Friday, February 27, 2009

Parenting Tip #2 - How to Dislodge a Bead up the Nose

It's been a rough week here. Dearly Beloved has had a tough month with changes going on at work and recent test results saying he's got high cholesterol. Top this off with a missing wallet and let's just say it's been a little tense around here.

So imagine it's 5:30 p.m., (which is important to note since it's past normal doctor office hours) Superstar #1 runs down stairs laughing (yes, laughing) and yelling, "MOM, Sissy's got a bead stuck up her nose!"

I immediately turn off the stove and oven knowing Daddy might not get a home cooked meal tonight, and quickly walk upstairs to find Superstar #2 sitting sorrowfully on her bed. A look up her nose and no bead in sight meant a trip back downstairs for the otoscope and the subsequent realization that yes, it's up there good. Superstar #2 is sad but breathing just fine and seems to be in no imminent danger so I ask her to lie down on our bed while I make two phone calls.

The first is to Daddy, who had called about 10 minutes earlier to say he was on the way home.

"Ok, so it's not life-threatening ('cause you know that's where you gotta start to get their attention) but Superstar #2 has a bead up her nose and if we can't get this figured out we may have to visit the ER tonight."

I hear a heavy sigh at the other end of line. Translation: "Of course she does."

"I'm almost home," he said, and hung up the phone.

The second call was to my neighbor, Jen, who is a pediatric nurse. I went to voice mail so I reluctantly dialed the on-call doctor for our pediatrician's office and explained the situation.

His first words were, "There's a little trick for that..."

No sweeter six words could have been spoken to me at that moment, because "a little trick" meant we might not have to visit the ER tonight!

He continued, "If you plug the nostril on the opposite side of where the bead is stuck and then blow into her mouth, it should pop right out."

Grateful, I told him, "That sounds easy enough. If you hear from me again tonight, you'll know it didn't work, but if you don't hear from me again, I thank you in advance."

My husband walked in at that moment and I explained what the doctor said as we both walked over to Superstar #2 - who looks both worried and pathetic, but starts giggling nervously as we joke around about the impending "procedure."

I went first. Daughter of German nurse I'm always the first to jump into situations like this. Two unsuccessful attempts (lots more nervous laughter and a video cam) later, Daddy brings in the big lungs, I mean, big guns. All it takes is one blow and POP, out comes the bead. No, I will not be posting a video of the adventure.

So there you have it, a simple, non-evasive way to get a stuck bead out of a child's nose. Sure beats using a tweezer and holding their head still, and it definitely beats a visit to the ER or doctor's office.

My friend Jen, having seen my number come up on her phone called me back a short time later to make sure everything was ok. When I told her about the adventure, she said, "Yeah, we do that all the time in our offices. In fact, we had a kid in who had stuck a dime in their nose today." And so the procedure is even sanctioned and used in most pediatric offices. Who knew?

I do now, and so do you! So pass this along to your friends, it could save them a trip to the ER and maybe even a co-pay!

Savvy Outfit of the Day $14 - Via Spiga Sassy

Today's outfit was thrown together just so we could go outside and play for a while. We had no errands to run after school so we didn't expect to be out in the big wide world, but playing out in the neighborhood usually means you'll be joined by at least 5 other kids and accompanying parents checking in on the action. Having not washed my hair, which sorely needed it, I donned a cap to hide the mess.

The Breakdown.
Mossimo terry cloth sweat jacket ($4 Target/ARP $22), white tank ($3 For Love 21/ARP $3), Red Camel denim skirt ($7 Belk's/ARP $30), Via Spiga "Scramble" suede wedge boots (FREE, Plato's Closet exchange - still they would have only been $12/ARP $270 ), olive suede hat (FREE Plato's Closet, new with tags, it was $8/ARP $10).

Grand Total: $13
Approximate Retail Price: $335
Savvy Savings: $322

Ok, so maybe I didn't have to wear such killer boots, but it sure elevated a denim skirt & terry cloth sweat jacket, no? Plus, I felt pretty sassy just watching the kids play and waving to the occasional car driving by!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Small Kitchen Appliances & Accessories Upgrade - Savvy Style

I love Williams-Sonoma. I like wandering through the store (the Superstars love it as well since it sometimes means samples) and I love flipping through the catalog dreaming of the delicious meals I could make with their state-of-the-art equipment. It is, however, expensive!

One of the things that I've love about Savvy Shopping (and thrift stores in particular) is that it's been a great way to upgrade my small kitchen appliances and accessories in my attempts to make the perfect meal quickly and with little mess. Not that there was anything really wrong with the ones we had, but most were 10 years old (from our wedding gift registry) and some even predated our dating!

Other upgrades I wanted were luxury items that I didn't NEED to have for the average price for which they were selling. For example, I love my KitchenAide mixer and use it fairly regularly, but I still wouldn't have spend $180-$300 for one - good thing I found it at Goodwill for just $9.81! The following are more examples of finds in the last few years that have made (and one I WISH I had made). When all added up (including the $10 I MADE selling my old items on Craigslist) I spent about $46 for almost $1000 worth of kitchen supplies. SERIOUSLY!

Imperial Gray KitchenAide Proline Mixer

Paid: $10.00
Approximate Retail: $400+ (with extra bowl)
Savvy Savings: $390

I mention this amazing deal in my post How I Became A Thrift Store Maven but it bears mentioning again. I found this beautiful mixer including an extra bowl and all three standard attachments for $10. It was a little dusty, a little oily but worked perfectly. This is one of my all time favorite finds.

DeLonghi 4-slice Retro Toaster

Paid: $5
Approximate Retail: $110
Savvy Savings: $105

With 4 people in our family it's nice when the toast gets done all at the same time. I also love that this deLonghi is in the same stainless steel color that we use in the kitchen, although truthfully, we don't keep it on the counter...too many crumbs. As a bonus, I sold the old toaster oven for $10 on Craigslist.

