Monday, August 31, 2015

The 2015 VMA Awards – Red Carpet Review

Wow, it seems like forever since I’ve posted a red carpet review. And this one is certainly a doozy. The stars really….well, “outdid themselves” isn’t quite the right expression. “Let it all hang out” might be more literally applicable. It was a veritable ocean of skin and cleavage and sideboob out there on the red carpet.

Let’s start with the worst offender: Miley Cyrus and her silver-duct-tape-and-part-of-a-chandelier look:

Miley has a beautiful figure. And when she’s not wearing a goofy, lascivious expression with her tongue wrapped halfway around her head, she also has a beautiful face. But the weird Star Trek alien princess look is too over the top, even for the VMAs. We get that you want to be considered an adult, Miley. We even get that you want everyone to know that you’re comfortable with your own sexuality. But we still don’t want that sexuality rubbed in our faces quite so blatantly. Toss a sheer little frock or skin-toned leotard under this and it could have been cutting-edge couture without being gross. The diamond loincloth is actually lovely, and the silver boots are fabulous. Even the funky tiara kind of works. Maybe Miley needs to reverse Coco Chanel’s advice, and after she finishes getting dressed, put one thing back ON.

Miley could have used Nicki Minaj as an example of being very sexy and showing some skin without going totally overboard. 

Nicki’s gold, figure-hugging gown was cut down to her navel and had peekaboo skirt panels all the way up her thighs. It might have been over the top at the Oscars, but here at the VMAs, it hit just the right notes. Her sleek, shiny raven hair and understated makeup kept the look not too outrageous. She looked stunning and sexy. This ensemble was an absolute win for her.

Serayah had another skin-revealing yet somehow relatively conservative look.

Worn over a very modest white bikini, her all-white ensemble was shredded all over, covering yet revealing at the same time. I loved the way the fabric strips were echoed in her high, white gladiator sandals. I would have loved to have seen a pop of either color or sparkly metallic or gems in a clutch, choker, or earrings, but with her beautiful coloring, sleeked-back hair, and exotic eyes, she still looked stunning in the pure white.

Kat Graham chose to go with a very different look – more casual and less revealing, but still totally eye-catching.

Her brightly patterned strapless minidress was kicky and fun, and paired with her cute curly retro ‘do, sky-high black stilettos, and floor-brushing tasseled bag, she looked ready to party.

Demi Lovato also went with a cocktail dress rather than a gown. 

I liked the dress itself, with the graceful art deco lines and the plunging neckline. I loved the matching shoes. I even loved the matching retro frosted pink makeup. But the color was all wrong for her, making her look faded and drab. The exact same dress in fire engine red or emerald green would have been absolutely stunning, but the pale pink just didn’t work on her.

For the ultimate in conservative and covered up, yet completely sexy, Selena Gomez showed us how to do it right. 

With a slight sheen and texture to the fabric, figure-hugging silhouette, almost-see-through sleeves, and a racy leather placket on the just barely zipped-down zipper on the bodice, Selena shows how to show it off without showing it. The unrelieved black from her hair to her shoes to her nail polish to her jewelry added a touch of class. This was a fantastic look all around.

Taylor Swift also opted for a surprisingly toned-down look, which unfortunately didn’t work for me. 

It certainly wasn’t awful; the shoes were fantastic, her hair and makeup were great, and I even liked the fabric. In fact, I really liked the long-sleeved, midriff-baring top. I guess it was just the pants that ruined the outfit for me. High-waisted, flood-length metallic sweatpants can’t even be pulled off by Taylor Swift. A full miniskirt, a long pencil skirt with a deep slit, even a pair of tight Mary Tyler Moore capris would have worked. But the bagginess and awkward length just fell flat.

A patterned metallic look that worked much better was the gown worn by Keltie Knight.

The body-hugging, clingy silhouette and broad V-neck were sexy, but balanced by long sleeves and no leg showing. The skirt had a great is-it-or-isn’t-it see-through look, with a black brief seeming to show through just a bit. I loved the 1920s-style feather pattern on the skirt and the narrow gold belt. I didn’t love the overdone bronzer and nude lipstick, but did appreciate that the colors were in keeping with the palette of the dress, unifying the look. Overall, it was a look that really worked well.

