Christmas cards are very traditional and unsurprising, but damn if they don’t warm your icy heart. I’ve sent out cards in the past, but the closest I’ve gotten to personalizing them is cramming a photo into the card before slobbering on a crusty envelope. I’ve been wanting to create something handmade and a little more heartfelt, and I finally got around to it.
Now that each of my recipients have gotten their mittens on my holiday greetings, I’m excited to show off a little.
I was inspired by the always impeccable Martha Stewart: goddess among mortals. I took her concept and made it my own with a pack of kraft paper cards, ribbon, and a few hours at my mother’s sewing machine.
I cut five lengths of two different kinds of ribbon to start. Full disclosure; this step has been done for over a year. I fully intended on making these cards for Christmas 2014, but things don’t always follow the grand plan. I loaded up the machine with brown thread, delicately ran a glue stick along my ribbon, and gingerly pressed the sewing machine pedal while holding my breath.
There was a bit of a learning curve here, and admittedly, my first few cards were a little janky. I mailed my roughest looking card to my parents; I know they’re proud of me regardless, and even my worst Christmas card is still markedly better than my childhood artwork they still boastfully showcase in their home.
I wrote a personalized message in each card before stuffing the envelopes. Many of my cards stayed in Charlotte, but my holiday greetings made their way to Los Angeles, New Orleans, and Berlin, too. Spreading some joy as far as I can reach.
Making my cards by hand and sending them out to my favorite people felt really outstanding. I know I have a mortgage and everything, but taking the time to make and mail these seemed particularly adult of me.
I plan to use the residual holiday spirit to brainstorm next year’s cards. I might just have a new tradition on my hands.
Number 44: Send out homemade holiday cards. It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
I’m no stranger to outrageous hair. Throughout middle and high school, I put all sorts of colors into my coif and even rocked a few questionable haircuts. Remember when I cut it all off a few years ago? It’s kind of my thing.
I haven’t done anything too fancy in several years. Adulthood has put a major cramp in my style. I might be able to pull off an undercut, but try going for job interviews with a green streak in your hair and I guarantee the negotiations aren’t going to go in your favor.
I started a shiny new job at the beginning of September, and it’s everything I could hope it to be. Casual dress, flexible hours, and cabinets overflowing with snacks. I finally felt like I was in a good place to do something a little different without offending the old ladies in the accounting department.
I was still a bit hesitant. I already have enough of a difficult time being taken seriously. I still get asked what high school I go to. Are pink highlights the way to command respect as an adult?
I had some pink put in during the first week of October. For breast cancer awareness, and to honor my mother as a kickass survivor. And because I haven’t had pink hair since I was thirteen.
The stylist I worked with used a pink toner instead of dye for that antique look, and something a little more subtle. I loved it.
I had to have more.
Once the pink faded, I went back and asked for some lavender pieces.
Living that dream life.
For such a little thing, these fun highlights brought me a lot of joy. I’m thinking about doing a complete lavender color come springtime.
Number 55. Have colored highlights put in my hair. Really making the most of a pixie cut.
I consider myself to be relatively environmentally conscious. I recycle. I wash my clothes in cold water. I don’t compost, but I respect those that do.
I read somewhere that Charlotte’s tree canopy has begun to decline due to weather events and development. This is the kind of statistic that interests me. Speaking to people who have moved to North Carolina, a comment I often hear is “it’s so green here!” We also have the unofficial moniker, “City of Trees.” That’s a reputation worth holding on to.
I decided I wanted to do my part to help Charlotte stay green, but then two things happened.
1. I remembered that I already have more than enough trees in my yard.
2. I also remembered that I’m shit at gardening.
So, how do I contribute to the canopy if my own resources are so unfortunate? Well, first step, Google.
I quickly found a local non-profit that plants trees in and around the Charlotte area. Enter TreesCharlotte. They’re planning to add 15,000 trees annually over the next several years, and I was determined to help out.
On a chilly Saturday morning, Jason and I woke up early and made our way to an elementary school campus out in the university area and got to work.
80 volunteers had shown up in total. We were split into three groups, each with their own team of Treemasters. We grabbed shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows and started on our planting journey.
We were treated to a demonstration on how to correctly plant trees. Apparently, tossing them in the ground and filling the hole up with dirt is the wrong way. That might be why I kill every plant I touch.
The holes had already been started with a large auger vehicle. It was up to us to ensure the holes were the proper depth to encourage healthy growth of the trees.
Once the hole was ready, the tree went in and we had to “tickle the roots;” a way to stimulate the root ball to spread out and not circle around the tree as it’s growing. After a few shovelfuls of dirt, we were to pause and stomp down the soil to rid it of any air pockets which could cause the tree to settle crooked or foster rot and mold growth. Who knew? I definitely didn’t expect to learn so much at a tree planting event.
After the demonstration, Jason and I found a lonely maple tree and set about creating a home for it.
We took turns digging and stomping until our first tree stood proudly in the crisp morning air. We watched the other volunteers in our group as they did the same. We had our planting skills checked by a Treemaster, and once we were given the thumbs up, moved on to another planting site behind the school. By the end of the event, my little team had planted three trees and the entire group had added 135 adorable tree babies to the campus.
