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Friday, July 25, 2014

How French Women Shop: The Secret Revealed! (Maybe)

What is it about French shopping habits? Why do we yearn to be French shoppers? I subscribe to the fantasy as much as the next person, even though my behavior is probably the opposite of French.

Whenever I am actually in France, I wonder if the idea of the Parisienne buying only 3--maybe 4--exquisitely chosen items per year IS a fantasy. I see loads of people weighed down by giant shopping bags from H&M, Mango, and the like, same as in any American city.

But I think I know the secret. You see I have ONE French friend, who came to the USA 30 years ago and ended up marrying an American fellow. Here is the secret.

She goes shopping ONLY when she needs something (like a nice suit when there was a dinner in her honor). It might take her a whole day (or more) to find an acceptable one, since she is hard to fit (petite, curvy). She will spend whatever (though she generally looks at mid-priced stores).

The above is not news. This is the news. Once she gets something--and this includes things for her home also--SHE STOPS LOOKING or EVEN THINKING about it.

In short, she is a DECIDER.

When I get another black top, say, I'm always wondering: is there a nicer one?

My French friend has a daughter, born in the USA. Daughter is fluent in French, but she shops like her American peers. That is, she shops recreationally and she's ALWAYS LOOKING.

Hmmmmm. A generalization--even a tabloid-type headline-- based on a single example. Not scientific! What do you think?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

A Less Frugal, But Still Very Frugal Day in New Orleans

I've been wanting to write about my vow to be somewhat LESS frugal going forward. You see, I turned 60 recently. I'm too old for early retirement. What I do in the next five years in the frugal department won't make that big a difference. My house is paid off; my kiddos are done with college.

It's hard to change old habits. Actually, I think I may be hard-wired for frugality.

Yesterday, my family of three (Frugal Son is elsewhere) went to New Orleans.

First stop: Buffalo Exchange with bunch of stuff.

Next stop: Palace Cafe for the special summer Temperature Lunch, where you get a soup/salad and entree for the preceding day's high temp!

Third Stop: New Orleans Museum of Art, free for residents on Wednesdays.

Fourth Stop: We had parked at Canal Place, an upscale shopping venue. If you buy something, you get reduced parking.  We got a coffee at Starbucks.


Buffalo Exchange: Oops! Accidentally brought a box full of intended discards. This box lowered the "look" of our good stuff. Plus, the buyer stopped after 10 minutes to take an Advil, which didn't kick in till after she was finished. More plus, the young woman selling next to us--who looked like nothing special--had brought in boxes of Louboutin shoes and Chanel boots (among other upscale stuff), which further downgraded our items. Still, we got almost $70, even after Miss Em used some of the credit on a lovely tunic.

Palace Cafe: Pretty good but very noisy. Salad was Caesar; soup was red bean, main was chicken and dumplings. I don't think I'd go for regular price because there are much better options in NOLA. The high temperature was 89 degrees, so each lunch was $8.90. We were too full for a real dinner.

Museum: Two wonderful special exhibits, one on the Spanish-American home and one on the murals at Talledega College.

Canal Place: We ran into the person who watched our house while we were gone! A pleasant surprise.

I asked Miss Em how I was doing on getting the pathological out of my frugality. She started laughing. A good day all in all.

the new orleans store

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How Not to Buy: NOrdstrom and Sundance

I don't mean to project an image of a virtuous self here. Just like a lot of people, I shop too much, over-accumulate, etc etc. And--because the thrifts in my little town are good and cheap--I can REALLY over-accumulate: a sweater a week would add up to a mere $150 and put 52 items into my closet.

A few years ago, I realized that I found thrift stores de-stressing and that I found enough for my family and friends to make my time--sort of--worth it. So I decided to limit my shopping in "real stores." LAst year, I decided to up my shopping in "real stores" so I could get some simple basics at higher than my usual price point.

When you venture into the world of "real stores," you are subject to all sorts of temptations. Even though I don't have a Nordstrom charge, I was sent the Anniversary Catalog, with a note that I could shop early if I got the charge.

