Things I’ve Bought that I Love

Yes, I stole the title of this post from Mindy Kaling‘s amazing (and now, sadly, defunct) blog. And it’s a little bit of a misnomer, because I haven’t bought all of these things, but since I feel like I’m constantly accosting strangers on the street – as well as my own friends – about them, and because I remembered I had an open forum in which to express my love, I present to you the things I’m currently obsessed with.

As always, none of these are Affiliate links. I’m not that fancy.

Podcasts
Like everyone else in North America, I was and continue to be obsessed with Serial. But unfortunately Sarah Koenig is telling stories that, at least for now, have some sort of resolution or ending; these provide a regular giggle:
How Did This Get Made?
Do you love bad movies? Do you love excellent comedians? Do you love excellent comedians talking about bad movies? From I Know Who Killed Me to Hercules in New York, the movies reviewed are literally garbage and there is something for everyone.
Gilmore Guys
These fellas have a major in girls and a minor in women and think Kelly Bishop is queen. Enough said.

Books
The Best of Enemies
I Tweeted that the only issue I take with this book is the fact that it isn’t a movie I can watch, repeatedly, right this very second. Funny and heartfelt and begging to be read in one sitting, I love the voices Jen Lancaster gives to two very different but very engaging and likeable women.
Oh! You Pretty Things
A book that will transport you to (or back to) Los Angeles. Shanna Mahin has such an observant and perfect and perfectly sardonic voice that I just want to hang out watching trashy TV with her.
Luckiest Girl Alive
I’m usually great at seeing a plot twist coming – honestly, it’s what makes me so very irritating to watch movies with. But Jessica Knoll managed to both intrigue me and to trick me and to do so with such a shockingly funny, sharp voice.

Misc.
Washi Tape
I’ve recently begun scrapbooking again, and since I am the kind of person who cannot see a roll of tape (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) without wrapping some of it around my fingers, I’m delighted someone finally thought to print patterns on masking tape and sell it for $2 per roll. (That sounds like sarcasm, but it isn’t, as I would gladly be suckered into paying at least double that.)
The Wildlands Prints
As I may have mentioned, I have a small goddaughter, and that small goddaughter has a pink(ish) bedroom. And because it is my prerogative, as an adult, to decide she loves zoo animals, I adore these fun print sets from The Wildlands, which looked even better in person.
Paper-Mate Flair Pens
Are you almost anal-retentively organized? Me too. And being able to color-code my daily notes and to-do lists at work is way more fun with felt-tip pens in bright colors.

Granted, I have also recently purchased an iPad, but since I’m currently in a fight with Angry Birds and bought the damn thing the day before it dropped $100 in price, we don’t need to talk about that.

I’m a Big Girl Now

Happy Friday, chickadees! Has it been one of those intermindable weeks for you as well? Where nothing terrible happens and there are no disasters (natural or otherwise) in your life, but Friday seems farther and farther with each passing second? It has been for me, but personally I’m chalking it up to something in my lizard brain reverting to wanting summer vacation.

As I may have mentioned, I moved back in with my (exceedingly generous) folks a few months ago to save up for a long-term home. While I love the fair city in which I lived – and still work – I’m literally saving thousands of dollars a month not dealing with rent, repairs and the siren call of Uber.

(Self control: I can haz none of it.)

And while I considered moving home to be a very adult decision, apart from the fact that it was made while I stood, crying hysterically on speakerphone while attempting to stem the literal wall of water raining into my apartment’s living room due to a 30-foot ice dam, as it turns out, I have a few things to learn.

Particularly about buying furniture.

Since I plan on moving within the next year or so, I figured the bed I bought to fit into my new room at the folks’ would be temporary. Something inexpensive, that could be recycled/donated/etc. when I’m no longer using it. So I secured for myself a pretty and attractively priced wooden frame, had it shipped home and congratulated myself on my $125 find.

Yeah. As it turns out, my low-slung platform bed? Was made for children.

Specifically, children under the age of 10 or under 70 pounds.

Which I maintain to this day was not noted on the website.

(It’s been fantastic for my self-esteem that the damned thing has lasted this long, considering it’s made of balsa wood and hope.)

