Referral Friday

Referral Friday: The Secret City

I confess: I have broken my self-imposed hiatus a couple of times since I self-imposed it this past December.

Once, for a good friend and client. Because, hey, that's what you do for a good friend and client.

The second time, most recently, for a friend I practically bullied into accepting a free session, I so believe in his work: Mr. Chris Wells, performer extraordinaire, heart big as all outdoors, and creator of The Big Artist workshop, which I attended last month and raved about here. Chris prepped his big-as-all-outdoors heart out beforehand, but the truth is he already had a mighty clear vision of where he wanted to take this puppy, and I mostly helped facilitate around the edges.

Chris has an equally clear vision for (of?) where he wants to take The Secret City, his celebrated NYC-for-now-based performance/celebration/art-church, which recently won an Obie Award for being so fucking fantastic. (Okay. It won strictly for being fantastic, but I am lost without my celebratory expletives.) And right now, he's doing him some serious biggifying, as my friend Havi would say, raising $15,000 in 45 days via Kickstarter to take The Secret City to the next level: a bigger space; non-profit status; world domination by art. You get the idea.

You can pledge $25 and get a song on your voicemail. Pledge more and get art. T-shirts. Secret City board member Roseanne Cash serenading you in private. (You have to pledge a lot more for that one.) Or be a mini-titan with your name in the program and a personalized thank-you note for just a buck.

A patron of the arts! For a buck!

Either way, have a wonderful weekend filled with joy and art of your choice.

(But come on, a buck!)


Referral Friday: Bart's Books

bart's books open-air used bookstore in Ojai, CA

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Roughly 15 years ago, when I first moved to L.A., I read a story in the L.A. Times Travel section about a little town tucked in a magical valley about two hours from town. (Okay, 90 minutes: traffic was better in 1995.)

I was looking for day trips back then, ways to escape the relentlessly suburban landscape I had yet to appreciate, without breaking the dwindling bank that was sustaining us. The article mentioned places to eat (fine) and hike (uh, no) and even spa, if you were so inclined, but what drew my attention, and ultimately me, to Ojai, again and again, was mention of a little open-air used bookseller named Bart's Books.

I think I spent two hours and $75 I could ill afford there that day. I've spent many times more since, but now I'm savvy to the very drill the author mentioned in the piece: save up your books, bring to Bart's for credit, come away with more books.

There are indoor rooms with finer books, but without question, what makes Bart's Bart's (and makes me want to buy it and live there one day) is the sprawling outdoor area. The books do get dusty, and in places, a bit moldy: there ain't much precipitation here in SoCal, but we're generally ill-prepared for what we do get.

No matter. The books are impossible to find and a delight to look for; mustiness just adds to the experience. I'll confess to a slight dip in my interest level with a changing of owners a while back, but I have all kinds of problems with change, so let's just say it's me. Truth be told, there have been some nice, if subtle improvements over the past two years, chief among them how many more of my books seem to get accepted for trade-in. (Or hey, maybe I'm just reading a better class of book!)

If you're doing a tool up or down the California coast, consider making a small detour inland to walk the magical streets of Ojai: maybe get a bite, maybe do some shopping, maybe even get yourself a little hot spa action.

But if you do turn off to Ojai, you must stop by Bart's. All books are more enjoyable for being browsed under sunny blue skies...


Image by communicatrix via Flickr. You may reuse under this Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Groupon

vinyl banner with homer simpson holding donut and words "woo hoo"

I am mad for deals, especially when they converge with my guilty desire for self-indulgence and my weird attraction for making a game of whatever I can.

Groupon, a daily deal for some various local goody, neatly satisfies all three needs in one digital swoop. After signing up for your city's deals at the main website, you receive a daily email with a deal which you can buy into for a specified window of time, 24 hours, usually. The trick is that the deal gets "unlocked" (i.e., available for purchase) only after the number of people willing to commit to purchase reaches some predetermined critical mass. (Here's more about the "why" behind it and the inspiration for it, The Point, on Groupon's "about" page.)

Not every deal will appeal to everyone; then again, how much money and time does any one person have? It seems like I've got less of both with each passing day. But I've scored some sweet deals for taking a small risk, not only delighted with the savings, but happy to have been introduced to some terrific new resource I might not otherwise have found out about (which is pretty much the incentive for offering door-buster deals as far as the vendors go).

One word of warning: if you're a hoarder-of-happy like I am, beware, those expiration dates creep up more quickly than you'd guess. In the last week, I've gotten a haircut, my car detailed, and $20 worth of expensive takeout. Thank the heavens the relaxation types at the place I still have a massage coming to me get that some of us are foot-draggers (especially when the feet in question have a plantar wart we'd just as soon eliminate before humiliating ourselves in front of a total stranger...)


Available Groupon cities as of this writing:

(All of those city links? Also SHILL-FREE.)

Image by Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. Especially good story and comments thread on this one, too.

Referral Friday: 11:11

Referral Friday is part of an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week.* For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

the communicatrix logo on an 11:11 vinyl bizcard holder

Well, it happened again, South By Southwest is just around the corner, and once again, I'm going to be scrambling to get my new cards done in time.

Honestly, though, I only care about the cards because I'm so screamingly, trippingly excited to whip out my brand, spankin' new, super-foxy card holders from 11:11.

Who to the what now?

Don't worry if you haven't heard of them yet. You will. Jamila Tazewell & Patrick Ladro, the wife-and-husband co-owners of 11:11, makers of the world's cutest ready- and custom-made vinyl hold-y products, will be well-known soon enough. Oprah-known, if I (and you, only you don't know it yet) have any say in it.

The weird backstory

Patrick and Jamila found me in the most normal of modern ways: via Chris Guillebeau, when he announced his L.A. visit (which I helped pull together, as I am a crazy-mad fangirl of young Mr. Guillebeau). Only...he remembered me from somewhere else, like acting. Because he used to act in commercials, like I did, so he used to read my L.A. Casting column, and, well, you get the picture.

Speaking of pictures

This is where Jamila comes in. She's been designing these adorable business-card holders and checkbook holders and other groovy holder-type things for awhile. A-dorable. And since we all have all this stuff in common, and they like my stuff, as a kind of thank-you Jamila makes me a custom business-card holder and Patrick sends it to me. And I go NUTS for this thing because it's everything I want in something like that: cute, small, light and plastered all over with my picture.

So I say, "Hey! We need to make this a Referral Friday feature and get the word of this out there: can you give my readers a deal?"

And Patrick is like, "Hey! Righteous!" And even offers to send me a bunch more, so I can show them off at SXSW and totally make all the other cool kids jealous. HA. Take THAT, cool kids!

