Friday, February 25, 2011

Kicking It!

I’m taking a break this week from my usual reviews of junk stores, tea shops, and book peddlers and going on a trip to Idaho. But this isn’t a normal trip; this is kick a** trip. (Trying to keep this blog family-friendly.)

Let me give you a little history.

One of my favorite holidays is KAG weekend. (Known to the rest of the world as President’s Day weekend.) KAG is an acronym for Kick A** Girls. Three of my friends and I earned this appellation in a painful game of paintball many years ago. It was the first time for all of us, and we were unaware of just how fast and hard those paint pellets hit. We turned up in T-shirts, shorts and sandals. The 11 or so guys we were playing with arrived in heavy jeans or army fatigues with gloves, hats and jackets. Did we back down? Cower in fright? No! “Once more into the breach” became our battle cry. By the end of day, it was hard to discern where the paint splotches ended and the bruises began. Our eleven male counterparts dubbed us “Kick A** Girls.”

About a year later, I received an invitation from two of my former women-at-arms to join a third friend up at a cabin in Idaho’s Island Park over President’s Day Weekend. There would be snowmobiling, skiing, junk food, and piles and piles of snow. But I’m not much of a winter sports enthusiast, despite my Utah upbringing. Funds were tight that year, so I initially declined. However, after some cajoling, I agreed to venture north to the frozen wasteland of Idaho.

I’d never been on a snowmobile before. I couldn’t believe the speed! After a few tentative starts, I ventured out on my own. Within an hour I had grown tired of flat open fields. I was ready for something big! Hitting the hills at high speed was a big mistake. I ended up catching so much air that when I crashed back to the seat, I bounced off again and over the front of the snowmobile. I lay there in the snow, thinking, “I can’t believe I’ve lost the use of my limbs in Idaho.” I did finally stagger to my feet and remount my snowmobile which I drove slowly and humbly, back to the cabin.

But I wasn’t finished with rookie mistakes. The next day we took off, caravan-style, for another open field. The snow was incredibly deep and fresh. Yep. You can see it coming. I had gotten so far away from my friends that they were just little black specks zooming around at the other end of the field. That’s when I plowed it under. I just buried that thing in the fresh powder. By the time my friends saw my predicament, I’d been digging around the machine, yanking, huffing, puffing and pulling, all to no avail. All three friends left their snowmobiles parked at the side of the road (they weren’t stupid enough to venture out into that virgin powder) and started trudging through thigh deep snow to get to me. There’s not a one of us over 5 feet 6 inches. First, friend A collapsed, still several yards away. Soon after Friend B tripped and was lost to view. Meanwhile, I’d thrown myself down in the snow in exhaustion. Friend C, looked around in a panic and shouted “I can’t carry you all!” We did succeed in digging out the snowmobile. All four of us were streaming with sweat by the time we got that thing back to the main road. “You know what,” Friend C gasped. “We kick a**!”

That was 11 years ago, and I can’t imagine a winter without our annual KAG trip. We did miss one year, and I’m convinced it cast a dark shadow over the entire year. A lot has happened since our first trip. One friend had it unofficially written into her wedding vows that her husband would accommodate all future KAG weekends. And he has. Two children have been born. Jobs and men have come and gone. But some things have remained the same, like sisterhood and the ability to kick a**.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sowing the Seeds of Love

The Planted Earth
440 South State Street
Orem, UT 84058

I’ve appreciated all of your comments, including the ones that have come in via email and Facebook, about some of your best and worst V-day presents. I had forgotten about Luge the Gorilla; thanks for reminding me, Mom. The Ten Thousand Villages prize, however, goes to Marie for her great idea cutting out simple hearts and using poems and then delivering them to her girlfriends. I’m going to steal your idea, Marie. One common theme I noticed in many of the comments is that there are too many wonderful women out there who are not being celebrated. So I love the idea of spreading a little love and appreciation to the girlfriends in your life.

Last week, I spotlighted a store that is perfect for free-spirited Valentines whose yoga mats were woven by fair trade artisans, who have their own compost piles, and might even have dreadlocks. (You know, who you are.) This week, I want to spotlight a business for the more traditional Valentine, someone who appreciates a cameo and a silver-backed brush, and loves a good funky vintage find.

As a matter of fact, I first learned about Planted Earth from a friend of mine who sports dreadlocks. Planted Earth is a wonderful antique and floral shop located at 440 South on State street in Orem. I have been a long-time fan of this store. I have a bookshelf, several vintage hats, some vintage mirrored trays, and some unique drawer knobs—all obtained from Planted Earth. And that’s just scratching the surface.

Home décor
Fresh flowers
A large selection of vintage jewelry
Antique books
Vintage clothes
Outdoor furniture

I like to give unique gifts with special meaning to the recipient, and Planted Earth is one of my go-to’s.

I have two “honorary” nieces. If I could claim them as my daughters, I would. When they turned 10 and 12 years-old, I gave them each a shopping trip with me at a destination of their choice. (There was a price limit involved.) Both picked the Planted Earth. I loved indulging my “Alice in Wonderland/Anne of Green Gables” side as much as they did.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Ten Thousand Ways to Say I Love You

Ten Thousand Villages
1941 S. 1100 E.
Suite 1945
Salt Lake City, UT 84106

There are 10 days left until Valentine’s Day, February 14th, and for many, this is the trickiest gift-giving day of the year. Whether the message you’re trying to send is ‘I love you truly, madly, deeply’ or ‘I noticed you across the quad,’ the underlying sentiment is the same: you matter to me.

When I was a student at Brigham Young University, the BYU bookstore used to go nuts on Valentine’s Day. I expect it still does. One service they used to offer was encasing your gift inside of a helium balloon. I still have visions of helpless teddy bears trapped in airless prisons. Talk about a metaphor for a suffocating relationship!

But I’m not the hardened Valentine’s cynic that my previous observation might imply. My best Valentine’s Day memories consist of simple gestures: an unexpected rose delivered to my work place or a homemade breakfast.

So fear not Valentine’s Day shoppers. I’m here to tell you the best places in Utah and Salt Lake Valley to shop for unique, inventive and non-schmaltzy Valentine’s Day gifts. (Tip: my readers of the fairer sex may wish to subtly refer their masculine counterparts to this blog entry.)

I can’t think of a better place to start your Valentine’s Day shopping than in a city called Sugarhouse. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair-trade foreign import store located on 11th East 1941 South in Sugarhouse. You’ll find home décor, jewelry and accessories, textiles, chocolates, cards and books from India, Korea, the Philippines, Africa--38 countries in all. Everything is handcrafted and fair trade, which means the artisans in each country receive a fair price for their wares.

Jewelry, scarves and handbags are all unique and beautiful. The jewelry ranges from sweet simple pieces as low as $12 to intricately-crafted works of art created with semi-precious stones. Picture frames made from diverse materials like bone, fabric, wood and newspaper also make great Valentine’s Day gifts.

Some of the most delightful items in the store are in the children’s section. There are hand-sewn dolls and animals in brilliant fabrics, beautiful painted blocks, and books that tell about lives of children around the world. I was particularly taken with a CD of international Sesame Street songs.

Candles, tablecloths, pieces of art and sculpture, exotic chocolate, cards…you can’t by a cliché gift at Ten Thousand Villages. Every piece is a unique way to say “you matter to me.”

Not that I’m knocking the traditional approach. Flowers are never wrong.


But do you really want to venture anywhere near a flower shop on Valentine’s Day?

What is the best/worst Valentine’s Day gift you’ve ever given or received? Share your V-day tragedies and triumphs in the comments section. The person with the most striking story will get a gift purchased at Ten Thousand Villages.