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Stay Cute Mondays – Get Sexy Edition

Courtesy of City Eats

Courtesy of City Eats

So the hottest thing going for the last several years—look I never said I was ahead of the curve, I just ride waves as they are about to pass—are speakeasies. It all started with PX in Alexandria and several others have arrived since then including The Gibson and The Columbia Room. Recently I visited Harold Black in Capital Hill to experience the mystery and wonder of it all. Most of the bars require a reservation and a deposit, which are hard to come by at the last minute. I decided to do this on a Thursday for a Saturday. The Columbia Room actually is a prix fixe tasting room, which seemed pricey for no reason.  So I made a reservation for Harold Black and the only reservation was for 11:30 p.m. but I am excellent at talking my way into most places, so I was undeterred. We arrived at 10p. and I convinced the door man to let us in. Hey, we had a reservation, what could be the problem? To describe the beginning…so the spot is unmarked above a restaurant. I went into the restaurant to figure out how to get there. We were told to go around the side, walk up the stairs and knock on a barn door to enter.

First let me say the place was sexy. It was dark (in a good way), secluded (yay, no aggravating drunk people!) and exclusive. A group of annoying bar hoppers tried to enter without success. The snobby yet nice (this is a weird trick that the entire staff pulls off) brushed them aside and told them that the spot wasn’t open to just anybody.  The point of these places is that you get above the top custom cocktails with housemade ingredients and premium spirits. My first drink was something off the menu. I liked it but really wanted some made especially for me. As I am important. The bartender asked me my favorite drink –whiskey sour—and flavor profile—tart and dry. Then I received it— he called it a Brooklyn Sour. I was so in love. I wanted to savor every drop. So the bar has a $35 tasting prix fixe menu with two regular bar items, two custom drinks and an appetizer. It seems extravagant at first blush but would have been cheaper than my three $12 drinks and one $7 appetizer. Despite the cost, it was a great night. The bartenders gave us samples of custom cocktails that he made for other patrons. We chatted with a nice girls night out duo. But the real deal are the cocktails…yum. And the dimly light seclusion—again, sexy. That made it fun.

Stay Cute Mondays – DC Flea Edition

Me in need of lipstick, lol

Me in need of lipstick, lol

So I decided that I truly need a 1970’s leather trench coat in my life to get my Foxy Brown on earlier this year. I thought one day soon I’ll go online and make some google searches to see what pops up on Ebay and the like. As an aside, I am one of the five people in my age bracket who hates shopping online. If it’s not music or books, I cannot be bothered. The internet is too vast and my attention span is short for it to be a pleasant experience. Anyway, no fear. I did not have to do any of that.

I went to the launch of DC Flea and voila, a pretty purple leather 70’s trench. It fits perfectly like it is literally meant for me. I love flea markets and now I remember why. There’s always something perfect just waiting to come home with me. And I successfully avoided the multitude of snacks for purchase and thus a double score. So now, trench and I will be taking out sucker fools in the near future.

Stay Cute Monday – Nailed It!

All non-sheeny

All non-sheeny

I am not sure what came first, the chicken or the egg. I am not sure if I love nail polish because my nails grow long or if my nails grow long because I pay them a lot of attention. I find there is a direct correlation between keeping your nails painted and maintaining a decent length. My nails started getting rather long in the sixth grade. I figured since they were so pretty, they should be adorned. Of course, it didn’t hurt that my aunt was going to cosmetology school and frequently used me as her guinea pig. I was the only one in the family who would sit still long enough to let her practice. Thus, my love affair with nail polish began.

I have a few rules for my nails. I hate complicated designs. Remember in the 90’s when people would get airbrushed images on their nails? Yea, no. I did once allow my friend in cosmetology school to affix appliqués of animals on my nearly 3 inch nails because she begged. I of course hated it but everyone I met loved them so I kept the look for two weeks. Yes, in high school I started an experiment to see how long my nails would get. Turns out, ridiculously long.