And because I’m incredibly cheap when it comes to everything but clothes, it has taken me five months to come around to the fact that I should probably look into a new bed. The frame of my sad little guy is sagging, as every time I put my 10-pound tote bag on it, it replies with a generous creak.

The problem is, I’ve never really bought a piece of furniture. It’s expensive and it’s terrifying and people have always been getting rid of a couch or a chair the exact moment I needed one.

But, at the age of 26, it’s a bridge I have to cross. And so thanks to Wayfair (hello, best site ever), I will once more be sleeping in an adult bed on or by August 19.

Baby steps, chickadees. Baby steps.

Love,
Your Gal

Paging Doctor Science

I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person. I always have, ever since my mother pointed out a flock of birds on the side of the highway when I was two years old, and I very crossly informed her they were, in fact “crows, Mummy.”

Of course, there are different kinds of intelligence. I’d like to think I’m both book-smart and street-smart, but above all I believe it takes a smart person to know their own limitations. And like many people of my generation, perhaps the first that was raised to truly be anything we want to be, I tend to want to know and be and do everything, and better than everyone else.

And so I’ve embarked upon a little campaign to re-educate myself. While for the past half-decade I’ve been religious (bordering on fanatical) on keeping myself informed about my own field of work, I’ve felt myself slipping where it counts.

To be honest, I’ve been watching a lot of E! and reading a lot of Chick Lit where I probably should be tuning in to C-Span and picking up the Times once in a while. And because I’m self-aware enough to know that there’s an ever-widening gap between my college graduation date and my current age, I’ve been slowly training myself to reach for Popular Science rather than People when I have the opportunity.

That isn’t to say that one is better than the other, but for my own ambitions, it’s probaby best if I can discuss something other than Ben and Jen’s divorce. You know?

But here’s where a special kind of smarts, and one that isn’t so common comes in – I failed to realize, in my quest to become a little bit more well-rounded, that I am a child of my generation. Millennials have a bad reputation for self-important know-it-alls. And I’m here to tell you, friends, that in some cases? We are.

I blame National Geographic.

Don’t mistake me: National Geographic is an icon. An institution. A beacon of knowledge and learning. And for good reason! You absolutely do not last as long as National Geographic has without being a paragon of excellence. The problem is, they’re a little too good at what they do. How do I know?

Because they’ve got me convinced, apparently, that I am the proud owner of a PhD. Or several of them, in fact, as in the past few weeks I’ve spouted irritating-to-my-own-ears facts about everything from the Kuiper Belt to kangaroo reproduction. I’m terribly (and vocally) worried about the state of the world’s vulture population, and fascinated by the recently discovered lost leaders of Jamestown colony.

I call this phenomenon “WebMD Syndrome,” and as I’ve noticed it becoming more aggressive within myself, I’m also more attuned to the fact that it seems to affect my generation more than any other.

Is it because we have something to prove? Absolutely. What generation doesn’t? But of course we aren’t the ones who suffered through the Depression. We didn’t paint on our stockings or live in fear of nuclear war. No, ours is the generation struggling to prove that we are intelligent, educated and employable. That we’re worth it.

That we matter.

So maybe that’s why we supplement our Paris Match with Project Runway. Maybe it’s why we keep up with the Kardashians rather than Kierkegaard. Maybe that’s all okay.

And of course, if Vh1 ever revives the World Series of Pop Culture, we’ll totally be $250k richer. So there’s that.

Love,
Your Gal

Love Will Keep Us Together

Chickadees, I won’t lie – there are some days when it is truly, spectacularly difficult for me to be patriotic. To love my country. To be a proud resident of America.

When I watch my fellow women struggle to be treated as beings intelligent enough and capable enough to rule our own bodies, I cringe.

When I see a young man with so much hatred in his heart for an entire race of people that he feels the need to end their lives, I cry.

When I hear politicians defending the actions of those who violate children because Jesus makes it all better? I shudder.

And I’m certainly not alone. And I certainly haven’t detailed all the wrongs, all the evils that other Americans, other people all over the world face on a daily basis. I’m fully aware that I am a privileged young white woman who can’t even fathom the injustice many people face on a daily basis purely because of their skin color, their sexual orientation, their economic situation.

But today?

Today, it’s a little bit easier to be an American. And a proud one at that.

