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.




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.”





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.


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.



A Christmas story

Ah, the holidays … when everybody gathers at Grandma’s house to fight over who sleeps on the good mattress to share good times & festive traditions.

In our home, that means watching “Die Hard” (Alan Rickman, we always will miss your brilliance), downing tequila shots & YET ONCE AGAIN analyzing the emotional trauma scan_20161222inflicted on my now-30-something-year-old daughters random anonymous children forced to sit on Santa Claus’ lap. And smile.

It also means telling incredibly embarrassing stories about each other. Because, I mean, we’re all there, sitting around in relatively relaxed moods, so why not? Therefore, in the spirit of holiday generosity, I’m sharing with you all a little story we like to call “The Day of George Foreman,” or, as John Lewis Pitts some family members refer to it, “The Day Cathy Descended into Criminal Madness.”

Actually, this story does have an interactive element. Each time it’s told, listeners invariably ponder their own actions in the same situation. This leads to insightful discussion on such topics as 1) are sidewalks REALLY public property?; 2) what is the proper cooking time for a grilled cheese sandwich?; and 3) who, in fact, is George Foreman?

So, here’s the story. Decide for yourself.

A few Christmas afternoons ago, Younger Daughter — whom I for no reason whatsoever
will henceforth call, say, “Carolyn,” — and I decided to take a walk. As is usual for a Southern December, it was a mild day, perfect for strolling & chatting. As we neared the end of our route, with our house in sight, we noticed a young woman going in & out of what we assumed was her apartment. Carrying boxes & armloads of household items, she set them down on the sidewalk, near the curb & what we assumed was her car, and went back inside for more. Based on years of watching detective shows on TV on our sharply honed investigative skills, we figured she probably was moving out. We’re smart like that.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. One of us — we can’t remember wh0 but it was NOT me — suggested casually meandering over since obviously the woman was putting things out on the curb(-ish) in the time-honored manner of offering unwanted items to anyone willing to cart them off. So, let’s review: woman brings boxes & other stuff out of an apartment & leaves(-ish) them unattended(-ish) on the curb(-ish). Clearly it’s a take-my-things-please situation, right?

Because, when we crossed the street & got closer, we saw two — count ’em, TWO — George Foreman grills. Waiting. Longing for a proper home. Wanting to be loved & appreciated instead of heartlessly discarded. (-ish).15124782-new1

Admittedly I never before that moment had ever thought about owning a George Foreman grill. Older Daughter loves hers for cooking the kids’ chicken nuggets, but since our kitchen counter space is taken up with the toaster, coffee grinder and five coffee makers other kitchen essentials, I’d never considered adding one.

That’s why I was as surprised as anyone to discover, a few seconds later, that somehow I had grabbed BOTH of the George Foreman grills from the curb(-ish) & was high-tailing it  back home as Younger Daughter urged us on to a quick exit of the crime scene home.

So, what would you have done? I don’t think I actually stole the George Foreman grills, since they were just sitting there. And clearly the woman was moving out. At least, I didn’t see her car there anymore despite hours spent nervously staking out her apartment whenever I’d casually glance in that direction. So there’s that. But why did I act fast & leave even faster? Obviously I had some doubt about the woman’s intentions. Or was I concerned about my reputation as a fine upstanding citizen? I’d curb-shopped before when we lived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (see metal filing cabinet & Pier 1 Papasan Chair, although I did ditch the cushion), but maybe the rules were different here in our little Mississippi town? Don’t know.

After I cleaned the grills (“You mean, there are still pieces of food inside?” Older Daughter said in silent condemnation.), I searched online for how to use them since, you know, the previous owner had not thought to include the instructions. One grill is a single & one is a double & I love them & use them frequently, especially when making toasted cheese sandwiches for holiday company. And I feel only a little bit guilty.

So please enjoy your family gatherings this season as you share stories of possible criminal activity. And Alan Rickman.


(Obviously not my actual handwriting since you can, you know, read it.)








