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Archive for the ‘Retail Therapy’ Category

My Fantasy Clothing Shop

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

I have this fantasy about opening a clothing shop for women of a certain age.

At my shop, you will find the following:

1. Sexy shoes that are comfortable even when you’re standing.

2. Dresses with sleeves long enough to cover misbegotten tattoos.

3. A handbag that automatically changes colors, depending on your outfit.

4. No thong whose crotch consists of a string of pearls.

5. Sweaters that are long enough to conceal a VPL so you don’t have to wear a damn thong every damn day.

6. High-necked blouses to cover that thing you’ve developed that makes you look like a turkey.

7. Scarves. (See #6)

8. No bathing suits. I will not subject clients to trying them on. Go to Bloomingdale’s for that torture.

9. Panti-hose, whatever brand Beyonce wears.

10. Bras that invite your breasts to face front instead of down.

11. Pants with a waistline that covers your Caesarian scar by at least two inches.

12. Skirts that are constructed to prevent underwear exposure in a brisk wind, but are not so tight they reveal your muffin top.

13. Coats that are warm but don’t make you look like the Madison Avenue bus.

All mirrors are inside the dressing rooms, not outside in plain view of critics. Lighting will be low and rosy. Alcoholic beverages will be available, free of charge for those who have just been trying on bathing suits at Bloomingdale’s. Family members who accompany shoppers will be sent to Starbuck’s if they utter any discouraging words.

Got any other thoughts, ladies?



Retail Gold

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

At my age, it’s more fun to shop for my daughters than for myself.  (Those 3-way mirrors aren’t as friendly as they used to be, and  it’s so hard to find a dress that covers the aging zones and still looks chic, I sometimes wish I could just throw on a Hefty bag.)  So when Elizabeth had a party dress emergency recently, I offered to do a mall run.

There’s a mall that I like because I know it so well. Due to its proximity to my daughters’ elementary school, I used to spend much errand time there, buying everything from the girls’ first shoes to their first bras. I’ve got that floor plan down; I can buy socks in less than eight minutes.

I knew what my route would be  even before I’d parked: I’d pop into Betsey Johnson, then shimmy over to Out Of The Box and on to BCBG (after stopping in at See’s Candies for a free, energizing sample).  If those stores yielded no good frocks, I would move on to the big guns, the department stores that weigh down either end of the mall, their massive doors open like jaws.

Betsy Johnson’s inventory was exceptionally hookery, O.O.T.B. too country club, BCBG too ordinary. More importantly, my internal divining rod, the one that directs me towards bargains, was quivering, shifting my body in the direction of  Bloomingdale’s.

Occasionally, under the influence of this device, I have made unwise purchases—a  certain lichen-colored, overly-hairy sweater springs to mind—but for the most part, it is unerring. So, even though I don’t much like to enter Bloomingdales except to buy their exceptional frozen yogurt, I let the divining rod guide me to the second floor, to a massive sale rack, jammed with limp, sale-weary garments.  My hand, as if controlled remotely, reached between a couple of garish size 14s and pulled out a glowing dress.

It was a gold, stretch satin Nicole Miller, size 0, reduced from over $400 by 70%.

I walked straight to the register, where, thanks to some department store combo of sale events, the price was further reduced until the dress was almost free. I paid and left quickly, before the management realized how flawed the discount system was.

As I exited, I heard a bell ring, which I took to mean that some retail angel had gotten his wings. He may have received another promotion when Elizabeth tried on the dress: It was perfectly amazing on her. (She wouldn’t allow me to post the picture.)

But then, she’s at that age when she could wear a Hefty bag and look good….




Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Siri and the Telephone

The new iPhone4S, with its voice control software (called Siri) is about to become my (and millions of other people’s) best friend.

People who are getting to know Siri tell me that her female, slightly robotic voice responds to your every command. She’s like an assistant you don’t have to pay minimum wage. When I get around to buying this phone, I think it’s gonna be a game changer.

