Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blog News

Hi everyone! It's a fairly slow Saturday, but I'm semi-on the road, staying at a friend's Bed & Breakfast for a couple of days before I head back to college and posting via a dialup connection. I've got a few great posts planned for the next couple of days, but I thought I would update everyone on some miscellaneous news about the blog.

First, I've moved my RSS feed signup link to the top of the page, and added an E-Mail Newsletter option for the blog. If you're an RSS user, our RSS feed is a great way to receive updates of our new posts as they come up. If you don't know what RSS is, Back in Skinny Jeans has a fantastic post explaining what it is and how it's a great way to keep track of all your favorite blogs. Also, if you'd rather just receive e-mail updates, you can sign up for our e-mail newsletter, courtesy of the FeedBlitz link on the right side.

Also, I've registered, which for now will automatically redirect you to my Blogger page, and will always forward to the most current address of Faking Good Breeding.

Finally, Rebecca over at Between My Peers is doing a great project where she creates multiple outfits based on one skirt or pair of pants. It's really impressive how many creative inexpensive outfits she can put together.

So, keep your comments, emails, and questions coming, and expect some great new posts and features this week!

Friday, January 05, 2007

My New Favorite TV Show: Ugly Betty

I'm the kind of person who rarely has a casual relationship with a TV show- if I find a show I like, I become completely hooked. I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I often end up scheduling my workouts, social events and homework around those shows, which is why I rush to change the conversation if someone tells me that they found a new show that they think I'd love. Adding another show to my rotation (which is pretty small and manageable for now) would make efforts to get work done, stay in shape and still see friends nearly impossible.

On Thanksgiving day, I watched with confusion as my parents rushed from their messy kitchen at exactly 7:59 to turn on ABC. Ugly Betty was on, a show I'd heard a few good things about, and seeing as I was so stuffed with turkey that I could barely move, I decided to stick around and watch the episode.

Naturally, I was hooked. It was like the creators had me in mind when they devised the show, so many aspects resonate with my own interests, experiences and values. I assume that for those who haven't seen the show, you're at least familiar with the premise, but if you aren't, you can read a summary of the series (with no spoilers), you can read it here. The show combines elements from "Devil Wears Prada", such as all the catty, behind the scenes drama of a top fashion magazine, with the story of "real woman" Betty, a born and bred Queens girl from a struggling immigrant family.

Though it would've been easy to make Betty and her family stereotypes of working class Mexican-Americans, their characters are wonderfully real and treated with dignity. Their intelligence, sense of humor, quirkiness and love for each other is a great contrast to the cruel and superficial stick figures that populate the fashion magazine where Betty's employed. When her co-workers harass her for not looking right, but instead like a normal-sized woman with a hilariously bad sense of fashion, Betty never fails to stand up for herself, and her kindness, strong sense of self and work ethic eventually earn the grudging respect of everyone at the office (even if they'd never admit it).

The show is in many ways a comedic commentary on the influence of fashion magazines on women, and it's great to watch Betty and the few other regular women in the office fighting back against editors who want to photoshop every model and actress until they look like carbon copied versions of their ideal woman. There's an ugly flipside to the "aspirational living" aspect of fashion magazines, and the show explores that without getting preachy.

The acting is fantastic across the board. If you've ever seen "Real Women Have Curves" (if you haven't, definitely rent it), you know how talented and likable the actress America Ferrara is. Salma Hayek kicks ass as an editor at a sister publication who takes Betty under her wing. It's great to see a female character who's intelligent, sexy and strong enough to take on even the cockiest man. And Vanessa Williams gives a great performance as an Anna Wintour-esque diva editor who is trying to make up for years of putting her ambitions and career ahead of her family. All of the central female characters are confident, successful, empowered women, which is so refreshing on television.

