Guatemala City

We were supposed to leave Guatemala City early this morning to head to a smaller town about 4 hours drive away, but apparently there were some strikes going on and several of the roads were blocked, so we had a bit of extra time in the city. We decided to go to the craft market, and I was able to pick up a few souvenirs.

I quickly fell in love with these hand woven place mats. Many of the traditional Guatemalan pieces are very bright and colorful, but this color scheme fits our lifestyle much better.

My favorite find was this bright blue knit scarf. I specifically told one of my coworkers that I wasn’t allowed to buy any more scarves because I have so many at home, but I just couldn’t resist this one. It has a bit of elastic running down it so its stretchy! I want to try and recreate it when I get home.

Yes, I broke down and bought some baby booties. No, we aren’t expecting, but I just couldn’t resist their cuteness.

Tomorrow starts the three day workshop where we will be training almost 200 participants on HIV/AIDS and mobilizing their churches and communities to respond. Its going to be a busy few days!

{sorry for the picture quality – i’m using my iPhone instead of my camera on this trip}

My New Favorite Things

I had to do a little bit of traveling down to Florida this week, and it just so happened to be 80 degrees and sunny. I know, poor me!

Before I went down, Matt asked me what I was most looking forward to about the trip, and without hesitation I said knitting in the airports and planes! You see, I've been working on the Autumn Leaves Stole, by Jared at Brooklyn Tweed, who recently launched his new line of yarn called Shelter. I didn't actually know what a "stole" was when I first saw the pattern, but I bought it anyway because I was so in love with the leafy detail. Turns out, its just like a big scarf. Anyway, I'm not going to go into too much detail now because I want to leave some information for the final post, but let me just tell you that I can't put this down. My fingers are flying on the needles any chance I get. I'm not sure if its the pattern, or Quince and Company's Lark yarn that I'm using, but it is such a delight to knit. 

Photo4Sorry for the weird lighting – I'm going to blame it on the windows at the airport in Fort Myers.

I had a bit of free time on Wednesday evening, so of course I went shopping. I wouldn't really consider the "Boone Mall" a mall, so it is such a treat to be able to go shopping off the mountain. I think I spent at least an hour drooling over new kitchen items at Williams Sonoma.

But then I found a store that beckoned my name, even from outside. I had seen the name for the store – Trader Rick's – in the hotel guide (which, being the nerd, I always read!), but I wrote it off as being a knock-off Trader Joe's. Oh boy was I wrong. It was like a mini-anthropologie, personalized and particular. And oh so lovely. I wish I had more pictures to show you. I spent quite a while perusing and stumbled upon this amazing little purse.

Photo10I fell in love with it immediately. I wanted to buy it so badly, but I wasn't sure I could justify spending $58 on a new purse. So I picked it up, looked at it, put it down, walked away, and came back about 8 times. I'm sure the shopkeeper thought I as pretty strange.

Then I found this shea butter balm, and I bought it. To make myself feel better about not buying anything else, especially the purse.

Photo7Mistrel is made in France, and this particular product is made with 100% pure shea butter. They had several scents available, but my absolute favorite was the vanilla apricot. I have completely fallen in love with this as a lip balm. Every time I put it on, I push my lips out and up to my nose so I can smell it. So delightful! I was reading on their website, "The true test of any personal care product is its power to transform you." Let me tell you, I feel transformed.

So I left Trader Rick's, with shea butter in hand, walked about 50 feet down the mall, and turned right back around to go buy the purse. And oh I am so glad I did.

If you're interested in finding Trader Rick's next time you're in Florida, they are located at the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers and Periwinkle Place on Sanibel Island. You'll be so glad you visited!

Vitacost Customer Service

So, do you remember the recent post I wrote about vitacost and my love for their company?  Well, my love came to a screeching halt the other day because I decided to order a bunch of laundry and cleaning products, like I mentioned in the post.  Unfortunately, the Seventh Generation Laundry Detergent wasn't packaged properly, and it spilled on everything in the box.  Few things are more disappointing than a wet, soggy, slippery box.  Oh, and a box of ruined fabric softener sheets.  Thankfully the soap and dishwashing detergent were packaged in plastic and not ruined. 

