Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Change is Messy

My poor family. This is our dining room table:

If you look carefully you will spot the (deservedly) much maligned broccoli sweater and a whole pile of scoop-neck Faded Glory acrylic sweaters. Also a Norma K cheetah skirt and top ensemble I bought because P thought it was cute and kind of sexy. There are purses and never-worn shoes, too, and an entire bag of things I bought in on my last St. Louis trip. Oh, and the most hideous swimsuit ever. But, hey, it was October and the only others on the rack were way frumpy skirted one-pieces or shiny bikinis.

Yesterday I received an email from WalMart asking about my "recent return experience." Uh, which one? I know many people have been banned from returning things to Target because they return things too frequently. I suspect that I'm near my limit at WalMart--and I have about $250 worth of tagged stuff to go back.

When I ended this project almost two weeks ago, I found myself in a bit of a daze. Honestly, I felt as though I'd just been let out of fashion jail. It took an act of will not to go automatically to the rack and shelves where I kept my WalMart clothes. The night I realized I could wear one of my favorite Flora Nikrooz gowns, I was so excited I almost cried. Then I wore the shearling coat I blogged about last time every day for a week. I didn't want to take it off! So there I was in fifty degree weather wearing a coat meant for thirty degrees. Does anyone else find that a little sad and kinda shallow? Sure, I learned a lot from the project, but I don't think it changed me all that much. I'm still a sucker for an awesome coat. Oh, well.

I had done a pretty good job of stowing all of my pre-WalMart clothes. One of the pictured laundry baskets is full of them. WalMart and pre-Walmart laundry is mixed together in the second one. I had stacked all my sweaters--two piles deep--on my top three sweater shelves, so all I had to do was pull one out to get dressed. Most outfits/dresses/skirts/jackets are still on their regular racks, ready to go.

But now I find myself in one of those awkward seasons--you know, like late September and October, when it's hot enough to wear shorts one week, then cold enough for jeans and a cotton sweater the next week. The fashion trade calls them transition periods and designs whole seasons of clothing around them. I used to make sure I had at least two pairs of khaki chinos and a khaki skirt for transitions. I got out of that habit about five years after chinos went out of style--or, at least, I stopped wearing them. In transition periods, I always have tons and tons of laundry about until around November, when I finally get around to putting the warm weather and transition stuff away.

Complicating my WalMart/pre-WalMart transition is the fact that I'm actually keeping about 1/3-1/2 of what I bought during the project.

Here's a list:
Everything from Sam's Club, with the exception of the broccoli sweater, a couple broom skirts and swim coverups that still have tags, and the toasty warm orange Green Tea hoodie that I might have kept if I'd followed the Dry Clean Only instructions.
LS cotton tees, Danskin workout wear, tennies, yoga and sweatpants that I bought for workouts/sleeping
Bras (because I hand wash them, they're in great shape and will last out the year)
Hanes cotton underwear and socks
2/3 of the jewelry
All camis (a cami is a cami)
All Sam's Nine West blue jeans and CK cords (though I'm not bowled over by the CK cords--they haven't washed so well) 
Leather shoes and sandals, and all Norma Kamali Shoes
Almost everything Norma Kamali except: the polka-dots I bought out East, the cheetah stuff and a few thin sweaters that are too big and not flattering. A strapless jersey dress I'm too fat to wear now. Two pairs of black career pants, matching vest and jacket (too flimsy). And this, because buffalo plaid is only flattering on seven year-olds and attractively-coiffed pencils.

The stuff I'm glad I bought and am delighted to keep:

This Norma K dress ($20). I felt great in it and love the red shoes.

Norma K. black cords--fine wale, wash very well.
Scarves! Love them all!
Australian F'Uggs. (Seriously--if they had the Uggs label on the back, I couldn't tell the difference. They've held up great.) (Sam's)
London Fog All Weather Leather handbag from (Sam's)
 Calvin Klein brown hooded down coat (Sam's)
Those plain camis. ($7 under a $150 sweater? You bet.)

Dr. Scholl's athletic mules. Fabulous for slipping on with workout socks for the exercise bike. Does anyone else hate to have to strap on tennies for that?
And, last but not least, That Damned Necklace.

In fact, I think That Damn Necklace should be celebrated. So I'm awarding a new That Damn Necklace in Brown/Bronze to reader Branda because she thoughtfully took note of it often. Lucky you, Branda. Wear it in good health--or not!

I'll let you all know how the mixing, sorting, returning and donating goes soon. Plus, I still have a couple of piles of yummy mysteries to give away.

Thanks for dropping in. I've missed you all!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts and a Post-Project Pic

Yesterday, the lovely and talented Patti suggested in a comment that I should post a pic of what I wore on my first post-project day.

Yes, that's a thick and yummy RL cashmere sweater beneath my favorite coat. And there's my black/brown Brahmin bag, and the toasty leather gloves I bought to match the coat. Oh, oh and a necklace that I love. Sorry you can't see my black, heeled boots, but really it's the coat that's most important. And did I mention the coat?!

As I disassemble and reassemble my wardrobe, I'll post from time to time about the stuff I'm keeping and the stuff I'm giving away, and why.