With most of my friends from home out of town this past week, I've caught up on all the previous episodes I missed, thanks to ABC's website, which has every past episode available for free here. If you haven't seen the show, give the first couple of episodes a chance. I have yet to meet anyone who hasn't fallen in love with Betty.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Fergie- The Woman, The Myth, The Lovable Disaster

If you asked me who my favorite celebrity is, the answer would probably surprise you. Sure, if I could spend the day hanging out with one celeb, it would probably be one of the smart, down to earth actresses I love watching in interesting movies, like Kate Winslet or Reese Witherspoon or Penelope Cruz. And then there are the walking trainwrecks- Britney, LaLohan, Anna Nicole Smith, Courtney Love, (and until lately) Tara Reid, who are always good for a laugh, though deep inside my celebrity-hardened heart I do feel sorry for them. But there is only one person whose appearance in US Weekly or performance on TRL will force me to stop whatever I'm doing just to find out what shit she'll pull next, who provides such pure, unadulterated entertainment with every song she sings, outfit she wears and video she performs in, and that's Fergie.

Seriously, anything this girl touches is comic gold. But I'm getting ahead of myself..

As you may or may not know, Fergie was a crystal-meth addicted one-third of the female pop group Wild Orchid when she was plucked out of obscurity by one of the punctuation-loving members of the Black Eyed Peas (whether it was or, it doesn't really matter). Their fledgling hip-hop/pop group needed a requisite "hot girl", and the surgically over-enhanced, transgender-esque Fergie apparently fit the bill, and was hired immediately. With Fergie on their team, the Black Eyed Peas were an instant success, with such aptly-titled hits as, "Let's Get It Started" and "Don't Phunk With My Heart."

And then a little song called, "My Humps" came along. "My Humps" really belonged to Fergie, as the referenced "humps" and "lady lumps" were hers. The critics were aghast, calling the song "transcendentally bad", "the musical equivalent to a bad Farrelly Brothers movie." As someone who knows very little technical knowledge about music, I recall turning to my musician boyfriend the first time I heard it and asking, "does this still count as music?" If you haven't already, I strongly encourage you to watch the music video on YouTube. I challenge you to refrain from laughing out loud.

Which brings me to Fergie's personal style. I would comment, but I think the clothes best speak for themselves. Unlike a lot of celeb fashion disasters, Fergie never seems to learn from her mistakes, and continue wearing the same styles, despite her permanent place on "Worst Dressed" lists everywhere. You have to admire that kind of dedication.

But what I really love about Fergie is just how little she seems to care about what anyone thinks, so you never have to feel bad for laughing at her. When she peed her pants onstage at a Black Eyed Peas show last year, she didn't even apologize, telling Rolling Stone that she, "just didn't have time to find a bathroom." She's really an all-around entertainer.

But the response of fans was unanimous: they needed more Fergie. And Fergie heard their pleas and responded by releasing a solo album earlier this year: The Dutchess (sic). Which brought us two new non-songs, "London Bridge" and "Fergalicious". In case you were confused by the lyrics, Wikipedia offers an in-depth interpretation of the first song:

"Primarily, Fergie uses the song to express that "every time" the unnamed person to whom she is singing "comes around," her "London London Bridge wanna go down like London London London." A popular interpretation of these lyrics is that Fergie is in the control tower of London Bridge (located in London, England.) Every time a male that she deems sufficiently attractive "comes around" (that is to say, approaches the vicinity of the bridge), she brings the bridge down. However, for unattractive men, Fergie would presumably keep the bridge up so that they are not allowed passage across the River Thames."

Then came "Fergalicious", Fergie's attempt to turn her own name into an adjective. And she manages to outdo herself in the music video, which can be viewed here. The video's concept (again, thank you Wikipedia) is such: "The video starts with factory workers packaging boxes of "Fergalicious" candy. Throughout the video, Fergie sings in a field of candy canes, wears a skirt that is tan and khaki, lays a pile of candy, works out in a colorful gym, sings in a room filled with lollipops while dressed like Shirley Temple, and pops out of a cake while wearing a blue corset with diamonds encrusted on the exterior. She then starts watching two women wrestle in ice cream before joining in with them at the end of the video."

But aside from her music, her dancing, her outfits and her on-stage antics, what do I love best about Fergie? Quite simply, her lyrics. I'd like to conclude this post with a few of my favorite Fergie-isms. For full effect, repeat them at random times to your friends in a voice of total seriousness.

