You Have to Buy a Beverage First, People!

free whipped topping

The added “with beverage purchase” rule cracks me up … because of course somebody asked or the free whipped topping WITHOUT a beverage purchase. I mean, free whipped topping would certainly liven up a trip to the service station when you’re paying $4 a gallon.

Random Thoughts …

… from a cluttered mind:

  • This TV season is so full of gems that our DVR can’t catch a break. If you’re not watching “Community,” “Modern Family,” “Parks and Rec,” “Castle” and “Prime Suspect,” then you are missing out. Not to mention perennial favorites such as “The Office,” “Survivor” and “Amazing Race.” And this is even before “Cougar Town” and “30 Rock” come back. On the other hand, perhaps this is why I never can find the time to finish start the great American novel.
  • Saving money doesn’t always save money. For instance, my debit-card-pinching Scrooge-like sensible and financially-savvy husband instituted a crazy and unworkable spending ban thought that we should perhaps maybe reign in the spending for a while. “I’ll show him,” I snarled to myself. Fair enough. However, saving money is relative. Take Worcestershire sauce. In our house, fall signals the arrival of Chex-Mix Season and it was time to make that all-important first test batch. Mindful of my husband’s Draconian desire to save money the budget, I carefully collected the necessary ingredients. And since you can’t scrimp on the stars of the show — you know you always can tell when somebody uses generics — I made up the difference on the supporting cast. That’s how I ended up with a huge bottle of store-brand Worcestershire sauce that was 2.3 cents cheaper per serving than the small bottle big-name brand I usually buy — until I got home and dropped the bottle on the kitchen floor and tons of watery salty fishy liquid went everywhere and the bargain buy turned out to cost me $9.46 to make up for the lost first bottle, the small-but-expensive replacement bottle, the half-roll of paper towels used in clean-up and the emotional toll on our four cats who spent the remainder of the evening frantically trying to find the anchovies they knew had been there.
  • A Grove-going Ole Miss fan confirmed my suspicions that most Grove-going Ole Miss fans are more interested in the Grove-going than the actual football game. And given their season so far this year, you can’t really blame them.
  • Do people actually wear this stuff? In a T.J. Maxx checkout line,  (Note to Husband: I was there to return things. Really. That is all. Promise. Could I help it if that black Kenneth Cole jacket literally jumped into my cart and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer?), I noticed  posters of outfits that were supposed, I guess, to inspire us style-wise. One look was a pair of bright pink tights, a black satin ruffled micro-mini skirt and an off-the-shoulder gray jersey sweatshirt. The other look was short red-plaid shorts, a patterned sleeveless blouse and a big furry vest — reminiscent of what got Anthony Ryan booted from “Project Runway.” What I really think happened is that the editors and marketing folks got together and said, “Let’s test our power by convincing our customers to buy and wear the most god-awful things we can think of.” (Maniacal evil laugh.) But guess what, people? IT DIDN’T WORK!!!! I thwarted your dastardly plan by buying the Kenneth Cole jacket instead, plus two dresses, a pair of shoes and this really great saucepan I think I probably will need sometime. See???? You cannot influence my spending at all. Take that!!!!!!!
  • My husband and I failed our house’s intelligence test the other day when we had to call the builder for instructions on how to access the windows so we could clean them. Which means I’m embarrassed about not being able to figure out how our windows work as well as living in the house for almost a year before getting around to washing them.

Drinking Outside the Box

When we were in Target the other day and I lost my husband for a few minutes (I was busy contemplating the pretty new blue-and-white dishes because you never can have enough coffee cups), I found him standing in the wine aisle, studying things. Things such as a Box o’ Wine. “How bad could it be, really?” he said, impressed with the pricing that equaled to four normal bottles of wine for the price of one box. So we took it home and tried it. And the answer is, “The more you drink, the better it gets.” There’s no complexity or layers of flavor, and it’s very grape juicey. With benefits. However, as Dear Husband pointed out, it’s okay to say you drank a whole bottle of wine, but you don’t want to say you drank a whole box. So we didn’t. Just.