Anyway. Here's the deal.

Fabulous deal for readers of communicatrix-dot-com only! Go to the 11:11 shop on Amazon and...

BONUS-EXTRA! I have it on good authority that if you buy two or more items with this code, 11:11 will throw in a random cardholder as a free gift. Rock the hell on, mighty soldiers!

Make sure to enter this promotion code at checkout: COMX9999

(Look, Ma! My own special checkout code!)

Offer good on orders placed from today, Friday, February 26th - Tuesday, March 2nd, and only on orders from the Amazon store. If you want custom items, well, you'll have to take it up with Jamila and Patrick yourself. And no discounts. That I know of, anyway.

This is my first special communicatrix offer and I am so excited to offer it. Don't be a jerk, order a bunch. Make me look good. For yourself! For your friends! Because how cute are these as gifts, right? You're gonna get one free if you buy two!

Full disclosure: the kids have thrown me a few of these for free, because that's how they roll. But I'm'a order me a jet-plane passport holder and a Siamese kitty checkbook cover anyway, full boat (minus discount!). Because that's how I roll, mothatruckas!


Full set of photos available to view at Flickr.

*And so you know, the SECOND ANNUAL Make-a-Referral Week kicks off on Monday. Hop to it for the info, and get on board the get-this-goddamn-economy-moving-for-the-little-guy train!

Referral Friday: Shatterboxx Media

cupcakes, one of which has edible code fondant

If you're reading this via email or RSS, you probably won't notice, but maybe, just maybe, you'll want to click on through to the other side today.

Because finally, as of today (or a little bit of yesterday that barely counts), I've managed to wrest this poor little blog from the ganky clutches of Frankenstein code I've cobbled together from various WordPress themes over the years, and into nice, clean Thesis.

Or rather, Jamie Varon and her team at Shatterboxx Media have.

Are you here yet, on the site? (Go on, do it! I'll wait!) Okay, even if you won't right now, at some point, you're going to need to visit the site for something, back issues of the newsletter archives** or to find that recipe for Strawberry-Chicken-Walnut Salad* you've been dreaming about for years but finally are going to make this spring, for reals. And when you do, that site's pages will load and reload and load again like a, well, I was going to make a luge joke, but it's really too soon, even if it is a dreadful sport I never saw the point of.***

That's because Thesis has been optimized within an inch of its life, or at least, a helluva lot better than Colleen's Third Grade Stabs at Fixing CSS Code (which is an insult to nine-year-olds everywhere, I know). I laughed, laughed, I tell you!, at the idea that cleaning things up could positively affect page load; I figured the biggest benefit would be that I could now go in and fiddle under the hood and actually change things, instead of that code just staring back at me in that mysterious, impenetrable way. But no, ZIPPITY-DOO-DAH, the pages, they are loading! Which means all sorts of other nerdy bits of goodness, like Google's bots having an easier time of indexing my pages and (we can only hope)  much lower "bounce rates" born of frustration.

What is most important to you, the reader (and I hope, potential blogger/website owner) is knowing about Jamie. She is fast, she is good, she provides excellent value and, glory hallelujah!, she is patient. We talked back in June of last year, after which conversation I immediately plunked down a 50% deposit (when you know, you know), after which...nothing. Because of me and my busy, busy schedule, and my massive disorganization and plate-spinning and such. Jamie just calmly emailed me now and again to touch base, to see what was what, to see if I needed any help/nudging.

When I finally gave the go-ahead, we had an easy-breezy 1/2-hour conversation about what I wanted vs. what had to happen; 24 hours later (if that), I had a schedule and a plan. Bada-bing, bada-boom! All of life should work this easily.

One more note: I'm not an affiliate for many items, even multiple items for the same person. I became an affiliate for Thesis because after installing it on The Virgo Guide to Marketing, I fell in love with its ease of use. There's massive support for Thesis, and a big user community. If you're really terrified of doing anything yourself, there's a community of nice Thesis devs like Jamie and her partner and team who can help you with what you need for a reasonable fee. But really, it's a great way to get your feet wet with webby stuff, because it's so danged simple.

Brava, Shatterboxx! Bravo, Thesis!

Now, let's get back to work...


UPDATE 7/16/10: While for now, this site is still using the Thesis theme, I can no longer recommend Thesis due to concerns I have about the ethics surrounding its release.

I may write a longer post about this, but for now, I'll simply say that I'm very concerned about the hard line Chris Pearson is taking on the WordPress license issue, and very upset with myself for not doing due diligence when researching replacement themes for Grid Focus. I'd been meaning to take down my affiliate links anyway (more on that, soon, too, in the form of a policy) so I've gone ahead and done that, but I'm really hoping that Chris will do the right thing and release Thesis under the GPL, the license that WordPress itself is released under, and which all iterations are supposed to carry.

I still recommend Jamie Varon if you have your heart set on a Thesis customization.

*Yeah, sorry, I know I didn't link to the actual post, but ain't it great how FAST the site loads!?

**Uh...what I said above.

***Unless Dreamhost is down, AGAIN, and nothing is loading, in which case all you'll get is a stupid "502 Error" page. Ugh.

Image by clevercupcakes via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Hotel Vertigo

hockney-esque photo collage of hotel vertigo, san francisco Once upon a time, I was a medium-big traveler.

I never did it as much as my friends Shane or Chris, and certainly not as much as my father (o, he of the fabled American AAirpass!), but for a goodly stretch of my life, say, 22 - 32, I got around, and when I got there, I parked it in hotels.

I am a big fan of hotel-staying over couch-surfing, even when the couch is a lovely guest room with private bath or a beautiful detached guest house all to oneself on Mt. Tamalpais. (Yes, really. Another lifetime, and of course, friends of my father's.) Unless my generous hosts are nowhere near the premises, I have problems with staying in someone else's space.* Real, serious, physical problems.** Travel is hard enough on non-hardy introverts; throw a lot of activities into the mix, even activities you really, really enjoy, like hanging out with beloved friends, and you have a recipe for fried circuits and an exhausted nervous system, especially when you're talking Virgos with Cancer rising.

What I am not a big fan of is overpaying for comfort. I'm down with comfort, but when it edges into what I call luxury, I get uncomfortable. I like parking my own car, hauling my own luggage, brewing my own espresso. If I had my way, I'd either rent houses or have my own everywhere I went (which is a lot of houses, probably even Oprah wouldn't want to do that.) And yeah, I know that makes me just as much of a Wussy McWusserton, first-world person of privilege as any fatcat who stays at the Four Seasons on expense account. I guess my style is more "do whatever you can to fly under the radar while still protecting your soft, chewy center." If there's a tag like that.

