Three Gifts for Passionate Recyclers

For all of the eco-friendly, plant based, earth loving folk in your life. Most people in my life fit this category, so I find this is an easy way to fill out gifts. And everybody in a city with a bag tax will appreciate a high quality grocery bag.

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These small baggus fold up up to fit in your pocket and are machine washable. Bonus points for the botanical print! I ordered a set of these in January and have used less than 10 plastic bags in the entire year because these are so easy to store and carry.

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Complete the set of grocery-ready shopping bags with these reusable produce bags. It’s just one more way to minimize plastic use.

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Similarly, I’ve nearly cut plastic wrap out of my life with this bees wrap. This set of soft beeswax wrapping comes in sizes large enough for you biggest mixing bowl and small enough for a hunk of cheese. Using the heat from your hands, the wrap seals against the container as a plastic cling wrap would, but this is easily rewashed and reused. Best of all, if you do have to through it out? It’s biodegradable.

 

The Leggings List

One thing I like about blogging is that it allows me to organize my elaborate wishlist. I very much “curate” my possessions, even those as basic as a pair of leggings. Here is a roundup of leggings I have my eye on. (And, admittedly, I just ordered another pair from lamixx).

 

Back to Black
My first debate: Which pair of basic black leggings will prove superior? I hate to drop $100 on these three pairs, but I really can’t decided.

Tried and True by lamixx    $26
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I have probably bought a pair of these each year and I keep going back because I keep LOVING them. The thick fabric is soft and has shine instead of sheer. Downside: the thighs wear out (along the stitching, not through the fabric) and the waistband is minimal so I am always hiking them up. I realize that these may be problems only for curvy girls.

The Infamous Live In by Zella    $54
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Their name precedes them: the live in is supposed to be a flawless pair of leggings that you can just… live in. The secret to the Nordstrom brand Zella is that they have a former Lulu designer on their team. I am skeptical about the texture of the fabric, although the 3,100 reviews assure us that it is a thick and supportive fabric, and I wonder how true the shade of black is (the photo looks a little grey). I am really looking to live in my leggings, not just work out in them.

Essential by Lou and Grey     $24.50
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Another name implying that this pair is all we need. From a brand built on lounge and comfort, it’s worth a try.

New Year’s Sparkle
I’m thinking of ringing in the new year by matching the American symbol: the New Year’s ball. Then again, where would I really wear them and how much am I really willing to spend on leggings….

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Bronze

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Rose Dipped

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Disco 1

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Disco 2

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Disco 3

 

Powerhouse
Here are leggings I would (and do) actually workout in, and feel like a badass while doing it.

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Sweaty Betty

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Outdoor Voices

Four Things

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Who knew that Meatloaf is the great voice of reason among politicians, or at least among upper middle class white men.

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Reminder for you and your partner: you already know a Love Spell.

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We are halfway through Hanukkah! Here is a musical Dose of Hanukkah.

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I can’t stop thinking about this sweatshirt, only because I touched it while at Madewell and it was SO soft and I would have bought it right then if they had a medium in store. Christmas is right around the corner…

 

 

 

Gold Digging: The Mica Hand

This is a post about fine jewelry,  but you have to follow the trail that led me here. The Chicago Field Museum has this amazing section on Ancient Americas that connects to a vast exhibit on Native Americans. I was trying to rush my dad through Ancient Americas, at least get him through the Aztecs, when I was drawn in by the beautiful work of the Hopewell culture. This group of people lived in the midwest and had an elaborate woodland trade route set up. They were in existence from 200 B.C. to 500 A.D.. This group of people did magnificent things with the materials they received in trade. The first craft that stopped me in my tracks was a collection of hundreds of beads ranging in size from small grape to course coffee grounds. Imagine the work it took to shape, polish, and pierce materials by hand and amass that quantity, bowls full of beads.