ISI Stainless Steel Whip Creamer & Two Boxes of Cartridges

Paid: $10

Approximate Retail: $125

Savvy Savings: $115

Now I love whip cream as much as the next person...ok, maybe more. I had always heard that the ISI whip creamer was fabulous and well, all the people that use it on The Food Channel seemed to be in love with it as well. So when I found this beauty NEW and in the box with two FULL packages of N2O cartridges I was chomping at the bit to find out how much they wanted for it since it had no price tag. The woman behind the counter had no idea about it so she just said "How about $9.99." To which I practically yelled, "SOLD!"
Now, I knew they were expensive, but I didn't know HOW expensive. When I checked it out at Williams-Sonoma the Creamer itself runs $100 and each cartridge box is about $12. Believe it or not, we use this often. I add a touch of vanilla extract to the container and it makes incredible whip cream, and so much healthier than Redi-whip. I've heard you can add liquor to the cream to make an awesome addition to desserts.

Moulinex Food Processor

Paid: $8
Approximate Retail: $130
Savvy Savings: $122

I found this the same day that I found the Proline KitchenAid mixer and was giddy with delight. The food processor with blender attachment and all the extras was BRAND NEW IN THE BOX and had never been used. I've since disposed of the box, but it's a beauty! While Moulinex may not be a brand that many people here recognize, it is made by a French manufacturer but I have no idea how it ended up here in the US, maybe by way of a French-Canadian who moved to Music City to become a country music star? I've heard crazier things!

Oster Hand Held Immersion Blender

Paid: $2
Approximate Retail: $25
Savvy Savings: $23

Immersion blenders are great for pureeing soups in the pot and dechunking chunky spaghetti sauce (something I do from time to time since Beloved doesn't like it when I make the spaghetti sauce too chunky, something about the texture bothers him...hey, it's one of his only quirks so I roll with it!). No more dumping it into the food processor to smooth it and dumping it back into the pot and all the accompanying mess & frustration!

Wusthoff Wood Knife Block

Paid: $3
Approximate Retail: $40
Savvy Savings: $37

When Beloved and I got married 10 years ago we registered for a Wusthof knife block set, which at the time only came in maple and in black. About a year ago I happened upon this dark wood Wusthof block, sans knives, at Goodwill and immediately donated the other. It's a small purely aesthetic change for which I would have never paid $40.

Krups Fast Touch Coffee Mill

Paid: $3
Approximate Retail: $20
Savvy Savings: $17

They say fresh ground coffee beans yield the best coffee but it sure is messy, so I grind it at the store and keep it in an airtight container. We go through it so quickly that I don't concern myself with the atrition rate, but alas, my friend's who know about my coffee addiction had been giving me unground coffee beans as gifts. Problem solved when I found this new-in-the-box Krups coffee grinder with a price tag of $20 on top.

Starbucks Stainless Steel Vacuum Container

Paid: $6
Approximate Retail: $40

Savvy Savings: $34

Speaking about coffee...after reading The Joy of Coffee (yes there is a book by that name, and mighty informative as well!) I learned that you should NEVER leave coffee on the warmer after brewing. It grows bitter the longer it sits there. Upon this discovery I kept my eye out for a vacuum coffee canister and found this beautiful Starbucks Stainless Steel container for just $6, it still had the $39.99 price sticker on the bottom.

George Foreman Stainless Steel Grill

Paid: $5
Approximate Retail: $50

Savvy Savings: $45

I think we received a George Foreman grill from my Beloved's grandparents as a Christmas gift somewhere along the way. We LOVE the amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and "paninis" that we are able to grill on the counter top. Problem was that it was kind of small and could only grill one sandwich at a time. Imagine my delight when I found this larger size (which grills 2 sandwiches at a time) for just $5 at the thrift store. Not only does it match the other stainless, but has an adjustable digital timer and fits well under the counter. Again, I sold the old machine for $10 on Craiglist so I basically made money for trading up.

Le Creuset Yellow 9" Skillet (#23)

Paid: $4
Approximate Retail: $100

Savvy Savings: $96

Le Creuset started in 1925 and has been making the colorful enamel ware that symbolizes classic cooking. While beautiful, it is expensive AND heavy! My girlfriend has a whole set and though she loves cooking with it, once filled with water it can be difficult to handle. That said, I was delighted to find this little 9" skillet, perfectly seasoned and in good condition. I love the size which is still manageable for sauteing more than one item at a time on the stove, and well, for just $4 I was a very happy camper.

Vinotemp Wine Fridge (a.k.a. The One That Got Away)

Goodwill Price: $20
Approximate Retail Price: $175
Savvy Savings Missed: $155

Alas, there are times when some other Savvy Shopper gets to an incredible piece before I do and this is one of the few times I was green with envy. So much so I had to take a picture and show y'all. Sigh. I was sick to my stomach on missing this deal!

I think sometimes people think of thrift store shopping only when it comes to clothing, which admittedly fills over half the store, but look what I could have missed if I hadn't checked the rest of the store. So next time you go thrifting, make sure you check out the appliances & kitchenware section. You never know what you might find.

Oh, and don't be discouraged if you don't find anything like this your first time checking, these pieces have been collected over the last 3 years so it's not a sure thing, but since I never planned on upgrading on these items at retail price, they were definitely happy finds.

Coming up soon, updating your dinnerware savvy style!

Shop Savvy Y'all!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $81 Wearing & Saving Green!

I love this color green. It makes me happy on the gray dreary days we've been having here in Music City. So imagine how happy I was when I found it at Dillard's for $24 (marked down from $50)? Imagine how much happier I was when the sales associate gave me an additional 15% off because the button was falling off!

The Breakdown.
LAL green cropped jacket ($22 Dillard's/ARP $50), white tank (Rave $4/ARP $4), B. Laguna jeans ($15 Macy's/APR $50), Coach Bibi boots ($20 Plato's Closet/APR $250), Black "patent"/pu hobo Linea Rosetti ($20 TJMaxx/ARP $60).

Grand Total: $81
Approximate Retail Price: $414
Savvy Savings: $333

Just so you know, I'm still working on the Savvy Savings on each outfit but have been sidetracked working on the philosophy behind Savvy Outfits of the Day. So without further ado - here it is or you can scroll down a bit and read it. I posted it right before this one.

