Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

These days have slipped away from me. Still sick, but Christmas happens anyway--and I wouldn't have it any other way. But I've been faithful about taking photos, and so will have lots to catch you up on in a couple days.

Sending you a thousand blessings--Laura

P.S.  Here's our Nina Garcia to wish you a Merry Christmas!



Monday, December 21, 2009

Days 92-94: In Which I Get a Smidge Sentimental and Wear Red (Again)

Day 92 was one of those lost days. Lost, as in never really got myself together, though I got a lot of things done. I started out by throwing on sweats and a hoodie and taking the boy to school, then wandering into Panera to work for a few hours.

Early on I thought I needed absolute aloneness to write. I lived on the farm in WV, with just a baby and a husband to demand my attention. We weren't geographically remote from town, but it was a psychic universe away from St Louis, the daily hustle of the Mega Beer Company and designer heels.

My office was the front upstairs bedroom that ran the width of our 1904 farmhouse. Every sound I made--scraping the chair across the wood floor, dropping a pencil, laughing aloud--echoed off of the bare, horsehair plaster walls and enormous windows. I had a comforting sense of all the people who had lived in that room before me. My daughter's room wasn't far away and I could hear her easily. A baby isn't really all that intrusive, unless she's crying or feeling particularly lonesome herself. I loved to write in that room, with its day bed and single rug from my mother-in-law's attic, the 1930s chiffarobe and lady's shallow dressing table/desk. I spent hours at a time in there, not even listening to music, but writing and writing.

One of the wonderful advantages/curses of being self-employed is the whole working-alone-in-jammies privilege. I wore a lot of sweatpants back then. I thought they were an expected part of the new baby package, plus it was just darned nice not to have to get terribly dressed every day. No one who ever came by actually cared about what I was wearing. They just wanted to hang out with the princess. Kind of a three strikes in the fashion department situation. I look back on it and think I just kind of gave up. Or  maybe I was simply too overwhelmed with the newness of it all--a new baby and a new life-- to worry about clothes. Funny how one's dignity (and modesty) can take a long term hiatus once one has lain split open and for all purposes naked on a gurney in a room filled with strangers.

Do I sound sentimental? It's probably the Christmas season, or the fact that I have some fairly intense flu symptoms after getting my H1N1 shot on Friday. Bleh.

But I think it was the chaos at Panera that made me reflective about writing in a quiet space. There I was in my mismatched hoodie and sweatpants, my hair thoroughly unpresentable, ready to get to work. And I did work for several hours, despite the fact that everyone in town was there buying coffee and muffins at once. God bless my iPod. I almost feel alone when I have those earbuds in--it's my own private space. As for the clothes--It's not like I didn't occasionally get all schlubby in my pre-Walmart days. The sweats were just more expensive. It seemed everyone in town was buying coffee and muffins at once. The writing went very well until I got distracted by the lunch crowd. I fret if I'm taking up too much space, if some trio can't get a table because I couldn't find a two-top near a plug, if someone even glances at my open computer. (Oops, is my anxiety disorder showing?!) Finally, after I'd moved once so another person could have a plug, I gave up. It was just too much. The muse had fled about twenty minutes before I did.

I still like writing in the quiet. The house is almost always quiet when the boy is at school and the animals are lying about the floor. But when I'm home, I get distracted by the laundry/phone/blog/twitter/UPS/popcorn. It's a wonder I get any writing done at all!

So, no picture for Day 92. I never really did get photo-ready dressed, and was appalled to realize around 9 p.m. that I hadn't even washed my face. (Teeth, yes. Face, no.) Thank goodness my honey loves me even if I'm not photo-ready.

Day 93 Ensemble:


Ta-da! It was another red day. Now, I saw this sweater in gray on a woman on one of my airplanes last weekend and she was wearing it up around her neck with a white collar just peeking out (and askew, I might add). Don't know what was up with that. I definitely don't like how thin the sweater is and the way my, uh, breasts, are highlighted. Maybe it's not so evident in real life, but it's pretty darn obvious here. (Remember to NEVER wear a white bra beneath a black knit. If you have your picture taken, you'll see why. Nude doesn't really work either. Stick with a black bra.)

Nine West jeans (Sam's): $15.55 (I just re-checked the receipt); Faded Glory sweater: $10; To the Max blouse: $3 (clearance); earrings: $7; necklace $8; F'Uggs: $30

Total: about $74

Day 94:




Many thanks to my friend and fellow room mother, Eleanor Gillespie for taking this pic at the kids' Christmas party.

I was looking a little pale. Had to stint on the makeup so I would be there to have hot chocolate ready for the little darlings when they got back from caroling.

George sweater: $10; Calvin Klein cords: $17 (Sam's); Earth Spirit shoes: $30: Norma Kamali jacket: $20 (love this jacket--so glad it was 50 degrees outside); necklace: $8; earrings: $7; No Boundaries belt: $7; scarf: $5 (I would die without these scarves!)

Total: $104

Thanks for all the feedback on the plans for the blog--It helped a lot. Please do always let me know your thoughts about what you'd like to see/hear about.

Hope your day is full of blessings. Off to the Sam's satellite in mere minutes...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 91: Can A Girl Wear Red and Be Bored at the Same Time?

[[[[yawn]]]]

I think I'm bored. Are you bored?

While I've told my share of fibs over the years, I am, generally speaking, appallingly honest. It's cost me friendships, messed with past jobs, and probably not been so helpful for my writing career. I tend to act impulsively and share too much--something I get from my mom (the sharing part). (See--even this is going to get me into trouble. It's okay, though. We always tease her about it. She loves personal stories--ours and others. Hm. Wonder how that affected me?) But it's not a particularly professional way for a fiction writer to behave.

Careers, images. They're careful constructs. (Let's all say "Tiger Woods" together, shall we?) Most artists (I use the term very loosely) keep their innermost selves intensely guarded--and for good reason. We're quivering mollusks inside our shells and so the peeks at our innards need to be brief and structured. Emotional overexposure--and this counts for all people, not just artists--can be a dangerous, costly thing. I don't think this will surprise anyone. The difference between artists is the degree to which they protect themselves. Tiger Woods = Astronomical Self-Protection (okay, cut the snickering!),  Me = Not So Much.