I like unusual colors. This was harder in the 90’s when there were only a few nail polish lines and most stuck to shades of red and pink. I once discovered this gorgeous yellow at Woolworth…okay this story sounds like it’s from the 1920’s. I swear there were Woolworths in Michigan until the late 90’s. I adored that color. It complimented my brown skin perfectly and gave my nails a natural pop. That and a glittery wine became my signature colors. My aunt convinced me that we should have signature colors to stand out. Hers was a pale shimmery silver. In college after my beautiful yellow was discontinued, I moved on to a pumpkin orange. Due to a friend, I stopped filing my nails oval five or six years ago. My mom has naturally oval nails and I think they are an awesome shape. I decided to stick with my natural shape which is very rectangular. This shape doesn’t lend itself to boring reds and neutrals.

I never use nail polish that could ruin my nail bed. I saw this glorious new invention with pearls and no. This applies to a lot of textured nail polish. Finally, I shy away from variations on French. I think French manicures only look good on perfectly sculpted fake nails. My nails are real and French never works properly.

So I have my favorite brands of nail polish and as a 25 year nail polish veteran—I’m never without cover—I know of which I speak.

First, my new favorite thing is Zoya. It’s all natural, vegan and tailored for natural nails. The weirdest thing about this nail polish is that it needs only one coat, because it is so thick. It has wonderful colors and last forever. However, it is primarily available online with paid shipping. That means my $8 or $9 bottle can run up to $15 if I only buy one bottle. I usually load up when there’s a sale. This 4th of July, you got two bottles free if you got a bottle of Liberty pixie dust. The texture was cool. My only quibble is pixie dust has no sheen. Even with a high gloss top coat, it has a dull finish. I like sheen.

For sheen, I like the super cheap Wild and Crazy. Since every plaza has a dry cleaners, nail salon and beauty supply, I can always find my lovely $2 nail polish anywhere. I love the colors and the ease of application. It rarely bubbles. I hate bubbles. Of course if you wait 3 to 5 minutes between coats, you can avoid bubbles, but I apply a lot of coats: nail strengthener, base coat, 2 coats of nail polish and top coat. This coupled with an impatient Aries and there can be bubbles. The problem with Wild and Crazy is that it chips easily. It’s not shrinkage but full blown chunk of nail polish just gone. It’s good for a week max.

Finally, I like two brands for their polish capabilities though their colors are boring: Borghese and Essie. It is hard to find a stand out color. But the polish lasts forever, a good 10 days. It’s beautiful, thick and smooth. It’s usually available at Ulta or Rite Aid. So it is not too terribly difficult to procure.

I try other brands from time to time. In a pinch I will use a nail strips, though I haven’t found one with the ease of use of the originator, Avon. I absolutely detest the ever popular OPI. It cracks if you do not constantly add top coat and who has that kind of free time? But the above are my signatures.

Stay Cute Mondays – On Tuesday! The Outdoorsy Edition

As a disclaimer, the storm knocked out my internet yesterday, but it’s up and the post is done.

This weekend I made my annual pilgrimage to the Capital Jazz Festival (more to come). I swear getting ready for a two-day (it’s actually three but if I tried that I would pass out) outdoor music festival is a serious process. There are tons of these things: Bonarroo, Coachella, Rock the Bells. I think it is because I am a super J on the Myers Briggs scale and I put a lot of effort into preparing for this event. I wasn’t always a J. I used to be solidly in the middle of P and J but my family is comprised of mostly P’s and someone needed to create some semblance of order. Below are my tips to properly prepare for summer outdoor events.

030

This year I gave in. Every year, it rains (to quote Mary J). And every year, I wear cute sandals that make my feet disgusting or cute sneakers that get ruined. I sacrificed my adorable Nike ballet slippers on Saturday and finally gave in. I wore rain boots. Boy, did my little feet feel protected from the evil elements and potential trash. I always see some ridiculous celebrity at Coachella in shorts and cowboy boots or something similar. I think, “Who wears shorts and boots?” Me that’s who.

