Merry Christmas! Here’s a Hoof!

NaBloPoMo14DayTwentySevenAnother Thanksgiving under our belts — both literally and figuratively. I feel stuffed. My sister-in-law has taken to saying, instead of “Merry Christmas”, “Merry Excess”. It rings true.

We really have so much, don’t we, most of us? Too much, if you ask me. And, yet, we rack our brains for what else to buy for so-and-so or to come up with one more thing that we would like. I wish that I could say, “No more! No more stuff!” I won’t, though. Even if I say that I will, I won’t actually do it.

I’ve cut down the list considerably over the years in terms of people that I buy for. That much I’ve done.

I just really hate to shop. I’d like to enjoy the season — just once — without the hassle of shopping.

Believe you me, I’ve thought about taking all of the money that I spend on Christmas and purchasing a goat for a third-world village. It would be weird, though, to give one-tenth of a goat to some of the folks on my Christmas list. I mean, how exactly would I carve that up? Or wrap it?

I suppose I could just give them a nice card explaining that one-tenth of a goat was given in their name through Oxfam or some other reputable goat-giving charity. How would I inscribe it though? “Merry Christmas! Here’s your hoof!” That’s straightforward enough, but it seems a little odd — even coming from me.

I am a little odd — and as I’ve grown older, I’ve grown odder, especially as it pertains to gift-giving. I am self-aware enough to admit this about myself. I just cannot get excited about the whole prospect of it anymore.

And, I refuse to do gift cards. They are so impersonal. I’d rather someone hand me a few crumpled up singles than be given a gift card. It’s like saying, “Here you go. Shop for your own shit!” Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like another task added to my list of things to do.

I may be an unenthusiastic gift-giver, but if I’m going to buy gifts, I’d like them to be thoughtful. Frankly, I think a goat is a pretty thoughtful gift. How many people can say they received a goat (or a part of one) as a Christmas gift? Not many.

As unique as giving this kind of gift would be, as interesting as it might be to receive, it is highly unlikely that I’ll be purchasing a goat, in whole or in part, for anyone on my Christmas list. At least that’s not the current plan. You never know, though. Come December 23rd, if I’ve plum run out of both time and ideas, there might just be a goat in someone’s future.

No. You May Not Have My Email Address!


I live in what most would consider to be the mall mecca of the world, which is kind of lost on me as I’m not a big shopper. Today, however, I was forced to spend a couple of hours in the mall — Fangette drove over a nail the other day and, as a result, was driving around on a donut. The roads are a little icy for that sort of thing here in Northeastern New Jersey at the moment.

While they installed her tires, we had a couple of hours to kill. Since we were at the mall anyway, we decided to get lunch and do a little shopping. I suggested that, perhaps, we could look at prom dresses. Apparently, we were in the wrong mall for that. Unbeknownst to me, one cannot purchase a prom dress at the same mall where one purchases tires. This is one of the many shopping-related rules of which I am ignorant.

Overall, outside of the fact that we couldn’t even peek at any prom dresses, it wasn’t a bad shopping trip, as shopping trips go. Still,
the experience reminded me why I don’t routinely spend much time at the mall.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t have something to complain about though, would I? Mainly, my complaints emanate from the fact that I have issues with all of the questioning that occurs at checkout these days. I was asked, even before I had picked out the tires, “May I have your phone number, please?” As I was wondering if this was some new horror, a departure from holding you up at payment time with their endless questions and prompts for survey-taking, I discovered, much to my relief, that the salesman needed our phone number so that he could access our account. Okay. That was fine. That was a timesaver. No need to be annoyed yet. There would be plenty of time for that at the next store.

The question I really hate, the one that really irritates me, is “May I have your email address, please?”. That’s not a timesaver. And, no. No, you may not have my email address!

I try to be nice to the minimum wage employee who is just doing his or her job by wrangling this information from me, but, really, I just wanted her to take my $3 and fork over the citrus-sage scented air freshener that I was attempting to purchase. An air freshener that was needed, by the way, to rid the car of the rusty tire iron smell — the one that exists because Fangette’s “boys” — the delightful ones who she charmed into changing her tire — left the tire iron on the back seat. That’s right. Instead of putting it back in the trunk where it belonged, it was sitting on the back seat stinking up the car. Of course, I blame my daughter for that.

Don’t even get me started on why, instead of calling AAA — a service that we PAY for — inexperienced teenage boys were tasked with changing her tire. Don’t even get me started on THAT. I suppose we should be grateful that the tire iron found it’s way back into the vehicle at all. Of course, we wouldn’t have had to deal with the smelliness of tire irons at all if she had just called AAA as she had been instructed to do.

She was impatient. And, since she had a few willing and able-bodied young men at her beck and call, why wait for The Automobile Association of America? They’re busy. The boys? They were, apparently, just sitting around waiting for her to snap her little fingers and bat her luscious lashes. Fangette has a knack for getting men, young and old, to do things for her. I’m smart enough to not want to know how, exactly, she does this. I operate under the assumption that she uses her good looks and sparkling personality to curry favors and leave it at that. Adopting this line of thinking makes it possible for me to sleep at night.

When I responded “No, thank you” to the clerk’s request for my email address, the atmosphere at the checkout counter changed considerably and not for the better. This seemingly nice young woman who had been extremely solicitous and had even appeared to be concerned for my safety, this same young woman who, only moments before she blurted out this question, had made sure that she sent me on my way with fire safety literature, never mind that I hadn’t purchased anything that required the use of fire, began to eye me suspiciously. She was regarding me as if I were some kind of a terrorist because I wasn’t inclined to share my personal information with her, her company, and anyone who might have been standing within earshot of our transaction!