So it's with some trepidation that I tell you how I'm feeling about my Walmart adventure. Feeling is a good thing, I think. Feeling is critical, I hear, to being an actual human.

I'm feeling conflicted and weary at the same time. I wonder if it's not that I'm bored, but that I've adapted. The human capacity for adaptability is stunning, and is one of our greatest gifts.

I didn't really expect this project to be about personal transformation. Seriously--who would ever start such an apparently ridiculous project in order to experience transformation. As I've mentioned before, I'm coming to see that clothes do not "make the man," so to speak. They might make the far-off view of the man a little more pleasant or interesting or off-putting or whatever. But there's a heck of a lot more at play when it comes to how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us.

Just a few characteristics to consider: gender, body image, physiology, attitude, race, social status, intelligence, faith (or lack thereof), childhood, education, attitudes....So many variables knit together to make up the various view of who we are.
 
Forgive the abrupt tone change, but if I start exploring all these now, I'll be here for months. So. Many things to think about. I'm not bored anymore.

Are there things you'd like me to address here? Questions you want to ask? Sharing is one of my specialties, you know!

Tuesday's ensemble:





Ah, yes. One of my four RL cotton sweaters. They're so handy, so comfy. Inevitably, when I where one, someone says, "Ralph Lauren at Walmart? I don't think so." And then I have to explain the whole Sam's connection. Frankly, I don't know that I could have done this project for three months trying to get by on Walmart purchases exclusively. I would have had to resort to costuming. No, really. There's too much cognitive dissonance between the person I am inside and what I wear on the outside if I have to wear clothes that 1) I dislike instensely and 2) Violate every style rule I've learned in forty-something years. The whole style-rule thing is critical here. I suppose I could have limited myself to the mothership from the beginning--but I would have known the answer to my primary question (see blog title above) before I even started.


Sam's Club is....Um, I'm not going to write about Sam's today. I have much to say and am even going there this afternoon for some non-clothing supplies. Soon. Maybe tomorrow.


Ralph Lauren sweater: $21; Nine West jeans: $18; Earrings: $7; Earth Spirit shoes: $30
Total: $76


Have a blessed rest of the day. And if you're not Google-following me, I hope you will. I love to know who's along for the ride!

Day 90: On the Road

Monday was an airplane day. There was absolutely no time at all to wander by the fabulous Chicopee, MA Walmart. I really, really wanted to drop by, but it wasn't meant to be. My box of Norma Kamali goodies should arrive tomorrow, testing the mettle of my favorite UPS man. I'm sure he's up to the job.

God bless my GPS. Tired as I was from the weekend's festivities, I'm glad I didn't freak out when the GPS guided me the back way through the Berkshires to Hartford. Such peaceful, rolling scenery. I felt lucky to see the villages and historic homes decorated for Christmas, Norman Rockwell-style. Saw lots of geese flying south, and many, many people driving around with Christmas trees tied to the tops of their Subarus and Land Rovers.

I've been a bit of a slacker with the photos. I'd hoped to snap one as soon as I got dressed, but I had to take my DH back to campus before I left town. I simply can't imagine why she wanted to stay in the hotel rather than her dorm....

So I did manage to gather my clothes together, at least, on Monday night.

The ensemble:



The sweater and the pants are the two new Norma pieces that I couldn't wait to wear. The sweater is a fine gauge cotton, so it's not exactly warm--but it is long. The pants are a knit, styled like jeans. Love the cut, love the flare, love the way they fit. It would've been nice, though, if they'd put actual pockets in the front rather than stitching that looks like pockets. Odd. The necklaces are new, too. I think they're fine--they contrast nicely as a pair, and the tunic-length sweater screams for a long necklace. Love the all-black silhouette and the way the sweater falls to mid-calf. I felt very tall.

Norma Kamali sweater: $15; NK athletic jeans (something like that): $15; White Stag necklaces: $7 each; George blouse: $12; Earth Spirit shoes: $30  Total: $79

Oh, and I did wear the brown/gold scarf for much of the day. Very cozy on the plane. You've probably seen enough of those scarves. I have five or six or seven of them. (Clair, they are all Walmart--Eye accessories are my only exception)

Tomorrow (today?) I'm off to Sam's to see what's what. Not hopeful. Am expecting more piles of the same old stuff. I guess I'll have to wait for spring to see some new things on the tables. *sigh*

Have a fabulous day!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Days 88 and 89: While I Was Off to Massachusetts

Let me say right off that I take my sworn mission to embarrass my children as much as possible very seriously. It's a sacred duty. And yet I feel I was not the success I might have been this past weekend while I was visiting my daughter at college.

How fun it would have been to declare--or at least quietly mention--my humble Walmart/Sam's Club clothing project to my darling's college crew. But she suggested, nay, begged me not to reveal a single detail of the origins of my clothes. Many denizens of college campuses are Walmart haters, and I really don't want to make her life hard. I got the impression that she believed she would have been ridden down the hill on a long, nail-studded rail if her friends ever found out what I was up to. So, no matter how silly I thought she was being about it, I kept my mouth shut.

There were a couple of awkward moments--the most memorable was our trip to the fabulous Prime Outlet mall that's about a half hour from school. I had to traipse through Eddie Bauer, Nine West, Cole-Haan, Michael Kors, and J.Crew stores, pretending all the while that I was breathing poisonous air and had to get out quickly just so I wouldn't hyperventilate with clothing-envy. I was a little tense because one of my DD's friends was with us. It helped that I could concentrate on looking for clothes, etc for my DD and so didn't even think to buy anything for myself. But there were many, many things that tempted me.

The good news is that the campus was full of teenagers and my head could've been on fire all day and not one of them would have noticed because it wouldn't directly affect them.


So, Saturday's ensemble:



The embarrassing thing about this ensemble was that the sweater was so long that it hung far below my black leather Calvin Klein jacket.  That really bugged DD. Me, not so much.

