Archive for the 'Shopping' Category

From the Stacks Challenge

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Around the time Guppy was born, I spent a fair amount of time participating in online reading challenges. I soon discovered that these interfered with the spontaneity and enjoyment of my reading. Sometimes, though, the challenges are enough in line with what I want to read anyway, or they give enough leeway to choose, that they still draw me. Such was last year’s From the Stacks challenge, which I read about at one of my favorite book blogs, Pages Turned.

I set out the books I wanted to read. Instead of the suggested five, I chose ten–five graphic and five prose novels. I took several pictures, trying to get the book ambience just right. (Does it strike anyone else that the shelf pics of book blogs are something akin to book porn?) I then found I can’t post pictures on my blog, which is just as well. I’m hard put enough to post regularly without something else to obsess nerdishly over. It is also just as well, because of those ten, I read only five. Of those, I loved only one; several of the others I didn’t even much like. Additionally, I veered off my list to read seven others from the shelves, nearly all of which I liked a great deal. (Several of which were quick-read graphic novels, in case this sounds more impressive than it is.)

I am reminded once again that online book challenges aren’t for me. I’ve begun using Gurulib to log my books and my considerable to read/watch/listen titles. 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. I count over 100 shelf books (gulp) so even if I manage my hope, I still will reduce my home stash by less than a quarter. But this is my annual memo to self that I hope to shop and select from the home shelves as I can, rather than haring off after every challenge and alluring coupon.

M. Giant’s Birthday

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Today is the birthday of M. Giant, the author of the very funny Velcrometer. Almost six years ago, M. said to G. Grod and me, “Hey, I started a blog. Check it out.” I did, and thought, “Hey, I can do that. Not nearly as hilariously, but still, it probably won’t completely suck.” So if you occasionally enjoy this weblog, you have M. Giant to thank for it. And if you hate the blog, well, I really don’t understand why you haven’t clicked away by now, but don’t blame M. All responsibility accrues to me for that.

I noted earlier this week that M Giant wants us to pre-order his book from amazon to spike his rating. I’m off to do just that. Happy birthday M, and happy weekend, all.

Happy Birthday to M. Giant!

Monday, January 14th, 2008

The author of Velcrometer, M Giant’s birthday is this Friday, the 18th of January. He knows what he wants:

Pre-order my book. No, not yet!

My birthday is Friday, January 18th. On that day, let’s say in the afternoon, I would love it if as many people as possible would go to Amazon and preorder my book, A TV Guide to Life. You may think this is a poorly veiled ploy to artificially inflate my Amazon ranking for a brief moment. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is in fact a bare-ass naked ploy. You want in?

I’m thinking 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Central Time will be the ideal window. I’d love to just say 3:00 p.m. straight up, but I don’t know how many of you have Amazon blocked on your work computers.

M. is a funny, fine writer, and a good guy to boot. Consider buying his book this Friday.

Stacker Shock

Monday, December 10th, 2007

I was toy shopping for the boys when I discovered that what seemed like a basic box of Legos costs $100. WTF?

Toy Recalls

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

This one is so ridiculous that it sounds like the writers of The Daily Show might be moonlighting during their strike. I’m sure they’d have a field day with this one:

Millions of toys recalled; contain ‘date rape’ drug

Read through it all, because many more toy recalls are detailed.

I’m thinking of buying US-made toys this year, how about you? A Toy Garden has a good selection of these.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

#49 in my 2007 book challenge was Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.

The blessing of the omnivore is that she can eat a great many things in nature. The curse of the omnivore is that when it comes to figuring out which of these things are safe to eat, she’s pretty much on her own.

Pollan’s thoughtful, thorough, and provoking book is one of the best I’ve read all year. In fluid prose that is neither needlessly academically esoteric, or dumbed down for the masses, Pollan examines four food systems, the meals they produce, and their hidden costs and suffering. The four are agricultural industrial, organic industrial, organic sustainable, and hunted/gathered. In the end, it’s not hard to determine where Pollan’s bias lies after all his research and experience. What makes this book so compelling, though, is that he takes effort and time to explore and explain all the alternative views. The cruelty and problems of industrial farming are clearly delineated, but Pollan’s book situates them in time and place to make them understandable, though nonetheless disturbing.

I was surprised and concerned to learn how prevalent corn byproducts are in the North American diet. Another point I especially liked was that eaters must either be ignorant of where their food comes from and how it’s processed, or choose from smaller, more challenging method of eating, like vegetarianism, or a focus on locally farmed and sourced organic food.

