Saturday, December 25, 2010

My Christmas Wish List

peas on earth - check, bags in freezer
love of friends and family - check, friends and family all over the world and now just a skype away
fulfillment - check, start new job working with special needs kids in January
extra cash - check, found a $20 CDN in a sweater pocket yesterday!
learn the slingshot cast-on - check(ish). lots of videos available, but it still escapes me.
jeggings - uncheck.  the perfect 'moto cycle' pair still eludes me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Cards

I spent a few hours over the weekend and again Monday preparing my Christmas Cards.

What's happened to the tradition of sending cards?  Don't people like to get stuff in the mail anymore?  Or at least something slightly more personal than an offer of a credit card from Virgin America?

I have 321 friends on Facebook, 78 Twitter followers, 7 living aunts and uncles, 60 cousins and countless second and third cousins.  I also have former work acquaintances that I keep in touch with and various friends and neighbors.  I think I receive, on average, 10 Christmas cards each year.  I send over 100.

I know, I know - you don't invite people over for dinner so that they'll later invite you over.  You invite them over because you enjoy their company - you don't think in terms of reciprocity.   I don't with cards either, but you'd think that after years of receiving cards from me, at least a few more would manage to pop a card in the mail.

I have two sets of cards that I use.  Of course, being the Thrifty Thelma that I am, the cards are always purchased the year before at Boxing Day Sales.   I have a set of funny cards (this year it's Far Side Drunk Reindeers) and a more sedate set (Merry Christmas in various fonts/typefaces).    The funny cards get sent to immediate family and friends.  The serious cards get sent to anyone that isn't primarily an English speaker (they might not get how funny a drunk Rudolph is), or any business friends.

I've cut a few people off this year for various reasons.  First off, it ain't cheap to keep this tradition going.  If everyone used email, I could send a newsletter and be done with it, but my 80 year old aunt hasn't heard of the internet.  Stamps are also an expense, it's now up to 98 cents to send internationally.   That, and keeping track of everyone on the list takes a bit of organization.

Every single concern/complaint/headache is erased immediately when I open my first card.  This year (and most years), our first card came from Jay's Uncle Ernie and Aunt Toni.  I'm sure she doesn't wait until Boxing Day, she for sure is going to Hallmark each November and picking out boxes of beautiful cards, each with their own foil-lined envelope.   Toni handwrites and labels every card, and her penmanship is a delight.  She has always written against a straight-edged ruler, and she continues that to this day.  We see them maybe once every three years, never talk to them on the phone, but our card exchange is constant.

The second card is always a family photo and update letter from my friend Mark Quail.   He has a beautiful wife and two seemingly awesome kids.   The letter is always interesting, funny and never braggy. 

The next in line is from a quasi-cousin, Maria Antonia.   She also only uses high end cards, usually with sparkles or texture.  Another one with excellent handwriting.  I always take care when writing hers, I imagine her tsk-tsking my awful penmanship.

 Oh crap, I forgot the Bucci's!  Rachel and Michael are new friends (her picture is in one of my posts) and they sent out the cutest picture of their two boys.  I told Rachel that I cut out the picture part,  threw away the Christmas wishes, and put it up on my fridge.  I tell everyone that those two blond boys are my kids, but they are with my ex-husband today.

Baby, it's warm inside

So it's pretty cold outside, but it's toasty warm inside.  Husband is rehearsing for a concert on Sunday, dog is lying on his blanket, and a quiche is in the oven. As domestic a scene as ever happens in this house.

I am preparing for the holidays by making sugary treats for friends and neighbors, and as hostess gifts for the few parties we'll be going to.   I haven't bought a single gift this year, and I doubt that I will.  My family is far away, Jay's family is not that much further, and really - what can I possibly send anyone that they don't already have or can't get themselves?   If they were closer I'd walk over with a bottle of wine and a tin of homemade fudge and a good story.   Speaking of which, fudge is cooling on the counter, and the sugar cookie dough is resting on the counter.  I just realized that I don't have a single cookie cutter, so I'll have to use a champagne flute or something.    We are not without holiday spirit, I am realizing 'no gifts' sounds so grinchy.  We have a beautiful tree up, the piano is covered with festive decorations, and I'm wearing Santa underpants.

