The One Where I Share Some Minor Obsessions

Melody WarnickBuy local, Stuff I love0 Comments

My Favorite Things 2018


Not long after I moved from Austin, Texas, to Blacksburg, Virginia, I met this beautiful blonde woman named Melissa at church. We started chatting, and eventually she mentioned that she ran her own blog. “Oh yeah?” I said, “What’s your blog called?”

“320 Sycamore,” she told me.

Friends, it was like realizing that Julia Roberts had been sitting in the next pew.

Long before I knew that Blacksburg, Virginia, existed, 320 Sycamore had filled my feedreader. That I’d ended up in the same place as Melissa—the Melissa—felt like a sign. STAY HERE, the sign said. GOOD THINGS ARE COMING.

Eventually Melissa’s family moved away (sob). Meanwhile, I wrote a whole book, This Is Where You Belong, about how I stayed and put down roots here—and how you can make wherever you live feel like home. Friends and neighbors like Melissa make a big part of the magic happen.

This Is Where You Belong Book Cover

Melissa’s annual Favorite Things feature is an obsession, so I was thrilled to be asked to participate this year. Gonna be real here: Tons of my favorite things come straight from the interwebs. But one thing I learned writing my book is that buying stuff locally connects you to your community—and may just make a small business owner’s sugar plum dreams come true.

I wrote a Buy Local gift guide last year. These items look different but the idea is the same: When you can, buy the books at the local bookshop, the games at the toy store down the street, the bag at the local boutique. It makes your community thrive and helps you fall in love with where you live..

Seriously, though, Favorite Things is the best. Read on to see mine, and check out the rest of Melissa’s posse this year:

12 on Main
Finding Lovely
Life With Fingerprints

Lil’ Luna
Hello Allison
Creations by Kara

Lolly Jane
Natalie—guest post at 320 Sycamore

SCOUT bag

SCOUT Deano Tote Bag

I use this enormous workhorse bag to haul my stuff for seminary, the early-morning scripture study class I teach for teenagers at my church. This particular one came from an amazing Blacksburg shop called T.R. Collection, and I adore it. Water-resistant. Durable as heck. Lugs 50 lbs. of candy without complaint. (Don’t ask). Makes your beach trips super-stylish.

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GAP Cable-Knit Sweater

I’ve been hunting for years for a lovely, simple cable-knit sweater that would stand up to machine washing because ain’t nobody got time to dry clean. This beauty from the GAP is it. You can even throw it in the dryer. #miracle


GAP Sweater
YouCopia SpiceLiner

Spice Drawer Organizers

My family built a new house this spring, and for weeks after we moved in all I wanted to show off to visitors was the utopia that was my spice drawer. No more falling-over lazy Susans or rooting through piled-up shelves to find the one container of cumin that got shoved to the back. No ma’am. I stuck these inexpensive little YouCopia SpiceLiner organizers into a drawer next to the stove and the angels sang. They’re rubbery, so they hold the spices in place, with the labels facing up like nature meant it to be.

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Skinny Pop

It says “skinny” right on the bag of Skinny Pop popcorn! I think that means I can eat the whole container of crunchy goodness and never gain weight! Yay!


Skinny Pop
Burt's Bees Lip Balm

Burt’s Bee’s Tinted Lip Balm

We live far from all our extended family, so figuring out Christmas gifts for the cousins in Utah is an ordeal. A few years ago we took a cue from 320 Sycamore and mailed a box of our favorite things: HydroFlask, issue of Country Living magazine, Trader Joe’s chocolate-covered peanut butter pretzels. Everyone adored it, and last year, my sister-in-law’s family sent us their favorite things for Christmas. My niece Emily included this Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm, and I agree with her 100%. It’s a fave, hydrating with just a small hit of color.
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I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

I don’t know what it is, but Christmas time always gives me a hankering to read a really dark mystery. You too? No? Okay. British novelists P.D. James and Ruth Rendell are holiday standbys for me, but this year I highly recommend Michelle McNamara’s best-selling true-crime book I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, about the hunt for the Golden State Killer. Lock your windows. Or discover what I thought of all the other books I read this year at Goodreads, where I specialize in one-sentence reviews.


I'll Be Gone in the Dark
Double Ditto

Double Ditto Game

I’m a reluctant board game player at best, to the chagrin of my 11-year-old. Double Ditto even I can handle because (a) it only takes 10 minutes a round, and (b) it’s actually fun trying to figure out what the other players will name in response to a category like “Foods you put in a refrigerator” or “Things you clean every day” so you can win points for matching. Hilarity ensues.
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Nugget Ice Maker

I don’t have this nugget ice maker and honestly, I may not even want it because I have friends who have it. That’s all I need. I just want other people in my life to own a pebble ice maker, and I want them to bring me gallon-size bags of pebble ice every few weeks, and I want to horde the pebble ice in my freezer and then periodically scoop it out and eat the pebble ice. I may have a problem. Help.