In an attempt to convince me of the error of my ways, she began to try to “sell” me on why I should give her company my email. To say that I had no interest in engaging in any conversation where someone was making attempts, valiant though they were, to force me into giving out my email address is an understatement. I’d rather have taken the bent nail that was stuck in Fangette’s tire and, curiously enough, also sitting on the back seat of her car next to the tire iron, and poked it in my eye — repeatedly. No matter how these folks try to approach this whole email thing, I will never be convinced that it behooves me to reveal this information. The advantage is all theirs.

If I want coupons, I’ll go online and print out the damn coupons before I journey to the mall. Or, I’ll bring them up on my phone while I’m there. I’ll use their free Wi-Fi while I’m at it — as long as I don’t have to give them any of my personal information to do so.

These requests never fail to annoy me. More annoying, though, was my teenager’s response to the whole thing. Fangette rolled her eyes and sighed at me — that’s teen speak for “My mother is sooooooooooooooo embarrassing!” Whatever. She then began to whine. Somewhere, mid-whine, I’m fairly certain that she worked in this gem, “Mom, why can’t you just be a normal person and play nice.”

I didn’t respond to her for the simple reason that everyone, including the young lady from the candle store, can attest to the fact that I’m not normal. Of all people, my own child should know that better than anyone. As far as not being nice goes, I’m nice when I want to be, when I need to be. And, I’m polite. I said, “No, thank you”. That’s as nice as I was prepared to be with my interrogator today.

Really, though, here I was shelling out almost $400 American dollars for new tires for my kid’s car AND spending my day off at the mall, which I thought was pretty damn nice, and Fangette thought it in her best interests to take potshots at me? I had other things that I could have done today. Believe me. Further, I could think of a few things, other than tires, that, since I had to be at the stupid mall anyway, I could be spending my hard-earned money on. For example, I could use a pair of snow boots.

I have been using a ten-year old pair of lavender Uggs as snow boots this winter. (Really, I’ve been using them for the past nine winters!) They’re no longer cutting it. They have no tread left on the bottoms. As a result, I’ve taken more than one tumble in the dark, on the ice, while wearing them. They also look a little rough around the edges. Like I said, they’re ten years old. They’ve seen their fair share of action. They deserve to be retired; I deserve to not be flat on my ass.

Obviously, though, insuring that my daughter is driving a safe vehicle is more important than a new pair of snow boots. Still, I decided that while I was at the mall I might as well see what kind of snow boots they had to offer. I was pretty sure, even given the ridiculous amount of money two tires cost, that a basic pair of snow boots wouldn’t put me in the poorhouse.

What I’d like to know is when they stopped making your basic, run-of-the-mill snow boots? Obviously it’s been a while since I’ve been in the market for such a thing. Like I said, the Uggs are nine years old and before that, I think I had a pair of moon boots. I’m surprised they haven’t come back into style.

I did manage to find one pair of waterproof fur-lined boots today. Okay. Warm and waterproof. That’s what I was after. I don’t know what brand they were, exactly, but I do know this: they wanted $300 for them. If I paid $300 for them, I wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to wear them in the snow. I wondered, aloud and to the further embarrassment of my teenage daughter, whether they came with their own glass display case. I would need one to house them in, you know, so that I could look upon them longingly as I pulled on my ten-year old lavender Uggs for the next twenty winters. Three-hundred dollars seemed like a crazy amount of money to spend on footwear to shovel in.

Serendipitously, I stumbled upon a pair of clearance boots that were considerably less expensive. They’re not fur-lined, but they’re waterproof and have intact treads. I’ll throw on a pair of extra socks to make up for the fact that they’re not designed for warmth. Their real selling point was that they were $20. That’s more my speed. They were also cheetah-print, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but for twenty bucks, I was willing to settle for whatever they had in my size. Fangette’s unsolicited opinion is that they’re hideous, so at least I know she won’t be “borrowing” them. That was an added bonus.

In a moment of what I thought was extreme cleverness, when I was asked to provide my email, instead of saying, “No, thank you”, I said “”. It took the clerk a moment to catch on to what I had done there. She kind of chuckled, as, surprisingly, did Fangette. The clerk then waited, expectantly, for me to give her my real email. I told her to just go ahead and put in the one that I had given her. I explained that I was sure Mr. Obama would be delighted to receive promotional materials, special offers, and coupons from her fine establishment.

When we left the store, Fangette, in an exasperated tone — her amusement was both momentary and fleeting — asked me “What normal person behaves that way, Mom?” “How would I know?”, I replied. Honestly, I don’t know normal from a hole in the wall. What I do know is funny and clever. And, really, I’m pretty sure I nailed both funny and clever, which made the fact that I had to shop at all just a little more enjoyable than usual. Plus, now I have new snow boots. So, yeah, it was a good day.

“Javaj240”, Unfiltered!

produce aisleI’m wondering, does anyone else find themselves saying things that are a little out of character as they age? I used to be better at catching myself
BEFORE I actually said what was on my mind. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that some things are avoiding the filter and just slipping out. And they’re not just the odd cuss word, either. Truthfully, I’ve given up on filtering THEM. I’m a Jersey girl. We pepper conversations about hand lotion with salty words.

I’ve also been at a loss to explain where the young urban black woman who has lately taken up residence in my middle-aged, suburban, white body came from? Pop culture, perhaps? Frankly, I kind of like her and hope that she doesn’t go away. She may, however, need a bit of reigning in.

The most inexplicable and shocking example of this occurred not long ago in my “home away from home” — the grocery store, a place where I often feel invisible. This feeling of invisibility is not a result of people ignoring me, per se. It stems from the fact that they simply do not seem to see me. If they want to occupy the space that I’m standing in, or reach for the product that I’m engaged in purchasing, they just go ahead and act as if I’m not there. So, I have concluded, that I must be invisible. Why else would people think that the laws of physics don’t apply in Soup?

