Goodbye, Fancy Pants Ranch

We said goodbye to Fancy Pants Ranch today.

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Two years ago, I would have thought this to be impossible.

A year ago, I would have given anything to blink my eyes once and transport us away from here to the next chapter.

But it didn’t happen like that.

And let’s face it: the process of moving is terrible. 

Even with professional movers doing most (ok, all) of the heavy lifting, it’s painful.

Yesterday our pantry was packed and I am quite sure even half-eaten bags of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos were wrapped in paper and stowed away.

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Given the uncertainty surrounding the move, we decided to rent a place for the upcoming year.

I’m calling it the Pop-Up Fancy Pants Ranch, due to its temporary nature.

Our new place is approximately 1/3 the size of the Ranch. I’m sure I will change my tune about this, but right now I’m oddly excited to live with less.

Much of our stuff is going into storage. Maybe we’ll bring it back. Maybe we won’t.

The biggest thing I’m looking forward to is having us all under one roof again. I think that will go a long way toward Happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spinn Coffee

Bono said it best: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

There seem to be a few things for which I am constantly searching for perfection:

  • The perfect work bag that holds all my essentials, has many organizational features, will hold up to spilled lunches and looks good in the process.
  • Luggage. Always luggage. Especially a lightweight carryon bag and weekenders.
  • A perfect white V-neck tee.
  • A homebrew coffee system that rivals anything I’d get at a coffee shop.

Looking back, I saw that I first posted about my search for a perfect cup of coffee at home over three years ago. 

Not much has changed since then, although I went so far as to attend a barista class last summer in Chicago. During the Q&A session at the end, I asked the instructor about which coffee machine(s) would be recommended for home use. His answer – and he was a competitor in barista competitions, which is a thing – was this: “I never make coffee at home.”

Not helpful.

When I pressed him, he said that if he had to buy something, he would invest in a commercial grade bean grinder. Estimated tab: $1500. Yikes.

So I stuck with my $40 Black and Decker machine that I purchased on sale at Target for $29.99.

Until Spinn came on the scene.

Ads for the not-yet-released Spinn coffee system started showing up on my Facebook feed last fall.

Spinn promises a lot: one machine to make everything from espresso to drip coffee, plus wi-fi integration and even an app that automatically orders beans from local roasters when your supply runs low.

Their website fueled the hype: Spinn machines were available for exclusive pre-order and for an introductory price that was 40% off future retail.

Well, the Spinn folks understand my psychology well, because one Friday night after a glass (or three) of wine, I placed my pre-order for a Spinn Plus machine.

To be fair, the Spinn team said that my order would not be shipped until mid-2017. I was in the first production wave, so I hoped that things would go ahead of schedule – or at least on time – and that I would be sipping my wi-fi espresso now as I type. My current Black and Decker machine could limp along until then.

Fast forward to this week: I received a long email that was signed as being from the head of Spinn, outlining a lot of gratuitous “wins” in their design and production process, essentially to provide window dressing to the fact that Spinn still doesn’t have any machines produced, and that “mid-2017” shipment is now going to be delayed at least 5-6 more months.

Hmm.

Now, I fall on the side of getting things right, but really? In the end – if a Spinn machine ever materializes – it’s going to be more than a year after I ordered it. Meanwhile, I’ve already paid for the machine (like all of the other pre-orders), so Spinn’s got $400 of my money while I’m left hanging.

I could get a Tesla faster than this.

Needless to say, I’ll be very, very excited once my Spinn finally arrives. It’s also going to have to go above and beyond the hype, given the hassle.

Until then, hopefully my Black and Decker keeps chugging away.

 

 

 

 

Podcasts I’m Listening To Now

My excessive commuting is fast coming to an end (Hooray!), but I’ve had lots of time – and thousands of miles – in the past six months to drive, contemplate life, fret over uncertainty, worry about Anything and Everything, plan vacations and listen to podcasts.

Lots and lots of podcasts.

