Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Carry On Cocktail Kit

Image from PunchDrink.com

Image from PunchDrink.com

Starting an unintentional (but wonderful) theme of kits and travel, look what I stumbled across on Instagram:  the Carry On Cocktail Kit!

How cute is this? The metal tin is about the size of a deck of cards, and it includes everything you need to make two Old Fashioned cocktails–except the alcohol!  You take this (TSA-approved) little kit on the plane, buy a mini bottle of bourbon from the flight attendant, and then mix up your drinks per the instructions!

The Carry On Cocktail company only makes an Old Fashioned kit right now, but they’ve hinted that more kits are coming.  I’ve never drank an Old Fashioned, but I’d like to try one. It sounds strong but good–and very Mad Men.  I would love to see kits for dirty martinis and margaritas, too!

Here’s what’s inside the kit:

  • Aromatic bitters
  • Cane sugar
  • Spoon/muddler
  • Linen coaster
  • Recipe card

These little kits would be a great stocking stuffer or “bon voyage” gift for a friend flying out for vacation.  The only downside: The kits are pricey–$24 a pop!–but I guess you’re paying for the cool idea and presentation.

This also gives me another idea–wouldn’t it be fun to make (or receive!) a DIY basket of little kits like this for several different cocktails?  You could buy mini bottles of liquor, pair them with the appropriate mixers and garnishes, and then include instructions on how to make each kind of drink.  You could also throw in swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins, etc.  This gift could work for so many occasions (providing the recipient drinks alcohol, of course!).

Bottoms up!

P.S. – Speaking of cocktails, check out this book–Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist.  Wouldn’t it be fun to make these drinks for a book club meeting, writer’s group, or an English major’s graduation party?

Happy Valentine’s Day! <3

ValentineBentoLunch

My sister makes me the cutest lunches.  It’s hard to tell in the photo, but the carrots and granola bites are heart-shaped, too.  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!

Pass the BVLGARI Butter, Please

Fruit by Nike, by artist Peddy Mergui

Fruit by Nike, by artist Peddy Mergui

Would you buy Nike-branded fruit? What about Tiffany & Co. yogurt?

Um, actually…I totally would.

So I read an article this week on NPR.org about artist Peddy Mergui, whose current exhibit features (faux) grocery store staples like eggs and milk packaged in designer-inspired boxes and bags. I highly recommend that you read the article and check out the photos.

Yogurt by Tiffany, by artist Peddy Mergui

Yogurt by Tiffany, by artist Peddy Mergui

This artwork really hits home for me. I definitely see how expensive designer groceries would entice shoppers looking to project a certain image or participate in a certain lifestyle, but I think there’s something else at play here, too: Well-designed items are a pleasure to use. They’re nice to look at, they work well, and they usually last longer than other products.

Still, I know that I (literally) buy into the allure of fancy packaging for common items, and I will often choose “fancy” products over more inexpensive—or even FREE—versions of the same thing. I greatly dislike drinking plain water, for example, but if I buy Fiji or Evian bottled water I’m more likely to actually drink it and enjoy it…even though there are multiple sinks and fountains around me supplying endless amounts of clean, free water. The fancy bottled water seems to taste better to me (I know, I know…but I swear it does) and the bottles are pretty. In fact, I bought some SmartWater earlier this week. Look at this little dolphin hidden behind one of the labels!

My fancy bottled water comes complete with a surprise pet dolphin...

My fancy bottled water comes complete with a surprise pet dolphin…

I think, too, that giving inexpensive goods a designer gloss, as Mergui invites us to imagine, would provide the opportunity for us “commoners” to dip our toes into the pool of the wealthy. I can’t afford a Cartier watch, for example, but I could participate in some small way in the world of Cartier by buying a bag of Cartier coffee. Target does a version of this, too—the store often partners with designers like Philip Lim, Lilly Pulitzer, and Joseph Altuzarra to provide cheaper designer products to middle America. (Brands have to weigh the risk, though, of such democratization devaluing the cache of the brand among their wealthy core customers).