How to say NO to Nordstrom? Well, last year, I had a few things on my "list": Eileen Fisher tunic, Furla bag (one of these days), Zella leggings, JAG jeans. Last year, every one of the items was "sold out." Boohoo. I left them in my cart.

Lo and behold, several months later, every one of the items re-appeared and at an even lower price! By that time, I didn't really want the items anyway and decided to wait for 2014.

This year, my list is exactly the same. Some of the items are already sold out in my size. The Furla bag is even nicer than the one last year. But--ugh--I don't need anything right now.

I think I'll wait till 2015. By that time, some of my current wardrobe might be sufficiently worn out. I'm pretty sure the sale will always feature Eileen Fisher tunic, Furla bag, Zella leggings, and JAG jeans.

So I'm not saying NO to Nordstrom; I'm waiting.

What about Sundance? Why I get the catalog, I do not know. I have never bought anything from Sundance. Today, while I was cleaning out my "stuff I might be interested in" basket, I found a picture torn from the 2013 catalog.  "Lotus Petal Flats." Looked comfy. $168. UGH. Today--about a year later--I looked up the flats. They are still $168. They have some reviews about how UNcomfy they are. Desire dissipation: immediate.

Saying NO: it's just temporary.

Lotus Petal Flats

Lotus Petal Flats

An updated version of an age-old design worn in Chinese monasteries. Lotus petal flat shoes are simple, beautiful and supremely comfortable with softest suede that cradles with each step. Imported. Euro whole sizes 36 to 41. 36 (US 6.75), 37 (US 7.5), 38 (US 8.25), 39 (US 9), 40 (US 9.75), 41 (US 10.5).
Average Customer Rating:
3.429 out of 5 
 out of 
 (7 Reviews)
Open Ratings Snapshot
6 out of 7(86%)reviewers would recommend this product to a friend.
Product Details
Customer Reviews for Lotus Petal Flats
4 out of 5

Runs Large

November 6, 2013
Location: Northern California
This is an attractive shoe with very soft suede. However, my usual European size
was much too large so I ordered the next smaller size. It was also too large, so I
tried the next size down which was too small. In the end I kept a pair with the middle
size and will try adding inserts. What is needed is a half size, currently not available.
Review 2 for Lotus Petal Flats
4 out of 5

Very Zen

October 27, 2013
Location: Boston area
I do actually like these flats a lot. I was worried about sizing, given other reviews, but the flats fit my size 9 feet perfectly. I sometimes wonder if I should order up--not all 9s work for me, but 9.5 is always too big. These worked very well. At first I was taken aback by the absence of a heel, but in fact came to love walking around on perfectly flat soles--very zen. I love the soft lush suede; only drawback is that it seems to wear quickly, because shoes are so close to the ground with no heel. I got the cinnamon--it's lovely, exactly as pictured. Kind of wish I'd gotten teal, though, as it would go with more of what I usually wear. If they weren't so expensive I'd order a second pair.
Review 3 for Lotus Petal Flats
1 out of 5

Very disappointed

October 12, 2013
Location: Fort Worth, TX
They were not true to size very large, however; very narrow and No padding or arch support I returned them.
Review 4 for Lotus Petal Flats
3 out of 5

Lotus Petal Flats

October 10, 2013
Love these shoes. However, they run a full size too large. Buyer beware.
Review 5 for Lotus Petal Flats
3 out of 5

Too big...too flat

September 10, 2013
Location: Los Angeles, CA
I really wanted to like these shoes...they seem different than many flats and I was looking forward to suede for the fall. I ordered my usual size 9.5 (size 40) however they were too big and too flat. Sorry Sundance these won't work for me. I would recommend for others in the correct sizing.
Review 6 for Lotus Petal Flats
5 out of 5

very best purchase ever

September 10, 2013
Location: charlotte n c
An elegant and comfortable shoe. I feel like owning all 3 colors.
Review 7 for Lotus Petal Flats
4 out of 5

cute flats!

