November 28, 2011
How convenient! Cyber Monday. As if a stampeding herds of human cattle on Black Friday weren’t enough! We now have another great marketing invention (born in the reality of an emerging habit and cultivated in the petri dish of “what makes American shoppers tick.” There were no fewer than 10 emails in my Hotmail account when I woke up this morning, all of them offering a wicked deal today. Even the hotels points programs aren’t missing a beat, offering me a special rate on my next stay…if I book NOW.
Materialism aside (my mother-in-law informed all her children over Thanksgiving that we are very materialistic; note to self), the reality is that we all have shopping lists, people for whom we need to buy (including the mother-in-law), and a budget with which to do it. So, whether or not you’ve waited til today to check out your favorite online shopping destinations, first go make your list, then at least give online retailers a shot. My favorites for working moms who undoubtedly are managing “THE LIST” for the household……
- AMAZON! Rob and I signed up for Amazon’s Prime program this year. Yes, it costs $80 but with Christmas, the last minute needs, and our — ehem — struggle with instant gratification, it is more than paying for itself for us. We have quite literally bought everything from a massive table saw (that had to be delivered in an 18-wheeler) to… well, duh… books. Amazon is also great for LEGOS, as we have several Lego obsessed children in the Klause/Joss clan.
- Ten Thousand Villages! I’ve talked about Ten Thousand Villages numerous times on this blog. After joining the Board of Directors last year, I tested out the online store for Christmas 2010. Not only were the small jewelry items I purchased perfectly wrapped and protected, but the home decor items came beautifully packaged with small tag descriptors that told a story about where each item originated and the artisans who helped to create it.
- Victoria’s Secret — Even if you’re not gearing up for the big Fashion Show this week, and in spite of the fact that telling all your Facebook friends what color bra you wear is so 2009, Victoria’s Secret continues to be where I like to get my girly on. Lately, my obsession has been pajamas. I have at least 4 sets of PJs from Victoria’s Secret– nothing X rated (much to Rob’s dismay), although one set is leopard print. My SIL over at BigRedKitchen might be the recipient of some new jammies this year. This usually stylish, hot mama revealed to me that she has been wearing the same moumou/t-shirt to bed for 10 years.
- Lilly’sKids — yes, you read that right. Christmas sweaters and kitschy decor aside, the Kids section of Lillian Vernon really has some adorable, personalized items, especially for girls. I’ve bought personalized gifts like sleeping bags, roller suitcases, flip flops, beach towels, water bottles and pencils. And it is actually PROOF that I took the time and ordered in advance to get my niece’s name on everything! And let’s face it… PotteryBarn took this good idea and perfected it even more… Lilly’s kids is just a heck of a lot cheaper.
Clearly, there are no earthshattering sites here. This Mama could use some new ideas but these have served me well over the last 5 years! My goal this year is to actually uncover some new online gems to help me complete the list… (more on that Excel sheet later!)
Happy (Cyber) Monday!
November 26, 2011
I remember the Ann Taylor store at Union Station. And I remember the gorgeous black and white suit with nautical buttons and a flirty skirt. My first big girl suit purchase in a big city. It was the Spring of 1992. I was a college student spending a semester in Washington, D.C. And I needed a suit, because I was going to meet Barbara Bush.
It’s 20 years later and that Ann Taylor store is still there, at the same spot. Now, when I’m in Union Station rushing for the Acela, I cannot peer up at the second floor shop without remembering that purchase. Of course, Ann Taylor is far more ubiquitous these days….way beyond Washington, D.C.
Monica Hesse’s Washington Post Style section focus on Ann Taylor as the stalwalt of fashion — the “old faithful” of working women shopping in DC. — really nailed the reality of reliable, affordable, fashionable (but not too fashionable) working woman dressing.
Wouldn’t we all like to have a personal stylist? To appear in the pages of Capitol File? That’s likely not the reality for working moms across the region and Hesse recognizes that.
Instead, we do our best. We strive to fall somewhere in between Carrie Bradshaw and Clair Huxtable. We stretch our dollars with a little bit of fancy, a little bit of practical, a little bit of haute, and a lot of reliable. We mix in a little Nordstrom (online for me!), White House Black Market, Neiman (if we’re lucky) and yes, Ann.
