life is like a wine tasting

sunstone winery

Yesterday, we took a “family staycation day” and drove up to the San Ynez Valley to explore the beautiful vineyards. It was a gorgeous day and we ended up doing a wine tasting at Sunstone Winery, which was absolutely delightful. It was my first time doing a wine tasting at a winery, and got me thinking about the ways that life is like a wine tasting:

1. Each taste is unique and lovely in its own way, and should be enjoyed for what it is. For example, if you expect a pinot grigio to be a merlot, you are going to be disappointed. But if you pay attention to the distinct flavors of the pinot grigio, you are able to appreciate it for what it is. In the same way, each season of life has different flavors — pros and cons, perks and disappointments. Try to appreciate the season of life you are in for all the gifts it has to offer, instead of wishing for a different season. You will get there soon enough, and there will likely be things you miss about your life here and now!

me and mom winery

2. Each pour is meant to be savored, not rushed through. So often, it can feel like we are rushing through life: counting down hours in a workday, scrolling through email constantly on our smartphones, yearning for the weekend or for our next vacation. Even meals are often hurried affairs, something we rush through rather than enjoy, or mindlessly eat in front of the TV — have you ever finished eating something and realized you barely even tasted a single bite? In a wine tasting, each taste is sipped slowly and savored. Can you imagine what life would be like if we treated every meal with such respect? Not to mention, if we tried to savor each moment of our day as if it were a sip of expensive wine?

greg and pops winery

3. The joy of the experience doesn’t come from the wine itself — it comes from the people you share it with. If I had gone wine-tasting by myself yesterday, I would have had an okay time, but I would not have had anyone to share the experience with. Much of the fun of trying out the different wines was sipping them out on the verandah together, talking and laughing and telling stories and discussing our opinions on the different wines. That was where the joy truly came from. Our family visit to the vineyards wasn’t even really about the wine tasting at all — it was about spending time together, enjoying each other’s company, and sharing a fun experience with those we love.

me and gb winery

Now I’m off to soak up more family time before we take my little bro to the airport tomorrow for his new job in NYC! So proud of him! (And I’m going to miss him a TON.)

Hope you are soaking up every beautiful moment of this lovely day, wherever you are and whatever you are doing! ❤

5 thoughtful gift ideas for valentine’s day {or any day}

Today I was browsing Target while waiting for Charley’s routine service appointment to be over, and one thing was very clear: Valentine’s Day is just around the corner! Yes, people — hard to believe, but it’s officially less than a month away.

valentines-day

I LOVE love and I love Valentine’s Day. I’m single this year, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be celebrating my little heart out. I don’t know about you, but I think the scope of V-day is often presented too narrowly. Why just focus on romantic love? To me, Valentine’s Day is a holiday that celebrates love in all its forms; an excuse to let all of those special people in your life know how very much they mean to you.

So today I’ve rounded up some thoughtful gift ideas for Valentine’s Day — or any day, really!

1. Personalized gifts. Anytime you can personalize something, I think it makes the gift that much more thoughtful. For my cousin Julie’s bridal shower, I ordered this beautiful blanket for her and her husband-to-be from Personal Creations. The company embroidered a corner of the blanket with their names and wedding date. It turned out beautifully and I could tell that the personalized touch made the gift even more special to Julie.

2. Homemade cards. As attested by my massive stash of stationary, it’s obvious that I love browsing stationary and greeting card stores. {I sometimes need to put myself on “probation” from buying anything, my habit gets so out of control!} But, for every adorable Taylor Swift greeting card I have saved up to send to Holly, there’s something to be said for homemade cards. Knowing that you put in extra effort to craft not just the personal message inside, but every aspect of the card, makes it extremely thoughtful.

valentines cards

3. Creative gifts or craft projects. Use your imagination and have fun with it! Pinterest and blogs are a wealth of ideas for homemade gifts and creative scavenger-hunt-type gifts. I discovered this clever poster idea last year on Peanut Butter Fingers and thought it was so cute, thoughtful {and easy to do, even if you don’t consider yourself very craft-savvy!}

valentine sign

4. An experience that you can share together. Try something new like a painting class, wine tasting, disco bowling night, a local concert — any fun new experience that you can share with the recipient is a sweet gift that builds awesome memories.

