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', 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

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Days 122-124: Overexposure

Remember when it used to be a novel thing that people would post extensive, revealing photographs of themselves or webcam videos on the Internet--like that girl who pretended to be a homeschooler, but was really an actress? I'm completely enchanted with Noah Kalina and Jonathan Keller who have both been taking daily headshots of themselves for years and years.

What a weird thing it is, to take pictures of one's self. I never gave it much thought until this project. Van Gogh's self portraits bothered me (He painted something like 36 of them). I felt sad that he saw such torment in his own face, and was brave enough to represent it on canvas. The impressionistic techniques can only have enhanced the brutal effects.

I love how intense and real these self-portraits are:

Albrecht Durer

Gustave Courbet
(Okay, he's a bit of a drama queen here.)

 Van Gogh

Paula Modersohn-Becker

People who have professional photographs taken of themselves--writers, politicians, businesspeople, celebutards, actors, brides--they aren't necessarily looking for reality. They want their best selves, not their everyday selves on display.

Photography is such an instant experience now. The digital camera sees every damn thing--if the lighting is right, which for me, rarely happens--and one can't hide a bad hair day, pimple or nose bump. There's always Photoshop for the perfectionist or the artist.

Regular readers will recognize writer Michelle Brooks's comments as coming by way of Michelle's Spell. With every wonderful blog post Michelle puts up, she includes a photograph of herself. They are usually posed, but delightfully honest and fun and unabashedly sexy (the girl can't help it!). She just doesn't have a bad picture day.  When I first started reading her blog, I was blown away not just by her writing (she posts poetry, non-fiction, fiction snippets), but by how brave she was to have all those photos of herself out there for everyone to see.

I read an interesting article somewhere online that talks about self-consciousness in photos--particularly in photos of children. Oldest children are usually the most self-conscious, their smiles often "fakey." They try to smile in a pleasing way, but they're not really into it. Some children start out this way from birth--others pick it up when they're seven or eight. I used to give Pom a terribly hard time about it--but of course that only makes it worse. And so the child has to unlearn it as an adult.

My particular weakness is vanity. I hate having pictures up that I don't like. It's as though I imagine I'll be in some political campaign someday or will have some crime committed upon me and the only picture someone will find is of me with one eye half-closed, or wearing a really ugly bathrobe from you-know-where. (Don't bother to look--you won't find one unless you took it one morning when I was out with the dogs. In which case, you're stalking me, so, go away!)

As you can see by the vast array of dopey, poorly photographed shots I have lying around here, I think I'm almost over all that now. (Still no bathrobe, though!)

Day 122:

I had to look at the date. We were near the end of a long work week. P was gone and I was single-parenting. You can tell by my shell-shocked look.

RL sweater (Sam's): $21, Miley Cyrus cami: $7: Earrings: $7; Faded Glory Jeans: $15  Total: $50

Day 123:

Here I am. Hard at work--bad hair and very little make-up. I really hate how flat my hair gets in the winter. Is yours that way?

George turtle: $10; Miley/Max Azria vest: $14; Norma Kamali cords: $15; Earrings: $69 (Sam's); Necklace: $8  Total: $116

Day 124:

Out with the dogs, Sat. a.m.

Misc. Wal-Mart and Sam's stuff: about $60, plus my cute red rubber boots: $25

Must run. I'm off to meet with a book club which just read ISABELLA MOON!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Days 120 and 121, In Which I Boldly Blend Literature and Fashion

On Saturday, I wrote about letting go of sixty pounds of sweaters and purses. Right now they're weighing down the trunk of my car--probably not enough to make the back of the car sag or get better traction on the snow. Still, it's a lot of stuff.

What follows may sound like a stretch, but bear with me.

Whenever I finish a story, a novel, an essay, a poem (I'm a terrible poet!), a review--whatever kind of writing I'm doing--I have an urge to send it out for submission immediately. I'll have been working on it so long, and so intently, that I don't want to see it again. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. But not for a long time. I get so close to the words that I don't really even see them anymore. The characters' voices have become real just by virtue of their echoing in my head over and over and over. I can no longer see their good qualities or their flaws--Or they just look like one giant GLOB of flaws and I'm embarrassed by them as though I were a fifteen year-old forced to show candid family photos to my friends.