August 19, 2013
I ordered these in cinnamon in a 38, which is my usual size. They are very cute, seem comfy, but about one size too large. Sent them back for a 37. The cinnamon color is nice, but paler than the photo. When doing an exchange with Sundance, you have to pay return postage to use the smart label - lots of other catalogs do not charge for an exchange.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

BEST handbag for travel: I'm not kidding

BEST TRAVEL HANDBAG EVER: a totally fortuitous discovery.

I am no longer a very devoted blog-writer, but my devoted readers may recall my trip to Chicago last spring. Mr FS and I went to a conference and in our off-time decided to focus on the Art Institute of Chicago. So we bought a membership.

Besides the art, the best thing about the membership was the lounge, which provided respite from the crowds and also provided very good coffee. We also got a tote bag.

The tote bag is plain: black on one side, it proclaims Art Institute of Chicago in white letters on the other side. It also has Member printed on it. The handles are a good length, suitable for shoulder AND hand carrying (unlike the iconic LL Bean tote, where you have to choose one or the other).

It is of lightish-weight canvas and has a coating inside that makes it waterproof. Zip top.  It has a tiny zip compartment where you can put your absolute necessities (for me, a credit card, a lipstick, and some dental floss).

I took the tote on our trip as a backup (haha) and ended up using it every day. Not only is it lightweight and aesthetically pleasing, but it is socioeconomically ambiguous. I have never bought anything emblazoned with a logo, but this particular logo has--i think--an interesting effect.

It is clearly an inexpensive tote, yet it proclaims affiliation with a cultural institution. Most handbags nowadays proclaim their cost, sad but true. Two summers ago I saw several women in Paris holding big Hermes bags across their chests. Truly, the effect was like holding a giant price tag.

My bag could take me anywhere. Was I a penurious artist? a philanthropist? I could be anything. The zip top would foil pickpockets, but would anyone in that line of work be attracted to a cheap tote anyway? I don't think so.

That logo though:  it gives the bag that certain cultured je ne sais quoi. I could even wear it to Hermes. Though I didn't.

Monday, July 21, 2014

My Six-Week "Shopping Fast"

Because Mr FS and I limit ourselves to a single bag, we buy very little when we travel. This last trip, we bought NOTHING. Part of our mission was to arrive in Serbia with our single bag (which could be a carry-on) and each leave with a big suitcase full of Miss Em's stuff, mostly books and sketchbooks. Mission Accomplished.

Even though I only took a small carry-on, I STILL brought too much. Since we were on the road a lot, I looked at my single bag with horror. That made it easy not to shop: I wasn't even tempted.

Here's the thing though. I thought I would get home full of pent-up desire. 'Tis the season of sales and fall previews and catalogs. I also thought that Miss Em, in her early 20s and heretofore something of an over-accumulator of clothing, would be raring at the bit to shop. She went 9 months with almost no shopping (except for a few Eileen-Fisheresque linen tops she had made for her by a Muslim seamstress who usually only sews for women who wear the veil).  Oh yeah--she bought a few things at a thrift store in Novi Pazar, which is stocked with items sent from Germany and Switzerland and ordered a couple of items from American stores which were in her room when she got back.

When we got home last week, we were horrified by what was in our (smallish) closets. Miss Em promptly took charge, filling a big suitcase with donations, snapping a few pics and listing items on Tradesy, making a huge bag of goodies for the Buffalo Exchange, and giving me much of the stuff she had worn in Serbia, since she was totally sick of it.

We even took a trip to Goodwill (when we donated). After a few hugs for me from the employees, we looked around in a rather diffident fashion--and fled.

I don't know how long this lack of shopping desire will last, but I'm really enjoying it. In my younger days, whenever I tried to "diet," I thought of nothing but food and probably ate more. I thought that the same would result from my "shopping fast." We shall see.

Has this ever happened to anyone else?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

In case anyone is wondering

I am back from a most amazing journey. Beginning in Brussels and Paris, then on to the Balkans: Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia. I can hardly begin to process what I experienced there.

And--while overcoming the jet lag from a 30 hour return trip--I finished the final volume of Proust. That too has been a journey--more than a year of reading, more than 4000 pages.

Thanks for commenting on the posts that appeared in my absence. Much appreciated, though I could only respond in my head.

One of the places we visited...

Buna and Dervish Monastery