To visit a modern Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) is to enter a world that for all its technological sophistication is still designed on seventeenth-century Cartesian principles: Animals are treated as machines–”production units”–incapable of feeling pain. Since no thinking person can possibly believe this anymore, industrial animal agriculture depends on a suspension of disbelief on the part of the people who operate it and a willingness to avert one’s eyes on the part of everyone else. Egg operations are the worst,

Pollan quotes Levi-Strauss about the ideal that food should be both good to think and good to eat. According to Pollan, this means that the eater knows how and where her food is produced, and feels good about. There’s another interpretation of the Levi-Strauss, phrase, though, that lends itself less well to Pollan’s text. As Pollan does, though, I find it a useful phrase that will help to guide my food choices. I’m no longer willfully ignorant of the provenance of much of my food. Already I do most of my family’s shopping at our local grocery cooperative. But after the book, I’ve resolved to seek out even more local, organic food, eschew products with high-fructose corn syrup, and cut back on the non-local, non-seasonal organic items that have hidden costs (e.g., petroleum used in transportation) in addition to their high prices.

This book has changed the way I think about food, and will change the way I shop and eat.

(Insert pun on ‘bag’ here)

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

I’m sure I can’t come up with a title about handbags that hasn’t been done before, and to death. I admit, though, I love bags. I just took several to the charity shop yesterday in order to make space for the two new ones I have for fall, one black, one brown. On my recent jaunt to NYC, my friend LA needed a new bag, so we shopped on Canal St. I advised her to buy a dark-olive suede one for fall, because the olive would be more interesting than black and brown, yet still go with almost everything. She rocked that bag for the rest of the weekend.

This piece on the handbag from The Smart Set (link from Arts & Letters Daily) didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know, but it was still fun to read. My current bag strategy is to get an idea from the fashion mags of what’s in, find a reasonable facsimile at Target on the clearance rack, use it for the season, then give it away. I did it this summer, and will try to stick to it this fall/winter, too.

Watch Shopping

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

My friend The Hoff complimented me on my watch today.
Nixon Big RigI told her it was actually my husband G. Grod’s, and said we were fans of the Nixon watches, and have another apiece, his and hers. Nixon isn’t a common brand. It’s sold mostly in skate and specialty stores. G. and I have often gone Nixon watch shopping on a date; we’ll have dinner and ice cream at Crema Cafe, then head down the stree to Lava Lounge, which carries a good selection of Nixons.

Nixons are well constructed, and have a price tag to match. I was surprised on my last trip to Target to discover a wide selection of men’s fashion watches by Timex and Mossimo. The styles were good, and the prices reasonable, most between $20 and $40.

What to Pack for a Weekend Getaway: Clothes

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

For a long weekend, I want to pack light and not check bags, but I don’t want to wear the same things. I want to look nice when I go out, but want to be comfortable walking around. Here’s a theoretical mix-n-match shopping list (for the store or from your closet), all from Target for us budget babes:

Walking shoes: Dress boots:
Skirt: Pant:
Midrise Dark Wash Jean: Midrise Dark Jean
Blouse: Blouse
Sweater: Sweater
Long-sleeve T-shirt: Tee
Fitted Blazer: Blazer
Trench Coat: Trench Coat

And to round things out, the basics:

Opaque tights
Bras: two
Socks: three
Underwear: three

Coming Soon (I hope): Toiletries, and how to follow the TSA guidelines!

September from Persephone Books

Friday, September 28th, 2007

From Persephone Books:

To celebrate The Fortnight in September, the extraordinary novel by RC Sherriff (extraordinary because it is not really ‘about’ anything except a family on holiday in Bognor Regis, and yet it is impossible to put down - or forget) we thought we would tempt you with a special September offer.

If, before Monday morning, you order two books on the website, and one includes The Fortnight in September, we will send you a third book free of charge: just pay the normal amount for two books and write in the Additional Information box which book you would like free. (This offer also applies in Europe and America; although the third book will be sent surface mail and may take longer to arrive.)

Persephone resurrects out of print books by or about women’s lives and reprints them in lovely softcover editions. If you’ve thought about ordering before but didn’t know where in their impressive catalog to start, I recommend Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, a sassy tale of mistaken identity reminiscent of a 30’s era Hollywood romantic comedy, something that would have starred Clark Gable or Cary Grant. I also loved The Home-Maker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, about a family forced by circumstance to take on non-traditional roles. It helped me make the decision to resign my job after I had Drake, and four years later the memory of it is urging me to move back in the direction of paid, professional work.