But I almost never pop work in the mail (or email) just as soon as I finish writing it. I like to let it sit. Sometimes it's for a couple of days, sometimes it's for a few weeks. I need the distance to see it clearly. Rewriting gives me more pleasure than drafting a piece of work. I get to reshape the world I've created. Make it better. I'm often stunned by the missteps I've made or the silly, unconscious puns, word repetitions, or obvious gaffes. When I find them, I'm momentarily embarrassed, then thrilled that I caught them before the piece went out.

What happens in the time that passes between my writing THE END the first time, and opening up the piece again for revision? Life happens. Even over a matter of days, I'm a different person. I've learned things, read things, wept, laughed, traveled, thought, cooked, ironed, argued, loved. I can't see the story in the same way because I have different eyes. Different eyes--they're like a kind of extra-added bonus on top of the days we've been given to live.

So, here's the connection: I'd been away from my sweaters and purses for four months. Longer, actually, because I hadn't worn any of the sweaters since last spring. They were always in view, of course--mostly stuffed into my closet shelves in great wads so that after I pulled the first layers out, more wool, cotton, rayon, and silk slid down onto the floor like rocks of a mountainside. Four, seven or eight months. That's a long time. I'm overwhelmed to think how different I am, how different my life is from eight months ago. But, of course, it's not just me. We're all different. Sometimes in really tragic ways.

I found it startlingly easy to set aside more than half of the non-Wal-Mart sweaters I owned. Many of them had been abandoned by me years ago, but I was hanging onto them for irrational reasons. There were sweaters I adored in the giveaway pile. But they don't suit the person I am now or they don't suit my circumstances. "Kill your darlings" is a famous phrase that all writers know. If you love a sentence or word with irrational devotion, you probably need to dump it. There's a difference, I know. Clothes that make us happy or feel good about ourselves are always in style because confidence is always in style. Word "darlings" often just don't suit the actual work. They're too precious, too gilded. But I'm thinking of a certain rose-brown, delicately crocheted, long cardigan that was made to be worn over a tank or cami. It was gorgeous. I'd bought it because I'd seen one much like it on a certain diminutive writer-chick and it looked fabulous. Oh, how I wanted to look fabulous in that sweater! It was expensive, tasteful, charming. I tried to wear it every year for eight years. I think I actually wore it for three whole days over the course of almost a decade. And, still, it was in my closet.

But the months-long distance from all of my clothes has made me see them with different eyes. More critical, more objective, less emotion-driven, and more honest eyes.

As Martha used to say: "It's a Good Thing."

Day 120:

Gosh, I like purple. Too bad this sweater is shapeless at the bottom and acrylic as well. How cute would it be in silk?!

White Stag sweater: $10; To the Max blouse: $3 (clearance); Calvin Klein cords: $17 (Sam's); Earrings: $7 (George, I think)  Total: $37

Day 21:

I call this my Poor Girl's Ducks Unlimited Field Brunch ensemble. Very khaki and earth-toned for camouflage, with a luxe scarf for style. The vest is from the men's department (Great idea, Carrie!) and is faux-sheepskin lined. The outer shell is a reasonably soft canvas. Sturdy zipper. Deep pockets for extra shotgun shells or a dainty silver flask.

Wrangler vest: $25 (men's dept); Norma Kamali French terry 5-pocket pants: $15; scarf: $5; George turtle: $10; No Boundaries belt: $8; Faded Glory boots: $23; Earrings: $7  Total: $93

Visited StLouis briefly this past weekend and browsed some new Norma. More on that later....

Hope you're having a terrific week!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Days 118-119, and The Life of a Sweater (Or lack thereof)

So, how many times have I bitched about how much I hate acrylic?

Today, while I was procrastinating on the last gasps of my novel (I hate writing The End...), I decluttered around sixty pounds of sweaters and purses from my closet. The purses were rather hard to let go of. (Including one very nice Coach bag--yummy black leather, tasteful, made before the days most Coach bags began to look like graphic cereal boxes--that will be showing up at the Carbondale Goodwill next week) The sweaters, not so difficult.

