Saturday, December 27, 2008

Getting To Know YOU


Valentine's Day, 2006 - Exactly 10 days after the biggest breakup of my then 29-year-old life. This has become one of my fave pics of myself. (Overbite and all, lol.)

A few weeks ago, I blogged about my eventful evening with Diane von Furstenberg. In this post, I mentioned what I think is a profound piece of advice from Diane:

Have a really good relationship with yourself.

I've been thinking about that quote a lot since I posted it here. Like most of you, the end of the year is a time for reflection and planning/setting goals for the coming year. Also, the domino effect of our grim worldwide economy has truly started to kick in. Several people I know have been laid off from their jobs recently, most companies had minimal to no bonuses for their employees this year and corporate holiday fiestas were basically non-exsistent.

What does this have to do with Diane's quote you're wondering? A whole lot. We put so much focus on our jobs (Note the difference between a job and a career - you can never be fired/laid off from a career.), our relationships and yes even our families that we too often forget the one guaranteed constant in our lives is always us. We must stop giving all our power to others. Jobs come and go. Sure, most of us have to work to eat and provide for ourselves and our families. But we can redefine what "work" is and recognize that our skills and gifts can be applied to more than one thing or place. We say things like, Oooh, he lost his good job at the bank and he and his wife just bought that new house. I feel so sorry for them. Let's change this mindset. Think of all the people who started successful, groundbreaking businesses after they got fired.

Sadly, significant others, spouses and family members can come and go too. That sentence might seem surprising coming from me as I'm always raving about the importance of family. But guess what? Marriages don't always last. I witnessed my mother become a widow when she was still fairly young. But she didn't wither away and become some shrinking violet. She lived and continues to live out her dreams like purchasing a home, traveling the world (she just informed me of her latest big excursion this week) and creating the type of life she wants for herself. Many of the things I've witnessed my mother accomplish solo are things I know she discussed doing with my dad but she has continued to roll with the punches. Ladies, (I hear women say this much more than the fellas) be careful of professing things like I'm nothing without you to your husband or boyfriend because you might actually start to believe it.

Children shouldn't dictate happiness or a total sense of purpose either. No matter how many Oprah episodes you watch and Dr. Spock books you read, children do disappoint their parents. (And sometimes parents disappoint children.) I don't have any offspring of my own but I've witnessed teenagers of Cosby Show like families become pregnant or father babies barely out of middle school. (Having a child as a teenager is not a death sentence by the way.) And even children come and go. I know someone who has had to bury 5, yes FIVE of her own children. So statements like My children are my everything are dangerous words to utter as well. Yes children are a blessing and I imagine can offer a renewed sense of self but they should not be the only thing that makes life worth living. Seems to me that in order to "raise" someone else it helps to be as complete as possible first.

I hope I haven't made anyone sad or somber and as everything else here at PPT, what I write is all my mere opinion. The beauty of this realization, for me anyway, is knowing that every area of my life: my career, my relationship with Mr. TK, my family; they are all sweeter when I'm good with me. Even the sour stuff is easier to swallow when I'm working on being a better Bsquared.

Thanks again Diane. And folks have the nerve to say that fashion designers are empty.

P.S. - I scored two fabulous DVF wrap dresses this Christmas! Anyone in the Charlotte, North Carolina area should head to the sales racks on the second floor of Neiman Marcus in South Park Mall immediately. Amazing deals folks.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Procrastinator’s Official Holiday Shopping Guide

Six Wallet-Friendly Tips For Scoring Great Gifts on Christmas Eve: From One Procrastinator to Another



I pride myself on giving thoughtful gifts. But I’m admittedly also a (recovering) procrastinator. For those of you who are trying to scramble last-minute gifts for your folks, this post is just for you.

Card ‘Em!