Ensemble: White Stag necklace: $5; Norma Kamali Sweater: $20; George turtleneck: $10; Norma Kamali cords: $15; Faded Glory Boots: $23; Scarf: $5  Total: $78

Sunday night:






Love this necklace! Found it in St Louis. $8; Nine West Jeans: $17: Earrings: $7 Scarf: $5; 525 Sweater Co (Sam's Club) $17.95; Earth Spirit Shoes: $30     Total: $84.95

The Cords are super-comfy and I do like the mix of the fuschia with unexpected colors like beige and copper. We won't talk about how DD wore the black tank that I was supposed to wear beneath that sweater.

Further adventures to follow tomorrow!

The Three-Month Celebration Gifties Announcement!




Thank you, my dears, for all the wonderful, encouraging comments.  I wish I could give every one of you a prize!

Here are the randomly selected winners of my sort-of contest:

$25 Walmart Gift Card--Carmar (Carrie)

Two copies of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover--Liana Brooks

Big, Yummy Stack of Holiday Books--Julie DD

If you're a winner, please drop me an email at laura@laurabenedict.com with your snail mail addy so I can ship your giftie to you!

(Now I have to start making secret plans for the six-month mark!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 87: In Which I Totally Hit the Motherload

Friday was a long day. It began at 4:20 a.m.--two hours earlier than my usual weekday morning--and didn't end until about twenty hours later. I won't bore you with all the gruesome travel details, except to tell you that the sprawling Atlanta airport gets more pleasant every time I connect through it (though I don't understand why they number their gates from the END of the terminal instead of from the center, like most other airports--I realized this almost too late as I started to stroll my way to gate A3 with my Au Bon Pain sandwich, only to discover I had to run a half-marathon to get there before the plane boarded), and that I wish people whose feet smell like rotten cheese would keep their shoes on in the airplane.

When I arrived in Hartford, Connecticut, I rented a car to drive the hour or so to my DD's school. But you know I didn't go straight to campus. I had to stop at the mothership, first.

Note that I didn't say "nearest" mothership. See, I've become quite the WM connoisseur. I was in search of Norma Kamali and Max Azria pieces, and it required homework.

There's no easy way to find out which WMs carry the lines. First, I have to google map the motherships in the area in which I'm traveling. Then, I have to figure out which of those stores carried the brands. The easiest way to do it is to look up NK clothes on Walmart.com, put in a specific size, and a zip code. Usually the search offers up a "Limited Stock" message. This message is troubling. It usually means that someone (like me) has returned a piece of clothing to the mothership that was bought online and now it sits, lonely, on some random rack. They often have no other NK or Max Azria clothes at all. I admire the whole "find it in the store" button on the website, but it's very misleading.

There were four possible WMs on my route, but the one in Chicopee, MA seemed most promising.

Now I know where all the Norma Kamali clothes in the WM world live!

I was a madwoman. I was obsessed. I spent a very intense forty-five minutes flinging the clothes in my cart and then trying them on in the fitting room. And I did it while I was en route to visit my sweet daughter at school. After I'd gotten up at 4:20 that morning to drive to St. Louis to catch a plane. Madness!

But look what I'm shipping home:



Yes, it's a whole Queen bed full of Norma Kamali yummy goodness! There is not one thing I bought that I had already seen in St. Louis, where I usually get my NK goodies.

So, do you think it was so well-stocked because Norma herself lives in the Berkshires? Hm. I kinda doubt it, too.

Someone who knows me well needs to tell me that there's no way I have time to stop back by the Chicopee Walmart on the way to the airport on Monday. Because I don't, but I'm obsessed, and I'd like to try.

I did make one small change in my travel clothes as a result of my find--I'm switching out the jeans and sweater I'd planned to wear home on the plane for a new sweater and comfier pants.

No picture from Friday. By the time I remembered it, it was midnight. I was not feeling at all Witty, Pretty, and Bright.

Be sure to comment on your favorite/least favorite ensemble from the last three (!) months to win the books or the giftcard I announced on the blog earlier this week! Do it before noon on Monday, okay?

Hope you're having a terrific weekend full of new discoveries!



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Days 85 and 86: The Traveling Two-fer

Black, white, gray. Seems to be a continuing theme.

When did black become the ultimate travel color? Seems to me I don't recall many black traveling suits or cruisewear in films of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. Black is, of course, stupidly practical. And everyone is now convinced that it's slimming. Though well thought-out, attractively tailored ensembles of any color will do that. And please, please, please, make sure any black separates you're wearing are at least somewhat matched to one another....Not as easy as one might think.

I blame the eighties and its ridiculous Power Suits for women. Yes, back in the day, women used to imagine that if they dressed like men, it would make everyone feel better about their coming in and sitting behind big desks. There is something to be said for costuming oneself, of course, which leads us to artists and the arts. Artists of all sorts--from writers to photographers to painters--effect black as a symbol of non-conformity. How ironic that almost everyone is pretending to be non-conformist these days. But, wait. Doesn't that make them the conformists?*



The sad thing about the color black is that I can't get it to look decent in a standard snapshot.

Anyway, without further ado.....


Tuesday's ensemble:

I thought I'd wear the NK Snow Trees shirt since so may folks said they liked it. It is VERY comfy. You can tell it was a stay-at- home day.

Faded Glory sweater: $20; That Damn Necklace $7; Earrings: $7; Norma Kamali tee: $12; Faded Glory Jeans: $15    Total: $71


Wednesday's ensemble:



To the Max Shirt: $3 (clearance); Jones NY pants: $18; Miley Cyrus/Max Azria Vest $14; White Stag necklace: $7--already broken : (  ; Faded Glory riding boots: $23; Earrings: $3  Total: $68

Hope your travels are happy today. See you Saturday. Remember to pick out your favorite/least favorite ensemble and comment to win books, books, and a WM gift card this week!

*Melanie Griffith image from  image.toutlecine.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 84: Is There Another Word for Eeeeeeeeeee?

I'm trying not to hyperventilate.

Friday morning I have to catch a plane to go and visit my daughter at her fancy-pants Up East college for the weekend. DD does not particularly approve of my WM project. Most teens are hyper-sensitive when it comes to others' opinions of them--and, worse, of their parents. Any Author Girl event seems like cake compared to this upcoming weekend.