As I kept walking, I noticed the icons of abstract body parts, and wondered what the meaning is. Apparently no researches are comfortable taking a wild guess as to why, but the Hopewell frequently traded for precious metals and stones and cut images of hands or thumbs. Here is the piece I was entranced by at the Chicago Field Museum:

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This hand is just smaller than a sheet of printer paper, and it was cut as one piece from a single sheet of mica. Notice the bend of the opposable thumb. I wonder if they held the hand or opposable thumb in high regard as we hold the heart or the brain. At that time, it must have seemed that your working hands were the only thing keeping you alive. In their replica of bird talons, they highlight the back claw as a sort of thumb, as well. We would not have evolved in the way that we have without those hands and special thumbs.

After I left that exhibit, I found a pair of silver, native-made earrings in the shape of a flat hand. I was not ready to drop a hundred dollars at the museum that day, but I cannot stop thinking about the hand icons and the beautiful representation in those silver earrings. So, finally, here is a tribute to hands as an icon of strength and ingenuity, or as a symbol of craft and nurturing. A roundup of metallic hand jewelry.

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Something I learned while researching this jewelry: Frida Kahlo famously wore and painted herself in a pair of hand earrings made for her by Picasso, and many featured below emulate these. So hurrah for the artists and eclectics of the world.

Additionally, many of these hands are emulating the Hamasa hand, which bears the evil eye and is an icon to promote good fortune in seen in many cultures in the Middle East and Northern Africa.

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A Lesson I’ve Learned about Lessons I’m Learning

I have struggled to come to terms with how miserable my job can make me. I always tell myself, “I’ve done this before,” and then am amazed at how bad a really bad day can be. That is how I felt my entire first year. I would come home and just could not shake the residual dread and anger that I carried with me.

My sister told me I had to change my mindset. And I tried! I really tried. It’s one of those things that doesn’t just happen when you want it to. You can’t just tell yourself to be happy about it and then suddenly you are. It is a gradual process that must be attended to.

This year is different, and while it has been just fine so far, a new revelation is making it better and better.  I kept thinking, what makes this different from my other teaching experiences? Why is this so much more challenging than my experience in Indianapolis or the Navajo Nation? How were those experiences alike in a way that this experience is different? In my head I made a venn diagram of sorts: the socioeconomic environments in my prior teaching experiences were vastly different from one another, but between the two they covered the disparities facing my current community.

What I realized was that at my first two experiences, I went into them knowing that:

  1. They were temporary
  2. I was there as a learner

Boom. What I am doing right now is not forever. A few years is not forever. This is temporary (and you can be invested in something temporary). And goddamnit, if I don’t learn more every day at this school than I have learned in my years at college. These kids have taught me life lessons that my own life otherwise never would have. So, instead of thinking, “I am a teacher and employee. I am stuck here.” I am reminding myself that “I am a learner, and this is temporary so I need to make the most of it.”

How far I’ve come.

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Four Things

 

What are your weekend plans? My parents are visiting, so I get to play tourist and show them the sites around the city. I am excited for deep dish and many museums. I am equally excited that I have the day off of work. Wishing you an equally restful weekend! Here are four fun things to check out while you’re chillin’.

Loving the art project From Scraps, creating special things our of the discards.

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Extraordinary Routines is a cool page where you can glean wisdom from successful and relatable ordinary people. Tina Roth for example, the founder of Tattly and Swiss-Miss and way more, shares details about maintaining a sense of family for her kids even as a divorced family. I have known families who have these happy-endings divorces, where both sides can comfortably celebrate birthdays and holidays and make co-decisions about their kids life. It was very neat to read her perspective!

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I am equal parts obsessed with and terrified by Michelle Griffiths Instagram. She doesn’t just slackline… she does yoga on the slackline. In insane places like the canyons of Moab!!! I can’t stop looking. She leads workshops, if you’re into that sort of thing. But HOW does she set up the rig???

Have you ever been rock climbing? I have been going on the regular and when my friend posted this on my timeline she summed it up with “This is how I feel sometimes.” No worries, Sara, after watching these I can say with absolute confidence that we are images of grace on that wall.

