with Lynne and Leslie
Tag Archives: shopping

Buying a dog bag by accident: Or owning the thing you have, no matter what

by SweetMidlife
Yes, it's a dog bag. But it's super cute. and I can work it.

Yes, it’s a dog bag. But it’s super cute. and I can work it.

About a month ago, rummaging through the local Goodwill for winter-type clothing for myself and my kid the day before heading north, out of Florida and into places where they have winter, I ran into the cutest bag. It was pink tweed, very Nancy Reagan at a press conference meets hipster bowling bag. It had a weird long zipper at the top, and some mesh zippered flaps on the side. I couldn’t quite figure out what those were for, but it was big enough to stick my laptop in for the flight, super attractive and easy to carry, and the weird side zippers made it a cinch to stick bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper in, which is totally a problem that needed solving. Totally.

Also, it was like $8. So welcome to the family, New Bag.

I wasn’t the only person to dig my bag – my sister and mother immediately told me how sharp they thought it was, and a few other friends specifically stopped to tell me how much they liked it. It was a very long trip, hanging out with Lynne to help out after her surgery, seeing friends and family when I could, and writing a random story for work when necessary (RIP, Ziggy Stardust), and I found myself shoving a lot of things into the new bag and its weird zippered portions, finding it spacious and easy to fill – there was always another corner to shove things into, and I have never met a bag I couldn’t fill till it looked like a hobo pack.

By the time I got home, I was rather in love with it – not the least of which was because it’s big and huge and easy to find in the crazy thrift store storeroom that is my living room.So a few days later, I grabbed it on the way out the door to go visit a friend for an after-work glass or two of wine. I plopped the bag down on her counter next to the wine and plunked into a chair, noticing her notice it as she walked by to get the corkscrew.

“That your new purse?” she asked.

“Yep!” I said, anticipating the compliments not only on the stylishness of my choice but an opening to brag about the deal I’d gotten.

“You know that’s a dog bag, right?”

No. No I did not know that.

Suddenly, everything made sense – the odd roominess of the purse, that was not actually a purse. The weird, helpful zippers on the side, that I could shove a soda in but that was actually made so that little Fifi and Fluffy could stick their precious head out of. The fact that it was $8, because not everyone needs a dog bag. Or realizes that they bought one, sans dog.

So I wondered – was everyone looking at me weird? Was it like when I walk my kid to daycare and then walk the empty stroller back home with people peering in looking for a baby but seeing a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash and thinking I’m crazy? Did I look dumb? Should I head back to the Goodwill for another non-canine bag?

I don’t know how I looked to others, but I can answer the last one – No, no I am not replacing that bag. Because I like it. Because it’s big and roomy and cute. Because it’s possible to repurpose a thing as another thing because it’s not hurting anyone. And because even if I look a little crazy to other people, I have decided to work my dogless dog bag and let it rock.

Because I can.


I love this dress. I still wonder if I should have bought it.

by SweetMidlife
I dunno.

I dunno.

You know that Monkees’ song “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You?,” the non-committal argument anthem for the ages?I’ve been singing it to myself lately, about the above swanky-Sue leopard print dress. Leopard is a thing I am trying to explore in my 40s without looking ironic or like a cat-eye glasses-wearing granny Hon in a John Hughes movie. It’s funky, comfortable and doesn’t make me look like a jaunty iceberg. It was a great find in a local consignment shop, and even though it was, at $34, more than I usually spend on non-label items at consignment stores, the price is not the reason I have just the wee case of regret about the purchase.

It’s because the woman who sold it to me initially mistook me to be so large that she didn’t think I was going to fit into that, or any dress or article of clothing that lived beyond a tiny rack shoved depressingly in the back. And although I have reasons for believing that this makes her dismissive, exclusive and bad at her job, if her job is encouraging people to spend money in her store, I’m also concerned that I am so brain-washed by our fat-shaming circus of a society that the suggestion of an extra “X” to my XL sends me into some self-righteous tailspin, like “How dare you! I say good day. Nooo…I SAY GOOD DAY!”

And that part of my regret makes me want to punch myself in the face, repeatedly.

