23 November 09

Girls Need Purses

My freshman and sophmore year of high school I carried my backpack everywhere. Because my locker was so far out of the way and I only had 3 minutes between classes, I had to carry half of my books with me at any given time, along with folders and notebooks and all the other random stuff that teenage girls need.

My junior year I switched schools. The school became worried about increasing gang violence so we were no longer allowed to carry backpacks. Girls were permitted to carry purses though. The boys were furious. That’s not fair! And, honestly, it wasn’t to a degree. But a guidance counselor told a group of boys, very loudly, that they had two options. The could either stare at tampons and pads while in class or they could carry their own purse.

I went to Kmart and plunked down my saved money to get the largest purse I could find. It was denim with faux-leather strap and bottom patches. It was the first true purse I’d ever owned and it was big enough to carry notebooks and to carry a couple of books. I took it to school and carried it for a week before a teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to carry it to class anymore because it was larger than the approved size. The approved size whas 6” by 9”. This bag was well over that size. But, I’d already spent all my money buying this purse. Money was tight with my parents and I knew there was no way they would be able to give me another $15 to buy a smaller purse. So I found a pencil case that wasn’t see through and began to carry that instead. But it was embarrassing because all the other girls had cute purses. There was like a fashion explosion in purses. I began seeing all these leather purses with L’s and V’s on them, interlocking C’s and all kinds of other crazy designer bags.

My English teacher came up to me one day in the library with a small purse that was tan with a shoulder and a wrist strap. She handed it to me and told me that she had found it in the back of her closet and was going to get rid of it since she’d had it for years and never used it, but thought I might be able to use it since she knew I hadn’t gotten to use my new bag for very long. I felt ashamed, but I liked the bag and I didn’t know how to turn her down. So I accepted it. When I got home, and I put all my stuff in the purse, I saw a price sticker for JC Penny’s in the bag. I remember that it was originally $39 marked down to $28. At first I couldn’t believe that she’d forgotten she bought a $28 bag and I couldnt’ imagine spending that much money on something and never using it. The following Sunday I was eating breakfast and reading the circular ads when I saw my exact purse in the Sunday ad with a few others marked down to 50% off. I realized she had bought the bag new for me. My teacher spent almost $30 on me out of her own money. I was floored. I’m still floored. It was 1987, $30 went a lot farther then.

So, when I read a post by Mocha Momma, who happens to be an assistant principal, about how her school passed a similar ban and the girls at her school can’t afford new bags. My heart obviously goes out to them. And I’m purse maker. Most of my bags are too large to work, but I have a few that will be acceptable. So, I encourage you to send her any bags that are smaller than a sheet of notebook paper. She is selling them for $5 to the girls who want them and using the money that is raised to do something nice for all the kids at the school. So feel free to buy a purse scholarship if you don’t have any bags that you think high school girls will like to carry.

And thanks, Mocha Momma. Thanks for reminding me of something I had forgotten, a kindness that deserves to be remembered even if it is 20 years old. And more importantly, thanks for doing this for your students. It’s heartwarming.

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16 August 09

Simple Human Cannister

For complete transparency:
I wrote on Twitter that I was looking for a new canister to hold flour and sugar on my countertop. A Simple Human staff member, who I was not following previously, saw my Tweet and suggested I consider this canister. I replied that I would like to see it in person before buying. She emailed me privately and said that Simple Human would be willing to send me a canister for free in exchange for me writing a review. I’ve not done many, or possibly any, reviews of items in exchange for receiving a free item. I explained that if I liked the item I would write a review on my website and if I didn’t like the item I would pass it on to someone else who may be more likely to like it and write a review.

On the left is the new canister from Simple Human and on the right is a vintage canister I purchased at a yard sale in 2000.
New on the left, old on the right

This is the list of items I wanted in a canister.
• I didn’t want round canisters, because flat-sided canisters would save space on the counter.
• I wanted a canister that would hold an entire bag of flour or sugar and then some. I knew I’d need a website or package that said so.
For size
Plenty of room for more
• I wanted something that was easy to open, preferably a lid that could be lifted with one finger since my hands may be messy.
• I needed a tight seal to protect against moisture.
• I wanted a handle on the front like my current version had so I could use it to pull it away from the wall for easier grasping. Or a larger handle that I could use to lift it and move it to a more convenient location for using.
• I wanted either a liner that was dishwasher safe, or the entire canister to be dishwasher safe.
The lining is dishwasher safe
• I didn’t want anything cutesy. I wasn’t stuck on stainless steel, but I wanted something that would match with my kitchen.
• I wanted something that wouldn’t scratch, dent, or rust easily.
• I wanted something that wouldn’t scratch my counter if I dragged it across the counter.
The no-scratch bottom
• I needed it to be less than 10” deep.
The box description

Thankfully this canister fit all of my needs. And it has a few extras:
• It came with a tag that I could write on. Or I could go to their website and use a template to print a tag to trim out and place in the little window on top of the canister.
• The outside looks like stainless steel, but it doesn’t show fingerprints at all. This is a huge extra in my mind.
• The push button opening will ensure that if my hands are already coated in flour and I just need a little extra, I can use my elbow even to open it up and get what I want.
The release button of the Simple Human canister
• There are a wide variety of sizes.

