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Posts from the ‘shopping’ Category

the original

Last week, I got a photo via text, from Tom.

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The text was immediately followed by an angry call. “I’m at American Apparel, and their bowties are clip-ons, Yoona.” Tom had wanted a velvet bowtie for a holiday party, and I remembered seeing some at American Apparel, so I’d sent him there. “I can’t wear a clip-on bowtie, for chrissake. People will think I can’t tie a bowtie!” I blinked. I’d honestly never considered that particular fashion faux pas before.

I let him continue. I sensed there was more to this call than just the bowtie.

“ALSO, what the f*ck, they have like a hundred of my watch on sale.” The anger in his voice was palpable, so I proceeded with care. “Tom, calm down. Which watch are you talking about?” “My black Casio watch,” he bit out. “And my calculator watch too!!” Ah. His precious calculator watch. This was indeed serious.

About a year ago, I took delivery of a small package from Amazon, addressed to Tom. I was intrigued, as Tom never orders anything for himself. Actually, I was shocked that he’d figured out how to order something online, as Tom uses the intraweb for one purpose alone: to check scores on ESPN. I opened the box and found an ugly plastic watch inside, with a receipt showing that Tom had purchased it for about $17. A few weeks later, another Amazon package arrived for Tom. I opened it to find another black plastic watch. And this one had—wait for it—a calculator for a face. Tom usually wore the plain black Casio but would bring out the calculator watch for special occasions. I’d catch him standing in the closet in his boxers looking from one black Casio to the other black Casio, undecided. Not every occasion called for the calculator watch, he would tell me. When he chose the calculator watch, he’d wear it with his sleeve rolled up, offering to calculate tips after dinner and then cursing when his fingers, too large for the tiny little numbers, couldn’t punch out the right keys.

Back to American Apparel. “Babe. Did you think Casio only made and sold one of your watch?,” I asked. Having vented most of his frustration, Tom had already calmed down. “Of course not!,” he said, in a manner that made me suspect that he had thought exactly that. “I just don’t want everyone to know how f*cking cool my watch is.”

Guess the secret’s out.

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downers: advent calendars

There’s always a wide chasm between my aspirational parenting and my parenting reality, and that chasm is neatly embodied in our advent calendar. I didn’t have an advent calendar growing up, so they were foreign to me from the get-go. But I saw this cute felt number in a Pottery Barn Kids catalog when I was pregnant and had to have it. The only time I respond to the emotional manipulation of Pottery Barn Kids, by the way, is when I am pregnant or newly delivered of child. During such times, I’m a pungent stew of hormones and neediness, and sometimes the only thing that can make it better is to buy something cutesy and then monogram the shit out of it.

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So, back to the calendar. I bought it with only the vaguest notion of what an advent calendar means, or entails. All I knew was, if other kids had these things, my kids weren’t going to go without. Our calendar is displayed prominently in our dining room, across from my seat at the table, where it sits in silent judgment of my deficient mothering. The first problem with the advent calendar is that there are so many days in December. I know it’s 25 days, but it literally feels like December is seven years long when you are trying to figure out unique gift concepts for each pocket.

And about those pockets. The pockets on mine are approximately 2 inches by 3 inches, and sewn flat. I also have two kids, so I have to fit two of the item into each pocket. To give you a rough idea of how much the dimensions of those pockets limit my options, here’s a list of the things I have found that can actually fit into those pockets.

1. Andes mints (2)

2. Starburst (2)

3. Quarters (2)

4. Peanuts in the shell (2, but very tight squeeze)

5. Binder clips (2, the small size)

6. Splenda (2 packets)

Given these kinds of options, my kids would be happy if all 25 pockets had Andes mints or Starburst in them, no question. But I can’t live with that. I just can’t. For starters, I’m not sure Tate knows how to eat a Starburst yet. I sat down to dinner and found an oleaginous pink square with bite marks, stuck to my placemat. And what would 25 days of sugar teach them, anyway? That Jesus wants them to have candy? That their mom lacks creativity, and sufficient motivation?