It’s not a Southern party unless you’ve got …

Here in the South, we are in the middle of that lovely season when every day week DSCN3432there’s a tea or reception or shower or some other similar gathering where you show up and bless everybody’s hearts profusely and come away with 1) a new egg salad recipe, 2) details from Person A on where she bought those adorable shoes and 3) details from Person B on what Person A did after she bought those adorable shoes and who she did it with. And there are at least two food items that MUST be present to make it an official DSCN3435Southern party. Both of those items are in this photo. Southerners were raised on
these two items; non-Southerners have never heard of them and don’t really understand them. Can you spot them in this photo? Bonus points if you can name the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, party classic that is not present in this photo but no Muscle Shoals tea/shower/reception is complete without. The flower arrangement is essential Southerness, too. Sadly, my mother did not bestow upon me the love-of-gardening gene and all I know is that this arrangement has some green leaves and pretty flowers and looks really nice? On the other hand, I can tell you every single detail about every single food item on that table. Priorities! But also possibly the reason my jeans seem to have a little trouble zipping up lately. Sigh.

So you won’t have to …

You’re probably like me and have stood at Wal-Mart’s self-checkout registers of doom & wondered how much rotisserie-chicken juice you’d have to spill on the scanner  to short it out and bring Wal-Mart commerce to a greasy halt.  Well, stop wondering because I have the answer: More than you think. Aren’t you relieved? I’ll retrace my steps so you can replicate this experiment to test for consistent results, although I discourage tempting Wal-Mart karma.

Here’s what happened: Recently I offered to bring supper to Older Daughter & my three grandsons. By “bring,” I mean “choose from various takeout options” because sadly I am not the sort of mom/grandma who has tasty dinner items in her kitchen unless you count half-empty -full bottles of wine. Older Daughter had a sinus headache and wasn’t hungry so no vegetarian option needed. This pointed to a run to Little Wal-Mart* for the rotisserie chicken that the 7-year-old & 3-year-old grandsons like and the 8-month-old grandson eyes with increasing optimism. Also a good choice because son-in-law was working late and he could eat when he got home. A vital detail here is that I was wearing my new long pendant necklace that has had several charms dangling from the bottom, such as an elephant & an old-fashioned long and skinny key**.

So I go to Little Wal-Mart, feeling cute & stylish in my elephant-and-key necklace PLUS feeling pat-myself-on-the-back good for helping Older Daughter. I grab the warm chicken, packaged in one of those two-part plastic containers, as well as King’s Hawaiian rolls, chocolate soy milk and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. As I put the container of warm & juicy chicken in my cart, I notice the plastic lid seems precarious. This is when any normal non-cute-necklace-wearing person would Take Some Action. Not me. Instead, I was thinking about how much I liked my new necklace & maybe I should get the one with penguins, too. There wasn’t room for, you know, logical & productive thoughts.

And then next, like a blurry slow-motion explosion that cannot be stopped, comes my arrival at the self-checkout register, my one-handed removal of the chicken from my cart, the unwieldiness of the plastic container, my instinctive reaction to set it down quickly and the inevitable upside-down dropage of said container. Then chicken juice. Everywhere. The mist cleared and time returned to normal and I expected alarms & flashing red lights, but nothing happened. Nothing. Crickets chirping. Nobody was in line behind me and the employee at the self-checkout desk was staring intently at nothing or maybe at the produce section to her right. Difficult to tell. After a minute or so of considering options — Leave quietly? Pretend chicken juice was covering the register when I arrived? — I got her attention. “I dropped something,” I said as she walked over. “Hmm,” she said. “Yes. I see.” She brought paper towels & a spray bottle and began expertly dismantling the now-chickeny register. This was when my Southerness kicked in because of course you’re not going to stand there while somebody else is cleaning up a mess YOU made. That’s akin to putting grapes in your chicken salad — not going to happen. So I leaned over with a paper towel and started wiping my side of the register, stretching to reach the far corners, at the exact moment she dropped the scanner’s glass cover back into place and caught the long skinny key of my adorable new necklace underneath. Thoughts of Isadora Duncan‘s demise via a similar fashion mistake briefly put me in panic mode — although greasy chicken juice and a Wal-Mart register isn’t as glamorous as a long silk scarf and sports car — but she quickly raised the cover and freed me. The key charm was slightly mangled and the elephant slightly dented but the chicken miraculously was fine except for significantly less juice. Which probably was a good thing. You’re welcome.

* Little Wal-Mart — This is what Middle Grandson calls Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets.

** Elephant-and-key necklace — Why are elephant and key charms together on a necklace? All I can think of is “The Secret Garden,” one of my favorite childhood books because who among us doesn’t believe she has a rich & mysterious uncle on an English estate with a long-hidden secret? The fact that my only uncle was a high-school teacher in California did not dampen my dreams.