Rocsi Diaz was a good example of almost but not quite.

Let me start off by saying that I WANT THOSE SHOES. The narrow metallic toe strap, the tiny black ankle strap, and the fabulous black and white butterflies covering the heels were just fantastic. And her gorgeous shiny hair and absolutely perfect makeup could not possibly have been any better. But the dress…the concept is terrific, but the execution is just a tiny bit off. Asymmetry is wonderful and eye-catching, but if it makes your boobs look uneven or mismatched, it doesn’t work. The concept of a simple, snug-fitting pencil skirt with an unusual top is a terrific one, but a skirt should never be so tight that it shows you belly-button or has crinkles between your thighs. That’s not fitted; that’s badly fitted. If the cutout over the cleavage had been slightly narrower to balance the bust, and the skirt had been merely snug instead of tight, this would have been one of the best looks of the night.

Vanessa Hudgens’ was another almost but not quite look for me.

Like Diaz, the concept was great, but the execution was a bit lacking. The “woodland nymph” concept is a great idea for her, with her exotic pixie face and that gorgeous long mane of wavy hair. I loved the gems tucked in her hair and the forward-arching drop earrings; I loved the huge stack of gold bangles and the oversized butterfly ring. I even loved the long ivory crescent moon necklace. But the long mop of hair was competing with and drawing focus from the necklace. And as much as I loved the 3-D flowers on the skirt, the look was too busy against all the jewelry above. Just a few carefully placed flowers would have toned it down beautifully. The dark champagne color blended into her skin, which normally wouldn’t work for me, but with all the other details going on, that actually made a smooth canvas for the woodland theme that I really liked. So not a perfect look, but very, very close. A little bit less would have been a whole lot more.

There were a number of outfits that weren’t terrible but were just kind of blah and unmemorable for me.

Brandi Cyrus wore a black lace and spangles minidress that just left me flat – cute shoes, though.

Zuri Hall’s plain white cocktail dress was more suited to the junior prom than the VMAs. Not horrible, just too bland and boring for this event. But I do love the Tiffany-blue snakeskin bag.

Tori Kelly’s romper was another not horrible but boring look. It wasn’t particularly flattering, it didn’t have any eye-catching details, it was just kind of…there. At least her wild mop of blond curls screamed VMAs.

Kelli Osborne tends to be hit or miss on the red carpet, and this outfit is a definite miss. The double-breasted top is begging to be fitted, not baggy, and the pinstripes on the skirt (or possibly pants) going in multiple directions break up the lines and look wrinkled and badly fitting. It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen her wear, but I can’t like this one because I know she can do so much better. She is wearing great shoes, and judging by her big crimson grin she’s having a great time, and that’s really what matters most.

And last, but not least, Jillian Michaels (nope, I don’t have any idea why she was at the VMAs, either) wore an outfit that should have been terrific but for some reason just fell flat. I actually like the red satin capris, and the matching red satin lace-up sandals are to die for. But I think the complete monotone palette from the waist up is what brings the boring. Her golden hair, golden tan, and gold mesh crop top all blend together to vanish into the background. As tacky as it might sound, a matching red satin bra under the gold top might have broken up the expanse of gold enough to pull the look together.

But please don’t tell Jillian I didn’t love her outfit. She’d break me in half.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Priceless Stuff I Love: 2015 Edition

Every now and then I like to look back over blogs that I wrote a few years ago. In August of 2013, I wrote a blog entry called “Cheap Stuff That I Love” about inexpensive things that make me happy (like iced coffee from Dunk’s, and non-stick foil, and bubble wrap), and I followed it up a few weeks later with an entry called “Priceless Stuff I Love” about things that you can’t buy that make me happy. And even though all of those wonderful things (fuzzy baby heads, jeans that fit, sing-along songs, etc.) still make me happy, here are a few more to add to the list of free wonderfulness in the world.

