Spring Outfit

Spring Outfit
Splendid tank / Joe’s Jeans denim jacket / True Religion mid-rise jeans / Frye real leather boots / Clare Vivier leather shoulder bag / KENNETH JAY LANE necklace / Tory Burch bracelet
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5 Resolutions for Holiday Shopping

It happened. Last night, I saw the first news report about the 2012 holiday shopping season. I hate talking about Christmas before Thanksgiving, and I know that it’s not even Halloween, but I understand that a lot of people are already thinking about and budgeting for their holiday shopping.

Last year, I made the resolution that I would only ask for American Made items. This meant that I had to provide a pretty detailed wish list, which I didn’t really enjoy doing, but I couldn’t expect my family to spend hours doing the research that I had done.

This year I’ve come up with 5 resolutions that I’ll apply to my own wish list and to my holiday shopping. I know Christmas isn’t all about the gifts, but it does show people that you care about them when you take the time to give them a carefully selected gift that you know they’ll love, rather than whatever sweater happened to be on sale on Black Friday.

1. Quality over Quantity

When I was younger, I was a counter. I would count how many gifts I had under the tree compared with my brother. I wanted to make sure we had an equal number of gifts, and the same number of large and small gifts. Things like that seemed really important when I was six.

Now that I’m older, I no longer count gifts. I know people say this and it sounds cliché, but I enjoy giving presents more than I like receiving them. And I enjoy giving gifts that I hope the receiver will enjoy for many years. I prefer to spend money on one well-made gift than on five so-so gifts. It may not be as much fun to only open one gift, but if it’s something someone will keep for 10 years versus six months, than it’s worth it.

2. So “No” to Fast Fashion Trends

My all-time favorite colors are blue and gray. The majority of my t-shirts, blouses and sweaters are either blue or gray, and I always seem to gravitate to those colors at the store, even when I tell myself that I’m going to branch out into other colors.

In fashion magazines and on the web, it seems like there is a new “it” color every week. While incorporating these colors into your wardrobe will keep it fresh, it would be impossible to keep up with absolutely every color trend. And you don’t have to in order to be stylish. If you are picking clothes that fit you and look good on you, they will always be in style.

Fast Fashion is something I’ve become very aware of this year. I’ve bought into fast fashion unknowingly for years, but in the last few years I’ve really become more aware of my shopping habits. How could I have a closet full of clothes that were free from rips and tears but still feel like I had nothing to wear? If you’re not familiar with the term, fast fashion refers to the speed of fashion trends and how quickly clothes get to the market. Designers and manufactures have found that consumers want to pay very low prices for clothes, and that low prices matter more than quality. These clothes don’t last long, and they are not meant to. By the time they wear out, they are no longer in style.

“The Story of Stuff” is a great video that covers everything we buy, just not clothes. But there is a very interesting part that talks about clothing trends and how we buy new clothes, even when we don’t need them. It’s a 20-minute video that’s well worth the time.

3. Give and Ask for Less Stuff

For the last few years, my family has gifted a lot of gift cards. While not as instantly gratifying as opening clothes, books and games, when you receive a gift card, you receive an experience. And I’m not referring to gift cards to the mall. I’m talking about gift cards to the local zoo, your favorite restaurant, movie theaters, stage performances, professional sports teams, and beauty spas. Most people remember experiences much more than they remember items. Studies have also shown that in the long run, people find more pleasure from experiences rather than items.

4. Appreciate Handmade

You do not need to be crafty to give handmade gifts. For my parent’s wedding anniversary a few years ago, I went through piles of old family photos, picked out photos spanning all of the years of my parent’s marriage, scanned them and retouched them, and then put the images into a photo book that I made on Kodak.com. My parents loved it and keep on the coffee table in the living room. The cost was relatively low (~$30), but I had put a lot of time and effort into collecting the photos, scanning and retouching them, and then laying the images out in a book. This may not be handmade in the macaroni-and-glitter sense of handmade, but it was a highly-personalized gift.

If you don’t have time to make a handmade gift, then a great place to find handmade items is on Etsy.com. A word of warning though – there are some shops on Etsy that sell mass-produced items. Be sure to read where the items are shipping from, and if a price seems too good to be true, then it is. Handmade items should cost more than items from big box stores because they are made by skilled artists.

5. Buy American Made

If you read my blog on a regular basis, then you know that this is something important to me. But I understand that it’s not important to everyone else. So if someone on my list asks for a specific item, then I’ll buy it for them, even if it’s not American Made. But if someone tells me they want a new wallet for Christmas and that’s all they tell me, then I’m going to buy them American Made.

There are a lot of reasons I believe in buying American Made: it’s better for the environment because of a smaller carbon footprint, it helps the local and national economy, it supports skilled labor, and the US has stricter regulations that keep our products safe (lead in toothpaste, anyone?).

What are some of your holiday shopping resolutions this year? Do you plan on doing anything different this year?

AO Eyewear

AO sunglasses

I’ve always bought the cheap sunglasses you find at mall kiosks or discount stores. The most I’d ever paid for a pair of sunglasses was around $25. The quality of the  sunglasses has always been cheap, and I have to buy a new pair every spring because of scratches on the lenses and broken/bent frames. This spring was no exception, but the pair I bought this year seemed especially cheap. The tortoise-shell design on the frame began to peel off after a month of wear, and I was left with very ugly brown plastic shades.