Shop Savvy Y'all!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Philosphy Behind the Savvy Outfit of the Day

Have you ever thought about how much it costs to look and feel good? Think of your favorite outfit; the one you can't wait to wear, the one you feel good wearing. Now think about how much each individual piece cost: the top, the bottom, the shoes and the purse and add it all up. Now think of what you normally wear on a day-to-day basis and do the same thing. Was one outfit more expensive than the other? How do you feel about yourself in the "favorite outfit" versus your day-to-day wear?

That concept is what spurred the Savvy Outfit of the Day section. I am a stay-at-home (homeschooling) mother of two girls, 4 and 6 who lives in a southern Nashville, Tennessee suburb. I don't have daily out-of-the-house obligations that mean I have to dress up, though I occasionally have a meeting for the contract public relations work as well as studio sessions for voice over work I fit in where time permits. Thanks to Savvy Shopping, how I dress on those days is not that different from what I dress in to run to the grocery store.

How much time I spend on my Savvy Outfits of the Day
I can get dressed and out the door with make-up and clothing in about 15-20 minutes (well, maybe more like 25-30 since part of that time is spent corralling the Superstars as well). I need a half-hour if a shower is involved. I choose my clothes via the Oral-B Method. In other words, during the 2 minutes it takes for my sonic toothbrush to signal it's time to stop brushing I stand in front of my closet and figure out what I'm going to wear...unless it's been one of those PJ mornings where I won't be getting out till much later and I need to brush my teeth before then. (Can you say, "Coffee breath"?) All that to say, I don't spend a lot of time planning or picking out outfits or (heaven forbid) ironing them for that matter.

Brand Name/Designer Clothing, Shoes & Handbags
I like to wear certain brand name clothes because a) they fit my body shape better, b) they are well made, c) wash and wear well and/or d) it's so inexpensive that I'm willing to try a new look or follow a particular trend to "mix it up a little" . I shy away from dry-cleaning because of the cost involved, though I do have some dry-cleaning items in my closet. I do not wear certain brands to try and impress people, because truth is that you can only impress some of the people some of the time, but you can learn to dress to be happy with yourself all the time.

Off Brands
From time to time I also wear brands that I had never heard of before and some from places like Wal-Mart. Savvy Shopping is about finding what looks good on you, no matter who made it or where it came from. I don't have a high-profile job or associate with groups of people who know the latest season of style and clothing and judge your work or worth by what you are wearing. That said, I have attended $250 plate benefits, corporate meetings and award shows in thrift store finds. In the end Savvy Shopping is not about trying to impress anyone, it's about being wise with my money without sacrificing quality and fit. It's also very green.

Gently Pre-Owned
I don't have a problem with wearing someone else's cast-offs (underwear non-withstanding). To me it's like a new car (which I have never owned) in that it's a depreciating asset. I'd rather let the "first owner" take the initial financial hit. That said, I do buy things new, just not at full cost or at least I very rarely do. For the record, I have no problem with people that buy new and retail all the time. I just happen to be one of those people given 3 black sweaters in a price-tag-free test will invariably pick the most expensive one. I do have champagne tastes on a beer budget, that's where Savvy Shopping comes in.

The Average I Spend on Clothing (per piece price)

Clothing - shirts, sweaters, pant, jeans, skirts, etc.
Generally $10 or less, up to $20 if I really like. One of my favorite sweaters is a $130 Tahari that I bought on sale for $21...with a gift card...and I hesitated. Yes, I'm that cheap.

Generally $30 or less. In my closet I have a Burberry Cashmere-blend coat, a Kenneth Cole long black leather jacket, a DKNY trench coat and JCrew long wool coat. Each cost less than $25.

Generally $10 or less, up to $30 if I really like them. I do love shoes. Fat-day jeans or thin-day jeans, pregnant or recovering, shoes ALWAYS fit! I have Pradas, Ferragamos, several pairs of Coach, UGGs, Diesel, BCBG and more. They were all under $30.

The majority of my handbags were $10 or less. $50 and under for a handful of bags and I think just one that was around $100. Overall, I prefer leather bags because they last longer with minimal care - Coach, Scarlett Blake (by B. Makowsky), Kate Spade and Lucky Brand are some of my favorite finds due to the high quality of leather used in their making, which means they generally retail for anywhere between $100-$400 dollars - of course I don't spend that much! The most I've EVER spent on a purse was $180 on a Louis Vuitton Cerises Speedy. It's a limited edition that is now retired. The only way I justified my purchase is that I could sell it for AT LEAST 2x that amount. Last I checked on eBay they run from $400-$1000. It was truly a splurge item for me.

Approximate Retail Price and Savvy Savings Total
With each Savvy Outfit of the Day I list what I paid for the item, where I found them, the approximate cost at retail and the amount of savvy savings involved. For items that were purchased new at retail or new with tags at the thrift store I list the MSRP found on the tag. For items that are pre-owned with no tag I estimate using online pricing. If I am unsure of the exact style or season of an item I err to the side of UNDERestimating based on what is currently out there and the average cost of buying that item new at authorized retailers (versus consignment stores or eBay). For instance, I know that American Eagle cords can go for $60 but that the store runs fairly regular sales where you can get them for $30 and $40.

My Hope
I do realize that most people do not buy full retail price so they might be able to say they bought something on sale at the store for less than the ARP I have listed, and for that I salute them! I show each outfit and the prices in the hopes of showing people what you can get for your money on a regular basis without having to compromise on style or quality of clothing. I would estimate that about 80% of my wardrobe is thrifted. Does that number surprise you? I would have been before I started Shoppy Savvy.

As a result of our throw-away, gotta-have-it-now culture thrift stores and consignment stores like Plato's Closet are teaming with barely used items. I find new-with-tags clothing and shoes for me and my family ALL THE TIME. Remember those shoes you just had to have and realized after you wore them once that they were just way too small? Or how about the jeans that you swore you would fit into next year after the Boot Camp you were attending and it turns out they were too big? Those end up at the thrift store and Savvy Shoppers like me are eternally grateful to you!