And of course there are some things that keep this from being perfect in my eyes:
• It isn’t cheap. This size canister is $49 each. I’ll happily purchase another one so I have the set I need. But I think I would have thought for a longer time and done some more looking before I paid $100 for a set of two. I was considering getting a smaller one for tea, but I may not do that quite yet. But if I do get something else, it will likely be this series.
• I wish it came in other styles and finishes. There are a lot of people who don’t have a stainless steel kitchen and minimal design sense. But I think Simple Human knows their target market well enough to know that they’d sell more in the single style than if they added more styles on.
• I wish there was a clear window to tell how full the canister is without opening it. I don’t bake frequently, so it’s nice to glance around my kitchen before I head out on a shopping run and know what I want/need before I leave the house.
• No spoon included. This isn’t something that I feel I actually need, but many other canisters came with a spoon that lived inside or outside. Definitely not a deal breaker for me, but could be an add-on at the time of purchase that many people might use.

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08 April 09

Presence of mind

I can only hope that when I’m confronted with an earthquake that has me trapped under my home, that I have the presence of mind that this 98-year-old woman had. She literally sat crocheting while her town collapsed. She’s one of my new heroes.

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08 March 09

Studio Cherie: Carried Away Profile

Every once in a while I start to think that I should really just make a basic diaper bag. But then I start to think of all the things that probably go in a diaper bag (I say probably because I’ve never had to carry one) and get overwhelmed because I wonder things like “Do all portable baby wipes come in the same size dispenser?” “Are all baby bottles the same diameter?” “How many diapers would someone need to carry with them?” “How big should those changing pad thingies really be?”

Then today, while cruising through the
Carried Away Team Blog
I saw a fantastic diaper bag from Studio Cherie that seems to address some of my concerns and does it better than I could. There is a great pocket for holding wipes, the size is perfectly wide enough to hold what looks like the right amount of wipes and cloths and bottles and toys. And there is even a photograph of what the bag and the changing pad look like in an airplane bathroom. Now that’s dedication to your craft! And at only $89! (only!) it seems like an amazing bargain.

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13 July 08

Trashy Diva now Ripped Off Diva

Trashy Diva is my favorite clothing boutique. It’s unfortunately, for me anyway, in New Orleans so I can’t visit in person very often. But every time I have gone I’ve purchased something. I own a dress, two blouses, and two skirts from here. The clothing is designed in a way that fits me well. The first time I went, it was at the suggestion of Chronic Babe. I normaly abhor clothing shopping because it is stressful, depressing and I often leave with nothing.

The first time I visited the boutique on Magazine St. was just a few days after Andrew and I had gotten married. The week before we’d gotten married I’d gone to no fewer than 5 stores and tried on dozens and dozens of dresses looking to find something I could wear for the wedding. It was depresing, exhausting, and the dress I ended up choosing was okay, but nothing that seemed as special as I was hoping it would be. I’d even pulled on a $600 dress that I loved and adored and could see myself wearing several times and begged and pleaded with the tailor on staff to make it fit me. And when she told me she couldn’t, I came very close to crying and using the dress as a hankie.

So imagine my amazement when I walked into Trashy Diva and grudgingly picked out two dresses and walked into a dressing room. I mean, I was scarred still and convinced that this was going to be another horrible experience. I decided I would do my diligence, try on the two dresses and then leave before I could have a breakdown. But I put on the first dress and decided to take a look at myself from farther away in a full mirror so I walked out of the dressing room Candace Gwinn, the owner and designer, walked in the door looking magni-freaking-fabulous and stopped to look at me admiring myself in the dress and looking shocked. “You should try the next size smaller. It’s too loose around your hips and your waist and if the smaller dress fits it will probably accentuate your bust better, too.” She then called for the sales clerk to get me the same dress in a smaller size. I tried it on, and she was right. The dress fit, and I looked good, great in fact. And that dress is still my favorite. I felt so good, even after plunking down more on a dress than I had ever spent before, that I began looking at the skirts and blouses that were available. And I bought a skirt and a blouse as well!

Clothes in boutiques rarely fit me without alteration, and I’ll rarely decide that a piece of clothing is worth paying to have altered, especially if I know that I could make it myself. But as I stood staring at the blouse and realizing how all the seam finishing created a smooth line at the waist and how the snaps hidden behind the buttons kept embarrassing gaps from appearing, and I realized what high quality the silk was, I was delighted. I asked the sales clerk who designed and made the clothes.

“Oh! Candace designs them and we have several women who do the sewing for us. She’s worked hard to find sewers who are skilled and fast and consistent. The clothes are great aren’t they? I only started working here because I loved her line so much.”

So, imagine my surprise when I read that
one of her wholesale clients
has ripped her off. They took her dress, with all of its details, and copied it overseas and sold it alongside her better-made and more expensive dresses. And when questioned about why, they didn’t deny it.

So Candace, in all of her fabulousness, has decided to only sell her signature piece at her own boutiques and for a limited time you can buy this dress for 50% off, which makes it $34!!. I mean, that’s mass-crap-produced price points, not handmade, by skilled hands, in the USA, price points.

I can’t decide whether I want the Trixie2 dress in red or in white with black polka dots, so I might get both. I’ve tried this dress on in silk in person. And I liked it, but I’ve never worn a halter dress before. I’m not comfortable with the way my back looks so I prefer to keep it covered. But if there is any designer I know who can make me want to get over that bit of self-awareness, its this one. And if I can support a woman and a business and a city that I believe in while doing so, then yes, I think I’ll take both.

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16 March 08

By the way,

If you haven’t scrolled down to the bottom of this screen, then you’ve probably been missing my delicious links. Not that they’re tasty, well some certainly are, but they’re things I find interesting, and using the interactivity of the Web 2.0 features that Del.icio.us makes available to me, I’m able to write little bits about each link. And some of it is darned good. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you just might get to peek and see what my next One Good Meal column will be about at Gapers Block.

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