Friday, January 29, 2010

Unexpected Stuff You Can Borrow from the Library

If you thought you could only check out books, music and movies from your local branch, think again. Here's a list of unusual items some libraries around the country have in store:

Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA
- Tool Lending Library with over 750 different types of tools...demolition hammers included

Pasco County Library System, Hudson, FL
- Toy collection designed especially for physically-challenged children

St. Joseph County Public Library, South Bend, IN
- Copies of artwork you can hang up in your home or office for up to three weeks
- iPods
- Passes for up to six people to local museums

Urbandale Public Library, Urbandale, IA
- Novelty cake pans

Rochester Hills Public Library, Rochester, MI
- Video game collection with more than 2200 games and video game accessories

Central Mississippi Regional Library System, Brandon, MS
- Book club kits with 10+ books, author bio, discussion questions, maps and pictures
- Scrapbooking kit with die cutter and dies, stencils, punches, scissors, instructional books and videos
- Karaoke machine with various discs including holiday and kids songs
- Laptop

Jackson-George Regional Library System, Pascagoula, MS
- Car seats

Lewisboro Library, South Salem, NY
- Fishing poles and tackle boxes

Arlington Public Library, Arlington County, VA
- Instant Book Club Kits with several copies of the same title, a reader's guide and a tote bag

Virginia Beach Public Library, Virginia Beach, VA
- False Cape State Park nature backpacks with bug/dip net, magnifying glass, binoculars, nature journal and sketchbook, viewing jar with tweezers, resource folder, pen and fine point marker

King County Library System, Issaquah, WA
- Online database for music you can download and enjoy for three weeks
- Downloadable books and audiobooks

Indianhead Federated Library System, Eau Claire, WI
- Kodak slide carousel
- Dutch costume sewing patterns
- Ukranian egg decorating kits

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wednesday Giveaway: Quotable Journal

This week's giveaway will continue on that writer's vein. I'm a huge fan of journaling (I've saved each one since junior high), but I haven't done much of it since I began blogging. Still, to me there's something about putting pen to paper that a computer cannot replace. Maybe that's why I still handwrite everything you read here before typing it. Plus, those books last long after your computer explodes, your hard drive dies and your files get deleted.

You can flip through and laugh at those petty little troubles of long ago and marvel at how much - or in my case, how little - your handwriting has changed over the years. And when your children swear you couldn't possibly understand how they feel about [insert teen crisis du jour], well you've got the backup to help you relate. I think that's why I keep mine. I don't read them, but I hope one day my kids will. Hopefully they don't think me insane.

The journal that's currently keeping my secrets is the Quotable Butterfly Journal which bears the anonymous quote "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly." How fitting. This week, one of you will win a journal in the design of your choice. Just leave a comment saying which one is your fave and a winner will be announced on Friday.

CONGRATULATIONS: Toriz is this week's winner!


Making Moves

Even though I haven't been writing much here, I've been quite productive this week. I cranked out four quick stories for I went through 200 new e-mails to RSVP for several upcoming events and create a long list of story pitches. I was just assigned a big piece for Latina's May issue and a spa review I wrote up two weeks ago is now out in this week's Time Out New York (mine is the third blurb). Oh, and that story I gave birth to in the middle of a technological breakdown? Apparently I nailed it.

My friends keep saying I'm the busiest unemployed person they know - and in a way that's incorrect. I'm not truly unemployed. I just turned my lay-off into an opportunity to freelance and do what I really want. But as blessed and busy as I've been, I want more, more, more. I want my name in more places, I want to research new topics. I want a steady stream of articles flowing out of my inbox. And after that tiny rutty stretch I recently found myself in, I'm taking full advantage of this spike in motivation. Now to actually submit all these ideas sitting in my notebook...

And how has your week been going?

P.S. Tomorrow night I'm finally attending a meeting with a weekly writing group A.'s been going on about since I met him. Hopefully I can focus and get something done there.

Image: Daily Drop Cap by Jessica Hische

Arts for Transit

A new poster caught my eye on the 4 train this morning which then led me to discover the second one. Arts for Transit: one of the MTA's few redeeming qualities...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Time Out NY's Guide to NYC Cupcakes

Can you say yum? I cannot wait to visit all those bakeries!
Oh, and check out their cupcake slide show. They're edible works of art!


Back to the Gloomy Cold. Oh Flippin' Joy.