Oh my cookies! Yup, these are actual pieces of clothing that I wore in the 1980s. And what’s worse is that I actually made them myself. When I was cleaning out closets for a yard sale recently, I found these stashed away … probably in an effort to forget. But it’s not my fault. As stay-at-home moms in the 1980s, my friends and I perfected our uniform of Laura Ashley jumpers, black stretchy stirrup pants and oversized Bedazzled T-shirts gathered on the side with hair scrunchies. Painful but true. And for some reason — I am not creative or crafty or in any way remotely talented artistic-wise — I became addicted to sewing. I made clothes for myself and my two daughters. I made clothes for their dolls. I made pillows and curtains and Halloween costumes. I think I convinced myself I was saving money, although anyone who’s ever wandered into a fabric store and come out minus the grocery-budget for the month recognizes that big fat lie. The collar has little bunnies on it, and I think I work it for Easter over a white blouse. The sweatshirt I have no excuse for. Why I would want to bedeck myself in a huge hot-pink sweatshirt decorated with buttons, bows and spools of thread, I have no idea. Please tell me some of y’all went through this phase, too.


Back when I was a high-powered member of the media elite fulltime hack for my town’s daily newspaper, I had no qualms about squandering my paycheck on things such as $75 necklaces and $150 pair of shoes. And, actually, I still do that but I definitely have qualms … that my husband will find out. And, actually again, when I was a single mom of two daughters and eyeing every penny, I didn’t shop anywhere more expensive than the T.J. Maxx clearance rack. But when I got married six years ago and my household income practically tripled, I discovered the joys of shopping Just For Fun. However, now that my dear husband agreed I could leave the newsroom and be a poor struggling work-from-home freelance writer and we’re back to a one-regular-paycheck-family, I’m back to being conscious of what goes out versus what comes in. And all that is a long way around to say that when Younger Daughter and I found these adorable necklaces at Rue 21 in the mall, I scooped them up — and did a happy dance at checkout when I discovered they were all half-price, meaning that my delight at an estimated total of about $30 for all three was proportionally heightened when it turned out I only had to pay less than $15. I immediately put on the long one with the dragonfly and got three compliments on it before I’d even reached my car. They are big and colorful and cheerfully clanky and are just perfect for brightening up my usual T-shirt and jeans. Rue 21 is one of those youth-centric mall stores filled with throwaway fashion-of-the-moment — or so I thought until I went in and really paid attention. I believe I spied a sweater there that I’d seen on one of my most stylish grownup friends, so between that and my jewelry find, I’m adding Rue 21 to my rotation of stores-to-check-because-you-never-know-what-you-might-find. You’re welcome.


Shopping the salesThis past Saturday, I did what every self-respecting BudgetsAlabama woman did: I hit the Belk’s sale in the morning and was done in time for football in the afternoon. And there was plenty of “scoring” in both efforts (sorry, couldn’t resist). Usually, I’m leery of so-called department-store “sales.” I scorn the 15-, 25- and 30-percent off claims and don’t really pay attention until the discount approaches the half-way mark. But Belk’s season clearances are famous for good buys in the 70-90 percent-off range. Cashing in on the bounty — literally — depends on your luck in locating Stylecute items in your size. And yesterday I hit the jackpot: Six adorable finds that would have cost Sale shoppingme close to $550 but I brought them home for less than $100. Touchdown!!! Here’s what I got: A 3/4-sleeve pullover Madison dress I can wear now for early fall, a linen leaf-print Rafaella shirtdress, a cool and comfy pullover Calvin Klein sundress plus two Kenneth Cole and one Rafaella summer tops. Whoo-hoo! And the best thing is that I would have wanted these things even without the sale prices. Earlier this week I couldn’t wait for fall and now I want 90-degree July days again so I can try out my new summer clothes. This just capped off a great week of bargain-hunting — earlier I snagged a lightweight blue floral scarf at Gap for $7 and a trio of intriguing black-patterned clear-glass vases at T.J. Maxx for less than $10 total.  I think that this trifecta of good shopping is karma for when I walked out of Anthropologie the other day without buying a thing. Thank you, shopping goddesses!