If it were summer or even early fall, I could fudge a bit: I have a couple of cute transitional skirts and there's always my Norma Kamali jersey and black French terry stuff. And it would all fit in my spiffy, hard-sided, pink carry-on.





But DD just informed me that they were blessed with many inches of snow. Where are my luscious, knee-high, classic, black leather snow boots bought in a sweet Michigan boutique? Why, they're in my mudroom, of course, where they must stay. And my Dale of Norway sweaters? On my closet shelf. And my cosy shearling coat? *sob* I don't deserve any pity, I know. I've brought this all on myself.

Sure, I could bundle up in blue jeans, a Green Tea hoodie, and my new shoveling-the-driveway WM snow boots and hop on the plane. There's no shame in it. But this is a challenge, damn it! The question is: Is this a challenge I'm willing to freeze my butt off for? The good news is that I'll be in the car or on an airplane for most of two days. The bad news is that I'll be stomping around campus for the other two days. (Actually, that's kind of good news, too, because I'll be there with my baby girl!)

Am I over-thinking this? I'm seeing lots and lots of black clothing in my future. Layer upon layer of it. Upon layer.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday's ensemble:

I'm a little bummed that this is today's pic. Kind of depressing. I'm not fond of this sweater. It's acrylic-y, and makes me feel like a linebacker with a Twinkie addiction. I like the necklace, though.



Faded Glory sweater: $12; To the Max jeans: $16; White Stag necklace: $7; F'Uggs (Sam's): $30; Earrings: $7  Total: $72

So, did you weigh in on your favorite/least favorite ensemble for the fabu prizes I announced yesterday?


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 83: The Almost-Three-Month Celebration Giveaway, and Me in Black. Again.

On Monday, the fourteenth of December, the Wardrobe by Sam blog will be three months old. Which means I've been wearing only Walmart and Sam's Club clothes for, yes, three months.

I think this is a reason to celebrate. I'm having fun doing this, and learning a lot of new things--not the least of which is that nearly all the employees of Walmart I've met are lovely, hardworking folks who are good at their jobs.

More significantly, I've been overwhelmed by the support you all have given me. That you would take the time to be a part of this--to share your own stories and laugh and commiserate with me--just blows me away. THANK YOU!

This is a contest that's not really a contest. All you need to do is to tell me which of my ensembles is your favorite or least favorite, and why. That's it! And you can provide your answer/entry on the original post or any post between now and Sunday.

Prizes:

I'm a writer, so you get books! Mostly.

First drawing will be for a big stack of fun holiday and event-themed books, including John Grisham's "Skipping Christmas." For the faint of heart who might worry that I would only give away horror novels, don't fret--they're all on the cozy side, perfectly appropriate for hot-chocolate, by-the-fire reading.



The second drawing is for two copies of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover (one for you and one for a friend). This might seem a random kind of prize, but we love Dave Ramsey at the Benedict house. He'll get you out of debt and on to saving money in a way that will change your life. And one thing this project has taught me is that one can buy a LOT of clothes for very little money and not put a single sock on a Visa card.



Third drawing--and you knew this was coming. A $25 Walmart gift card!


So take five minutes and ponder the extravaganza of ensembles--then comment. It's easy! Please do make sure there's some way I can contact you if you win....

And on to Sunday's ensemble:





I know. Two scarves in two days. I have six or seven scarves, all in surprising, pleasant colors. And they cover a multitude of sins. Plus, they dress up all-black, boring ensembles like nothing else.

Scarf: $5; Earrings:$12; White Stag sweater: $10; George turtleneck: $10; Calvin Klein cords: $17; No Boundaries belt: $8; Boots: $23    Total: $85

Now, go, my dears. Comment!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 82: In Which I Look Like My Mom, and Have Hair Issues

When I venture out into the world disguised as an author girl, the question I'm most frequently asked is**: "You look like such a nice person. How can you write such, uh, disturbing things in your novels?" It's true that my stories are often horrific, and I often wonder what readers imagine I might look like before they meet me.



Maybe I should look more like Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein: spooky and plain, yet mysterious. While it's true that I do wear a lot of black these days, I'm styling myself much more like the proverbial soccer mom or my own mom than a writer of scary stuff. I confess that this is not necessarily by choice.

Here's my Saturday ensemble:




I have issues with my hair, here. It's so...coiffed. There was a brief period in 1987 when I was really concerned about having tidy hair, but I got over it. But I'm in that awkward, maybe-growing-my-hair-out stage, and so am frustrated. I have to make a decision soon about whether to stick with short or go a few inches longer.

What face shape do you have? Because my face is broad and squarish, I have to have a little something going on above my forehead to keep my unusually large head from looking ponderous. A bit of fluff or interest on top keeps things perky, and helps to de-emphasize my strong jawline.

There's a clever trick to find out what your face shape is: stand in front of your bathroom mirror and trace the outline of your face with lipstick (have I told you this before?). I think the choices are oval, inverted triangle, square, heart-shaped. Then research accordingly. Oh, and when you've found the right style and color for you, remember that you can match your purse/computer bag/luggage to your hair color--then you'll always be coordinated to something you're wearing.

Back to the ensemble:

I think it's because this jacket looks quilted that I feel like my mom in it. That's not necessarily a bad thing--I do have the cutest parents in the world and my mom has great taste. But I'm always startled when my daughter says: "Grandma would buy/wear that," when I pick something up to show her.

Fortunately, the jacket was nice and warm when we went to the Christmas parade in town. Though the gloves were on the thin side.

Calvin Klein coat: $49 (Sam's Club); Gloves: $2; Nine West jeans: $17 (Sam's); Izod sweater: $17 (Sam's); Josephine Chaus turtleneck: $8; Faded Glory faux F'Uggs: $23 (must shoot pic for you); Scarf: $5; Earrings: $7      Total: $128

Tomorrow: I'm going to announce my first Wardrobe by Sam giveaway. I'm excited!



