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wonders never cease

Year / 2014

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fourteen Songs for the Fat Man & His Elves

Alright, good readers, the Yule is nigh. We’re into the home stretch of this holiday season and I’m sure we’re all a little weary. For better or for worse, there’s really only a week to go before Christmas, or eight and a half days until Boxing Day, if that’s your big thing. If you feel a bit under the gun at this point, think about how things probably are at the North Pole this week. The sun never rises, the entire operation is illuminated by omnipresent countdown clocks and the blinking lights of coffeepots in various states of disrepair. It makes us glad our parents weren’t elves, no matter how cool Orlando Bloom and Peter Jackson make it look. In honor of our industrious half pint cousins and their hard charging task master, we’re delivering a Christmas play list, as promised. However, to give us all a bit of a break from the mounting pressure of this ever lengthening season, we’re opting for some non-traditional tunes this week. Not a Noel to be found among them. Take your foot off the gas, take a deep breath or two while you listen. Don’t forget to exhale. Try and enjoy the rest of this season with cheer and good will. We’re all in this together. Be kind to each other. Things will be back to normal in no time. Cheers.

1. Champagne of Christmas – The Fleshtones
“Being a traditionalist, I'm a rabid sucker for Christmas. In July, I'm already worried that there are only 146 shopping days left.”
- John Waters

2. Merry Christmas Baby – Vandaveer
“Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.”
- Dave Barry

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fifteen Songs For Huck Finn’s Birthday!

Today marks the 130th anniversary of the publishing of the first great American novel, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. We don’t plan to rank the literary importance of this seminal work, nor do we intend to address the controversies surrounding Twain’s language choices or depiction of any of the characters in the book. We just want to tell you that it is one of our very favorites, and if you haven’t read it, pop in to the shop and pick up a copy. Find out what all the fuss is about.

We're on the record as unabashed opponents of censorship and book banning, so the travails of this great novel have never sat well with us. We can learn a lesson on taking criticism with measured composure by studying Twain's response to a report stating The Brooklyn Library had removed his books from their children's section. He retorted “I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote 'Tom Sawyer' and 'Huck Finn' for adults exclusively, and it always distressed me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeased bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again on this side of the grave.”

For those new to this blog, each week we choose a topic and then select thematically appropriate songs, pairing each song with an appropriate quote. In honor of the first publishing of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn on this date in 1884, we’re switching things up this week, selecting a quote from the book first, then pairing it with a fitting song. We don't claim to have created a literary masterwork here, but, to paraphrase Samuel Clemens, we’ve never been reluctant to meddle in hifalut’n foolishness, so thank you for indulging us. As always, there are bonus songs in the Spotify player at the bottom of the list.

1. “Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons  attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.” - Author’s Notice
Your Mama Warned You – Eels

2. “You don't know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth, mainly. There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth” – Chapter 1
Huck Finn – The Statesboro Revue

3. “It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another.” – Chapter 33
Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thirteen Songs For the Twelfth Month

Christmas, Christmas, Christmas! Christmas is coming! Did we mentionChristmas yet? Black Friday has passed, Small Business Saturday has come and gone, and even Cyber Monday is history. Yesterday was probably Too Late Tuesday. If you haven't gotten your Christmas presents for everyone on your list by now, you might as well give up and go back to bed. While you're there, listen to these songs. They can help to remind you that a lovely month started Monday. True, it happens to host a high profile holiday in the fourth week and ends with another fancy, festive one. Trust us, those pressure filled days are ages away. Ask any kid. Today is only the third of 31 days of December. Try to enjoy all them all. We can help. Come visit the shop and listen to some nice songs while we find some great gifts for anyone left on your list, naughty or nice.

1. December – Collective Soul
“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness, how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”

- Dr. Seuss

2. Air Of December – Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
“When we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark
December, how
In this our pinching cave
shall we discourse
The freezing hours away?”

