These are a bunch of my favorite things — Part 1: Shopping while everybody else is watching The Game

Note: This is Part 1 of a continuing series about some of my favorite things that you need to know about so they can be your favorites, too. Check back frequently for the latest–and share your favorites, too.

 

There’s this Big Football Game (remember that you can’t say “Super Bowl” unless you’re an NFL team owner or actually playing in the game) coming up. Then, in a few weeks, Massive March (basketball) Madness happens. So because of these important televised Sports-Ball Games at which your people request your couch presence, you’ll probably be spending more time in front of the TV–you know, that big screen on your wall you keep forgetting to dust because you’re snuggled up in bed watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” And even if you’re a passionate I’ve-worn-my-team-shirt-for-12-straight-days fan who notices all the things–or you’re a casual observer who only REALLY pays attention when there’s a chance Alabama will get the @#$% beat out of them–it’s difficult to completely 100 percent focus on every single play 100 percent of the entire game. Sometimes you need a break–something quiet & unobtrusive that won’t earn you side eyes from those who frown on game-time side chatter.

Solution? Shopping on your phone.

Sure, you could do something like sit there & read a book or knit a sweater or grade some papers. (Wait, CAN you knit a sweater? Because if you can, you totally should do that, anyway.) But doing something that’s so obviously NOT watching the game is a bit I’ve-got-more-important-things-to-do-thank-you-very-much rude. Of course you could use your phone to play games or check email or engage in a Twitter war while everybody else debates an offside call. But those things take focus & concentration, too, and may cause you to be that person who looks up & asks plaintively “What happened? Why is everybody yelling? What did I miss?” Don’t be that person.

Shopping on your phone, on the other hand, is the perfect watching-but-maybe-not-so-much activity: You’re engaged enough to participate in game commentary but you’re also doing something nice for yourself. Win-win. Which–fun fact–is completely unlike the Sports Ball you’re (supposed to be) watching.

So, for your Big Game Day sort-of-watching pleasure, here are three of my favorite online boutiques. These are for mainly women’s clothes & accessories because that’s mainly what I shop for. I’ve got several other favorites, but these are simply the ones where I’ve recently spent waaay too much money because there’s so much cuteness & so many sales that I thought of first.

  • Lemons and Limes Boutique–Owned & run by the amazing Wendy Knight from her home in Loveland, Ohio, this is the place for fun & affordable jewelry, stylish yet useful handbags and unique items from her own product line, Lauren Lane. Double-stud earrings? Mix-and-match stretch bead necklaces? A purse you really & truly can wear five different ways? Lemons & Limes had them first. And now you can, too.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip: Wendy has the best subscription shipments, grab bags & mystery auction boxes. The. Best. Even if you think you don’t like surprises, I guarantee you’ll like these.
  • Prep Obsessed–Best friends Nina Vitalino & Corey O’Loughlin started their boutique in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, six years ago … and shopping has never been the same. Known for their colorful Florida vibe, the two entrepreneurs & their hard-working team offer curated collections of Spartina, Simply Southern, Corkcicle, All for Color & other classic brands both online & in their store.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip: New gotta-haves go fast, so don’t delay clicking “Add to cart.” (I NEVER hesitate.) However, Corey & Nina restock whenever things are available, so wait-listed items usually get fulfilled.
  • Tag Online Boutique–Julie Knight, of Cincinnati, couldn’t find an online clothing boutique that offered style & fit at accessible prices, so, four years ago, she started her own. “TAG” stands for “Trendy, Affordable & Gorgeous”–and everything she sells on her website meets that promise. Shop here for dresses, outerwear & separates–Julie was the one who introduced Magic Pants to the world.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip:  Join the Tag Facebook group for discounts on new releases, fabric info & to see items modeled by women of different sizes.

Each of the hundreds dozens one or two times I’ve shopped these boutiques, I’ve been amazed at the helpful customer service & quick shipping times. Each of these businesses is run by women–women with families & in some cases women with other jobs. Each of these boutiques gives back by helping individuals who could use a boost & by contributing to non-profits that help others. It’s win-win-win-win. Again, please don’t say that during The Game. The purpose of any sports ball is one–and ONLY one–win. Only in shopping can there be many winners. True story.

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Nobody pays me anything or gives me anything or helps me in any way in exchange for a mention in “Coffee with Cathy.” Whatever you read here is from me alone, for no other reason than it’s something I like or saw or heard or feel or want to talk about. Of course, if Cadillac wants to gift me my dream car–an Escalade SUV–I’m open to negotiations, but other than that, I can’t be bought. (Also blue. I like the Dark Adriatic Blue.)

