The Best Date Ever

(Natalie usually blogs at the chronically adorable Pony and Pink. She’s an art student, polyvore genius and champion dress-wearer. I think she’s the girlfriend you call when you want to scour that vintage boutique, and then eat finger sandwiches and catch the Beirut show – Sarah Von)

I don’t take myself out any more. Not on dates. I forget to buy myself pink carnations. I convince myself I’m too busy to go the movies alone.

I think this happens a lot. We make excuses. We work hard all day until all we want to do of an afternoon is drink a beer and fall onto the couch. And we rely on coupledom to propel us out into the world and rescue us from this behavioural rut. Rely on the people we date to, well, take us out on dates. Provide the romance. And I think there’s something wrong with this picture.

I am, as of now, going to take myself out for dates more often. And – naturally – dress up for the occasion.

So, in case you’re in need of a little romance, here are some ideas for solitary dates … and, because I am a self-confessed style fiend, some Polyvore outfits I’d love to wear during these fabulous solo expeditions.

Justify Full

Ride a carousel (or maybe a ferris wheel?) while eating a tub of Turtle Mountain Peanut Butter Zig Zag with a glittery plastic spoon. Wear the kind of dress that flutters when you walk – but maybe wear a petticoat underneath, unless it is your most heartfelt desire to re-enact The Seven Year Itch.
Insist on drinking everything through a pink straw, and call strangers “dollface”. If sugar floats your boat, eat a stick of fairy floss (candy floss, cotton candy … you know the drill) and take photographs of yourself with a half-eaten cloud of spun sugar and some very, very sticky lips.

Drive yourself to a lookout point in your city just as it’s getting dark. Watch all of the streetlights illuminate the landscape. Wear heart-shaped glasses and buy yourself fragrant flowers before you go, so the scent wafts through the car. Think about ten things that have made you happy today, and turn up the stereo. I hope it’s playing Iggy Pop or Bow Wow Wow. Your mileage may vary.

(Though, please, sweeties, lock your car doors. Just in case.)

Ride a gleaming bicycle to your nearest, geekiest museum – say, the Butterfly and Insect Museum in Honduras. Put streamers in your bicycle handlebars before you go and whistle as you ride! Take an audio tour of the museum – and don’t forget to buy a postcard in the gift shop. Send it to someone who shares your entomological passions!

What dates do you take yourself on?

Notes from the Road: Sandboarding and Whitewater Rafting

Say, what´s that a picture of?” is what you´re probably asking yourself right now, eh? Or maybe “Is Sarah still trying to impress us with all that talk of sand boarding?” Or probably “What happened to that guest poster La Bellette Rouge? When´s she coming back?”

 

Well, I´m going to go ahead and ignore those last two questions and pretend like you´re thinking about the first, mmmmkay? That photo is us, risking our necks to slide down The Biggest Sand Dune Ever.

 

Dudes. Not one iota of exaggeration: that dune was at least 20 stories tall.

 

In the event that you were concerned, I did not, in fact, die while sand boarding. Though according to that Nervous Nelly, The Lonely Planet, I could have. Here is a video that someone with exponentially better video editing skills than I possess put together that documents the sand boarding experience. (You might want to turn your speakers down or ignore the laid back hippie music. I´m pretty sure a Mountain Dew-esque, mid-90s guitar riff would be more appropriate)

 

So how does one not die while sand boarding in Peru? I can assure you success if you follow these simple instructions:

 

  1. While the dune buggy driver is driving sideways up giant dunes, scream your head off and white knuckle it on the roll bars
  2. Upon arrival at the dunes in question, reconsider your decision but allow your pride to convince you not to be That Girl who chickens out
  3. Rub an old candle on the bottom of a homemade snowboard
  4. As per the instructors directions, lay on your stomach, grab the bindings of snowboard, push yourself up onto your elbows and lock your arms in this position to funnel as much sand as possible into your cleavage
  5. Slide down a giant sand dune, not even screaming because you are too busy trying not to die
  6. When you reach the bottom, try not to act overwhelmed and respond nonchalantly when an Aussie snowboarder asks what you secret is to get going to fast.
  7. Lather, rinse and repeat eight more times.
And, friends? I would do it again. But maybe only once more.

 

As you read this, The Mister and I are headed for some whitewater rafting and then a nine hour bus ride to Cusco, where we’ll head up the Inca Trail. Apparently, Cusco itself is at such a high altitude, one might be inclined to get altitude sickness. Which one might then treat by drinking tea made from coco leaves.
Indeed. Here’s hoping I don’t develop a nasty coco tea habit that leads to bloody noses and visions of grandeur!Got the travel bug?  Check out my ebooks and podcasts on making long-term travel a reality!  Only $15 forpetessake!

