Tag Archives: shopping

Lost in IKEA


Not too long ago, there was an  ad for IKEA lauding it as Swedish for “idea” but every time I shop at an IKEA store I have to wonder whether it was a good idea.  As I drive away sweaty, thirsty, and feeling as though I’ve just trekked through a very vast expanse of either jungle or desert, I wish I knew the Swedish translation for “frustration,” “exhaustion,” and “I don’t care how good the savings, is this really worth the effort?”

In fairness to the Swedes, I’m sure most of my difficulty with their iconic store is that I’m not well-versed in how to shop there.  I always wear the wrong footwear, I never remember to bring provisions – water bottle, high energy snackables, compass – and worse, I never enter the giant sliding doors with an iron-clad plan.

[When The Man goes with me, there is always a plan but since The Man would rather have all of his nose hair plucked out by a blind person with dull tweezers than go to IKEA, I often go alone.]

For shoppers like me who suffer from high anxiety and who are subject to ADD caused by over-visual stimulation, IKEA is not a good place to meander or browse.  There’s just too much to see, too many ways to get lost, and too many displays to knock over while turning in an aimless circle.

Even if I go in with trail mix and a plan, I am often thwarted right at the very end just when I think I’ve escaped without physical damage or emotional scarring.  As I barrel into the self-serve section pushing a trolley as big as a tractor trailer (and far less manoeuverable), I skid to a halt in Aisle 37B/subsection 1a only to find they have no more of the Stokholmen shelving in the off-white solid wood but have 500 of the same in the lingonberry mauve (foil finish).

Today I walked out with aching feet and feeling like a salmon who had just made the ardurous swim upstream (because I never, ever follow the arrows painted on the floor).  Any plan evaporated when faced with the vast array of things laid out to the horizon.

I left without even so much as a bag of Swedish meatballs (which I’d actually meant to buy).  Good ideas for IKEA (for next time):  don’t go alone.  Add Valium to the trail mix.  Rent a mobility scooter.  Learn Swedish for “clear the decks, coming through!”

Shopgirl in Tutu or Adventures in Christmas Shopping


Shopping tends to overwhelm me.  There’s too much stuff in every store causing a classic case of sensory overload.  As a procrastinator extraordinaire, shopping online is not usually an option. So, when venturing out recently,  I was prepared for crowds, no parking, and long lines.

Nothing prepared me for the Shopgirl in Tutu.

I strode purposefully into the temple of all things yoga-ish, Lululemon, and skidded to a halt.  Overwhelmed instantly by the sheer magnitude of yoga-ish offerings (stretchy pants, hoodies, tank tops, brightly coloured mats and water bottles) that went from floor to ceiling, alarm bells clanged in my head.  I took a deep breath and barrelled forward towards a mountainous display of clothing only to have my progress impeded by a woman  in a sports bra, black leggings and black tulle tutu.  I think she wore black hiking boots but frankly, after spying the tutu, my vision became unreliable.

Do people practice yoga in tutus now?  Does Lululemon now carry ballet wear?  This new corporate message (if indeed there was one) confused me mightily.   A question came to mind:  was the black tutu with matching hiking boots a personal wardrobe choice or a Lululemon corporate decision?  I saw no one else dressed like that.  The other women working the shop floor were clad in the usual expensive yoga pants, tank tops, and  hoodie jackets.  Would it have been rude of me to say, “Hey!  What’s up with the tutu?”   

I know it sounds silly to be thrown off by a tutu, but it was just so… unexpected.  Had she been wearing a Santa hat – no problem.  A reindeer antler headband?  Of course, tis the season.  Black tutu?  Umm…no.  Leaving the store with my purchase, I continued to be perplexed.  My perplexed state perplexed me further – why was I perplexed? 