But what if our clothes talk back???

So, let’s all agree that home-organization superstar Marie Kondo seems like a really sweet & gentle person whose Netflix show is making us reevaluate our overflowing closets & overstuffed garages and I had no idea I bought five little spice jars of paprika over the years.

She’s right, of course.

We all know that the things we accumulate should have purpose & meaning–they should EARN the right to be in our homes. They should be worthy of the space they occupy and the time & effort they require for maintenance. Things we uncover during Kondo’s tidying-up process that we didn’t know we had/never saw before/don’t even understand what they are? Outta here. Free up room for important stuff such as the entire 1972 run of “Vogue” you scored at a yard sale, the hapazardly stacked towers carefully curated collection of Starbucks cold-drink cups & the shelves of workout DVDs you’ll use as soon as you get a good pair of shoes. And some hand weights. And a yoga mat. And a …

Yes, Kondo is spot-on with most of her advice. The one thing I balk at–the one thing I have several unreasonable & probably obsessive fears minor questions about–is the talking part. You know: she wants us to talk to our possessions. To thank them for their service. To honor their role in our lives.

I have Concerns.

First, consider this from your possessions’ points-of-view. What about their feelings? Say you unearth a pair a jeans from the un-mined depths of your closet. You wore them once 10 years & 10 pounds ago and they didn’t feel right then so you folded them up & figured you’d deal with them later. Well, later is here. These jeans have been languishing for a decade–lonely, abandoned, unloved. Suddenly, they feel human touch! They see daylight!! They hear soft & appreciative voices!!! Hope is renewed!!!! But just as quickly, they find themselves back in a dark & depressing pile–a pile of fellow rejects whose souls were stirred by grace & gratitude for a brief moment before being extinguished forever. A pile headed to who-knows-where. Maybe someplace better. Maybe someplace worse. Do you want that on your conscience? Do you want to be responsible for such emotional turmoil? No. No, you don’t.

Second, what about your own peace of mind? Your own emotional stability? Say you pick up these jeans & thank them for that long-ago day of sort-of usefulness but then you start thinking: “You know, these jeans were expensive when I bought them. I gave up a month of Toasted White Chocolate Frappuccinos for them. Maybe I could sell them? But today this brand is three times what I paid. I could never replace them. Maybe low-rise animal-print double-distressed cropped light-wash boyfriend jeans will come back in style soon. Styles come back, you know. Maybe I should hang on to them & they’ll be worth a lot more. Maybe somebody collects them. Or a museum might want them. Maybe I should give up Toasted White Chocolate Frappuccinos for awhile & wear them myself.” Etc., etc., etc. Once we start this circuitous & never-ending inner dialogue, it only leads to trouble.

But, finally, my main concern is this: What happens when this inner dialogue becomes a two-way conversation? What happens when YOUR POSSESSIONS START TALKING BACK TO YOU? It may not happen & probably most certainly more-than-likely won’t but what if it did? Would Marie Kondo be at your side helping you then? (Actually, she seems so kind that she probably would. But cautiously.) Why even take the chance that your friends & family find you three days later immersed in passionate discussion with your dozens hundreds of Rae Dunn coffee mugs? Definitely not worth it. You do not want to be the asterisk in the millions of recommendations for the KonMari method.

My advice? Don’t engage. Go in fast, make snap decisions of “keep” or “toss” & then initiate rapid retreat–to Starbucks, of course, for a Toasted White Chocolate Frappuccino. And don’t forget to bring home the plastic cup. You can use it later.

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Nobody pays me anything or gives me anything or helps me in any way in exchange for a mention in “Coffee with Cathy.” Whatever you read here is from me alone, for no other reason than it’s something I like or saw or heard or feel or want to talk about. Of course, if Cadillac wants to gift me my dream car–an Escalade SUV–I’m open to negotiations, but other than that, I can’t be bought.

How much red, white & blue is too much?

Every time a holiday rolls around, I struggle with the same question, fashion-wise: To embrace celebratory colors with fun & festive exuberance or make a grownup move toward subtlety & sophistication?

Yeah, subtlety & sophistication never win in my closet.

