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Through The Lens

I have a funny relationship with my camera.

In high school, my parents’ gift of a fancy-ish Nikon inspired me to take roll after roll (remember those?) of photos of my friends lounging angstily on fire escapes and brownstone stoops, eating toast in diners and putting on lipstick and blowing out smoke from pilfered cigarettes. I love these photos, but they aren’t really photos of us – they’re photos of us trying to be someone else, someone closer to the picture of “cool” we held in our heads.

And then there are the years that I jokingly (but not really) think of as “the lost years” – when I forgot about my camera for one reason or another, and many months went by without a single photo. I have only one album from college, and it’s filled with shots from maybe three or four especially photogenic nights (a formal, another formal, a night my roommates and I got dressed up to go out and then decided to just stay in my room and drink bad tequila and dance to the Footloose soundtrack).

When I graduated and moved to California, my camera was stolen during a break-in, and I didn’t replace it for a long, long time. I have a few shots from nights out at clubs with friends, but not of the times I’d really like photos of: the nights spent sitting by the pool with my dad, looking up at the moon and the palm trees and talking. The long drives I took to Santa Barbara. I wish I had more photographs of my sweet friend. I think of him every day; I’d like to see his face.


On the night (morning, really) that Kendrick and I got engaged, we held out my little point-and-shoot at arm’s length and took a shot of ourselves as we crossed over a bridge heading back to our Las Vegas hotel, the sun rising in the background. We just took the one, and it’s just a snapshot, not one of those perfect engagement photos you see on Instagram these days…but I love it so much. In the years that followed, when Kendrick was off touring with his band and I was doing one thing or another to get by, I don’t think we took a single picture at all. And it’s true; it makes it harder to remember those years; the memories come more as feelings, flashes.

When I started blogging back in 2009, I didn’t even have a camera; my then-colleague had to give me one. And right away, we fell in love with that side of my new “job” (in quotation marks because it wasn’t exactly a job back then – or certainly not an income-generating one, in any case): suddenly having a constant record of where we’d been, what we’d seen, who we’d met. It felt like such an incredible gift.

Over time, my camera became an enormous part of my life, something I carried with me virtually everywhere, and mourned when I had to leave it at home for one reason or another (before leaving the house, the checklist: keys? wallet? camera?). But in these past couple of years, something has changed, and the camera has started staying home more often than not. On weekends, I take shots for the site while the kids are napping. When we go off adventuring, I take a couple of photos with my phone, and then I put it away.

I think it was Indy arriving, and then it grew stronger with Goldie. I don’t want to hold a camera.

I want to hold them.

I don’t want them to grow up more interested in recording than in living, thinking that nothing matters unless a photo is taken. I think that’s a danger of our current world and an extra-danger when your parent is a blogger and makes a living off of the documentation and re-telling of life.

I don’t want their memories of childhood to be set to the soundtrack of a click-click-click.

But despite all this internal conflict: I love photography so much. And I think that, when used in a way that enhances your life rather than taking you out of it, it has value beyond measure. I miss those lost years; there are so many people and places I wish I had just one single photo of, so I could remember them more clearly.

In my mom’s office, years ago, there was a framed photo of her and my dad from a weird, upwards-facing angle, and when I asked her about it she told me that it was the first photo I’d ever taken. I always thought it was such a cool thing for her to do, such a remarkable window into how I used to see the world. I’m so glad I know what my first photo looked like.

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This is my son’s.

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Here’s another. (That composition! That lighting! That total luck of the draw! – which, incidentally, comprises a significant percentage of photography no matter what your age.)

I’m proud, both of the care he took with the camera and of his desire to capture a piece of his world. And I’m so excited for him to learn how to take photographs, how to document the moments that mean the most to him so that he can keep them forever, and look at them when he needs reminding. The trick that it took me awhile to learn and that I hope to teach him sooner rather than later: to pick it up, take the shot…and then put it down, and go live your life on the other side of the lens.