Corporate branding and marketing are so pervasive in our society it seems unlikely that this shopgirl was a rogue tutu-wearing rebel.   However, the tutu was a complete departure from what I thought of as the Lululemon “brand.”  So, I investigated the website and found, ta-da, that Lululemon does now carry “dance wear” although,  not one piece of tulle did I find.  The photos were of leotards and leg warmers and the blog entitled, “dance” talked a lot about music festivals and…yoga.  Sounds like I’m not the only one confused.

If tutus are now de rigeur in yoga classes, I’m afraid I must run, not walk, away from all neighbourhood yoga studios (right now, I merely cross the street).  As soon as small tents become fashionable attire for doing a downward dog, I’ll possibly join up.  The Christmas shopping will carry on, as it must.  I will now be more open to expecting the unexpected.

Holiday Cheapskate Challenge


My husband and I talk about winning the lottery…a lot.  We plan.  We think.  We smile.  Then, reality interrupts…

It’s not that we would live lavishly if we won the big one; we have always maintained that our primary goal is to merely get out from underneath the ever-present Matterhorn of debt that looms over us.  We would pay off our debt, ensure our retirement, ensure the kidlets university educations, make healthy charitable donations and THEN we would sit back and decide which exotic location to holiday in.

Although Scottish, I have none of the legendary thriftiness.  I have a great love of the finer things in life with no real thought to how they’ll be paid for.  That said, I’ve come a long way in my adult life. Shopping sprees at Lord & Taylor have given way to shopping sprees at a local thrift store where my biggest purchase cost a whopping $5.99.  We are still always broke.

And, so, as the holidays approach at warp speed, panic has set in.  How to avoid going even deeper into debt to pay for birthdays and Christmas, entertaining, and dare I say it, some fun?  The holidays should be a time of merriment, not worry.  And, so this is my Holiday Cheapskate Challenge: to have fun, make merry, and not go broke in the process. 

 First on my list of things to investigate:  entertaining on a budget.  We love to entertain during the holidays.   Now, in mid-November, we are scurrying around like squirrels, gathering ingredients for all of the goodies we will be baking in the next month.  We have family visiting at various times in December and January.  As tempting as it might be to try, we can’t just sit in our living room in front of the fire and feed them homemade baked goods.   We want to do right by them – they’ve paid dearly just to get here.  Showing guests a good time costs money.  Or, does it?

 Speaking of a good time, let’s talk booze.  We’re big wine drinkers and we like good wine – a taste we developed before we had children.  All of our friends and family love fine wine too which leads to the inevitable debate on how to entertain cost-consciously and still serve good cheer.  Or, conversely, when attending a party, what wines can be had that won’t break the budget or poison the host? 

Oh, the things we do in the name of “research.”  I’m off to do just that (hiccup), safe in the knowledge that it’s five o’clock somewhere…maybe I’ll start online with the Ontario Liquor Board’s website (always a good resource for information and also killer recipes)!

In honour of the Holiday Cheapskate Challenge, all those who have great tips and ideas -feel free to share please!!  I’m interested in everything from smart shopping tips to entertaining/cooking tips to cheap weekend getaway ideas. 

Here’s to a Happy (and Solvent) Holiday Season…

Fear of Fall


No, I didn’t forget to type the -ing.  I have a fear of fall; some would call this an unreasonable fear but to me it makes total sense.  Consider the following facts:

1.  Fall is the time of waning light.  Common sense tells me that the light has been steadily waning since the summer solstice but one really starts to notice in the fall.  I need light in order to thrive; this is the season where I know I’m in for a looooong, cold, period of darkness.  Where I live, the sun doesn’t bother shining much in winter anyway, so why hang around after 5 pm?

2. Leaves fall off the trees.  I know they are pretty but half the time the wind blows so hard they get torn from the trees before they change colour.  Dry, crumbly leaves don’t make me sad; supple green ones gone before their time do.

3. Colder weather.  As with light, I need warmth to thrive.  Canada laughs in my face, starting around the middle of October.  I must have been a plant in a former life – a delicate, tropical plant needing much heat and humidity.  And, long days.

