In Search of Luxury, With Unexpected Results

Sometimes I need a little luxury in my life. Not diamonds or fancy cars. For me, luxury is a cozy, comfortable bed that I can prop up in at the end of a long day to read or catch up on Downton Abbey. Don’t judge. And pillows equal comfy. Large, fluffy pillows that hold their shape in a four hour reading marathon. I don’t have any, which makes me a little sad.

This weekend, I was determined to right this wrong, but due to my second round of car issues in two months (insert sad violin music here), I was stuck at home. Enter the internet. Or is that inter the enternet? I forget.

Anyway, I hopped online to hunt down some awesome new pillows. Though my love for the Oxford comma is no secret, I started my search at Bed Bath and Beyond. They aren’t a grammar store, so I can forgive them their name. And they have “bed” right in the name. It seemed a logical place to shop. Turns out, there’s not a whole lot of logic over there.

I entered a search for “pillow.” Boy, were there lots of options!

They have pillows for every taste.

They have pillows for every taste.

 

A search for “large pillow” turned up this:

Because they know I don't really want pillows.

Because they know I don’t really want pillows.

 

“Body pillow” turned up these, um, beauties:

I'll take 2. Or number 2. Same diff.

I’ll take 2. Or number 2. Same diff.

 

And then there was this, the most disturbing of all:

 

That looks, um, comfy? Is she resting or being eaten?

That looks, um, comfy? Is she resting or being eaten?

 

A closer look at the “feeding” features of this lovely:

Um, yes. I'll take two. Does the baby doll come with it?

 I’ll take two. Does the baby doll come with it?

 

I never knew shopping for pillows would be so complicated. I ordered a couple. Hopefully the next time you hear from me, I’ll be resting comfortably on my gigantic python-pillow. I do hope it comes in stainless steel.

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: How I Make My Christmas List

Do you have any idea how much stuff there is in the world? It can be confusing to make a holiday wish list. I keep things simple. My list usually includes:

A favorite book:

I’ve had this copy for longer than I’ve had my husband.

Aww! Don’t judge a book’s condition by its cover. Well, maybe this cover…

Sad spine. Pages barely hanging on. I do hate that Johnny chose to get drunk on this page. There are children following my blog. Or maybe I dreamed that last part.

Something sad:

This towel was a wedding gift. 17 years ago. That’s not a stain, I swear. It’s a diamond. Not only is it faded and ragged, it has *ahem* apparently shrunk in the wash.

Something I have set on fire:

Not only did I set it on fire, it got washed in hot water and is now an oven mitten.

Something I miss:

Sad story here. Not only do I not have this on DVD like I thought I did, I no longer have the video, either. Apparently, I gave it away because, hey, I had the DVD. Did that make you sad? It makes me sad.

What’s on your list this year?

I Haven’t Changed.

I’ve been MIA for a couple of days because I’m pounding out words like a psychotic trained monkey. I know this is supposed to be a Thanksgiving post and all, but what I am most thankful for is currently a state away from me. No, you romantic thinkers, not my 2001 minivan. Although I am infinitely grateful that she hasn’t dumped me on the side of the interstate in at least a year. It’s what’s in the minivan that I’m grateful for. And kind of missing.

But don’t cry for me, Argentina. They’ll be back later tonight, and I’ll be doing my Snoopy happy-dance. In the meantime, I have for you a Black Friday post. Read it here.

Click the link and the zombie in the middle lives again.

I haven’t changed a bit, and I doubt I’ll be invited back. I’ll let you know.

Three Things That Shocked Me Last Week

1) Paula Deen’s mac and cheese recipe.

I love mac and cheese. It’s comfort food that cures what ails. When I discovered that Paula Deen has a slow-cooker recipe, I did some investigating. I found it. I read it. I shook my head. Cheese soup, sour cream, eggs, whole milk. You have got to be kidding me. I could feel my arteries  clogging just reading the recipe. How much fat must it contain? Do you really want to know? Because I know.Dinner conversation for the last week has consisted of me asking my family “Do you know how much fat Paula Deen’s recipe contains?”

