fifty and fabulous (exclamation point)

She'll probably be less than thrilled that I'm broadcasting this to the world, but today is my mom's 50th birthday. Know who else is turning the big 5-0 this year? Barbie.

She (Barbie, not my mom) will be celebrating the past five decades with various tie-ins and events. Here's what's slated for the icon of style:
I had a slew of Barbies growing up, including the original Midge and Skipper dolls, Barbie car and dream house that were my mom's. So I find it fitting that two of the coolest women are sharing a milestone birthday this year.

Here's to being fabulous at any age!


the ferrari of vending machines

Let's face it: vending machines are ugly. Stuck in the 80s, the cheap and clunky machines make me want to go Office Space on them.

Until I read an article in W's January issue about U*tique, the self-proclaimed luxury vending machine that made its debut at Fred Segal this month.

Each U*tique will tout 50 products at a time, relevant to its location. Some featured partners thus far include: Lancome, Bliss, C.O. Bigelow, Smashbox, and Vosges Chocolate.

What's really cool? Product reviews and ingredient information are available at the touch of your fingertips.

For the most part, their intentions seem on par. I'm skeptical that consumers will forgo traditional shopping venues for the nearest U*tique. I'm also surprised by the company's seven-page press release announcing the product launch.

Nonetheless, I'm all for aesthetic upgrades. So long D16, hello 21st century.


garden for wildlife

I went for a stroll around Hyde Park today and noticed something I've never seen before: really cool yards certified by the National Wildlife Federation. Here's more info on the NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat program:
A Community Wildlife Habitat is a community that provides habitat for wildlife throughout the community--in individual backyards, on school grounds and in public areas such as parks, community gardens, places of worship and businesses.

It is a place where the residents make it a priority to provide habitat for wildlife by providing the four basic elements that all wildlife need: food, water, cover and places to raise young.

The community also educates its residents about sustainable gardening practices such as reducing or eliminating chemical fertilizers and pesticides, conserving water, planting native plants, removing invasive plants and composting.

It hosts workshops about gardening for wildlife, and holds community events such as stream or trail cleanups to make the community healthier for wildlife and people alike. A Community Wildlife Habitat project creates a place where people, flora and fauna can all flourish.
The program sounds like a fun - and awesome - way to protect the environment. Keep on rockin' those green thumbs, Austinites.


grammys portraits update

I e-mailed Rob Schwartz, Executive Creative Director of Chiat\Day's Grammys campaign (see my earlier post) and have great news. Here's his response:
Thanks for your interest. You are not alone. Lots of people keep asking. We are in the process of making posters happen. Hopefully they will be made available on the Grammys website soon.
Ask and ye shall receive!


change we can believe in

I've been waiting for this day for a long time. I don't think anything else needs to be said. Below are my favorite snippets of President Obama's inaugural speech, courtesy of CNN.
...Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land -- a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America: They will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics...

Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America...

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them -- that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works -- whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account -- to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -- because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government...

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate...

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed -- why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent Mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath...

Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested, we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back, nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.


portraits of inspiration

I haven't seen something this cool in a while: to promote this year's Grammys (on February 8th) TBWA\Chiat\Day has created portraits of artists like Lil Wayne, Rihanna and Thom Yorke entirely out of song titles that have inspired them along the way.

I wish I could share the portraits within this post because they are incredible, but unfortunately I'll just have to implore you to visit Creativity and to click on each artist's name above. Make sure you zoom in to get the full effect.

I am thisclose to e-mailing Chiat\Day to see if I can get my hands on a poster (or even just a print) version of the ad of Thom Yorke.

This is why I love advertising.


go green in '09

Target has been making a solid effort as of late at stocking more and more environmentally friendly options for the masses. Products are grouped into three (predictable) categories: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Target's Garment Hanger Reuse/Recycle Program kept roughly 411 million hangers from entering landfills in 2007 alone - and the corporation has recycled more than 980 million pounds of cardboard. Opting for more energy-efficient lighting in stores has yielded more than an 80% savings in annual energy costs.

