Links I Love: Smart Ladies Edition

Sometimes I can't decide if highlighting just one gender at a time actually helps or hurts this whole equality thing. However, it just so happens that I stumbled upon a lot of smart things created by women. So... enjoy!

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I watched most of Ken Burn's The Roosevelts documentary on PBS (though they disappeared faster from OnDemand than a dish of candy corn at your grandma's knitting circle). The docu-series confirmed what I've been learning for over a year:

Eleanor Roosevelt is a badass.

So smart, wise and approachable. If you're not ready to commit to the entire series, check out this quick-n-dirty slideshow showcasing some of her best quotes. Brilliant!


Attention midwesterners (the born & bred kind, the relocated kind, the wannabe kind): You need to be paying attention to Annie D'Souza & Co.'s love letter to fly-over country, the Midwestival.

It's a hub for all things Minn-Wisc-Dako-Iowas.

And not tired stories you've heard a million times; fresh, new stuff, like this interview with Phox or this fashionista's favorite stuff


Get this cookbook now!

Get this cookbook now!

In case you missed it, Dana Cowin is my hero

I love her new cookbook, Mastering My Kitchen Mistakes. Not only does she admit to being a so-so cook (ballsy, since she's been the editor-in-chief of Food & Wine for 20 years!), but she admits it to some seriously admired chefs, recruiting them to help her make up for her inadequacies.

It's a delight with great & super useful recipes. 

Oh, and if you live in the Twin Cities, she's giving a talk at the Hennepin Country Library this Thursday. I'll be there with bells on! Here's the rest of her tour schedule, with dates in Seattle, Portland, & a few stops in New England. 


If you've seen me at any point in the last week, I've probably mentioned my latest obsession:

The capsule wardrobe. 

I was introduced to the concept a few months ago, but really connected with the idea after checking out Un-fancy. Love Caroline's simple, elegant and effortless style.

I think I am going to give the capsule thing a whirl! 

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If you like these links, you might like following me on Twitter & Instagram, where I'm always sharing the coolest, scariest, funnest stuff I find on the web. See ya there!

My 6 Favorite DIY Halloween Costumes.

Somewhere in Beverly Hills, Richard Simmons is applauding.

Somewhere in Beverly Hills, Richard Simmons is applauding.

I'm into Halloween.

It's 100 percent because of the costumes. I love thinking about them. I love assembling them. I love getting ready to go out.

Halloween parties are okay.

But the stuff leading up to Halloween parties? I love it! 

I don't have anything planned for the 31st, which makes planning this year's costume a little pointless. But I will still get a costume together, even if it means I sit at home and watch TV. (Any Halloween event suggestions in the Twin Cities? Lay it on me.)

In my opinion, it's the details that makes a good costume great. Here are some of my faves from previous years.

 

1. Richard Simmons

Do you wanna burn some fat?! 

Do you wanna burn some fat?! 

I've never had a more fun Halloween. It was this night back in 2011 that I realized Richard is my spirit animal. I got to hug people and do aerobics all night. It was almost as good as the time I took his workout class in Beverly Hills.

Richard Simmons Recipe:

1 brown 'fro-y wig 
1 red or blue tank (the classic Simmons look; I bought a thrift store tee & cut off the sleeves/neck)
1 sports bra in the same color as the tank (ladies only)
1 pair 80s-style hot pants (mine were an American Apparel splurge). Dolfin shorts are ideal.
1 pair white slouch socks
1 pair ugly, white athletic shoes (Goodwill, baby!)
Silver glitter
Sequins
Glue (definitely some sort of fabric glue; a hot glue gun helps attach sequins)
Optional: shiny, tan tights

Everything here is basically ready to wear, aside from the tank's design. I went with a classic Simmons look: glittery starbursts and big, graphic SWEAT lettering. You can get crazy here. I mean:

WWRSD?

The only issue: you'll be finding glitter around your house for months, which I kind of loved.

Richard Simmons Halloween Costume.

Richard Simmons Halloween Costume.

 

2. Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli!

Liza Minnelli!