4. Ho…ho…holidays.  I can’t even type the word without stuttering in fear.  Even now, at the end of October, I can feel my shoulders tighten and my jaws begin to clench.

5. With back to school equals a disastrous mess in my house.  I know that the position of the Earth and Mother Nature have nothing to do with this one but the minute the kids go back, the amount of clutter increases in my house a thousand fold.  In addition to piles of backpacks, papers, and assorted other things a mountain of winter boots and coats grows as the weather chills and before long, you’ve got the aforementioned disastrous mess.

If I were to seek professional assistance for my fear of Fall, perhaps the professional might say something helpful like, “Get one of those nifty light boxes!”  or  “tell the children to organize their stuff”  or “Try to embrace the cold like Canadians do – take up skiing! Skating! Tobogganing!  Ice fi-”  At this point I would find something heavy to throw at the therapist and walk out…

And,  there’s more!  With all of the above come our children’s birthdays (mind you, I love them but why oh why didn’t we plan their conception a bit better?) PLUS a full two months of holiday shopping, parties, entertaining, frantic cleaning of above mentioned disastrous mess before entertaining, did I mention shopping?  And, the parties?

I’m a hermit.  I don’t like parties and I don’t like entertaining. I’m one of the few women on earth who really hates shopping of any sort.  My idea of a good time is one or two people over for a nice, quiet dinner with good food and good wine.  I practically break out in a rash at the thought of holiday parties, especially if I’m the hostess.  My husband loves entertaining and views shopping last minute at Christmas as a thrilling challenge.

It is the end of October.  The November and December calendars loom large on my desk.  I keep trying to hide from the inevitable reality that Fall leads to Winter and all of its attendant scariness.  As usual, there is no escape.  With the ever-encroaching darkness, my mood matches.

Solution? Since I’ve not won the lottery (yet), I can’t flee for warmer climes.  I must find a way to make the best of it as opposed to making the lives of my loved ones miserable for the next few months.  This weekend, I will try to hatch a plan.  Will it involve organization?  Probably.  Will it involve everyone’s cooperation?  Most certainly.  Will it involve prescription medication?  Undoubtedly.

Reality calls.  I must go.  There’s a pumpkin to be bought, costumes to assemble, and a dish to prepare for the first of the season’s parties…before I go downstairs in my fuzzy slippers, I will put my head back and dream of summer – a time of long warm days when night isn’t in such a hurry to overtake the light.

Rules for a Rainy Day


The Canadian version of monsoon season is upon us – drizzly, dismal days so depressing the leaves throw themselves off the trees before turning any colour at all leaving the sidewalks slick as glass with their not-yet decomposed little forms.

Well, that sentence alone should give readers an indication of my mood but I’ll try to lighten it up before the sky falls altogether…

After monsoon season, we launch directly into “Holiday Season,” with all of it’s attendant shopping frenzies, fattening foods, and obligatory get-togethers.  So, in some preparation for same, I’ve started compiling lists.  I do this until the first panic attack strikes (which it already has).  Rule #1: don’t look too far ahead.  I started freaking out about Christmas when it’s not even Halloween yet.  However, retailers make it very hard not to.  As I ambled into our neighbourhood Canadian Tire the other day (the day before Canadian Thanksgiving), my progress was impeded by boxes piled high to the ceiling down one aisle after another.  You guessed it:  Christmas decorations.  Employees scurried around, their arms laden with artificial wreaths, inflatable Santas, and grapevine reindeer.  Crikey, I haven’t even planted my fall bulbs yet!

Today, in anticipation of a few holiday get-togethers already on my monstrous wall calendar, I went shopping for a nice, cozy sweater dress.  Rule #2:  Never shop for clothes when you are cold.  I left the store with an armful of cozy sweaters of every possible description, most with either a Nordic theme or a snowflake theme and all so cozy I will likely faint dead away as soon as the furnace comes on.  I also bought tights.  I hate tights.  It was everything I could do not to buy the three pack of slipper socks.  Like I said, I was cold.  Hey, at least I put back the sweater with the large reindeer pattern (I already have one, thank you).

