Archive | December, 2012

Peace out, 2012

31 Dec

In my observation, the last day of year, more so even than a day to recap, is a day to say screw it. Had a terrible last twelve months? Screw it. Spent more money in the last twelve weeks than in the six months preceding?  Screw it. Blew your diet in the last twelve days? Screw it.

But whether the year was amazing or wretched, the tendency is to wax grandiose.  Resolutions and top twenty lists all take a macro view that most of us don’t normally assume. Questions like, “where am I going?” and “what does it all mean?” and “who are these people?*” arise–especially now that the world is presumably going to continue.

But for the few of us that spend most of the time lost in big-picture mode (ahem…, I recommend taking this turning of the year one mundane moment at a time. Here’s a list of five immediate considerations to help you out.

1. Checking your bottle rocket trajectory to make sure it doesn’t include things like trash cans full of flammables,  your neighbor’s dog, or the squad car patrolling your street.

2. The questions of whether or not coffee mugs are an acceptable backup if there aren’t enough champagne flutes.

3. The best app for counting down to 2013 if you find yourself stuck on the subway/in line for the bathroom/in a ditch on the side of the road at midnight and can’t see whatever circular object you’re supposed to be watching drop.

4. Determining which of the stores nearest you are open New Year’s day in case you run out of coffee or toilet paper (really, are there any other essentials?).

5. And last and most importantly: exactly how many sequined, bejeweled, or otherwise glittery objects can I get on my person at once? (Or if you’re a dude, exactly how casual can I get away with dressing when my S.O. is wearing approximately forty reflective surfaces on her person).

Say cheese everyone, here comes lucky ’13!

P.S: I LOVE YOU. What mean to say is, thank you for being a Cushion Cut reader, whether regular or one-time-only. If you like what you see, tell a friend! Got an idea of something you want to see? Leave a comment!

*Uttered equally by those waking up in a house full of relatives or on a hardwood floor tomorrow.

Family Dysfunction Bingo

21 Dec

This Friday, many of us are either receiving an influx of relatives or venturing into the arms of some. For some (I count myself among the lucky), this is almost entirely a blessing. For many more, this is a necessary evil to be endured. In fact, family is ranked as one of the top stressors of the holiday season, second only to financial strain. That’s crazy.

If your response to that last sentence was “that’s not crazy. My family is crazy” than this game is for you! Or actually, it’s for anyone who wants to inject a little levity into what can be, even among the most functional (HA) of related adults, a tense situation.


All you need is a board and at least one sympathetic relative–a sibling, a cousin. Every time you hear one of the same. old. comments you’ve been hearing every gathering since puberty–instead of tearing your hair out or storming out of the house, simply mark the box accordingly. Whoever completes the first row texts BINGO to the other. I took the liberty of starting a board for you, filled with stereotypical complaints (are any of these heard at my actual family gatherings? I’ll never tell!)

Family Bingo

Obviously, the comment squares can be adapted to your family’s particular…. idiosyncrasies. In fact, that’s the fun of it! Bonus points for comment squares that make no sense to anyone that doesn’t share your last name.

Here’s a blank board. Just click on it, print it, and write in at-will. Before you know it, family tension will be a thing of the past.

Family Bingo - blank

(yeah, right ;).

Thrift Store Score!

11 Dec

The best things in life come when you’re not looking for them. True of love, and true of bargains. Rambling through the Goodwill store near my work the other day, I came across three such (good bargains, not true loves).

I was there looking for something for P and I to wear to a tacky Christmas sweater party. (I realized just how vain that particular search was when I heard three other people in the men’s section talking about the same thing. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find those things? And forget about buying new: ugly don’t come cheap).

But instead I found these three treasures, like my very own gifts of the magi.

A gray 100% cashmere short sleeve hoodie from J. Crew
A camel colored wool cardigan from Banana Republic (pictured: similar from Target)Cardigan
A long cowl neck patterned sweater tunic (with long sleeves!) from Loft.

Three of my favorite stores that I never shop in. And believe it not, there was nary a snag, pill, stain, or hole in the lot! All three set me back about $16.

Here’s how I would style the cardigan, if I actually had enough money to buy real clothes.


For the office:

My office has a semi-casual dress code, and I enjoy competing with the other wannabe fashionistas looking nice, so I would add black trousers and not-too-dangly earrings, and top it off (bottom it out?) with funky flats for all those trips to the copier.


For a shindig:

This outfit is made for an evening of Christmas carolling ending in a spiced eggnog and hot toddy cocktail party. Mmm. I love gold accessories with camel; it feels so 1930s lux. Tights, a wool cape, furry headgear and leather gloves would keep me toasty till I get to that eggnog.

