Travel Safe This Summer (and always)! 

After having a discussion with my husband about air travel (I’ve traveled my entire 36 years – learned some things), I feel there’s a few “tips” I should share for you summer travelers! 

1. Stretch often. Car, train or plane, get up (or out) and move some. Even a few hours being stationary in/on a vehicle, can contribute to PE (pulmonary embolism) or DVT (deep vein thrombosis). As a BPE (bilateral pulmonary emboli survivor, this is a big deal!). 
2. When flying, don’t panic! Turbulence happens. Unless you see the flight attendants start to panic, stay calm. It’s normal. 
3. Check FTA advisories daily. They change often. As of my recent knowledge, <3oz liquid, nothing sharp (tweezers, scissors, etc.) can be carry on and random tickets can get you a full body search. Ditch bras with metal, avoid belts and wear shoes you can get in and out of in less than 30 seconds. 
4. Get the travel insurance! Not only does it cover loss of property, but most cover medical and if a flight is overbooked/re-scheduled, you get first priority. It’s an extra $50 well spent. 
5. Rent a car early! We use Enterprise Rent-A-Car and have had fabulous luck. But, the longer you wait, the less likely to get the vehicle you desire. 

6. Invest in a real, paper atlas. It can help you avoid tolls and come in handy when phones are out of service. 
7. Pack snacks! I travel (alone) often – and usually with Monster Energy and a prayer. But, things like a cooler, ice, chips, healthy alternatives (remember, different locals may have better produce and unique treats), and water! Not only for drinking, but if a radiator overheats. 
8. Look into AAA services or roadside services provided by the rental company. 
9. Don’t eat what you can have at home. As the saying goes, “When in Rome…”.
10. Pack emergency supplies. Basics. Band aids, topical ointments, things like nail files (in a pinch, a matchbook will work as a file and vise versa), maxi pads (not only for “lady issues”, but large wounds), etc. 

11. Make a list. Start as soon as you plan to travel. I keep mine on my phone – I check off what I’ve packed and can add as needed. 
12. Tell 2-3 family or friends your itinerary. And, if you’re like me and keep your GPS and privacy settings off, turn them on. Worst case, it may help find you in a terrible event. Example, I have an iPhone. I know those who know I’m traveling can call iPhone and have me “tracked”. 
13. Take sample size makeup and skin care. Hotel products don’t always do us any favors (however, if you DO like the products provided by the hotel, grab them when you go. Hotels have to trash them after each guest). Check my AWESOME rep for Perfectly Posh, The Pampered Mom – Kristen Matzke, for sample packs for hair, skin and more! She’s amazing and with a quick survey, can nail your skin and hair care needs! Personally, MOISTURIZE 911 is the best (possibly the best thing of all time!)!

Also, check Sally Beauty, drug and big box stores for travel size products and/or containers for your fave products. 
14. Minimize your makeup! Invest in a BB or CC cream, a good mascara and a fabulous red lipstick (I love Femme Coture’s ‘Shanghai Red’ – an easy to wear red on all skin tones – check eBay since it’s been discontinued). Loreal has some flattering reds or try one of LipsMak – Independent SeneGence/LipSense Distributor gorgeous shades. A blush and bronzer pallet is a nice addition as well. NARS Cosmetics Orgasm is also flattering to all skin tones and they do a blush/bronzer combo in one slim, sleek compact. Remember, especially if you’re on vacation, a 27 step contouring routine is unnecessary and, well…stupid. 
15. Keep hydrated! Travel, especially during hot summer months, takes a toll. Find a good bottled water in case your destination doesn’t have palatable drinking water. A small (remember, under 3oz I believe for air travel) spray bottle with water, especially rose or lavender water, can be a refreshing boost for parched skin, too. Tuck it in a purse or carry on. 

16. Make a list of medications and dosage, health issues and allergies and tuck it in your wallet. You can also download apps for your phone, but if you lock your phone (as you should) and are traveling alone, emergency responders will go for your wallet. Keep prescription medications in their original bottles, with the original label, especially if you take anything that’s federally regulated (like narcotics or even anxiety medication). 
17. Think small! Grab a travel sewing kit and pack it in case you need to fix a hem, reattach a button or conceal a low cut blouse temporarily. Also handy if you have little ones and Mr. Bear loses an eye or suffers an unfortunate tear. Tuck a couple extra earring backs (Walmart has them in gazillion packs), safety pins and a small tube of nail/super glue in it, too (basically the same thing and can be useful for more than just a broken/lifting nail).
18. Be smart! Especially traveling alone. Trust your gut – if you feel you’re being followed, assume you are. Don’t stop at isolated rest areas at night. Keep your doors locked (and a spare set of keys with you). And, by NO MEANS are you obligated to give personal or any other information, even small talk, to the person sharing your arm rest. You don’t have to be rude! But, you don’t have to be overly polite, either. Be aware of your surroundings at all times and that includes not over indulging in adult beverages or over medicating; both of which can put you in a dangerous position. 
19. Four things you should have at all times – 

