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good things

Makeovers at Sephora

If you know you need to spend $50 or more at Sephora, try to time it so that you can get the free makeover you’re entitled to. I needed new tweezers, eyeliner, and a new foundation, and also got a smokey eye, contoured, “eyebrows on fleek” SITUATION.

It was a rough week for those of us who care about social injustice, and on top of that, I’m on the brink of starting a digital platform that elevates the voices and vision of women, people of colour, and the LGBTQ community who are creative entrepreneurs. I’ve already gotten some flack for it, and I’m bracing myself for more.

My makeup artist was a black trans* woman. I’ll never say anything as twee as “the universe orchestrated this” but… oh man. Sephora feels like such a haven, doesn’t it? Especially in New York, where women from all over the world and all backgrounds are swirling around me looking for makeup with their friends, mothers, and sisters. As she created this stunning look for me, I started crying. Nothing makes me feel more powerful than having fabulous hair and makeup.

“You have NO idea,” I said “what you’re doing for me. After this week, it is so, so much more than just some pretty makeup.” and then, of course, “Oh no! I’m smudging it!” and she laughed and hugged me and blotted my tears away from her handiwork.

Anyway, all that to say: free makeovers at Sephora if you spend fifty bucks, totally worth planning your purchases around, and it’s hard out there for a lot of us so this might be some good self care.

p.s. Yes, I brought my IceLight into the bathroom to take selfies. I ain’t sorry.


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New York Cares Winter Wishes

When I expressed a desire to buy gifts for needy kids this Christmas, Marley found the New York Cares Winter Wishes gift drive for me. It links right to an Amazon wish list, so you can select a gift for a specific child (or a senior citizen) and send it directly to them.

For me, it’s an emotionally fulfilling way to counteract the greed that can creep in during the holidays (I’m not pointing fingers outward, either. I like nice shit, and it’s hard to remember that I don’t need to request ALL OF IT just because the calendar says “December”).

You can go here, and from there click on the lists of gifts.

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Amuse my Bouche

And here we are, at the most difficult part of keeping up with NaBloPoMo: remembering to blog on the weekend. It’s 12:51am on Sunday 8 November, and I haven’t written for the 7th yet, but since I’m still awake, and it’s still Saturday in California, I’m going to count it as not missed. Okay? Okay.


We went to the most amazing meal tonight. Adam and Cecily gave us a gift card to the Union Square Hospitality Group of restaurants, and I left it up to Marley to surprise me with where and how we would use it. He chose tonight, a random date where we weren’t celebrating anything except ourselves, and we went to the Modern for a 9pm reservation.

The service was wonderful, the food was wonderful, too. They sent out an amuse bouche compliments of the chef, of pumpkin and sweet potato soup. The presentation was lovely; they served it with the spices, sauce and sweet potatoes in the bowl already, and then poured the plain soup over them after it was set in front of us. Then the waiter then opened this tiny copper pot and gently spooned a tablespoon of hazelnut foam on top. It felt special, almost like a ritual, and I was so inspired with this reminder to present things well to my clients, and make them feel special and appreciated. I know this is dorky, but it was actually really moving.

The best part of the night was when they offered a special that had “dehydrated grapes” to which I responded “So, raisins?” and then Marley and I started giggling inappropriately, and then we couldn’t stop because we were overtired and there were gin cocktails while we were waiting to be seated.

The rest of the food was amazing; Marley sprang for the addition of truffles shaved on his gnocchi, I tried a new fish called turbot that I loved, we spit two desserts, and then they rolled over a cart loaded down with truffles, and were were invited to pick whatever we wanted, and we did the whole thing overlooking the garden of the MoMA. I felt fancy.

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Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwiches

This is my shopping bag on the bus with the box open. They were sticking out of the top of my bag, practically begging to be eaten.

I never buy packaged snacks because they turn into an Actual Problem for me, but the Trader Joe’s cookie butter sandwich cookies seemed fucking delicious – and they were. They remained sealed through checkout, but on the bus I couldn’t help crack them open.

My god.

I’m not a sugar person; my downfall is more the “butter croissants, cheese plates, and french fries” type of thing, so that these had me damn near testifying like a street preacher is about as ringing an endorsement as you can get. The entire B63 downtown bus was eyeballing me, too, and I would have shared, except that would have made me the weird lady passing out cookies on the bus, and this is still New York City.

Go get some.

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Amber Marlow’s 2014 Gift Guide

I adore doing gift guides every year, but this year it kind of slid through the cracks for me. I have a Pinterest board, though, where you can see everything I’ve got my fingers crossed for to find in my stocking, under the tree, or by the menorah. (We kind of do everything up in here. Whatever.)

Anything else good I should know about? P.S. How to give excellent gifts, according to science.

