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.



Where has all the olive oil gone?

2014-09-17 16.13.45If you’re wondering where all those wonderful food items have disappeared to from your favorite T.J. Maxx, here’s the answer: They’re all at the Decatur, Alabama, store. I regularly (look away, husband John Pitts) check two T.J. stores with a couple of others on semi-regular rotation. And if you’re a Maxxinista (always wanted to have the chance to actually use that word), you know that the food aisle is one of the chain’s best-kept secrets: balsamic vinegars, olive oils, flavored salts, chocolates, dried fruits, healthy crunchy junk food, salsas, soft drinks — all with fancy gourmet-like labels not usually find on the Wal-Mart discount shelves but with Wal-Mart-discount-shelf prices. However, for the past year or so, seems as if the food selection at my T.J. Maxx stores has been shrinking. Used to be both overflowing sides of an aisle. Then, all of the food migrated to one side. Then it was just half of the side Now it’s even less than that. I couldn’t figure it out. Where are all the Stonewall Jackson jams? The Barefoot Contessa brownie mixes? The Turkish Delight from actual Turkey. What was going on? Turns out it’s an insidious plot to send all food items to the Decatur store. Or that’s what it looks like. More (shopping) research needed.

Also, dang you, Associated Press, for your switch to spelling out state names in text. Why did you mess with that? Just tell me why. But I NEVER will use “over” with numbers. NEVER. You can’t make me. So there.

Decatur, Alabama

Downtown Decatur, Alabama, is one of those wonderful historic neighborhoods that doesn’t get as much attention as it should. It sort of loses out against such publicity stars as Natchez, Mississippi, for instance. And I’m one of the worst offenders. For folks in northwest Alabama/northeast Mississippi, Decatur is “on the way” when driving east to Huntsville. Usually I’m on a schedule as I roll by the edge of downtown and I glance out the window and think, “That is so pretty. Sometime I really should come here and explore.” Because otherwise I’d miss gems such as this cottage tucked away on a quiet side street. Couldn’t you just open the gate and walk up the steps and go sit a spell on the porch? I really had to restrain myself to keep from trying out that rocking chair. There are two adjacent historic districts in downtown Decatur — Old Decatur and New Albany — where you can park your car and enjoy an afternoon of wandering through neighborhoods of cozy Craftsman cottages and stately Victorian homes. And with spring in glorious bloom right now, it’s the perfect time: Peaceful and quiet and breathtakingly lovely. There are plenty of spots nearby for shopping and eating, too, with no drive-thru lanes or mega-parking lots required. Not that there is anything wrong with drive-thru lanes and mega-parking lots. But sometimes a shady porch and the sweet smell of camellias is all you need. At,  print out self-guided walking tours and get details on the upcoming Mayfest.

Fall Decor

Fall decorIt’s fall, y’all! Here in northwest Alabama, it was in the 40s overnight and Fall decorwe’re pulling out our jackets and scarves and planning for the much-anticipated annual Boot Day — the first official day it’s cool enough (temperature-wise, that is) to wear boots. I know, I know — it’s only temporary and we’ve got many more 85+-degree days to come. But it is encouraging. Another thing I adore about fall is the decor. I mean, who doesn’t love cornstalks and gourds and cheerful orange pumpkins? There’s something about fall that inspires creativity, like the door of Swirlz, a delightful party-invitation store in Tupelo, Mississippi. I love the combination of the sheer orange ribbon and bare branches with the perky and sunny flowers. And then, adorning the gracious doorway of a magnificent Southern home in Decatur, Alabama, I found these lovely arrangements of gourds, mums and greenery. This is the home of Betty Sims, a cookbook author and former restaurant owner who teaches sold-out cooking classes every fall. She is Southern hospitality personified — warm, generous, funny and sweet — and I think her decor reflects that. Check out the Scrumptious Culinary School schedule at

Fall Decorating

betty-sims-fall-decor-002Fall is my favorite season for decorating — I love bringing the outdoors betty-sims-fall-decor-0082in with cheerful pumpkins and vibrantly colored leaves. And when I say “I love bringing …,” what I actually mean is I love seeing what other people do since my fall decorating consists of occasionally throwing away empty Halloween-candy wrappers. I’m not lazy — well, not much, anyway — just creatively challenged. That makes me appreciate others’ decorating talents all the more, such as what I saw in this Decatur, Alabama, home. Betty Sims is a former restaurant owner and wonderful cook who teaches cooking classes in her home in Decatur. Friends and I went recently for a brunch class, and I loved all the fall vignettes Sims created with betty-sims-fall-decor-004simple elements from nature and her own collections. Of betty-sims-fall-decor-0051course, if I went out to my backyard and cut off a bunch of leaves and stuck them in a pumpkin, it would look pretty much as if I went out in the backyard and cut off a bunch of leaves and stuck them in a pumpkin. I’m just glad that there are other people around who know how to do it right — and invite the rest of us over for brunch. Here’s the Web site for Sims’ cooking school, Southern Scrumptious: