Tag Archives: trends

Christmas card count

You might have heard of Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count. For 119 years, birders all over North and South America have traveled specific routes between December 14 and January 5 counting every bird they see or hear and reporting their findings.

Well, I’m starting an annual Christmas card count. Birders watch the rise and fall of avian populations, and I’m interested in the demise of paper greetings.

Sending good wishes for Christmas via printed greeting cards has been a tradition since the mid 19th century, if Wikipedia can be believed. I’ve been sending them in some form for most of my adult life; in the past decade, mine have been mini-gifts of good wishes, pictures and stories packaged in beautiful paper, sometimes preprinted envelopes, thoughtfully selected stamps and, if I’m really on top of my game, envelope seals. My Christmas cards are a production, and it’s one Christmas tradition I adore.

Holiday baking? I’m more of a critic than a participant anymore.

Decorating the tree? Meh.

Wrapping gifts? Oh, I wish I had the enthusiasm for Scotch tape that I have for postage stamps.

When it comes to Christmas cards, I enjoy planning them, creating them and sending them, and then I relish in receiving them. I sit down with a cup of coffee and no distractions, reading my pile of cards and letters each day during the season.

But since the advent of Facebook among us Baby Boomers and Generation X, my incoming Christmas cards have noticeably decreased. Few Millennials have ever sent Christmas cards (they don’t even know what a checkbook register is! who has time for mailing paper cards?), but I see Generation Xers now actively abandoning the tradition because they keep in touch through the year with the people they care about via Facebook (and maybe Twitter, Instagram, blogs or some other social media outlet). They don’t need greeting cards and long newsy letters to share the highlights of the year. They already know who had babies, who lost their family pets, who got new jobs and bought new houses and where everyone vacationed.

Even I struggled a bit this year to provide new news. I documented my every move regarding the renovation of my new old house via a blog (and Facebook). What else is there? Well, I found some “news,” but I kept it brief. I think other people who share a lot less information online than I do have found the exercise of Christmas cards to be superfluous (also, probably, expensive and time-consuming, but honestly, I don’t think sending Christmas cards has ever been particularly cheap or easy).

I live in a small town now where the annual community parade this past summer lasted 12 minutes (I timed it). That’s how my incoming Christmas cards are now: Short, sweet and to-the-point. The best cards I received included a personal hand-written note, which I appreciated so much, I know I need to do more of this.

christmas cards

During Christmastime, I display my cards and letters. Here is the pile now for me to savor again.

Here’s my count: I sent 65 personal cards this year (plus 50 for my husband’s business). Two of my cards were returned (“address unknown; no such number, no such zone”). And I received 33 cards.

One of my dear friends wrote in her Christmas letter, “I adore the month of December and all the things leading up to the celebration of Christmas–but nothing more than getting cards in the mailbox. First, a huge thank you to everyone who has not given up on this delightful tradition. Christmas cards are the Joy of the season!”

Hear, hear! I couldn’t agree more. If you didn’t send me a Christmas card, that’s OK. I like sending mine to you enough that I don’t require reciprocation. But if you sent me a Christmas card, thank you! I read every one of them, enjoyed hearing from you and I’m still thinking good thoughts about you and your good wishes. Thank you.

What’s in a name

I am sorry to report I have a fad name.

I learned this fact thanks to Why But Wait’s “How to Name a Baby” post, which directed me to The Baby Name Wizard’s NameVoyager Tool. Type a name (or even a few letters of a name) and learn all kinds of things about it, including the popularity of the name since 1880s.

At its height, Monica was the 86th most popular name for girls in the 1960s.


That’s me. Thinking I’m special when in fact, I’m simply another lemming.

Monica was on its way out anyway, but blue-cocktail-dress-wearing Monica Lewinsky and her affair with the president of the United States sealed the deal for its demise. It’s now the 406th most popular name for girls and dropping. (Type in Adolph or Napoleon, though, to see what infamy does for a name.)

Names that spike the popularity graph like this are considered fads (think: Jennifer).

According to a survey on the site, Monica leans toward sounding smart, sexy and sophisticated, but it’s less young sounding (because it’s on its way out, duh; someday soon, the only Monicas you know will be old ladies, alas).

Check it out with your name (or, if you’re pregnant, your favorite potential names).

Abundance grows where abundance is sown

The abundance mentality always beats the scarcity mentality.

New chances and new opportunities abound, and I soaked in this mentality last night at an interesting networking event called a CRAVE chat.

It was held in a loft-like domicile with an open ceiling, exposed brick and cabinetless kitchen in Chicago. A group of about 40 women — mostly entrepreneurs including a couple jewelry designers, fashion designers and boutique owners — noshed on yummy vegetarian nibbles and sipped wine while mingling and listening to a panel discuss “Women: Collaborators or Competitors?”

The panel representing various other networking groups essentially agreed: Collaborators. There’s more than enough business for everyone, and everyone serves her own unique niche.

Since I spend so much time in a lazy village nestled among cornfields, the whole event last night felt cosmopolitan and high-powered. A place where ideas and opportunity grow.

Abundantly so.

Thinking pink for the berry patch

Pink blueberries are the hot trend in gardening, according to my mother’s garden club.

Bear in mind that woodchucks walking down main street of the town where I grew up also make the club’s meeting minutes but in any case, a quick Google search reveals dozens of entries for a variety called Pink Lemonade Blueberries.

There’s a lot going on in that name: “lemon,” “berries,” “pink” and “blue.” Why not simply pinkberries?

My Beloved cleared some space in the brush outside our back fence yesterday  with a goal of making space for berry plants of some sort. Sorry about the smoke, neighbors. The smouldering bonfire of twigs and leaves added even more confusion the seasonal schizophrenia around here.

Tyler is thinking of planting raspberries, not pink blueberries, which might be a nice complement to the mulberries already growing back there. I’m not casting a vote, but blueberries in any shade wouldn’t be my first choice.

And without all the brush, we shouldn’t have to worry about woodchucks either.

Fashion, stated by one’s phone cover

A person’s shoes say a lot about her fashion sense.

If you’re willing to settle for boring (yes, I know, comfortable) shoes, you’re probably settling in a lot of other fashion decisions, too.

In your 20s, you may settle in the shoe department simply because you don’t have the funds to get jiggy. It’s sad, actually, since one’s pain tolerance is probably highest in one’s 20s.

In your 30s, you might settle for boring shoes … heck, I don’t know why anyone in their 30s would settle for plain-jane shoes.

In your 40s, you settle for functional shoes because your balance starts to go and you don’t even want to risk a chance of standing for even 20 minutes in heels.

That’s when you divert fashion attention to your purse. Of course, by your 40s, you’re really sick of dumping stuff from one purse to another just so the metal accents match your jewelry. I can barely change purses for the season, let alone the day.

So, a fashionable woman in the 2010s makes a statement with her phone case. I marveled the other day at all the cool options Zhenya dug up over at “Bringing NYC Style to Minneapolis” (click here for that post and pay close attention to the Swarovski crystal peacock case — wow).

Here’s my phone cover:

I love the sparkly ’60s vibe. I must confess, however, I didn’t pick it. My Beloved, the former shoe salesman with an eye for detail, chose it for me when he got me an iPhone for Christmas.

I also love the look of my Stella & Dot iPad gun-metal quilted case, which I chose myself:

Like a pair heels with comfort inserts, it’s function and fun, all together, holding the fashion bar high.

The window in today’s corner office is a windshield

Today’s interesting statistic: 72% of the U.S. workforce is currently considered mobile.

I would be among that number. In my current position, I spend almost as much time in my car or away from my house as I do in my home office.

Long ago and far away, I had a position where I had an office with a window and a door. That was as pretty cool for a corporate minion. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t mean much.

Then I graduated to an “open office,” where my desk was exactly the same as everyone else’s desks, and no one had walls or doors. Status came by proximity to the windows.

Then I moved to a home office. I’ve got a window and a door.

And janitor duty.

My employer pays for wear and tear on my car and the occasional printer cartridge but not much else.

I can see why 72% of us are mobile. We’re a lot cheaper that way.

And I can see my window really needs some Windex and elbow grease.

Repurposing: New uses for old things

Remember that wad of inoperable watches that stymied me a couple of weeks back?

Thanks to my aunt Jean, I found a Minnesota artist who agreed to turn them into something useful again. Merry Jo “repurposes” junk and turns it into beautiful jewelry. Check out her clever ideas on her blog at Raremare Designs.

When I dropped off my watches last week, Merry Jo told me she would let them speak to her, and then she would know how to use them. That imagery — old broken watches talking — reminded me of the lesson on found object sculpture in a college art class. Found object sculpture describes art created from undisguised, but often modified, objects that are not normally considered art, like toilets or empty pop bottles. The memorials around the country made from World Trade Center girders would be a form of found object sculpture. I used a broken television in my college found art project, and as I recall it spoke “good concept, poor execution” to my professor.

Merry Jo uses old keys, board game pieces, tokens, foreign currency and strange and interesting bits and pieces of found objects in her wearable art, and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with using my watches.

A cute cosmetic bag ...

While we’re on the subject of repurposing, I’m thrilled with my new book bag made popular in my little book club by my friend Crystal.

... becomes a great book bag!

She bought a zippered cosmetic bag from Thirty-One Gifts and turned it into a Bible case. There’s enough room in there for the book we’re about to study, “Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life” by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend.