Yard Sale 101

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I’ve heard of people who dread having yard sales. Who feel like they have to do it to get rid of their overload of stuff, but really don’t like holding them.

This does not compute.

Yard Sale Day legitimately ranks up there with my Favorite Days Of The Year, somewhere alongside Christmas morning. I’m totally serious: on Saturday morning I practically leaped out of bed and was busy making Kendrick crazy with all the running around and dictating and coffee consuming within seconds.

I love yard sales SO MUCH. It’s like a perfect storm of everything that makes me happy: getting rid of stuff, making some money while I’m at it, and hanging out on my lawn all day eating pizza that I paid for with money earned by selling stuff I didn’t want, anyway.

And because I love yard sales so much, I have put a bizarre amount of thought into how to make them run smoothly. Because a yard sale is not the place to go all ramshackle (see what I did there?); a little organization and forethought makes it a much, much, much better (and more profitable) experience. I put up a list of tips after our sale last year, but learned a few more things this go-round (and once again SLAYED IT ifIdosaysomyself), so I thought it was worth revisiting in case you’ve got a sale in your future.

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1. Gather supplies in advance. Prior to the yard sale, I bought sticker labels and hanging labels in bulk on Amazon, and then rented two small tables and two clothing racks for a total of $58 (absolutely worth it; people are much more likely to buy if the merchandise is clearly displayed). More must-haves: pens, cheap hangers, a money-holder (fanny pack-type thing or large wallet), at least $60 in ones and fives for change, and a tarp to lay out the ground so you can set things on the grass without getting them dirty.

2. Be ready early. Try to have stuff labeled and set out at least an hour before your official start time…because that’s about when people trying to get a jump on the good stuff will start showing up (you’ll need to post someone outside to handle the early rush while you continue carrying items out).

3. Arrange items in a way that makes sense. I cannot tell you the amount of husband eye-roll I got when I directed Kendrick to “please create visually coherent spaces” while he was setting out old bangle bracelets, but really: it helps if people aren’t just sifting through loads of stuff and can go right to the areas that hold the most interest for them. It double-helps if you label these areas – just a simple sign saying “Beauty Products” or “Jewelry” stuck to a table can help direct people to what they’re looking for.

4. Price for a yard sale. Remember who your audience is: people who are just swinging by to see if anything catches their fancy. They’re not going to spend big bucks; they’re going to make small impulse purchases. Even if a piece is technically “worth” a substantial amount of money, you’re probably not going to get it…so bring your nicer stuff to a consignment store and keep your yard sale prices good and low.

5. Keep an eye out. The not-so-fun part of yard sales: thefts happen. I’ve only had small items stolen, but I’ve heard stories of people having full-scale grand larcenies take place during yard sales. It sounds obvious, but it’s worth a reminder: lock your doors, have someone watching the sale at all times, and keep your items in as small (and thus manageable) a space as possible.

6. Call in a helper. You need at least two people to run a yard sale, in case one has to go inside for some reason. Also, it’s more fun that way.

7. Set out a mirror. If you’re selling things like jackets and sunglasses that people might want to try on, it’s considerate to pull out a mirror so they can check out what they look like in their potential new acquisition.

8. Create curb appeal. Make passers-by want to stop and take a closer look by setting more visually appealing pieces (cool furniture, stylish jackets, et cetera) right up there by the curb. And if you have any awesome big-ticket items that you don’t want to drag out of your house unless you’re sure it’ll get sold (air conditioners, large pieces of furniture, et cetera), put up a prominent sign saying “INQUIRE ABOUT…” so that people can tell what’s available from their cars.

yard sale dollar box

9. Set up a dollar (or 25-cent) box. Some things don’t require their own labels: go ahead and pile all the inexpensive odds-and-ends into one big box and let people sift through them on their own.