They even accept batteries and cell phones to be recycled, with proceeds benefiting the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

I bought some sustainably-sourced bamboo pillows from Target a few months ago and am more than pleased with my choice. Sure, it was a few dollars more, but it gives me peace at night to know I gave our planet a moment or two to breathe.

And I just have to say, if I ever have a kid she'll for sure be sporting some organic baby apparel from Target. So adorable!

If this is a shade of green things to come, I can't wait.


sounds of success

Every few months or so I'll hear a song that I love so much it invades my brain and refuses to leave until I can figure out the artist and song name.

Kind of aggravating really, until I can piece it together with my internet sleuthing (and sometimes the help of my internet-ninja boyfriend).

I thought I'd share the fruits of my labor with you.

Lykke Li - I'm Good, I'm Gone (Black Kids Remix)
[She's on the US leg of her tour and will be at Antone's in February]

Kenna - Out of Control

These songs are the perfect little pick-me-up.


design in the future

Photo from ReForm School / Home Ec

Advertising Age's Lenore Skenazy posted an article today featuring a chat with futurist Richard Watson and his predicted trends that will affect marketing. I was elated to see Watson's second insight: physical design will become "infinitely more important."

Why? Well...
First: It's hard to get anyone's attention with an ad, so the product has to do the attention grabbing. Another reason for the ascendancy of product design: the aging population. If seniors can't open it, hold it, press it or use it, your product will miss a huge market.
One small step for marketing, one giant leap for designers everywhere.


recipes galore

I'm asked a lot by friends and family where I get recipes from. I used to look to Food Network a lot, but I'm kind of over the whole celebrity chef thing. Plus I got royally screwed by a Paul Deen recipe once.

When searching for Valentine's Day dinner ideas a few years ago, I stumbled across hundreds (probably thousands) of recipes from Whole Foods online. That chicken piccata, chocolate cashew pie, horchata or those cheese and bell pepper enchiladas I've made? All thanks to those creative geniuses over at Whole Foods.

You can even browse by certain criteria, like dish type, main ingredient, conveniences and special diet. The food guides are pretty awesome, too. I learned how to substitute refined sugar for more natural sweeteners here.

In keeping in line with the Whole Foods vibe, the recipes range from positively decadent to uber healthy. It's no surprise the ingredients call for Whole Foods' brands, but to save a hefty chunk-o-change you can usually find the ingredients at any grocery store.

And if I can't (like that time I needed brown rice syrup) I'll make a special pilgrimage to Whole Foods. It's a win-win, really.

I'll be testing out farfalle pasta with winter pesto this week. As for you, my friend: happy searching!


the lush life

You always know when you've stumbled across a Lush shop because you can smell it long before you can find it.

What is Lush, you ask? It's like the saucy, rebellious (and British!) daughter of Aveda and The Body Shop.

Infamous for being fresh, handmade and using little to no preservatives or packaging, Lush is also an excellent example of branding. Here's a snippet of Lush's Core Beliefs:
We believe in long candlelit baths, sharing showers, massage, filling the world with perfume and in the right to make mistakes, lose everything and start again.

* We also believe words like fresh and organic have honest meaning beyond marketing.
Lush is also the purported creator of the now-ubiquitous bath bomb. Here's a tip: when the airport security guard asks what's in your carry-on, don't say "bath bomb."

Even better news: Lush finally has a South Texas outpost in San Antonio. Oddly enough, Austin is still lacking in that department. Word has it that one was slated to open at The Domain, but an agreement was never reached.

If you're a Lush newbie, allow me to make some recommendations (but don't blame me for your future addiction):
They also have fun stuff, like the Too Drunk... emotibomb. And most of the products are vegan. The staff are ridiculously knowledgeable and always seem to be having a blast.



the visitor

In a world of six billion people, it only takes one to change your life.

