It's a Cape, Not a Poncho.


Last time I visited my brother Andy and sister-in-law Shari in LA, Shari was all "capes this!" and "capes that!"


What in the hell is a cape


Oh, I see! It's like a poncho, but with less of this going on:

 


These capes sure looked adorable on Shari. And in fact, I once had a cape or two in my early twenties (I foolishly called them ponchos at the time... capes are so much classier!). I had not rocked a cape in quite some time, but Shari loved them and I was intrigued. 

Three months later, I was at Forever 21 (or as I like to call it, Forever 29), and stumbled upon the cape in the above photo. It looked fancy. Even decent quality! I've always secretly loved Forever 21, but in a Chic-fil-a at the airport kind of way-- so dirty, so good, so hiding in a corner while I eat it.
 

Since my capsule wardrobe buying freeze was over, I purchased it. 


When I threw it one the next day, I instantly felt put together, even though I was basically wearing a grandma afghan as a shirt. It's warm, comfy, stylish, not too restrictive, and in this case, not too The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. I got loads of compliments on it, and everyone was shocked about where I purchased it. It looks so fancy.

Check out the detail!

Check out the detail!


If you want capes on the cheap, hit up Forever 21. Capes-o-plenty! I can't find mine on their website (it's probably still at the store... who knows with that place), but here are some excellent alternatives.
 

CHEAP & CUTE CAPES

I'm sorry, this cape only costs $47.80? |  Photo: Forever21.com

I'm sorry, this cape only costs $47.80? |  Photo: Forever21.com

This marled knit number is so chic and vintage! I could imagine Kate Hudson wearing it... except she kind of bugs me. 
 

Going anywhere? Wear this cape!  |  photo: Forever21.com

Going anywhere? Wear this cape!  |  photo: Forever21.com

Here's how you do fringed cape without looking like an extra in a Clint Eastwood movie (though if that's the look you're going for, excellent!).
 

Back to the 70s in this stripy number.  |  photo: Forever21.com

Back to the 70s in this stripy number.  |  photo: Forever21.com

Going to Sedona? You should probably pick up this comfy, cozy cape first. ($22.80)

 

Fair Isle cape city!  |  photo: Forever21.com

Fair Isle cape city!  |  photo: Forever21.com

Like a little color in your cape? Try this one!
 

Stripes and fringe unite!  |  photo: Forever21.com 

Stripes and fringe unite!  |  photo: Forever21.com 

Technically, this is a cardigan. But I like it!


Mid-range Capes

Love this white number!  |  photo: freepeople.com

Love this white number!  |  photo: freepeople.com

I'd wear this cape to a beach party or P. Diddy's white party. PS You should just click on the link because the other photos of this item make me want to shout, "HAND CHECK!"

 

Obviously this one comes from Anthropologie. 

Obviously this one comes from Anthropologie

This pretty number comes in green, too.

 

This lady looks classy as hell in this cape.  |  photo: neimanmarcus.com

This lady looks classy as hell in this cape.  |  photo: neimanmarcus.com

Gwyneth Paltrow would own simple, pretty cape  if it cost a thousand dollars more. 


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Anyone else feeling the cape these days? It's one of three clothing purchases I've made since wrapping up my capsule wardrobe... though I'm still working with about 40 pieces in my closet. It's magical!

For more fashion-y things I've tried, check out the time I wore a pink jumpsuit (it didn't go well) and the time I re-visited press-on nails

How to Give An Awesome Toast at Your Best Friend's Wedding


Last fall, my bestie, Margie, announced her engagement to her long-time boyfriend, Keven. I was so excited for them-- I love him almost as much as I love her. And in the midst of celebrating their Yay! We're getting married! moment, I was simultaneously having a OMG I'm probably going to have to give a toast! moment.
 

I actually wanted to give a toast.


It's an honor, plus Marge killed it at my wedding, so I had to return the favor. However, standing in front of a room of strangers, explaining why Marge is the best person, ever scared the bajeezus out of me. What if I couldn't stop crying? What if I lost my train of thought? What if I came down with the worst case of the flu the day before the wedding (spoiler alert: this actually happened). 

I wasn't willing to not do an amazing job. So I poured my heart and soul onto paper (or, more accurately, a Microsoft Word doc), and the final result kind of sucked-- too long, too about me & Margie (not about her and this guy she was marrying), and included every story about everything we'd ever done together. 
 

I had to seriously retool.


I proverbially ripped my speech to shreds and started anew. And you know what? I think my speech ended up being pretty darn good, and I did it by following these guidelines. 
 

The toast was not to be an ode to Molly & Marge, though secretly I wanted it to be!

The toast was not to be an ode to Molly & Marge, though secretly I wanted it to be!