Here’s what happened – I came in,  waved at the lady in the back of the store and headed towards the rack with the giant “End of Season” sale sign on it. I am, as I have discussed, not currently a size I love, but at a point where I love myself and see no need not to be cute in the body I am currently in, because that body is fierce. I am anywhere from a very, very stretchy medium to an XL in dresses without zippers, and since it’s summer in Florida I tend not to love zippers in the first place. So I start going through what appeared to be the larger end of the sale stuff, but in the middle, pushing the mediums to one side and the XXLs to the other, concentrating on the L and XL situations. My plan was to grab the cheaper stuff first and then head to the regular rack. And then I heard this.

“I think the only things that will fit you in the store are over there. We go up to XXXL.”

I’m sorry what? I immediately tensed up, and I admit my first thought was “How could she think I was an XXXL?” And that thought, again, was both fed from an annoyance that a woman who is supposed to be a professional would just eyeball me and not only get my size wrong – because getting them right is her job – but be so dismissive about it. Like a lot of women – and probably men – I know what it’s like to walk by a store and know that you can either not fit into anything, or that the category is so small that you feel singled out, like “There’s the scraps for you, Fatty. And you’ll pay us for them.” I don’t usually get annoyed by that because it’s just what happens. When I went bridal shopping I called a lot of boutiques that advertised sample sales before I went, because not only are samples very small, some boutiques don’t carry more than one or two dresses in larger sizes, which meant there would be nothing for me to try on. Everyone deserves the opportunity, if they choose, to have their “Say Yes To The Dress” moment. So I only went to places that could give me that.

Fast forward to last month,, when the woman told me that her store was not for me. If that were true, it would be a burn, but a factual one, because she can’t make the dresses bigger or make some fabulous size 14 woman show up with a haul or gently used treasures at that moment. What got me, though, was that she saw a not-skinny woman walk in and just dismissed me, which should have been my cue to leave. But I didn’t. I felt the need to defend myself or something, which is weird. Why should I be defending myself against something that is not an insult? To some, being accused of being big is insulting, but it is what is. If you are comfortable with yourself that shouldn’t be an insult, unless you know that person specifically means that observation as a pejorative. Anyway, I needed to say something.

“Um, I’m a Large or Extra Large, at the most. I think this dress is a large I’m wearing right now!” I said and tried not to sound indignant. The lady came a little closer, looked me up and down, and shook her head.

“I’m sorry!” she said, because I think she saw my face and imagined a possible purchase walking out the door, although I am not sure if she wasn’t re-sizing me up to see if I were in denial At that point I can’t honestly say whether I really wanted to buy a dress because I wanted one, or because I wanted to prove I could, which is a dumb waste of $35. Meanwhile, I took some nice things off the regular rack and took them to try in, near the back area where the lady was watching the aftermath of the Charleston shootings on TV. We had a conversation about the shooter, and whether or not his uncle had turned him in, and whether he was going to be safe in jail (Neither of us felt so, although that didn’t bother us, either.) I stepped out into the sales area in the leopard dress, which instantly felt right to me.

“Well that looks great!” she said, earnestly. “I’m sorry again for so misjudging your size.”

That was nice of her to say, but what was she saying? Was she regretting her inability to size me up properly, or worried that she had been dismissive? Or was she, like me, afraid that assuming there were more Xs afoot than there were was an insult? I don’t know. But I headed across the street with my dress in a bag, and told the friend I was meeting for dinner what happened.

“And you bought it?” she said, incredulously. “Huh.”

So now I have this dress, and I love it. It’s sassy. It’s swingy. But its origin story, if you will, makes me doubt just how secure in myself I am.

Huh.

 


Bookroo sends your kid a monthly literary gift

by SweetMidlife
This is gonna be fun!

This is gonna be fun!

Leslie here! As a writer, and a very early lover of books who with Lynne tortured our Granddaddy into reading “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” over and over, it’s important to me that the toddler I live with become a tiny bookworm as well. Story time is a big deal here and now we have an ingenious way to make sure that the shelf is never bare: a service called Bookroo, a kid’s book subscription service. (Disclosure: We signed up for the service and are receiving a discounted fee.)

