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Going to the Mattresses: Part 1

Going to the Mattresses: Part 1

In the grand scheme of shopping experiences that elicit zero delight points, mattress shopping ranks up there with toilet paper, oil changes and air filters. In my mind, a mattress is basically a multi-thousand-dollar air filter. They're not a fun thing or a glamorous thing. They're a necessary thing. A very expensive, necessary thing. Frankly, I just don't enjoy it. (Or at least I didn't...) 

It is here we find the root of a complex tale of procrastination.

Like many people, I bought my previous mattress the old-fashioned way. Wander into mattress store --> immediate overwhelm --> get accosted by aggressive salesperson --> commence introvert panic --> awkwardly lay down on a few showroom mattresses as said salesperson looms over me smiling creepily --> panic and purchase big-name mattress to avoid having to repeat this process again for at least the next decade. 

Spoiler alert: Not how it panned out, ultimately. 

Don't get me wrong. The mattress felt great in the store. At least from what we could tell by laying on it for 30 seconds. Within a couple years, a rapid decline was underway. I'd wake in the night to discover my body involuntarily clinging to my side of the bed, desperately trying to resist the gravitational pull of the vortex that had developed at the center of the mattress. I'm still not quite sure how to explain what was going on. I just know that it led to a lot of tossing and turning, and even more morning aches and pains. 

Which begs the question, why did we live like this for another year before doing something about it?

Before you cast your stones of judgment, let me say this: buying a mattress is freaking complicated. It's basically the home furnishing version of digging through the worst and unhappiest parts of Yelp. You log on, thinking you'll do a little sleuthing, and before you know it you've gone down a dark rabbit hole of opinions and snark fueled by sleepless nights and spousal rage. 

Initially, it seemed everyone hated everything. I quickly came to understand that our fate was sealed. We would spend at least $3500 on something moderately tolerable that would ultimately disappoint and fail us,  possibly while clenching our bodies in an inescapable, balmy foam embrace. The years that followed would result in mental, emotional and physical suffering, until we reached a point at which we'd chuck the mattress and begin the cycle again. 

At some point, I came across this site. It is a treasure trove of unbiased (and more importantly, unsponsored) mattress information. A lot of information. So much information I could be convinced that there is a valid need for the mattress industry to start training their equivalent of sommeliers. I won't even attempt to recap all the things you need to know (Go to the site. Read all the things!), but I will share a few of the top takeaways:

  1. Material matters. All foams are not created equal. From density to layering to type (memory vs. latex), everything makes a huge difference in the feel, support and durability of the end product. Different materials work better for different types of bodies and sleepers. 
  2. How you sleep impacts what you should sleep on. Whether you're a side, back or stomach sleeper impacts the type of mattress material and support you should look for. As do things like height, sleep temperature (whether you run hot or cool), pain points and BMI. Not all mattresses are equipped to handle all sleepers. But most manufacturers won't tell you that. 
  3. There is some nasty sh*t in many mattresses. As a result, there an emerging trend toward more natural (and even some organic) materials. You know, the kinds of things that won't off-gas and slowly poison you every night for the next decade. 
  4. More isn't better. Some of the most expensive mattresses on the market have the lowest consumer satisfaction ratings. It seems people end up paying for the name. Which leads me to...
  5. Big names aren't the best. This was one of the most surprising realizations. Many (most) of the brand names we tend to recognize -- and find displayed on mattress showroom floors -- have fairly dismal consumer ratings. If they were in high school, the best of the "popular kids" pack would be averaging straight C's. Marketing is a powerful tool that has afforded these brands decades of profitability, but all that is starting to change... 
  6. There's a whole new world of mattresses out there. Startup mattresses, if you will. From Loom & Leaf to Casper to Tuft & Needle to Bed-in-a-Box, these "little" guys are cutting out middle man, selling directly to consumers and winning big. 

And it's that last point I want to talk about. A few things to know about these newer mattress brands:

  1. You won't find their mattresses in stores. They keep costs low by working directly with consumers and selling online. This rocks the mattress-purchasing norm a bit, and means you need to get comfortable with the idea of buying a mattress sight unseen/unfelt. 
  2. In order to calm those concerns, they have really generous return policies. Most online mattress brands will give you 75-150 nights to try the mattress out. Don't like it? Zero-hassle returns...for free. In many instances, if you decide to return the mattress, the company will donate your unwanted, gently-used mattress to a local shelter in need. 
  3. Their prices tend to be significantly lower and their consumer ratings tend to be significantly higher than the most recognized names in the mattress biz. Click around. Read the reviews. Not only are many of these brands producing a superior product, they're also providing an exceptional customer experience. And sleep-seeking consumers are loving it. 