  1. Your phone

  2. Keys (car/hotel)

  3. Identification 

  4. Cash

Remember, a hotel key or credit card can be “erased” if it comes in contact with your phone. Don’t “flash” cash or carry large amounts. Keep cash in a safe spot (look online – you can find ankle wallets and other nifty stuff if you’re not blessed with boobs to hide cash in), keep smaller bills “on top”, keep cash on the front of your body (men tend to keep their wallet in a back pocket – move it up front, especially if you’re traveling in an area you’re unfamiliar with and/or with lots of people/large crowds) and a “Mugger’s $20” is always a handy idea. 
  ~~MUGGER’S $20 ~~

Keep roughly $20, in small bills in your front, non dominant pocket (if your wallet is in the right, then put your Mugger’s $20 in the left) or purse (avoid large purses with long, thin straps – invest in a cool, new clutch or smaller handbag that can be worn cross-body). In the unfortunate event you’re mugged, or threatened, throw the Mugger’s $20 as far from you as possible, in the opposite direction and run. Most muggers will be interested in the cash and focused on finding and collecting it, allowing you time to flee the situation. 
20. Have a great playlist ahead of time. In the car, you may find yourself out of range of radio stations (or music you like). And, on a plane, it’s a great way to avoid unwanted conversations. Just make sure you keep the volume at a level that allows you to remain alert to emergency notifications or undesirable situations around you.

Bon Voyage! 

*Photos: Brooklyn Botanic Garden, personal 
**Links to individual product representatives are Facebook specific. 

Shop Small to Make a BIG Difference!

Each year, GF likes to encourage others to “shop small”, and support small businesses who are often struggling to stay afloat with so many bigger, often cheaper, options available. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016 is “Shop Small Saturday,” an annual, nationwide event, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, that encourages others to seek out small businesses to support who are also likely trying to provide an amazing holiday experience for their families! Not only are you helping contribute to your community (or theirs, as the case may be, since several of our shop small businesses on this list are online only or perhaps out of state from you), but you can find unique treasures for nearly anyone on your list – even the person who “has it all”. 

If you’re out and about, you can look for this symbol (or similar) to denote a small business. Go in and give them a “looksee”! Never know what hidden gem you may find! A lot of restaurants and bars will also display this symbol, so stop for a bite there instead of a fast food chain.


This list will be re-shared on GF’s Facebook and other social media, throughout the holiday season. It may grow, as we stumble upon more fabulous places, worthy of note, and simply because without the support of consumers, local and small artisans, shops, business owners, etc., may not have the support (financial and otherwise) to continue providing amazing, custom and creative visions for the rest of us to enjoy. 
Also know as “Small Business Saturday”, you can read more about it here. We strongly encourage you to shop small, as much as you can this holiday season – whether it be on Shop Small Saturday or not (let’s face it – some of us just aren’t quite ready for it to be Christmas yet) – and throughout the year! Here’s some of our favorite small businesses, to get you started! Please do share this list, feel free to contact us if you know a small business that deserves to be on the list and we also strongly encourage small businesses to patronize other small businesses, and allow that spirit to cycle! 

Please remember: 

  1. As noted, several times, custom work takes time. If you’re so much as remotely interested in a custom piece from any of these vendors, please contact them directly, ASAP, for more information, including creation time and shipping. Don’t discount a custom piece if it simply can’t be done before your holiday of choice! Wrap a picture/handwritten note/card or accessory (say, a pretty pair of earrings to go in the custom jewelry box you ordered) and explain the situation. When your custom piece does arrive, it allows the season of giving, to continue! 
  2. Check back as we repost the list (it won’t be a full blog, so make sure you follow us on FB and Instagram) to refresh your memory and see any potential new additions. 
  3. This was a success last year and we heard from several fans and business that they found the perfect gift/designed or shipped orders, as a result of GF’s list! How exciting! However, please remember the spirit of this season is kindness. If something isn’t for you, or anyone on your list, simply move on. Different folks means different strokes – negativity towards an artisan or their craft(s) is not well tolerated here. 
  4. Most of these businesses have FB pages too! Give them a like to stay updated on new creations and special events they may be hosting or participating in!!!

RAINBOW GODDESS DESIGNS

rainbowgoddessdesigns.com. 

Handmade crowns to beautiful, handmade jewelry creations. Flowers, feathers, mermaid, Native American, Dia de los Meurtos, even unicorn horns! She does custom work, too…just beware custom work takes time (since every piece is handmade) and so does shipping. Unique gifts for that person who has everything! Super affordable, too! 

Von’s Pick – I love the unicorn horns and matching tails because what little girl wouldn’t want to be a unicorn for Christmas?!? The peacock feathers and swords in exotic colors really set them apart. I also love the beautiful mermaid crowns, because y’all know I’m a mermaid by day! 

MY LIP STUFF

Mylipstuff.com

The most AMAZING lip balms you can get your pucker on! 700+ flavors, earth and animal friendly, custom flavors and labels, all made with love and the perfect amount of shine and “glide” to give you a perfect pout. Don’t forget to check out the other products as well, because the Healing Body Butter stick is a miracle in a tube. You will never use Neosporin again. 

Von’s pick – Pink Cake and Nighttime are my favorite balms, but the Healing Body Butter stick is something I never leave home without! It’s healed everything from minor cuts and scrapes, to deep wounds and even bruises, faster than any product I’ve ever used. 

PERFECTLY POSH

Thepamperedmom.po.sh

Perfectly Posh is a relatively new skin care venture but one I’m glad was made. Vegan and paraben free, they’ve got you covered from head to toe – literally. Amazing scents and only the finest in essential oils and ingredients, it’s a difference you can see and feel. Best part? Everything in their huge catalog is under $25! 

Von’s Pick – Moisturize 911

If you stuff one stocking with PP this season, stuff it with this amazing crème, full of brightening, toning and complexion perfecting ingredients to make your holidays truly glow. If you do order, and want to “treat” your hostess with the mostess (I get points) you can use my link here:

https://www.perfectlyposh.com/p/?pref=5181648

PINK ZEBRA

The most amazing wax warmers and scents to fill your home with holiday cheer. Forget those little cubes! Pink Zebra uses what they call “sprinkles”, which make for easy mixing and matching scents and you control how much scent you want! I’ve also not had any problems with this product doing what those little cubes did; melting plastic combs that are designed to withstand 500° temperatures, simply by placing a new cube on top of them and forgetting over night. They will work in any standard/electric wax warmer, but at PZ prices, check out some of the super cute ones they offer. Plus, they offer “soaks”, to make your own car air fresheners, scented toys, etc.! Have a warmer under the tree and a jar of sprinkles in the stocking! Or, make it a semi-handmade gift by creating uniquely scented car fresheners for friends and family (subtle hint to the teen who leaves half a pizza in his car until it’s unrecognizable or a sachet for Aunt Mary’s quilt closet). 

Von’s Pick – Pumpkin Amber is my go-to scent whenever I need a little pick-me-up! Less PSL, a touch more warmth from the amber and a splash of citrus make this scent relaxing and refreshing. Store bought pie? No problem! The Warm Apple Pie scent will have family and friends fooled in no time! 

POPPEDIFY

The. Best. Gourmet popcorn, second to none! Hand popped, in small batches, one bag to 100! And, sooooo many delicious flavors to choose from! Just the perfect amount of light, crispy, crunchy, “candy” coating (like kettle korn), this would be perfect in a Christmas Eve box, as a stocking stuffer or for co-worker gifts and holiday parties. Make sure you order extra because it goes fast and you’re definitely going to want your own! 

Von’s Pick – The Pumpkin Spice is decadent, but I adore mixing the Cherry and Cinnamon together (it’s like Cherry Sours and Cinnamon Bears candy, both which I love). Even not being an eggnog person, their Eggnog popcorn is divine! 

TWISTED SEAS

https://poshmark.com/closet/twisted

Beautiful and eclectic jewelry and handmade creations. Think classic pieces like cameos, meets Steampunk, Gothic and more. Every piece is handmade with amazing attention to detail and custom orders are accepted. Contact them directly to see if they can help create your ideal piece, as well as for pricing and times to create and ship. 

Von’s Pick – I love the twisted classics, like the gothic cameos (mentioned above). I also like quite a bit of Steampunk fashion, and these aren’t the same Steampunk you can find all over the net. Delicate, feminine and classy; it doesn’t scream “Steampunk”, rather just “unique”.  

THE MITER BOX

http://www.themiterbox.org/

Beautiful wooden creations, by a husband and wife team, many with Celtic knot work or more Renaissance themes. The shop is online only and as mentioned, custom work takes time. Please contact them directly (not us at GF), to ask how long an order make take. They are an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, if memory serves) household – so if you have any SCA fans/members on your list, I’m sure they’d treasure a gift from one SCA household, to theirs! 

Von’s Pick – Reagan (the wife part of this duo) has been a friend of mine for many years. Some of the beautiful, exotic woods she uses – in naturally rich, gemstone colors – are my favorite to see! She works with a deep plum one called “Purple Heart”, and I’ve been hinting to my husband that I can never have too many jewelry boxes! 

CATA VINOS

http://www.catavinoswines.com/

If you’re in, around or passing through Tucson, Cata Vinos is a wine lovers dream, tucked away off the street and hidden so well, if you blink, you’ll miss it. Most every wine is under $15 a bottle and they do offer tastings with palette cleansers (snacks), as well as wine by the glass or bottle and cater to special events. They often have a food truck onsite for special tastings and offer tapas style, small plates of meats, cheeses and olives for an additional fee, during tasting. Indoor and outdoor seating, a nice way to unwind after a long day of work or shopping, and maybe even find a gift for the wine lover on your list, while you’re there. 

Von’s Pick – Craig and I have never had a bad wine here, however the one we adore (and celebrated with for our local wedding reception when we returned from California), is a sparkling moscato and the name has completely escaped me. Owner, Yvonne, always remembers, so if you tell her Craig and Evonne, the two blondes sent you, that would likely tip her off! 

ELISA’S SOUL KISSES

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Elisasoulkisses

Handmade metaphysical tools, gems, oils, jewelry and more. Some very unusual finds, she also does auctions and flash sales on Facebook. 

Von’s Pick – The Hitman Protection Oil is the best! Infused with stone chips and herbs to help add a layer of protection against negativity and attacks, both psychic and physical, the clean, lightly citrusy scent is relaxing, refreshing and I wear it often for its anti-negativity benefits. Especially when out in public. The scent alone makes it perfect for anyone who likes a light, springy, slightly floral perfume oil. 

VIBES UP

http://shop.vibesup.com/

Products produced with ground crystals and other healing elements; range from bracelets to nail polish to their famous Earth Energy Mats, and are said to do everything from ease back pain to keep drinks colder, longer, based on this technology. They have a ton of products to chose from, so there’s bound to be something for everyone on your list! 

Von’s Pick – Not going to lie. I have quite the wish list here for Santa! But, after trying a very small piece of one of their original mats, I’d strongly suggest these! I’ve had a lot of migraines lately (tis the season, right?) and I can place one of these small pieces on my head, where the headache seems to center, and within minutes it’s gone or near gone. Make sure you read about the technology itself and some of the over 100 ways loyal fans suggest using it! 
Some of these businesses may look familiar from last year’s list – simply because they are so extraordinary! Some, have craftspeople who were on last year’s list, but have elected to showcase different talents. Some, are entirely new!  We strongly encourage you to support these and all small businesses, the community and the artisans behind this work – whether it be the little Ma&Pa diner who always makes your favorite dish just right or the amazing talents who sew, craft, create and astound everyone with their work! 

As mentioned, please let us know if you know a small business who needs some holiday love and we’ll check it out for the reposts. Yes, shopping small may cost a bit more, but you’re helping someone like you buy their kids gifts and put food on their table, as opposed to supporting some faceless CEO getting his/her 5th vacation home. 

  • Other ideas:
  • Visit a flea mall/antique mall/ garage sales/swap meet or check out one online for your area. Also consider “gently used” games/CDs/movies/books from a local small business that deals in such (Zia, Hansen’s, Bookmans). 
  • Offer to “trade” services with friends and family, instead of buying a gift (i.e., as a hairdresser, say coworkers all exchange services – I give the nail tech a hair cut and style, (s)he gives me a pedicure). Or, I offer my tattoo artist a cut and color in exchange for a small tattoo. 
  • If you’re giving a pet as a gift (always make sure the animal is wanted and the recipient able to care for the animal), adopt and don’t shop. Shelters need that donation, especially this time of year!  
  • Host company holiday parties at small restaurants/bars as opposed to big, multimillion dollar hotels and resorts. Smaller spaces encourage mingling and if the establishment doesn’t provide food, find a local caterer to do so! 
  • Shop farmers markets for in season ingredients for holiday meals. Or, ingredients like fresh honey for DIY gifts. 
  • Check out local vineyards, breweries and distilleries for the booze lover in your list. 
  • Here, we have what’s called the 4th Ave Street Fair, before the holidays. It’s in the artsy area of town and while it used to be far more local vendors, it still encourages shopping from smaller businesses – both those set up for the event and those who line the streets year ’round. Look for events like that by checking social media and local circulars and newspapers. 
  • Think charitable donations in lieu of traditional gifts. But! Wait for it! GF will be doing a blog soon on some legit ones and the etiquette behind gifting charity instead of goods. 

Think twice this holiday season! And shop small! 

Shop Small to Make a BIG Difference!

Each year, GF likes to encourage others to “shop small”, and support small businesses who are often struggling to stay afloat with so many bigger, often cheaper, options available. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016 is “Shop Small Saturday,” an annual, nationwide event, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, that encourages others to seek out small businesses to support who are also likely trying to provide an amazing holiday experience for their families! Not only are you helping contribute to your community (or theirs, as the case may be, since several of our shop small businesses on this list are online only or perhaps out of state from you), but you can find unique treasures for nearly anyone on your list – even the person who “has it all”. 

If you’re out and about, you can look for this symbol (or similar) to denote a small business. Go in and give them a “looksee”! Never know what hidden gem you may find! A lot of restaurants and bars will also display this symbol, so stop for a bite there instead of a fast food chain.