I was excited about it from the beginning because I’m fan of subscription services, including a clothing service that sends new stuff to my house each month. Even though I pay for it, and know that it’s coming, it’s nice to get a wrapped thing in the mail. The Boy doesn’t have a calendar, doesn’t pay for anything and thinks everything is for him, so when the Bookroo box came to the house with his name on it, I pointed out the label even though he can’t read.

He can, however, open wrapping paper, and that was a whole other adventure (we like adventure – note the above tiny hand excitedly reaching for that delicious rippy stuff.

bookroo22

Once we got all the paper off, we settled into our books for the month, “Hush Little Polar Bear,” by Jeff Mack, “Duck and Goose, 1-2-3” by Tad Hills and “The Pout-Pout Fish” by Deborah Diesen.” Toddler is at the point where he likes the concept of turning the pages, but lacks the patience to sit there and hit every page, so these board books are perfect for him – colorful, tactile and easy to hold.
So far, Toddler kind of read through “Hush Hush Little Polar Bear” once and then moved onto “Duck and Goose” which I thought was adorable. He’s really big on counting right now – sometimes the numbers are even in order! – so being able to point to them on the page was huge. He also knows what a duck looks like, so that was exciting.
But our favorite was “The Pout-Pout Fish,” not only because it’s gorgeous and introduces a lot of colorful sea creatures, all of which Toddler wanted to touch and “Ooh” over, but because the story is so darned charming. The aforementioned fish believes that he’s destined to be pouty and sad, even though the other creatures try to get him to smile. Eventually, Pouty meets someone who turns his frown upside down. It’s a nice reminder that we can always find something to smile about.
I plan to keep the service, which starts at $17.95 a month but you can get a discount of $4 off your order by following this link!

Stitch Fix update: My Pinterest page helps dress me! What a novel idea!

by SweetMidlife

20150416_104451

Howdy guys! This is Leslie, and once again I’m doing my own version of home shopping – Stitch Fix, which provides a box of clothes selected for you by stylists based on your sizes and stated preferences. I’ve been doing it for a few months now, and the boxes are now getting more on the nose than they originally were, when I either didn’t like the clothes or didn’t love them enough to pay full price for them. It’s a real find – I get to try out clothes that I like but still might bypass in a store, chosen by someone with a fresh eye. And getting the boxes and opening them is like a monthly Christmas gift, albeit one I pay for.

Yesterday’s offering was the most successful,  and apparently it’s because the stylist checked my Pinterest page, specifically the one marked “What I want in my Stitch Fix box” before filling the box. She took a look at the things that I Pin from other people’s pages or around the Internet and got a clearer picture of what I really like, or at least what the page says I like. And for the first time I almost bought all five items in the box – a dress, two shirts, a scarf and a skirt – which would have triggered a 25% discount, with which the $20 monthly “styling fee” you pay every month would have made $246 worth of clothes cost only $169.50. Sadly, one of the shirts didn’t fit in the chestular region, and without the discount the other shirt was just a shirt, you know? And the dress was cute but not “me” enough for $58 bucks.

IMG_0023

So I kept the above amazing skirt, and that boss bird scarf (that peasant blouse is my own and doesn’t really match), which with the $20 styling fee I already paid this month come to $66 bucks. And it’s worth it – that skirt goes with anything and I always like adding to Leslie’s Collection Of Scarves – my whole house is covered in drapey fabric to dress up my sweaty workout wear when I’m running out to get diapers and don’t want to look crazy.

The Pinterest thing really is brilliant – it’s one of the things that Stitch Fix inquires about when you fill out your profile. The first time I did it I didn’t fill it out, maybe because I was like “Who wants to know?” But my Pinterest is public, and if seeing the things that catch my eye and viscerally get me to click “Pin” helps someone who does not know me find things for me, it’s awesome. Pinterest is aspirational in that it’s unlikely that I am ever going to recreate a Moroccan tent in my backyard or redo my kitchen to look like something out of Elle Decor. But when putting things on my “Stitch Fix” page, I am not just clicking pretty things. I am thinking about the things I might wear, even if I’ve never bought anything like that before. Looking at the page this morning, I see that it’s mostly dresses – I love dresses – scarves, interesting cuffs and bangles, as well as sleek blazers and pants – it’s my Executive Stevie Nicks look. And the stuff I got this month reflected that.