It was a chilly morning and I walked away covered in dirt, but I’m so glad I signed up for this event. It was fun and informative, and the feeling you get from volunteering in your community is a tough one to beat.
Oh, and Jason got to be in a video for TreesCharlotte.
If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, I highly recommend finding a planting event near you. The people who run these plantings do a fantastic job.
Number 60: Plant a tree. Check!
I’m too old to ride a mechanical bull. I know this because after I did it, I was outrageously sore for three days afterward.
Ugh, I suppose you want the whole story, huh? We can file this in the “unfortunate” category.
I’ve done a decent amount of traveling over the last two years, and I’ve had a hard time finding a place with a mechanical bull. Yeah, I know, Charlotte has at least three of them… but this is the kind of task I’d rather complete amongst strangers, or at least people who I’ll never have to sit through a job interview with. “Aren’t you the girl that rode the bull at Coyote Joe’s?” I don’t need that in my life.
There was one place I knew would have a mechanical bull. The French Quarter. I’m telling you, New Orleans just can’t let me down. One quick google search, and I was on my way to Bourbon Cowboy within minutes of playing blackjack at Harrah’s.
Get it? BOURBON COWBOY? Because it’s on Bourbon Street and it sounds like Urban Cowboy, the hit Travolta flick of 1980. But, do you get it?
Cursing quietly for getting myself into this, I begrudgingly trudged my way to the bar to purchase a bull riding ticket. The things I sign myself up for.
I had to sign a release and take off my shoes. If you’re looking for a sign that you’ve made a poor life choice, signing a legal form while barefoot should be that sign.
I wrangled myself upon this awful, hulking, duct tape covered headless beast. I noticed a sheet of plastic between the bullriding pit and the right side of the bar. I don’t want to assume this is a vomit shield, but I can’t imagine what else it might be.
Just as the bull operator (seriously, this is a person’s job) got started, I heard the feedback of a microphone. Oh, nice. There’s an announcer to call attention to my ride. The standard perverse comments about riding cowgirl and squealing and the like.
The bull started lurching and jumping. Despite my feelings about this whole situation, I wasn’t about to go down without a fight. I’m stubborn and extremely competitive. I squeezed my thighs against the horrible beast and held on for dear life.
I remember Jesse telling me as I walked into the bar that I only had to hold on for eight seconds — that’s an excellent time for the professionals. I swear I was up there for five damn minutes. I’m either an extremely talented bullrider, or the dude at the controls was going easy on me. I’m going to go with the first one. I did realize, though, at one point, the bull would ditch me and I’d end up laying on my back on the floor that scores of drunk girls had trod upon with their dirty bare feet. That was enough to keep me perched on the decapitated bovine for the foreseeable future.
Anyway, I’m still riding the bull to this day. Just brought my laptop up here so I could write this post. Sometimes my family comes to visit. I hope they’re proud of me.
I finally ditched to scattered applause from the bar. Crossed this one off the list. At the end of the day, I went considerably outside my comfort zone. So there’s that.
Number 3: Ride a mechanical bull. Yeehaw.
When I was small, my father taught me to play cards. We’d place bets from a jar of change my mother kept in her desk. I taught the neighborhood kids how to play poker with pieces of cheddar popcorn as our kitty. I’ve always enjoyed card games.
But I’ve never been a gambler. A few years ago, I spent an evening at the Seneca Niagara casino and after I’d played through $20, I wandered back upstairs to the hotel room. When I won, I didn’t understand why I won. And when I lost, I didn’t understand why I lost. Those machines are flashy and confusing. Ultimately, not my thing.
I’ve always liked the idea of playing table games, but having anxiety, I’m more of a self-checkout lane kind of person. Getting up the courage to change my money into chips and play with an actual human dealer is a lot to ask.
But that’s the purpose of this whole 101/1001 project; to get out of my comfort zone and do the things I’ve always talked about doing.
And it doesn’t hurt that New Orleans was involved.
Jesse and Beth took me to Harrah’s in the Central Business District so that I could play a few hands.
Many of the table games here are a $15 minimum. That doesn’t sound like much, until you’re a few hands in and where did my money go? I decided right away that I wasn’t going to blow through my cash — I’m nothing if not a conservative gambler.
I put down a twenty and changed for chips. On my first hand, I studied my cards and sheepishly uttered “uh… hit” to the dealer. She informed me that I’d have to tap the table, which is the official hand motion for getting another card. The velvet on the table was worn away from thousands of other gamblers stabbing the fabric with their sweaty fingers. I’d really rather use my words.
My third card wasn’t enough and I lost the hand. I got another chip and bet the minimum for a new deal, which I lost immediately as the dealer had 21 in her cards. She was so quick in her deals and flipping the cards. I was anxious and intimidated. One more. Third time’s the charm, or something.
I pulled another $15 out of my wallet. Changed for chips.
My dealer lady paid me out my winnings: $37.50. I smiled at her and spun around on my stool. That was enough for me. Quit while you’re ahead… or only moderately behind.
