn't like gifts from a friend, or a famous author? I waited until the Hubs came home from work and then after dinner we unpacked what turned out to be a HUGE box of fun. From coasters and napkins to salad dressings and a plethora of mustards and spices, it felt like a Mary Poppins box that never ended. 

I knew right away that I wanted to blog about it, but by the time it arrived I was down with the flu and taking life one day at a time. Blogging was the last thing on my mind, and all I could muster was sharing a picture on my Facebook page and thanking Kathleen on Twitter. 

Fast forward six months and it's high time that Kathleen received a proper "Thank You" on the Busy Nothings blog! 

Six months out and favorite things from the box include:

And on a slightly personal note, I'd like to add some food for thought. If you've ever seen something in a store that reminded you of a friend or acquaintance and thought about buying it but held back because they might feel obligated to reciprocate, let me say here and now: do it anyway. Over the last three years I can think of three different, "out of the blue" gifts that I have received from people I have either never met in person or haven't seen since I was a kid, and they all made my day. 

You never know what people are going through or how your simple gesture might make their day a whole lot brighter. Don't consider yourself a good gift giver? Sometimes all you have to do is look on a social account - like Facebook - to see what they like. One online friend sent me a box of Nancy Drew reprints after she saw a blog post I wrote about wanting to find the original 1920's editions. Another friend I haven't seen since high school saw my Facebook posts about all things pumpkin and surprised me with a goodie box of pumpkin scented Yankee Candle gifts. 


Kathleen threw in an assortment of items that were both fun (a preview copy of another foodie's book) and personal (Go Mariners!). I've never met Kathleen Flinn in person, and probably never will, but her box was a bright spot on a dark day, and I'm thankful that for a few minutes this December our paths crossed over from online to real life.

What was in the last goodie box you sent or received?


5.13.2015

An Update from My Nightstand

A few years ago, I would faithfully blog about what I was reading. I did it so often on this blog that I actually started a blog called What's On My Nightstand that was dedicated to nothing but book reviews. After a few months I even invited some fellow bookworms to join me as the WOMNS book blogging team; we lasted about a year, and then called it a day when life got too busy.

For a couple of years after that, I joined up with Jessica Fisher and Anne Bogel to discuss books and share book reviews on Life as MOM. It was fun while it lasted, and I got some great book recommendations out of the experience (and hope I added a few of my own). 



No matter how busy life is, however, I do try to make time to read for personal pleasure and growth. I'm a sucker for Goodreads (let's connect!), and keep a running tab of the books I read each year. It's just OCD enough to make me happy, and let's face it, the little Reading Challenge they do each year is great incentive for competitive people (not that I would know, of course!) to read just a little bit more than their goal.

I gravitate towards books and authors that make me think (Tozer, Lewis, Chan), and the ones that talk about food and France (Flinn, Mah, Le Billon). I throw the occasional Children's book in the mix (classic re-reads from my childhood, like The Westing Game or The Search for Delicious), and am still a sucker for Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes

I have a stack of books on my nightstand that are either in process or will soon be so. Our home library is stuffed and overflowing (I'm a firm believer in owning real books), but to part with them is like trying to decide which body part to cut off. I just can't do it. At one point, while staring at our library shelves, the Hubs knew defeat was at hand but gave a parting shot of, "You have a problem." I'm not in denial - I know I'm addicted to books, but I also think it could be worse. It could be shoes (which I refuse to buy used) instead of books (which I will willingly buy used), so really - I'm saving us money, right? 


In addition to buying used, I also routinely add my name to the hat for Goodreads book giveaways (and have won a few, including Culture Wars in British Literature and The Carnivore's Manifesto that are still waiting their turn in the stack above). I ask for books (or gift cards to bookstores) for Christmas and my birthday, and use Amazon credit for all else. Books are definitely my Achilles heel, but we limp around together and I make the best of it.

So what am I currently reading? I'm so glad you asked!

Right now I'm reading several books, including Why Jesus? by one of my favorite authors and speakers, Ravi Zacharias, and re-reading (for the third time), James A. Michener's, The Source just because I enjoyed it so much the first two times through the 1,078 page novel.

I'm also using the 2013 devotional of A.W. Tozer's sermons, My Daily Pursuit (with a foreword by Dr. Zacharias) during my morning Bible study time. And on a less serious scale, I've just added book #4 in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, The Interrupted Tale, to my reading list.

Now it's your turn... What's On YOUR Nightstand?

5.12.2015

How @trytheworld Got Me Blogging Again

The last time I sat down and wrote a post it was January, and I was wrapped up in blankets drinking hot tea. Today my windows are open and I'm wearing sandals. Life goes marching on and before you know it, it's been four months since you've blogged about anything and nothing.

So what brought me back? Food. 


Remember when I wrote that post about the hobbies I had that weren't worthy of Pinterest? Remember how the first three things on my list were eating, travel, and culture? Well, today I'm writing to tell you about something that gives me the best of all three worlds - made all the more perfect by the fact that due to numerous reasons, the Hubs and I are currently tied down and unable to travel internationally, as we would like to do.

Meet a brilliant idea called Try The World

Someone liked a post on Facebook that mentioned Try The World, and it caught my attention. Food, culture, and something to look forward to in the mail every other month? That was intriguing enough to make me click through and learn more.

