As promised I am posting spotlights on some of my favorite brands that I featured in my 2017 Holiday Gift Guide. The gift guide features all female entrepreneurs and their products, some are well-established and others are just getting started on their journey.
I met Kaitlyn Usher through Instagram. It was sort of like online dating except we liked each other’s stuff for a year before I bought something from her site and then liked stuff for another 6 months before I invited her out to a dinner for women I host once a quarter. I clearly have no chill. But I was obsessed with how she ran her company, The Roving. (And still am, thus why she had to be in the Holiday Gift Guide.)
Her obvious joy for what she does, her authenticity in each and every IG comment, and the quality and detail of her work drew me in fast. Her feed is perfectly curated (something we know I struggle with) and her jewelry is absolutely unique. Kaitlyn stays away from obvious trends that flood fast fashion stores, and sticks to clean lines. But those clean lines have edge! She uses hards metals, chains, stones you’d want to tile your apartment with, and bright neon beads. They are a grown-up way to say “I’m a little wild” without going off the deep end.
I featured the pair of earrings I bought from her in the Holiday Gift Guide but then she went ahead and released a whole bunch of new stuff and I am just sitting around trying to decide what to buy! Really! 3 of my favorite items from her newest batch are below, hover over to see cost and description and let me know which one you think I should get and I will! I am really into the yellow ones. (Yellow is my favorite color!)
And let me know if you purchase something from Kaitlyn due to my guide. I’d love to know what you buy and see you wearing it.
DECEMBER 16th is final ship day for items from The Roving. It is also her FREE SHIPPING DAY! Hop on that deal!
Two weeks ago I had this rather crazy idea. I like buying my holiday gifts from local shops, and I LOVE buying from woman owned shops, but I obviously can’t financially support all of them. So, light bulb moment, I decided I could support them by promoting what they do best on my blog. I have this platform and I should be using it to support others in turn.
As a result I am bringing you my first ever (kind of scaring me to death) Holiday Gift Guide! I worked hard to not only gather some really neat products (some well-established brands as well as some ladies just starting out) but to put together a good looking book for all of you!
Please note, I am not a designer and I’ve been panicking about the look and feel of this for days! But this is Cheap Courage, and this is where you do the thing that scares you.
And believe it or not… this little guide scares me! Is it enough? Will the brands like it? Will people enjoy? These are the thoughts I’ve had along the away but I am pushing them all aside to share with you some really beautiful stuff you can buy this holiday season and feel proud that you’re giving a) Something totally unique and b) supporting a female entrepreneur.
I’ve started small this year but I intend to branch out next year, give myself more time, and double the amount of shops next year. And also, probably hire someone to help design it (lol).
I have to keep saying it out loud. I have to keep writing it down. Because the memories are already fleeting. Because it all happened so fast.
I want to keep these updates brief, honest, and from the heart. Travel blogs tend to offer either just great photos or weird sales pitches. And I’d like to keep this much closer to me, to my true experience, to the fact that I am a writer.
I am not going to recommend you quit your day job and travel the world on borrowed money. Or share with you (after charging you a couple bucks) the secrets of getting by on a shoestring budget.
I’m just here to remind you of the magic of travel, how it changes you, and how this trip to Japan in particular inspired me to be brave and kind in my daily life.
I want to mention that I went on this trip as part of a campaign (more to come later!) called #GoTohoku. After a video submission and an interview process I was selected to go. (I pretty much still don’t know why but I guess I must come off as charming.) So the fact that I went with strangers and that I found out a month before that I was going, colors some of this, but not all.
I was totally calm about the trip until the day before I left. Then I got nervous. I was totally nervous the morning of the trip. Then I lost it. I tend to keep my feelings inside but I actually started crying before I left. I was overwhelmed. Was I really going to go to the other side of the earth? Was I really doing this? The answer was yes– of course I was doing this. Earlier in the month me wanted this, so I sucked it up for her, got in the car and headed to JFK to meet the strangers I’d be hanging out with for a week.
Everyone seemed normal, on their best behavior, and then we flew.