**Actually, if I'm signing in a bookstore, the primary question is "Where's the bathroom?"

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Days 80 and 81: A Maybe and a Whole Bunch of Don't Think So's

I was talking with a friend tonight about my process of returning things to Walmart. It's a numbers game. When one buys as many clothes and accessories there as I do, one is bound to have a lot of returns.

I have a system. I keep all of my Walmart receipts in one plastic envelope, categorized by date. When I need to return something, I have a pretty good idea of where the receipt is in the pile. So I take out the receipt, match it to the item, and put them both together in a handy plastic Walmart bag. I think the most I've ever shown up at the desk with is seven bags. I've gotten pretty good at sliding by the greeter and going straight to customer service without getting waylaid. My stuff often ends up being way more complicated than the poor greeter can handle. It's better for everyone this way.

My friend said, "Oh, you're that person," she said.

It's true. I'm that person. The one you want to yell at when you just have a single out-of-date box of Luna Bars to return, and your sweetheart's waiting in the car feeling not so sweet.

Forgive me. Please. Sometimes I shop too quickly, sometimes I'm overly optimistic. Either way, I'm at the return desk weekly. I'll try to confine myself to Tuesday mornings at 8:45.....

Here are some losers that I don't wear--mostly because they're too dull or frumpy:




George skirt: $5 (clearance $12) Too office-ish. A smidge too long to be stylish.
White Stag: $7 (clearance $10) Not as shiny as it looks here. Feels like a polyester maternity shirt to me.



George black sheath: $16  One of my very first purchases. Not too bad on--a little shapeless for my taste. Still, would look good beneath a jacket or with pearls or with a pale blue or ivory cashmere sweater.



White Stag: $7  Eggplant. Shapeless. 'Nuf said. Maaaaaaaybe next summer with a cotton skirt.




Norma Kamali dress: $20  Cranberry. Looks dreadful on the hanger, but it's a wonderful dress. It's the same dress as this one: (Me, on the right)




I've been trying to decide what to do with the clothes I can't return (for whatever reason).  Women's Shelter, maybe? They're all pretty classic and brand new--just the thing for job interviews.


I had somewhat better luck on Friday:

Jewel tones!




Don't ask me what that bizarre reflection on my sweater is....

George blouse: $12; White Stage Sweater: $10; Necklace: $7; Earrings: $7; No Boundaries Belt: $7; Norma Kamali cords: $15; Shoes: $30   Total: $88

Love the odd color combination, but I don't like the acrylic (of course!)

More later!



Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 79: Live From the Walmart Ladies' Room

Wednesday was one of those days when I really had to get moving first thing in the morning. I had laid out my workout clothes before I went to bed and went straight to the exercise bike after I made the boy's lunch and breakfast. The church Christmas party I was working on was to happen at six in the evening, and I had hopes of getting some writing done in between party tasks. But the writing never happened.

After a quick brekky on campus with my DH, I was off to the mothership in my workout clothes. I had a list with five things to buy on it. I was there ninety minutes. My DH and I discussed this. From now on, if he doesn't hear from me after I've been in Walmart for an hour, he is going to call me. It's not that I worry that I'm being mind-controlled by the music, or anything like that--even though I do sometimes come to full consciousness while standing in, say, the toothpaste aisle, and find myself holding some pseudo-magical dentifrice I wouldn't even think to buy if I were in my right mind. I'm just ADHD/ distractable and can't take my Adderall because it messes up my writing. (Sorry, I cover that sort of thing on my other blog.)

I've been wondering what I could use for a hat on those days when I don't have time to shower and do my hair. So I recently bought a couple of berets because I couldn't bring myself to buy a NASCAR or SIU ball cap at the mothership.

Here's how I looked for my shopping trip (no makeup--don't look too closely, please...my photo-editing software is limited):





Clever how I bought a brown beret to go with my casual Sam's club fleece, huh?

If you see me in this outfit on People of Walmart.com, please don't tell me. Be kind. (Finish reading the blog, then go spend a hilarious hour on the P of W.com site. Laughter is sooooo good for you!)

Ensemble:

Beret: $5; Fleece jacket: $30 (I think.) (Sam's Club); L.E.I. pajama shorts: $12; Laura Ashley ls tee: $8 (Sam's); Danskin shoes: $20: Earrings: $7 (I'm not a total slob!)

Things improved later in the day. I needed to wear something I could finish decorating in, and that would be comfy for serving food and herding youngsters. But it had to be festive. I know what you're thinking..."She's going to wear one of those tacky Christmas sweatshirts with snowmen or blinking reindeer noses to the party!"

Something like this?


Nope. I have, in my life, owned Christmas sweaters. Some of them quite expensive and awfully cute. But I won't be wearing any this year, I think.



This is an outfit I wore at Bouchercon. Very comfortable, and even better now that I've accessorized it with Miss Nina.

Ensemble:

Norma Kamali pants: $15; George cami: $7; sweater: $17 (Sam's); Red rubber boots: $25 (took $12 George loafer pumps to change into); Pearls: $18; Earrings: $5   Total: $87

Must go iron things so that later I won't have to leave the house in pajama shorts and a beret!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 78: Let's All Sing, "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night..."

If I were a brave woman, I'd show you a picture of my poor laundry room. I used to pride myself on my one-load-a-day habit. But I'm afraid my pride has been swallowed by two baskets of dirty laundry and one full of clothes I can't wear until next September. Then there's all the stuff that needs to be ironed hanging on the rack. Help! Now, when I pass the laundry room, I make sure I'm looking straight ahead--If I don't see it, maybe it isn't really there....

I spent Tuesday in unphotographable workout clothes. Okay. So the clothes were photographable--I, however, was not. But then I had to go to help decorate the church for last night's Christmas extravaganza (Awesome, fun party, btw--you know it's a success when a totally adorable, pink-cheeked moppet with black ringlets spends caroling time running in circles around the room, then throws up because she's so pumped!)

What to wear?! It was about 45 degrees outside and I needed something comfy. All but a single pair of jeans were in the laundry. No warm sweaters to speak of. I'd bought a long-sleeve version of the Norma Kamali long, black terry jacket (not quite a dress) last weekend in St. Louis, and I thought it would be comfy enough with something under it. But the jacket was not cute with flared jeans. Black terry and denim? Not quite. So I pulled out some black leggings.