I love a cute flirty dress. Outdoor concerts are not the place for a cute flirty dress because of sheer logistics. You are carrying chairs and coolers, sitting low to the ground and surrounded by mud and dirt. This is all negligible if you are in the premium seating. But ten hour concerts are not conducive to straight back seats, which is why I do lawn. I usually opt for a dark pair of capris or shorts (I wore white once and it did okay). I also opt for a simple shirt: either a polo or razorback tank. I see the cutest clothes at the event and think, nice but no. There are opportunities to be rain soaked, grass rubbed, food spilled and it’s best to stick to basics.

Of course, you must pack a lunch. With this I struggle. I can never figure out what to eat and am obsessed with not having my food spoil in the sun. Cooler or not. I stick with lots of snacks, fruit and salads: pasta, chicken, tuna. I really like a spicy Thai tuna salad that is available in a can. A can.  I usually raid the salad bar at Whole Foods but decided this year to make my supper. Boy did I want fried chicken. Man, I cannot make proper fried chicken. It is the quintessential picnic food. I attempted some Safeway chicken that made my stomach angry. Typically, I usually buy frozen Chicken tenders, bake them in the oven the night before and pack. Amazingly I like Safeway brand the best as it lacks that floury taste frozen tenders usually have. My mom has the palette of an eight year old, so we tried many frozen tenders before finding the perfect ones. Otherwise, don’t do as I did. Buy fried chicken from the deli in the afternoon when it is freshest and refrigerate immediately. I purchased mine in the morning and it probably sat too long.

ice blanketPro tip: I hate filling my cooler with ice because when you reach in it makes your hands cold. I buy ice blankets that can be frozen the night before. For my mom’s trick, I also freeze a couple of bottles of water and place in the bottom of the cooler. I place stay cold items on top and cover with the ice blankets. My items stay cold and by the end of the night when the water melts and the food is gone, the ice bottles turn into cold, refreshing water.

So what you take for a weekend in the sun, according to me:

  • A zippered tote. I got mine from a tradeshow as I was once a booth diva (babe is so degrading). However, the ever popular LL Bean makes ones that can be monogrammed and customized.tote_bag
  • Lots of plastic. I am talking about tablecloths, tarps, clear furniture covers. This will sit on the ground underneath your blanket for minimal cleaning and cover you in the event of rain.
  • Insect repellent arm bands. My latest discovery due to a friend’s addiction to Groupon. They sort of work and keep you from being stinky.insect repellent
  • A cute rolling cooler. I decided that I am upgrading soonest because carrying my cooler gets exhausting. So exhausting.

cooler

  • Lots of paper towels, plastic and paper utensils if you like them. I don’t care about the plates and cups but others must have them.
  • Wipes. I adore individually wrapped wipes. I usually stock up when I am in New Jersey because there’s a Bed Bath and Beyond in Menlo Park that has an entire section devoted to tiny toiletries. I have yet to see a similar set up in the D.C. area. My wipes are sanitizing wipes, Cottonelle wipes, glass lens wipes, and face wipes for sweat.
  • Miniature bottles of wine and liquor. Of course this is only if allowed in the event. Pack straws to stay classy.
  • Lots of store plastic bags. This came over time when I realized that I would stupidly stuff containers and food back into my cooler.
  • Sunscreen. I often forget it and then my skin hurts.
  • Towels. I usually use my really raggedly Wal-Mart ones. Seriously, never buy them for actual bathing. They can be used to protect your car, wipe off sweat (though I hate this usage personally) or dry off from the rain.
  • A big blanket. I scored a really durable canvas one from Target in the clearance section one fall. However, if you are cheap like me and don’t quickly find a $7 one, head to Ikea and purchase some $3 fleece throws.throw
  • An umbrella. For rain, of course.
  • A nice outdoor chair with a roof. I still remember the first year that I saw them at Capital Jazz. I was instantly jealous and needed one immediately. In fact, I headed to Sports Authority that month and copped one on sale. That chair is my outdoor everything.

chair

What I know I need next: the aforementioned roller cooler in an adorable pattern. And, a portable phone charger. After 11 hours outdoors, my iPhone is usually on 5% and that’s only by charging it until I reach the venue with no interruptions, ignoring calls, texting only, not playing games and sending a tweet an hour.

