Thrift Queen

Posted: October 10th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Clothing, Housewife Fashion Tips, Money, Shopping | 20 Comments »

When I was eight I had an interview to get into a private school. It was with the head of the lower school, a woman known as Miss Page.

Miss Page was in her late fifties, and wore thick woolen dresses with flat, sensible shoes. She had stocky calves and styled her hair in a blunt page-boy. She was, I would come to learn, one of those rare, wonderful institutional legends. She worked at the school for decades, taught in the classrooms, cheered alongside playing fields, and in her clipped New England way, greeted students by name as she bustled through the campus.

Because my sisters attended the school a decade before, I sensed–whether it was real or imagined—a genteel familiarity she had with my mother. I got the feeling that our “little talk”–an important step in the admissions process—was something only I could fuck up.

Which, I’m happy to report I didn’t do.

I wish I could be a fly on the wall looking back on that day. I’d love to remember the questions she asked me, and of course, how I answered. I know I had to do some memory exercises and a few puzzles. Probably some math too. The only thing I recall specifically is she asked me what “thrifty” meant.

And I had no idea.

Which, if you knew me today, might shock you. It’s not that I’m a penny pincher. On certain things I’m more than happy to spend spend spend. But I also love a good thrift store. I veer to the side of roads for yard sales. There’s nothing more thrilling or satisfying to me than a good bargain, a good find.

Yet I’ll also spend lavishly on dinners out. I’m an experience junkie and a whore for travel—whatever the cost. I shop infrequently for clothing but when I do I tend buy in bulk and gravitate towards expensive “quality items” that I rationalize are worth it because, well, cashmere never goes out of style.

But lately my psyche has embraced this idea that I can scale back across the board. This, it turns out, is one of the silver linings of unemployment. Along with having less money to spend, I have a lot of time these days to simply re-assess my modus operandi.

Last week I took my mother-in-law (an obliging sidekick shopper) to Nordstrom on a quest for new jeans. I’ve lost some weight recently, and as much as I’m trying not to spend money, all my jeans are now too big. I think I need to repeat that, MY JEANS ARE TOO BIG FOR ME. They’re actually—wait for it—BAGGY IN THE ASS.

Hold on a sec while I go high-five myself in the mirror.

It seemed somewhat Draconian to deny myself the glory of buying a new, smaller size of jeans. Especially since, given my current stay-at-home mom status, I wear those frickin’ jeans EVERY SINGLE DAY.

See? My amortized-over-time rationale is kicking in again.

I have a brand I like, but I was curious about what else was out there. While Peggy waited on a Gothic-looking wood-carved couch, I tried on roughly two zillion pairs of jeans. Even Peggy, a seasoned fitting room advisor with solid Midwestern staying power, had to wander into another department at one point to relieve herself of my relentless asking, “Wait, I think I look slightly thinner in these than I did in the ones three pairs ago. Do you?”

I finally settled on a fabulous dark blue “skinny” pair that cost a whopping $180. Well, that minus the $50 gift card I had.

I told myself this was thrifty.

But at home later, I tucked the pants and receipt carefully into my dresser and questioned whether they were there to stay. Two of my O-town besties had mentioned a mall-store that had good-fitting, cheap jeans. And, although skeptical—could a woman my age really shop in that store?—I was curious.

So two days later I took my dear, patient mother-in-law to some Godforsaken suburban shopping complex a half-hour away to TRY ON MORE JEANS. (If you saw a gray-haired woman pawing at the window of a silver Subaru heading to Pleasanton last week, that was her.)

But guess WHAT? Cheap jeans look cute too! And you can still feel cool about getting them in your new smaller size! In fact, you can get one pair that works with flip flops and another to wear with boots—all for $80!

Woo hoo!

High on my jeans buy I made another, possibly rash cost-cutting call. I decided to cheat on my hairdresser—the extremely talented, extremely gay, extremely expensive guy I ADORE and go to in San Francisco (a not extremely convenient location). I have my first low-to-the-ground local cut and color in less than an hour. And when they don’t hand me a mug of organic mint tea or offer to put money in my meter when it runs low, I’m going to be okay with that.


If I don’t come out looking like pre-makeover Kate Gosselin, that is.

Oh and yesterday? Getting a new prescription for my contacts the doc tells me there’s another brand of daily-disposables that are much cheaper and just as good. It’s like SHE KNEW I’m high on a money-saving binge. I’m all, “Hook a sister UP!”

