March 20, 2015

I Take My Handbags Seriously

Filed under: Photography,Style,Technology — Emily Reeves @ 10:30 pm

I don’t think I am alone in my search for the perfect travel bag. For the last 15 years, I have traveled for work and have purchased countless bags to hold my personal essentials plus work needs (laptop, cords, notebook, pens, etc.). And I have never been satisfied. I have tried two bags — one for personal, one for business — the right combination of bags can work, but the wrong combination can be disastrous. Putting everything in one bag was too heavy and the bag typically looked bigger than me (I decided if anyone commented on the large size of my bag, it was decidedly too big for me). Then, different types of travel require different needs from bags: business meetings, day trips, conferences, foreign travel, etc. Through all my purchases, travels, trials, sore shoulders, aching back and foul moods, I can confidently say I am an expert on purses and business bags for women’s travel. I know a little bit about a lot of things, but I know a lot about handbags.

I can look at a bag and tell you if it will be comfortable on your shoulder for a long period of time – rolled vachetta leather is beautiful, but that stitched seam is going to dig into your shoulder eventually. If it will fit underneath an airline seat comfortably — too structured and it won’t slide under, too loose and everything slides around inside. If it will hold a 13″ laptop and all of your personal essentials without having to unpack the entire purse to get to one thing — getting it in can be a work of art, getting it out gracefully is quite another. If it is stylish and feminine. There are a ton of bags that are great for travel, but they are ugly. There are a ton of bags that are stylish, feminine and functional, but they are terrible for travel. It is surprisingly hard to find one that works for both. Many have tried. All have failed.

At this point, you might think I am leading up to revealing my perfect bag. But sadly, that is not the case. I have yet to find my “perfect for everything” bag. Instead, I have found a series of bags that have dedicated use cases. The perfect travel handbag, however, remains elusive.

The biggest challenge in my search for the perfect travel bag is self-inflicted, of course. I take an “always be prepared” approach to life. Which means that I carry a lot with me on a daily basis, and especially when I travel. Through the years, I have managed to cull the items I carry, and technology and innovation have helped as items have gotten smaller, lighter and have multiple functions now.

I am traveling back from Austin, TX as I write this post, so travel bags are top-of-mind. My carry-on bags surround me as I sit in the airport and they are most definitely less than ideal. I am carrying a slim Tumi black nylon backpack for my computer, notebook and purse essentials (this one isn’t exactly what I have, but close). For work travel when I need a separate bag for my computer, I am a big fan of this backpack. But it does not hold a lot.

The second bag I am carrying-on is a bag inside a bag. This is because the bag I chose as my second carry-on could not hold everything I needed, but I wanted it along as my conference bag (and I love it — the Kelly Moore Saratoga — more on it below). So, I put it inside a large canvas Landsend boat tote (and yes, my name is embroidered on it), then threw all the other miscellaneous items in on top. As much as I love the Landsend boat totes, they are not good for airline travel (in my opinion) and I would normally never have carried it this way. But I was desperate, tired from packing for a seven-day trip and it worked.

My requirements for the perfect travel handbag:

  • Big enough to hold a 13″ computer.
  • Structured enough so that things stay approximately where they are placed in the bag.
  • Internal pockets for easy access to phone and keys. And big enough to hold an iPhone 6+ securely.
  • Comfortable straps to wear over my shoulder like a tote. Optional cross-body strap that can really be used as a cross-body strap – strong, slightly padded, long and adjustable.
  • Zip top.
  • Lightweight, but durable.

Things my travel bag must be big enough to hold:

  • 13″ computer and charger
  • iPhone 6+ and charger
  • Wallet
  • Reusable glass water bottle
  • Notebook and pen
  • Snack (granola bar or small bag of nuts)
  • Sunglasses in hard case
  • Glasses in hard case
  • Make-up bag with: pocket-sized Kleenex pack, chapstick, lipstick x3, small powder compact, hand lotion, small pill box, small brush.
  • Kindle e-reader
  • Keys (3 sets: car, house, office)
  • Headphones
  • Mints
  • Koozie
  • Scarf
  • DSLR camera, sometimes
  • Tech accessories, anything from an iPhone tripod, to phone camera lenses, etc.

