Friday, May 30, 2014

New Music From David Gray!

Listening to a new album from one of your favorite artists or bands is always a little weird and exciting. Will it be similar to your old favorites, or will they go in a totally different direction? I've been a David Gray fan for over a decade (his "Live at the Point" dvd was the soundtrack to many sleepless nights) and I found this album to be a combination of new and old. The sound is unmistakably David Gray, but the overall vibe is a little different. I put it on repeat on a rainy summer afternoon earlier this week, and it fit the mood perfectly.

Mutineers Track Listing: 
Back in the World 
As the Crow Flies 
Beautiful Agony 
Last Summer 
Snow in Vegas 
Cake and Eat It 
Birds of the High Arctic 
The Incredible 
Girl Like You 
Nearly Midnight (bonus track)

I've only had time to listen to the whole thing a handful of times so far, but I think Snow in Vegas and Back in the World are my favorites.

He already did a sold out US tour to promote the new album and is about to start a UK tour. More US dates are supposed to be announced soon, I'd love if there was one I can go to!

You can find Mutineers on Amazon and iTunes! It will be officially released on June 17.

Disclosure: I received a free download of the album to review from One2One Network. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#WanderlustWednesday - That Time I Slept With A Bunch Of Truckers

My beloved Kellylou is doing a linkup this week for Wanderlust Wednesday, so head over to link your travelish posts or just read about the adventures of others! 

Throughout this month, I've shared most of the story of my weird, short little trip to New Orleans, but I haven't written about the trip back home yet! I was originally supposed to continue on from Louisiana to Florida to hang out with all of my friends for a week or so, but problems with my car and my health totally killed that plan and resulted in heading back home after a mere 17 hours in the city I'd just driven 15 hours to reach. 

When we left off, I'd just made it out of New Orleans at the really unfortunate time of 5 p.m., which meant driving through the city at rush hour. Along the way, I had some decisions to make about route (I did NOT want to drive back through the construction nightmare I'd just been through on my way down) and where to stay (my meager funds for a hotel on the drive home were still tied up by my NOLA hotel's weird deposit policy.) In a totally uncharacteristic move for my personality, I decided to just wing it and hope for the best. As someone who usually loves nothing more than extensive travel planning and research, this was totally weird.

10 Things on Tuesday - Volume 9

1. First up, the very best part of my day:

Tom has been one of my favorite authors for over a decade now, and given that he's now in his mid-80s I was REALLY not expecting another book from him. This came in the mail today, and while I'm only about 50 pages in so far, I'm already loving it. Tom has a way with language that's just unequaled by any other author, and while his writing style for this book is a little less "him" than the style of his novels where practically every sentence is a carefully crafted work of art, the stories of his life more than make up for it.

2. I had the BEST Kohl's shopping trip last week! I won a gift card in a giveaway, so I went to find something fun. Not only did I find amazing jeans on sale for $20 (and omg did I need them - I've lost like 15 lbs this month from being sick. SO FUN.), but I got these earrings for $3 after combining the sale and the coupon! (It also made my jeans like $12!)

3. Is anyone else watching The Bachelorette? (I have to admit, I'm kind of jealous of you if you're not.) I usually live tweet it, but I'm not sure if anyone is interested in my rantings via blog. Yes? No?

4. This both cheered me up and is an accurate depiction of my life:

"Suddenly, cats." (Thanks, Nick.)

5. I know that talking about the weather is not that exciting, but omg I would like a day without rain, please. I am a solar powered human. I need to feel some sunshine on my skin, especially since I've been sick lately. My weather app says that the next non-stormy day is the 2nd. Can I sue them if this doesn't happen?

6. I have really sucked at the blogging every day in May thing lately! I think this is my 22nd post out of 27 days? I did so well for the first few weeks! Maybe if I'm feeling better in the next few days, I can write a couple of extra posts to help make up for what I've missed.

7. Know what's really not fun? Poison ivy on your eyelids. Sadly, this is the SECOND time this has happened to me. When it happened a couple of years ago, I went to the doctor and she said something along the lines of, "Well, I could give you a steroid shot near your eye but it wouldn't be fun and it would expensive and it might not help much." Oatmeal is my usual poison ivy remedy, but despite waking up itchy multiple times a night, I still haven't been able to bring myself to blob oaty goodness onto my eyes, ya know?

8. I've been trying to brush up on my French (Coffee Break French is a great podcast for this) since it's been years since I've used it on a regular basis. Pinterest has been surprisingly helpful, especially when I stumble across gems like this:

This is... relevant to my interests.

9. My wanderlust has been back in full force lately. While I was too sick to do much but hang out in bed the other day, I watched FIVE hours of Anthony Bourday's "Parts Unknown" series on CNN. As someone who usually watches maybe five hours of TV a week, that was a big deal. I wish that Travel Channel still had awesome travel related shows - these days it's pretty much all food. 

10. I was going to whine about other random life things here, but Bear just joined me in bed and is requesting petting and ear scratches, and that seems way more important than anything else. Have a good rest of the week, friends. 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Showing Pets Some Love #HillsPet (With info on an awesome rebate and coupon!)

