Wednesday, November 30, 2011

November Snow

This is what I woke up to this morning.
(Please ignore the boxes and video games--we just got a Kinect).

What I mean--the exciting part of this picture--snow! And a substantial amount for November (or November as I'm used to it), too. I'm definitely not one for cold and wind, but if you throw a soft, white blanket all over the world like that, who can resist? It's like instant Christmas.

For those of you who live in Virginia, you know that it's not the tropics by any means; snow, however, is usually reserved as an occasional treat for the end of December and only really starts coming down after the first of the year. I can even say that there were years during high school when I would go tree shopping with my family, outside, in 70-degree weather. I guess the fact that Target makes short-sleeved Christmas tees isn't so silly, after all.

Me, circa 2005, creeping behind Christmas trees. Apparently, my hair length is the biggest change I've made since then.

In Michigan, however, winter apparently starts much earlier. You don't necessarily have those few weeks of cold teasing you before the big precipitate event--the snow just comes, and you bundle up and deal with it. It's okay, though--I've been forewarned of nothern U.S. weather more than anything else I've been constantly nagged about in my life, so I feel like it's a waste of time to complain. On a related note, if any of you bother to tell me one more time just how cold it's going to be up here this winter, I hope you understand why I've decided never to speak to you again.

Winter is cold--that's reality. It's also Christmas time, there's snow (as there should be), and I plan to not worry about January through March until I absolutely need to. It's not Antarctica, for crying out loud.

In the meantime, I choose to appreciate the good things in life--like making cookies and luminaries while I enjoy my warm home and Christmas music plays in the background. And that's as it should be.

Welcome, winter.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Black Friday

Ads from JC Penney, Walmart, Target, Kohl's, & IKEA

So, I went Black Friday shopping this year.

Scoff all you want; I used to be a naysayer, too--well, at least a naysayer to waking up at the crack of dawn to be pushed around by a sea of money-saving maniacs. Sure, I'd go shopping the day after Thanksgiving and try to see how many three-dollar DVD's I could snag, but I didn't really put a lot of stake on getting there early enough for the really good deals. In fact, I was way more used to browsing the empty shelves and wishing I wasn't one of the lame people who needed sleep more than they needed a ten-dollar Blu-Ray player.

But this year was different. motivated by my sales-ad-studying husband and his plan to win over the town in a shopping extravaganza, I agreed to a night of deal-hunting. And so, once our food had digested for the third time Thanksgiving evening, we hopped in the car and went to stand in line (and by that, I mean we hopped in the car, went to Wal-Mart and ran away because the parking lot was filled to capacity, drove to Target, then back to my parents' house for hot chocolate and scarves before driving back to actually stand in line outside of Target).

Our evening started pretty well. While waiting for Target to open its doors, Brad actually ordered the Kinect we were in line for on his phone--with a credit we had earned on Amazon, it was $20.00 less than everywhere else. Check.

Left: Brad waiting in line outside of Target
Right: Chocolate peppermint LUNA energy bar (we were given these while standing in line).
Clever wrapper reads: "Don't drop while you shop! . . . Happy Holidays from LUNA!"

By the time we moved up in line, there were cheers, line cutters, and lost gloves (one lost glove) galore. As soon as Brad, his sister, Jessi, and I made it inside the front doors, we ran across the store to our desired stations. And yes, Jessi and I almost wiped out into one another, but it was hilarious and fun and exhilarating all at once.

Throughout the entire evening, we stocked up on Christmas gifts (and stuff we honestly didn't need), moving each hour from one store to the next. Fortunately, none of us were trampled or pepper-sprayed, unlike many people who had to put up with a lack of common decency this weekend.

Target sometime after midnight.
Just walking through the store was near impossible, and the line to check out wrapped through every grocery and bathroom supply aisle, around the back of the store, and back to the front. It's a wonder we ever got out.
Now, the reason I participated in this huge shindig of pure "Christmas spirit" is probably rooted deeply in the fact that I was extremely curious to see exactly how crazy people would actually get. It was something fun to do with a group of people, but if I had gotten my heart set on being first in line for an uber-cheap TV, I might have literally had a panic attack.

