Friday, April 24, 2015

Letter Writing: "Open When" Letters

It happens- sometimes a person you love and care about is far away from you. Maybe it's a husband or a child or a friend. They're in the army, the navy, off to college, moving across the country... whatever their (and your) circumstance, you want to be there for them, but sometimes you just... can't. Not until they finally invent that transportation device they always used in Star Trek, anyway.

That's where "Open Me When...." letters come in! As the name implies, these letters are to be opened at certain times. Generally, you send multiple letters all at once, similar to a care package, but  instructions are clearly marked on the outside of each envelope about when to open each letter. While these instructions can include certain days, or even times of the day, most often they are for when certain situations arise, or when the recipient is feeling a certain way. It is basically a way to "be there" during the hard times and the good time, even when you can be there. Below are a list of a few of my favorite examples of "Open Me When..." situations:

You need to know  I love you
You need a good laugh
You could use a pep talk
You are feeling lonely
You want to reminisce
You’re worried
You’re upset or angry
You can’t fall asleep
You need me
 You’re feeling grumpy
 It’s your birthday!
It’s Galentine's Day!
 It’s Valentine’s Day!
It’s Christmas Day
It's Halloween
You’re having a guys'/girls' night
You don't feel beautiful
You need courage
You’re mad At me
You Need To Smile
You’re bored
You've had a Bad Day

I would recommend always having one letter with the instructions "Open When... You Get This" or "Open Right Away." This letter can do two things. First, it provides you with a chance to explain what the "Open When..." letters are for, and second, it can function as a regular, personal correspondence letter would. Share all the latest news or funny stories of what happened to you. Ask about their day. This is, if not the only letter, then certainly one of the few letters, you know exactly when it will be read. Other letters may not be opened for days or even weeks. So, you can use the first letter as a chance to share timely information.

What about all those other letters though? Most people who send these "Open When...." Letters like to put a bit of pizzazz into the presentation. And why not, when that will communicate the time, effort and thought you put into all the letters? Even without reading them right away, that "pizzazz" will help show someone how much you care. Perhaps you might like to have similar theme or look for all your envelopes. Or maybe each one is a different piece of "mail art" with pictures, puzzles or funny handwriting. You could have the size or shape of the envelope play a part too- who doesn't get a kick out of small, tiny things, or oddly shaped things?

As for the directions of each letter, you will know the circumstances of your recipient best. When might he or she most want to talk to you, need help, congratulations, or advice? For a college student a "Open when your stressed during Finals Week" or "Open when you have no more clean clothes and need to do laundry" might be more useful; a husband on an overseas tour might appreciate "When you miss your little boy" or "When it's our anniversary" more. Pick a few; I'd recommend at least five, maybe more. This is one of the situations where more often equals better,  so long as situations are thoughtful and relevant.

The trickiest part, of course, might be what to put in these letters. Some, such as letters to be read over special holidays, will seem obvious. For most of the "Open When..." letters though,  there is no guarantee when, date-wise, they will be read. So avoid the more chatty style of a personal correspondence, where you might ask questions and expect a reply. Instead, you might consider writing them in the style of a letter giving advice, a love letter, or a letter of appreciation. You could get really creative and write a pictionary note, a mirror letter, or even a letter in code. Since you might reasonably be sure of the mood your recipient will be opening many of these in, you can take that into account. For example, will the person need a laugh, or cheering up? Include something funny such a a cute story or even a a list of knock-knock jokes! If they are lonely, photos of the good times you have all shared together? If they are discouraged, share what you admire about them.

Don't limit yourself to just writing letters either. This is a care package of sorts. What can you stick into the envelope to help the person you are sending this too? Maybe a gas card for someone who might need to drive home for a visit would be good, or even a bunch of crossword puzzles for when someone is bored!(Psst! If you're feeling stuck about what bit or bob you could tuck into an envelope, Look my 15 Things to Put in a Care Package series here!)

Remember too- not all of these "Open When..." letters need to be written by you! Enlist other friends and family to help you out. In the previously mentioned example where a serviceman might be missing his kid, why not have the child write a letter or make a picture or even record their voice sending a message on?