I am also considering carrying less food. I always have leftovers, which I discard. I am completely fascinated by friends who come to these events with a deli sandwich, big bottle of water, chips and a cookie. They are so unencumbered. I once attended an all day wine festival with stuff I already had in the kitchen that included: three bottles of water, a fruit cup, strawberries, grapes, chicken tenders (from frozen), chips, cheese, crackers and a chocolate chip granola bar. In fact the entire thing fit into regular lunch bag. I wonder if I could make that happen again. No trips to the grocery store, no fixing pasta salad. Just ease. But I am a J, so I am sure that won’t happen.

Stay Cute Mondays – Eyeliner Woes

eyeliner

 

No matter where I am going I wear three things: lip gloss/stick (usually with a lip liner, which could make it four), mascara and eyeliner. On weekends, my look tends to be: mascara, a light glossy lip and dark, funky eyeliner or mascara, dark lip with golden, shimmery eye liner. About two years ago, something terrible happened. I got an eye infection. Well, what I thought was an eye infection. It started with reading an Essence article on the fact that a great eyeliner suggestion for Black women is royal blues and eggplant purples. I disagree about the purple because I have yet to see this executed well in real life and I don’t care what those pictures claim. But back to the blue, I went to my stand-by M.A.C., which I think makes perfect liners. All of them, lip and eye. The other make-up is on a case by case basis. I purchased the absolute perfect blue.  It gave me exactly the magazine look without needing to bother with stupid gel pots. I hate gel pots. This could me due to the fact that I refuse to pop for pricey brushes. But even when you use the brush that comes with the gel pot, it takes a tremendous amount of dipping to get enough to line an eye.

I started wearing my perfect eye liner pencil and my eye started twitching and then my eye developed this not quite awesome white gooey discharge. This happened while in San Diego and I couldn’t really figure out what was wrong. I took out my contacts and they felt better. I never wear eyeliner with glasses because why bother. I went to the doctor who pronounced an infection and I moved on. I cleaned, sanitized and threw out make-up. I let eyes heal and returned to my routine. It was then I made the discovery. I had an allergy! I was allergic to my precious new eyeliner. I stopped using it immediately. I always used MAC eyeliner pencils and Maybelline liquid eyeliner but suddenly my eyes were rejecting them both. I was forced to resort to some automatic black eyeliner pencil I got from the beauty supply.

I like precise crisp black eyeliner for everyday work wear. This is not, unless you are a professional, accomplishable from an eyeliner pencil. We already established that me and gel and powder pots do not get along. I tried, but I only put less than five minutes of effort into my face (which honestly in my work environment is more than 90% of the women I see). These things require a lot of effort and patience. I do not like effort or patience for make-up application unless I am becoming a news anchor. The hunt was on. My criteria:

  1. Available in a drug store. I hate travelling to Macy’s or the like for eyeliner since I need to buy it at least once a month.
  2. Deep, inky black. Too many of the blacks aren’t dark enough and I am a brown person.
  3. Easy Application. I like precise, clean lines and too many of the liquid eyeliner require an expert touch. This could be due to the brush that comes with it or difficulty getting it out of the case.

My beloved Maybelline was out. I first went a little too cheap. I tried E.L.F., which my eyes hated. Hated. I was scared that I would need to go back to the doctor (same thing with Rimmel, which made them all itchy). I hilariously tried Wet N Wild. I have no real clue why except that it had a felt pen I like felt tip pen applicators despite the fact that Maybelline had a brush. It was good saturated color but dried too slowly. I would need to hold my eyes still forever for it not to smudge. Maybelline didn’t need that and I moved on…

I next tried the cool Cover Girl LineExact. It is shaped like a marker and so easy to apply. The black wasn’t the depth that I prefer, but I let the applicator sway me. The problem: storage. You have to store it completely upright with the pen facing down or it would dry out in two weeks or less. It was like a temperamental Sharpie. That was too much stress considering my unhappy eye issues.