The truth is, if you're like everyone else who owns a television and have been seeing sales ads left and right lately--Black Friday, Doorbusters, Cyber Monday, and now, Small Business Saturday--you've no doubt either built up an intolerance to the persistent reminders (like the horrible Kohl's "Black Friday" spot, parodying Rebecca Black's "Friday") or an underlying desire to see just what all the fuss is about. Either way, retailers and their campaigns to get "out of the red" this time of year have redefined the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season--and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Kohl's - "Black Friday"
I will never forgive Kohl's for putting this on my TV.

Justin Bieber for Macy's - Black Friday
 This one's actually pretty good. All Biebers aside.

So, what I want to know is:

- Are you a Black Friday pro, staying up all night to elbow anyone who gets in your way,
- A casual deal hunter, who will put up with the crowds on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning just to catch a glimpse of what's left in the war zones,
- An internet junkie, navigating Amazon and to show every sucker standing out in the cold how shopping's really done, or
- Completely separated from sales all together, either too terrified or indifferent to venture out during the most highly-marketed shopping weekend of the year?

I wonder how long it will be before we're just sitting on the sidewalk outside of Best Buy, eating our Thanksgiving meals off of paper plates. Oh, wait--I have proof that someone already did that.

(Thank goodness for camera phones, no matter how blurry their deliverables may be.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011


This is a turkey. He is not, however, one of the three turkeys I tasted today.
Ah, man, I'm full. Two dinners down and more dessert waiting for me in my parents' kitchen, and all I want to do is lie on this couch and sleep until I'm out of my food coma. In fact, my sister's on the other couch doing exactly that, while everyone else is watching some old western movie. I, on the other hand, have decided to write a quick post.

We're back in Virginia for the weekend, and so far it's been beautiful weather and very low-stress (much different from the freezing, semi-hectic weekend that flew by during out Halloween visit). Today's been a picture-perfect Thanksgiving so far: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV to start, followed by a huge and delicious lunch with Brad's side of the family, topped off with family time (indoors and out) and a repeat with my side of the family at dinner time. I'm so happy we get to rest for a little bit, because after all of the food I ate, I have no idea how I'm going to stay up all night shopping early deals for Black Friday. Ooh! Home Alone is on TV now. Motivation to stay awake is now instated.

Amid all of the food and socializing, though, I realize that I haven't taken the time out to do what so many others are doing today, and what's expected of all of us, really--and that's to express how grateful I am for everything I have.

I don't know where I'd be today without my family, my husband, my friends, and all the people who have helped shape me. I am so lucky to have a roof over my head whether I'm here on the east coast or nine hours north near the great lakes, and even though my car needs more money's worth of work done than I paid for it in the first place, it still works and I know that I have a way to get somewhere if I need to. I am thankful for God, who has provided everything for me, for Christmas and the gift it brought to us all. I am in love with this time of year, and I feel so blessed that I live in a country where I can freely live such a great life.

Last, but not least, I want to thank all of you who are reading this right now. I know I'm not a world-renowned writer or well-known anywhere, for that matter. Somehow, though, I've convinced you to visit this site and read at least four and a half paragraphs of something I wrote while you could be doing anything else. Believe me, I notice--and I thank you all.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families. May your food digest, may your Friday shopping (if you choose to do so) be fun and not aggravating, and may you have a beautiful weekend and a wonderful kickoff to the Christmas season. Talk to you soon.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Earl of Brand-wich

We've all heard that story about a hungry Earl . . . a British statesman who was too consumed with card games to be bothered with formal knife-and-fork meals. His solution: ordering lunch between two slices of bread, sans plate. Only one hand was required for eating, while the other hand was free to continue on in gambler's fashion. The idea caught on quickly and by accident, and pretty soon, fellow card players were saying, "I'll have what Sandwich is having." And voila--a new phenomenon was born.

. . . But did you know that the Earl has his own sandwich shop?

Well, his family does, anyway.

Welcome to the Earl of Sandwich restaurant, a modern-day food chain that represents the story of how the sandwich came to be (that's right, it's not a myth). Interestingly, the restaurant isn't just a name stolen by random entrepreneurs to make a quick buck. It's actually owned by the Montagu family, otherwise known as the descendents of the fourth--and perhaps most famous--Earl of Sandwich.

