Archive for the 'Shopping' Category

What’s Up (and Up) at Target?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I noticed the change a few weeks ago in the diaper aisle. The former green box of Minneapolis-based Target-brand diapers was gone, replaced by a goldenrod-colored box with a chunky arrow, an “Up and Up” label, and a picture of a reasonably cute baby in a diaper. What it does not have? The familiar Target bullseye. The design of the interior product has changed, too. Instead of primary-colored polka dots with cute animal drawings, the diapers now simply have pastel blue and green dots.

The diapers are still the least expensive in the aisle. Diaper math tends to make my eyes bleed, since they purposely put such a weird number in each box, and each brand uses different numbers. I’ve used a calculator before (diapers cost about .$25 each), but once I figured out that Target-brand diapers were fine, and always inexpensive, I decided to stop messing about. Yeah, other diapers fit better and leak less. But as I head toward the dubious milestone of five years of diaper changing, I care less about my child’s comfort and instead hope any discomfort might just speed the learning process along.

Back to the new look for Target-brand. It was announced at Reuter’s last month, and has received some press already. In the past, most Target brand items have aped the color scheme of whatever brand they compete with, but with the Target bullseye. Now, though, the intent is to set the product apart on the shelf, though it still lists the brand name item to compare prices with. The Up and Up products look less cheap than they did with the old packaging, but still are inexpensive compared to other items. And that, in a nutshell, is the niche Target has mastered: better design at lower prices. For photos of Up and Up packaging next to the former Target brand, visit Under Consideration and My Private Brand, which also has photos of Target’s new reDesign brand for home items.

I’m intrigued to see what happens. It’s interesting they removed the trademarked bullseye. Yes, the chunky arrow is eye-catching, and it’s a clever metaphor, too: arrow->Target. But Target is one of the biggest and most well recognized brands out there. Messing with the store brand, especially in an economic trough, is a big risk.

In other Target news, they’re leading the way in bag recycling by NOT recycling. Instead they’re upcycling–taking existing plastic bags, fusing them in a brief heating process that created a new, stronger, bonded, reusable bag called a Retote. The process uses less energy than what’s needed to recycle bags.

Growing Our (Anti) Library

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

From Nicholas Taleb’s Black Swan, about Umberto Eco’s home library:

Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight read-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.*

My friend Jack, who blogs at Knowledge Volt, sent me the link, from Matthew Cornell, in response to my guilt over book-buying binges. In keeping with the antilibrary, my trips last week to Half Price Books and Barnes and Noble in St. Louis Park:

May 2009 new books

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (Oxford World Classics mini HC edition)

Terminator 2

Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin
(spiffy vintage-look Penguin cover)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

Laura by Vera Caspary

China Mountain Zhang (gave our copy away years ago)

Curly Girl
by Lorraine Massey (my own copy, since the one I have is from the library)

For the kids:

kids book stack may 2009

Starting School by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Three Scooby Doo easy readers

The Firefighters Busy Day
by Richard Scarry

Noisy Nora by Rosemary Wells

Sammy the Seal
by Syd Hoff

It’s My Birthday
by Helen Oxenbury

Anatole and the Cat
by Eve Titus

I put the books on top of our built-in buffet, near the ceiling. My 5yo son Drake was so eager to get his hands on them that I barely got that photo taken before he started climbing, and dismantled the display:

Drake Climing, I Drake Climbing, II

Here’s 3yo Guppy, who can’t yet read, asleep on Sammy the Seal. Perhaps any book they can’t yet read themselves is part of the boys’ antilibrary.

Guppy with

Shoes, Makeup and…

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

PAJAMAS are the other thing you can buy if you’ve gained weight and need some retail therapy. I try not to indulge these days, but am awfully tempted since I saw Robin wearing these Mandarin Hipster pajamas on How I Met Your Mother the other week.

It wouldn’t be the first pair of pjs I sought after seeing on the tube. I got the Yummy Sushi pajamas after I saw them on Buffy the Vampire Slayer years ago, and love them still.

Comparing Covers

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

At the Millions, a comparison between the American and UK editions of some of the Morning News 2009 Tournament of Books contenders. (Link from Morning News, of course.)

I am actively stifling my urge to go to

But I’m going to keep an eye out at Half Price books; often the UK editions will turn up used or as remainders. That’s where I got UK editions of Harry Potter One and Two, Bridget Jones’ Diary, and the lovely HC of Special Topics in Calamity Physics (still unread).

(See how I finagled that? I HAD to go to the UK amazon to get the links for the UK editions. Heh. I did not shop, though. Yet.)