That did not make me a happy camper.  In fact, I was really irritated.  

Later that night, I decided to call customer service and see if I could return the box of damaged items for new stuff.  I was on hold for about 2 minutes when a recording came on telling me that if I didn't want to wait on hold, I could enter my phone number and a customer service representative would call me back.  That was the number one smart thing for them to do.  I hate waiting for customer service.  Every minute that ticks by makes my heart starts racing even faster and I get irritated.  Even if I'm not that upset to start with, I don't appreciate companies with poor customer service (cough, charter, cough). 

So, instead of waiting on the phone with my frustration growing by the minute, I decided to hang up and let them call me back.  When the phone rang about 15 minutes later, I had actually forgotten that I was waiting on the call and was ready to talk like a civil person!

I explained my problem to the very understanding and sympathetic customer service representive.  Before I knew it, she was putting in a replacement order for the laundry detergent and fabric softner sheets.  Free of charge.  And I didn't have to deal with packaging and shipping back the messed up items.  Thats it, it was that simple.  No haggling, no yelling, no pulling of hair.  I called late Tuesday night, and the new items should be on my porch around 1 pm today.  

Now, that is customer service I can appreciate. 

P.S. – I was able to salvage and use a few of the dryer sheets, and I love them!  They reduce static cling and make the clothes soft without feeling slimy and smelling like fake flowers.  They're chlorine free, unbleached, recyclable, and biodegradable. 

UPDATE: I just went home, and indeed, the package had arrived.  Unfortunately, there was only air packets in the box.  Thats right, no laundry detergent.  No dryer sheets.  Only an invoice and air packets.  After I called, they're over-nighting a replacement … we'll see what happens.

Vitacost

Do you know about Vitacost yet?   I've been meaning to tell you for quite a while, but it keeps slipping my mind. 

I first learned about Vitacost from my friend Lindsay.  It is basically a company that offers discount vitamins and supplements, but I use it mostly for ordering the all-natural health and beauty products that we use.  I've found it incredibly helpful for a number of reasons:

  • I place an order approximately every 3-4 months.  It has helped me streamline the products that we use on a regular basis, and I've learned to keep at least one back up for each product, so that we never run out.  That way we aren't running to Walgreens at midnight to buy Tom's toothpaste for $6 because we just ran out
  • They offer a flat $5 shipping for everything!
  • The prices are so much cheaper than most places retail stores I've looked at in Western NC.  I've found that you typically pay a fortune for natural or organic health and beauty products up here, and this allows us to use products that we are comfortable with, while not spending a fortune. 
  • If you buy the same things on a regular basis, you can easily duplicate previous orders or set up automatic orders. 

What do we regularly buy?

Kiss-My-Face-Pure-Olive-Oil-Soap-028367000001 

Kiss My Face Olive Oil Soap

$5.37 for a three-pack.  ($8.97 suggested retail)

Jason-Lavender-Satin-Soap-for-Hands-and-Face-078522020257 

Jason Lavender Body Wash

$5.27 ($8.95 suggested retail)

Deep-Steep-Tangerine-Melon-Honey-Bubble-Bath-17-fl-oz-674749100194 

Deep Steep Tangerine Melon Honey Bubble Bath *this is my big splurge item, and it is fabulous!

$11.21 ($19.50 suggested retail)

Toms-of-Maine-Toothpaste-Peppermint-with-Fluoride-077326120064 

Tom's of Maine Peppermint Toothpaste *I first started using Vitacost because we go through so much of this toothpaste and it made me cringe every time I had to pay $6 for it!