When you see me next you won’t even notice the lenses I’m wearing are less expensive than my old ones. As long as I’m able to see you back, that is.

There’s really no telling how long I’ll ride this austerity wave. I’m fearful I’m just in the honeymoon phase and I could go back to my old ways faster than you can say “new pair of fall boots.” But in the meantime I’m enjoying my newfound thriftiness.

Miss Page would be so proud.


Highlights and Lowlights (and I’m Not Talking about My Hair)

Posted: January 2nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Birthdays, Books, Daddio, Food, Kindergarten, Milestones, Miss Kate, Movies, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Parenting, Shopping, Summer | 3 Comments »

My friend Barb is perfect.

She’s extremely kind and thoughtful. She’s genuine through and through. She’s creative and silly and fun and smart. And, of course, she’s gorgeous. So much so that she was asked out on a date—approached on the sidewalk, no less—when she was nearly eight months pregnant.

If she wasn’t so wonderful, I’d hate her.

Barb and her hubby had kids long before Mark and I added to the world’s population problem. So going to their house for dinner always was an exercise in note-taking for our future family. One night after dinner I remember their kidlings hauled out a bunch of different instruments. We had a music and dance party that was such good clean fun I wanted to make lederhosen for them out of the drapes while belting out “The Hills Are Alive.” (Note to my sister-in-law: This is a reference to The Sound of Music. Which is a movie.)

At dinner each member of Barb’s family shares the highlights and lowlights of their day. It’s something we started doing, and a few of our friends have since picked it up from us. It’s a sly way to lure kids into old-fashioned dinnertime convos. I never knew how deeply shrouded in secrecy a day at kindergarten could otherwise be.

Someone recently told me she does this too, but calls it ‘Roses and Thorns.’ She borrowed the name from the Obamas. Such a schmancy Presidential Rose Garden spin! Hey, what’s good enough for Malia and Sasha is good enough for my girls.

I stumbled across some other tips on Motherboard for taking the gruel out of family din-dins. Did you know that the more family dinners teens attend, the less likely they are to smoke pot, run away from home, and dress like sluts? Okay, so I’m not sure about that last one, but I’m still willing to enforce the you-sit-right-here-for-dinner-Missy rule for a while to come.

So, where was I?

Well, God knows it doesn’t some dinnertime game to get me talkin’. But with 2010 in my rear view mirror, I’ve been thinking about some of my year’s highlights and lowlights.

First, for the highlights:

Best Times with Paige: Every day when she climbs on me in bed for our delicious morning snuggle. I love this even when it’s brutally hellishly early in the morning. I can’t help but think she won’t be doing this forever, so I’m basking in it while it lasts.

Best Times with Kate: Reading. This year Katie Pie learned to read, which was magical and thrilling. But she’s not exactly devouring books on her own yet. And I cherish the times each day that I read to her. For an active kiddo, she totally calms down, snuggles up, and gets absorbed in stories. It rocks. We’re reading chapter books now too, which has lots of great day-after-day satisfaction, like some weird good-for-you soap opera.

Best Meal: The first out-put of Mark’s food smoker—pulled pork sandwiches for Paigey’s 2nd birthday party. (Feeding the kids was a total afterthought.)

Best Dessert Recipes: Three-way tie between The New York Times’ Maple Pear Upside-Down Cake, Sunset’s Lemon Rosemary Buttons, and Martha Stewart’s Cornmeal Cookies.

Best Yard Sale Bargain: Four Reidel stemless wineglasses for $2. (And to think I almost asked “For each one?” Ha!) Now I wish our vast Reidel collection was all stemless.

Best Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip: The Winter Olympics in Vancouver with Mark (who covered the games for Wired) and my dear collegiate frienda Brenda. If you have never been to this event, GO. It will renew your faith in, well, the world. Plus, you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten emotionally invested in a curling match.

Best Party We Attended: A Father’s Day brunch in our beloved friends’ the Bibbo’s back yard. We came for breakfast and stayed through dinner. Such fun. And the food! Oh, the food.

Proudest Mama Moments: Watching Kate walking into her first day of Kindergarten like such a big big sweet girl. And seeing Paige running around with the other kids at her 2nd b-day party. (If 2009 was about Paigey Wiggles learning to walk, 2010 was about her running and dancing and jumping and skipping and never looking back. Yippee!)