I've worn this number twice and am considering it again for this year. So comfortable, super dramatic and cute without being skanky!

Liza Minnelli Recipe:

1 black pixie wig
1 package fake eyelashes & glue
1 over-the-top glitzy earrings
1 thrifted sequin top that just barely covers your butt
1 pair black booty shorts
1 pair opaque tights
Black jazz shoes or another pair solid black, pointed shoes

Do this makeup look, finishing with the eyelashes. Wear the booty shorts over the tights for a covered, but glam-jazz-hands look. 

The wig makes this costume. If you buy a wig at a costume store, you're probably going to pay loads for cash for a crappy wig. But do you want to go to a real wig shop for a costume? Nope, that's going to be expensive, too.

My favorite place to buy wigs in the Twin Cities is 7 Mile Fashions at Lake & Hiawatha. It's an urban beauty supply shop. Their wig selection is outstanding. Mine was about $30 & was my splurge costume item. I'm sure your city has a few similar shops; Google it. 
 

All the single ladies, all the single ladies.

All the single ladies, all the single ladies.

 

3. Sookie Stackhouse (+ Frida & Rachel Zoe)

Obviously the real versions of these three hung out in real life.

Obviously the real versions of these three hung out in real life.

2010 marked the year I took some Halloween pics with my real camera!

True Blood is a little over now, but Sookie Stackhouse is still a great costume that's easy to pull off.

Sookie Stackhouse Recipe:

1 fitted white tee (I splurged on an actual Merlotte's shirt from the show)
1 piece of green construction paper to make Merlotte's logo (if you don't get the real-deal shirt)
1 pair black shorts
1 waitress apron
1 pair sneakers
1 latex-y vampire bite + adhesive & fake blood
1 waitressing tray
3 plastic bottles (I used SoBe)
Super glue
1 can red spray paint
1 roll duct tape 
3 copies of this True Blood label, printed off your computer

The clothing aspect it pretty straightforward. However, I think the True Blood bottles make the costume. I peeled the labels off three SoBe drinks, then sprayed painted the bottles red. After they dried, I attached the True Blood labels.

Next, I glued the bottles to the waitressing tray. I added a strap of duct tape on the bottom to make it easy to carry.

Bonus: Frida & Rachel Zoe

Maggie's Frida costume:
Hair in two braids; fake flowers glued onto hair clips (about 6-7 individual pieces); eyebrow pencil to connect brows; high collar white shirt; necklaces; vibrant shawl; floor length shirt, preferably of some sort of woven fabric... she found hers at a thrift store and it's perfect.

Allison's Rachel Zoe costume:
Blonde wig; 70s sunglasses; bathrobe; the biggest Starbuck's cup possible with Rachel written on it. 

Sookie & a race car driver!

Sookie & a race car driver!

Navigating the crowd with ease!

Navigating the crowd with ease!

 

4. Red Hat Society

Red Hat Society meeting!

Red Hat Society meeting!

This is one of those costumes you either REALLY get or don't get at all (maybe this link will help). It's a great group costume. My grandma absolutely loved it, which is all that mattered to me!

Red Hat Society Recipe:

1 red hat. Decorate with purple & red garish stuff. We did feathers and bows.
Dress in head-to-toe purple and red... bonus points for polyester fabrics
Sensible shoes to match
Old lady purse full of Werther's Originals or your old lady candy of choice

The ideal place to take this costume is any sort of daytime riverboat cruise. Be sure to not tip your bartender to be extra authentic.

Next stop: Dayton's for a luncheon!

Next stop: Dayton's for a luncheon!

 

5. Elliot from ET

Eyyyyyyleeeeeeoooooootttt.

Eyyyyyyleeeeeeoooooootttt.

A shout-out to my friend Liz, who built this entire costume around the fact that she found an ET doll at a thrift store. So good, right?!

Elliot Recipe:

1 plain red hoodie
1 plain white tee
1 set of handlebars from a kid's bike (check out a used bike store or thrift shop)
1 plastic waffle-y basket
1 E.T. doll
1 white hand towel
1 bag Reese's Pieces

How awesome is that costume!?