I could've gotten away with the jacket and leggings if the jacket were maybe three or four inches longer. Or if I were on Real Trashy Housewives of Southern Illinois. Or if I were fourteen.

Panic set in. What to do?! Well, I grabbed black terry shorts. Yes. I did. It was a risky move, I know, layering those shorts over the tights. But I did it. And then I put on my F'Uggs and went to church!

I was running late, so I had to take the photo when I got home. Thus the sunglasses....



Black boots would have been a better choice. But given that I was wearing shorts, I figured "what the hell--might as well be comfy."

Ensemble:

Norma Kamali Jacket: $11 (clearance from $18); Norma Kamali leggings: $10; Norma Kamali shorts: $10; Norma Kamali Tee: $10; F'Uggs (Sam's Club): $30; That Damn Necklace: $7; Earrings: $7
Total: $85

I spent Wednesday running around in a beret. Hope the phone photo I took in the Walmart bathroom comes out okay.

**An Author Girl aside: If you want to give a signed copy of one of my books (or one of Pinckney's), send it to me and it will get signed--then I'll send it back to you (or to whomever it's for) and even pay media mail return postage. (With two you get gift wrap!) Details at my Notes From the Handbasket blog.

Have a blessed day!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 77: The Off-White of Things, and an Early Christmas Present

Off-white is definitely in my Summer color palette. I've always loved warm shades of white: ivory, pearls, orchids, white roses, raw silk. For a while I wanted to look like Linda Evans so often did on Dynasty--vulnerable, soft, and ahem innocent.





In the past weeks, my color choices have been very, very limited. These days I can wear a somewhat broader palette than I could even five or ten years ago, throwing in some red or vibrant blues. But I have to use strong colors carefully. If they're not well presented or done in the right fabric (how many times have you seen unfortunate turquoise satin, or a poorly dyed black sweater?), they look cheap.

Did you ever have one of those days when you just wanted to feel really good in your clothes? All of last week's holiday preparations left me feeling weary and a little flour-spattered. And when I'm working a lot, it's a chore to plan my outfits.

On Monday, I had no particular place to go except for the usual child-toting/grocery store errands. But I was very tired of all my black and gray clothes. So I brought out the whites. I wish the mothership would carry more attractive winter white pieces--it would be very encouraging over the coming looooong months.

This is what I came up with:





The bottom picture is with a bomber jacket and one of my favorite scarves. I'm not thrilled with the sweater-longer-than-the-coat thing. But I guess all the kids are doing it.

While I dislike acrylic clothes, the sweater is still nice and soft. I enjoyed wearing it. The longer necklaces I bought are helping, too. I felt pretty good at the end of the day.

Ensemble:

White Stag Ruffle cardigan: $15; George satin-trimmed tank: $7; Nine West Jeans: $15; Shoes: $15: Scarf: $5; Earrings: $35; Necklace: $7

I'm planning a pre-Christmas surprise present....stay tuned!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Day 76:Baby, It's Cold Outside

 Have I mentioned that I'm a tad obsessed with coats? I think I get it from my mom. My guess is that she currently has at least seven or eight coats.  Last week, when she said she'd found me a brown, medium Calvin Klein down jacket at Sam's Club to replace the black one I'd bought here (black was my second choice), I offered the black one to her. She said, "no thank you." And that she already had two black winter jackets. Or maybe it was three.

My mom has great taste in coats. When I was just out of college and had gone to work for A Big Corporation, she bought me a coat for Christmas. At the time, my style was random and occasionally collegiate, with mad dashes to the Land of Oddly Inappropriate. The coat she selected for me was brown tweed, with a long, slender, vaguely military silhouette. The collar stood up beneath my chin and the length was mid-calf.  To be more specific, I might call the color Tobacco. It would have looked fabulously Victorian with a tidy mink muff.

I liked the coat a lot. Mostly because it seemed sophisticated and grown-up to me. But here's how I knew it was a truly awesome coat: There was a guy in my office--let's call him Greg--wait, that's his real name. Let's call him Chad. So Chad sees me in the coat and says, "That's a beautiful coat. Someone must have bought it for you. There's no way you picked it out." I never could figure out why he disliked me so much or was always so rude to me. Then again, he was definitely a snob and was never particularly nice to anyone.

In a way, he was right. I didn't know all that much about dressing myself. Even at twenty-three, I was still big into experimenting with my look.

Here are two of my very favorite coats:



This is a lambskin leather stroller that my DH bought me seven or eight years ago from Frances Kahn, a yummy boutique in Roanoke, VA. You can see it's nicely softened with wear. I've sent it off to be cleaned and conditioned twice, and it has a small triangular tear near the placket. Any self-respecting fashionista would've handed it off long ago--but if people can treasure 1960s motorcycle jackets, why shouldn't I treasure my leather? It does have a detachable fur-trimmed hood. I've never been a big fur wearer, and I'm not sure what animal the fur came from. Still, I love wearing the coat--even if now it's just to pick up the kids or go to the grocery store. Strollers come down to about mid-thigh, a great length for me. And this coat has no waist issues.

Here's my other favorite, bought to replace the stroller for cold-weather, fashion wear:






 Now that I see this coat in a photo, I can see how reminiscent it is of the tweed coat my mom bought me all those years ago. Funny.

I've always wanted an extravagant shearling coat. For a long time, I thought I should have a western-looking one: light tan, with big, white, fuzzy lapels and cuffs. Something to wear with blue jeans and boots. While it would still be kind of fun to have one of those for play days, this coat is more my style. Wish I could give you a better picture of the color. You can look at the pretty pictures of the other ones at Mill Valley Sheepskin and Leather, where I bought this one.

I will wear this coat forever, I expect. Or forever and a winter, because it's not getting worn this winter--more's the pity.

My latest purchase:


And me in it (will stop shooting in the green hallway--not a good place for photos):




It's not very heavy, so I don't know how warm it will be. And the fauxfur sticks up in a funky way, reminding me of this guy:




It could be a few inches longer, but I do like the jacket's tailored shape, zippered pockets and the detachability of the hood. Plus, it was under $50.