Best Televised Sports Experience: Watching a Canadian Olympic hockey game at a bar in Whistler with one of my best friends and my best (albeit only) husband. Man, those Canadians really do love their hockey. And their beer. (Turns out we do too.)

Best Life-Improving Purchase: Our super-cozy eco-groovy Keetsa memory foam mattress.

Best Happy Tears Moment: When I read the letter to Mark over the phone that Kate had gotten into to the super-excellent school she now goes to.

Best Date with Mark: His birthday dinner this November at Quince in San Fran. We forsook the entrees, ordered all five pastas, and had them bring us whatever wine they wanted with each course. And we didn’t talk about the kids once!

Best Summer Trip: Spending three glorious weeks at my dad’s house with the girls. The mercurial New England weather was set to Perfect Summer Beach Day the whole time. The girls were like little nature nymphs, dancing around in the waves and happily playing in the sand for hours each day. (TV? Who needs TV?) The 4th of July parade rocked, like it does, especially with all the far-flung friends we’ve managed to have to join us in Bristol. Best of all, we got truly excellent quality time with my Daddio, who watched more patio-staged ballet performances, and drew more hearts and princesses and rainbows then he ever bargained for.

Best Dose of I-Still-Got-It: Shaking off years of professional rust to do some freelance work at the very cool design firm in SF Hot Studio. A week into the project I told someone I’d been working at home as a mom for the past two-plus years, and he said he couldn’t believe it. (When he sneezed and I automatically started wiping his nose, I think he caught on.)

Best Home Furnishings Score: When my sister unloaded about a dozen duvet covers, sheet sets, pillows, bed skirts, and cloth napkins on me from her vast and fabulous personal collection. I now have a bad-ass world class bedscape. But it also takes an extra 20 minutes to move the pillows off our bed before going to sleep at night.

Best Wine: The huge-ass bottle (I think that’s what vintners call it) of supreme Surh-Luchtel vino that our friends Don and Shelley brought to a party at our house. Not only did it have A LOT of wicked good wine it it, the bottled was inscribed with our wedding invitation. (Try registering for that.)

Best Personal Challenge: Doing Oakland Adventure Boot Camp this summer/fall. I pride myself on voluntarily waking up at 6AM every-other morning, as well as the endless rounds of push-ups, wind sprints, and squats with medicine balls. Go me.

Best I’m Not As Young As I Used to Be Moment: Playing field hockey at my 25-year high school reunion. The other team (our old rivals who were also in town for their reunion) decimated us, but it was hilarious getting out on that field again. And it’s nice knowing that nothing I do now requires a mouth guard.

Best Foodie Celeb Sighting: Meeting Sarah Foster at her cafe/store Foster’s Market in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where we spent another fine Miller Family Thanksgiving.

Best Novel: The Help. But I also *loved* The Eloquence of the Hedgehog.

Best Non-Fiction Book: Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat. Mark got to know Chef Grant Achatz (of Alinea in Chicago) after writing about him for Wired, then contributing to his dazzling cook book. Even though I know the story, it was a total page-turner. I was lucky enough to read an advanced galley. When this book comes out in March, if you have any interest in the foodie realm, check it out. It’s way cheaper than a dinner at Alinea.

Best New TV Show Addiction: Seems pretty trite and light-core, but it’s Parenthood. A friend of mine said he and his wife were TiVoing it, but before they’d watched it someone told her, “I LOVE that show. It’s makes me laugh! It makes me cry!” So my friend’s wife went home and deleted it from their TiVo. Well, I admit it’s made this Mama laugh and cry too. I wuv the cast (Peter Krause is the celeb version of Mark), but there are a couple actors I loathe, which it turns out I actually kinda need in a show. And, of course, it’s supposed to be set in Berkeley. So I dig seeing the local landmarks, the Craftsman houses, and of course, the bra-less women and pot-adled liberals.

Best Old TV Show Addiction: Tie between Dexter and Damages. Glenn Close is so good at being bad. (What else should I be watching on DVD?)

Best Party Mark and I Threw: Hiring a chef to cook dinner for our six nearest and dearest Oakland friends, and my dad and stepmother who were visiting from Rhode Island. All I had to do was buy a centerpiece, set the table, and take a shower. Bliss! Plus, the food rocked. As did Dad’s card tricks.

Best Kiddie Music the Whole Family Can TolerateLaurie Berkner

Best Self-Preservation Maneuver: Hiring a “hangover helper”—i.e. a babysitter to come over one Sunday at 7:30AM, the day after we had a party. She whisked in, took the kids out for breakfast and to the park, and allowed Mark and I some desperately-needed sleeeeep. This was such a supremely smart idea I think there’s a business plan in there somewhere.

