Tag Archive | shopping

Pray for Me

Lord help me, but our rinky-dink grocery store which is out in the middle of nowhere, just like the rest of us in this small town, just put in a Starbucks. Yes. A Starbucks. Which is quite ironic given the lay of the land around here. But hey, it’s coffee and if there’s coffee, I’m there. This oasis just opened two days ago, and I’ve been there 2, 3, 5, okay, fine, 6 times.

Now, you have to understand that previous to this, we had two Starbucks nearby – if a 30-minute drive in one direction and a 45-minute drive in the other direction can be considered “nearby.” So obtaining the desired bounty of a spontaneous craving for caffeine was just a bit time-consuming and often simply not worth it. This was a good thing. Both for my weight and my wallet. But now, now that delicious, overpriced, heaven in a cup is just 5 minutes away. AND it’s literally next door to the high school, soooo…dropping my daughter off at school and picking her up just became that much more fraught with peril.

Even more so because like a local, lower-level drug dealer trolling for victims, this Starbucks’ marketing ploy was to offer free samples…then they upped their game to coupons…you know, to get you hooked – if you weren’t already. And can I just take a moment here to ask “just what the hell does Starbucks put in their coffee anyway??” I mean, what kind of person spends $4.00 on a cup of coffee?? An aficionado addict. That’s who.

The fact that there are few carry-out coffee choices here notwithstanding, I was perfectly happy with McDonald’s coffee, if not the grumpy employees who run our McDonald’s, thank you very much. Now? Arrgghh!  Now there is the very real possibility of my waistline getting fatter while my wallet gets thinner on a daily basis. But my espresso fueled productivity?  Through the freaking roof.

 

Hearts and Candy (and Cold Hard Cash)

Okay, so in case there was any residual doubt as to just how quickly the holidays change over in the retail world – here you go. These pics were taken at a local chain store a mere two days after Christmas.  Nothing like getting a head start I suppose. And people have the nerve to decry the ever-growing over-commercialization and materialistic take on holidays. Can’t imagine what in the world ever gave them an idea like that.

 

valentine-candy-copy

aisles of candy and stuffed bears abound

 

valentine-cards-copy-2

cards for every valentine in your life

 

*Disclaimer: my daughter took one picture and I took the other. I’ll give you one guess as to who took which. Hint: mine isn’t the “good” one. 

The Twelve Truths of Christmas

Christmas is nigh. Isn’t that what they say in all the traditional poems? I admit it; I enjoy this time of the year.  Spending an hour untangling all the lights for the porch, only to find that strand you meticulously hung over the tree at the side of the house has a burnt-out bulb and is rebelliously unlit. People grimacing festively in an attempt to appear happy in the lines of Walmart as they are regaled with Holly Jolly Christmas for the thousandth time. Just while standing line. Arguing over “dibs” on the last box of generic, non-gender specific, all holiday inclusive non-religious box of cards left on the shelf. Okay. I will admit that I absolutely love holiday cards. I specifically look for ones that focus more on nature or animals or snow-covered lanes…but I adore them all and have quite the collection. I have so many that if I never bought another card, I would be well into my 80’s before I ran out. My daughter Sarah has forbidden me to buy any more for this year, but I have news for her – I’ll just hit the sales after Christmas to restock my stash for next year! That’s what she gets for not being more specific on her stationery ban.

I have, over the years, found some things that never change.  I know you are reading this on your phone, hiding from guests in the bathroom at your party.  So, pull up a bottle, or box (I don’t judge), of wine and enjoy these Twelve Truths of Christmas.

