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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Can We Fit an 8-foot Table into a 6-foot Backseat?

Let’s go shopping! It’s the best kind — where you just look and don’t bring anything home. (Incidentally, this is my husband’s preferred way of shopping.) Recently friends and I were cruising around nearby Smith Lake, close to Cullman, Alabama, and we passed an ironworks store/wedding rental on a county road. There were four of us, and three of the four have wonderful taste in all things decorative and are excellent and enthusiastic shoppers: One has an eye for vintage bargains, one keeps an organized list and only buys for specific needs and one thinks looooong and hard about each purchase. On the other hand, one of us just wants to go drink but always says “Sure! Let’s stop!! That looks like fun!!!” when the others see a tempting gardening/furniture/home decor/antiques shop because I she’s afraid they’ll make her stay home next time. But sometimes treasures such as gracefully scrolled metal furniture and luminous and colorful glassware delight even the most impatient shopper.

And to prove that I am not a total decorating and shopping failure, I offer Exhibit A: Part of our front porch. I was going for cozy, casual and not ugly. The rocking chair we bought a few years ago from Cracker Barrel, the fern stand I got at Hobby Lobby at one of those incredible sales at which you feel as if the store’s paying you to take stuff away, the pillow’s from T.J. Maxx and the flowers (picked out with help of Husband JP) are from Lowe’s. I buy all greenery at Lowe’s because I’m terrified of the workers at local nurseries who actually talk to you and ask if they can help you and who expect a somewhat intelligent reply in return when all I know is that I need plants I can’t kill that have the little sun and shade icons on them. Sigh. Come to think of it, my friends probably WILL leave me home next time.

All Work and No Play …

When the going gets tough, the tough clear their calendars, buy plenty of wine and head out to for a weekend near the water. And, boy, you know that things sure get tough a lot. Okay, not really — but us girl friends have to have an excuse to get away every now and then. We’re counting on one of us to retire soon and buy a fabulously big lakehouse with room for all of us, but until then we have to rent our getaways. Luckily, a couple of us are skilled at wading through all the lists of possible rentals and honing on in exactly what we need. Such as this one-level open-plan charmer we hung out at recently. It was a wet weekend so we couldn’t enjoy the inviting back deck and the peaceful view as much as we would have liked, but the interior was so industrial-modern and minimalist-funky that we were fine inside. We loved the brick walls and exposed ductwork and construction details that ran throughout the house. There even were two commercial-style garage doors that opened up to the deck to bring the outside almost completely in. The sleek upscale kitchen had plenty of storage along with stainless appliances and granite countertops. The cabinets sported gorgeous door pulls that carried out what we felt was an urban-loft theme — on a lakeshore surrounded by trees and water. And good friends. And plenty of wine.

Girl with the Awesome Menu

I have to admit that I don’t know anything about Sweden beyond that Swedish muppet guy and the wonderful breakfast I order at the Original House of Pancakes in Birmingham’s Five Points that comes with powdered sugar, whipped cream and strawberries. (Now, that’s a breakfast.) Or I didn’t know anything before I got addicted to those internationally bestselling  Stieg Larsson’s “Girl With …” books. If you haven’t picked these up, you’ve got to. And keep the coffee pot handy because that’s basically all they do in these books: Hack into computers, track down killers and drink endless cups of coffee. I can’t get enough. And luckily my food-loving book club read the first book in this trilogy — and extra-luckily our hostess for this meeting is our friend who specializes in creating marvelicious meals for the rest of us to enjoy. She went all out for our “Girl with the Dagon Tattoo” night and created a Swedish smorgasbord that I believe Larsson himself would have felt right at home with. We had smoked salmon, pickled herring, beets, potatoes, ligonberry preserves, pickles, cheese, sandwiches and of course coffee and cake for dessert. Oh my cookies. It was delicious, and she made us feel so special. We always nominate her for Best Hostess Ever and we threaten not to leave whenever she has us over. You’d think she’d learn, but we’re glad she hasn’t.

Food

If you’re headed down to the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast — and a yet-again winter storm headed our way here in north Alabama makes me ready to go anytime — you’ve got to try Cobalt, a fairly new restaurant in Orange Beach, Alabama. Under the bridge on Perdido Beach Boulevard next to the Caribe Resort, Cobalt is a must-go especially during nice weather when you can stroll along the water and eat outside in the breeze. When I went with friends a couple weeks ago, it definitely was a cool and gray stay-inside-sort-of-day. But that was all right, because inside is nice, too. Cobalt is a huge space but it didn’t feel too big — just sort of light and airy but spacious enough to handle how every many we could crowd around our table. We were there for lunch. The menu featured seafood dishes, of course, with salads and sandwiches, too. Food was good, beer was cold and service was friendly — and I’m sure this place is hopping during prime time. There was a fascinating salt-water tank in the lobby that was less an aquarium and more of a sort of river where you could stand for a while and watch all sorts of fish swim lazily by. I didn’t take many photos because I was too busy eating and drinking and talking my camera batteries were weak but I did manage to shoot two of the most important features: the immaculate and sparkly women’s restroom and the wonderful array of goodies available for take-out. Check it out yourself at http://www.cobaltdining.com/ — and save me a truffle, please.

Olympics

I got a new gig this weekend — I got to write a sports column for the Tupelo newspaper, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal! Yes, you are right that I know nothing about sports whatsoever. But I do know the sports editor — my husband, John Pitts — and he wanted to have something about the Olympics from a civilian’s point-of-view. I am a huge Olympics fan and every two years — I still can’t get used to saying “two years” instead of “four years,” can you? — I get so caught up in the competitions and so wrapped up in the athletes’ stories that I’m definitely sort of morose when the torch goes out and it’s all over. So I wrote about that at http://nems360.com/view/full_story/6487694/article-CATHY-WOOD. Go read it and check out the stellar job my husband does and the great other columnists, especially my friend Ginna Parson’s food stories on Wednesdays — great recipes.

And this past Friday in my weekly newspaper column in the TimesDaily, I wrote about girlfriend getaways — how to organize one and why you should. Read it at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100226/ARTICLES/2265001/ and then gather up your best friends and go have some fun.

Friends

You think you can trust your girl friends, right? You think that the people who are with you through thick and thin — literally — wouldn’t turn on you. You think that the only people — besides maybe your husband – who know what you look like without makeup would not set up a trap for you. But that’s exactly what happened to me: Three friends turned on me … and forced me to learn how to play bridge, a game I had long declared to be on my list of things-I-hate-more-than-lima-beans. Go to my weekly TimesDaily newspaper column at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20091127/ARTICLES/911275000 to find out how I was the victim of a (friendly) bridge-napping.