6. Bridesmaids

And you said, I'll never wear this dress again. Ha!

And you said, I'll never wear this dress again. Ha!

Another great group costume for the ladies (or guys, too!). Pretty self-explanatory. And you thought you'd never wear that dress again! 

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What was your best-ever Halloween costume? What are you wearing this year? 

P.S. What HarMar Superstar had to say about wearing a costume. 

268. What It's Like to Be Self-Employed.

My first day as a self-employed gal was all I dreamed... until it wasn't.

My first day as a self-employed gal was all I dreamed... until it wasn't.

Last Thursday marked my first day as self-employed person! I've dreamed about what this might feel like for a long time. Not that I was desperate for it or anything, but you know, after working full-time for over seven years, a girl's gotta wonder!

What would I do? Oh man, the possibilities! 

I had the most perfect day, ever.

I woke up at 6:30 and had coffee and breakfast with my guy.

I worked on my website until 9 am.

I then took Patsy, my sweet puppy, for a walk. We went to the Apple store and returned our wireless router (it was pretty crappy) and exchanged it for a more powerful one. They let dogs in the store, so it was especially fab.

Did I mention it was 70 degrees, sunny with fall colors exploding everywhere?!

Next, I brought Patsy home and went to daytime yoga. 

Who goes to daytime yoga?! I do! At noon! It was neat!

Afterward, I didn't even take a shower. I went right to Macy's where I returned the three duplicate wedding gifts that had been just sitting in our guest bedroom, burning a hole in my brain/eyes.

Who has time to return stuff when they're working full-time?!

Then, I went to JCrew and bought a puffy vest. I know I'm "technically not making any money," but I'm sure my husband will never read this, so shhh!

My next move? I went to Crate & Barrel to pick up a gift card. 

I was feeling pretty great about my accomplishments. Look at all of the things I just checked off my to-do list. Stuff that I'd been meaning to do for literally months!

And then exiting via Crate & Barrel's revolving door, it hit me:

Oh my god, what if I'm lonely (#268!)?

EEEEEEEK!

Will every day be like this? Me, darting around from task to task, only hanging out with my dog? Social interactions limited to sales people and some guy heavy-breathing next to me in a hot yoga class? 

I've never done this work-for-myself thing. I've always worked with others. Specifically, I've always worked with people I like. And for the past seven years, I've worked with Dusti, who has become more of a bestie/sister to me than a coworker. 

Is this a mistake?

I still don't think it is, but with big life changes, it's not all upside. You have to take the good with the bad. Change is hard. That's why we hardly ever do it unless it's absolutely necessary. 

This will not be the last time I second-guess my choice. But I'm prepared for it. For now anyway. Nothing happens overnight.

And as for loneliness? 

Well, I guess that's why God invented coffee meetings, lingering midweek lunches and happy hour.

 

267. Why I Quit My Really Awesome Job.

Just getting paid to go to South Beach Wine & Food Festival... nbd! 

Just getting paid to go to South Beach Wine & Food Festival... nbd! 

Last Wednesday marked the scariest things I've done in the past year. No, I didn't swim with white sharks or vacation in that town overrun with maniacal clowns.

I quit my job. 

But let me back up a sec.

Following college, I landed an absolutely terrible job where I got paid next to nothing to hand out fliers and other pointless crap to strangers, often while wearing a costume. A great use of my journalism degree!

It was awful.

So after a year, I did something perfectly naive: I put in my two weeks notice with zero plan. 

I spent the next month celebrating my own personal Summer of George, doing awesome stuff like going to the farmers' market on Thursday afternoons and laying by the pool.

There were also many, many margaritas.

The day I quit my crappy marketing job/my 25th birthday!

The day I quit my crappy marketing job/my 25th birthday!

But I knew I had to figure out my life. As cheesy as this seems in retrospect, I watched the movie version of The Secret (didn't read the book.. who has time for that?!). It made me realize the importance of goals. So, I set one: 

Get paid to eat, travel and tell people about it. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Even more naive talk here, right? Who wouldn't want that job?