Eggs by Versace, by artist Peddy Mergui

Eggs by Versace, by artist Peddy Mergui

Mergui’s exhibit also makes me consider how we waste and throw away so much food in first-world countries. For many of us, food is cheap and plentiful. If our food was more expensive and exclusive, maybe we would respect it more—perhaps we would plan for it, buy it, and store it more carefully, and then use it more completely. And what if we could we could somehow apply the price markup of the fancy foods to provide assistance to the hungry and food-insecure? Or would all of this be trading one form of waste (food) into another (excess packaging)?

Lots of food for thought here (hah!).

P.S. – Some good counterpoints: Marie Kondo advises her readers to remove all tags, labels, and stickers from consumer goods as soon as you bring them into your house. The tags are an aesthetic distraction, she says, but they also give outside forces too much influence and presence inside your home, which is supposed to be a sanctuary and retreat from the world outside. Actress and super-organizer Jamie Lee Curtis advocates for something similar. She even decants all of her groceries and personal care products into plain containers to avoid looking at marketing and packaging in her home.

Birchbox Review – February 2015

I got my Birchbox yesterday and I’ve already tried out all the products in it! I think that’s a record for me.

For the first time in months, I didn’t choose a sample or a curated box, so this February box was a complete surprise to me. The theme for February was Friendship, and the printed cardboard box was super cute–neon orange stamped with hot pink conversation bubbles.

Here’s what I got and what I think:

BeeKind Shower Gel – Meh. I like trying shower gels, but this one isn’t exciting. The brand and product don’t feel special or luxe. The gel smells like thin, watery lemon–like diluted cleaning fluid. Part of the proceeds from BeeKind sales go to honeybee protection, which is nice. It would be way cooler, then, if this gel smelled like honey…but it doesn’t.

Juice Beauty Green Apple Cleansing Gel – I appreciate that this cleanser is made from “clean” ingredients. It’s a thin, liquid-y gel that didn’t foam or feel like it was doing anything special when I used it, but my face felt clean, smooth, and soft afterwards. I like this and will use up the sample, but I don’t see myself buying it.

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner in Black – Woot! This is my favorite product from this box. It’s a marker-style eyeliner and the thin felt tip is firm and semi-dry…and I mean that in a good way, in that product doesn’t gush out and you can easily control the application. I used a thin line on my eyelids this morning and even added little “kitten eye” flicks on the outer corners of my eyes. This stuff dries quickly and stays put! (Also: I read somewhere to store this pen upside down so the tip doesn’t dry out.)

Benefit The POREfessional – Hmm. I don’t think I’m the target audience for this. It’s a slightly tinted primer balm that can be worn under or over your makeup to blur and cover large pores, which I don’t think I have. The consistency is nice–smooth and thick, like a pasty spackle for your face–and it has a nice, light floral smell. I used it under my BB cream today and don’t see too much of a difference. I noticed some whitish flakiness on my nose and forehead an hour later, but my skin is dry right now, so I don’t want to blame the primer. I will have to experiment more, but I don’t see myself needing or wanting this. My BB cream works fine on its own.

Miss Jessie’s Original Super Sweetback Treatment – When I first felt this jar through the tissue paper in my box, I thought it was a Beauty Blender in a cylindrical box…so I was kinda disappointed to see this. It’s a generous sample (2 ounces!) of a hair mask and the branding is cute, though. I used it last night. The mask is thick and pink and smells like bubble gum (maybe bubble gum with a medicinal or plasticky undertone), and you’re supposed to leave it on for 30 minutes. My hair feels clean and light and soft today, but I get the same results from the DevaCurl conditioner I usually use. This Miss Jessie’s treatment has silicones in it, too, which DevaCurl doesn’t recommend for curly hair. I used about 1/3 to 1/2 of the jar last night and will probably pass along the rest to a friend to try. (Also, what does “Sweetback” mean?)