  1. Santa Claus is a better weapon than any other ever devised.  If they had an adult version of Santa Claus, there would be no crime.  Threatening an adult with “if you don’t return that library book, Santa will bring you coal” would be very effective, if only the price of coal wasn’t enough to make that threat a welcome alternative to vacuum cleaners and cookware.  Poor Santa is already the most used threat in the world of children, with threats beginning December 26 and lasting through December 24 of the next year.  I personally prefer Krampus-themed threats – but that’s just me, and admittedly I’m not the best parenting role model.
  1. Facebook will post over 12 million pictures of dogs wrapped in garland sitting under the tree, trees knocked over with expensive ornaments shattered on the ground and shame-faced pets standing nearby, and cat butts sticking out of the top of the tree branches. Each picture will be accompanied by a thoroughly appropriate “Aww, how cute.” The posters of such cliché comments, however, are actually thinking to themselves “my precious Fido and Buttons would never dream of doing such a thing…they are just so well behaved.” Then, of course, precious Fido and Buttons become just another Facebook statistic by knocking over the tree and everyone posts the required “Aww, how cute.”  The circle of Facebook life is now complete.
  1. If you want to believe in the power of last minute redemption, look no further than kids in December. For eleven months out of the year, Billy and Sally Mae are hellions.  Rude, obnoxious, spoiled hellions.  The magic of the season strikes on December 1st, and suddenly these two future ax murderers are the picture of perfectly behaved children.   They must be on to something, because every year Santa brings them cool stuff no matter how naughty they were the first part of the year.  This reminds me of felons who find sudden clarity and remorse in court when faced with jail.  Not to say that Billy and Sally Mae are future felons or anything. But, you know, just saying.
  1. At least a third of the presents you buy will be for people you don’t really know. Of that third, half will be for people you don’t even like.  In the true spirit of the holiday, you will be buying gifts for your mailman, the teacher who grades on a curve, your kid’s bus driver, the guy who serves you coffee at McDonald’s, and your sister’s hairdresser’s brother.  You will take one heroic step more in the spirit of the season and get “something small” for the janitor at your son’s school, even though you don’t know his name and he sort of creeps you out.  Yay, Christmas!
  1. Whoever wrote those impassioned songs about the joys of holiday shopping has never had a fistfight with an 82-year-old grandmother in Toys-R-Us over a Hatchimal. Don’t worry that you don’t even know what the hell a Hatchimal is. No one does. Shopping brings out the worst in all of us.  The tension, the pressure, and the expense stretches our nerves to the breaking point.  We play right into the greedy hands of manufacturers who, every year like clockwork, deliberately under-manufacture the hottest items on the toy list so retailers can hike the prices to unreal levels while at the same time creating a shortage vs demand situation.  Shamed parents will pay those prices so that Billy and Sally Mae don’t miss out on the toy of the year. The same toy that will sit in the dark of the closet after about an hour of play – if you’re lucky.   Normally pleasant people find themselves being unpleasant; I can assure you, 82-year-old grandmothers can still have a wicked left hook.
  1. There is a reason there is so much talk of holiday spirits. Tis the season for eggnog.  And spiked cider. And wine.  And even just plain beer.  This is the true “holiday spirit.”  The stress can cause even the most well balanced individual to crawl inside a bottle of rum and stay there until the New Year.
  1. The sales, commercials, and songs begin earlier and earlier each year. Don’t even get me started on store decorations. They won’t stop until the first official shopping day of Christmas is Labor Day. Hey, Christmas!  Thanksgiving called, and it wants its week back.
  1. The reason you waited until the last minute to buy Aunt Gertrude’s present is because you have no idea what to get her. Unfortunately for Aunt Gertrude, you still have no idea; and your imagination is all used up after buying for fifty-hundred other relatives and she is getting a pizza scented candle from Walmart because that was the only scent they had left on the shelf.  Wait; do they actually have pizza scented candles?  What a great idea! It’s mine, people…no stealing.
  1. The Elf on the Shelf is Santa’s spy. Spying is treason. Treason is punishable by death. Don’t blame your kids for trying to drown the Elf on the Shelf.  They are merely doing what is required by law.
  1. It’s hard to feel jolly when your credit cards and bank accounts are giggling behind your back. On an unrelated note, you can sell blood plasma for about $50 a pint.  True story, Google it.
  1. No matter how hard you try to pull off the perfect holiday get together, your dog will poop out tinsel in the hallway, your cat will get stuck in the tree, you will put your 8 pound ham in the oven at 9 AM and forget to turn the oven on, your child will pee on the neon green, orange and puce comforter that you bring out once a year because Auntie Evelyn knitted it by hand and will be coming over tonight, and you will use cooking alcohol in a “one for the recipe, one for me” kind of way not recommended by the cook book. It happens. To everyone. Get over it early and you just might survive.
  1. Christmas is a flawed holiday, perfect in all its imperfections. Slow down and enjoy every moment of this totally impossible, thoroughly enjoyable holiday because it passes all too fast.