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Know When To Say When

I wonder if you'll find this surprising:

After much soul searching and thought, I've realized that--after five months and two days of the Wardrobe by Sam project--I'm done.

This was definitely not an easy decision to make. I don't like to give up on goals I've set for myself. If I did I wouldn't have published my first full-length novel almost twenty years after I began writing fiction. In the end, it's not so much that I've given up, but that I finished early.

When I started the project, I had every intention of doing it for the full year I'd planned. In fact, that intention was solid right up until last week. What happened? I realized that I've reached a point of diminishing returns. I've learned everything I hoped to, and more, in the five months since I started.

Here's some of what I learned:

1. I am not my clothes.
2. Yes, I can get away with wearing discount store clothes pretty much anywhere--and no one will really care or even notice.
3. Inexpensive doesn't necessarily mean something is cheap, and it can look damn good.
4. Pleather is not evil, and if it's done well, no one can tell the difference anyway.
5. I may be vain, but only a true narcissist could take a fashion-type shot of herself every day and not go a little bit crazy.
6.Wow. People have a lot of energy about WalMart.
7. Costume jewelry is a good thing. Not only can it make an outfit--you can also travel with it and leave it lying out in a hotel room without hesitation.
8. I'm way more picky about handbags than I thought I was. I may even have handbag issues.
9.With the exception of a few too-young, bored cashiers with a tendency to share too much, the real people of WalMart are unerringly friendly, helpful, and patient.
10. I really am way too old to shop in the junior's department, but it's okay to buy a tee shirt there every so often.
11. Acrylic IS evil and shouldn't be allowed. Ever.
12. It's kind of fun to have polished fingernails again.
13. Without a doubt, I've had the loveliest, funniest, most supportive group of readers and commenters that a blogger girl could have. You all have shared yourselves and your stories with astounding generosity. I'm humbled by your kindness and more grateful than you'll ever know.

A part of me is busy lining up a long list of explanations of why it's okay that I'm ending the project now. But that's a personal discussion between me and the voices in my head that everyone else would find completely unintelligible.

There has been one strange but huge advantage in my having to shop at one category/brand of store. It's been very helpful when it comes to my ADHD. I always have a difficult time prioritizing and making choices. Here lately, my fashion choices have been very limited, and so I've had discrete, manageable boundaries within which to operate. Norma Kamali's mostly-black line makes everyday dressing Garanimal easy. If one-piece Barbaloot suits ever come into fashion, I'm just going to buy one in every color and throw all my other clothes away.

What's next?

Well, my DH says that I should learn to sew and wear only clothes that I make for a year. I told him that I would if he would. This was a huge mistake because he would not hesitate to throw on a toga made from a bedsheet, hop in the car, and go teach his classes or give a reading. I, however, know my limitations. I took an adult ed sewing class when I was eighteen. I bought a pattern and fabric for a jumper, and even--with lots of help--got it cut out. At the end of the eight-week class, I came home with a pathetic excuse for a belt.

I expect that my fondness for life-changing projects won't disappear. There was my Flat Belly Diet blog and, now, this. I have much to think about, much to write. Much of what I learned doing WBS will no doubt end up in a book--but probably a different book than I'd begun to plan. Mostly I need to continue working on my novels. And of course I'll be blogging at Notes From the Handbasket--though with a lighter hand. I won't hesitate to include fashion in my posts. Fashion is the ultimate shiny object.

Here's my final ensemble. I was messing around with lighting for a beauty shot of my DH, and Bengal, who was home from school, got bored of being my test model and ran away to hide. "You do it," he said. "You take your own picture all the time!"

To the Max blouse: $3 (clearance); Grace Elements sweater: $15 (Sam's); Faded Glory Jeans: $15; Earrings: $7; Necklace: $10; Faded Glory boots: $23  Total: $73

Hugs and Hugs! xoxo

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Which I Go Totally Mad and Get All Out of Order

Egad, Monday was ADHD kind of day. I feared it would be when I realized it was 11:30 p.m. on Sunday night and I was still ironing. Yes, ironing. Finally, I had to stop and go to bed with a pile of ironing unfinished.

This morning, my DH sat down in his favorite chair to drink his coffee and I had to chase him out of it because he was sitting on several unironed sweaters. "Forgive me," he said. "I thought it was a chair." I told him that of course it wasn't a chair--it was now, like all the other horizontal surfaces in the living room, a pre- or post-ironing work surface. But I did clear him a space, and finished the ironing. Two and a half hours and two and a half episodes of INTERVENTION later, and I was finished.

Why is it that my closest friends and family members (my parents the exception) don't always even know where their irons are? Ironing has become such a part of my current life. In fact, it's become such a part of it that it's gotten to be rather a bottleneck. Do you have things that act as bottlenecks in your life? Things that you really don't like to do, but know that you eventually must do?

I'm going to throw tradition to the wind today and post some pics out of order. Just because sometimes my pics get to be a bit of a bottleneck. And it's just that kind of day....

Day 145:

This was part of my WM sweater extravaganza I indulged in on my last St. Louis trip. I bought three. Or four.