I'm a big cotton sweater fan. You know, "Cotton Is the Fabric of Our Lives..." I love thick, twisted cotton yarns in ivory and pastels. Comfy cardigans are my favorites. But I also love butter-soft cotton. The kind that feels like a paper-thin, cashmere wrap.

There was a surprise in my pile, though. I discovered that one of my favorite cozy pullovers was made of 80% acrylic! The other 20% is rayon, which is made from adulterated cellulose. But the yarns were thick and marled, kind of a boucle. There was a some pilling, but the weave was so dense you couldn't tell. Plus, it was more than six years old.

At six years, a good sweater is just getting REALLY good.

Here's my favorite (now only) Christmas sweater. I know. I say the words Christmas Sweater, and even I think of Colin Firth in that hysterical reindeer sweater from Bridget Jones' Diary. But they can be charming. This one came from Talbots, and I know it's at least six years old. Pic is from Christmas 2007.

Christmas sweaters get light wear, of course. This one is wool, so it's lasted quite well. Here's the life of a good sweater: Front of the closet for 2-3 years. Stylish. Then relegated to weekday/errand wear, maybe with jeans, for 2-3 years. Lastly, it's there to keep you comfy around the house, warm in pleasant memories.

Sadly, the life of THIS sweater will be nothing like that.

I don't think I have any other pics with this cardigan. Faded Glory: $12, 100% acrylic. The reason there are no other pics is because it's become unwearable in public. It was chunky and comfy when the above pic was taken. No longer. It's only good for wearing while cleaning the house or lying on the couch, recovering from the flu.

My lame photography skills won't allow me to show you how bad the sweater really looks, now.

The fading isn't as bad as it looks, here. (The flash washed it out.) But the pilling is much, much worse than it looks. And this after only two washings! 

D + grade for this sweater. It only gets the plus because it was cute before it got washed twice. My first really big disappointment. I guess after four months (TODAY!), that's not too bad.

Day 118:

Yeah. I know. I look like I just gave up my pizza delivery job and ran to Wal-Mart to pick up an outfit for my new job selling off-season timeshares.

White Stag top: $12; Miley Cyrus vest: $14; Norma Kamali pants: $15; Scarf: $5; Faded Glory boots: $23

Day 119:

This is me, pissed off because you didn't buy the timeshare!

Norma Kamali Shirt: $15; White Stag Sweater: $12; Calvin Klein pants: $17 (Sam's); Necklace: $7; Earrings: $7

My college girl/songbird goes back to college this weekend. Miss her already! Isn't it cool when someone brings joy into your life whenever she's around?

Have a terrific weekend.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Days 116 and 117, Plus a Tornado!

The lovely Sally W sent me this amazing picture that a Sam's Club customer took a while back:

I'm petrified of tornadoes. They definitely top my list of least-favorite weather events, right above ice storms.

Thanks, Sally!

Now for something totally pastoral...This pic shows a relatively quiet moment, but the birds were mostly crazy at the feeders this weekend. It's warmed a bit since, and I'm hoping they've found water. I'm jonesing for a heated bird bath, now. Can anyone recommend one?

Day 116:

Am I a Good Witch? Or a Bad Witch? My Christmas gift from Pom. (No comment on her comment!)

White Stag cardi: $12; George turtle: $10; Nine West Jeans (sam's): $17; Necklace: $8; Earrings: $35
Total: $82

Day 117:

I wasn't looking so good. I bought a bright pink sweater that's the same style as the last post's broccoli sweater. Take my word for it--It was warm. That's all.

But I was wearing my practical, new Earth Spirit All-Weather hiking boots with rugged soles. So cute. I felt like I was sixteen again.


Boots: $35

Stay warm!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Coincidence? I Think Not! Days 111-114

This past Saturday night, Pom and I watched the adorable and ridiculous Confessions of a Shopaholic on our beloved Netflix streaming account. I've heard not-so-laudatory opinions of the book, and haven't read it, but the film was great fun. Fortunately, the shopping done by the character Rebecca Bloomwood is so over-the-top, that I wasn't too jealous. (Well, maybe just a little....) I confess that I don't own Yves Saint Laurent anything, and definitely nothing Gucci. I like quality, not necessarily labels. The difference between the two can range between the hundreds and thousands of dollars.