Once the baking is done (for today at least) it's time to put a brisket into the slow cooker for tomorrow's supper.   Gone are the days that I keep a meatless Friday - although it's so ingrained that I usually end up not eating meat on Friday anyhow. 

What are you doing to prepare for the holidays?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Things I Like In Union City

One of the things I like in Union City is the ability to get a great haircut and highlights.  I've just come back from my go-to guy, Guillermo.  He owns and operates GM Salon (I've already told him he *needs* a website!).

I've been going to Guillermo since I moved to Union City two years ago, and I've left happy every time.  I guess I could have put some lipstick on to take this picture, but he refused to take a picture by himself, so I had to jump in.

Guillermo also does make-up application, eyebrow waxing, and my favorite - eyelash extensions.   Have you ever had eyelash extensions done?  It's usually quite expensive. I know that a friend in Vancouver, BC had them done at the Holt Renfrew salon, and it cost $100.  The extensions last about two weeks if you're careful, but at Guillermo's rates ($30) it's not so expensive that you can't do it for a special night out.  

My husband goes to Guillermo as well, as do a few friends in the 'hood.  In fact, my neighbors on either side go to him too!   I used to have a phenomenal stylist when I lived in Toronto, and since moving to the states, nobody's made me as happy as Jeff (now Jett) made me.

In any case, I wanted to highlight this local business and I hope that next time you need a haircut, you'll go see Guillermo!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recent purchases

Some already discussed, some not.

1847 Rogers Silver plate. Up for sale on ebay.

Paddington Bear Marmalade Jar

Grey cardigan, has already seen a lot of use.

Burberry skirt, doll size.  Gifted to my AirBNB guest.

Was about to go to JosBanks to get one, but found at Unique.

French cuffed Brooks Brothers.

Lightweight cotton shirt with orangutan length arms for friend

Pretty trifle dish

Star candle sticks? holders? votives?

I like white bowls.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'm buying my own shopping cart

I was taking a look through my closets the other day, and realized how much stuff I have from my favorite second hand store.  I have a memory card full of images that I'll post soon, although most of the images are from last weeks 50% off sale. 

I had a few hours to spare last Thursday, and thought I'd go look for a potato masher.   Weird, innit?   I have had my eye out for a good old-fashioned masher for a while, and finally broke down and bought a new one.   Excellent if you're mashing a few spuds, but not up to the heavy duty tasks that I have planned for Thanksgiving dinner.  I want the old school coiled metal one.  Anyhoo - I can tell that something is up as I pull into the parking lot.  Not an empty space anywhere.  Veteran's Day, which by Unique's standards is holiday enough to do their usual 50% off holiday sale.   Not exactly the way I'd normally choose to honor the fallen, but nevertheless, there I was.  

I knew I was in for some trouble fun when I saw people waiting like vultures for shoppers to leave to grab their carts.   I'm totally buying my own shopping cart.  That, or I can steal one from Shoprite and spray paint it pepto-bismal pink.  The reality is most likely a granny cart.  How cool would it be if I could find a granny cart *at* Unique?

The store was packed, and I was pleased to hear the constant loud speaker announcements to "mind your children".  Except nobody was minding their children.  Or rather, they certainly weren't minding that their children were running around the store screaming.  Can you tell that I'm childless?   I must admit, though, that I felt sympathy (for both parties) when I saw an older lady hit a running kid in the head with her cart.  I almost grabbed her cart while she was bent over consoling the crying boy.  Don't worry, I'm not that heartless.