Originally, Casper was our frontrunner. The Casper name seems to be popping up everywhere, including as a sponsor of my favorite podcast, Awesome Etiquette, and via word-of-mouth from friends. After a lot of reading, researching and reviewing, however, we ended up going with Loom & Leaf. Our decision was based on a variety of factors, including: the firmness level of the mattress, their focus on creating a cool sleep (via gel), their use of plant-based materials and organic cottons, and the fact that their mattresses are delivered by way of "white glove delivery," rather than being bound up in a box for us to deal with. In addition, I literally could not find a single bad review about their customer experience, even amongst those who tried their mattress and ultimately decided it wasn't for them. 

We take delivery next week. Check back soon for a follow-up post! 


How a woman named Thelma changed my views on marketing...and helped me clean up my act.

mrs. meyers soap radish When I was little and we would leave a restaurant, two things would inevitably happen. My dad would pop a red-and-white peppermint in his mouth before we had hit the door, and as soon as we climbed in the car my mom would roll down the window, gasping for fresh air. I always liked the smell of mint so I never understood her aversion, but the day I walked face-first into a friend's vanilla candle-laden home, it all started to make sense. I felt like someone had smeared my nose in a cupcake. And while I love a cupcake just as much as the next girl, I'd rank artificial cupcake scent somewhere between "wet dog" and "dorito feet" on the olfactory offensiveness scale.

Among all the wonderful things I inherited from my mother, it seems  I also inherited her acute sense of smell.

Which is precisely what inspired my first purchase of Mrs. Meyers hand soap. Actually, that's not true. The design drew me in, the scent sold me. I'd like to say "the rest is history" (because that would make for an epically succinct blog post), but it wasn't so. That afternoon, standing in the soap aisle at Target, was just the beginning of a true love story about to unfold.

There aren't a lot of brands I'd profess to love. Even fewer I would say make me feel giddy with joy. Mrs. Meyers is both of those and more. And as someone who so feels enraged over paying $12 for a pack of toilet paper that she has to text her sister to express said anger from the store, pledging allegiance to a $4 bottle of hand soap is kind of a big deal.

Months after becoming a Mrs. Meyers fan, I finally moseyed over to to check out Thelma's website...only to discover a mecca of marketing excellence. (I'm only sort of joking when I say I tiny digital branding and identity angels descended on my screen...)

Beautiful, clean, on-brand site design! Amazing execution of brand storytelling! A tagline that integrates the phrase "like the dickens!"

And that's when the music began. 

Had I found the Holy Grail of  marketing done right?

So here we are. You be the reader, I'll be the writer. And we'll spend the next couple weeks worth of blog posts taking a look at a company that is more than just another pretty smell.

Cupcake huffers need not apply.

Life, Death and a Dinner Table: A Family Tale of the Healing Power of Eating Together

I have a fairly large extended family. For the most part, our current clan originated in Wichita, Kansas, but through the power invested in marriages, divorces, job transfers and time, we have been strewn out across the country over the years. You'll now find pushpins in our family map everywhere from the Florida Keys to Honolulu, Austin to Wisconsin.

As a result of our geographic divergence, it makes it very difficult for all (or even many) of us to ever come together in the same place at the same time. Years go by and we don't see each other. The younger cousins eternally frozen in my mind as munchkins at the "little kids table" are now high school seniors and sophomores in college. The home I cast as the scene for all family memories hasn't been in our family for nearly a decade. This is just to say - things change, people get busy, time flies.

A year ago my grandmother passed away after a brief battle with cancer. Weddings and funerals. For better or worse, these are the things that  finally bring a modern family together. As each branch received the call, they made plans to descend upon the teeny, tiny town of Frederick, Oklahoma - my grandmother's childhood stomping ground. She had elected to be buried in Frederick beside her parents.

Frederick. How do I explain Frederick? It is perhaps best described as a blip town. A blip I fell very much in love with. Frederick is the kind of little place you pass through on a rural highway heading somewhere else. The last census put the population at under 4,000. I'm not sure what industry supports the economy there, I can only guess farming, and I remember reading somewhere that the median income in Frederick was well under $30,000.