Best Meeting I Attended: One in which it was determined that Paige was doing so well (physically and verbally) she was no longer eligible for the state’s early intervention services. Woo hoo!

Best Article of Clothing I Bought: A brown cotton Max Studio dress that I wear like it’s my favorite pair of jeans. Looks kinda like this one.

Best Hobby I Got Back Into: Reading. And really, reading one good book is like grocery shopping when you’re hungry. You want to start reading everything. According to the widget on this here blog, I read 20 books in 2010, about two a month. And that doesn’t count the small handful I started and abandoned.

Best Gift I’ve Used Every Day: When Mark was in Switzerland last winter for work, he bought me a fabulous perfect-for-everyday-use indestructible Freitag purse. It’s fabulous, and he’s fabulous for having such good taste (in wives, and in business-trip gifts).

Best Kitchen Gadget: An electric kettle, which I dropped and broke last week. It had been great for everything from making tea, to hot water for the kids oatmeal.

Best Stupid Comedy Rentals: Step Brothers (AMAZING tip, Drew!), and The Hangover. These bad frat-boy-humor movies were so damn good, I can’t believe I ever liked (okay, loved) Dumb and Dumber.

Best Stay-cation: Our Christmas/New Year’s break. The kids were off school for two weeks, and Mark was off work (for the most part) then too. It was the perfect balance of social plans, sleeping late, and lazy rainy days. Mark and I gave each other time for golf (him) and yoga (me). And I didn’t get out of my PJs all day on Christmas. I can’t remember the last time I did that.

Best Social Event: My high school reunion. If everyone waited until they were in their 40s to go to high school it’d be a much friendlier place.

Best Compliment: A babysitter told me I look like Ari Gold’s wife, Mrs. Ari, from Entourage. She was certain I “must hear that from people all the time.”

As for the year’s lowlights, I’m happy to report there were far fewer than the highlights. Which also means this blog post will end soon(ish) for you. Phew!

Saddest Loss: Mark’s wonderful grandpa passing away. And my Dad’s BFF and most-excellent neighbor, Eddie, and my sweet Uncle Ade also died.

Worst Foot-in-Mouth Moment: Asking a mother at Paige’s preschool if she was a nanny. Ugh!

Worst Mama Moment: How much time do you have? Seriously, nothing huge and hideous comes to mind here, THANK GOD, just a long list of times when I’ve lost my temper, raised my voice, irrationally barked out a, “No!,” or had my own form of grown-up of tantrum. You know, the usual stuff.

Worst Weekend-Away Phone Call: The one in which Mark reported that Kate got kicked out of kindergarten. Just for the day. But still.

Worst Morning: Crying at boot camp—while running the stairs!—because I had barely slept the night before (see Paige’s sleep issue below). The petite drill sergeant trainer gave me a double dose of tough love, when what I needed was a wee bit o’ encouragement. (At least she emailed me an apology that afternoon.)

Worst Weather Interference: A local daytime Halloween parade is a supremely super-fun place for kids and Halloween-obsessed adults (like moi) to revel in the holiday. This year it rained. Waaah! I was like a bride on her rainy wedding day. Even though the die-hards still came out, the raincoats over costumes were a bummer.

Worst Wretched Sleep Pattern: Paige went from being a star sleeper, to the kid who gets out of bed 15 times after you tuck her in. Plus a few times in the middle of the night. Oy! We’ve considered returning her to her crib (since this all started with the move to her Big Girl Bed), but I fear if we did that we’d leave her in it ’til her teens. And that’d bring about a whole ‘nother host of unsavory issues.

Biggest Regret: Realizing that the 8-hour drive to Palm Springs to visit my sister Judy is totally do-able with the kids—especially with a DVD player in the car. Why haven’t I been going to see her more? (And this doesn’t come solely from my desire to score more sheets.)

Worst Airline Travel: Twice—or maybe even three times—this year we’ve taken family trips with flights departing at 6AM. One time Kate refused to get dressed when we woke her up. We finally put her in the car in her panties, since we were about to miss our flight. At the long-term parking lot her tantrum continued, until Mark and I strong-armed her into her dress and shoes (a lovely public display of excellent parenting). Later, in a long busy airport hallway, she had another diabolical fit. Over her head (and while pretending to not be her parents) Mark and I vowed to never take a 6AM flight again. No matter how much cheaper the tickets were. And then, we went on two more trips with 6AM departures. Sigh.

