Dandelion Love

“I don’t care what anyone says,” I remarked to Jim this weekend, “I love dandelions!”

“That sounds like a book title or perhaps a good name for your memoirs. Of course you love them,” he grinned.

“I’m going to write a blog about dandelions!” I declared.

 

And that was the genesis of this blog post and the associated photos. It’s amazing where the “seeds” come from, isn’t it?

That Redhead's dandelion hippie crown.

I must admit I’ve never understood the hatred of dandelions. After all, the name is comprised of both the words “dandy” and “lion” which seems pretty spectacular to me. They are fluffy and yellow and cheerful, a sure sign of spring and amongst the first flowers to feed the bumblebees who are hungry to start their season of pollination and honey-making. After they flower, they turn into these ethereal poofs of seeds with which I learned to make wishes when I was very young. Much to the chagrin of the lawn-maintaining homeowners in my area, I’m sure, but that never stops me. Apart from their visual charm and use in the animal kingdom, dandelions are one of the oldest herbs that humans have cultivated and eaten for both nutritional and medicinal value.

I remain determined to enjoy them, even as a responsible adult. I don’t suppose I would let them take over my front yard, but I think it unnecessary to exterminate dandelions in the open grass in the park. I learned to braid crowns of flowers when I was small, thanks to my crafty momma. We often picked the clover in our yard and braided it just before my dad mowed the lawn and destroyed the few blossoms we left. I’ve since learned that just about any long-stemmed flower with a sturdy constitution will work for instant hippie magic. Dandelions work well and make for a very happy crown!

That Redhead's dandelion hippie crown.

That Redhead's dandelion hippie crown; mocking jay book quote by Suzanne Collins.

If you can braid, you can braid a crown of flowers.

  1. Start with an ample fistful of blossoms with long stems. Pick three and braid tightly at first.
  2. Feed in new blossoms every so often, either to keep the length going or sooner as I did to make for a more blossom-heavy crown.
  3. Once you have reached the end, braid as long as you can until you have several inches of braided stems. Make a loop and tuck the ends back through a part in the braid to secure.
  4. You can then stick the loop over the three blossoms you began with to finish your crown. Alternately, you can simply pin the crown with bobby pins and keep things super secure.
  5. Wear your crown with the goofy sense of joy that I am so fond of. Frolic. Repeat.
  6. AND, if you should happen to take photos of your crowns, please share here or on social media! I’d love to see it.

What’s the verdict on dandelions? Lovely flowers… or nasty weeds? :)

Simplicity and Steel Magnolias

I think simplicity is underrated. And as a longtime supporter of the “stop and smell the roses” lifestyle, it fits in neatly. You’d have to ask my husband to be sure, but he says one of the reasons he loves me is because I take great joy in the simplest things. This is really because I’m just a big kid at heart, but he’s right.

I think of this sometimes when I am getting dressed. Often, the things I wear that get the most compliments aren’t the most creative outfits I’ve put together; they are the simplest outfits thoughtfully paired. This is one of those outfits. Since Chicago’s weather is finally getting gorgeous AND because my new home has not one but TWO magnolia trees, I decided to shoot outside. What a gorgeous setting. Of course, staring at these gorgeous trees makes me think about the wonderful Steel Magnolias quotes that are embedded in my brain forever. Surely I’m not the only one!

A simple outfit from That Redhead, under the magnolia tree.That Redhead on simple outfits and magnolia trees.
Steel Magnolias quote with pink magnolia tree image.
That Redhead, simple outfits, magnolia trees.
A simple outfit from That Redhead, under the magnolia tree.
A simple outfit from That Redhead, under the magnolia tree.
A simple outfit from That Redhead, under the magnolia tree.

Another great Steel Magnolias quote while I’m at it: “The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.” :)

  • Jeans: Paige Premium Denim
  • Sweater: clearance from JC Penney
  • Scarf: abandoned to the lost and found bin at work
  • Jacket: Kenar, clearance at Marshall’s
  • Shoes: Payless Shoe Source
  • Sunglasses: Tory Burch

On gorgeous days outside, I’d much rather put together an easy outfit that doesn’t take much time to think about! Get outside and enjoy the weather- we certainly waited a long time to have it!

Ethical Consumerism Made Real, or New Priorities

Today has been a rainy, stormy day in Chicago. I had hoped for sunshine and some new photos to share but alas that will wait until the sun decides to grace us again.

