Category Archives: Shopping

How to Sell Greeting Cards

Fellow card designer Tom Rent alerted me to this hilarious video from the masters at Hallmark about how to sell greeting cards.  Tom and I are freelance card designers who hope to lure away a few card buyers from Hallmark, which is a big dog in my hometown. Sadly, I’ll never be more than a runt of the litter, but a pup can dream, can’t she?  (Freelance is an interesting word from the days of knights in armor. More about that later.) Here’s one of Tom’s cards.

I’m not funny like Tom, but I love photography (and surfing!) so I tend toward the scenic, like this:

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Filed under Art, Commerce, Howto, Shopping

May Your Holidays Be Bright!

Geese fly in their famous v-formation against the backdrop of a full moon and the cheerful lights of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.

In this season, partly dedicated to consumerism, I’m posting this photograph I took this past January of the Country Club Plaza Shopping Center, one of Kansas City’s notable areas.  

The Country Club Plaza was the first shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile.  J.C. Nichols, a residential developer of nearby upscale homes, designed the shopping center after European styles, especially those of Seville, Spain.  More than thirty statues, murals, and tile mosaics adorn the Plaza, as well as major architectural reproductions, such as a half-sized Giralda Tower of Seville (the tallest building in the Plaza).

Even though the Country Club Plaza was designed for automobiles, once you arrive you really need to park your car in one of the garages and walk from store to store.  Pedestrians rule on the Plaza.  Thousands of people live in condominiums and apartments nearby, and the Plaza is always teeming with activity.  I drive by a lot, because my mother-in-law lives nearby, and it’s also on the way to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  I’m not a shopper, though, so I seldom join the throngs, except to go to some of the great restaurants.  A quaint restaurant on the Plaza with fantastic vegetarian food is Eden Alley, which is in the lower level of the Unity Temple. It also has a great people-watching patio outside.

The trend in Kansas City now and elsewhere is to look toward another European design, and that’s mixed use –Situating housing areas, restaurants and stores in the same area, so that you can easily walk to a store or restaurant from your home.  

For more information about the Plaza — Country Club Plaza Shopping Center.   Eden Alley Website.

Kansas City Plaza Christmas Lights Under Full Moon print
Kansas City Plaza Christmas Lights Under Full Moon by catherinesherman

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Filed under Art, Kansas City, Life, Personal, Photography, Shopping

A Greeting Card For Every (Ridiculous) Occasion!

As a fledgling greeting card designer, I thought this was an hilarious video. The end was particularly silly!

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Filed under Entertainment, Humor, Life, Personal, Shopping

Garage Sales

Cleaning out our closets we foudn a lot of great stuff.  Maybe I should give the jeans another chance.

Cleaning out our closets we found a lot of great stuff. Maybe I should try on some of these jeans -- after I haven't eaten for a week.

It’s garage sale season in our part of the world. No matter where you live, I highly recommend going through your closets and basement and setting up shop with what you find. You’ll learn a lot. 

About every five years, my friend Joy and I combine our sale items in her garage or mine. We recycle a lot of great stuff for low, low prices, including toys our kids thought they couldn’t live without like a barely used Xbox game. We never make much money but we have a good time. I’m not a big schmoozer, but I really enjoy the people who shop in my garage. I love to listen to their new uses for my treasures. We hear stories of why they are buying or who will get the items — college dorm, a son’s new home, daughter’s dining room, games to occupy visiting grandchildren, clothes for work and play.

This year my daughter was a big help.  She was motivated to prune her possessions as she prepares to move to California. One of the sad things was seeing all of her no-longer-wanted stuffed animals.  Where did those all come from? And where did my little girl go?

This year, it was so chilly and wet in early May when we had our sale that we almost cancelled. Even the blob in the lava lamp (for sale — only three dollars!) barely bubbled after a couple of hours of warm-up. Traffic was slow at first. We seriously thought of closing down, but we persevered. Joy jammed a new sale sign — bright green neon — in the wet earth on the corner. That brought a flood of customers.

Sandy, a great friend, brought a great, rich cinnamon cake, which lifted our spirits….The hungry teenaged sons of one of our shoppers wanted to buy some of the cake, but Joy offered slices to them for free. Their embarrassed mother added a dollar to the money she paid for her purchases. We tried to give it back.  Really, after a while it seemed ridiculous to charge for stuff we didn’t want any more.  Here, just take this stuff.  Enjoy!  But giving away stuff isn’t easy, as we found out.  People don’t like free, they want to pay at least a dime.