Are you familiar with the whole "Five Love Languages" thing? If not, the idea is that everyone shows love and feels love in a combination of five basic ways, which include things like physical touch (that's my big one!), acts of service (things like randomly filling your partner's gas tank for them) and giving/receiving gifts. I found myself thinking about that when I was pondering the idea of this post about showing love to our pets. Although a lot of the ways we show love to people and pets are very different, in a lot of ways they're the same. We still use physical touch (petting, chins scratches, belly rubs!), we spend quality time together, we buy them gifts, and although my cats might not be quite as into compliments as my human loves, they still seem to like hearing how good/handsome/smart/big they are. There's a surprising amount of crossover!

Universal needs?

Jasper is currently showing me some love by "helping" me write this post, since he knows I'm sick and can't possibly be trusted to do it alone. 

One of the main similarities in how we show love is thecategory of food. Just as we love to cook our beloved a special meal, bring them a delicious treat when we come to visit, or take them out to try a new restaurant, we tend to use food as a major way of showing our pets love, too. (The quickest way to a cat's heart is through his stomach?) It's definitely also one of the easiest ways - what's quicker when you're having a busy morning, giving Fluffy a couple of treats or sitting down for five minutes of interactive play? Even though food is a great way to show our pets love, it's way too easy to go overboard and end up with an overweight dog or cat over time!

As you probably know, I've been participating in a campaign for Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic Advantage pet food over the past few months, and they have a cool promotion going on that can help you show your pets love in a couple of different ways! First, they're offering rebates on wellness visits to your vet so you can discuss getting your pet back to a healthy weight! Yep, you read that right... Hill's is going to pay you back for $25 of your vet visit. How cool is that?! They're also including a $25 coupon for the Metabolic Advantage food so that you can give it a try! (You can even use that on the cat treats, which are a guilt free way to show kitty some love!)

You can find the form for the Hill's rebate and coupon by clicking here! They're sending out 500 of them, so be sure to sign up before they're all taken!

This post is sponsored by Hill’s and the BlogPaws Network. I am being compensated for helping spread the word about Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Food, but Straight On Till Morning only shares information we feel is relevant to our readers. Hill's Pet Nutrition, Inc. is not responsible for the content of this article.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Help Outnumber Hunger in Your Community!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by General Mills via Platefull Co-Op.

I know that there have definitely been days in my life when I couldn't afford food, and I'm certainly not alone in that. There are over 49 million people in America facing hunger right now. General Mills has a really cool promotion going on now called Outnumber Hunger, where you can visit the site to enter the code found on many of their products, and in exchange they'll donate five meals to your local food bank. The participating products are brands that I tend to buy anyway (including Old El Paso, Nature Valley, Fiber One and Pillsbury) so I love that it takes almost nothing extra on my part to participate! The program runs through the end of January 2015, so you have plenty of time to enter codes. 

There's also an extra promotion at participating Target stores where if you buy 5 of the selected "Outnumber Hunger" items, you get a complimentary CD! 

I'll definitely be watching for the codes on the products I buy! (You can find a full list of participating brands on the official site linked above!) You might have to do a little hunting until the promotion really gets under way - I checked the Fiber One bars that I bought yesterday and the box didn't have a code yet. (The limited edition Caramel Sea Salt bars are awesome, btw!)

I love that the donations from the codes you enter go to a food bank in your community, or if you'd like to help a food bank in a different community, you can set your preference for any zip code you choose! I'd love to hear if you guys participate in this!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

10 Things on Tuesday (On Thursday. Oops) - Volume 8

1. I've now missed three days of blogging this month! That's still a lot more posts than usual, but not quite Every Day In May. I've been so freaking sick though. Blehhh!

2. I've had an absolutely overwhelming urge lately to go spend a week on the beach with nothing but a bag of books and a notebook. I might go spread out my beach towel and relax at the lake this weekend, but it just doesn't sound as exciting, and they're predicting scattered thunderstorms for most of the next 5 days or so. I just need some sun!

3. I've had terrible luck with buying expired food lately! Three times in the past week or so I've come home with something only to discover it's outdated. Today I picked up a new kind of breakfast shake to try (I've been sick and wanted something easy on the ol' belly.) I got home, tried a sip, noticed it tasted a little weird, checked the date and yep, best by March. A few days ago, I finally got the Old El Paso burritos I've been looking for, was all excited to come home and make them for dinner, and then discovered that the date on the box said March. I returned them to the store and checked the freezer section for a newer one - they had about 8 more boxes, but they ALL expired in March!

At least that's not quite as bad as the Indian food experience I had a few months ago. I got hooked on the Tasty Bite Jaipur Vegetables pouches (I'd probably eat them constantly if they weren't so expensive) and was excited to find they were available at a store near my house. I came home and noticed that the package looked different than what I was used to, and when I dumped out the contents it looked different, too. Luckily I checked the date before eating it - they had expired a YEAR ago! When I went back to that store I checked out the Indian section and discovered that EVERY SINGLE PRODUCT (not just that particular kind of meal, not even just that brand, but EVERY product) had a "best by" date of 6-12+ months ago!! How does that even happen?? I get that grocery store stockers might miss getting something off the shelf by its expiration date now and then, but how do you totally miss something being outdated for an entire year?

4. Speaking of food (I guess I'm hungry?) WHY must nut butters be so expensive?! I'd probably live on Justin's maple almond butter if it wasn't ten freaking dollars a jar. I get that almonds are more expensive than peanuts, but does it really have to cost THAT much? It makes me sad.

5. If you're a Harry Potter nerd, I highly recommend the latest episode of the Alohomora podcast! Their guests wrote a book about spy stuff in the books (I'm going to see if I can get a review copy) and their insight was fascinating. One of them worked for the CIA for over 30 years, so his perspective was really cool to hear. Definitely one of the best podcast episodes I've listened to in a while.