If you're still looking for more ideas, here is some Further Reading: 
101 Open When Letter Topics from the LDR Magazine


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

What I Wore: The Shape of Things


PicMonkey Collage What I Wore: Skirt (Pin-Up Girl Clothing), Sweater (Similar Here), Shoes (Minnetonka)

One of the things I do when looking to add things to my wardrobe, or what to keep or throw out, is what silhouettes am I drawn to? What shapes or styles do I most enjoy and feel confident in?  What do I most like as inspiration for myself? Because while I love seeing people in all sorts of things, that's not always what I can see myself being happy in. Clothing really sets your mood for the whole day. You want it to be you- what you can move around in, what you can feel comfortable in, but also what you love,

When looking at what to add to my Spring/Summer wardrobe list, I noticed that the two shapes I'm most drawn to were, in some ways, opposites. I loved the more stream-lined look of skinnier pants such as cigarette pants or peg pants. Yet I loved the fullness of midi circle skirts. Beyond the obvious though, they are more alike than you'd think! They both have appeal as pared down versions of themselves, styled simply. Plus, with both you could mix feminine and masculine together (yes, even skirts can have an more androgyne feel, depending on what you put it with). So, I knew I wanted another skirt to round out my wardrobe...

And yeah, every blogger and her dog seem to be getting this skirt, I just don't care. It is too pretty to care. The (admittedly, lovely) print and color makes it a bit harder to find separates to go with it, but It Can Be Done! Here, its paired it with a low-key sweater. It's simplicity helps the skirt step away from its Pin Up Girl roots (no pun intended with the brand...) and shows off that it can look great in a repo vintage style or styled a bit more modernly.

Are there any certain shapes, colors or items you find yourself drawn to again and again?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Dog-Eared Page: The Book of Embraces

Their hands were tied or handcuffed, yet their fingers danced, flew, drew words. The prisoners were hooded, but leaning back they could see a bit, just a bit, down below. Although they were forbidden to speak, they spoke with their hands. Pinio Ungerfeld taught me the finger alphabet which he learned in prison without a teacher:

"Some of us had bad handwriting," he told me. "Others were masters of calligraphy." 

The Uruguayan dictatorship wanted everyone to stand alone, everyone to be no one: in prisons and in barracks and through the country, communication was a crime.

Some prisoners spent more than ten years buried in solitary cells the size of coffins, hearing nothing but clanging bars or footsteps in the corridors. Fernandez Huidobro and Maurico Rosencof, thus condemned, survived because they could talk to each other by tapping on the wall. In that way, they told of dreams and memories, falling in and out of love; they discussed, embraced, fought; they shared beliefs and beauties, doubts and guilts, and those questions that have no answer.

When it is genuine, when it is born of the need to speak, no one can stop the human voice. When denied a mouth it speaks with the hands, or the eyes, or the pores, or anything at all. Because every single one of us has something to say to others, something that deserves to be celebrated or forgiven, by others.

-Eduardo Galleano, "Celebration of the Human Voice," The Book of Embraces

Friday, April 17, 2015

Le Tote Review

You all know I love a good subscription box, right? Well, waaaay back in December, I caught an amazing deal where a subscription box company,  Le Tote, would send you your first box for free. 

Le Tote is kind of like the Netflix of clothing, or a rental version of Stitch Fix. When you sign up, you fill out a style quiz, and also have the opportunity to peruse all the clothing Le Tote has in their closet- and they have a lot, many from very reputable brands like Anne Taylor and Nasty Girl amongst others. You "heart" the clothing items you like to have them appear in your own closet. Then, stylists will pick a combination of items in your closet and others they think you'll enjoyed based on those choices and quiz. They send them all to you. You can wear them as much of as little as you like and then send them back, free shipping, to the company. Viola- a wardrobe to rent! 

Le Tote aims to make itself very easy to use, but there are certain tricks and unexpected tips that will make your experience with them better.

First off, it is important to remember you are paying for the service, not the box. This means, you pay forty-nine dollars every month to be a member.  You are sent one box of five items (generally a mix of clothing and accessories) at a time and may keep the items for as long as you want (even more than a month if you really like them!), or you may return the box and another will be sent to you. If you get two or more boxes in a month, it is does not cost you anymore; it is covered under your forty-nine dollar membership fee.  They have  two-shipping, which means a four day turn around, so realistically, you are unlikely to get more than two boxes a month, but it is a nice option to have.  If you like an item enough to want to purchase it, you simply send back your Le Tote without that item in it. The cost of the time is then simply charged to your account. It is important to remember that Le Tote is a continuing membership, though that membership can be put on a temporary hold if your wallet is feeling a bit thin some months. You can cancel your membership all together, but it is a bit of a pain, because you have to email a representative and the correspondence generally takes a few days from start to finish.  