The flight to Tokyo is 14 hours. And from there we flew to Aomori in the Tohoku region. In all, I traveled for about 24 hours and didn’t sleep. This is what adrenaline feels like. I couldn’t turn my brain off from the moment at hand. So, aside from not sleeping the flight was pleasant and the attendants on our Japan Air flight started giving me a taste of the hospitality I would encounter in Japan. I watched movies and ate snacks and listened to “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. Oddly, I listened to this song specifically 10 times a day on this trip. I wish I could tell you why. I was alert, but not panicky. I had calmed myself enough to make it across the globe.
Here’s my point: Just leaving for this trip made me braver, even before anything else happened. I believe that, like grit, bravery is something that gets stronger the more you use it. It was one thing to be brave when agreeing to the trip “Strangers? Sure! Last minute trip across the planet? Sure!” But when it came to actually leaving my house, and getting to the airport alone. That took real bravery. And yes I cried at first, but by the time I made it to the airport I had shifted gears, became the “Amanda” I pretend to be 80% of the time. I was brave. I had ACTUALLY faked it until I made it, and it worked. (Really.) If I had let my fear take hold, if I let that weird voice that was like “Hey, you should cry over this,” take control I would have never left my house. I would have froze.
I know you’re thinking, “You would have never left those people from the campaign hanging.” But I remember when I was younger, when I wasn’t brave, when I hadn’t developed any grit and I know (I KNOW) I absolutely could have done that. And I know people that would have. It can seem easy– beautiful photos and a good attitude can make an trip seem idyllic, but we have to remember that pushing ourselves to see the world, and to risk the comfort of routine, is brave. And often, the more you do it, the easier it gets.
So did I totally throw you earlier when I mentioned Tohoku? Were you like, “What is she talking about?” Let me clarify: This trip was not about Tokyo. Or Okinawa. Or Kyoto. It was about Tohoku. A little known and little visited region of Japan. Sadly, it is typically recognized as the area that was hit by a tsunami in 2011. Tohoku is a diverse area, from shrines to mountains, to perfect foliage to elegant boat tours. And I’ll get into all of it later. (Don’t act so surprised, I told you this wasn’t a normal travel blog, duh!)
Tohoku reminded me in some ways of being in the Midwest. Of course it has nothing to do with cuisine, I ate fish for just about every meal while I was there, but in the manner of the people there. Being outside of the major metropolitan cities, like Tokyo, the people of Tohoku are slower paced, kind, and thoughtful. They want to know about you when you buy candy from them, they want to make sure you are comfortable when you dine with them, and they acknowledge you.
I remember the first time I went to Iowa, I was freaked out by a cashier who wanted to know all about Massachusetts. I felt similarly in Tohoku. Even though not many of the people there spoke English confidently, they still engaged, asking the questions they could. Imagine being so engaged with others that you don’t let a language barrier stop you from reaching out to another person? I mean, damn!
On our first full day, I went out to explore a nearby shrine with some of my new friends– I’ll explain them later. When we arrived, in light rain without umbrellas, we came across a mother and son feeding the giant Koi in the pond. They gave us their remaining bag of fish food to toss in. When I took a few out of the bag and tried to return it to them, they declined. “For you,” the mother told me. It was the smallest gesture but encompasses the kindness I felt the entire time I was in Japan.
It’s these things I remember the most, the things I try to apply to my daily life in, the often lonely and discouraging, New York City. Kindness changes people and it goes a long way.
Ok now that I feel I sufficiently painted a picture of HOW this trip made me feel, I’ll follow it up with a slightly more traditional post about some of my favorite spots to visit.
For awhile I’ve been considering a new feature for the blog in which I review all of the subscription programs I have tried. And I’ve tried a lot. (I know, this is probably some diagnose-able problem.) I fall in love with some of the subscriptions I try and others I quit almost immediately. While this blog revolves around solving life’s most ridiculously taxing problems, and I tend to steer away from the commercial, I do think it’s worthwhile if I review the subscription programs and boxes that genuinely work for me. Because let’s face it, everything should be easier in life. Including how you get your stuff.
So to kick off my new series I am reviewing the November BootayBag offering. You’ve probably seen me post about BootayBag on my Instagram before and that’s because I genuinely love their underwear and the extra donations they make to the melanoma foundation for their hashtag: #undermatters.
Let’s get down to business.
How does it work? Every month BootayBag charges your account for $12 on the 15th. Then your product is shipped to you. You get a notice each step of the way. Within a week (for US residents) your package arrives.