Lovely Links

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Oh, how bitter I used to be about Valentine’s Day! Less bitter than I was in the old days, I’ve learned not to wait for someone else to give me what I want or need. It’s important to have pretty, delicious things in life, otherwise we STAY bitter, I think.

Here are a few links to neat items for you, a loved one, or a mom you know, for Valentine’s Day, any other occasion, or to create your own:

Rogue Chocolatier chocolates: Artisan chocolates created from bean to bar in micro-batches in NE Minneapolis. On sale at local shops such as Surdyk’s.

Chocolat Celeste: Truly beautiful chocolates crafted in St. Paul, MN.

Legacy Chocolates: Treasures from neighboring Wisconsin. Try their Potion 9 chocolate sauce over Sonny’s vanilla ice cream. Divine.

B.T. McElrath chocolates: I can’t pick one flavor to recommend: passionfruit, cinnamon/star anise, green tea, dark chocolate truffles. All are eye-rollingly good.

Pretty flowers. No need to buy for Valentine’s Day, when it will cost extra. When you do though, skip the cheap stuff: mums, daisies, carnations, baby’s breath, ferns. Go for just a few beautiful striking blooms, instead.

Bags! I’m going to venture outside of the Twin Cities and recommend Queen Bee Creations in Seattle, carried by Dabble in NE Minneapolis, among other stores. Super cute, well-made non-leather bags, wallets and accessories. Bonus, they just created stylish bike panniers that also have a strap for shoulder carrying!

Local jewelry! Northeast’s Dabble also carries a good selection of locally crafted jewelry, like the lovely, affordable items from Gazelle Beads that I can’t stop buying as gifts.

Shoes! I don’t know anyone who’d turn down a new pair of shoes. Something fancy and impractical, like strappy designer heels from Nordstrom Rack. Or warm, stylish boots to perk up the tail end of winter from Red Wing boots in Minnesota.

Use your imagination. No need to go for broke, especially in this economy; often the lovely little gifts are remembered most.

New Used Books

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Is the title an oxymoron?

New books

From Half-Price Books:

The John McPhee Reader
David Copperfield
One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson
Nicholas Nickleby

From Big Brain Comics:

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Thank goodness I gave up that silly “I need to stop buying more books” vow.

Links are to available copies at amazon, not necessarily the edition pictured.


Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

I went to the bookstore yesterday for a title my psychologist recommended. I knew the author and the area the book would be in. I checked the shelves, but didn’t find it. I continued checking in related areas, but didn’t find it. Then I asked for help. A kind bookseller led me directly to the book. It was in the area I’d been looking, sitting face out, prominently on the shelf in its own special section.

The book? Driven to Distraction by Hallowell and Ratey. The section? ADD.

*Sigh* I do not think my difficulty finding the book and its topic are unrelated.

Instead of Coal in the Stocking

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

“Smoke up, Johnny!”

As an antidote to yesterday’s lovely article on gift giving to children, the Onion AV Club has “Fifteen Terrible Presents in TV and film

My worst gift was from my well-meaning dad. I was sixteen and he got me an emergency CB radio for the car if I broke down. He was trying to keep me safe; I wanted a red-striped shirt from the Limited. Ah, youth.

Link from ALoTT5MA

Five Holiday Gifts

Monday, December 8th, 2008

From the archives, on gift giving for kids:
Star Tribune 12/24/89 - Pat Gardner “Tender Years”

The weeks of hectic preparation are coming to a close. Within days, the magic will begin to unfold for our children and, vicariously through them, for us. Just as we remember those wonderful Christmas Eves and mornings long ago, our children will one day look back on these days. How will they remember them? What are you giving your children this year?

I know one family of modest means that makes a great effort to celebrate Christmas in the best way possible. Their children always find five gifts under the tree. And more than that, the gifts are always accompanied by a parent. Here’s how they do it.

The children always receive a gift to hug and love.
Sometimes it’s a doll or maybe a stuffed animal. Every Christmas each child has something to care for, to carry along and finally at night to share a bed, secrets and dreams.

The wise parents know that the children will themselves learn to care for others by practicing on dolls and stuffed animals. Mom and Dad demonstrate rocking the stuffed bear and wiping the doll’s face. They talk about being gentle and giving care.

More important, they treat their children tenderly. They make a special effort at this busy time of year for a little more lap time, more frequent hugs and all the physical care and attention their young children need.

The children in this family always receive something to read. The parents know that to give them books is to give them wings. The little ones get books, and the big ones get books. Books aren’t foreign to any member of this family. Books are treasures. And more than that, they become a daily connection between parent and child.