White Stag sweater: $9 (clearance); George tank: $10; White Stag Necklace: $8; Earrings: $5; Faded Glory jeans: $15   Total: $47

Day 146:

I confess--this photo was definitely more about Miss Nina Garcia than what I was wearing. She couldn't stay off of my keyboard, so I made sure she got her picture taken. This is basically the same outfit I wore to meet with the book club that had read ISABELLA MOON a couple of weeks ago.

Norma Kamali dress: $20 (red!); White Stag sweater: $9 (same style as above); George cami: $7; Scarf: $5; Norma Kamali Leggings: $10; Faded Glory boots: $23   Total: $74

Day 151: 

Was so busy doing Valentine crafts for/with Bengal's 4th grade class, that I forgot to take a pic of myself. Here's the craft. It worked out great!

Day 153:

This is my last Valentine's Day picture for this year. Did it seem to anyone else that Valentine's Day seemed a little over-the-top this year?

More Miss Nina! I love the tongue action. Oh, and those are my gorgeous flowers from my gorgeous Valentine. This is the same outfit I wore here.

Travel Elegance (Sam's) Jacket: $34; Travel Elegance skirt: $37; George blouse: $14; Necklace: $7; Earrings: $3; Faded Glory boots: $23  Total $118

Work on those bottlenecks a little at a time. I DO NOT recommend ironing before bedtime, then doing it again in the morning. Come to think of it, no wonder INTERVENTION resonated for me today. : )


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Valentine's Day-wear or Nightwear, as it were.

Because sometimes Valentine's Day pretties from Victoria's Secret are too classy anyway....

Smart & Sexy bra: $10; Smart & Sexy boyleg panties: $5 (Note: Color on the label reads CRANTSTC. Hm. Crantastic, maybe?)

Smart & Sexy gown: $14

What can I say? Really, I've done us all a HUGE favor by not modeling these for you. I was surprised at WalMart's limited Valentine selection. There were far more choices up in the front of the clothing department near the sweats and workout wear. Definitely more pajama than lingerie. 
I heard a radio commercial for the PajamaGram people today. They were advertising their Hoodie-Footie suit:


Couldn't find anything like this at the mothership. But let me ask you...Say, you're a woman, and your Valentine gives you an attractively wrapped box full of nightwear. Which would be your preference? The Hoodie-Footie or something lacy and, well, kind of sexy? Or would you prefer a cotton cami and boy shorts, or maybe an Eeyore or Tinkerbell nightshirt? (Lots of those at the mothership!)

Day 141:

My face is all shadowy here, like I need a shave. Aside from the fact that my indoor photography sucks, I think I'm getting kind of vampire pale this winter. It's just been too darned cold to spend much time outside taking pics of myself.

Sweater: Grace Elements: $20 (Sam's. It's the batwing cotton sweater that I have in purple as well.) George turtle: $10; Nine West Jeans: $17 (Sam's); White Stag necklace: $8; Earrings: $7; Faded Glory Boots: $23  Total: $82

Day 142:

My favorite Norma Kamali sweater: $20; White Stag turtle: $7; Norma Kamali Cords: $15; That Damn Necklace: $7; Earrings: $3 (clearance); F'Uggs: $30 (Sam's)   Total: $82
Day 143:

Now here's a glamor shot! This is how I spend cold winter afternoons--editing on the couch. The throw/blanket is not from WalMart, but blankets don't count. I think Bengal brought it back for me from his trip out west this summer.

RL sweater: $21 (Sam's); Faded Glory jeans: $15; Earrings: $12; random socks: ?  Total: $48

One last thing:
Totally random winner of the first Stack O' Mystery Books drawing is...Holly W! She'll receive NEW WORLD MONKEYS, THE MURDERED HOUSE, FACES IN THE POOL, THE WATER'S EDGE, and ILLEGAL.

I think I'll give more away next week, too. 

Go send those Valentines! xo

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Fashionable Root Canal, et al.

Big day today. If the snow holds off, I'll get to have a Monday afternoon root canal.

In celebration, I've decided that I'm just going to start giving away piles of new books. Any followers are included in the drawing, but I'm not in this for the promotion. (What, exactly, I'd be promoting, I don't know--except the blog, of course.) So, if you all actively keep followers away, as of now, everybody would probably win books-LOL! But I'd love for you to tell your friends about the blog if you enjoy reading it.

Anyway, if the root canal does happen, I may be curled up in a sweatshirt ball over the next couple of days. You'll know where I'll be.

A couple catch-up ensembles:

Day 138:


This was such a fun outfit to wear. You can see the dogs approved. (Told you they want to be in every picture...) We had a brief break in the ultra-cold snap, and I wasn't leaving the house all day. Comfy.
Norma Kamali Terry Jogging pants: $15; Norma Kamali Athletic Dress (ls): #20; White Stag cotton scoop neck shirt: $12; White Stag  Necklace $10 (the cat broke it later that evening, darn it); L.E.I. flats (faux suede/faux sheepskin): $20  (I think); Earrings: $35   Total: $112

Day 139: Had Bengal take a quick pic with my phone while we ate at a local Mexican restaurant. Sadly, it came out too blurry. 