1. Keep it Concise-ish. 

We've all been at that wedding when somebody gets the mic and won't stop. A friend's dad once gave a 27 minute speech... so, so awkward! I poked around on the Internet and it seems the ideal speech length is between three and four minutes. Enough time to get into some details, but not so long that people start getting uncomfortable (most wedding receptions are about five hours; if your speech is 15 minutes long, that's five percent of the total reception time! NOT COOL.).

Mine was about five minutes, which was more than enough to touch on our relationship, what makes her so awesome, how the bride & groom met & why you think they are a great couple. 


2. Know Your Audience

This isn't a room full of your college buddies. It's grandparents, aunts and uncles, maybe coworkers, and potentially people who have yet to meet your super-awesome best friend. So how about don't tell the story about the time you picked them up from jail or had to hose them down after they puked a yard glass worth of Long Island iced tea on themselves in Cancun*. You can be funny, but don't an a-hole. This is a toast, not a roast. 

* completely fabricated scenarios that do not apply to Marge.


3. It's Not About You.

My first speech was all "remember the time we had to hitch a ride with a pack of bikers when our car broke down... and remember when we went on that one trip to Colorado... and remember when we lived together in that total shit hole apartment with that one roommate?" Well guess what? I wasn't the one marrying Marge. That was Keven's job. My job was to honor their lives together. So if you're going to tell a story, pick just one.

4. Have a Point.

When you do pick a story, pick one that conveys a larger meaning. Maybe you tell a story that showcases your friend's ability to problem solve, their loyalty or innate ability to make even the worst of situations fun and exciting.

I told about the time Marge & I were so engrossed in conversation on a road trip that we missed our exit by 100 miles (whoops!). I used that story to demonstrate that when I find myself questioning my path in life, I never feel lost because I know she's right there with me, or a phone call away. I can trust her to get me back on track. See how that all works together?

5. You Don't need to Say it All.

Your toast is meant to honor the couple, not convey all of the feelings you've ever had about them. You can do that later, when you're drunk off merlot and ordering sliders and fries from room service at 2 am.


6. Find a Cold-hearted Proof Reader.

The key to a good speech is cutting out the crap. Sometimes it's really hard to know what's superfluous information in your own writing. So find a cold-hearted snake of an editor and let them trim the fat. PS I love doing this for other people!

7. Inside Jokes Are Kinda Lame.

Inside jokes are exclusive, not inclusive. If most of your audience won't get it, they'll be snoozing in no time. Keep those to a minimum.

8. Practice. Maybe Even Memorize.

I absolutely cringe at the idea of practicing a speech aloud, but it helps! Read through it out loud. Time yourself. Make a few edits, then do it again and again. Then, try it without your notes. Time yourself. If you can commit to doing this a few times a day in the week before the wedding, you'll be in great shape... so long as your speech isn't 15 minutes long (see item #1). 

I like to practice when I'm driving alone in my car OR in the shower. It's a fairly distraction-free environment where you don't feel self-conscious. Somehow, even with the flu, I was able to speak at this wedding without relying on my notes, which was possible only because I practiced. 

9. Tears are okay. 

I cried writing the toast, I cried practicing the toast, I cried thinking about giving the toast. I didn't cry when I actually gave it, which was kind of a relief because I am an ugly crier. However, I personally think dropping a tear or two actually enhances the speech. So if you start crying, it'll probably make people enjoy your speech more. Take a deep breath, think of something ridiculous like a squirrel in a Speedo and swim cap,  try this tactichave a sip of water and proceed.


10. Who Cares if It's Only Okay.

People only remember two kinds of speeches: Amazing ones and terrible ones. If you're reading this, you probably care enough to not totally blow it. No one will remember if a few of your jokes fall flat or you stumble over your words. The big thing is to honor your friend. They'll be absolutely touched by the fact that you got up there and did it just 'cause you love them that much.

So grab a glass, march up to that mic and let 'er rip. 


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See the comment section? That's where I'd love to hear more tips on how to give a great speech. Also, maybe stories of speeches/toasts that have gone horribly wrong. 

PS This wasn't my first scary public speaking experience. One time, I accidentally gave a TEDx talk. Another time, I spoke in front of a class of super successful people. And then there was the time I tried standup comedy. It all gets easier with practice. Promise. 

Quitters: Why I Quit Cleaning My House

quit-cleaning-my-house.jpg


I have a secret. But I can tell you, right? I know you won't judge.


Last spring, I quit cleaning my house.

 

It began as a way to quell my ever-mounting, pre-wedding stress. How in the hell was I supposed to plan a wedding, work full-time, do Hey Eleanor almost full-time, exercise, cook, be an awesome partner, friend and dog mom.... and keep my house clean? 