This list will be re-shared on GF’s Facebook and other social media, throughout the holiday season. It may grow, as we stumble upon more fabulous places, worthy of note, and simply because without the support of consumers, local and small artisans, shops, business owners, etc., may not have the support (financial and otherwise) to continue providing amazing, custom and creative visions for the rest of us to enjoy. 
Also know as “Small Business Saturday”, you can read more about it here. We strongly encourage you to shop small, as much as you can this holiday season – whether it be on Shop Small Saturday or not (let’s face it – some of us just aren’t quite ready for it to be Christmas yet) – and throughout the year! Here’s some of our favorite small businesses, to get you started! Please do share this list, feel free to contact us if you know a small business that deserves to be on the list and we also strongly encourage small businesses to patronize other small businesses, and allow that spirit to cycle! 

Please remember: 

  1. As noted, several times, custom work takes time. If you’re so much as remotely interested in a custom piece from any of these vendors, please contact them directly, ASAP, for more information, including creation time and shipping. Don’t discount a custom piece if it simply can’t be done before your holiday of choice! Wrap a picture/handwritten note/card or accessory (say, a pretty pair of earrings to go in the custom jewelry box you ordered) and explain the situation. When your custom piece does arrive, it allows the season of giving, to continue! 
  2. Check back as we repost the list (it won’t be a full blog, so make sure you follow us on FB and Instagram) to refresh your memory and see any potential new additions. 
  3. This was a success last year and we heard from several fans and business that they found the perfect gift/designed or shipped orders, as a result of GF’s list! How exciting! However, please remember the spirit of this season is kindness. If something isn’t for you, or anyone on your list, simply move on. Different folks means different strokes – negativity towards an artisan or their craft(s) is not well tolerated here. 
  4. Most of these businesses have FB pages too! Give them a like to stay updated on new creations and special events they may be hosting or participating in!!!

RAINBOW GODDESS DESIGNS

rainbowgoddessdesigns.com. 

Handmade crowns to beautiful, handmade jewelry creations. Flowers, feathers, mermaid, Native American, Dia de los Meurtos, even unicorn horns! She does custom work, too…just beware custom work takes time (since every piece is handmade) and so does shipping. Unique gifts for that person who has everything! Super affordable, too! 

Von’s Pick – I love the unicorn horns and matching tails because what little girl wouldn’t want to be a unicorn for Christmas?!? The peacock feathers and swords in exotic colors really set them apart. I also love the beautiful mermaid crowns, because y’all know I’m a mermaid by day! 

MY LIP STUFF

Mylipstuff.com

The most AMAZING lip balms you can get your pucker on! 700+ flavors, earth and animal friendly, custom flavors and labels, all made with love and the perfect amount of shine and “glide” to give you a perfect pout. Don’t forget to check out the other products as well, because the Healing Body Butter stick is a miracle in a tube. You will never use Neosporin again. 

Von’s pick – Pink Cake and Nighttime are my favorite balms, but the Healing Body Butter stick is something I never leave home without! It’s healed everything from minor cuts and scrapes, to deep wounds and even bruises, faster than any product I’ve ever used. 

PERFECTLY POSH

Thepamperedmom.po.sh

Perfectly Posh is a relatively new skin care venture but one I’m glad was made. Vegan and paraben free, they’ve got you covered from head to toe – literally. Amazing scents and only the finest in essential oils and ingredients, it’s a difference you can see and feel. Best part? Everything in their huge catalog is under $25! 

Von’s Pick – Moisturize 911

If you stuff one stocking with PP this season, stuff it with this amazing crème, full of brightening, toning and complexion perfecting ingredients to make your holidays truly glow. If you do order, and want to “treat” your hostess with the mostess (I get points) you can use my link here:

https://www.perfectlyposh.com/p/?pref=5181648

PINK ZEBRA

The most amazing wax warmers and scents to fill your home with holiday cheer. Forget those little cubes! Pink Zebra uses what they call “sprinkles”, which make for easy mixing and matching scents and you control how much scent you want! I’ve also not had any problems with this product doing what those little cubes did; melting plastic combs that are designed to withstand 500° temperatures, simply by placing a new cube on top of them and forgetting over night. They will work in any standard/electric wax warmer, but at PZ prices, check out some of the super cute ones they offer. Plus, they offer “soaks”, to make your own car air fresheners, scented toys, etc.! Have a warmer under the tree and a jar of sprinkles in the stocking! Or, make it a semi-handmade gift by creating uniquely scented car fresheners for friends and family (subtle hint to the teen who leaves half a pizza in his car until it’s unrecognizable or a sachet for Aunt Mary’s quilt closet). 

Von’s Pick – Pumpkin Amber is my go-to scent whenever I need a little pick-me-up! Less PSL, a touch more warmth from the amber and a splash of citrus make this scent relaxing and refreshing. Store bought pie? No problem! The Warm Apple Pie scent will have family and friends fooled in no time! 

POPPEDIFY

The. Best. Gourmet popcorn, second to none! Hand popped, in small batches, one bag to 100! And, sooooo many delicious flavors to choose from! Just the perfect amount of light, crispy, crunchy, “candy” coating (like kettle korn), this would be perfect in a Christmas Eve box, as a stocking stuffer or for co-worker gifts and holiday parties. Make sure you order extra because it goes fast and you’re definitely going to want your own! 

