Sunday, December 14, 2008

Quick Trip to the California Coast

It is pretty incredible that the tenth most popular article today on the New York Times front page is about a tiny little town in Northern California. It is even more incredible that the same tiny little town, a "Utopia by the Sea," is so close to my heart. There are few places on the California coast that remain as unspoiled yet are still so comfortably livable as this small town. If you ever have the chance to travel to The Sea Ranch, you will not be disappointed by its beauty. Enjoy the article!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Make Marshmallows, Not War

Hammacher Schlemmer not only wins a prize for the hardest catalog to pronounce, but also for some of the most random products for purchase. Although I was initially a bit annoyed that I received the catalog (one among so many I never asked for and thought I had stopped) in the end it has brought me some giggles on a day when I have been under the weather. From the $100 Star Wars Nutcracker Set to the Rotating Dual Disco Ball, I just have to wonder who buys this stuff, particularly in these hard economic times. The catalog is not without useful products, but they are often of the type you did not realize you needed until you suddenly had to have it (although I can forever do without anything Thomas Kinkade.)

The most fantastic item in the catalog? The 40 Foot Marshmallow Blaster, which includes a carrying case to take your marshmallow games on the road! This pump-gun should not be confused, of course, with the Marshmallow Shooter, Bazooka or Shooting Shortbow. Choose your preferred size marshmallow and recruit an army! I have to admit, as much as I wonder who came up with this idea, I can imagine a family having some holiday fun with these shooters! I know my family would have. In fact, I just might have to order some...

Monday, December 01, 2008

Boho: No-GO

I was happy to finally come across a print version of Boho magazine in San Francisco over the weekend, but my pleasure was short lived. I may be hyper-critical, but I had much higher expectations of this allegedly eco-conscious magazine with a "new american spirit." While the paper may be recycled, the magazine itself is lacking in useful content.

The fashion, for the most part, is lacking in environmentally friendly clothing, and, well, is just plain weird. There are a few exceptions that are quite beautiful, but these pieces are far outweighed by hippie clothes with no hints of modernity. The best part of the magazine is an article about Teens for Safe Cosmetics, a wonderful activist group. Unfortunately, other articles in the magazine seem to forget the aims of this group, on one page suggesting products that contain harmful ingredients, on another advocating semi-permanent lash enhancements. I'm sure that glue is not the healthiest thing in the world! The gift guide is so-so, but I'm sure it is blown out of the water by other magazines like Plenty.

I guess I just see no reason why this magazine needs to be printed. It is so hard to tell the content from the (too frequent) advertisements, they would probably do just as well staying online. I will not be purchasing this magazine again, and sadly, this issue is going right into the recycle bin.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Wish You Were a Baller?

Green gift of the season for guys? An environmentally friendly basketball. In the airport today I saw that both Plenty and Boho magazines listed the Wilson Rebound in their gift guides. With "Think Globally, Hoop Locally" printed on the 40% recycled rubber basketball, Wilson seems to be making an eco-effort this year. Props to Wilson for packaging this ball in 80% pre or post consumer board, but is external packaging even necessary?

Being ahead of trends as always (j/k), I actually bought a "green" basketball as a gift at the beginning of this month. I have to gloat for a minute because I think, overall, my choice was a better one. Not only are the basketballs from Fair Trade Sports made from "eco-certified rubber exterior and interior" but the hands that crafted them are full-grown. Yes, these are Fair Trade and vegan, for only $4.00 more than the Wilson ball. Plus, you are supporting a small company dedicated to "eco-certified Fair Trade sports balls" and philanthropy, not a giant company that is perhaps trying to do some Greenwashing to appease customers.

One could argue that the Wilson might be more readily available in stores, but I am going to bet that you might have to order it online just as you would the Fair Trade Sports basketball. I do not know how the FTS ball is packaged, however, so I am interested in finding out whether it is consistent with the company's claimed values.

So, if you know someone who would love a basketball, keep these options in mind!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Grazie Mille

The heritage turkey is cooking, cranberry sauce setting and the pumpkin pies are out of the dog's reach. Soon we will feast in one of the most incredible places on the California coastline, if not the country and the world. I do feel blessed, today and always.

Though it may not always be perfect, my reality, my life is pretty fantastic. I have the most supportive and loving family I could ever desire. We are all happy and healthy. Though I have not seen them this holiday, thinking of my young niece and nephew fills my heart with joy. Today my 81-year-old grandmother practiced using her cell phone with me. A small, thing, yes, but so important to me nonetheless. My friends, quite spread out, are some of the most amazing people I know. I cherish my time with them and I look forward to so many more years of memories in the making.

I am thankful for friends and family every year, every day. This year there, however, I am so proud to be thankful for my country and the election. My parents showed me a poster of Barack Obama that they had bought in Paris, when they were actually able to see him in October. Talk about something to be thankful for! I truly believe we will not be disappointed. I am excited and eager to be closer to the change for which I am so thankful. (And, I will thank in advance anyone who will help me get there!)