Here are some suggestions, if you’re so inclined:

  • This American Life. I’ve been a fan since its inception. Still am. Always will be. This is the standard bearer for me by which all other podcasts are judged.
  • S-Town. The entire run of this Southern Gothic story dropped at once, and basically everyone freaked out and made this the Number One podcast in the Universe. Confession: for the first three episodes, I thought this was an extremely well-crafted fictional narrative, but when I figured out it was true, I lost my mind and gobbled up the rest. The storytelling here is incredible. I can’t even begin to describe what this is about: clock repair, hedge mazes, small town Southern life. You’ll have to trust me that this is so worth your time.
  • Crimetown. This first season is all about Providence, Rhode Island, and its corrupt politicians and mafia kingpins, both of which ruled the city for decades.   Any fan of works like “The Sopranos” or “Goodfellas” will love Crimetown.
  • Up and Vanished. Oh, boy. This one is addictive. This podcast starts out investigating a cold case murder of a teacher in a small town in Georgia, and in the course of the podcast, the case gets solved in real time. Watching this unfold week by week has been riveting. You can still catch up.
  • Matt and Doree’s Eggcellent Adventure: An IVF Journey. Well, I’m biased because this is what I do for a living, hence my initial binge and current weekly listening session. Matt and Doree are a likable California couple trying to have a baby via science. Hearing about IVF from a patient’s perspective has been humbling.
  • The Dinner Party Download. Guests vary, but the formula is the same: corny jokes, craft cocktail recipes, celebrity interviews and answers to modern etiquette quandaries.
  • Fresh Air.  Terry Gross is a master interviewer. An unfulfilled dream of mine would be to have dinner with Terry and have her find me witty and charming, with both of us leaving as fast friends. While this is never going to happen, a girl can dream. Full disclosure: I download all the episodes but only listen to about half, usually when the guests seem appealing. This is probably a mistake, because Terry Gross can make any interview fascinating. Tip: there is a weekend show with the week’s best clips if you want to cut to the chase.
  • Wait, Wait! Don’t Tell Me. Usually I catch this gameshow live on NPR, but when I don’t, I listen to the week’s podcast.
  • The Moth. Tagline: The art and craft of storytelling. Sometimes I laugh. Often I cry. The stories are that good. Another unfulfilled dream: have a story good enough to share at one of their events.
  • Mortified. Cringeworthy and awesome. Adults read their real childhood diary entries onstage, unedited and in their awkward adolescent glory. I’ve almost driven off the road choking with laughter, so be careful.

 

July Stitch Fix Review

Oh, Stitch Fix, I can’t seem to quit you.

After a disappointing shipment in May, I was almost ready to break up with Stitch Fix for good.

And yet I didn’t.

When a new box arrived two weeks ago, I was cautiously optimistic.

This Fix contained a sleeveless shirt, a tee, a 3/4 sleeve shirt (hitting almost all of the shirt types!), a pair of jeans and – inexplicably for summer – a pair of suede booties.

Sidenote: Trixie (8) helped with the photography, so apologies in advance.

This 3/4 sleeve knit top was something I’d pinned, so I was happy to see it in my Fix.

Slightly blurry, but you get the gist:

I liked the pink pocket and trim. Keeper.

This tee was also something I’d pinned:

It’s a basic, thin white tee with embroidery. Here’s a close up of the writing:

I’m a sucker for inspirational tees. Another keeper. Unfortunately, the material is so thin that I noticed a tiny hole had already formed after being washed only a few times. I’m telling myself it adds character.

The sleeveless top was a sleeper hit.

The color is what makes this top. It doesn’t show well in the pictures, but it’s a muted blue-green, basically the color of an egg from a fancy chicken.

Here it is:

And on me:

Let me stop right here and confess that it took me two weeks to put this post together because I really hesitated about posting photos of myself without a drop of makeup and posing in my bathroom. This is the opposite of Fancy. I was excited about my Stitch Fix box and jumped into trying everything on when it arrived, and I did not stop to think about the visuals, so here we are.

I absolutely love the color of the shirt. In the pictures, I can see the fit is a bit blousy, but meh. I kept it.

The next thing in the box was yet another pair of skinny jeans.

I’m actually wearing them in the photos above. They were ok, but I really don’t need another pair of skinny jeans in July, so I sent them back.

Ditto these suede boots:

I like boots. I like suede. I like the caramel color. The fit was fine.

But I really didn’t need another pair of boots in July when I already have something very, very similar in my closet.