1 – Forget trying to get clothes or tech items at this late hour. All the good stuff has been picked over. Head straight for the register and pick up a gift card. But think outside the box this year. What about a gift card for a grocery store (Who wouldn’t appreciate that with the price of food these days?) or a loaded up gas card (ditto)? Airline gift cards are excellent as well. Think about the places that the recipient really frequents and don’t worry if you only have $25 to put on the card. That is $25 less for them to spend.

Letter Love
2 – Are you struggling over what to give that person who you love dearly and already has everything? Why not write them a heartfelt letter? If you know someone who writes decent calligraphy, pay them a few bucks to copy the letter for you on a snazzy sheet of paper from a store like Kate’s Paperie. If no calligrapher is available, just opt for a fancy-smancy cursive font on your computer. Keep it short and sweet and write from the heart. Roll the letter up like a scroll and tie a festive ribbon around it or place it in a pretty frame.

Regal Regifting
3 – Try the white elephant gift exchange. Kathy Finney over at thebudgetfashionista.com hipped me to this and I think it is such a cool idea. You and your loved one agree to exchange gifts that are items you already own of equal value. Hey, one man’s junk is another’s treasure! To add a personal touch, try including a note stating why you think the recipient would enjoy the item and why you wanted them to have it over keeping it for yourself.

Picture Perfect
4 – Have an old picture of you and your best friend during your high school senior ski trip? Is there a picture of you and your sister making Easter baskets when you were six that you both adore? Run to the nearest scanner, enlarge and copy the picture then mount and/or frame it. It will be cherished for years to come; trust me.

Reading Is Fundamental
5 – I am part of the rare breed of humans that still enjoys reading magazines in hardcopy form. Truth is, most people do. Websites are a fantastic supplement to print publications but are far from a replacement. Purchase a magazine subscription for your loved one(s) and try to think of something they will really enjoy but for whatever reason, haven’t purchased for themselves. Ideas to get your juices flowing are Golf magazine the Tiger Woods wanna be or Fortune mag for the budding business tycoon. (Shameless hint: I would love a subscription to ELLE D├ęcor, ahem.) Purchase a newsstand copy and wrap it up with a note alerting your recipient that they will be receiving their own copy in the mail over the next year. (Visit this site for discount mag subscriptions.)

Don’t Believe The Hype
6 – Do you really have to get all your gifts by tonight? Chances are, you won’t see all your people by midnight on December 25th anyway. Prices will be cut drastically on the morning of December 26th. Take advantage of the after holiday sales; this year there will be tons of them. If you can wait…Wait.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS EVERYONE!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Reason For The Season

With Christmas officially less than a week way, lots of folks are doing last minute shopping for their loved ones -- especially kids. A few years ago I would have been one of those people too. I've opted not to purchase any Christmas gifts this year. Are you clutching your pearls? Well stop. I do plan to give my nieces and godchildren savings bonds next month when all of the hustle and bustle is over and I resolve a couple of personal financial matters. But the Christmas of 2005 forever changed the way I view buying Christmas presents, especially for the children in my life.

My nieces came up to NY to visit me for the Christmas of 2005 and I was beyond excited. For the first time since losing my father in 1990, I wanted to decorate and really get into what I thought was the holiday spirit. See my dad made Christmas decorating a production in our household. My brother had to hang lights on our terrace (he hated doing it), we hung our cards all over the apartment, a train set and the gingerbread house my father purchased for me annually were arranged on the dining table, we decorated our tree to the nines, all four of us wrote and exchanged wish lists, Christmas carols were played constantly -- basically our home became a mini-Christmas village. But after my father passed, most of this stopped and for years I didn't feel the same about any of it. But knowing that my nieces were spending the holiday with me caused a serious change of heart. I went overboard with their gifts, I bought them stockings, I purchased ingredients for us to bake Christmas cookies (we never did), I tried to anticipate their every desire and within my budget (and probably over my budget) I met it.

Well, fast forward to Christmas day. First of all, they slept until about 10am. My brother and I always woke up ridiculously early on Christmas morning to open our gifts (go figure). Once their gifts were all open, I soon realized I was a lot more excited about what I had purchased for them than they were. And then the next evening, I had a true A-HA moment.