The wise parents know that the best way to raise a reader is to read to a child….They share curiosity. They take the time to listen patiently to their beginning reader. They share discoveries. Through books, these parents explore worlds within their home and beyond their front door with all of their children.

The children receive toys and games.
These parents are concerned about each child’s skills and find fun ways to enhance their present capabilities and encourage further development. For a grasping baby, a crib gym; for a beginning walker, a push toy; for a pre-schooler, a shape and color sorter; for a beginning reader, a game of sequence and strategy.

The parents know that play is the work of childhood. They understand that to meet a child at her level of accomplishment is to encourage success in play. Success stimulates motivation and interest in a challenge. So the parents judge their toy and game choices carefully. Not too easy, but not too hard.

They they do the most important thing. They play with their children. The children see that learning is a toy, that it’s fun to challenge oneself, that play can be a very social activity, that it’s OK to win and also to lose and that Mom and Dad wholeheartedly approve of play.

The children in this family always receive a gift of activity.
From a simple ball or jump rope to a basketball hoop or a pair of ice skates, they always have one gift that encourages action.

The parents know that those children who, by nature, are very active may need to be channeled into acceptable and appropriate activities. And they know that those children who, by nature, are very passive may need to be encouraged to move with purpose. But their message to their children is that physical activity is important and good.

These parents make their message clear by joining their children in physical play. They skate and play catch. They’re on the floor with their crawlers and walk hand in hand with their toddlers. They get bumped and bruised and laugh and shout. They sled and they bowl. And many times in the next few weeks when resting on the couch sounds much more inviting, these parents will give their kids one more gift. They’ll get up and play with them.

The children always receive a gift of artistic expression. They might find crayons, paints or markers in their stockings. It might be a gift of clay this year or rubber stamps or scissors and glue. The materials change, but the object remains the same: create with joy.

These wise parents aren’t terribly concerned about the mess of finger paints. They’re more concerned about the exposure to unique sensations. They want their children to use their imaginations. They want their children to approach life in a hands-on fashion. And they want them to express themselves through their artistic activities in ways that exceed their vocabularies.

October Book Stack

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

October Book Stack The usual disclaimer about how I obviously can’t stop shopping for books. From Half Price Books, St. Louis Park MN, 25 October 2008:

Rise Against Siren Song of the Counter Culture CD (for 5yo Drake)

Persuasion and Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
(all for me. I buy multiple copies to get different introductions and footnotes, since many of my current copies are footnote-free.)
James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl (for G. Grod. I don’t remember liking this one.)

The Yellow Admiral, The Wine-Dark Sea and The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian (all for G. Grod, who is working his way through the series)

Happy Halloween, Curious George!

(for Drake and Guppy, of course.)
Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human
by Harold Bloom (nod to Mental Multivitamin for finally “talking” me into Harold Bloom) (me)

. RIP David Foster Wallace (G. Grod)

Bonus points to anyone who can correctly identify which item(s) are for which member of the family, Me, husband G. Grod, 5yo Drake and 2yo Guppy. Edited to add links. Edited to add answers.

Slate Read My Mind

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

I’ve been wondering (OK, maybe fantasizing is more precise) what it would be like to spend $150K at Sak’s, Barney’s or Neiman’s since the Sarah Palin shopping story broke. Over at Slate, Nina Shen Rastogi does it for me.

Link from The Morning News.

Mmm, Purple

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Fall color is not just for trees. I’m in the midst of my annual fall-fashion magazine binge, and my most-wanted color duo is dark plum and bright yellow. They’ll go great with dark brown or gray.

Mossimo purple Vlasta flats
Purple patent ballet flats

Mossimo purple hobo bag
Purple leather hobo bag
. Both from Target.
Lincoln Park after Dark by OPI
Lincoln Park after Dark nail varnish by OPI, a favorite of my fashionable NYC friend, N, who bought me
Citrine flats
the bright yellow flats I’m wearing today, as a gift for fall.

Four Book Binges in Nine Days

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

I often vow to read more books off my shelf and not buy new ones. Feel free to mock me.