It may be tarnished, but this heart touched my heart when a customer told a touching story.

It may be tarnished, but this heart touched my heart when a customer told a touching story.

We learned:

•Ten cents is more attractive than free. When no one would take a free push broom, Joy put ten cents on it. The next person bought it. Maybe people think free means worthless, but I think people want to pay something.

•People can show you the value of your own discards. A woman holding my small heart box (only a dollar!) told us how a friend had given her a heart box full of heart-warming sayings that she could use whenever she needed one. Of course, I couldn’t sell our heart box after she told me that!

•People will buy items they don’t have any use for if the price is low enough. We sold a marble clock that told the time around the world.

“I don’t know what I need this for,” the buyer laughed. “I never leave Kansas City.”

I warned him that the batteries only lasted about a month. He didn’t care.

•Some people insist on paying full price. Others want a discount no matter how cheap the item is. Still, everyone was gracious and polite, even the hagglers.

•Most importantly, we learned how lucky we are. Near the end of the sale, a woman was looking through a rack of clothing, mostly my daughter’s. She held a pair of jeans to her hips and laughed.

“I know these aren’t my size,” she said in an accent I couldn’t quite place. “They are for my sister. She’s skinnier.”

She brought her choices to the card table, our command post.

“You’re so nice to buy for your sister,” Joy said.

Going, going, gone!  Don't look too closely. You mgiht see some cat hairs.

Going, going, gone! Don't look too closely. You might see some cat hairs.

“She’s lives in Ukraine. It’s hard there. I can’t buy from a store, but I can buy here,” she said. “Now I have five minutes to get back to work!”

I’m glad we stayed open. Sure, we like getting a little money for our decorating detritus, fashion faux pas and bikes ridden only a few times. But what we learned — or re-learned — was priceless.

Lately, a lot of people have been grumbling in our local newspaper about how cheap people are who shop at garage sales, but Joy and I have learned how generous they are — and how grateful we are for what we have.  I know that in the real world of everyday retail, there are a lot of grumpy and whiney people, but luckily so far they haven’t shown up in my garage.

A shorter version of this post was published in the Kansas City Star on May 27, 2009. 

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Filed under Friendship, Kansas City, Life, Personal, Shopping

Frugalista

Children grow so quickly that there was always a market for their "gently worn" clothing.  Now more and more women are buying "vintage" clothing for themselves.  Photo by Cathy Sherman.

Children grow so quickly that there was always a market for their "gently worn" clothing. Now more and more women are buying "vintage" clothing for themselves. This is a Kansas City consignment store, which recently underwent a major renovation and expansion. Business is brisk!

Being frugal is cool these days.  I like the new name — frugalistas, people who are experts at finding frugal ways to enjoy life.  Becoming or remaining debt-free is one of their top goals. (See link below.)

I was born a coupon clipper and a recycler.  There’s a photo of me as an infant with a pair of scissors (blunt, of course) with the caption “Cathy’s first tool”.  OK, I’m just kidding about the photo….. (I did recycle the photo above from my post on consignment stores.)

Couponing and shopping at sales are two obvious ways to save, but only if you buy items or meals you need. (Yes, need is a vague term, which is why our houses are full of stuff we thought we “needed”. )   These days, the half-life of a coupon seems to be about ten days, so some of the joy is gone.  What happened to “No expiration date”?  Of course, companies don’t last that long any more, either.  Being a frugalista is much more than coupon clipping, though.  It’s an attitude. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy life. You don’t need as much as you think.  Sometimes, it’s a decision not to buy something or to find a different, cheaper way to do something you enjoy. 

  • Check out books and movies from the library.  Yes, it means you won’t have a clue about this year’s Academy Awards nominees, since you’ll still be catching up on last year’s.  But so what?  We haven’t rented dvds in years, but I have bought a few dvds that I want to keep. (More on those dvds in a later post, probably entitled “Shameless Promotion”.)
  • Walk in the park.  Kansas City has more than a two hundred miles of walking trails in stream-side parks with lots of access, so that’s easy for us.  You can be a bird-watcher, cheap entertainment.
  • I save the newspaper plastic sleeve and use it to clean out the cat box.  (There’s no way you can make this fun, sorry.)   Plastic grocery bags, if you’re still getting those, can line trash cans, but everyone knows that!
  • Consignment stores.  I’ve bought some great stuff there and sold some stuff, too.