On every trip, I am plagued by the feeling that I’m being followed by someone who insists on breaching my space. It’s exasperating. The other day I was dogged by a woman whom I shall call “Mary Frances”. Sometimes I skip an aisle to try to throw folks like Mary Frances off of my scent. This method has its pitfalls, though. Mainly because it doesn’t always work out and we end up together in Paper Products anyway. Usually and inexplicably we both want the store brand paper toweling that’s on the top shelf. (I take some comfort in knowing that my nemesis is as cheap as I am!) It’s unsettling, to say the least, to have a stranger reach up behind you when you are on your tippy-toes attempting to retrieve the imitation Bounty! (Is it a pervert seeing an opportunity to “cop a feel”? “Oh, no. It’s just Mary Frances!” UGH!)

The other problem with employing this method is that I often forget to make a return trip to the aisle that I tactically omitted. As a result, The Fanganini’s wind up brushing their teeth with baking soda and peroxide for a couple of days. All because I knew, when Mary Frances and I went for the same melon in Produce, that if I planned on not losing my shit in Cereal, she must be avoided.

This type of thing would be difficult for the most patient person to deal with. No one would ever accuse me of having an abundance of patience. Try as I might, once in a while, I reach the end of my rope with the likes of Mary Frances.

The other day it happened — I ran out of patience — while I was going for the large jar of Nutella. (Fangette goes through that overpriced stuff like Sherman went through Atlanta — she burns through it!) I don’t even want to get into what the odds would be that Mary Frances and I, purchasers of cheap ass paper towels, were also, oddly enough, stocking up on Nutella, but we were.

It was there, amongst the jams and jellies, that I spun around, did my best Diana Ross, “Stop! In the Name of Love” hand gesture, and said to Mary Frances “Yo! Sistah! You need to back up off of my grill! There’ll be plenty of Nutella fo’ yo’ ass when I’m done gettin’ mine!” I’m pretty sure that, in addition to giving Mary Frances “the hand”, my other hand was on my other hip AND I was making a slight swaying motion as I admonished her. There may have been some finger wagging involved as well. Before Mary Frances could even think “Oh, no. She didn’t!”, I took off like a bat out of hell.

No one, including Mary Frances, could have been more stunned by my outburst than I was. Somehow I had managed to channel Whoopi Goldberg in her Academy Award-winning role as Oda Mae Brown in “Ghost”. I’m just going to blame what must be a faulty filter for my behavior. Because I have absolutely no idea how else to explain how ridiculous I must have looked (and sounded!) to either Mary Frances or the casual onlooker.

Well, okay. I have some idea!

photo credit:
produce aisle (

Trading one addiction for another!

IkeaI was a little worried that I was becoming addicted to Ikea. And, really, no one wants that. And by no one I mean my husband.

It started innocently enough. I got a loveseat there, but like any gateway drug, the loveseat led, inevitably, to more. The more in this case was a chair. A new television warranted a larger media console (sounds so much better and fancier than television stand, don’t you agree?), which required another trip to Ikea where I left with not only the media console, but also with a couple of free-standing cabinets for the kitchen.

Not unlike children’s birthday parties, redecorating projects can quickly get out of hand. One minute you’re calmly lining up all the kiddies for a nice round of pin the tail on the donkey, the next thing you know, little Shushma is nearly stabbed with the thumbtack that is, well, integral to the game (plus, you didn’t have any Fun tack). Luckily, also integral to the game is the blindfold that, as luck would have it, took the brunt of little Shusma’s near blinding. Who’d have thunk that a recently spun kid, now dizzy from the spinning and armed with a sharp object would become confused and point this same sharp object at her very own eye? Not you, that’s for sure. Naturally, panic ensues and a little party game becomes, to put it mildly, frenzied and chaotic.

Frenzied and chaotic would be excellent adjectives to describe my former decorating style. You know, if it fits, it sits; if it’s free, it’s for me. This philosophy led to many, many mismatched and ugly pieces of furniture over the years. This time, though, I am determined to be different. To take my time. To think things through. To actually make an effort at some kind of style. I’ve chosen Cottage Chic or Shabby Chic, or whatever those design-y folks are calling it these days. I like it’s ease. I like it’s comfort. I like that it’s basically built around the color white, which even I can’t screw up. Although who knew just how many shades of white there are out there? Not me. Not at the outset. Now I know. It’s slightly worrisome, but I’m going to soldier on. I like slipcovers that I can throw in the wash. Although I am, at this very moment, writing this in an effort to delay doing just that. So, what else is new? “What do you mean you didn’t get the pen off the couch cushion today?” “I was writing. Do you think blog posts just materialize? Like pizza? Which, by the way, only appears because I picked up the phone and ordered it. Sheesh!”

I will not even get into how a nearly 17-year-old girl-child got ink on my nearly brand-new white slipcovered Ektorp loveseat or how this almost caused World War III to erupt right here in Northern New Jersey. The point is that I can get it out with a little hairspray and some laundering, which I plan on doing right after I finish writing this post. So, get off my back, wouldja?

That Ikea though, what a place, huh? So clean and organized and well-lit. They kind of make you want to live in those rooms, no doubt while enjoying their equally enticing menu selections — namely, the Swedish meatballs and the cinnamon buns — don’t they? Yup. They do. And I fell prey to their evil genius. I am, after all, a mere mortal in search of affordable white wood-like furniture pieces that I can shabbify with some toile curtains, gingham pillows, and possibly a bit of interesting molding.