So what I do now when I travel, especially right now, when I'm feeling a little bit tender and I need to travel, is find a great place with the right kind of "luxury" that doesn't break the bank. This means such critical stuff as clean, safe, sleepy-bye bedding and (premium) cable, basically, somewhere that is at least as nice as my humble little rent-stabilized one-bedroom in an undisclosed area of Los Angeles. (Which, now that I think of it, is exactly what I've always wanted from a home-away-from-home, which is why some of those places seemed Saudi-prince-level-luxurious back when I lived with drafts and vermin in my Brooklyn shithole.)

Enter the Hotel Vertigo in just-a-little-too-beautiful-for-me San Francisco.

Named after the legendary Hitchcock classic, the Vertigo is one of a fambly of charming San Francisco hotels, each of which seem to be hipster-rehabbed properties which might have fallen on hard times. It's beautifully decorated, loads of hipster color combo orange-'n'-brown, furry scatter pillows, and Vertigo art, with wonderful attention to Colleen-crucial details: kickass bed/bedding, non-chintzy bathroom and bath accessories, adequate setup for on-the-road computing. The wise folk who run it are exceptionally blogger-savvy: like the Roger Smith in New York (a place you can bet your ass I'll check out next chance I get, and similarly tout if it's great), they go out of their way to accommodate nerds, and as a nerd, I say, It's about fucking time this got me something!***

But they're nice to everyone, or at least, they were as far as I could see. Can I tell you what a relief it is to find service that is great without being obsequious or otherwise creepy? Because it is. Like my recent world-changing experience with Virgin America, I now believe that there is some way to staff up with normal, nice, smart human beings, and then empower and treat said staff well enough that they continue to act like nice, normal, smart human beings whose job happens to be helping you deal with life on the road.

Because then, not only do your customers get their reservations sorted out by an actual friendly human when they stupidly screw up their flight plans; not only do they  get their airport transfers handled with something bordering on elegance; you get wild, crazy evangelists to go forth and do all your promoting for you for FREE. ZOMFG, the world may end, it's such a radical business plan!

In my perfect world, there would be a wonderful little hotel like the Vertigo in San Francisco, or the Camas Hotel in picturesque Camas, WA, or the Jupiter in Portland, OR (only maybe a little quieter, for us fogeys), in every town I ever stepped foot in as a traveler: affordable, enjoyable, accommodating, non-icky.

Maybe there is. But I won't know about them unless we all start telling each other. How about it, nerds? Give 'em up in the comments?

xxx c

*In case you're curious, I actually have a few outrageously generous and well-to-do friends who offer up their cush cribs to me while they're on the road, for which privilege I happily run out and buy them all manner of shit for their houses, from coffee machines to designer toilet brushes to wireless routers.

**There were times when The Chief Atheist or The Youngster and I stayed with his parents where I would not poop for a week. A WEEK. Thankfully, The BF was 100% fine with not staying on the family property; that he shared my convictions of "camping" meaning "staying at a motel without premium cable" was one of many reasons we lasted as long as we did.

***Seriously, they could not have been more delightful and accommodating at every turn

Image by karen.tkr via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Virgin America

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


I got a little carried away by my newfound love for Sir Richard Branson's winged brainchild.

On my second trip in as many weeks, I plugged in the laptop, plunked down $12.50 for some in-flight WiFi and did a little screencast plug for the greatest thing to happen to commercial aviation since the 747 Lounge. Roughly five minutes; if you can't see it on your screen, you can view it on the YouTube.


Update: Brad Nack's 100% Reindeer Art Show

several paintings of reindeer on a metal table

I took a quick trip up north and my friend Brad Nack took an equivalent trip down south and we met in the middle, at delicious Papa Lennon's in Meiner's Oaks, where I took possession of FOUR, count 'em, FOUR, of the 2009 reindeer he painted for his 100% Reindeer Art Show.

It was fascinating getting an up-close-and-personal tour of the paradox of choice. Which I now understand can be neatly summarized as the paralysis of choice. More is not necessarily better: more is more.

Of course, objectively, I think it's a good thing that there are lots and lots more reindeer out there for other people to adopt. Not only is each piece I saw uniquely wonderful, there's something equally wonderful about each one coming from this incredibly large and rich and diverse herd, if you will, of paintings. We are more than for being a part of, that kinda thing.

Anyway, you can see the four I'm coming home with here. And if you would like a reindeer in your family, you should visit Brad immediately. They are very affordable, and require far less maintenance than regular reindeer, or so I am told.

In the meantime, do more with less, steady on, and, as Gramps used to say, keep your pecker up!


Image by Colleen Wainwright via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Harry & David pears

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby! I've mostly given up on giving gifts for the holiday season.

Personally, I have everything I need, and most of what I want; the rest, I am being very careful to let into my life only after careful consideration. An intense bout of decluttering does nothing so well as point out how very much your stuff can own you if you stop paying attention.

I also am of the belief that while it's lovely to receive and give gifts, it's stressful for most people in the context of this season of high expectations. If you have kids, fine: you get a pass. The BF has gotten some lovely gifts for his kids, but even those are much more carefully chosen "big" gifts they've thought about for awhile: an iPod Touch (with an accompanying email address, which may be the biggest deal) and a "today my son, you are a man" gift to the World of Warcraft. (Ugh. But I liked enough weird stuff when I was their age that I can't really say anything.)

What I want most around the holidays, or any days, these days, come to think of it, is time: to think, to noodle, to dream and rest and frolic and plan, and to do it all as the spirit moves me, solo or in partnership.

But I also want pears.

Big, fat, juicy, golden-with-a-blush-of-pink pears, each wrapped in its own foil jacket, nestled in its own green-tissue-papered cubby, delivered to my door from magic trees in Medford, Oregon by fruit elves. Okay, the USPS, by way of Harry & David.

We have given these pears to each other in my family for, well, I forget. Long enough that it's unthinkable to give up the tradition. I may have skipped a year right after the Great Giver of Pears, my dad, passed on to that pear orchard in the sky, but it just ain't a holiday without those ungodly delicious, indescribably glorious, HEAVY pieces of What Heaven Must Taste Like.

Today (Friday, December 18) is the last day you can get free Christmas delivery on your Harry & David purchases. I suggest you jump on it while you can.

Ho ho ho.

And you're welcome.



Referral Friday: Flan King

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!

Welcome to Flan King!

I have been anticipating this day for years now.

Not because I can't get my own mitts on delicious Flan King flan any time I want to, because I can. I know the King; the King and I are like this.