We had a refrigerator malfunction that required schlepping the contents of our fridge/freezer downstairs into the empty one (new neighbor hasn’t moved in quite yet; lucky coincidence). Poor Jim had to do most of the cleanup and schlepping because I was the one to notice the problem and contact our landlord, shortly before leaving for the night. The repairmen have since come by, replaced a part, melted all kinds of frost with a blowtorch (!!!) and went on their merry way. They were kind enough to wipe out and dry all the freezer shelves and parts. And I have now put all the food back where it belongs so onto my thoughts for today. I saw this online yesterday:

buyerarchy of needs, ethical consumerism, maslow

 

I saw it and I knew I had to share it. Its artist is a Canadian lady named Sarah Lazarovic. She has a wonderful, cheeky blog and sells this particular illustration as a print here. I’m contemplating a purchase of this print with some gift money. I think it would fit in perfectly in the new kitchen.

It really is the perfect antidote and reminder in our stuff-obsessed culture. And I’ve been reflecting on my changing habits often:

  • I’ve been writing a lot more. Letters and notes most specifically. I feel a growing need to show how much I love and appreciate those around me, and there is nothing like a handwritten note. It was special before the internet and is doubly so now.
  • I got my hair trimmed before Easter. I had some time to kill before my dinner plans, so I wandered over to the Anti-Cruelty and took a hyper dog for a walk. I talked to him about the new family he was going to get hopefully soon. Instead of going shopping as I might have done in the past, I walked over to a café and enjoyed a latte while reading the paper.
  • Easter dinner came with a hilarious break in action thanks to my Dad. He brought over a backpack filled with footballs and frisbees and threw them at the rest of the family from our balcony into the park that backs up to our house. A spontaneous game of catch, laughing and shrieking ensued.
  • On this past Saturday, I needed to go to the library to drop off some DVDs and pick up two books. Jim suggested that instead of driving, we bike the mere 10-15 minute trek there. Since I had previously walked there and back two weeks ago, even that sounded like a major upgrade. And, though it was cold, why take out the car and waste gas since the sun was shining? Off we went, arriving 30 minutes before the library closed for the day. I got my two new books, Jim refilled his water bottle, I turned in the DVDs, and we headed back to the house taking the longer route on the way home to keep learning our new neighborhood and even peek inside a local church.

It struck me, then, that that entire adventure had cost me nothing but the strength in my legs and the wind in my hair. The library is kind enough to send books over from other locations and let me read them just because I ask. We can use their facilities and services and get to and from our home without spending a dime. Sure, it took longer than it would by car, but it made the afternoon even more enjoyable with the little adventure stuck in the middle of more unpacking and organizing. Sending a note costs only a stamp but brings priceless joy to those who are special enough to get one. Playing with a lonely dog cost me nothing but a quick hand washing after to clean up after all the kisses of appreciation. Goofing around with my family cost nothing but created hilarious memories that we will enjoy forever.

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These are the things that matter to me now, more than any item I could purchase. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still obsessed with Kate Spade. I suspect I always will be. It’s just that Kate Spade needs to get in line… or in the smallest spot of my Pyramid.

Are your priorities shifting? It’s certainly been a changing season for everyone I know. What are you up to lately that doesn’t involve buying something?

Everything Old is New Again

I cannot believe that a month has gone by since my last post here. In the interest of not beating myself up for still not having a daily routine that includes blogging, I am going to forgive myself. Moving is ALWAYS challenging and Jim and I had some especially tough times thrown in the mix of the last month, too. More on that later.

Last I posted, we were busily packing and getting ready to uproot and settle all the way across the city from where we used to live. I had lived in Hyde Park and the South Loop in my decade in Chicago; Jim had not only lived for double that time in the South Loop but had always lived in a very small radius of a particular section of the South Loop. We moved to an area on the far north side where we are not familiar with anything- I have had to Google directions to the grocery store, the bank, the post office, work, everything I previously took for granted. This is not a complaint, of course, because sometimes big changes are needed. And we are quite sure this was needed.

We have moved from 958 square feet with a small balcony in a very urban setting that included hundreds of other units and residents in our building. We had 24/7 security and doormen, package care, dry cleaning, a party room and fitness center, even a business center with free wifi and printing. No question we loved living there for the last 4 years. We were the first ones to live in our unit and enjoyed everything being brand new, from appliances to carpeting. We installed the light fixtures and painted the walls for the first time. It was our most favorite place that either of us had ever lived and I think it was because it saw so many changes in our lives together and we were so comfortable. Personally, it was the first place I’ve ever lived where everything was decorated exactly to my taste and it was all finished. It took me about a year to decorate completely and then we were simply very happy and cozy. I had never done that before.