    I'd be lost without my scissors. I have ten pairs, so a pair will always be near.

    I'd be lost without my scissors. I have ten pairs, so a pair will always be near.

  • Garage sales. Yeah, I know, it’s pain in posterior, if you conduct one yourself.  However, sometimes it’s the only way to clear out your house.  You can donate your stuff to charities, which is good, too, but a lot of that stuff gets dumped, unfortunately, because charities don’t have the resources to sort, display, store and distribute the zillions of tons of donated stuff.  When someone invests a dollar for an item in your garage sale, they might actually use it.   There’s also www.freecycle.org  Conversely, you can get some great stuff at garage sales. We’re working on putting together a garage sale right now, because our neighborhood and several others around us are having one May 1-2.  I’m going to try to enjoy it.
  • Eat at home, including making your own espresso and lattes.  I tried giving up coffee, mostly to avoid caffeine withdrawal in the morning, but I just couldn’t do it. I have a cheap machine, but I’m not picky about my foam, which is a good thing because the foamer is clogged. I order my coffee  in bricks by the case from www.cafebustelo.com  with free shipping in the U.S. on orders over $50. I order six months’ worth of ground coffee.  I’m not hung up on grinding it myself. I’m happy if it’s strong and full of caffeine.
  • Since recycling is the theme this week of Earth Day, I’m recycling another blog of a young frugalista from Kansas City who explains how she does it.  She also has other great frugalistas on her blogroll.  Carrie on the Cheap, a young frugalista.

I’m recycling this blog post of mine because I forgot to put tags on it the first time around, Coffee, the Miracle Drink. I’m sure it’s still steaming hot, ha, ha.

 “Austere Times? Perfect” — Article from the New York Times on Frugalistas.

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Filed under Bird-watching, Books, Conservation, Drink, Entertainment, Environment, Food, Howto, Humor, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Money, Personal, Random, Shopping

Earth Day 2009

Black Swallowtail Butterfly on Coneflower Postcard
This black swallowtail butterfly visited my garden.  Now he’s featured in my Zazzle store.

 This is one of my first posts on this blog, first published April 19, 2008.  I’m re-cycling it, in honor of Earth Day on April 22.   It is still a good, somewhat patched-up, usable post with some wear left, I hope. 

The economic meltdown since I wrote this has focused more attention on cutting back, recycling, making-do, re-using, etc., but we’re still nowhere close to the same frugality the Depression-Era and World-War II Era citizens made such an integral part of their lives, even after prosperity returned.

On the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I slipped out of my house at 4 a.m. and hurried to the next street where my good friend Kathy Dawson was waiting for me at her kitchen door.  It was chilly.  Rather than dress sensibly, we were  in our school uniforms — navy blue wool blazers, skirts and knee socks — as we began our thirteen-mile trek to our high school, Mt. Carmel Academy, a Catholic girls’ school where we were seniors. (There was a much closer high school within walking distance that we could have attended.)  We soon left the comfort of Derby’s streetlights, crossing into the darkness of fields and pastures.  We trudged in the ditch along Rock Road, passing the chain-link fences of McConnell Air Force Base.  We picked up our pace as we reached Eastgate Shopping Center in Wichita.  Traffic was getting heavier.  There was nowhere to walk.

What were we thinking?  This was no fun.  Four hours after starting, we finally reached school just as the first bell rang.  We hustled to our desks, exhausted, rumpled and relieved.  We wanted to save gasoline for just one day to show our concern for the environment, although we did catch a ride home with our regular carpool.   We knew how limited our lives would be without cars and how our lives were not set up for walking or biking, but we were already living fairly frugal lives because of the way we were raised.  The following is an off-the-rack standard issue lament about consumerism. If I were you, I’d just go outside right now and enjoy nature!