Are you sitting down? No, I’m talking to you, dear reader. I know my family is sitting. They’re at the dinner table. Okay.  24 g, or 122% of the recommended DAILY fat intake. Kids, let’s put that into perspective. If I eat a serving for breakfast and subsist on love and sunshine until breakfast the following day, I’ve still had too much fat! Even her “lite” version contains 18g of fat. The US RDA of saturated fat is 20g.  That’s light mac and cheese the way Shamu is a light whale.

I looked around a little more to see if I could find an even lower fat recipe, and I did. Bunches of them. Here’s your cooking tip of the day. Lower the fat content by replacing every single ingredient but the pasta. Some of the suggested substitutions aren’t even recognizable as food. Low fat margarine? Isn’t that something akin to plastic? I think this is a recipe I’ll be better off for skipping. Because it looks delicious.

2) Abercrombie and Fitch.

Hereafter referred to Armpit and Stench. I went shopping recently, and boy has this store changed. When my husband and I were first married, we used to browse the store from time to time. Even then it was too expensive to actually buy anything, but we liked looking. They had cool stuff, sort of a function meets style. Not anymore.

It’s now a total sensory experience.They no longer offer customers a whiff of their cologne. They insist on it. From the moment the store opens, fans blow that pit stench right out into the mall. Before I could actually enter the store, I had to cover my nose. And I may have coughed some. And gagged a time or two. Because I’m cool.

The merchandise has changed some, too. Now the logo appears to be a giant moose. And I do mean giant. I found a lovely grey cashmere sweater that was a treat to the touch, but the lapel sported a two inch Logo. In hot pink. Kids these days are so understated, you know.

The biggest thing (smallest thing) that shocked me was the cut of their shorts. Style meets function? Hardly. There are few functions anyone could perform in said attire without exposing significant portions of body parts that should never see the light of day. Abbreviated? Um, no. Cliff’s notes are abbreviated. These were Morse Code. I am old.

3) Hallmark Christmas ornaments.

I used to work in a Hallmark shop, back before college. Working there was what motivated me to get my tookus back in school. But I liked the ornaments, and I’ve gathered a little collection over the years. I found a Star Wars ornament that depicts Han Solo on a Taun-taun and thought it was the coolest thing ever. Until I pushed the little button to make it talk and it said “See you in hell!” Awww! What a beautiful Christmas-y sentiment! Doesn’t it put you in mind of every holiday reunion you’ve been to in your entire life! Awww! And don’t I want Squish to learn this handy little phrase? I think I’ll buy one! Or two! to give away as gifts. Who needs a brand new GPS for Christmas when a Christmas ornament alone can tell you where to go?

The Post I’ve Been Too Embarrassed To Write: Part 2

This is a continuation of yesterday’s post about brawling at Hot Topic. I’d break it into three posts, but then sj might just curl up in the floor and die.

***

There were about six other people in the store, including a woman who was already checking out at the register. I got in line behind her. Sort of. There isn’t a logical place to stand in line. There’s a rack of music right in front of the counter which forces customers to choose a spot to the right or to the left of the person at the register. I took my spot and waited. And waited. And waited. As it turns out, three of the other people in the store belonged to Lady at the Counter. After Lady paid for her purchases, one of her girls darted from the back of the store, dropped her stuff on the counter, and took out her money. Hapless Sales Guy gave me an apologetic smile and let the kid buy her stuff.

Another couple came to the register at about the same time Lady at the Counter’s other girl ran up to pay for her merchandise, the husband giving a friendly nod. It was a complicated transaction that required several trips to the back of the store to find an identical item with a price tag. Squish was being good, but I was definitely getting frustrated. Finally the kid was through. Just in time for Lady’s son to come up and take his turn. I was patient.