Von’s Pick – The Pumpkin Spice is decadent, but I adore mixing the Cherry and Cinnamon together (it’s like Cherry Sours and Cinnamon Bears candy, both which I love). Even not being an eggnog person, their Eggnog popcorn is divine! 

TWISTED SEAS

https://poshmark.com/closet/twisted

Beautiful and eclectic jewelry and handmade creations. Think classic pieces like cameos, meets Steampunk, Gothic and more. Every piece is handmade with amazing attention to detail and custom orders are accepted. Contact them directly to see if they can help create your ideal piece, as well as for pricing and times to create and ship. 

Von’s Pick – I love the twisted classics, like the gothic cameos (mentioned above). I also like quite a bit of Steampunk fashion, and these aren’t the same Steampunk you can find all over the net. Delicate, feminine and classy; it doesn’t scream “Steampunk”, rather just “unique”.  

THE MITER BOX

http://www.themiterbox.org/

Beautiful wooden creations, by a husband and wife team, many with Celtic knot work or more Renaissance themes. The shop is online only and as mentioned, custom work takes time. Please contact them directly (not us at GF), to ask how long an order may take. They are an SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism, if memory serves) household – so if you have any SCA fans/members on your list, I’m sure they’d treasure a gift from one SCA household, to theirs! 

Von’s Pick – Reagan (the wife part of this duo) has been a friend of mine for many years. Some of the beautiful, exotic woods she uses – in naturally rich, gemstone colors – are my favorite to see! She works with a deep plum one called “Purple Heart”, and I’ve been hinting to my husband that I can never have too many jewelry boxes! 

CATA VINOS

http://www.catavinoswines.com/

If you’re in, around or passing through Tucson, Cata Vinos is a wine lovers dream, tucked away off the street and hidden so well, if you blink, you’ll miss it. Most every wine is under $15 a bottle and they do offer tastings with palette cleansers (snacks), as well as wine by the glass or bottle and cater to special events. They often have a food truck onsite for special tastings and offer tapas style, small plates of meats, cheeses and olives for an additional fee, during tasting. Indoor and outdoor seating, a nice way to unwind after a long day of work or shopping, and maybe even find a gift for the wine lover on your list, while you’re there. 

Von’s Pick – Craig and I have never had a bad wine here, however the one we adore (and celebrated with for our local wedding reception when we returned from California), is a sparkling moscato and the name has completely escaped me. Owner, Yvonne, always remembers, so if you tell her Craig and Evonne, the two blondes sent you, that would likely tip her off! 

ELISA’S SOUL KISSES

https://www.etsy.com/shop/Elisasoulkisses

Handmade metaphysical tools, gems, oils, jewelry and more. Some very unusual finds, she also does auctions and flash sales on Facebook. 

Von’s Pick – The Hitman Protection Oil is the best! Infused with stone chips and herbs to help add a layer of protection against negativity and attacks, both psychic and physical, the clean, lightly citrusy scent is relaxing, refreshing and I wear it often for its anti-negativity benefits. Especially when out in public. The scent alone makes it perfect for anyone who likes a light, springy, slightly floral perfume oil. 

VIBES UP

http://shop.vibesup.com/

Products produced with ground crystals and other healing elements; range from bracelets to nail polish to their famous Earth Energy Mats, and are said to do everything from ease back pain to keep drinks colder, longer, based on this technology. They have a ton of products to chose from, so there’s bound to be something for everyone on your list! 

Von’s Pick – Not going to lie. I have quite the wish list here for Santa! But, after trying a very small piece of one of their original mats, I’d strongly suggest these! I’ve had a lot of migraines lately (tis the season, right?) and I can place one of these small pieces on my head, where the headache seems to center, and within minutes it’s gone or near gone. Make sure you read about the technology itself and some of the over 100 ways loyal fans suggest using it! 
Some of these businesses may look familiar from last year’s list – simply because they are so extraordinary! Some, have craftspeople who were on last year’s list, but have elected to showcase different talents. Some, are entirely new!  We strongly encourage you to support these and all small businesses, the community and the artisans behind this work – whether it be the little Ma&Pa diner who always makes your favorite dish just right or the amazing talents who sew, craft, create and astound everyone with their work! 

As mentioned, please let us know if you know a small business who needs some holiday love and we’ll check it out for the reposts. Yes, shopping small may cost a bit more, but you’re helping someone like you buy their kids gifts and put food on their table, as opposed to supporting some faceless CEO getting his/her 5th vacation home. 