Calvin Klein Down Jacket: $49.95 (Sam's Club)

 Do you have a favorite coat or jacket that you will never surrender to the Fashion Police? Hope you're staying cozy!







Sunday, November 29, 2009

Days 73 and 74: One Bad Photo, One Weird Photo, and Lots of Dishes

I promise I'm not fishing for compliments, here. But this has not been a great week for photographs and outfit assemblage. Maybe it's the holiday chaos. No matter how far in advance I plan menus, etc., I'm always rinsing out dusty wine glasses or changing toilet paper rolls in the guest bath as people come up our driveway.

Or, perhaps it's the cold. On Friday we had our first truly hard freeze. All four begonia pots hanging along our front porch eaves were coated with a sheen of frosty ice--as were the tall coneflowers I fussed over in the garden yesterday afternoon.

Or, maybe it's that I'm still craving carbs like a bunny bulking up for winter. Makes me feel puffy and sluggish. Carbs are meant to do that. Penal and educational institutions are always pumping inmates full of pasta and sugar to keep them calm.

Here's some good news, though. The sky is revealed through winter's naked trees. The moon came up amber Thanksgiving night, like it was full of honey. No matter who you are, someone out there loves you. And me. 

Our Thanksgiving was full of food and funny stories and hugs and smiles and only a little mutual aggression between Scout and Nina Garcia, the kitten. It was also full of wine. And in the food category, much pie--Chocolate Pecan (recipe is on my FB page) and Pumpkin. I'm changing my crust recipe back to the one King Arthur Flour put out over a decade ago, though. The one I got off of their website last year isn't short enough (too little shortening/fat), and was tough, rather than flaky. Christmas has its own significance, of course, but I love the simplicity at the heart of Thanksgiving.

Since I'm feeling all mellow at the moment, I should probably go ahead and post this grisly pic now. It's what I get for taking my daily pic ten hours after getting dressed, cooking most of the day, and doing three loads of dishes. (I had fabulous help for the cooking and washing parts, thank goodness!)



Goodness only knows where my makeup went, and you'd think I would've learned not to wear large blocks of color on my torso after Monday's fiasco. But at least my dishes are pretty. We used our Portmerion flower pattern everyday for fifteen years, until my dear WV hubby decided we should have Fiestaware, which is so beautifully colorful and, coincidentally, made in West Virginia.

I prefer the turtleneck minus four pounds of me and with the black v-neck over it (from early Nov.).




Ensemble:

George turtleneck: $10; Norma Kamali black career pants: $15; Earth Spirit shoes: $30; White Stag necklace: $7; Earrings: $7

Friday was crisp and cool after the freeze. Not being a Black Friday shopper, I was thrilled to be home all day with the pets. Could happily have stayed in exercise sweats, but I was determined to get one decent photo this week. Plus, I work better when I'm dressed, don't you?



Here, Hrothgar and I share an outdoor moment away from grumpy Scout and the kitten. And I liked this pic because it's kind of weird and shows how long and slim my nose is. (It's not like I'd change it to make it smaller--waaaaay too painful. Ew. And, ew--I would never do that.)




Ensemble:

George blouse: $12 (poly/cotton--icky); Faded Glory sweater: $10; To the Max jeans: $17; Shoes: $20; Earrings: $12; Necklace $8   Total: $79


Thank you so much for reading--I've loved hearing that you're enjoying the blog. I know it's time-consuming to check in, so your encouragement means all that much more to me.

See you Monday!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day 75: Six Pounds, Four Ralphs, and That's Enough On Both Counts

Why is this woman smiling?







I haven't the faintest freaking idea, because she's gained a solid six pounds since the days just preceding Halloween. I know. As my darling husband says every time I whine about my weight, "No one wants to hear the skinny girl complain that she's fat!"

Okay. I'll buy that. But I am exceedingly distressed that, with each passing day, I'm feeling ever more thankful for that hint of spandex in my $15 and $18 blue jeans. Also, muffin tops are hardly photogenic. I'm having a hard time posing so that you can't see that the non-genetic reason I have very little waist is that I can't keep my paws off the chocolate, chips, and Decaf Mocha, Extra Hot with Whip, Non-Fat Cappucinos (I get the whip to make up for the non-fat, of course). I'm getting old, I know, and I shouldn't still be obsessing about this weight thing. It's such a curse. When I'm a hundred and four and in the nursing home, I'll probably be the lady asking for the tummy-control support hose. How sad.

I've mentioned before (ad nauseum, I'm sorry) that this is a weather-related tendency I have. Cold weather makes me want to slather myself in chocolate and Lay's chips and hide in a cave. Could there be any better proof of our physical connection to our environment and the universe as a whole? I'm still no better than a raccoon. But now I'm thinking that this year's impressive record (it was only five pounds last fall) means we might be in for a rough winter. Take heed!

In other news....

I now own four--count 'em FOUR--Ralph Lauren zip, v-neck sweaters from Sam's Club. There have been times in my life I've bought duplicates of things I really like, but this is definitely a new record. The new black one is pictured above. Here are the others:






 

 


Today's ensemble:

RL Sweater: $23; Faded Glory Jeans: $15; L.E.I. Shoes: $20; Earrings: $8; Necklace: $12


That's quite enough for today, don't you think?

{This post was scheduled to go up Monday. Don't know why it posted already. Days 73 and 74 will be up on Sunday.}



Friday, November 27, 2009

Days 71 and 72: Tomato Sauce, Turkey, That Pesky L-Tryptophan, and A Recipe

Given the disaster that was Day 70's sweater, I can't believe I left it on my front page for more than 48 hours. I'm blaming food-induced coma, laced with panic. Three days' worth.