No, I'm thrilled that the Flan King finally ships nationwide because now I can share the awesomeness that is Flan King flan with every one of my friends in these 50 United States. And by "share," I mean "tell you all so you can order it for yourselves." I am not made of money any more than I am the magic combination of ingredients that makes Flan King flan the most addictive of all desserts (and one of the few I will always go off the SCD for).

Special holiday shipping schedule for Flan King flan is here.

And remember the Communicatrix's unofficial slogan for Flan King: Even people who don't like flan will love Flan King.

Happy holidays!


Referral Friday: Indie music extravaganza, FOC-style

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


Sure, I dabble in music now and again, but I have friends who really know how to blow it out. So in honor of them, and to coincide with the holiday buying season, this week's Referral Friday is dedicated to those who are about to rock. And we do salute you!


If you watch TV, you've no doubt seen the comedy stylings of Miss Molly Bryant holding up the work of the sitcom stars or being used to promote this hotel chain or that household cleaning product. She's like a taller, prettier, more talented of me, and her Funny Friend or Character Mom wound up in a lot more commercials than mine. Molly is nice enough that it never bothered me; I cheered on her every effort and celebrated her every win. But when I finally saw her on stage, singing her crazy-touching comic songs in her beautiful alto voice, she made me want to spread her word far and wide. Buy Take It Easy, slap on some headphones, and sing along. There, now, that's better, ain't it?



People only familiar with Megan Mullally from her kooky (but brilliantly played) Karen on TV's Will & Grace are always stunned to hear her real voice; people who've only heard her speak are not only stunned to discover the colossal set of pipes Ms. Mullally was blessed with (and, let's be fair, nurtured well and long), but floored to discover the range of her musical tastes. I love all three of her three albums, but as of this writing, Free Again!, her latest, is the only one available for download on iTunes (you can also buy a physical copy via Amazon).



Matt North is one of those annoying quadruple-threats: great drummer, great dad, great actor (loved his turn on Curb Your Enthusiasm) and great writer (I took over his column on LA Casting a few years ago, lowering it to the status of hackey-McHackerson). He's also a fantastic music producer: if (no, WHEN) I finally have the money and time to put together an album, I want him at the helm. And your helm, for that matter. Want proof? Check out I Can't Die In L.A., the album he co-authored, performed on and entirely by his own self produced. Fantastic, original alt-country awesome you'll be singing along with after one listen like you've known them all your life.



There are not a lot of people writing and producing modern opera anymore. It's a wildly expensive endeavor and a royal pain-in-the-ass to mount (no, uh, pun intended). Mostly, though, to do it successfully requires a depth of training, breadth of learning and sense of humor that rarely co-exist in one individual. O-Lan Jones is one of those rare few, and boy, does she ever write and produce opera. The Woman Who Forgot Her Sweater is a modern-day fable that draws on all kinds of myths to tell a cautionary feminist tale that's ultimately about the necessity of following your heart's true calling. Oh, and there are these five kickass lions, too. Grrrowl.



I have always had a thing for a man who knows his way around a piano. Rob Kendt is such a guy, and he augments his mad skillz at the ivories with a fine sense of humor, a way with words and a melancholy vocal grace. There are all kinds of fun joys to be found on his debut CD, I'm Not Sentimental, from the Elvis Costello-esque title-track rocker to his swingin', lounge-y mashup of Britney Spears and the Beatles ("Oops I Did Bungalow Bill"). Produced (natch) by our mutual friend, Matt North.



Or hey, buy whatever media you want at the iTunes Music Store and drop a few holiday pennies into my pocket, too.

Happy listening!


Image by Ana Patrícia Almeida via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

(Full disclosure: all iTunes and Amazon links are affiliate ones that make me money. Not much, but still.)

Black (Referral) Friday: Shop yer ass off with the communicatrix

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


Just because I'm decluttering, doesn't mean I can't shop! I just (mostly) buy consumable goods, by which I mean shit that gets used up or used a lot.

I've collected a bunch of these favorite items for you, below; some have Amazon affiliate links, but at least as many are just awesome things from awesome people just like you. Because we're all going to get through this with joy and love in our hearts if it kills me.

Me? I don't want anything. Seriously, I'm good! But I will ask this: if you are shopping Amazon, I'd love it if you'd shop via my store (which has tons of great book ideas) or one of my links. For now, it helps keep me in the books I love reading and sharing, but I'm always open to the idea of more money flowing in (and back out!)

Don't forget there's also almost a full year of Referral Fridays to shop from (several of the items below were originally posted there), plus a slew of book reviews (via the shorty, catch-all, not-recently-updated page or the unwieldy tag.)

Thank you, and let's shop careful out there!


Food & beverages

The Best Dessert on Five Continents

The Flan King®'s official tagline is "Give your taste buds the royal TREATment!"®, but from the moment he vanquished my own skepticism back in 1997, my unofficial tagline for him has been "Even people who hate flan LOVE Flan King flan." There's a Flan King flan on every holiday table I set (or one that I crash, which makes me a much sought-after guest.) For now, the Flan King is L.A.-local only, but I have it on good authority that nationwide shipping will be available in, in time for this holiday season. Get your orders in now, is all I'm sayin'...

The poor(ish) man's perfect cup of coffee: a multi-step/present odyssey

Have you heard there's a little recession we're in these days? Yeah. Well, that's no reason you or your loved ones should drink crappy coffee. In fact, it's all the more reason to drink the good stuff--you just shouldn't pay a lot for it, if you can avoid it.

  • First, get a stovetop espresso maker (aka moka pot , 3-cup style, $19.95 on Amazon). It will do you fine, provided you use the right coffee, which is Caffe Umbria's Gusto Crema Blend, if you're going all out. If you're really on a budget, I recommend either Bay Blend or Organic Fair Trade Five-Country Espresso Blend, both from Trader Joe's.
  • Next, grind matters. Those little Krups jobbies are okay, but if you or your loved one is a big-time coffee person, I'd invest in a burr grinder. The BF bought the Solis Crema Maestro ($149 on Amazon) and, with some fiddling on the grind, we can now make coffee, not apologies.
  • Finally, you know about good water, right? (Please, tell me you know about good water.) At the very least, get yourself a Brita; we use Sears' countertop and under-counter single-stage filters, to deal with the chlorine (and rust balls from my rental apartment pipes).

Pears! Pears! Pears!

My dad sent us Harry & David pears for every occasion they were still in season. I laughed a little, but after he died, I found myself buying them myself--for myself, and for a very select few folks on my list. They ain't cheap, but they're insanely good. It was all I could do to keep from pulling off the I-5 at Medford to go lick the packing plant.

Adornments, Art and Arty Stuff

  • One of my earliest Referral Fridays was for Andrea Scher's Superhero Designs. I still say that barring my grandfather's speech team gold medal (which I wear on a gold choker), they're the prettiest necklaces around.
  • I discovered Dave Sheely's beautiful rings (Etsy shop, various prices, sizes & colors) after I began decluttering, but believe me: once I pare down my stuff, I'll start building up again with these. Breathtaking, and super-fashionista.
  • Hey! In case you weren't paying attention the first time I told ya, there are 2009 reindeer (various prices & cities, for now) making their way around the globe, courtesy of Brad Nack (full disclosure: Brad was a former client). One of them is going to end up in my home; if you're smart and lucky, one will end up in yours (or the home of someone you love).
  • I own two original Walt Taylor (aka Sparky Donatello, aka Crackskull Bob) drawings and love them so. Sparky/Walt has no originals for sale currently, but you can get a collection of his work via Lulu titled Downtown for the positively weird price of $29.82.
  • Good as they are, the photos up at 20x200 do not do justice to the art of Mr. Mike Monteiro. Take my word for it: kickass stuff. (There is also an array of genius tshirts ($20, mostly) at his Mule Design shop. Remember this one? Yowsa, and hot damn.
  • I am also mad for the beautiful, charming, witty and impeccably produced shirts (various prices) of my design hero, Mr. Chris Glass, available for purchase at Wire & Twine.

Needful things

  • New year calls for a new calendar, right? I give my highest snooty Virgo calendar snob recommendation to Nikki McClure's paper cut calendar, which I've used for several years now. Last year, I hit on the bright idea of buying three, that I might survey the quarter with ease; now everyone may enjoy the Nikki McClure 3-pack! ($40 for three, plus shipping) Or, you know, keep one and give the other two as gifts, like a normal person.
  • Oh, what I won't do when this accursed decluttering is over with and I've used up all my notebooks and can start buying Field Notes ($9.95 for 3, plus shipping) like the cool kids. And did you know there are subscriptions you can buy that get you various colored Field Notes throughout the year? Watch the video and use the coupon code on the page for $20 off through November 30. You lucky clutterer, you.
  • I've been lovin' up my Envirosax (3-pack, $37.90 on Amazon) since Oprah pimped them in her magazine some four...five years ago? They're nylon, which is not exactly earth-friendly, but they roll up small and pack light so you (or your loved ones) will always, always have one on you (or them), thereby passing on more of the plastic and paper. Good stuff.

Miscellaneous consumables to make you feel fancy

  • Yeah, yeah--I like those Red Currant jobbies, too. Unfortunately, I am not made of money. And fortunately, I live in sunny SoCal, where I can buy Farmers Market Candles ($10 + shipping) for ten bucks and haul them home myself. You, poor thing, will have to pay for shipping. It's worth it. TEN BUCKS. I should be getting a cut, dammit.
  • I have used Vitabath ($24.42 on Amazon) since I graduated from Mr. Bubble. Tried other bath & shower stuff, but come back every time, overscented tail between my legs. This stuff is the best. A little goes a long way, so it's not as expensive as it seems. Whoever you give it to will thank you forever.
  • I hate patchouli and stinky hippies. I race past that guy outside the P.O. selling the horrible head-shop stuff that brings back Proustian memories of one ill-fated, 100% high summer (and stinky hippies). But I love love LOVE every stick of incense I've burned from Shoyeido. My especial fave is "Diamond-Power" ($3.50 for 40 sticks) but really, hard to go wrong. Expensive for incense, but CHEAP for presents. I buy it by the case.
  • Okay: this one is NOT cheap. Still, Lollialife, while very expensive, makes one feel sexy (smells amazing) AND stealth (comes in teensy metal tubes). I can only vouch for the "Breathe" fragrance ($7 for 1 oz., yikes!); the others smell like grandma to me. But it's the bomb. If you're getting it as a gift, buy one for yourself or have it shipped it straight from the source, to reduce temptation.

For kids!

Aunts! Grandparents! Godparents! I didn't know this, so you might not, either, but Tessy is an adorable duck! And Tab is an equally adorable kangaroo! Together, they have all kinds of adventures which are then written up, colorfully illustrated and mailed out twice monthly to rabid fans in the 2 - 5-year-old set who apparently have no idea they are learning reading and math skills. Sure, you could fill the landfills with more crap, but how much better would it be for that little one in your life to get ACTUAL MAIL addressed to them twice monthly? A lot. The Tessy & Tab Reading Club ($48/year for 24 issues).

Image by kevin dooley via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Camas Hotel

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


When I was announcing to people in L.A. and environs that I was heading up to Portland, they'd invariably ask, "Why Portland?"

When I'd announce to people in Portland that for a big hunk of the time, I was actually going to be staying in Camas, they'd ask, "Why Camas?" Or sometimes, in the case of my car-free and/or bike-happy friends, "Where the hell is Camas?"

Camas is a tiny Washington town just across the Columbia River from Portland. It sprung up around an old mill that's still in operation, albeit with far fewer employees (that's automation for you) and a new name (ditto, conglomeration). It's got a mid-sized city to one side and another tiny town to the other, and a whole lot of natural beauty every damned place you look. It's also home to one of the most adorable small hotels it's been my pleasure to stay in for some time.

The 100-year old Camas Hotel had fallen from grace when its present owners, Karen and Tom Hall, fell in love with her beautiful bones and decided to restore the rest of her. They went above and beyond, by all counts, I got the lowdown from the wife of the town's retired GP, a 52-year resident of Camas who was treating her husband to a night in one of the Camas Hotel's beautifully appointed rooms in honor of his 80th, or was it 85th?, birthday.

Didn't get a chance to grill him on the history of the town or the hotel: he was out for his regular morning constitutional. (Note to self: time to reinstate the regular morning constitutional, and to add hills.) But everyone in the town whom I did speak to, and I spoke to pretty much everyone I ran into, as they're a friendly lot, concurred: the new and improved Camas Hotel is every bit of both. I can personally vouch for the meticulously rebuilt bathrooms with their period-style mosaics and HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP HOLY CRAP the beds! The beds. I slept the sleep of the dead every night, which was just what I needed to do for that week.

Once there, you're a walk away from the awesome in any direction. I got a fine, $45 haircut at a nearby salon, plenty of good work time in at the gorgeous new Camas Library (which recently won an award for being the finest in the state) and had delicious Chinese food from the shop around the corner. There were at least three spa-type places, for them of you what indulges, plus a high-end pizza joint, a wine bar, several other tasty-looking restaurants, scads of cute shops and an old-fashioned post office that still smells good. Oh, and the corner diner, with its floor to ceiling windows on two sides (and they is some high ceilings, boy howdy), makes a fine borscht. So you know.