November 8, 2011
When I joined the Board of Directors of Ten Thousand Villages, I expected to tap into my Mennonite heritage. I even knew it would be an opportunity to give back, using my skill set, for the cause of fair trade. What I didn’t expect was how much I would be educated on the difficult and messy work of finding sustainable, talented grassroots artisans and bringing their stories and products to North American markets.
Fresh off our Board trip to Lima, Peru, my heart is both proud and heavy because of the work we do. In all of our meetings – from the coiled wool weavers in Lima to the silversmith jeweler who works with his son in a back alley of Cusco — these artisans told us that Ten Thousand Villages accounts for the bulk of their business. They are able to send their children to University and hire more workers in a land of 40% unemployment because we have found them, spend time training them, and pay up front.
Most of these shops are small, largely undiscovered, and have relative degrees of sophistication — a combination which makes it difficult to break into North American markets. Most big retailers frankly won’t take the time or invest in the logistics of bringing these small shops their business.
Working with ethical, fair-trade minded groups like the Ten Thousand Villages network means access to North American markets ..and a chance to obtain many of the values and goals that truly know no borders… family advancement.. university….a good job…a fair wage…pride in one’s work. Turns out that people like Juan Carlos in Cusco, Peru are just like us.
July 4, 2011
Just like Katy Perry (and the Beach Boys before her) made everyone long to live on the Gold Coast, anyone with a little girl who steps inside the new Washington, D.C. American doll store in Tysons could go off the deep end of pure American consumerism in the name of their little darling.
Confession! I am not immune to this. From our NYC visit of the chain’s flagship store to the purchase of the 2008 “Mia” Doll-of-the-Year to our recent pre-opening lunch at the Tysons store, I can get swooned into the American Girl culture. Wholesome, yes. Affordable? That’s debatable (and that’s why we are buying no more.)
But it was fun to experience the new store. Thanks to my friend Carrie, who knows the store café’s new chef, we got the royal treatment. He must have fed us one of everything on the menu. From special high chairs for one’s own doll, loaners dolls if you forgot yours (because no one wants to be without an 18 inch companion), to doll holders on the walls in the bathroom stalls, they thought of nearly everything for the 10-and-under set. The café is light and airy – almost like a flowery Silver Diner — and the store is warm and welcoming.
It’s a fun destination trip. But my advice is: Visit sparingly…oh, and set expectations ahead of time with your American Girl. Something like this: “Honey, I will absolutely NOT be buying that $125 bed for the doll. ”
On a related note….Want to be a grown up American Girl (Woman, actually) and you have some dead presidents to blow this Fourth of July? Great! You can always invest in this Balmain jacket…for a mere $21,555. Now that’s Patriotism, compliments of the Zoe report!
June 27, 2011
At the House of Klause we celebrate Halfy birthdays. I mean, why not? Aren’t our loved ones worth celebrating more than once a year? We don’t go overboard. In fact, it’s my Halfy birthday and all I received is a rousing rendition of “Halfy Birthday.” My six year old, she’ll demand more in 4 days when hers arrives.
Halfy birthdays actually provide good reflection time as well. While the last six months have been filled with birthday celebrations with all my girlfriends (as witnessed by photos below), our true milestones haven’t *really* changed yet. Two of my best friends just had babies, another is running her first marathon. Professionally, I am in a great spot! Kids are thriving. Parents are healthy. Life is full. This truly is the sweet spot of life.
April 29, 2011
This morning was the morning! I really am not a huge Royal Watcher. Unlike my SIL Robin, over at Big Red Kitchen, I don’t know all the names of the Queen’s children and grandchildren (e.g. Crazy Hat Beatrice). But when I was little, I woke up early to watch Diana walk down the aisle. I remember it vividly, snuggled in bed with my mom, watching it unfold on the TV. And so it was decreed that my daughter would have the same experience as Kate Middleton wed Prince William. Hence, a SLEEPOVER at Auntie Robin’s with cousin Daelyn. Because there is something about catching it LIVE.
Like I did with my children as our President took the oath of office, we stuck the girls in front of the TV as Catherine walked the aisle.
There will be a thousand photos etched in everyone’s memories of today’s event. Mine will be of William and Catherine, yes, but more importantly will be of sharing the moments with my…wait for it…. princess.
