Travel: Shopping in Scotland and England

I didn’t buy too much when I was in the UK. All the stuff in the London shops, I could get in New York City, a mall, or online for the same price. Also, I didn’t feel like lugging around too much. I couldn’t resist some small knit items in Scotland and small items from stores that we don’t have here.

In Edinburgh, I bought some cutie-pie change purses and earrings at Simon Bonas for my nieces.

Earrings with some bling and jingle. The white ones are for me. The others are gifts for the nieces.
Nice change purse to throw into a beach bag. Big enough for dollars and a license.

In Scotland, there are a ton of tourist shops with the full kilt silliness. That traditional man-purse is called a sporran, or as Ian called it, “a dick hider.” The nicest stuff in those shop was Harris Tweed and Aran sweaters, but a little bit goes a long way. The Aran sweaters scream Sister Mary’s Convent Gift Shop; beautiful stuff, but too chunky for me. I did get a pair of lovely driving mittens. The Harris Tweed is fabulous on a wallet.

Very silly.

But a little of bit plaid and tweed is lovely. I picked up some lovely scarves and wallets for Christmas gifts.

On the drive to Inverness, we stopped at the House of Bruar, a high-end store for Scottish Country Clothing. It was kind of awesome. Steve got my birthday present there.

We’re huge suckers for outdoorsy clothes and camping gear. We’re heading out to the woods next weekend, so we’ll give the tents and propane stove a workout.


Decorating Apt. 11D with Vintage Furniture

In my last post about our lawyer’s bookcase, there was some discussion about whether people still are interested in vintage furniture.

I go to a lot of estate sales to find old books for my badly neglected Etsy shop. The dealers are lined up out the door. Of course, they don’t buy just anything old. They buy certain old things — good lines, well made, not destroyed. There was crap in the old days, just as there is now.

I don’t pay for my vintage stuff. It usually just falls in my lap one way or another. Hi, I’m Laura, and I adopt stray furniture.

1/3 of the stuff in these pictures is vintage, 1/3 is quality new (Crate and Barrell, Room and Board), and 1/3 is crap new (IKEA or Wayfair). Our dining room chairs suck. They’re $14 from IKEA. I think I’m going to upgrade to these. I just got that new table runner, on sale at Crate and Barrel.

The vintage prints came from my in-laws. I had reframed them in modern frames, but hated the look. I put them back in the beat up vintage frames, where they looked more at home. I like them hung asymmetrically. (But not crooked, like that bottom one, which needs to be adjusted. I took these pictures in about five minutes. No time to clean up and fix errors.)

The mirror was in my grandmother’s Bronx apartment in the 1950s. The buffet are two bedroom side tables pushed together. I found them on the street on trash day in New York City. Don’t look too closely at them, because they’re a mess.

Because we have a super white kitchen (excuse the mess in the background) and a mid-century modern house, I think we really need the old vintage stuff to give the house some character. I was in a new-build house a few weeks ago, and the whole place was white and light blue. I was redecorating in my head the whole time. The woman’s house DEMANDED some character.

Does anyone else redecorate in their head, when they’re in a particularly cluttered or bland house? I’m sure you all do, and it has nothing to do with some undiagnosed OCD on my part.

Travel: Packing for Scotland, the Highland (Part 2) An Essential Purse

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True story. I am addicted to crossbody purses. I think I own ten. Probably more. I like them because I only need something that can fit my wallet, my cell phone, and a tube of lipstick. Anything bigger just cramps my style.

Crossbody purses are essential when traveling and you only need a change purse of pounds, the cell phone, and the key to the Air BnB. When you’re not using them, they fit nicely into a suitcase.

Pad & Quill‘s Heritage Bag is especially cute, because it has a nice shape and smells like new leather. It even has room for an iPad, so you can read Outlander in the corner of a cafe in Edinburgh for an hour or two. Hell, you can even imagine Claire using something like this.

When Pad & Quill asked to partner with me on this product, I immediately said yes, because of its vintage-modern vibe. My nieces offered to model it and now want one, too.

Travel: Packing for Scotland, Highlands (Part 1)

As I explained earlier, packing for a trip to Scotland is tricky for many reasons. The temperature can range, as it did on this trip, from the 90s to the 40s. Because we wanted to be mobile, everything had to fit into one carry on suitcase. And our trip started in London, so we needed some cute evening outfits, as well as rugged outfits for climbing abandoned castles in the Highlands. Everything had to match and work together when layered up on a chilly evening.

Since we were staying in AirBnBs with access to laundry, we took about five to seven days worth of clothes.

After a lot of thought, I came up with a formula for myself and the dudes in my family. Here are some of the essentials:

For the guys: every day t-shirts, a sweat shirt, a long sleeve shirt, two shorts, one pair of denim pants, one pair of khaki pants, a polo shirt, a button-down shirt, walking shoes/sneakers, sperry’s, a good rain coat

For me: 5 cute shirts, 2 plain t-shirts, 1 pair of shorts, one summer dress that could work on its own and with tights underneath, stretch black pants, one pair of jeans, denim jacket, scarf, two light cardigans, lots of tank tops, lightweight flats with a rubber sole, sneakers, comfortable sandals, an excellent raincoat

For days with lots of hiking and camera use, I carried a light backpack. Other days, I carried a small cross body bag, like this one from Pad and Quill.