  • Other ideas:
  • Visit a flea mall/antique mall/ garage sales/swap meet or check out one online for your area. Also consider “gently used” games/CDs/movies/books from a local small business that deals in such (Zia, Hansen’s, Bookmans). 
  • Offer to “trade” services with friends and family, instead of buying a gift (i.e., as a hairdresser, say coworkers all exchange services – I give the nail tech a hair cut and style, (s)he gives me a pedicure). Or, I offer my tattoo artist a cut and color in exchange for a small tattoo. 
  • If you’re giving a pet as a gift (always make sure the animal is wanted and the recipient able to care for the animal), adopt and don’t shop. Shelters need that donation, especially this time of year!  
  • Host company holiday parties at small restaurants/bars as opposed to big, multimillion dollar hotels and resorts. Smaller spaces encourage mingling and if the establishment doesn’t provide food, find a local caterer to do so! 
  • Shop farmers markets for in season ingredients for holiday meals. Or, ingredients like fresh honey for DIY gifts. 
  • Check out local vineyards, breweries and distilleries for the booze lover in your list. 
  • Here, we have what’s called the 4th Ave Street Fair, before the holidays. It’s in the artsy area of town and while it used to be far more local vendors, it still encourages shopping from smaller businesses – both those set up for the event and those who line the streets year ’round. Look for events like that by checking social media and local circulars and newspapers. 
  • Think charitable donations in lieu of traditional gifts. But! Wait for it! GF will be doing a blog soon on some legit ones and the etiquette behind gifting charity instead of goods. 

Think twice this holiday season! And shop small! 