I next attempted Prestige. It looked pretty but the color was off. It created this wispy little line that I surmised is for fairer skin tones. After store brands (Ulta – too messy and Sephora – completely dried out), I finally tried L’oreal Telescopic Precision Liner. We were getting along fine. It had the nicest angled felt tip that when held correctly (this took some practice) created the perfect little line. However, it suffered from the slow to dry problem. I was always waiting for it to dry. I spent a lot of time with my q-tips removing smudges and wayward dots of liquid liner. The worst problem is that it just decides to flake with no rhyme or reason as to why. I will look in the mirror about two hours after application and see clumps of black liner stuck to my face. And no one tells you! No one says, “Hey, what is that black stuff on your cheekbones?” I finally go to the bathroom and realize it’s there. I am constantly checking myself in the mirror, which cannot be healthy. This weekend the relationship ended after having the biggest chunk yet, right underneath my eye for the longest time. Here I am thinking I look great and I have make-up stuck to my face.

I saw a commercial for the new L’oreal Infallible Super Slim and it looked awesome. But I just cannot risk it. So I think I will try Revlon products, though I am losing hope. I never in a million years imagined that I would need to replace my preferred eyeliner pencils and liquid eyeliner and that it would be so difficult. I might need to – gasp – upgrade to department store brands for the liquid liners. I did marginally successfully switch my funky eyeliner pencils to Urban Decay, though I think that it is too soft with not enough. The stick suggests more of a color family than the actual color.  However, they have completely expanded their slate of colors. So this might have improved.  Otherwise, the hunt for an everyday black continues.

Stay Cute Mondays – Ten Crack Commandments

commandmentsSo I got waylaid a bit by the awesomeness that is Dallas and the mundane activity known as work. However, it’s time to return to the 10 Crack Commandments. As I mentioned earlier getting a good deal is my crack but sometimes my retailers fail me. Something happened recently. I realized that I am a relic. I really detest buying things online. I am a tactile shopper. I like seeing and feeling an item before purchasing. I cannot tell you the number of gorgeous items that I purchased online that turned out to be ugly or just wrong in person.

This includes:

  • A futon cover  — Apparently, physical stores only carry black, navy and tan ones
  • A comforter — The quality was off and this was confirmed after washing
  • A dress – It was too thin and lightweight. I actually had a Marilyn Monroe moment in front of Wegmans
  • A bookcase – It sways!!

This leads to the next few crack commandments.

3.      Thou Shall Carry Items in Store

I read that Nordstrom moved to a new policy where they keep a few items in store to test and then you have to possibly purchase your size, color or other variance online. I guess this is better than nothing. I needed a new iPod. Not a Touch, not a Nano. An iPod Classic. This turned out to be difficult. I wanted iPod immediately as I was going on vacation. No one had any, well any for a good deal. The snarky dude youngster at Apple told me that no one buys iPods and therefore they never have deals. That is precisely why you should have deals.  I have been collecting music since Columbia House gave you 14 CDs for a penny. I cannot cram my extensive music collection into an overpriced non-iPhone. Okay, I still don’t understand why Touches exist. Two big boxes had deals. One had 10% off and another gave out a free accessory kit. Neither of them carried it in store. I sucked it up and ordered online. I wasn’t happy about it. But it did arrive in time.

4.      Thou Shall Properly Execute Ship to Store

Apparently, stores claim to have the availability to ship items to the store. Do you know how often this program actually works properly? Yea, me neither. I heard a person mention success once. When I purchased my previous computer, I was told I could ship to store. That seemed simple. I would order online and pick it up from a special desk in two days. I could pick it up during store hours which is traditionally longer than evil delivery people hours, yet not have to wait in line or track down an annoyed salesperson. This is wonderful. Do you know what happened? Well, I purchased the item from the shelf. Apparently the staff didn’t want to go all the way back to the loading dock to “find” my item. They suggested that they just grab one from the shelf while I wait behind other people waiting to purchase. What happened to my drive up, grab and go? Phooey. My coworker told me a hilarious story where they gave her the wrong item. They realized it after she left and asked if she could bring it right back. She couldn’t and the real purchaser ultimately had to wait. Imagine being that customer. Plus, most of the time Ship to Store is “unavailable” when I select it. My guess: see commandment  #3.