To this end I made a list of all of the things that I know the good Lord would want me to have from Ikea. Even Our Lord could not convince Fang to live in a catalog page. He wanted to check out other places that sell furniture. All I can say is “Screw the Lord and Thank Heavens for Fang!” because if my husband had not talked me down from the crazy Ikea branch that I had found myself perched upon, I never would have found my current obsession — a place not far from here called “Handpainted by Cookie”.

Maybe it was the paint fumes, but the minute I walked into this joint I knew I had found a kindred spirit. This woman, along with her handy and affable husband, obtains antiques that would otherwise end up in landfills or spend the rest of their days as chipped wood. They make any necessary minor repairs and provide them with beautiful paint jobs. Oh, and there’s also a dog that greets you at the door. Gotta love a place of business where pets are permitted to roam around.

The actual showroom is small, but delightfully decorated. I fell in love with and ultimately bought a white chalk-painted Art Deco dining table with a pop-up leaf and six gorgeous chairs. I have my eye on a beat up china closet that I spied in the warehouse. I know it will look fetching in a lovely shade of dove gray with white hardware. Even Fang agrees that it’ll work for us, but I am, uncharacteristically, going to wait until I get the table in and situated before I make any hasty decisions.

If it looks this good in a parking lot, can you even imagine what it will look like in my dining area???

If it looks this good in a parking lot, can you even imagine what it will look like in my dining area???

Tomorrow The Redhead and I will head over to “Handpainted by Cookie” and load up Bubba with my new purchases. While I’m there I’m hoping to convince Cookie that she should be on the look out for a French Provincial desk with cabriole legs for the woman who, in the coming months, will become her best customer. Because I need lots of shabby things. Lots.

If you’re sitting there shaking your head and thinking, like Fang, that I’ve just traded one addiction for another, you’d be right. I would, however, make the argument that this tiny slice of heaven located in an unassuming Moonachie, New Jersey warehouse is a far, far better obsession to have than Ikea.

photo credits:
<a href="dining room table ” target=”_blank”>Dining table

Avoiding the “Vague Idea”

crucifixMen are not really equipped for the whole shopping gig. Yes, I know. This is both sexist and promotes a certain stereotype. Sometimes, though, stereotypes linger because they’re true. For example, I’m Irish. I used to drink a lot. Many Irish people drink to excess. Not all, but many. That’s how it became a stereotype. Because it’s true. Perhaps you know a man who is not challenged by a shopping trip. Good for you. He’s a keeper! If you are not, however, involved with the exception to the rule — a man who has the shopping gene — don’t despair. All is not lost. They can be trained. Ultimately, what must be avoided is anything resembling the “vague idea”.

In our early years together my husband was fond of purchasing me jewelry. The problem? I don’t really wear a whole lot of jewelry. Well, at least not the jewelry that he was choosing. In an effort to indulge the obvious pleasure he got from shopping for jewelry, I started to drop hints about jewelry that I might actually like to own. (Enter the “vague idea”.) They were, I thought, fairly straightforward things. I mentioned items such as, a cross pendant, “X” earrings, or a simple gold chain. How could someone screw that up? Fairly easily, as it turns out. The small, elegant, understated cross turned into an elaborate filigreed crucifix that might at one time have belonged to Madonna. For those of you who don’t know, there is a difference between a cross and a crucifix. A cross is a modified “T” shape; a crucifix has a sculpted and bloodied man wearing a crown of thorns affixed to the “T” shape. I like Jesus as much as the next gal, but I don’t want four gruesome inches of his death hanging from my neck. Too flashy and overtly religious. Definitely NOT me.

The “X” earrings? They were large enough to partially obscure my cheekbones and heavy enough to stretch my delicate earlobes. When I returned them I think they put them back on the branding iron from which they had been removed.

A simple gold chain? Try a quadruple herringbone. Cleopatra probably sported something smaller. It gave me a neck ache. I also imagined that it might catch the eye of some ne’er do well who would garrote me while attempting to tear it from my tender neck. Again. Not for me.

Those jewelry store clerks definitely saw my husband coming. He fell, hook, line, and sinker, for the old “bigger is better” adage. And he fell hard.

Obviously I returned all of this craziness. (And made a handsome profit, I might add.) Following the quadruple herringbone disaster (he really could not understand what could possibly be wrong with something so obviously expensive and well-made — and in Italy for crying out loud!), he vowed never to buy me jewelry again. Obviously his inability to select something appropriate was all my fault. He stayed true to his word, though, and steered clear of the jewelry stores when my birthday, Christmas, or Mother’s Day rolled around. I began to receive things like candle snuffers (designed for taper candles, which I do not own a one of), snow boots (bright pink and two sizes too small), scarves (mostly “medallion” prints, I’ll likely drag them out when I’m 80), pajamas (flannel and sized to hold at least one other person — and, no, not because he had any kinky ideas — because he operates under the assumption that my feet are petite, but my ass is at least two sizes larger than it really is), and, of course, the inevitable robot vacuum cleaner (he does the vacuuming, so I guess that one worked out for him).

More than twenty years of well-meaning, yet still not quite right, gifts forced me to adopt the bold strategy of asking for exactly what I want. No more hints. No more leaving dog-eared magazines or catalogs lying around (like the ones he used to look quizzically at finding atop his pillow). No more candle-snuffers, cleaning-related products, or stage-worthy jewelry for me! Last year he even relaxed his “No Jewelry” policy and agreed to buy me the small Tiffany “Love” ring that I’d had my eye on for ages. This year I asked for AND received a new pair of chocolate brown UGGS mini boots (in the proper size!). Let me not leave you with the impression that my husband is perfect, though. No. He’s still working out the kinks with the whole “Christmas pajama” tradition. This year they weren’t flannel nor were they completely ludicrous. They would have been great if it weren’t for the see-through white top that accompanied the XL bottoms. So, while there’s always room for improvement, there is no substitute for proper training.

photo credit: crucifix

The Pub Crawl at the Mall

drinkingshoppingThere was a time when malls were for shopping. These days they are veritable entertainment complexes. Drinking establishments are around every corner. The mall is a great place to be an alcoholic. Those of you with a drinking problem can take full advantage of this by participating in a little activity I used to engage in, back in my drinking days— “The Pub Crawl at the Mall!”

