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.

There are no words — oh, wait, I found some!

_9238367There are many things in this world I do not understand — why there is no actual pumpkin in Starbucks’ Pumpkin Latte, for instance — but topping the list of Things I Just Don’t Get is peep-toe boots. And specifically over-the-knee peep-toe boots. To start with, the whole concept of over-the-knee boots seems weird to me. I mean, how can you bend your knees to sit down? And when you do manage it, isn’t it uncomfortable to have all of that leather or whatever scrunching down behind your knees? I realize that worrying about the comfort level of fashion is an exercise in futility, but still. Plus, there’s the whole veering-into-hoochie-mama-territory thing that I won’t get into because one woman’s hoochie-mama style is another’s classy & elegant look. (Although, really, we all know hoochie-mama when we see it.) Then there’s the naked toe factor. Let’s take this logically. It’s cold outside. Really cold. So it’s the perfect weather to wear boots. Because you wear boots when it’s cold. (Or, for us Southerners, relatively coolish. When it’s actually cold, we stay inside and drink.) But wait! With peep-toe boots, you are keeping your legs (and in this example, your knees) warm yet at the same time exposing your toes — some of your most frostbite-prone extremities — to the cold that you’re protecting the rest of your body from. And to compound my confusion, this pair of over-the-knee peep-toe boots is from Nordstrom. NORDSTROM! Home of pretty and safe fashion with a slight Swedish accent. These over-the-knee peep-toe boots do not say “safe and pretty” to me. I’m not sure what they’re saying — “I’m a person who also wears my fur coat to the beach”? — but it’s not a language I’m fluent in. I simply do not understand. And I don’t know anybody to ask because I never have seen anybody wear these in actual real life. So maybe these are just for high-fashion models who try to convince the rest of us that sitting around in gorgeous clothes and having underlings fuss about your hair and makeup is really hard work. I’m not buying it. Literally.  

My Dream Job

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This is the job I want — Vice President in Charge of Naming Stuff. You know these folks took their afternoon business meeting/strategy session to the open-air beach bar where pitchers of beer are $2 and the boss had told them “We need new names and logos for our soft drinks so DO NOT LEAVE THAT MEETING UNTIL YOU’VE COME UP WITH SOMETHING,” and they didn’t. I just hope that dr. perky and mountain lion (Capitalization, people. CAPITALIZATION.) never get together and have babies.

The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — What Would Joan Wear?

I have a mad, mad girl-crush on Elementary’s Joan Watson. Well, more specifically, I have a mad girl-crush on Joan Watson’s closet. I want every single thing in it. Joan herself? Meh. I mean, she is fearless and compassionate and smart and can hold her on against her arrogant-yet-vulnerable Sherlock. But would she and I be friends? Not sure. She hardly ever smiles. I’m afraid she’d find me frivolous. (She probably never devotes a whole evening to catching up with The Bachelor. With accompanying wine and chocolate-chip cookie dough.) And do you think she’s been a bit cranky lately? As their friendship deepens, seems as if she and Sherlock pick at each other and are impatient with each more than they used to be. Although that’s probably just my Southerness politely raising a hand and saying nicely, “You know, y’all could say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every once in a while. Wouldn’t hurt you.” (Also, does anybody ever clean 221b Baker Street? Their kitchen reminds me of the one in an almost-century-old house that tumblr_n0c33fwtZ61rgjdouo2_250friends and I rented in college: charmingly vintage teetering on big ol’ mess.) But back to Joan’s closet. I covet it. I want EVERYTHING Joan Watson wears. I fervently follow the blogs, Tumblr posts and Polyvore and Pinterest sets that follow her. Every week, I ponder her fashion choices: How does she make a red window-pane-tablecloth ruffly tiered dress paired with a big yellow handbag look so stylish? Is a black leather snakey-looking dress what all New Yorkers wear when chopping onions? And, most importantly, could I possible sneak the purchase of her $600 black ankle boots past my husband? (No, I could not.) The thing is, I can’t explain exactly why I like Joan’s wardrobe. I’m not a fan of her go-to colorblocking, I studiously avoid t-shirts with words and/or animals on them (I wore more than my quota in the tumblr_n0cl6zLL9J1rgjdouo2_250 (1)1980s) and some things I’d look ridiculous in (see “red window-pane-tablecloth ruffley tiered dress” above). But there’s something about the way she puts it all together that’s appealing. She’s strong, no-fuss, modern and confident — and her clothes say that. I want my clothes to say that, too. Unfortunately, my clothes usually say “This woman has too many cats and literally cannot hold her coffee.” But I’m getting there. I not only have several gray-tweed-knit-and-black-(fake)leather tops similar to this dress Joan wore recently (thank you, T.J. Maxx winter clearance racks!)  but I also have the EXACT SAME Brita filter pitcher Joan is pouring a glass of water from. Things are looking up.