So I’m forced to spend my downtime thinking of things to stick in those pockets. I went shopping today with my friend Alena and all I could think about is that advent calendar with all its empty pockets. So annoying. And that’s why I’m so pleased with tomorrow’s selection, which are free sample atomizers from the Nordstrom perfume counter, two of which slide into the pocket for December 4th as if they were made for it. I think Finn is really going to dig the Tom Ford White Patchouli, because he’s really my glam boho at heart. And definitely the Balenciaga for Tate. “A fragrance that is mysterious and fragile, yet leaves a lasting trail.” Tate is all about a lasting trail of odors. He’s going to love it.

Sigh. Just 21 days to go. Please help.

ways to wear: cropped jeans

It’s been awhile since I did a fashion post, and I’m feeling a little rusty. I also have a new photographer. Thus far, Cuz is far superior to Tom in all ways as a blog photographer. She does not whine, does not ask “how many more outfits” or “is that new/how much did that cost,” and most importantly, does not try to position me in a manner such that she can watch the game on the TV at the same time. I thank her for her service.

I love cropped jeans. They’re unfussy, a concession to my tomboy past, and I just prefer them to regular jeans, year-round. So with all the cropped jeans being offered these days, I’m in heaven.

My text placement is a sad attempt to hide some incipient denim creasing that might, to the uneducated observer, be mistaken for camel toe, which it most certainly is not. New year, new shade of Clarks to add to the other pairs in my closet. You might call it a style rut, but I prefer to think of my desert boots as my signature. The popover is comfortable, as it should be, because it is a beach coverup. I wear it all the time.

Levi’s Curve ID system intimidated me as soon as it was introduced. So many fits, and how the hell am I to know how large my ass is in relation to other asses? I didn’t even bother trying any on until last month. But, epiphany. If you have no waist, no hips and no butt—like me—the Slight Curve is genius. GENIUS. Which leads me to believe the other fits for more feminine figures, might be equally as bangin’. These are technically not a crop but I bought them in a 30″ inseam. They fit like a dream, with no muffin top. In fact, they fit exactly like my Current Elliott Stilettos, which were $200+. Long live Levi’s.

Cuz took these pics while three different neighbors were outside raking their leaves. Listen, I suffer for my craft. I wanted to get the ordeal over with quickly and didn’t bother to clear off the stuff behind me. As you can see, we drink water and leave pumpkins out long past Halloween. Fashion bloggers are a dime a dozen, but how many blogs get you this close to the banal reality of domestic life? That’s right. One.

I’m digging on lighter denim for fall, but as Cuz noted—these jeans, being light AND cropped, are not the easiest. As she snapped away, Cuz opined that the only person these might look good on is Miranda Kerr, whose legs are approximately three feet longer than mine. But I don’t mind. I mean, they’re comfortable as hell, and every time I wear them, someone asks where I got them, which makes me happy. Anyway, they are my new favorite jeans, displacing J Brand and even my Diesel boyfriends. If you like thicker denim, try MiH.

Leopard shoes are everywhere. The reason why is that leopard goes with everything. The shirt has chickens on it. Chickens with little berets. Prints are not my fave but not even I can resist French chickens.

Cuz gave me these jeans, which no longer fit her when they stretched out. I worry sometimes that Cuz will become very bad for my morale. When I laid on the floor and wrestled these suckers on, I was so happy when the button closed that I almost cried. As you can see, after wearing them for two days, I can even bend my legs in them. I can’t ever wash them, but whatever!! Perfect medium blue. And free. Great success.

Check out the pairs here and a few others on Pinterest

downers: boys’ clothes

I have fairness on the brain. I hear “that’s not fair” at least 20 times a day. “That’s not FAIR that Tate got more Cheerios.” “That’s not FAIR that Finn gets to sit in that chair.” “Yoona, it’s not FAIR that I can’t watch Monday Night Football when the Lions are playing, just because I’ve already watched forty hours of Tigers baseball in the past week.” A heads up for the unattached: if you don’t want to spend your entire life watching sports on TV, don’t get with someone from the greater Detroit metropolitan area.

You know what’s not fair? Walking into a kids’ clothing store and seeing 90% of the real estate covered in pink and purple bedazzle. I don’t get it. Everyone I know has boys. Around these parts, it’s like you can turn on your tap and a bunch of Y chromosomes will come gushing out. So why can’t we get some decent boys’ clothes? Why??