This box wasn’t very exciting, but I liked the mix of products–I got to try something new for my body, hair, makeup, and skincare routines.  I think the eyeliner is the winner for me, plus I can review these five products online for $$$$$ to spend on the Birchbox site.

Oh! And guess what else I got yesterday in a separate package from Birchbox? A pink tassel keychain! It’s a thank you gift for subscribing for a year. I got an email earlier this week telling me that it had been added to my online shopping cart for free with free shipping. 🙂 What a fun little gift.

First Class Goodie Bags!

Airline amenity kits! (Image from CheapFlights.com)

Airline amenity kits! (Image from CheapFlights.com)

A friend of mine flies frequently for work and she gave me a United Airlines goodie bag…and I’m in heaven. I have never flown first class and I had no idea such little treats existed. They are called “amenity kits,” apparently, and they are my spirit object.

This isn’t my photo, but here’s a good shot of the case I got:

Image from www.hub.united.com.

Image from www.hub.united.com.

Look at all the fun goodies packed into that little case!

  1. Eye mask
  2. Socks
  3. Mints (in a packet)
  4. Hand sanitizer gel
  5. Ear plugs (in a packet)
  6. Philosophy lip balm
  7. Philosophy facial cleanser towelette
  8. Philosophy lotion
  9. Toothpaste
  10. Flosser
  11. Toothbrush with case
  12. Comb
  13. Tissues
  14. Pen (but my hand-me-down kit didn’t have one)

The case itself is really good, too—it has a mesh pocket side, an opaque pocket side, a smooth zipper, etc.

Squee! This little bag hits on all my tingly buttons:

  • I love miniature things (that toothpaste!).
  • I love kits—a set of things gathered, prepared, and ready to go to tackle a specific task.
  • I love feeling prepared.
  • I love bags, boxes, etc. with organizational nooks and crannies.
  • I love good free stuff (well, “free” with the price of an airline ticket).
  • I love it when everything coordinates in style and color.
  • I love good branding (stupid but true).
  • I love trying “fancy” brands of makeup and skincare products (I’m not a huge fan of Philosophy, though—their stuff is often full of random chemicals and a lot of perfume).

These amenity kits totally seem like the adult version of birthday party goodie bags!

Anyway, I Googled around and, as it turns out, I’m not the only one who is smitten with these little kits. There’s a market for them on eBay! Also, an article on CheapFlights.com gives an airline-by-airline breakdown and review of amenity kits. I might have spent way too long clicking on all the links and comparing kits. Some airlines use very high-end products and some airlines try to reflect their home country or culture in kit style, materials, or products. Also, there’s often a difference between first class kits and business class kits. (I didn’t even realize there was a difference between first class and business class…I thought it was the same thing…) Also, several airlines make their amenity bags in such a way as to do double duty as iPad cases, wallets, clutches, etc.

Sigh. Back in steerage, we don’t even get a snack anymore. I wonder what else I’m missing out on?

P.S. – In a similar vein, I just gave several of these as Christmas gifts.

P.P.S. – LightbyCoco, my girl crush, makes herself similar kits when she travels—an airplane kit and a toiletries kit.

P.P.P.S. – Here are some more good kit round-ups:

Book Review: Some Assembly Required

Image from Amazon.com.

Image from Amazon.com.

Anne Lamott wrote one of the seminal books on writing techniques (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life) and I’ve been meaning to read some of her other work. I recently downloaded and read several free samples of her books on my Kindle, then bought Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son’s First Son.

To start: Lamott is smart, talented, and funny. She’s a writer, a writing teacher, a Christian, a recovering alcoholic, a single mother, a grandmother, and a middle-aged white woman with dreadlocks. Some Assembly Required chronicles the first year of her grandmotherhood, when she must adapt to the reality of her college-aged son and his on-again, off-again girlfriend having a baby boy. The story has many of the same elements as the MTV show Teen Mom (which I love)–a rocky relationship between two young parents of no professional means–but this story takes place among an artsy, academic family with a quirky, loving matriarch (Lamott) who can float the entire enterprise financially.