The Coffee with Cathy Guide to Everything — Overcoming Gift-Giving Envy

You know what I mean by “gift-giving envy,” right? It’s that forehead-slapping moment when you unwrap The Perfect Gift Picked Out Just For You and while you’re speechless at the insane appropriateness of it all (how did she know I’d looked at that scarf just yesterday???) you’re also inwardly wondering WHY CAN’T I EVER DO THAT and secretly dreading when it’s the giftor’s turn to unwrap your Wintry Forest-scented candle, limited edition. Or maybe this is just me. Because I have the extreme and completely undeserved good fortune to be surrounded by folks who always get it right. I don’t know how they do it. But there are clues: “I pay attention,” our community-theatre intern shrugged when I asked how she knew I needed the travel mug and Starbucks Via she gave me. “I loved it so I knew you would, too,” a friend said when she gave me the most adorable necklace ever. “I remembered that you really liked the last one,” a sister-in-law said when she gave me a local artist’s tabletop calendar. Hmmm … 

And since I can’t turn around and use these to dazzle folks in 2014, here are some more unexpected and fun ideas to delight YOUR special people in upcoming gift-giving opportunities:

  • DSCN2893Did you know you could buy assorted single earrings? I didn’t, until Younger Daughter gave me this ultra-cute collection. I wear an uneven number of earrings because … well … I’ve forgotten why I decided to do that originally but I’d like to think it’s my one Rebellion Against the Status Quo. Or something. Also, when it’s Grandbaby Time, I switch to studs. One experience of having your gold hoops yanked out of your ears by an adorable yet incredibly strong young child will do that to you. I love that these have various colors and textures. And that Younger Daughter knew I’d love it.
  • coffeebagDid you know there was such a thing as wood-roasted coffee? I never, in all of my coffee-drinking years, had heard of that. And I pretty much consider myself to be up on all things coffee. But Younger Brother knew there was a gap in my coffee knowledge, so he gave me a bag of Matt’s Wood-Roasted Organic Coffee, made in Maine. At Matt’s, organic coffee is small-batch roasted in a vintage Italian roaster fueled by wood from native and nearby forests. And it is sooo good. It’s subtle and rich and layered and smooth, just as the perfect cup of coffee should be. Order some. Now
  • Of course, I can drink my perfect wood-roasted coffee in the most perfect coffee personalized coffee mugmug ever. Older Daughter is one of those folks skilled at using online photo and printing sites to create ooh-and-ahh-worthy gifts everybody looks forward to. Her expertise in designing hard-cover photo scrapbooks is legendary (if only I could convince her that photos of my precious grandbabies PLAYING AND POSING ON RAILROAD TRACKS are unnecessary). And this year she outdid herself by adding a coffee mug. Just for me. It makes me smile every time I drink coffee out of it — and since Husband John Pitts probably is reading this, I won’t reveal how many times that is. But it’s enough to make me feel good all day. Even with the railroad tracks.
  • Our neighbors are awesomely wonderful. We look out for each other and bring in each other’s DSCN2895garbage cans and pick up the trash. And give good gifts. One neighbor gave us a gift card to one of our favorite downtown eating spots, which we used immediately on beer and guacamole. Another neighbor gave us a basket full of goodies, including these book ends. Book ends! I love the idea of book ends — things such as pretty stationery and statement-making key fobs that used to be staples of everyday life but now are special enough to be elevated to why-didn’t-I-think-of-that gifts. Also please note that this is John Pitts’ side of the bookshelves, used for photography purposes because his side is organized and neat while mine is overflowing and messy and so overloaded that the movable shelves actually do move — downwards — every few months or so.

So, here’s to 2014! May the gifts you give always be welcome and never donated to the Salvation Army store. (Please give money, instead. Because if the set of four white-swan plastic napkin rings terrifies you, do you really want to impose it on somebody else?)