But during my summer of freedom, I focused on it. I thought about it all the time. I pictured what my life would look like. I even took an online class on how to be a travel writer.

And then I had an epiphany.

There was this guy named Andrew Zimmern. He had this new show on Travel Channel called Bizarre Foods & I loved it. As it turned out, he also lived in the Twin Cities. I decided to ask Andrew Zimmern how he ended up getting paid to eat, travel and tell people about it. Then, I could just do the same!

On July 26, 2007, I cold-called (more specifically, cold-emailed) him, asking how he had achieved my dream job. I also attached this photo of me from a recent flight:

I think this pic sealed the deal.

I think this pic sealed the deal.

Instead of ignoring me or sending some canned response, Andrew took a risk and hired me. 

Yes, you heard me right: I emailed Andrew Zimmern and he hired me.

I've spent the last 7+ years immersed in the world of food, travel and journalism. 

Together, Andrew and I have written three books (this one, this one and MY FAVORITE, this one!). We've traveled to Miami, Wisconsin (exotic!), visited New York a lot, once even getting trapped at the W Hotel during Hurricane Sandy.

I was literally eating, traveling and telling people about it.

My first-ever book signing! 

My first-ever book signing! 

I can't even explain the fantastical nature of this job.

I've met so many amazing people and honed all sorts of skills (Twitter wasn't even a thing when I started; now I'm a whiz!). 

However, there comes a time in every career when your gut starts talking.

The moment you realize you need to move on to make your life happen is bittersweet. It's especially difficult when your job is really good. Not only does it pay the bills, but you love your coworkers (loveloveLOVE!), the work is exciting, you're having fun.

The time we destroyed a table at DQ to get the perfect photo for our holiday card.

The time we destroyed a table at DQ to get the perfect photo for our holiday card.

Sometimes you need to let go of good

I just got married. We're not starting a family any time soon-soon, but you know, probably in the next few years. I've realized my next two years are pivotal. My time, energy and creativity are finite and so valuable. Since starting Hey Eleanor, I've spent every morning and night writing. In between, I go to the office and write and write some more.

It's exhausting.

I absolutely love everything I'm doing with Hey Eleanor, but simply haven't had the time to make it into my vision. I had to make a big decision.

Last month, with butterflies in my stomach, I asked Andrew if we could change our working relationship.

He said yes. 

Andrew and I will continue being our snarky selves on the Go Fork Yourself podcast, and I'll still be pitching in on a few projects here and there. I'm devoting 90 percent of my time to building Hey Eleanor, working on a book proposal (!) and freelance writing.

The Go Fork Yourself podcast art... It sorta looks like Andrew & I! 

The Go Fork Yourself podcast art... It sorta looks like Andrew & I! 

Without a doubt, leaving my job is scariest thing I've done to date.

(Yes, even scarier than going to Costco on a Saturday).

But quitting that stupid marketing job seven years ago was one of the best decisions I've ever made.

I'm trusting my gut and leaping again.  It's a lot harder this time, but I'm ready.

Just another day at the office.

Just another day at the office.

AZ & I at lumberjack camp. No, really.

AZ & I at lumberjack camp. No, really.

I am thankful for the love and support of my coworkers, friends, family, and of course, Andrew. I'll be forever grateful for him taking a chance on me, and for not only being a great boss, but amazing mentor and friend. 

I gotta give a huge shout out to my amazing husband, too.

I don't think I'd have the courage to make this leap without his love, support and faith in me (and, on a practical note, his company's health insurance plan). I promise I won't be a freeloader forever! 

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Any advice for a newly self-employed freelancer/book writer/not-exactly-sure-what-they-wanna-be-er? Comment away; I need all the help I can get! EEEEEEEK!

P.S. Some scary work-related things from this year? The time I interviewed this Queen of Country Music and nearly cried; and that one time I ate this & liked it.

Links I Love: Halloween Edition

Halloween is the best! Here's a few reasons why. 

Halloween is the best! Here's a few reasons why. 

Guess what holiday I love more than Halloween?

Trick question! There is no better holiday than Halloween!

Halloween is one of the only places in my life where I absolutely, 100-percent refuse to cut corners. 