It can get expensive if you buy everything, but you aren’t obligated to, and I’ve spent an average of $50 a month, which is a decent amount to spend on new clothes (I should also note that the majority of my clothes shopping is in consignment and second hand stores, because I’m way cheap and because the Palm Beaches have really good thrifting.) I’m looking forward to next month’s box. Maybe it’ll be worth the extra cash!


“How’d that get in my cart?”: The joy-ish of shopping with your partner

by SweetMidlife
Sometimes we have too much peanut butter. And sometimes, Husband buys excellent hot sauce.

Sometimes we have too much peanut butter. And sometimes, Husband buys excellent hot sauce.

Greetings. My name is Leslie, and I like grocery shopping. If you read this blog, you might notice that we post about food a lot, not only because we’re in the gym working on our fitness just like Fergie, but because we like food, which is why, unlike Fergie, we need to LIVE in the gym working on our fitness.

In my case I think that my weekly-ish visit to the supermarket and to the cool vegetable market down the street is also a function of my control freak-ism. As a single girl, it was about trying to control what I ate, which translated into what I weighed and, unfortunately, how I felt about myself. But now, I’m the primary meal planner for three people, one of whom likes meat and white pasta, two things I don’t eat, and the other of whom expresses his displeasure by wrinkling up his face or turning his head as the spoon’s headed for his lips, or just says “No” in a Hobbit voice and then runs away to play with blocks.

(It’s up to you to guess which one’s my husband and which one’s the Toddler.)

Anyway,  because we should all be healthy, doing the shopping means that I get to control at least the dinner options of the household (Husband gets lunch at work, and I do buy Toddler’s food for Baby School, but iF a cookie or something gets in there I’m not there to police it, and a cookie isn’t gonna kill him.) (Yeah, I said it. Come at me, bro.)

I also do most of the cooking, and I’m the only one who remembers what got shoved in all the little drawers in the refrigerator or that we ALREADY HAVE PEANUT BUTTER OH MY STARS THERE’S THREE JARS OF UNOPENED STUPID PEANUT BUTTER IN THERE BEHIND THE SALAD WE NEVER ATE AND I DON’T EVEN EAT JIF ONLY YOU DO PLEASE EAT IT OR STOP BUYING STUPID PEANUT BUTTER.

It’s stuff like JifGate that make me kind of territorial about the shopping, and I usually do it by myself, during the day, when I don’t have to worry about Husband dropping duplicate items in the cart or Toddler having a random meltdown when he’s not allowed to reach out and shove everything off the olive oil shelf. (That’s never happened, but I don’t want to be the woman sheepishly asking the store manager about the oily pile of glass in Aisle 7.)

When Husband and I do wind up doing a joint trip, it’s usually during the weekend, when I’ve had time to clip coupons, make a list and check the store ad. I can’t organize my closet but I’m a staunch grocery lister. Go figure. So even if he runs off the rails in the meat or hot sauce aisle, I’ve got what I need and I’ve usually budgeted for the week, so a few odd sauces aren’t gonna kill me. It’s the random tandem midweek jaunts that can test my ability to zig and not zag, and that also test my ability to just shut up sometimes.

Husband and I both worked from home yesterday, and decided to hit the local grocery an hour or so before having to pick Toddler up from Baby School. This was supposed to just be a “shopping for tonight’s dinner” trip – I was making chili – so I had already Terminator-scanned the store from the door. I need ground beef for Husband’s portion, beans and tomatoes and such, a bottle of wine for me (not all to be drunk last night, of course) and yogurt for Toddler and me.

Husband was in line for Powerball tickets for last night’s huge jackpot, and you should not be shocked that we didn’t win, because if I had I would not be still sitting here writing this. (#truth) So I did a workman-like job of rounding the aisles and getting what I needed, and was mostly done when I heard my name and saw Husband making his way across the store with a full hand cart. And I swear the control freak in me started panicking, because he likes buying the same stuff over and over, even if we didn’t use half of it the last time he bought it and it’s still in the fridge hello Jif. But he is also a grown man who contributes to the groceries and it’s not fair to be the Food Cop unless it’s something really unhealthy that humans shouldn’t eat.

“Look what I got!” he said excitedly, offering two cartons of real actual juice without artificial things, which are excellent, fruit, the good burgers for the chili because he didn’t know that I already got meat, but which now form the basis of another meal, because why not buy a few days in advance? We’re here, right? And I felt my control freak shutting up. He did good.

(NOTE: I must also add that Husband’s real superpower is farmer’s markets. He finds the best cool little sauces and spreads, including the fish dip I ate all of, and this boss mango chutney he bought from his “hot sauce guy” at the South Florida Fair. Yes, he has a hot sauce guy he sees annually at the fair, to the point where when he didn’t answer his cell, I knew where to find him.)

There was absolutely nothing unhealthy in that cart, and besides the Soap Opera Digest “for me” that is totally for him and the fancy paper goods he gets, that I never do, because I am cheap, it was an excellent trip. He’s grown folk. Chill out Leslie.

So we get to the checkout, and I start seeing the numbers adding up. I had an arbitrary number in my head, and we were past that before I even put all the stuff on the belt. And I started panicking, not because I didn’t have the money to spend, but because IT WASN’T IN MY PLAN. And it wasn’t even a good plan, because we have to buy for the rest of the weekend sometime, so why not last night? I originally pegged it as a quick trip because of time constraints and because I didn’t have my coupons, but it actually took less time because I had an extra pair of adult hands and no tiny shelf-clearer in the cart. And if Husband is picking his own healthy food, he’s going to eat it. And that’s awesome.

I now have a full fridge, and some yummy, healthy things to eat, and I don’t fear badness in there. The multiple peanut butters? That’s another story.


What to Wear: A Stitch Fix Update or I actually bought some clothes!

by SweetMidlife

striped dress

This is Leslie, and this is me, Spanxless, in a fitting dress. And I only slightly look like the anaconda that ate Jon Voight.

This striped dress came in my second Stitch Fix box yesterday, and I admit to being dubious, especially since only liking one necklace last time and having such great luck actually picking things out last week at Runway Consignment. But the gamble remains the same – last week I had more luck with stuff that was chosen for me, and even though the Stitch folks don’t know me, I was willing to give them a try again.

stitch paper

This box was actually more successful – I’m not sure if the stylists are checking my Pinterest boards, one of which I set up to give them hints of what I like, as was suggested (Cross-promotion is magic!), but it was pretty close.

I liked the necklace you see above but not enough for $28. The pants were great, but I just didn’t feel like spending $78 on them. Great pants are hard to come by so I sort of regret that, but I am convinced that now that I’m familiar with this brand, Liverpool, I can find them cheaper elsewhere. I may be wrong.

There was a devastatingly soft heather zippy cardigan in the box, and I am always drawn to slouchy heather. But I live in Florida, it’s heavy and I don’t need a statement piece of fleece here. If it’s too nice to wear to the gym, I can’t wear it all the time – very seasonal for a season we don’t get. And the slouchy neck top was cute but not special.

However, the dress up top was special. I knew it from the moment I opened the box, and I couldn’t wait to try it on. I was working at the time at home and made myself wait until I finished to play in the box. When I did it was the first thing I threw on, and while it wasn’t great without Spanx, those elastic wonders made it look perfect. The above photo is this morning, au natural, because I wanted to see what it would look like. Not bad. But I’m packing the Spanx in the gym bag. #nocommando

So that’s me for this week. I think I’m gonna keep this for a while and see what happens. What are YOU wearing?


What To Wear: Styling, short skirts and losing 20 pounds in 5 minutes

by SweetMidlife

black skirt

This is Leslie, and I’m still looking for things to wear while losing weight, because staying inside or wearing yoga pants everywhere is not an option, nor is it pretty. A couple of days ago I wrote about my experiments with Gwynnie Bee and Stitch Fix, and how I was hoping to get tips on how to dress the body I currently have, even if I don’t keep the clothes.

The next day I got an email from one Christi Zumft Knight, a Facebook friend and the proprietor of Runway Consignment Boutique, a cozy little West Palm Beach shop. She’s been reading our various shopping and body image posts (SOMEBODY READS THIS BLOG!) and offered to let me come over to the shop and peruse their $10 rack while giving me some styling advice.