Ice Machine
Q&A A Day

Q&A a Day Five-Year Journal

How many stamps are in your passport? What’s the next book you want to read? Who would you trade places with for just one day? (One, Oliver Twist, and Lin-Manuel Miranda.) The questions in Q&A A Day rattle your brain in the best way, and four lines to write an answer keep it pleasingly doable for busy folk. Probably getting these for my daughters this year.
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Home State Apparel Camp Mug

My unofficial research shows that basically everyone likes stuff with a picture of their state on it. I’m partial to this blue-rimmed enamel camp mug from North Carolina company Home State Apparel—with a map of Virginia for me, duh, but you order the home state of your choice.


Camp Mug

Issue 26: The Crappiest Thing (and a Big Announcement!)

Melody WarnickCool projects, Moving

Time heals all wounds. That’s why, if you’ve lived in the same place for a few years, you may start to say ridiculous things like, “Let’s move. It’ll be fun.”

I don’t blame you. I myself had forgotten how much relocating sucks until this past spring, when for the first time in six years my family moved houses. Suddenly it was like: “Oh. Yeah.” And I didn’t even leave my town! It was a mere fraction of the crappiness of moving to a new city!

Once I’d remembered how real and disconcerting all those relocation-induced emotions can be—you know, enjoyable sensations of being totally lost, lonely, and overwhelmed—I wanted a solid way to help. So I partnered with relocation coach Marni Cummings to create an online course called Relocation Recovery.

If you’ve moved in the past few years (or if you’re still struggling to put down roots where you are), this course is for you.

  • It’s simple and self-paced.
  • It’s full of ideas for processing what you’re going through and making yourself feel better.
  • The challenges, if you do them, could change everything.
  • It’s only $25.

I’m really excited about Relocation Recovery precisely because I remember the pain. Go check it out.

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7 items of interest

1. He started something called Neighbours in a Yard—”and it was sheer joy.”
2. I keep a spreadsheet of placemaking ideas I love, and this Philadelphia awesomeness made the cut. (Also I’m strangely obsessed with this Philadelphia awesomeness.)
3. On returning to your rural hometown: “There is something incredibly powerful about the way we show up with each other in small, daily ways.”
4. Neighborhoods shape children for life, according to these maps.
5. Pretty sure this mayor is my hero.
6. Me on the Strong Towns podcast. Go listen.
7. Favorite Halloween candy by state. THIS IS IMPORTANT, GUYS.

xoxo, Melody

Remember, the only way you get access to my amazing random bonus links—book recommendations, Netflix picks, recipes, funny New Yorker cartoons, and other bits of enjoyable weirdness, is to subscribe to my newsletter. It only comes about once every two months. NBD.

Issue 25: I Am Sitting on My Front Porch

Melody WarnickBlacksburg, Moving, Place love, Virginia

You don’t buy a lot and build a brand-new house without thinking for about a bajillion hours about the kind of place you’d like to have. For my husband and me, those bajillion hours distilled down to a few core principles rooted in everything I’ve ever learned about place attachment:

  • We wanted an infill lot in an existing neighborhood with trees
  • We wanted to be in walking distance to stuff we cared about
  • We wanted to be closer to downtown
  • We wanted a front porch

Five months in, I stand by all those decisions. Maybe the porch most of all.

In builder’s terms, it’s dead space, a $10,000 boondoggle. In life terms, it’s what spans the gap between inside and outside, private home and neighborhood. It’s where we read after dinner and watch the rain without getting wet. It’s the quiet vantage point from which I can greet (okay, spy on) the neighborhoods.

When I get ambitious, I’ll mimic my friend Dawn’s family and institute weekly “open porch” nights. Pop some popcorn, stir up some lemonade, and issue a standing invitation to stop by and chat.

Do you have a porch? Do you want one?

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Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter

Just another month till we’re ready to kick off our new online mini course! For not much time or money, it will make you less of a mess after a move.

If you relocated this summer, or last summer, or soon, sign up for our mailing list to get more details.