6. Along the topic of Harry Potter...

I just found this on Pinterest and it makes me REALLY want a fish tank again! I've been considering getting a betta for a while, but cute things like this make me want a big tank!

7. Of course, the last time that I went to the pet shop to get a fish (Nov 2008), I ended up adopting my cat Jasper instead. I just wanted something alive in my apartment, but I fell in looooove!

8. My goal for tonight (if I ever finish this post!) is to get through a good chunk of the 100+ blogging tips articles that I've pinned to my "read later" board. I've found that articles that sound great by their Pinterest description rarely live up to the hype, so I figure that if I find any that are actually useful, I'll share the links here.

9. Super weird thing - I've been in the habit of keeping HGTV shows on in the background lately. This is weird because a) I generally hate those home shopping/remodeling shows, and b) I'm not a TV person. I don't LIKE background noise. Apparently my body is possessed by aliens that want to understand our housing culture.

10. I have about a week left of my Every Day In May blogging, but I'm already trying to decide what I want to do when the month is over. I'm leaning towards picking about 10-12 posts that I really want to get done and just focusing on those. I've found that trying to meet a goal of posting every day means that the more time consuming posts keep getting pushed aside for things I can get done quickly, since I often find myself at 10 or 11 and just then realizing that I haven't started a post yet. I have some great ideas in the works, but great posts just don't happen in an hour. Maybe for this last week I can make a point of starting earlier in the day?

Monday, May 19, 2014

It's Bachelorette Premiere Night!

Tonight was the season premiere of everyone's favorite trainwreck, The Bachelorette! This post is basically just a collection of notes that I typed while watching. I'd love to hear what you thought of the episode if you watched!

I don't remember Andi being very much fun on Juan Pablo's season, but it will be interesting to see her on the other side of things now. Are the producres going to have to drum up extra drama (as usual) to keep it from being a snooze? One impression that I got really strongly in the first 15 minutes is that Andi got totally hooked on the attention she got from being on last season. She seemed to be totally eating up the "glamour" aspect of things like the promotional photo shoot.

Totally sad about the contestant Eric who passed away shortly after filming. It's going to be kind of weird watching the episodes that he's on. I wonder if they changed how anything was edited as a result?

I think that the part where the Bachelorette has to meet all of the guys would be the worst. I mean seriously, if you introduced me to 25 "amazing" men, there's probably a 20% chance that I'd find one of them even remotely dateable. I'd probably meet the last guy and be like, "Could I have a couple more limos of men, please?" #CatLadyProblems

So, Andi meets all 25 men and they're all pretty unremarkable except for (of course!) Eric, who is adorable. This is really depressing, y'all. One interesting thing - I didn't notice it until someone on Twitter pointed it out, but I think this is the first season that they didn't show any intro clips about the guys. You know, like how they usually pick a few that are interesting and show a minute or two of them at home before the show? I wonder why that was left out.

Chris B. from Emily's season and Bachelor Pad shows up and wants to be let in to compete. This is SUCH A LOAD OF CRAP. If he wanted to meet her, I'm sure he could have gotten contact info before now. Twitter exists. Use it.

I really wish that I had more interesting things to say about the premiere, but honestly it was pretty dull. Here's hoping things get more interesting soon!

By the way, if you dig all things bad reality TV (Well, ok, mostly just this show) you should follow me on Twitter if you don't already, since I usually can't resist live tweeting during the show!

Did you guys watch? Who are you rooting for? (I'm going for the lamp! It seems more interesting than most of the guys.)

(Image from Chris Harrison's Instagram. It's still not letting me use the embed code, arrgh!)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Sunday Currently


I haven't done The Sunday Currently in ages! No time like the present!

Reading Yin Yang Yogini (I'll review it when I finish.). However, I just found out that Tom Robbins has a new book (Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life ) coming out later this month!! He's one of my very favorite authors and given that he's now in his mid-80s, I really was NOT expecting another book from him! I am SO excited for it!

Writing I actually started working on a new poem for the first time in ages. I still can't quite get the ideas to come together, but at least it's happening.

Listening to lots of podcasts, trying to catch up on all of the ones I'm behind on. (aka all of them)

Thinking about what feels like a never ending to-do list that never seems to diminish in length.

Smelling Not much at the moment, since it's been a bad allergy day. Damn you, pollen!

Wishing that I could go spend a week at the beach with nothing but a giant bag of books. There are so many on my "to read" shelf that I really want to dive into, but I never seem to find time!

Hoping that the cold and rain will finally let up this week so I can go hit some hiking trails! I'm craving outdoor time.

Wearing It's a lazy Sunday night, so I'm wearing my Cecil shirt (which I tweeted the last time I wore, which resulted in a "favorite" by Cecil Baldwin of Welcome To Night Vale fame. Squee!) and my infamous owl pants. So cozy.

Loving the fact that Ten just pounced on me right as Neil deGrasse Tyson said, " cats use stealth" on Cosmos. Good timing, wee kitten.

Needing an entire day just to make a dent in my sewing pile. Tomorrow, perhaps?

Feeling I've had some depression struggles lately, so basically I have been feeling ALL THE THINGS. It's fun.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

New Orleans Trip Part 6 - Everything Else!

This is it! The last New Orleans trip post! You can access all of the others by clicking here if you need to catch up!