The Lady out of the way, I stepped forward to put my stuff on the counter. And so did the other woman standing there. After such a long and frustrating wait, I think it’s safe to say that none of us were at our best.  I am not proud of the events that followed.

Hapless Sales Guy gave woman his award-winning apologetic smile, pointed at me, and said “This lady was next.” The woman looked at me, noticing me for the first time and said “I’ve been standing here for ten minutes. I was next.” I left out some of her more colorful words. I have never been sworn at by a stranger.

Hapless Sales Guy reached for my stuff rather noncommittally, leaving it up to me to decide. The woman raised her voice. Her husband tugged at her sleeve and confirmed that I had indeed been waiting longer than she had. She brushed him off and raised her voice. At me. Dropping some f-bombs in front of not only my son, but also her own.

I am not a selfish person. Call it timid or polite. I don’t seek out confrontation. I strive to follow the teachings of Christ, to think of others before myself.  I’d have let her go ahead of me if it was so important to her. But I. Will. Not. Be. Bullied. Period.

My sense of self-preservation brain turned off, and I turned to her, knees shaking and said “I am truly sorry. I was here before you.” And I shoved my merchandise at Hapless Sales Guy. In outraged surprise, the woman let fly with a string of the most creative and varied profanity I have ever heard. I’m not even sure I know what all of the words meant, but I certainly got the gist. Sailor-mouthed woman was displeased with me. But I stood my ground, chin up, refusing to be browbeaten. And praying that my sphincter would hold.

She continued with her tirade, and as I listened, my blood pressure started to rise. My sympathetic nervous system became much less sympathetic and moved from “flight” to “fight.” How dare this woman vent her spleen on someone she had never seen before in her life over something so minor, and in front of two children to boot? How dare she treat me like this?  I was coming closer and closer to dropping an “f-bomb” or two of my own, which, I cannot say strongly enough, is a limit to which I have never been pushed. Who the heck did she think she was?

At that moment, an angel put its arm gently around my shoulder and stuffed an invisible sock in my mouth. My good sense reengaged as the angel whispered in my ear a reminder that people who cuss out (I couldn’t find a suitable non-Southern term that was applicable) strangers in shopping malls where people are sometimes shot may not stop at words. If her husband was afraid of her, maybe I should keep my fat mouth shut.

My shoulder angel always gives me sage advice.

If I’d had any inkling of this chick’s volume of crazy, not only would I have let her go first, I’d have offered her a ride to the pharmacy to get her prescriptions refilled. I think I blocked the rest of the encounter out. There were some vague threats, I think. Maybe not-so-vague. My brain quit processing words at all, and she turned into every adult on a Peanuts cartoon, all honk, no predicate nominative. It was for the best.

I don’t know at what point I noticed that all she had to pay for was a pack of gum and a shirt. And that Hapless Sales Guy was rather speedy about his business. And that there’s only one central exit from the mall. And that I had passed this family in the parking lot on the way in. I took my bag from Hapless Sales Guy and left. I walked tall and proud. And fast.

And I’ve never been back.

The Post I’ve Been Too Embarrassed To Write: Part 1

Happy now, sj? Here it is. The post I’ve spent the last two years trying not to write.

The things we do for love. Some people write poetry, some buy jewelry. I demonstrate the strength of my feelings by visiting shopping malls. For the record, I hate to shop. I’ve never understood why people actually spend time in malls voluntarily. Except for my brief stint a couple of winters ago as a mall-walker. Have I said too much? Anyhoo, I hate to shop, but it was my daughter’s birthday. The kid has simple taste. If Tim Burton created it, she loves it. Alice in Wonderland was just leaving theatres, so merchandise was rapidly disappearing. I went for her. Trust me when I tell you a trip to Hot Topic isn’t ever about me. Because they no longer sell Harry Potter merchandise, so I have no reason to live to shop there for myself.

