Thursday, December 31, 2009

Roooooxanne, You Don't Have to Put Out the Red Light

My bedroom is a red-light district.

See that alarm clock on the nightstand? The one with the 2.5-inch tall numbers? Yeah, that puts out a heavy red glow to rival the Kenny Rogers Roasters neon sign in that old "Seinfeld" episode. I'm fairly sure that planes passing overhead can tell what time it is.

The clock was supposed to be a gag Christmas gift from my parents, but I love it. You see, (I really don't) this was purchased from a Web site for the hearing and sight-impaired, which I am. I'm woefully nearsighted and have worn glasses since first grade. The numbers on this clock are big enough that, if I squint, I can tell what time it is even with the clock pushed to the nightstand's edge.

That was cool Christmas gift No. 1.

The second? Well, this rockin' bike from my Spousal Unit. I've been pining for a beach cruiser with a big-butt seat ever since we went to San Diego two years ago, and I enviously watched those carefree girls cruise down the strand. I named it Pinkie Bikeadero. That would be a "Happy Days" reference to Pinkie Tuscadero, for those of you whose golden age of TV wasn't in the '70s.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Best Buys '09

I shop.

A lot.

For me it's a hobby, sport and therapy all rolled into one. Of course, when I stop and think about what I've spent over the past year on everything from stretchy, tie-dyed hair ties to shearling-lined boots and tinted lip balm, it kinda makes my tummy hurt. At the same time, few things make me feel happier than a package waiting on my doorstep or a super-sale dress I've scored at a local boutique's sale.

And — this is so not normal — but I kind of panic a little as the year winds down, and I think about all the things I bought for a song, thinking I won't ever find such bargains again. (I've been known to save the price tags on especially marked-down items.) It's the same creepy feeling I get when I realize all the Christmas presents I've carefully shopped for year-round have been given away and I have to start all over again.

Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to highlight my Best Buys of the past year:

• Haute Hippie short-sleeved poncho. I saw this in a few places and fell in love. It's a silk-cashmere-cotton blend, which sounds so yummy. The sticking point was the $139 price tag. Yikes. But, I just wanted to feel it and, with the power of online shopping (and free returns), I bought it just to see if it was worth obsessing over. It was. Amazingly, it popped up on eBay for about $40. I snapped it up. I love this so much that when a long-sleeve version came up on eBay, I bought it, too.

• J. Crew Chalet shearling-lined boots. They were a splurge, but they are so amazingly soft and cuddly inside that I may have them welded onto my feet.

• Good-to-Go bag. From one of my favorite sites — — this purse organizer is awesome. It has tons of little pockets around the outside and a big drawstring pouch in the middle. Makes it so easy to switch purses.

• NYC In A New York Minute express nail color. Sure the best things in life are free, but paying $1.72 for nail polish that really, truly dries in about a minute is pretty sweet. This stuff is awesome, has a great range of colors and you can't beat the price. Look for it at Target and drug stores.

• Clarisonic. I may love it as much as my children. Maybe more because it doesn't talk back or leave messes around the house AND it makes my skin glow. The kids give me wrinkles and gray hair. I really don't know if it makes me look younger, but my skin feels soft. My face just doesn't feel clean if I don't use it. Again, a splurge but since I never, ever have time (or money) to get facials anymore, this thing is a godsend.

• Sam Edelman "Flora" driving mocs. These feel like slippers but look soooo much chicer.

• Current/Elliott boyfriend jeans. Believe the hype. The jeans that touched off the slouchy, comfortable look are the best. The best. Amazingly soft denim and such a cute look. You've got to be careful with oversized jeans to make sure they don't make you look, well, oversized. The big, low-placed pockets are incredibly flattering to the ol' badonkadonk.

• Patterson J, Kincaid striped Greenwich top. This recently made the list for "cool new brands I've discovered." The top, purchased on crazy super-sale at Neiman Marcus's online shop (another previous posting) was such an incredible find. The material is exquisitely soft. The styling — slightly oversized with big arm holes — is very current. Outfit perfection: I throw an athletic-type bra or bandeau bra underneath and pair with skinny jeans and a moto jacket.