RL gray sweater: $21; Scarf: $5; White Stag turtle: $7; Earrings: $7; Faded Glory jeans: $15  Total: $55

Day 140:

Good hair day, not my favorite sweater day. Though I do like it better than that asparagus green one. It is blessedly warm, given that it's fairly hefty cotton. Love it with the blouse. Unfortunately, the blouse is 60/40. : (  Can't win them all.

Sweater (Sam's): $17 (now on clearance for $4.41--go get them if you need a decent cotton knock-around); George blouse: $12; Jones NY stretch jeans in gray: $18 (Sam's); Earrings: $35; Faded Glory boots: $23    Total: $105

Cracked myself up looking for Valentine's Day nightwear at the mothership today. Special post on that soon.
TTFN! Have a great week!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Fade to Black. Or Gray, as it Were.

"Gray hair is a sign of age, not of wisdom" --Greek proverb

All you sweet young things can take today off reading (if you dare!) because I'm going to talk about getting older. Not older as in, old enough not to be asked for i.d. at the liquor store, but older as in, oh, my god, who is that hag in the mirror with the fading skin, graying hair and why can't I wear red lipstick anymore?

After extensive reading and website trolling (pre- and during this project), I've learned a thing or two about color and, ahem, older women.

To be blunt, age sucks us dry. It's a pigment thief, stealing it from our hair, skin and irises. (Except where it deposits irregular little blobs of freckle-looking things in random places.) It makes our necks look like party streamers from Silence of the Lambs. It makes our eyelids weird and floppy and unable to hold onto shadow. Without our life's moisture, we shrink, and fade into the background. Where are our rosy cheeks (in a compact!), our plump lips (ouch, that lip plumper lipstick stings like hell), our wide, flashing eyes (did I say flashing?--please, not yet!)?

I haven't yet found the answer to overcoming the whole age problem, but I'll let you know. Most advice suggests that 1) less is more when it comes to makeup, 2) a pop of color is preferable to neutrala and 3) women over forty should definitely put away the belly shirts and short shorts.

These days, my wardrobe definitely lacks color. I'm working on it, but budget clothes tend to look a tad too budgety when one gets into bright blue poly, plum acrylic, and Hawaiian flower peasant shirts. So I have a preponderance of basic black and gray on my racks and shelves. (If you take a look at Norma Kamali's WalMart line, you'll find she tends to stick to basic colors with blue or red accents. Except for that awesome cheetah print outfit. I own it, but you won't see it unless I slim down soon.)

Don't get me wrong. I've always worn black. It's sophisticated and often slimming. Black is the artist's and socialite's staple. Has been for half a century and, I suspect, will be for decades to come.



(Okay. Holly Golightly was a hooker. Kind of like a socialite.)

Being a blonde, I've always loved gray on blondes. Gray is Gwenyth Paltrow in a cashmere sweater and pearls, or Kim Novak in a dove gray suit in the film Vertigo.

But just look at Helen Mirren (she's sixty-three, and I have sixteen years to get there, but she's still one of my heroines).


Notice the light rose-plum sweater, and the perky, gray-blond hair, as well as the berry lipstick. Subtle color. No black. No gray. She doesn't look washed-out at all. In fact, in the hundreds of recent photos of her that I looked at, I only saw her in black twice and deep gray once. In 2008, she was even pictured in a red bikini. And she looked fabulous. (I know, I know. She's an international star, and she has professional Beauty Fairies hovering 'round, awaiting her commands. But why would a woman aim lower? Though I will not be wearing anything resembling a bikini. That's just masochism.)

So, my current project-within-a-project is to inject some color into my wardrobe and life. And to figure out the makeup thing. Unfortunately, there are no Beauty Fairies in the aisles of WalMart. 

Here's Day 136, which started this thought train. As I said, I own a lot of gray. It helps not to have it around one's face, I think.

White Stag sweater: $15; George tank: $10; Earrings: $12; Necklace: $7; can't remember the exact pants, but probably $15; Norma Kamali flats: $20    Total: $79

Day 137:

No picture. I think it just got too late and I got grumpy. But here's Bengal's Pinewood Derby car that he and I worked on together. The race has been rescheduled for the 13th. Of course there's a Lego guy stuck to the top!


Have a fabulous weekend! 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

In Which I Get All Excited About Something Shiny.

Have you ever just been happy to have fingernails?

I've had exactly three professional manicures in my life: last year while waiting to catch a plane during my last book tour, another on my last honeymoon, because I thought I should. I don't remember the circumstances of the third. I was probably someone's bridesmaid. Fancy fingernails have just never been a priority for me. And, well, if you are a fancy-fingernails kind of person, this might kind of irritate you: I have appallingly healthy, rarely-break nails at least forty-six weeks a year. (Late February and March are awfully dry.) They just grow and grow until I get frustrated and prune them back to the quick and start all over again. My cuticles may look like ragweed, but does anyone really care about cuticles?

My problem is that I tend to use my nails as gardening tools, screwdrivers, and pan scrapers. So any polish I put on them renders me frustrated and helpless.