But if you’re still not sure, give them a call (minding the time difference in London). The women of Persephone would be happy to help you find something suitable.

Drugstore Mascara, Again

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I wasn’t thrilled with Maybelline’s Define-a-Lash mascara, in spite of its lovely, metallic green tube. The weird, plastic-hedgehog brush didn’t prevent clumps. And the Neutrogena Clean Lash Tint, while good, only comes in black.

On the advice of my sister Sydney, I tried Maybelline Full n Soft mascara, and I think it’s a winner. It has a big, dense brush and a range of colors. It’s not one they’re pushing; product was on floor level. It’s more thickening and darkening than lengthening. Since that’s what I was looking for, I’m happy so far.

There’s a New Self Tanner in Town

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Earlier this summer I had good results from L’Oreal’s Sublime Glow moisturizing self tanner. The smell was light and not unpleasant, the color was barely orange, and streaks were minimal. Last summer, I tried Dove Energy Glow with little success. It had a faint unpleasant smell, plus it was orange and streaky.

On the advice of my knowledgeable sister Sydney, I tried Nivea Sun-Kissed Firming Moisturizer. I like it even better than the L’Oreal. The scent is light and pleasant, and the results are not orange at all. In fact, when I used it I became worried that I’d gotten some actual sun–I couldn’t tell the difference.

Purging Books

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Outer Life did a typically thoughtful and funny entry on book binging, and book purging. He notes that genre books are an easy target.

As a practicing purger, I recognized the value of the genre tactic a while ago. Like OL, I got rid of all my McDonald Fletch books, even though the first and second were really good. I got rid of my Anne McCaffrey dragon books that were so compelling when I was a teen. Ditto with a bunch of bodice rippers.

I’ve done a pretty good job of borrowing books from the library rather than buying them; this has significantly reduced my book expenditures.

I wonder if book binging coincide with general upswings in the retail market, and hopeful feelings of consumers for the economy? Or, more interesting, could it have an inverse relationship?

Tim Gunn’s Ten Essentials

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

I was surprised to find that I couldn’t find a list of the ten essential wardrobe items prescribed by Tim Gunn, on his new show Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style. Fortunately, the list wasn’t hard to find elsewhere, thanks to the Budget Babe. (I don’t call myself Girl Detective for nothing; Google is my friend.)

After my sister Sydney helped me rock Value City over the weekend, I own one of everything on this list except a trench coat. I think this short list could meet almost all the dress up/dress down occasions in life.

Tim Gunn’s 10 Essential Items Every Woman Needs
- Basic black dress
- Trench coat
- Classic dress pants
- Classic white shirt
- Skirt
- Blazer
- Day dress
- Cashmere sweater
- Jeans
- A comfortable alternative to a sweatsuit

Fisher-Price Lead Paint Children’s Product Recall

Friday, August 3rd, 2007

Fisher-Price is the most recent child product producer to announce a recall. This list is for all their recalled products, and the newest is for many licensed Sesame Street and Dora products.

What I Really Needed Immediately After Having a Baby

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

I have a good friend who is expecting her first child. She recently had the “I don’t have what I need, wait, what do I need?” episode that I experienced as my due date loomed. She lives in England, though, where registries aren’t as common as they are in the US. In many ways, I think this is a good thing. The baby industry, like the wedding industry, sprang up to distract parents-to-be from the imminent life upheaval with shiny, pretty things. And, like all industries, it succeeds because it generates both perceived need and desire.

Looking back, I only needed to procure two things to bring baby Drake home: a securely installed, safe-rated infant car seat, and an outfit for him to wear. (Dan Savage echoes this in his adoption memoir The Kid, and says that everything else can be purchased on the way home.) Our hospital sent us home with many of the things we would need, but different hospitals have different practices. Here’s a list of the things I really needed in those first, bleary post-partum days (along with what I think are the English terms for them), as well as some of the things I didn’t need, either right away or ever.


Baby Bargains: for what to buy and when
Baby 411: simple answers to most questions

For home:

Unscented laundry detergent. Does not have to be Dreft, which is scented. Wash the first-use baby items beforehand if possible.