From Big Brain Comics:

Zot! 1987-1991 by Scott McCloud,
The Black Diamond Detective Agency by Eddie Campbell
The Amazing Remarkable Monsieur Leotard by E. Campbell & D. Best
Superpowers by David J. Schwartz (a friend of a friend)

From Half-Price Books Roseville:

The Book of Jhereg by Steven Brust
The Book of Athyra by Steven Brust
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles, Mary Lamb, ill. by A. Rackham
Hamlet (Chamberlain Bros. edition with BBC production dvd)
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
The Far Side of the World by Patrick O’Brien
Hamlet: The Poem by Harold Bloom

From Dreamhaven:

The Book of Taltos by Steven Brust
Making Book by Teresa Nielsen Hayden
The Paths of the Dead by Steven Brust
The Lord of Castle Black by Steven Brust
Sethra Lavode by Steven Brust

From Half-Price Books St. Louis Park:
Half Price Books 2

The Eensy Weensy Spider by M. Hoberman, ill. by N. Westcott
Skip to My Lou by Nadine Bernard Westcott
Miss Mary Mack by M. Hoberman, ill. by N. Westcott
Romeo and Juliet
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
Hamlet dvd (with Ethan Hawke)
Heat dvd
Spartan dvd
Shakespeare by Peter Ackroyd
Crime and Punishment transl. by Pevear, Volokhonsky
The Early Bird by Richard Scarry
The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban, ill. by David Small
Stone Age Boy by Satoshi Kitamura
The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli

As if all these weren’t enough, and as if we didn’t have enough to read, we bought this at Big Brain Comics last night. It does double duty: it’s a novel and a bludgeoning weapon!
Anathem by Neal Stephenson

Let me know if the photos are legible; this is my first big photo foray.

How We Started the Long Weekend

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

As soon as he got home from work, my husband G. Grod, 5yo Drake, 2.5yo Guppy and I piled in the car and headed west of Minneapolis to where G and I first lived when we moved here ten years ago, St. Louis Park. First, we went to Half Price Books, and found a huge pile of delightful books and dvds, all an extra 20% off. Then we went to Noodles and Company for supper (I love the Mushroom Stroganoff with Sriracha sauce), and Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream (I never get anything else besides Chocolate Therapy). We took a walk around part of Lake Calhoun, then headed home to get the boys ready for bed, during which Guppy peed in the potty for the second time, ever. Then G. and I watched an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from Season 2, “The Dark Age.”

It was a wonderful evening.

Half Price Books Labor Day Weekend Sale 2008

Saturday, August 30th, 2008

Half-Price Books (a US used book, movie and music store) is having a sale over Labor Day Weekend with an extra 20% off everything in the store, which is almost all at least half price already. Our little family brought home quite a stack of books and dvds last night; a pic to come, I hope.

A Few Favorite Things

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Mother’s Day in the USA is this Sunday. Mothering Day started in England as a day off for servants to visit their mothers/see their kids. In America, it was transformed to celebrate the homemaker/nanny, perhaps just putting a gloss over Sisyphean attempts to stem the tides of snot, poop, and dirt.

So here are a few ideas, in case you haven’t gotten something for the mothers in your life.

Spring flowers. Narcissus are pretty and have a lovely, delicate scent.

Treats. Raspberry-flavored cherries taste like red Swedish fish! And _good_ chocolate, from near (Legacy) or far (Maison du Chocolat’s plain truffles), is always in good taste.

A spring bag. Candy-colored, croc (mock or not), and black/white bags are in.

Unguents. It’s been a long, hard winter. Good lotion, like Golden Door Eucalyptus, is a soothing, smoothing indulgence.

Rest, peace and quiet. Good luck with this one.

Related reading: This article from the Atlantic on mother-centered architecture. We live in a four-square bungalow similar to those described in the article.

The Benefits of Bulk

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

My husband G. Grod and I finally started to rein in our household spending, and one of the first things we did was establish a grocery budget. As I’ve worked with the budget, I’ve changed my shopping habits, and with practice I’ve reduced our grocery bill with better planning and fewer impulse buys.

One of the key cost saving measures is buying items from the bulk aisle. Our grocery coop has an impressive selection of items. And if I plan ahead, I can bring my own containers to fill, so I’m reducing waste and not paying for packaging. I now buy a huge number of our staples in bulk: eggs, peanut butter, honey, olive oil, vanilla, pasta, flour, sugar, granola, popcorn, dried fruit and other baking supplies like oats and nuts.

Not only has our weekly grocery bill gone down, but this helps with inventory control, as I’m able to buy just a little at a time, and our recycling has been reduced, because we’re buying much less packaging.

Our coop
is having a sale on bulk till the end of April; if you live nearby, give it a try. Bring your own bags, bring your own bulk containers, and save money, space, and waste.

We Are Clowns for Your Amusement

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

On Monday, I took 4yo Drake and 2yo Guppy to our grocery coop. I sent Drake off to get a dozen bulk eggs. He returned, proud of himself, with an intact carton. Unfortunately, he put them in the cart within Guppy’s reach, so when I turned around, Guppy quickly emptied five of them into the cart, where they broke. The other woman shopping in produce thought laughed, not unkindly, as I hustled to scoop up the dripping eggs and see if they could be used in the deli. (The manager said she’d take them home for her dogs.)