In many ways Frederick feels like a land untouched by time. It struck me as the kind of place that could be described (and accurately so) as the heartbeat of America. A place steeped in family, God and the American dream. Unpretentious and hardworking. A welcome smile with a little grit under the fingernails. A land where people know their neighbors - and the value of a hard day's work. Frederick isn't relic as much as it is artifact. It isn't un-evolved, rather it's a place - and a lifestyle - unperturbed. From what I have gathered from my mother's accounts of visiting the sleepy tow in the 50s and 60s, not much has changed for Frederick the past half-century...and that's okay.

My family descended on Frederick like a bit of a storm. If you're going to stay in Frederick, your lodging options are limited to two motorlodge-type hotels on the outskirts of town. If you don't like the first, no worries. The other option is right next door. But if memory serves, one of the signs boasted that they were now offering wireless internet, so you may want to take that into consideration.

Our first afternoon in town, we took a driving tour around the city - and down memory lane. 40-some years later, my mother's memory was still able to trace its way back to the modest farmhouse my great-grandmother (Mimi) and great-grandfather (Homer) had owned together. It is the place where my grandmother grew up. My mother reminisced about the small patch of land my great-grandmother had tended, a vegetable and flower garden, and beyond it, the land my great-grandfather had tilled. She regaled us with stories of Mimi, the industrious wife of a farmer, snapping the necks of dinner chickens and plucking them clean. It was a stark contrast to the gentle, quiet, if not a bit frail, great-grandmother I remembered. In my mind, she was a soul better suited for gently cradling a cup of tea than slaughtering unsuspecting chickens. The image of her strong and fearless doing what had to be done gave me new perspective.

I come from a long line of strong, courageous females, it would seem.

The funeral went as funerals go. The chapel and cemetery set in a picturesque, rural area outside of town. It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm, and cows were murmuring off in the distance. I suspect our unusual quietness was a bittersweet recognition of the irony that bidding a loved one farewell was the one thing that had a way of bringing the living back together.

After the casket had been laid, we mobilized the troops. We'd need lunch before everyone traveled back to their separate corners of the world. Having had our fill of Pizza Hut (and having no inclination to try Sonic), we ended up at a little local restaurant called The Bomber Inn.

My people are not a small people. At 5'10" I am one of the shorter cousins on my mother's side of the family. As we descended on The Bomber Inn, the staff and regulars looked at us incredulously, but only for a moment before shuffling chairs and tables to make it work. We crammed into booths, shared menus, stormed the single restroom. Clearly strangers, nobody poked or pried. They just made us feel welcome.

I don't recall what I ate that day. A grilled cheese or a chicken-fried steak, who can say for sure? I remember strange things from that afternoon. One of the waitresses asking my cousin to come into the kitchen to reach something on a high shelf. An older gentleman approaching my uncle to tell him he had a "mighty handsome family." More than that, I remember a feeling. A feeling of being acutely aware of the importance of eating together that day.

The truth is we cannot control the ticking of time. We don't get a say in when or how or where things come together or fall apart. We get busy, stressed, preoccupied, but at least a few times a day, life forces us to stop and eat. And we can choose to do that together.

Author Norman Kolpas once said, “Food, like a loving touch or a glimpse of divine power, has that ability to comfort.” That afternoon, crammed in booths at The Bomber Inn, we weren't just eating lunch, we were celebrating a life. We weren’t just nourishing our bodies, we were nourishing our hearts and our spirits, too.

It's unlikely I will ever be in Frederick again. I doubt I'll be back at The Bomber Inn. But I often think of the kindness they showed us that day, and I hope they know that more than a meal, they gave us a rare and precious moment of togetherness in the heartbeat of America. It won't soon be forgotten.

Southern Housepitality: Become Your Own House Guest

Throughout my life I have noticed certain inalienable truths. You'll always find what you're looking for the day after you need it. The home projects you've been meaning to tackle (ugly countertops, hideous paint jobs, tragic flooring) are the things that get done just before you hand the keys over to the new owners and move out of your house. And when it comes to rolling out the royal treatment, most of us are adept at treating house guests with a sense of pampering that we fail to master for ourselves in our daily lives. No more, I say. It's time to be your own guest.

Southern hospitality is no joke. And while my first year of living in the south may not have sold me on chitterlings, sweet tea or turnip greens, the great lengths that southern women go to in order to care for their homes and create welcoming spaces for guests (whether they're staying an hour or a week) is near and dear to my heart.