April 5, 2011
Bridal and Baby Showers are almost always lovely — some more extravagant than others. I was recently at The Milton Inn in Sparks, Maryland for my cousin Jill’s wedding shower. And until then, I can’t remember the last time I have taken a full afternoon to just lunch with the ladies.
No silly games, no embarrassing stories for Jill. Just fellowship…for her (as she made her way among the tables to visit with everyone) ..and for us.. (of course I lost track of how much coffee I sipped).
With a big family like the one from which my mom and Jill’s dad originate (12 siblings), family functions are lively and meaningful. But twice a year gatherings are not enough. Bring on more weddings! More baby showers! I could get used to “Lunching with the Aunties” on a regular basis.
January 20, 2011
I’ve lifted this entirely from NYMagazine. but I have to say I go ga-ga every time Michelle makes at entrance for a big State Dinner. She has a way of striking the right fashion tone in her choices.
By Amy Odell
The Obamas with President Hu Jintao.Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
The State Dinner honoring the Republic of China is underway in Washington, and Michelle Obama has emerged for another super-glamorous State Dinner moment wearing a stunning Alexander McQueen gown, which could be a commercial version of a look like No. 29 from the label’s 2011 resort collection. She had good reason to get extra fashionable tonight, since the guest list includes Anna Wintour and Vera Wang.
January 12, 2011
When was the last time I really explored (let alone even wondered about) the process or story behind any of the things I consume, wear, even give? I will be the first to admit that I’ve become way too accustomed to relying on a few mass retailers for holiday (and post-Christmas sale) shopping. For me, it’s Target, Nordstrom (so much so they’ve offered me a Personal Shopper – eek!), BananaRepublic. It’s a good bet that most of what I have purchased came through mass production somewhere, likely China.
But even as I look at the full year ahead of me, as I teach my children to think about the concepts of consuming, creating, giving, I really need to do a better job myself — even if in little ways — of living an appreciation for others’ small stories which may help us to think beyond ourselves. I know of one very good place to start. It’s the retailer Ten Thousand Villages and its specific mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries and connecting them to our markets in meaningful ways.
Having tried it out for Christmas, I see they also have some great post-holiday deals. I found some earrings for my Sister in Law who wanted some hoops and gifts to replenish my gift box (of things I love and want to have on hand to give as small gestures of friendship and thanks). Here are the beautifully etched earrings I found from Indonesia. They tell a story of the APIKRI artisan group, located in Indonesian cities known for craft production.
Ten Thousand Villages actually provides not only a photo of the artisans, but a bit of their stories . Even though I will never know their life, Ten Thousand Villages connects me to them in a small way, perhaps to better appreciate their human experience.
Next post… I will explore some of my other Little Finds at Ten Thousand Villages.
June 30, 2010
Every time I head to NYC (I am on the Acela as I type this), I fret over what to wear. My summer tendancy to only wear white suits battles with the practical and painful lessons I’ve learned over years of day trips — sensible shoes, black pants, carry only one bag. I stood half naked in my closet at 4:30 AM this morning for at least 10 minutes fretting over my (lack of) choices.
As such, in the last two months, a few things have made it clear how hopelessly safe I play it when it comes to fashion. First, the Couture for a Cure Fashion Show, of which Microsoft was a sponsor, had me salavating.. Here’s a quick look at the evening with some colleagues and new friends taking part in the fun..
And if there is anything that makes me want to go shopping, it’s a good Sex and the City episode — or in this case, movie. My SIL Robin, over at BigRedKitchen, hosted a Girls Night and we actually went out to the movie (you have to understand how rare this is for me!)
I know most critics panned it (Time called it gaudy and shallow), but I’m not sure what exactly they were expecting. It was gaudy… the palatial hotel, the 5 changes of clothing per scene. It was mostly shallow (e.g. Charlotte’s fretting over her ruined vintage Valentino white skirt), but isn’t a little mix of that really what we’re after in a chick flick. At least I was. At the moment in time. And Big was there in all his glory (and so finely dressed, I might add), so I couldn’t have been happier! For me, the movie was pure Eye Candy.
As far as my trip to NYC today. What am I wearing? The boring black “PR Girl” uniform/pant suit. Alas….