"They say I'm really sexy, the boys the wanna sex me, they always standing next to me, always dancing next to me. Tryin' a feel my hump hump, lookin' at my lump lump, you can look but you can't touch it"

"I'm Fergalicious (so delicious), my body stays vicious, I be up in the gym just workin' on my fitness, he's my witness (oooh, wee!)"

Baby, baby, baby, If you really want me, Honey get some patience. Maybe then you'll get a taste. I'll be tasty, tasty, I'll be laced with lacey. It's so tasty, tasty, It'll make you crazy."

All my girls get down on the floor, Back to back, drop it down real low. I’m such a lady, but I’m dancing like a ho, ‘Cause you know I don’t give a f*ck, so here we go!"

Fergie, please don't ever change.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

eBay - The Perfect Destination for Your Unwanted Gifts

I've been meaning to do a post about selling things on ebay for a while, as the holidays always make me realize just how much "stuff" I have and how nice it would be to get rid of what I don't need. But my experience buying and selling things on ebay is somewhat limited, so I decided to call in the expert: my boyfriend Andrew, who has made a second career out of eBay sales. I initially thought this was a dorky habit of penny-pinching types, but I've since realized how much potential cash is available to anyone willing to list the stuff they don't want. And that doesn't include the fabulous steals you can find on the site, particularly with accessories, home furnishings and cosmetics (dying for Chanel's sold-out limited edition Black Satin polish? eBay's got it!). Without further ado, here are Andrew's tips for successfully selling on eBay.

Around this time each year, many of us tend to have a number of gifts that we don't plan to keep- clothes that don't fit well, unwanted accessories, or that pair of Uggs you're too embarrassed to wear outside. There are plenty of things to do with all this "stuff"- returns (if you have a receipt), donating to charity, or even regifting. However, each year many gifts will just end up taking up space. A great option for dealing with the clutter is eBay, where you can often sell certain brand new items for a large share of their retail price. I figure it's pretty safe to assume that my readers are familiar with eBay, so I'm just going to give some tips for people who might be a bit new to selling on eBay.

Don't start too high. A lot of new sellers make the mistake of listing their item with too high an opening bid. Doing this will often result in your item not selling at all, and at the very worst, it'll ensure that your item doesn't generate much interest. By setting a lower opening bid, you'll encourage more people to bid early and become emotionally involved in winning your auction, and can often get a far higher price than if you had started your bid higher in the first place. Also, you can save money, as eBay charges less in listing fees if you start bidding lower.

A good rule of thumb is- if you're selling an item that might generate interest with only a small number of bidders, list it at the lowest price you'd be happy selling it for. If it's an item that is very popular (like an iPod or a DVD set), you can even easily start it at 1 cent.

Do your homework. It's important to do research on what your item normally sells for so that you know what kind of price to expect. The perfect way to do this is to use the eBay Completed Items search, where you can search for recent sales of your item on eBay.

Know what to expect. Certain types of items tend to sell extremely well on eBay, often selling for retail price, or even at a small premium. Typically, electronics, sealed new DVD's, video games, cosmetics and many accessories (such as reasonably priced but good quality bags) do very well. On the other hand, clothes tend to sell a lot more poorly, often because there is a huge supply of clothing for sale, and because of the prevalence of counterfeit items (especially by designer brands). You might be surprised at how poorly lots of clothes sell on eBay, and so you might want to try to return or donate clothes that you would otherwise try to sell.

Know the features. Certain eBay features, such as Featured Listing, Bold Item title, and many others are rather expensive and don't seem to make a huge difference in ending price. On the other hand, certain features like Buy it Now can often help your items sell faster, and even for a higher price than you'd get otherwise. By adding a Buy it Now price to your auction, you create a price at which a bidder can immediately buy your item (duh). Often, by appealing to a buyer's desire for instant gratification, you can get a bit more for your item than you'd otherwise get.

Feedback is key. Feedback (aka the little number in parentheses after an eBay username) is the way eBay users rate each other. Studies have shown that higher feedback directly translates to higher ending prices, so if you have very low or very poor feedback, you may want to consider having a friend sell the item for you. In the long run, you want to maximize your positive feedback by communicating well with buyers and sellers and paying/shipping promptly.

