Dress Quest 2010

Three weeks ago, I posted about the agony of finding the perfect dress for my sister’s upcoming wedding.  I talked about the bevy of stores I’d been visiting in person and online, and briefly mentioned the swing towards HOOCH many modern bridesmaid dresses have taken.  As Maid of Honor, it was imperative I find the right dress.  My sister didn’t want something too formal, but being an evening affair it couldn’t be casual either.  She wanted it to be blue, preferably lighter in color, and shortish.  No small order, given most of the dresses I was finding were 1) not blue, and 2) too short for someone as tall as me.  To compound matters, I’d found dresses for my daughters in a pale ice blue – a great color but uncommon – and wanted to try to match mine to theirs.

I am not being dramatic when I say finding this dress was akin to being forked repeatedly in the eye whilst receiving electroshock.  I spent hours online, cruising websites till my buns was numb.  I went from store to store to store, trying on anything that could even remotely work, regardless of price or quality.  If it was blue, I put it on.  Most of what I found was horrific.  Cheap fabrics, poor cuts, too short, too skimpy, too bad.  A few dresses were lovely, and of course those were inevitably wrong, in whatever way.  One was too casual – and waaaaaay too expensive.  Another just too big – and past season.  No smaller size available.  A couple fit fine but were boring beyond belief.  With each passing day my frustration and sense of desperation grew palpably greater, and I was sleeping poorly at night.  Rather than dream, shades of blue would wash over me like waves, till it was time to start looking again.

And then it happened.  I’d practically given up when SHE arrived in the mail.  One look and I knew.  The right size, the right fit.  The silk chiffon was featherweight – no way would I be sweltering in the Georgia heat.  Okay, she was dark, and long, but she was CLASSY.  Formal without feeling stiff, flowy and feminine and beautiful.  The minute I put her on, I felt like a princess.  FINALLY! a dress to do my sister proud.  I’d never have imagined it, but I knew she was the one.

Don’t I scream Matro(fu)n of Honor?  YOU KNOW I DO!!  And it even looks great with the shoes I’d bought!  Even though it’s so long no one will ever even see them!  YAY!!

Now, having survived this experience, I would like to share some of my newly-acquired shopping knowledge so that others may be spared a margin of agony in their own quests.

NUMBER ONE

J.Crew may have nice looking clothes, but they have the very worst shipping policy of any company I found.  I ordered from them twice.  On both occasions I bought two dresses, each weighing roughly 16 paperclips.  The first time they charged me $17.50 to ship.  You heard me right.  SEVENTEEN DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS to ship mere ounces of fabric.  And of course the dresses didn’t work and had to be shipped back – for an additional $7.50.  That happened not the one time, as I mentioned, but twice.  I told myself it’d be okay.  Well, you know what, J.Crew, it’s not okay.  Your dresses were labeled special occasion but you lied.  They looked like office wear.  And it’s not right to charge 4 times what a normal office dress would cost, plus an extra effing dress for shipping.  BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!  (I am so sickened by this whole thing, I can’t even open my eyes – PS: the copier is broken and someone drank the last of the coffee)

NUMBER TWO

If you’re seeking nice footwear for any occasion, Nordstrom ROCKS.  Cutest shoes ever, great price, and the BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE!! I ordered online, shoes arrived – mine fit, Maddie’s fit, but Georgia’s were way too big.  I called them up, Adam (my rep) placed an exchange order for me immediately, which arrived tout de suite and fit perfectly.  Oh, and no shipping charge either.

NUMBER THREE

I like Macy’s.  They may have a pretty limited selection of formal wear in my local Portland store, but their website stocks it all.  The orders arrived quickly and without issue.  Free shipping (at least for me).  Can you guess where the Dress came from?  OOooh I feel preeeety, ooh so preettty, and … A+

NUMBER FOUR

Bluefly is a neat website and makes me wish I had buckets of money to spend.  Their packaging was great.  My dress came wrapped in tissue in a nice Bluefly bag and everything.  Just like I’d been at their store (which I don’t think exists, but still..) Nice touch.  Their return policy left something to be desired, as I was forced to print out a return slip.  You know I kept the bag as compensation.