A Child’s Story

My kids are both talkers, and they love telling stories. Sometimes they’re retelling stories that they know and love, and sometimes they’re making up completely new stories. But either way, I love it when I can get them to tell me one of their stories. I love it even more when I manage to catch them telling stories to their stuffed animals and their dolls.

A Morning Walk

I’m not typically a morning person, nor am I a “get out there and walk” person. But every now and then I manage to get myself up and going early enough to catch a stroll around the neighborhood before the day begins in earnest. I love the familiarity, the quietness, and the chance to center my thoughts.

Homemade Cookies

When I was growing up, there was always – and I do mean ALWAYS – a Tupperware or two full of homemade cookies in my house. Chocolate chip, snickerdoodles, no-bakes, peanut butter, thumbprints, molasses…you name it, my mom made it. My dad’s, my sister’s, and my lunches always included two cookies, carefully wrapped in waxed paper sealed with a drugstore fold. Nowadays, fewer families have time to bake cookies, so even if there are cookies on hand, they’re more likely to be Oreos or Chips Ahoy or Pepperidge Farm – not that there’s anything wrong with that; I’m a big fan of a couple of Oreos and a glass of milk. But there’s something special about a homemade cookie, especially one made by your mom, with love.

A Scent from the Past

They say that scents often bring back the strongest memories. Have you ever gotten a whiff of your grandma’s perfume and been drawn right back to her house when you were five years old? Or perhaps it was the smell of your first boyfriend’s aftershave or your first girlfriend’s shampoo that made your heart skip a beat. It might be the smell of your mom’s lasagna baking or the same brand of baby powder you put on your baby or even the same scent of car deodorizer you had in your very first car that sends you back into the past for a split-second. But there’s nothing quite as wonderful as catching that passing whiff of something that brings back a happy memory.

A Project Going Right

I love doing projects – home improvement projects, art projects, sewing projects – even when I’m not particularly good at them. I’ve had a few impressive crash-and-burns (I tried the infamous “melted crayon art” from Pinterest once; the results did NOT look like they did on Pinterest), and a few moderate successes, but every now and then a project comes out just as – or even more – spectacular that anticipated. And there’s no more wonderful feeling of triumph than that.

What other little experiences in life make you happy?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I'm a Writer. A Writer Writes.

I’ve always loved to write. I’ve always loved words, and vocabulary, and grammar, and descriptive phrases. I’ve always loved using language to create images. When I was younger, I assumed that I could never be a writer because I could never come up with a decent plot. I thought that writing had to include making up an interesting story. Fortunately, once I had some more life experiences under my belt, I realized that there’s plenty of “stuff” to write about all around me – the world is full of interesting stories that are already there, just waiting to be written.

And so I began blogging, first on my own site and later on an actual website. I even wrote a book manuscript based on my experiences on And yet, I still felt like just a dabbler, not a “real” writer. When I got an actual paying gig writing a monthly newspaper column, I felt a little more like a real writer. But it wasn’t until just today when something happened that made me realize that I am, in fact, a writer: I was feeling overworked and overwhelmed and I needed to take a break from the 16 different projects I was working on, and all I could think was, “I need to sit down and write for a few minutes.”

That’s my stress relief: writing. When I’m totally stressed out and I’m losing my mind and I don’t know what else to do, I write. That’s what makes me a writer: A writer writes. Just like in A Chorus Line, when Cassie is begging for a job dancing in the chorus, even though she knows she’s much better than that, and she tries to explain how she is driven to dance: “All I ever needed was the music, and the mirror, and the chance to dance…” (The musical theater nerds among you just read that as “..and the chaaaaaaaaaance…to daaaaaaaaaance!”, didn’t you. Yes, yes, you did. I bet you even sang it out loud. That’s okay, so did I.) All I need is the paper and the pen, or the computer and the blank Word document, and the chance to write! I don’t simply want to write, I need to write. I need to express myself through the written word like dancers need to dance, like children need to play, like birds need to fly. Writing is such a part of me that when I can’t do it, I’m not me.

I’m a writer. A writer writes.

Whew, I feel much better now. 