Our parents lived through the Depression and World War II rationing.  Frugality was second nature to them.  They slowly and cautiously accumulated the comforts of technology and abundance.  The baby boomers left that caution and frugality behind.  On average, we had smaller families, but built bigger homes with all of the trimmings.  Our expectations grew.  We sought frequent vacations far more exotic than those old driving trips to Grandma’s house.  Cheap energy, an explosion in innovation and far-off labor created thousands of new gadgets that soon became a necessity — we recorded our children’s every move, cell phones for everyone, televisions with a hundred channels in almost every room.  Computers gave us instant access to the world.  Food arrived from all over the globe in every season.  Will we change?  We don’t even know how to do to make much of a difference. (See the link to “Why Bother?” below.)  It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.

We have to get back to the spirit of the first Earth Day.  Appreciating the simple.  Understanding the long-term consequences of our choices.  Acknowledging and respecting what the earth gives to us. It’s the only planet we have. Since I wrote this, I’ve been to Australia and New Zealand, which I know makes me sound like a hypocrite, because that took a lot of energy and resources.  Do I wish I hadn’t gone.  No!  Do I feel guilty? Yes.  Would I like to do it again?  Yes, but I probably won’t because it’s expensive. I do try to enjoy what I have right here at home — most of the time.

Will I walk again rather drive to my destination on Earth Day this year?  Unlikely.  I live in suburbia, at least a couple of miles from everywhere I usually visit.   I’m dependent on a car.  Biking in the traffic isn’t safe, as least not for a scaredy cat like me.  In the heart of cities I’ve walked almost everywhere –Chicago, New York, Boston — I do love walking.  It was great to have everything so close — for a while.  Then I tired of walking in the rain, hauling groceries a couple of miles, not knowing how to transport anything large.   I was happy to leave the noise and the congestion behind.  My car seems like freedom, but I’m trapped by it, too.  As gasoline costs climb higher again, I’m being even more careful about the trips I take.  There’s no public transportation in my neighborhood, and won’t be until people are desperate for it and demand it.

One really important thing we suburbanites can do, as Michael Pollan (“Why Bother?) suggests, is turn part of our suburban lawns into gardens, which is what we’ve gradually been doing. More on that later.   (In memory of Kathy. I still miss her so much.)

Why Bother?” is a link to a story in the New York Times by Michael Pollan.

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Filed under Birds, Conservation, Environment, History, Humor, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Relationships, Shopping, Writing

I’m Addicted to Digital

My Newest Addiction!

My newest addiction! My photographs are the tabby cat in the second row and the Texas waffle in the third row. After all of the "arty" photographs I've taken and submitted, I never dreamed that my two most popular photographs, featured on the RedBubble home page, would be my cat and a waffle I made for my breakfast.

Last month, I stumbled across a photographer’s blog that mentioned the RedBubble art and photography website, so I checked it out — then I signed up.  Now, I can’t stay away from it.  The amount of incredible excellent art and photography on cyberspace is mind-boggling — and from teenagers, even.  

If only we’d had digital photography and computers when I was a kid.  (We did have electric typewriters with correction tape.  And boy did I need the tape! ) All of my hard-earned darkroom skills are now archaic.  Using film, an enlarger and developing chemicals these days is like listening to your music on vinyl disks.  You have to be hard-core to do it.  I love the instant gratification as well as the ability to edit in so many ways in digital photography!  We “edited”  in the film darkroom, too, but it was limited.  And I only did black and white.   (I won’t even go into cameras.  More on that later.)

I dsicovered that birds are an extremely popular photography subject.  You need a twist.  Here, a cardinal holds on for dear life as he's buffeting in a snow storm on a pear tree branch. encrusted with ice The blossoms are covered with snow.

Birds are an extremely popular photography subject. You need a twist to stand out from the flock. I took this photograph of a cardinal holding on for dear life as he's buffeted in an early spring snow storm on a pear tree branch outside my kitchen window. You can't see the detail here, but the blossoms are covered with snow and the branches encrusted with ice. The poor cardinal, as brave as he is, is probably too common.

I started with Flickr, but I love RedBubble’s Aussie cheekiness.   Etsy is fun, too. (I discovered Kenna Foster on Etsy. She’s also on Flickr.  She’s on my blogroll. Check her out!)  I don’t know how many photography and art sites are online, but there must be tens of thousands of photographers and artists looking at and commenting on one another’s work, everyone from professionals to the people posting their first work.  It’s inspiring, overwhelming and humbling at the same time.

This photograph of Paddington with his mis-matched eyes has been very popular.  Paddington is tired of me pursuing him with a camera and is going to take out a restraining order against me.

