As I mentioned earlier this week, I have been doing some back-to-school cleaning which has involved getting rid of clutter in my house. While engaging in this purging process, I also realized I was ready for a new look in our living room. So, I have been doing some re-decorating as well. My quest for a fresh new look has turned into a little bit of an obsession which has included multiple trips to Pottery Barn, Cost Plus, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Ross.
What I've come to realize, is that this obsession has gone beyond re-decorating...it a displacement behavior to avoid the looming responsibilities that come with students returning back to school. I'm happy to say that I've gotten the shopping out of my system, and I have happily settled in to the fast-paced routine of having students on campus again. And, I get to come home to my "new" living room.
Shopping can be a very cathartic experience. Whether buying or just browsing, it's fun to see what's new, sample the latest and greatest, and find a few material things worth having in life. The little boutique shops, the giant department stores, and the megamalls all have their own unique capitalist charms. So where are the best shoes, the funkiest fashions, the kookiest housewares, grooviest music, and the best home decor?
1. Salvation Army/Goodwill/Achievement House. I am fortunate to have a pretty good thrift store a few blocks from my house, and I have found great stuff there. They are a non-profit and have several employees with disabilities, and I always feel good supporting their business. It's also cheap retail therapy.
2. Curio. I just discovered a cool new used clothing store in The Creamery in San Luis Obispo. It is a tiny store but they must have a great buyer because I recently found tons of cute stuff. And, their prices are reasonable - dresses and tops from $8-$12.
3. Gap. I have several favorite clothing stores, but Gap is probably where I buy most of my clothes. I also love their line of children's clothing. Other favorites are Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, Express, and Old Navy.
4. Bed, Bath & Beyond. I receive tons of 20% off coupons in the mail for Bed, Bath & Beyond and almost always find what I'm looking for when I shop there. Plus, I have had excellent customer service. I registered with Bed, Bath & Beyond for our wedding, and they were a pleasure to work with. They always accept my returns without any questions, and often without a receipt.
5. Cost Plus Old World Market. I love the furniture, jewelry, and cards at Cost Plus World Market. I especially like to look and feel all their products. They have stuff with great colors and textures. They also have great prices and pretty good sales.
6. Pier 1. It was a sad day for San Luis Obispo (well, for me at least) when Pier 1 closed its doors. Luckily, we still have one in Paso Robles. Since I hardly ever get up there to shop, I don't get to Pier 1 very often any more. But, I still check out their styles online every so often. I bought my first piece of furniture (a little love seat for my first apartment) from Pier 1.
7. Pottery Barn. I'm a little bit of a Pottery Barn junky. I love the way they decorate and often will buy into the complete look of the spaces in their showrooms since decorating is not necessarily my strongest skill.
8. Target. I only visit Target about twice a year, but I have to admit that they have everything. That is probably why I hardly ever shop there. But, during my recent redecorating episode I found lots of great inexpensive items - including clothes, throw pillows, and a wide selection of infant and toddler wares. To ease my guilt, I tried to look for items made in the USA.
9. Ross. This is another store that just has everything under the sun and has great deals if you are willing to dig a little. I frequently shop at Ross for baby clothes, home decor (they have great picture frames, cutlery, and more), shoes (before I broke my foot!), and gifts.
10. Online. When all else fails, or when the baby is asleep and I need a little "me" time, I head to the online shopping sites. My favorites include iTunes (for music), Amazon (for books and just about anything else), Cooking.com (for housewares and kitchen items), Title Nine (for casual clothing and athletic wear), and my new favorite online shopping site is myShape (for business and casual clothing). When I shop online I always look for the items with free shipping or do a quick search for any promotional coupons.
Where do you like to shop?
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Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Sunday, September 27, 2009
I'm super excited about my new binder! As I mentioned in a previous post, I am a big fan of dining out. But it has been a little more difficult to eat out with a little one at home. Lately I am relying more on take-out when I'm in a pinch. So, my new binder full of my favorite restaurant menus has definitely come in handy!
I originally created this binder to tame the cluttered mess of menus by the phone. However, I have found it's also super useful when we have out-of-town visitors who are looking for a place to eat or order food. And if I'm feeling indecisive about what to order I can always flip through the menus until something sounds good.