I will save myself the embarrassment of showing all the bags I have purchased and tried over the years. There are too many and entirely too much money has been spent on these bags. But for the right bag, I would pay more than a reasonable person should. I want a bag that works and get compliments. Is that too much to ask?

One purchase that accompanied me to SXSW and one that really feel good about is the Kelly Moore Saratoga camera bag in grey. I recently made a serious upgrade to my camera game and bought my first DSLR. I was looking for a bag to carry it in that wasn’t an ugly man-ish camera bag. Kelly Moore makes wonderfully designed, feminine and multi-functional camera bags. I love the Saratoga because it looks like a purse, and can actually be used as a purse when you remove the camera padding. The straps are cushioned and comfortable. It has a padded cross-body strap as a carry option. And when I learned that the company is based out of Ruston, Louisiana, I was sold (I am from Shreveport, LA so it felt like I was supporting my hometown because it is close-ish to Ruston!). While the bag wasn’t big enough to hold all my travel essentials, it was the perfect size for a day bag.

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I really can’t say enough good things about the Kelly Moore bags and website. They show pictures of the bags from every angle, being carried different ways by different models, with stuff in them and empty. It is an online bag-buyers dream site. I am seriously considering the Kelly Moore Ponder in black as my next purchase in hopes that it can be my ultimate travel bag.

March 13, 2015

Saying Goodbye to Betty

Filed under: Personal — Emily Reeves @ 9:33 pm

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In 2001, I had just moved to Little Rock from Fayetteville and was finally in an apartment that would allow me to have a dog. And I couldn’t wait. Despite the fact that I was starting a new job, learning a new town, planning a wedding and in general trying to become a grown up, I purchased the most adorable black Labrador Retriever puppy. At 12-weeks old, she was 20-pounds. I didn’t know any better, but Betty was going to be a big dog. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway: I was in love at first site. Betty rode home in my lap that day, the last day I functioned on a full night of sleep for many, many months to come.

Betty did not take well to kennel training. Nothing I did worked. When I took her out of the kennel to sleep with me, her curiosity consistently got the better of her and she explored. Which meant I became a very light sleeper in an effort to not owe money for damages on my apartment (it was already a given that I was not going to be getting my deposit back). I was the walking dead for months, but I didn’t care. I loved that dog.

My fiance at the time (and eventually my first husband), gave me an ultimatum at one point: the dog or him. I had only had Betty for a couple of months by then. The thought of abandoning her so quickly brought me to tears. He gave in eventually. But we were divorced five years later and I still had Betty

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Betty has been my constant companion for the last 14 years. Through broken hearts, my mom’s illness and death, my brother’s death, a new marriage, the addition of a step-daughter to the family, and just the general ups and downs of life, Betty always lifted my spirits. And when I needed extra comfort, I was known to curl up in her bed and sleep with her. At 100-pounds full grown, Betty was too big to jump up on my bed.

We would go on walks, but Betty especially loved Pinnacle Mountain. When she could no longer make it up the mountain, we would take the path around its base. Then it became too difficult to get in and out of the car. It was around this time that I adopted Blanche, a yellow lab mix, to be Betty’s backyard companion.

As it turned out, Betty and Blanche just tolerated each other. Betty can best be described as passive and gentle and kind; Blanche as aggressive and dominant (though very sweet and a definite love sponge). But I think they each liked having the company and they did play occasionally.

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Betty always had a lot to say, barking a lot. A lot. And she had a special way of getting her whole body rubbed by walking between my legs, and the legs of any and all visitors. She would throw herself against me for attention, not realizing how big she really was and sometimes knocking me off balance. I became a master of a dog-avoidance-dance to get out of the house in the mornings without getting my work clothes covered in dog dirt. But I didn’t mind.

She has been gradually greying and slowing down over the last couple of years. But she had a happy spirit, was always hungry and wagged her tail in greeting. Then the last couple of months, she has barely been able to walk, started having accidents regularly in the house and didn’t move a lot. She was still eating and would gobble a treat just as quickly as she did when she was a puppy. The vet said that she had a heart issue, but she could be made comfortable for a few more months.