I know the question is overused but what are you thankful for this year? Hey, you know what else I'm thankful for? The comment I might get on this post! ;)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Time to Start Dropping Those Jewelry Hints

I usually make my morning coffee at home with my old-fashioned Italian stovetop espresso maker, but I ran out of beans last week. Instead of rushing out to buy new brew, I have placed an order with Grounds for Change, thanks to Miles. So, this morning I ventured across the street to grab a latte at Starbucks.

Each week I look forward to seeing the new Good Sheet in my local Starbucks or online. In this edition about the "Holiday Economy" I learned that jewelry sales in November and December of 2007 were $9.3 billion. That is a lot of jewelry. A lot of expensive, run of the mill rocks mined using unfriendly environmental practices that are then made fancy by workers not earning a living wage. This year make a better decision for the world and your wallet: Melissa Joy Manning. MJM believes in "ethical business practices and green resources" and all of its beautiful workers make a living wage and have better benefits than I have. The company is also dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs, education and the environment through its philanthropic ventures.

But really, I would not be telling you about these business practices if the jewelry was not truly spectacular. I realize not everyone likes the dirty look of a raw diamond or a freeform necklace made from bright pink calcite, but I personally have not seen as many unique and colorful pieces as the company makes. Even the hoop earrings are special and reasonably priced.

This year, if everyone bought their jewelry online from Melissa Joy Manning, saving 15% using the code "artisan," I bet we might actually reduce the $12.8 billion of debt incurred during the last two months of 2007!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Vegas: Suspending Reality, One Flower at a Time

Upon arriving in Las Vegas most people's realities are suspended. Some visitors may even believe that the hotels are representative of the cities after which they are named. Though there might be gondolas at the Venetian, the nighttime revelers will not see a cluster of fifty pigeons huddles together in Piazza San Marco, trying to keep warm. While some of my trip must abide by the "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" motto, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite things to see there.

The Conservatory at the Bellagio never ceases to amaze me. Every season the hotel changes the theme of its Conservatory, and it never fails to be incredible. I may have nightmares about the strange creature in the bottom picture, but he certainly fits in with the Vegas theme of fantasy.

Next time you are in the city, stop by the Bellagio to see the display, preferably after dark as the magic is just that much greater. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shopping for Eco-Wines: Easier than You Think

With the holiday season quickly approaching your wine purchases might be on the rise. I always try to seek out the organic wines but usually end up throwing in the towel. The November 2008 issue of Natural Health magazine shared some wisdom to help make wise selections, particularly since labels may not be clear when a wine is sustainably produced.

The following companies distribute wines produced using low-impact farming methods, and the wines are organic or bio-dynamic: Louis/Dressner (French, Italian, Portuguese), Mad Rose Group, Michael Skurnik and Kermit Lynch. If you have time to wait for shipping, The Organic Wine Company has a wonderful selection, much more diverse than If you are in a rush and can't be bothered to check the distributor, never fear! Grab a bottle of Bonny Doon, Grgich Hills, Cline or Tablas Creek.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Living for the Process, Not the End

The Monster of Florence is the true tale of Douglas Preston, a sci-fi thriller author, and the mystery he uncovers when he and his family move to Tuscany. Right in the middle of this crime story Preston shares one of life's greatest truths: "Life [is] more about the process of living than reaching some end result." Sometimes we forget this; I know I do. We think about what we do in terms of where it will get us, what it will get us. Rarely do we act without an agenda, be it good or bad.

Today I did something I thought was harmless, yet in truth my action was spurred by a desired end result, not the process of positively developing a relationship. Did I get what I wanted? Of course not - I just created something annoying that could have been avoided had I lived for the moment and thought about something besides my own agenda. My tunnel vision would never see the end it desired.

In a results-oriented world, it can be very hard to focus on "the now" and to just enjoy the present. Preston talks about how the simple task of shopping for groceries changed when he moved to Florence; instead of one big supermarket haul he had to go from vendor to vendor, shop to shop to gather all of his provisions. Instead of striving for the end result of a quick trip with lots of food, Preston focused on the people he encountered, the recipes he learned, and the new foods he tried as a result of enjoying the process of shopping.

We don't need to engulf ourselves in a different culture in order to experience this. All we need to do is remember that focusing on the process will achieve the best end result and will be more enjoyable along the way. Every conversation, every decision, every reaction is a part of the process. Living life to its fullest every day is the only way to make reality fantastic.

I can't think of a better example of this right now than President-elect Barack Obama. Clearly, he had an end in mind over the past two years of campaigning, yet I strongly believe that he took it day by day and focused on the process of what he was doing instead of that big White House awaiting him. Like Obama, let's take our time going from vendor to vendor.


Reality can be mediocre, even crappy, yet I believe in highlighting that which is fantastic. I got tired of letting other people dictate what I was reading and writing about on other blogs, so I decided it was high time to start my own! Sometimes I might stray from this and gripe, but I promise to always attempt to offer a positive spin, or at least to ask readers for theirs. At times my posts will be serious, other times just plain frivolous, but this contrast makes for an adventure. From politics to products, relationships to travel, I hope to be sometimes helpful, sometimes entertaining and sometimes even perhaps clueless (and when I am, set me straight.)  Sometimes I might just ramble to hear myself talk, but hey that might save some of my relationships!  

So, thank you for being among the first to read my blog!