For starters, if somebody sends you a text, you can ask Siri to read it to you. Then you dictate a response and Siri will send it back. No more standing around for an hour trying to get your oafish thumbs to deliver a coherent message.

You want to know what the weather’s like today? Ask your phone goddess. Siri will tell you, and no snarky reply like, “Really? Too much of a lazy ass to step outside and see for yourself?”

I’m told you can also ask her for directions (although if you are male you are unlikely to use this feature) and she can tell you where the nearest Starbuck’s is and whether or not it’s your sister’s birthday and what hotel you should stay at in San Francisco and all kinds of stuff.As long as she doesn’t get too familiar—I don’t’ need her opinion on, say, whether I look fat in these pants—I know I’m going to love her.

What I’m really hoping, when I get my hands on the iPhone4S, is that, in addition to all her other tricks, she is capable of being a sous chef. I volunteered to make an apple crumble for my book group–I know, what was i thinking?–and and I’d love it if she’d peel those damn apples.

I’m guessing I might have to wait till the next generation of iPhone for a Siri who can perform that and other services. Who knows what she’ll be doing for us when the iPhone5 rolls out of the factory? Massage? Pshycotherapy? Grocery shopping? I can’t wait.

I wonder if she’ll be able to provide me with Ryan Gosling’s cell phone number.



Saturday, September 24th, 2011

The Aussies really have got it going on. In addition to having cool accents, kangaroos and Hugh Jackman, they now have Manland at Ikea.

Manland is day care for retail-phobic men. A man cave offering free hot dogs, video games, non-stop sports on TV, pinball machines and a foosball table, it keeps the dudes occupied while the ladies shop until they drop. Actually, the store supplies the shoppers with buzzers that go off after thirty minutes, lest the gals should get carried away and forget to fetch their guys.

I wish the Ikea near me would pick up on this. For that matter, I wish this service were available at all the stores I frequent. If the supermarket had dude care I’d happily stick Tom in there while I’m food shopping. His efforts to help are sweet, but with the time it takes to explain where the mayonnaise is and to send him back for the correct dishwashing liquid and to explain why we need both plastic wrap and parchment paper, well, I’m better off is he’s playing foosball.

I also wish there was a Ladyland, a female equivalent in certain stores, a chick cave, so when your husband drags you to the sale at Big Five you don’t have to watch him trying on eight pairs of running shoes or fondling tennis rackets. While he’s getting in touch with his inner jock, Ladyland would offer us women free chardonnay, a masseuse, a fortune teller, reruns of The Good Wife on TV and several iPads featuring the Angry Birds app.

You know what would happen. Tom’s buzzer would go off after a half an hour and I’d utter words so unlikely, he’d question my sanity: “Honey, please don’t make me leave the Big Five.”



Friday, September 16th, 2011

I was in NYC last week on the 11th, and I approached the day cautiously, not really sure how to behave or what to expect on the tenth anniversary of an event that rocked the world, but New York especially. I looked out on the mean, scrappy city and felt a tenderness for it, sympathy for its re-opened wound.

Although I felt like I really should visit a cathedral or host a memorial brunch or at least observe a moment of candlelit silence, I had the rare opportunity of going shopping with my daughter, and I grabbed it.

The mall in Columbus Circle was teeming with shoppers. But just outside J.Crew, there was an exhibit of six-foot photos of firefighters, then and now, with video interviews. We paused. Elizabeth, who was 12 in 2001, stared, listened and went with it, recalling a letter of gratitude she had written back then to some first responders. She seemed to feel, maybe for the first time in her young adult life, that emotional connection to an historical event that comes only from having been present for it. She’d witnessed and was shaken by 9/11, so she owns a piece of it.

We shook ourselves loose from the exhibit and went to J. Crew for some retail therapy, but it was hard get a shopping buzz going. All those stacks of sweaters seemed stunningly irrelevant. We hit the streets.

Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows were covered with the long lists of all those Americans killed on 9/11. Elizabeth found the name of her friend Carrie’s sister who had worked at the World Trade Center. Elizabeth was riveted, eyes stuck on the name. When she had written that letter to the firefighters, she’d had no idea a future friendship would bring her a little closer to the horrors of that day.

In spite of the pervasive sadness of the afternoon, we managed to buy Elizabeth some caramel colored boots (the Banana Republic was having a killer sale) and then went back to her apartment, where her boyfriend was on the couch watching football, right where we’d left him. The Packers were duking it out, a second pizza was en route, there was talk of going to a movie.

As I observed the details of my daughter’s life, I thought how that life has been irrevocably shaped by events large and small, and how precious it is.


The Cow Timer

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

In a recent video I made about boiling an egg, I introduced my cow kitchen timer. This adorable gadget caused such a stir among video viewers, I feel compelled to tell you more about it.

This timer’s most striking feature is that, instead of sounding an abrasive bell or a buzzer when it’s time, it emits a charming moo. You feel as if you are being gently poked by a laid back farm animal, instead of shattered by the shrill, demanding sound of an emergency. Maybe I’m oversensitive to the nuances of timer language, but, it’s as if the cow timer says, “Hey, I know you’re busy doing world-changing things, but your skillfully prepared plum cake sure smells ready!” The traditional timer sounds more like, “Yo, Martha Stewart! Wake up or burn it down, fog brain!”

What’s also interesting is that the timer sometimes moos once, but sometimes twice, as if it intuits that you have not heeded its first call to action. For example, the other day I was multi-tasking as usual, baking a plum cake for my mahjong group’s potluck, while also organizing my shoes according to frequency of use. I heard the moo but decided to ignore it for a minute while I determined the whereabouts of a missing black loafer. Just as I headed for the rosemary bush, which is my dog Oliver’s favorite shoe burial ground, the cow timer made an executive decision to moo a second time. Apparently it knew that the plum cake would most likely burn while I chased the dog with a rolling pin. Either this is one hell of an intelligent gadget or the cow is in cahoots with the dog.

A caveat: Family members who don’t cook and are therefore clueless about gadgetry should be warned that there’s a cow in the house.

Early in my timer’s tenure,Tom and I were having a lively discussion about the pros and the cons of having his cousin for dinner. My (con) point was that her husband Quentin (who dresses and speaks like Sherlock Holmes) invariably shows up having just gone vegan or pescatarian or whatever trendy food regimen precludes eating what I’ve cooked for dinner. Just as I was reminding Tom about the beef stew Quentin rejected on their last visit, the cow timer went off, startling Tom so severely that he required several minutes of recovery time.

On the other hand, if Quentin or someone equally odious were to come to dinner and refuses to eat, say, the lasagna you’ve spent five hours making and you’re feeling a little hostile, discreet use of the timer is an excellent and harmless revenge tactic. When placed under the offending diner’s chair (or even in the guest bathroom, if you can work out the timing), a good moo is guaranteed to shock the bejeezus out of annoying dinner guests.

The cow timer is useful in many ways outside the kitchen as well. If I have to go out for dinner at eight, I will set the timer to moo a half hour before I need to leave, so I don’t space out and show up at nine. If my husband or the dog does something that pisses me off, I can set the cow timer to allow myself ten minutes cool down time before I respond, thereby minimizing the rolling pin injury sustained by the perpetrator. If chatty Aunt Lucy calls, I set the timer for five minutes, and when it goes off, tell her I have to go tend to the cow and hang up. If my visiting daughter leaves her room in a mess that suggests she was brought up in a barn, I’ll plant the timer in her room to deliver a subtle message.

I mean, the list of uses for this thing is endless.

If you want to do yourself a favor and pop for this incredible domestic tool, click here and it’s yours. If you are on my Christmas gift list, hold off, and don’t be startled if you hear a moo issuing from your stocking.