It makes me roll my eyes when my friends complain that they can’t get their girls out of their tutus. Cry me a river. I find the wearing of tutus in non-ballet contexts to be an obvious cry for attention, but I readily admit that I probably feel that way because I’m bitter that I don’t have something equally as fun to put on my boys. I tried suspenders once for Finn but that ended badly, with pinched skin and a monster wedgie. Suspenders look sweet when you see them at American Apparel. What no one remembers about suspenders until they go to wear them is that you have to tuck your top tightly into your pants to work that look, and I don’t need to tell you how cool your typical five-year old boy looks with a tight tuck. So yeah, my boys have worn girls’ leggings and bell-bottomed jeans. As a consumer, I crave variety and choice. And neither of those things are available in the boys’ section.

Having boys means you’re likely buying a lot of one thing: stripes. In my boys’ rooms are drawers full of striped clothing in various stages of putrification. The problem with owning only striped clothing, of course, is that once your boys start dressing themselves, they are in danger of looking like blind mimes.

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not sure this works

Stripes aren’t all the stores are offering. They’re also offering t-shirts with school-friendly slogans like “My Mommy is a MILF,” and fedoras for toddlers. Our sons deserve better than clothing that looks like it was conceived by The Situation and J-Woww. The kids in the Crewcuts are working a look, but ironically, I don’t want my kids to dress like they care about fashion. It wouldn’t be honest, because they care not at all. Not to mention, as cute as those kids look in the catalog, my kid can’t wear suede chukka boots and a wool blazer to school—he would get stoned by his friends. I do like Boden’s boy pants. But $48 for a pair that he will grow out of in 3 months? Increasingly, not happening. Cuz says I need that money for retinol.

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mad that all his clothes are striped

I just want something that won’t tear, isn’t cheesy, and can stand up to gallons of dirt, blood, and urine. But please, no Gymboree. The clothing is inarguably well-made, but I have a problem with Gymboree. All my reproductive organs shrivel up whenever I go near a Gymboree. I guess my main objection to Gymboree is that everything in the store is designed as part of a set. Like, the frog pants go with the frog shirt that goes with the frog hat. Frogs seem like a cruel thing to do to your kid, especially in triplicate. And you’ll have those frogs forever, because Gymboree clothing is actually so well made that it has the half-life of plutonium.

When I had just the one kid, I would go to Cafe Press and customize Hanes t-shirts, like the one below. But now that I have two kids, I don’t have that kind of time. I once drove Tate all the way to school not realizing that both his legs were in one pant leg. So mostly these days I rely on H&M, but their sizing is weird, and the options few.

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Which is why I was so psyched that the folks at Prefresh sent me some stuff for the boys. I have a strong sense of journalistic integrity, but I happen to like these clothes a lot. And maybe you need leads. As you can see, the tops are awesome. Fun. Not trying too hard. With a perfectly laid-back neckline—something you might as well get your boys used to early on.

Take that, tutus.

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stealing shampoo

I use “The Ethicist” column from the NYT as a moral barometer of sorts. It’s nice to check in every Sunday and verify that one is measurably less insane than the people who write into the column. Until, that is, you read a column and disagree with the Ethicist’s response. This happened to me last week, when someone wrote in about whether it was ok to take home the mini shampoo and conditioner bottles from hotel rooms. The Ethicist responded (basically) that those bottles are provided for your use under the condition that you use them inside the hotel room. Yeah, I know. WTF.

Screw the Ethicist. In my mind, not only is it ok to purloin those bottles, you would be a fool to leave them behind. When I get into a hotel room, after checking the bathroom floor for stray hairs, my first order of business is to immediately put all the miniature bottles in my bag, so that the housekeepers will put out new bottles of product at turndown. The next morning, I wash my hair with the Garnier I’ve brought from home, and then put the turndown bottles in my bag, so I can get new bottles when they clean the room. And so on and so forth. And here’s the thing. The housekeepers know I’m doing it. It’s not like they can’t see that the bottles are gone, or that the bottles aren’t in the trash can, which the housekeepers empty. No one’s reporting me. Because, you know what? They expect me to take the bottles. They NEED me to take those bottles.