Even though I was initially hesitant because a lot of consignment stores have a limited amount of clothes larger than a 10, the offering of styling was intriguing, because it’s somewhere between having things selected by people who know me merely from my size and style profile, like the Stitch Fix folks, and friends and family. My usual go-to stylist is my friend Brittney, who showcases tough love, like the time she talked me into the completely rad gold sequined sweater top I wore to my “The Voice” audition (“Leslie, just try on the top. Seriously. Shut up. Try it on.”) In her absence, Christi’s offer was too good to pass up.

I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but here’s the  basic take-home: Being able to try on clothes in a non-pressure situation, with someone who kind of knows me and my style (Vaguely executive boho) but knows the tenets of style better, has experience dressing many types of bodies, and just wants to make people look better. She’d pulled some things for me, and I tried on those, along with stuff I pulled from the aforementioned $10 rack, and we mixed and matched until I had a good selection of staples and a few “wow” pieces. Here’s some examples:

1) NOT CLOSE AND NO CIGAR: We started with this pretty gold sweater that I chose, pulling it down way too far over my skirt (the one I wore in) and making me look like a sister wife on Vegas night. Too billowy, too matronly, too no. We move on.

gold sister wife

2) ANCHORS NO-WAY: I enjoy a fun print, and thought that a cute spangly sweater might work. Not this particular one, whose anchor appears to be pointing towards my pooch. My pooch doesn’t need a billboard, thanks.

anchors no way

3) HOT HOT HOT: The first hit was all at once, the most amazing sexy short black skirt and that booby awesome top (See top photo). Christi took one look and said “You have a completely different figure than you did when you walked in here,” which is to say that I came in wearing this big voluminous top that my sister wants me to burn, one that made my look The Huge. The difference made is that this skirt fits me. It is in a size I do not wish to be, but because it fits, it makes me looks skinnier. Isn’t that crazy?

4) DON’T BE AFRAID OF WHITE JEANS: I have never owned white jeans, because they scare me, because I didn’t think I had the butt for them, and because they attract messes. But Christi made me try them on. And she was right. Awesomeness.

white jeans

5) JOIN THE CARAVAN OF LOVE: My wedding had a Palm Beach theme, in which the guys, including my father, wore billowy shirts that reminded me of the Isley Brothers’ “Caravan of Love” video. I may have sung that as my dad  and I walked down the aisle, which I thought was hilarious, because I’m 12. Anyway, this is my homage to that moment. He’s in Heaven going “So who looks like that video now?” Fine. I love it.

caravan of love

6) PRETTY IN PINK…ISN’T SHE?: This might be my favorite, which shouldn’t be surprising as a lifelong pink fan, but is if you consider that in my more zaftig state I usually prefer something be black. But these pieces are slimming, pretty and very Florida. I love.

pink duo

7) LYNNIE SMITH BLACK MAMBAZO: This gorgeous purple dress looked great but it seemed more perfect for someone else. Someone with whom I share a blog and DNA. Enjoy, Boho Lynne.

Ladysmith

The ultimate take-home here is that it’s always great to have another set of eyes in the styling game, and to go down a rabbit hole that might be unfamiliar. It’s not gonna kill you to try something new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Trying stuff out: Gwynnie Bee and Stitch Fix and me

by SweetMidlife

gwynnie dress

Leslie here, trying to find some clothes to wear.

Lynne wrote about Gwynnie Bee before – it’s a clothing rental service for women size 10 and up, where for a set fee they send you a certain number of things at a time, that you can try on and wear, and then send back and get something else, like wearable Netflix. Lynne had some success with it, and because we’re twins and follow each other like lemmings, I tried it too.

It went OK. So far.

Here is how it works – You enter your sizes and such, and then select dresses, pants, shirts and more to be in your closet. Then they send you the next available thing in your closet, and you get more when you send stuff back. The dress above is first thing. As you can see, it’s just there. I have a lot of dresses that need camisoles, because of fit and boobage and it wasn’t special enough to keep. So it’s going back today.

stitch list

The deal with this, and with Stitch Fix, a similar-ish clothes subscription service I am also enrolled in, have some pros and cons, the “pro” being that you are able to try things on in the privacy of your own home before you commit. I have a kid living here and trying on clothes in stores has to happen either with a stroller shoved into a dressing room or in the middle of the day when that kid is in Baby School. And I work and such, so sometimes that does not work. Which is most times.