Final Word
To quote my post on Savvy Thrift Store Shopping Tips (because I think it bears repeating): "In the end it's all just "stuff"...One woman's "so last season" is another woman's "OMG, look what I just found!" but the truth is that today's great discovery usually gives way to a newer and greater discovery in a relatively short amount of time, regardless of whether it came from a high-end department store or a thrift store. There are very few women I know that will regularly carry the same bag for 10 years, much less 1 or 2 - even the women who own Louis Vuitton's that WILL last long enough to pass them down to their daughters. Fashion changes, styles change and WE change.

That's what I love best about Savvy Shopping. I have the freedom to change my style whether it's because of preference OR weight and not feel guilty about it. We all already do it to varying degrees, whether we are trying to figure out what our style is or what our 'end weight' is going to be. That being the case, we might as well do it with a bit of savvy shopping. Don't wait until you reach your ideal weight or find "who" you are stylistically in order to buy clothes that look good on you NOW. It will eventually change anyway. Take a little time and little money and find some great clothes. You will be happier for it."

I mean, who doesn't love a bargain?

Shop Savvy Y'all!

Attention Nashville Belk Shoe Shoppers

Ok Ladies, this weekend I bought two beautiful pairs of shoes at Belk's and the sale is still going on, so if you're in Music City, rush on down. They had a long table stacked about 4 boxes high in each shoe size so there's plenty of deals to be had on everything from Coach to Juicy Couture and more.

New to my ever-expanding collection of shoes is the Sofft Patent Leather Gillian in Dark Red and a pair of black Enzo Angiolini pumps in patent and suede named Totiana. A quick search online at Zappos and you can buy the Soffts for $100 and the Enzos for $80 (regularly $90). I paid $25 for the Sofft's and $9 for the Enzos. Let's see that's $180-$35=$145 in savings.

Yes, sdmittedly $25 is on the high-end of my shoe limit, but the Soffts are beautiful. Even my husband said he liked them, and my Beloved is not one to notice what shoe I am wearing.

All together now..."I feel pretty, oh so pretty..." or should I sing, "I feel savvy, oh so savvy..."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $63 B. Moss & B. Makowsky

Hope y'all had a great weekend this weekend! If you've noticed, I changed things up a bit in the last couple days. I'm using a new template for the blog and have added a slide show of Savvy Outfits of the Day (I'm hoping to also add a Thrift Store Score slide show soon as well.)

Speaking of Savvy Outfits of the's outfit is an attempt to break out of my traditional color box. I'm not sure what it is about this color combination, but I really like it. In the past I would have worn a black purse with this (you know, match the shoes to the purse), but as Stacie & Clinton remind us from time to time, they don't have to match - and I think I'm beginning to see the fun freedom in that option.

As a side note, this Scarlett Blake purse is part of a short run line by the makers of B. Makowsky and it shows in the gorgeous leather. I first got hooked on these bags when I found one at the thrift store for $7. A cursory search online yielded this gem of a fact, the line is under Van Zeeland, Inc. as in Kathy Van Zeeland (you know, Kathy purses). Kathy Van Zeeland happens to be married to...Bruce Makowsky! Also under Van Zeeland, Inc. is Tignanello, another line of handbags known for excellent quality and leather.

Now B. Moss (no relation to B. Makowsky) has since closed due to bankruptcy. I visited the store a few times when I was in the mall but it was a little more conservative and well, expensive, for my taste. I did however visit when they were in clearance mode and bought this simple, classic sweater for $10.

The Breakdown.
B. Moss black button cardigan ($10 B. Moss/ARP $40), goldenrod tank ($3 For Love 21/ARP $3), green Old Navy stretch cords ($5 thrift store/ARP $30), Scarlett Blake brown leather handbag ($25 eBay/ARP $200), Coach signature Bibi boots ($20 Plato's Closet/ARP $250).

Grand Total: $63
Approximate Retail Cost: $523
Savvy Savings: $460

So, I've been doing these Savvy Outfits of the Day and somewhere along the way I realized that some of the true power of savvy shopping is lost by not giving an estimate on the money saved. That said, I think I'm going to start trying put in an ARP (Approximate Retail Price) on each item as well as a Savvy Savings number on each Savvy Outfit of the Day. If I can't remember the exact price, I'll err to the side of underestimating rather than overestimating. I'll even try to go back and add these numbers to the older posts as well. It might take a while but for you, it's worth it!

Till then stay Savvy!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Size is just another number.

It's funny, my husband is a 32x31 pant size and a 17x32/33 in dress shirts. ALWAYS. It doesn't matter who the designer is or what season it may be, I can buy pants and shirts in those sizes and outside of color or pattern preferences I know it's going to work. Not so for women.

I'm not sure what has happened in the last decade when it comes to women's sizes. When did it become so...arbitrary?

According to various sources, Marilyn Monroe at her sveltest was about 5'5 1/2" and weighed 118lbs. Her measurements were approximately 35-22-35. She was a 36D. Did you know that it is said she wore a
size 12 in a dress and a size 8 in pants, a far cry from the size 0, 2 and 4's that today's celebrities pride themselves in wearing.

But really, does it matter what the number is? Isn't the point that we want to look good in what we wear regardless of size?

A friend of mine use to work in the shoe department at Nordstrom and he said he would order extra boxes of size 7 because women would come in swearing that they were that size when they were most obviously not. His solution? "Yes, Ma'am, the box here says 7, try this on and see if it works." Anything for a sale, right?

What is it about the numbers we use to define ourselves that can make us so happy or conversely, sad, when they are not in line with what we believe they should be? Too many times we get hung up on a number - whether it's a salary ideal, a weight ideal or a clothing size. But it's just a number and when it comes to clothing (and really, LIFE in general) the number doesn't matter.

As my dear friend, Jennifer commented brilliantly on my New Year's Post:

...remember that the best clothing lies. It lies for you - makes your bum smaller (Hi Clinton!) or your legs longer, or balances your giant shoulders by nipping in at the waist. The trick is to find the right lie, the one that works best for you.

I love the empire waist tops but I look at least thirty pounds heavier in them. That's also a lie, just not a lie I want to tell! And skirts? Why show off my thick ankles? I want jeans that lie for me and tell a different story.