Saddest Farewell: Our long-time nanny and friend Shelly moved back to Israel this fall. We are thrilled that she is back with her family and friends, but we miss her madly! It’s super sad to not know when—or if—we’ll see her again.

Most Shameful Injury: Pulling a groin muscle while bowling with the kids and Mark’s parents on our Thanksgiving vacation. My chiropractor said, “I don’t know what’s worse: Admitting you were bowling, or that you got injured while bowling.”

When it’s Mark’s turn to tell his day’s highlight at dinner, he sometimes says, “Right now.” Even though it means a relatively early dinner hour and food that’s geared towards the whole family, we’ve been making an effort to eat with the girls every night,. (Except for when we ditch them with a sitter and go out.)

So it’s sweet that our family meal is sometimes the highlight of Mark’s day. Either that, or his work day really sucked.

Now Kate and Paige sometimes use “right now” as their highlight too. Which would be fine if it wasn’t on the days I’ve busted my butt to take them to the beach and out for ice cream, or to a children’s museum, or to some other kid-gasmic concert or party or special event. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it takes the wind out of my sails when the turkey burgers en famille beat all those other things out.

But maybe I should wise up a bit to Mark and the girls. Maybe the best highlight of all is the sum-total of our sweet family dinners together. Maybe turkey burgers really are the key to happiness.

I love you, Mark, Kate and Paigey, my three life highlights!

And Happy Happy New Year to the rest of you. In 2011, may your highlights blast your lowlights out of the water.


Mama Bunny in the Hizouse

Posted: July 27th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Books, Discoveries, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Working World | 4 Comments »

Should I be concerned that inanimate objects appear to be speaking to me?

I mean, you’d think I should be, but the thing is, everything they’re telling me is so damn encouraging—so just-what-I’m-wantin’-to-hear—how could I turn a deaf ear to it? Why, they’re all but tapping me on the shoulder bellowing, “YO! Bruno!

So here’s the thing. We got this bunny book for Kate at a yard sale. And I know what you’re thinking. That I’ve got to stop imagining the universe is communicating with me through my yard sale loot.

But we’re reading this book the other day. And it’s wrapped in cellophane, clearly some library rip-off that some folks had the audacity to sell to me for 25 cents. And I had the poor taste to buy.

So this book, which I only feel half-bad about owning since I’m bound to mistakenly return it to the library one day anyway—it’s a real cute old-timey book. Great illustrations of bunnies all dressed up in Victorian-era clothes.

But I admit that when I first cracked it, despite the lovely pictures, I was hesitant to read it to Kate. Based on there being a lot of words. This tends to not be an issue with my own books, but with the read-aloud kids ones, I mean—honestly? I’m usually just trying to meet my two-books-before-bedtime quota in the fastest way possible.

Admit it. If you’ve got a kid, you’ve done this yourself. Maybe even skipped a sentence or page or two, before the twerp got wise enough to call you on it.

But this day, knowing Kate wasn’t going to nap anyway, it seemed like I’d get the most horizontal time and snuggles myself by reading a long book. And, as it turned out, some of the pages were text text text, but others had really big space-taking-up pictures.

So the book explains that there isn’t just one Easter Bunny. What single cotton-tailed beast could deliver the world’s Easter baskets in one night? There are, it turns out, five. And when one of them gets too long in the tooth (couldn’t resist that), they call a meeting of all the world’s bunnies and pick a replacement.

So this one country bunny, our protagonist, as a kid she used to say she’d be an Easter Bunny one day. And, being rag-tag country stock, folks mocked her.

Then, like many a hapless country lass—especially one of her well, breed—she took up with some fellow and “much to her surprise” had, get this, twenty-one baby bunnies.

Next page: Her dream of Easter Bunny careerdom is shot to shit. I mean, she has TWENTY-ONE babies to tend. Twenty might be doable. But twenty-one?!

And if the fact that she “stopped thinking about hopping over the world with lovely eggs for little boys and girls” while she changed what one can only imagine were GAZILLIONS of diapers—if burying her dream wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, then some male bunnies come onto the scene and say, “Leave Easter eggs to great big men bunnies like us.”

At this point, I’m clutching the book white-knuckled and wild-eyed. “DOWN WITH THE WHITE MALE OPPRESSOR BUNNIES!” I’m screaming, causing Kate to recoil from me, fearful and confused.