With the Hubs 40th birthday coming up this week, I was already on the hunt for something unique to give him, and Try The World seemed to fit the bill.

I've looked at a lot of subscription services over the years, but all of them were too rich for my blood. Not so with Try The World. One box of goodies from a different country, every other month, for $33 a box (including shipping) that I can cancel at any time? I may be cheap, but even my Scotch blood could stomach that deal (sweetened by the fact that when I ordered I was able to score a free BONUS box of food from one of our favorite countries, France).

We  began our journey in Marrakesh, Morocco, and as soon as the first box arrived the Hubs declared it one of the best birthday gifts ever. Coming from someone who is not highly excitable, that's a huge complement!

Over the weekend our bonus box from France arrived, which we unpacked with much glee. I particularly squealed when Hubs pulled out the canister of Fleur de Sel, one of my favorite salts to use in cooking, and the jar of fig jam (if you recall, we fell hard for figs last year). The index card contains information about what is included in the box, while the Culture Guide shares recipes, musical playlists, recommended country-specific films, and more. 


Bottom Line: if you like food, if you like culture, and if you're looking for something fun to do as a couple (or as a family) on a Friday night, we highly recommend investing in the Try The World boxes.

*     *    *    *    *

Full Disclosure: Try The World hasn't given me anything for writing this review, but if you click on any of my TTW links, it IS a referral link. The good news is that if you use my link, you get $15 off your box (and I get $15 off if you click), so it's a win-win situation.

*Note: Fabric, puzzle, and Eiffel Tower not included

1.23.2015

The Cost of Being a #Hypochondriac

If you're considering becoming one and are curious about the cost of being a hypochondriac, I can tell you. It's $180 and some change.

Until the fall of 2014, I would never - NEVER - have classified myself as one of those people. Those people who think every mole is cancer, every leg cramp is a blood clot, or every headache is a tumor. I'm an INTJ (just not embracing it as much), I'm rational, level-headed, and not inclined to panic. For heaven's sake, I'm the daughter, granddaughter, sister, and niece of physicians, and I picked up quite a bit of the lingo during my 15-month stint as a pharmacy tech. Me? A hypochondriac? HA!

And then I had the gallbladder colic. Writhing on the floor in our bathroom while our guests sat at the dining table, I realized that I had never before experienced any real pain. I had never had anything really wrong with me. If this came out of the blue, what else could? And just like that, the seed was planted.

I put off having my gallbladder plucked out last spring by suggesting that we "wait and see" if I had another attack. Everyone said I'd be back. Over the course of the summer I felt okay. Never really GOOD, but okay. From time to time I started dealing with bouts of nausea - never vomiting, more like I was randomly carsick. Summer turned to fall and one morning in October I woke up feeling an immense sense of dread. My heart was racing, I felt like I couldn't breathe, and in that instant my inner-hypochondriac emerged. I was having a heart attack. This was it - "the big one, Elizabeth!"

As it turns out, I wasn't having a heart attack. Peter prayed for me, I paced the floor of our bedroom, drank a lot of water, took some deep breaths, and eventually felt okay. After Peter left for work, I went to Dr. Google - and that's when my inner-hypochondriac turned into a raging beast. Every twinge, every ache, every moment of soreness - off to Google I went, coming back with two options: I was feeling the normal aches and pains that all humans feel, or I was dying. If you've ever been to WebMD, you know what I'm talking about.


On my birthday in early December, the Hubs took me out for a nice steak dinner which I picked at, feeling nauseated again. It was at that point that he'd had it, and told me to call my doctor because this had gone on long enough. Whether I was dying or just paranoid, I was tired of not feeling normal and of being randomly queasy, so I made an appointment to see my GP on Christmas Eve.

As I sat in her office waiting to see what she would tell me, I wondered how I got here. How had I allowed myself to become so consumed and focused on every ache and pain that I was now in a doctor's office the day before Christmas? As I explained my symptoms to the (unsympathetic) nurse, I started to feel my face flush in embarrassment. That humiliation skyrocketed when my doctor came in and said, "Anxiety causes physical symptoms like you've described, and your gallbladder is causing the rest. Stop looking at Google." BUSTED.

For the month since she called me out, I've been focusing a whole lot more on my relationship with the Lord, and a whole lot less on Googling, "why are my shoulder blades sore?" The lessons I have learned - both Spiritual and personal - in the last month could fill up several blog posts, but needless to say, the first step to a cure is admitting you have a problem. I had a problem - several, actually: I was inwardly focused, prideful, arrogant, and blind. Google doesn't have a solution for that... but my Heavenly Father does, and He's been working hard on me the last few weeks.

I'm scheduled to have my gallbladder removed next week, because that really is part of the physical aches and pains (and nausea) that I've been experiencing. While no one likes to sign a piece of paper that says, "I understand I could die and I won't hold the doctor responsible," I'm excited about the prospect of feeling normal again. And more than that, I know that no matter what happens - next week or for the rest of my life - I can rest in Psalm 48...
"For this [great, mighty, powerful, loving] God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end." Psalm 48:14
In the meantime, I got the bill for my Christmas Eve appointment this week and I now know the cost of being a recovering hypochondriac. Sometimes the lessons we need to learn aren't cheap, but they are important. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get on with the business of living.

#iamthankful for God's faithfulness to me - at all times.

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