If you followed my tweets recently you'd know that I was away on a press trip this week and just got in yesterday. I had a wonderful time, but it's such a drag to leave 70 degree weather for what we've got going now. Oh, and not only was I greeted by rain and 35 mph winds, but I also lost my camera somewhere. Ain't that some kind of wonderful? Grrr...

On the plus size side, in between eating nonstop and tasting 5,000 wines and drinks, I put on a couple pounds. I'm just hoping they'll stick around for a while. And to brighten up this dreary day a bit, this morning I received a delivery: my winnings from Joy De Vivre Design's weekly Etsy shop contest! Now I can take my coffee table from junk holder to dinner table in a matter of seconds. You can get score these colorful placemats on Wing And Willow.

UPDATE: My camera has been found and will be shipped to me soon! Phew!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ten Rules to Create a "Lovely Little Blog"

You know which ones I'm talking about (if not, see a list of examples below). They're the ones with the daily awesome finds and super short posts full of sunshine and butterflies. Now I'm not saying anything against them (you'll actually find several of them in my blog rolls), but after coming across yet another one recently awarded Blog of Note status, I realized there really is a formula to that kind of blog. And here it is:

Rule #1: Your blog must have a simple white background with just a couple soft accent colors. This keeps the page nice and clean with all the focus on whatever goody you've found online. Think of it as using white plates to show off your yummy dish of the day.

Rule #2: You'll also need space on your blog to showcase your sponsors and all their colorful little ads. Be sure to support small businesses!

Rule #3: Real Simple must become your Bible and The Sartorialist your God. Worship them as they will provide the majority of your content.

Rule #4: Every picture you post should look like it was developed in the clouds: dreamy and beautiful. And all photos of you and your friends should always look as if a professional photographer follows you around 24/7. Anything sub-par could potentially ruin your blog's appeal.

Rule #5: Keep the blog 90% product, 10% any indication that you're a real person who deals with PMS, IBS or the INS USCIS. Any dark desires should be kept to yourself.

Rule #6: Your posts should be happy, short and sweet. If you feel like crap,* refrain from writing a rambling rant. Instead, go through Flickr or Ffffound!, select some gorgeous melancholic image and write, "I'm having such a gloomy day, dear readers. I'd love to know, how do you chase away the blues?" Done. (*See Rule #7)

Rule #7: Use beautiful vocabulary. Dump words like "damn crap," "screw it," and "that bloody bastard messed up my coffee order." From now on everything will be "sweet," "lovely," and "pretty." Throw in "inspiration" on post titles for good measure.

Rule #8: Anything and everything Anthropologie will make you swoon. Be sure to tell readers that at least once a week.

Rule #9: Along with fashion finds, your blog will feature lovely artwork, adorable videos, cool books (you won't review them though), perfectly decorated rooms, delicious foods, pretty paper goods and a bunch of other randomness that will elicit a resounding "Aww, I love it!" from all your readers.

Rule #10: Sit back and watch the followers and comments just roll in. It won't be long before you're basking in Blogs of Note glory too!

Bonus: If you're artistic, have an Etsy shop or are planning your wedding, use it to your advantage. Women eat that crap deliciousness right up!

Here are some prime examples of these lovely little blogs:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Giveaway: Reisenthel Mini Maxi Shopper

You know what's incredibly annoying? Having 5,000 canvas totes in your house but never carrying one with you when you actually need it. There have been too many times when I decide to pop into the supermarket for a couple groceries and then kick myself when I see all the plastic bags I have to bring back home.

Over the last few months, I've made it a point to keep my Reisenthel Mini Maxi Shopper inside my purse. You can roll up these durable reusable bags, tuck them inside their matching pouches and then keep them handy for those spontaneous shopping sprees. I like that the handles are long enough to use as a shoulder bag. In fact, it's pretty much doubled as my laptop bag these days!

This week, one of you will win a large Mini Maxi Shopper in the I Like Shopping pattern. Just leave a comment below and a winner will be announced Friday night!

P.S. Reisenthel also has the cutest Carrybags that would work great as a modern day picnic basket (just check them out under the Leisure collection). Oh warm weather, how I miss thee...

CONGRATULATIONS: Wonderful is this week's winner!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Village Tart

Yesterday, my buddy Tai took me down to Nolita to check out a new bakery/café/wine bar/lounge called The Village Tart. Turns out the place was having its soft launch that very evening and was serving complimentary food and drinks (with donations going to Haiti)!