“Let’s here it for working Mama bunnies!” I bellow. “We CAN have it all, sisters!!!!”

So then, I’m pawing my way through the now tear-stained pages, heart racing, while Kate likely stares at me in abject terror. Though by this point I’ve frankly all but forgotten she’s in the room. That I’m ostensibly reading to her.

What happens, you ask? Does the Mama bunny rise up?

Well, blessedly, thankfully, she just waits a while until her bunnies mature some. Then she comes before the Grand Bunny Dude who picks the replacement Easter Bunnies. And where at first he doesn’t even consider her (misogynist), she manages to eventually get his attention and he comes to see that Mama has Got. It. Going. On.

And, yes. She gets the job.

Honestly, at this point I was quite wrung out. I mean, I was thrilled, relieved, and well, really a whole host of emotions. But what lingered with me longest, what I was thinking about as I closed Kate’s door and set Paigey down in her crib, was a calm and certain feeling of readiness.

I sat down at my desk and sent out a few emails, asking around about nannies. It seems this Mama bunny is finally ready to get back into the game.


The Weepies

Posted: May 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Drink, Extended Family, Housewife Fashion Tips, Husbandry, Mom, Other Mothers, Shopping, Travel | 4 Comments »

For the last day or so I’ve had a mild case of the weepies.

I mean, nothing that’s even resulted in actual tears, but some intermittent on-the-verge-of moments that come about suddenly and vaguely, unrelated to anything that’s even happening at the time. You know, putting the sliced turkey back in the fridge, handing Mark a washcloth for the kids’ bath, driving on the highway through a torrential thunderstorm when we arrived in Kentucky tonight.

And yes, I know what you’re thinking, and NO, I don’t have PMS. I’m not sure what’s to blame, but it ain’t hormones.

Though I wish that it was, because frankly this wimpish state of neither glee (my default) nor despondency is so not for me. I prefer my emotions with more dramatic flourish, thank you. At least more decisiveness, for God’s sake.

If there is crying to do, better to have an all-out bawl sesh like Holly Hunter’s daily one in Broadcast News. Sob and wail like a baby, then take a breath, wipe your face, smooth out your shirt, and get on with your day.

God, I loved that movie.

Anyway, I’m certain that my bulletproof chipperness is bound to be back by daybreak. We’re settled into a gracious old hotel in downtown Lexington—center stage for Mark’s favorite cousin’s long-awaited wedding. Which isn’t to say we’ve all been wondering when the hell she’d finally git hitched, but that ever since she and her fine fellow got engaged the family’s been champing at the bit awaiting this opulent Southern shindig. (Equine pun intended. Hey, it is Kentucky, after all.)

It also should be noted that the dress-shoe-and-accessory shopping that Mark’s relatives have done in preparation for this event has likely had a significant impact on stimulating our nation’s tragic economy. So, you’re welcome.

As for me, resolved to not spend money on something new (per the aforementioned recession, and that my dress closet overfloweth), I buckled at the last minute, but decided to be thrifty and went to Nordstrom Rack. Where, as luck had it, a fabulous frock for a fraction of the retail price fell off the rack at my feet and squawked, “Take me home!”

Okay, okay, so I actually got three dresses—and three pairs of shoes—but they were all dirt cheap. And if I don’t release the shopping pressure valve a little bit every once and a while I could fall prey to some unanticipated retail incident that’s far far more devastating.

So, I’m not sure really where this is all going, but why not come along for the ride because it could eventually get interesting.

Okay, so just to prove to you what a BAR-GAIN this dress is I’m wearing to the wedding—because I’m quite certain you’re sitting there desperate to have some way to understand more deeply just how much money I saved. Just to be able to illustrate that for you I’ll out and admit that I went out and bought my first, uh, well, girdle.

I mean, when I talked to my friends about this I’d actually thought it was a legitimately seismic confession. But everyone’s all “Spanx this” and “Spanx that,” like they’ve been wearing some form of corseture under God knows what clothes for God knows how long when I’d just been going along thinking that exercise and watching what I eat are the best ammo against a fat ass. Hell, they’re all downing 8-foot subs at lunch and just wedging their lower halves into girdles.

So the fact that my deep dark confession made everyone turn to me and say, “Duh,” made me feel like I’d told them I hadn’t read Eat, Pray, Love yet or something. Which, by the way, I have. So my ass might have naively been shakin’ around unclenched by Spandex all this time, but I have kept up with some other realms of modern female life. Sheesh.