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primo minis from a recent trip to san diego

I’m going to pause here for a second to address the hotels that have replaced the mini bottles with communal shower dispensers. First of all, nothing says luxury accommodations like communal dispensers. Second, you can stick whatever label you want on the outside of the dispensers, but everyone knows what you’ve got in those dispensers is bottom-of-the-barrel Suave Awapuhi and VO5, which just means that you are dirty, cheap liars. Third, you’re not using dispensers for the environment, you’re using them because you want to save a buck, so stop pretending otherwise.  Communal hotel dispensers make me so mad that sometimes I am tempted to empty them out, in silent protest.  But that would be wasteful and petty.

I just want to be on vacation. I’m already doing my part for the environment at home. I recycle. I compost. I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth. And I grudgingly do my part at hotels. I reuse the stupid towels and sheets even though the main reason I go to a hotel is so I can sleep in crisp sheets that do not smell faintly of my kids’ urine, and luxuriate in the weight of a fresh towel that I can’t afford at home. I turn off all the lights and AC when I leave my room, and do the rest of the hotel’s bidding. So give back the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner, ok? Jesus, I feel like crying.

If you think I’m weird, consider that I use those mini bottles for the gym, and travel to places that don’t provide product (e.g. vacation homes). So I have a real use for them. I’m not like my husband, who takes the mini bottles to use at our house, where he has access to regular-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. For reasons unknown, Tom seems to prefer using products in miniature. Miniature bottles of product are great because they are free, but when you get right down to it, they are kind of a pain to deal with. I mean, they are notoriously difficult to open and squeeze, and once squeezed, they never stay upright, and end up spilling all over your shower. It’s a real problem for me, because as the only space in my house that my kids don’t have access to, my shower is my refuge. I sometimes shower twice in one day, just to escape my kids. Anyway, I like a neat and tidy shower. So it drives me nuts when I have to deal with something like this.

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If you don’t think this is weird, let me just point out for you that the miniature bottles are all l’Occitane bottles that Tom brought home from the Four Seasons in Seattle. That big bottle is filled with the SAME PRODUCT that is in the little bottles. The labels look different but trust me, I know, because years ago Tom demanded that I ask l’Occitane what product they put in their hotel minis. Which I did, like the loving wife that I am. And the shampoo in their hotel minis is essentially the same stuff in that big purple bottle, which he demands that I procure for him at regular intervals, while I lather up with the Garnier. And still, he continues to use the miniatures. Is this not weird? I think it is totally insane. Every time he does this I stand in my shower with the water going cold, staring hard at the bottles, just trying to make sense of it. And I never can.

But whatever. I say nothing, because I want to support Tom’s hotel product benders, which probably save me at least $27 dollars a year in man-tastic beauty products, which I consider less fun to buy than even diapers or dishwasher tablets. As for any lingering qualms I might feel because of the Ethicist’s stupid column, here’s what I have to say to him, who as far as I know, lacks ethical credentials of any kind. He is not licensed in psychology or sociology, or morals. I, however, am a lawyer. As such, I might not know morals, but I damn well know conditional use. Those miniature bottles are mine. I paid for them with my hotel room, and if you want to say they are conditional even though those words appear nowhere on the bottles or on my hotel terms and conditions, go right ahead. But you’re wrong.

yoonanimous goes bike shopping

I still think bike commuters can be obnoxious. But I admit that I have long coveted a bike. It’s just worked out that every time I want to buy a bike, I don’t have the money, because I need it for other trifles, like heat, and water.

I started getting serious about a bike after spending $120 on a shitty rental over vacation. Buying a bike made a lot of sense. In Portland, the bike lanes are wider than the car lanes. Finn rides like a fiend, and is always asking why his parents walk so slow. I shop for groceries European style, which just means that I can’t predict what I want to eat in advance, and end up going to the store daily–a trip that would be more fun on a bike. But the last straw was when my genteel cousin Emily and her boyfriend Kevin bought a tandem. They have been riding jauntily around town toting baguettes and having impromptu picnics. I mean, I can barely picture Em OUTDOORS. That settled it. I was getting a damn bike.

Having made the decision, I perked up, as I always do, at the thought of buying something. But it’s been a slog. I’m usually an efficient shopper. I don’t equivocate, and I don’t waffle. But with bikes, I was like a retiree with all the time in the world—puttering around the shop, kicking tires, accidentally knocking bikes over, and asking annoying questions like “Can I put a bell on this? and “Why is this here bike so big?” I wish I had better questions, but I had no idea what to ask. When friends would ask “what type of bike” I wanted, I got tetchy. What the hell did they MEAN what kind of bike? The kind with two tires, a seat, and some handlebars. Duh. But I had to answer, and unfortunately, all my answers sounded really dumb. “I want a bike that won’t make my crotch sore.” “I want a bike that comes with the cool orange bags that hang on the back.” “I want a bike with medium fat tires.”

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an early contender: the globe daily 2

Anyway, the technical stuff was besides the point. I wanted the bike for my kids and groceries, but my priority was to avoid buying an uncool bike. I’m no Jay-Z, but I like to think I at least know what’s not cool. With bikes, I had no idea how relatively cool or uncool my options were. But make no mistake, you can’t go into a bike shop in Portland and ask for a “cool” bike. I know this because I did just that at River City Bikes and the salesperson visibly cringed, which looked painful with the eyebrow rings. My general impression of bike shop employees, btw, is that they exist to make you feel lame and under-pierced.

I couldn’t even rely on brand names, because I have no idea what brand names are cool in the bike world. Don’t give me any of that BS about brand names not being important. Brand names are important. To argue otherwise is to mess with the penultimate value system in my life, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t go there. I didn’t like the sound of some brands: “Giant,” “Surly,” “Globe,” “Cannondale.” Finn has a Trek and that sounded ok, but who wants to ride the same bike as their kid? It would be like buying a car made by Tonka, or Stride Rite pumps. I liked the sound of other brands: “Linus,” “Jamis.” I thought the brand “Specialized” sounded pretty special until a friend implied that Specialized is the Gap of the bike world. The Gap!! I didn’t want the Gap. I wanted A.P.C.

tate, my biking style icon

I knew a couple other things. I knew I didn’t want a girl bike—which, I was surprised to learn at Clever Cycles, is not the technical term for such a bike, which is instead known as a “step-through.” I wanted the crotch bar. Gotta have the crotch bar. To me the crotch bar is the difference between having curly streamers coming out of your handlebars, and not. Speaking of handlebars, I also knew that I didn’t want those tall, curvy handles that you see in old French movies.

But I was weak. Presented with curvy-handled, step-through options, I was tempted. A beautiful Linus Mixte 3-speed came in a color called “Rosewood,” a deep burgundy that called to the very core of my being. The salesperson assured me I could ride in a skirt. I nodded in appreciation, forgetting that the last time I wore a skirt in my downtime was…never. I wanted to buy that Linus, bad. And yet, something felt wrong on my test ride. I felt too upright, like a bear on a tricycle. Worse, I couldn’t shake the annoying feeling that I should be wearing mime makeup and handing flowers to passerby. It was cute, but I didn’t want cute. I wanted utilitarian. Functional. Something I couldn’t easily fall off of. A Linus might be in my future, but first, I needed to find out if I could really ride a bike.

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the rosewood linus mixte 3

In the end, I bought the cheapest option–the first bike I tried, a Globe Work I, in plain black. Globe is owned by Specialized, but I prefer to think of the Globe as my Piperlime bike, not my Old Navy bike. The bike felt good, and solid, like I could run over it with my car—just saying—and it might still be ok. I jazzed it up with a seat for Tate, in chartreuse. With the child seat, basket, and bike lock, the whole thing weighs approximately 120 pounds, but it’s ok. I don’t plan to go up any hills.

If the biking thing sticks, I’m getting this dream helmet next. My boss Keith, a cyclist, helpfully suggested it because he knows that my primary anxiety about riding a bike is helmet hair. A helmet that’s really a scarf! Brilliant. Now I just need to save the $700.

Anyway, if you see Tate and me on the road, give a honk! Just don’t make any sudden movements, because we are newbies. So maybe a light, non-threatening beep. Or maybe just flash your lights. Or maybe, just wave. Or maybe, just ignore us.

Wish us luck.

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i guess finn needed to pee

the Costco effect

I have a complicated relationship with Costco.  When I was young, my brother and I would spend Saturdays there with my parents, shopping for food and cigarettes for the smoke shop that my parents owned inside a tall office building called the Pacwest Center.  A smoke shop is a convenience store that sells food and cigarettes and lottery tickets.  A lot of smoke shops are owned by Koreans.  We spent every weekend unloading inventory on the loading dock where the trash bins are kept, and I spent a lot of hours working the cash register and selling Snapples to lawyers and architects who often looked down their nose at my family and talked really sloooowly to us while buying their Powerball tickets.  Two years after my dad died, the property managers decided they wanted a change, and kicked my mom out of the store to which she’d given more than ten years of her life.  That’s a real immigrant story.  I became a lawyer so I’d never have to feel that powerless again.