After almost three hours of wandering around the French Quarter, I was ready to sit down to relax for a while. I decided to hop on the St. Charles streetcar at Canal Street and ride it through the Garden District to check out some of the lovely houses that the area is famous for. I definitely recommend this when you hit that point in the day when you need a break from walking around. I'd estimate that I rode about half an hour out before turning back, which was the perfect amount of time for both sightseeing and getting a bit of rest before continuing my day.

I didn't even attempt to take photos since I knew they wouldn't come out well while moving, but here's a quick video I took of a few Garden District homes as seen from the streetcar! (That links to the video on my Instagram - it's refusing to embed in my blog post, sorry!) Hopefully that gives you an idea of what sightseeing via streetcar is like - you get a pretty solid view, but there's not much time to examine the details. If there's a place you want to get a better view of, you can always hop off at the next stop and then catch the next streetcar that comes along to continue your journey.

There were some repairs taking place on the streetcar tracks for most of the Garden District, so just a few stops from my hotel everyone had to get off and board a bus for the next fifteen minutes or so of the trip. When we hit the area where the tracks were open again, we all switched back to streetcar. Kind of a bummer for those who were specifically wanting to ride the streetcar for the sake of doing so, but we still got from point A to point B, so whatever.

I ended up getting off the streetcar at Audubon Park partially because it looked like a beautiful place to walk around for a few minutes (it was!) and partly because I was now pretty far away from my hotel and didn't want to end up so far away that I wouldn't get back until much later than I wanted to leave.

It's a lovely place to walk around, and it makes an especially nice mental break if you've been walking around the vibrant, crowded French Quarter. There are giant oaks, squirrels, jogging paths, sculptures, fountains, benches and ponds - basically everything you could ask for in a park. I wish that I'd had much longer to walk around, I'd love to come have a picnic and nice stroll through the park with someone on my next trip!

By now it was around 3:30 p.m. and I still hadn't heard from the hotel that I was hoping to stay at that night, so I decided to give in and start the long drive home. Funny enough, shortly after I caught the streetcar back towards my car I finally heard from the hotel that they were unable to accommodate my request for a room. D'oh! It was a little after 4 p.m. by the time I made it back to my car and picked up the bags that were being held at my hotel. Add in the 10 minutes or so that I lost due to getting turned around trying to get back on the highway (arrgh!) and guess where that put me? Yep, I was driving through most of the city right at rush hour. Arrgh! I could have easily spent an extra hour out exploring while traffic cleared up instead of creeping along at 10 mph for close to an hour. Oh well, I'll plan better next time! One cool thing to note - on the way out of town, I got a pretty good view of one of the giant cemeteries. I'd heard that they're huge, but they really are gigantic! I was happy that I at least got to see one from the road since my schedule didn't allow for a walking tour this time. (Judging from what I can tell from Google Maps, I think that I saw a combination of the Cypress Grove and Greenwood cemeteries.)

And thus ends my New Orleans adventure! I'll cover the trip home in another post!

Just a few random notes:
*As I mentioned a few times throughout my posts about this trip, it rained most of the time that I was exploring the French Quarter. This really isn't a bad section of town to be in while it's raining, since there's enough of an overhang from most of the building roofs to keep the worst of it off your head. It's also literally a mater of a few steps between each shop, bar, restaurant or other sight to see, so it's easy to dart from one to the next if the weather gets especially bad. I pretty much just put on my hoodie and made the best of it.

*As a female walking around alone in the daytime, I felt totally safe. However, I'm used to living in a large-ish city and being extra aware of what's going on around me, and I'm used to traveling alone. Yes, you'll be approached by people asking for spare change and gestured/called to by others wanting you to come into their business or come check out their wares. (I noticed the most spare change requests along Decatur Street, especially upriver of Jackson Square. Not sure why that was.) A simple "No, sorry." or "No, thanks." with a smile worked just fine for me in every situation. (It's obviously up to you if you hand out any money or not. I didn't since I was literally broke, but if I did I'd prefer to give my spare change to one of the street musicians or bands versus someone just plain asking for money. That's just me, though.)

*If you do plan to wander the city alone, I'd suggest doing a little research about which parts of town to avoid. (From what I read, the more central parts of the French Quarter seem to be the safest, with things getting a little shadier as you approach the borders at Esplanade and Rampart Street.) Like many cities, you'll find totally safe areas just a couple of blocks away from not-so-safe areas.

*Other than a couple of wandering drunks (in the early afternoon, of course) and one dude who walked past talking loudly to himself (I didn't mean to be a "bitchface", dude, that's just my face.) most of the people I encountered were great. Lots of smiles, a definite sense of humor to the city in general, very cool energy.

*If you're in fairly average shape, covering the entire French Quarter on foot most likely won't be a problem. I didn't make it up and down every single block of every street, but I'd say that I covered at least 70% in the approximately 3 hours I was able to spend there.

*There are SO MANY THINGS that I didn't get the chance to see and do on this trip that I really look forward to doing next time. I'm glad that I had this trip to kind of get my bearings and a general idea of what to expect, kind of New Orleans 101. I think that the little bit of experience I had will make my next trip ten times better.

Up next, the (thankfully shorter!) road trip home!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Chanel Does Dubai

Resort Fashion Week has started and I spent part of this evening browsing the half dozen or so shows that have happened so far. While I didn't really see any looks worth commenting on, I did find it really interesting that Karl Lagerfeld chose to hold the Chanel show in Dubai this year. Anything outside of the usual New York/London/Paris/Milan circuit tends to catch my attention, but this is a major designer going majorly out of the box in terms of location.