$3.72 ($6.73 suggested retail)

Kiss-My-Face-Obsessively-Organic-Whenever-Shampoo-028367831679 

Kiss My Face Shampoo

$4.67 ($7.95 suggested retail)

Kiss-My-Face-Obsessively-Organic-Whenever-Conditioner-028367834670
Kiss My Face Conditioner

$4.67 ($7.95 suggested retail)

New-Chapter-Every-Womans-One-Daily-727783006424
New Chapter Every Woman's One Daily Vitamin *I LOVE these!

$37.17 for three months supply ($61.95 suggested retail)

Kiss-My-Face-C-Weed-Sudz-Organic-Foaming-Soap-Sweet-Orange-And-Lime-028367835196
Kiss My Face Foaming Soap

$4.07 ($6.95 suggested retail)

Burts-Bees-Beeswax-Lip-Balm-792850110991
Burt's Bees Lip Balm *I probably go through a bazillion of these each winter!

$2.60 ($2.89)

So, there is a sneak peak into our personal hygiene!  Vitacost also sells natural, eco-friendly laundry detergents and household cleaners, and I plan to add those to my order next time!

Are you already a Vitacost user?

Immaculate Baking

Thursday after work, I ran into Harris Teeter to find a quick snack for some guests that were coming over in about 30 minutes.  I wanted something sweet, so my mind instantly raced to pre-made chocolate chip cookie dough.  As I was perusing the cookie dough and looking for the cheapest cookies, out of the corning of my eye, I saw a brand new, colorful package of cookies.  
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Now, I like to pride myself on the particular selections of food that Harris Teeter has available, and I was completely surprised by this colorful package of cookies.  So, I picked it up and started reading about Immaculate Baking Company.  

The first thing I noticed is that their tagline is "Cookies with a cause."  I'm in favor of that … if I'm going to buy cookies anyway, I'd rather buy cookies that support a cause.  Now, I'm sure you're asking what cause they support … I was also asking that, so I turned the package over and started reading. 

Immaculate Baking Company was started in Scott Blackwell's garage in 1995 with the goal of making "great-tasting, all natural treats and inspire the natural artist in all of us." They use organic ingredients and support folk artists by featuring local artists on their packaging.  Immaculate donates art supplies, offers folk art workshops, and even holds giant bake sales for creative-minded nonprofits. 

Once I realized that Immaculate Baking Company is located in Flat Rock, NC and is only 5 cents more expensive than the cheapest cookies, I bought both the chocolate chip and the sugar cookies to try out.  

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I must say, these are the some of the best cookies I've ever had – although that statement might be influenced by the fact that I'm eating some right now … 

Nationally, Immaculate cookies are sold at Whole Foods Markets and select Kroger stories.  In NC, you can find them at Earth Fare, Food Lion (select stores), Fresh Market, Harris Teeter, and Ingles (select stores). 

Clothes Swap

My friend Mary recently hosted a clothing swap – as soon as I got the evite, I was a bit jealous that I hadn't thought of doing a clothes swap before!  Its pretty much as easy as it sounds – host a fun girls night, complete with food and music, and invite your friends to bring over some of their gently worn clothes that they don't wear anymore. Throw everything in the middle of the room, and pick out new clothes!  

Its a fabulous way of updating your wardrobe without having to spend any money, and you'll really be surprised by how much people like some of the clothes that you've been done with for years.  

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This is what the bed looked like after everyone laid out their clothes. 
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I'm pretty sure Laura won the prize for getting the most clothes!  

Anthropologie

My all-time favorite store is Anthropologie.  You may have picked up on that from the frequent posts about lovely deals I've found there.  I will be one of the first to admit that Anthropologie is quite expensive – but if you can find things on clearance you can often get a good deal. 

Several of my favorite signature items are pieces I've picked up at Anthropologie … I saw a most beautiful bathrobe last fall, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for several months, so I finally decided to buy it for myself even though it was $88.  Really, who pays $88 for a bathrobe?!  But I love it … everytime I put it on a little smile lights up inside me.  Its perfect for me because it has 3/4 length sleeves, and one of my biggest pet peeves is trying to get things done in a bathrobe with sleeves that are too long.  You try to wash your hands and get at least 3 inches of sleeve sopping wet … no on wants that!  It also has perfect little pockets in the front for holding keys or my phone or a biscotti while I'm carrying my coffee. I'll try to take a picture and post it soon. 