Here’s how to play:

Reward yourself with a drink, or several, following a successful purchase. Start small. Buy a box of cards that you have every intention of sending out (but that you never will). Earn a glass of buttery Chardonnay. Chilled.

Knocked the Christmas pajamas off the list? Time for a martini! If you’re feeling particularly festive, opt for the green apple martini. Request a cherry garnish. Red and green! Fa! La! La! La! La! La! La! La! La!

Two gifts and two drinks down— and it’s not even noon! Plenty of time to do more damage to the pocketbook and the liver!

Now that you have a slight buzz on, hit one of the finer department stores. Surely someone on your list (or everyone) can use some nice earmuffs. Buy a half-a-dozen. Throw in a couple of scarves for the ladies and several body wash sets for the guys. You’re on a roll now! Get yourself some lunch. A few chicken wings and a couple of beers should do the trick. Find the place with the Christmas Ale on tap.

Woozy, yet fortified, make your way to the big electronics store. It’s only a little walk through the parking lot. And it’s right next to the place that offers $1 margaritas and free chips and salsa after 3:00. Timing is everything! Kill some time browsing and asking questions of the staff about things you have no intention of buying. Take a crack at making the right decision regarding DVDs. (Remember, last year you bought two copies of “A Christmas Story”— don’t make that mistake again!) Listen intently as the clerk describes the slight, but critical differences, in the latest entries to the “point and shoot” digital camera marketplace. Let him sell you the most expensive one, because it’s 3:05 and, let’s face it, there are a few margaritas calling your name. Never mind that your husband has no interest in photography.

There’s nothing quite like the late afternoon tequila high. It is, however, short-lived. And the only way to recover is a nap. From experience I will caution you about having a brief lie-down near the fountain. There is a very real possibility that you will be pelted with coins and/or picked up for public drunkenness. To avoid the potential for embarrassment (not to mention the attendant legal fees), for the love of God, spend the $12 on a movie ticket and sleep in the darkened theater. Choose wisely, though, don’t go for the blockbuster or the cartoon, select the boring indie title (if there’s a foreign film playing— even better). There’s a good chance you’ll be the only one in that theater, making the cocktail-induced snoring and drooling a non-issue. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, you will need the $15 jumbo bucket of popcorn to soak up the $5 worth of crappy tequila. Don’t cheap out.

This combination of carbs and rest should give you a second wind. Don’t waste it on more shopping. Unless, of course, it’s a brief foray to one of the kiosks where “As Seen on TV” products or calendars are sold. That’s fine. Take ten minutes to grab a pasta pot that’s also a strainer (!) or “The Audobon Official Bird Watcher’s Calendar”. You’ll undoubtedly be able to unload these items on some unsuspecting loved one.

You could rest on your laurels and go home now, but if you want to finish the game (and what self-respecting alcoholic wouldn’t want to do that?), you must cap off your adventure with at least one coffee drink. For added points, ease into this portion of the evening. Nothing says the holidays like a smooth, smoky 12-year-old Scotch! Bartenders just love customers who order $30 drinks! (Remember to tip accordingly!)

Don’t worry about the killer hangover that will be incurred by your fun-filled day of drinking. Starting your day as you finished your night is always an option. Throw a little Bailey’s in your morning coffee. It’s a real eye-opener. Enjoy this tried and true hangover cure while you guiltily fish through your, mostly useless and ridiculous, drunk purchases. Oh, and have a second shot ready for when you tally up the receipts. You’ll really need the “hair of the dog” then. Because “The Pub Crawl at the Mall!”? It never comes cheap.

photocredit: drinking and shopping

What’s Your Trip To the Grocery Store Like?

I was working on another post for today, but the questions raised by Creative Liar in her post “The Cart Ruiner” provided far too much fodder for just the “comments” (or, as she likes to call it, the “Lie to Me” section). Thank you, Creative Liar, for inspiring me today!

Creative Liar asked folks to weigh in on a few questions, such as, “Oh and what’s your trip to the grocery store like?”

Previously, I blogged about one particular grocery store trip. This piece describes a fairly typical outing to the grocery store. Unfortunately, it did not feature my husband or my daughter (though they were there in spirit!)

Fang and Fangette often enjoy going to the grocery store with me. They are usually the ones adding the pretentious items to my cart full of Wonder Bread and Chef-Boy-R-Dee Ravioli. Things like “Tom’s of Maine” toothpaste. Pshaw. If cinnamon Close-Up was good enough for me, it should be good enough for them! (Perhaps the cinnamon Close-Up is the reason I need the soft foods like the Wonder Bread and the Ravioli in the first place— this line of reasoning cannot be dismissed out of hand!)

They also like to purchase organic snacks and breakfast items. Unfortunately, they prefer to eat the less than wholesome selections made by me. So, guess who’s left holding the organic breakfast bar (at $4.99/box) and the Fourth of July (does anyone know how to get that TM sign????) mini peanut butter cracker snacks? I always think I am coming home to a Little Debbie’s Peanut Butter bar or awakening to a mouth-watering Entenmann’s cheese danish, only to discover that, somehow, they are no longer in the house. So, I’m stuck with the organic crap. The boxes they come in probably contain more flavor (not to mention the fiber content of cardboard!).

