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?

The Difference between Boys and Girls

photo (22)No, this is not THAT kind of post. Where is your mind, people??? It’s just that I wanted to share with you a prime example*** of the unassailable difference between men and women: shoes. You know where we’re headed, don’t you? This is my husband’s entire shoe collection, minus a beautiful pair of dress shoes he has carefully taken care of for years. His. Entire. Shoe. Collection. I can’t emphasize that enough. Because I literally will wear more pairs than this in a single day.  Also, my shoes are different. From each other. I don’t need to say anything else, do I? Just ponder on that.

*** This was one of my dad’s favorite phrases back in the day, as in, “That is a prime example of what happens when you don’t pay attention,” which, it will come as no surprise, was usually directly at my middle brother because I ALWAYS listened and anything the baby brother — also known as The Favorite Child of All Time — did was just fine and dandy. In fact, I don’t think he ever was prime-exampled.

The Seven Stages of Stitch Fix

All across the country, a strange fever has taken hold of thousands of women. Perhaps you’re box editedinfected yourself. You probably at least know somebody exhibiting the symptoms: obsessively browsing blogs and Pinterest boards, frequently referring to “my stylist” and uninhibitedly squealing with joy when a cardboard box sporting a blue and brown logo appears at the front door. Be careful! This fever is highly contagious. In fact, I guarantee that if you get anywhere close to it, you will succumb. But, on the other hand, you will be cute and well-dressed because, of course, I’m talking about Stitch Fix, the online fashion subscription service that’s taking over the blogosphere. Katrina Lake, 31, is the founder and CEO of the San Francisco-based company that’s causing heart palpitations and swooning in everybody from hardened business analysts to young moms who just want to wear something besides yoga pants and baby food. And women like me. (Note to husband John Pitts: There’s nothing for you to see here. Nothing at all. Just move along.) I don’t know why I like Stitch Fix so much. I clothes editedcertainly admire Lake’s entrepreneurial mix of statistical algorithms and personalized service. I’m in awe of Stitch Fix’s successful and seemingly effortless marketing strategies. I like Stitch Fix’s casually chic and trendily classic aesthetic. But mainly I just sort of uninhibitedly squeal with joy with a box of adorably cute clothes THAT I DIDN’T HAVE TO PICK OUT MYSELF shows up at my door. I can’t explain how much fun that is. Perhaps I need to get out more. In the spirit of rational thought and scientific research, however, I have identified the Seven Stages of Stitch Fix. Check to see where you are on the spectrum:

  1. You’ve filled out your style profile (mine revealed that I am not glamorous, edgy or bohemian — who knew?), loaded up your Stitch Fix Pinterest board and scheduled your Fix. You immediately begin to stalk your box’s arrival.
  2. While you wait, you check out other Stitch Fix reviews and start to obsess. Will you get that lovely Daniel Rainn heart-print top? Has somebody else scored with the Paper Moon black-and-white dress you pinned months ago? Are there any Collective Concepts Split Neck Embroidered Sweater left in your size? It’s shopping porn at its best.
  3. Finally, your Fix has shipped. You know you can click on the checkout button and view your invoice, which has descriptions of what’s headed your way. Should you peek? And if you do, should you find photos to match those descriptions? Decisions, decisions …
  4. It’s here! Your Fix arrives. You savor the moment of DSCN3108 editedopening the box and unwrapping the goodies inside because, really, when else does somebody choose things specifically for you and mail them just to you? (The answer is “not often.”)
  5. You ooh and ahh over the colors and the fabrics. Yes! You can wear that skirt to work tomorrow. You can wear that dress to the wedding in a couple of weeks. And those pair of jeans will be your go-to weekend wear. You study the styling cards. You start making outfits in your head. The possibilities are unlimited …
  6. Well, at least they are until you try your clothes on. Just like in stores, sometimes what looks good on the hanger (or in the box) doesn’t make the cut when it’s on you. Sometimes the sizing’s off. Sometimes the cut isn’t flattering. Sometimes your budget isn’t Stitch Fix-friendly. But, really, that’s beside the point. One piece or none or all five — doesn’t matter what you keep. Because you’ve had the Stitch Fix experience, and you’re ready for more.
  7. So you put your send-backs in the prepaid envelope, pop it in the mailbox, tweak your Style Profile, write a sweet and helpful note to your stylist, schedule your next Fix and immediately begin to stalk your box’s arrival.

Want to try it? Stitch Fix has not paid me to write this post, but the company does give its customers credit toward purchases when they refer new customers. So click here to sign up, and then when you’re a happy Stitch Fix customer you can get credits yourself. Brilliant!

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.