We are so very fortunate to have two malls in my town from which to choose. The one on the more affluent end of town has bright, well-lit shops, and several of them are high end. The other mall has fallen into disrepute and disrepair over the last many years. It’s poorly lit, has few shops left and tends to be populated by ne’er-do-wells. But the parking is way better, so that’s where I went. My first mistake. Plus I took Squish to give his Daddy a break. Second mistake.

For those not familiar with Hot Topic, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a store the size of a phone booth with racks and tables of merchandise packed in so tightly that anyone larger than a fourth grader is guaranteed to knock stuff into the floor as they shop, with primal music blaring so loudly that verbal communication is rendered impossible. And turn out the lights. Are you with me? Actually, pray that you’re not.

The minute I entered the casket store, I questioned the wisdom of bringing Squish. He was just a little thing – about 18lbs of toddler grabbiness hanging on my back in the Ergo carrier, and there was nothing he couldn’t reach. Not to mention the fact that the music should come with its own OSHA warning. But life is tough, and it’s never too early to learn to take one for the team.

I searched around for a few minutes before I gave up. My choices were to get a sales associate to help me find what I was looking for or tie Squish’s arms in a knot to keep him from touching stuff. I found what appeared to be the lone employee. Communicating my request was hampered by the volume of music, requiring me to get closer to Hapless Sales Guy than I ever got to my husband before our wedding night to shout in his ear. Eventually, he understood, and he showed me the selection. After a couple of minutes debating Queen of Hearts vs cheaper Cheshire cat, the queen won out and I approached the register. That’s when things got fun.

 

To be continued… tomorrow.

A Day of Miracles

Happy 15th birthday to the Girl-child. 15. There’s a miracle right there. I know what you’re thinking. How can someone as young as me have a 15 year old kid? And if you weren’t thinking that, let me remind you that this is my blog, so play along. That’s better. I am awfully young. For the record, I was only seven when a fairy dropped the kid under a cabbage leaf and all that. For the record.

Anyway, we spent a whole day together to celebrate her birthday. That’s minor miracle right there. I have a teenager who doesn’t mind being seen with me. Most of the time. So we went to the mall. I’ll jump right in here and explain that neither of us are mall-rats by nature. But she was running low on fragrance, and I had a get stuff for free coupon! Off to Bath and Body Works we went.

Miracle #1: I found a fragrance that did not make me smell like a middle-aged streetwalker. If you have ever read this post, then you know how strongly I object to being labelled middle-aged. Here’s the sad part. Girl-child liked it, too. No teen one wants to share a scent with their mom anymore than they’d want to wear her polyester pant suits. I granted Girl-child full custody. After all, I spend a lot of time at the zoo where fragrance is frowned (and often sneezed) upon, so I couldn’t wear it much anyway. ***

Miracle #2 I bought new clothes. No, really. Like new-new clothes. It’s the first time in 10 years or so that I have actually bought clothes anywhere other than a thrift store. Unless you count my collection of Severus Snape t-shirts, and I don’t. Because Severus isn’t clothing. He’s family. I digress. New clothes! On sale!  A pair of capris, some shorts, a new shirt that, for the record, does not contain the image of a certain Slytherin headmaster.

Miracle #3 Pants and shorts were in a single-digit size. Could be vanity sizing, could be I don’t care. Single digit, friends. That’s all this girl needs. I can ride this particular high for a week. Maybe longer.

Miracle #4 Girl-child let me pick the music. Sort of. We I bought a stack of CDs at the used bookstore for under $1 apiece. And my companion let me listen to some of them in the car. Without gagging up a hairball or leaping out of the moving vehicle. That’s huge. Granted, none of it was Simon and Garfunkel. She has a generous, but she has her limits.

Miracle #5 I got out of Hot Topic without getting into a brawl. Oh, wait. I haven’t told you that story, have I? I keep promising sj that I’ll blog about that one someday. When it’s not quite so fresh and humiliating. When I can find the funny in it.