Jennifer is an art director for a magazine who has styled models as well as magazine pages. And she's absolutely right. Looking good is about discovering what works best for YOUR body type. I'm busty at 5'4" and a 36D. My waist, however is not a size 22 like Marilyn Monroe's and so I wear good bras (another post in the future) and clothes that accentuate the smallest part of my upper body so that I show the world that I actually do have a waist under "the girls". That may sound like a "duh" moment, but it took me years to figure this out, but once I did, I routinely heard people asking me if I had lost weight.

So today I look for what fits me, regardless of the size. I have everything from XS to XL shirts in my closet, but really, who cares what the tag says if I look and feel good about myself? A skirt in a recent Savvy Outfit of the Day is a size 10. I generally wear 4's, but look what I would have missed if I didn't try it on just because of the number on the tag.

The place we need to get is one where we are happy with where we are NOW not where we MIGHT be someday, and I think it's a life-long lesson. From as far back as I can remember, I have tried, not always successfully, to find peace and a measure of joy in the moment instead of wishing I was somewhere or someone else. It's an ideal to which to aspire because the reality is that I only have the power to affect right now. Sure I can (and should) make plans for the future, but that can all change in a moment's notice.

Corny as it may be, I've heard it said, "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow a mystery. Today is a gift. That's why it's called 'present."

So go out there ye Savvy Women and seize the present!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $77 Coat, Coach & BCBG

This outfit was thrown together when I realized I actually had to get out of my PJ's and into the "real world" yesterday. I had promised my husband that I would drop off his clothes at the dry cleaners, and since that means I don't have to iron (for only $1.29 they launder and starch his shirts and that's a price I'm willing to pay NOT to iron...perish the thought!) I quickly threw this on and ran. Of course that may be why the orange in the scarf and the rose/orange in the sweater don't totally match. That said, I kind of like it!

The Breakdown.
BCBG Sweater (part of a twin set that I scored for $6 at the thrift store/ARP $125), a white tank top ($3 For Love 21/ARP $3), dark blue Old Navy cords ($5 thrift store/ARP $30), BCBG brown buckle leather pumps ($8 thrift store/ARP $150), Scarlett Blake leather purse ($25 eBay/ARP $200), Q.U.E. wool coat ($15 thrift store/APR $50), Coach wool scarf ($15 eBay/ARP $75).

Grand Savvy Total: $77
Approximate Retail Cost: $633
Savvy Savings: $556

Not sure where Q.U.E. is sold, but this coat is really lovely. The fitted shape is nice and the edges of the arm sleeves have leather piping, not to mention leather on the inside of the first 5 inches. Technically it was one of my Christmas gifts (yes, for Christmas I actually ask for things like eBay or Goodwill gift cards) but I figured I'd leave the cost in the breakdown today to give a better idea of how inexpensive it is to find good coats at the thrift store.

Many Goodwill coats are "white tag" items, which means they will only go 50% off when there is a half-off Saturday (usually the first Saturday of the month). Still some coats are colored tags which means they are subject to the normal color-of-the-day discounts. Sure, I have gotten good coats for $.99 but the really good ones don't usually make it to discount days because they are snapped up pretty quickly.

Going Au Naturale Savvy Style

About two years ago what started as a little itchy spot on my leg, turned into a widespread bump-fest on my body. Little by little dry, red, angry patches spread out everywhere on my body except on my face, and in my discomfort and pain, my vanity was spared. I was not however, spared sleepless nights with burning, oozing sores all over my body. Thank God for friends and family who still loved me in the midst of being grossed-out.

Initially thought to be psoriasis by one doctor, it turned out to be lichen planus, a skin condition that affects about 2 percent of the population and has no known cure. Doctors aren't sure what causes it or what makes it go away. Some people battle with it for the rest of their lives. I've been clear about a year now except for a couple spots that just don't seem to want to go away, but doctors say once it appears, there's always a chance it will come back.

A year's worth of trying steroids, topically and finally internally (I'm not a big fan of medication, yes, daughter of a GERMAN nurse), light therapy (a.k.a. tanning beds), the removal of all my silver fillings and FINALLY, a case of flat-on-your-back-for-3-full-days-flu and it went away, almost as quickly as it started. That said the incident was bad enough to warrant me looking into healthier ways and more organic ways to eat and well, live.

That said, I have come to discover in my "old age" that I am not a person of extremes. There are no major causes I believe in (other than savvy shopping that is). I try to eat healthy, eating as little processed foods as possible, drinking mainly water, but still partaking of things like one cup of coffee and flavored creamer a day and even dessert.

I run around after the kids, maybe take a walk to the park and occasionally pull out the exercise tape, but I am not a 5 day a week in the gym sort of person. I believe that we should do as much as possible to be good stewards of this world we live in so we try to recycle as best we can but do not have separation bins in the garage. Goodness, my thrift store wardrobe is one of the greenest things I do! But see, what I mean? We do a little about a lot of things, but aren't really gung-ho about ONE thing.

Thus, when it comes to organic foods and body care products, while I understand the benefit of it and believe it's something worthy to which I should aspire, it's expensive! Still, with my bout of lichen planus and two growing Superstars I figured I should try to apply my savvy saving talents toward switching to as much organic or hormone free products as possible...without breaking the budget and changing up everything. Thankfully, my husband, who was recently "diagnosed" with high cholesterol, agreed, which always make household directional changes easier. You know, CEO and COO being in agreement and all.

The first thing I decided to work with was skincare items or things that touched our skin on a regular basis: shampoo, conditioner, lotion and body wash. We now use Whole Foods 365 line, and for $10 you can get three large 32 oz. bottles of any of their scents (including unscented) natural body products. They last a long time and so far so good! Everyone's hair is squeaky clean and shiny. The lotion is nice and thick and absorbs well. And though I love the smell of the lavender version, something in it irritates Superstar #1's skin so we've had to move to the unscented version. Superstar #1 has sensitive skin and has nickel allergies (like her Mom, her aunt and great grandmother!).

For an extra special treat Trader Joe's carries great natural salt and sugar body rubs, something I enjoy in the shower that helps keep my skin moisturized and smooth. They have several different scents not only in the scrubs but in their lotion and body wash lines as well. The scrub is just $6 and is truly wonderful. Hey, if I'm going to get a 10 minute shower break, it's gonna be a luxurious one if at all possible!