NUMBER FIVE

Like.com is cool. You type in just what you’re looking for, color, style and POOF! there is it, up on the screen.  Little thumbnail pix collected from sellers across the internet.  Simply scroll down and eyeball the selection.  Easy breezy!

So, that’s it for now.  I would say I’ll post more shopping knowledge as I acquire it, but now that I’ve found the dress I am avoiding retailers at all costs.  So instead I will leave you with a parting shot of me & the Dress.  Proof (at least to me) that God exists & loves me more than imaginable.  Amen.

Weeding vs. Wedding

For the past several days I’ve been on FULL STEAM AHEAD.  Not out in the yard, but in every bridal shoppe in town.  Not to mention the mall, several discounters, the outlet stores, a couple thrift shops, and that one really funky vintage clothing boutique downtown.  Plus, thanks to cyberspace, I’ve been cruising every upscale retailer in the country.  All in the quest for THE DRESS.

Back in December I posted about my sister getting engaged.  I joked about being Matro(FU)N of Honor, wearing a Scarlet O’Hara=esque gown, and so on.  Well, fast forward five months.  The wedding is now sitting on top of us and I’ve yet to secure a real dress.  I may joke about a lot of things, but this is not funny.

Without disclosing her private life, my sister is in a grueling school program which barely allows for sleep, let alone shopping.  The fact that she lives 1000 miles away isn’t helping.  Thank GOD she has her own dress already!!  But.. I hear you saying.. the mother of the bride always fills in the gap.  The mother of the bride buys a dress for herself, then helps the bride select dresses for her party, and the bluebirds sing while little fairies float around their heads and they all live happily ever after.  Well, of course.  Except our mother is a high powered executive currently employed out of state.  So NONE of us are together.  And if you haven’t gleaned this quite yet, I am not exactly a shopper.  Don’t get me wrong, if I had bags of money I wouldn’t have a problem spending hours each week in stores, but my life is not like that.  I wouldn’t know an upscale dress shoppe if it bit me on the a$$.  Which IT HAS.

Yesterday I had on a dress that costs more than I have in the bank.  It was gorgeous.  I wanted it BAD.  But it wasn’t quite right.  The day before I tried on roughly 25 dresses at a lovely bridal place downtown.  Many of them were stunning, but none of them was IT.  I have been to Macy’s more times in the past week than I have since we moved here.  I keep pretending this dress is going to magically appear from doors at the back of the store, but it’s NOT!!  I’m just trying on the same damn things I did the day before.

I want my sister to be happy.  I want her wedding to be perfect.  And in my own way I am trying to make that so.  But it is leading me to obsess.  And as many lovely dresses I have seen, in every color of the rainbow except for the one that I NEED, I have seen an equal number that should be stripped from the racks & burned.  The running joke used to be how ugly bridesmaid dresses are.  I think the backlash against hideousness has gone so far in the opposite direction, we’re now actually worse off.  I will be blunt.  I know every woman wants to look sexy and appealing, but if you are unable to discern the fine line between “gorgeous” and “cheap ho” please do us all a favor and stay home.  A wedding is sacred, or should be.  The BRIDE is meant to stand out, not your floozy self. Let’s show some CLASS, Ladies!

And on that note, I am off.  So many dresses to eyeball, only so many hours in the day.  Wish me luck.

Dear Trader Joe,

HEY BUDDY!!  How are you?!  Yep, we’re all good.  I was thinking about you this morning & realized it’s been almost a Y-E-A-R since I last saw you.  I KNOW!  You still wearing that same crazy shirt?  Yeah, me too.  So. Listen bud.  I wrote a few months ago, and I realize how busy you are – but seriously.  The time has come.  WHEN ARE YOU COMING TO MAINE???!!!  B/c I am out of stuff.

Peppermint castile soap.  Salt free tomatoes. No salt tuna and sockeye salmon.  Dried mango. Knockoff cereal. chocolate chips. Emergen-C.  Bargain priced stonyfield farm yogurt.  Joe, I will be blunt.  Portland is stupendous, but it simply won’t be paradise until you’re here too.