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Symbolism of Singing

Being a singer myself, one of the most enjoyable parts of Conclave, for me, has been the performances of the SigEp Chorus. Some would say that the chorus is a fun little addition to the Conclave, and not particularly important or even pertinent. I, however, disagree. There is a huge amount of symbolism in any choral singing, and in this group in particular, that is absolutely relevant to the mission of SigEp.

First of all, any chorus is a bringing together of different voices. Variety is a necessity. If there is uniformity, there is also limitation. The music is only complete if some voices take the high part, others the middle, and still others the low. It doesn't matter that the high voices can't reach the low notes, because the lower voices can, and vice versa. Each voice fills in a piece of the overall picture that others cannot. Only when different kinds of voices are brought together can the full range of the music be expressed.

Second, balance is crucial. If one voice is too strong and another is too weak, the harmony is lost. Each voice needs to listen to the other voices and adjust itself so each of the parts complements the others. Everyone has to be aware of those around them. Sometimes that means fading into the background, sometimes it means taking a more prominent role. But always, it means being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of those around, and either helping or compensating for them. 

Third, everyone has to pay attention to the leader. There are times when members can - and should - make suggestions, and every member makes a contribution. But unless there is a single leader taking those suggestions into account and making a final decision, the voices pull apart and confusion reigns. The beauty is drawn forth when there is a single leader setting the pace and establishing unity. 

And finally, an aspect that is somewhat unique to the SigEp Chorus: these voices take what they have learned and practiced with other groups and other singers, and learn to apply it in this group. The songs they perform here, each has performed in other places, amidst other voices. But no two groups perform any piece exactly the same way. They must adapt their usual styles to find a common style that works for everyone. They must let go of the familiar and be open-minded enough to try a different way of doing things. They bring their different experiences together and form a unified whole by choosing the best parts of each contributor and finding what works best in this unique circumstance.

There have been scientific studies showing that choral singing creates a physical unity among the singers: they breathe in rhythm, even their hearts begin to beat in a single rhythm (The Scientist, July 2013). Anyone who has sung in a chorus - particularly a very good chorus - knows that mystical feeling when everyone seems to be in perfect sync, as if they are reading each other's minds. They are perfectly attuned to each other singer and to the leader, and they work together as a single, unified whole.

So what better analogy of the workings of an organization like SigEp than that of members of a chorus working together? Brothers come from many geographic locations and walks of life. They each bring their own unique set of skills and experiences. All brothers need to contribute, and if some do all the work and others just coast, there is no balance, and the chapter - or the national fraternity - suffers. Yet if they work together, the strengths of one member can offset - or better yet, teach - the weaknesses of another. Although there are many voices, there needs to be a single point of leadership, whether it be an individual or a small group, or consensus will never be reached. The leader must take input from the membership, but must then make a decisive choice.

At the national level, SigEp takes the unique styles and experiences of each chapter, all with a common mission yet with their own methods of achieving that mission, and melds them into a single, cohesive whole, weighing the different variations and choosing the best combination of all the varied experiences and practices of the member chapters. There are many individual SigEp brothers, many individual SigEp chapters, many individual SigEp regions, but when they combine as a national whole, their hearts beat as one.

Friday, August 14, 2015

SigEp Style

One of my favorite quotes from the Harry Potter books is from the scene in The Order of the Phoenix where Dumbledore is about to be seized by the Ministry of Magic and thrown in Azkaban, the wizarding prison, and he escapes by grabbing the tail of his phoenix and vanishing into thin air. One of the portraits on the wall comments, "You know, Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on several points, but you can't deny he's got style."

After attending yesterday evening's "Balanced Man Celebration" at the Grand Ole Opry, I have to say the same about SigEp: You may disagree with them on some points, but you can't deny they've got style.

The Celebration was, in a word, slick. Not in an officious, snake-oil-salesman kind of way, but in a highly produced, cutting edge kind of way. The evening began with the roughly 1600-strong crowd gathering outside the host resort, where a marching band in full regalia was waiting to lead them down the street to the Grand Ole Opry itself.
The crowd looks sparse in this photo, but there was a huge throng right behind us!

