I am such a geeky nerd. Or is it a nerdy geek? I’m not sure, but It’s whatever you are when the communications department chairman at the university where you somehow were asked to teach a media-writing class cleans out his office and leaves a big box of used books in the lobby with a “Free to good homes” sign and it’s like a mega sale at T.J. Maxx — you are THAT excited. So you pull the box over to a nearby chair and ignore the student chatter around you and delve into the treasures: “Ethics in Media Communications”! “Communicating for Results — A Guide for Business and the Professions”! “Media Flight Plan III”! Was there ever a greater collection of (used and possibly outdated) media textbooks? Strangely, I seemed to have been the only person interested in this unexpected bounty, and the department chairman walked by and whispered approvingly that I could ignore the two-to-a-customer posted limit. I cannot wait to browse through these and revel in the grownup luxury of getting to read textbooks without having to study them — and that right there, I believe, is what marks me as a nerd. And THEN, to make this day even better, my newspaper-editor husband brought home a couple of Junior League cookbooks from the food editor’s giveaway stash. Both were published in 1977, when only single women got to use their real names and everybody else got to hide behind their husbands’. The golf-themed cookbook from Augusta, Ga., is in green, of course, and features adorable golf illustrations. The hardback cookbook from Nashville is rather more posh — as Nashville believes it is — and starts with a formal-dinner menu that starts with caviar soup, which I don’t think I’ll be making but it sure is fun reading about.
It’s not that I’m a Scrooge, exactly. I like Christmas as much as anybody does — the lights, the parties, the food, the chance to wear sparkly clothes with impunity. Presents? Santa Claus? Milk (punch) & cookies? More is more. Bring it on. But when it comes to decorating, I lean toward
extreme laziness minimalism. The thought of wrestling with putting up the tree and finding unpacking the ornaments makes me want to take a nap. Color-coordinating hand towels with guest soaps, replacing everyday pillows and artwork with holiday-themed decor and creatively displaying Christmas cards in a Pinterest-worthy style are simply beyond me. Our struggles with our %^&*$@ front-door garland this year are well documented — does anybody have an industrial nail gun we can borrow? — and I’ve desperately clung to stuck with our gold mailbox bows now for eight years for fear of having to buy new ones out of loyalty to the young florist who made them. Look, I’ve done the basics. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, the presents are wrapped and the Chex mix ingredients are ready. What else do you need? Naturally, you can guess that this is NOT the way I was brought up. My mother, with help from my dad, is a top-level Christmas advocate who turns their house into a holiday fairyland. There are surprises and delights everywhere you look and she’s always coming up with something new. As I do with folks who excel at the mysterious skills of gardening & painting & knitting, I admire and appreciate my mom’s Christmas creations without any troubling thought that I really should attempt to duplicate them myself. Thanks, Mom!
One of these wreaths is not like the other — because I made it. These are only some of the wreaths at my art-museum workplace we staffers create to fill in the blank spaces around our annual Christmas trees exhibit. At the beginning of November, we pull out a few fake trees and a bunch of ornaments and ribbons and bags of color-coordinated — well, I’m not sure what the technical term is but it’s basically wreath stuff — and we all stake out our favorite spots and for two days all you hear is “Has anybody seen more of the shiny red ribbon?” or “Hey, who took my sparkly hydrangeas?” But eventually it all comes together. And when you remember that the other staff members are trained and talented artists and I’m … not, then it’s easy to identify my wreathly effort.
All you need to know about my town of Corinth, Miss., is right here on the top shelf of our local paint store, where, by the way, the staff spent almost half an hour carefully blending and matching paint for our bathroom. The young man helping me found our house colors in the battered metal card-catalog files lining one wall — they were listed under our address, which he knew as soon as I told him the name of the builder. I’d never seen anybody blend and match paint before — fascinating! He mixed proportions of shades identified by letters, spread a bit of the result on the color card of the original, dried it with an ancient-looking hair dryer and then studied it carefully, bringing in his co-worker to discuss the merits of “maybe a little more C?” or “there’s too much B in that.” Finally he was satisfied and charged me less than a typical Starbucks trip (because who can resist a Peppermint Brownie Cake Pop, Frosted Snowperson Cookie and a way-cute coffee mug along with a triple venti latte?). While the guys were working, I turned down their offer of water or coffee, talked to the store’s resident dog and imagined I was picking paint colors for our dream home. (I especially liked Ralph Lauren‘s River Rock finishes and double-especially liked the Swamp Willow color entirely due to the fun factor of saying “Oh, that’s Swamp Willow” whenever anybody might compliment our paint choice.) I also
eavesdropped on accidentally overheard some excellent gossip about the cousin of the sister of the pastor of the attorney who’d taken somebody’s son-in-law’s divorce case. If there’s a local family-run paint store in your town, go hang out there. And buy some paint.