My Little Bsquareds, December 2005. This picture stays on my fridge to help me keep life in perspective.

My brother (their dad), had them get dressed for bed and like most kids, they were fighting it as much as possible. While avoiding going to bed, they discovered my old hoola hoop. Well they got such a kick out of that thing! Seriously, no Wii, Dora doll or Limited Too gear could have come close. They loved it so much that I let them take it back home. For the rest of their stay, they played with that darn hoola hoop more than any other toy they received that year. And they received quite a bit.

So yet again, my nieces (at the time they were only 2 and 5) taught me something that I don't think any adult could. Sure they were fascinated by the hoola hoop but they were a lot more excited to have something that belonged to their Auntie B. Not only did I get a valuable reminder on what is most important about this holiday in the first place, but it made me realize why I had enjoyed those Christmases with my father so many years ago. It was never about the "stuff" - truthfully I don't even like gingerbread - but it was about the time we spent together. The laughs we shared, hearing my dad yell at my brother for the lights being crooked, counting who broke the most ornaments; the bonding is what I cherished the most.

I might not physically purchase gifts this year but I hope to spread lots of love and definitely want to soak some love up.

Think about what you already have to give before you spend money on another gift. You just might have an orange hoola hoop of your own.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shopping In Your Own Closet



I've been shopping in my closet a lot lately. I know it might seem lame or even impossible but it is actually kinda fun and most of all cost efficient. Since recessionista has become active in our vocbulary, I thought this post was very timely. Normally I only do this around Spring Cleaning time but I've put the practice into use more frequently and want to show you how to do the same. Check it:

TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON

Rethink your seasonless clothing and layer, layer, layer. Growing up, my family went through a daunting twice a year ritual of putting away our spring/summer clothes in the fall and putting away our fall/winter clothes in the spring. Perhaps it is because I have a lot more space now, but I don't really feel the need to do this anymore. I wear over half of my wardrobe year-round. But I've lately noticed that some items I've been reserving for the warmer months can work now in the dead of winter as well with the right manipulation. Dark tights under floral skirts and dresses, cardigans over tanks, even dresses over slim pants are all ways to effectively pull this off.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

By now we all get that fashion is cyclical but the tricky part is knowing when things are going to come back into "style". I don't think there is a hard and fast formula to this and why would we want one anayway? This season, I've pulled out items that I literally haven't worn in years and put them back in rotation. They include my black leather motorcycle jacket from college (I remember wearing this jacket to a Howard Homecoming weekend excursion) and an olive green Coach duffle sac. The result? Crazy compliments and Where did you find that? queries. That question was primarily for the Coach bag. Wearing these items is nostalgic and adds some personality to a look. Always keep items that are classic (like my motorcycle jacket) because they are guaranteed to be more interesting as they get older. By the way, I like popping mine over an ultra feminine dress.

BACK IT UP

Americans are generally over-consumers. Most of us have more than we realize, even those of us who are struggling. Go to the back of your closet and dresser drawer to re-evaluate what you own. Guaranteed you'll find at least one item you can add to the wardrobe rotation you had forgotten about and at least one other thing you can donate to folks who really don't have what they need. The other day I wore a belted denim dress that I have had for about a decade (it's by Espirt) and haven't worn in years and I wondered why I don't wear it more often but I quickly realized that I had forgotten about the darn thing.

REMIX WHAT YOU HAVE

Go to the tailor and make your favorite dress that is now a little too snug in the hip area a top. Cut a pair a jeans at mid-calf and wear them with knee length boots. Wear your favorite adjustable waist skirt as a dress over a turtleneck. (See the first tip.) Break up a suit - it's okay to wear that blazer with jeans every now and then. Switch out the belt of your favorite dress or coat for one that is a completely different color or texture.