Chanel is rarely my thing, although I do sort of like that first dress.

I'm wondering if we're about to see a trend of designers holding their shows in unusual locations. It was a big thing when Alexander Wang held his Fall 2014 show in Brooklyn, but now Christian Dior has done the same thing for Resort season. 

One last thing: I *need* to know how Karl made it out across this sand without getting even a spot on his white shoes and pants. What is this sorcery?

New Orleans Trip Part 5 - Jackson Square and St. Louis Cathedral

Selfie time!

Yep, another post about my New Orleans trip! I thought I'd share a few pics from Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral. My phone's camera was not loving the rain (did I mention it rained almost the whole time I was wandering the French Quarter?), so pardon the fuzziness!

An interesting juxtaposition of war and peace.

I wish I had a photo of the interior of the cathedral that did it justice. It's a lovely place to slip into for a few quiet minutes. 

The accompanying gift shop is surprisingly tiny!

All around Jackson Square you'll see musicians, artists, street performers and fortune tellers. A lot of them had packed up due to the rain when I was there, but this display of paintings was still drawing shoppers.

Pirate's Alley runs alongside the side of the cathedral, and contains some historic bars and the Faulkner House book shop, which resides in the building where Faulkner lived while writing some of his early works. Loved the look of these bikes right across from the shop!

 Also spotted in Pirate's Alley. Only in New Orleans!

I think I only have one NOLA post to go (plus one about the trip home). Hooray for catching up!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Ten Things on Tuesday - Volume 7

It's Tuesday! Let's do 10 things!

1. I'm writing tonight's post while watching the Disney World episodes of Full House. Despite the fact that they're basically a big commercial and totally flawed logistically, they make me miss home A LOT.

2. Speaking of places that I used to work, I stopped by Dixie Stampede today because I was stuck in traffic and didn't have the patience for it. I only recognized 2 horses out of 30 there, which is kind of depressing, but it has been over a decade since I worked there, so I suppose that makes sense.

3. This:

4. I am obsessively in love with the nun (Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe) on the Colbert Report tonight. IN LOVE. Sewing Hope. The book about her has been added to my to read list!

5. Cuteness: My kitten Tennyson seems to wait ALL DAY for the time of night where I turn on the outside light and then hold him out the door so he can try to catch the moths that swarm around it. (His feet are not allowed to touch the ground. I'm a strict cat mom.) I wish I had a video of it, he gets SO excited. Best 30 seconds of his day.

6. I took a quick walk in the woods along one of my favorite trails today, despite the fact that it was a little rainy and super cold. I'm so out of shape for real hikes, but it was nice to get outside for a bit!

7. Super random thing since I am running out of things to write - This is the notepad on which I make my grocery shopping lists. If you look very closely, you can see kitten bite marks up at the top. 

8. My goal for this week is to update my About Me page. As in... make a real one and not just the weird list thing I've had for like a decade. I figure that if I write about it here, maybe you guys will hold me to it!

9. While poking around in my drafts folder looking for posts to finish, I discovered that not only have I not finished my New Orleans trip posts (I knew that much, at least), but I never finished the posts about my trip home to Orlando back in December! Oops! Are you even still interested in hearing about that?!

10. I'm also working on a post about de-cluttering, simplicity and our attachment to things. I'd love to hear from you guys about it! Do you have trouble letting go of things? 

Happy hump day tomorrow, my friends!

Monday, May 12, 2014

How To Deodorize Thrift Shop Clothes

You probably know from my blog that I buy a lot of clothing at thrift stores and yard sales. It's pretty rare that I get something that has an actual body odor or cigarette smell to it, but almost everything seems to come with a harsh detergent smell. I'm super allergic to scented laundry products, so that means I need to get that scent out before I can wear my new clothes. You'd think it would be easy - just toss in the wash with some unscented detergent, right? Wrong. I've found that I can wash clothes with lingering smells half a dozen times and still sneeze when I get near them. Super frustrating! I did some pretty thorough internet research and tried a whole bunch of different methods that promised to get rid of smells, including adding vinegar or baking soda to my wash cycle. No luck. Finally, after about a year of laundry experiment woes I found something that works, so I thought I'd share it for anyone else who might be having the same problem.

It turns out that the magical combination involves two of my favorite things:

Vodka and Sunlight

Unfortunately, I'm not telling you to take your stinky clothes on a Caribbean cruise. (I mean, you can... whatever floats your boat.) You can do this at home without buying a ton of supplies or spending more than a couple of dollars at most.

All you really need is a spray bottle, a bit of vodka, some water and some sun. I tend to use flavored vodka because it's what I have on hand but I'm pretty sure that unflavored would work just as well. I use this little travel sized 2 oz spray bottle that I picked up in the travel sized toiletries aisle for about a dollar. The only negative thing about it is that if I'm doing a lot of items at once, my poor finger starts to hurt from hitting that pump so many times. Pretty much any kind of spray bottle will work, though, as long as you can set it to spray a fine mist. (I'm assuming that you can work out where to find water and sunshine on your own.)

In this lovely little bottle, you're going to mix approximately one part vodka with ten parts water and then give it a little shake to make sure everything is mixed nicely. (Resist the urge to taste test it.) I'm not an expert bartender so I often end up with a ratio that's more like one part vodka to five parts water, and that works, too. You can measure if you want to get all fancy but really, just aim for being close. 