The Christmas Spirit has Left the Building

I had to venture out into the world of retail on Friday.  The day after Christmas. It’s not something I wanted to do. But I had promised my daughter a long overdue movie:  Big Hero 6. We were lucky that it was still in the theater near us. Great movie by the way. If you haven’t seen it, you should. But I digress. Back for a moment to the aforementioned trip into the wasteland of overcrowded, relentless after-holiday “returners” and “deal shoppers.” We didn’t even have to go into the stores themselves to get to the movie…just the roundabout general area. But that was close enough to encounter all manner of rudeness and obnoxious behavior. I guess what with Christmas having ended at midnight (reminiscent of Cinderella at the Ball), being “Christ-like” has been thrown out the window like the proverbial glass slipper.

I won’t go into all of the different scenarios we were faced with, especially in the parking lot or on the walk through to the theater. Suffice it say that some days the supply of available curse words is simply insufficient to meet my demands.

A Rave Review: Heritage of Scotland

There are three places in this world I desperately want to go: Scotland, Ireland, and England. They are on my bucket list big time. Until I can actually make it to these places, I immerse myself in reading, food from the area, local photography and anything else I can get my grubby little hands on. I was thrilled to recently find a web store that sells authentic Scottish items, as in, there’s a brick and mortar store in Scotland with items made in Scotland. And for me it’s a thrill to receive something that’s actually from the country. Oh sure, there are many such stores. But none I can usually afford.  Until…Heritage of Scotland reared its lovely Scottish head.  I feel the need to rave a bit about this place.

They have a “deal of the day” and routine clearance items which are ridiculously inexpensive. I ordered two coffee mugs that were clearance items in fact. I collect coffee mugs in case you’re interested (oh come on, I know you are!). It was very cool to be able to get touristy mugs without actually having to wait until I could afford the plane tickets for the trip. I like them both (obviously…I mean why would I buy something I didn’t like?) but my favorite is the one with scenes from around Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital. It’s beautiful, I love it. The second mug is a tartan design and I bought it specifically for hot chocolate come winter time. I don’t know, it just screamed winter to me.  What?  Mugs don’t scream at you? I’m sorry.

The other items I ordered I’m hesitant to describe because they’re Christmas presents for someone who is known to read this blog (Hi Mom! *waves*).  Although Christmas is still very far away and there is still plenty of time for those things to wind up in my closet rather than a prettily decorated box under a tree. Just saying.  There’s a fairly even chance actually. Maybe 60/40 in my favor.  Could be 70/30. Oh hell. I should just hide them from myself now.

Heritage of Scotland doesn’t sell just touristy stuff. You can buy men’s kilt sets there (who doesn’t love kilts – especially when they’re covering the hips of such handsome Scots as Jamie Fraser – from that fantastic new TV series Outlander, for example!!!), as well as clothing for women and children (some even made to order), jewelry, toys and costume stuff for kids, and even musical instruments – like bagpipes! How cool would it be to buy a set of bagpipes!? And, of course Scottish food. Including haggis, which I am not ashamed to admit I would not order. That’s one bit of Scottish culture I’m not anxious to try. But I am going to order some of the sweets next time as well as some of the heather tea. Because those looked yummy.

I know, I know, I sound like a kid with a new toy.  I can’t help it. But one thing I do want to mention before you guys get tired of hearing me gush – during the order process I had a dim moment which prompted me to contact customer service with a somewhat inane question (okay, okay, a really stupid question). I have to hand it to Heritage of Scotland’s customer service department though; they treated me with the utmost respect and were very polite. But more than that, they were downright friendly…definitely not something you see much of anymore these days.  It was like a breath of fresh air. They could have just as easily called me an idiot…and they would not have been wrong.  Cool products aside, that interaction is what sealed the deal in making me a returning a customer.