I even enjoy getting advertising e-mails from Anthropologie because the pictures make me feel so at home.  Sorry this picture is split – I couldn't find another way to copy it from my e-mail.  Doesn't it just make you want to dress in summer clothes, look cute, and go outside?!

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Anyway, the real reason I'm blogging about Anthropologie is because a brand new store just opened on January 31st in Greensboro!  I was forced to get my fix when I was in Charlotte, but now I can do it in Greensboro too.  The new store is at Friendly Shopping Center.  I drove by it this weekend, but didn't have a chance to go inside – I am thinking a road trip is probably necessary sometime soon!

Grocery Shopping List

I love grocery shopping.  Seriously, it is one of my favorite things to do.  I love making a complete list of everything I need and walking up and down the aisles to fine what I'm looking for.  I HATE being rushed at the grocery store. I love the way grocery stores are so predictable.  I love the colors and smells in the produce section.  I love discovering products that are new to the store.

I almost started a grocery shopping business several years ago.  I was trying to figure out how I could get paid to do something I love … and I know there are tons of people in the area who need help shopping.  I even had an awesome name picked out … but I'm not going to tell you in case I decide to start the business later!

Anyway, because I love grocery shopping and I kept forgetting things, I found that I was going to Harris Teeter almost every day.  That is not good for the budget – not at all!  So I created a grocery shopping list that has the things that I buy most frequently.  I keep a copy on my refrigerator and mark off things as I finish them.  When I go to the store, I know exactly what I need, and the list even prompts me to remember things I might forget, like nutmeg, so that I don't have to make a late night run to the store when I'm in the middle of baking cookies!  It is organized by product section at the Harris Teeter in Boone, but you could rearrange the excel spreadsheet and add or delete items so that it is customized for your needs.
Grocery Shopping List - sm version

This is a quick snapshot of part of the list.  You can download it as a PDF or an excel spreadsheet.  Happy shopping!

Download grocery_shopping_list.pdf

Download grocery_shopping_list.xls

A coffee cup an hour

Have you ever been at a friend’s house and seen something that you just knew you had to have?!  Well, my friend Athalia has the best taste, and she has the most lovely coffee cups and saucers for entertaining.  I love them for two reasons:

1) They are small so people have time to finish their coffee before it gets too cold
2) They’re not so ornate that I’m afraid to use them. 

I wanted the mugs for quite a while, and I finally got them when I was in Beijing this summer.  I went to the second largest IKEA in the world … and came home with 24 mugs, saucers, and spoons!  Store the mugs in a basket for a quick entertaining solution, even on the go!  Now that I have 24 mugs, I can use one every hour, even if I don’t have any guests …

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Simple Shoes

I just got a new pair of shoes … and I am absolutely in love with them!  They’re made by a company called Simple that strives to make 100% sustainable shoes.  For Simple, how their shoes are made is just as important as why their shoes are made.  They have a very fun little video on their website that tells their story. 

And now for the shoes … they’re called the GT Jane Organic Cotton. From the shoes themselves:

  • I contain no animal byproducts or even regular animal products. I am a vegan friendly and veggie friendly shoe.
  • I have certified organic cotton uppers
  • I am bamboo lined
  • I have coconut buttons
  • I have a natural latex pedbed with a certified organic cotton canvas cover
  • I have a natural crepe rubber midsole and a recycled car tire outsole
  • I am held together with water based cements
  • I have a 100% post consumer paper pulp foot forms

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They’re a little bit casual for the office, but I’ve worn them a few times anyway.  They are probably the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever owned, and I love them almost as much as my first pair of chacos.  I got the GT Jane’s on clearance from Backcountry, and I wish I had gotten a blue pair as well!