These are a bunch of my favorite things — Part 1: Shopping while everybody else is watching The Game

Note: This is Part 1 of a continuing series about some of my favorite things that you need to know about so they can be your favorites, too. Check back frequently for the latest–and share your favorites, too.

 

There’s this Big Football Game (remember that you can’t say “Super Bowl” unless you’re an NFL team owner or actually playing in the game) coming up. Then, in a few weeks, Massive March (basketball) Madness happens. So because of these important televised Sports-Ball Games at which your people request your couch presence, you’ll probably be spending more time in front of the TV–you know, that big screen on your wall you keep forgetting to dust because you’re snuggled up in bed watching “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” And even if you’re a passionate I’ve-worn-my-team-shirt-for-12-straight-days fan who notices all the things–or you’re a casual observer who only REALLY pays attention when there’s a chance Alabama will get the @#$% beat out of them–it’s difficult to completely 100 percent focus on every single play 100 percent of the entire game. Sometimes you need a break–something quiet & unobtrusive that won’t earn you side eyes from those who frown on game-time side chatter.

Solution? Shopping on your phone.

Sure, you could do something like sit there & read a book or knit a sweater or grade some papers. (Wait, CAN you knit a sweater? Because if you can, you totally should do that, anyway.) But doing something that’s so obviously NOT watching the game is a bit I’ve-got-more-important-things-to-do-thank-you-very-much rude. Of course you could use your phone to play games or check email or engage in a Twitter war while everybody else debates an offside call. But those things take focus & concentration, too, and may cause you to be that person who looks up & asks plaintively “What happened? Why is everybody yelling? What did I miss?” Don’t be that person.

Shopping on your phone, on the other hand, is the perfect watching-but-maybe-not-so-much activity: You’re engaged enough to participate in game commentary but you’re also doing something nice for yourself. Win-win. Which–fun fact–is completely unlike the Sports Ball you’re (supposed to be) watching.

So, for your Big Game Day sort-of-watching pleasure, here are three of my favorite online boutiques. These are for mainly women’s clothes & accessories because that’s mainly what I shop for. I’ve got several other favorites, but these are simply the ones where I’ve recently spent waaay too much money because there’s so much cuteness & so many sales that I thought of first.

  • Lemons and Limes Boutique–Owned & run by the amazing Wendy Knight from her home in Loveland, Ohio, this is the place for fun & affordable jewelry, stylish yet useful handbags and unique items from her own product line, Lauren Lane. Double-stud earrings? Mix-and-match stretch bead necklaces? A purse you really & truly can wear five different ways? Lemons & Limes had them first. And now you can, too.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip: Wendy has the best subscription shipments, grab bags & mystery auction boxes. The. Best. Even if you think you don’t like surprises, I guarantee you’ll like these.
  • Prep Obsessed–Best friends Nina Vitalino & Corey O’Loughlin started their boutique in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, six years ago … and shopping has never been the same. Known for their colorful Florida vibe, the two entrepreneurs & their hard-working team offer curated collections of Spartina, Simply Southern, Corkcicle, All for Color & other classic brands both online & in their store.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip: New gotta-haves go fast, so don’t delay clicking “Add to cart.” (I NEVER hesitate.) However, Corey & Nina restock whenever things are available, so wait-listed items usually get fulfilled.
  • Tag Online Boutique–Julie Knight, of Cincinnati, couldn’t find an online clothing boutique that offered style & fit at accessible prices, so, four years ago, she started her own. “TAG” stands for “Trendy, Affordable & Gorgeous”–and everything she sells on her website meets that promise. Shop here for dresses, outerwear & separates–Julie was the one who introduced Magic Pants to the world.  cropped-cwcslantCoffee with Cathy tip:  Join the Tag Facebook group for discounts on new releases, fabric info & to see items modeled by women of different sizes.

Each of the hundreds dozens one or two times I’ve shopped these boutiques, I’ve been amazed at the helpful customer service & quick shipping times. Each of these businesses is run by women–women with families & in some cases women with other jobs. Each of these boutiques gives back by helping individuals who could use a boost & by contributing to non-profits that help others. It’s win-win-win-win. Again, please don’t say that during The Game. The purpose of any sports ball is one–and ONLY one–win. Only in shopping can there be many winners. True story.

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Nobody pays me anything or gives me anything or helps me in any way in exchange for a mention in “Coffee with Cathy.” Whatever you read here is from me alone, for no other reason than it’s something I like or saw or heard or feel or want to talk about. Of course, if Cadillac wants to gift me my dream car–an Escalade SUV–I’m open to negotiations, but other than that, I can’t be bought. (Also blue. I like the Dark Adriatic Blue.)

Things that really annoy me & I probably should let them go but maybe I don’t want to, so there

First, let’s be clear: I do try to practice gratitude. Every day I’m grateful for having a house & a job & too much food & a spouse who loves me even when I do stupid stuff. I say “thank you” to the jeans that don’t fit anymore before I kick them out of my closet (as instructed by the Queen of Tidying Up). I appreciate little kindnesses from random strangers. I stop to smell the roses–as long as there aren’t, you know, bees & thorns & snakes & wasps hanging around & I don’t have to walk through mud or anything.

You do those things, too, I bet–practice gratitude. But, let’s be honest. Down deep, in the inner reaches of our soul where nobody knows we can eat an entire bag of Cheetos by ourselves, we count our pet peeves rather than our blessings. I don’t know why we’re reluctant to ignore those tiny annoyances that rile us up. It’s probably an ancient evolutionary thing: heavy sighs, eye rolls & inward groans could be ways our bodies keep us sharp & always on the lookout for the next Tyrannosaurus attack. Or whatever.

So here’s my (partial & always evolving) list of Things That Annoy the **** Out of Me. Besides, of course, puppy-kickers, anything & everyone related to anybody named Kardashian and everything about the White House since Jan. 20, 2017.

  • Students who ask me questions that are answered on the syllabus. I’m an adjunct journalism instructor at a local university & for some reason I am especially annoyed when students ask me things that are RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF THEM. “When is the exam?”, “What are we doing Wednesday?” and “How do I submit my story?” are all in 12 point Times New Roman RIGHT THERE ON THE SYLLABUS. At the beginning of every semester, I tell them: “DO NOT ASK ME QUESTIONS THAT ARE ANSWERED ON THE SYLLABUS. I will not be happy if you do that.” Yet every semester they do it. All. The. Time. So, also: Students who don’t listen when I tell them things.
  • People waiting at a checkout register who immediately start knocking other people over to be first when a new lane opens. I mean, bless their hearts, where are they even going & is it worth the ill will they’re piling up, karma-wise? Look, when you’re hunting for the shortest checkout, it’s all go: stalking backed-up lines, calculating ratio of cart contents to cashier speed & figuring out how many people will need tutorials on Using A Card Reader. Everybody has an equal chance to observe, quantify the data & make a choice. At this crucial selection phase, self-preservation is key. May the odds be in your favor. But once you’ve made your choice & committed to your preferred lane, you are locked in, baby. No do-overs. No take-backs. You are no longer a solitary shopper focused on your own needs. Once in line, you are part of a community. Part of a linked chain that depends on everybody being patient & respectful of The Process. You’re in line? You’ll eventually check out. Unless a cashier quietly & politely offers you a new lane, hold steady. Dashing off willy-nilly to chase the rumor of a new register opening up just invites chaos. And eye rolls. Be one with your line.
  • Lima beans will always make my worst-things-ever-in-the-whole-world lists. Lima beans are a blot on humanity. What are lima beans, anyway? Do we even know? Have you ever seen a lima-bean farm? No. No, you haven’t. Then where do they come from? All I know is that they are disgusting little pods of watery green mushiness. That is a proven (by me) fact.