I blame the 1980s. And the ’90s. All of that economic growth & McMansion building & IMG_8114 (Edited)hey-have-you-heard-about-this-thing-called-the-internet led to a optimistic feel-good-ism. Which, for some reason, led to a proliferation of sweatshirts decorated with teddy bears & ribbons & puffy plastic paint. And since the competitive get-ahead 1980s and ’90s was my prime daughter-raising period, I was fully committed to whatever my-young-mom-friends were doing so that I could do it better to creating special memories for my children. This was the era of the Ugly Christmas Sweater, although we didn’t know they were ugly & we bought a new one every year because new ones were at Proffitt’s & Parisian & Castner-Knott every year. But our true love was seasonal sweatshirts. We were fully committed to marking each holiday with the appropriate colored sweatshirts IMG_8113decorated with the appropriate colored … well … decorations. I don’t know how else to describe this sweatshirt frenzy that overtook us. We bought books. We stocked up on hot-glue sticks & glitter. We debated 100 percent cotton over a nylon-cotton blend. Each approaching holiday was an opportunity to showcase our creativity, our access to a Michaels and our deep & abiding dedication to our children. After all, nothing says “I love you, sweetie pie. Now stop picking off those sequins I glued on at 2 this morning.” like strongly encouraging your child to wear a sweatshirt you made at the last minute for Heather M.’s (you always had to identify which Heather you were talking about because there were at least five in every class) birthday party because you’d heard that Heather R.’s mom wiped out the entire inventory of neon pink and DAMN IT, NOBODY IS GOING TO BEAT ME AT THE NEON-PINK SWEATSHIRT GAME.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that the other moms actually were just being creative & I was the only one vying for first place.

So the years passed & soon my daughters moved from My Little Ponies & Care Bears to “The Tribe” & “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” & the Age of the Sweatshirts was over. And it wasn’t just my family. All across the country, glue guns gathered dust. Little bottles of puffy paint dried up. Our beloved crafting books became yard-sale staples. Sigh. But a tiny voice in my head still says, as holidays such as the upcoming Fourth of July get closer, “Maybe you should wear that T-shirt with the stars and the stripes on the pocket? What about those flag earrings? Or perhaps the red-white-and-blue bracelet stack?”

And maybe Hobby Lobby is having a sale on sweatshirts …

cropped-cwcslant1.jpg

 

 

What to wear when: The South by South Style guide to dressing for every occasion

South by South StyleAnd for today’s edition, we have style suggestions for what 78.7 percent of my friends are doing right now; huddling on the couch with leftover flu fever while catching up on “The Crown” & trying to remember how to put on lipstick.

Look, most of us maintain a pretty healthy balance of laziness & energy. We all Get Things Done most days & then enjoy a good lie-about (a handy term I picked up from “The Crown”). But this flu stuff tips the balance waaay toward the lazy side. And, as we do for every other South by South Style occasion, we must dress the part. But, it’s not complicated. Oh, we could make it complicated. We could devise formulas & create algorithims & calculate level of comfort based on softness of sofa multiplied by exterior temperature points divided by amount of interior warmth furnished by the last of the Christmas Scotch. But we won’t. We (and the royal first-person plural pronoun also is something I picked up from “The Crown.”) will make it easy for you. Because that’s what friends do. (They also excuse themselves to go to the restroom when the Worst Person in the World stops by your table at lunch just to aggravate the stuffing out of you chat and THEY NEVER COME BACK. But you can’t blame, them, really.)

How to choose an outfit for Lay-Around-on-the-Couch Sunday

Capture new

See, that was easy, wasn’t it? Looking chic & prepared for any occasion is a key component for living well, South by South Style-wise. Come back soon for the follow-up post titled “Help! I’ve lain on the couch for five days & it’s Monday now & I don’t know where my closet is.” We crownare here for you.

cwcslant

 

 

WTH, trendy fashion? Or why I don’t understand jeans with holes in the knees

Fashion, you are such a fickle godess of cuteness. Just when we figure you out, you start messing with us. Just when we achieve a glimmer of understanding, you pull a switcheroo. Do you think we can’t see what you’re doing? (No, really, I can’t see what you’re doing … where did I put my glasses? Give me a minute here … I just had them … )

(Thirteen-and-a-half minutes later … ) Anyway, I know that fashion is all about making us want new things so we’ll go buy the new things and somebody will make a bunch of money although probably not the people who actually MADE the new things innovation & creativity & fresh new ideas. Fashion is change. Constant change. If it wasn’t, we’d all be wearing Birkenstocks, chokers, matchy-match separates & backpacks from the ’90s.