Equality for all.

marriage-thumb

Winter Is(n’t) Coming

Losing an eBay auction, as told by Game of Thrones GIFs.

When you finally find that dress you’ve been looking for – in your size, squee! – on eBay in “New, with Tags” condition and wonder if your retail luck is suddenly too good to be true.

When you notice that the seller not only has a 99% rating and free shipping, but also that the auction is ending in an hour.

When you picture yourself wearing said dress to your goddaughter’s dedication, and whip out your credit card.

When it looks like your competing bidders are falling behind AND you’re still 30% under your strict self-imposed budget.

When you get the notification you’re being outbid with 10 minutes left in the auction.

When you jack up your bid, because you. will. win. this.

When another bidder appears at the last minute.

When you’re positive you’ve won…but you haven’t.

When this is the only appropriate reaction to losing.

When you realize it was European sizing all along.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chances (Stitch Fix Review #1)

Hello chickadees!

I’ll cop to the title being a misnomer – if you’ve been around here long enough, you know this isn’t my first time at the Stitch Fix rodeo; however, since it is the first time I’m reviewing what I’ve received (and since I did put the service on pause for a bit) I’m wiping the slate clean.

Let’s get this out of the way – no, this isn’t a paid post (still not that fancy), but I will shamelessly admit that any mention of Stitch Fix includes my referral link, which will help me pay for my next box if you’re a lamb and sign up.

Admittedly, I was not as excited for this Fix as the previous boxes I’d received, due quite honestly to the fact that Stitch Fix asked me back. While my first few boxes were extremely on-point when it comes to my hard-to-pin-down style, my subsequent nearly half-dozen ranged from so-so to KILL IT WITH FIRE. My feedback essentially boiled down to the fact that nothing was really appropriate for my lifestyle – I’d set a higher price point, asked not to receive anything too stretchy/blousy/polyester and that was what I kept receiving. I hated to give up the convenience, but there are only so many times you can try on the same dolman blouse before you throw in the towel.

To be fair, I don’t have an easy body to dress. I’m in the process of getting more fit and healthy, so my size is hard to pinpoint from day to day, and I have a long torso. No, I mean a seriously long torso. We’re talking Odalisque long. And to combat this, I generally need a high-waisted pant and a shorter top (hello, uneven hem! I luff you!) to balance out my silhouette. And so when Stitch Fix asked me to give them another chance, I dutifully recorded these details, Pinned a few things from their Style board, and scheduled the shipment.

Spoiler alert? It was fantastic. And I barely kept anything. I know, I know. Believe me, I KNOW. I’m picturing my poor stylist, Kat, needing to take a long lunch. Girlfriend deserves it. But she did a truly fantastic job, and all clothing quibbles were never ever something she could have predicted.

I’m not one for the unboxing, and so I’ll unceremoniously present her fantastic handiwork.

Market & Spruce Julia Utility Jacket

How adorable is this jacket? That was my immediate thought upon ripping it out of the tissue paper and tossing it on. Light enough for spring, heavy enough for fall and in a gorgeous kelly green. Unfortunately, while I love the color, it’s a tricky one for my skin tone, and while I loved this (and desperately wanted to keep it), it made me look sickly. Like Melly-Wilkes-pickpocketing-a-dead-Yankee sickly.

4a6f7e8fe5acd54820d419fc7e22c7a3

Cute, right? I absolutely loved the color on this one – not quite cobalt (one of my favorite/primary wardrobe colors) but with really lovely pintucking at the neckline and quilting on the shoulders. I’m a complete sucker for a fun detail, but while this blouse looks like it’s got a bit of structure on the style card, there was so much extra fabric around my rib cage and hips that I basically could have hosted both Barnum and Bailey.

(Side note: I’m including style cards wherever possible, because I took photos of my Fix at 12:30am and realized how truly terrible they were as I began writing.)

unnamed (1)

Leota Amandine Faux Wrap Dress

This was a lovely little wrap dress – I’d requested something for my goddaughter’s dedication in July, and the full floral skirt on this fit the bill perfectly! I’m an all prints, all the time kind of gal, and so I was incredibly excited to try this on.