In the bulk aisle, Guppy asked for a chocolate chip. I gave him one. ONE. The next time I turned around, he had chocolate all over his face, his hands, his jacket, and the plush mouse I’d borrowed from the cheese case to distract him. The woman at the register laughed, and said he’d used it like a crayon.

At checkout, Drake insisted on taking his little cart of some of our items to the next register, while Guppy began to scream when I told him he couldn’t have chocolate milk, since we had some at home. The nice woman behind me and her 7yo daughter distracted Guppy till he stopped screaming, and assured me that things get easier. A friend distracted Drake so I could sneak over to the next register and scoop up our items that he’d “helpfully” placed on the conveyer. Amazingly, he didn’t scream at my interference.

It was actually very nice that people were kind enough to see the humor, even as I was struggling with damage control. It’s much better than those “whose kid is THIS?” look that I dread.

Optical Delusion

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Every few years, I come up with a perfectly valid and defendable reason for getting new glasses. Last time it was that my prescription had changed. This time it was because 2yo Guppy had broken both my best pair and backup pair. I got both repaired, but decided to visit the optician to get a sturdier, around-the-house frame. My current “best” pair were still great for when I go out or am among only adults , so I didn’t need anything special.

There’s nothing, however, guaranteed to show how shabby and out of date and just plain uncool the glasses I got five+ years ago are than going shopping. A new, inexpensive pair of beater frames for backup? Nice try; forget it. Once the current frames have been seen and tried, the result is always the same. I ordered a new, expensive, albeit sturdier, pair that will be my new go-tos, and that (I hope) Guppy can’t punch or dismantle into submission.

Fortunately, we have eyecare benefits and a pre-tax health account, both of which make this just a bit more justifiable.

A bit.

So, in a few days, I’ll be sporting these in olive green. Coach Abbi

I am the Queen of Rationalization

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

Remember that long ago date, what was it, ELEVEN DAYS AGO, when I wrote

My hope for this year (I prefer hopes to goals; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a simple transposition makes them gaols) is to read two shelf books a month, to continue my library patronage, and to keep book buying to a minimum.

The shopping goddess thought it was time for my uppance to come. I broke that vow within 48 hours. I broke it again three days later. And again, five days after that. Curse you, Half Price Books. Herewith are the books I bought, and how I came to rationalize buying them:

Four volumes from The Gresham Publishing Company’s Complete Work of Charlotte Bronte and her Sisters: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Villette, Shirley, and The Professor. Me: Gasp! I was just thinking I wanted to read more Bronte books, and here are these lovely old editions in good shape with photo and illustration inserts! Wait, I’m not supposed to buying books. Wait, it’s my birthday at the end of the month. Happy birthday to me….

Pride and Prejudice, Norton Critical Edition. Me: I was JUST thinking that I’d like an edition of this with notes. And here it is!

Wuthering Heights Barnes and Noble Classics edition. Me: I am really craving notes right now, and these look pretty good.

Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics. Me: Look, notes!

Wide Sargasso Sea, Norton Critical Edition. Me: I can take this off my amazon wish list now. It’s cheap! And full of notes so I can understand the book this time!

Ironically (or pathetically; you decide) the reason I’d gone into the bookstore was that they were holding a mass-market paperback (MMPB, i.e., portable) copy of Little Women. But in the excitement of rationalizing EIGHT books, I forgot to pick up the one on hold. So I had to go back, three days later.

Little Women, Signet MMPB. Me: I really want to re-read LW before I read Geraldine Brooks’ March, and I don’t want to lug around my big HC even if I love the illustrations.

Ken Follett, Pillars of the Earth MMPB. Me: Ha! Who needs to buy the expensive TPB Oprah edition! This is much more portable for when I read it again, which I’m sure I’m going to do soon.

Then, five days later, I’m in the bookstore again. (It’s near where I have doctor appointments; I did have legitimate reasons for being there.)

Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho MMPB. Me: I am loving Northanger Abbey, and have to read this, since it’s mentioned so often.

Caleb Carr’s The Alienist $1 MMPB. Me: Becca just commented that this was a thumping good read, and since I’m so into Victorian literature lately, I’m sure I’ll read this soon.

Marisha Pessl’s Special Topics in Calamity Physics UK HC. Me: Ooh! Pretty textured cover! So much nicer than the US editions!

There you have it. I expressed a hope to keep book buying to a minimum, and within ten days I bought thirteen books. Better get reading.