As for hair products, I use Aveda gel for my hair. It generally costs $15 at the salon when I get my quarterly hair cut. I have found it for around $10 on eBay but it's a hit or miss there, luckily a little goes a long way and one bottle lasts me about 6 months.

Now, I'm going to be honest. I'm still working on a natural way to keep the gray hair at bay. I've used henna in the past and it works fairly well but it sure is messy. Still, having sparingly used over-the-counter dyes before, which are also messy, the henna is a lot healthier - even though I know the dyes won't kill me. It's one of those "choose your battle" type of things for me. At the moment I am considering experimenting with a natural way to eliminate gray formula I found on line: boiling sage and rosemary and then letting the mixture stay in your hair 10 minutes before washing your hair and it helps slowly take the gray out. I'll let you know how that goes!

As for face products, I talk a little about it with my post on my switch to mineral make up and the deal I found on the product on eBay. I admit that I still use Oil of Olay Regenerist for my face care. I'm not ready to switch over to all-natural or organic in that arena yet since it works so well for my skin.

The last thing I'm going to mention in this post is laundry detergent. We switched over the Costco Environmentally Friendly Laundry Detergent, which is not only good for the environment, but also our budget at just $12 for 100 loads worth of washing. It's also rated HE, which is what is recommended for my front-load washing machine. It may not be the greenest or the most natural thing out there, but it's a good money-saving item that puts on a path to more natural products.

That's it for today. I'll let you know as I find more items on this path toward more natural living. If you have savvy and simple hints on how to go more natural with body care products, let me know. You know, the kinds of tips that involve saving time and money in the process!

I'm going to post more on healthy food and snack options later. With growing kids who need snacks at least 2x a day, we're always looking for quick, convenient and healthy ways to keep them from getting cranky their energy up!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Man in Black - Finding Contentment

My plane trip to live in Nashville back in January 1991 was spent in deep conversation with the man sitting next to me. I was 21, and he said he was 26 but the little broken blood vessels on his face and the aimless, sad air about him spoke of someone who had walked through some difficulties already in his young life. We talked about music a little. He was listening to Bob Marley on a cassette tape. Whew, there's a throw-back, right?

Anyway, we got pretty deep spiritually. I grew up experimenting with New Age and some transcendental meditation (sans drugs), nothing too deep and more spiritual than religious. Filled with an inexplicable longing, I spent a good part of my teenage years studying some of the world's major religions trying to figure out how life worked; Shintoism, Buddhism, Daoism, Hinduism, and more. In my sophomore year of college while studying abroad in Germany, I decided it was time to study the Bible. After all, Christianity is one of the world's major religions, right? We talked about all those thing, about life, God, brokeness, alcoholism and more on the five hour flight to Music City, USA.

As the plane landed, my new friend, John, told me he wanted to introduce me to his parents. He added in an odd voice, "Just don't look at their faces."

I thought it a strange request, but I agreed and we walked into the concourse together chatting till we got to the baggage claim where we walked up to a couple. I don't remember much other than the man, tall and lanky, was dressed all in black and she, standing close by his side, was dressed in a denim skirt and shirt with long black hair. We talked for just a moment or two. I told them that they had a good son and that I really enjoyed my conversation with him. They seemed guarded, but polite, as if they weren't sure what to make of what I had said.

I walked back to the group of other record label employees that had also been on the plane and waited for my baggage. They all stared at me. Finally, one of them asked, "Don't you know who that was?" Naive southern California girl that I was, I shook my head.

"That was the man in black, Johnny Cash."

I laugh to think that I still didn't know who he was, but John and I had exchanged phone numbers on the plane and over the next year kept in touch some. He helped me get my car to the shop when it died and cruised sans power down Old Hickory Boulevard late one night. We spent some time talking on the phone, but our lives drifted apart. I never talked to his parents again, but I know that John Carter Cash found peace in his life. Nashville is still a small town in some ways. We have some mutual acquaintances but have never seemed to bump into each other again. I suspect we will someday, that's just how Nashville is.

Over the years I have since come to appreciate Johnny Cash and his story. It made me understand John Carter Cash and the sadness I encountered that day on the plane. I mourned with the rest of the Music City (and the world) when June Carter Cash died and when Johnny Cash, her soulmate, died just four months later.

I wasn't a fan of country music when I first got here, but the 90's were the hey-day of country music and I got swept up into it. It wasn't "hick-ish" like I thought. It was simple, sweet, and sometimes, incredibly powerful. I was sitting in a small barn with a couple dozen other people when Tim McGraw sang "It's Your Love" to Faith Hill at a local benefit for one of the first times with tears in his eyes. She was glowing and pregnant at the time.

Country music has always had an element of being thankful and a sense of contentment that seems to be lacking in many of the other forms of music today which seem to thrive on angst or lust - not that there is anything wrong with those things, they exist in this crazy world we live in today. But to quote Epicurus a Greek philosopher who lived from 341-270 BC, "Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for."

When I was a teenager I hoped to find peace and purpose in this life while trying to graduate from high school. When I was in my early twenties I hoped to graduate college and go on to work in the music industry. When I was in my mid-twenties I hoped I would find a smart, handsome, humble man with whom to share my life and who would love me as I am. In my thirties I hoped we would have healthy, happy children together. And somewhere in the midst of all that I hoped we could afford a house and cars that ran. All those things I had hoped for, the big things in life, I have today.

Sure there are things I still desire. I hope to take my kids to Hawaii to visit their 90+ year old Great-Grandmother and to visit where I went to Kindergarten. I hope to take them to Germany to see where I was born and to travel beyond the borders of the United States. I hope to learn another language. I hope to one day start a business with my husband. I hope to lose these last five pounds...

But even if I never do those things, I want to be thankful for what I do have - which is a roof over my head, food on the table (enough that I'm carrying an extra five pounds), two healthy and happy children, a husband who loves me and a Mom and Dad and Sister whom I love dearly and who love me back. I am a blessed woman, and heaven forbid I loose sight of that in my desire for world travel, a smaller waist size, a clean house, and a little more money after the bills are paid.