5.      Thou Shall Take Ugly Items Back at Minimal Expense to Me

When I purchased the ugly futon cover, I discovered to return ugly futon cover would cost me $15. Shipping to me, of course, was free. This is why I stick to online retailers with a physical store. I love running crappy items to the store with my little packing slip to get my money back. This gets tricky with an online only retailer. The worst is a certain superstore that shall remain nameless. It’s not the actual retailer but the third party suppliers that it partners with that often provide insufficient information, such as the address, to return easily. With rickety book case, it was heavy and I honestly didn’t want to lift it. So I still have it and frown at it when I walk buy it. I finally got rid of the comforter, only to buy another online that I was lukewarm about it. I need to do better.

I really only buy items online that are proven acceptable: cosmetics, skincare, or things too heavy to lift. That’s what evil deliverymen are for, despite their grousing. Now I just remember to kick the tires first. If there is no ability to test, it doesn’t get purchased. Unless of course, you would like a gently used bookcase… Then, I think that would be swell.

Stay Cute Mondays – Battle for Beauty

Last week, I decided to return to what I know. During last year’s Fashion Night Out, I went to Neiman Marcus as my original plans were waylaid by forgetfulness. The lovely lady at Bobbi Brown convinced me to purchase two gorgeous lipsticks: Hollywood and Orange to layer for a pop of color. I typically don’t do pops of colors and the champagne made me adventurous.

Here’s the truth. I actually don’t like lipstick. I only wear it to project maturity and authority. Lip gloss has a tendency to make women look frivolous in male-centric environments where I need to look commanding.  However, I was running to an engagement and I couldn’t find my lipsticks (turns out they were in my going out purse). I grabbed an almost gone M.A.C. lipstick I found in the drawer and dashed out. Something weird happened by the end of the day. My lips stay supple and soft. I realized my parched lips required moisturizer not just from my lip balm, but from lip stick as well. Therefore, I really should return to an old standby.

I often try to leave M.A.C. without success. Lipstick and lip liners only! The company offers a good combination of staying power and unique colors. I hate the cliché of the Black woman in red or burgundy lipstick. My problem isn’t the company but its consultants. One year, I left M.A.C. for Clinique. There I learned the valuable tonal lesson of applying a lip liner about two shades darker than your lipstick for the simple, pretty look. They paired a lovely plum liner with a soft grape lipstick. I received so many compliments. If only that darn lipstick lasted longer than an hour. I went to the consultant begging for a solution, maybe a primer, to give it some endurance. She had nothing for me. Back I went

Last week, my return to M.A.C after six months wasn’t pleasant. I started to make my return easy. Purchase some colors I always wear and just head out. However, I thought maybe I should try something new. I knew it was going wrong when the consultant pulled out the infamous Chestnut lip liner. They have this weird theory that women should wear a lip liner that matches their skin tone. There’s one problem. I am not Chestnut. After a previous battle with a consultant in the former Georgetown location, I discovered that I am a Cork. Chestnut-wielding consultant first suggested a red lipstick (no!) and second, a raspberry colored one (what am I, 15?). I didn’t realize that the 90’s were back. Dozens of colors and every time, I get the same useless recommendations.

I’ve had these battles with consultants before and made no headway into some narrow thought of make-up application. To combat this, my best strategy is to wait until the store/counter is jam-packed. Once no one is looking, I try out multiple lipsticks until I find one I like. Then I ask the consultant to suggest a non-brown lip liner similar to the Clinique color tone theory. This plan works wonderfully. However, for this trip the store was empty and I was becoming increasingly annoyed. I shook off everything she said and ended up with two old standards: Strength, a gorgeous ginger snap color with flecks of gold, and Media, a dark plum that actually replaces the one I found in my drawer. Strength was obtained through a previous seek and test mission. I honestly don’t think I would have found it if left up to a consultant. It looks amazing against my skin and I always get compliments. So this time, I made no new discoveries. However, my lips are soft and I only need to reapply once a work day. You win some, you lose some.

