My subconscious is the best writer I’ve ever known.
Ye Olde House Wifee - #1
I have braved the ice fields and winds to return to Harper House. Oh, how it howled and the cold unforgiving, but I persevered! I have cocooned myself in the bedroom with several blankets to recover. I call to the servants to make dinner, but they do not answer! I fear there is no hope for me. I shan’t thaw. I shan’t relax; my neck and back a tangle of nerves. Send for the priest. Tell him to bring pizza.
Lauren Mildred Flenderson
An ode to Real Simple magazine.
I canceled my subscription to Real Simple magazine today. I started my subscription to this embodiment of domesticity sometime in 2007. To explain why I canceled, I should explain why I subscribed in the first place.
I had ordered Real Simple as a gift for a friend. She loved quirky home decor and had an eye for fashion and, not having much knowledge of magazines in my early 20s, I confused Domino Magazine with Real Simple. I corrected my error with my friend, but decided to switch the magazine subscription to my name after reading an issue.
The magazine was a reference for all the skills I lacked: Homemaking. Cooking. Fashion. Shopping. Socializing. I had launched into my adult life with a minimal skill set for these activities, a reflection of my life growing up. My home ec classes only taught us how to cook breakfast, how to sew a pillow, and that sometimes store brands were quality food choices. My childhood meals often consisted of what we affectionately termed “Box + meat = food”. My family never had guests over. My parents really didn’t have friends or family. Our decor was limited to family photos and white walls. I also didn’t know about how to “dress up”. My mother never wore make up. Never went out. Shoes were tennis shoes and our uniform was a shirt and jeans/sweats. As I would meet others and learn of their experiences growing up I would feel these were fortunate circumstances, comparatively, but I could not deny that I was deficient in some essential skills.
Real Simple became my manual. I diligently snipped out recipes. I saved articles that would teach me how to interact with coworkers and navigate social situations with friends. I slowly began to add accessories to my outfits. We bought art. We had lovely holiday decor. I became a gift giving queen. I still really minimally wear makeup, but when I do I’m happy with it. I was so eager to learn these things. It filled in the gaps I had. It did it with a kind, neutral tone. Sage advice that some people would have had passed along to them from family or a grandparent… I had the pages of my magazine.
Today, I follow several blogs that cover my favorite topics and pinterest is full of ideas. I’m sure Real Simple may attribute some of their decreased sales to these facts. I’m sure my circumstances are not uncommon. But for me… The real reason I unsubscribed is that I’m grown. I’m 29. I think I’ve graduated from Real Simple University. When flipping through my latest issue, I realized that the magazine didn’t grab me like they used to. It was time.
So thank you, Real Simple. You taught me a lot. You equipped me with skills I have found so useful in my adult life. But it’s time to leave the nest. I’m keeping you friended on Pinterest. I’ll recommend you to young people I meet that, like me, need a nice neutral place to learn about life without fear of judgment from the inquiry. Thanks for the assistance with my wedding, which was so helpful since we were one the first of our friends to do it and my family was not involved in that day. Thanks for the meals. The Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons. The stories of other families. Thanks for everything. I might have left, but there are many more readers where I came from who have much to learn.
Things I will miss about Houston: the guy who plays piano about three apartments down from me. He’s pretty good and the piano is by his window, so everyone wakes up to lovely music on the weekends.
Another thing about Houston I will miss: Houston Free Share, a Freecycle group. It’s been a terrific resource for getting rid of things before our move, but just in general, it’s nice giving things you don’t need to people who want them. I’ve probably given out ten things for every item I got… but I never minded it. Helps me get rid of the clutter. Detroit has a similar group, I hope it’s as well run.
I can’t believe it’s November.
I feel like it was just the middle of summer. I know, time flies and all that, but the holidays are right before us and it’ll be 2012 before you know it. Crazy.
I love the holidays. I always have. The decorating, special meals, friends and family… but the favorite part for me is the gift giving. Say what you will about commerce and consumerism, etc. etc. I love getting people gifts. I feel like it’s a celebration of who they are, what they mean to me, and a small token of my appreciation for their friendship. Warm fuzzies - who doesn’t like warm fuzzies?
I’m also really good at gift giving. A lot of this does relate back to my enjoyment, but I don’t have a hard time figuring out what to give people. My husband does struggle with it, but I’ve just taken to telling him what I want (or skipping gifts all together) or shopping for him. I get the warm fuzzies, he gets to not feel awkward at the gift giving, everyone wins. (I’m the emotional, creative one. He’s the precise, engineery one. We balance each other out.)
So what is my gift giving POA? How do I get a gift I’m satisfied with that I know the gift-ee will enjoy?
1. I pay attention. Little comments here and there get stored away in my brain. People talk about what they want or enjoy all the time. If I see or hear something I think might make a good gift, I rush over to amazon and toss it on my gift giving wishlist with a little note. Or I email myself. Or make a google calendar reminder about this time of year that says, “Hey, dad really liked that chair from Ikea. Buy it for him?”
2. I try to keep things practical. If someone doesn’t like stuff - don’t buy them stuff! Or just ask them what they’d like. I know, I’m a fan of the surprise ‘look at me, I nailed it’ gift, but for those hard to shop for people… it’s better to get them what they want or would use. A couple blog posts ago I talked about how I cook using blogs. Most of my cookbooks are collecting dust and I’m slowly getting rid of them. For me… a cookbook probably isn’t the best choice for a gift.
3. I use the internet. You can find just about anything online. It’s the future! Blogs do some of the work for you by creating tremendous gift guides that allow you to find unique gifts for pretty much anyone on your list. (I think I’m going to make one after this post.) Use them!
4. I’m thoughtful. Don’t wait til the last minute. This doesn’t allow time for thoughtfulness. You can really think about a person and what they might enjoy/use if you’re rushing to the last minute. Shopping online will force you to shop early. Just think about the person. Think about what makes them happy. And extrapolate… What’s related to that thing? What would complement that thing? What would people who like that thing also like? Maybe that thing is a physical object. Maybe it is just a visa gift card. Maybe it’s a donation to a local non-profit they would support. As long as there’s a thought process behind your gift, you have a better chance of getting something they’ll really like.