Anyway, spending time in Costco reminds me of those years of my parents’ backbreaking labor, which put me through four years of an Ivy League education.  In case it is not evident, I feel a debt to my parents that I know I can never repay.  The point of all this history is to explain why I don’t enjoy shopping at Costco, when I am capable of enjoying shopping almost anywhere else, including GNC and Hot Topic.

Personal stuff aside, I also don’t enjoy shopping at Costco because it has been my experience that it is not possible to leave that store without spending at least $300.  I’ve tried it, and failed, repeatedly.  Eventually I cut myself off completely, and didn’t step into a Costco for years.  But recently, my family’s vast consumption of fruit got me thinking about Costco again.  And when my friend Suzanne told me that she treats Costco like her grocery store, and can get out of there on her weekly visits without paying more than $100, I decided it was time for a reappraisal.

I’ve gone twice since I got a new Costco card.  And here’s my reappraisal, with all due respect to my dear Suzanne: it is still not possible to get out of a Costco for less than $300.  It was exactly as I remembered.  Now, as then, Costco makes me do some crazy ass sh*t.  Like this:

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I eat garbonzo beans like ten beans at a time.  At that rate, I will get through this bounty in approximately four years, during which time these cans will take up a lot of valuable pantry space.  I like garbonzo beans.  I do.  But liking has nothing to do with it.  When I see a flat of eight cans of garbonzo beans being sold for less than $6.00, I feel that it would be morally wrong not to buy them.  I feel this emotion often at Costco.  I call it the “Costco Effect.”  When other people see things being sold for extremely low prices, they think: bargain.  When I see things being sold for extremely low prices, I feel the extreme guilt associated with stealing.  I mean, how is it possible to pick, process, and can eight cans of garbonzo beans and sell them for $6.00, and still make a profit?  It can’t be.  And though it is completely irrational, the only way to assuage my feelings of guilt is to buy the product, and lots of it.  It’s how I play my part in a completely messed-up capitalist society.  My role is to buy.  And so I do.

At Costco prices, you just keep loading up your cart, because everything seems so damn cheap.  And everything they sell is so damn good.  The insidious thing about Costco, of course, is that it doesn’t take that many items at $12 or $15 each to add up to $300.  There are few shopping experiences worse than the feeling you get at Costco when all your items are on the conveyer belt and the cashier is scanning all your items, and as you watch the tally, you feel the urgent need to start removing things from the conveyer belt.  When I was younger, I was too self-conscious to do anything about it, but now I have a mortgage to think about.  So this time around I pulled off a whole fillet of salmon, a flat of Vitamin Water, and Tom’s Fusion razorblades.

It’s sad, but if something’s gotta give at Costco, it’s usually gonna be Tom’s stuff.  Especially if the item is a package of razor blades that costs $45.  You can buy 50 cans of garbonzo beans for $45.  That’s a whole lot of hummus.  While I’m on the subject, what is the deal with Gillette razor blades?  Unless each of the five blades on each cartridge is hand-sharpened by some blacksmith in some forge in Scotland, I fail to see how Gillette razor blades can cost as much as they do.  You can get a KNIFE for $45.  Like, a Wusthof.  I just don’t get it.  Which is why, until Tom can justify the expenditure, he can enjoy some Bic disposables.

Anyway, Costco.  For cheap.  I say it can’t be done.  If you think it can, please share your tips, for the benefit of all.

stuff i like: amazon prime

I’ve made peace with the knowledge that Amazon will eventually take over the world, and you should too, because it will make the takeover a lot smoother for Jeff Bezos.  I do a lot of my shopping online, and 9 times out of 10, I can find what I’m looking for on Amazon.  I’ve bought flour on Amazon.  My dryer sheets are from Amazon.  My shoes are often from Amazon, because I guarantee that the shoes you want on Zappos are cheaper on Amazon.  If I’m gifting you, I likely bought your gift on Amazon, unless I am re-gifting.  I’d like to spread my money around, but Amazon just makes it so damn easy.  They pack your stuff in “frustration-free packaging,” vacuum-wrap your books, and deliver everything on time and in one piece.