- William Shakespeare

3. December, 1963 (Oh What A Night) – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons
“Wintry it ain't- no complaints!
Snowier: Storefronts are showier, light displays glowier.
Shoppers are prowling, blizzard howling!
Drifts a-heaping, lords a-leaping,
Yule logs burning, gifts returning.
Winds are keen for 2015!”

- The Old Farmer's Almanac

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Friday, November 28, 2014

Gift Guide: Alicia’s Picks for Food Lovers

Alicia Sokol writes the cooking blog Weekly Greens, where she has amassed a collection of (mostly) easy recipes geared toward busy people who like flavor and freshness without fuss. Always on the lookout for a whimsical hostess gift or fun - yet functional - addition to her kitchen counter, Alicia recently visited the shop to get an early jump on shopping for her food-loving friends and family. Check out her picks.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

20 Songs for Turkey Day

Because we have a lot to be thankful for this year, we’re falling back on an old trite and true, er, tried and true theme for this Thanksgiving play list. We’re thankful every day for our loyal customers who encourage us to try to bring nice things to their worlds. We’re thankful for our terrific staff and for all they do to keep the cogs turning at the shop. This year, we’re thankful that the long and painful construction projects that turned our stretch of Connecticut Avenue into a hazardous hellscape for much of the last four months have finally concluded. We’re especially grateful to those of you who looked past the juvenile goofiness of and found it in your hearts to make a donation to Water.org. We’ve raised a nice sum and are almost halfway to our goal. Many thanks from the bottom of our hearts. If you read last week’s post, you probably expect a joke about something from the heart of our bottoms at this point, but alas, World Toilet Day comes but once a year.


Here are eighteen Thanksgiving songs to get you good and ready for dinner tomorrow. We’ve got songs about Pilgrims and songs about Indians. We chose songs about being grateful and songs about things to be grateful for. And, of course, we have songs about that Thanksgiving bird. If you dig into the extended Spotify list you may notice a song about a bird by a band with Grateful in their very name.  Kind of ties it all together there, don’t you think?

Happy Thanksgiving, one and all, and remember to compliment the chef!

1. Be Thankful For What You Got – William DeVaughn
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence. My breath is sweet to me. O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.”
- Henry David Thoreau

2. Kind & Generous – Natalie Merchant
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

3. Young Pilgrims – The Shins
“I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.”
- Jon Stewart

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Gift Guide: Jenn’s Choices for the Journey(wo)man

Jenn Barger — a local retail journalist and personal shopper for DC Style Factory  — knows a thing or two about holiday present-hunting: She put together gift guides for the Washington Post for nearly a decade. Now, she’s offering holiday gift-shopping services for her new company (just email her at dcstylfactorystylist@gmail.com if you need help filling your friends’ and family’s socks.). Here, she curates a few choice cadeaux for the wanderlust-y on your list. Whether you include two tickets to Paris with one of these finds is your call.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

21 Songs for World Toilet Day

For those of you that haven’t noticed, we post a music play list on this blog every Wednesday. Before we begin this week’s list, we ask that you forgive us our juvenile indulgence just this once. We promise to return to our high-minded musings and excellent music collections next week. It’s just that we were flushed with excitement when we learned that World Toilet Day fell on a Wednesday this year. It’s as if our whole life has been leading up to this very moment. We truly believe that it’s a shame to let good toilet jokes go to waste, and now we have the opportunity to blow the lid off some global dirty laundry that could benefit from public exposure. Lincoln himself said “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.” If you haven’t yet heard of World Toilet Day, this is absolutely a matter of life and death. Here’s the poop.

Nearly 2.5 billion people do not have access to a toilet or sustainable sanitation, with more than 1 billion forced to practice open defecation. The list of diseases directly linked to open defecation includes cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio, diarrhea, worm infestation, reduced physical growth, impaired cognitive function and under nutrition. Diarrhea alone is the second biggest killer of children under five years old in the world. Around 1.5 million deaths each year - nearly one in five – are caused by diarrhea. It kills more children than malaria, AIDS, and measles combined.