I first encountered (okay, it was my only encounter so far with the restaurant) the Earl of Sandwich restaurant on a family vacation I went on as a kid. It's been quite a while, but my memory was jogged when I saw this story on CBS Sunday Morning this week:

Very interesting video--worth the four-and-a half minute watch.

As soon as I heard the name and saw the logo in this video, I was taken back to a time when I, too, walked through those doors, ate a delicious sandwich, saved the sticker off my perfectly-wrapped sandwich because it was unique and would serve as a memento of my vacation to--Florida, was it?

I was nine. And I still have the sticker in a box of mementos and souvenirs.

I'd take a picture to show you as proof if I could successfully navigate through some assorted memento boxes we keep in the basement (they've been there since we moved, and I have yet to find the shoebox with my old Disney World memorabilia). Will you settle for an internet photo?

Don't worry, it looks pretty much exactly the same as this.

You know what's interesting? I remember to this day what the inside of the restaurant looked like, what the logo looked like, how I loved the sandwich I ate and wished there was an Earl of Sandwich back at home. But until I watched the Sunday Morning story, I couldn't remember that I experienced all of this during my first trip to Disney World. The only reason I know that's where I was is because I've only been to Florida twice in my life, and the video above said that the chain owns several Disney locations. Don't you think something as ordinary as a quick lunch would get lost among the excitement of Mickey Mouse and Cinderella's Castle?

Leave it to The Earl to create a great brand and everlasting impression that stayed with me for over fifteen years. That's quite a feat--how many sandwich shops do you think you'd remember after one visit during your childhood? It has obviously stood out (at least to me) in a world filled with Subways and Quiznos.

Speaking of sandwiches, it's time for lunch (good thing I have some bread and stuff to put on it). Bon appetite, everyone!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Have You Seen This Tree's Owner?

“My shoe is off. My foot is cold. I have a bird I like to hold.” (Dr. Seuss)
So, we were driving around Northville yesterday, minding our own business (okay, not really--we were gawking at big, beautiful, expensive houses), when we turned down a suburban cul-de-sac and saw this! What on earth was it--a Dr. Seuss bird? Very cool, but completely random to place in your front yard. I snapped a quick picture, then slowly realized just as Brad turned the car around and said exactly what I didn't notice in the first place: it wasn't a statue--it was a tree stump. Someone cut a huge Dr. Seuss-bird-stork-thing into a tree stump and it was awesome. What a great idea, to make art out of something that otherwise would take boatloads of stress and manpower to dig up. My kind of thinking.

And guess what? A street or two over, there were more. Dogs, bears, mountain men . . . all artistically chiseled out of lumber-turned-too-tall.

So, who did it? I originally guessed that whoever lived at the first house was just handy with a chainsaw and a knife. Upon seeing these things at two or three other houses, however, I began to think that the neighbors were either really good buddies, or someone in the area was making a killing off of re-purposing the eyesores we call stumps.

I did a Google search to see what I could find--and the only thing that looked similar was an image search thumbnail that linked to a few photos of a statue in a Northville dog park. Same style, it appeared.  Made of wood, so same material. Same artist? Not sure, but I would think that anything of the contrary would be an incredibly big coincidence.

So, if anyone knows who this dog belongs to, or how totem poles and birds suddenly became all the rage throughout suburban Northville, please let me know. In the meantime, I will continue to seek He-Who-Must-Be-Named.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Clarkston, Flint, Clarkston

Last Saturday was one of those fly-off-the-cuff kind of days. After sitting around and watching boring morning shows (why are there no cartoons on Saturday mornings around here?), Brad and I stumbled upon a local public television broadcast of "Under the Radar: Michigan," a program that showcases different cities and towns across the state. Perfect. One of highlighted cities in the episode we watched? Good ol' Flint. So, we hopped in the car, turned on the GPS, and set off for an afternoon trip.

We drove for a little while before wondering why in the world our GPS insisted on taking the longest way possible (as usual). Then, while stopped at a traffic light in Clarkston, I noticed a sign for a RePurpose estate sale. Funny enough, we had originally planned on going to the estate sale before deciding that it would be out of the way. Persuaded by the coincidence, Brad got in the turn lane, and we were off to shop for some knick-knacks.