Helpless? Am I seeing a theme here? Sunday's post had much to do with a girl looking good for her man. It takes a lot of effort to maintain a girly persona. And is there a more helpless feeling than having one's fingernails or toenails glossy with wet, wet, wet polish? You can't use the phone or a camera, dig out silverware, take a shower, take something out of your purse (like money to pay the manicurist--though I suspect regulars always take care of that on arrival), get dressed, pet the cat, etc., without causing a major damage to said polish. For a while there when my daughter Nora was little, I tried some girlification, but every time I'd groom and polish my nails, she would wake up, throw up, or demand to be picked up.

While on a book tour, I do try to keep my nails trimmed and shapely. No one wants to have a crone with jagged claws and ragweed cuticles sign their book.

Glamor is so demanding!

Now, I'm going to sound like a commercial here, but I think I've discovered it: Best. Polish. Ever.

Last week, I was feeling blue and fashion-deprived. There is NOTHING worth having that's new at either Wal-Mart or Sam's Club right now. At Wal-Mart, their George line is mostly full of thin poly jersey, and their wholly-owned White Stag spring clothing line looks a lot like this:

But I digress. I refreshed my makeup supplies (another post) to the tune of about $80. Surprisingly easy to do even at a discount store.

Here's Sally Hansen's Complete Salon Manicure. The reviews I've read on various websites have been all over the place. There are lots of close-ups of polished nails and shiny bottles. (And my, those nail polish sites are popular. Maybe I should get into the beauty promo business!) For me, who really just wants a little girly sparkle at the ends of my fingers, this stuff is fabulous. I wore it for four days with nary a chip, and it only took two coats. Dries fast. Took a while to remove. It promises that it's base, color and top coat all in one. I'll wear it without a base coat for a while to see if it stains my nails.

Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure: $6.50

Here are my ragweed fingers in Pedal to the Medal. I like it.


Day 134.
A couple days before last week's snowfall. It was very cold.

George Turtle: $10; RL Sweater: $21 (Sam's); Nine West Jeans: $17 (Sam's) ; Calvin Klein Down Coat: $50; Earth Spirit Boots: $35; Earrings: $12    Total: $145

Day 135.

This is how I spend a lot of my day--you can ask Bengal, who took the picture. The white sweater looked a much looser when I bought it seven pounds ago. It came out around the holidays, but I don't think it's too sparkly for later winter wear.

George sweater: $12; George tank: $10; Norma Kamali Career Pants: $15; Earth Spirit shoes: $30; Earrings: $10 (clearance from $13)   Total: $77

Hope your life is full of blessings, today!

P.S. Remember to follow WBS here or on FB Networked blogs. I'll give away five mystery books for every five new followers--everyone is eligible!

First Five:

FACES IN THE POOL by Jonathan Gash
THE WATER'S EDGE by Karin Fossum
ILLEGAL by Paul Levine

Sunday, January 31, 2010

I Could Never Answer the Door In Curlers, But I've Done it in My PJs


Back in the Dark Ages of my distant childhood, I always paid close attention to music lyrics. Still do. Nothing exposes cultural trends and norms like a period's music. I seem to remember a lot of songs from the 1960s (I was precocious child, of course : ) proclaiming the virtues of a woman looking good for her man. Think Streisand, Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Julie London, etc. Classics, all.

For most of my life, I thought it was pretty much my marital duty not to hang about or even work in sweats, etc. (Post-babies doesn't count!) I didn't even let P see me in a shower cap until about five years ago, and I rarely spent the day in jammies, even when I was sick. I found out through therapy that this wasn't necessarily a good thing--It's actually kind of considered a dreaded issue. P can attest that I eventually became much more relaxed about such things. But it was tough to find a balance between obsession, vanity and common sense.

One of my homemaking heroes, Flylady, is adamant about the need to get up and moving and dressed "to the shoes" everyday. She doesn't encourage a girl to get all dolled up, but just to put on something attractive and comfortable and to fix one's makeup and hair. That way, a woman is ready for anything life might throw at her. It makes a huge amount of sense for me, given that I'm likely to have to face any number of delivery people if I'm home all day. And I don't want to be too schlubby when I pick up Bengal at school, have lunch with P or a friend, or shop at the mothership.

I must say that one of the things I've enjoyed about this project is learning that it's fun to accessorize on a daily basis and be able to look in the mirror at random times to see that I have my game face on. For whatever reason, I associate being "dressed to the shoes" with being a grown up. I can't ever remember seeing my mother in pajamas after 8:30 in the morning. Now, I see so many women (and not just on reality television) who seem to be at odds with their age, dressing in clothes from the juniors department, or showing waaaaay too much sagging skin. A part of me wants to applaud their bravado. Another part of me wants to take them aside and have a heart-to-heart about dignity. 

It is a question of balance, I think. Being a dignified member of a community as well as being an individual who's secure enough in her persona to say, "really, it's a wear-a-yellow-tube-top kind of day, and I don't care who knows it!"


Day 131. Not such a great picture day. Spent the whole day writing in cozy writing clothes. (Ironic, huh?) And no makeup.