Sick of constantly replacing sunglasses, I decided to take the plunge and purchase a pair of real sunglasses. So I did what I would guess most people do when they want to purchase a nice pair of sunglasses: I headed to Sunglass Hut. I was surprised that there was not a single pair that I liked for under $140, which was more than I was willing to spend.

So I did a little internet research and found AO Eyewear, a company that has been making aviator sunglasses since WWII. The company has been making eyewear since 1826, and you can read more about their interesting history here. They still make their sunglasses in the US, although they do use some imported parts.

AO offers a ton of options for each type of frame and their prices start at $74, so I decided to give them a try. I ordered the Original Pilot Sunglasses® with gold frames and high contrast amber polycarbonate lenses. The glasses come in 3 sizes (52, 55, 57), and since I had no idea what size I was, I measured the width of an old pair of sunglasses and ordered the 55mm size.

My glasses arrived the other day and I love them! They frames look great and I love the shape of the lenses. The size does feel a little loose and I wish I could try on the 52mm to feel the difference, but it’s not enough of an issue for me to send them back.

For the Love of :: Being Green

I received this email today. See my thoughts below after the email.

Being Green

Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman, that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

The young clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Grocery stores bagged our groceries in brown paper bags, that we reused for numerous things, most memorable besides household garbage bags, was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our schoolbooks. This was to ensure that public property, (the books provided for our use by the school) was not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalize our books on the brown paper bags.

But too bad we didn’t do the green thing back then.

We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throwaway kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that young lady is right; we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she’s right; we didn’t have the green thing back then.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest burger joint.

But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

Please forward this on to another selfish old person who needs a lesson in conservation from a smartass young person…

We don’t like being old in the first place, so it doesn’t take much to piss us off.


When I started reading this email, I liked it. But as I read on, I started to get a little annoyed. It’s true, people used to do a lot more things by hand / without electricity.  People also spent more money to buy things that lasted longer than a year/season. And people were also not as quick to replace things that weren’t broken just because they were no longer fashionable. But I wonder how many of these “old people” still do all of these things? It would be great if they did! It seems to me that the “old people” were the ones who adopted all of the conveniences that this writer is criticizing.

I don’t buy bottled water, I ride my bike to the store if I can fit what I need in my basket, I would love to take a streetcar or trolley downtown but Minneapolis ripped out all of their streetcar lines in the 1950s (see my previous post about MSP’s steetcars), I have quite a few friends who use reusable diapers (no kids myself), and I used to cover my books with paper bags.

My husband and I have been making a conscious effort to consume less stuff (cause in the end, most of it is just stuff) for the last two years. For the last 6 months, I’ve refused to buy anything made in China if I can avoid it. Clothes are absolutely no exceptions, but it gets tough with electronics. It’s been my experience that items made in China just do not last, and they’re not meant to. These items are produced quickly and cheaply, and are meant to be replaced after a year or two.  It got a little tricky around Christmas, but I did it! My hubby embraced my goal, and all of the gifts he gave me were made in the U.S.

What are your thoughts about this email? Are you a “smartass young person” who likes to be green, or are you one of the “old people” who knows the real meaning of green?

Kermit

Purses

I am a bit of a purse snob. I love quality purses that look better with age. I will pay more for a well-made purse that will last years instead of a trendy purse any day. Here are some of my recent purse obsessions.

GP No. 1 Bag - Khaki

How amazing is this bag from Col. Littleton? I am in love with the hardware. If I hadn’t just gotten a new tote bag for Christmas, I would be buying this bag.

GP No. 1 Bag - Khaki

I pretty much love every bag that J.W. Hulme has out. It doesn’t hurt that they are made in Minnesota, where I currently live.

Mini Excursion Tote Bag by J.W. Hulme

Saddle bags are everywhere right now, and I love this red one from J.W. Hulme.

Mini Legacy Shoulder Bag by J.W. Hulme

Here’s another saddle bag from another Minnesota company: Duluth Pack. This company also makes great bags that are quite a bit more affordable than J.W. Hulme.

Classic Leather Purse from Duluth Pack

Here are 3 cross-body bags that would be great for travel or running errands. I hate lugging around a bulky shoulder bag when I’m walking around for hours. It is so much easier to throw on a cross-body bag and shop hands-free.

No. 25 Drifter Handbag by Col. Littleton

Pocket Satchel by Makr Carry Goods

GEARPACK No.4

And the best part about all of these bags – they are made in the USA.

Jeans

You can never go wrong with a great pair of jeans. A great pair of jeans look just as good at 9 p.m. as they did when you put them on fresh and clean at 8 a.m. A great pair of jeans will last a lifetime. Don’t believe me? Then check out a pair of vintage Levi’s. Of course, this means you may need to pay a little more for quality denim (but not always – I love a sale as much as the next girl). I am a firm believer in paying more for one quality piece that will never need to be replaced versus 3-4 okay pieces that fall apart after a year or two. The best part about the jeans below: they are all made in the USA.

American Apparel High-Waist Jeans

American Apparel High-Waist Jeans – $80

Levi's Stretch Skinny

Levi’s Stretch Skinny – $178

Imogene + Willie Alice Stretch

Imogene + Willie Alice Stretch – $225

The Ernest Sewn Decca Straight Leg

The Ernest Sewn Decca Straight Leg – $168

AG Denim The Everette Straight Coppola

AG Denim The Everette Straight Coppola – $188