So my existential crisis and I decided to take our focus off of clothing for a while and look into freshening up some other areas of the domestic scene. I think that the film certainly spurred me on. So. Drumroll please..................

Ta-Da! I bought a big, sparkly fish:

It's just like the Rainbow Fish because it occasionally scatters its scales. But they're colorful, glass scales and glue back on easily. It's about 18" long. I like that it looks like it has legs. I think we'll call her Lady In Redfish. What do you think?

In case that doesn't seem like much of a shopping spree to you, here's a list of what else I bought: three dresses, a shirt, and a sweater for Pom; more accessories for the awesomely awesome Keurig single-cup brewer we bought ourselves for Christmas; a long candle-thingey for the dining room table; two nightstands, three barstools, and a small console table with six storage baskets. Oh, and a full-length mirror for the back of the bedroom door, a spice rack, measuring spoons and cups and two throw pillows.  *sigh* I feel better now. And I still only spent a third of what I spent on clothes for my first book tour. Best of all--I haven't been to the mothership or satellite since Friday! (A girl needs a break sometimes, plus Pom begged me not to. She went to Sam's with me on Friday and I think it wore her out.)

If you're a Facebook friend, then you know about the birds...On Friday I felt utterly compelled to go to Marion to the Sam's Club there. I had no idea why. I wasn't expecting any new clothes on the tables, certainly. (New: Appallingly pastel/white Izod pullovers with sewn-in striped dickies in Easter colors. Ack! Not even on the golf course!! Oh, but now watch--six weeks from now I'll be buying one from lack of variety. *sigh*)

So Pom and I were sitting in the car while I ate my Taco Bell Taco and small Pepsi (forgot to eat lunch), parked facing the east. I noticed a wide flock of small birds passing above us a couple hundred yards away. And the flock never really ended. We sat there for ten minutes while this dark, undulating ribbon of birds flew north. Don't know what sort of birds they were, but they were small. The sun was getting dimmer and the flock looked like it was coming more from the distant southeast, so we decided to go into the store before it got much later. The whole thing felt like a kind of miracle to me--I'm so drawn to birds. I'm not sure why.  I have my complaints about Southern Illinois, but I feel privileged to be living on the Mississippi Flyway.

Day 111:

Speaking of Sam's.

These separates are from a line called Travel Elegance or somesuch. They're kind of a rough jersey. Mostly I liked the color and the stretchy waistband of the skirt. The jacket has 3/4 sleeves ending in a loose ruffle (like the bottom of the skirt). It looked kind of weird until I turned up the cuffs of my shiny ivory blouse. The ensemble is kind of Reba-ish, don't you think? Boots were definitely the order of the day. Thank heavens for the scarf. I love the way the colors tie in. I was all dressed up for church and then ended up staying home--but I didn't change all day. It was a comfortable outfit, even if I did feel like my hair wasn't nearly big enough.

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

Day 112:

"Mommy, you look like a gangster." What can I say? I was really, really cold.

Miley Cyrus vest (I know.): $14; To the Max blouse: $3; White Stag turtle: $7; Calvin Klein (Sam's) cords: $18; Earrings: $7: Necklace: $7  Total: $67

Day 113:

Did I mention I have to close the door on the dogs, or they want to be in the picture?

Layered a turtle beneath the broccoli sweater. The sweater is not good, but it's cotton and cozy w/ the turtle. Please don't say anything about the hair. It was a loooooong, cold week.

White Stag turtle: $7; Sweater (Sam's) $16; Norma Kamali cords: $15; earrings: $7  Total $45

Day 114:

Another in the Bathroom Series. Forgot to take a picture at home, so I came out of the movie theater during the MetLive HD re-broadcast of "Comtes de Hoffmann." Wonderful opera. But, hey, I was in the dark for five hours.

RL sweater: (sam's)$21; Nine West jeans: $18 (sam's); White Stag turtle: $7; earrings: $7; F'Uggs: $30  Total: $83

Thanks so much for all the encouraging comments on my existential crisis. Your thoughts make a real difference for me. : )

Here's a pic of Miss Nina Garcia from today. She's home after having her lady parts altered. Poor thing.

Hope your week is full of warm blessings.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Days 105-110 and a Fearsome Thought

What if September 14, 2010 comes along, and I'm a completely different person?