My photograph of Paddington with his mis-matched eyes has been very popular with other cat owners and lovers. Paddington is tired of me pursuing him with a camera and is going to take out a restraining order against me.

On RedBubble or Etsy, there’s a chance that someone will see one of your great photographs or artworks and decide that they can’t live without it. On Etsy, the artists themselves produce and deliver the work.  

If you order through RedBubble, RB produces and ships the art as a card, print, canvas, calendar or poster.  I suspect that much of the art sold on RB is to the artists and photographers themselves.  I bought my own photograph (below) of the View from the Sydney Tower on canvas.  Those RedBubble people know what they’re doing!

Anyone who signs up for RedBubble (It’s free) can also get a free photography website, which is very cool.  You can organize your photos into galleries.  It was incredibly simple.  You can join a huge number of specialty groups on RB, such as landscapes, sunsets and sunrises, wildlife, doors and windows, old theaters, rivers, pets, food, skies  — in fact not even the sky is the limit.   Each group has sub-sets, too.  There are groups with minimal standards, and there are groups by invitation only, and everything in between.

I like to photograph oddball things, such as this van parked at Bondi Beach in Sydney.  I think the driver is trying to contact the mother ship.

I like to photograph oddball things, such as this van parked at Bondi Beach in Sydney. I think the driver is trying to contact the mother ship.

Featured photographs and art usually are exceptional, awe-inspiring, off-beat, fresh or eye-popping or else tug at your heart-strings (or else the person who selected it just took the next artwork that came along…..)

I know many of you out there are photographers.  What is your favorite photography website?  What are your favorite subjects. What do you do with all of your photographs? Do you print many?  Why do you take photographs?  I wanna know!  If you want to see a RedBubble website, here’s mine.  I’m still working on it.  My favorite gallery is “Fun Stuff”.  Catherine Sherman Photography.

RedBubble.      Flickr.   Etsy.  Beholden to Nature – Kenna Foster Photography.

Thanks to my daughter for saving the RedBubble screen shot for me.

I thought this view from the Sydney Tower was spectacular, but the number of spectacular photographs in cyberspace seems to be infinite!

I thought my photograph of this view from the Sydney Tower was spectacular, but the number of spectacular photographs in cyberspace seems to be infinite!

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Filed under Art, Entertainment, Howto, Internet, Life, Photography, Random, Shopping

Cutting Edge — How to Use a Straight Razor

This is my son Matt's straight razor and shaving cup, soap, brush and strop.  He says that using a straight razor produces a cheaper and better shave, although it takes three times longer than with an electric razor.

This is my son Matt's straight razor and shaving cup, soap, brush and strop. He says that using a straight razor produces a cheaper and better shave, although it takes three times longer than with a cartridge blade or an electric razor. Link to Straight Edge Razor Father's Day card at the bottom of this post.

                                                                                                                                                                                           My son Matt and his friends love metal — and I’m not talking about music.

They love steel, silver, iron — anything they can forge, hammer, bend and weld. They use words like anneal, temper, ductile, malleable, hone, forge.

They’re fascinated with bladesmithing, such as the labor-intensive process of forging the katana, the long sword the samurai carry.  Matt bought a couple of replica katanas when we visited Japan, but it’s just not the same as the real thing.  They had no cutting edge — all show and no go.  (But they were so much cheaper!)

Matt and two of his friends have brought their appreciation of a sharp edge to their daily routine by using a straight edge razor to shave.  Matt ordered his online, while one friend got his at a pawn shop. 

“I think of my razor as a really high quality knife,” Matt says.  “It’s generally about as sharp as a knife can get.”

Japanese Katana Sword.

Japanese Katana Sword.

Matt bought a DOVO Black Star with a pakkawood handle, made of high carbon tempered steel with a blade that’s five-eighths of an inch wide. It’s full hollow ground, which means that the faces of the blade are ground to make it as thin as possible.

“I wanted a better, cheaper alternative to normal shaving,” Matt says.  “The choice was between a straight razor and a safety razor.”

Matt likes to learn new, unusual skills, so that was another factor.

“How long did it take you to get the hang of it?” I ask.  The thing looks dangerous.  I’ve seen what a straight edge razor can do in “Sweeney Todd”.  (Matt says that a true fan of a straight razor would never ruin a blade by using it like that.)

“It took about three weeks to stop cutting myself at least once every shave,” Matt says.