HOST A SWAP PARTY

Admittedly I still haven't been to one of these yet but I just might throw one in '09. Folks have been raving about them for a few years now and with the economy being what it currently is, I predict even more people will be planning these types of fiestas. Basically, everyone brings a designated number of items of a set retail value to the party and the attendees then swap items that they no longer want or need for someone elses . Apparently, when done correctly, everyone leaves happy, no one has spent any money and it is a great way to declutter.

Have you been shopping in your closet lately? What did you find?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

8 Things I'm Happy About Right Now

Happy Hump Day!

Today's post doesn't have much to do with anything. This right here is just for sh*ts and giggles. Okay maybe just for giggles. With so much depressing stuff in the news (If I hear about one more corporate layoff -- geesh!) I have decided to post a list of things I'm happy about. Feel free to leave me a comment and tell me what is on your happy radar today.



1 - This is the time of year that everyone plays Christmas carols and I love it. I actually listen to them all year (my poor coworkers can vouch for this) but for the next few weeks I can play Little Drummer Boy without the funny stares.

2 - My first article has been published in Real Simple magazine. This is a big deal for me folks. Be sure to check out '7 Ways To Return Anything' on pages 71-73 of the January 2009 issue. Not just because I wrote it, but because there are some useful tips in it too. Remember, I'm a returning queen.

3 - I had the willpower to pass on the Tracy Reese sample sale this week. Gotta keep saving for a rainy day.

4 - Two stories that I wrote for the j-o have been very popular with readers this week. See for yourself here and here.

5 - Did you hear? We have a Black First Lady to be that isn't the pastor's wife. Still wrapping my head around this y'all.

6 - While I'm bummed about my throat being extremely sore, I'm thankful and happy that I have health insurance and can call my doctor to hopefully get some relief for tihs bug. Real talk - I've been without health insurance before.

7 - Last week I attended the Victoria's Secret store opening in NYC, got a cute little gift bag filled with goodies and bonded with my dear friend Mija. It was one of those classic Big Apple moments as we had no plans to go five minutes before we rolled up. Oh and the Ugg store opening last week with my friend Eddy was pretty cool too.

8 - I found my all-time favorite song sang by my church's choir on YouTube this week. You have no idea how much I plan to listen and watch this now. Everything in me gets right after I hear this.

Monday, December 1, 2008

My Evening With Diane von Furstenberg


Last week I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Diane von Furstenberg. It was lovely. She is just as charming, funny and fly as you would imagine. Diane shared her journey from being young, pregnant and clueless about the fashion industry, to landing on the cover of Newsweek at 28, to getting divorced, losing her mother (who was a Holocaust survivor), getting remarried, becoming a grandmother, moving to NYC's meat-packing district before it was sexy, virtually losing her uber-successful business due to over-saturation and rebuilding it to the cult label it is today. She even gave her predictions for what Michelle Obama should wear Inauguration Weekend. By the way, Diane thinks Michelle is just as gangsta as we do. Yes folks, she shared all of that (and then some) with me in midtown Manhattan last Wednesday and even gave me a cute little parting gift bag.

Okay so there were about 100 other people present too.

Last week Diane von Furstenberg was interviewed by Kate Betts (a bad chick in her own right -- Google her) for an event hosted by a women's organization at my job. The venue was packed. Radio personality Wendy Williams even showed up. How random? I guess everyone wanted to hear what the woman who created "the wrap dress" had to say. Well, while I stil have tremendous respect for her as a designer, I have even more respect for her as a woman after hearing her speak so candidly about her journey. She dropped several words of wisdom on the crowd that night but I'll share these with you now:

Have a really good relationship with yourself.

So simple yet so profound. I think I'll end on that note. Expect more gems from 'ol Diane to pop up in my Quote of the Week in the near future.

Below are a pic of the program from the night and Diane chatting it up with guests after the event.





Confession: I do not own a DVF wrap dress. Tragic, I know. But I might break down and get one soon (on sale of course) because it is such a classic that over time it will more than pay for itself.

Do you agree?