So. That’s my positive rant for the day. As you guys know, I don’t do reviews as a general rule. It’s not that kind of blog and I’m usually too hard to please anyway for anyone to warrant a positive review. However, I really felt the need to make an exception in this case. I hope you’ll check out Heritage of Scotland. It’ll be well worth your time, I promise.

Below are the mugs I mentioned. I wish I could show you the other things, they are gorgeous. And I’m truly hoping they last untouched until Christmas so they’ll make my mother smile when she opens them.  No promises though Mom.

 

tartan cup 1

 

tartan cup 2

 

edinburgh cup 2

 

edinburgh cup 1

 

edinburgh cup 3

 

Mall Madness

So I had to go to the mall this past week to see Captain America with my kids (awesome movie by the way!).  I hate going to the mall.  I don’t think I can overstate that.

Something about going to the mall always gives me anxiety. I think it’s all the people mashed together on a collective shopping high that usually winds up being a chaotic mess of kids and adults zig zagging, rushing, and leapfrogging past each other as they try to reach their shopping meccas. Back in the day it was bad enough to have this cesspool of the unorganized ricocheting off of each other as they barrel down the concourse not paying attention to who they step on or cut off. Now with smart phones taking over, they essentially put a blindfold over their eyes as they drunkenly stumble across the linoleum looking down at whatever alert is oh-so-important to check out right that second.

I hate participating in this game of human bumper cars, but it is a hell of a lot of fun to stand back and take it all in from a safe distance. The people-watching at a mall is top-notch. You’ll see all sorts of personalities intermingling in a way that you’d never see on the street. The droopy pants thug from the shady urban neighborhood on his way to Foot Locker rubbing elbows with the pencil pushing accountant heading to Tiffany’s. Or the awkward tweens boys taking their first stabs at flirting, failing miserably, but able to disappear into the crowd after suffering the embarrassment of being turned down by a cute eighth grader. Hipsters, goth kids, nerds, soccer moms, geriatric fast walkers, they’re all here under one roof.

Shoppers at Brea Mall, Brea, California

Shoppers at Brea Mall, Brea, California

One other incredibly annoying part of the mall has to do with the idiots who spray perfume in your face when you walk by their counter in the various department stores. I seriously think Congress needs to pass some legislation and make this illegal. At the very least it should be law that they ask your permission first. What if someone is allergic to the scent (ummm, me!). That could be a serious problem. Those ladies in the supermarket giving away free samples of Jimmy Dean sausage have it right. You walk by and they ask, “Would you like to try a sample today?” They don’t jump over the table, hold your nose, and shove it down your throat. Is it too hard to ask the perfume pumpers for the same courtesy?

The incomparable Mr. Bean running the perfume gauntlet (click photo for video)

Hilarious Mr. Bean running the perfume gauntlet  (click photo for video)

Same with the ever popular kiosks set in the middle of the aisles armed with high-octane sales people who are pushing you to try their new fat burning device, sample an organic lotion, get an eyebrow pluck, or test drive a remote helicopter, etc. They practically accost you as you walk by, all in the name of sales.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy looking at the kiosks and all of the interesting things they sell…I just don’t like being grabbed as I walk by and dragged in when all I want to do is make it to the Starbucks on the other side of the mall before my caffeine deficiency causes a scene. It’s gotten so bad at our local mall that most people just avoid the kiosks all together. The shoppers making their way down the aisle resemble a flock of birds smoothly evading a predator as the crowd seamlessly veers to the right as they desperately try to ignore the frantic catcalls of the various barkers touting their wares.

Between dodging the zombies glued to their cell phones, the poisonous clouds of synthetic scents, and dodging flying toys, the mall feels like an obstacle course from American Gladiators. I just want to get out alive and still properly breathing people!! And you wonder where the anxiety comes from.