Here's to a 2010 filled with lots of great shopping.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fleece-y Goodness

Since I was a little kid, people warned that living in the desert thins your blood.

What does this mean? Well, it means that once the temperature drops below 70, you're cold. Freezing. It feels like arctic temps. Whether or not that's true about the blood, there's no doubt that plenty of us desert dwellers are seriously wimpy about the cold. I would be one of these people.

I love winter clothes even though we have fake seasons. But, I'm perfectly happy living in a place where even in the 50s, with the sun out, it feels much, much warmer. If I were ever faced with real, winter weather, I don't think I'd survive. So, I pretend, buying things like shearling-lined boots and — my latest discovery — fleece-lined leggings.

"Won't those add an inch to your legs?" a friend asked when I mentioned the Plush leggings.


They're warm and snuggly and paired with those boots, my bottom half will be invincibly warm.

Monday, December 28, 2009

'Bye, bye Mini Skirt

Good-bye mini skirt, hello middle age.


Last year, I had to have — HAD to have — a denim mini. I'd had 'em in the past and gotten rid of them. But, I needed one to go with my increasing collection of leggings. The other night, I pulled it on over some leggings to go out to a casual dinner with the family. It looked awful. It felt awful — too short, too young. I remembered the intro to "What Not To Wear, which features a sign reading 'No mini skirts after 35.'

I tossed it into the giveaway pile.

Yet another fashion trend that I have grown too old for. Double sigh.

It's tough realizing that my fashion clock is ticking. There are just some things and styles that I shouldn't wear for much longer. I adore graphic T-shirts. That might start to look silly soon. I also never pay attention to hem-lines and regularly go well above the knee. That, too, has an expiration date. I fear it is soon.

Of course, Hollywood types ignore such rules regularly. Look at Demi Moore. She totally bucks style convention — long hair past age 40, short skirts, va-va-voom necklines. Of course, she's Demi Moore. And, I feel fairly confident in saying that she doesn't come with all her original parts. Also, Hollywood types run in different circles than I. So, maybe it's not so bad that I shouldn't wear something super-tight and super-short for a premiere since the only premieres I attend are elementary school talent shows and the dress codes are fairly lax.

And, I guess I could also not buy the Splendid vintage fleece hoodie that went on sale for an extra 20 percent off at and instead save up for my own, um, body upgrades. If no one can tell how old you are, how can they tell you what to wear?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Yes, Neiman Marcus

For years I disparagingly referred to the high-end department store as "Needless Mark-up."

Two times I tentatively wandered into the Scottsdale outpost. I bought one thing — Bobbi Brown lipgloss.

But, now I owe Neiman Marcus a consumer mea culpa. While all these other fancy stores were trying to get my business this holiday season with special offers, only Neiman Marcus consistently offered free shipping and super-duper discounts. Nordstrom never did that. Neither did Bloomie's. Saks did offer free shipping, but its prices are so high that it didn't matter much.

So, I'm a convert to And, I'm happily awaiting this Patterson J. Kincaid micromodal tank (super soft!!!), which was a whopping 75-percent off. Yay me. Go, Neiman.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Shoe Haiku

Pictured: Me Too "Locket" pumps

Hey, Santa Baby
Oh won't you bring me a pair?
In size seven, please.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Fabulous Finds

You don't spend as much time online as I do and not come across some cool things. A Christmas gift to you: brands to shop for if you love quality and incredibly soft fabrics:

• Patterson J. Kincaid (white long-sleeved tee). Basics that look anything but because of the flow-y fabrics and easy styles.
• Torn by Ronny Kobo (plaid, drapey top). A little edgy with of-the-moment styling and prints. This is a line I'm going to keep my eye on, even if Taylor Momsen's been spotted in the stuff, too.
• Haute Hippie (gray, long-sleeved hoodie). True to its name, Haute Hippie features very boho-looking stuff at Paris Hilton prices. I'm addicted to the blend of cashmere, silk and cotton used in many of its cardigans. I managed to acquire two HH items (long-sleeve and short-sleeve hoodies), and they're exquisitely soft. And, I got them on eBay at about a quarter of the triple-digit-price tags the stores sold them for.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Seasonal Jewelry

This cinderblock necklace is supposed to symbolize the foundation upon which ideas and cities are built.