You'll want to spray down your item of clothing pretty thoroughly, but not to the point where it's actually what you'd consider wet. You just want a nice mist covering the whole thing. On average, I've found that one full bottle gets me through about 10 shirts.

If you don't happen to be the sort of person who keeps a bottle of vodka around (gasp!), don't worry - it's pretty easy to find little airplane sized bottles at liquor or convenience stores for around $1 and since you use so little, one of those should get you through around 100 items of clothing.

Once you've got your clothing sprayed with the vodka-water mixture, it's time to hang it out in the sun. I don't totally understand the science behind it, but rays of sunshine have great deodorizing properties. (Plus, it will help to evaporate the alcohol you just sprayed on so that you don't walk around smelling like a cocktail.) If you live somewhere that doesn't get a lot of sun, just hanging the item outside for fresh air will still help a lot. This step can be tricky if you live in an apartment that doesn't have a balcony. Hanging the item in front of a sunny window still works decently, especially if the window opens, but you're probably much better off bribing a friend who has a house with a yard (and maybe a clothesline!) to let you bring your stuff over. 

I've yet to determine an exact science to how long you need to leave the clothes out in the sun. (I'll be honest, I tend to forget about them until it gets dark.) Aim for at least 3-4 hours if possible. Afterwards, just toss the items in with your regular laundry, and they should emerge free from lingering smells! (You may have to repeat the process for really serious offenders, but this is pretty rare.)

Now this probably goes without saying, but you should probably avoid using this method on any kind of delicate fabric that's easily damaged unless you're willing to take the risk of hurting it. I've yet to stumble across anything that can't handle a little spray down with vodka and water (especially since you're barely dampening it) but I wanted to at least throw in a "Hey, don't blame me if this doesn't end well" note here. 

That's it! The secret to fresher smelling second hand clothes without a lot of cost or effort. If you have any other tried and true methods that you love, I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sneak Peek: Dress In Progress!

Blogging every day is HARD, you guys! Once again it's almost 11 p.m. and I'm just now remembering that I need to post today. I figured that I'd show you a sneak peek of what I've been working on most of the evening!

Spectacular, eh? The correct answer is no. No it is not. But it will be! I'm turning this ugly thrift store dress into something awesome. (And not three sizes too big.)

I'm not sure how clearly you can see it in this photo, but the outdated shiny buttons don't even match! Some are silver, some are gold.

So far, I've removed the sleeves (possibly adding them back later, depends on how it goes) and snipped off the collar. Once again, I have to pretty much reconstruct the entire top part of the dress to make my plan work. I really need to figure out an easier way to do it, because the method I've been using is a pain!

Cross your fingers that I'm able to finish it up without TOO many headaches, and that the final product is as great as I'm hoping!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

5 Things On Saturday

I usually do my 10 Things posts on Tuesdays, but I'm gonna be honest with y'all - it's late, I'm tired, and I don't want to break my (10 day!) streak of posting every day in May, but I just don't have the energy to finish up one of the more involved posts that's sitting in my draft folder. So instead, you get a lovely list of randomness! (And yep, I didn't even make it to 10. I guess they can't all be winners?)

1. I spent the past hour or so helping my mom clean out her bathroom and we barely made a dent in the giant collection of stuff that's cluttering it up. She's one of those people that has medicine that expired a decade ago in the cabinet, and at least half a dozen of those bath product gift sets that have been sitting unopened and forgotten for ages. It's depressing - I convinced her to actually open the packaging on one of the gift boxes and put the products by her tub so that she'd actually use them, but when we did we found that the lotion had gone kinda funky and the shower gel had half leaked from its bottle. It was a good reminder for me to actually use things instead of saving them for "someday".

2. One of the churches in my little town does a giant garage sale twice a year with a few hours on the 2nd day where you can fill a paper bag with almost anything that's left for $3. If you need proof that I currently live in the middle of nowhere, here it is: There were almost 50 people in line when I got there a few minutes before it opened. Yeeeeah. Anyway, one of the quirks about this sale that amuses me is that in the book room, they divide all of the fiction up into "women authors" and "male authors". I grabbed these two books and somehow managed not to snicker out loud about the fact that "Robert Galbraith" was in the male author section.

I'm excited to read both of these!

3. I also picked up the two skirts pictured here:

Here's the funny thing. See how there's about an inch more waistband on the skirt that's on the bottom? (I added a blue line to help it stand out since it's not a great pic.) Well, the smaller skirt that's on top is a size 12, while the larger one on bottom is an 8. Why are clothing sizes SO WEIRD?

4. Even though I've missed multiple episodes this season, I'm happy that Hart of Dixie got renewed for another season! They seem to be getting back on track in terms of quality lately - there were a LOT of episodes in a row over the last couple of seasons that just felt like filler, and they got WAY too into the stories of minor characters that nobody really cares about. I'd love to see next season be as good as the first!

5. I finally have enough miles for a free flight on Southwest, but they're discontinuing service to my airport at the end of this month. ARRGH. Do I scramble for spare money and make a quick trip to Orlando, since I never made it down last month? Or do I just hang on to my miles and use them for something else eventually?

I'm admitting defeat here. It's late, I'm starving, and I have a ton of stuff to do before sleep. Have a good night, my dears!

