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.

Things that really annoy me & I probably should let them go but maybe I don’t want to, so there

First, let’s be clear: I do try to practice gratitude. Every day I’m grateful for having a house & a job & too much food & a spouse who loves me even when I do stupid stuff. I say “thank you” to the jeans that don’t fit anymore before I kick them out of my closet (as instructed by the Queen of Tidying Up). I appreciate little kindnesses from random strangers. I stop to smell the roses–as long as there aren’t, you know, bees & thorns & snakes & wasps hanging around & I don’t have to walk through mud or anything.

You do those things, too, I bet–practice gratitude. But, let’s be honest. Down deep, in the inner reaches of our soul where nobody knows we can eat an entire bag of Cheetos by ourselves, we count our pet peeves rather than our blessings. I don’t know why we’re reluctant to ignore those tiny annoyances that rile us up. It’s probably an ancient evolutionary thing: heavy sighs, eye rolls & inward groans could be ways our bodies keep us sharp & always on the lookout for the next Tyrannosaurus attack. Or whatever.

So here’s my (partial & always evolving) list of Things That Annoy the **** Out of Me. Besides, of course, puppy-kickers, anything & everyone related to anybody named Kardashian and everything about the White House since Jan. 20, 2017.

  • Students who ask me questions that are answered on the syllabus. I’m an adjunct journalism instructor at a local university & for some reason I am especially annoyed when students ask me things that are RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM. “When is the exam?”, “What are we doing Wednesday?” and “How do I submit my story?” are all in 12 point Times New Roman RIGHT THERE ON THE SYLLABUS. At the beginning of every semester, I tell them: “DO NOT ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT ARE ANSWERED ON THE SYLLABUS. I will not be happy if you do that.” Yet every semester they do it. All. The. Time. So, also: Students who don’t listen when I tell them things.
  • People waiting at a checkout register who immediately start knocking other people over to be first when a new lane opens. I mean, bless their hearts, where are they even going & is it worth the ill will they’re piling up, karma-wise? Look, when you’re hunting for the shortest checkout, it’s all go: stalking backed-up lines, calculating ratio of cart contents to cashier speed & figuring out how many people will need tutorials on Using A Card Reader. Everybody has an equal chance to observe, quantify the data & make a choice. At this crucial selection phase, self-preservation is key. May the odds be in your favor. But once you’ve made your choice & committed to your preferred lane, you are locked in, baby. No do-overs. No take-backs. You are no longer a solitary shopper focused on your own needs. Once in line, you are part of a community. Part of a linked chain that depends on everybody being patient & respectful of The Process. You’re in line? You’ll eventually check out. Unless a cashier quietly & politely offers you a new lane, hold steady. Dashing off willy-nilly to chase the rumor of a new register opening up just invites chaos. And eye rolls. Be one with your line.
  • Lima beans will always make my worst-things-ever-in-the-whole-world lists. Lima beans are a blot on humanity. What are lima beans, anyway? Do we even know? Have you ever seen a lima-bean farm? No. No, you haven’t. Then where do they come from? All I know is that they are disgusting little pods of watery green mushiness. That is a proven (by me) fact.

So there you have it–a partial list of things that really annoy me. And I didn’t even get to co-workers who steal the parking spot you’ve been eyeing for the past eight minutes and anti-wrinkle lotions that do not get rid of wrinkles so WHY DID YOU GET MY HOPES UP & MAKE ME SPEND $150??? Stay tuned …

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Remember that nobody pays me 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.

Our tree is still up so I’m still talking Christmas

It’s the kind of spousal stalemate when neither one of us is deeply committed enough to Take Action Now.

“Whenever you’re ready,” my husband says. “I’ll take the Christmas tree down after you’ve taken the balls off.” (Pausing here for “balls” joke–c’mon, you know you’re thinking it.)

But I know he loves that tree–an authentic 1950s tinsel one I found on eBay, complete with original individual branch wraps–so I don’t want to appear concerned that it’s up way past the point of reasonable explanation.

“Oh, I’m fine,” I say. “No hurry. Doesn’t bother me a bit.”

So that’s why we still have a Christmas tree up. But that’s a good excuse to brag on the awesome  presents my daughters gave me last month. I’m not sure where they learned such successfully creative gift-giving since I’m more of the put-it-on-your-Amazon-list-and-if-it’s-Prime-I’ll-get-it-for-you type, but I’m tickled to be the recipient of their much better approach. Plus, these are great ideas in case you need some gift-giving inspiration.img_0386(1)

  • Family photo session. Older Daughter did this for me & the grandboys once before (“You’re always taking pictures of them but you don’t  have any with you & them,” she said.), and it’s time to update. The first one was for Mother’s Day, and this time, for Christmas, she made a point of including Grandpa for a true family portrait. Even better, she booked with our favorite local photographer. When both the experience of having photos taken AND the resulting photos themselves are priceless, you know you’ve got a winner. Hijinks will definitely ensue.