My Fall Recipe Playlist

Do you find your eating habits shift seasonally? If we’re not careful, that means sweets and chex mix all winter, doesn’t it? I had been drinking delicious green goddess smoothies since spring and then one day I woke up and it was so cold I couldn’t bear the thought of a frozen drink. That is probably the same day I started making soups and using only orange vegetables. Here are the fall recipes that I keep going back to.

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Avgolemono 
A greek lemon-dill soup that takes 15 minutes to whip together, and uses mostly handy ingredients. This soup is for when you are sick (or just cold), and is bright and reminiscent of summer. This can be made with chicken, but I have been using this recipe by Dinner a Love Story and skipping the meat. Next time I will try the heartier family recipe from Jojotastic, also using a vegetable base. The onion, celery, and carrot will give it a flavorful base. To make this a meal worth sharing, butter up some fresh sourdough and serve a crisp salad on the side.

 

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Corn Chile Chowder
This recipe calls for jalepeño, but I decided to add a little New Mexico heat with a load of green chile. Creamy and spicy, this chowder hit the spot. Tamp the heat with sweet cornbread and apple cider.

 

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Kale and Butterbeans
This has become a weekly default, for when I want to eat healthy and have warm comfort food. I add as much kale as I can stand, am generous with the lemon juice, and always skip the parmesan and optional eggs. We recently used up some breakfast sausage by adding it to the mix, and it was very good.

 

 

 

 

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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins
I made these because in college, I bought one of these from my favorite coffee shop like, every other day. This batch came out even better than my coffee shop inspiration- they were soft and fluffy on the inside, and the chocolate chips held their shape. Brown butter glaze is always good, but honestly, I could have skipped it and felt better about my breakfast habit!

 

 

 

For other ideas, consider these amazing sweet potato options: stew, noodles, and egg boats.

Coming soon: Stuffed and Curried Sweet Potato

In the mean time: The Meal that was SO Good I Forgot to Take Pictures

Gift Guide for Wisened Storytellers and Givers of Great Advice

All of my friends call their mom. ALL the time. I call my mom all the time. My dad and I exchange cat photos with simple captions: “cat in box,” “uh-oh,” etc. My parents are also at an age where comfort and function reign supreme. When choosing gifts for them, I look for things they can use, and things they will use.

MC-B-LG-GG-2They deserve the niceties. Splurge for a pair of luxury slippers with detachable soles so they can get the mail while keeping their feet warm in soft lambswool. Bonus: the soles come in your choice of 8 colors.

The inconveniences of aging (going to the doctor more, keeping track of new medicine) don’t have to be ugly or messy. This elegant pill box is especially good for anyone on the go, and the company Port and Polish only makes pill boxes. With one product to focus on, it must be good! Buying one for everyone? Choose three for $45 (now $40). 

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The Saj ball foot roller is like a tiny spiky foam roller for your feet. Drop one on the floor, and roll it against the bottom of your foot for an easy massage. Sure, you can buy them a pedicure, but that lasts for one day. The foot roller lasts a life time!

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More on the topic of slippers you can wear anywhere: sleeping bag slippers. That’s not their real name, but these look like all day sleeping bags you can wear on your feet, and are the ultimate camp/lounge shoe.

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The squatty potty, but only for close family. And maybe not the gift you give at the huge holiday party. 😉

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Smartwool socks, because you know they want some and you also know they would never pay for them!

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A biography of Alexander Hamilton. Here me out: 5 years ago, your dad is the only person you could ever imagine reading a newly released biography of Alexander Hamilton. The magic of the musical Hamilton is that it merges history, a topic well understood by older generations, with pop culture that younger generations are entrenched in. Buy yourself a copy (or watch the Drunk History episode with Lin Manuel Miranda for the condensed version) and discuss the heated relationship of Hamilton and Burr next time you visit.

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Does your dad make his vacation photos the screen saver on the computer? Mine does. Take his photo-bragging game to the next level with a large digital picture frame. This device accepts photos from the user friendly USB plug-in.

A Case Against the Hanger Trick

Or, “Why to Keep Your Clothes.”

