Younger Daughter is right. I need to stop being such a shopping grouch. So what if some companies seem determined to squeeze every last penny out of us they possibly can, even resorting to some bordering-on-the-edge-of deceptive packaging? Doesn’t bother me one bit. Because, as is the way with the world, karma sent some serendipitous bargains my way to balance the disappointment of getting shortchanged on age-attacking wrinkle cream. Here’s the story: I was in Walgreen’s a few days ago in yet another futile attempt to refill printer cartridges (it never works and I always have to buy new ones and I strongly dislike having to pay close to $100 for something as distinctly non-fun as new printer cartridges). But while I was there, I literally ran into happened to see a shopping cart parked next to check-out that was full of tissue paper and gift bags. What first caught my eye were cute black-and-white prints with pops of bright pinks and greens. Perfect for all my friends’ birthday gifts I think about giving in my head. Then I found tissue paper with characters from one of 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s favorite movies — “Toy Story.” And then I noticed the clearance sign on the cart that said “75 percent off.” Jackpot! And then when I was checking out, some of the gift bags were half-off of the sale price. I ended up with seven packages of printed tissue paper and 11 gift bags with coordinated tags and some also with their own coordinated tissue paper, all for about $12. I felt as if I were having my own “Extreme Couponing” moment. In a small way.
I love this book! Younger Daughter gave it to me for Mother’s Day and I laughed all the way through my favorite banana-and-peanut-butter-toast breakfast. Amy Sedaris is a comic genius and her 2006 “I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence” (and, really, isn’t that the best way to offer some?) is the perfect blend of her signature retro humor and actual real recipes. It’s like you stumbled onto your crazy grandmother’s cookbook where she tucked articles on pantyhose crafts and how to make a paperclip necklace in between the pages. I mean, one minute you’re giggling over Sedaris’ advice that children’s parties always should have a time limit, “like, ‘from 2 to 2:30’,” and then you’re salivating over her recipe for “Real Chocolate Cake” and later still you’re pondering the command to look radiant when you open the door to your party guests — “It should appear as though you’ve used witchcraft.” Luckily, Sedaris gives us all the non-witchcraft help you need to be a thoughtful and serene hostess, secure in the fact that you’re covered for every entertaining emergency, even serving lunch to a lumberjack. Because you just never know. If you don’t have a wonderful child who gifted you this book for Mother’s Day, go out and buy it for yourself. And if you want to read it with a peanut-butter-and-banana-toast sandwich like I did, go here, https://cathylwood.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/healthy-eating/, for our recipe.
My husband and I are pretty independent people and usually function successfully without having to know what the other’s doing and where he/she’s doing it every minute of the day. So I was surprised when he uncharacteristically questioned me about my estimated whereabouts for Thursday. “Are you going to be around the house all day?” he asked. Several times, in fact. Finally, he admitted he’d ordered something for my Mother’s Day present and it was supposed to be delivered sometime on Thursday. Naturally, because I’m annoyingly nosy charmingly curious, I tried to figure out what was coming. Not flowers, for sure. Dear Husband used to send lovely bouquets to the newsroom where I used to work, but now that my office is my kitchen table and I don’t have co-workers to be jealous of to admire the flowers, what’s the use? And we can’t have fresh flowers at the house because the cats eat them and, of course, regret it a couple of hours later. Yuck. So, what would my husband have come up with for a Mother’s Day delivery? I couldn’t imagine — and couldn’t wait to find out. Finally, the FedEx truck pulled up and this is what I got: The most delicious and adorable chocolate-covered strawberries I’ve ever seen. I mean, these babies are huge! And gorgeous. Now, I know that a chocolate-covered strawberry is one of those things that sometimes does not deliver on its promise — it can look a lot better than it tastes, right? But these were red and juicy and fresh … as promised. They’re from Shari’s Berries, http://www.berries.com/. I loved these so much that I didn’t even mind when Dear Husband said he’d heard the company advertised on a radio show that … well, let’s just say I don’t agree with the host’s political views and usually try to avoid all contact with anything at least slightly related to this guy. But I’m making an exception here. Yup — apparently all it takes to buy me off is a box of chocolate-strawberry perfection.
