Really, Really Cool Stuff: January Edition

And here we are, at the start of a new month! For those of you who are new to Oddly Lovely, the topic of this monthly series is to share my favorite things I discovered each month, be they movies, books, TV, apps, websites, products, or blogs.

Really Cool Stuff January

1. Waggo Dipped Color Ceramic Dog Treat Jar

One of my biggest projects this month was painting my office a pretty mint color. Totally out of the blue, Waggo emailed me to ask if I was interested in receiving a dipped color ceramic doggy treat jar and, guess what – it matches my mint walls perfectly! I love how it’s both modern and classic, subtle and yet gorgeous. Waggo definitely knows their dog products too, because the jar has a rubber seal so I can feel confident that Ru’s treats are staying fresh on my desk. PS, can I also just mention how hard it is to find good looking treat jars? I looked for ages before I wound up spending too much on a plastic one a few years ago – I was happy to trade it out for this adorable one instead.

2. Meet the Patels

There’s nothing like a heartwarming documentary, is there? I threw Meet the Patels on on a whim when I was browsing Netflix one night and was immediately charmed by its quirky voice and intermittent animation. This movie tells the story of Ravi Patel, a first generation born Indian-American who breaks up with his long-time white girlfriend and concedes to his parent’s urging to try a more traditional arrangement to find an Indian girlfriend/future-wife. It’s a funny and endearing exploration of culture, what it means to be from an immigrant Indian family, and how we find our romantic partners.

3. Wash and Fold Laundry Services

Okay, maybe I’m out of the loop on this one since we don’t live in a big city like New York, but apparently there’s places you can just drop your laundry off and they do it for you?! While Reg and I love our apartment and plan to never leave, the biggest downside is there’s no washer and dryer. After five years of hauling our clothes to the laundry mat and, yes, our parents’ houses, I just found out that I can just drop it off at a wash and fold laundromat in the AM and pick it up in the afternoon cleaned and ready to put away. It’s about $15 more than doing our laundry ourselves, but it saves us about 3 hours of hassle (and since we usually end up eating out that night anyways, it’s about the same cost).

4. The Intern Podcast

Is it really a Really, Really Cool Stuff post if I’m not recommending a podcast? I’ve discovered a lot of new ones this month, but I think my favorite is The Intern. It follows the journey of a 20-something woman who is switching her life of teaching and non-profits for a NYC tech and media job. The podcast focuses on her experiences in her new position and company, as well as what it’s like to be a young person in a big city (like dragging a 40 pound mattress home from Ikea on the subway). It’s a little rough around the edges, but it feels honest and relatable.

5. Custom Dog Portrait

Without question the coolest product of my month was the custom portrait Reg gave me of our dog, Ru. Since we skipped celebrating Christmas with gifts, we exchanged presents for our anniversary this month instead, and Reg commissioned our artist friend Emily to do an incredible portrait of Ru that looks truly like her. We loved it so much, we commissioned a second one of our neighbors’ dog for their birthdays. This girl is seriously incredible at capturing the face and spirit of a pup (and her prices are outrageously reasonable). Visit Emily’s website to see some of her work and reach out via the contact page if you’d like to talk with her about getting a custom portrait.

What is something cool you discovered last month?

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Stitch Fix February 2016

Well, gang, it’s finally happened. In Stitch Fix box #11, I finally loved everything so much, that I decided to keep it all. The biggest factor was my stylist fulfilled my request for both black jeans and boyfriend jeans, both of which were affordable and exactly what I needed. Combined with more adorable cold-weather items, it just made more sense to keep everything than keep just the jeans and spend almost the same amount.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Stitch Fix is a subscription box clothing service where for $20 a box, you receive a personal stylist who will send you a selection of clothes picked out specifically for you. Then, you keep what you want and return the rest, while the $20 down payment can be used as a discount against any clothes that you keep.

Without further ado, here’s what I kept for a grand total of $200:

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Papermoon April Patterned Knit Sweater, $54 – Kept

This sweater was not my favorite in the world, namely because I already have two gray sweaters from Stitch Fix (clearly my stylist has figured out my favorite color, haha). But Reg thought it looked adorable and I’ve wound up wearing it nearly every day since, so I guess it paid off!

Kut from the Kloth, $78 – Kept

I received a pair of Kut from the Kloth jeans way back in May of last year and they’ve become one of my go-to jeans. These boyfriend jeans were exactly what I was looking for: a little baggy but fitted, lightly distressed, and an unbeatable price.
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Le Lis Calina Crochet Shoulder Knit Top, $54 – Kept

I am obsessed with this gorgeous long sleeve. This is the type of item that I’ve desperately needed for my winter wardrobe this year. It’s so soft and feminine with just the right amount of interesting detail.

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Skies are Blue Montanya Embroidery Detail Knit Top, $58 – Kept

This top was the only thing that I didn’t love in my box. My stylist pointed out that I had pinned a lot of items in this color, and it’s true it’s one of my favorites, but something about this top just didn’t work for me. Fortunately it was a good friend’s birthday this week and I knew it was her style, so I gifted it to her instead.

Liverpool Mira Skinny Jean, $78 – Kept

Finally, a pair of black jeans! I’d been asking for some from my Stitch Fix box for months, and these are perfect. They’re slightly jeggings-like with an elastic waist, but are a thick fabric that don’t make me feel like I’m wearing tights. Unfortunately, they had a tiny hole in the side, but Stitch Fix offered me a 15% discount which easily covered the cost to get them repaired and I was happy.

Do you think I made the right choice to keep everything? Have you ever kept your entire Stitch Fix box?

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The 10 Best Things that I Bought on Amazon

Best Things I Bought on Amazon

I’m almost embarrassed to admit how addicted I am to Amazon. We purchase a ridiculous amount of our household goods there, especially now that I’m working from home. With free, two-day delivery thanks to Amazon Prime and my Amazon credit card that gives me 3% cash back, it’s so incredibly convenient and pays off in both time and money.

My blogger friend Audrey Louise who blogs at Life as Louise recently did this awesome post where she shared some of the random items she purchased on Amazon in December, and I loved the idea so much, I wanted to replicate it. In this post, though, I’m going to broaden it a bit and share my favorite items that I’ve purchased on Amazon in the last year, so I can really feature my favorites.

1. Fjallraven Kanken Big Backpack

I don’t think Reg has ever wanted a trendy item of clothing in his life, so when he expressed interest in this hip Sweedish backpack, I was surprised and then promptly swooped him one for our anniversary. I chose the “big” one which is actually a normal sized backpack (regular is quite small). It’s rainproof, light, and durable.

2. Bluapple 2-pack – Freshness extender

I raved about these in my first Really, Really Cool Stuff post last November, but they’re essentially little balls you put in your fridge produce drawer to extend the life of your fruits and veggies. Since I began using them, our food lasts twice as long – they really work!

3. iRobot Roomba 780 Vacuum Cleaning Robot for Pets and Allergies

This is another product I’ve raved about, and while it’s not cheap, it’s so, so worth it. The Roomba is a little self-powered vaccuum that sucks up dust, pet hair, etc. all on its own while you relax on the couch or wash the dishes. I loved this so much, I actually bought one for my mom for Christmas. It’s one gadget that I would promptly go out and repurchase if mine ever broke.

4. Precious Cat Ultra Premium Clumping Cat Litter

Okay, this is very standard cat litter, but after previously spending almost $40 on this exact same size bag from my local pet store, I will always be purchasing this pet essential from Amazon now on. You just can’t beat the price.

5. Joules Evedon Women’s Riding Rain Boots Rubber Wellies

I had pinned these rain boots last winter and just could not stop thinking about them. We’re having an el nino year, which means California is getting more rain than we have in years (not that that’s saying much). With a dog that must be walked, I splurged on these expensive yet beautiful boots that I know will last me years.

6. Miniblindrx, Mini Blind Repair Tool

When my roommate moved out a few months ago, the blinds were pretty damaged. I knew it wasn’t his fault and that they were already damaged when he moved in, so I didn’t feel comfortable taking it out of his deposit. Instead, I did some quick googling since I knew there had to be a product out there to straighten blinds. Low and behold, this did the job for just a few bucks!