I emailed you weeks ago.  Requesting a new location….and… and…Nothing.  DUDE – I miss you!  Baaad.  The stickers and balloons.  Those wild shirts.  From your 2 Buck Chuck to your chocolate covered almonds.  From your french milled goodness to your uncured hot dogs  – to the tofu, Joe.  I need you.

Portland *(maine) needs you.

Love,

your favorite MAINE-UH (really from away)

Dishy.

PS: And Please hurry, b/c my recyclable shopping bags have all sprung holes & I’m in need of some colorful new ones.  But – only yours. xo

My quest for the perfect winter coat. SUCCESS!!

After days spent searching, my quest has finally come to an end.  And though it might sound like an endorsement of polygamy – which it is NOT.  I am here to announce my perfect coat is not actually ONE coat, But Two.

Meet Coat No. 1.  The Spyder Glacier Jacket by Spyder Active Sports.

spyder glacier jacket

Facts:

1) This jacket is the MOST BAD ASS COAT EVER.  It makes me feel like a million bucks.  Which – given its MSRP of $600 FREAKING DOLLARS, I guess isn’t too far from the truth.  Fortunately I got mine at the super ski-tastic sale going on right now @ T.J. Maxx in South Portland.  And since you get the max for the minimum at T.J. Maxx, you know I did not pay full price.

2) As you can see from the photo below, my arms are indeed long.  Yet this jacket does not leave inches of flesh exposed to the elements.

tah-Dahhhh

LISTEN UP, L.L.BEAN!  Tall women w/ long arms are people too.  In this case, people w/ cash.  And though I did pay a good deal more for this Spyder jacket than I would have at your most beloved of Maine institutions, it was worth every penny.  My advice?  Next season, branch out.

3) Speaking of sleeve length.  When I found this coat – in T.J.MAXX of South Portland w/ its super ski-tastic sale going on right now – I nearly swooned.  It was IT.  Hood – check.  Front zipper – check.  Roomy pockets – check & check.  ADEQUATE SLEEVE LENGTH? With room to SPARE.  But there’s more.  The cuffs have adjustable velcro closures to keep out all the cold.

closures

AND – the Best part ever?  There are spandex half gloves – BUILT RIGHT IN!!!!!  So no breeze will ever billow up my sleeve, my sleeve will never come loose from my glove, and every day will be better than the day before.

spidey half glove

4) While I am discussing the superb features of this coat.  I would like to compliment the genius designer who came up w/ this lil beauty.  B/c it ROCKS.  We have something here along the southern coast of Maine.  Both a blessing & a curse, it is called coastal air.  In the summer, the ocean breezes are a DREAM.  But as the weather gets colder, and then colder still, this body numbing blustery wind has a unique effect on the bones.  I liken it to death.  So when I saw that this coat not only had a hood, but a hood w/ all sorts of hidden toggles, to cinch in my heat from that fearful icy wind, I thought to myself.  BLOODY GENIUS.

hood is good

PS: When I discovered two days ago that said hood also features a built-in VISOR.  I nearly cried.

5) We have a running joke in our family about how much spiders love me.  Wherever I go, Poof! there they are.  As a child, I used to find them crawling on me in the night.  Two months ago, a spider literally FELL FROM THE SKY right on top of my head.  So imagine the jokes when I found this perfect coat, made by Spyder.  With a spider logo right there on the chest.  Calling all my minions to rally round and/or jump right onto me.  It was fate.

me & the spyder

But – I hear you asking – if this coat is so darn perfect (which everyone knows it is) then why Coat No. 2??