Summary: This Fix was definitely more successful than the last one. I kept all three of the tops and liked the other picks, but they weren’t right for the season.

And as I checked out, I saw that my next Fix is scheduled soon…

 

 

Summer Camp

Last week, Spouse and I took a leap of faith and sent Trixie off to camp.

For three weeks, one of which is spent doing a canoe trip that involves setting up tents, portaging and crossing the U.S. border into Canada.

She’s eight years old.

One more thing about that canoe trip: the guides purposefully steer the girls into headwinds and cheer when it rains under the premise that adversity builds character.

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I already love this camp.

“This American Life” recently replayed a 1998 episode (it’s held up remarkably well) entitled “Notes on Camp,”which explains the rituals, memories and strong emotions of kids who’ve grown up attending the same camp every summer. I highly recommend a listen; it would make almost anyone yearn for a type of childhood that most of us don’t get to experience.

The thing I love most about Trixie’s camp is that it’s an all female environment, from the campers to the counselors to the cooks to the camp director. The emphasis is on building strength, confidence and character, something I am 100% behind and I think is best accomplished in this exact setting.

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Trixie is already strong and confident, but the world can be tough on girls and even the strongest wings will have to fly through some storms.

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My friend M’s daughter is also attending this session. This is her second year at camp (she’s older than Trixie) and M. described last year’s experience as transformative for her daughter. I am hoping for the same.

My biggest wish: Trixie attends every summer and ultimately builds memories, friendships and qualities that last a lifetime.

I have so many dreams and hopes for This Girl.

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What I’ll Be Wearing This Fall

Well, it’s the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale yet again, and most of the blogs I frequent have been exploding with joy over this event.

Me: Meh.

This year, I am so in flux that I wasn’t feeling it.

Sure, I ripped open the preview catalog approximately two nanoseconds after it hit my mailbox, but there wasn’t anything that really tripped my trigger.

In the past, there was often some unicorn item that I Had To Have. Examples: Rag and Bone boots, Burberry trench coats, La Mer skin care.

On Wednesday, my friend M. and I debated our browsing strategies. She dives in for shoes and tops, whereas my strict order is always Beauty Exclusives, Handbags and Accessories, Shoes, Clothes, and then possibly Kids or Menswear.

When I received the email signaling early access to the sale on Thursday (for Nordstrom cardholders), I casually surfed in the specified order above, but nothing sent me over the edge.

Until Friday.

In retrospect, I am not sure if this is true or the world’s most brilliant marketing scam, but I received an email from Nordstrom apologizing for problems with early sale access to their website and promising that sales before midnight on Friday would be worth 10 reward points per dollar for Nordstrom card holders.

Holy sh*t!

While Triple Point Days occur a few times per year, the mystical 10 Point Days are usually relegated to Cyber Monday and a personal day (one you schedule) between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

So this was huge.

Suddenly, the so-so items in the Anniversary Sale looked a lot more attractive.

These hit my cart first:

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Velvet footwear and embellished shoes are everywhere this fall, so the $60 price for these mules hit both of the marks.

The crazy thing: I ordered these Friday afternoon and less than 24 hours later, they were on my doorstep.

Go, Nordstrom!

In Round One, I bought these shoes, a Jo Malone perfume sampler, two sets of overpriced candles, and a birthday gift for my sister (which I think she will love but will keep private for now in case she is reading this. You’ve got to wait two more weeks, J!)

And then.

I got home late. Work had been stressful. Traffic was a nightmare. The family was out of sorts because Trixie is away at camp for three weeks. We ordered pizza. It wasn’t that good. I drank two glasses of wine.

And I browsed a bit more.

Round Two: I discovered an interesting pair of Nikes that I had not seen before.

And some velvet brocade boots.

And a lip gloss set.

Mine, mine and mine.

In the end, I am getting a lot of Nordstrom Reward Points.

Final though about those bumblebee mules: They are so on trend and *so* worth $60. I am really digging wearing them with my new camo pants.

Here’s the look:

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These Wit and Wisdom Skinny Cargo Pants are $68 at Nordstrom and NOT a part of the Anniversary Sale, but they are darn cute, stretchy and all-out comfortable. My plan: wear the above with a blue and white striped menswear button down for my fall uniform.