That's the idea behind The Visitor (2008), a film I watched tonight with the fam and found deeply moving. Of course, I'm also a little biased because I'm a sucker for almost any movie shot in New York City. And anything involving drums.

Without giving away too much, I will say this: The Visitor is about college professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), a Connecticut man who's excelled at carving out an empty existence since the death of his wife many years ago.

Until he returns to his old apartment in the Village to find foreign couple Tarek and Zainab (Haaz Sleiman and Danai Jekesai Gurira) taking up residence there.

While I try to avoid discussing politics at all costs, I have to admit that I've never been a fan of Customs/Border Patrol/Immigration. Maybe because when I was younger I always got searched as I traveled with my parents around Europe. And I was afraid of the menacing passport stamper person.

But The Visitor brings up some very valid issues, especially post 9/11. Despite what the trailer may lead you to believe, it's not a movie that will leave you warm and fuzzy all over.

But it will get you thinking.


live to eat, eat to live

I love to eat, cook and bake; when it's food-related, I generally adore it all.

In fact, I spent a sizable chunk of my graduation money on a well-planned, whirlwind tour of culinary delight all around Austin for a solid week or so back in August. Aside from a similar foodie escapade throughout London, this was the best. money. ever. spent.

But when it comes to a heaping plate of steamed and uninspired kale, my taste buds and I would rather pass. I try to eat healthy at home so I can splurge with reckless abandon when out on the town. But let's be honest, life's too short for terrible food.

With The World's Healthiest Foods site and recipes, I can have my cake and eat it, too. Well...not technically. But now I can eat my whole foods in meals that are actually palatable, amazingly hearty and usually quite good. And (don't stone me for admitting this) suddenly that cake becomes much less appetizing.

Even better, the recipes are quick and easy. You can even subscribe to George's daily e-newsletter (as I have) with the Food of the Week and various recipes. Now there's no excuse.

The non-profit site is part of The George Mateljan Foundation and is backed up by independent scientific research. Pretty legit in my book.

What's really great is their seven-day menu, ideal for taking healthy eating for a test drive. Commit to one day, or be brave and try the entire week. I don't like seared tuna, for example, so I subbed out a different entree from their list of hundreds of other recipes.

And the nutritional benefits are incredible. Follow one of the daily menus and you'll get: six servings of veggies, four servings of fruit, 80 grams of protein, 40 grams of fiber and over 1,000 milligrams of calcium. And a partridge in a pear tree.

All for around 1,800 calories! Take that, food pyramid.

My boyfriend, an avowed nemesis of the vegetable, was brave enough to tag along with me for four days worth of George's recipes. His favorite? The Asian Chicken Salad. He even wants me to make it again (gasp!).

For that entire week, I felt fabulous. I had more energy and felt great about myself. I learned how to cook with vegetables I'd never used before - and wound up getting sexy, top-of-the-line chef knives for Christmas from my boyfriend so I'd keep the veggies coming his way.

It's not a novel idea, really. Buy a ton of fresh produce and have at it. I used to live to eat; now I'll eat to live a little bit more.

When I went grocery shopping for all the ingredients, the bagger sized me up and said, "You have some really good produce here," and then asked, visibly impressed, "Are you a chef?"


obsessive consumption

I stumbled across the Obsessive Consumption: What did you buy today? blog a few days ago and have officially become an addict. From deodorant to a pepper grinder, she basically turns everyday purchases into amazingly graphic line art. My favorite? The airport grilled cheese.

Unfortunately for me, and maybe you too, her 2009 magazine subscription offer has already sold out. I'll just have to hold out 'til March 2010 (jeez, that sounds scary!) for her book with 650 of Kate's drawings in color.

She also has cool stuff on Etsy, like this hilarious Holy Annual Percentage Rates Guts pillow. Here's her description:
This pillow is 24 inches by 24 inches (BIG MAMMA).
Constructed out of vintage fabric with a new pillow insert.