Like most stories about mothers and daughters and winter coats, this one isn’t simple.  B.c it gets cold here in Portland.  Really cold.  Like, right now – even though it’s only mid-October, it’s 41 degrees.  Sure, that’s warm in Alaska.  But compared to HOTLANTA? nothing doing.  My mommy is checking those weather forecasts every morning in the AJC.  She already knows there’s a 40% chance of snow tomorrow in Portland.  And being too far away to wind a scarf round my head, she wants to make 250% sure that I am warm.  Like all good Mommies, nothing is ever good enough for her baby.  Even when it’s a $600 FREAKING DOLLAR TOP OF THE LINE SKI JACKET MADE FOR PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES CASCADING DOWN MOUNTAINTOPS AT HYPER VELOCITY IN THE DEAD OF WINTER.  It’s just a coat.  A coat which doesn’t cover her baby’s tushy.  THAT’S RIGHT!  Even when baby is 3 decades out of diapers, momma still wants to dress you.  SO/to recap.  Not even the BEST is good enough for me.  My beloved Spyder Glacier Jacket only comes to my waist.  Leaving my derriere and nether regions exposed & vulnerable.  I’ve got a brand new unbelievably pricy Spyder jacket now hanging (next to my forlorn former coat) in the closet, and I was STILL getting suggestions from my mom about long puffy parkas from The North Face.  I felt like a newlywed, whose mother continues forwarding links to eligible bachelors on Match.com.  Knowing this would not end until we were both satisfied, I soldiered on.  It was essential to find yet another perfect coat.  One which would cover my sensitive butt-ular regions, my chicken thighs, and perhaps – if I was lucky – even my two underinsulated kneecaps.  And so I went.  Back to that blessed Maine institution with the two first initials & the heavenly last name spelling out the very best of good fortune.  NO, NOT L.L.BEAN!!  I am talking about T.J. Maxx of South Portland.  And as fate would have it.  I scored once again.  High five.

Meet Coat No. 2.  Black Rivet brand 3/4 length parka.

black rivet

Facts:

1) I love the fit of this coat.  After trying on countless iterations of the same theme and being horrified by the marshmallow staring back at me from the mirror, I was genuinely pleased w/ this style.  It is lengthy and provides the warmth I need, without the look of an overstuffed sausage.  It manages to be both lightweight, yet well insulated.  Wearing it, I look more like a sleek female seal than a male walrus, and for this I am grateful.

2) This coat has good features.  For instance, the zipper.  It works.  Don’t laugh.  If you had tried on as many coats w/ crap zippers as I have, you would know it’s no joke.  Easy on & off, zero hassle.  Check.  A built-in hood, both roomy & warm – NO FUR TRIM – and without so much hang it renders me blind.  Check.  Only downside: I truly wish it had cinching toggles each side, but not every hood is perfect.  I will wear this one w/ a hat.

roomy hood

Fortunately, this coat makes up for it in a very high neck.  I like these types of collars.  They are practical, providing excellent wind protection, plus they are attractive.  The two zippered pockets are lined and roomy enough for my (very large) hands.  Check & check.

3) The sleeves are long enough. HINT HINT L.L.BEAN.

sleeve length - check

sleeve length - check twice

4) Despite all the pluses. I am not big on the shiny factor of this coat. Although some may think it pretty and satin sheen seems quite the rage this season, this would not have been my first choice.  Nor my second, nor frankly my 15th.  The last time I owned a satin coat I was in late elementary school.  Something about the shininess makes me feel like a little kid wearing brand new patent leather shoes, terrified of getting them scuffed.  It also reminds me of Morticia Adams and/or the inside liner of a coffin.  But I liked everything else so much, I am pretending i like the satin sheen too.  Yes i am one of the satin ladies.  Bling-bling.  That’s no supernova – it’s just me in my new coat.  Yay.

5) This coat, unlike my beloved Spyder, cost less than a casino outing.  And at $49.99 a little sheen never hurt.

New towels make me happy.

A week or two ago, I was in the bathroom hanging up a couple fresh towels. I do this probably once a week, change the towels and linens, but I usually don’t pay much attention to what I’m doing. But for some reason I was paying more attention than usual, and I stopped to look at the towels. And what I saw shocked me a little. Like a rash creeping up in the night. Because seemingly without warning my towels had gone from totally acceptable to seriously beaten down. I thought to myself, How long have they looked this bad? Where AM I when I’m doing these chores?? The color was still good (dark green) and that’s probably why I hadn’t noticed before. But the edges were totally tattered, with little bits of string hanging off at odd and various angles, and a few seriously long clumps that looked like they’d rip the thing in half if you tugged hard enough.