This is from an advertisement for a DOVO razor.  The guy looks pretty calm, considering someone else is holding a razor to his neck.

This is from an advertisement for a DOVO razor. The guy looks pretty calm, considering someone else is holding a razor to his neck.

Matt describes the basic procedure:  “Strop your razor a dozen times, first on the canvas side and then on the leather side.  I usually skip the canvas side unless my razor isn’t honed enough. 

Shaving is best after a shower. You want your face to be as wet as possible, so don’t use a towel.  Soak your brush (more on brushes below) in hot water and then swirl it on your bar of soap for ten or so seconds.  Now whip your brush in a bowl that contains a small amount of water.  Whip for 30 to 90 seconds to create a lather.  Apply lather to your face. 

Always shave first in a downward motion with the hair growth.  The chin and upper lip are the hardest parts.  After one pass downward, you can re-lather and shave perpendicular to the hair growth, or shave against the hair growth.  Two or three passes are generally required to get a close shave.  One with the grain, one perpendicular and one against.  I generally only do two passes, one with the grain, one against.

After shaving, splash warm water on your face to remove all of the soap residue, then splash cold water on your face to close your pores.  Then pat dry.  Never wipe dry, or you’ll dry out your skin too much.  You can then apply a facial lotion, if you want.”

What does this Samurai have to do with shaving with a straight razor? Not too much, except that he's cool and used a really sharp sword. This samurai is on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas CIty. Pardon my reflection.

What does this Samurai have to do with shaving with a straight razor? Not too much, except that he's cool and used a really sharp sword. This samurai is on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Pardon my reflection.

In the long run, shaving with a straight razor is cheaper than disposable razors and blades and shaving cream in a can, and there’s a lot less waste.

“My bar of shaving soap, which cost ninety-nine cents at Wal-Mart, will probably last for dozens and dozens of shaves.”

Do the guys still shave as often?  One friend still uses the straight razor — when he shaves.  “He tends to grow beards for a while,” Matt says.

“I still shave about as much as I used to, but if I go for several days, and my facial hair gets long, the razor has no problems cutting through it,” Matt says.  “It doesn’t clog like a normal razor does.”

He admits to using a disposable cartridge if he’s pressed for time.  He may get a safety razor for those times when he’s in a hurry. (Which is probably every time he’s heading to class.)

“But if I have an extra fifteen minutes, it’s certainly more fun to use a straight razor,” he says.

Am I a convert?  Considering  I have more area to mangle and mutilate, I don’t think so……..

There are three grades of badger brushes — pure, best and the top grade of silvertip, Matt says.  Matt has the best badger, which is the middle level.  Badger brushes are softer and hold more water than the cheaper boar hair or synthetic brushes.   

Clean the brush thoroughly after each shave and shake it dry.

“Badger smells like wet dog for the first ten times,” he warns. 

For more information,  go to www.classicshaving.com  and www.shavemyface.com  There’s a whole culture of shaving out there!   For a straight edge razor shaving greeting card using this photograph, go to Straight edge razor Father’s Day card.

 

 

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Filed under Family, Health, Howto, Humor, Life, Personal, Shopping

It’s Always a Great Year for “Vintage” Clothing

 

This shopper is happy with the low price on this lovely skirt at a consignment shop.

This shopper is happy with the low price on this skirt at a Kansas City consignment shop.

It must be in the genes.  My daughter works part-time at a Kansas City consignment store,  just as her grandmother did for many years.  As prices skyrocket, it’s trendy to give a second life to clothing that’s “gently worn” and still high style.  Grandma is on a first-name basis with Saks and Nieman, but has supplemented her stylish wardrobe with pieces from Act II, a high-end designer store in Kansas City, where she worked part-time. 

As a teenager, my daughter got started on her “vintage” clothing buying spree at The Wasteland on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in 2001.  We were turned on to the area by my good college friend Jan, who also took us to the huge Aaardvark’s Odd Ark in Pasadena. (Yes, there are three As in a row.) My daughter was hooked!  I did well myself, grabbing a great black leather motorcycle jacket for $11.

A Kansas City Star photographer snaps Mrs. L in a Fashion Focus as she walks on the Country Club Plaza.

On the Country CLub Plaza, a Kansas City Star photographer captures Mrs. L. in his lens for a Fashion Focus.