The interior is very intimate and perfect for a laid-back romantic date or just catching up with close friends. With marble table tops, a (non-functioning) fireplace and comfy nooks, it has just the right mix of fancy and casual. And I'm nowhere near a narcissist, but I couldn't get enough of their walls of mirrors. What a great way to make the space look bigger while employing each one as a piece of art!

The Village Tart will serve a selection of sweet and savory tarts (their salted caramel one was mmm!) along with other "uncomplicated foods." Didn't know eating could turn into an issue, but I'll gladly take my chances with this one.

Monday, January 18, 2010

How Was Your Weekend?

Saturday night my friends and I went out for food and drinks to celebrate my 28th. It was a bit hectic at first (note to self: Dallas BBQs in Times Square for 17 people on a beautiful Saturday night was probably not the best idea), but I had a fun time and was beyond flattered that so many people actually came out for me. Thank you, guys :)

And for the first time ever, the three single ladies are dating simultaneously! (We met our current boos one after the other in a couple weeks' time.)

Studiokmo Pen and Paper City Prints

Check out these intricate maps from Studiokmo! Charlotte-based artist and architectural designer Studio K painstakingly draws each one with nothing but delicate little lines and dashes. Right now you can get lost in the streets of Manhattan, Paris, Boston, DC, San Fran, Chicago, Vancouver, Philly, Prague, Melbourne, Dublin and London. (via PopSugar Daily)
And how cool is this hand cut map of Melbourne?!

Talk about dedication. I don't even want to know how long it takes her to make these things.

Images:, and

Friday, January 15, 2010

Uninspired Writer's Block

I feel anything I could write here would be completely inconsequential. Lazy. Powerless. Some lackluster post (much like the one you're currently reading) with no real motivation behind it. And it's not like I've been feeling sad or out of it. On the contrary, I'm very happy these days. The unemployment situation stopped robbing me of my sleep (though waking up at 8 AM every day really needs to stop). I'm a healthy 28-year-old who can still pay all her bills. Apparently I'm liked and the number of times I laugh like a maniac each day has risen exponentially over the last few months. I'm beyond content.

So why the semi-burnout? I remember those endless posts of torment and joy that plagued this blog. The exuberance immediately followed by some weeping, soul-searching piece. At least that constant up and down, love, hate I'd grown used to made me feel alive, somewhat in motion. Nowadays, I feel calmer, lighter, just going from one day to the next without being bogged down by what is, was, could've, would've, should've. Refreshing yes, but different. Instead of explaining why, I'm learning to experience this state of Just Being.

Fun times, but it doesn't help my writer's block! And not just for Dry As Toast, but for my freelancing as well. I have this constant need to churn out new ideas and my wheels are starting to jam. Perhaps it's the bleak season, working from home or the fact that as my own worst critic, I pressure myself too much. Are the best writers really the tortured ones?

Who knows, but it's funny how this current fit of uninspiration at least moved me to write something longer than four sentences. So, what's got your wheels turning these days?


Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to Help Haiti Earthquake Victims

The International Federation of the Red Cross reports that over three million people have been affected by the earthquake that struck Tuesday (and it's still much too early to even estimate the death toll). With the country's infrastructure devastated by the disaster, contributing money instead of supplies would be the best bet. Here's how to aid in the relief efforts.

P.S. Here's an interesting Huffington Post article with a roundup of relief efforts currently in motion, country contributions, recent updates and quick facts about Haiti and earthquakes.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hump Day Sex Polls

I think we can all agree that Dry As Toast is fairly family-friendly/ PG-13. Well in honor of Hump Day I'm throwing a monkey wrench into all that and created some fun polls that'll reveal what my lovely readers are into. (Don't act like you're an innocent bunch!) Feel free to join the titillating conversation in the comments section. ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tuesday Giveaway: Magnetic Poetry

Here's a little writer's block remedy I should probably use more often: Magnetic Poetry. (Seriously, it's been bad!) Who knows what ideas might pop up once you start stringing those tiles together. Now, in my never-ending quest to embarrass myself, I shall share an unfinished Valentine's Day poem I wrote about seven years ago using my Romance Kit:

To find a hand to hold
a soul to share
the sweetest song
a heart that cares

That gleam in his eye
the taste of a kiss
the wind whispering
that Heaven is this

A caress on your cheek
his voice by your ear
the dance your heart does
whenever he's near...