I try to avoid trips down the hair care aisle, especially when my daughter is in tow. She has champagne tastes does Fangette; Mrs. Fang has a beer pocketbook. She often manages to catch me off guard, though, and I don’t realize that I have invested $19 in something called “hair tonic” until it’s too late. Even back in my drinking days I didn’t spend $19 on gin to mix with actual tonic. At least I was a frugal drunk.

We always seem to come home with various and sundry other things that most people buy at places like Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, Home Depot, or, even, Victoria’s Secret. We are the people that treat the grocery store like it’s BJ’s or Costco. We have purchased Keurig’s, air conditioners, hair straighteners, toaster ovens, jeggings (okay, that was me, but I needed them and, well, they were there), socks, window exhaust fans, lawn chairs, and, of course, ladies’ panties (Again, me. But, again, they were there and I needed them.) at the supermarket. (Isn’t that why they call it a “supermarket”? Because they have everything?)

Creative Liar also asks: “Does your husband have a tendency to wear clothes? If so, do you think he could host an intervention for my husband?”

Sorry, dear. My husband could benefit from an intervention himself.

Fang’s typical “weekend wear” can best be described as mid-20th Century immigrant, replete with the white socks and black sandals (which, I swear, he buys at the grocery store when I am not looking), long shorts (for ease of ball scratching or, as he calls it, “rearranging”), and a t-shirt. He completes this look with one of the many afghans that are hanging around the house (most of which have been painstakingly crocheted by yours truly). Because he’s cold. Of course it’s cold in my house. All of our expendable income is going toward organic breakfast bars, deluxe toothpaste, and fancy hair products.

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Shoes, T-shirts, and Peanut Butter. Oh, My!

My husband has five pairs of shoes. I know this without even having to get up and stick my head in the closet. I could name them, but that would bore even me. And I read “John Adams”— all of it, cover-to-cover, for crying out loud! Go ahead and throw rotten tomatoes at me McCullough fans! I don’t care if he has so many Pulitzer’s that he uses them as garden gnomes. He’s a snooze! And I have a degree in History, so I know a thing or two about snoozes! I’d rather read Hofstadter (and that, my friends, is saying something).

When my husband gets a new pair of shoes it is only to replace a worn out pair. It goes without saying that the “replacement” pair will be, whenever possible, an exact replica of the dilapidated pair.

How do I, shoe whore extraordinaire, compete with the type of rational thinking that drives this behavior? Well, that’s easy. I don’t. I don’t even try. It’s been a bone of contention for twenty-eight years. That’s right, you heard me. Twenty-eight years of sad and unsuccessful attempts aimed at convincing me that his methodology makes far more sense from an organizational, storage, and financial standpoint than my methodology, which is, on a very basic level something akin to a pathological addiction to footwear. I have explained to him on many, many occasions that common sense has no place in any discussion that concerns women and shoes. It’s a constant struggle (mostly for him).

He wouldn’t be so difficult to live with if his basic “less is more” approach applied only to shoes. But it doesn’t. (Puritan!) This philosophy extends to the rest of his wardrobe. (New black shirt? Throw out the old one!) He always has twenty-four white t-shirts. No more. No less. I know, I know, undershirts come in packs of three, which, I guess, makes the whole twenty-four thing seem, well, sensible. But, sometimes you come across a package with two “bonus” shirts. Instead of hanging onto a couple more decent undershirts, he throws away five of the old ones. (The rule of twenty-four t-shirts cannot be broken!) T-shirt stasis must always be maintained!

I do not have any such rules. I have no idea how many pairs of shoes I own. No doubt far too many. And I haven’t done a thorough t-shirt inventory in years.

Recently I purchased a new pair of black cowboy boots (he doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going back next week to get them in red). When I came home from shopping we did our usual “you bought another pair of shoes” dance (luckily I am a big fan of dancing in cowboy boots). Whatever. I just put them away and carried on as if he had said nothing. For whatever reason, my daughter was disturbed by his comments. Disturbed enough to ask me why I always let him “rag on me” whenever I bought a new pair of shoes.

It was funny. I got the sense that she was intimating that this argument was, somehow, symptomatic of something greater; that it was more about the overall status of our relationship than it was about how many pairs of shoes I could possibly cram into my closet. (Or under the bed.) Silly Wabbit!

Teenagers are such absolutists, aren’t they? They also think they know stuff, ya know, about their parents’ relationship. BAHAHAHAHA! Certainly there is subtext to any twenty-eight-year-old argument, but the sad reality is that we are too stupid, lazy, or busy to give this sort of thing much thought. Or, maybe we’re just deluded enough to think that shit like this is just part of the rhythm of our life together. And that it doesn’t matter.

I long ago stopped dwelling on our differences. I prefer, instead, to concentrate on the things that we have in common. And, over the years we have both made some concessions. It took some convincing, but he has finally come to understand that space movies are just westerns in which the cowboys have been given better weaponry and more advanced modes of transportation. Finally!

He embraced Matt Smith as Doctor Who. I, on the other hand, lamented the departure of David Tennant for longer than was healthy. (And, even I have to admit to loving The Ponds, though, alas, it appears that they may be gone now, too— no matter how often I tell myself not to become too attached to the companions, I never listen. Never. And I am always disappointed!)

He also managed to turn me into a New York Mets fan by convincing me that Yankees fans lack character. (They do. And who needs that hanging over their head?)

We will probably never agree on the best Springsteen song. He’s a “Jungleland” guy, I’m a “Thunder Road” gal. On this we have agreed to disagree. (Though it’s crazy to me how any song with the lyric “she ain’t a beauty, but hey, she’s alright” could ever be the second choice of any so-called normal person.) [sigh]

Anyway, I asked her to name one important thing that her father and I disagree about on any kind of regular basis. She couldn’t. She couldn’t because there are none. We agree on all the big stuff. And there’s not really much of that, is there? We are both Democrats. (He’s less liberal, but nobody’s perfect!) We are both agnostics. (No pesky religious disagreements for us!) We are firm believers that crunchy peanut butter eaters are heretics; they would have, back when humans did this sort of thing, been burned at the stake. And they would have deserved it. We are both devoted to our child. (Just how much tends to vary and is more dependent on her behavior, rather than on ours.)