Saturday, September 26, 2009
I have a confession...I am in my "Clean House" mode again. I wish that meant that I'm actually cleaning my house, but what is really means is I have been sitting on my couch watching back-to-back episodes of Clean House on the Style Network. My friends and family have no idea (well, they do now) but I am a huge Niecy Nash fan! I love her style, her story, and her sensibility.
1. Scrapbook supplies. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I have released myself from scrapbooking. When I cleared out our spare room to create our nursery, I gave away all my stickers, paper, glue, and embellishments. I kept one small box of scissors and paper cutters that are useful for other craft projects and were the most expensive investments I made into this hobbie.
2. Beads. Another craft I have released myself from is beading. I used to make necklaces and earrings, but I am reprioritizing my free-time and trying to spend more time outdoors and being active. I sold most of my beads at garage sales and gave away my beading books.
5. Candles. Another category I purged from my house could be described as "decor." I have gone through various decorating phases and therefore have a set of "purple decor" from my college days, "blue decor" from my first apartment, and "black and white decor" from the early years in our house. And, I had half-burnt candles of every color to match! I finally boxed up all the old candles and dropped them off at Goodwill.
6. Baskets. I love baskets. They come in handy for all sorts of things - gift giving, decorating, and storage. But, they take up a lot of space. So, I purged all my odd-shaped and worn-out baskets.
7. Baby items. I know it's cliche, but geez kids grow up fast! It made me sad to see all the cute clothes and like-new items that my daughter can no longer wear. But perhaps the most exciting part of her outgrowing things is that we can get rid of them!
What clutter have you cleared out?
Friday, September 25, 2009
I love scrapbooks, but I hate clutter. No offense to scrapbookers around the world, but scrapbooking requires a lot of stuff - paper, glue, scissors, stencils, templates, paper cutters, glitter, stickers, and more! Enter Scrapblog.
Scrapblog lets you create beautiful multimedia scrapbooks online and share them with friends. It has an easy drag-and-drop feature for creating your online scrapbook, and additional features include publishing a hard copy of your scrapblog and printing holiday cards. Happy Scrapblogging!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
When designing my daughter's nursery, I wanted form to meet function. I also knew I wanted to incorporate books and reading into the design. I was inspired to put up a chair rail that doubles as a bookshelf when my sister and I took a trip to New Orleans.
The moulding in New Orleans is thick and heavy, and I noticed that the chair rails there could almost be used as shelving. However, it is difficult to find that kind of moulding in California. Luckily, my handy husband was able to make my idea a reality with some creative craftsmanship.
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I know for some people simple living means "made from scratch," "home-grown," and "hand prepared." But, the simplest way I have found to enjoy a gourmet meal without the long grocery list, prepping and cooking for hours, and dealing with dirty dishes is dining out.
Here are 7 tips for a simple dining experience:
1. Make a reservation (if possible). Most restaurants take reservations and this is the only way to guarantee you will be seated in a timely manner.
2. Avoid the most crowded hours. Most people eat out between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. If you don't mind eating early, you can also save money by catching the early bird special (usually 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.).
3. Consider the parking situation. If you plan to dine downtown, you may have to take parking into consideration. If you are planning dinner with a large group, try to plan a carpool or select a restaurant with ample parking.
4. Choose an appropriate venue. Whether you are celebrating a birthday or planning to exchange juicy gossip, consider the atmosphere that will make the most of your dining experience.
5. Choose your company carefully. Perhaps the best way to guarantee an enjoyable meal is to choose your company carefully. If you want to engage in an intimate conversation, limit your party to one or two other people.
6. Select your entree with care. Your evening plans may help you decide what you want to order. When dining with a chatty group, pick a salad only if you plan to listen more than talk. One more reason to think before you order, I once ordered a huge slice of ice cream mud pie only to realize that I could only eat a few bites, and no one else touched it - I ended up giving it to the couple next to us at the restaurant because we could not take it with us.
7. Go with a game plan! I have had the miserable experience of cruising downtown with a group of indecisive and hungry girlfriends. We actually sat down at one restaurant, only to discover they wanted nothing offered on the menu. Learn from my mistakes so you don't end up slipping out the back door before your drinks have been ordered (yes, we actually did that)!
If this post made you hungry, check out the list of My Ten Favorite Restaurants.
What are your tips for simple dining?
photo by Darrell Godliman
Friday, September 18, 2009
I am in love with a new website! My clothes from myShape arrived today, and not only are they super cute but they all fit!