A few of the younger brothers wrapped themselves in SigEp and chapter flags; everyone was dressed to the nines in suits and ties, the few ladies in the crowd (myself included) wearing cocktail dresses and heels. As soon as we entered the lobby of the Opry, we found the SigEp Chorus gathered on a staircase, singing traditional a cappella songs, which were piped into the auditorium itself as the crowd filtered in.

There was time to sit and take in the historic surroundings before the show started. I admired the huge venue, the rich red curtain, the warm wood of the pew-style seating, and the impressive scaffolding supporting what was obviously millions of dollars worth of high-tech sound and lighting equipment.

Amidst everything, there was a good deal of haze and fog billowing from the edges of the stage, filling the auditorium. I wondered if there had been some pyrotechnic display before we came in. But as the house lights darkened, the curtain rose, and a deep, booming voice welcomed us all to Conclave, the reason for the smoke was made clear: an impressive laser light display accompanied the disembodied voice. Beams of light in every color of the rainbow shot across the room, creating starbursts and cascades and waterfalls of color and light. The beams spun, twisted, and chased each other, converging and breaking apart again. After several minutes, the colorful beams vanished.

The music became deeper and images appeared on a large screen on the stage as a yet deeper and even more booming voice took up the narrative. Flashes of historic documents were interspersed with shots of well-dressed, enthusiastic-looking young men; glimpses of Conclaves past and their associated banners shot past, a dizzyingly fast succession of images of the men of SigEp being successful in various way. I found it a bit disconcerting, like the jump-cut images in an old black-and-white movie that are meant to show that a character is going insane or having a breakdown. I'm not sure I liked it, but it definitely had a certain style. And it definitely appealed to the up-and-coming, young graduate demographic. It was modern, it was eye-popping, it was slick.

As the final words of the video echoes through the hall, there were a few moments of hushed anticipation, and then we heard the distant sound of bagpipes droning.From the rear of the auditorium, still in near-complete darkness, a bagpipe band in kilts, sporrans, and everything in between proceeded down the aisles, the drummers bringing up the rear, spinning their drumsticks in the shadows.

When their last note had faded away, the lights were raised just the slightest bit and the procession of flags began: flagbearers bearing the official state flag of all fifty United States marched down the aisle, swinging their flags in giant figure eights, ascending the stairs onto the stage, and crossing each other to place each flag prominently in a rack on either side of the front of the stage.

The flag display from the 2009 Conclave.

When the state flags had all been placed, another procession of SigEp flags, each bearing a single Greek letter (as used to denote each chapter's order of founding within their state), from alpha to omega, finally culminating in a large SigEp flag edged in gold fringe, which was brought to the stage to the sound of loud clapping and cheering.

It was an impressive introduction to the evening's program, and whatever you may think about the message SigEp was trying to bring across, you have to admit that they were bringing it across with style. And that's not a bad thing. Style catches people's eyes. Style calls attention to itself. Style proclaims that it has it all together. Style implies success. So showing that you've got style really isn't a bad way at all to declare yourself competent, contemporary, and relevant.

SigEp: They've got style.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Woman in a Man's World

I am spending this week completely immersed in a man's world. I am spending the next five days surrounded by frat boys, current and former (although, truthfully, there's no such thing as a "former frat boy"). I am attending the biennial "Grand Chapter Conclave" of my husband's college fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, more commonly referred to affectionately as merely "SigEp." I am a woman in a man's world.

I will freely admit, however, that being a woman here does not make me feel like an outsider. In fact, being a woman makes me feel like I'm being especially welcomed and treated extra graciously. Maybe it's because this year's conclave is being held in Nashville, Tennessee, so I'm surrounded by traditional Southern manners, but I feel like I'm being treated, not as a woman, but as a lady.

I like it.

But what I like most about it is that it represents the respect that these young men are showing, not only to me, as a woman, but also to the older alumni and national fraternity staffers, as SigEp brethren.