Friday, May 09, 2014

What I've Been Reading

Remember when I used to do these "What I've Been Reading" posts every month or two? What happened? Yeesh! Bits and pieces of this one have been sitting in my blog's draft folder since LAST August! Might as well publish 'em already, am I right?

Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk
I tend to enjoy "a year of doing whatever" type of books and blogs, so I had to check this one out. It wasn't as great as it could have been, but was still an interesting read. As you can probably guess from the title, the author spent the year taking all of Oprah's suggestions. It's a great idea, but would have benefited from the author going a little deeper into the feelings that doing so provoked, the things she learned, the insecurities it brought up, etc. Basically, it needed a little more analysis to go with the "here's what I did" side of it.

One thing I found interesting was how many contradictions she came across: for example - an episode of the Oprah show about de-cluttering your closet, soon followed by another episode about 10 clothing items you MUST own, which sent the author shopping. We get SO many contradictory messages like that from the media, it's nice to have it pointed out here. (Reminds me of the image that's been circulating on social media that shows two recent covers of a certain magazine, one which promises to tell you how to drop weight super fast, the other questioning the safety of a celeb losing weight too fast.)

One bit of frustration - I read the e-book version of this, which contained a few links to specific posts on the original Living Oprah blog that she chronicled the year on before it became a book. However, the blog seems to have since been taken down. A total shame, since it would have been fun to access for more info.

Even though it could have been better, I do appreciate that this book exists. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking "Wow, if I could just do all of the things that tv/magazines/lifestyle websites/pinterest/etc say I should, my life would be really great." It's nice to have someone test the theory and find that no, not all of those suggestions are as great as they sound.

Fringe Florida: Travels among Mud Boggers, Furries, Ufologists, Nudists, and Other Lovers of Unconventional Lifestyles

Florida is a weird state. That's part of what I love about it. However, this book made me wonder if maybe I'm too much of a Floridian because none of the unconventional people discussed seemed that odd to me. The first chapter was about people with exotic pets like monkeys and snakes... but don't we all know someone with a weird pet or two? The second chapter was about a famous strip club owner in Tampa. Interesting, but still not really odd. Strip clubs are pretty conventional these days, so it's not like we're peeking into some deeply mysterious place here.

I think that the main reason this one fell a little flat for me is that the author doesn't offer up much in terms of her own opinions. It's a style that works great for something like a newspaper article - there's a lot of setting the atmosphere for the story, some related history, and a bit of interviewing people involved with each chapter's subject - but a lot of  it lacks that personal touch that should come with reporting from inside an event. The difference is obvious in sections like the fetish convention chapter, where the author tries on a pony play bridle and is then able to share how it really felt. More "doing" vs. just "reporting" would have made the book come to life.

There are stretches of writing where the author totally hits her groove and the words flow well and suck you in. There are other areas where the writing is weaker, and the occasional sentence that left me thinking "Wow, there had to be better ways of saying that." An example: "They [the women in the group] are as diverse in age and profession as the vegetable garden beside Jenn's pool." Um, doesn't the way that is worded imply that the vegetables are also diverse in age and profession? I think most vegetables are just professional plants. (Maybe things like this were corrected in editing before the book was officially published? I got my copy in advance via NetGalley, so anything is possible.)

Elizabeth of York by Alison Weir

I'm going to start out by telling you that I never got around to finishing this book. I had like 60 days to read it before the ebook that Net Galley sent me expired, but between going to Florida for 2 weeks and general life craziness at the time, I only made it through a few hundred pages. Alison Weir writes a ton of both fiction and nonfiction books about this general era of history, and I mostly picked this book up because I remember enjoying her book about the wives of Henry VIII a year or so ago.

The main problem that I encountered in reading this (and that she probably had when writing it) is that not all that much is really known about Elizabeth of York. Yes, she was Henry Tudor's wife and Henry VIII's mother, but that doesn't tell us much about the woman herself. There are a few personal letters that help a lot, but so much of the "information" is speculation. The first 200-ish pages of the book barely contain Elizabeth herself, they're mostly setting the scene of what was happening politically at the time, how she may have been educated, and other general "what life might have been like for her" types of things. You can't blame Weir for the lack of abundant info - finding real info about women throughout most of history is just plain hard.

For events where the details and motives are shady at best, Weir does a great job of presenting a solid argument for her stance on what happened, and I always enjoy reading through her reasoning even if I don't always necessarily agree with her theories. The thing is that Weir's conclusions are drawn via excellent logic, but... how often do we act according to logic? Sure, maybe person A did something horrible to person B because it would benefit them politically... but maybe they didn't have a real agenda and were just having a bad morning? Maybe they woke up with a headache and kind of hated everyone that day. Maybe person B reminds them of that cousin they hate. Maybe person B kissed person A's girlfriend when they were 10 years old, and A has never forgiven them. I know that's not the clearest example, but hopefully it illustrates my point - even historical figures are human, and just because something is the most logical conclusion doesn't mean it's the right one. More often than not, we're acting on impulse or craving or total random chance than on solid logic.

I'd definitely recommend this one if you're curious about this era of British history and don't know much about it yet, but if you are already pretty familiar and are just looking for extra details about Elizabeth herself, you may not find as much as you're hoping for.

 Why You No Scream Viva?
This is a very quick read, which I think a lot of us are a fan of in the summer when we're hanging out at the pool or the beach more often. It's less than 200 pages long... actually a lot less since most of the 46 chapters are only a couple of pages long, and there's about half a page of blank space after each one. It's the story of the author's experiences traveling in and then moving to Mexico after a divorce. The writing style is very informal - think blog post or email from your friend telling you about their vacation - but it's fun to read. Perfect to keep you entertained on a couple hour flight to your own vacation, but nothing life changing. (It's been a couple of months since I read it now and I wanted to expand on this review before I posted it, but I really can't remember much.)

*Note: This post contains some affiliate links, which means that if you purchase the book via those links I will receive a windfall of multiple pennies! But hey, I'll take all the spar change I can get, so thanks if you do use them!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Pet Peeves

I've had this post tumbling around in my head (and drafts folder) for a while now, so I decided to use this super rainy Thurdsay to finish it up! I think that a person's pet peeves say a lot about them, so I'd love to hear if you share any of mine, or if you have some quirky ones of your own!

Pins like this on Pinterest. Really? You really needed someone else to tell you that you can wear jeans and a white shirt with brown boots? This isn't really groundbreaking stuff. And yet there are SO MANY "inspiration" photos like this. 

People who move my stuff-
This is a weird one for me, maybe more of a quirk than a pet peeve. As a result of having my apartment broken into and stuff stolen more than once, it freaks me out if something is not where I left it. Beyond that, I'm weirdly specific with where I put things - there is method to my madness! What looks like a giant blob of clothes waiting to be altered to an outsider is clearly many separate piles/boxes to me - these I've already started working on, these are on hold until I can buy a certain color of thread or other necessity, these still smell really "thrift store-y" and need some freshening up before I work on them... Don't mix my piles up, yo!

Lateness/Plan Cancelers -
Everyone has things that pop up now and then, but I can not deal with people who are habitually 10-15 minutes late or more. It's disrespectful for my time. I could be doing other things! The same for canceling plans - at least do it early enough that I can make other plans or find someone else to invite to whatever we were doing.

Blog for a chance to win!-
I'm sure that most bloggers have experienced this - the email where a company asks you to blog about their product in exchange for something like "the chance to win one of 10 gift cards!" So you want me to put the time and work into writing a post for you in exchange for a maybe 10% chance that I'll get something for it? NO. This would not fly with ANY other business! Would you show up to work if your boss said "Hey! We'd love if you could come to work from 9-5 today, and there's a 10% chance we'll pay you for it!" I seriously doubt it. I have trouble respecting a company that expects me to provide my valuable time and creative efforts in exchange for nothing.

"You don't need makeup"-
I was listening to the radio the other day and heard a song with a lyric along the lines of (I'm heavily paraphrasing) "I don't know why you wear makeup, you're beautiful - you don't need it." It made me realize how much I HATE that kind of statement. Of course we don't need makeup. But why would you automatically assume that something I'm doing for myself is a result of some sense of lack or insecurity? Maybe it's just fun? To me, "You don't need makeup!" is like saying "But the walls of your house are such a pretty color! You don't need to decorate them with those paintings!"

When people say "walla" instead of "voila"-
One is a word, one is you making a weird noise. Get it right.

People who don't pay attention to their surroundings - 
I notice this most often at the grocery store. You know when someone will block a whole aisle with their cart while they're looking at something, and you end up just standing there, waiting for them to notice? Drives me nuts! Or when a group of people blocks a path/entrance while they're standing around talking.

Well, now you know how to defeat me through sheer annoyance. Let's hear yours!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Thrifted Favorites

As I mentioned in this week's 10 Things on Tuesday post, yesterday was the monthly bag sale day at my favorite thrift shop. It's basically a monthly holiday for me - they let you stuff a grocery bag with clothes for $3 or a kitchen sized trash bag for $5. I almost always look for the unusual clothes that I know I can turn into something awesome via the magic of my sewing machine and some creative vision. (You can see some of my past sewing projects here!)

Some months yield more treasures than others, and this time I didn't find all that many items that I could work with. I still ended up getting 32 things, so I basically paid 15 cents per item. I used to post monthly haul posts to share everything I got, but photographing every item takes way too much time, so this month I thought I'd just share a handful of favorites!

This vintage Andrea Gayle dress might be my favorite find. It's from the 70s or early 80s and I can't wait to do a few tweaks to the fit that will make it wearable again! It reminds me a little bit of a flamenco dress, which I dig.

Other favorite find of the day - this cute sequined mini skirt still has the tags attached. It's a medium so I was worried it might not fit (since that's clearly a juniors department kind of medium) but it has a bit of stretch so the fit is pretty much perfect. This is probably something that one shouldn't try to pull off past their 20s, but I don't care, I'm going to wear it ASAP and pretend I'm a mermaid. (I found the same skirt in other colors for sale on a few sites for $35 and $37, so I think I did pretty well getting it for 15 cents!) Any suggestions on what to pair this with? A simple white tank is the first thing that comes to mind, but I'm open to other ideas!

I spent a minute trying to decide if this dress was cute or ugly before I settled on just grabbing it and making up my mind later. I'm still 100% sure how I feel about it, but I'm currently leaning towards keeping the skirt but replacing the top part with some other fabric. What do you guys think?

Last one for now! This dress is pretty cute on, but super short on me. Not quite indecent length, but close. Tall people problems, y'all. I'm torn between keeping it as it is and just dealing with the fact that it's short, or taking off a couple of inches and wearing it as a shirt instead.

Whew! Wasn't sure if I'd finish today's post in time! Half hour to spare, though. Giving myself a high five.