So there you have it–a partial list of things that really annoy me. And I didn’t even get to co-workers who steal the parking spot you’ve been eyeing for the past eight minutes and anti-wrinkle lotions that do not get rid of wrinkles so WHY DID YOU GET MY HOPES UP & MAKE ME SPEND $150??? Stay tuned …

cropped-cwcslant1.jpgP.S. Remember that nobody pays me or gives me anything or helps me in any way in exchange for a mention in “Coffee with Cathy.” Whatever you read here is from me alone, for no other reason than it’s something I like or saw or heard or feel or want to talk about. Of course, if Cadillac wants to gift me my dream car–an Escalade SUV–I’m open to negotiations, but other than that, I can’t be bought.

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.

blue

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.

cwcslant

 

A Christmas story

Ah, the holidays … when everybody gathers at Grandma’s house to fight over who sleeps on the good mattress to share good times & festive traditions.

In our home, that means watching “Die Hard” (Alan Rickman, we always will miss your brilliance), downing tequila shots & YET ONCE AGAIN analyzing the emotional trauma scan_20161222inflicted on my now-30-something-year-old daughters random anonymous children forced to sit on Santa Claus’ lap. And smile.

It also means telling incredibly embarrassing stories about each other. Because, I mean, we’re all there, sitting around in relatively relaxed moods, so why not? Therefore, in the spirit of holiday generosity, I’m sharing with you all a little story we like to call “The Day of George Foreman,” or, as John Lewis Pitts some family members refer to it, “The Day Cathy Descended into Criminal Madness.”

Actually, this story does have an interactive element. Each time it’s told, listeners invariably ponder their own actions in the same situation. This leads to insightful discussion on such topics as 1) are sidewalks REALLY public property?; 2) what is the proper cooking time for a grilled cheese sandwich?; and 3) who, in fact, is George Foreman?

So, here’s the story. Decide for yourself.

A few Christmas afternoons ago, Younger Daughter — whom I for no reason whatsoever
will henceforth call, say, “Carolyn,” — and I decided to take a walk. As is usual for a Southern December, it was a mild day, perfect for strolling & chatting. As we neared the end of our route, with our house in sight, we noticed a young woman going in & out of what we assumed was her apartment. Carrying boxes & armloads of household items, she set them down on the sidewalk, near the curb & what we assumed was her car, and went back inside for more. Based on years of watching detective shows on TV on our sharply honed investigative skills, we figured she probably was moving out. We’re smart like that.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. One of us — we can’t remember wh0 but it was NOT me — suggested casually meandering over since obviously the woman was putting things out on the curb(-ish) in the time-honored manner of offering unwanted items to anyone willing to cart them off. So, let’s review: woman brings boxes & other stuff out of an apartment & leaves(-ish) them unattended(-ish) on the curb(-ish). Clearly it’s a take-my-things-please situation, right?

Because, when we crossed the street & got closer, we saw two — count ’em, TWO — George Foreman grills. Waiting. Longing for a proper home. Wanting to be loved & appreciated instead of heartlessly discarded. (-ish).15124782-new1

Admittedly I never before that moment had ever thought about owning a George Foreman grill. Older Daughter loves hers for cooking the kids’ chicken nuggets, but since our kitchen counter space is taken up with the toaster, coffee grinder and five coffee makers other kitchen essentials, I’d never considered adding one.

That’s why I was as surprised as anyone to discover, a few seconds later, that somehow I had grabbed BOTH of the George Foreman grills from the curb(-ish) & was high-tailing it  back home as Younger Daughter urged us on to a quick exit of the crime scene home.

So, what would you have done? I don’t think I actually stole the George Foreman grills, since they were just sitting there. And clearly the woman was moving out. At least, I didn’t see her car there anymore despite hours spent nervously staking out her apartment whenever I’d casually glance in that direction. So there’s that. But why did I act fast & leave even faster? Obviously I had some doubt about the woman’s intentions. Or was I concerned about my reputation as a fine upstanding citizen? I’d curb-shopped before when we lived in Muscle Shoals, Alabama (see metal filing cabinet & Pier 1 Papasan Chair, although I did ditch the cushion), but maybe the rules were different here in our little Mississippi town? Don’t know.

After I cleaned the grills (“You mean, there are still pieces of food inside?” Older Daughter said in silent condemnation.), I searched online for how to use them since, you know, the previous owner had not thought to include the instructions. One grill is a single & one is a double & I love them & use them frequently, especially when making toasted cheese sandwiches for holiday company. And I feel only a little bit guilty.