Amber Marlow’s 2014 Wish List


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Sheep Farm Felt – Felt Ball Garlands

I met Megan years ago – she was my high school friend Jen’s roommate in college and we met at some sort of gathering at Jen’s house – and I liked her immediately. When she started the company Sheep Farm Felt with her sisters and mother I was so excited for her, and it’s been really awesome to watch her business grow. They make handcrafted felt ball garlands out of wool.

I’m inspired by the way she does business; she invested in a smart phone to handle orders in a more timely manner as well as use Instagram to create a wonderful account featuring Felton, the tiny felted sheep, who serves as a sort of mascot. The packaging is absolutely gorgeous; when you open up your parcel from them you can feel how much love and care goes into packing orders. In the time they’ve been in business, they’ve sent their beautiful, quirky handmade felt balls all over the world.

The first photo is our garland in the living room; I wanted something cheerful for the blank space over the photos, and it’s just the thing.

Megan sent me the long version of her story and how they got started. I was going to pull out pieces to share here but it’s so good I think you’ll want to read it, too, so her email to me is cut and pasted below. It’s got adventure, community, and women doing business. Thanks for sharing, Megan.

If you want to order your own Sheep Farm Felt wool ball garland, go here to order from their Etsy store, and use the code AMBER14 to get free shipping in the continental US from now until 31 January. Here’s Megan:

My parents met in a living Colonial history village, my mom-a weaver and spinner, my dad-a woodcarver.  After repeatedly fixing her loom (he was also the one sneaking in her shop early and breaking it), they fell in love, got married, and had 3 daughters.  (The middle one being the most adorable, of course.)

We lived in Port Republic, a small town in South Jersey where my dad is the mayor and where generations of my family have lived since the early 1600’s.  When my sisters and I were 2, 4, and 6, we had a house fire and lost everything we owned.

The town rallied together and bought us everything we needed to begin again- books, toys, winter coats, pots and pans, gift certificates to the grocery store- everything you can imagine.  Overwhelmed by the generosity of our town, my parents did the only thing they could think of to give back to the community they loved.  When our house was rebuilt, they added a classroom and opened up a folk art school so they could teach their skills to anyone who wanted to learn.

They taught woodcarving, basketry, quilting, candle making, weaving, doll making, and little girls came to our home for Colonial tea parties for their birthdays. My sisters and I were invited to teach along side of my mom when we all turned 12.

It was during these classes that I learned the most vital lessons:  If you want to connect with someone, create with them.  When people are making something to put in their home, or give away as a gift, they are essentially crafting a new piece of their history- something one-of-a-kind that they have made with their hands that now has a story.

Fast forward MY history…past getting married, moving down the street from my parents’ farm, becoming an art teacher…to having my own little flock- 3 littles 4 and under.  I found myself in the daily routine of filling up sippy cups and stepping on Cheerios, and wanting so desperately to do the two fundamental things I was taught:  connect with people and create.

I had seen wool felt ball garlands on Pinterest, and thought it was the perfect project for me- simple, free (if you happen to have a never-ending supply of wool being grown down the street), and something I could make for people who wanted to add a bit of color and natural fiber into their homes.  I listed a few on Etsy….and I could never have imagined the response I would get.

After six months, my “never-ending supply” was not as “never-ending” as I had hoped, and I had a difficult time keeping up with demands.  I found a supplier to partner with from Nepal who is free-trade, ethical, and uses the most lovely, colorful, wooliest wool from a sheep farm in New Zealand.

I am in absolute love with what I do.  Everyday, I get orders from all over the world- Spain, Singapore, Australia, France, the U.S., Italy….  from people who want to bring something I make into their homes.  My customers are some of the sweetest people, and I love the conversations I get to have with them.  They are getting ready for their son’s first birthday party, or wanting to add a homey touch to their dorm room, or trying to find a garland to match their sofa and love seat, or add a pop of color in their nursery….  I just love hearing all their stories behind their purchases!

My absolute favorite part of the process is wrapping up each purchase with tissue paper and twine, writing a hand-written thank you note, and tucking in a little needle felted sheep ornament handmade from wool from our sheep farm.  I know when my customers go to their mail box, it is going to make their day.  My job is more than just selling bits of colored wool on string, I am supplying people with something that will become a piece of their home and history.

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She Makes Hats

amber marlow brooklyn

A few months ago, Robyn Devine offered to crochet me a hat as part of her She Makes Hats project. Her master plan is to make 10,000 of them, which is incredible. Mine is the Shanti hat which is super cute, nice and roomy to accomidate my hair, and has kept the Polar Vortex off of me with aplomb. There’s a few of this style in the  She Makes Hats shop, and more coming in the fall.

amber marlow brooklyn

For every hat Robyn sells, a hat gets donated to a newborn in need, which makes me happy.