But the real beauty of Amazon is Amazon Prime.  I think it costs like $80 a year, but what you get is this: free two-day shipping on many (but not all) of the items you’ll be shopping for, including heavy items like this, my new toilet.  Don’t ask me why one toilet is packaged in two boxes.  That is a mystery for my contractor to figure out.  Here’s all I need to know: this sucker cost 40% less than MSRP, nothing to ship, and arrived on my stoop in two days.  Assuming there’s actually a toilet in there when my contractor opens the box(es), that will be approximately my 340th successful shopping experience on Amazon.  How’s that for a track record?

What Amazon knows is that when you have free two-day shipping, you’ll find excuses to do all kinds of stupid shopping on Amazon.  So it is that I once ordered a clip-on webcam for my laptop for $2.40.  It looked like a cheap toy you might pull out of a vending machine with a claw, and worse, did not work, but I don’t hold that against Amazon.  I hold it against the manufacturer, and me, for believing that a webcam that costs less than a Slurpee would be capable of transmitting my image to my brother in Seoul.  Before you start yowling about the environmental impact of shipping such an item, consider that if I hadn’t ordered it from Amazon, I would have driven around to five stores looking for a webcam, so there’s that.  Also, it came in a really tiny box.

But forget all that, because now, there’s Downton Abbey.  I recently started watching the show, two years after everyone else, and discovered that if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch HD episodes of DA through Amazon Prime for free, with no ads.  What?  Yeah, that’s right, Amazon sells streaming video, and if you have Amazon Prime, you can get a lot of it for nothing.  So you can return that DVD of “Just Go With It” that you’ve had molding in your house for the past 8 months–you know, the rental that’s costing you, at $13.99 per month, something like $112.00–and cancel your Netflix subscription.

Hey Amazon!  Take me to your leader.

remember the Gateway

At a car dealership last night, I wanted to buy a new car and the salesperson was making it really hard to say no. Luckily, Tom was there, doing his best “tough guy.” As the price dropped lower and lower, Tom leaned back in his chair, folded his arms across his chest, and played hardball, both with the salesperson and me. To the salesperson: “We aren’t looking to buy right now.” To me: “Yoona–remember the Gateway.”

Whenever I want to buy anything on an impulse, Tom brings up the stupid Gateway computer I bought 12 years ago. Recent transplants from NYC, we had just rented an apartment and were keeping our purchases modest. But eventually all things come to an end, and so it was with my frugality. I can be disciplined, financially, for periods of time. But inevitably, I crack. The severity of the cracking is directly proportional to the length of time that I have deprived myself. And so it was that one evening, after months of penny-pinching, we walked past a Gateway store, and I decided I had to have a computer, that very night.

Boy, was it a beaut. The monitor itself was probably three feet square. It had a 40 GB hard drive and less memory than my current digital camera, but back then, it was top of the line. Everything I would need for gaming, said the Gateway rep. I nodded my head in silent agreement. I didn’t game, but that didn’t mean I didn’t want the option of becoming a gamer. Same with the speakers. Back then, I didn’t know how to play music on a computer, but it seemed silly not to have the subwoofer, when all was said and done. With all the necessary embellishments, it cost something like $3400, which is the current price, I believe, of an entry-level Kia. But being newlyweds, Tom was still eager to please me, and also eager not to be single in a town in which he knew no one. And so he nodded his acquiescence, even though his eyes were troubled. As for the computer, it was probably obsolete by the time we drove it home.

I shouldn’t have bought the Gateway, but that doesn’t mean I should have to hear about it for the rest of my life. I remember the damn Gateway. I could hardly forget it, as it’s currently sitting in my basement in a huge cow box because it weighs 7000 pounds and is too heavy to dispose of. I shouldn’t have to hear Tom’s voice in my head when I stand at a Starbucks counter waffling between a grande and a venti, reminding me to “remember the Gateway.” Enough already.

mall of no choice

Monday through Friday, between 8:00 to 9:00 PM, you can often find me wandering aimlessly through my neighborhood mall. By car, I can get from my door to Lloyd Center in 3 minutes, and I know the route well, because that’s where I go to decompress after my kids are in bed. This photo to the left is what I look like during the short drive to the mall. I’m like a wound-up addict, desperate for her next fix.