Day 132:

This is now one of my favorite pictures because my own Bengal took it. (My mother once said that ten year-old boys are among the sweetest things on earth. She's absolutely right.) We're in the parking lot of Sam's Club, after church. Bless his heart, he lets me drag him everywhere and he's even gotten quite vocal about what he thinks looks good, and what he doesn't care for. 

The black Norma Kamali sweater is baggy for a size medium. It looks adorable with leggings on the website model, but no one wants to see me in a mini-length sweater and leggings. Not even my DH, and he loves me a lot. Pants are also Norma K. I bought both a size ten and a size eight in the career pants. It's been such a puffy winter that I've been wearing the tens most frequently. But these pants have a stretch to them, and after I've been wearing them without a belt for a few hours they sag most unpleasantly.

Then there's the fading. These two pieces haven't faded horribly, but they aren't perfect, either. I felt okay while wearing this ensemble indoors. Sunlight wasn't kind to it, though. Everything just felt too baggy and bleh.

Norma Kamali v-neck sweater: $20; Norma Kamali Career Pants: $15; George shirt: $12; Earth Spirit shoes: $30; Necklace: $7; Earrings: $7; Allison Scott handbag: $99 (Sam's Club)  Total: $190

Day 133:

Oh, I do like this sweater. Norma Kamali does the batwing/kimono thing so well, but it's nice to see other folks get in on the style. I confess that the first thing that drew me was that it's made of 100% cotton. Hallelujah! Plus it's thick, not flimsy. Bought it in black, too. (Hm. Is there anything I haven't bought at least 2 of in the past few months?)

Funny thing about the Nine West jeans...One can't try on clothes at Sam's Club, so one just has to guess about sizing. I was so uncomfortable all day in these jeans and couldn't figure out why. When I took them off, I realized I was wearing the sixes instead of the eights. Whew.

Grace Elements sweater: $20 (Sam's); Chaus turtleneck: $8 (Sam's); Nine West Jeans: $17 (Sam's); Earth Spirit shoes: $30; White Stag necklace: $7; Earrings: $35  Total $117

Hope you have a fabulous week!

P.S. See all those boxes on the floor by my feet? They're filled with tons of new books released in the past year. I'm desperate to give many of them away. So, with every five new followers, I'm going to have a drawing to give five away! Did I mention I have many, many fabulous mystery/thrillers just waiting to be mailed? Oh, and just because Carrie thinks chocolate is an excellent idea, I'll randomly give some of that away, too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Pebble Pleather, P.V.C., and Some Big Bad Leather

Shoes and handbags. *sigh* It's been a frustrating four and a half months.

One of the keys to my staying relatively sane in this project has been to try to make sure that when I leave the house I'm looking fairly put-together. And that means not wearing, for example, a brown coat, black shoes and a brown bag. Or tennis shoes with my leather jacket. Some things are just...not right. As you can tell from my last post, I tend to have just a couple of high-quality everyday bags (most often the Brahmin) that I use most often, then fill in with special bags on special occasions.

Many women have a different bag for every outfit, but that has never been my style. Why not? I have no moral or style-related objections to owning many bags. It's that I'm incredibly LAZY when it comes to switching purses. I'm not even going to tell you how much stuff I carry in my purse. Some time ago, my baby sister sent me a darling 3 x 4 Vera Bradley zippered change purse. Do I use it just for change? No. I put all the cards and cash I'm most likely to use around town in it, and then I have TWO business card cases for all my other cards (Ins., Staples, Best Buy, Kroger, Buckle rewards, shipping punch card, Barnes and Noble discount, etc.) It's ludicrous. I need a wallet, I think. I've perused them at Wal-Mart, but I was thoroughly underwhelmed. Maybe I'm breaking my own rules with the change purse--but it's just always been there.

So, here are the handbags I've been using:

This brown, Faded Glory pebbled pleather is the first bag I bought. $15. Not bad, good color. Saw an attractively dressed woman carrying it yesterday. Has plenty of extra pockets for keys, phone, sunglasses, etc. Cute floral lining that actually coordinates. The black version was ugly and way too faux-looking. Only problem is that it's waaaaaay too deep. I'm always almost driving off the road when I try to dig out my lipstick/change purse/phone/hand sanitizer.

The lighting makes it hard to see texture on the black bags. The bag on the left is black pebble pleather. Like the satchel style; the buckles are a tad cheesy. It's easy to find things in. The bag on the right is smooth pleather, and I wear it when I need something a little more tailored, i.e. when I'm wearing black career pants and a jacket. Sometimes. Both $15, I think. Couldn't find a brand, but they're either George or Faded Glory. Funny--they don't even say "vinyl" inside. They're "100% P.V.C. (Isn't that what plumbing pipes are made of?) The one on the left says, "Dry Clean Only." The other: "Do Not Wash."

Here are my excuses for evening bags. They're wallets. $10 each. But they're super simple. I like the copper snap style the best. The patent pleather is fine, too. Nothing special. There were fancier evening bag styles, but they were very preteen-ish.

Now, I do have a hobo bag I bought last week at the Maplewood Wal-Mart in St. Louis. It's To the Max brand. Very plain, coated beige linen, with a woven leather strap. $20 (orig. $40) But let's save that picture for later in the season, shall we? We all need something to look forward to!