If only I could find the rest of this stuff at Goodwill, right?

There’s always Jane Austen

7 Dec

I am Elinor Dashwood!

A couple of days ago, I logged in to my checking account to see if the rent check had gone through yet and got a special Christmas surprise: My account had a zero balance.

I frantically paged through the transactions trying to figure out how we spent all our money; in addition to the checking funds, almost all of our savings had been automatically transferred to cover the last few purchases to keep them from being overdrafted. P and I literally had $10 to our name.

After I’d scooped my stomach out of my feet and back into my torso, I took a closer look and realized that the culprit was two massive purchases from Walmart that occurred the same day…in Houston. Somebody had hijacked my card info.

The rest of the day was a blur of phone calls, paperwork, and faxes: reporting the fraud, stopping my current check card, applying for a new one, and contacting everyone I’d made pending payments to (mostly in vain…amazing how fast people can take money out of your account as opposed to put it back in). I have to give snaps to my credit union for making everything as smooth as possible. But by the end of the day, my nerves were seriously frayed. I couldn’t have a drink because I was still at work, so I went for the next best thing: a Which Austen Heroine Are You? quiz.

As you can see from my button, I am Elinor from Sense & Sensibility. Although I can kind of see it, I’m pretty sure I just got that result because I said I like Emma Thompson. But it was fun thinking about manor estates and country balls and people who have never heard of check cards.

So during this shopping season, please take extra care with your sensitive information, and if the worst happens, take the Jane Austen Character Quiz here.


Sucky gifts that don’t actually suck

5 Dec

Ah, the most wonderful time of the year. Time for salivating retailers everywhere to fight over your wallet like the Bumpuses’ dogs over a turkey. They’ll do just about anything to grab a chunk of the money that’s flying around, including poke fun at other, “lesser” gift ideas. Some of these so-called lame gifts ideas don’t deserve their bad rap. I, for one wouldn’t turn up my nose at any of these:

Socks. As a kid, this would have been the very worst present possible. As a grown-up, a nice pair of socks is a serious boon. Why do you think adults are always giving them to kids? (But, none of those socks with the toes. The moment has passed.)

Gift cards. The perennial criticism is that they’re impersonal, but I disagree. The key is to purchase it to a specific store that you know the receiver likes, or even better, a service (like car washes or manicures). Generics like Visa and Amex gift cards do tend to make you feel like you got a rebate (or a paycheck?) instead of a gift, although I still wouldn’t complain.

Chocolate. Don’t give it to your friend on Weight Watchers, obvs—that’s just cruel. But nice chocolates (Godiva, Ferrero Rocher, Harry and David, maybe Lindt–not Hershey’s) are never a miss.

Candles. Like the chocolate, just take it upscale and you have a really nice present. This is a great option to buy local or handcrafted (by someone legit—not your aunt trying out Candle Making for Dummies) at one of the billion markets and craft fairs going on now. When in doubt, go for the subtlest scent available.

Pajamas, robes, and slippers. The trick is to never buy the kind that come out only around the holidays—you know, the conveniently packaged ones on department store kiosks? It doesn’t have to be pricey, but it should be something that you would buy for yourself. Like, I’d love to have these, not so much these.

Soap and lotion. Soap on a rope jokes aside, shower gels, lotions, etc are really nice. But there are two rules: A) make sure you either know what kind of scent the person likes, or pick something very light, such as aloe or almond; and B) never buy anything that comes in prepackaged set near a checkout counter.

Electronic singing [fill in the blank]. OK, OK. So these gifts are pretty lame, truth be told. But if you’re giving something like a gift card or cash—awesome but not as fun to open—wrapping up a silly gift can be a big hit. P received a singing Christmas Tree from my family one year, and it was hilarious, and bonus: my toddler freakin’ loves it now.

And three gifts that are not as awesome as they want you to think

Fine Jewelry. Every year my mom and I enjoy gagging over the latest “must-have give” jewelry design of the season. Some of them are so heinous they’d keep away the evil eye (remember this one?). Tread with caution unless you know your recipient’s taste really well, or they’ve picked out the exact piece themselves.

Cars. You probably only love a few people enough to get them a car. Those few people would probably prefer to have a say in the purchase of such an item–unless you’re Kimye (Although I bet some hints were dropped, even then).

Homemade items. This is at the top of the list of every “gifts on a budget” list ever written. But I would like to propose a bill that, unless you are under the age of 12 or your crafts would pull in cash money on Etsy, just spring for some socks.

Happy shopping!