 

  • img_0443(edited)Woman Power! Younger Daughter tapped into our mutual love for all things Woman with these two finds: a necklace version of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent collar & illustrator Lydia Ortiz‘ Little Feminist Playing Cards. I’ve pretty much felt like dissenting every single day for the past two years, so RBG & I are solid. And–shout-out to public education AND book-reading parents–Oldest Grandson, who’s in the fifth grade, accurately identified Rosa Parks, Sally Ride, Marie Curie, Frida Kahlo & others. In fact, he did better than I did. Which is exactly as it should be.

 

  • img_0444(2)Warmth. You know that eureka moment when somebody gifts you something you had no idea even existed but as soon as you see it, you think “well, of course”? That’s how I felt when I opened Younger Daughter’s USB-heated gloves. If you’re like me & value warm & toasty fingers right up there with good hot coffee, get these immediately. Even if you don’t like coffee. They’re for computer work but I love these so much I’m getting an extra pair for the car. Take that, very-slow-to-warm-up car heater.

Daughters weren’t the only ones who excelled in their gift-giving this past holiday.

  • img_0384(1)My husband & I somehow lucked up with the best neighbors ever in the whole world. The. Best. Ever. We don’t deserve them, but there you are. Who else remembers & indulges my possibly obsessive love for all things pumpkin spice? There aren’t many, I can tell you. This collection of wintry coziness makes for the ultimate in comfort: Warming mug of coffee with a splash of Bailey’s plus a slice of fresh homemade bread with yummy pumpkin butter. Turn on the fireplace & endless episodes of “The Great British Baking Show” and I’m all set. See you in April.

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  • This was the year of Advent calendars. Thanks to ALDI, I introduced my people to the concept of opening a little door every day in December to find a little surprise–wine, chocolate, Hot Wheels, American Girl cuteness, etc. My middle brother & sister-in-law were so entranced with the cheese calendar we gave them at Thanksgiving that they one-upped us with a Jim Beam version for Christmas. Twelve little airplane-size bottles were are perfect for sampling & sipping.

Family, friends, woman-power, warm fingers and good food & drink. Here’s to 2019!

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P.S. Remember that nobody pays me 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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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High school class reunion, or why doesn’t anybody listen to John Denver anymore?

This is what 1975 looks like today. Pretty damn good, I think.

class pic         Thanks to the patience and perseverance of a few dedicated folks, the Coffee County Central High School (Manchester, Tennessee) class of ’75 gathers for an official reunion weekend every five years. Saturday night we gathered at the fanciest place in town to eat, to spill my glass of red wine all over my purse to drink, to catch up and to lose at to play charades. We had a blast — as long as we studiously ignored the fact that we all are way older now than our own parents were when we graduated. That’s a little scary. And it made me remember that the whole time we were going through school, people kept telling us that we were the future of our country and America’s success and welfare were up to us. I’ll just let that thought sit there for contemplation.

But here are some other, more cheerful thoughts:

  • BFF Debbie Stepp Ball was my date since husband John Lewis Pitt
    s
    , sports editor at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, had this little thing called THE FIRST COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND going on. usAs usual, Debbie Stepp and I both wore pretty much the same thing, both worried about our shoes and both could barely stay awake past 9 p.m. Because that’s how we roll. Also please ignore the senior picture on my name tag. I have no knowledge of who that person is. None at all. Nope, it’s not me. Debbie Stepp, also as usual, got tons of compliments and people said things to her such as “Oh, Debbie, you haven’t aged a bit!” People said things to me such as “Uh, hello? Were you in my Spanish class?” But it is true that she has not aged a bit and is a beautiful person inside and out and I’m just glad she still lets me hang out with her.
  • The much-anticipated charades team made up of the class Cathys/Kathys — we think there were eight of us at one time — lost because WE FOLLOWED THE RULES and didn’t talk. The Cathys/Kathys ALWAYS follow the rules. It’s what makes us who we are. Fingers pointing at you, team of Gordon Smith. Fingers pointing at you.
  • The generation that graduated in 1975 got kind of stuck, history-wise. We missed out on the Beatles, the Sixties and Elvis. In the months before
    we graduated, Watergate conspirators were convicted and the Vietnam War ended. Our male teachers were a mix of World War II veterans and young guys with bell-bottom pants and hair touching their collars. Our female teachers were a mix of ruler-slapping take-no-prisoners ladies who’d been teaching for about a hundred years and young women trying out this new idea that they could have careers AND have families at the same time. Is it any wonder we were confused?     10888636_10156002401545626_5285635509432103484_nIs it any wonder that when the photographer at the reunion told us we could do anything we wanted for a “silly” picture, we couldn’t handle it? We panicked. We froze. This picture is as silly and free as we could get. But it’s not our fault. We were raised to do what we’re told. We need rules and regulations! Parameters and limitations! It’s how we do our best work.
  • And one final thought — these folks are all fun and friendly and delightful to talk to. Why didn’t I know that 40 years ago? Why was I so insecure that I didn’t venture beyond my own circle of friends? Wish I’d embraced all the quirks and differences and strengths that made us our wonderful different selves. But maybe that’s what reunions are for … that, and getting to hear your mother tell you, as you head out the door, “You’ll knock all those boys off their feet!” (my mom) and “Don’t drink and drive!” (Debbie’s mom). So glad some things never change.