No potato masher.   But I did pick up some star shaped candle holders, a beautiful cut glass bowl that I'll use for trifle, a BURBERRY skirt!!! and a great cardigan.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Polishing, frogging and keeping it warm

I mentioned in my last post that I had bought a few things last week.  

The first thing that caught my eye was a cotton sweater that looked good for unraveling.  Here's a tutorial in case you're interested in doing this yourself.  I made sure that the seams weren't serged, but separate finished pieces sewn together.   That's how I *thought* it was put together, but not really.   The back and sides had been cut at the top seams, so I ended up wasting a bit of yarn getting through to the body of the sweater.   I also wasted a bit of yarn on the top yoke, as it had a buttonhole that had been cut into it rather than a knitted button opening.  All in all, it took about two hours to completely unravel but since my time is pretty cheap these days, totally worth it.

Here's the sweater, pre complete-frogging.   The yarn looks to be a white cotton ribbon that has brown thread woven over the ribbon.  The yarn looks very oatmeal-y.

A few more pictures showing the progress.  You can see the cut threads on the top of the front piece on the picture on the right. Thankfully the bulk of the piece was salvageable.

I also bought this cute little teapot.  I didn't think I'd get it clean enough to actually use it as intended, and I didn't.  It's a candle holder, and it lets out such a pretty, warm glow.

$2.42 less 25% off.

All scrubbed and ready to go
I figured I could use a thermos as well, and since it was priced pretty well, I grabbed it.   It was caked in grime.  A little bit of elbow grease, a generous amount of Dawn dishwashing liquid and it's almost as good as new. 

A bit scratchy, but clean and serviceable
I'm realizing how crappy these pictures are.  I desperately need a new camera and think I'm getting this one.  My new friend Nelly uses this camera, and it (or her) takes amazing shots.  I also read a great tutorial on blogging tools at Chez Larsson, and she suggests never using a flash.  I think I'll try that next time.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The People Have Spoken

I'm back from a morning of thrifting.  I ran into three of my friends this morning, and they each warned me not to talk about our store.  It's like a great neighborhood restaurant - we all want to enjoy it, but we worry about it becoming so popular that we can no longer find a seat.  In honor of my fellow thrifters, I'll refrain from the shout-outs.  FOR NOW.  

It's not like anyone but me reads this anyhow.

Here are my friends Rachel and Laura sifting through the racks.  You can't see her footwear, but Rachel is wearing a pair of knee high black leather Birkenstock boots. Bought, of course, at the store that shall remain unnamed. 

Laura might be wearing a thrifted coat.  I like the houndstooth, and I think I may steal her handbag.


Also at the store? Johnnie Niell of The Donovan Ensemble.  He was holding on to an American Flag as well as a very cool vintage Malboro shirt.

Johnnie's the one I wrote about last week - he bought a great cabinet, but couldn't take it home on his 10 speed.

If you're looking for some live theater, make sure you check out The Donovan Ensemble.   They perform all over and the show is fantastic.  Johnnie has great legs, and Joe has a wicked pencil-thin moustache.

Did I buy anything?  Yes, a few pieces.  I'll take some pics and load them up later.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

All I bought was a water jug!

It's Sunday, and not normally a day that I'd be at Unique.  But there I was.  

I had no intention of heading to my favorite place, but a call from a friend this afternoon soon meant a change of plans.    Johnnie, a fellow Unique regular, wanted to buy a beautiful chest of drawers.  Not exactly something he could sling across his back and ride home on his ten-speed, so he needed to find a way to get it home before he could even consider buying it.   I was in the checkout line at WalMart (curtain rod, two pumpkins and a turkey platter), so it was no problem and not at all out of my way to swing by.

15 minutes later and I had a ceramic water jug in my hand, was seriously considering a set of light blue dishes and was wondering whether it was too early to lay out Christmas decorations that caught my eye.