Nice work if you can get it: Museum Girl

It seems to me that Fridays are a day largely devoted to doing as little as possible and maybe hating your job a tiny bit. That co-worker who steals your Lean Cuisine? Kind of want to shank them. This ridiculously small cubical? Totally over it.
Thus, it makes perfect sense to spend a bit of your Friday reading about fantastic and envy-inducing jobs that you could pursue instead of this one with the small cubical and the annoying colleague. This will be a weekly series, and I promise you some doozies. Opera singer! Handbag designer! Sled dog veterinarian!So without further ado, the first in our series: Nia M. – Museum Girl.


I met Nia when she was a wee fourteen years old, the younger sister of a friend of mine. She turned out to be significantly cooler than said friend and we spent much of high school engaging in shenanigans, deep in the woods of Palisade, Minnesota. These days, Nia rides her bike everywhere (even in the snow!), knows about everything that’s cool three weeks before you do and hangs out with bearded hotties.

So what’s the deal? What do you do?

I work at the Natural History Museum. I make science programs for the public and help to design exhibits.
Tell us about an average day in life of your job.
The average day: sit at the computer, email scientists, read some things about science, write event copy, talk to my colleagues about random things, drink coffee, sit around a big table “brainstorming” about…science.
How did you get into museum work?
Kind of by accident. I wrote a paper about habitat dioramas (those old school natural history museum displays) for a class I was taking on science and the humanities. In the course of my research I met the curator of the Bell Museum, and got interested in museum history and display techniques. After that I elbowed my way in as an unpaid intern, and eventually they offered me a job.
Do you have any special museum -related training?
Not really. That’s the thing about museums – there really isn’t an option for formal training, unless you want to be a curator. I studied comparative literature and the history of science, which I guess is good preparation for thinking about museum content and how to engage visitors.
Are there any drawbacks to working in at a museum?
I’ll never be a millionaire.
What are the highlights?
It’s a creative job, and it allows me to make use of my brain and my communications skills on a daily basis. Plus it’s fun to see your ideas come to life and to know that people appreciate what you do – and hopefully, they learn something too.
What are the misconceptions about this kind of work?
That museums are full of stuffy academics. There are a few stuffy academics, but its mostly alcoholic academics and misplaced artists.
What suggestions would you give to people interested in working in museums?
You have to be willing to work hard and contribute your creative energies without any real individual recognition, but as long as you’re okay with that, it’s a really fun job. It helps to have a genuine interest in the public good, whatever that might mean to you. And you have to like working with other people – it’s definitely not a good job for people who tend to work best on their own.

Any Museum lovers out there? Any queries for the lovely Nia?

How To Be The Best Thrifter Ever: Home Edition

How to find the best furniture and home goods in thrift stores

Sooo, you’re totally kicking ass with your super cute, unique, wicked cheap wardrobe purchased exclusively from the retailers of Goodwill and Salvation Army, right? Right. Now, how’s a girl going to work that thrifting magic on her home?

  • Know how to make simple repairs to furniture.
    This means that you can buy things that a lot of other people will pass up. Tighten the screws, reupholster the seats, repaint it, remove smudges or paint splatters, cover chips in wood, remove labels/stickers … it’s all pretty easy and you’ll feel wicked accomplished and smug when everyone coos over your $3 coffee table.
  • Keep a list of the measurements of the space you’re trying to fill.
    I don’t know about you, but I’m not great at remembering how big the space between my stove and counter is. $20 later I’ve just bought a table that’s 4 inches too wide. Lame.
  • Similarly, know what your car can hold.
    Or the number of a friend with a pickup truck. It’s a total downer to buy something at a yard sale only to discover you can’t close the trunk.
  • Repurpose!
    Because it bears repeating. A beautiful but rickety dining chair can become a bedside table, lovely old books can go on your wall, those sweet blue mason jars can hold your wooden spoons and that incomplete set of billiard balls would look great in a decorative bowl on your coffee table.
  • If you’re looking for even lower prices (and more adventure) try curb-surfing.
    Drive past apartment buildings at the end of the month, around college dorms as the school year ends or on large-item trash pick up day. You’ll have to be a bit more careful here – you don’t want to pick up anything infested with fleas/mold/yuckies … but you can’t beat a price of zero!
My most recently thrifted home scores include a 1950’s nine drawer dresser with starburst handles ($16!) and a giant Lucite clam shell for $3. What’s your best catch?

How To Thrift The Best Clothes Ever

Want to thrift the best clothes? Of course you do! Thrifting helps you save money and it's better for the environment. Click through for my best thrifting tips!