Stay Cute Mondays – Ten Crack Commandments

commandmentsEveryone has their own addiction and my addiction has always been getting a good deal. I just paid full price for a purse because my sale purse was defective. This was not a good day for me. I haven’t paid asking price for a retail item in about never. I always prized quantity over quality. This was exemplified even in childhood. My cousin and I would go to the candy store a few times a week. Each of our mothers gave us a dollar. My cousin, the spendthrift, would buy two things that always seemed to be more than a dollar. While I would rack up on multiple inexpensive items: Now or Laters, Pixie Stix, pop rings, Blow pops, Lemonheads and Bazooka Joes. And I always had money to give to my cousin so she could buy the good candy: candy bracelets, Snickers, Reese’s Cups. Those items were 55 cents a piece and so not worth it. I tried to convince her to only buy one candy bar and a bunch of small items, but she rarely did.

This continued into my adult life. I own entire outfits (okay some of these outfits just consist of dresses, which is actually my favorite kind of outfit) that cost less than my beloved luxury lip gloss. Hey, I am not tremendously cheap. That lip gloss costs between $25 and 30 dollars, depending on the brand. However, lately I feel my dealers, I mean suppliers, umm, retailers are failing me. Last Friday, I received a mailer advertising a free tote with purchase! A free tote! I worked conferences and conventions for three years: I own plenty of free totes. I own so many totes that I give them away to needy people struggling to carry multiple items.

I need these retailers to advance their efforts, if they plan to keep me on the roster. Therefore, I am issuing Ten Crack Commandments for retailers to maintain my business. You will thank me for it later. Here are the first two.

1.      Thou Shall Not Notify Me of Nonsense.

What is nonsense? About 90% of my current email comes from places where I purchased something in the past. Most of the correspondence is useless:

  • Telling me that there is new product (So)
  • Free shipping (Wow, $10 or less savings)
  • News reports about your product (Wow, Cosmo rated you a 10, now where’s my discount?)

Seriously. One evil retailer that will not be named toyed with my sanity by sending three – four emails a day reminding me that it is Christmas and kids like presents. I couldn’t shake them. I blocked them, but they kept changing their email address slightly. I did the remove me from your list button click. Finally, I just boycott them. I haven’t purchased anything from them since this unfortunate onslaught of messages.

2.      Correspondence Shall Only Include Coupons.

Yes, only real, substantial coupons, worth 30% off or more. I will make exceptions to emails and letters alerting me to sales where the entire store is 30% off or more. A sale, however, only meets this threshold at 30% and nothing lower, unless it is a luxury brand or a retailer that only has biannual sales. My skincare company does two coupons a year: one at 20% off and one for $20 off a $75 purchase. This is a big deal. This does count. Plus, retailers should understand that I am great at math. Giving me a $15 off a $75 purchase is only a 20% discount. Therefore, this doesn’t count. I will not have my time wasted with deleting your email. Just don’t send it in the first place.

Stay tuned for more.

Stay Cute Monday – The Holidays are Finally Over

I was paid a high honor over the holidays. My head kiddie said that I give the best Christmas gifts, next to my cousin G. G and I have completely different buying strategies however. My strategy is to watch, listen and observe to pick the perfect present at a reasonable

Gift Goddess

Gift Goddess

cost. Her strategy is to ask what you want and buy you something similar but ten times better. I will admit I am not that extravagant. I just like to make people happy. Amazingly, only a handful of my family members are blessed with customized gifts. My family is large and who has that kind of time?

My family is also weird. I noticed this when outsiders and newcomers, usually girlfriends arrive. They buy the completely wrong thing.  Or worse, give money or gift cards. This is pricey as in our family everyone gets a gift. Yes, everyone, even your third cousin. And our family is sizable. Next we get these peculiar—what could best be described as—stocking stuffer gifts. Boxes or bags filled with useful but random little items. This year, my bag from my cousin Z included a pumice stone, a small pack of tissues, a leopard print pen, a box of tea, a miniature box of chocolates, a personal calendar, hand wipes and a chapstick. (I think she pilfered some of these ideas from me. See below) Yep, nice and random. I love the concept: a wonderful bag of goodies. However, I am a super “J” (Myers Briggs), so I try to give my gifts a bit more structure or a theme.