*** Update*** The second time I tried the smelly stuff, it made me smell like a mildewed sandbox. Not such a sacrifice to let Girl-child have it. It actually smells great on her.

Where I Draw the Line

I know now why middle aged women begin to wear questionable clothing. Sequins, stretch pants (hopefully not the same outfit), weird jeans, etc. It’s not because they’ve suddenly gone blind or lost all fashion sense. It’s because their teenage daughters have begun raiding their wardrobe. These women haven’t given up on looking good, they’re just desperate to have something in their closet that will still be there when they go looking for it, something their teen wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. I can now relate.

She’s not after my jewelry, I know that. There’s only one thing of value, and I’m not sure she’s all that interested in a macaroni necklace. And I don’t worry about my jeans. She weighs about 12 pounds with rocks in her pockets. I weigh closer to 15 pounds, you know. And she’s not interested in my makeup. Because I don’t actually have any. Well, I do. but a half-tube of mascara I got free from Earth Fare last year and some eye shadow left over from the last century don’t seem to speak to her. Weird, I know. The things that are disappearing from under my nose are my tops.

I give her credit. She does ask before she borrows. Except for my Birkenstock clogs, which I know are hidden away in her room somewhere, and I will find them or die trying. I told you Birkenstocks are cool!  I digress. She asks. But it still bugs me. She raided the storage shelves yesterday and emerged bearing an armload of treasures, which, to add insult to injury, she proceeded to model for me. It is really unfair that they all look so much better on her. They were are mine. The really cute oversize sweater makes her look like an adorable little elf. The same garment makes me look like the Michelin man. The old sweat shirt makes her look all cozy and comfortable. It makes me look like I’ve given up on life.

Fine. She can have them. I can’t wear them again knowing how good they could look (but don’t). And she uses lots of products from the Lotion and Smelly Stuff Works, so she has effectively scent-marked all my sweaters. We know I won’t be wearing those again.

It’s not all bad, I guess. In a way, it’s validating. My taste can’t be too far off if my kid wants to wear steal my clothes. And there’s plenty more where that came from. All I have to do is go back to the thrift store to replenish the wardrobe. But this time, she went too far. She asked to wear my Slytherin t-shirt.

Is nothing sacred?

She has yet to ask to borrow THIS sweater. It is made from genuine boomkin pelt, I think.

 

Keeping It Simple

All I want for Christmas. Technically, it's all I want BEFORE Christmas. I can't get everything done without this little gadget.

 

It happens every year. Not to be confused with stuff that happens every day. Every single year it goes the same way. I am talking, of course, about the Christmas season.  We say each November that we’re not going to fall into the same trap of getting too busy to actually remember the meaning of the season. And every year, I look up on January 6 and find myself in the same spiritual post-partum depression that I fell into the year before, the birth of Christ having once again zipped by, leaving me exhausted and five pounds heavier. Not this year.

Two nights ago, we sat at the kitchen table eating our Thanksgiving dinner, and we talked about our favorite parts of Advent to prioritize our activities. The kids named marching in a parade with scouts and singing in the nativity pageant. And my favorite thing is to make peanut brittle to give as Christmas gifts. It made me happy. We can do all of these things without stressing out and making me nuts. A simple Advent sounds, well, heavenly.

Yesterday I began making a list of the stuff I need to make my peanut brittle, and I suddenly realized that a critical  component was missing. My candy thermometer broke a few months ago, so off we went to Target to buy a new one. I have issues with Target. You can always find the latest stuff for the season, but they hide the things that people actually need as though they are ashamed of it. For example, while I can find a lovely assortment of men’s cologne, I have yet to locate a bar of soap. Or tube of toothpaste. Do clean people not shop there? I digress.

I prowled around the cooking section, and I did find a large assortment of thermometers. Mostly meat probes, which sounds painful. But no candy thermometers. They did have one that was labelled deep fryer/candy. To be sure, it did have candy markings on the side. But it looked like a large aquarium thermometer, complete with a metal frame. I don’t care if it’s dishwasher safe, that doesn’t mean it will actually come clean. No, thank you.