There’s something about the word “vintage” that makes used clothes sound fabulous.  The whole re-sale shopping experience has inspired new euphemisms for used, old, recycled, cast-off, outgrown, discarded and unwanted, but who cares?  You can get some great stuff!

My daughter’s consignment shop is mid-range and has been selling infant, children’s and women’s clothing and accessories for more than twenty years.  She buys or uses her store credit to get a batch of “new” clothes a couple of times a month.  She also consigns clothes she no longer wants.  What she can’t consign she’ll take to a thrift shop.  She’s so hooked on “vintage” fashion and its affordability, she barely thinks of buying new.  In the Kansas City area, there are more than a dozen clothing consignment shops and dozens of thrift shops.

Happy shopper outside The Wasteland, a thrift shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

Shopper outside The Wasteland consignment shop on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles.

 She and her boyfriend, both recent college graduates, also have been hitting the neighborhood garage sales.  They have a “new” stereo, “new” bike and plenty of other thrifty finds. Link to a New York Times story about consignment shops: When Conscience and Closet Collide

Check out www.petenrepeat.com

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Filed under Life, Shopping

Earth Day

Female cardinal waits her turn at the feeder on a pear tree outside my kitchen window. Photo by Cathy Sherman.

A female cardinal perches outside my kitchen window in a flowering pear tree.

On the first Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22, 1970, I slipped out of my house at 4 a.m. and hurried to the next street where my good friend Kathy Dawson was waiting for me at the door of her house.  We were chilly in our school uniforms — navy blue wool blazers and skirts — as we began our thirteen-mile trek to our high school, Mt. Carmel Academy, where we were seniors.  We soon left the comfort of Derby’s streetlights, crossing into the darkness of fields and pastures.  We trudged in the ditch along Rock Road, passing the chain-link fences of McConnell Air Force Base.  We picked up our pace as we reached Eastgate Shopping Center in Wichita.  Traffic was getting heavier.  There was nowhere to walk.  What were we thinking?  This was no fun.  Four hours after starting, we finally reached school just as the first bell rang.  We hustled to our desks, exhausted but satisfied.  We wanted to save gasoline for just one day to show our concern for the environment, although we did catch a ride home with our regular carpool.   We realized how limited our lives would be without cars and how our lives were not set up for walking or biking, but we were already living fairly frugal lives because of the way we were raised.

Our parents lived through the Depression and World War II rationing.  Frugality was second nature to them.  They slowly and cautiously accumulated the comforts of technology and abundance.  The baby boomers left that caution and frugality behind.  On average, we had smaller families, but built bigger homes with all of the trimmings.  Our expectations grew.  We sought frequent vacations far more exotic than those old driving trips to Grandma’s house.  Cheap energy, an explosion in innovation and far-off labor created thousands of new gadgets that soon became a necessity — we recorded our children’s every move, cell phones for everyone, televisions with a hundred channels in almost every room.  Computers gave us instant access to the world.  Food arrived from all over the globe in every season.  Will we change?  We don’t even know how to do to make much of a difference. (See the link to “Why Bother?” above.)  It’s possible, but it won’t be easy.

We have to get back to the spirit of the first Earth Day.  Appreciating the simple.  Understanding the long-term consequences of our choices.  Acknowledging and respecting what the earth gives to us. It’s the only planet we have.

Will I walk again rather drive to my destination on Earth Day this year?  Unlikely.  I live in suburbia, at least a couple of miles from everywhere I usually visit.   I’m dependent on a car.  Biking in the traffic isn’t safe, as least not for a scaredy cat like me.  In the heart of cities I’ve walked almost everywhere –Chicago, New York, Boston — I do love walking.  It was great to have everything so close — for a while.  Then I tired of walking in the rain, hauling groceries a couple of miles, not knowing how to transport anything large.   I was happy to leave the noise and the congestion behind.  My car seems like freedom, but I’m trapped by it, too.  As gasoline costs climb higher again, I’m being even more careful about the trips I take.  There’s no public transportation in my neighborhood, and won’t be until people are desperate for it and demand it.

One really important thing we suburbanites can do, as Michael Pollan (“Why Bother?) suggests, is turn part of our suburban lawns into gardens, which is what we’ve gradually been doing. More on that later.   (In memory of Kathy. I still miss her so much.)

Why Bother?” is a link to a story in the New York Times by Michael Pollan.

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