So, I asked her, “What else is there?”

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Adventures in Yogurting

I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I am not going to be singled out for the “Mother of the Year” award. That’s fine. My parenting style isn’t for everyone. That’s okay. I’m aware that we all parent differently. I try not to judge.

Take the whole sugar debate, for example. I never limited my kid’s sugar intake. Sugar never really affected her adversely, so I never saw the need to go the “no sugar” route. Once in a while I even let her have ice cream for breakfast. She was never a sugar fiend, so I gave in to her oddly-timed ice cream requests on occasion. My logic was that it was probably no worse for her than sugary cereal, which she never ate either (she never liked any of them).

To address what were, according to Fangette, some gaping holes in her sweater wardrobe, we hightailed it over to the mall. To address what was, to her mother, the low blood sugar that always follows such activity, we stopped for some frozen yogurt. There was a man in front of us with his two young boys. I would put their ages at about 5 and 7. It was one of those places where you fill the cup with whatever flavor(s) of fro-yo you like and add the toppings of your choice. They weigh it and charge you by the ounce. I think gold may be cheaper.

It’s very easy to make yourself a $9 cup of deliciousness. I know this because my daughter and her friend did it once. It didn’t look like much, just some yogurt with strawberries and bananas. But it cost me about $18 for their post-shopping snackage. Whatever. You live and you learn. The friend felt so badly that she was trying to force me to take her money, which I would never dream of doing. I was like, “Relax. It’s just a couple more bucks than Dairy Queen. Nobody died.” Oh, my God, I thought the kid was going to have a coronary over it. It was kind of funny.

I’m always grateful in these moments that I’m not a cheapskate. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have buckets of money lying around, but I just can’t get all worked up over a couple of bucks. The guy in front of me at the yogurt place clearly did not share my attitude regarding money. Nor were we on the same page concerning sugar and its relationship to the average American child.

Holy Crapbags! Initially, he was flipping out about the fact that they only had “giant containers”. Yup. They do. I guess because they are running an establishment of the retail variety. To combat the sinister motives of the frozen yogurt marketing department, he made a failed attempt to get his kids to share one cup. If he had convinced his children to share one cup of frozen yogurt, I would have been pretty darn impressed. He didn’t. I wasn’t.

Once that plan was foiled by his two very cute, but slightly stubborn, little boys, he proceeded to read off the yogurt flavors. He left a few out. The older one who, presumably, could read (I suspect the younger one could, too), helpfully (and proudly) pointed out that his father had forgotten the chocolate. The father mumbled something that sounded like “I didn’t forget. It’s just too late for chocolate. Too much sugar.”

I would have to agree on the “too late” comment. It was about 7:45 PM on a school night. I was always a bit of a stickler about bedtime. To me, these kids should have been bathed and in their jammies at this point in the evening, but we all have our moments. What did I know? Maybe they were out shopping for Mommy’s birthday gift (Mom did not seem to be a participant in this outing). Again, not judging.

The chocolate vs. vanilla debate finally settled, the father then started to flip out regarding the amount of product they were putting in their containers. Now I was maybe, just maybe, judging a little. Because he had neither helped them nor directed them in how to use the dispensers. Dispensers that I have trouble controlling, by the way.

Finally, he realized that he needed to assist them, but not before carrying on about what “these stupid yogurts are going to cost him.” This is when I had to bite my tongue. Because I hate when adults kvetch about money to children. There is nothing wrong with, “No. You cannot have that” or, “We can’t go to the movies/dinner/the circus/wherever today.” If they are old enough it probably wouldn’t hurt to add something along the lines of, “That’s just not in the budget this week.” But, really, to carry on over the cost of a cup of yogurt? It’s just stupid. Especially when a few yards away there is a supermarket where you can buy a half-gallon of ice cream for $2.49.

Cups filled and toppings chosen, they raced over and chose seats at the tables; tables that are equipped with iPads. iPads loaded with games. What little boys coul be expected to avoid the lure of that? The second they each took a seat in front of an iPad the father starts barking at them that they’re “too little to play those games” and how he “doesn’t have time for this nonsense.”

I watch them follow him out. I figured that he put them in the car. I secretly hoped that they dripped their fro-yo all over the seats. It would serve him right. Because he was really just annoying me at this point.

My daughter and I paid for our treats and were just about to engage in a lively round of “Angry Birds” when my kid nodded toward the mall and said, “Awwwww, Mom. I wouldn’t feel right playing in front of them. Let’s go.” I looked out the window and there they sat, the two little cutie pies, on a bench outside the store, watching us gearing up to play on the iPads.

Once I saw them, I knew I couldn’t stay. Poor little things. And really, what was the father’s point? He was just being a prick. Throwing his weight around. Because he could. I hope he was just having a bad day. I really do. If not, he’s in for a rude awakening. Because you don’t have to be “Mother of the Year” to know that your children will eventually treat you (and others) the way they have been treated. For better or for worse.

I get that I’m lucky. That I only have the one child. And that she’s a pretty good kid. And while I try not to judge, it was difficult to watch the whole experience turn sour for these two little boys and not judge this guy at least a little.

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The Pants Fairy

Aside from the cashier that seemed somewhat reluctant to engage in conversation with the woman who had just handed her $122 in moist bills, I didn’t have any problems during my shopping trip at Kohl’s. It was rainy and humid here in lovely Northern New Jersey today and my wallet is not big enough to hold all the small bills that I tend to accumulate in my stripping job. Pleather, as it turns out is not water-resistant. Who knew?