So please enjoy your family gatherings this season as you share stories of possible criminal activity. And Alan Rickman.

cwcslant

(Obviously not my actual handwriting since you can, you know, read it.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So you won’t have to …

You’re probably like me and have stood at Wal-Mart’s self-checkout registers of doom & wondered how much rotisserie-chicken juice you’d have to spill on the scanner  to short it out and bring Wal-Mart commerce to a greasy halt.  Well, stop wondering because I have the answer: More than you think. Aren’t you relieved? I’ll retrace my steps so you can replicate this experiment to test for consistent results, although I discourage tempting Wal-Mart karma.

Here’s what happened: Recently I offered to bring supper to Older Daughter & my three grandsons. By “bring,” I mean “choose from various takeout options” because sadly I am not the sort of mom/grandma who has tasty dinner items in her kitchen unless you count half-empty -full bottles of wine. Older Daughter had a sinus headache and wasn’t hungry so no vegetarian option needed. This pointed to a run to Little Wal-Mart* for the rotisserie chicken that the 7-year-old & 3-year-old grandsons like and the 8-month-old grandson eyes with increasing optimism. Also a good choice because son-in-law was working late and he could eat when he got home. A vital detail here is that I was wearing my new long pendant necklace that has had several charms dangling from the bottom, such as an elephant & an old-fashioned long and skinny key**.

So I go to Little Wal-Mart, feeling cute & stylish in my elephant-and-key necklace PLUS feeling pat-myself-on-the-back good for helping Older Daughter. I grab the warm chicken, packaged in one of those two-part plastic containers, as well as King’s Hawaiian rolls, chocolate soy milk and Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. As I put the container of warm & juicy chicken in my cart, I notice the plastic lid seems precarious. This is when any normal non-cute-necklace-wearing person would Take Some Action. Not me. Instead, I was thinking about how much I liked my new necklace & maybe I should get the one with penguins, too. There wasn’t room for, you know, logical & productive thoughts.

And then next, like a blurry slow-motion explosion that cannot be stopped, comes my arrival at the self-checkout register, my one-handed removal of the chicken from my cart, the unwieldiness of the plastic container, my instinctive reaction to set it down quickly and the inevitable upside-down dropage of said container. Then chicken juice. Everywhere. The mist cleared and time returned to normal and I expected alarms & flashing red lights, but nothing happened. Nothing. Crickets chirping. Nobody was in line behind me and the employee at the self-checkout desk was staring intently at nothing or maybe at the produce section to her right. Difficult to tell. After a minute or so of considering options — Leave quietly? Pretend chicken juice was covering the register when I arrived? — I got her attention. “I dropped something,” I said as she walked over. “Hmm,” she said. “Yes. I see.” She brought paper towels & a spray bottle and began expertly dismantling the now-chickeny register. This was when my Southerness kicked in because of course you’re not going to stand there while somebody else is cleaning up a mess YOU made. That’s akin to putting grapes in your chicken salad — not going to happen. So I leaned over with a paper towel and started wiping my side of the register, stretching to reach the far corners, at the exact moment she dropped the scanner’s glass cover back into place and caught the long skinny key of my adorable new necklace underneath. Thoughts of Isadora Duncan‘s demise via a similar fashion mistake briefly put me in panic mode — although greasy chicken juice and a Wal-Mart register isn’t as glamorous as a long silk scarf and sports car — but she quickly raised the cover and freed me. The key charm was slightly mangled and the elephant slightly dented but the chicken miraculously was fine except for significantly less juice. Which probably was a good thing. You’re welcome.

* Little Wal-Mart — This is what Middle Grandson calls Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets.

** Elephant-and-key necklace — Why are elephant and key charms together on a necklace? All I can think of is “The Secret Garden,” one of my favorite childhood books because who among us doesn’t believe she has a rich & mysterious uncle on an English estate with a long-hidden secret? The fact that my only uncle was a high-school teacher in California did not dampen my dreams.