We’ve had Black
Thursday Night Friday, where we spent all day fighting crowds and staking out parking spots at the mall. Coming up is Cyber Monday, where we hit multiple “submit order” buttons while watching out for the boss’s signature sneaky walk-arounds. But the best day of all is today: Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express and promoted by the Small Business Administration and The 3/50 Project. If your skin is dried out and your eyes are watering from all the florescent lighting you couldn’t get away from yesterday and your sinuses are protesting all the perfume samples sprayed your way, head to the nearest hometown downtown this morning. You will find friendly local folks who sincerely are glad you stepped into their stores and will make you feel welcome and valued. You’ll meet your neighbors. You’ll talk to visitors. And you’ll find everything you need for a memorable holiday 2012. Look, I enjoy a mall crawl as much as anybody. Sometimes you just need a Cinnabon and The Gap and disinterested employees who are paid too little for too much work to care whether you buy anything or not. Nothing wrong with that, at all. The thing is that shopping downtown with your local retailers is a different experience — it’s somehow more satisfying, as if you’re doing something good and helpful. That’s how I felt, anyway, when I spent my Black Friday wandering around my downtown of Corinth, Miss., where I spent a little bit of or maybe some or maybe a pretty good chunk found great gifts for lots of folks on my list and perhaps a whole big bunch a few things for myself. Highlights: The fun and funky decor and jewelry at the newly opened Baxter & Me and the wearable style and creative embellishments at women’s boutique Andi Grace. I also went to the bank, the dry cleaner’s, the alterations shop, a jewelry store for a couple of repairs, the library, the coffee shop and the museum; had conversations on sidewalks; waved and smiled to tons of folks; and enjoyed brownies made and sold by the young niece of one of the store owners — all in three or four hours and a couple of blocks from the house. And to prove my dedication to supporting the local economy, I’m showing you my shopping results — without revealing specific contents. Remember — no peeking until Dec. 25!
Husband JP and I were lucky enough to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner with Older Daughter’s in-laws, who pretty much set the standard for Southern hospitality and generosity. Not to mention incredibly good food — melt-in-your-mouth smoked turkey, Older Daughter’s signature corn casserole, homemade sourdough rolls and that broccoli salad with onions and grapes I love but never make myself were only a few of the highlights, along with JP’s favorites of deviled eggs and green-bean casserole. After we rolled ourselves away from the table, it was time for after-dinner entertainment — which, predictably, seemed to split along gender lines. Those who were planning upcoming shopping trips — this group seemed to be mostly women — settled in to scan the ads and make a schedule. Outside, another group — and this one was mostly men —
tried to outdo each other with feats of strength, skill and endurance chopped firewood from a lovely old cherry tree and fixed a balky chainsaw. But then we regrouped for a late afternoon hike. And I got to take some banana pudding home! So my Thanksgiving started out with precious grandbaby hugs and ended with a bowl of leftover goodness. Hope yours was full of love and sweetness, too.
Have you ever been in an America’s Thrift Store? These huge Southeast Salvation-Army-type dig stores benefit Christian charities — and your own sense of adventure. And by “adventure,” I mean “the thrill of hunting through racks of acid-washed mom jeans to find that one pair of perfectly fitting $200 J Brand marked at $3.99.” Wear comfortable shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting dusty and be prepared to spend hours. HOURS. And while it definitely is a bargain-shoppers’ paradise, your friendly America’s Thrift Store also houses historical items worthy of an admission price. Such as this collection of vinyl that, I think, is taken directly from my 1960s childhood. The New Christy Minstrels were my parents’ favorite and I still remember how carefully my mother would take the album from its cover and place it on the turntable, which was one of those that closed with a latch that made it look like a square suitcase. And the Firestone Christmas records! Classics! And what about 45s? I was in a multi-age meeting recently when talk turned to records and somebody mentioned 45s and one of the younger guys said, “Oh, you mean those are the little ones without the different bands on them?” We oldsters had to be revived after that. I so remember saving my babysitting money and then walking across the highway from our house to the local record store when the new shipment of 45s came in on Saturdays. Good times, good times …
I love these pumpkins I spied on a morning walk around the neighborhood today. I mean, somebody just took ribbon and paint or markers and created something different and eye-catching. Actually, these look like they were originally party decorations — maybe for a dance or a dinner or something involving a school with black and gold colors (Vanderbilt?) — and got re-purposed. And now I’m wondering what sort of party it was and where it was and what I would have worn IF I had been invited and would my husband have been able to come and who was was there and why was I NOT invited? No matter that I have no idea who lives here or if they’re the sort of folks who throw good parties and so maybe I wouldn’t even have WANTED to go to their silly little party anyway, so there. But they do know their way around pumpkins. And I obviously have way too much time on my hands.
Back in the olden days, the natural order of things was parents passing wisdom and valuable lessons down to their children because parents were the ones who KNEW THINGS. But that was long ago — way back when you had to stay in one spot to talk on the telephone — and times have changed. Now, parents KNOW NOTHING and we depend on our children to keep us up-to-date. At least that’s how it works in my family. Older Daughter, for example, is the one who got me hooked on Pinterest, TOMS and an interesting book called “Hunger Games.” And recently Younger Daughter has introduced me to two new obsessions: Acure Facial Toners and Roma Boots. I can’t even begin to tell you how good these products are — for you and for others. Acure uses organic and Fair Trade ingredients (as well as minimal and recyclable packaging) in its skin- and body-care lines, and this facial toner is seriously good stuff. I’ve got a bottle stashed at the office — the refreshing hydrating spray of wonderfulness is perfect when you need more than a brisk walk to the break room for
gossip and coffee to revive you. And it smells oh-so-good! Roma Boots smell, good, too — not only in that brand-new-shoe smell that makes you feel rich and prosperous but in that I’ve-done-something-good-for-someone-and-I-look-damn-cute-too sort of way. Roma Boots was started by a native of Romania, who was anguished to see Roma (or “gypsy”) children in the cold and wet streets without proper — or any — shoes. The company will donate a pair of boots plus school supplies to a child in need when you buy a pair of Roma’s all-weather lightweight, stylish and natural rubber-soled boots. That’s TWO people with dry feet for the price of one — a deal you cannot pass up.