What do you have today that you once only hoped for?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $137 Chelsea Chic & Free People Fuzzy

Back when I was in the music industry, black and jeans seemed to be the unofficial dress code for most events ranging from casual on up (outside of award shows, and well, sometimes even then). Black is slimming, everyone says and though looking skinny wasn't my main goal, there was something comforting about what I thought to be a classic color combination.

A couple kids and a dozen episodes of What Not to Wear later and I have learned to embrace color. When wearing it in a shirt, it's a great way to add a little life to jeans, still a wardrobe staple in my book. The brick red color of this Free People sweater and the way this vintage asymmetrical jacket matches added a bit of life to what was a gray, dreary day.

The Breakdown.
Free People sweater ($6 thrift store/ARP $100), off-white tank top ($3 For Love 21/ARP $3), B. Laguna jeans ($15 Macy's/ARP $50), BCBG leather shoes ($8 thrift store/ARP $150), vintage Bromleigh New York coat ($15 thrift store/ARP $40) and Coach Pebbled Leather Chelsea handbag ($90 eBay/$360).

Grand Total: $137
Approximate Retail Cost: $703
Savvy Savings: $566

The Coach was definitely on the high end of what I will spend on a purse, but the leather is really incredible and the bag originally retails for $360 so I figured it was a good deal. I actually sold a couple of my other purses on eBay to pay for it, and to keep my collection confined to my closet (and not take over the guest bedroom closet). It works out pretty well and keeps me from breaking the budget.

Vintage is another great source of one-of-a-kind style. This coat in particular has an asymmetrical button line, which kind of threw me off at first. Now I enjoy the funky aspect it adds, without being too funky. I gave it an ARP (Approximate Retail Price) of $40 because that's a good average on eBay vintage coats, shipping being at least $10-12 of the total of $40.

So what if all I did was go to Library & Craft Time and the Mall today? Outside of one terrifying moment when Superstar #2 got bright blue foam paint on my jacket (which thankfully washed out even as I kept repeating to myself "it was only $15, it was only $15...") I felt fabulous and funky at forty. Don'tcha just love alliteration?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Goodwill Hunting - A NY Times Magazine Article

Goodwill ROCKS! Really, of all the thrift stores I shop, I consistently find the best items and deals at Goodwill. Thanks to my dear friend, Jen, for passing along this great article that ran last year in the NY Times.

By Rob Walker
Published: October 31, 2008

In the first eight months of 2008, sales at Goodwill stores in the United States and Canada increased by 7 percent over the same period last year. While that obviously runs counter to trends being reported by most retailers these days, it’s hard to say whether it counts as good news that more people are evidently buying secondhand goods. After all, many of us probably don’t think of Goodwill in terms of retail; we think of it in terms of charity.

But operators of some Goodwill stores have been making efforts to prod us to think a little differently, or perhaps more expansively, about the brand — and quite possibly the present economic gloom has primed us to be more open to that idea. Washington-area Goodwills, for instance, promote their stores with Webcast fashion shows as well as a popular blog,, which highlights great bargain finds at their shops. Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana has commissioned advertising for its stores that emphasizes pleasurable bargain hunting at least as much as altruism. Goodwill Industries in the San Francisco area has worked with the Joe Boxer founder, Nicholas Graham, on the creation of a line of new clothes made out of discarded items, under the name William Good.

The more than 2,200 retail stores (counting international locations) bearing the Goodwill name all follow certain guidelines set down by Goodwill Industries International. But the management and operation of those stores are decentralized: there are 168 North American “member agencies,” each rooted to a particular geographic area. This means that donations stay within a particular region; it also means that stores in different areas can pursue different promotional strategies. Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana, for instance, was operating 23 stores in Indianapolis and surrounding areas in 1996, when its management decided to take the unusual step of hiring an advertising agency as a way to increase sales, says Cindy Graham, the vice president of marketing. Young & Laramore, an Indianapolis agency, helped devise the campaign to position Goodwill stores less as charity and more as discount retail. This meant changing the perception of potential shoppers who might think of Goodwill as a place where poor people bought castoffs, not as a competitor to Wal-Mart.

Since then, Young & Laramore helped create two dozen TV spots, mostly lighthearted and upbeat and often featuring an amiable young guy in a Goodwill uniform. The Goodwill Guy picks through donations bearing brand names like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan or tells the “scary story” of the woman who missed out on the perfect bolero jacket because she didn’t buy it on the spot. In some of the ads, the Goodwill Guy presents more traditional charitable messages about how your donations help those less fortunate, but always with a light tone. Perhaps the most cunning of the ads combines these ideas, making a case that shopping (at a Goodwill store, anyway) is in and of itself an act of charity.

Today, Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana has expanded to 40 locations, and its store revenues have grown apace — 2007 sales were around $45 million, up 17 percent from 2006. Graham says area population growth, improved customer service and careful management have been factors, too. But, she figures, “the advertising is a big part of the increased sales.” And elements of the Central Indiana campaign have been used by Goodwills in 72 other markets in the United States and Canada, according to Ann Beriault of Young & Laramore.

Goodwill Industries of Greater Washington has taken a different approach but with similar goals. For the past few years, it has organized a Fashion of Goodwill runway show and Webcast featuring models in outfits plucked from its stores (and subsequently auctioned off). Last year, the retail marketing manager Em Hall took on the role of D.C. Goodwill Fashionista, whose engaging thrifter blogging about discoveries in that region’s nine stores attracted attention and even won her an invitation to blog from New York’s Fashion Week.

None of this is to suggest that the nonprofit is backing away from its altruistic mission. The charity says that 84 percent of its total revenues go toward job training and placement and other programs. Even so, these efforts suggest an element of the Goodwill idea that is not simply about good will but also, to be blunt, about how there’s something good in it for you.

No matter where you shop when it comes to thrift stores, it truly is a green way to dress yourself and your home. On the other hand, the extra bonus that Goodwill provides is that you are helping others find job placement. Having shopped at Goodwill for years now, I have come to know many of the employees and their personal stories: from men and women migrating to this country legally (one friend having walked through several countries to escape from Sudan) and some rebuilding their employment after bad choices made in their youth, these are good people who need another chance. Goodwill provides it for them. I've seen employees move up in the workplace, earn degrees and one become a pharmacist.