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7 items of interest

1. The nutty finances of living where you want to live.
2. This will make you want to move to a small town. In Texas.
3. When place attachment means running for office.
4. Gentrification summed up.
5. The world’s most Instagrammable mural.
6. Are you anti–open concept? “Nothing is more maddening than trying to read or watch television in the tall-ceilinged living room with someone banging pots and pans or using the food processor 10 feet away in the open kitchen.” #FirstWorldProblems
7. A short podcast about the travails of moving. (I got interviewed!)

xoxo, Melody

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Issue 24: The $5 Love Where You Live Experiment

Melody WarnickBlacksburg, Buy local, Love Where You Live experiment

On the Friday that the ice cream shop Sugar Magnolia finally soft-launched in downtown Blacksburg, Virginia, traffic through the doors didn’t falter for eight hours. The tables were swamped when I wandered over. No matter. I ate my $3.50 coconut chip ice cream cone among the greeting card racks.

It’s the least I can do. Communities do well when their locally owned businesses are thriving. Businesses succeed when the communities they’re located in are humming along. It’s the ultimate circular relationship.

When I was researching my book This Is Where You Belong, I joined a downtown cash mob, a group of locals committed to spending $20 that evening at a designated downtown businesses. That night, our target business was a local skateboard shop that I’d never set foot inside because I’m a middle-aged lady who would rather not break her arm, thanks.

Galvanized by the cash mob, I dropped $20 there on a locally screen-printed Blacksburg t-shirt. One of the store’s owners thanked me for coming. “Your support means a lot to us,” he said.

Your local spending obviously matters to the entrepreneurs, but it matters just as much to your community. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, when you shop at locally owned stores, about three times the money continues to circulate locally than when you shop at chains, creating a trickle-down effect in the way of additional tax revenue, employment, and spending. Sugar Magnolia, for instance, sells locally made Homestead Creamery ice cream, chocolates from just over the border in West Virginia, and books and art from local creatives.

I’m seeing the effects first-hand now, since one of the pony-tailed teenage girls scooping ice cream at Sugar Magnolia that first afternoon was my daughter, on her first day at her first job. That job will last only as long as Sugar Magnolia stays open.

Now all my downtown spending falls under the heading “supporting the local community.” It’s like an emotional tax write-off that perfectly justifies a $5 greeting card and a $20 t-shirt. I am my own cash mob of one. It’s a pretty cheap investment in loving where I live.

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Shameless self-promotion portion of the newsletter

Some super-exciting news! This fall, my friend Marni Cummings and I will be launching an online course designed to help people who have recently moved feel happier and more settled in their new community. Are you moving this summer? Be the first to know about our online course by signing up for our special e-mail list.

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7 items of interest

1. “I set my intention to deepen my experience of community wherever I am.” How unlikely connections make our lives richer.
2. Your town needs its own musical.
3. Would you retire to Florida? (Florida wants you to.)
4. “Loneliness won’t just make you miserable—-it will kill you.” And the solution could be as simple as a monthly potluck.
5. What happens if rich neighborhoods can just secede from poor cities?
6. Find a place that needs you.
7. Two great lists of picture books to teach your kids about helping the community.

xoxo, Melody

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Issue 23: One Word That Changes Everything

Melody WarnickCool projects, Love Where You Live experiment, Moving, Place love

Right before my friend Cristina moved to my town a few years ago, someone gave her this advice: Say yes to everything you’re ever invited to do.

“Since you’re new in town, you’ll probably get invited to things. But you only get one chance, because if you say no, you probably won’t get invited again. So say yes.”

So Cristina said yes. Over and over. For six months after she landed here, saying yes was her personal mission in life. Would she go to lunch with a bunch of strangers? Sure! Did she want to join the Junior Women’s League? Of course!

As a self-described introvert, the thought of socializing with people she barely knew sometimes filled her with anxiety, yet she forced herself to face the awkwardness repeatedly. It was like exposure therapy. Before too long, the awkwardness dissipated and Cristina started making real friends.

Then things got serious. A few months after moving in, she and her husband were at their new friend Holly’s house when talk turned to Holly’s approaching 40th birthday. The big plan: A bunch of couples were all flying to the Caribbean together for a blow-out, rum-soaked birthday weekend. Holly suddenly turned to Cristina and exclaimed, “You should come!”
Read more at Livability.com.

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7 items of interest

1. Would you move to a town that promised to pay off your student loan debt?
2. Two words for areas looking to bolster tourism: Donut. Trail.
3. One sign you might be moving: You have box envy. (Haha, a month after we moved into our new house I’m still scanning dumpsters.)
4. Vermont wants you to go on vacation there this summer. And they wouldn’t mind if you moved there either.
5. Did Fixer-Upper fix Waco?
6. Chill the heck out, Louisiana (and other takeaways from this list of most-stressed states).
7. Should I admit that I still check online real estate listings?

xoxo, Melody

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