Saturday, May 23, 2015

Enough ...

I don't own a smartphone.

This fact seems to genuinely baffle some of the people in my life.

How can I not own a pocket computer that gives me access to all the information in the history of the world every second of every day, they wonder.

I know it's tricky for some to remember, but there was a time when we didn't have pocket computers that gave us access to all the information in the history of the world every second of every day.

Isn't that amazing?

For almost all of time, we didn't have pocket computers. And yet we managed to do nifty things like discover fire and invent the wheel – without watching how-to YouTube videos! – and build pyramids and empires – hey, that Colosseum in Rome is pretty spiffy! – and build horse-drawn carriages and then horseless carriages – cars, don'tcha know? – and figure out how to fly and and develop penicillin and build skyscrapers and put men on the moon – and bring them back! – and every other thing mankind accomplished before the pocket computer.

And because I don't own a smartphone, I also don't own a Fitbit.

The other day, I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond with my mom. The woman in front of us was buying a Fitbit for someone from a gift registry. It was $100.

I know folks who have lost and replaced those wristbands. At $100 (or more) a pop? Ouch.

So I don't have a Fitbit. What I do have is a finely tuned sense of whether I'm spending too much of the day sitting on my ass. And if I really want to obsess about steps or distance, I have a pedometer that, if memory serves, cost $7.

But I think I've used it once.

The lovely Liz Gilbert linked to this post today, which I'd read before but which I was happy to read again. You should read it, too, but the gist of it is this: a woman posted pictures of her kitchen online and received a slew of comment informing her that she should renovate. Her kitchen looked dated, they said. They cited her mismatched appliances and boring floor. She started to ponder an update. And then, the next morning, she looked at her kitchen for the miracle that it is. It's crammed full of creature comforts much of the world can barely begin to imagine.

And that's enough for her. She loves her dated, quirky kitchen. She loves the life that's lived in that dated, quirky kitchen.

I love her for that.

My TV was purchased – for me – in 1994. It was my college graduation gift, but my parents didn't buy it for me until I got my first apartment. It's a 27-inch Sony. Back in the day, that was a big TV, kids. Some years ago, a friend who was spending the night walked into my TV room and said, "Where's your TV?"

Dude. (The friend was a dude.) I get that men, especially, go all orgasmic over giant TVs, but it's not like my TV is invisible. It takes up quite a decent chunk of visual space in this room, thankyouverymuch.

And I've pondered an HDTV. I've shopped. I've priced.

And I'm still watching my 27-inch Sony. You know why? Because it still works just fine.

It went through a phase about six months ago when the colors seemed to veer from yellow-ish to pink-ish and back again.

I thought then that the day might have arrived to buy a new TV. But the colors settled back into their normal hues and you know what? A good part of the time, there's nothing worth watching on TV anyway, even with the eleventymillion channels I receive via a satellite orbiting around the earth, most likely built and launched before the advent of smartphones.

You get my point.

A friend of mine is moving next month. The condo she lives in now is far from large. She's looking at a studio apartment with a lovely terrace. She has made great strides in selling and shedding her stuff. I admire her. What remains in her life are items with true worth to her. And someday, I wouldn't be surprised if she pares back again. She may come to discover that she wants even less than she owns now. (I am fostering her wrapping paper, bows, and gift bags until she settles into a new space and better understands her storage capabilities. Neither she nor I may ever be able to overcome our gift-wrapping addictions.)

Most of us have far more than we need. I live in a "small" house by American standards but even this feels like too much space. I think, frequently, about the one-bedroom apartment I lived in before I moved here.

My studio felt a bit too small, even though it wasn't, really. It served all my needs, but I wanted a separate bedroom big enough for a queen-size bed. But my one-bedroom apartment was plenty of square footage, even if an outsize amount of it was devoted to the dining area. That was odd. But I was happy there.

I'll probably downsize again someday.

I probably still won't own a smartphone.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

And Speaking Of Wrapping: My Signature Floofy Bows ...

So, I have a thing for curling ribbon:

That is not my entire stash. I have more, on smaller spools. Also, you'll note the lack of red. I'm out of red. Christmas.

Once upon a time, when I arrived at a very-well-attended 50th birthday party for a friend, I held up his gift and said, "You'll know my gift by the giant bow." (The card was inside the package.)

He smiled. Indeed, everyone I know knows my bows.

And over the years, many people have asked me how I make them. And somehow, despite prattling on on this blog for more than 10 years, I've never explained.

Until today.

So, first, I choose colors. Sometimes I keep things simple and use a single color that coordinates with my wrapping paper of choice. (I also have a thing for wrapping paper.) Sometimes, I use two. Three. I've used up to five colors together. Festive.

I stick my scissors inside a spool and whip off as much ribbon as looks good, given the size of the package I'm wrapping and the size of the bow I want to make. I make sure that the ribbon pools on my wrapping surface, not the floor.

I repeat for however many colors I'm using.

And then I start curling. (If you've never curled ribbon before, lay your thumb alongside the side of the blade of the scissors, not on the sharp edge. Pull the ribbon between the scissors and your thumb. The more tension you apply, the more curled the effect. Also, the type of ribbon will determine how much it curls on the first pass. Curl the same section as many times as you like to achieve the desired effect.)

It's a rather quick process.

Once all the ribbon's curled, I bunch it up. (If I'm using multiple colors, I bunch it up until I like the distribution of the colors.) And then I lay the bunch across a length of uncurled ribbon.

