Category Archives: paper

what to say when you don’t know what to say


|  A few of the perfectly on-the-nose Empathy Cards cooked up by Emily McDowell  |

I’ve always harbored a secret fantasy that I’d create a line of cards for awkward family scenarios. (See, e.g., a Father’s Day card for a dad to whom you sort of regret being genetically linked.)

So, when I saw what Emily McDowell has been up to, I knew I had to share. She’s created a whole line of cards for those tricky life situations you want to acknowledge, but don’t exactly know how, starting with a series for people with chronic or serious illness (aka, the people for whom a “get well soon” card doesn’t make a lick of sense). As a person who could be a recipient of many of Emily’s fantastic cards, I can tell you they’re just about perfect. (Especially that one about promising not to tell me about treatments you found on the internet. Seriously. Just…no.)

One of the (many, many) hard things about these big, hairy health issues (chronic illness, cancer, even infertility…really anything that can’t be cured by chicken soup or a Z-Pak) is that even the most well-meaning friends and family don’t really understand it. They can’t. You look fine most of the time, you act fine most of the time (we sickos get pretty good at putting on a show)…so it’s hard to know what to say or how to help. Believe me, I get it.

But the thing is, I lost friends when I got sick. Not a lot, but a few. They didn’t know what to say or how to act, so they just sort of faded away. And I let them. It sucked.

Instead of fading away, here’s what I suggest: show up. It’s that simple. Just show up, in whatever way you’re able. Send a card. Bring a cupcake. Ask questions. You don’t have to have the answers; just ask the questions. I’ll never volunteer the gory details about what’s up with my health, but if a friend sits with me over a cup of coffee and asks me to explain it to her, I always will. Because I want you to understand…but I need you to ask, because I don’t want to overshare, or overburden, or bore you to tears. Say, “If you’re okay talking about it, I’d love for you to explain what’s happening so I can be a better friend to you.” Wow, would those words be healing.

And then? Drop it. As hard as it will be, resist the urge to treat her like a patient. Plenty of other people have that covered, and no one wants to be The Sick Friend. Be the person who lets her feel like her old self. Because underneath the piles of blankets and pill bottles, that’s exactly who she is. Sure, ask how she’s feeling occasionally, and let her know you’re there whenever she needs to vent about another bad doctor’s visit or how her new meds are making her gain weight.

But your friend doesn’t need you to be her mother or her doctor – she needs you to be her friend. The same friend she had before the shit hit the fan.

So, show up with a pair of cappuccinos and resume your multi-part discussion of the best all-girl hip-hop groups from the ’90s. Call just to tell her about something funny that happened at work, or text her a string of rando emojis. Or occasionally, when you know she’s having a bad week (which you’ll know, because you’ve been showing up), show up with a casserole.

Don’t wait for her to ask, because she probably won’t. Just show up.


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currently coveting: rifle paper co. spring 2014


Friends, my paper addiction is no small matter. I buy cards absolutely everywhere I go, and the resulting stockpile is threatening to take over my tiny office. And when it comes to playing favorites, the gorgeous goods from Rifle Paper Co are pretty much always at the tippity top of my covet list. So, just in time for Mother’s Day buying, I thought I’d share a sneak peek at their newest goods for Spring ’14: Read on

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make over my house: the organized office

white-office-inspiration, via shopping's my cardio

I’m in the midst of completely redoing my office (which is also my library / guestroom / furniture storage area), and my inner OCD is really coming out to play. Normally, I don’t have a modern bone in my body when it comes to decor, but suddenly all I can think about is minimal, white spaces, no clutter, and a hyper-organized office. (I blame our recent downsizing…clutter is contagious when your square footage is suddenly cut in half. Read on

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friday finds


Happy Friday, friends! I’m feeling kind of thoughtfully, intentionally slow this spring morning, so I hope you’ll forgive a little brain wandering in today’s FF.

First things first: let’s talk deals. I happen to know that Kate SpadeVince and Cole Haan are all having their Friends & Family promos this weekend, and they’re doozies. I have all the details up on my Facebook and Twitter feeds…so much easier to keep you updated on all the best steals in real time. Read on

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a little inspiration, and your very own printable!

SMC: Keep Going

Not long ago, I was doing my best to catch up on my RSS feed (all 900+ articles, thank you), and something Garance Doré had to say stopped me in my tracks. She was talking about her plans for the new year – resolutions and such – and somewhere in the midst of a ramble I couldn’t totally make sense of, she repeated something a professor of hers had once told her:

Read on

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friday finds: a new year!

Welcome to the first Friday Finds of the new year! I’ve been storing up some goodies to share, and am so glad we’re finally back to business as usual, so I can get to it.