Retail Therapy: Pink Shoes

Monday, May 16th, 2011

My older daughter, Elizabeth is graduating from college this month, and I’m in a spin… Read More »


Crabby Dinner for Mom’s Day

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

As a crabby cook I am constantly floored by the fact that, after 63 years of marriage, my mother still cooks three meals a day for my father. Dad does not cook. He (along with my husband) belongs to that cohort that has trouble preparing canned soup. My mother is, however, getting tougher at age 90: she now makes Dad wash the dinner dishes. (He’s only 89—he can cope.)

Mom seems to find this non-stop cooking an acceptable arrangement, maybe because she cooked for eight people for so many years that her current chores seem lightweight by comparison. But I can’t help projecting. Just the thought of how much time she spends in the kitchen makes me irritable, so I try to lighten what I think of as her burden whenever possible. Mother’s Day provides a perfect opportunity for this. The hell with flowers, I’m sending her food.

I’m ordering crab and lobster cakes from Dean and Deluca online, along with a box of their Mother’s Day cookies. That way, all she has to provide is a little asparagus or something and dinner will be so done.

In the unlikely event that my daughters are reading this post, please take the above as a big, fat hint. D and D are taking orders until Friday.


I Barfed On Mrs. Kenly

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

Barf low res cover

I’m taking a minute to tell you about my newest kids’ book. It’s the third in my  Uh-oh, Cleo series, and it’s called, I Barfed On Mrs. Kenly.

I actually did barf on Mrs. Kenly, by the way; you might call this little book memoir-ish.

See, one Sunday morning in my childhood, I ate way too many pancakes, and then went to a birthday party, which involved riding downtown in a van stuffed with children and an unlucky lady named Mrs. Kenly.

Mrs. Kenly sat next to me, all squished in. She was wearing a beautiful mink coat, which at the time was not politically incorrect.

On the other side of me was Donna, who was chewing watermelon bubble gum, the fumes from which turned my stomach in the close quarters. Also, the temperature in the van must’ve been ninety, with all windows shut to keep out the Chicago chill, and Mr. Kling, the driver and dad of the birthday girl, was smoking a cigar.

So I was surrounded by barf-inducing elements.

Still, it took me by surprise when I violently threw up all over Mrs. Kenly’s lovely coat. (She was surprised too, of course, with a few other emotions mixed in.)  The humiliation was awful, made worse by the fact that Mrs. Kenly was a terribly nice person. If I’d barfed on, say, Mrs. Landon, who once laughed at me because I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe, I wouldn’t have minded so much

If you know any 7 or 8 year-olds who might be amused by this story, check out I Barfed On Mrs. Kenly. I mean, literally check it out, at the library, or just, you know, check it out out here.



Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

I just heard on the radio that in the American Airlines Sky Mall catalogue, there’s a device for sale, a clock that only tells you what day it is.

Normally, when purchasing a clock, I look for one that has a few more bells and whilstles, one that tells you what time it is, for example. Of course, when I travel, my iPhone serves as my source of such information, plus anything else I might want to now, from the temperature in Dubai to John Mayer’s shoe size.

But last week I went to the Caribbean, and now I totally get it about  AA’s day clock: there is a land (and a state of mind) where the name of the day is all the temporal info you need.

We got to Nevis (in the West Indies) on Sunday. I was carrying three time-telling devices. Within hours, I’d shed my watch. By Monday, I’d shut down and stowed my laptop. By Tuesday, I was feeling hostile towards my iPhone: I clicked it off and threw it in my suitcase. That was it. I was time-less, as was the rest of my sun-stunned family, only guessing the hour by the length of the shadows cast by our hammocks.

The AA clock would have come in handy when we almost forgot to catch that plane home on New Years Day. But late one night (which the day clock would have told us was Thursday), we noticed revelers singing “Auld Lang Syne,” and we recalled our obligations and acknowledged that it was time to strap on our watches and pack our sandy bags.

We’re on the airplane now, revving up our various electronic things and preparing for re-entry. I think I’ll just leave my watch set for Nevis time, maybe put it away for a while and get one of those AA day clocks. Because it turns out that’s all you really need. Well, that and a hammock.