For example: I never, ever, EVER rent or buy a pre-packaged costume. In my opinion, putting the costume together is way more fun than wearing it.

Expect a post on some of my fave costumes later this week. 'Til then, here's some Halloweenie treats. 

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Halloween treats for your ears!

Halloween treats for your ears!

Hosting a Halloween party (or carving pumpkins... or maybe just cleaning the house/cooking)? I made a Halloweenie Spotify playlist, including obvious favorites (Thriller, Monster Mash) and some legitimately spooky tunes (Red Right Hand by Nick Cave gives me nightmares!). Crank it!

 

Think Halloween candy is special? Errr, not really. A short and sweet post (puns!) that resonated with me. 

But... if there was one candy that's special, this is it! So good & you can barely ever find it outside of trick-or-treating season.

 

I'm assembling my annual scary movie round-up, but can't resist telling you that American Horror Story: Freak Show is by far the scariest thing I have watched all year. It's beautifully shot with great acting. But so creepy! Dare ya to watch it. Until then, the video above is one of the least creepy 12 second teasers I could find. 

 

Check out this list of awesome halloweenie stuff. Costumes, ghost stories & more!

 

When it comes to recipes, Food & Wine can do no wrong. Here's their Halloween recipe round up.

 

You know what's scary?

That anyone would care this much about candles. You know what's scarier? I watched this 11-minute video twice... and wanted more. Damn you Jen from Bath & Bodyworks in Appleton, Wisconsin! By the way, Angela's rant video would be a great Halloween costume. Green Bay shirt, blue zip-up and of course, B&BW candles (if you can find them!).

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If you like these links, you might like following me on Twitter & Instagram, where I'm always sharing the coolest, scariest, funnest stuff I find on the web. See ya there & Happy Halloween!

Everyday Eleanor: Caitlin Doughty

Caitlin Doughty in her natural habitat. Photo by Anthony Chiappetta. 

Caitlin Doughty in her natural habitat. Photo by Anthony Chiappetta. 

Caitlin Doughty has great hair. She’s a whip-smart writer and beloved YouTube personality. Oh, and she’s also a mortician. I talk to her about death, dying with dignity, plus why she thinks we don't even need morticians.

Have you always been more comfortable around death than most people?

I don’t think so. I think because I had all this discomfort around death, I was more interested in knowing… I thought if I just saw what was going on, maybe some of that would go away.

And it has?

Oh yeah, certainly. The existential stuff never goes away. The whole, I don’t know what anything means or Do I want to live or do I want to die, those things never totally go away, at least in my experience. But any fear of dead bodies or the physical processes of death don’t scare me much at all. It seems like the most natural thing in the world to me to be afraid of your own death, but the least natural thing to be afraid of a corpse. 

Are you afraid of your own death?

Um, yes and no. I’m not this fully-realized Buddhist monk who has transcended to the point that I don’t have any attachment to things in my normal life. I have a partner who I love very much and I have this thing that I’m doing, this public advocacy, that I value very much and don’t want to have it die with me. I mean, there’s a lot of people who are doing it, but there is this fear that the world can’t go on without you. Each day brings me a new reason to fear death or to engage with your own mortality, so you have to keep checking in. You can reach a day when you’re like, I’m totally cool with death. I could die right now. And then the next day brings a whole new set of problems.

Are you currently a mortician?

Well, I am and I am not. I quit my job and started my own company. My business partner and I are both morticians. We started a company that’s trying to teach people that they don’t need us. It’s showing people all of the things that you are legally able to do yourself.

Not looking mortician-y at all. Photo by Darren Blackburn. 

Not looking mortician-y at all. Photo by Darren Blackburn. 

You talk a lot about a Good Death. What do you mean by that?

There are a lot of definitions of a good death. To me, it’s one that is engaged with and expected in a way. Especially if someone is elderly or dying, [a good death] is really discussed. What does that person want? Not only for their body and funeral, but how they want to die. How much medical intervention do they want? How long do they want to be kept alive past the point that they no longer have a good quality of life? A good death is a death that’s taken really seriously as a process and a ritual. So many deaths especially now in America are ignored on every level. Ignored on the emotional and physical level before the person dies and then ignored as a ritual when the person dies.