Oh, wait …

However, there are some trends popping up this fall that I seriously question. I can almost wrap my head around denim overalls. I get why crop tops work. And who can argue against a pair of high-top Converse? But there are a few things that I just can’t. Just cannot, at all.

  • First up–and please remember that these are my personal non-preferences & if coldthey’re some of your favorite things ever in the whole world then cold shoulderwhat do I know?–are cold shoulders. I simply do not understand the cold- shoulder style. I mean, look at these women. It’s obviously cool enough for them to wear long pants & long sleeves. It’s cool enough for the model in all black to opt for a high neck & the other model to go for a sweater. A freakin’ SWEATER. This means that the temperature probably is no higher than the low 60s or upper 50s. That’s chilly, people. That’s hot-chocolate-and-a-blanket weather. Frostbite is a distinct possibility. So, given what we’ve learned, why would we want to expose our shoulders to potentially freezing temperatures? It’s right there in the name: COLD SHOULDER. Could not be any plainer. It’s as if you bought a pair of pants named “flat-butt jeans” or shoes called “extremely painful & dangerous high heels.” This is one instance where fashion is helpfully warning us before we buy. We should listen.
  • jeansSecond is jeans with holes in the knees, but not for the reasons you probably think. Yes, it is true that probably every woman over 35 contemplating a purchase like this has flashbacks to being forced to throw out her favorite childhood jeans because the knees were starting to wear through & no amount of patching could save them. And, yes, it’s also true that seeing the price tags on something that literally is precariously being held together by a few threads makes my raised-by-Depression-era-parents frugality kick in. But the main reason I do not understand jeans with holes in them is this: Look, what’s one of the main reasons for wearing pants? I mean, besides staying warm & providing a suitable background to awesome new boots? No, we all know that the top No. 1 reason for wearing pants is so you don’t have to shave your legs. With holey jeans, however, you’re wasting a perfectly good opportunity to give up shaving for one more day.  You should not have to pick up your razor to wear a pair of jeans. Just sayin’.
  • And then there’s camo. I DO understand camo. Camo is for hunting. Camo is for18301804_1398828510160567_7219919048816544789_n 20431480_1484884338221650_8982695899421444336_nawesome women who are strong & skilled & determined. Camo is for blending in when you’re trying to outfox a … well, you know. Where I live, women wear camo all the time. TO GO HUNTING. Camo isn’t fashion. It’s a tool. That being said, these camo-print soft stretchy shorts are pretty cute. And comfy-looking. They’d be great with a cozy soft black sweatshirt or maybe a black T-shirt & a long fuzzy cardigan. And speaking of cardigans, that camo cardi truly is adorable, don’t you think? Versatile, too. Maybe with a pair of distressed jeans?
  • Finally, there are these:Capture

The new fashion trend of shaping velvet ankle leggings–formerly known as “socks.”

cwcslant

 

 

 

Saturday shoe shopping

You know how when you have no motivation to write & would rather sit on the couch bingeing “Say Yes to the Dress” writer’s block and the advice always is to write what you know? Well, I know about shopping. And shoes. And hanging out with friends who also know about shopping and shoes. In fact, those are some of the things I do best.

Also: Warning–the following post is NSFHusbands. And by “husbands,” I mean mine. So, John Lewis Pitts, just look away. This does not concern you. (Well, actually, it probably concerns him a lot because this is a man who reaches for the duct tape instead of a credit card when his computer bag breaks. Just sayin’.)

So, a couple of friends & I were in Decatur, Alabama, recently. And because it was in the IMG_5991.JPGmiddle of the day & we knew we shouldn’t hit the bars (yet), we did the next best thing & went shoe shopping at Blue Ribbon Shoes–also known as Best Place Ever in the Whole Wide World to Buy Shoes. This was my first time, and I have to admit that I’d heard my two friends–one of whom I shall for no reason at all randomly call “Judy S.”–rave about this place so often that I was skeptical. I mean, really, how good can it be? Answer: That good. I’m talking rows & rows of cute new wear-now shoes at prices that that will make you think that you’re looking at the tag backwards. Or that you’ve lost a contact & aren’t seeing cleIMG_5993arly. Judy S. must have sensed my previous skepticism because I swear she was sort of smirking as she watched me take it all in. And I not only took it all in, but I nearly took it all home. (Disclaimer: The above photo may or may not be my purchases and may or may not be all of my purchases.) Luckily we all three were able to find correctly sized shoe happiness. There were no sneaky moves such as hiding a coveted pair of sandals in the boot section (a classic T.J. Maxx trick) or misdirecting attention (“Look, aren’t those the black Franco Sarto pumps you wanted?”) away from the only TOMS watermelon print espadrilles on the 7-7.5 table.