5. Homemade baked goods. Okay, maybe I just love baking! 🙂 But in my opinion, you can never go wrong with homemade treats. Last year I made red velvet crinkle cookies for the nursing home and they were a big hit. Here are some other recipes you might try:
peanut butter cup brownies
white chocolate pretzels
chocolate-covered popcorn
strawberry coconut cookies
carrot cake with coconut cream-cheese frosting
butterscotch pudding cookies
classic chocolate chip cookies

red velvet cookies

Questions for the evening:

  • What are some of your favorite thoughtful gifts? {That you’ve given or that you’ve received!}
  • Do you celebrate Valentine’s Day?

tips for selling things on craigslist

When I first moved to Indiana for graduate school, all I brought with me was what I could fit in my Ford Taurus — mostly clothes, books, small kitchen items, and pictures/special trinkets/mementos. Which means … almost all of my furniture I bought on Craigslist. I had not used Craigslist much before, but I decided to give it a shot because 1) I was on a tight budget; and 2) I try to be as eco-friendly as possible — I love the idea of buying something that might otherwise end up in a landfill and giving it a new home.

All in all, I have been so happy with my purchases! Since then, I have even sold a couple things on Craigslist myself and helped Mike sell some things he no longer needs or uses.

In my experience, often the best first step to organization is getting rid of stuff! Is there any unneeded, unused stuff cluttering up your life? One of my favorite quotes is by Henry David Thoreau: “Simplify, simplify!” He continued, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

Go through your closets, kitchen, dresser, etc. and see if there is anything you no longer need or want. Have you used it or worn it in the past three or four months? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to let it go! And if the item is in good condition, you might be able to make a little money by putting it up on Craigslist.

Now, the cons to Craigslist is it does take a little time to get things posted up there. If your items are not very expensive or in-demand, it might be more worthwhile to donate them to Goodwill instead of spending time putting them up on Craiglist. That said {especially as a grad student on a tight budget} every little bit helps!

Here are some tips from my double-perspective: a savvy Craigslist scourer in the days when I was first furnishing my apartment, and a busy sometimes-Craigslist seller of items I no longer need.

How to Use Craigslist to Simplify your Surroundings & Make a Little Extra Moohlah:

1. Include a photo of the item you are selling! When I was looking for furniture for my apartment, I pretty much only contacted people who posted photos of the item. I wanted to be able to “see” what was being sold before I decided if I was going to drive out and look at it in person!

2. Make your title straight and to the point. What are you selling and for how much? Titles that are too long or have a ton of capital letters and exclamation marks scream desperation, which can attract people who want to bargain you down to the bare bones. On the other hand, as a Craigslist buyer wary of being scammed, long titles that seemed too “sales-pitch-y” often turned me off; they made me feel like the seller was trying to pull one over on me. Let your item speak for itself.

3. Use proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. If you come across professionally {even in relatively informal settings like Craigslist} people will see you as more trustworthy and reliable. And people want to do business with trustworthy, reliable people!

4. Don’t list your items for too much. Don’t expect to get back what you paid for the item. Think garage-sale prices. Think about how great it will feel to get this item out from cluttering up your space. When I sell items, I often take my first-thought price and knock it down by $5 or $10. I would much rather sell the item for $5 less than I originally thought and get it out of my house and at least get something for it, rather than ask $5 more for it and not sell it at all. At the same time, however…

5. Don’t list your items for too little. Expect people to bargain down a little with you. If you list your item for $10, and that is as absolutely as low as you are willing to go, people will likely want to only pay $5 for it. But if you had listed it for $15 originally, someone might be happy bargaining you down to $10. If you list your item for a certain price and it doesn’t sell for a week or two, you can always knock the price down. I think it’s better to start too high and bargain down than it is to start too low, because if you’re too low you’re stuck there.

6. Show you have done your research. I think the most successful Craigslist post I did was when I sold an ice-cream maker that Mike had never even used. It was still in its original box, just collecting dust in his closet. Before I posted an ad on Craigslist, I went onto Amazon and found how much it was selling for there. Then, I was able to reference this in my post: I listed the original price, the reduced price Amazon was selling it for, and the further-reduced price Mike was asking for it. I received an email within a couple hours and the next day a super nice lady came by and bought it to use with her kids. She paid the price we asked, no questions, and I could tell she was thrilled about it. She got a great deal, Mike got a great deal — everybody wins!

Hope those tips help you make the most out of Craigslist — and organize your space and make some extra moohlah in the process! I would love to hear what other tips you would add. Does anyone have a great success story, or lessons learned, about selling or buying items on sites like Craigslist?

Have a great day!
-Dallas