7. PurSteam 850 Watt Fabric Steamer

Reg understandably hates ironing his shirts (why is it so weirdly difficult and time consuming to do well?). He had compromised by taking them to a wash-and-fold place, until I heard about this powerful little fabric steamer on the A Few Things podcast. It’s affordable, quickly gets the wrinkles out of your clothes, and is even portable!

8. Skinny Girl Liquid Water Enhancer Variety Pack

Although I almost never drink soda, I’m utterly addicted to my SodaStream, which carbonates tap water instead of forcing me to buy the bottled stuff. While I never add real syrup to it, I do like to add a tiny bit of flavoring and these water enhancer flavors are very delicious, not too sweet, and low in calories.

9. BISSELL 1940 Powerfresh Steam Mop

If it wasn’t clear yet, I’m a totally crazy cleaner. It’s not that I’m obsessive compulsive or germ-phobic, but in the last year I’ve just realized how much better I feel when the house is neat and dirt-free (which is especially challenging with a dog and cat). One of my favorite clean-person purchases this year is this steam mop. The first time I used it on our kitchen floor, I was disgusted by the difference between the freshly steam mopped side and the regularly mopped half. I’ll never use another mop again.

10. AmazonBasics Dog Waste Bags

Another pet-related favorite I found on Amazon this year is this giant pack of dog waste bags. If you have a dog, the amount of poop you’ll pick up in a month is truly remarkable, so I’ve just accepted I should get a giant box of dog waste rolls and call it a day. I have one dispenser clipped to my keys and another roll by the cat litter box for maximum poop scoopage.

What’s an item that you purchased on Amazon (or on another online store) and can’t recommend enough?

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8 Pairs of Boots Every Lady Needs

Okay, to say that every lady needs all of these boots is probably a stretch. That said, I think if you check off every one of these boot boxes, your winter wardrobe is probably in pretty decent shape.

One thing that I love about boots is how versatile they are. Yes, they’re essential for cold weather, especially the rain and snow boots, but most of these also great during the summer when paired with a skirt or shorts. Even the simplest leather boot does pretty well in a wide variety of weather, unlike my favorite Converse or Toms. As you can see, they’re truly one of my favorite shoe staples.

While looking, I’d like you to imagine me laying on my back, legs stretched up in the air as I take these photos with my iPhone against my newly painted office. Yes, that happened (other than the rain boots, because you wouldn’t be able to see those cute little bows in the back).

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Boots 1

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Sources:

What are your boot staples? Any favorites (or lease favorites) out of the above?

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7 Tips for Working Out in the Morning

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MorningWin #Target #CollectiveBias.

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While I didn’t make a specific New Year’s resolution to get healthy, Reg and I did join a new gym in December and have been re-committed to working out together three times a week. For the last year, I have tried many new workouts from running outside to taking yoga classes, but now that we’re in the middle of winter, I just prefer to wake up an hour early and hit the stairclimber at our local YMCA.

There are many reasons why I prefer exercising in the morning, but the biggest reason is by going first thing in my day, there’s less time for me to talk myself out of going. Even still, maintaining a consistent AM workout routine takes some practice, so I’d like to share some of my favorite tips to get your body moving in the morning:

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1. Put your alarm across the room so you have to get out of bed

The easiest way to skip your AM exercise is by hitting “off” on your alarm and not getting out of bed at all. Avoid that sleepy sloth-ness by putting your alarm across the room so you have to get up. As soon as you’re off your mattress, the hardest part is over.

2. Sign up for a class that you can’t cancel

Many classes’ strict cancelation policies can actually keep you from talking yourself out of exercising. Enroll a few days before and use the motivation of not losing $20 to encourage you to show up (ClassPass is great for this). Best of all, a class will force to you to push yourself for a full hour instead of half-heartedly using weights at the gym.

3. Eat a pack of belVita Breakfast Biscuits on the way to the gym

I used to not eat any food before hitting the treadmill, until the one time I got so light-headed I nearly passed out. Now I make sure to grab a quick nibble to munch on on the drive to the gym, like belVita Breakfast Biscuits. belVita Breakfast Biscuits, which I purchased from Target in the new value-sized boxes, provide nutritious steady energy all morning and have no high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors or artificial sweeteners. They are made with a combination of grains that are baked to release energy regularly and continuously to fuel your body throughout your workout, until you have time to grab the rest of your breakfast, like a greek yogurt and a banana. (Reg’s and my favorites were the belVita Bites Chocolate Breakfast Biscuits – SO GOOD.)