In what ways do you think people are ignoring it?

Well, I think first of all people are not willing or are afraid to have the conversation before they die because they are so afraid of their own death. And then after someone dies, there’s the perception that we should just have the body cremated. So we’ll just call the funeral home from the hospital. They’ll come take the body away and then they’ll get the ashes in a week and won’t have anything to do with the body or the cremation. Maybe they’ll just have a memorial in a month.

You talk a lot about natural burial and taking care of your loved ones in the home. What does that mean?

The idea of taking care of the body at home is based on the premise that they’re not dangerous to the living except in a few very specific instances, like the person dies of Ebola. But for the most part, the corpse is not dangerous. You are just as qualified as me, a licensed mortician, to wash the body, dress the body and have it in your home for a day or two. You can have a wake at home that’s perhaps more meaningful than one you would have in a funeral home. And then, the idea behind the natural burial is to really accept that when you die, your parts can go back into the universe. We shouldn’t be trying so hard to preserve bodies as we do with embalming and preservation and the big sealed casket and vault. Maybe we could do it like people have been for thousands of year and dig a hole and put a body in it.

 Right. People have been doing exactly that for thousands of years and yet today, I suspect many would find that practice in someway disrespectful.

It’s a narrow, late 20th Century version of death. It’s not how humanity has done it. In fact, it’s a real departure from how humanity has done it.

Caitlin's new book! Get it before it's cremated.

Caitlin's new book! Get it before it's cremated.

If you could change one thing about the western mindset about death, what would it be?

I think it would be the idea that we can completely hide death and the actual dead bodies and it’s going to be okay for our culture. We can say, Oh, if we don’t see them or interact with them and we don’t have any real sense of our death, I’m sure that won’t have any negative effect on how we understand the world. Or how we interact with our own life or mortality. That’s just not true.

If I wanted to provide a natural burial, what would I do? Is that that even legal?

Natural burial is legal absolutely everywhere. The reason it’s not available absolutely everywhere is because the individual cemeteries don’t like it. It’s cemetery policy. It’s not legislative policy. The reason cemeteries don’t like it is because one, they can’t sell the vault and things like that. And two, if you have a natural burial, they don’t have all those big cement things below ground and the ground creates a mound above the grave. That makes it a lot harder to landscape. S cemeteries don’t like natural burials. However, a lot of cemeteries are realizing that there is a demand for them, so they’ll open a small section for it.

Caitlin talks natural vs traditional burial. 

People don’t stop dying because it’s Christmas, midnight or you’re sunning yourself in the Caribbean. What’s your schedule like?

Yeah, it depends on when you work. I spent a lot nights on call. In fact, I would say that there’s more deaths around Christmas or the holidays because people get depressed, or maybe because they were hanging on to see their families one last time. And their family comes and they let go or their family doesn’t come and they’re like, fuck it. One year, I had to pick up 11 bodies on Christmas Eve and drive them from San Diego to LA. People do not stop dying because you’d like to have Christmas with your family.

Us food nerd folks like to discuss what our own “last supper” would be. What’s yours?

I think it would probably end with a lemon tart that was actually really tart and sour. The greatest disappointment has often been a lemon tart or pie that’s more sweet or sugary than tart. I think before I die, I’d want that to be rectified so I don’t have to go out in this blaze of disappointment that I’ve never gotten my tart lemon tart. Maybe for dinner, a really good moules frites with a really thick white wine sauce. And fries that are extra absorbent.

I really respect what you do. I think that it’s a huge responsibility to care of another human being like that. What’s that like?

I hope more people find out what that’s like. I hope more people take that responsibility for their loved ones.

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Follow Caitlin Doughty on Twitter & YouTube. Her new book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, is now available and the perfect gift for someone you love. 

You can check out my other Everyday Eleanor interviews in the archives. You know you want to.

I want to hear your Everyday Eleanor story. Email me at heyeleanorproject@gmail.com.