Lack of access to sanitation cost the world’s poorest countries $260 billion dollars a year. The World Health Organization and The United Nations have launched initiatives to publicize the problem to encourage struggling nations to address the issue. Nonprofit organizations like Water.org have worked to promote awareness and raise funds to provide sustainable sanitation to those without it. They have shown remarkable returns on modest investments. For a mere $25 donation, you can provide someone clean water for life.  On average, every US dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return of eight US dollars for some of the poorest countries in the world. This is a problem that can be eradicated in our lifetime.

Proper Topper has created a campaign with Water.org, not just because it gives us an excuse to use the world’s best hashtag #toiletsWIN but also because they run a remarkably effective charity. We would be honored if you would join us in this worthwhile cause.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

All the Lovely Books

So many lovely books, so little time to read ... we make ambitious lists, and hope for a snow day soon. In the meantime, they make awfully pretty room decor {while slyly beckoning us to come hither and pour through their pages}.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Eleven Songs For Veterans Day

Some of us at the shop are proud kids of distinguished veterans and we appreciate the extra effort the Feds and HBO are making this year. It’s a nice warm Veterans Day in DC so we hope you locals brave the crowds and trek down to hear the talented people make their beautiful music to honor the heroes who fight to protect our country. As far as the music choices go, we are aware that some of these songs were written as protest songs. Also, we suspect the Village People may have just put a disco beat to a recruitment speech. Either way, as much as we need to thank them for the dangers they confront around the world today and every day, we think it’s equally important that we ask our leaders to keep our soldiers out of harm’s way if we can. The protest songs we’ve chosen protest war, not soldiers. Love the warrior, hate the war, that sort of thing. Above all, be good to each other and thank every brave soldier you see, today and every day. Happy Veterans Day to one and all.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gift Guide: The Sports Enthusiast

It's not too early to start checking off folks on your list, so let us present the first of our annual holiday gift guides! Being fresh off of baseball season and in the midst of football is as good an excuse as any to kick off the series with ideas for the sports lover in your life. Watch for upcoming Guest Gift Guides curated by some of our favorite tastemakers. AND, want to put together your own guide? Email us (dearsanta@propertopper.com) to get in on the fun!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Seventeen Songs For Serious Citizens

Whew! Election Day has come and gone and we’re all still here, it seems. The nationwide barrage of horrifying ads and negativity had us terrified that the country was going over a cliff last night. As a whole, the nation spent between 3.5 to 6.5 billion dollars to convince two thirds of eligible voters to stay home, keep their doors and windows locked and save their votes for safer times. It really gives new meaning to the term “dark money,” doesn’t it? Many of us in DC braved the mild weather and weaved through the masses of placard waving partisans to elect a new mayor and some other important people. While we’re sure that our blogged exhortation to go and vote had as much to do with good turnout as the balmy weather and strong candidates, we ask that you forgive us our delusions of grandeur, if you will. As promised in said exhortation, here is the weekly play list, dedicated to all of you wonderful citizens who exercised the rights that our forefathers fought and died for. Whether your candidate came in first or fifth, we want you to know that we think you’re a winner just for playing the game. Congratulations to the victors, better luck next time to the also-rans. For those of you who stayed home, there’s another election in two years. Make sure to vote then. It's nice, and they give you a sticker when you're finished, just like in pre-school. Enjoy the tunes, one and all.

1. V.O.T.E. – Chris Stamey with Yo La Tengo
“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don't bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don't bullshit yourself that you're not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some diehard's vote.”
- David Foster Wallace, Up, Simba!

2. Democracy – Leonard Cohen
“Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
- H. L. Mencken

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Get Out and Vote Today!