10. Divide clothing by price. Place fancier items on a rack and label them individually, but don’t bother labeling all the less expensive stuff – it’ll take you forever. Sort your clothing by type (tops, bottoms, jackets, et cetera) and then put them out in bins or piles, labeling each bin or pile with a single price (I do $2 for tops, $3 for bottoms and sweaters, $4 for jackets). Some stuff will be worth more and some stuff will be worth less, but it’ll all come out in the wash and save you a ton of time and hassle.

11. Make a kid’s day. I put a bunch of little toys in a box and let each child who stops by choose something for free; it keeps them happy and entertained while their parents shop – and makes me happy, too.

12. Prioritize getting rid of stuff over making tons of money (because you probably won’t make tons of money). Remember: whatever doesn’t get sold has to go somewhere, whether that’s to the local donation center or right back into your house. To minimize what you’re left with, start knocking down prices when your sale is about half over…and for the last hour or two items should be sold on a “what’s-your-best-offer?” basis.

13. Allocate time for cleanup. It’ll take you at least an hour or two to break everything down, so keep that in mind when planning out your day. Bring toys to a local daycare or children’s center (call ahead first to make sure they’ll accept them), clothing and tchotchkes (and possibly furniture, depending on the location) to Goodwill, and books to your local library (again, call ahead to make sure they’re accepting donations). And if there’s anything you simply can’t seem to get rid of, give your town’s Public Works Department a ring and arrange for a bulk pickup.

14. Have a contingency plan. Rain happens. Know what you’re going to do if it happens to you.

15. Keep your own shopping to a minimum. You may be tempted to swing by a neighbor’s yard sale “just to see what they have” (I was)…but remember: the point of the day is to declutter, not acquire, so don’t go nuts. Exceptions can be made for classic children’s books (I bought a copy of Charlotte’s Web for Indy)…

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All About The Apples

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On Me: Boohoo Sweater (no longer available, but see below); SOREL Conquest Carly Boot (possibly the best fall/winter boot ever) 

Where we spent Sunday: in one of my favorite day-trip towns.

Warwick, NY is about an hour north of the city, and is sort of tailor-made for a fall escape: it’s all orchards and wineries and bed and breakfasts and cute little taverns and artisanal ice cream parlors. Super cute; highly recommend that you go (go soon if you’re planning to pick apples; the trees get kind of picked over by early October).

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- Pick up some sparkle at Forever Yours Jewelers

- Eat the Beef Stew and get a pint at Yesterday’s Saloon

- Browse the shelves at The Book Store on Main Street (great children’s section)

- Take a pony ride and pick some apples at Masker’s Orchard

- Stop by Applewood Orchards for a wine tasting

- Spend the night at the Warwickshire B&B

- Drive out to the Iron Forge Inn for amazing upscale pub dishes in a (very) romantic setting

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Best for eating: McIntosh, Pink Lady, Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Cortland

Best for baking: Empire, Granny Smith, Pink Lady, Gala, Braeburn, Cortland, Winesap (I usually combine a mix of several varieties in a single pie; it makes for more interesting flavor and texture)


P.S. While the sweater pictured above is ridiculous (and yet amazing, so I had to show it to you), horse sweaters in general are the best.

Let’s look at a few, shall we?

The Sleeping Beauty Cleanse

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Good news: this cleanse does not involve not-eating.

Which makes it my kind of cleanse.

It’s not a “cleanse” in the traditional sense…but rather a way to shed yourself of the day’s detritus, ridding your body and mind of everything from unwanted stressors to makeup residue. And while the steps themselves are each relaxing and lovely on their own, what’s most important here is consistency: if you keep your wind-down ritual the same from evening to evening, your body will start recognizing cues that sleep is on the way, and respond accordingly. (I learned this from my son, who really does sleep better when we follow his pre-bedtime ritual to the letter…and apparently it works for grownups too.)

1. Turn Off Your Devices. Trust me, I understand how difficult this can be, and for a very long time I was the one whose last pre-bedtime act was to check my email “one last time, just in case.” I also left my phone right there next to my head, in case I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep and wanted to browse Instagram or Facebook.