Marshall’s was a no-go. As was Bed, Bath and Beyond. I left in despair, my whole soul crying out “Please, not Wal-Mart. Not Wal-mart,” like a first year at Hogwarts. My biggest fear is that if I received my Hogwarts letter at all, I would be sorted into Wal-mart. Again, I digress.

On the way to the dreaded big-box, we passed another possibility. I grabbed Squish, and we ran right into Kohl’s. Their kitchen stuff is organized a little differently. “Cleaning?” Three sections of that stuff. Target shoppers must not come here. “Drinking?” Yes, please. Turns out, though, they meant glasses. Disappointed, I moved on. “Creating?” Images of God flashed through my brain. But maybe they meant chopping and stuff, like creating a meal. Indeed, that was where I found the thermometers. Aquarium variety.

Long story short (too late), in my efforts to keep it simple, I have made unsuccessful visits to five stores. After checking around on-line, I discovered that I must descend  into hell if I want this gadget. That’s right, I have to make a trip to the busiest shopping center on the rich end of town. I must brave entitled drivers, aggressive shoppers, and snooty sales clerks who seem to know by looking that I don’t belong. So if you are on the receiving end of my peanut brittle, please understand how much I love you.

I’m glad I decided to keep it simple. No idea what would have happened if I had invited Complicated.

Call of Duty: Black Friday Ops II

Galactic Heroes all lined up for Black Friday deals. Actually, we could put the fun back in Black Friday shopping if stores would hire Storm Troopers as security instead of rent-a-cops.

I have a bad case of fly-on-the wall syndrome, and Black Friday was practically a religious holiday for me. I used to dearly love getting up in the wee hours and stumbling in the dark to the biggest store in the area to be a part of the hustle and bustle. Blame my psych degree, but I do love watching how people misbehave in groups. Here’s the really funny part. I’d show up at four in the morning, Edward in hand and ready for action. With all of my shopping already done. That’s right. I would stand in line to get into the store, wander around for a couple of hours and leave without buying a thing. I know. It’s a sickness. But it was fascinating to me. I liked to see what kind of stuff everybody else is getting, what they were willing to fight and die to possess.

Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I have a $10 yard sale television (true story) because I don’t have the passion in my heart. Maybe if I was a more motivated person, I’d have a 50 inch flat screen. That I purchased for $1.99 at Big Buy Mart on Black Friday. But the truth is, while I love watching people score that awesome holiday bargain, I don’t want to spend the money myself. Or put myself at risk of great bodily harm. But I do love to read the ads, make lists, pretend like I’m going to shop.

One of my favorite Black Friday trips happened three years ago. I went with my mom, sister and aunt. We divided up the list, scoured maps, and strategized like we were planning to stage a military coup. They are the type who stay in phone-contact and have pre-determined meeting spots. Tiny catch. I don’t have a cell. So one of them lent me theirs.  So sweet. But I didn’t remember to actually answer it. Sure, I heard the ring tone, but I didn’t recognize it. Or even notice it as I perused $5 flash-drives. And when I finally realized it was my pocket that was ringing, I didn’t know which button to push to answer the phone.  They found me an hour later in frozen foods. People watching. They haven’t asked me back.

I don’t go anymore. Maybe I am maturing. Maybe I am just becoming more aware of my own mortality. Those people out there are crazy. I’ve seen the youtube videos from Friday, and there is entirely too much screaming. The only time shopping should involve any screaming at all is if you’re a twelve-year old girl who just scored the last autographed Justin Bieber poster. No exceptions. Okay, maybe if you’re the next girl in line and your pre-teen heart is broken. Waffle irons are not worth hysterics. Even if they’re $2. Even if they’re free.

My new philosophy. If I want to see grown people beat each other senseless over a meaningless object, I’ll just turn on a hockey game. Shopping shouldn’t be a contact sport.