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sixteen Songs To Send Shivers Down Your Spine

People, heed our warning. We’re not joking around. These songs are creepy and freaky and not to be trifled with. If you’re at all faint of heart, just skip back and listen to last week’s fun Halloween play list. What’s that you say? You know some of these songs and don’t think they’re scary? That’s exactly what we said until we really listened to these songs. Now we can’t sleep at night…

To ease the grim dread a bit, we’ve paired each horrific song with a fun epitaph, because what could be more cheerful than funny final words chiseled on tombstones, right? As for the music, Tom Waits sets the stage with his first of two on this list but we could have added at least a dozen of his songs, to be honest with you. From there we ease you in with bizarre ramblings from The Lizard King and a haunting tune from our beloved Vandaveer. The list heads downhill once The Violent Femmes start murdering their offspring. After Warren Zevon cheerfully details the development of a psychopath, Aphex Twin gives voice and a beat to horrific inner demons. The Decemberists one up The Violent Femmes who seem like parents of the year as their protagonist snatches the lives of his children without remorse. Nick Cave is full of menace and Black Sabbath summons Satan. Lisa Germano gently presents a soundtrack for our nightmares before Sonic Youth revisits Charles Manson’s bloody rampage. Misfits are disturbing, and we’re not quite sure what Liars are putting down but we know we don’t want to be there. Bauhaus spends a lot of time building creepy tension for the entrance of Count Dracula, and Swans are just an unholy mess. We wrap the list with Tom Waits again, delving deep into our darkest fears. If you have the stomach for it, we’ve added even more depravity to the Spotify list below.

Good luck, brave souls. Happy All Hallows!

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Indian Summer

With a throwback to summer's warmth and blazing color, nature tapped us on the shoulder today, insisting that we pause and pay attention to her glorious hues. We're keeping gloves and scarves near at hand, but, for today, we threw open the doors and soaked it in.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Easy Intro for a Wild Night

Lately we’ve been catching talk of costumes and candy on the blustery, leaf strewn streets and sidewalks of DC. It seems that Halloween anticipation starts earlier when trick or treating falls on the weekend. We’ve already become accustomed to seeing creepy figures on front stoops, noose-necked skeletons dangling from front doors, and bloody heads peering from dimly lit windows. We still have 9 more days until the official frightful Friday’s festivities but All Hallows is heavy on our minds. For starters, we’re worried about proper pumpkin prep. Will a pumpkin carved Sunday still be presentable when Friday rolls around? If we wait until Wednesday, will we have time to soak and roast the seeds? Oh, the humanity!
With these dilemnas to resolve, we'll post these 13 songs for Halloween fun. Next week, we’ll ramp up the creep quotient and put forth a scarier list for the bigger, braver kids. As always, there are bonus songs to be found in the Spotify list below. Gather ye spooky songs while ye may…

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New to the Shop: Pi’lo

We've fallen in love with our new handmade pieces from pi'lo (pronounced pillow). Made in a downtown Toronto coach house studio by Heather Shaw, these whimsical wonders are a welcome addition to our ever-growing menagerie. Repurposed and hand-embroidered vintage hankies, stitched notebook covers, lavender-scented sachets...a little something for everyone (and a charming get for your own collection of treasures).

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Monday, October 20, 2014

The Adventures of Little Red.

Our own Little Red has been rather precocious, of late--galavanting about the shop, laying about our displays, and generally being mischevious. Here she is, perched atop a throne of beautifully designed classics from Rifle Paper Co.'s Anna Bond, like a fairy tale princess. Where will she pop up next?

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bushel of Songs For Fall’s Finest Fruit

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Monday, October 13, 2014

New to the Shop: Djeco Toys

Welcome Djeco, founded in 1954 by the current director's mother, who devised educational toys for her daughter (it's in the family blood). This gave rise to a company that strives to create an original collection of puzzles and activities with an emphasis on graphic art, design quality, and a clever sensibility. Djeco's studio is tucked in the corner of a courtyard off the banks of the Seine, where the designers work daily to bring you the most innovative and aesthetically pleasing gifts for your little one. We certainly think they've succeeded--que pensez-vous?

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Love Letters to Dupont: Stay Awhile.

We love Dupont (perhaps you've heard). Where else in town can you find so many romantic little inns, tucked away on quiet side streets? They're the perfect setting for a cozy lunch, a peaceful retreat, an unfolding mystery or two. Behold the charming architecture of a few of our favorites. Imagine resting your head in a room built a century or more ago. What pieces of history would find their way into your dreams?

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wonders never cease