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This week I realized it was time to say goodbye to Betty. On Thursday morning, March 12, I took Betty on her last vet visit with uncontrollable tears rolling down my face. She was just shy of her 14th birthday (March 17th). Betty was my first dog, my longtime companion and a good friend. I was devastated to say goodbye.

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January 2, 2015

My Favorite Books of 2014

Filed under: Book Review,Girl Gets Geeky,Personal — Emily Reeves @ 2:28 pm

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I read 61 books in 2014. For comparison, in 2013 I read 90 books and in 2012 I read 60 books. But it seems that the books I read in 2014 were longer than books I have read in the past years; the graph below represents number of pages read each year:

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Though I didn’t beat last year or come close to my goal of 120 books, 61 books in a year is a respectable number. I didn’t make great choices in my books this year, so finding the standouts was fairly easy. For some reason, I read too many dystopian future books (seven of the 61 were set in the future). Here are my favorites in each of three categories:

Top Business Books

  1. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmul
  2. Show Your Work by Austin Kleon
  3. Show and Tell by Dan Roam
  4. It’s Complicated by danah boyd

Top Other Non-Fiction Books

  1. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  2. Five Days At Memorial by Sheri Fink

Top Fiction Books

  1. The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
  2. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  3. The Vacationers by Emma Staub
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. The Children Act by Ian McEwan

November 18, 2014

My Special Talent: Writing Thank You Notes

Filed under: Personal — Emily Reeves @ 12:01 pm
Stationery from Minted.

Stationery from Minted.

I’ve been told I write a good thank you note. I take pride in the thank you notes that I write. I make them personal and heartfelt. I try to write them in the three days following a the event that deserves a thank you (I don’t always make that deadline, but I try).  I think my secret is that I don’t write a thank you note just to check it off my to-do list and seem polite. I write thank you notes to show appreciation for that person in my life.

Here are my tips for writing a great thank you note:

  • Nice stationery. It doesn’t have to be customized for you, but it should not be on notebook paper. Find something that is meant to be used a mailable note card.
  • Good pen. It could be a fountain pen or a gel ink pen or even a fine tip Sharpie. But avoid pencil, ball points and fat markers.
  • A writing space. Sitting down at a table or desk gives your writing purpose and makes it seem more formal in tone (it is a psychological thing).
  • Readable handwriting. Handwriting is the important thing here. Please don’t type your thank you notes. If you have bad handwriting, simply slow down as you write to help make it more legible.
  • Personal touch. Share a piece of your life and/or acknowledge a piece of his or her life. Go beyond the “thank you for the gift” and show appreciation for the person.

My other special talent: folding my tongue into three parts.

Taken at the Made by Few conference in 2013.

Taken at the Made by Few conference in 2013.

November 17, 2014

“Life Is Short. Enjoy The Butter.”

Filed under: Personal,Personal Branding — Emily Reeves @ 11:23 am
My Waffle House waffle at breakfast on Sunday.

My Waffle House waffle at breakfast on Sunday.

Consider it trademarked, I am adding it to my life mottos (currently consisting of only “Always Be Prepared”): “Life is short. Enjoy the butter.”

I love butter. When I was growing up, my parents used to ask me if I wanted bread with my butter since I considered the bread just a vehicle for the butter. As an adult, I know that I shouldn’t slather my food with delicious, real, creamy butter. But I do it anyway. Because I love butter.

There are many unhealthy and fatty foods that I have cut from my diet, and there are many things I can cut from my diet and be okay with (I just haven’t yet, because wine and cheese dip are awesome). But I will never give up butter. I have had a lot of happiness and sadness in my life. I don’t live in fear of death, but I recognize death can happen at any moment, having lost both my mom and my brother. Life can be short. We shouldn’t waste days arguing, being mad, worried about the small stuff or missing butter.

November 16, 2014

Wedding Vows

Filed under: Married Life,Personal — Emily Reeves @ 12:16 pm

The wedding reception was fun, but the ceremony was the most special part. It will be one of the memories I hold dear in my heart forever.

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Matthew and I decided to write our own wedding vows. The hard part wasn’t the writing of the vows. We knew exactly how we felt about each other and we were each able to articulate those feelings. The hard part was saying them, in front of an audience while crying because we were so emotional. But that made the moment just that much more special.