Now, before you go to Blue Ribbon, be aware that this is true discount shoe shopping. No one will offer you wine. There are no fancy bags for your purchases. In fact, it reminds me of the places I shopped with my two young daughters when I was a single mom without a lot of money & Older Daughter asked me one day, plaintively, “Mom, can we someday buy shoes that come with boxes?” (Bless.Heart_corazón.svg) You can ask for the boxes at Blue Ribbon, but why would you? It only slows you down. Fewer boxes means more room for the, you know, actual shoes. Just remember to remove the price stickers from the bottom of your new treasures, especially if you tend to sit with other people & swing your legs.

blue

The folks at Blue Ribbon are friendly & helpful & efficient & don’t mind checking in the back for that last pair of black heels. They put new merchandise out on the floor every day, said the woman at the cash register. I envision a constant stream of shoe deliveries, 24/7, based on the number of people shopping the day we were there & the promise of fresh inventory at every visit.

So pick a Saturday & grab a shopping buddy & check it out. But those Pierre Dumas Women’s Brenna-1 Two-Tone Canvas Fisherman Sandal with Decorative Ankle Strap, Sand Combo, size 8.5 you’ll see for $10 less than everywhere else? Mine. Unless there’s an extra pair in the back.

Please note that this post is not sponsored or paid for in any way. All opinions are my own & are not influenced by anybody else, except for Judy S., who said that since the brown sandals looked so good on me , maybe I should get the gray ones, too.

cwcslant

 

Three tips for holiday success

Yes, that panic you feel actually IS panic this time — pure unadulterated panic, not the kind you’ve been manufacturing because your year-end reports are due & has anybody seen your green sparkly sweater with the reindeer plus global warming, y’all. Nope, this is officially Panic Time because Dec. 25 is a week from today. One week,  people. One. Week.

But there are some things you can do to lessen your panic. Not completely get rid of it, you understand. That’s impossible because you ALWAYS will suddenly wake up at 3:31 a.m. on Dec. 23 with the certainty that although you did mail your sister’s family’s Christmas gifts in time, you definitely forgot to include your brother-in-law’s traditional bottle of Scotch, which your sister will take as subtle criticism & not call you for two weeks. That’s going to happen and you can’t do anything about it.

However, you can be prepared for/aware of other minor crises. Here are some suggestions, based on just a small sampling of my many holiday screw-ups years of expert research:

  • Family gatherings equal Game Nights, correct? Be the cool one with aIMG_2677 game that nobody’s played before. Family-friendly Qwirkle and its grown-up sibling Qwirkle Cubes are sort of dominoes, Scrabble and Hearts all rolled (sorry/not sorry for pun) into one. It truly is a game that’s easy to learn but then the more you play it, the more you realize how complex it can be. And, of course, because you are The Smart One, you downloaded the app on your phone and practiced beforehand so you can wipe up the competition with your brilliant moves share helpful advice & encouragement with those lesser players.
  • Pinterest is your friend during the holidays. Your best friend, IMG_2673actually, and she doesn’t even call you ONCE AGAIN at midnight to go over ONCE AGAIN the reasons she left her job/boyfriend/overflowing grocery cart in the middle of the frozen-food aisle ONCE AGAIN. (But you love her. You know you do.) Just browse through and you’ll find answers to any kind of holiday idea for decorating, gifting, baking, dressing for the office party — anything, really. Such as this wonderful gift idea my co-worker discovered: Add a cut-out handprint to a pair of gloves, embellish with ribbon and tuck a gift card inside one of the gloves. She did this for the student workers in our office and we added gift cards for a local restaurant because students always are 1) hungry and 2) cash-deficient. They loved it.
  • IMG_2671And, finally, as my Christmas gift to you, I’m sharing a tip to use when you’re getting dressed for those elegant and sophisticated cocktail gatherings and dinner parties and formal affairs at the embassy  the preschool Christmas program. And that tip is to pay attention to your earrings. For instance, from the back & from a distance & before you’ve put your contacts in/glasses on, these two earrings look pretty much the same, correct? I mean, they both have little sticky things poking out of the sides. Careful examination, however, reveals that one is a cute festival silver bow and the other is a manically grinning skull & crossbones. Do not wear manically grinning skull-and-crossbones earrings to the preschool Christmas program. You’re welcome.