On Tuesday, I made our family's favorite Cincinnati chili recipe. It was one of those delightfully "clothes-optional" days, and so I felt free to be casual. The outdoor temperatures have been unseasonably warm of late, but I put on a new George turtleneck with my pumpkin hoodie, blue jeans and my F'Uggs. (Quote from DD: "Let me feel the inside of those. They feel just like real Uggs." Funny girl. She, of course, was wearing the $150 version at the time. Think I can save $120 replacing them with F'Uggs in the future? Right. I don't think so, either.) I had to do all of our Thanksgiving shopping as well, so I hied myself off to Walmart, the mothership, and battled other late shoppers for cans of evaporated milk, pumpkin, and broccoli heads. I was way overdressed for the weather, and regretted my cozy ensemble all the way there and back. When I got home, I divested myself of the hoodie and started tossing chili ingredients into the dutch oven.

And that's why I'm posing here in my Sam's raincoat. I splashed tomato sauce all over my new turtleneck.





I like that I look thoughtful here, and smarter than I probably am. A stylish trench hides many sins, don't you think?

Ensemble:

White Stag turtleneck (100% cotton): $6; Faded Glory jeans: $15; London Fog trenchcoat: $29 (Sam's Club); Earrings: $7  Total: $57

Wednesday was a major food prep day, plus my folks arrived. Lots of cleaning as well as cooking. Let's not discuss the random sweats and socks I wore for most of the day. Not pretty. I did manage to get dressed for the parental arrival and our visit to our favorite bar-b-que restaurant.



I'm liking the new, longer necklaces I bought recently. They add a little spark to otherwise plain outfits. This one is silver with silver leaves spaced over its length. My mom commented that she liked the blue jeans very much. I just wish I could find another simple black v-neck to replace this cotton one. The black is fading with every wash and the knit is too light for winter.

Ensemble:

George blouse: $3 (clearance); George cotton sweater: $3 (clearance); Nine West jeans: $18; George loafer pumps: $12; White Stag necklace: $7; Earrings: $7  Total: $50

Can't wait to model my new Calvin Klein down coat that I my mom brought from another Sam's Club--they were out of dark brown/medium coats around here. She's a brilliant shopper!

Here's the recipe for the chili we all love (feel free to pour your tomato sauce more carefully than I did). Crimespree Magazine also published it last year (Issue #29).

Cincinnati Chili

1 to 1.5 pounds ground beef, browned

Add:
1 can tomato sauce
5 cans light red kidney beans
1 tea. Oregano
1 tea. garlic powder
5-6 Tbls chili powder
1/4 tea. cinnamon
1/4 tea. cumin
1/4 tea. allspice

Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer for about 90 minutes (stirring frequently) or until it reaches desired thickness. Serve over cooked spaghetti, and top with chopped red onion and plenty of shredded cheddar or colby cheese.

If you make it, let me know how it comes out for you.

Food coma, day 3, tomorrow. Have a blessed weekend!



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Day 70: Just When I Was Looking for Something To Make Me Drop That Doughnut!

I came into this project with both eyes open. Well, okay. Maybe my eyes weren't quite open all the way, but I did get a pretty good view of the bottom of the cliff I was about to jump off of.

Occasionally, I think, Why am I taking all these pictures? I don't particularly like to have my picture taken. I promise I'm not clinically narcissistic. But it seemed to me that either I was going to have to spend the whole year photographing clothes on my office closet door or buy a mannequin to dress every day. I think it's only fair for me to shoot myself (no pun intended) in my WM/Sam's Club clothes so you can see what they look like on a real, live person.

Today, I'm kinda wishing I'd bought that mannequin.

I know I've sent you to MyShape.com and MissusSmartyPants.com to check out what body type you have, and learn how you can select clothes that flatter--no matter the cost. Did you go? I know a few readers let me know they made a real difference for them. It pays to be able to approach a rack of clothes knowing that you can ignore 50-60% of them right off the bat. It's a real time saver. (There are tons of other free places on the web to figure out your shape. Just google!)

But the deal is, one really should pay attention to the results. Seriously. If I'd been true to my shape and plan, I never would have bought this sweater:




The color's a tad questionable for me, too. But we won't go there now.

Here's what's wrong with the sweater with me in it:

--Never, ever put a sharp horizontal line across the widest part of your body
--Never, ever have a dramatic color shift at the widest part of your body
--Never, ever buy a sweater that looks like a giant cube of broccoli
--The color Broccoli is not the same as Olive
--Never layer a turtleneck beneath a sweater that was made to be worn with a dickey or a cami
--If you have broad shoulders, never, ever wear giant collars whose points point straight at your broad shoulders
--My lack of a waist means that I kind of look like a lollipop if I wear skinny pants. The shape of this sweater intensifies the illusion.

Guess I'll be taking the matching fuschia sweater back before I take the tags off!

Ensemble:

August Silk Cotton Sweater $17; Calvin Klein cords: $17; George turtleneck: $10; Earrings: $7; Earth Spirit shoes: $30    Total: $81

And the kitten's name:

Kind of tough. In the end we decided on Nina Garcia. It's going to be so much easier to rename Scout and Hrothgar to Michael Kors and Tim Gunn than it would be to name them Pinta and Santa Maria!

Have a fun, hassle-free Wednesday!



Day 69: We Brake for Kitties Around Here

I was all cozy in my office, set to write this post before bedtime. The family was hauling the recycling and trash cans down the driveway, and the dogs were happily assisting. Then there was some commotion, and I came into the living room to find my darling daughter cradling an equally darling kitty in her arms.

We have been kitty-less for a few years, now. But it seems we've been adopted. So there was much oooohing and aaahing all evening, and even a quick trip to the mothership by certain members of the family to pick up kitten food, litter, etc.

Here it is, ready for its star turn...It's young, and we're pretty sure it's a female:




Guess we're off to the vet today!

Sunday's Church Ensemble:



Norma Kamali sweater: $20; Norma Kamali cords: $15; No Boundaries belt: $7; To the Max blouse: $3 (clearance); Earrings: $12; Earth Spirit shoes: $30 (wish I could find some more cute, black leather shoes or mules w/ a heel.  Total: $87

I'm quite happy with this outfit--except for the fact that it looks like I'm sporting jelly rolls of fat down my front. That's the problem with vertical stripes when you're not shaped like a freaking pencil! But I do love the cords--wish they came in other colors. Adore the fine wale and the way they fit. Go, Norma! (I have forgiven you for the coat....)

Got your turkey shopping done, yet? Have fun!