For baby:

Infant car seat
1 pack diapers (nappies), size N
Alcohol-free, scent-free baby wipes
Diaper cream with zinc to treat rash; with petroleum as barrier to wetness (modern diapers do this really well, though)
Baby fingernail scissors and toe-nail clippers (buy separately not as part of kit)
Onesies or wraparound tops (vests)
3 swaddling blankets, best size was 40″ square in cotton flannel (rectangle is harder to swaddle, smaller than 35″ impossible to swaddle)
A few newborn-sized sleepers (babygros), with zippers rather than snaps for easier changes. Zippers/snaps down both legs is MUCH easier to change. Some parents like the open-bottom nightgowns for easier night changing, but I found these bothered the babies; too unrestrictive.
Sleepsack if house is cold.
Bundle Me if weather is cold
Light, jersey-knit hat, even in warm weather
Baby mittens, not just for cool weather but to protect baby’s face from scratches till you can trim fingernails
Electronic thermometer for mouth, underarm or rectum, NOT ear
Soap: Dove Sensitive Skin
Very small, tight-fitting socks, or footed sleepers. Booties get kicked off immediately
Hooded towel and washcloth (smaller and softer than adult ones)
Baby monitor (OK, this is the crazy expensive one, but I swear we’ve spent so much on the Fisher-Price ones that always break that this one sounds dreamy)
Nursing pillow (The embarrassingly named My Brest Friend was my favorite from birth to six months)

For mom:

Nursing bra

Nursing pads
Lanolin cream
Healing pads
Sanitary napkins for postpartum bleeding, even after C-section
Hemorrhoid pads if vaginal birth
Easy-access pajamas for nursing
Stool softener (NOT bulk-forming laxative–different things!)

Didn’t need right away:

Pacifier, bottles and breast pump–not till weight gain established and nursing routine in place–two to four weeks
Stroller (Buggy or Pram) Depends on weather, but we didn’t use till 10 days; Zoopers have good built-in features
Rattles and other toys
Crib and crib mattress (four or five months)
Infant Tylenol and Ibuprofen
Outfits–buy next size from NB, (often labelled 3M or 0-3M)
Robeez (aka sock-keepers-on)
Two more hooded towels and washcloths
Boppy, for tummy time, sitting support, and for nursing older infant
Front carrier

Didn’t really need:

Special burp cloths (muslins); could have used dish towels; should’ve used black dish towels
Baby shampoo; our kids were born bald, plus Dove Sensitive Skin soap worked fine
Baby brush and comb; regular ones worked fine
Stuffed animals: most had choking hazard, also hard to keep clean, only a few ever made the cut to “lovey”
Changing pad cover; could use towels or one of myriad baby blankets
Gas drops; who knows if they work
Baby bathtub; could have just used kitchen sink. Newborns don’t need frequent baths.
Tiny drool bibs; needed food bibs at about six months

Didn’t need ever:

Crib bedding other than sheet
Most items in baby emergency kit
What to Expect books
Gum numbing gel

Agree? Disagree? Did I forget anything?

From Frowny to Frabjous

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Yesterday morning, I was impatient to know when my UK edition of the new Harry Potter would arrive. I checked my email confirmation and was displeased with the news. It was shipped by mail, so I couldn’t track it, and estimated delivery was between 7/27/07 and 7/31/07. I tried steeling myself for the wait, and reminding myself that it would be possible to avoid spoilers, but I couldn’t help looking at the mail slot every chance I got. I told myself this would make it arrive even later.

Imagine my joy, then, when the mail was delivered, and I saw my package. I’ve made just the bare beginning (30 pages) but hope to devote more time to it soon.

One of my best book shopping moments ever was when I worked at a used book store. I’d just read an article about how HP1 was so wildly successful in the UK but had not yet taken off in the US. #2 was already published in the UK, but not yet released stateside. I was unpacking a remainder/seconds box when I found a UK trade paperback of HP1 and a hardcover of HP2! And because I worked there, I got them for 50% off the marked down price! Since then, I’ve gotten them from the UK so I have a matching set, and so I get the English vocabulary, titles, and punctuation.

I’m a fan, but no fanatic. I like the Potter books. They’re fun. The release of a new one is an event. I want to know what happens. They’re not great literature, but so what? Not everything has to be, and they have a fair share of redeeming qualities.

Five Luxurious Things

Wednesday, June 6th, 2007

1. Reading 75 to 100 pages a day.
2. Doing the daily NYT crossword puzzle. Only having to cheat on Saturday.
3. Watching wildlife. Recently sighted: a covey of baby quail, a mama hummingbird feeding her baby, and a pair of wild parrots.
4. Peace and quiet.
5. Dozing, then lolling, in bed before getting up.

