I don’t know about everybody else, but the recession in this country that began with the real estate bubble burst in 2007 and the stock market crash in 2008 impacted our little family pretty hard. The Greek lost his job in 2008 and would not work steadily again until 2010. During that time, my mother came to live with us for a while, and there was a harrowing five months where three people lived on a single (relatively modest) income. My stellar credit score and powers of retail persuasion were most assuredly put to the test as well as the Greek’s improvisational skills and uncanny ability to push items far beyond their expected shelf life: I learned that some empty litter buckets, some electrical tape, and the old mop pole can make an extremely effective snow shovel and that there are myriad uses for duct tape. But then the Greek went and found himself a wonderful, well-paying job and has been dutifully working himself to death to keep it. One evening about a year afterward, he remarked to me that he just doesn’t understand how, with this substantial boost in income, we still seem to be just scraping by. Naturally I told him, “You must understand, darling, there was such a tremendous backlog of things that needed to be fixed or replaced, things that were delayed or pushed back, and things that we had given up entirely and were just plain living without. All these things add up, and we’re just going to take a while to get resettled.” What I omitted was that his dear Lisa had also gone a little insane with the credit cards and taken herself on a little buying binge for the last several months, a frenzied release of all that pent up worry and deprivation. An expensive exhalation. Every experimental thought, every passing whimsy was tossed carelessly into the shopping cart. Now don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t living beyond our means, and I’m not in the practice of collecting things I’ll never use (not counting shoes; wearing them once is using them, right?). But if you can picture yourself on a daily basis; now imagine all the things you see in a day that you even remotely want, and imagine if you bought all those things. Well that was me for a while. You’d be surprised how many things you see in a day that you could and would use. With the New Year, I vowed a renewal of my frugal ways. But like any recovering addict, the urge is still there, and it must find its release. This blog is to be my methadone. And with this post (and likely many to follow) I will take the opportunity to talk about the various adorable things that I encounter instead of buying them. Because I have learned a valuable lesson: there isn’t simply “want” or “need”. Within “want”, there are sub-levels and degradations, and it is staggering how much larger this category is! So, below are many simply marvelous items that are sadly not on a “want” tier high enough to justify a purchase under my new (and loathed) terms. (Disclaimer: This post, which I actually began writing in February, comes on the cusp of a decidedly un-frugal spending spree following a pointedly failed attempt as an aspiring graduate student (You’re welcome, Coach Factory Outlet). So, I’m ashamed to say, some things on this list had to be removed once they became no longer “things I’m not buying”).
1.) Oh, Joy Like many women, I have a jewelry person: a person I turn to time and time again for jewelry and whose impeccable instincts I trust implicitly. Some women have a few, but even so, we remain as devoted as a spouse to them. For me, that person is Joy Opfer. Through Joy O Designs and then Kyler by Joy O, she has been designing and handmaking dainty, delicate, and utterly exquisite sustainable eco jewelry from her online store based in San Francisco since 2006. I bought my first piece of jewelry from her in 2008 and so the love affair began. A bonus: the blossoming company now has its own blog, http://kylerdesigns.wordpress.com/, in which it talks about all things green and fashionable, two of my own personal raisons d’être!
2.) Love you, BAGGU! One thing I can never seem to get enough of is bags. Perhaps it’s my obssessive-compulsive nature, but I enjoy (in that rip-your-hair -out-with-anxiety-if-it-doesn’t-work-out kind of way) having a place for everything. A fortunate new discovery of mine is http://baggubag.com/#Shop…found, as it were, on the same divine blog I just mentioned. BAGGU bags are durable and adorable bags that fulfill any need from reusable grocery totes
…to leather pouches that serve as simple, chic purses
…to canvas sleeves for laptops and everything bags in all shapes and sizes for pens and pencils, make-up brushes, sunglasses, or snacks (I am particularly fond of the one with the little elephants on it…so cute).
I think my favorite item, for its versatility, is the duck bag; it has a shoulder strap and small, inner, zippered pocket, and the cotton canvas material makes it more rigid than your regular old tote bag. So it could just as easily be used as a work bag than a grocery bag.
3.) Holey Bundt! My rule of gift-giving is that one should buy items for people that they want, not that they need. This is because, at least in my case, there are so many things that I want that I find are too much of an indulgence for me to buy for myself, as this post rather clearly illustrates. Things I need are my responsibility to buy; things I want are a treat to receive. And if that rule were a place, that place would have to be Williams-Sonoma. For there is no other place on Earth with a higher concentration of things both fanciful and costly that you can’t reasonably buy for yourself (hmmmm…a $40 cookie sheet?) yet would looooove to have in your home. And if you ever make obligatory trips to Williams-Sonoma every time you’re at the mall, spend three hours there, and emerge with nothing but a $7 spatula because, damn it, you were leaving with something even if it wasn’t the copper bottomed pot and pan set…Well, then you probably agree with me. And W-S baking pans that needlessly turn baked goods into different shapes would seem to fit neatly into this category of frivolous, expensive, and most definitely, definitely want. Here are just a few of my favorites at the moment:
The Heritage Bundt Pan
The Nordic-Ware Mini Bundt Pan
The Williams-Sonoma Nonstick Madeleine Plaque Pan (with which I could, at long last, use my “Earl Grey Madeleines” recipe. For those of you who say “Just make your recipe on a regular cookie sheet. Who cares whether the cookies are scallop-shaped!”. To that I say, “Rubbish!”). Oh, and in case you’re starting to think that perhaps I sound a little unbalanced, maybe a little unhealthily obssessed, I’d like to offer, as a point of reference, the comparitively more emphatic endorsement by the Facebook group “Help for BUNDT Pan Addicts”. Yes, there exists a Facebook page for people who are really into bundt cake pans. And yes, their favorite pans come from Williams-Sonoma. And no, I am not a group member. See…perfectly healthy.