To me, it more symbolizes how I'm feeling right now: that I have this massive weight around my neck.

It's my daughter's birthday, Christmas is a mere two days away, and I have a closet's worth of stuff to wrap.

I think I need to go shoe shopping.

Friday, December 18, 2009

That Friday Thang

Plaid, Ked-like wedges from crazy-cheap line Volatile.

Friday before Christmas Shoe Haiku

Oh so seasonal
Plaid and sneakerlike, they're cute
Good to walk in, too.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What the......???

I've completely lost control.

I admit it, and I've even almost come to terms with it.

Black tufts of dog hair are building up along the hallways. My countertop has disappeared beneath an avalanche of Christmas cards, pencils, lunch boxes, and some weird green cornstarch-and-glue sculpture that I'm going to discreetly sneak into the trash first chance I get.

This is how I live -- with three kids genetically incapable of putting things away, a husband (who passed along that gene) and two shedding, black puppies.

I accept that nothing I own will go unstained, unchewed, un-peed upon. My house is.....a frat house. Without the Greek-lettered clothing and beer-swilling but still with all the unruly behavior, puke, burping and weird secretions smeared across furniture.

As further testatment to how un-in-control I am, I just reached down to roll down the uncomfortable waistband on my Christmas jammies and discovered a piece of masking tape stuck to my ass. I have no idea how long it's been there or how it got there.

Don't remember it in the shower this morning, but I only slept four hours. I've forgotten to use soap even when I've had a full night's sleep.

Anyway, there was enough stick left in the tape to hurt when I pulled it off my upper left cheek.

That's as bad as the time that we got new computers at work, and we were instructed to leave a Post-It note in the spot where we wanted our monitor. After work that day I stopped in at Safeway and the woman behind me gently tapped me on my shoulder.

"Excuse me," she said. "You, um, have something on your behind."

I reached back and pulled off a yellow piece of paper. "Put computer here," it said.

At least I know how *that* got there.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

New Holiday Dress

I haven't been to a dress-up holiday party since before Y2K, when we were waiting for the world to end. Or, my water to break.

Neither happened that night. But, impending parenthood (for us and many of our friends) dealt a crushing blow to our fancy-schmancy social engagements.

In a throwback to the old days, when I used to always buy a new dress for New Year's, I bought this. On a whim, I tossed in a bid on eBay. No one else wanted this Patterson J. Kincaid bubble dress, so I scored it for $48. It retails for $148.

Still can't figure out what color that skirt is. The brand calls it "crown." Is it bronze? Pewter? Honestly, I can't tell, even in person.

Perhaps I will get to wear it to work one day.

Friday, December 11, 2009

If It's Friday....

It's time for a Shoe Haiku!

Can shoes be hoochy
Yet still sweet? I do not know.
Let us ponder that.

Diego di Lucca "Patty" Mary Janes. The last time I wore them, a lady stopped me in the restroom and asked me where I got 'em.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When Baking Goes Bad

That coffee cake was not dropped on the floor.

Wasn't stepped on.

It wasn't harmed or molested in any way by my two, obnoxious, counter-surfing puppy mongrels that will very soon be looking for new homes. Anyone want two black Lab-Chupacabra* mixes?

Nope, this cake flopped onto the plate just like that. Could not tell you what I did wrong. Well, actually I suspect it was all smooshy — but still wonderfully tasty — because the stewed fruit probably didn't thicken as much as it should have. It was as runny as juice and I think that prevented the Argroves Manor Coffee Cake from Melissa Gray's new "All Cakes Considered" cookbook from looking anything like the lovely photo in her book.

Gray's cookbook (Chronicle, $24.95) came out of her love of baking. The producer for NPR's "All Things Considered," she started baking, from scratch, and bringing in cakes every Monday to take the edge off the work week. From that grew an entertaining book that is easy to follow with lots of good pictures and entertaining anecdotes.

Now, I am a complete and total NPR nerd. I've been known to troll the Web site like a stalker because I need to see what these people look like. At one time, I was going to name my next pets Snigda Prakash and Kojo Nnamdi. Whatever happened to those guys anyway?

But, back to the cake.

