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.

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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.

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Three tips for holiday success

Yes, that panic you feel actually IS panic this time — pure unadulterated panic, not the kind you’ve been manufacturing because your year-end reports are due & has anybody seen your green sparkly sweater with the reindeer plus global warming, y’all. Nope, this is officially Panic Time because Dec. 25 is a week from today. One week,  people. One. Week.

But there are some things you can do to lessen your panic. Not completely get rid of it, you understand. That’s impossible because you ALWAYS will suddenly wake up at 3:31 a.m. on Dec. 23 with the certainty that although you did mail your sister’s family’s Christmas gifts in time, you definitely forgot to include your brother-in-law’s traditional bottle of Scotch, which your sister will take as subtle criticism & not call you for two weeks. That’s going to happen and you can’t do anything about it.

However, you can be prepared for/aware of other minor crises. Here are some suggestions, based on just a small sampling of my many holiday screw-ups years of expert research:

  • Family gatherings equal Game Nights, correct? Be the cool one with aIMG_2677 game that nobody’s played before. Family-friendly Qwirkle and its grown-up sibling Qwirkle Cubes are sort of dominoes, Scrabble and Hearts all rolled (sorry/not sorry for pun) into one. It truly is a game that’s easy to learn but then the more you play it, the more you realize how complex it can be. And, of course, because you are The Smart One, you downloaded the app on your phone and practiced beforehand so you can wipe up the competition with your brilliant moves share helpful advice & encouragement with those lesser players.
  • Pinterest is your friend during the holidays. Your best friend, IMG_2673actually, and she doesn’t even call you ONCE AGAIN at midnight to go over ONCE AGAIN the reasons she left her job/boyfriend/overflowing grocery cart in the middle of the frozen-food aisle ONCE AGAIN. (But you love her. You know you do.) Just browse through and you’ll find answers to any kind of holiday idea for decorating, gifting, baking, dressing for the office party — anything, really. Such as this wonderful gift idea my co-worker discovered: Add a cut-out handprint to a pair of gloves, embellish with ribbon and tuck a gift card inside one of the gloves. She did this for the student workers in our office and we added gift cards for a local restaurant because students always are 1) hungry and 2) cash-deficient. They loved it.
  • IMG_2671And, finally, as my Christmas gift to you, I’m sharing a tip to use when you’re getting dressed for those elegant and sophisticated cocktail gatherings and dinner parties and formal affairs at the embassy  the preschool Christmas program. And that tip is to pay attention to your earrings. For instance, from the back & from a distance & before you’ve put your contacts in/glasses on, these two earrings look pretty much the same, correct? I mean, they both have little sticky things poking out of the sides. Careful examination, however, reveals that one is a cute festival silver bow and the other is a manically grinning skull & crossbones. Do not wear manically grinning skull-and-crossbones earrings to the preschool Christmas program. You’re welcome.

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 Mystery of the Missing Earring

As a mystery fan, I’m constantly on the lookout for spies, poisoners, counterfeiters and other bad guys & girls. I mean, everybody whom Goldy Schulz knows eventually is connected to a crime and Miss Marple can’t walk out of her front door without stumbling over a dead body. Sadly or luckily — not sure which — so far I’ve only been called upon to solve such perplexing cases as “What happened to the last piece of caramel cake?” and “Why is the coffee grinder making that funny sound?”  And then this happened: The Case of the Disappearing Earring. I’ll start with the facts. One recent evening, my husband and I went to dinner directly after I got home from work. Back at home after dinner, I started to take off jewelry and makeup. I stood by my dresser to take off my earrings and put them back in their spot on a jewelry stand (a re-purposed vertical CD holder). I took one earring off and put it where it belonged and then suddenly realized the corresponding earring was not in my other ear. Not a disaster, but I liked those earrings and didn’t want to lose one. So I alerted my husband to the possibility that he might find a random earring in his car (leading to much hilarity, of course, about finding lady things in his car hahahaha) or somewhere on the floor and if he did, to please pick it up and give it to me because it was MIA. He said he would and I went to bed, not really worried about the Missing Earring. Got up the next morning, got dressed, put on jewelry, went to work, came home and once again stood by my dresser to take off my earrings and put them up. So far, so good. But as I was putting that day’s earrings back where they belonged, I noticed that the missing earring was right there, separated from its twin that I had worn the day before but in the general location of where it should be. I was momentarily startled and then started to consider the possibilities of how the Missing Earring had become un-missing. Here are those possibilities, ranked in order of least to most likely:

  • The earring had fallen off and then, with its magical powers of awesomeness, had found its way back home on its own. I mean, look, if we can find our phones and our cars and our TV remote controls, stands to reason we can find our earrings. Or they can find us. I know that this seems highly unlikely, but still. And now I am going to go invent a tiny little tracking chip that we can all put in our favorite earrings. I’ll let you know how it goes.
  • My husband had found the earring and put it back. Again, this seems highly unlikely because if this had happened, he 1) would have triumphantly told me about it and 2) would never have approached my jewelry stand himself because (see above description of this being an old CD rack) it is a bit rickety and shaky and prone to tumble over into jewelry pick-up-sticks and he would not want to be the cause of this happening. Again.
  • On the evening in question, when I was back from dinner and taking off my jewelry, I absent-mindedly took off both earrings and simply did not remember. But it’s not that I was absent-minded. No, indeed. I probably was thinking of something Really Important (such as “What happened to the last piece of caramel cake?”) and simply not paying attention. This is a definite possibility (“I just wasn’t paying attention … ” seems to figure into many conversations I have with my husband) but a troubling one because if you don’t pay attention to your own earrings, who will?
  • And now we come to the most troubling possibility of all. It might maybe could have been that I only had one earring on the whole day. Perhaps, when I got dressed that morning, I only put on one earring. Could this be what happened? (Refer to previous paragraph about Not Paying Attention.) I know I have long hair and had worn a scarf that day, but surely if I’d only had on one earring, somebody would have said something. Don’t you think? On the other hand, this reminds me of once when I’d gone into one of our local boutiques and after I’d left, I realized I’d lost an earring (totally different situation since I KNEW I’d had two at one point). I went back to the shop and asked the owner if she’d found it. “No, you only had one earring when you came in,” she said. I couldn’t believe it. “Why didn’t you say something?” I asked her. “I thought you meant it that way!” she said. And while I appreciated the compliment that I was edgy enough to wear only one dangling earring, I am not edgy at all and prefer pretty much to have my ears match.

So what do you think? I’m sort of leaning toward the fourth possibility, as troubling as it is that a) I’d forgotten to put two earrings in that morning and b) nobody commented on it. But then, I don’t usually check out folks’ earrings, either, so that might be too much pressure to put on people. And, bottom line, I’ve got both earrings back now, so all is well. Goldy & Miss Marple would be proud.

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!

SEC football fashion — because, yes, you are supposed to dress up

2013-10-29 17.05.52If you live anywhere in the 11-state region of the hallowed ground known as the SEC, you know exactly what this photo means. And if you don’t know, you’re in luck because I’m going to tell you in one word: Football. This. Is. SEC. Football. Because we girls know that an SEC football stadium is the biggest runway of them all. New York Fashion Week? Yeah, that’s nice and all, but an Alabama football game trumps any designer’s catwalk any day. I know that dressing up for football games is sort of a Southern thing that some folks may unflatteringly link back to so-called Southern belle-ism, but I prefer to think of it as a way to be stylish and comfortable and show team loyalty all at the same time. And another excuse to go shopping. So it’s all good. (And, please, y’all give Vanderbilt some time. It’s a rebuilding year, you know.)