I enjoyed reading Some Assembly at first, but I never felt a pull to return to the book and finish it…but I did. I probably would have abandoned it if I hadn’t paid for it.  Mothering and grandmothering just isn’t very interesting to me, I fear–unless, apparently, it’s totally dysfunctional and in 30 minute chunks on MTV. I found myself glazing over during some of the book’s passages describing the adults’ intense baby love and parental angst. The baby is like an addictive drug to this family, and everyone is held rapt by him. They can’t stop observing him, describing him, celebrating him, fighting over him, etc. This is parental love, I suppose, but I probably will never under the fanaticism of parents until I have biological children of my own. The gushing words of star-struck moms and dads always sound so overblown and thin to me. Perhaps words cannot truly describe that kind of love?

Anyway, I was mostly reading to find the (frequent!) nuggets of Lamott’s good writing and jokes. She will relate seemingly mundane details about her life, but then suddenly and subtly turn the corner into something funny, poignant, or thought-provoking. Lamott’s very funny and self-effacing, especially about her lapses in spiritual faith and her propensity to get (slightly, and endearingly) jealous and controlling when the intoxicating baby is in question. Lamott practices a kind of casual but fervent Christianity, too, that is nice to see. She’s a true believer, but she’s not afraid to cuss, question, joke, and incorporate non-Christian elements of spirituality into her personal religious practice (like Eastern meditation techniques). I admire her for this.

In short: I really like Lamott, but I’m lukewarm on this particular book. No biggie!  Check this out for some essays that give you an idea of Lamott’s style and humor. And here is a list of her (many!) good quotes.

Sunshine + Sleep = Purrfection

My Clark :)

My Clark 🙂

A New Spin on the Charm Bracelet

One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a glass locket rimmed in sparkles and filled with tiny Christmas charms. Check it out:

My new Origami Owl necklace!  (I included a quarter in the photo to show scale...)

My new Origami Owl necklace! (I included a quarter in the photo to show scale…)

Can you even see that tiny gingerbread cookie girl? Totes adorbs!

The best part of the gift was that the locket and charms were packaged separately, so I got to assemble everything myself. I couldn’t wait to get home and put it all together. 🙂

Anyway, my new favorite pastime is browsing the internet for new “floating charms.” Origami Owl is the name of the company that made my locket and Christmas charms, but there are also oodles of less expensive options on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and in craft stores. I even saw a few options in the jewelry making aisle at Walmart.

I finally found and settled on a deal on Amazon that let me choose ten tiny charms (from an impressive menu) for about $11 including shipping, which is about the cost of two Origami Owl charms. The quality and detail on these inexpensive charms isn’t as nice as Origami Owl’s, but I know I will enjoy them. Here are the charms I chose and why:

My new charms!

My new charms!

Football – A nod to my love of the Florida Gators and SEC football.

Laptop – A nod to my love of reading, writing, and…online shopping.

Coca-Cola bottle – A nod to my favorite treat and my Georgia roots!

Starbucks logo and Frappuccino – A nod to my favorite coffee shop, which always reminds me all things cozy and homey.

Bathtub – A nod to the HOURS I spend in the tub each week.

Cocktail with umbrella – A nod to my love of fun and fancy drinks, plus I wanted a splash of color in my locket.

I also got three new charms to add to my little Christmas set:

Nutcracker

Snowglobe

Green crystal heart  

All my Christmas charms!

All my Christmas charms!

Squeee!

I know I’m late to the party on this trend, but I like it. These glass lockets are quieter and easier to wear that my traditional charm bracelets, especially when I’m typing all day, and the little magnetized locket door makes it easy to switch out charms.

Now I gotta find a book charm, and an alligator, and some cats… 😉