My whole table gambling experience lasted about five minutes and ultimately cost me about eight bucks. I completely understand how people can lose their savings in a matter of moments. The gentleman who sat at the table as I was leaving placed a $100 bet. Just hearing that made me nauseous. I’m not built for this.
I happily marched myself over to the cage to cash out my
winnings, er, my leftovers. Another experience in the books. I’ll stick to gambling with pennies on the coffee table, thanks.
Number 42: Play blackjack at a casino. Check.
Remember how I went to New Orleans as a part of my last 101/1001 list? Well, the city was so nice, I had to see it twice. I was able to visit once again over Labor Day weekend, and I packed in the list goals in my time there.
My first evening in New Orleans took me out for upscale Mexican and then to Tulane University for the season opener against Duke. I was so excited to have this new life experience, to be in one of my favorite cities with one of my best friends, and to bask in the spectacle. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I got.
Oh, hey. Check out my earrings from my thrift shop adventure.
Our little group was four people strong, and we visited the Tulane team store before the game began. To my surprise, official licensed college merchandise costs just as much as professional sports gear. I thought I’d pick up a shirt to commemorate another thing marked off my list, but at $80 for a long-sleeved shirt, I’ll have to rely on my memories of the occasion.
We found our way to our seats and settled in. The student section was to our right, and in true college kid fashion, the students lazily filtered in through the first quarter and cheered at all the wrong times, including while the national anthem was being sung. I mean, I know the Tulane fight song is just as important as the Star Spangled Banner, but there’s a time and place for everything.
The game started and I remembered something crucial. I’m not a big fan of watching football live in the venue. I forgot my malaise during the two Carolina Panthers games I’ve been to and immediately lusted after my couch, where my favorite football games have been lazily spectated. To me, football is about being cozy, eating bad food, napping during the third quarter, and seeing that yellow line superimposed onto the field. None of those things are present when you’re sitting on bleachers in a college stadium.
Also, can we talk about alumni? There was a group of at least a dozen former Tulane students in front of us, each in their early forties if I had to guess. They were carrying on like they were still students; wistfully talking about quarterbacks of seasons past amidst going on about their vacation homes and disagreements with their bosses. What a strange thing. Granted, I didn’t go to a traditional university, so the whole concept of college pride and the license plate frames that come with it are foreign to me. But is it not odd to have grown men and women knocking back beers, cheering for a team that they don’t have family members on? I mean, I guess that’s what professional sports are, but that’s the point… they’re professionals. Watching glorified amateurs run around because you took a biology class on the same campus 20 years ago? I don’t know. Doesn’t translate to this former art student.
I did love the marching band and their performance at halftime. I loved it even more when they had finished their field time and the whole band went to sit in the student section, tubas and all. Such fun to look to my right after a big play and see all the horn players add their brassy cheers to the commotion.
We ended up leaving at the end of the third quarter, when it became clear that Tulane wasn’t going to come back from their deficit. We caught the exciting plays on the local news the next morning, all of which happened on our school bus ride back to the car.
Oh, did I forget to mention that you can’t park onsite, so you have to take a school bus to the field? What is this madness?!
Anyway. I’m glad I went. I checked this one off my list and remembered that football games really aren’t for me. I’ll stick to lusting after Luke Kuechly from my couch, thank you.
Number 16: Go to a college football game. Yep.
When I imagined crossing this item off my list, I thought it would take several days and visits to just as many shops all over town. To my surprise, I knocked this out in just one afternoon, after I had already gone pawn shopping.
I tackled this goal at Buffalo Exchange on Central Avenue in Charlotte. I caught a bit of flak for considering this a thrift shop, as it doesn’t benefit a charitable organization. My whole point was to pick up an outfit secondhand. And my blog, my rules. So here we go.
Buffalo Exchange is organized like any other secondhand store, with like items of clothing grouped together. Women’s sweaters here, men’s shoes there, and a big tree draped with necklaces and other accessories at the front. I loaded up my arms with nearly a dozen pieces before an employee came by and set up a fitting room for me. I will say, you won’t get that kind of service at your local Goodwill.
The racks were packed with any type of clothing you could imagine. If you’re looking for a black blazer for your next interview, they’ve got it. If you’re looking for a sweatshirt covered with printed fast food items, they’ve got that, too. Options upon options.
When I was ready to try on my finds, an outfit came together right away.
Coral colored denim with a long cobalt blue blouse.
Not only did I love the combination, but it would be absolutely perfect to wear to my upcoming Muppets party where I had asked everyone to dress in bright colors.
Yeah, this is my life. Anyway, back to my story.
I was sold on these pieces right away. I just wanted to find a few accessories to top off the whole outfit.
It took a bit of hunting, but I found a sweet little pair of drop earrings and fell in love with them immediately. And they would coordinate so well with my new pants! Fate. That’s what’s at work here.
My last piece was a gold and turquoise bangle that has since become one of my favorite things to wear.
As I handed my selections over the counter to the young woman working register, she remarked, “Oh, you’ve got enough for a whole outfit here!”
And I was like, “Bish, I know this.”
All in all, I walked away with a perfect ensemble for less than $40. I might take on this challenge more often.
Number 100: Put together an entire outfit with thrift store finds. This is fucking awesome.