Also on a positive note, my search for a pair of black pants has, at long last, come to a fruitful end. I expended less energy buying my wedding dress. This adventure in pants buying began six weeks ago. Indiana Jones found the Ark of the Covenant in less time and may, in fact, have been less sweaty and exhausted at the end of his quest than I was at the end of mine.

To say that I don’t like to shop is an understatement. I’d rather spend my time coaxing penguins to fly. And I would have to go to Antarctica to do that. And don’t think I didn’t toy with that idea. Let’s face it, fashion is probably of little concern there— to the other tundra-dweller that might happen along and certainly to the penguins. This activity, unlike pant purchasing, would also, obviously, involve birds, which I have no fondness for. But at least it would be cooler.

For the life of me I cannot fathom why retail clothing establishments have decided that setting the thermostat to a balmy 80 degrees Fahrenheit equates to brisk sales. It’s as if someone is conducting an experiment to determine whether their products will hold up in their future location— on Mars.

The hottest part of the already surface-of-the-sun hot stores are, without a doubt, the dressing closets (I refuse to call them “rooms”). There is no air circulation in these areas either. Don’t even get me started on how I always manage to choose the closet with the broken door and/or the one with the straight pins all over the floor. It is here, though, in the hottest, most oxygen-deprived area that I have to wrestle my clothes off, their clothes on, and vice-versa. By the time I have tried on one thing I am a sticky, perspiring mess with at least one or two pinholes in my feet. I don’t even want to think about where those pins are manufactured or the lax immunization standards adhered to in that third-world pin-making hotbed of disease.

As if entering the wall of heat isn’t enough, the policy of allowing five or six garments at a time contributes to my crankiness. A policy that I neither understand, condone, nor adhere to. Because it’s stupid. If I’m going to steal something it doesn’t matter how many things I went in with. I do not argue with the closet attendant (because other than the bathroom matron, who has a worse job than her in this establishment?), I just refuse to comply. Usually after I have spent an hour selecting fifteen pairs of pants (five styles in three different sizes), I look like a person who should not be tangled with. I don’t fall for the whole, “take six in and leave the other nine out here and I will switch them out for you” bullshit either. Because the minute I need them, the closet monitor is nowhere to be found. So, there I am. Pinfooted and in my underwear with my head stuck out the door, hollering, “Hello. Hello. Fallujah. Fallujah? Are you there, Fallujah?”, while dangling six pair of pants out the crack of the door in what is the fitting area equivalent to raising the white flag, which feels like defeat. And Fallujah? She’s surrendered, too, to the need for coffee, a bathroom break, or a chit-chat with her coworkers. Who can blame her? I don’t want to be here either.

I have been experiencing this scenario for the past month-and-a-half when, as you may remember, I was chosen for a supervisory position at work. Currently I am still training and have continued to rely on the one outfit that I have in my closet that is suitable for work (i.e., it doesn’t include leggings, sweatpants, jeans, or a party dress). It’s my “go to” ensemble. It goes to Back-to-School night and viewings of the dead, for the most part. By next week I’ll have to change it up though. Thus, the need for the black trousers. (And a couple of shirts and jackets/sweaters.) I have worked in either restaurants and/or doctor’s offices over the last thirty years. So, I have worn either a uniform or scrubs. I haven’t really had to shop for business attire, well, ever. I actually thought it would be fun, for a change, to buy and wear things of my own choosing.

Let me tell you how fun it is not. We’ll stay focused on the pants nightmare for the moment. The styles or “fits” as it turns out run from Modern to Classic. Some manufacturers throw in Curvy and Slim somewhere solely, I am convinced, to further confuse the issue. Some even combine them, as in Modern Curvy or Classic Slim. Oh, my God. I had no idea what any of this meant, nor do they tell you what these things mean. Not on the label. Not on the signage. You just have to guess. I am no more curvaceous than I am slim. I like to think I am a Classic. Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Dire Straits, and Guns n’ Roses come to mind. But, I listen to The Killers, Radiohead, and Mumford and Sons. Doesn’t that make me Modern?

None of this nomenclature makes much sense to me. What I have discovered is that Classic means that the waistband falls somewhere between the bottom of your breasts and above your belly button; Modern waistbands are designed to sit below your bellybutton, but sometimes that means right above the crack of your ass. Petites require going up a size, in any cut. Just when I was feeling good about myself. Ah, well. I’m fairly shortwaisted, so the Modern cut seemed more suited to my body structure.

Then, of course, I was faced with the whole leg cut dilemma. There’s wide-leg, tapered, boot cut, and skinny. Again, every manufacturer defines these things differently. It’s a nightmare. Ultimately I settled on a size 14P, Modern Slim with a tapered leg. Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! And then I realized that these pants had NO pockets. Just when I was about to pull my hair out, I spotted a pair that seemed to be nearly identical to the pants without the pockets. It was almost too much to hope for. I felt like I had stumbled upon the Holy Grail of pants. They were, indeed, the same size, cut, and leg opening and they had pockets and belt loops. Woo fucking hoo! I think I actually said a little prayer. To the pants fairy. I grabbed them, tried them on and bought them immediately. They weren’t even on sale. And I didn’t even care. If twenty years ago anyone had told me that I would have a mildly religious experience in a Kohl’s department store over a pair of pants, I would have asked them what kind of shit they were smoking.

When I got home, very pleased with myself, my husband asked me why I hadn’t bought two pairs. I started to explain and then I realized that men just do not understand this sort of thing. I couldn’t possibly expect two miracles in one day. That would be too much to hope for. And it might anger the sweater fairy, who I may need tomorrow.