Thrifting is lovely, isn’t it? Finding all sorts of treasures for a pittance, stumbling onto a copy of your favorite book from Elementary school, imagining the former lives of all these things.

However, there’s a big difference between thrifting for fun and thrifting as your primary mode of shopping. Though it can be a bit trying, but I highly recommend it. My wardrobe contains the likes of BCBG, Banana Republic, and Anne Klein … and let me assure you, that has very little to do with my salary of $2.

8 ways to thrift the best clothes

Wear your best Thrifting Outfit

Some thrift stores don’t have fitting rooms. Some only have one fitting room for a jillion customers and if you’re shopping on a holiday or a discount day, you might have to wait 20 minutes to access a changing space.

Make it easier by dressing for thrifting. I like to wear knit leggings, slip on boots, and a camisole under a big, belted cardigan. That way I can take off my cardigan and try on clothes in some quiet corner of the store.

Know that size labels are a suggestion, not a rule

Learn to eyeball sizes and don’t get too hung up on what the tag says. I have second-hand pants sizes 4 – 13!

But I’d also add that – unless you’re an extremely experienced and productive tailor – you should stay away from cute things that don’t fit. Every thrifter I know has a pile of “this will be cute once I take it in”  and “this will be cute once I lose 10 pounds” clothes. You deserve to have a closet full of clothes that look and feel good today.

Learn how to spot stuff worth buying

Sure, you can buy a Target dress for $8 at Goodwill but it probably cost $25 new and someone else has already worn it. Fast fashion clothes pill, stretch, and wear out quickly. If you like them and they look good on you, by all means buy them! Give them a new lease on life and keep them out of the landfill! (Here’s how to make cheap clothes look fancier and nicer.)

It’s a personal preference, but I prefer to thrift items that will last forever.

Here’s what I’m always on the look out for
* Wool and cashmere anything
* Real leather anything
* Furniture made before 1965 (so much sturdier and longer lasting!)
* Almost anything that’s lined. It’s warmer and more flattering!

Keep an on-going list of things you are looking for

It’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of cheap clothes and buy a bunch of stuff you already have or don’t need. I find that shopping at thrift stores can actually be easier than shopping in normal stores because they are often organized by color and type of clothing (sweaters, and then divided by color) so you can pretty quickly see if they have the pink, long sleeved button-up that you’re coveting.

Keep a list in your phone of what you’re looking for and in which size. This will also prevent you from buying yet another cute thing that doesn’t really fit or go with anything in your closet.

Know what you can change/alter/repair

Can you hem things? Do you know how to dye things with RIT? And – more importantly – are you really interested in doing those things?

These days, the only ‘alteration’ I’m willing to make is removing pills from an otherwise PHENOMENAL item. I literally shave off the pills with a disposable razor!

Shop in the fancy neighborhoods

Or shop in the very non-rich neighborhoods. Stay away from the hip neighborhoods! I do almost all of my thrifting in the neighborhood where I work – a neighborhood which is almost patently un-hip.

But! This means that all the cute vintage dresses, 1960 purses, and vegetarian cookbooks are still there, because it’s not overrun with hipsters. Rich neighborhoods are good for fancy ‘work clothes’ and nice furniture.

Don’t limit yourself to the women’s section

The men’s section is full of cutely over-sized sweaters and the kid’s section has large boys’ blazers that will fit a petite woman. I’ve also found tons of amazing things in the Halloween section. One woman’s Halloween costume is another woman’s Date Night outfit.

Think about how you can re-purpose things

Love the print on that tiny skirt? Make it into a throw pillow. Mismatched cups become vases or votives, vintage records or books can go on your wall, an old children’s school desk can be your new end table, and that pretty patterned sheet could be your new curtains … or pillow cases … or dish towels!

Bonus tip! Before you look at the price tag, consider how much you’d be willing to pay

When something’s cheap it’s very, very easy to convince ourselves we need it. It’s very easy to consider something a bargain when it costs less than $15. But if you never use it, it’s a waste of $15! There are many times when I’ve thought “$7” and turned over a price tag that read “$35.”  But occasionally you’ll find things you’d pay hundreds of dollars for that only cost twenty bucks!

If you’re an experienced thrifter, pleeeeease leave your best tips in the comments so we can benefit from your knowledge!

P.S. How to make cheap clothes look fancy + How to wear any style (even if you’re broke, intimidated, or work in an office) 

P.P.S. Did you know I have a (free) private Facebook group dedicated solely to the topics of money and happiness? And the stuff we talk about has helped members change jobs, save thousands of dollars, and fight less with their partners? Join us!

photos by crew // cc