This pillow's materials were found in Mississippi and Alabama at various thrift stores and estate sales.

You may use this pillow to throw your entire body into it as you wail away about how high your interest rates are on your credit cards.

If you order a pillow I will also throw in some other Obsessive Consumption Swag.

As brilliant as it is, I don't think I could ever bring myself to fork over $200 for a pillow, regardless of how life-alteringly fabulous it is. But I'll keep on dreamin'!


make the kindest cut of all

Anyone who knows me knows that my hair is my thing. I used to have straight hair as a little girl, but once I hit adolescence - bam! - my hair was difficult. Thick as hell, slightly wavy, and oh so frizzy.

I was in hair limbo 'til I met my current stylist. With a few brandishes of his razor, I finally felt like my hair reflected who I was - fun, creative and unique.

A few months ago it dawned on me: what about people everywhere who claim their hair to be their thing, like me, but then lose it during their battle with cancer?

A recent study revealed that nearly 60% of women consider hair loss the most dreaded side effect they face when undergoing chemotherapy. Real-hair wigs can cost as much as $1,200 and are often only partially covered by health insurance.

That, along with several personal reasons, inspired me to cut off more than eight inches last month for Pantene Beautiful Lengths. At the time of my donation, they worked with the American Cancer Society to craft wigs for women who experienced hair loss due to cancer treatment.

I'm not trying to preach to you from my soap box on high, but I will ask you this: please at least consider donating your hair the next time you feel like lopping off eight inches or more. It takes six ponytails to make one wig.

And now, the before and after pictures. Drum roll, please!


a sign of the times

In response to the unstable economy, automaker Hyundai launched its unusual "Assurance Program" with ads from San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners yesterday.

It's simple: if you buy or lease a new Hyundai and within the next year lose your income due to a job loss, you can return your car for free. Sans penalty.

The tagline: certainty in uncertain times.

I like the idea. Or, at least, I'm trying to like it. It's a great gesture, one along the lines of when the automaker became the first in the U.S. to offer a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty in 1998.

But it feels like the buyer should be knocking on wood before signing on the dotted line. After all, it's hard to be enthusiastic about the prospect of losing your job. You know things are bad when the elephant in the room is not only addressed but also invited to carve the turkey and stay for dinner.

Kudos to Hyundai for making such a bold move. I'm curious, though, how their program will play out with consumers over the next year.


five a day...

It's said that eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what about writing down five things that make you happy daily?

Enter ButterBeeHappy.com, a site launched in March 2008 by John Pounders (student at The University of Alabama - and an ad major at that!) dedicated to promoting happiness through learning the fine art of gratitude. Users register for free and are encouraged to log daily entries with five things they're happy about or grateful for. The lists can be set to private or public.

Think of it as a much easier blog with far greater reward.

According to the site, research conducted by Harvard, UC Davis and Miami University has shown that jotting down just five thoughts of gratitude each day can make you a happier person:
Positive emotions and psychology help people thrive. In life there are many factors that can get people down, such as the economy. However, psychological research shows that economic factors are a poor predictor of overall happiness. Can you guess what is a good predictor of happiness? That's right, gratitude. When you jot down your five happy thoughts each day you are really practicing being grateful, and are thus appreciating your life to its full extent.
Admittedly the site design is less than stellar, but Pounders is open to improvements. It's the idea behind it that's so powerful.

little miss opinion's list for today? In no particular order:
1. Chocolate croissants...or warm biscuits, it's a tie, really
2. Laughing 'til I cried
3. Cashmere
4. Organic produce
5. Unconditional love

"The test of all happiness is gratitude."
-G.K. Chesterton, 1908


h is for helvetica

I came across this amazing Helvetica-font alphabet shirt from American Apparel in September and, after pining for several weeks, finally ordered it in the 'Cc' version. I'm a closeted font freak and I love me some Helvetica - let me tell you, when I stumbled across this new addition to the AA site I literally squealed out loud. Like a five year-old at Christmas. With a pony in the living room.