Thank you, Robyn – you’ve made my winter so much nicer.

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Doughnuts 2014

brooklyn doughnuts

photo from Dough

I grew up a doughnut fan. My grandfather favored the Doughnut Inn, a southern Connecticut chain of three stores with phenomenal coffee and a yellow and brown logo, unchanged since 1977, that makes my heart quiver with nostalgia. It was coffee for him and a doughnut for me – glazed. My parents always favored Dunkin’ Donuts, the national brand that was New England-only when I was a kid, and we would sometimes get doughnuts there after church. And, of course, there were apple cider doughnuts every time we got pumpkins in the fall.

They are having a revival of sorts, and I’m pretty excited about this. One of my New Years resolutions was to eat more high quality doughnuts, so Lara sent me this fun slide show of amazing doughnuts from around the United States, and there are three places here in New York that I’m going to try (Voodoo Doughnut in Portland has been on my Life List forever). My friends are awesomely supportive.

I’m going on a doughnut tour all year. (I also found this list of the 10 best doughnuts in New York City that I’m going to pull from.) If you follow me on Twitter, I’ll post where I’m going and when (it will likely be a Saturday or a Sunday morning), should you want to join me for some deep-fried, sugar-glazed awesomeness.

This is going to be fun.

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My Penguin Suit

After five years of dealing with the “brutal” winter weather of New York City in merely a “bad” winter weather coat, I caved and bought one of those puffy down jackets that look like sleeping bags from L.L. Bean.

It is heaven.

The whole coat – bought perhaps one size too large, and in a regular length when a petite would have done well on my 5’4 frame – functions as a sort of foot-powered transportation pod rather than outerwear. When I put it on and zip up, I’m enveloped in a warm chamber that allows me to move around the City freely without shivering, something I’ve never been able to do in the cold.

The main reason for my resistance in buying one was the look of the thing. It’s not cute, and I briefly considered ordering a purple or blue one to give at least a little charm to it, but it’s not meant to be attractive. It’s meant to function. (Incidentally, I’m able to be a little more free with the outfits I choose to put under it, as it almost doesn’t matter what else I wear). Because it’s so long on me, the effect when I walk is that of a curly haired penguin in Chucks. It comes with an ugly fake fur fringe on the hood that thankfully zips off.

I highly recommend one.

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Giveaway: Giving the Baby Back