Now I’m looking for repurposing suggestions for this:

Entertaining ideas for using this holey sheet. Not entertaining questions on how it got this way.

It’s the bottom sheet in a matched king-size set. Is it garbage? Or is there a new life in this enormous piece of sage-colored Egyptian cotton with a big hole in it?

Forehead fringe

To cut or not to cut. Bangs.

It’s a bigger decision than hair color. I can still function with dark roots, but I can’t see with hair in my eyes.

A woman in this month’s O Magazine’s makeover issue had her look completely transformed with bangs. And then there’s that sideswept look a la Justin Bieber. They intrigue me.

But I’m just not sure. My forehead so low my husband kids me that my eyebrows and my hairline practically meet. My gorilla-like genes came from my mother’s side of the family. Hair grows in all the right — and wrong — places. I’ll probably have to pluck my ears at some point.

I haven’t had bangs in years, and I like tucking my hair behind my ears. And if I had bangs, I would have to barrette them when I’m running; it’s so convenient to put my hair into a ponytail with just one hair accessory.

We shall see. Or perhaps we shall see through a curtain of hair.

Not quite following the master design on this season of ‘Project Runway’

I don’t know what wrong with Nina and Michael this season. There ain’t no accountin’ for taste.

It’s the fourth week of the new season of “Project Runway” and all predictability has gone out the sewing room.

It’s like the film editors are splicing bits together like the designers stitch together pieces of fabric from the floor, and the judges’ comments don’t actually match the fashions on which they’re commenting. Maybe Lifetime is making Nina Garcia and Michael Kors uncomfortable.

I like Amy, and she won this week with that flowy, ethereal number which made sense to me. But Anna’s flesh and red dress this week was horrible compared to Jesus’ tacky little rhinestone turn. And yet, Jesus was gone.

But Ping was awful, right from the beginning, and she didn’t get dumped until Week 3.

Jesse’s stuff is strange, and why in the world does he wear a hat over that beautiful full head of hair? And they’re obviously keeping Anthony around for his humorous analogies, not his fashion sense.

I have no one audience for these opinions at home since Tyler has no interest in haute couture and Caswell makes fun of anyone who behaves in a manner even remotely gay.

So, who are you rooting for?

On the rise and fall of bookshelves

I sit in my office, surrounded by piles of paper. File cabinets filled with paper. Scrapbooks with years of photographs. Hundreds of books. Three-ring binders with reports and scripts and research. Mail, both unopened incoming and not-ready-to-be-sent outgoing. Baskets full of magazines. Drawers full of notebooks and blank stationery awaiting a purpose.

Downstairs, there’s a cupboard filled with stacks of recipes torn from newspapers and magazines. Scores of food magazines. A whole shelf of cookbooks.

Today’s newspaper sits on the table. Yesterday’s paper sits in a pile, awaiting recycling. Tomorrow’s paper is being designed even as we speak.

It’s hard for me to imagine a world without all this paper. Whole industries are driven by the concept of paper (publishing, newspapers, the U.S. Postal Service, scrapbook companies, office printers and copiers).

But it hasn’t always been this way. And it won’t always be this way either.

Long ago, cavemen painted on cave walls, a long-lasting way to save information but not portable. Stone tablets were portable, but impractically heavy. Ancient Egyptians wrote on papyrus roughly 5,000 years ago, and most sources credit the Chinese with the invention of paper made from wood fibers around the time Christ was born. With the invention of paper, humans wrote letters to share information (think of all the letters written by St. Paul to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Ephesians, etc.). With the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 15th century, making copies became easy, thus newspapers and books.

Of course, since God created human beings with mouths and tongues (and functional brains, at least most of the time), we shared information without paper. Those wall-painting cavemen shared their history orally, probably around the tribal fire pit. Eventually, there were town criers, telephones, radios, televisions and computers.

And now we can share information with web pages on cell phones and electronic books on Kindles and Nooks. We’re moving to paperlessness again, at least paper of the wooden variety.

Next stop: Electronic paper. E-paper.

Imagine a sheet of paper. The “writing” is not ink, but electronic images, like your computer screen — infinitely changeable and updatable. It’s as thin and light and portable as a sheet of paper. You can fold it or crumple it or roll it up and tuck it behind your ear. Read the news on it on your way to work (in your hovermobile), check out the company sales numbers (assuming you don’t work for a publishing company or a paper mill, of course), receive an agenda for a morning meeting, read a book over lunch, pay a bill, share a family photograph, catch up on Facebook, enjoy your friend’s blog, prepare dinner from a recipe and read the game summary, all on that single piece of e-paper.

Cavemen didn’t need file cabinets and bookshelves, and eventually, neither will we.