I couldn't pay someone to go to work for me, and I wasn't going to pay someone to plan my entire wedding (though a wedding planner was hugely helpful). The cleaning my house thing? I could pay someone to do that.


So I did. And I freaking loved it. 


For the two months leading up to my June wedding, we hired a company to clean every other week. They do the normal stuff, like wash the floors, clean the stovetop, but also things I never, ever got around to doing, like sweeping my front entry way, vacuuming the couch and washing the baseboards. Plus, they make the beds like you live in a hotel (my dream!). 
 

Initially, I was pretty ashamed of it.


Just who do I think I am?! Paying someone to clean my house for me?! Isn't that just a thing everyone should be doing themselves. I'm certainly not incapable of it in any way.  

But I loved coming home to a tidy and CLEAN house that smelled like Pine Sol. This is especially great when you have a cat, dog and two humans sharing a 1,200 sq foot space. So much crap and hair everywhere! It's hard to keep up.

The wedding came and went. And guess what?


I never cancelled the cleaners.


You'd think when I quit my job and started working for myself (making waaaay less money), that would've been the first thing to go. But no. I cut back on going out, buying clothes and fueling up my car. But the money we spend on a cleaning service is worth every cent. Here's why.


1. Less Distractions in My New Office

Since I'm now working at home, I'm extra tuned in to my surroundings. Dust bunnies in the hallway? I drop everything and start sweeping. Food-speckled stove? I stop writing and spend 40 minutes chiseling away. Between emails, phone calls and my needy dog, I have enough distractions as it is without getting sucked into a cleaning project. With a bi-weekly thorough clean, there's less to throw me off my game. Plus, I have an easier time letting things go-- the rug might need vacuuming, but the cleaners are coming tomorrow, so who cares! I can leave it. 

 

2. Less Irritations in My Relationship

Josh and I really do share duties around the house. He's so helpful and handy! That said, he works full-time, is getting his masters and also falls victim to filthy home blindness... which is to say, he doesn't always 'see' what I see. Therefore, I end up cleaning quite a bit more than he does. Having a little extra help with the deep cleaning stuff (for example, scrubbing the tub/toilet) makes it easier to keep the house clean, which means there's less filth for me to see and him to ignore. It's just nice.

As an aside, I initially felt really guilty that I couldn't keep up with cleaning our small-ish apartment. When I finally voiced that to Josh, he said, "That's exactly how I feel every time we hire a plumber or handyman to do a job I know I could do myself, but don't always have time for." I thought he was secretly thinking I was lazy. Nope. Just busy, like everyone else.     

 

3. I Simply Don't Clean That Well

I don't know if this is 100 percent true, but I just don't think I'm that good at cleaning. Maybe it's just that things almost always seem cleaner when someone else does it. Who knows!
 

4. Time. 

I'm not an efficient cleaner, at all. It would take me 12 hours to do what our cleaners do in 3. Truly. Not to mention the fact that it can become a black hole. I'll be dusting my dresser and next thing you know, I've got all of my clothes pulled out of it and am in the midst of giant organization project. An organized dresser is great, but did I really need to do that right now? Probably not. 


So there, I said it. I am a 32-year-old woman who works from home and pays someone else to clean it. It's fabulous.

 

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What's your [sorta] guilty pleasure that makes your life so much better? AND speaking of tidiness, part of the reason I hired a cleaning lady is because Elizabeth Dehn told me to. The gal knows her stuff. And here's an example of a small cleaning task that turned into a major closet purge. Sometimes getting rid of stuff feels oh-so-good. 

Ridiculous Qs: Could You Overlook this for True Love?


Last week, I posted my first-ever Ridiculous Question.


Here's the backstory. If you don't feel like reading that, all you NEED to know is that these are insane, hypothetical questions intended to basically break your brain (in a good way! Kinda.). So here's this week's question:
 

You’re single and doing the online dating thing. You receive the funniest, most awesome message from a person who seems to fit every single thing you are looking for in a partner. From religious beliefs and education level to taste in music and books, they’re exactly what you are looking for. You exchange a bunch of messages, then decide to talk on the phone. Your first conversation last for hours— you stayed up waaay past your bedtime. There’s undeniable chemistry. Secretly, you think you might already be falling in love, and you can tell the feeling is mutual. You decide to finally meet in person.

When you meet, it’s clear that your date has 100-percent accurately represented themselves online and on the phone. Everything they said was true. However, there’s a problem: your soulmate looks exactly like your sibling. Not similar to your sibling; EXACTLY like your sibling.

Would you still date them?


A few clarifying questions: If you don't have a sibling (or one of the gender you date), just imagine or pick someone else who is a rough equivalent (a first cousin, a very close childhood friend who isn't unattractive, but still makes you feel all gross-gross-gross-ew-ew-ew when you think of them 'like that').