So go and shop Goodwill!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $44 Here's to Hot Kiss(es)

Today's outfit was a mini celebration for the warmer weather we are having. It's a touch of Spring in February, and while in California it wasn't unusual to have warmer weather, it's a little dicey here in Music City where it can range from 70 degree to freezing.

The Breakdown.
Hot Kiss Jacket (free from Plato's Closet - I exchanged clothes/ARP $30), white tank (For Love 21 $2.50), B. Laguna jeans ($15 Belk's/ARP $50), Anne Marino black leather wedge ($8 Parisians/ARP $70 ), The Sak Reyes ECO Crochet Tote crocheted green purse ($17 Dillard's/ARP $90), silver leather belt ($1.50 thrift store/ARP $20).

Grand Total: $44.00
Approximate Retail Cost: $263
Savvy Savings: $216

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ancient Chinese Secret...

No, it's not a new and improve laundry stain remover, but this wonderful little saying I found on my Good Earth, Earl Grey teabag this morning.

Flowers leave some of their fragrance in the hand
that bestows them.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Savvy Outfit of the Day - $23 Banana Republic Beautiful

Banana Republic is one of those stores that I could probably spend all my money in. I love their classic styles & cuts in everything: their jeans, skirts, tops, jackets, purses, shoes and accessories. I didn't realize till I did The Breakdown that most of these pieces are from Banana Republic, but I felt pretty pulled together and for $23, I felt pretty savvy too.

In truth, this skirt has been sitting in my closet for a while waiting for a warm enough day to wear. And well, Mommy needed to put something nice on because she was tired of the late nights, the hives breakouts and the several days of ALL-DAY-PJs that represented last week.

The Breakdown.
Banana Republic skirt ($4 thrift store/ARP $60), Banana Republic black sweater ($6 thrift store/ARP $80), white tank top ($3 For Love 21/ARP $3), Banana Republic suede & leather hobo ($10 thrift store/ARP $200), Franco Sarto suede boots (birthday gift from my sister/ARP $150).

Grand Total: $23

Approximate Retail Price: $493
Savvy Savings: $470

I love these boots. Even my conservative suit-and-tie brother-in-law admitted they were pretty hot when my sister and I stumbled upon them on our Christmas Gift Shopping Trip. I call them fierce, and truth is that I've had women stop me to ask me about them. They are comfortable and just wearing them makes me happy. I'm easy that way.

This Banana Republic purse represents my first great purse find at the thrift store, and is one of the reason I started taking thrift store shopping more seriously. I think I petted it all the way home the day I bought it. It's lovely and that it matches the boots is just bonus.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Shaking Things Up Savvy Style

So, it's been a week! Turns out Superstar #2 had something that caused hives. Nothing major and yet three nights last week, around 9 o'clock she's complained about itching all over and next thing you know, she's breaking out in hives! As the daughter of a nurse, I tend not to freak out right away, and yet it's NEVER fun to see your child in distress, but a dose of Benadryl stopped the itching and allowed her to go back to sleep in each case.

We went to the Dr after having spoken to the on-call physician the first night it happened. I was pretty sure it was an allergic reaction, but wanted to be sure, and hey, that's why we have a Dr, right? I explained that there has been nothing out of the usual with her diet, no new detergents, no new soaps. Nothing except a tiny drop of a new hand lotion I had gotten, which I have since put away and would therefore not account for the other bouts we experienced. The Dr said that it could be a virus and that it could mean the hives cropping up here and there in the next few days but not to worry. Sigh. What can you do but worry a little and pray a lot!

Then Superstar #1, not to be left out, had a Dr's visit (on a separate day) for this crusty yucky stuff in her eyes. It wasn't conjunctivitis, but has since come and gone with no explanation. The Dr said it was probably drainage from her recent cold and since her ears and lungs looked/sounded clear, she was just fine. At any rate, between the mom-on-call and the mom-on-the-go-with-a-meeting and helping my neighbor by watching her 3 children one day, my week was gone before I knew it. During that time, however, I have been plotting and planning my return and so, without any further ado....

Today's topic - SHAKES!

So my husband, while not an unhealthy eater, has never been one for breakfast. And really, when he gets busy at work, he has been known to skip lunch. Of course, I keep telling him that doing that only puts your body into survival mode and can cause your metabolism to slow, but what do I (daughter of a German nurse who use to MAKE plain yogurt and mix it with wheat germ for breakfast as well as roommate & bestfriend to a woman who earned a degree in nutrition in college) know? I'm just his wife.

At any rate, I stopped nagging long ago since it doesn't help anyone, and he really had been trying with breakfast shakes in the morning using some supplements from Whole Foods and frozen fruit. I had used our big blender but found myself getting resentful for cleaning the durn thing every morning. I mean, yes, I want my husband to be healthy but he seemed to "need" my help making the shakes or he wouldn't do them (could it be because cleaning the blender afterward was such a pain????).

I solved that dilemma in savvy style a week ago when I bought a "magic bullet" type of mini-blender at Macy's. Belle Cucina is the brand name, and whereas the Magic Bullet runs around $79 retail, this runs $49 retail. It was on special for $19! The great thing is that I put all the "stuff" into the container at night (powder, fish oil, yogurt, frozen fruit, etc.) and he just pulls that out in the morning and sticks it in the nice small blender and Voila! A healthy, DELICIOUS shake and VERY easy to clean. It has to taste good or my husband will not drink it. He could be dying and he would not drink it. Me, on the other hand, will stomach just about anything if it's good/healthy for me. That's what happens when you are the daughter of a German nurse.

The blender comes with several cups, in 2 different sizes and with different attachments (a rim for easy drinking, a shaker top, a cover, etc.). "A shake top?" you ask. While I didn't buy it for this reason, you can grate things like cheese in this little guy too! In fact, the other night I did use the mini-blender to make a Shrimp & Feta dinner; first to chop the parsley and secondly to dice the diced tomatoes a little smaller. It was easier to use AND clean than my KitchenAide mini-chopper.

From what I understand, this thing makes a MEAN Mudslide too. I'll let you know once it gets warmer outside!