But remember the long torso thing? There was a “Curses, foiled again!” situation when this happened to sit on me in such a way to make me both look like a toddler and senior citizen. Love the idea of it, though! Ladies, if you don’t own yourself a wrap dress, get one. If it fits correctly, you will never own a more comfortable or flattering piece of closing. All hail DVF.

Market & Spruce Lana Lace Detail V-Neck Blouse

Market & Spruce Lana Lace Detail V-Neck Blouse

Ah, the blouse I did keep! I told you I was a sucker for detail? Well, generally, that doesn’t extend to lace. Generally, lace always tends to have a whiff of the doily to me, but this is gorgeous. Also it’s black and white and will match up with both the velvet pants (please don’t ask) and metallic origami skirt (I repeat, please don’t ask) I just purchased. Kat, you’re a doll.

Margaret M Emer Printed Straight Leg Pant

Margaret M Emer Printed Straight Leg Pant

I loved these pants. No, I don’t think you understand – I LOVED THESE PANTS. The print, the color, the skinny fit, worshipped it all. Which is why I actually almost burst into tears very early this morning upon discovering they were just too baggy through the waist and hips. I’m sure I could have tried to shrink them in the dryer, but I just didn’t want to take the risk. Fingers crossed I can get the next size down in my next box.

And there you have it, chickadees. I’m thrilled that I gave Stitch Fix another chance, and while I’m sure I’m making their styling team apoplectic right about now, I encourage you to let them send you a few pieces and play dress-up for your friends.

In the meantime, I’ll be in a corner, crying about those pants.

Love,
Your Gal

But Actually, Food

I feel it’s important to caveat, given the title, that I don’t speak Italian. At least, not beyond a few curse words and a completely useless ability to accurately identify 37 types of pasta by their proper names. Which I promise is (somewhat) relevant to my point.

I love ot cook. In fact, in the very title of this blog, I promise FOOD! Needless to say, I haven’t delivered.

I think that food is about joy. That food is about love. And that really great, delicious food is a reflection of the state of your soul. A tasty barometer of your mental health, as it were, at least for me.

And for years, I made really great food. Delicious and inventive and made with ingredients I sourced from wherever I could, from wherever interested me – Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, a questionable-looking van full of peaches. If you can name it, I could make a meal out of it, and send you home with seconds to sneak at midnight.

From the time I was a senior in college until I quit my first real job in my chosen industry, I was a serious home chef, possessed of dozens of beautiful cookbooks kitchen equipment that ranged from utilitarian to ridiculous (I’m looking at you, banana ice cream machine.) I truly loved being in the kitchen, and was forever testing recipes on myself and my friends.

But things change. Sometimes you quit a job that doesn’t seem right for you in the moment for one that does, and you don’t say anything even as you begin to get crushed under the weight of spending too much time doing something you don’t enjoy. Sometimes that manifests itself in a lot of shitty takeout.

Like 18 months’ worth.

And sometimes that turns into a habit that lasts for another six months, even as you gain traction in your new job (you know, the one that really, really makes you happy).

But habits, like rules, are meant to be broken. And sometimes breaking habits means spending $30 on one delicious, perfect, simple meal without regretting the time or cash investment. So I share with you my breakthrough meal, something so simple and full of goodness that it’s bound to make you smile:

Italian Flag Salad
11-oz clam shell of baby arugula
8 oz diced pancetta
1 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 cup pine nuts
2 large shallots
Butter
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt
Pepper
Lemon juice

In a large sauce pan, melt just enough butter to caramelize your diced shallots. When shallots begin to become translucent, toss in pancetta and brown along with the onions until crispy. Lightly toast pine nuts before draining. Add a small amount of olive oil to the pan along with halved grape tomatoes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and saute until tomatoes are just heated through.

Drain pan again, and toss mixture with baby arugula, along with 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/8 cup of balsamic vinegar and salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

Oops, I Did It Again

While reading, have you ever run across a word that, based on your age, reading level and experience, should be absolutely clear to you within the text?

You have. Right? And so have we all. For me, that word is “pigeon.” I know what a pigeon is – I’ve held a pigeon, I’ve fed a pigeon, I’ve eaten a pigeon (not the same pigeon – I have a strict policy against eating animals with whom I’m personally acquainted.) But for some reason, the word “pigeon” in print never fails to baffle me.