If you're anything like me, hostessing a house guest is an opportunity to tap into your Pinterest-loving, friend-and-family-spoiling, Martha Stewart-idoling inner core. In the days leading up to a house guest's arrival, I find myself pressing linens and arranging fresh flowers while plotting flavored water recipes.

As is known to happen, after the guest leaves life returns to it's regularly-scheduled, hectic pace. Linens get tossed in the dryer instead of line-dried. Flowers bloom and wither on the vine. Water is water.

This is the picture of insanity. Over the course of a year, I probably entertain house guests for an average of 20 cumulative days. That's less than a month when all is said and done.  The other 11 months of the year, I live here. I know I'm not alone int this tendency. So what is it that compels us to care for our guests with such joy and enthusiasm during a brief stay, while we forgo the simple pleasure of a pampered life when it comes to our own daily lives?

No more, I say. It's time to become your own house guest. Below you will find ten of my favorite, standard houseguest niceties. I hope you will treat yourself to one (or eleven) of these simple pleasures. They truly can make the difference between just getting through the day and savoring the little moments of life.

Lavender Water

I have noticed that most lavender waters sold online and in stores are often QUITE expensive. (Put anything in a glass bottle with a french name and I guess it gives them free reign to jack up the price.) Here is  a great recipe for an at-home DIY lavender water that is just as lovely as any you will find in the store. Your local Whole Foods is a great resource for reasonably priced lavender essential oil.

Quality Hand Soap

Sure, you can grab a bottle of hand soap at the local dollar store. It will clean your hands and get the job done, but will it invigorate your spirit? For whatever reason (call me a soap snob), I have found that investing in a quality hand soap is one of those unexpected opportunities for a little pick-me-up moment of invigoration. Two of my favorites hand soaps are Mrs. Meyers in Lemon Verbana and J.R. Watkins in Lavender.

A Cream-Colored Quilt

I will admit, I am a bit quilt-obsessed. There are few things as quintessentially American as being wrapped in a quilt on an autumn night. It feels like being hugged by history.

I know some people love to get crazy and colorful with their bed linens, but I tend to be more of a traditionalist, favoring the crisp, clean look of white linens topped with a cream-colored quilt. Not only does it conjure up a sense of B&B luxury, a cream quilt goes with everything and gives me the freedom to change accessories in the room without having to invest in a new set of sheets.

Here's a beauty from Restoration Hardware

An Signature Scented Candle

Find a signature scented candle. Embrace it. Sprinkle it throughout your home. Breathe deeply throughout the day. Feel good about life. I can understand why some people balk at the thought of paying $30 for something you are going to burn, but I have noticed that Henri Bendel candles really do last forever. They claim to have a 60-hour burn time, and I have squeezed a year of fairly regular use (hour-long burning sessions) out of mine. Firewood is my signature scent. It's like having an eternal autumn on speed-dial.

Another favorite candle brand: Linea's Lights. Soy candles, cotton wicks, utterly amazing scents. I pray that they will bring Forest Fir back this Christmas, at which point I will be stocking up with enough to get me through the year.

Quality Stationary

Every woman needs a set (or two..or eighteen) of quality stationary on standby. My suggestion is:

  • a set of personalized, blank stationary for formal correspondence
  • a set of fun, blank stationary for casual correspondence
  • a set of quality thank you notes (because, let's be frank, most greeting cards sold on supermarket shelves are simply hideous)
If you are in the Asheville, NC area, be sure to check out The Baggie Goose. It is one of my favorite places in AVL, and quite possibly the planet. If you're not in the Asheville area, check out Crane & Co. for stunning stationary.

Reading Material

Last year I went a little nuts with Amazon's Christmas $5-$10 magazine special, and I must admit, opening the mailbox to discover a new glossy awaiting me still gives me a kid-on-Christmas thrill. Whether your vice is celebrity gossip, interior design or guns & ammo, go ahead and indulge in reading material for your bathtub bookshelf. Your secret is safe with me.

Line-dried Linens

Nothing smells more amazing that line-dried linens. And white linens bleached by the sun? Utter heaven. Do it. And while you're at it, check out

40 slotted clothespins for $2.30

A beautiful, signature tumbler

A special, pretty tumbler, all my own, makes me want to drink more water throughout the day. Or lemonade. Or mojito.