I hope some of this advice has been useful- eBay is a great place to find buyers for your unwanted items, and can be a great way to turn gifts that would otherwise become clutter into cash. If you have any questions about buying/selling on eBay, feel free to comment on this thread and I will respond as soon as I can.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

My New Year's Resolutions

I'm not a big New Year's resolution person. If during the year I find something I want to change about myself or my life, I try to address it right away. I figure that if I want to lose weight or try something new, why wait another five months to start? But the end of a year is a nice time to look back and reflect on what you learned, how you changed and what you'd like to do differently in the coming year, and begin the new year with a fresh start.

My list of resolutions includes a mixture of old and new projects, including some things I've been struggling with for a long time, and others that I simply haven't given enough attention to in the past.

Resolution #1: Be more generous. This applies to every area of my life. While I try hard to show others that I love and appreciate them and give some (but not enough) of my time to helping others in my community, there's still a lot more I can do. Even really tiny things, like not volunteering to do a favor for someone when I know they'd like it, or not sharing (oh, this chocolate? Sorry, I must have eaten the rest.). Generosity is underrated.

Resolution #2: Be more patient. Again, this is a very general problem, but one I really should address. I HATE waiting for anything and I get so frustrated when people are slow. I also have a mild case of road rage. I realized that I should add this to the list yesterday when I was driving behind this car that was going 5 miles under the speed limit. I was screaming at the car to speed up when I realized that it was a hearse. Hello, my name is Meghan, and I have road rage.

Resolution #3. Be more open-minded to other people's ideas, beliefs, etc. I'm someone with very strong convictions, I'm often stubborn and I like things done my way. But I often think of myself as being an open-minded, tolerant individual, which certainly clashes with my actions. I'd like to work on making fewer assumptions about others, listening to what they have to say, and actually considering their views before I judge them.

Resolution #4: Continue the healthy habits I established in 2006. I happen to attend a college with one of the best dining programs in the country (when I'm at home, I actually miss the food). Which is mainly why I gained about 10 lbs after my freshman year. My sophomore year (last year) I decided to do something about it, and I've lost nearly 20 lbs, by exercising regularly, eating only healthy, non-processed foods and in general, treating my body well. While I'm no longer trying to lose weight, I'd like to maintain my current weight and healthy habits, as I feel far better than I ever have before.

Resolution #5: Continue to work towards my goal of securing a good job by graduation. This is somewhat self-explanatory. Earlier this year, after a number of unpaid jobs and internships, I decided that my goal would be to find a job that I loved but would also allow me to live (modestly) in New York City, completely financially independent. Based on the experiences of my recently graduated friends, this is a lofty goal, so I'm working very hard now (with a year and a half left) to try and make that a reality.

I've read that 80% of people who make New Year's resolutions fail by January 20th. So I did a little research and found some tips for following through on your resolutions:

Focus on realistic goals with measurable results. Breaking each goal into small steps that you can manage on a daily basis will make your goal far easier to tackle. Start very small and work your way to bigger things.

Tell others about your resolutions so they can hold you accountable. It really helps if you have a friend who has the same resolution, as you can support each other. The accountability issue is huge, it's one of the main reasons that Weight Watchers is so successful.

Start acting right away. If you put it off, you'll lose motivation.

Don't beat yourself up if you start to slip. If by January 10th you're back to eating Big Mac's, stop feeling guilty and get back to your good habits the next day. It's inevitable that you'll slip at some point, but that slip never has to turn into failure. Start fresh and move forward.

Best of luck on all of your resolutions!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Post-Holiday Thank You Cards

Now that you've recovered from your holiday festivities, it's time to start thanking everyone who did something nice for you during the season, from gift-giving to party throwing. Before you begin, make a list of every party you attended and gift you received, then write down the names of who gave/did what. Remember to thank them specifically for what they gave/did, and try to add a personalized note to each person. If you can, try to mail out all the letters by the end of the week. While an e-mailed thank you is acceptable in our digital age, a handwritten card will go a long way to show someone how much you appreciate them and what they did for you.

If you don't have a cute set of thank you cards, now is the perfect time to pick one up, online or from your local stationary store. Here are a few of my favorite cards that are sure to impress with beautiful designs and high quality paper: