Scruggs in Tupelo, MississippiAny store with a sign on its front door requesting customers to “check Saddlestheir firearms at the customer-service desk for safety purposes” goes straight to the top of my favorites list. This is Scruggs, in Tupelo, Mississippi — a sort of combined feed store, general store and John Deere dealership. Think Home Depot, farmer-style. My husband swears it’s the best place to buy mouse traps and other mysterious manly things he uses around Scruggs the house and I’m happy to let him be in charge of those chores. And even though we don’t have a horse or cows or cornfields, I still like to wander around Scruggs’ aisles and browse. I think I like this store because it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite retailers — Rural King. And my all-time favorite Rural King store is in my mother’s hometown of Effingham, Illinois. When we’d go visit my grandparents, we’d usually stop at the Rural King, which anchored the local mall. (Who needs a JC Penney’s or a Sears when you can buy everything from jeans to seed at the Rural King?) For the longest time, that Rural King was the only place my dad could find Carhartts, and I’d usually find a comfy and cozy sweater while my brothers would head for the toys and my mom to the flower-gardening aisle. Maybe I’m just a country girl at heart. Check out Scruggs at and Rural King at


I just had to pass this find along. necklaceIf you’re looking for some of the most beautiful and creative jewelry ever, go to and check out the offerings from birdznbeez. A cuff2jewelry maker in the Midwest, she puts together lovely  whimsical pieces that will  make you smile. For several years, my two 20-something daughters and I have been collecting jewelry with birds, and when my son-in-law found birdzNbeez on etsy, he knew we would all love it. He was right! We ordered several things for Christmas gifts, and they were even more amazing in person than in photographs. And prices are right, too. You know similar jewelry in upscale boutiques is almost three times as much. But the problem is that now I: 1) Want more of this jewelry; 2) Want more clothes to match the coolness factor of these pieces; and 3) Want more places to go to show off my new clothes and jewelry. Or, I could just send y’all to the Web site and live vicariously through your purchases. I wonder which option my husband would prefer …

New Year Countdown

christmas-2008-part-2-0642On the second day of Cathy’s New Year Countdown, it’s time to do your part for the economy: Get out there and spend your Christmas money. On yourself. Look, you were good all December. You got everybody everything on their lists and you did it within your budget while ignoring all temptation to treat yourself. You resisted the pull of those luxurious cashmere sweaters that felt so good, those fabulous high-heeled pumps that called out your name, that gorgeous jacket you accidentally tried on. But your job as a giver is done now! It’s over. You did good and everybody’s happy. Time to reward yourself. And, listen, all this talk about sales and bargains and slashed prices are true right now. Go shopping this weekend and I promise you can get about three times the value for your money. Really. I promise. If you don’t believe me, check out Web sites such as and and see for yourself. Actually, Gap’s Web site is one of the best for online shopping. You can bundle orders from Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic for one $7-shipping fee; you can return (most) items to the stores; and right now, with up to 80 percent off on online purchases, Gap and friends are practically giving their things away. Do not miss out. And check back tomorrow for Day No. 3 in Cathy’s New Year Countdown. (I know I was calling this the 12 Days of Christmas Countdown Part 2, but I’m ready to move on.)

Customer Service

Customer service is thriving — at least all the way across the country. Here’s what happened: I love my Mukka Express stovetop cappuccino maker from Italian company Bialetti for my first cup of morning coffee. In fact, I’ve got two of them so I can mix and match parts and not wait to brew a second pot. They’re simple coffee makers that depend on steam, pressure and correct assembling, so when one of the valves — the critical part of Mukka Expresses — stopped working, I went to the Web site,, and ordered a replacement. It got to my house quickly but it didn’t work. Since I had two Mukkas, I checked every part combination to make sure it was the new valve that was faulty and not another part or user error, and it seemed to be the new valve that was the problem. So I e-mailed customer service and within an hour — literally one hour — got a reply from Karen Wilson of Bialetti customer relations with Bradshaw International, a cookware-distributor in California. She kindly offered advice and a free replacement, which came a few days later and worked perfectly. I got better and quicker help from her in California that I have from retailers less than a mile from my house. But it’s good to know that courtesy and helpfulness are still around if you know where to look. So I’m back to two pots of Mukka a day — with a much more pleasant outlook.