Perhaps this sounds overwrought, but I think I'm having some kind of existential crisis. (I'll pause here so you can come back after you've stopped laughing.....)

The crisis really kicked in when I decluttered my shoes last week. They had been sitting in various piles or on shelves or shoe racks for months, gathering dust. I felt like I shouldn't be too close to them. It was kind of like junior high when I broke up with a boy, but still thought he was really cute, and the idea of being friends with benefits occasionally seemed like a good one.

As I sorted the shoes, I wiped them down with damp rags and a microfiber towel. I matched up each pair and put them into keep/give away/throw away piles. As I sorted and touched each shoe, I had to ask myself if the shoes would suit my clothes and me next year, if I had things to wear with them, etc. (This book has wonderful lists of questions you should ask yourself about your belongings.) I was stunned to find that I could let go of so many shoes, and not give them a second thought once they were out the door.

I'm not an impulse buyer when it comes to clothes--maybe I'm a little bit impulsive when it comes to shoes. But I'm not crazy/awful. Most of my shoes were obviously worn. The thing about buying really expensive shoes--shoes whose designs are unique and solid--is that you can wear them over a period of many years. I have shoes I bought ten years ago that are special and stylish and will always be so because they're unique. But there were just too many of them that I wore too infrequently to justify storing in a house with almost zero storage.

Now I have twenty-three pairs of shoes to choose from each day, and it seems like too many.

And the thing is...they suffice.

I have the black patent and red patent Norma Kamalis that work with any dress-up WM/Sam's outfit I own. I have athletic shoes for exercising, athletic mules for wearing with leggings and cute Norma K sweat outfits. I have F'Uggs for the cold and snow boots for the snow, and rain boots for rain. Black boots and brown boots. Brown leather mules and black. Hideous man-slippers for walking on the cold floor late at night. You get the idea.

To bastardize one of my favorite family sayings, "I have a sufficiency, more would be a superfluity."

So, what happens when my narrow options are suddenly blown wide open? What happens, months from now, when I'm standing in Dillard's designer dresses or looking at shoes at Nordstrom and I realize that I don't have ten different acrylic sweaters to choose from, but a hundred, or forty different styles of black leather boots with 1"-4" heels to choose from instead of two or three? Will I even be able to bear paying $150 for a discounted Nordic wool sweater on Sierra Trading Post's site (one of my favorites), or $75 for last season's $350 Donald Pliner's at my favorite, secret West Virginia shoe store?

As Tim Gunn might say, "This worries me."

Day 105. Ah, yes, my ecclesiastic/monkish look:

Not flattering. Makes me look wide as a bus. I actually started out with a black turtleneck underneath and no belt. DH and DD agreed I needed to go back and try again.

Norma K sweater: $20; No Boundaries belt: $8; Norma K shirt: $10; Jewelry: $14; Norma K cords: $15

Day 106.I was still getting over the flu, but it was a good hair day. It was cold. That's why I look so strained.

To the Max jacket: $25 (available online at WM--comes in several colors. Cute, but the matching pants are cut for Nicole Ritchie. Don't bother.); George turtle: $10; Nine West Jeans: $17; Earrings: $7

Day 107. No photo. Still flu-y.

Day 108. You know I want to make you happy, which is the only reason I'm showing you this. It was New Year's Eve. I showered at 5:00. How sad.

Faded Glory sweater: $12 (had hoped for warmth, but acrylic); To the Max jeans: $17 (redeemed the day, almost); Earrings: $7

Day 109. Needed a little color in my life and was in the mood for pearls, too. I was hard at work on New Year's Day. Thought it would be a good habit to start on Day One!

George blouse: $12; Scarf: $5; Norma K sweater: $29; Earrings: $5; Pearls: $18; Faded Glory jeans: $15

Day 110. Didn't take this pic until 11:00 p.m. HUGE mistake. I'm not allowed to talk to people after ten p.m. My dear friend Maggie made that rule back in 1984 or so. Still holds. : )

Norma Kamali sweater: $20 (still my fave); George turtle: $10; Earrings:$12; That Damned Necklace: $7; Norma K cords: $15

Almost caught up.

Be well. If you're having an existential crisis, too, feel free to tell us about it!