Later I mentioned the shabby towels to my husband. And since I’d been thinking about those towels in the interim (of course), I added for emphasis – Do you realize how old those towels are? He just stared at me blankly. DO YOU KNOW HOW OLD THOSE TOWELS ARE?? I said, all hepped up. I DO. And do you want to know why?? Because I clearly remember buying them, to take away with me – TO COLLEGE – MY FRESHMAN YEAR. IN NINETEEN-NINETY. Those towels are 18 years old.

THAT got him to put down the paper. I stood there nodding whilst we pondered 1) the fact that our towels are that old, and 2) the fact that we are also that old. Then I had another burst of insight. What a towel! What a tribute to a towel. In this throw-away society, do you think many people have towels that old? I am thinking not. But maybe it’s just me. I often buy things at thrift shops. On occasion I have bought other people’s discarded towels and brought them home. Yeah, keep your ewwwwing to yourself. They looked new. And a towel’s a towel. My body didn’t seem to mind – and I might add, I haven’t gotten a whole lot of complaints about THAT.

So my husband and I made the executive decision to splurge and buy ourselves some new towels. YAY! But since we were expecting these new guys to last another 18 years, we wanted to be selective.

I checked Target of course, knowing my predilection to liking all-things-Target. I was surprised to find I didn’t like Target’s towels though. They felt cheap. Not enough nap. And way too small. My husband wanted KING size towels. Genuine bath sheets, if you will.

So Target was out. We looked at Linens `n Things, a store located conveniently next to another favorite, IKEA (hearts & stars!!!), but one I’d never been in until recently. Why? I have no idea, most likely b/c I am the type of person to have 18 year old towels. And what a FABULOUS PLACE!! I think I could spend a whole day there, looking around at all the nifty home stuff, sheets and towels and bedspreads and don’t even get me started on the cooking supplies. ANYWAY, we found a huge selection of towels, but alas, most of them did not meet my husband’s stringent high standards. Or mine. But fortunately we did find a few. They were called HOTEL BATH SHEETS. I highly recommend them for all you rich folks because they cost a whopping 20 bucks a piece, and I am not joking. But I figured hell, if we only have to buy them once every 18 years, why not. And we got them in the most awesome color – a deeply gorgeous burnt orange. As I have noted above, dark colors are especially good for towels because they don’t show stains – even after nearly 2 decades worth of use – and even by college students, and you know how they are.

ANYWAY, we got a few great towels there. Then we went to the SUPER MARSHALLS at Franklin Mills Mall. I know snobs won’t set foot in Franklin Mills, but screw them. Let them pay department store prices. Super Marshalls rocks above all other Marshalls and I always find great stuff there. And of course this trip was no exception. We got 6 more towels – absolutely HUGE, way big enough to cover my statuesque form and my husband’s opulence – and in beautiful dark colors of olive green and purplish gray. A woman in line actually stopped to admire and touch my new towels. THAT’S how great they are. And I might add, they were significantly cheaper than the above mentioned awesome but more expensive L `n T. Like $8 less per towel. No small chunk of change.

So why am I writing this long-winded post about my new towels? Well because I actually used one for the first time this week. And the experience…. ahhhhhhhh… it was el splendito, everything I had imagined it would be. Soft and warm; simply Heaven in a towel. So I wanted to take the opportunity to remind all of you to CHECK THOSE TOWELS! Have 18 years crept by without you noticing? Well then, time to re-supply. No questions asked.

ATLANTA, or why I love Target Brand Box Riesling.

When my sister moved to Atlanta for graduate school, I was happy for her. The separation was sad, but she was making a success of her life, and it wasn’t forever. I understood.

But when my parents decided to join her down south in Atlanta, well…..
that was just a bit too much. I felt slightly.. abandoned. Hey I know I’m way out of diapers, but I STILL WANT MY MOMMY. Atlanta is far. Far enough to make a one-day drive with 2 kids nearly intolerable, and other than freshman year of college I’d never lived more than an hour away from my folks my whole life. So when they made the move – to ATLANTA of all places, I was more than peeved. I was hurt. And angry. And not a little bit PISSED OFF, especially AT ATLANTA. What was so freaking great about Atlanta?