Lloyd Center has a reputation in Portland as being a crap mall, but it’s my home mall, so don’t talk sh*t about it to me. I could probably get through it blind-folded, which would be great because the blindfold would prevent me from having to look upon the horrific carpeting. As malls go, it’s relatively benign; judging from the Hot Topic, GameStop, and Alley Kat, the mall’s target demographic appears to be the disenfranchised tweener. It’s hard to really do that much harm in it as an adult, which makes it perfect for my purposes.

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In any event, I don’t really go there to shop. At the end of a frenetic weekday, I want to go someplace where I can zone out and think about absolutely nothing.  It can’t be too quiet, or I’ll start thinking about my kids, or God forbid, work. And it’s best if, while I’m zoning out, I’m looking at something entertaining, like the underwear at Frederick’s of Hollywood, or a flat-iron demonstration performed by a man. So Lloyd Center it is.

At Lloyd Center, there are simple joys to be had. I usually start at Nordstrom, which is blissfully empty at 8:00 PM. I like the sunglasses department best. It’s a quiet little spot if you don’t mind trying on sunglasses with huge security devices attached to them. There’s usually only one employee staffing both Sunglasses and the department next door, so you won’t be harrassed by the distracted salesperson, who is focused on making sure that no one’s stealing any Spanx back in Hosiery. I’ve spent so much time in Sunglasses that I feel bad that I’ve returned every pair I’ve ever bought there. They can’t trace all those refunds back to me, though, because I have Tom, who will return stuff for me if I cry hard enough.  Refunds are awesome because anyone knows that when you return something, you’re actually making money.

After Nordstrom, I make a beeline for the center of the mall, which is where you will find the Trifecta, otherwise known as the only shoppable stores in the mall, otherwise known as 1) Forever 21; 2) the Gap; and 3) Cinnabon. I’ve enjoyed a lot of contented moments watching the figure skaters twirling around in the rink below while tearing into a pecan Minibon. The Minibon is my concession to health, because what my heart truly wants is a Wetzel Dog.

I am many things, but a person capable of ignoring a hot dog wrapped in buttery pretzel dough is not one of them. Sometimes I want a Wetzel Dog so badly that I have to walk past Wetzel’s Pretzels sideways, with my back to the display case where the Wetzel Dogs are kept. And sometimes even that doesn’t work, because I can still smell them. But if you approach the Trifecta from Nordstrom, you pass Cinnabon before you pass Wetzel’s Pretzels, so it generally works out. Because even I can’t eat a Wetzel Dog after a Minibon.

After my Minibon, sometimes I get a little parched, so I’ll walk a few stores down to Jamba Juice, which is always giving away samples at this hour. They are very chipper folks at Jamba Juice, and I hope to return their kindness one day by actually paying for a drink. I linger over my three Jamba Juice samples while perusing the offerings at Kay Jewelers, which calls itself a jeweler but should really be called “The Locket Store,” because so far as I can tell, it only offers 2000 iterations of the heart-shaped locket. Or I might enjoy my Jamba Juice samples while being massaged by a chair at Brookstone.  If I have extra time, I’ll head downstairs to Ellaris, which is a kiosk that sells cellphone covers. There are lots of fun choices, but only two will fit your phone–one is a subtle pink camo and the other inevitably has Hello Kitty on it. Take your pick. It’s one for $15, but you can get both for $20.

After popping in at F21 and the Gap, it’s time for dessert at See’s Candies, where I will put $1.05 on the debit card for a Maple Buttercream, and get two chocolates for free as samples. I don’t understand their business model, but I’m also not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. The free ones usually have nuts in them, but I’ll choke them down while browsing the tweezers at my next and last stop, Trade Secret.

And that fills the hour, and brings me back to Nordstrom. If I’m back at Nordstrom by 8:55, I’m golden. That gives me time to buy Tom a latte at the Nordstrom espresso stand, which the barista starts shutting down at 8:45. It’s always hard to tell who is more annoyed by my order, the barista or me. Here’s my view: I’m sorry you already put the milk away, but maybe you should wait to close down until it’s actually, you know, closing time. That’s my only complaint about Lloyd Center, besides the carpet, and the elevators that smell like cheese. Otherwise, LCTID.