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Our new place is about double the square footage with a basement for laundry and ample storage. We actually have a dining room (say what?!). The unit is vintage and freshly rehabbed after some years spent empty so once again we are first ones to call this place home. We have traded our balcony for another with a view of a park instead of the lake and have gained a backyard (a backyard. In Chicago. I know!). Instead of changing our parking space every time we pull into a residents’ garage, we have a private garage that also houses our bikes. Instead of brand new appliances, we have a new fridge but a vintage dishwasher and stove that were purchased decades ago but barely used by the previous owner and resident. We have a fireplace that stopped working decades ago, but is a nonetheless gorgeous focal point in our living room. We traded our modern HVAC system for steam heat and window AC units. And instead of hundreds of neighbors we never met and a huge management company, we will have one neighbor we’ll probably see a lot of and landlords that text us.

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We now have plenty of room to entertain guests and have already had two overnight guests. Yesterday after Easter dinner, all 11 of us strolled outside to enjoy the park we back up to. My dad threw frisbees and footballs off of the balcony all the way into the park and we had an impromptu family catch session. Fitting 11 people into this house is still a “full house” feeling but there is plenty of room for everyone in the dining room and in the living room. I can’t wait for the housewarming party.

We have long begun to unpack and decorate since I took those sparse empty room photographs. I am starting to feel like I am home again.

 

Why Become an Ethical Consumer, Part Three

I’m excited to serve up a third installment of Ethical Consumerism. I’ve been enjoying the learning process myself. I will get back into outfit posts and more pictures soon, I promise. Jim and I are in the midst of a big move and lots of stuff is in a state of upheaval. I’m stealing time away from packing to write every now and again but looking forward to things settling down again in gorgeous new digs. With newfound outlooks on our possessions, might I add.

In my last post, I wrote about Wanting Things, especially those that are new, shiny, fun, and how that can sometimes lead to excess. I promised that I’d share some examples of folks who have downsized and enjoyed the process. Some are more radical than others but all have wisdom and insight to be gleaned. I’m keeping it to a list of 5 articles that I’ve enjoyed recently because longer lists tend to get overwhelming.

  1. I can relate personally to this one: Building A Grownup Wardrobe. Fashion blogger AJ writes about her accumulation of stuff, specifically clothes and accessories, that had spiraled out of control and was consuming more space and energy than it should. Reading through the steps she took was inspiring, especially since I’m another one of those women that people gawk at for their shoe collections. I like that she has concluded that owning better quality items is superior to owning throwaway fashion. I totally agree and kudos!
  2. Why I Gave Away Most Of My Belongings (And Why I’m Happy I Did): This qualifies as one of the more “radical” stories. This writer made a big shift in downsizing her home with her husband and has a great checklist of both reasons why it was so freeing and advice to help anyone else let go. I love her tip on boxing items up, waiting to see if you use them, and if not giving them away.
  3. This is a great blog called The Minimalists and I like this post: Letting Go of Sentimental Items. These are the hardest things to manage and let go of and sometimes, as referenced in the first item on this list, clothes can be sentimental as well. This powerful essay recounts how the writer was able to let go of his mother’s possessions after she passed away. I don’t know that I’d be able to be quite so radical myself but it is inspiring me to go back through my old school papers and diaries with a more ruthless agenda.
  4. One major roadblock to decluttering (I have it!) is the notion that “Hey, this is worth something so I should hang onto it even though I don’t use it or need it!” I have been working through this in a big way in this move. This is a great post about it: The Wastefulness of Decluttering; or How to Make Less Count for More. While I maintain the belief that simply filling a dumpster with perfectly good items that someone else can use is terrible to the Earth, often there are things we hang onto because of the work involved in getting rid of them. I have been working to get rid of stuff that has value on eBay and Craigslist, donating what doesn’t sell or can’t ship, and throwing out the rest. The major lesson, as outlined in that post, is to simply Not Acquire So Much Crap in the first place. Indeed.
  5. Finally, just in case you think this is a fringe idea, here’s an article from TIME Magazine online: How to Live with Just 100 Things. Admittedly, the article is a few years old and written during the recession. Many were looking to cut corners and acquire less at that time. I think that that spirit remains alive and well, however, and that we will continue to see people choosing to downsize and acquire less, especially given the global trend of urbanization and the space restrictions that imposes by default.

donating stuff, goodwill, decluttering, minimalism
As for myself, I have been enjoying the chance to pare down and declutter. Jim and I are actually moving to a bigger place and the challenge is to not simply fill up all the extra space with More Stuff. I am committing to keeping a cleaner house by virtue of lack of clutter since it helps both of us feel more relaxed and at peace. Every load of stuff we take to donate makes me feel lighter, just as promised. The above cart full of stuff was the first of three such loads we have donated thus far. I have also sold countless items on eBay, and given things to family and friends. I am finding that less is more in ways that I was previously too afraid to explore.

Are you decluttering or trying to own less? I’d love to hear what you’ve learned.