Please share you answer in the comments. Have your own ridiculous question? Email it to heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.

5 Scary things I've Tackled Since Starting My Own Business

 

I'm often asked, "How do you come up with so many things that scare you?"
 

EASY. So many things freak me out!


Really, the dumbest, most mundane things. This was especially true when I left my 9-to-5 and started working for myself. From stupid computer stuff to legal junk, here's a smattering of what might give you a slight panic attack should you go into business for yourself.
 

* * *


1. Setting up a printer

I was gifted not one, but TWO crappy printers in the past 10 years. But I never used them because I couldn't figure out how to get them to function without karate chopping the item nearest me. Dealing with junk technology is infuriating! My work around: printing nearly everything at my office.

However, when I quit my job last fall and started working from home, I needed  printer at home. I put off this purchase for months until I absolutely needed one. Eventually, I went to Costco in a huff, picked out the second cheapest printer and brought it home. 

After unboxing/unstyrofoaming/unpamphleting the printer, I took a deep breath and plugged the thing in. Then, I actually followed the instructions. Within twenty minutes. my printer was functioning AND somehow working wirelessly! Whoa!

Either printers have become easier to set up or reading the instructions are the key to technology success. Probably both.

 

2. Starting My Own LLC

When I quit my job to focus on freelance writing and building the 'Hey Eleanor brand' [barf], I was encouraged to start my own LLC. Apparently, it helps with taxes? And apparently, it means I'm not personally liable if I really screw up in some way (write a slanderous blog post?) and get sued?

I'm still not sure I really needed an LLC, but I decided to start one anyway. Because I am an adult! And then came the scary paperwork. You know, the government-pages of words that don't make any sense. What's the difference between an s corp and a c corp? Hell if I know! 

I was way overwhelmed. So much so that... wait for it... I put it off starting my LLC for months (you might be noticing a theme here)! I eventually sought the advice of an accountant who guided me through the paperwork. Wiz-bang-boom, Hey Eleanor LLC happened in 35 minutes! Wow, that was easier than I thought!

And then, last week, when I started working on my taxes, I really started questioning this whole LLC thing. It seemed to really make things more complicated. I still don't really get why I need an LLC, but I have one. I think I might pay less taxes or something.

I vow to figure this out one day. 

 

2. Invoices! Billing! Bank Accounts!

More nitty-gritty starting my own business stuff: I'm a creative type, so being responsible for all of my own accounting scares the ever-living crap out of me. It's so not my jam. I'm always afraid I'm doing it wrong, missing something or just straight up forgetting to get paid, son. I am hoping and praying that one day everything will suddenly gel.

Or I make enough money to hire an accountant.

 

4. Working Alone

Working alone is great for a lot of reasons (working in pjs, flexible schedule, eating lunch at 10am), but scary because you can only rely on yourself to get everything accomplished. While I have a great support team (family, friends, husband, dog), relying on these folks to proofread my stuff, give me feedback and support me in the way a coworker might... well, let's just say it's not ideal. I don't want to burn my husband out on editing posts, plus sometimes it's hard to hear honest feedback from the person you have to sleep next to every night. Why even put unnecessary stress on your relationship? 

 

5. Questioning My Decision 

Last weekend marked the first time I was like, "How am I really going to make this work?" I'm talking from a financial perspective. I just don't even know. All I know for sure is that I absolutely love Hey Eleanoring, writing every day and sharing stories about regular people doing scary (but worth it) things, which means I need to figure out a way to keep doing this. Potentially, forever. I guess I just need to rely on that same gut that told me to start working for myself in the first place, which is equal parts scary and exciting. 

 

* * *

Oh, hey there! Ever wonder what it's like to be self-employed? I'm no expert, but here's how my first two months went. I've learned a lot (one major thing: I'm shockingly more productive!), mostly that I love the freedom, even though it means you really must be a self-starter. And PS, here's two other stories of people who went into business for themselves: Michelle, who started her own web design company and Jessica, who became an ass-kickin' Girl Friday.  

This Week's Best Stuff on the Internet

I got the flu last week, and thus it's basically been impossible to post anything. Luckily, the Internet is still abuzz about Missy Elliot, which is almost as good as medicine. For example, this Missy Elliot tribute video


I don't normally give up stuff for Lent, but I do love this idea of getting rid of 40 bags of crap in the days between Fat Tuesday & Easter. Of course you can just go ahead and do that any time of year. I might start next week.  
 

Tired of haters? Well, guess what. Turns out some people might just be born that way.
 

We've all heard that more than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce... but maybe that's no longer true. I'll admit there might be some flaws in this piece, but I'm willing to believe she's on to something. 
 

Does the term 'budgeting' kind stress you out? Me too. This method helped
 

Apparently, free diving can look a lot like floating through space

 

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