Okay, so but what I was trying to get at was, this girdle, this gut-and-ass-confining contraption that I bought? It cost MORE than the dress I’m wearing over it. And just how many bourbons does this Northern lass have to drink under a tent at a schmancy reception at Keeneland before she’s admitting that to everyone?

Well, I’ll be sure to report back and let you know.

Again, taking my patented Pressure Valve Release Approach, I was hoping that if I admitted it here, it might mitigate my need to inform the pastor of this fact after the ceremony on Saturday.

Yes, this is what it’s like being me.

And speaking of the wedding, I can’t help but wonder now if there’s some little emotional nugget inside me that can attribute my recent state of sometimes-not-estatic, to the dismal fact that the groom—whom I truly think is the bee’s proverbial patellas—is mourning the recent death of his mother. A thing that, if it weren’t so altogether crappy on its very own, unfortunately happens to be a situation which is very damn similar to the one that I found myself in on my wedding day.

So before tomorrow morning’s hotel breakfast where we’ll descend into a slew of family and friends, before that slings me into extroverted socializing heaven, and this little case of the droop is whisked away never to be thought of again… Before all that happens, I’m here now, on the hotel bed in the shirt Mark wore today, him next to me, sleeping with a pillow over his head. And I’m sending out some thoughts the groom’s way.

Hoping that he manages, like I did, to spend his wedding day in a flurried blitz of joy and love and luck. And that without too much guilt or sorrow, he’s able to make this grown up, big boy, life-rocking move happily. Even without his Mama there.

As for me, I’m hoping the next wave of weepiness I contend with is during that inevitable hand-squeeze that Mark and I—and likely every other twosome who still takes a shine to each other—will make at some uncontrived and true, love-drenched point in the ceremony.

And I plan to follow that up promptly with a nice large glass of local bourbon.

Did I mention how cheap babysitters are here?


Paige’s Plastic Doppelganger

Posted: May 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Friends and Strangers, Miss Kate, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop, Shopping | 2 Comments »

Kate’s bed is by far the most comfortable one in the house. But when I dove into it last week for our afternoon reading and snuggle sesh, I landed on an uncomfortable lump of hard plastic. Turns out it was the doll we’d bought at a yard sale last summer, that bore a terrifyingly strong resemblance to our own Miss Paige.

And, although I’d written about Paigey’s plastic twin back then, I realized I never posted a picture of the two of them.


The photo was taken by exquisite photographer and our dear friend Mary McHenry. Who, by the way, you should call immediately to schedule a shoot of your own family. As should I really, since nine months have passed since this picture was taken, and darling Paige with her fresh crop of sassy curls looks nothing like this doll any more. She’s even MORE delicious.

And God knows yard sale season is back in full swing. (Joy!) So it’s only a matter of time until Kate (my Saturday morning scavenging cohort) and I stumble across another previously-loved doll or toy whose likeness to Paige will cause us to recoil in horror.

When that happens, I’ll try to be more timely about posting a picture.


The New Otter on the Block

Posted: February 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, City Livin', Husbandry, Miss Kate | 2 Comments »

I realize most American kids probably don’t have sea otter stuffed animals. But in the Bay Area kids eat goat cheese not Kraft Singles, and sea otters are as a common a sight in stuffed animal menageries as stepstools are in family bathrooms.

The reason we’re all hopped up on otters has nothing to do with Otter Pops–which, don’t get me wrong, totally rock. It’s more about the beasties’ local presence here, of course. And for anyone who hasn’t had the nature-lovin’ luck of seeing the ridiculously adorable things frollicking in the chilly Pacific drink, chances are they’ve been to one of the sea otter feedings at the tremendous Monterey Aquarium.

It’s the place where Mark and I are always so blindly overcome with crazy sea otter love we’re elbowing young innocents out of the way so we can get a better look. Aside from their whiskery teddybear-like rolly polly playful cuteness, watching them eat–lying on their backs munching food that’s clamped between their front paws–is so insanely delightful it could melt even Charles Manson’s heart.

God, it’s good clean fun.

How can you not stop by the gift store afterwards to bring home the closest approximation to the real thing?

Of course, I got Kate’s stuffed sea otter at a yard sale, but that’s only because my genetic make-up virtually prevents me from shopping at full retail. Or maybe it’s more that I just love a good bargain. But I digress.