Another important consideration is that, while Le Tote has items from various brands, the clothing tends to reflect a certain style- a more modern, geometric style that I tend to associate with work place clothing or clothing for the 30+ crowd. Much of it is very cute, no matter your age or situation, but it is something to consider! Also, because items are from various brands sizing varies a lot. When you take your style quiz, you specify your sizing and all items your "heart" and put in your closet default to that sizing. However, I highly recommend that you look at the sizing guide of each item. I've seen S and XS vary from 24" waists and 32" busts to 38" busts or even 40" busts! To the right, you can see this for yourself with these two sizing charts for different items available with Le Tote. Personally, I often have the issue that many women's brands, especially for workwear, don't make clothes smaller than a six (I have very narrow shoulders), and this was definitely reflected in one of my Le Tote Boxes. They do provide sizing charts for all items (unless they are one size fits all), and provide a measuring tape for you to keep in your first box, so make use of both tools!

Another useful ability is the being able to evaluate each Le Tote box and the individual items in the box. As you can see below, you can rate whether you liked or disliked an item; ask for the item to resend; and even upload a photo of you in the item for other Le Tote costumers to see. These photos can also be useful when you go to pick out items for your own closet. You can also check the price of any item, which may be helpful if you are considering keeping something from a box. 

I got three Le Tote Boxes over two months, and personally had mixed feelings about the results. I quite liked a number of items in my first box, including a snake-shaped bracelet I probably wouldn't have bought on my own, but which felt fun to try "renting." That's the nice part of this subscription, you can experiment with different colors and styles. Of course, you can do that in any dressing room, but I enjoyed having the time to see if items really fit with what was in my closet and lifestyle already. My second month I got two boxes; the first box went back right away! Almost nothing fit well. This was due in part to not looking at either the sizing charts nor the material of the items, but was very disappointing nonetheless. I had also chosen a large array of items just to to experiment with too. Le Tote recommends keeping about forty items in your online "closet' for them to choose items to send you from; I think one might be happier with 20-30 very well chosen items. The second box came in about four days, just as advertised. It was a bit better than its predecessor, but still no winners I kept in my closet after sending the Le Tote back. 
Top row was the contents of my first box; middle row the contents of my second box; third row has the contents of my third and final box

Forty-nine dollars a month every month seemed a bit too rich for my blood, but having learned how to pick a bit more strategically and look at the sizing, I might give Le Tote another round. Le Tote also seems ideal if you really enjoy the novelty of new things in your closet, and might otherwise be shopping alot/too much. It would also be a great way to try out a new style, especially if you've gone through a life change like a new job or a move and don't have a lot in your closet to work with. Would you or have you ever tried Le Tote?  If you're looking to try it out, use this link to get twenty-five dollars off your first month!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What I Wore: The Value of Basics


What I Wore: Shoes (Old Navy), Pants (Gap), Shirt (Popbasic), Trench Coat (ASOS), Clutch (Popbasic), Bracelet (Popbasic), Necklace (Similar Here)

Just the other day, I shared what was on my spring/summer shopping list. Black pants have been a staple piece of my wardrobe this year, so it should be no surprise that they made my list as something to replace.  After all, when you can dress them up for work, or down for a day on the town, it is really no wonder they are the MVPs of my closet. 

Black cigarette pants are a bit of Goldilocks situation. They have to be juuuust right in terms of fit, and material. You want them to skim, not cling, yet they need to be something you can move in. They need to not shrink funny in the wash; no one wants pants where one leg is half an inch shorter than it's pair (please insert the stink eye I am giving the store White House | Black Market). I was surprised as anybody that these ones from the Gap were the winners of the bunch. It had a seam ripped, so it was marked down; thank goodness for basic sewing skills right (and that costuming class I had in college)? 

With pants- and other basics like it- its easy to create these really polished looks that don't take any time. I wore this look to work and then again on the weekend. Like black pant, the shirt gets worn a lot. I've shared on the blog before; its my favorite piece from my favorite company, Popbasic, but in fact this is how it gets worn more often. Sometimes a girl knows, what's simple is best.
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