This is so bad. Don’t do it.

A much better idea: Give your devices (your computer, iPad, and phone) a bedtime of their own, at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Also, try to keep all electronics away from your bed…and out of your bedroom entirely, if possible (best not to have a TV in there, either, although I don’t follow this particular piece of advice because I love our Sunday morning cartoons-and-snuggle sessions too much).

2. Cover Your Clock. There is a clock in our bedroom that tells me the time in enormous, red, frightening numbers, and it’s basically the most stressful thing to look at in the world when it’s 3A.M. and I’m wide awake, with the dawn drawing ever-closer. Cover it with black tape, drape clothing over it (what I do with our clock nowadays), whatever works…but don’t leave it visible from your bed, because you will wake up, and you will look at it, and it will completely freak you out and make falling back asleep that much harder. Speaking from experience.

3. Scrub Away The Day. Getting off every speck of dirt and makeup without removing the natural oils from your skin is a pre-bedtime essential – try Simple Skincare’s Moisturizing Facial Wash for added hydration during the cooler months, and let yourself take your time with this step, massaging the cleanser into your skin and trying to pay attention to how lovely the warm water feels on your face…even try to visualize the dirt sloughing off your face, leaving nothing behind but clean skin. It may sound silly, but trying to attend to the sensation of cleansing can be intensely relaxing.

4. Tea Time. Kendrick drinks tea every night, and now I’ve started, too…and it’s pretty great. We’ve tried lots of different brands and blends, but I always go back to Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea, which contains sleep-promoting chamomile and tilia flowers and tastes good, but not so good that it feels like a dessert.

5. Make Time To Moisturize. I keep moisturizer for my body and face in my bedside table, and try to actually spend a few seconds enjoying the application process rather than just throwing it on. For your face, try Simple Skincare Nourishing 24Hr Day/Night Cream - it works for hours and hours, so you’ll wake up seeing the benefits – and for your body, try Lierac’s gardenia-scented oil.

6. Pre-Bed Book. Go ahead and read before bed (no TV!) if it’s something you enjoy – I personally can’t go to sleep without it – but instead of a gripping thriller, choose a book that you like but also find a little bit…exhausting. (I loved The Goldfinch, but it also did its part in sending me to bed on many, many nights.)

7. Soothing Scents. I light lavender candles during my pre-bedtime reading session, and also completely love face masks filled with sleep-promoting herbs (this one is great, and if you’re not into a scented mask try this one, which has space for you to blink).

Same steps, same order, every night. It helps, I swear.

Just Dancing Around With Bags In Grand Central

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The usual.

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I spent the past couple of afternoons in Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall, helping Kipling celebrate the launch of their new Always On Collection. I carried a Kipling backpack all through high school – I have vivid memories of playing with the little monkey that hung off the side during class – and the new collection is a chic (but affordable) take on the classic, go-everywhere styles the brand is known for. Think burgundy with structured top handles; autumn-perfect plaids in sporty shapes; leopard and houndstooth accents.

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This bag isn’t from the Always On Collection – it’s called the Marly – but I wanted to show it to you anyway, because I get so many questions about finding a perfect black bag that doesn’t cost a fortune, and: there you go. I saw someone wearing it at the event, and it’s super cute in person – the patent accents dress up the casual shape and make it go with everything.

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 This backpack was an especially big hit.

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Most amazing nail art ever? I think so.

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With Dylana and Natalie (my favorite part of this photo is that it captured the exact moment when Natalie’s champagne gave my toes a little bubble bath)

On Me: Joie Top via T.J.Maxx; NYDJ Silk Track Pants; Steve Madden Shoes; Tom Ford Glasses.

Thank you so much to everyone who came out! More photos featuring pieces from the collection coming up next week. (Sneak peek: I totally wore a leotard and a fanny pack. At the same time.)

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