Pig-eonWhat’s a pig eon? Is that like a dog’s age? Pige-on? Pig-pig-pigeon. Pigeon. Oh. OH. PIGEON.

Even if no one can hear your inner monologue, it’s embarrassing. Like, “showing up to your ACT test with a sunburn so severe it looks like leprosy” embarrassing. But it’s even worse when your brain blips actually manage to escape your mouth. In my past four years of working as a professional, I’ve managed to say (or shout) the following in the workplace:

“I really don’t do well with people aiming balls at my face” – when asked to join a Nerf football game.

“Colin Webster? I thought you were saying ‘colon, Webster,’ which is probably why we can’t find his nametag.”

“I’m definitely worth two men” – both bastardized and said in a room full of men.

We all have our moments.

Some of us more than others.

For instance, if you’ve never informed a coworker that “Amy Schumer is a national goddamned treasure” with a director standing behind you, then I salute you.

If you’ve yet to interrupt a conversation with a stranger by screeching “SMASH THE PATRIARCHY!” (low blood sugar may have been involved), I congratulate you.

If you haven’t replied to a British person’s apologies over stepping on your bag with “Well I’m sorry for dumping all your tea in the harbor,” I worship you.

And if you’ve never slipped on wet marble tile in front of three dozen lawyers and joked that you should’ve have had so much happy in your lunch hour, you’re probably my hero.

Long story short: I made it weird.

And I’ll be making it weirder here again.

Love,
Your Gal

We Get It, Snow.

Chickadees – long time no blog. Again, I hate that phrase with an all-consuming, Hulk-smashing passion, but once again, I must admit it’s the truth.

Another truth is that I’ve been dealing with home repairs for more than a month now; that, combined with the suddenly Arctic nature of the Northeast means that I’ve been relying fairly heavily on something other than publicly provided transport to make it anywhere in the city in less than two hours.

Am I a born-and-bred, dyed-in-the-wool Yankee? Yes, the genuine article, and so I promise you I DID attempt the two-hour commute song-and-dance (for reference, I can usually make it in 35 minutes); however, over the past few weeks I’ve been relying more and more heavily on cabs, Ubers, Lyfts and independent busing services to ensure I make it home before 10pm.

But because I am a perpetual optimist and because I am possessed of a fine and hearty Puritan constitution, I decided last Friday that because my grocery delivery was scheduled for 7:30pm and because much of my work was done, I would leave the office at 5:30 and brave the train.

Big mistake.

5:30pm: Leave office.

5:40pm: Arrive at appropriate train platform. Wait.

5:50pm: Wait.

6:00pm: Wait.

6:15pm: A train! Oh, wrong line. Decide to backtrack to station where trains begin. Genius!

6:22: Arrive at new station. Wait for correct train.

6:35pm: Waiting.

6:50pm: Waiting.

7:00pm: Hooray!

7:15pm: Train is stuck in station due to unknown issue (incompetence suspected. Issue is also possibly that “man with shovel” is ineffective snow removal system.) Go above ground and grab a cab.

7:20pm: HOLY TRAFFIC BATMAN.

7:55pm: Jump out of cab at new train station, having paid $70 to go one mile. Wait for  train.

8:15pm: No train. Decide to backtrack, get on any train, ride it halfway to the end of the line and then cab it home. Genius!

8:20pm: Wooohoooo, on a moving train! Phone battery at 40%.

8:32pm: Off the train! Walk 1/4 mile to main road. Phone battery at 39%.

8:33pm: Call an Uber. Phone dies. Huh?

8:34pm: BITCHPANIC

8:35pm: BITCHPANIC

8:40pm: CONTINUING TO BITCHPANIC

8:41pm: Uber driver arrives and has a phone charger. Threaten to kiss her. She laughs, but it’s not a joke.

8:52pm: Arrive home.

9:01pm: Grocery driver arrives, apologizing for snow-related delays. Threaten to kiss him too.

9:10pm: Groceries unpacked. Hooray!

9:11pm: Pass out on sofa, bowl of grapes in hand.

11:33pm: Wake up, confused, angry and having spent $100 to go four miles.

11:34pm: BITCHPANIC

The end.

Tiger, Tiger

It’s been nearly half a decade, but 2010 still stands as one of the best/worst years of my life. It was the year I graduated college, began my first real job and moved across the country (and back again).

I come from a small town. An insanely small town. A town that would barely take up the full head of a pin if you were to mark it on a map. And it’s an idyllic place, the sort where you can keep your car doors unlocked and the worst crime spree we ever experienced was when a classmate of mine started stealing change of out said unlocked cars. There was a murder a few years ago, but since it didn’t involve anyone who actually lived in town, we didn’t think much about it.

(Of course, we’re still talking about it, so take that with a grain of salt.)

And so when I decided to move clear across the country in my senior year of college, it was a big deal. I hadn’t really spoken to anyone from my high school in a few years, but suddenly there was a Facebook outpouring of questions and support, which was rather lovely. I was completely exhilarated, and there was no room in my head or my heart for practicality.

Which is probably why, just before I left, I managed to give myself a second-degree burn on the arm with my flat iron. Of course it hurt, but it was a little bit worth it when, later that night, I was with friends at a diner and the waiter asked if I’d been clawed by a tiger. It became a great joke with my friends – the night Your Gal got clawed by a tiger.

The Scab, as it came to be known, accompanied me to LA, and its sheer size was enough of a curiosity that it helped break the ice with my coworkers at my new internship. They were (and remain) a great bunch – funny, sharp and immensely creative as well as being kind and welcoming. I’ve lost contact with most of them, but they remain 90% of the reason I was sad to leave.

Which brings me to my first High of 2010: moving across the country, by myself. And the low? The resulting raw homesickness, abject fear of your terrible salary and mild-to-moderate emotional breakdown that made me move right back six months later.

There were other highs – seeing my writing garner positive comments, meeting people whose work I so admired, being recognized for being a hard worker and a leader. Lows came, too – the first car I’d purchased by myself having issues right after I drove it off the lot, realizing that the salary negotiations you see in the movies are kind of bull$hit and finally understanding that there are truly people who just don’t want to be good.

I graduated college. I fell in and out of love. I discovered Yogurtland.

And I felt fear. When I realized I wasn’t ready to be on my own and more than 3,000 miles from my entire support system, it was the first time I really, viscerally felt fear.

Through it all, in hot and sunny Los Angeles, people continued to be fascinated by the scar. When they asked, in that forthright, charmingly gregarious way of musicians and artists and Californians, I told them I’d been clawed by a tiger; we’d laugh and I’d tell the real story of my bumbling.

When I moved back to the East Coast, it continued to be a conversation piece – I was job hunting in the heat of summer, and it was always exposed when I went to interviews. It was with me when I ended up stranded in a strange city for the day with a direct marketing company, on a “practical interview” and in four-inch heels; it was with me when I found a job that seemed perfect for me.

It was with me when I realized that said perfect job was a ticking time-bomb. And it was with me when I reconnected with a friend from college, who over the past five years has become someone who understands me better than I do myself.

The scar was there when I realized I couldn’t live with my parents anymore. It was there when my brother and I began to grow apart. I carried it with me through four car accidents that year.

And then it began to fade.

In the successive years, I’ve made friends and lost friends. I’ve reached a level of professional success and satisfaction that I couldn’t have conceived of when I was that small-town girl. My life is my own to guide, and thankfully, luckily, blessedly (and despite my insecurities) I’ve realized my instincts are good. And that they’ll take me as far as I’m willing to go.

As I’ve become more confident, more grounded (and, hell, more adult), the scar has faded. I’m not sure when it disappeared to the point where even I’m challenged to identify it, but it’s happened. And I’ve barely noticed. It will always be there, I’m sure, because that’s the nature of a scar.

It’s also the nature of fear. And while I’m long since past feeling it every day, that fear that came with being an adult, that crept in when I realized I wasn’t invincible, that I could fail, it’s still there. It’s always going to be. But I have the tools to deal with it now. I don’t need my tiger to start a conversation, or the funny anecdote to hide behind. I am who I am, and the core of me probably isn’t going to change. I’ve made my peace with that.

And I’ve realized that’s what’s important.

Trust yourselves, chickadees, and the rest will follow.

Love,
Your Gal