Here are my latest purchases. Both from Sam's Club. If you circle around the jewelry counter at Sam's, you'll see a single case with three or four shelves of purses ranging from $89 to $150. Usually leather. Often they're...um, how can I say this? Sparkly? No. Busy-looking? Sometimes. Flashy. Maybe. I guess that's the closest word. They're not quite as obnoxious as some of the the Macy's/Dillard's styles that have 8 jillion buckles and tassels and brass thingeys on them--but close. Many are unusual colors. One that's currently for sale is faux snakeskin (hot now, isn't it?), and is so big that it looks like fifty snakes died for it.

Forgive the tassels on this one--it does have a fun, Pucci-style lining. ($99) I think that's one of the things I liked best about it. Also that it's leather. I've been craving leather. (I just gave away a gorgeous pair of suede floral Italian boots that were ages old--this would've looked killer with them. They were that special. Really. Loved those boots.)

I was satisfied with the light brown bag until I saw this one (below) at a different Sam's. ($99) Could've used a black one more, but there was no black. I succumbed anyway. The color is delicious (better in daylight than under my evening flash). And it's by London Fog (Weird--the raincoat people) so it's rain-resistant.


Conclusion: Enjoying the leather bags, even though I still have to use pleather when I'm wearing black. But even if I'm dressed in mostly black, a brown leather bag during the day isn't out of place. Did I mention the style rule that your bag can always match your hair, if it doesn't match anything else you're wearing?  It's a great rule for briefcases and computer bags.

Days 128-131:

I'm almost embarrassed by this extra-dorky pic. It's a tad out of focus. I'd just gotten my new glasses (for wearing around home so I don't leave readers lying everywhere--you know I'm old, right?) and got a kick out of wearing them. (I had Lasik years ago, but now I'm farsighted.) BTW-My DH says they make me look smart. Ha!

George sweater: $3 (clearance); George pale blue blouse: $12; Faded Glory jeans: $15; George earrings: $7; That Damned Necklace: $7; Earth Spirit shoes: $30   Total: $74


This is me in the middle of the book club I met with last week. They were so lovely--and lovely to me. Asked great questions. We all laughed a lot. That's me in the middle, with the book.

Norma Kamali red jersey dress: $20; Norma Kamali black leggings: $10: White Stag acrylic cardigan: $15; Faded Glory motorcycle boots: $23; Gold earrings $35 (Wal-Mart, too); George necklace: $7; Scarf: $5  Total: $115

Day 130. Hard at work at my desk.


 RL cotton sweater: $21; White Stag turtle: $7; Norma Kamali cords: $15; Earrings: $12; F'Uggs: $30
Total: $85

Was in a funk and bought a ton of new makeup. I'm pondering a little how-to video--If I can figure out how to shoot it w/out my cat, Miss Nina Garcia, attacking the camera.

A big welcome to my new followers and anyone else who might be peeking in. With the addition of every ten new followers, I'm giving away stuff--gift cards, books, fun, random shiny things--because it makes me happy and I appreciate you all so much.

Go forth, my dears, and revel in your blessings!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things I Miss: The Handbag Edition *sob*

The thing about being a writer as well as a recovering clutter junkie, is that pretty much everything I own has a story attached to it.  When I have time, I love to hunt down special things for special occasions, or spend hours or days tracking down the best deal on some unique thing. But I love it most when I acquire a true treasure--something that belonged to someone I knew or was given to me with love. It's also kind of a rush to buy something as a reward for myself. It's a good thing I'm more of a purse person than a jewelry person, because the whole reward habit could get very expensive very quickly.

Purses, or handbags if you will, make or break an outfit. I stopped worrying about whether or not my purse matched my shoes at least a decade ago. Now, it just has to either coordinate with something (you can always match your hair), or stand on its own when I'm really dressed down. On the dressed-down days, it's nice to have a bag that looks at least a little civilized.

I thought I'd break this into two posts--starting with a few of the bags I really miss.


I bought this years ago at the Discovery Shop for the American Cancer Society in Roanoke. It must be forty or fifty years old. Only just in the past few years have purses with carry handles really come back into vogue. I don't use this bag very often. I like to wear it with a simple black outfit--not necessarily vintage--and very little jewelry because I don't want to take attention away from its beautiful needlework. Needlepoint is one of my secret vices. I'm terrible at it, but if they day ever came when I was forced to do nothing but goof off all day, I would want to hit golf balls and do needlepoint.

#2--Small, adorable. I bought the straw bag on the left when my two sisters and I went to NYC for my middle sister's fortieth birthday. I'd always wanted one of those Nantucket bags--do you know the ones I mean? Someday maybe I'll have one, but this one suits me fine. Plus, it's so colorful and looks great with a cool summer outfit on a Sunday morning. The store where we found it had thousands of bags. We discovered it a few minutes after we left Ground Zero. An odd combination, given the somberness of the occasion. But sometimes things just happen that way.

Sorry for the glare on the second bag. I decided I wanted to get this post up and could only photograph after the sun went down. P bought it for me last spring when he was in Charlotte for a residency. It's a Michael Kors and is casual enough to be used for a ladies' lunch date or simple enough to be used for a light evening bag. I've only gotten to use it once. Now it's safely wrapped in a linen bag for post-September use.