Whew! See what inspired craziness you can create with these things?! So this week, two of you will win one of the newest kits in their collection - Yoga or Bitch - so you can either zen out or embrace your inner fierce. Just leave a comment below and the winners will be chosen on Friday!

CONGRATULATIONS: This week's winners are Debbie in Nashville (Yoga) and Maxie (Bitch)!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy One-Eleven!

It has a certain ring to it doesn't it? Don't worry, someday the whole country will be celebrating my birthday, too. (Preferably while I'm still alive.)


Saturday, January 9, 2010

27 Things Update

Well we're coming down the home stretch and I only did a little more than half the things on my list this year. Unfinished's pretty much the story of my life.

2. Travel to a new country- Failed, but I did visit a new part of a country I'm tired of visiting: DR.

3. Take swimming lessons- By the time I finally got moving on was way too cold to swim.

4. Find my own go-to cafe- Didn't really need to before. Now that I'm freelancing I might make an effort to shower earlier, get dressed and get the hell up out of this house.

5. Finish the hallway photo gallery- What can I say? I'm lazy and I don't mind how it currently stands seeing as how nobody else is coming over to see it.

6. Design 5 greeting cards each month- What was I even thinking with this?!

8. Write a letter to one extra friend each month (eight)- Is it bad that the eight I did write were all in one month because I tried to keep a leg on this thing?

12. Tell one person I love them every day...and mean it- Saying "I love you" is HARD. Remembering to say it even though it's known is also hard.

14. Have a sleepover filled with junk food and chick flicks- Time...where did you go?

15. Host a cocktail party- Does it count if it was a party for one? What?! Drinks at the club are expensive!

16. Plant sunflowers in the spring- I tried, I really did, but they were not cooperating so I just let them die. I'm so nurturing :)

23. Speak up- I think I added this because I was running out of good things for the list. Blah.

24. Face three fears (one, two)- Hmm, well I went rock climbing at a gym with A. today despite my lame fear of falling. Does that count?


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Recovery Mode

Just popping in to say I turned the story in last night and almost self-combusted in the process. My laptop wanted to play games with me yesterday talking about "startup memory full" and "delete files for space." It didn't let me save anything anywhere (not even on a flash drive) meaning no space for autosave. I think you know where this is going.

Halfway through the thing, Word crashed and I lost everything because there was nothing to recover. Fun times! (No, not really.)

See why I'm still a pen-and-paper girl? Because technology blows. Luckily, I'd handwritten a portion of it in my notebook, but, oy vey, I don't know how I didn't break my computer then and there. I ended up typing it out in an e-mail to myself. Ghet-to.

Anywho, I'm using today to chillax...and maybe finally install this new hard drive onto my PC. I'll be back ahorita.

And how are you fools doing?

P.S. I might start tweeting soon...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Makeover 1: Finances

Even though my life isn't currently a hot mess, I feel there's always room for improvement. So in this new year, I'll be focusing on several areas and figuring out practical ways to make them better. Feel free to chime in with what's worked (or not) for you.

First up: money.

I'm not really a big spender. My friends can attest to how much I hate shopping for clothes and shoes, but I am wasteful in other ways: paying way too much for services I rarely use (I detest you, Cablevision), buying produce and constantly letting them go bad, eating out instead of turning on the stove (there goes another useless utility), impulse buys here and there, etc. When I started working at the magazine, I saved every cent I could from my entry level salary and accumulated $5,000 in four months' time. That money was untouchable. Then I used it to move out of my parents' home and never put another dime back in. I wasn't struggling, but I was making just enough to be comfortable without leaving much cushioning. I was doggy paddling from month to month hoping nothing major would drown me out the blue.

And then I got laid off. No more guaranteed paychecks, no more health insurance and surely not enough in my savings account to hold me over for too long (aim for at least three months' worth of living expenses, guys). Before, I'd balance my checkbook several times a week. Nowadays I practice a little thing called "Ignore it and pray." Changes surely need to happen if I'm going to make it through this stretch.

Enter A. - a recovering consumer - and his recent post on 8 Habits for Reclaiming Your Finances and Your Life. The man temporarily lost his job early last year and used that experience to give his expensive habits a major overhaul. He even went ahead and sold most of his crap! (If you knew what hoarder I am, you'd understand why this was shocking to me.) I like my stuff. I never use most of it, but I always think, "Someday I'm going to have a question and the answer will lie in page 49 of that dusty book I haven't opened in five years." I mean really.