Man, I really hated that town. They did it right, burning it down like that. What did Atlanta think it was, luring my family away from me?

And so, for many months, I resented Atlanta like no other place in the world. It didn’t help that my family were constantly singing the praises of their new and glamorous city like fevered zealots. “ATLANTA this, and ATLANTA that.” “Wait till you see blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

SCREW COKE WORLD, I thought. At least here we have drinking water and can flush our toilets. I am NEVER going to set foot in effing Atlanta. NEVER!
That’ll show ’em!

But like sands through the hour glass….after a few months of not seeing my parents, and speaking to them less and less frequently, I caved like a sinkhole. Time apart from my loved ones had made me think differently. If Atlanta had taken them, I would just have to see why.

And so, this summer, we visited twice. And Hey Mikey! I liked it. Sure it wasn’t dirty dangerous Philly, but it had appeal. It wasn’t interesting in that old historic way, but it was BLING!BLING! like a newly-minted penny. My parents have a gorgeous home. They are happy there, except for missing us. So.. it’s different than we’re used to, but things down there are nice. AND CLEAN. And the People are pleasant. They let you in in traffic. They don’t try to run you over when you’re crossing the street. You can walk the hell out in front of their cars in a parking lot, and they STOP AND SMILE and wave you on. WOW. I DO still hate the fact that you have to drive absolutely everywhere in Atlanta, and it is hot as b*lls in the summer, but summers here in Philly are humid and disgusting too. And my parents have central air and A POOL.

So, yes, I have officially come around. And being the way I am, when I “come around” I REALLY come around. The place I once hated, now I can’t wait to visit again. And not just for my family. But for the STUFF. Atlanta has stuff we don’t have here. STUFF THAT I LIKE. On our visit during the holidays, I came to appreciate even more the charm of the place – or maybe just the charm of the shopping. It’s everywhere. Miles and miles of stores. Sure, they’re mostly the same stores we have here, but they’re like our stores on STEROIDS. The brand new Target here is like their SUPER TARGET’S shrimpy homely cousin. Their Trader Joe’s is awesome and it SELLS WINE AND BEER!!! No wonder people there are so nice. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT SORT OF CHEAP CONVENIENCE?!

I must have gone to the Super Target by my parents house 3 times in 4 days. I just never wanted to leave. I wanted to LIVE THERE. And I am not joking. I felt like some poor deprived third-worlder having stumbled upon paradise. AND I AM NOT THAT INTO SHOPPING, PEOPLE! It’s just THAT GOOD. During one of the Target shopping trips, I came upon something which stopped me in my tracks. You know how great Target is? How every single thing they make is just so irresistably cute/cool/hip and unbelievably inexpensive, that you think surely this corporation has sold its soul to the devil? Well, you will then understand what I have to say. You see, I like wine. I love wine. If I didn’t have kids, I would probably be a full-fledged wino. Well. ATLANTA TARGETS SELL THEIR OWN BRAND OF BOX WINE – but they are CUTE!! AND COLORFUL!! AND FILLED WITH WINE!! AND WHY AM I STILL LIVING HERE IN PHILLY???!! I don’t even like box wine, but now I do because it’s like everything else at Target. IRRESISTIBLE.

I bought the above box of Riesling as a souvenir to bring home, and I don’t even like Riesling. Not even a little. But I thought I WILL LIKE TARGET BRAND BOX RIESLING, I just know it! So we stuck it in the fridge when we got home, and didn’t open it all last week b/c I was so sick, but night before last we each poured a glass and I thought YES! TARGET BRAND BOX RIESLING! DELICIOUSNESS ITSELF!! But then I drank it and thought NO! DEAR LORD, NO!!!

You see, Target branding cannot make up for the fact that I hate the cloying sweetness of Riesling wine. HOWEVER, just because I hate the taste of this wine, DOES NOT MEAN I HATE TARGET BRAND BOX RIESLING> oh Contraire! SIMPLY BECAUSE I hate its taste, it means I will drink less of it. And that’s a good thing, right? After the first glass, the second goes down easy. And who can bear wasting wine, after all?