(Note: A bow like this can be tied around the neck of a bottle of Champagne or onto the handle of a gift bag. When using a bow on a package, I use one of the colors of ribbon around the package – I like to use an odd number of passes, usually three, sometimes five – and slip the flat length of ribbon underneath the ribbon that's wrapped around the package. Then I put the bunched-up ribbon on top, and tie the whole shebang together, cinching the ribbon onto the ribbon on the package, thereby affixing the bow.)

The tied version doesn't look much different, eh?

At this point, I have a bundle of ribbon that's really a series of loops, by virtue of being bunched up and then tied in the middle. I start pulling lengths of loop and snipping them open.

(Note: If some loops are too long, I trim them as I go.)

I snip until all the loops are open and voila! Bow!

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Testing An Assumption About Wrapping Gifts ...

I love to wrap presents.

I mean, I love to wrap presents.

But I think I am part of a rather small club.

I also love to bake cookies.

But after I published How to Bake a Better Cookie, it dawned on me that maybe most folks don't want to know how to bake a better cookie.

Maybe most folks would rather that someone bake cookies for them. Maybe most folks just want to buy cookies.


Well, OK.

So, part of my pondering about whether to write another wee e-book(let) – say, How to Wrap a Prettier Present – includes wondering whether most people want ideas for wrapping or whether they'd rather pay someone at a store.

Do folks not have the time? The inclination? The talent?

I'd love to know. (Be a dear and leave a comment, would you? Thanks.)

The closet off my office contains two boxes of wrapping paper, one all Christmas, and one for assorted occasions. I also have two large drawers devoted to wrapping supplies, one of which contains only large spools of curling ribbon. I'm a bit of a junkie that way.

But lately, I've also started pilfering boxes of sewing notions, left to me by an aunt who passed away many years ago.

And Angelo's the mastermind behind my increased use of twine.

I pulled a few photos to illustrate my points.

Sometimes I get theme-y.

Sometimes, I can't decide on one color of ribbon so I use, you know, like, five.

Sometimes, I opt for curly ombre. Sometimes I feel like something more fluid.

Sometimes, I go simple.

Sometimes, I go flat.

And sometimes, I don't wrap at all.

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

What Might You Be Missing? ...

You know what's weird? Finding a single character on a resume in a different font from the rest of the document. I would know. That resume was mine.

You may have read recently that Times New Roman is a poor font choice for resumes. I confess: for years, I was a Times New Roman gal, not because I lacked creativity but because I found it classic.

Yet, somehow, I managed to not notice that a lone "T" was in … Helvetica.

(These days, I use Garamond. For the whole document.)

If you're in the hunt for a job, you've no doubt spent a fair amount of time looking at your resume and drafting cover letters.

At some point, you may stop noticing mistakes. It happens to everyone: the more familiar we are with content, the less likely we are to spot errors. Our brains insert what we expect to see.

Perhaps your cover letter needs just a bit of punching up to grab the attention of an HR manager. Or perhaps there's an even-better way to showcase your strengths.

I can help you with that.

With a Resume & Cover Letter Assessment, I'll review your resume, make high-level suggestions for improvements, address issues with grammar, fix typos, and tweak formatting as needed. (I know some folks dislike tabs, but the space bar is a less-than-ideal way to try to make things line up.)

I'll also review your cover letter with the same eye for detail and call out any opportunities I see to improve your message. I encourage clients to write their own cover letters, daunting though they may be, but the editor in me is happy to help you polish your prose.

Let me know if I can help.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Almond Scones ...

My love for almond-flavored anything cannot be overstated. Also, I love scones. Scones just don't get enough love in the baked-goods world. But then, some folks make very bad scones. Dry. Leaden. Ugh.

It's not your fault, scones. It's not your fault.

I first made these scones for Angelo's birthday, and as much as I wanted to write about them then, I didn't want to spoil the surprise, so I refrained.

This morning, though, up too early, and knowing that I had baking on deck first thing, I realized that I could take a picture of today's lovelies.

These contain a triple hit of almond: almond paste, almond extract, and sliced almonds. An almond trifecta, if you will.

This is the recipe, from Food52. You should take note of the ingredients, pick up what you need, and bake them.

Make sure your baking powder isn't old. Scones need a bit of oomph from baking powder and baking soda to combat density. The baking powder I used for Angelo's batch wasn't old, per se, but I should have bought a new container anyway. Today's scones seem a bit higher.

Angelo, if you'd like another shipment, just lemme know.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Really, Jayson? Really? I've Stopped Counting Edition ...

My fascination with Jayson has largely waned, but every so often, I pop by the site to see what's available and ask myself how the store possibly finds enough gullible and/or flush customers to have stayed in business this long. Perhaps I've severely underestimated what people are willing to pay for stuff. That must be the case. It'd be fun to have a Jayson-inspired garage sale and see what insane prices I could charge for household detritus.

Maybe someday. For now, let's see what Jayson finds caught my eye this time, shall we?

Behold the Vintage Yellow Dining Chair. It's 20th Century. It's American. It's priced individually but there are four to be had, if you're in the mood to drop more than $4,000 (tax, don'tcha know?) on someone's crime against chairkind. Remember Trading Spaces? One of the designers was a woman named Hildi. She created a dining room in black, white, canary, and chrome. The homeowners were horrified. I have a sneaking suspicion that these chairs are from that room. I hope the homeowners have long since gotten over their shock. And painted. Or moved.

Vintage Yellow Dining Chair – $995

And speaking of yellow and black, behold this Vintage Wedding Blanket Pillow, which was made in Morocco for – I'd like to think – the most fabulously flamboyantly fez-sporting gay couple ever. Or Siegfried and Roy. Hildi would so use these sequins in a space. And who doesn't want to drop five hundred dollars on a decorative pillow? What else would someone do with five hundred dollars? Light five cigars?

Vintage Wedding Blaket Pillow – $495