Don’t Fall Victim to This Horror Story This Halloween (or ever)!

~~~*WARNING – this story includes graphic photos and images some may find disturbing or a trigger*~~~

Tis the season for scary stories, however, this isn’t the type most people have in mind when they imagine sitting around a bonfire with a flashlight and some s’mores. While it is graphic, it does contain a very important message, that’s often overlooked. 

Yes, this happened to me. Yes, the photos are 100% real and un-retouched. 

If you’ve followed GF for awhile, you may know that I have quite a few chronic health issues. My husband and I also have a great deal of stress in our lives, both as a result of our health problems, as well as other, more personal issues. I do my best to keep GF an upbeat, lighthearted, fun place, full of the beauty this world has to offer, instead of focusing on the negative. Last week though, I had two scares, if you will, that I feel compelled to share since they are both things we (as a society) often take for granted. 

Well, one thing really, but two different incidents. 

The people we trust with our health. Namely, doctors and pharmacists

Craig and I see our PC (Primary Care Physican) monthly, because we both take narcotic class painkillers (oxycodone), which in AZ is a controlled substance and therefore we have to have a new prescription each month as opposed to automatic refills. 

We also use three different pharmacies, between us. Our main pharmacy doesn’t keep enough oxycodone on hand to fill our monthly prescriptions, nor do they keep enough Valium (which I’m on). So, he uses “X” pharmacy for his oxy and I use “Y” pharmacy for my oxy and Valium, due to which takes who’s insurance, and we use “Z” pharmacy for everything else. 

There’s the backstory. 

Now…last week (Monday, the 26), we went in to our PC for our regularly scheduled, monthly prescription refill. Also, I was put on two more medications; one of which I have used in the past and one which I had not. We dropped them off at pharmacy “Z” to be filled, but being backed up, waited until the next day (Tuesday) to pick them up. At that time, my hubby dropped off my other scripts to pharmacy “Y”, to be filled and ready Wednesday. 

I got into a lengthy phone conversation that night with my friend and neighbor, after I had taken this new pill. After about four hours I said, “yanno what? Just come over! My ear’s going numb!”. Craig was doing some work for his son and being exhausted, decided to crash at his house for the night, instead of making the long drive, late at night, when he’s tired and has to be up early. He does this often so it didn’t bother me – besides, I was enjoying a “girl’s night” gossip and giggle fest with my friend (who, coincidentally, shares almost identical medical problems). 

One minute we’re laying back, relaxing…I’m showing her some reflexology points on her feet to help reduce pressure in other areas, when suddenly I look up and it’s not my neighbor anymore. It’s a little, old, Asian man (think George Takei in about 20 years). The room was spinning. Words didn’t make sense. I’m asking her who she is and she even sounded like an older Asian gentleman. My vision is blurry. My heart feels like it’s about to pound through my chest. 

I’ve never done acid or ‘shrooms or any kind of hallucinogenic drugs before, but what I imagine the equivalent of a “bad trip” to be. 

The last thing I remember with any clarity at all, was reaching over and grabbing a knife I keep in the end table for protection and thrusting it into my outer thigh. 

Look to the right-hand side of my thigh, above the knee. This was about an hour after the inital stab and the bleeding had subsided.

Blood was, needless to say, everywhere. My friend, bless her, stayed with me until I “came down” and my husband could get to me, I stopped hallucinating, applied pressure to stop the bleeding, tended the wound and bandaged it. She was covered head-to-toe in my blood (which, I do remember reassuring her I didn’t have any blood-borne pathogens like HIV or Hepatitis), and being a true friend, which is hard to find these days, she didn’t care. She cared about taking care of me. I also remember trying to stand and my itty bitty, 5’4″, 100# wet, neighbor caught my 5’9″, 150# ass. 

First cleaning. Salt and alcohol. Old school. My friend told my husband while she was on the phone with him, waiting for him to get home, “I’m a tough bitch”! No way! She’s the tough one, not bailing and staying cool when most people would have freaked.

I’d love to tell you more – including why on earth I decided to shove and eight inch, serrated butcher knife about 3″ into my leg – but, I can’t. I have no clue what possessed me to do so. 

The knife. As she was on the phone with Craig, she grabbed the medical information pamphlet that came with the new prescription. I was suffering from all six of the top, stop, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to the ER side effects.

My husband naturally, was upset and furious. He called our PC who said I was “obviously beyond medication and needed to be in a psych ward and he’s not a psychologist”. I might add, he didn’t even have the balls to come to the phone himself, rather had his RNA deliver that information. 

Not satisfied with that answer, he called the pharmacist at pharmacy “Z”, where it was filled. He knows us well and within two seconds found the problem and apologized profusely for not catching it himself, since he filled it. 

The new medication and one I’ve been on for about a year don’t play nice together. Apparently, I was lucky I only suffered what I did, since this combo could have lowered my BP too far, too fast had I chosen to go to sleep (which, I was planning to do until I got into the epic phone marathon with my neighbor) and stopped my heart. This combination is apparently a huge NO, and being my only prescribing physician for the last year and a half, my PC should have caught that. He showed no remorse or responsibility for what could have very realistically left my husband planning a funeral, and showed absolutely no concern for “squeezing me in” to clean, check and stitch the wound that resulted from his fuck up. 

Cleaning and changing the dressing yesterday. Thankfully it was a “clean” wound. The bruising extends 2-3″ around the wound and the pain from groin to ass, knee to hip.

Naturally, having hit nerve and muscle, and being in a great deal of pain, my husband picked up my prescriptions from pharmacy “Y”. They’re notorious for changing the manufacturer on my Valium every couple months, but later that evening as I reached in to grab one before bed, lights off, watching a movie and keeping my leg elevated, I kept gravitating towards a pill that was significantly larger and smoother in texture than the others in the bottle. 

I reach over and turn on the light to see what the fuck is going on, and apparently I must have been the 500th customer at pharmacy “Y” last month, because they threw in a “freebie”…which, ironically was in the same class of drugs as the one that damn near killed me (I looked up the number online to find out exactly what it was). It wasn’t the exact same drug, but like hell if I’m taking any chances! 

One thing in this photo does not look like the others. I’d never even heard of this pill before, nontheless taken it.

Here’s the thing folks – doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacists – their job is to help us. Part of why they take what’s called the Hippocratic Oath, which is a vow to do no harm. Yes, mistakes happen. But, they seem to be happening more and more often; not to mention with more severe consequences. 

Why did I share all this with you? Because it never occurred to me to question my doctor about whether or not there may be an interaction with any of my other drugs. I assumed being the only one seeing me for 1.5 years and the only prescribing physician I have as of present, he either knew my scripts well enough or would have at least glanced at my chart to refresh his memory. Doctors are busy. They see tons of patients every day. I get it. 

This nonchalant behavior from the medical community is unacceptable. Our lives are very literally in their hands, and when they chose to ignore that fact, is when they need to look into a new profession. 

I urge you. Please double check with all of those who provide medical assistance to you and your loved ones – especially when changing a medication, adding or stopping a medication or changing doseage of a medication – and/or if you notice any new symptoms/side effects, plan to take OTC (Over The Counter) or herbal/dietary supplements, or your medications don’t seem to be working as effectively anymore – ASK. 

Asking your doctor is probably your best bet (not in my case, but I’m going to consider it extreme), however, pharmacists are also a fountain of knowledge. Don’t be afraid to look up drugs you may be taking or planning to take online and have a list of questions to ask your doctor or pharmacist if necessary and always read the information that comes with your prescriptions. Every time you fill it, in fact, since information often changes and your pharmacist may forget to mention it or be unaware. 

Please feel free to share this story! It could save a life! While I’m currently very, very sore and my entire right quadricep hates me, my husband destroyed the pills in question, according to pharmacy “Z”‘s instructions and seeing as how it does not seem to be improving and pain is waking me every 3-3.5 hours (when my painkillers wear off), I am planning a trip to UC (Urgent Care) in the next day or so to see if they can do anything to at least ease the discomfort (numb it and give it a good scrubbing, maybe a muscle relaxer or anti-inflammatory to coincide with my oxy) because they at least check my medications every time  I go in. I am also in the process of finding a new PC, as I no longer trust or respect the one I currently have and I will keep y’all updated. 

Again! Share! It could save a life! 

Have Some Holiday Fun

I just recently stumbled upon a fun, interactive site that allows you to put your photo into a variety of “backgrounds”.
Forget the office supply store, dancing elf holiday cards – these are unique and fun!
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How to Make a Bad-Ass Breakfast (or Brunch)

I’m not a breakfast person. Never have been. But, every once in awhile, (usually at about 3:00 A.M.), I get a wicked craving for foods that made the first meal of the day, famous.
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