Photo by Daniel Giles of the Times DailyI am pretty much the messiest eater ever. I literally cannot get up from a table without a shower of crumbs, I carry stain removal products with me at all times and my husband begs me not to drink my favorite strawberry-flavored drink mix in the car because I leave splatters of red everywhere. This problem led me to create the Cathy Wood Method of Wardrobe Selection, or, How to Coordinate Your Clothing with Your Food So You Don’t Look Like the Slob You Truly Are and Your Family and Friends Will Eat with You Again. Intrigued? It really works! No more hastily pulling on a sweater to hide the coffee dribbles. No more holding your purse in front of you to distract from the gravy droplets. You will be free to eat and enjoy without fear! Read more at

And while you’re there, read other Shoals Woman articles, such as the story on Halloween food, with my friend Kara Sams, and  another story I wrote — a guide to retirement planning,


You know it’s your birthday when those wonderful “presents” from Anthropologie sewing kityour “friends” at your favorite stores start rolling Anthropologiein. Usually it’s something along the lines of “You’re our special customer and we love you and to help celebrate your birthday, we’re offering you a chance to get 10 percent off your first $200 you spend with us that day.” Uh, thank you? With friends like that … But when Anthropologie sent me something, I perked up. Not that the monetary offer was anything extra enticing, but the packaging was classic Anthro at its best: An adorable handmade-looking cotton “sewing kit” with button and colorful thread and a cute little pouch for needles and what-not. Whoever does Anthropologie’s marketing and customer relations does it perfectly — everything always reflects and enhances the Anthropologie brand and makes me want to overcome my natural frugalness and go ahead and blow my birthday money on a simple $180 cotton sweater. Genius!

Saving Money

I admit it: I’m a spender. I’m much rather spend money than save it. I love shopping. I love going places and doing things. I love buying and having.  The problem? Hmm — let’s just say that income and outgo don’t always match! And whether you’re bring in $25,000 a year or $250,000, not managing your money efficiently sure can put a crimp in your style. The solution? Lately I’ve been doing my best to reduce UNNECESSARY expenditures in order to get the most bang for our buck when we do spend. I thought I’d share some of those efforts and see what y’all think.

1) Cut out my four-a-day sweetened bottled water habit and switched to plain water in a reusable container — sometimes adding a mix such as Crystal Light or Lipton Iced Tea. And even though we recycled the plastic bottles, I just feel a little greener not buying so many in the first place.

2) Visit a walk-in hair place at the mall for in-between trims and cuts, reserving my fancy high-priced stylist for coloring and occasional styling. This works especially because I notoriously am a bad hair person and no matter how the stylist fixes my hair, it’s back to the same-ol’ same-ol’ after a couple days. Why pay $75+ for that every month?

3) Teach myself to do my own pedicures. I did not think this would work but I really was proud of the results. And I never have done manicures since I can’t walk out of the salon/spa without cracking/chipping the polish.

4) Shopping in my own closet. Although I’m all for supporting local businesses, I’m also for having enough funds to go on vacation. When I dug around, I found things I hadn’t worn for months that I loved. I usually buy sort of classic non-trendy things anyway, so reviving these oldies-but-goodies doesn’t look dated. I hope not, anyway! If you can look at something you bought in the past couple years or so and imagine it hanging in your favorite boutique right now, it’s a keeper.

5) Using what you’ve got. This is another variation of “shopping in your closet.” I’m determined to use what I have before buying more. This includes makeup, lotion, skin care and such — my weakness. I mean, who can resist a lovely bar of handmade peppermint soap? Not me. As a bonus, this also requires organization so you know you already have three bottles of Warm Vanilla Sugar Shower Gel and do not — repeat, do not — need to buy anymore.

6) Enjoying what you’ve got. Another version of the same theory. I’ve got books and DVDs and magazines and CDs sitting around that I’ve never even picked up since I brought them home. Use ’em or lose ’em!

What do you think? How am I doing?