So, in the throngs of stuffed animals with whom we reside, Kate decided last night to single out her long-neglected sea otter for some intensive attention and maternal adoration.

Since then–less than 24 hours ago, mind you–I’ve started collecting some of the sea otter data points that Kate’s been imparting to Mark and me. Mark, the dear, has been tenacious about filling me in on any info she’s shared with him that I might’ve possibly missed.

“Do you know my sea otter? My sea otter’s name is Benny.”

“Benny’s last name is MacDonald.”

“Do you know what? Benny has an ear infection and it’s really bad. See? Right there is his ear.”

“Benny got lost at a yard sale. He was running around.”

“Did you know? Benny is a girl.”

“Benny is a boy but doesn’t have a penis. Not all boys have penises, you know.”

” Shhhh… Benny is sleeping now with a friend. Do you know the friend’s name? It’s Benny too. They both have the name Benny, yeah.”

“Benny’s owner said he needs to be combed–his fur.”

“Benny’s owner is named Maria. He got lost and I found him and I thought that I will be his owner.”

“Benny has a purple toothbrush. He doesn’t like it any more.”

It’s hard to know if we’ve just scratched the surface of what we’ll be learning about Benny, or if by sundown he’ll be back on the bottom of a toy bin, wedged between a princess shoe and a ceramic ladybug teapot. Later today I might use up the last tea bag in a box, and that empty vessel could suddenly be thrust to the center of Kate’s pretend universe. That’s just how things roll around here.

Whatever the case, the amount of love, attention, and pretend otter ear drops that have been administered to dear Benny should hold him over for a good long time.


Recent Finds

Posted: February 2nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Bargains, Books, City Livin', Discoveries, Drink, Food, Shopping | 2 Comments »

The Gods of Crap Acquisition were with me this weekend.

Not a large-scale haul by any means, but a few choice items came into my possession that are making me too happy to resist blathering on about.

1. A small rectangular mosaic table, perfect for the putting-on of gin and tonics and such on the front porch. The gray, white, and maroon palette offsets my outdoor carpet splendidly. (Take that, HGTV!) This was a freebie left in front of a neighbor’s house. Someday I’ll send them my Betty Ford Clinic bill since they’ve made it so damn convenient and charming to have a drink handy while watching Kate play outside.

So, free to me yet potentially costly to the kind folks who purged it. C’est la vie!

2. A 1973 Sears Roebuck bike. Also free from neighbor. I figure this will occupy a good amount of bicycle tinkering/porn time for Mark and is bound to result in a sweet-since-it’s-so-uncool-and-farty little cruiser bike for me.

Small amount of speckled rust. Huge amount of old-school cachet.

3. The happy bathtub-reading memoir Trail of Crumbs, by Kim Sunée. Not a find in the yard sale sense, but I did stumble across it at our so-fab-I’m-there-every-day local bookstore and have been devouring it non-stop ever since. There’s a love story, a sex story, a childhood trauma, romantic foodie/boozy settings like New Orleans and Provence, and just when you’ve though that was more than you could ever ask of a book, you get recipes! I feel like I’m deep into the best summer reading ever written, but maybe it’s because it’s been in the 70s and gloriously sunny here lately.

Anyway, Obama’s settled into the White House so take a cleansing breath just knowing everything will turn out okay in the world, buy this book, then get a babysitter and read read read for days and nights. Then drag someone you dig under an olive tree for a hot make-out sesh and a glass of Prosecco.

4. My first bocce ball set. Which isn’t to say I found a Fisher Price lawn bowling toy, but that after many years of wanting to own the old Italian guy grown-up game myself, I came across a stellar set (with sporty carrying sack) at a yard sale and welcomed it to the McClusky family fold for the low low price of $5.

An added bonus: Kate is now referring to any of the small balls in her toy empire as ‘pills.’

And so, not one to hoard my good fortune to myself, if you are in striking distance I invite you to please please drop by some afternoon for an on-the fly lawn bowling tournie (warning: Kate’s getting good, it’s that guinea blood in her). I’ll be serving up a variety of beverages in both sippy cups and Big Girl and Boy wine and rocks glasses, and might even set a little Provencale goûtée I learned about from my book onto my darling new side table.

And if you get too, uh, silly to drive home safely, I’ll gladly let you borrow the cruiser bike. Though I’m pretty sure that in its current state both tires are flat, and if I had to guess I’d say the breaks probably don’t work too well either.

Ah well. One gal’s cast-off is another’s treasure.