The time I didn't spend in the above I spent at the world's greatest coffee shop, Piccolo Paradiso. I dropped staggering amounts of money there, considering I mostly just indulged in the phenomenal Americanos. Pam, the owner, fell madly in love with Italy some 16 trips back, and Italian excellence pervades the joint: delicious pastries and tasty-looking snacks, fine wines from Italy (natch) and of course, that old Italian stand-by, free wifi! I also picked up several bottles of well-curated, locally-produced wine to give as gifts; my hosts thus far have let me sample and, um, I'm planning one last swing by there to pick up some more on my way up to Seattle today.

Should you make a trip up to Camas just to see Camas? Your call. If you are a lover of hikes in nature (or Pendleton jackets, factory is one town away!), possibly. But if you're in Portland, or Portland-bound, or doing a Portland-to-Seattle tour, by all means treat yourself to a day and a night in town.

And tell Karen & Tom "hi!" from me...


Referral Friday: Put this on!

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


Back on traveling holiday, with the cable TV access* that entails, I'm reminded again of what a vast wasteland the world of commercially-produced "entertainment" truly is.

In stark contrast to this lies the brave, new world of consumer-generated entertainment: all of the wonderful things people make on their own, fueled by love or passion or some combination thereof. The stuff you see on YouTube and Vimeo, Flickr and Twitter, blogs and podcasts and pretty much any other digital outlet available these days.**

What's especially wonderful is watching the ancillary services and ideas popping up to support this space (you'll pardon the hackneyed bizspeak) as it matures. YouTube has added revenue sharing as one way to encourage budding content producers, of course, but what is really thrilling to me is stuff like Kickstarter, a site helping people raise funds for their projects via crowdsourcing.

Put This On!, a delightful new show devoted to the idea that it's time for men to get down with "dressing like grownups," is one of those projects. Created by (full disclosure) my friend, Adam Lisagor (of You Look Nice Today fame) and Jesse Thorn (America's Radio Sweetheartâ„¢ and star of PRI's The Sound of Young America), the show and companion blog detail the details of men's style that make it worth paying attention to. It's charming and interesting and informative, which is pretty much the ding-ding-ding trifecta of my own personal entertainment criteria.

The writer-producer-sartorialists successfully raised the money for their pilot episode through Kickstarter by offering various treats for differing levels of commitment. Now they're boldly moving forward and plotting their next six episodes, offering more goodies for the people who help them put this good stuff on the internets.

You can chip in anything from $3 to $1000 (and up, most certainly!), receiving anything from their hearty thanks to full producer credit for the entire season, plus an embroidered jumpsuit. I kicked in $200, enough to make myself realize I mean it, but just shy of a jumpsuit (that decluttering thing, or I'd be on it like white on rice).

Putting aside that they are both of them lovely and talented young gents, I'm supporting them in what is for me a financially significant way because I see it as my emphatic vote for the way I'd like things to be: excellent and fine, made with quality, attention and care by anyone who chooses to make them, not just folks with a golden ticket that gets them past the gates of Willy Wonka's Magic Network. And no, I'm not saying that everything you'll see via a major outlet is crap (although much of it is) and that there's no value in a vetting process by smart people. There is; this is just another flavor of that, and equally viable.

At least, as someone with a number of creative projects I'd eventually like to bring to a broader audience, I'd like to think so.

Folks! We're at the beginning of a bold and exciting, Wild-West kinda time. We can all help to make something beautiful together. Take a gander at the pilot Adam and Jesse made. If you like it, consider kicking in a few bucks. Or just enjoy the wonderful blog for now and pass along the word to a friend.

As Jesse said recently, the title is more appropriate than they perhaps knew when they came up with it: we really can put this on...


Photo © Dustin Roe of: (l to r) Jesse Thorn, Huell Howser (who LOVED the pilot!) and Adam Lisagor.

*Not to be confused with cable access TV, which is almost always entertaining in its own way.

**In no way do I mean to diminish the marvelousness that is actual, live creating, I single out digital because it can be enjoyed outside of one locus,

Referral Friday: Bowls of fire, buckets of ire

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


I'd dipped into the work and writing of artist John T. Unger years ago, when I first started blogging.

An inventive and talented artist with a generous spirit, Unger not only makes a good living by using the web, he shares his knowledge and experiences out loud on his blog for the benefit of other people on the same path. What's more, he does it with as much style, humor and care as he seems to put into his art; I'm a sucker for any fine artist who can also write his ass off.

He even cares about his ecological footprint! Unger's main art these days takes the form of these delightful firebowls, one of which is pictured above. Rather than create them from new materials, he works with salvaged materials from the scrap heap, and fashions them into usable works of art durable enough to last for generations. And he's doing all of these from the sticks in Michigan, helping to pump money back into the local economy. Making money and making art while he changes the world in his own small way? When I'm ready for a firebowl, count me in!

Unfortunately, he's currently enmeshed in the some of the weirdest, unpleasant-est litigation I've heard of in a while; "Kafka-esque" comes to mind. It's complex, as these things generally are, so I'll just quote what Unger himself wrote on his site:

My original art has been copied by a manufacturer who is now suing me in federal court to overturn my existing copyrights and continue making knockoffs. I have a strong case, a great lawyer and believe that if I can continue to defend myself, the case will be resolved in my favor. If I run out of funds before we reach trial, a default judgment would be issued against me and could put me out of business. I don't believe my opponent can win this case in court and I don't believe he really intends to try. I believe his goal is to use strong-arm litigation tactics to force me to keep spending money or risk losing my copyrights , not by true adjudication, but by default if he is able to outspend me.

Unger has already spent $50,000 of his own money to defend himself, but he'll need a lot more firepower (I know, I'm hilarious) if he's going to expose this weasel for the weasel he is.

To raise the necessary funds, he's selling his firebowls at a discount and also offering smaller pieces of specially created art for purchase on Kickstarter, the crowdsourcing fundraiser site.

As he says, he'd rather trade you art for your money, but he is accepting donations of any amount as well. I'm still downsizing, so I downsized myself out of a little cash for the cause.

Ultimately, in addition to having right prevail personally, and being able to continue to use his art to support his family, he's hoping to raise awareness about copyright issues on behalf of all artists. If for no other reason, I support him for that, although as someone who has gotten much value from the information he's shared, I'm only too happy to support him in some small way.

I hope you will, too, and that you'll pass along this message to your people as well.

Fight the power! With fire!

(Okay, really, no more bad jokes...)