The difference between Gwynnie and Stitch Fix, besides that Gwynnie is mostly a rental service with the option to buy, is that Gwynnie’s clothes are picked out by you from photos and Stitch Fix’s are chosen by a stylist who has looked at a style profile you’ve filled out and made some choices. I am poor so it’s nice to have a stylist, even if you can’t immediately hand them back to a real person and say “Go get me something else in an hour.” The waiting is the hardest part, and my first Fix was not entirely successful. Everything fit, but I only kept one thing – this gorgeous necklace.

stitch necklace

The sweater was gorgeous as well but I live in Florida and don’t need an expensive sweater. And the two T-shirts they sent were nice, but just tees. I don’t need $40-something tees. I can go to Macy’s and Nordstrom on sale, try them on and pay half that. The jeans were almost purchased, but there was a weird crafty detail down the side that made them too distinctive to wear more than once a week, as jeans are supposed to be worn because JEANS.

 

I wish there was a quicker turn-around, but until I’m rich enough to get a real stylist, it is what it is.

 


The weird, friendly adventures of a black Christian lady looking for a Hanukkah menorah

by SweetMidlife
And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall's.

And behold, a menorah grows at Marshall’s.

“Happy Hanukkah!”

Over my shoulder as I (being Leslie) rush out of a fancy chain home decor store here in West Palm Beach, I hear the very sweet and apologetic clerk, who has just explained that her establishment is the latest on my crossed-off list of places that do not carry menorahs. This is my fifth Hanukkah season with my husband, who is Jewish, and the beautiful candle holder that his late mom got us for our wedding seems to have vanished in our last move, or in the ether, or with a tiny Jewish group of Borrowers who also seem to have stolen the mate to every one of his socks.

Because we already had one – or used to – I have never had to go shopping for a menorah before, and foolishly believed that in an area whose populace that no less an expert than Jason Alexander described as “a preponderance of Jews” would be a hotbed of menorah-hood. That it would be the Menorahhood.

Oh, foolish silly Goy.

I am not Jewish, but I am a wife, so in the last five years or so I have become our household’s procurer of most holiday and special-occasion paraphernalia and accoutrements, including wandering into Judaica stores looking for seder plates, making Passover reservations, ordering matzo ball soup en masse, hunting for High Holiday tickets and, as today, driving around the greater West Palm Beach area looking for a menorah. When I first began these errands years ago, I braced for the weird looks – and boy, did I get them! – at the red Afro’d black woman wandering, confused, through the Kosher cookbooks, looking like the loser in a very specific scavenger hunt.

But you know what always wound up happening, on those trips and today, on my menorah hunt? Everybody, pretty much to a number, was awesome. Welcoming. The guy in the Judaica store could not have been more helpful. The ladies in the various delis looked bemused but walked me through the rugelach and smoked fish dips with patience and kindness, because it was clear I was out of my depth.

And today, two separate clerks, the aforementioned lady at Restoration Hardware and the one at chi chi stationary store at Paper Goods, said “Happy Hanukkah” to me. And it made my heart grow a gazillion sizes. Understand that I am a Christian, and my celebration of Hanukkah is because of my husband, who in turn goes to Easter services with me. It’s also a nod to the Jewish roots of my own beliefs.

The ladies at those stores do not know this. I assume that I look different than the other people who have come in looking for menorahs and candles and stuff. But they listened to what I wanted and greeted me accordingly, and it was sublime.

Many of my Facebook friends of several religions have recently pondered the downright nasty response they have gotten from some strangers who have received their sincere “Happy Holidays” and spit it right back at the giver, to strike a blow for the War on Christmas. I can see standing up for your beliefs, but don’t be nasty about it. (Those people, no matter how fervent their Christian beliefs, are being bad citizens and, if you think about it, not exemplary Christians, because we all know the best way to interest people in your beliefs is to take their heads off when they say something nice to you and can’t tell if you’re Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, atheist, Druid or otherwise. But go on being outraged. That’s such a good look on you. Said no one ever.)

So I loved that these women wished me the happiest version of the holiday that corresponds with the thing I was looking for, because that makes sense, regardless of my appearance, or of fear of insulting me – it wouldn’t make sense for me to be insulted, but you’ve met humans, so you know they sometimes take operatic-level offense to the stupidest thing.