With this marriage, I became a mother: Matthew has a seven-year old daughter. Throughout our engagement, I came to understand that it was not just Matthew and me getting married; Sophie and I were getting married, too. So we made Sophie an integral part of the ceremony, made vows to her and even gave a tiny version of my engagement ring. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room by the time we said “I do.”

My Vows to Matthew

Matthew, you have been my best friend, playmate, sounding board, cheerleader and confidant. But most importantly, you are the love of my life and you make me happier than I could ever imagine. And most the people here can attest to that.

You know me better than anyone else in this world and somehow still you manage to love me. I feel so lucky to be standing with you here right now.

Matthew, today and always I take you to be my best friend, my faithful partner, and my one true love.

I promise to be your partner in parenthood,
Your comrade in adventure,
Your student and your teacher,
Your accomplice in mischief,
And forever member in our own two-person book club.

I promise to be supportive and to always make our family’s love and happiness my priority. I will dream with you, celebrate with you and walk beside you through whatever our lives may bring. Even if that means the three of us sharing one bathroom.

I see these vows as privileges: I get to laugh with you and cry with you; care for you and share with you. I get to run with you and walk with you; build with you and live with you.

In sickness and in health: I promise to take care of you, even when you’ve over indulged the night before. For richer or for poorer: I promise not to spend all our money on shoes. For better or worse: I promise to always find your “lost” wallet, keys, sunglasses, shoes…

I promise to love and to cherish, from this day forward until death do us part.

My Vows to Sophie

To Sophie, I want you to know that I dearly love your father. As you have so graciously shared this wonderful man with me, so will I share the love I feel for him with you. Together, we will learn much more about each other.

I promise also to be fair and to be honest, to be available for you as I am for your dad, and to earn your love, respect and true friendship. I will not attempt to replace anyone, but to make a place in your hearts that is for me alone. I will be mother and friend, and I will cherish my life with both of you. On this day when I marry your dad, I marry you, and I promise to love and support you as my own. And I promise to indulge your sweet-tooth as often as I indulge mine.

Photo by: Whitney Bower

Photo by: Whitney Bower

 

November 15, 2014

Wedding Reflections

Filed under: Married Life,Personal — Emily Reeves @ 12:08 pm
Photo by: Whitney Bower

Photo by: Whitney Bower

It has been six weeks since our wedding. I have had time to relax, reflect and review all the photos. Through my eyes, every detail was perfect. I know that not everything was truly perfect, but I did not notice.

What I Wish I Had Done

  • Started planning earlier. I thought the wedding would be simple. I didn’t want a lot of pomp and circumstance; I wanted a casual and fun atmosphere. I achieved the atmosphere, but it turns out that no wedding is simple. I wish I had accepted this as fact earlier and started working on the details sooner.
  • Taken the vendor recommendations. The people I hired are the best at what they do. I loved them all and would hire them again in a second. For the most part, I took their advice for the way things should be executed. My photographer said a sparkler departure makes for great pictures; we did that and she was right! The floral designer thought of all the things that I would have never thought: boutonnieres, a small bouquet for Matthew’s daughter, backdrops for the ceremony and a beautiful petal runner to walk and stand on for the ceremony. One recommendation I didn’t take was from the restaurant. They recommended waitstaff-passed food on small trays. Instead, I wanted the food on buffet tables. The food was hand-prepared and delightful, but the buffet tables were pretty much noticeably empty throughout the entire reception. They knew what would be best for their chef and their venue. I should have listened.
  • Put a tiny bit of structure into the day-of plans. I wanted the day to be relaxing and free-form. And it was both of those things. But it seemed that I had nothing to do and everyone else was busy doing their own thing. So the day started out a bit lonely. Activity and visitors picked up in the afternoon and I had a great time with out-of-town friends who hung out in pajamas with me all day. But specific events — in-room manicure/pedicure, organized snacks and beverages, formal invitations — would have made the day a little easier without overbooking myself.
  • Gotten a few posed pictures with my friends. The photography is wonderful. There are great candid shots of dancing, posed shots with family, shots that capture the emotion of the ceremony and shots that capture the absolute joy we had at the reception. I didn’t have bridesmaids, but I consider all my girlfriends that were there to have been honorary bridesmaids and wish that I had gotten some organized photos with all of them.
  • Hired a day-of assistant/coordinator. I didn’t hire a wedding planner, but I wish that I had hired someone whose job it was to see to the details of the day. Family members were tied up and were not able to help as much as they thought they would. Same thing for friends. Each vendor partner was on their own to manage what they needed to do without knowing exactly how it fit in to the big picture. A point person in charge for the evening (and to make sure I didn’t forget any of the traditions!) would have been fantastic.