Minimalism is in. Big time. And I am all for it! My family identifies me as a wanna-be minimalist. I talk the talk and pretend to cut back, but I will always be a maximalist at heart. I think it’s genetic?

I’ve used the hanger trick. Haven’t heard of it? You turn all of the hangers in your closet backwards. At the end of the season, any seasonal items that haven’t been turned around go. I use this tactic with moderation. It has helped me pass on beloved dresses and shrunken shorts to my sister and friends, and has moved tees and sweaters that I just can’t let go of back into my childhood bedroom (sorry mom!). I was looking at my closet and thinking about flipping those hangers again, but here’s the deal…

I wear work clothes 5 days a week. When I am not in work clothes, I am usually in workout clothes or pajamas. Sometimes, once or twice a week, I put on “real people clothes.” We talk about dual function, but as a teacher I am expected to dress up and dress conservatively, and frankly when I’m out of school and spending time with friends, I want to do anything but. I want to wear comfortable and flattering clothing.

When I’m teaching, I am moving around all day. I wear large, frumpy clothing so that I don’t have to worry about everything staying in place. I sweat and spill coffee and escort sick children out of the room. That’s why I’m wearing baggy sweaters that were on clearance at target. I would like to dress more like myself at work, but in my current environment I feel like I just can’t do that.

The solution: invest in building my personal wardrobe for when I’m out. It is a small selection, and I repeat favorites throughout the whole season, and then some. So, I’m going to hold onto the little black dresses and bright high heels and delicate caftan because one day, on vacation or date night or at a special event or ceremony I will have the perfect excuse to wear it again. So I’m not going to get rid of those nice pieces, even if I haven’t worn them in 6-12 months, and I will buy one or two more. I went to a special work function recently, where I did not have to adhere to uniform, and I threw on an old waffle knit sweater that I used to wear during ceramics class, and may still have patches of dried clay on the sleeves. It was the nicest looking casual top I could find in my closet this morning. (Yikes.)

So here is a call to hold on to those items that let your personality shine through, and make you feel comfortable and happy and like yourself. Because Friday-Sunday, we can get away from our work identity and rediscover the person that brought us there.

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Sweater Wishlist

I have been so cold, lately! I guess the changing of seasons sort of snuck on me. As a result, I’ve been keeping tabs on the sweaters that I want the most… and I can’t afford any of them! I am looking for sweaters that are soft and not itchy, breathable but not flimsy. So, here are the sweaters I wish I had to keep me warm.

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The cashmere crew in donegal is a workhorse I would wear for years.

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I love how this cat print is a neutral and is a wild pattern at the same time.

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This is the emerald knit of my dreams. I have been looking for the perfect chunky/oversized/mossy sweater for years. This looks pretty close.

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This waffle knit looks like it has a little more structure than the sweater above, but… the one above is so fuzzy!!

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I love how slouchy and textured this yellow number is. It would be perfect for wearing on dreary days walking around at the museum.

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Loving the cross-back. My sister has this piece as a part of her going out capsule. How mad would she be if I bought one in the same color…?

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I am completely obsessed with Misha and Puffs popcorn sweater in confetti cake (and other amazing colors), and I can get behind their cause and would love to support the makers but I just cannot swing that price. I could buy a trip to the Caribbean for the cost of that sweater. I could buy all of the sweaters pictured above for that price! In my desperate longing for this unique puffy piece, I found these similar styles:

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A perfect pick for a teacher during the holidays… except that kindergarteners would have a field day with the pom-poms, not to mention my cat!

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This dusty pink one is a little more sophisticated than the festive one above. Both are simplified versions of the Misha & Puff, though, with pom-poms just stuck on the front, not knitted all around. Admittedly, this sweater is the closest to my price point.

 

I’m going to be honest. This post is an excuse for me to save all of my dream sweaters to one page, so that when I have some extra money to spend, I can go for it. Do you have a favorite sweater that never fails? There seem to be strong opinions about fabric and how great merino and cashmere are in the case against acrylic. What do you think?

Related: Fall Outfits in Three Moods