Sign outside the estate sale (which was being filmed for the season premiere of "Cash and Cari" on HGTV), warning everyone to be good while the TV crew was there.
After browsing tables filled with Christmas ornamanets and beaded Native American jewelry, we hopped back in the car to make our way to Flint. Somehow, after going the most random route possible, we made it there.

As we expected, the city was fairly old and looked like a remnant of what used to be a bustling environment. Restaurants and small shops were open, but unsmiling people walked too closely to our parked car. The University of Michigan owned large masses of property around town, but the other side of the street was covered with "Occupy Flint" tents and run-down houses. Not a horrible place, but it was definitely the picture of a town weathered after years of prosperity and the onslaught of struggle.

Lunch was great, although a bit slow. We went to a place that touted itself as a "tapas bar," which brings me to the sad admittance that Brad and I had no idea what tapas were. We asked the waitress, who explained them in a very appealing way, but we kind of took the lame way out and ordered burgers instead. After what seemed like forever (the bartender was serving double-duty as a waitress, and didn't seem to know exactly how to walk over to the table), we finally got our food. Definitely more of a dinner venue than a lunch place, but everything was delicious nonetheless.

Brad did a really good job taking this picture! I'm both surprised and impressed.

Crab cake burger on a pretzel roll with sweet potato fries. Yum.
After spending five years trying to get our waitress to bring the check, we drove across town to the Flint Institute of Arts museum. I'm very happy to say that I married someone who actually has an interest in looking at things people create and trying to figure out how they were made--it means I get to go to places like this on a regular basis.

Sophie Matisse's interpretation of Guernica by Picasso
No One - In Particular #4 (Old) by Evan Penny & Dancing Maiden by Alberto Cambi

I thought this guy was just standing in the corner thinking about something . . . and when Brad kept telling me to look at him, I got annoyed because staring at people is rude. I got the pants creeped off me when I realized he wasn't real.
After galleries of paintings, tapestries, quilts, and paperweights (not kidding), we left the museum and Flint to head back home. But since I wanted a cupcake, we navigated to a random place on our route . . . which took us back to Clarkston. I'm glad we ended up back in the area, because it's a pretty little town filled with coffee shops, bakeries, special small shop events, and Christmas lights. Definitely a place I plan to re-visit. And we made a new friend in the basement of a furniture store.

What a cutie pie. He was so sweet and friendly. I wish I remembered his name.
Evil twin dog who growled at us when we found him sitting in a back room. I like to refer to him as the Black Swan.
Cozy inside while the night is cold outside
On another note, this weekend marks the beginning of several tree lightings and Christmas parades across the area, so hopefully, I'll have some new stories to share with you on that soon. I'm so excited that the holiday season is here!

Happy Friday, everyone.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Here's a hodgepodge of some of my recent TV, web, and print favorites. They're fun and make me smile, and I hope they do the same for you. :)

I defy you to watch this without smiling--at least a little bit.


Christmas! Beautiful people! Beautiful clothes! And did I mention--Christmas? And clothes?
(They've won me over.)

Pier One--"Find What Speaks to You"
 Summer 2011

 Holiday 2011

You may remember the ads from earlier this year, but I really like the Christmas ones that have been on lately (even aside from my bias for loving Christmas-related-everything once November rolls around).

The Muppets--Parody Teasers
 "Pretty Little Piggy"

Anyone who's familiar with ABC Family's Pretty Little Liars will know the premise behind this parody teaser for The Muppets. The video comes as part of a string of Muppets parody trailers and posters, many of which parallel popular, new shows and movies.

Movie Posters

If you have any favorites of your own, I'd love for you to share them with me.
In the meantime, happy browsing!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Pretty In Print

In today's huge sea of internet media, it's easy to forget the resources that have been around for a long, long time. Sure, we look online for whatever our current whims may be, and instant gratification is often taken for granted in a society that is obsessed with what's happening every second. At the end of the day, however, it's nice get away from the glare of a computer screen and curl up on the couch with something tangible and familiar. And for those times when you just want next month's trends within your grasp, magazines are a classic favorite.

I love magazines--they're like a grown-up's replacement for coloring books. What I subscribe to changes from year to year, and I never tire of opening the mailbox to a fresh, new copy of Marie Claire, Glamour . . . whatever happens to get to me first. It's like a present to myself, really--personalized mail. And even better, the articles and photos inside are like a little escape from whatever you're trying to take a break from.