Here are some ideas for the people in your life that you love, but don’t really want to spend more than $10 or 15 on. Hey, times are tight. But just because times are tight doesn’t mean buying someone a stupid shrunken martini glass as a present. Dollar stores and clearance bins are your best friends. Do not. I repeat. Do not buy someone a stupid and useless cheap gift.

The absolute worst group to buy for on a budget is teenage boys, followed by adult men. Let’s face it: their tastes are too excessive with minimal return. Once I had a cousin complain that his gifts from the family weren’t up to his standards (he never purchased gifts for others). His behind was banished to underwear land, to never part. Here are my themes:

  1. Game Night – Buy a pack of Uno cards, regular playing cards, poker chips, dice, and a pack of another game cards, such as Would You Rather or SkipBo. These things often go on sale during the holidays for $4 or less and you can stack up. Get it? Stack up.
  2. Pocket Fun – One year a big hit was a bag with skull earbuds (I honestly didn’t expect them to be as excited as they were), a camouflage water bottle and a unique keychain. The keychain ideas are endless including digital photo ones I once found in a clearance bin, Swiss Army knife ones I found for 50 cents!, or hard leather strap ones
  3. Get Comfy – PJ bottoms, socks and a nice undershirt or tank top. Hopefully, if you have guys similar in size, you can get a multiple pack of tee-shirts at a big box store and split them up

Adult men are the bane of my existence. They never like anything. If you ask a man for advice on what to get a nice uncle, he will tell you something ridiculous such as a $50 Sears gift card. Not happening. I don’t try to be clever, I just want to get it done.

  1. Car Kit – A nice travel mug, unscented hand lotion, lip balm and a small pack of tissues. They won’t like it anyway
  2. Desk Kit – A sensible picture frame, a nice ball point pen and leather bound notebooks. Marshall’s sells really nice notebooks for $6 and they are genuine leather. It’s a bit of a waste of leather but oh well
  3. Wardrobe Accessories – Handkerchiefs (I had a friend who loved these), black dress socks, a leather belt (I often find these for $2. Seriously!) and/or a simple scarf

Yay! Teenage girls are so much fun.

  1. Pedicure Set – There are often these pedicure sets at discount stores that include toe dividers, pumice stones, etc. I buy one of these plus a pretty nail file, some foot lotion and some stand-out nail polish
  2. Bath Set –Body wash, bubble bath, lotion, and cute bath accessories from the dollar store: back brush, a shower poof and a bath mitt. Of course, women get of a lot of these smell goods, so be prudent. And remember never give this to me as I break out in hives. If you want an alternative, give one of those wearable towels in place of bath products. I know these are popular, because I received three in one year once
  3. Cool at School – I find a pretty tote bag, often on the clearance rack after the back to school run-up. I also add brightly colored hat and glove sets. Oh my goodness, H&M had the cutest hats this year

Women are rather easy, because they like almost anything other women give them. Unfortunately, men this isn’t always true for you.

  1. Ready for Bed – Big box stores sell cute pajamas in a multitude of colors, add a snarky eye mask (Dollar Store) and cozy, fuzzy socks
  2. Purse Pack – Buy a nice make-up bag. I got these gorgeous ones at Victoria’s Secret at their sale for $3 one year. Never to be replicated. Stuff with chapstick, a nail file (I like the big Emory boards with fancy designs), hand sanitizer, breath mints, small hand lotion and a small pack of tissues. Z’s pilfering. Her random gift bags started having these items after I gave out purse packs a few years in a row.
  3. Relax Set – A beautiful mug (I like off the beaten path boutiques for these), gourmet tea and a wonderfully scented candle

Those are some of my tricks. I love a stress-free holiday.