Let me back up a bit and confess that when my husband introduced me to SigEp eight years ago, I was not a fan of fraternities. The college I attended didn't have fraternities or sororities, so I didn't have much firsthand experience with them. Most of my knowledge was through news stories (rarely favorable) and movies (never favorable). To me, belonging to a fraternity was an excuse to binge drink without having to get yourself home afterwards. However, once my husband joined the Alumni Volunteer Corporation (AVC) of SigEp New Hampshire Alpha (his alma mater, Dartmouth College, "the fount of knowledge, where young men go to drink"), and later became the AVC President, I got to know some fraternity members (both alumni and undergrads) firsthand, and I changed my tune.

Certainly, there are plenty of young men in SigEp and many other fraternities who spend more time drinking than they should. Which admittedly is not that different than young men NOT in fraternities who spend more time drinking than they should. But the people who changed my opinion on fraternities were not so much the "current frat boys," but rather the "former frat boys," the older men - some just a few years out of college, some a few decades, and some more than a few decades - who had taken on the roles of mentoring their younger brethren. In these men, I could see their youthful fraternity experiences - the non-drinking kind - come to fruition. These were men who had become solid family men, successful businessmen, community activists, philanthropists, and just generally nice people. These men were the kind of men I want my son to grow up to be.

And here at conclave, I can see the younger men also wanting to grow up to be like these older men. I can see the common thread of SigEp brotherhood bridging the generation gap and providing a measure of trust and respect that allows the undergrads to grudgingly admit that maybe these old guys have something valuable to share with them. And I can see that same thread of brotherhood allowing these old guys to see past the youthful wildness and recognize the enormous potential inside every one of these young brothers. The reason it works is that the respect goes both ways. The young men respect the alumni's knowledge and wisdom and experience; the alumni respect the young men's enthusiasm and energy and potential. Being a SigEp automatically creates a peer relationship between two men. My 50-something husband often notices a stranger wearing a SigEp insignia and introduces himself as a friend whether the brother is 20 or 80. The SigEp connection is clearly one that transcends age and social and financial status. If you're a SigEp, you're a brother, and that's all there is to it.

The mentorship of alumni is a crucial part of the fraternity experience and, in my opinion, it is the reason that many SigEps turn out to be the kind of successful adults that they do. SigEp obviously has succeeded mightily with its mission of mentoring undergraduate members.

And so, when a young SigEp brother stands as I enter the room, or politely holds the door for me, it makes me feel good, not just because I enjoy being treated like a lady, but because I know he treats his SigEp brethren with that same respect.

Although I suspect he doesn't call any of them "ma'am."

Packing Panic

I don’t know why, but I always freak out a little (okay, a lot) when I have to pack for a trip. It happens much more frequently now that I have children. I suspect the problem is that if I forget something, it’s not just me who suffers, but my kids. It’s always easier to deal with your own mistakes if you’re the only one affected by them; when your kids come up short, that’s when the real guilt kicks in.

Even so, I don’t know why it’s such an issue. It’s not like I’m going to be somewhere without Walmarts and Targets and CVSes. It’s not like I’m going to Zimbabwe for three months. (Actually, I did that once, and I packed a single suitcase and was just fine.) Whatever it is I forgot, even if it’s something relatively crucial like prescription medication or feminine supplies or clean underwear, there will be a store somewhere nearby where I can replace it.

And yet, I freak out.

Maybe it’s because I know that my kids rely on me and I hate to let them down, even temporarily. More likely, it’s because that unexpected trip to Walmart or Target or CVS is not in my plans and therefore puts my planned schedule all out of whack. After all, I don’t generally deal well with last-minute changes of plans. I like structure, and schedules, and advance planning. I don’t like having to carve an extra hour or two out of my schedule so I can go buy toothpaste.

The really weird thing is that I’m such an organized packer that I very rarely forget anything. I save lists after every trip so I can note things I wish I’d brought and things I didn’t need. I check off every item as I pack it, and I highlight things that will need to be packed at the last minute, so I don’t generally forget things.

But still, I worry. What if this is the time I forget something critical? What if we run out of clean clothes? What if I didn’t pack enough underwear for every member of the family? What if someone has to re-wear a pair of socks?!?? OH, THE HORROR!!!! I know that it’s ridiculous, even as I’m doing it. And yet, I freak out.