Do you ever wish you could just shop in a store where everything is tailored to your body type? I know which stores carry clothing that fit and flatter my figure, like Banana Republic and Gap, but I still have to sort through all the racks. So, I was delighted to find myShape.
When you create an online profile with myShape.com they generate an online store called your Personal Shop™, where you find clothing matched to your measurements, your body shape and your preferences. Creating your profile takes a few minutes, since you have to input several measurements, so be sure you have a tape measure handy.
There are tons of cool features on this site, like drag and drop technology that allows you to create your own outfits. There are hundreds of designers, and you can limit the selection by choosing to display clothing in your price range. And, the site recommends sizes based on your measurements to take the guess work out of online shopping.
Shipping is free if you become a member (by creating an account and putting in all your measurements). Beware, you may never visit the mall again!
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Food nourishes our mind, body, and soul. Often, enjoying a meal signifies celebration, a special occasion, a treat, or a gathering of family and friends. Whether it's a meal at a fancy restaurant or a taco bar, knowing of a few good restaurants comes in handy.
Here are my ten favorite restaurants:
Harada's (Japanese) in Morro Bay is my favorite Japanese restaurant on the Central Coast. My family has been going there for years, and they have supplied us with several fabulous sushi boats for many parties - including my engagement party. The food is wonderful, but the view and ambiance is unbeatable. This is not like a loud, fast-paced sushi joint that you would find in the city. It is a quiet, family-owned, low-key, mellow place to dine.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Before I had my daughter, I wondered how I would work bathtime into my busy schedule. I still wonder...but now, I take full advantage of this special time.
My daughter loves her evening bath, and I enjoy this time with her. However, I got pretty tired and bored while kneeling on an uncomfortable bath mat. So, I brought in a chair and an ipod player. While I was at it, I also brought in a tub to soak my tired feet.
Now, my daughter and I enjoy listening to music, singing songs, and long leisurely baths. I can't wait for bath time because I know we are both going to feel refreshed and relaxed.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
A while back, I published a popular post called 7 Essential Kitchen Items. I received many comments and decided to follow it up with another kitchen-related list.
Here are 7 (more) Handy Kitchen Items:
1. Mixing bowls. This suggestion appeared frequently in the comments of my previous post, and I have to admit that I did not originally include it as "essential" because serving bowls can easily double as mixing bowls. However, I have two wonderful pyrex mixing bowls with spouts that I love to use for pouring waffle and pancake batter.
2. Multi-use grill (pancake, waffle, sandwich maker). I frequently enjoy pancakes and waffles with my family, and I have not found a substitute for the waffle maker.
3. Crock pot. A great way to assure a hot dinner served on time is to fill the crock pot before leaving home in the morning.
4. Toaster oven. I have found the toaster oven to be a powerful kitchen appliance, especially when I was single. I have used it to bake cookies, make pizza, toast breakfast bagels, and whip up a quick quesadilla.
5. Bakeware. This was another frequent suggestion from my previous post, and it's true that cookie sheets and casserole dishes are essentials if you like to bake. I love my Pampered Chef stoneware which distributes heat evenly and cleans easily.
6. Compost/Trash bowl. This item was made popular by Rachel Ray who coined the term "garbage bowl." However, when I cook, I use it exclusively for my compost material. The benefit is that it keeps you from going back and forth (or opening and closing) your trash can.
7. Microwave. Let's face it, the microwave comes in handy! I have several friends who are living without one, but I usually use the microwave at least once a day to reheat leftovers.
None of these items are "essential," but rather they are luxuries of convenience.
Friday, September 11, 2009
I'll be honest, being back at work full time has been a challenge. While I totally enjoy it, I do feel the need to commiserate with my girlfriends every now and then. And, when they get tired of hearing about it, I turn to one of my online support sites such as Mommy Track'd.
This is straight from their website, "Called 'popular and edgy' by the Wall Street Journal, Mommy Track'd is a multi-tasking website for modern moms that stands out from the crowd of parenting sites. Always fresh, funny, informative and entertaining, but never judgmental, Mommy Track'd strives to provide time-crunched, over-extended and multitasked-out moms a much needed and well deserved escape from the chaos of modern motherhood."My favorite part of their site is the Amazon bookshelf. Check out the See Mom Work Stories and the Anti-Princess Reading List.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Thanks for being loyal followers, and I hope to see your comments soon!