 #3--Status bags 'cause they go with everything. I got over having visible designer names on things around 1988, thank you very much. It's a shame that so many purveyors of fine goods have to slap their names or graphic initials all over their wares (Do you hear me Coach?!).  But it's nice to have a sturdy, stylish leather bag. A bag that can hold its own when one is wearing all black or white, or a concealing coat, or a simple dress. Or even jeans. These are both Brahmin bags. I'd never heard of them until I walked into Dillard's about a week after I'd gotten my first check for my first novel and was shopping for conference/tour clothes (planning ahead, of course!). I have an alarming talent for walking into a store and being able to zero in on the most expensive thing in the room. It's not a talent I'm particularly proud of.  I love the bag, though. Plus, it goes with both black and brown shoes or boots.

I bought the one on the right at a Dillard's in Cincinnati. It was right there on the aisle. Forty percent off. 'Nuff said.

#4--Bags of the heart.

The Michael Kors is a repeat from above, of course. But it's both of the heart and a handy evening bag.

The bag up front came by way of a woman named Laura Brown. She was my father-in-law's English nanny back in the '30s and '40s and was with his family until she died in 1990. She kept a lot of things that had belonged to my FIL's mother (coincidentally named Laura Benedict), and I suspect this was one of them. It's lined in peach silk satin, and the design is black velvet. I use this bag all the time because it's unique and has an unusual shape.

The beaded bag is my most precious bag. It belonged to my father's mother. It's not an unusual example of a 1960s evening bag. The beads are silver and beige. The interior is satin, but not silk. The chain is fairly utilitarian. It's heavy, though. Of good quality. Attractive, but dependable. A lot like my grandmother, who managed an S and H Green Stamps store for nearly all the years I knew her. She and my grandfather socialized quite a bit and later traveled a lot. She was particularly fond of Asia, for some reason, though she was always a simple, strong woman at heart. I think of her every time I use it.

What are some of your treasures?

Promise you'll pop by my Notes From the Handbasket blog today and say hi to Kelli Stanley, one of my awfully talented thriller writer-chick friends. Her latest book, City of Dragons, is out next week, and she gave me a great interview telling all about it!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Days 125-127: I'm So Not a Graphic Tee-Girl

Oh, my. No picture for Day 125. I wonder what was up with me on Days 125 and 126? 125 must have been the Sunday I took Pom up to St. Louis to the airport. Really, no one wants to see me on an airport transport day. We always end up leaving the house between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m., and I'm lucky to get my teeth brushed. After we drop Pom off, I drag Bengal to all the St. Louis Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs I can--at least the ones that are open at 8 a.m. on a Sunday. Poor kid. I'm sure it's some kind of child abuse. But I always end up buying him something ridiculous. I think he came home with Pokemon cards and a giant box of Moon Pies this time. (I know there are those who looooove Moon Pies, but they're just way too sweet for me. If you want to win my southern heart, feed me pralines, and I will follow you anywhere. Just saying....)

So, here's day 126. I had such giant Gucci bags beneath my eyes that I couldn't bear to face the camera. Probably wasn't wearing makeup, either.

IZOD sweater: $21 (Sam's Club); Nine West Jeans: $17 (Sam's); To the Max blouse: $3 (Clearance); F'Uggs: $30    Total: $71

Speaking of shopping, let's ponder some Norma Kamali. There's only one Wal-Mart store in St. Louis that I know for sure carries NK clothes. And you know that without the occasional cotton sweaters from Sam's, my awesomely versatile NK jersey going-out clothes, and my Norma K. French terry transitional wear, I would probably sit weeping and itching all day in a pile of pilling acrylic sweaters. So I really count on Norma.

But what in the heck can I do with these?

I do have the above v-neck in black. Plain. And there's my adorable "I Love My Dog" tee. But when I found the NK department at the Kirkwood WM, these tees were some of the few NK items they had. Comfort is important, and it's nice that these tees are all cotton--but I don't see myself spending all of the coming spring looking like an Andy Warhol painting. Plus, the cheetah's head would be stuck underneath my boobs. Awkward.

I did pick up this Jersey Tie Shift in a gray and black stripe, but I haven't even tried it on yet because I've been super busy. Plus, it's been a lumpy kind of January. It'll look cute with a cardigan, too.


There were no NK swimsuits in the store that I saw--but how cute is this?

This is cute, too--If you're twelve and have had several ribs removed. Why do I have the feeling that this summer is going to be even longer than winter?

Hope you're staying warm!

Hey--I was thinking about doing a thing where I'll give something away for every ten new followers I get. WM cards? Books? Chocolate? Any thoughts?

While I'm here, I might as well cover Day 127 because I'm so behind. It really wasn't a glamour week, was it? Ew. But Miss Nina Garcia is always gorgeous.

Sweater $17 (Sam's--forget the brand); Chaus turtle: $8 (Sam's); Norma Kamali cords: $15; Earrings: $35; F'Uggs: $30  Total: $105

**Clothing photos from www.walmart.com