4.) Me Want Madewell I’m really into green things. For example, I’ve been known to blog frequently on being green. People who can afford to buy the numerous things I can merely talk about make me green with envy. And when it comes to clothes, I have an especial soft spot. I find the dark and jewel-toned greens to be particularly eye-catching. I can now add to that list the Slowdance Skirt from Madewell in Alpine. One sees it and can most certainly picture a cool, spring breeze fluttering the skirt every so slightly as a couple slow dances in a garden, to music softly heard in the distance. It is the embodiment of “romantic”. Google it to your heart’s content; as far as I can tell, it is completely SOLD OUT!
5.) Drinking the Kool-Aid I recently bought a pair of yoga pants for $80, and it got me thinking. Why have I chosen such an expensive hobby? They’re pants. Pants you sweat in. Few other everyday forms of exercise have been so effectively morphed into an obligatory fashion show. But that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. DC-ers have turned yoga into a way of life and not in that yogic kind of way. Actually the opposite of that: yoga boutiques with outlandish prices producing high end yoga clothes and accessories that extremely fit, fashionable, and well-off people wear on the streets seemingly round-the-clock (they can’t all be caught headed to yoga all the time); countless yoga studios with new, trendy types of yoga emerging at an alarming frequency, each deviating more from original yogic practice and intent than the last (yogalates comes to mind); the ever increasing amount of yoga-related trappings one must amass as all manner of unrelated items are now being associated with yoga (I feel like the 4th century yogis never used a yoga ball) (I’ll bet you’ve never heard of an eyebag). But then I think what’s really the problem with all this? Is it really so awful? Well, yes. Yet I still find myself staring longingly at all these beautiful yoga items that I can’t bring myself to shell out huge sums of money for (and sometimes buying them; for the record, the pants are awesome and, as they say, “don’t jiggle it when I wiggle it”). I remain a yoga purist at heart, but I excuse myself the occasional sturdy, attractive, heftily priced yoga basic. Case in point: the Manduka MatSak yoga bag (Large, in Graphite). Manduka is arguably the granddaddy of overpriced yoga equipment, but damn, their stuff looks good.
6.) Red Room If it hasn’t already been made abundantly clear, I like vintage stuff. While, for the most part, my tastes seem to me fairly streamlined, when it comes to my home, they diverge into two completely incongruous styles, 1950’s retro (if you’re picturing a diner, then you obviously don’t know me) and French country. Throw into the mix the Greek’s affinity for rustic, heavy woods and industrial hardware and our rigid unwillingness to meet in the middle (is there a middle?), and you get a mish mash of a home in which purple walls and French lithographs meet large, unfinished wood furniture and dainty floral armchairs sit beside chunky leather recliners. Similarly, it has also taken us an obscenely long time to accrue furnishings and make the rooms of our home “come together”. We’ve come the farthest along in our kitchen (although MUCH remains to be done), and I’d long ago decided that the most ideal complement to my mint-colored walls, white cabinets, and modern bronze hardware would be several splashes of bright red in the form of vintage-looking kitchen utensils and appliances.
The Le Creuset Stoneware butter dish in Red and old-fashioned salt crock in Cherry, the Staub 0.25-qt mini round cocottes in Grenadine, and of course the Kitchenaid Artisan Design stand mixer (with glass bowl!) in Candy Apple Red would be fabulous additions to my collection, which currently includes the Kirkland Signature Red Dutch Oven from Costco and…yeah, that’s pretty much it so far.
6.) Passchal Passion Made from the inner tubes of discarded tractor tires…yes, you heard me correctly, Passchal bags are not only cute, they’re clever. The company has managed to repurpose something coarse and cheap and turn into something truly fashionable (according to their website, they’ve recycled 76 tons of inner tubes to date!). That kind of ingenuity doesn’t come cheap, however, which is why, despite the charming bags pictured below, I only have a small clutch bought a while ago that the Greek doesn’t know (nor will he ever know) the cost of. They also sell travel bags, really handsome wallets, and (coming soon and highly anticipated) a new line of bags made from recycled signs and banners. All this from a former welder and an inventor, not the Stella McCartney-esque high-end fashion designers you’d expect.
Well, this concludes the first addition (of which, I’m sure, they’ll be many more) of my posts about gift ideas, wish lists, and just general lovely discoveries I find online that tickle my fancy. Woo, that felt good…although, and I suppose this is unsurprising, the urge to go out and ACTUALLY buy these things is now stronger. Hélas! This post has seemingly had the opposite effect than the one on which it was motivated. But I shall endure.