Even more interesting, however, is how the ads in magazines can be just as appealing as the articles themselves. Open any fashion magazine, for instance, and the first fifteen pages are likely adorned with expertly-dressed models and products that are difficult for any shop-crazy girl to resist. Bright colors, flawless style, and dream scenarios put us in another place entirely, and the ads quickly become as eye-catching as the fashion articles themselves.

You'll find that this is true with other types of magazines, as well, regardless of the genre. After all, what information do you look for when you open a magazine in the first place? Whether you're an outdoor enthusiast who could use a new fishing rod, a car lover who can't stop thinking about the latest Camaro, or a foodie who is easily swayed into trying new types of cheese, you are not impervious to persuasion and there are likely several relevant ads within whatever publication(s) you prefer.

Here's a handful of my recent favorites, all of which came from one of the assorted fashion magazines I have stacked on my living room shelf. They offer ideal depictions of everyday scenarios, each happening in better-than-everyday ways.

[Click on any image to enlarge]

Kate Spade New York

I didn't know who Bryce Dallas Howard was until I saw The Help and 50/50 over the past couple months, but that knowledge isn't needed to see how beautiful these layouts are. The combination of bright colors, bright smiles, and movement create an energy in each of these ads that portrays a sense of youth, fun, and excitement. I actually noticed the first layout above in a recent issue before going back through some old magazines I hadn't thoroughly read, when I found the second layout in an earlier magazine. Several months apart, it's nice to see continuity through these fun images. I know I'll never be able to afford a Kate Spade anything, but a sense of familiarity and friendliness through these ads makes me feel as though a designer-style wardrobe is something attainable and relevant, not stodgy and above everyone who isn't a wealthy socialite.

"Can you feel it? The all-new Camaro Convertible has arrived. - Chevy Runs Deep"

"It's calling. The all-new Camaro Convertible has arrived. - Chevy Runs Deep"
I've seen these Chevy ads--particularly the first one listed--everywhere recently. Every time I've opened a fashion magazine within the past several months, I've see that familiar swirl of fiery red hair, as though the model in the photo sits inside a gust of air created by the Camaro she alludes to. The effect is a vogue-esque layout that appeals to the average fashion lover, yet sells a product that's typically marketed towards male car aficionados. The truth of the matter is: women drive cars, too, so why not show them how they'd look (in a glamorized scenario, of course) in a chic car that matches the new dress they've been drooling over? In this case, "looking good" is taken to a whole new level.


I recently discovered Clarks shoes since moving to Michigan, most likely because they're sold everywhere and there's a ton of shopping in the Metro-Detroit area. I currently own one pair of very comfy Clarks sandals that I found at TJ Maxx, a product that helped me to quickly understand just why some things cost more money.

Likewise, all of the Clarks ads I've seen lately, whether printed in magazines or posted in store windows, portray the brand with these key things: comfort, beauty, and quality. The layouts above in particular are some of the most eye-catching and recognizable, from the care-free models to the colorful, sunny days they each enjoy. The girls are happy, well-dressed, and look like real people. They pick flowers, study music with their classmates, and take weekend road trips through the countryside. They're smart and beautiful, they're put together, and they're us. Put on a pair of their shoes, and you can go on all the same walks of life that they portray in these photos. Now, who can put a price on that?

Tiffany & Co.

I saved the best for last. This Tiffany & Company ad, out just in time for the holiday shopping season, communicates so much without saying a word. Scratch that; the simple mention of the name, "Tiffany & Co.," isn't exactly a tagline, but acts as an obvious answer to what this photo is all about. As the happy couple pads up snowy stairs in this serene moment, the audience quickly sees what stands out: the iconic, blue Tiffany box. And that can only mean one thing--a proposal is not far away.

So many emotions are conveyed within this moment--the man's anticipation as he readies himself to unveil a surprise, the woman's adoration for her lover as she clings to his arm, and the soft quietness that only snowy evenings bring. It's magical, and it's what many girls dream of. A promise of forever, and a little, blue box with a big, diamond ring.

So, who's up for a trip to the bookstore?
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