More for Mothers Day

Wednesday, May 9th, 2007

A few more ideas occurred to me that might make good gifts for the moms in your life.

Noise Reducing Headphones
Not for walking out on the street, but oh, wouldn’t these be nice at home?

Nice Watch So Mom can take off the battered, bathproof Timex that keeps track of timeouts and falling-asleep intervals. My husband and I are fans of Nixon watches, which they sell locally at Lava Lounge.

Teapot and Loose-Leaf Tea Twin Cities treasure Tea Source ships! They carry single-person pots that hold enough water for about two and a half cups. The House Earl Grey is wonderful; I get raves every time I serve it. I also like their herbal tisanes (see their informative site to find out why herbal “teas” aren’t really tea). My longtime favorite is Evening in Missoula. I also like Starfire Licorice, Margaret’s Soother, and Earl Red.

Mothers Day

Monday, May 7th, 2007

Did you think Mothers Day was invented by Hallmark? It’s been around for longer than that. Some research dates it back to Cybele (pronounced with a hard C, short Y and long E at the end: KIH-buh-Lee) worship in ancient Greece. The American version is largely based on a post-Civil War peace manifesto. The English version, Mothering Sunday, was reportedly begun so working class domestics could have at least one Sunday off a year to visit their mums, and so the mums could have off to receive the visits. Whatever the origin, though, there’s little disagreement that mothering is a tough gig, and few begrudge moms the day as tribute to that.

Some very good news for moms: the Mommy War is more a media invention than an accurate portrait of reality:

Most women today have to work: it’s the only way their families are going to be fed, housed and educated. A new college-educated generation takes it for granted that women will both work and care for their families — and that men must be an integral part of their children’s lives. It’s a generation that understands that stay-at-home moms and working mothers aren’t firmly opposing philosophical stances but the same women in different life phases, moving in and out of the part-time and full-time workforce for the few years while their children are young.

In this week leading up to Mothers Day in America, think about the mothers in your life. Not just your mom, or your spouse’s mom, but all the mothers: friends, siblings, co-workers, neighbors. Give a mom a break this week. If you hear a screaming kid and judgment flashes through your brain, offer help instead. And think of pretty, comforting things, big or small, that might make a mom’s day a bit brighter:

Card Papyrus carries, and Marcel Shurman makes, lovely ones.

Flowers I love yellow roses and dislike lilies. Do your loved one a favor. Ask what she likes, and avoid carnations, daisies, baby’s breath, and alstroemeria, unless specifially requested. Gerbera daisies are an exception.

Chocolate Twin Citian’s are fortunate to have both B.T. McElrath (I love the passionfruit and dark chocolate truffles) and Legacy Chocolates (Potion No. 9) readily available.

Accessories Little blue box or big orange box, brand recognition can be a lovely thing. I love the blue/green En Duo ribbon pattern.

I recently recommended Jill Murphy’s Five Minutes’ Peace and Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum. Both take wry looks at the mundane reality of mothering small children, though Atkinson’s book is both funny and tragic. For self-examination and spiritual growth, I recommend Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gift cards for, Barnes and Noble, Border’s, or your local book shop are always good ideas.

Ice Cream Did you know that you can get Graeter’s ice cream shipped? Now you do. The chocolate chip flavors are stunning.

Ice Cream, Again Twin Citians, you’ve got a lot to love.

Fancy Dinner at the best restaurant in your city. Twin Citians, this is ours.

Music Fun and Booty-Shakin’ (Justin Timberlake’s FutureSex/Lovesounds), Local (new Low album!), Singer/Songwriter male (Rufus Wainwright’s Release the Stars), Singer/Songwriter female (Patti Griffin’s Children Running Through), Sophomore effort (Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare)

Movies Go out to a theater that serves good popcorn with real butter (Heights, Riverview, or GTI Roseville in the Twin Cities), or stay in and watch the vastly underrated Children of Men, Alfonso Cuaron’s chilling look at a future without mothers.

If you have other ideas, email me and I’ll post them, too.

My unexpected gift, today? That baby Guppy is still napping, which has allowed me the time I needed for this link-a-palooza.

And if you were bothered by my lack of apostrophe in Mothers Day, get over it. Apostrophes are one of the most misused and unnecessary pieces of punctuation. Here’s a long explanation of why I can leave them out. But do you get what I mean when I say Mothers Day? Then you see my point.