Clearing my (psychic) clutter, Day 11: Cafe du Village, and the beauty of disposable goods as reward


I was hit by the blow of the decade last week: my beloved Café du Village, delicious, unpretentious and relatively reasonably-priced, indoor-outdoor French eatery on famed (and a wee too twee, but oh, well) Larchmont Boulevard, was getting the boot by the building's owners.

Or rather, they weren't exactly, but raising the rent 100% overnight makes staying put a difficult proposition for a small, family-owned eatery in the middle of the worst economic downturn we've enjoyed (ha!) since the Great Depression.

The good news? They've been given a three-month reprieve. That's three months to load up on the Monsieur Cobb, the curried chicken salad, or the yum-diddlee-yum Nicoise.

Three months of grilled chicken, ham & swiss or my own personal fave, Le Bandol (kinda like Frenchy gyros) on ciabbattina (sic), with a split side of yummy salad and skinny fries (are there any other kind?) on the side. (SCD-ers take note: Le Bandol is also delish served atop the salad alone; order double-meat like the fat, proud, American pig you are and thank me later).

You like breakfast? They do a nice breakfast! And a non-crowded dinner, with a special or two in addition to the regular menu. Personally, I'd get my coffee elsewhere, maybe Peet's, down the block, but coffee in general ain't the best in L.A. What can I say? We get the nice weather instead.

I plan to eat at Cafe du Village as often as humanly possible over the next few months, both to get my fix and perhaps generate some positive juju flowing their way, that they might be asked to stay a little bit longer. It is my fondest wish that if you are an Angeleno or just passing through, decluttering or not, you make Cafe du Village your destination for breakfast, lunch or dinner at least once in that three-month window as well. It is hard to find great places to eat clean (although I've been known to succumb to a fry or two in my weaker moments), and I'd like this one to stick around, or at least enjoy such a rollicking business that they're compelled to re-open in a new (and less twee, maybe?) location if they do get the boot.

Decluttering and all, I'm still considering the purchase of one of their ultra-cute tees, in solidarity with them. But reward enough for me will be Le Bandol on salad, double-meat, with a fruity-ass iced tea on the side.

Eminently delicious; 100% biodegradable.



Cafe du Village
139 N Larchmont Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90004
(323) 466-3996

(open until January; call first, just in case!)

Photo © flao via Flickr.

Clearing my (psychic) clutter, Day 4: Brooks Palmer, decluttering catalyst


If you had told me even a week ago that one night in the frighteningly-not-distant future I'd be standing in the showroom of an El Segundo boutique, letting a stand-up comic talk me into heaving photographs of my parents into the trash can, I'd have laughed in your face. As politely as I could, but seriously, family photos? I would no more throw away the blurriest, crappiest, surliest-faced of them than I would mark or cut up a book. Some things are sacred, if you grew up a middle-class child of the 1960s.

That's just what I did, though, along with about 400 attendant lbs. of psychic baggage. Brooks Palmer, former actor/retailer/what-have-you, current author and clutter-buster to the stars, has a way about him that removes the threat of...doom? Death? Plain old fear itself?

I'm not exactly sure, to tell you the truth. It's way too close to the actual event to have the proper kind of perspective on it. But I feel like I've had a gigantic cork pulled out of me and stuff has just started flowing again. I mean, I started this salute with the thought that, "oh, good, I'm doing this workshop; there will probably be some fodder there for the blog." Or, I knew I was going to a thing; I had no idea that this was going to be an Event.

For the similarly crippled by clutter who need help, here's the deal:

Brooks Palmer, who's been doing what he calls "clutter busting" for about 15 years professionally (and longer than that, just noodling around) is based in Chicago but travels extensively to work one-on-one with private clients in their homes and offices, and leading workshops for small groups. (Ours was especially small, at just seven messy ladies.) He's in Los Angeles four times per year for two weeks at a time, and usually does a Northern Cali stop on those trips; so far, he's done U.S. workshops exclusively, although after an interesting interview with the London stringer for Paris Match, he's setting up a workshop there soon, and open to visiting other nearby places on that trip.

He'll also work via the phone. I lucked out and got the in-person experience, but as someone who does 99.99% of my own consulting work over the phone (and has been coached, consulted and shrunk via the phone as well), I'm guessing it's pretty effective or he wouldn't offer it. Dude is the soul of integrity and kindness from what I've seen so far.

He also has a terrific book I'll do a full report on this Tuesday. If you're a highly motivated DIYer, and/or you've been on the decluttering warpath for a stretch, it might do you fine alone. But to me, the killer combo would be to do what I did: warm up with the book, then get a session or hit a workshop. You, too, will soon be hurling out dead plants and dead relatives like the freewheeling, unattached, pre-buddhic spirit you are meant to be!


P.S. His excellent clutter-busting blog has tons of great tips, insights and inspiring stories you can read for free. See if you recognize the, uh, "workshop participant" in this recap post. Not that you need to be a clairvoyant to read me like a book with attached Cliff's Notes.

Photo of Brooks Palmer & yours truly @ 2009 Dyana Valentine.

Referral Friday: Jen & Charlie's Work Party

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


Getting organized is hard. So is hewing to the right stuff and letting go of stuff-stuff. I know; I'm doing it, for the eleventy-billionth time.

And while I've read a lot of helpful books and blogs and even plain, old-fashioned articles on Actual Paper, the most effective kickstart I've had (outside of the crumbling of some relationship, which is always so delightfully galvanizing for me) has been the good, old-fashioned purging I did at a good, old-fashioned Work Party.

You did who in the what now?

Jen Hoffman has a little business called the Inspired Home Office, where she helps people create and maintain the spaces they need to get done what they need to. Charlie Gilkey is a self-described "systems guy" who helps people wrap their brains around what's getting in the way (literally and from a process standpoint) of them getting their Real Work done. You can see how this might work, but really, you have to experience it. Because honestly, I had my suspicions going into it that two and a half hours on a conference call was going to be weird at best and ungodly annoying at worst.

What happened in that two and a half (!!!) hours was a gentle moving towards clear, if that makes sense. We did a little talking, explaining where we were stuck and what we hoped to get out of the experience. They did a lot of listening, and a little reframing*. And then we played little games with our stuff. Right there and then, we did brief exercises that actually helped excavate our desks and floors and what-have-you from the piles of crapola that they'd been buried in, poor dears.

Because it was gentle and slow and fun, it was not scary and hateful and resistance-provoking. It's just a game, so you play! Only at the end of the game, you haven't just had fun, you've cleared your shit out and are all fired up about commencin' to work on their Real Purpose.

And in case you forget, that Real Purpose thing? That's why we're here at The Big Party, period...