I wanted to make something out of Gray's book and the Argroves cake, with its butter and vanilla yogurt batter, sounded promising. I nearly lost my mind when it flooped out of the tube pan and started to ooze. By this morning, it had set up much better and the crunchy, sugary walnut streusel married beautifully with the moist, heavy cake dotted with apple and blackberries.

I love cookbooks, and this one is such a pleasure. It's a double-winner because it also has all these fun stories about the people I listen to on the radio every day on my endless drive to work. My favorite story, though, involved a behind-the-scenes guy, who took over cake duty one Monday when Gray was out. The bottom fell out on his cake carrier, sending his coffee cake to the floor. He served it anyway, saying it had extra "fiber," as in carpet fiber. Now that's a story I can relate to. If this guy writes a cookbook, I'm gettin' it.

*According to Mexican urban legend, a chupacabra is a sort of mythical beast. The literal translation is "goat sucker." Every once in a while, someone will claim to have found a mummified chupacabra and it always turns out to be a hairless coyote.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

10-Minute Hair Color

The holidays are enough to make anyone go gray.

Of course, I can't blame seasonal stress alone for the silvery strands atop my head.

They were already there.

I stopped having my hair colored in a salon after a disastrous incident. Nothing weird happened to my hair. It didn't turn green or fall out, but I consider paying $50 for slapped-on color and near complete abandonment to be a big, fat waste of money. So, I started handling it myself after What's-Her-Face flaked out on me. For the most part, things have gone well, but finding a good 20-30 minute block of time to do my own hair is hard to come by. Plus, I'm brutally impatient. Enter Perfect 10 from Clairol.

This hair color might be more expensive than most (I've seen it anywhere from $10-$13), but it covers the gray in 10 minutes. Ten minutes. Even I can spare that.

You just squirt goop into a tube with more goop and slather it on. This stuff doesn't even have a noxious smell. And truly, in 10 minutes, the gray was covered. The dark golden brown gave my hair a cool, Kristen Stewart-after-she-dyed-her-hair-to-play-Joan-Jett look.

And did I mention it only took 10 minutes?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Yet Another Friday Shoe Haiku

These may look like shoes, but they're actually a story about patience. And my lack of it.

You see, I'd loved these Simple peep-toe flats for MONTHS. They went on sale, and there was free shipping. A few weeks later, a friend was admiring them and I gave her all the details. She got them — for even less than what I paid.

••••• Shoe Haiku •••••

Another pair of dots?
How many pairs does one need?
Hmmmm. Well, at least three.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Worthwhile Hand Cream

If you've ever flipped over a bottle of lotion and read the ingredients, then you've probably noticed something peculiar: The first ingredient (or, at least one of the ingredients) is always water.


Seems kinda counterintuitive, doesn't it? Your hands get dry and cracked and abused from over-washing. Yet right there in the lotion you're slathering on, is water.

Well, that bugged this dry, wrinkly-handed girl enough that I shelled out $35 for a lotion I heard about that not only doesn't have water, it has only seven ingredients. Seven. Rice bran, rice oil, glycyrrhiza (apparently a plant related to licorice, if Wikipedia is to be believed), jojoba oil, aloe, sweet basil, silk extract.

The brand name is Komenuka Bijin, a Japanese line. The name means "rice bran beautiful person" in Japanese. Beauty lore has it that someone realized the women who worked in a sake factory had these amazingly soft hands from working with the rice all day.

Due to its indulgent price tag, I restrict its use to my hands, although it is billed as an all-over body cream. The lotion barely has a smell, a good thing in my book. It rubs in silky smooth and sinks in, leaving no overly greasy residue. It just feels....pure. And, it's a must this time of year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

$12 Well Spent

I don't believe in spending a lot of money on trends. In today, destined for the Goodwill bin tomorrow, ya know.

But, it's still fun to give 'em a spin. Pyramid studs — and in particular on jewelry — are way in right now. I just picked up this Free People leather, snap bracelet.

Because the raised studs blend into the leather, it's subtle — from a distance, it looks just like a cuff. It was only $12 (free ship!).

Of course, when I snapped it up there was only black, which is edgy and versatile. Now there's a chocolate brown on the site, which gives the studded a look an earthy vibe. I might need that, too.