We all packed running clothes, but we didn’t really need them. Our schedule was very tight, and we were already walking a ton.

Social Skills for Neurotypicals

Steve is at a conference in Miami this week. He was promoted this winter and will be doing more of this. Putting on a tie and schmoozing with people in the industry is not his strong suit, so I gave him some pointers for conversation starters.

When you’re at a business conference, you don’t want to talk too much about work, so what do you talk about? You look for commonalities and ask for advice. For example, you can say that we want to get a spot by a lake this year, but you don’t know where to go. Where would they suggest? If they have a kid in college, you can compare stories. You store little details about the person in a mental folder – their partner’s name, the age of their kids, some story they shared about their parent’s illness — and then ask about it.  You ask questions, even if you don’t care about their answers, just to keep the conversation going.

When you’re married for a long time, each person develops their strong suits and lets the other person carry their weaknesses. Because Steve’s sense of direction is so good, he drives everywhere and I can’t get anywhere on my own anymore. And because I’m good at the chit-chat stuff, I’m the talker when we go to cocktail parties. But he’s at the conference on his own now, so he’s got to work on this skills that he never had to develop.

Ian’s last remaining autism challenge is social skills. He’s outgrown just about every other issue, but he still can’t maintain a conversation and is often inappropriate. Yesterday, when we were at the podiatrist to get new orthotics for his flat feet, he insisted on calling the doctor by his first name. He was having a little trouble with a bully the week before and he couldn’t understand why the kid was purposely saying things to annoy him.

So, Ian goes to social skills therapy on Wednesdays and will attend a social skills camp over the summer. He has an aide at school that makes sure that he’s saying the right things. Even with all this help, he has no friends and will probably struggle his whole life with interacting with other people.

And I’ve learned a ton by taking him to all this therapy over the years. One thing that I’ve learned is that a whole of neurotypical people suck at social skills, too. It’s one thing to say the wrong thing occasionally. We all do that. But lots of people struggle with more basic skills, like putting themselves in another person’s shoes to understand their motivations. Or knowing how to make another person more comfortable and relax to tell you their secrets. Lots of people don’t know how to do that.

I sometimes think about writing a book for non-autistic people about the art of chit-chat.

The Gen-X Midlife Crisis

Because it’s relevent to our recent discussion about unhappy UMC-ers and stress, I’m linking to an article that it is being widely disseminated on my Facebook page. I know a lot of stressed out UMC-ers, I guess. From Oprah magazine:

The complaints of well-educated, middle- and upper-middle class women are easy to dismiss as temporary, or not really a crisis, or #FirstWorldProblems. America, in the grand scheme of things, is still a rich, relatively safe country. (Syrian refugees do not have the luxury of waking up in the middle of the night worried about credit card bills.) Although many women are trying to make it on minimum-wage, split-shift jobs (and arguably don’t have so much a midlife crisis as an ongoing crisis), women overall are closing the wage gap. Men do more at home. We deal with less sexism than our mothers and grandmothers, and have far more opportunities. Insert your Reason Why We Don’t Deserve to Feel Lousy here.

Fine. Let’s agree that this particular slice of Generation X women shouldn’t feel bad. And yet, many do: Nearly 60 percent of Gen Xers describe themselves as stressed out. A 2009 analysis of General Social Survey data showed that women’s happiness “declined both absolutely and relative to men” from the early ’70s to the mid-2000s. More than one in five women are on antidepressants. An awful lot of middle-aged women are furious and overwhelmed. What we don’t talk about enough is how the deck is stacked against them feeling any other way.

Modern Madness

I went to a community presentation last night about “mindful parenting”. (Combine two trendy words and make a better trendy word!) The speaker began with information about how stress was bad for you. (Shocking, I know.) She included lots of big words about brain parts. (It’s science, I tell you!) Then she gave lots of tips and tricks for calming down (deep breathing, being grateful) for people whose lives are nutso, but don’t want to make any serious changes in their lives. She posted lots of pictures of the book that she was selling and her website where she was selling other stuff. She’s paid to give a talk and then uses the talk to make more money.

It’s a good gig. I want in.

But I suppose people are looking for answers in a world where 31-year olds work themselves to death.

We’ve kept our marbles by arranging the family with one real job and one flex job. For years, our parenting responsibilities were so extreme that it wasn’t possible to manage everything with two real jobs. Maybe if we had a full time housekeeper/babysitter, we could have done it. Things are getting easier now, but we’re still not ready for me to get a real job with a real commute. Ian needs someone to take him to all of his therapy, band practices, and doctor appointments. And his bus didn’t show up twice this week, so I made the 1-1/2 hour round trip with him. We can handle emergencies with the flex job.

But this system doesn’t work for a lot of families. So, they are breathing and looking for quick fixes.