My first shopping task every year is a new calendar, but it’s a tough call these days. So many artists put together renditions that are absolutely stunning, but then there’s the question of function, too. Decisions, decisions.

I could go purely for pretty…

Trellus 2012 calendar, by Michelle Armas

Paris 2012, Little Brown Pen

…or look for a little function. If you happen to be in Portland or Austin, these Big Weekend calendars are about the coolest thing ever. Every random festival, event or happening around town is included, so you’ll never miss the Tigard Balloon Festival again! (My hubs, as you’d imagine, is thrilled.)

I’m going to need a calendar to mark off the days if I indulge in a little pre-order of 3.1 Philip Lim’s pre-fall collection at Moda Operandi, as I am sorely tempted to do. Not only do you get to be first in line (almost as good as scoring it on sale), but you pay half up front and half when it delivers next summer (by which point, you’ve already forgotten about the first half you spent). Plus, look at the pretty!


Of course, darling Philip is a splurge, no matter how you slice it. So, I’ll temper the wallet pain with a little cheap thrill. I’ve had this Rugby Ralph Lauren fair isle cardi bookmarked for the longest time, and now it’s on sale for $139. The sun’s bound to come out eventually, but for now, I’d be happy to spend the rest of the winter snuggled up in this and a pair of skinny jeans.

Happy Friday, friends! Have a wonderful weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week.

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get gifting: stuff that stocking

It’s that time – our last gift guide of the season! Whether you’re stuffing a stocking or scrambling to gather enough gifts for eight crazy nights, this list of my favorite under-$15 finds is sure to make gifting on the cheap a cinch.

  1. Keel’s Simple Diary Vol. 2, $12
  2. MintFusion lip balm with SPF 30, Supergoop, $9
  3. Ottoman Iznik tile notecards, Metropolitan Museum of Art, $15
  4. Felt keyfob, Graf + Lantz, $8
  5. Christmas scratchers and Hanukkah scratchers, Chronicle Books, $10 each
  6. Liam’s Robot letterpress cards, Satsuma Press, $10 (all proceeds to go sweet Liam’s special needs trust)
  7. Leather tape measure, Swing Designs, $10
  8. Salted caramel hot chocolate on a stick, Ticket Chocolate, $15 for 4
  9. Glitter in my Stocking and Orna-ment For Each Other, Nicole by OPI, $8 each
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get gifting: the holiday hostess

Since this week has been all about how to be a good hostess, I thought I’d cap the week off with a few suggestions for your favorite Martha Stewart wannabe. Whether she’s a crafter, a baker, or just a damn fine host, these gifts are guaranteed to please even the pickiest holiday hostess.

Perennially stumped about the best wine to bring to a party? Allow me to simplify: buy a case of this warm, fruit-forward Chianti and you’re set for the season.  Barone Ricasoli Chianti Classico Brolio 2007, $20

If she’s a good host, I’m guessing she’s a crafter at heart. Any knitter, whether she’s a novice or a pro, will drool over the DIY options in this book. Vogue Knitting: Classic Patterns from the World’s Most Celebrated Knitting Magazine, $30

I can’t think of much I wouldn’t love to receive from DL & Company. But their Fleur de Bois candle smells exactly like the holidays, without being cloying, and the blown glass holder is gorgeous all on its own. And these mini candle-and-diffuser sets are infinitely more gorgeous than their price tag suggests. DL & Co Fleur de Bois candle, $100; Mini Diffuser & Candle set, $24

What could be better than brownies from the legendary Sugardaddys Bakery? A brownie bit trifle kit, complete with a crystal trifle bowl, that’s what. Just try to give this one away without sneaking a bite!  Trifle kit, Sugardaddys Bakery, $58

Getting gorgeous letterpress cards in the mail every month? Talk about the gift that keeps on giving. Plus, chances are good she’ll send you one to thank you for the perfect gift. Mailbox Monthly, by Satsuma Press, from $48

Doormats are a tricky business, if you’re picky about them (as I am). This one is guaranteed to stop traffic…at least long enough to remind guests to wipe their feet. Mountain doormat, Angela Adams, $45

The coolest French press I’ve ever seen – add a pound of your favorite coffee, and you’ll get invited back every year.  Freud French Press, Horne, $110

I hear bundt cakes are the new cupcakes, but the perfect host would know best. Show her you’re up on your culinary trends by treating her to a treatise on the hottest thing in baked goods. Even better paired with a classic bundt pan. Cake Simple, by Christie Matheson, $13; NordicWare “Heritage” bundt pan, (my personal favorite, but a variety of styles from $20)

Show her you love her OCD side with a bottle of citrus-scented hand wash. This has a light, refreshing scent that works for everyone, and the oldey-timey packaging is a serious bonus. Village Perfumer hand wash (comes in 6 scents), C.O. Bigelow, $12

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