How’s the quality? I wouldn’t be so amped for this if the quality of underwear wasn’t spectacular. The November bag is my 3rd BootayBag and the quality is on-point each and every time. The panties are soft and gentle but also durable. They are a dream to wear. The colors AND lace pattern styles change every month so you don’t need to worry about repeats.
Why else do I love it? Honestly, I got fed up with Victoria’s Secret, my old go-to for underwear. The quality isn’t all that great and the color choices in the PINK line (which has my favorite cuts) are never mature. They make me feel like a kid, not a woman. BootayBag’s underwear comes in colors for WOMEN and they have playful cuts. You can also choose to have your subscription include Thong, Never Thong, or a mix, so you’re getting what’s right for you.
The November bag specifically is so CUTE! I received a hot red pair with a cute lace design and a keyhole back and a white pair with mesh-like siding. Again, this is my 3rd bag and the first time I’ve had either of these colors or styles. No repeats!
For $12 a month it’s really a steal. US citizens don’t pay shipping and you ALWAYS receive 2 pairs. I enjoy the idea of being able to get brand new undies each and every month without having to go out of my way to the store and figure it out. I’m a busy lady!
I blame my countryside upbringing for my fear of asking for help. Where I come from pulling yourself up from your bootstraps is the ultimate goal. Nothing is worth having if you haven’t completely busted your ass trying. I still feel guilty when something comes to me too easily. Without exhaustion, hard work, pain, or even, tears some things just don’t feel like an accomplishment.
It’s not the worst way to live–my ability to work non-stop, to press through pain, to forget my ego to get a task done, has always served me well– but it’s not the only way to live. In fact, there was this whole concept of asking for help that I didn’t discover until I was an embarrassingly old age.
I am hesitant to name the concept “nepotism” because of the many negative connotations for the word, especially now with Trump as President and his kids skipping along to political careers too despite their lack of, well, any civic engagement whatsoever. While I don’t find that nepotism is an inherently bad thing, it is the cause and root of many troubling things so I must instead look to define the concept I really care about, which is “asking for help.”
I always thought I had to do everything on my own. In high school, it wasn’t until my junior year that I took teachers up on their office hours. There seemed to be a trick to what they were doing. They were going to stick around after class to teach me one-on-one? It seemed too easy. In college I never went to the Writing Center because I was convinced there was going to be some sort of plagiarism going on because, other students were going to edit my work and help me? It seemed like cheating. And when I graduated I had family friends and family members who worked in publishing or TV or journalism, and I pretended not to know them, or to ask for introductions because I wanted to earn it.
In other circles, using every single resource given to you is a way of life. I saw it as making things too easy, but other kids (often from privileged backgrounds) saw this process as more work and a chance to get ahead. I was afraid to get ahead. My whole middle class life I had been taught to care for others, to stay in my lane, to not get too greedy for a life I clearly wanted. Again, not a bad way to live. But without the balance of asking for help, I was lost well into adulthood.
Enter New York City. A place where everybody knows somebody and asking for help is part of your day-to-day. Nothing is a favor because more often then not, you have something to offer in return the same day, same week, same month. New York City can be very lonely but in a lot of ways its very tribal… if you find the right tribe. I can get friends discounted hotel rooms, they get me theater tickets, another friend always has an open bar to attend. Ideally, if you work your connections well enough, there’s not very much you actually have to pay for, or line up for. I haven’t perfected that, but I see people who have.
The easiest way to get a job here is to ask your friends who they know. Ask for introductions. Have someone send a resume through. Of course, the job market is still tough, interviews still suck, and you have to rely on your own talents after the introduction, but a good introduction can be 25 or 50% of the work. Even as I write this my country background is firing off: “You sound sleazy! This is gross!” It’s ringing all the bells in my head.
But I’ll say this. When done graciously and with purpose, asking for help doesn’t have to be sleazy. Grabbing on to opportunity isn’t gross. Everything in this life is hard enough, why do you want to make it harder on yourself? You will still have failures and you’re still going to feel lost and lonely. I promise you. So don’t feel bad if, this time, it was a little easy. And yeah, there are people who abuse it, exploit it, use the system for “evil” but that’s just about every system there is. Don’t let that fear keep you out of the game.