Skirts, Birds and Open Flames

This is sort of a long story with several meandering digressions but today is a Snow/Ice/ReallyFreakin’Cold Day here in the South, so you might as well put your feet up and refresh your coffee and settle in.

First, you have to know that I love clothes. I am obsessed with fashion. This most likely is news to the people who see me every day. But even though on the outside I look like someone who barely has enough time/energy/organizational-skills to brush her hair and find shoes that match, on the inside soars the spirit of a fashionista. Or something. And this desire for style manifests itself — much to my husband’s dismay — by shopping. And by “shopping,” I mean “obsessively stalking online shopping sites for deals and bargains and pouncing on them before somebody else spies the Missoni Sport sweater for $19.99.” Oh, and buying things in actual stores, too. There’s always that. But it’s the Interwebs that are the star of this particular story.

So, I got this pretty khaki-brown pencil skirt in a box from one of the styling services I subscribe fto that seem to send me stuff for no apparent reason. (Note: Portions of this post may be edited for husband-friendly purposes.) It was cute and comfortable and different from any other of the 103 one or two pencil skirts in my closet. So I was interested. And as I looked it over, I noticed that the country-of-origin tag had these alarming words in red cautionary ink: “KEEP AWAY FROM FIRE.” Except for children’s sleepwear, which quite correctly comes with tons of warnings, I’ve never seen this suggestion on an item of clothing before. And, really, it’s not even a suggestion. More like a direct order, seems to me. Maybe that’s a China thing. I mean, the fabric is 70 percent polyester, 25 percent viscose and five percent elastane — a common enough blend that up to now never has caused me to rethink my proximity to open flames when wearing it. Obviously, I’ve been teetering on the edge of recklessness. But now I know. See, husband John Pitts — buying clothes onlline is a good thing!

But the whole “Made in China” aspect of this situation reminded me of another unsettling fashion transaction. The thing you should know first about this story is that I love birds — bird jewelry, bird designs, birds on scarves and blouses. I love birds ON THINGS. I’m not particularly fond of actual 71GkkMhLTuL._UX522_birds, for these reasons: 1) Poop. 2) If there are millions of birds flying around at any one time, where the heck are all the dead ones? WHAT DO THEY DO WITH THEM? 3) Dinosaurs — Birds evolved from dinosaurs, correct? And dinosaurs are gone but birds still are here. Again I ask, WHAT DID THEY DO WITH THEM? and, finally, 4) Alfred Hitchcock, Truth Teller. But graceful swallows on a scarf? Cute little eggs in a silver basket on a delicate necklace? A raven silhouette on a white cotton pillow? Yes, please. So, since I like bird things, in my online shopping forays I usually hunt for clothes with birds. Now, I am judicious and I don’t go overboard and I do have maybe some level of taste. No parrots, for example. But when I spied this lovely blouse for practically nothing, I couldn’t hit “Buy immediately” fast enough. I didn’t recognize the brand name and there seemed to be not much information about it, but for the pennies it cost — PENNIES! — I wasn’t worried. And I sort of forgot about it, to tell the truth. I had so totally forgotten about it that when a small package arrived at our door close to three months later, covered with official Chinese labels and custom stamps and notifications, I was puzzled. But pleased to see my bird blouse, as cute as anticipated. However, as I inspected it further, I noticed that there was no tag. Of any kind. Zero. Nothing at all. Again (see “Keep Away From Fire” story above), I’d never seen a piece of clothing without a tag. And, as I inspected the package the blouse had come in, I realized I’d never gotten anything that was shipped so completely Chinese and non-English. I started to get uneasy. I started running through friends who read Chinese and work in Huntsville “for the military” in offices you can’t get to, “translating news releases and children’s stories.” I started to imagine Homeland Security or the CIA or B613 getting a Google alert: “Suspicious Chinese interaction in small northeast Mississippi town.” Yikes. With uncharacteristic haste, I got rid of the incriminating evidence (the packaging, of course) and tried to act normal — not like someone who had received a possibly illegal bird blouse from one of the world’s super powers.

So, how’s your day going?