Thankfully Johnnie was ready to pack up the chest, so some serious decisions had to be made.   It was a full price day, so I needed to be judicious.   Five minutes later the dishes were back on the shelf, the Christmas decorations dropped at the counter and I left with only a water jug.  Close one.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's Official, I'm Addicted

It's Thursday, so it must be 25% off for members at Unique.   Today's deals weren't as great as Monday's (50% off), but still pretty decent.   The bonus of shopping on a Thursday is that it's much calmer, and you still get a decent discount.  

I went to Unique for some specific items today.   I've started running my very own BnB,  so lots of the recent purchases have been to furnish the room.   Everything with the BnB is going great, so I'm expanding by adding the next spare room.   A badly timed double booking last week forced us into buying a bed a bit earlier than we had budgeted, but I got a good deal on the mattress set and frame.   I ended up buying a queen size bed, hence the purchases of the flat sheets last week.  The rest of the room is pretty bare, so it's a pretty clean slate.

I decided to go as classic a decor as I know how.  To mean, that means very simple bedding, curtains, prints, etc.  The walls are kind of cream, so I wanted to do everything in very neutral tones. I haven't quite decided what color my 'punch' will be....I'm leaning towards black accents.'s what I bought today:

Table lamp with a beige lampshade and crystal (ok, not real crystal - either clear resin or plastic) base. Original price - $14.99, on sale for $11.25

Twee little Wedgewood Beatrix Potter bowl.  I have no idea what I'll do with it, but it's so cute.  Maybe I'll put some thread on wooden spools and some needles in it - a little sewing kit.  Original price $1.00, on sale for 75¢.  BTW, just learned the shortcut for ¢ on MAC, therefore I'm using the ¢ key as often as I can.

 Set of two floor to ceiling pleated looseweave linen curtains. Lined! Original price $9.99 on sale for $7.50

King size cream covered duvet - polished cotton.  This will be a bit big for the queen comforter (purchased last week), but it's easy enough to take in if it's too massive.  Original price $6.99 on sale for $5.25.  I've been home an hour, and this duvet cover is already on the last cycle of a boiling hot bleach wash.  Safety first!

Four wood framed fruit/vegetable prints for kitchen wall.  Original price $1.25 each, sale price $3.75 for the set of four.

Sweet strawberry and polka dot hankie.  Original price $1.00, on sale for 75¢

I am not allowing myself to go back to that store unless I have a list of specific items to look for.  I will not allow myself any deviations.  Ha.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Columbus Day Sale at Unique

Do you know about  Unique?  It's a for-profit chain of thrift stores in New Jersey.   Unique is officially my favorite thrift store of all time.  What they do is buy bulk lots of donated goods and re-sell them.  Some people might find this business a bit shady, but just because it's a thrift store, that doesn't mean it's a charity.  They buy from charities, in this case,  mainly the Lupus Foundation.  

My local Unique is a few blocks away, so I end up going once a week or so.   There's a group of us that scour the racks on a regular basis and we love talking about our finds and our deals.  Yesterday happened to be 50% off day, since it was a holiday.  I almost forgot that it was a super-deal day, but remembered as soon as I saw the packed parking lot.

Here's what I bought yesterday:

6 matching juice glasses - really pretty footed glasses.  Original price 99¢, final price $3.00 for six
Queen size Kate Spade flat sheet (white with embroidered top border).  Original price $4.99, final price $2.50
Queen size West Elm flat sheet (white with patterned top border). Original price $3.99, final price $1.99
J. Crew Madras Patch shorts.  Original price $3.99, final price $1.99
Geoffrey Beene paisley silk tie for Jay.  Original price $4.99, final price $2.50
Charles Tywhitt mini-gingham checked dress shirt with french cuffs.  Original price $14.99, final price $7.50
Charles Tywhitt blue checked dress shirt.  Original price $9.99, final price $5.00
Bristol White formal shirt (initials ERP on cuff).  Original price $14.99, final price $7.50

That's it - my shopping trip was a success.  I spent over an hour picking through piles and racks, and only spent around $40.