4. Build a Spotify playlist to pump you up

While I love listening to podcasts normally, I find having a high-energy playlist helps me work out harder and feel more motivated, especially in the AM. If you don’t want to compile your own, Spotify has some great playlists that other users have made, and they come in every genre from hiphop to electronic.

5. Sleep in your workout clothes

While some people might think this tip is a little extreme, many of my workout clothes are so soft that they actually made great pajamas! Sleeping in your gym clothes just removes one more excuse to not go and also helps you avoid the frigid cold air during the winter. Skip your sports bra if you find sleeping in it is uncomfortable and just throw one on before running out the door.

6. Program your thermostat

One of the hardest things about getting out of bed before the sunrises, especially in the winter, is it’s so cold out! Sleeping in your workout clothes or even pajamas will help, but I also recommend programming your thermostat to make your room a little warmer than the North Pole when you plan to wake up.

7. Make plans with an exercise buddy

Just like signing up for a class, agreeing to meet up with an exercise buddy can make you feel like you can’t just back out of a workout at the last minute. Reg and I hit the gym Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and waking up is so much easier when there’s two of us. Even just agreeing to see a friend at a yoga class will help you stay true to your exercise schedule!

Do you exercise in the mornings or another time? What are your tips for getting out of bed to workout?

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How to Get Maximum Space Out of a Small Kitchen

Kitchen Organization

All things considered, we do not live in a small apartment. Reg and I have a two bedroom entirely to ourselves and our living room alone is a double-wide space. We feel very fortunate to have such a large, wonderful home to ourselves, especially since we’re on rent-control and it’s much, much more affordable than most places in the area. That said, our kitchen is not exactly optimal for someone who loves to cook. There’s virtually no built-in counter space other than the tiny square next to the sink and the cabinetry feels awkward and a bit like an after-thought.

Still, I’ve lived here for over four years and am a very passionate home cook and baker, so I’ve found many ways to get creative with the awkward room. Since I know many of you city-dwellers are also dealing with tiny kitchens perhaps not optimal for their primary purpose – cooking- I thought I’d share some pictures of what I’ve done and my tips for how you can improve your own tiny kitchens.

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1. Get creative with levels and think up high!

I think one of the best things you can for small apartments, including kitchens, is take advantage of the space over your head. We hung a pot wrack above our stove to hold all our pots and pans, which are so awkward and large to try and fit in shelving. Also, although it’s not in this picture, we added some additional floating Ikea shelving above the windows where we can put baskets. These hold rags, extra dog toys, and even our drill, extension cords, and other home repair supplies.

2. Stick things to your fridge

Your fridge is great for holding much more than holiday cards and photographs. We have a magnetic paper towel dispenser that is just above our primary food prep area and a magnetic basket that holds pens, take-out menus, scissors, and masking tape for labeling things that go in the fridge.

3. Add a kitchen island or a cart

If you’re short on shelving or counters but have some floor space, I definitely recommend purchasing a kitchen island or a cart. We found this kitchen island on Craiglist for $150 and it’s the main place we prepare food. Because there’s shelving right underneath, we keep silverware, random cooking tools, and other supplies that are nice to have near-at-hand when you’re cooking so it’s easy to grab.

4. Make the most of cabinet and shelf space by using organizers

I can’t recommend The Container Store enough for getting random cabinet and shelf organizers. We have the one pictured above to easily reach our cleaning supplies in a deep cabinet. We have one for holding our tupperware lids, one for holding our baking racks, one for organizing our plastic wrap and other random boxes… Plus, we even got plastic shelves to put inside our selves to fit double the dishes inside! The options are seriously endless.

5. Get everything off your counters but the items you use daily

When you’re really limited in counter space like we are, it’s important to not have that valuable real estate being taken up by items you use less than daily. For example, we leave our coffee machine, butter, and salt and pepper on the kitchen island because we use them all the time. The toaster, which we still use a couple of times a week, goes into the cabinet.

What are the best ways that you’ve found to organize a small kitchen?

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