What I Am So Glad I Did

  • Hired vendors I liked. The temptation to do everything “on the cheap” was definitely present. But doing that may have meant that I hired a team that I didn’t LOVE and just settled with due to budget. My budget was still limited, but I was able to work with a team that I really admired and make some compromises on budget. They didn’t feel as distant as the word “vendor” implies; I felt like they were my partners and team for this event.
  • Finished my “checklist” on Thursday. Starting on Friday, I did not have anything left on my to-do list. I was just enjoying the days and moments and showing up where I needed to, when I needed to. As a result, I didn’t get frustrated or stressed. I officially decided not to worry about any of the details and to just say “it is what it is” at that point forward. And I smiled all day and into the night.
  • Booked a hotel room for the weekend. Matthew and I were already living together before the wedding and we got married in town. It would have been less expensive to get ready at home and stay at home. But it made the weekend more relaxing and special to be away from the chaos of the house where it would be easy to get distracted by home-stuff.
  • Let loose and danced. I am a terrible dancer. I know this. And I have always kept myself from dancing around others for fear of embarrassment (plenty of home dance parties though!). But I wanted to dance at my wedding. The one day when not only would I be dancing around others, but I would likely be the center of attention. So I did. I danced a lot. I know I looked silly and I got sweaty, but I had so much fun.

Photography: Whitney Bower
Flowers: Dale Wallace, About Vase
Venue: South on Main
Cake: Lindsey Ingram
Cupcakes: Cupcakes on Kavanaugh
DJ: Mike Poe

October 29, 2014

My Secret Recipe

Filed under: In the Kitchen,Married Life — Emily Reeves @ 7:56 am
#platedpics Asian Duck Tacos

#platedpics Asian Duck Tacos

I have always enjoyed cooking, but never did much of it. Cooking for one hardly seemed worth the effort or the leftovers. Finding recipes that were varied without having to buy the entire grocery store to make them, food going bad, too many leftovers — the list goes on for reasons not to cook. The bottom line: cooking wasn’t important to me.*

There must be some “nesting” chemical that was released in my brain after I said “I do” almost a month ago. Seemingly suddenly, I had a desire to have a home-cooked meal on the table each night. I’ve made lasagna, baked a turkey, made turkey gumbo. We have also made Asian Duck Tacos, Beef Moussaka, Curried Redfish Roti, Brown Butter Chicken with Apple Celery Root Slaw and Redfish with Harissa. On the menu for later this week: Turkey Sausage with Squash and Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari.

#platedpics

#platedpics  Curried Redfish Roti

Yes, we have made all of those complicated-sounding dishes on weeknights at our house. I think I have found the perfect solution to meal preparation that addresses all the issues that have kept me from cooking in the past: Plated.

I fell victim to Plated after seeing it as a “suggested page” in my Facebook feed many times over. It looked promising: complete meals for two with all the ingredients pre-measured and ready to cook. Two plates worth for $24. Going to the grocery store to buy ingredients to make a meal for two comes in close to that amount. I pick the dishes from a menu, a box arrives at my door (on either Wednesday or Saturday for my zip code),  and I order two meals at a time. I am addicted. The recipes are easy to follow. The food is good. And my friends are jealous of my dinner photos and have even asked “where are you?” as if I had ordered from a restaurant. So at least two nights a week for the last three weeks, we have been eating Plated meals. We are now planning our meals around Plated deliveries and our schedule each week. Planned home-cooked meals may not last forever — we are still newlyweds, after all — but Plated will continue to be a delivery if I am in charge of meals.

*It should be noted that my husband is a fantastic cook and has been cooking for me; I have not been eating fast food every night. 

#platedpics

#platedpics Brown Butter Chicken with Apple Celery Root Slaw