But now I'm tempted to sell some of these Things (my shelf currently holds 173 books), just suck it up and get rid of Useless Expenses and keep track of where my money goes (A. suggests I really need to minimize and lessen so that the little money trickling in can last as long as possible. Then I can focus on generating more income and bulking up that savings account once again.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Giveaway: Perricone MD No Foundation Foundation

If you know me, you know I'm clueless when it comes to makeup. I don't wear crazy eye shadow colors and can't be bothered finding my perfect shade of foundation. And don't get me started on the hazards of putting on eyeliner. No, just give me some lip gloss and mascara (maybe) and I'm good to go. So when Perricone MD offered to let me test out one of their skin care products (and give one to you guys), I thought, "One foundation for every skin tone? This I gotta see."

No Foundation Foundation is very lightweight and provides SPF 30 without that sunscreen smell. For a second, I thought I'd put on way too much (and probably did), but after a couple rubs the lotion just blended into my skin. My face had a smooth satin feel to it and the foundation evened out my skin tone a bit, but I'm not going to say I was left with a picture perfect finish. Next up: discovering the magic of concealers.

This week one of you will get a chance to try out the No Foundation Foundation for yourself. Just leave a comment below saying why you'd love to win this and a random winner will be chosen Sunday night.

CONGRATULATIONS: Blythe is this week's winner!


Rant Alert: You Know What I Hate About Major Holidays?

Mass text messages.

Seriously, nothing says "I'm a lazy mofo" like sending out a "Happy New Year! [Insert generic wishes of health and prosperity.]" to everyone in your contact list regardless of whether you ever talk to them or not. Hello! What about a "Hi, are you still alive?" every now and then?

Look, just because you're ballin' with your unlimited text messages doesn't mean I am. I want each of my 400 texts to count and that doesn't include getting the same message you sent to that annoying friend you spent half the year avoiding. (Yes, even if I am her!) Don't think for one second you'll be the only one or that your peeps will love whatever you have to say. We won't and you'll only be the umpteenth person buzzing in. And I'm sure not paying an extra 20 cents for your tired message.

So if you must go the mass route, be considerate and send out an e-mail or post that joint on Facebook. At least I won't end up paying for your laziness.


Friday, January 1, 2010

The Year That Zoomed Right By

I've been struggling with my end-of-2009 recap because I keep thinking, "What the hell even happened this year and hello, how are we in 2010 already?!" I'm just going to go ahead and chalk it up to global warming. (What? Doesn't stuff accelerate in the heat?)

Anywho, 2009. Let's see:

I quit therapy and dared to figure things out on my own. I finally acknowledged my unhealthy eating habits, gained five pounds in a month and then lost it all the next. I grabbed the tiniest bikinis, left my body hangups in the dust and went on vacation with my best friend. In between coffee shop meetings and classes, I fell in love with Italian (and then my fickle heart began to lose interest). Press trips and featurettes accompanied my growing responsibilities at work. I loved my job and spent 12 months stressing over losing it...until the ax came one Friday the 13th and I was able to breathe again.

In the love department, the first half of 2009 still found me incredibly bitter and nostalgic for what I no longer had. What I did have was a head full of frustration, questions and no easy answers. As reluctant as I had been to the idea, things improved once I put some space between him and me. That was the first thing that was easier than I thought it'd be. The second: giving someone else a chance. My refusal to date faded away once I found myself right smack in the middle of it and actually enjoying myself. How could I possibly say no to letting go when it felt that good?

Looking back on the past year, it was nowhere near as trying and torturous as the one before. I still learned, yes, but the lessons came so much more gently. Perhaps knowing that I'd survived such a hellish time only meant that I could get through another if need be. Let's hope I don't.

As the new year begins, I'm hopeful, but in desperate need of a jump start. My ambitions want to take me in so many different directions, I don't even know where to begin. A bit paralyzing, but I love it. The moment I no longer churn out random ideas nor wish to conquer the world and create my mark is the moment I cease to be me. So here's to chasing dreams and actually catching those buggers.

Oh, and here's to time slowing way the hell down. Especially this week. I've got a Wednesday deadline to meet.