I wind up finding not one but three different menorahs in the most random of places – the stockroom at a nearby Marshall’s, where a nice clerk was about to discount them and put them on display. She, too, doesn’t blink an eye when I happily swoop in and grab one, because a sold menorah is a sold menorah. When I light the candles tonight, I’ll be grateful for my family, and the joining of two cultures, and for the resilience that the holiday celebrates, as well as for people who understand that what these holidays have in common is Divine love and the love we’re supposed to show to each other.

And that’s something to be happy about.


Target workers (not) home for the holiday: Should we boycott?

by SweetMidlife
target bag

We shop here a lot.

Leslie here!

My sister Lynne can verify that before we were legally able to vote in elections, we were taught to vote with our wallets – even if it was like a Mickey Mouse Velcro wallet with nothing in it but some weird lint that was stuck on the Velcro.

What that meant was that our parents were big on boycotting companies they thought weren’t acting in the best interest of humanity – we boycotted Nestle holdings, including Rusty Scupper, over allegations that the company was responsible for Similac deaths in Africa. When Lynne and I were in high school we boycotted Coke products, and holdings like Columbia Pictures because they had not divested in South Africa (although I admit that we caved when “La Bamba” came out. I blame Lou Diamond Phillips and his cute. I was weak.)

Those boycotts were about practical things that affected the lives of people on a continent far away, but there’s a situation happening in every American town with a Target – and a Macy’s, Kohl’s and Walmart – that affects a lot of our neighbors and their ability to spend Thanksgiving with their families – deciding to push Black Friday into Turkey Thursday.

Gobble gobble…but do it quick, y’all, because you gotta go to work.

Back in high school and college, I remember having to work on holidays at random retail, restaurant and entertainment jobs, and even as a younger reporter I had to work at least one Thanksgiving (at my current paper, even the veterans have to work at least one holiday, although I usually get to pick a non-major one that doesn’t involve family dinners.

Even though Christmas was always the holiday that I most wanted off because that’s when I traveled to see my folks, or they traveled to see me, Thanksgiving is a universal day that knows no religious bounds – most everyone in the U.S. seems to celebrate it. And the dinner is the most important part, which is why it seems cruel for so many stores to expect that their employees will miss it so they can make more money.

(It’s also disturbing to me that shoppers would cut their dinner short to go on an all-out retail assault just to get some deals, but at least they have the option of doing it as a family and their jobs don’t depend on it.)

I admit that I have never been a hardcore Black Friday shopper, and I’ve been in stores that day more as a reporter than for personal retail use. It’s crowded, and people seem justified in shoving, and most deals don’t seem worth not showing up Saturday, or online.

Thanksgiving used to be the holiday I hosted at my home in York, Pa., and now it’s the day that I watch the Macy’s parade and then the dog show on NBC over the phone with my sister and go “Ooh, I want that dog,” before we go eat some pie. My husband and I went to Wal-Mart last Thanksgiving for about 15 minutes because I needed some stuff I forgot for the macaroni and cheese I was making, and because there was a game for his nephews’ Hanukkah present that was on sale that day.

We didn’t linger, but we walked by a bunch of items in crates that were covered in plastic in the aisles, that were on crazy sale but not available till the evening. And I got sad, because even though this store is open 24/7 anyway, I knew that right then there were workers at home making a dinner they couldn’t eat with their families so that people could come back and save money on a Shiny-Whatever-That-Was.

I don’t want to sound like an obtuse person of privilege, however, who doesn’t recognize that everyone doesn’t have the option not to work holidays, and that stores like Target are paying their employees time and a half to work Thanksgiving, and that this could be a great opportunity for employees to make extra money. I appreciate that, and I don’t begrudge those workers for wanting it. They deserve double time. I just wish it wasn’t necessary. I wish that stores didn’t have to feel the need to do this to have to compete. I wish that we could hold something sacred and, I dunno, just offer better deals on Friday.

So I am not saying that I am targeting Target (ha ha) or any of these other stores for boycott. I am not sure how to make my voice heard, other than to not go to them on Thanksgiving. I’ll make sure I do all my food shopping on Wednesday.


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