Details for Jen & Charlie's Work Party:

  • Date: Monday, October 26, 2009
  • Time: ET: 2pm-4:30pm / CT: 1pm-3:30pm / MT: 12pm-2:30pm / PT: 11pm-1:30pm
  • Available space: Limited to 12 people
  • Last day to sign up: Wednesday, October 21, 2009
  • The price: $57

Photo by Mat Honan via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license. Pretty inspirational note on that photo at the Flickr page, worth a look!

*That's what most good coaches and consultants are, by the way, good reframers, who get you to see things differently and in a way that helps you move yourself toward action. Freebie, on the house. I love you, too.

Referral Friday: and Nikki McClure

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


Nowhere are my whack-job Virgo tendencies on better display, metaphorically and literally, as you can see by the photo, above, as they are in my picky picky picky set of criteria for a great, functional wall calendar.

  1. It must be stunning, because it is going to be displayed prominently on my wall.
  2. It must be simple, because it is going to be displayed on my wall all year. I use my digital calendar to write stuff down in; I want a wall calendar to show me the date, period.
  3. It must be compact, because it is going to be on my wall, which I like to use for other stuff besides two square feet of What's Going Down When.
  4. It must be easy to read from four feet away, because my eyes ain't gettin' any better.
  5. It must be matte, because glossy paper is for magazines and bad motivational posters.

I fiddaddled with all kinds of calendars over the many, many years I've used them, but once I discovered Nikki McClure's, I stopped looking.

Her woodcut papercut* illustrations are both stunning and simple, wearing well over the year and years after. I've saved most of my Nikki McClure calendars from previous years because they're too beautiful to pitch or even recycle.** The sentiments are thoughtful, not cloying, the design is perfection and the paper is delicious. I could eat that paper.

Toward the end of last year, it struck me that, just like having the previous and upcoming years printed alongside the current in one's checkbook in equal weights, you know, back when we still used checkbooks, it might be useful to have such a set-up on the wall, so I could at a glance see what's going down, what's coming up, and, if necessary, grab a day/date from the previous month. Production people scope out a few months at a time on those heinous but useful dry-erase calendars; wouldn't the same thing be nice if it was, you know, nice?

A year later, I can happily say that it is. I no longer have to fire up my electronic calendar while I'm pacing around with the phone, or jump to a different program when I just need a quick date. It helps when I'm writing thank you notes, it helps when I'm writing in my notebook (I date the pages of stuff I'm working on), it helps when trying to get a basic handle on where I am in time and space (this will sound crazy to more organized people, but may make sense to ungrounded, arty-farty visual types who are perpetually in danger of floating off into the stratosphere if they become unmoored.)

So a couple of months ago, I wrote to the fine folk at BuyOlympia, showed 'em my rig, and asked if they could perhaps offer a specially priced three-pack for other OCD types. They talked to Nikki, everyone agreed, et voila! Here it be.

As they point out in the item description, a perfectly fine use of the three-pack would be to keep one and gift two friends with the other copies. Let's turn the world onto these wonderful calendars, and keep Nikki in linoleum blocks and carving tools until she drops! Or, if you're not into Colleen's Overzealous Ordering of Time in One Place, you could have a calendar for key rooms in your house. I swear, just like a clock, it's nice to be in eyeshot of a calendar.

Especially one that is essentially art masquerading as a useful item. Because as we all know, when in doubt, buy art...


*Sorry! I knew this, I swear. But Ms. McClure emailed me herself to remind me that they are cut with an X-Acto from a single sheet of black paper.

**And they're still (mostly) sitting around. Hawk-eyed McClure fans out there will note that a couple of birdie illos made it into the frame, but boy, I'd love to pass along what else I have to an interested party. If that's you, email me your contact info and what you like to make. I'll ship off what I've got to the first one I get. Thanks for your emails, Nikki McClure fans! They've been snatched up by a lovely reader who will use them to decorate the walls of the apt. she's newly moved into.

Image by Colleen Wainwright via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.

Referral Friday: Biznik

Referral Friday is an ongoing series inspired by John Jantsch's Make-a-Referral Week. For more about that, and loads more referrals for everything from cobblers to coaches to gee-tar teachers, start here. Pass it on, baby!


I am the first to confess that I did not "get" Biznik when I first encountered it.

What was up with the cute name and the forum boosterism? Seemed pretty at odds with a saucy tagline ("Business networking that doesn't suck.") Mostly, why were these people all so goddamn friendly?


It took a month-long trip up to Seattle last year to see the light: Biznik, the site works because it's designed to develop Biznik, the real-life community. These are not people who just hang out on the Internet all the time (although some hang out a lot of the time, I'll tell you); these are people using the web, and specifically Biznik, to cultivate relationships that they then take offline, a.k.a. "meatspace," a.k.a. "the actual three-dimensional world." The easy-to-use interface that lets them sort and connect and reach out and share helps like-minded people save time and shoe leather and agita by doing a lot of the heavy lifting of maintaining relationships, which is really the small, upkeep-type stuff that falls by the wayside without these tools.

So on Biznik, you can write an article about your area of expertise or interest, then publish it for a pre-selected group of interested people to read. You can read other people's stuff and start conversations about it, or chat on message boards, or use any number of other tools, search, email, forums, groups, to get to know them, sifting and sorting online so you're not walking into a room cold when you do finally venture out. Rather than certain other networking sites where people go just to sleaze off the land and skim off what they can, you're building something cool every time you connect on, and then off of it.


A caution or two if you decide to jump in.

First, give it time. Like any new spot, it takes a while to get the lay of the land. Click around, see what's up, get comfortable. Read the "about" page and skim the FAQ to get a feel for the way things work there. And for a view from someone who's been there/done that, here's a very illuminating "best practices" post from my former coach/mentor, Ilise Benun, who PUSHED me into Biznik.

Second, give it attention. Most great things in life get that way because you apply yourself to them, and this is no exception. I didn't start "getting" Biznik, much less getting much out of it, until my trip to the PacNW last year, where, after going to several events and co-hosting a few, I finally got the hell out of it.

I know that no one has time to waste on social networking (unless they're playing those damned word games on Facebook, in which case they appear to have all the time in the world). Ultimately, what I love about Biznik, other than the fine, fine people I've met through it, is the idea of what it could become: a built-in network of awesome people you can tap into anywhere you go. Toastmasters runs on this model: as a member you are warmly welcomed as a guest at any Toastmasters meeting you attend, anywhere in the world. Show up in Beijing or Manchester or Sao Paulo and POOF!, you've got insta-community.


With enough of us onboard, I can see Biznik becoming a mini-version of this for indie biz types as they make their way around the world, helping to connect the people and passion that, in combination, make great things start happening.

Photos of various Bizniks by various other Bizniks grabbing Dyana Valentine's camera.