Tupelo, Mississippi, has everything you could want: Great food, great people and great shopping. And two of those three are at The Main Attraction, downtown at 214 West Main Street. An eclectic clothing and gift boutique, Main Attraction is a place to while away the afternoon and unearth some you-can-only-find-it-here treasures. Owner Barbara Fleishhacker is the genius behind the collection of flowy cottons, retro jewelry and fun and funky accessories. It’s Hippie Chick meets Southern Lady with a bit of Wouldn’t It Be Fun To Backpack Through India thrown in. Both Barbara and her store are warm, friendly, cool and hip all at the same time. In fact, she’s a vital voice for downtown Tupelo development and her store is a gathering spot for fellow Tupelo fans — and anybody who can’t resist the lure of a find. And, actually, there’s a coffee bar, too, so you can find all three of those things you want. The Main Attraction is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Wednesdays and Fridays, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Phone number is (662) 842.9617. Visit http://themainattraction.biz for more.
Aw, such cute cuddly Valentine’s Day stuffed animals, right? Anybody would love to get one of these, right? Okay, look closer … closer … closer. Can you see what else is included in these gift packages? Yup, you’re seeing right. I mean, nothing says “I love you” like a six-pack of Bud, correct???!!! All over Mississippi today, women are questioning their choice of husband/boyfriend/significant other, I’m sure. A co-worker of my husband snapped this pic in a convenience store near Philadelphia, Mississippi, on Valentine’s Eve — I guess he figured he needed visual evidence since who would believe him, really? The store owner said that he’d made up the first one at a customer’s sort-of-joking request. He put the finished product out on the counter and immediately somebody bought it … and then somebody else saw it and wanted one … and then word spread and the owner’s daughter had to come in and make up these six-pack gift bags for two solid days — and they’re still selling out. So next year, when Valentine’s Day rolls around and a six-pack for Valentine’s Day is the It Gift all across the country, remember that you saw it here first.
Back when my two now-23-and-25-year-old daughters were in high school, our house was one of those where all the kids gathered for after-parties — after graduation, after prom, after band banquet, after whatever. I got pretty good at figuring out how to feed dozens of kids — little weiners and chocolate-chip cookies always were big hits — and enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I sort of miss those days. But Younger Daughter brought them back this weekend when she hosted a party for the girls in the high-school percussion ensemble she’s working with this semester. She planned the menu and did a great job of combining healthy with Valentine’s indulgence: Carrot and celery sticks with no-fat vegetable dip, tortilla and pita chips with salsa and spinach-cheese dip, raspberry squares, Valentine’s fortune cookies, iced and decorated sugar cookies and No-Pudge Fudge cupcakes, vegetable and turkey rollups, pimento cheese (necessary for all Southern parties, you know), olives, Red Velvet cake balls and a chocolate fountain with pretzels, marshmallows and fresh pineapple and strawberries. And she used what we had around the house for decor — red candles, various heart-shaped items and the cards and boxes of candy that were the party favors. And all I had to do was help with food prep and then I got to go watch the Olympics opening ceremonies on TV while YD took care of everything else — she and the girls even cleaned up afterwards. And one of the best parts? Leftover sugar cookies for breakfast the next morning!
Okay, I’ve given up spa pedicures, learned to shop clearance racks first and cut my coffee-shop habit in half. Are you satisfied now, you stupid Financial Crisis??? On the other hand, there’s no need to be pound-wise and penny-foolish and drop all luxuries. After all, a girl needs a little indulgent pampering in her life. And for my hard-earned money, it’s amazing how a $3 bar of soap can make you forget that you really should clean the toilets and change the litter box today. I love scented soaps, especially handmade herbal ones. I promise you that a bar of richly fragrant homemade soap is one treat you do not need to forgo. Like the lovely Bee and Flower Chinese soaps you can find in import and Oriental shops for $2-$3. Rose and sandalwood are my favorite scents, and I think I’m as intrigued with the Chinese packaging as I am with the soap itself. You can find handmade soaps everywhere — that’s part of the hunt. I picked up this bar of organic coffee soap at Keens Beans coffee shop and roasters in Pensacola, Fla., http://www.keensbeans.com. The label says the soap will moisturize, protect, provide antioxidants, exfoliate, help with fine wrinkles and neutralize strong kitchen odors on your hands — I just like that it smells like espresso. Scented soaps make great gifts, too. Older Daughter — Capt. Adorable’s mommy — brought me wonderful Soaps by Jan soap and lotion as a thank-you for babysitting when she and my son-in-law spent a recent weekend in Chattanooga, Tennessee, http://site.soapsbyjan.com. One of the best things about Soaps by Jan is the creative scent mixtures: Check out 1969 Patchouli Lime, Peppermint Sage and Crone’s Garden with 12 homegrown herbs. These are a bit more expensive — $4.75 a bar — but definitely worth it.