{Participate!} Noah’s Kindness Project

23 Jul

The Little Lady and I have been plotting lately. Lemonade stand or book donation? Flowers or a new toy for a stranger? Brownies or cookies for our local fire station?

You see, we’re planing a random act of kindness.

On July 31st, we’re participating in Noah’s Kindness Project, a special day to perform random acts of kindness in memory of Noah Atticus Weber. I went to high school with Noah’s parents and, like so many of our former classmates, first learned of their family’s impossible journey through social media. Noah fell suddenly and gravely ill at 2 1/2 months of age, suffering severe irreparable brain damage as a result of rapid onset liver failure attributed to a rare childhood disease. He and his family spent the ensuing days at George Mark Children’s House, creating memories and treasuring one another until Noah’s passing on July 31, 2011.

The Webers have borne the loss of their beloved Noah with stunning grace, founding Fierce Little Warrior, hosting annual holiday toy drives and walks, and now creating Noah’s Kindness Project. It’s extraordinary, really, for a family to find a tiny corner of hope and beauty in what is otherwise every parent’s nightmare.

Those of you who have followed Priss & Vinegar since the beginning know that I have never, ever asked you to do anything. And I’m not really asking you to now so much as encouraging you to consider whether Noah’s Kindness Project might be a good opportunity to introduce your families to the concept of practicing random kindness. I decided the Little Lady was ready this year, and it has been very special (and fun!) dreaming up ways we could be kind to others. (There are some terrific ideas here, as well as on the wish lists of the George Mark Children’s House.)

We look forward to sharing our random acts of kindness with you next week, and if you decide to participate, we’d love to hear what you’re doing to remember sweet Noah!

If you’d like to join Noah’s Kindness Project on Facebook, please visit the event page here.



The Problem With Celebrity Lifestyle Brands

22 Jul
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Blake Lively wants to teach *you* how to curate a sustainable, handcrafted life through artisinal storytelling to preserve the greater good (or some bullshit like that)

Blake Lively’s new lifestyle website, Preserve, launched yesterday, and it is just as annoying and useless as anticipated. The introduction proposes telling a “story through style and craftsmanship,” living a “holistic” and “present” life, and so many other cultural buzzwords it’s like Lively filled out a hipster Mad Libs. She overuses the word “artisinal” so brazenly that reading Preserve could be a drinking game. Oh, and she uses the incorrect spelling of “palate.” (I almost choked on my coffee.)

It’s utter nonsense, and as far as I can tell it’s just Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop by way of Brooklyn, i.e., another half-starved actress shilling overpriced retail and unintentionally sounding like an entitled asshole. Next up is Reese Withspoon (I live for when Michael K calls her “Laura Jean Poon”) with her southern lifestyle brand, Draper James, debuting later this year.

Which leaves me wondering: why are celebrities starting these lifestyle brands in the first place? Goop has been in the red since its inception. (And at millions of dollars per film, I doubt any of these women expect they’ll substantially increase their bank accounts by selling fancy ketchup and aryuvedic enemas.) Sure, Martha Stewart built an empire on lifestyle, but let’s be real: not everyone can be Martha. Jessica Alba has a thriving brand with The Honest Company, but she isn’t selling some amorphous vision of living like an idealized Instagram feed; she’s selling diapers, people.

If it’s increased publicity these actresses-turned-lifestyle doyennes crave, this, too, seems a losing proposition. Paltrow may have always been a pretentious nightmare, but it wasn’t until Goop that the press started talking about it. Lively is already being publicly lambasted only 24 hours into her internet venture. Is *any* publicity truly good publicity? Has Kim Kardashian won?

Look, I don’t want to be entirely crusty about these brands as a category. Paltrow has undeniably good taste and I will admit (grits teeth) to admiring some of the items Goop recommends. I have a harder time seeing the value in Preserve which is basically a hipster dry goods store, a category that already has a substantial e-commerce presence.

The critical flaw with celebrity lifestyle brands isn’t so much the content as the spirit, the holier-than-thou presumption that famous people have something special to teach us about living merely by the fact of their celebrity. It would be so much more palatable if these blogs were presented objectively: Look, this is how I live, where I shop, what I eat, and I think it’s pretty terrific. Maybe you will, too. It is supremely annoying to have a twenty-something former star of a CW teen drama tell me how to “live authentically”; but if she’s just sharing pictures of what her last dinner party looked like, perhaps I might be inclined to buy her favorite artisinal vegan napkin rings.

{Weekend Recap} Plums, Projects & A Perfectly Effortless Brunch

21 Jul

Summer leisure comes in all forms, and lately, it’s been about enjoying our new home: exploring the surrounding neighborhoods, entertaining friends, and chipping away at the zillions of household projects we’ve undertaken.


Coffee and an *excellent* croissant from Boot and Shoe Service (pictured) followed by the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market just may be my new Saturday morning ritual. The stars of the market this week were dry farmed tomatoes, charentais melons, and plums so gorgeous I displayed them under a glass cloche on my dining room table instead of hiding them in the kitchen. Added bonus of visible fruit: my toddler has been asking to snack on plums instead of cheesy bunnies. Winner: everybody.

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I was so inspired by all of the “Ikea hacks” I found while sprucing up the Little Lady’s “Tarva” dresser that I decided to hack a “Vittsjo” bookcase for my son’s nursery, too. The curves of his Pottery Barn Kids “Hayden” crib have always reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge, so the corny sentimentalist in me decided that painting something “International Orange” in his room just felt right. Full details on this project (as well as the rest of my son’s nautical nursery) forthcoming!

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We hosted some dear friends for Sunday brunch, something I especially love to do the day after the farmer’s market when I’m still pumped up about my purchases. Prather Ranch uncured maple bacon, a big ole’ fruit plate, and some pastries from Boot and Shoe Service (I have a problem) rounded out a menu starring our brunch standard, the Smitten Kitchen Spinach & Cheese Strata. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: every Smitten Kitchen recipe I’ve tried has been just dreamy. I often hesitate to use recipes from blogs, preferring instead to use bulletproof, tried-and-true sources like America’s Test Kitchen, Martha Stewart and Ina Garten. But Deb has never failed me, and I truly use the recipe archives on her blog like a cookbook.

A DIY Toddler Water Table You Can Make *Right Now*

17 Jul


The once-glorious stretch of uninterrupted afternoon productivity I called “naptime” is under siege. My three year-old now prefers trashing her bedroom like she’s Motley Crue in a comped hotel suite, and on the rare occasion she actually does fall asleep, I am rewarded with a child who is then WIDE AWAKE until 10 p.m. that evening.

Rather than dwelling on how much this blows for me, I’ve gotten creative with independent play activities that keep my active kid busy without constantly hearing “Mommy!” A recent favorite has been her “water table”, which is not a real water table at all but just a plain old Ikea “Latt” table topped with a rotating assortment of our kitchen tools. Filled with a hose and some dish soap bubbles, my enamel canning pot and brining bucket can buy me half an hour of productive QUIET. (Nevermind that sensory activities like water play are also terrific for children’s development.)

I should probably stop being tacky and just get my kid a proper water table, but that’s just one more piece of plastic junking up my yard. I’m also a fan of multi-tasking pieces, and our outdoor Latt is not only a water table but a tea party venue, al fresco lunch destination and princess castle construction site, depending on our whims. Oh yeah, and it cost me NOTHING to make. So go ahead: grab a crappy old table and some sturdy kitchen tools (P&V likes silicone basting brushes, measuring spoons, and squirt bottles), add water, and you’ve got a happy, quiet toddler for longer than that “Dora the Explorer” video would have lasted with zero the screen time guilt.

{Project!} Making Progress in The Princess Palace

16 Jul

I’m quickly learning that moving with children means their rooms will look picture-flipping-perfect before the master bedroom is even out of boxes. Especially since my daughter has been a little emotional about the move (it’s not just me!), I have really focused on creating a space she LOVES. Following the installation of that amazing pink ribbon trellis wallpaper, I’d say we’re 85% of the way there. Here’s a peek:

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The classic Jenny Lind bed gets a sophisticated touch with these stunning custom pillows we dreamed up with our decorator. I’m *obsessed* with the watercolor printed pillow, and the pink bolster is made to last in a Perennials indoor-outdoor twill (which I’m considering monogramming, because, of course.) I don’t love how the guardrails look on the Jenny Lind, but safety is always more important than pretty. The underbed storage trundle, however, has been a terrific addition: toy storage for now and a cozy bed for sleepover guests in several years.

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Dormers have proven to be less of a design challenge than an opportunity for a little whimsy. This dormer will eventually be the location of a built-in homework station for my daughter, but for now a sweet little Ikea “Agen” armchair topped with an Ikea “Rens” sheepskin makes a comfy place to sit for a spell. (Or at least her favorite blabla doll thinks so!) The botanical print is actually a relic from the shabby chic studio apartment of my law school days, and a sentimental part of me loves that it has found a new home over a decade later.

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A full-fledged Ikea hack? Not exactly, but a few coats of Farrow & Ball “Pink Ground” and some green glass knobs added much-needed personality to this Ikea “Tarva” dresser. I topped it with a sweet little watercolor I found on Etsy and an antique silver tray stocked with hairstyling essentials. The boxwood hair bow wreath I told you about a few weeks ago hangs next to it for convenient bow-to-outfit matching.




Of course, my daughter’s (and my) favorite element of her room is the new reading nook. Inspired by the Reggio Emilia-style reading area at her former preschool, I filled the dormer floor with four euro-sized pillows and a white matelassé coverlet (all of which I already owned) and topped it with several inexpensive throw pillows I picked up at Home Goods. But the magical touch? A gauzy white “Bryne” canopy from Ikea that cost a third of the near-identical one I’d been eyeing at Pottery Barn Kids.

It feels like we’re just a few details short of something magical. A gallery wall is in the works (featuring this charming scooter print from Rifle Paper Co.), which will necessarily include replacing all frame glass with toddler-safe acrylic. (The Little Lady is prone to mischief during quiet time.) Another wall will feature one of those uber-popular Land of Nod white-and-gold wall mounted shelves with several of their charming (and also extremely popular, aka backordered) golden bow hooks beneath.

Like I said, this room is SO close to being really special. I’ll keep you posted at it nears the finish line!


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