So what can I do to not freak out so much? I could say that I should make lists, except that I already do that. I could say that I should remind myself that I can buy anything I’m missing wherever I’m going, but I already know that. I could say that my kids would be perfectly content to wear the same articles of clothing for an entire week, but that doesn’t calm me, either.

Maybe I just need to remind myself that it’s not all about me. Maybe I just need to remind myself that what’s important about this trip is having fun, spending time with my family, visiting new places, and exploring somewhere I’ve never been. Maybe I just need to loosen up and relax.

Maybe I just need to check my packing list one last time…

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Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Best Ways to Spend 5 Bucks

A friend of mine just announced excitedly that she had won the lottery! She then went on to admit that she had won a grand total of $5. Another friend suggested that she could use it to get a fancy coffee drink, and that started me wondering: What are some of the most fun and satisfying ways to spend five bucks? Here are a few of my suggestions.

Paperback Books

Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Fortunately, 5 bucks can buy you a soul in a paperback cover. Choose a classic like Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence ($4.05 from Amazonor Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days ($3.60 from Amazon), or pick up one of your favorite bedtime stories from your childhood, like Syd Hoff’s Danny and the Dinosaur ($3.92 at Targetor Margret and H.A. Rey’s Curious George Visits a Toy Store ($3.95 at Target). 
Good Chocolate

Got a bit of a sweet tooth? Reward yourself by splurging on some better chocolate than your usual Hershey’s or Nestle. You could get a whole bag of Lindt Lindor Truffles ($3.78 at Walmart) or five (FIVE!!!) 3-packs of Ferrero Rocher Hazelnut Chocolates ($0.99/3-pack at Target).

A Cool Kitchen Gadget

How many times have you seen an informercial or been poking through a fancy kitchen store and thought, “Gee, a gadget like that would be handy,” but you never got it? Now’s the time to get yourself that weird gadget that you’ll only use 3 times a year but will feel really cool using. How about a corn stripper ($4.99 from Light In The Box) or that adorable penguin kitchen timer ($4.99 from Bed Bath and Beyond– you know you want it!! Or maybe you’re sick of getting brine all over your fingers and need a pickle picker ($2.99 at Bed Bath and Beyond).


What could make you happier than a new toy? it brings you right back to the carefree exhilaration of being 5 years old with not a care in the world other than playing with a new toy. How about a whole bucket of Play-Doh and tools to go with it? A Play-Doh Sundae Sweet Treats Bucket will fill the bill nicely ($4.99 from Christmas Tree Shops). If Play-Doh doesn’t make you happy, how about bubbles? And not just bubbles, but Bubblin’ Blast Elmo ($3.98 Toys ‘R’ Us).

Girly Stuff

Sometimes feeling feminine is what makes you happy. Soaking in a sweet-smelling, hot, bubbly bathtub always works for me. Pick up some Calgon Lavender Vanilla bath beads ($2.99 from Bed Bath and Beyond) or some Oatmeal Silk bath salts ($3.00 from Walmart). Or how about a new shade of lipstick, like Revlon Super Lustrous Pearl lipstick in Champagne on Ice ($4.97 from Walmart)?


There isn’t much in the way of clothes that you can get for under $5, but there are always accessories. Anything from a cowboy hat ($4 at Walmartor a sweet fedora ($4 at Walmart) o maybe a a cute and colorful clutch purse ($3.99 at Walmart). 

Coffee and Pastries

To get back to the suggestion that kicked off this whole list, what kind of gooey coffee creations and buttery pastries can you splurge on with your five bucks? You could get a regular caramel latte or a medium iced chai tea latte (both $4.75 from Panera), or a bear claw, a pecan roll, or a cinnamon crumb coffee cake (each $3.16 from Panera), or a tall white chocolate mocha, caramel flan macchiato, or cinnamon dolce macchiato ($4.45 from Starbucks) , or a double chocolate chunk brownie ($2.75 from Starbucks) or an almond croissant blossom ($3.96 from Starbucks).

How can five bucks make YOU happy?

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