Yummy Bath Products

What pampering list would be complete without a little tub-side luxury? I realize the above photo looks like a jellyroll gone awry, but trust me on this. Lush has THE MOST amazing bath products ever. And while they're far from cheap, they are worth every penny. And the cost of shipping. And the wait time as they slowly travel down from Canada. Try the bubble bar in Karma. Bathtime will never be the same.

Note: I slice off half-dollar size pieces of the bubble bars to extend their life (and help my wallet.) While you won't get a bubble extravaganza from such a small piece, it is more than enough to scent the water, your skin and bathroom.

Fruit Infused Elixirs

I always get a kick out of the spa waiting area. Admid the zen waterfall and mood lighting, women chug down thimble-sized cupfuls of spa elixir (fruit infused water.) The possibilities here are endless. I like to pull from my garden. Play around until you find a combination that makes your taste buds cheer.

A few options...

  • Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit)
  • Berries (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries)
  • Cucumber slices
  • Ginger
  • Herbs (basil, mint)

Now, go forth and spoil thyself. Happy living!



Cleaning Naked: Confessions of an occasional nudist

I'm interested to see what combination of search terms will bring people to this post. And how many will end up here hoping for something much more scandalous that they are going to find. In any case, welcome to those of you who found this post by searching "naked" or "nude." Alas, it's not really going to be that kind of blog post. It seems spring has sprung here in lovely South Carolina. The daffodils have come and gone, the bees are a abuzz and my neighbors have returned to their porches to sip sweet tea (or spiked lemonade, depending on the time of day...) If you're a nerd like me, this can only mean one thing: spring cleaning season has arrived! Here is your excuse to run to the store and stock up on buckets and gloves, sponges and spray bottles.

Before I get to the list of a few of my favorite (cleaning) things, I need to make a confession. I fully subscribe to the theory that you cannot get a tub/shower clean if you don't get in it...nude. Yep. That's right. I clean my bathroom naked. Oh the (in)humanity! I used to clean the bathroom fully clothed, but in my junkiest clothes, I found myself hesitating to really get in there to spray and scrub like a tub needs to be cleaned. I avoided product (bleach stains, hello!) and didn't want to walk around in wet clothing. So that left me with one option. Strip down and get to work.

It's actually a fairly genius system. I can scrub and spray to my heart's content. When I'm done, I just rinse off. No bleach stains. No drippy clothing. Just a sparkling clean tub - and body.

I have a standard cleaning kit I use for the bathroom. Below you shall find a few of my favorite products...

Method Flushable Tub-n-Tile Wipes

Ever feel like certain people using your toilet could use a little…coaching? Practice? Aim? Set this hardworking package of our flushable wipes nearby, and you (or, ahem, he) can wipe and flush at any moment for an instant clean. Great for clean-ups all over the bathroom — sinks, countertops, faucets and tile — and they’re always septic tank friendly. Plus they smell like eucalyptus mmmmint. 

Boston Warehouse Glamour Glove Set in Pink

I have a unique set of gloves for dishes, kitchen cleaning and bathroom cleaning. Call it OCD if you must, but quirky pairs like these ensure that the gloves for the toilet bowl are never confused with the gloves for the salad bowl. And that means we'll all live to see another day. 

Alessi's Merdolino Toilet Brush

With a name like "Merdolino" (which I am pretty sure roughly translates to something along the lines of "lil turd") how could you NOT love this unforgettable toilet brush work of art. Alessi's take on toilet cleaning is an interjection of style fit for any throne, and far surpasses the crappy (pardon the pun) toilet brushes of yore. Style, however, does not come cheap. This brush will set you back $55. 

Barkeeper's Friend

You are probably looking at this packaging and thinking, "Egads! Their branding doesn't look like it has changed a bit since the 1970s." I wasn't alive in the 70s, but I suspect you are right. And that is probably because it was just as awesome in 1978 as it is in 2012. Actually I just did a google search, and it turns out Barkeeper's Friend has been around since 1882. I guess that means they're doing something right. Hit up your local dollar store and stock up. 


What more can be said?


Squirt & Mop Hard Floor Cleaner

Another gem from Method. I love this product because my dog has yet to learn how to put on a pair of shoes. I feel better knowing his paw pads aren't being exposed to harsh, toxic chemicals. Now if only I could figure out a way to talk him into doing the mopping....

So what's in your cleaning arsenal? Has your cleaning routine gone green? Do you have a cleaning recipe for success? Share your tips in the comment section below, or send me a photo of your recent before and after cleaning job. Spring cleaning geeks unite!