When I wear my shirt out and about, around 99% of people don't get it. I'm asked about it all the time. And they still don't understand.

But for those who do, it's like a secret underground cult. And, as with all things AA, the shirt will magically shrink after washing to the size you were hoping it'd be.

There's also a feature-length 2007 indie film about Helvetica that coincided with the font's 50th birthday. It premiered at SXSW, which bums me out even more because I live in Austin. Sigh. Here's a synopsis:
Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface...as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.
I've seen bits and pieces but still need to rent/buy the DVD. Thankfully, iTunes (after my pleading e-mail to them, thank you very much!) now carries the documentary flick. I know what I'll be spending part of my iTunes gift card on...

Let's watch the trailer.


smells like...meat?

Burger King has been making headlines again, this time for the release of its signature body spray, Flame by BK.

Sold for $3.99 exclusively at Ricky's in NYC, Flame is described as "the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat." The sure-t0-be pop culture phenomenon sold out almost immediately.

At first I was kind of turned off. It evoked the classic caveman image of "Me. Eat. Meat." with lots of gesticulating and chest-thumping. But, in true Crispin Porter+Bogusky fashion, there's a method to this madness. I'm not part of the target audience, so it doesn't matter whether I like it or not. Beef-eatin', heat-packin' manly-men probably love this idea. If anything, it makes one hell of a gag gift.

Those who aren't a part of BK's target market are most likely, at the very least, disgusted. So disgusted that they'll channel their outrage into attention-grabbing headlines. Google "bk flame" and you'll find over one million hits. This clearly isn't Crispin's first time around the block. Flame by BK has (surprise, surprise!) even become pervasive enough to be parodied by PETA.

What's more, Flame by BK could make a second appearance come Valentine's Day. Cupid's arrows may prove no match for that intoxicating aroma of flame-broiled beef.

Still not sated? Check out this clip from The Today Show...

whitney port does not a carrie bradshaw make

I'll be the first to admit that The Hills is one of my guilty pleasures. And that it used to actually be interesting. This past season I would watch it just to sharpen my sarcasm saw and shriek "are you kidding me?!" at the TV. All in good fun, really.

Until I saw this. The New York Post's Page Six dared ponder: Is Whitney Port the New Carrie Bradshaw?

If she is, I must be the Queen Mum. I'll be sure to let The Post know.

Out of the four Sex & the City girls, I've always related to (and loved) Carrie the most. So when I read the article, I think a little part of me died. She's an eloquent writer with equal amounts of optimism and sarcasm. And, of course, a fixation with fashion. Whitney? Not so much.

Here's The Posts's reasoning:
With The City's focus on friends, fashion, love life and nightlife—and with her caramel curls and joie de vivre—Whitney just might end up being NYC's new Carrie Bradshaw.
Don't get me wrong. Whitney was easily the most human-like character on The Hills. But after watching her never-before-seen initial interview at Teen Vogue with Lisa Love, I couldn't help but want to smack some sense into this poor girl. If you missed it, let's recap: Lisa Love asks Whitney who her favorite designers are, to which Whitney replies along the lines of "I don't have any."

But, as we all know, she got the internship anyway. True, Carrie also worked at Vogue. The real Vogue. If she had interviewed, she would have waxed poetically about Prada and Jimmy Choo for hours. Carrie would have rather been caught dead in a scrunchie and Candie's in Jersey than tell a Vogue editor she had no favorite designers.

It looks like Miss Port has some big Manolos to fill.

new year, new blog

Well hello.

I've created little miss opinion as an outlet for all the things I come across that make me think twice, inspire me or just make me want to gag. Whatever causes a strong reaction will more than likely find a nice cozy home here. And hey, mi casa es su casa.

I've never been much for the New Year's resolutions thing, but this blog just so happens to be one of them. I have a lot of post topics already floating around in my head, so keep checking back for more of little miss opinion.

Oh, and welcome!