book giveaway
Daffodil Campbell, my friend in Hawaii, wrote a self-published book about her experience as a foster parent. It’s fantastic, and I am enormously proud. I’ve got an autographed copy to give away; if you’d like a crack at winning, leave a comment on this post and I’ll draw the winner next Monday. Update: Winner has been selected!
I asked her to share a little about both the book and her self-publishing experience, too, and her answers are so great.
You wrote a book with a rather provocative title. Give us a brief summary.
“Giving the Baby Back” is a book I wrote in response to all of the questions I get about my family. In my quest to become a mother, I have explored all of the avenues available to people who want to become parents. We have a biological child, an adopted child, and we have cared for a number of foster children. The question I get the most – the one that pops out of everyone’s mouth when they hear we foster newborns – is “How do you give them back?” So I set out to answer that question, and along the way tell the story of how and why we are foster parents.
What was it like reliving all of these very emotional stories in written form, sometimes years later?
Well, once you get over being worried about what your grandmother will say, it is actually very cathartic. I am not known for my filter, so sharing stories that – until now – have been private, was not the hard part. Surprisingly, the hard part is actually reading them out loud! I cried during my last reading, while I was actually reading part of a chapter out loud to the group. It was really embarrassing.
What makes someone a good candidate to become a foster parent? 
I would say there are two things you need to be a good candidate:
1. You need to be prepared for anything.
2. You need to find a Foster Parent resource group in your area – an established one with experienced foster parents. They will be able to help you more than your very over-extended social worker.
You don’t need a lot of stuff. You don’t need a huge house. You don’t even need a lot of experience with kids – but you have to be ready for anything, willing to learn, and able to ask for help.
What do you wish you’d known when you started and what do you want everyone else to learn from your book?
I wish I had become a foster parent sooner, to be honest. I didn’t realize until we began that being a foster parent is incredibly rewarding. Yes, it can be frustrating, absolutely. But when you see that child asleep the first night, possibly getting the first solid sleep after the first decent meal they have had in a while, you will feel this immediate sense of pride that you did it. That you opened up your home and your heart to a child who has no one else to care for them. It feels SO GOOD, and to watch these kids thrive in a stable environment is just incredible. The trick, of course, is to hang on through the hard parts – because there are plenty of hard parts. But when you look back – even on the hardest times, the toughest cases – the bright moments of peace and joy always shine through.
What made you determined to keep fostering?
The reason we have continued to foster is two-fold:
First, we adopted our daughter because of our involvement in the foster system. She was never a foster child – it was just a situation that presented itself – but if we had not been foster parents we would never have gotten the call. I tell the whole story of how we adopted our daughter (which is really an incredible story) in the book. I feel a sense of – not debt, but gratitude. I am so grateful, that I want to stay involved in the foster system.
Second, I think being a foster sibling is a wonderful experience for my kids. Some families volunteer at soup kitchens or donate toys during the holidays – this is our volunteer work. We do this because we can, and we do this because it needs doing.
You’re self-published. What made you choose this route, and what are the advantages and challenges?
Honestly, I self-published because I didn’t have an agent, or a publisher, and I have no idea how to acquire those. I sent a bunch of inquiries, and got a few rejections, and I just wanted to move on. The book felt done, and I wanted to take the next step. That is my personality – and you see a lot of that stubbornness in the book – I just figure out how to get what I want or need, and then I dig in and make it happen. Sometimes this is a good thing, sometimes it’s not – my husband could probably explain that better. I discovered quickly that self-publishing was incredibly easy, and I could get the book out there in a matter of days, which suited my impatient nature. I haven’t given up on finding a publisher, I just didn’t want to keep the book in a file until I found one.
The challenges to self-publishing are the expense, and the marketing of the book after it’s published. I decided to go the most cost-effective route I could find, which was through Createspace – an Amazon company. The problem I have found most daunting is that many people will not shop on Amazon. Createspace has a “print-to-order” system, so I don’t have to order a minimum. My book is listed on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and printed as it gets ordered at no cost to me, AND I can order copies at wholesale and sell the book through my own website with free shipping, so that people can avoid shopping on Amazon. I thought that was a fair compromise. What I didn’t realize was that just having Amazon print the book would be a huge stumbling block. I feel like I have a scarlet letter on the book now, which is a bummer. I definitely love and support independent booksellers, and I wanted to keep the cost of my book low at the production end……but I upset and offended a lot of people by using an Amazon company. It was a huge bummer.
What surprised you the most about writing a book?
I never thought I could tackle a book. The idea of writing anything longer than a blog post made me sweaty. It was scary and daunting, and I told myself I couldn’t do it – until one day someone said “Of course you can. Just tell your story – you have a book’s worth.” And she was right. I just sat down and told my story, and it wasn’t so bad. Until I realized that other people would be reading it. Then I got nervous all over again: “What if the book is TERRIBLE?”
It’s like having a kid, and thinking your baby is beautiful while everyone else is wincing and saying “Wow, that’s a baby all right!” “She sure is breathtaking!” I had no idea if people would like the book, or if it was even readable. Thankfully, it has gotten a very warm reception. Whew.
You wrote a few highly personal things in the book that made your private, conservative family uncomfortable. How did you handle their responses?
I told them all to just wait until the next book. That one is going to be a real doozy. Ha!
No, really, it was tough. I was terrified. My mom started to read it, learned a bunch of details she didn’t know about my college days in the first 20 pages, and sent me an email telling me she was going to have to take it slow. But she managed to get through the book without freaking out completely, and while we haven’t discussed any of the specifics she is now my biggest champion. My grandmother, on the other hand, stood up and walked out after a reading without even saying goodbye. That was tough.
What made you say, “Fuck it, I’m telling my story?”
I wrote a blog post called “Giving the Baby Back”, talking about how upsetting it was to have people say “Well *I* could never give a baby back”. It made me feel like they were judging me, that they thought I was cold or unfeeling to be able to foster these babies and then give them up. I wanted to explain how it works, and why I do it. After I published that post, people emailed and called and texted with more questions. And that is when another writer – Rebecca Walker – told me that I had to write this book, and tell this story. I wish I still had her text, it said something like “stop whatever you are working on and write a book about this.” Then picked up the post, and I realized that there really could be a wider audience out there, interested in my experience and my perspective.
I worry a lot about privacy – not mine, so much, but everyone else involved – from my ex-husband to the foster children. It took me a while to determine how much of the story it was okay to tell. I changed a lot of details, but it is still my story, and I think it’s a story worth sharing.
Where can people get your book?
A few independent bookstores were willing to carry it – but only a few. I’m working really hard to change that. In the meantime, you can download the e-book on Kobo, and you can get the paperback at It is for sale online at Barnes and Noble and Amazon, but truly, I encourage everyone who feels uncomfortable shopping on those websites to go to a local bookstore and ask them to order it. I would love to get this book in as many independent bookstores as possible and I have very flexible terms.
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