Feeling a bit guilty about my shopping spree, I came straight home, following at least one important rule.  Rule #3:  Never walk into a grocery store when you are both hungry and cold.  Can you just imagine the things I would’ve walked out with?  Boxes of hot chocolate mix, can upon can of soup, loaf after loaf of French baguette…I came home like a good banshee and had leftovers for lunch.  Places like Shopper’s Drug Mart (or London Drugs or any equivalent location that is 30% drugstore and 70% Wal-Mart) are equally dangerous.  Things like bubble bath in tropical scents, Oprah magazine, heating pads, and cheap hair accessories seem to fly into my shopping cart on days like today.  Oh, and those cheap fleecy gloves that everyone sells at this time of year but that never last past November.

Of course, I should be following other rules that involve sitting at my desk and writing copious amounts of fiction (in fairness, I’ve done that for the last 2 days until my eyes crossed and I might need a chiropractor).  I should stick to hot cups of tea as opposed to fattening hot chocolate.  I should leave Mad Alyss alone as she’s scratched me to bits. Rule #4:  Never stick your face within clawing range of a playful kitten (applies to all days, not just rainy ones).

It’s hard to stay focused when all I can think about is burrowing into a down duvet and hibernating until the sun comes out again – sometime in April.  Weather like this makes me wonder about my Celtic roots and why my forebears didn’t relocate to someplace tropical.  Daydreaming about warm locales is risky when the American Express is just an arm’s length away. Recipe browsing is fine as long as not too much pre-holiday baking is begun.  Exchanging all those sweaters for a larger size would be no fun.

Rule #5:  Sit at the desk, keep the fingers warm by making them fly across the keyboard, bundle up in ugly socks and a warm sweater.  I need to write while I can; after all, monsoon season will end and the holidays are right around the corner.



That’s One Hot Visa, Ma’am…


Little did we realize when we booked our Mediterranean Cruise last December that we would all have to buy entirely new wardrobes.  Cruising, it seems, has not let go of some of the old ways typical of travel back in The Golden Age.

On our 12-day cruise, we have been told there will be three “formal” nights, three “smart-casual” nights, and six “casual” nights in the main dining room.  There are other options other than the main dining room but only the MDR offers a choice of seating times. I refuse to cut short my shore time to race back to the ship for a 5:30 dinner seating or be stuck with a buffet/cafeteria line-up in the Windjammer Cafe.

If I’m honest, I have to confess that my kids’ summer wardrobe consist of micro-short denim shorts (girl child) and down-to-the-knees baggy board shorts (boy child).  It is made quite clear on the Royal Caribbean website that none of the above selections would be welcome in any dining facility on the ship except maybe the Teen Discotheque.

So armed with comfortable walking shoes (just purchased) and a cooler to keep the smoking hot Visa card in, we ventured forth to the Eaton Centre on Saturday with the RC acceptable attire list for each night clenched in our sweaty fists.  As luck would have it, we quickly found ourself amid thousands of other shoppers indulging in Summer Sale Madness.

For our daughter, I bought handfuls of frothy cotton sundresses for sightseeing and “casual” nights, all for under $15.  She got a skirt for $9 at Zara.  While none of these items will likely make it much past summer, they’re perfect “cruise wear.”  She already had a fancy cocktail dress from grad and we bought her another, her first quintissential LBD at Guess for 50% off its regular price.  Her new teeny-weeny bikini was also purchased at about 40% off.  It never ceases to amaze me how they can charge so much for so little material…

Boy child needed more “dress” slacks and shirts AND some decent dress shoes as all he had were hiking sandals and skateboarding shoes.  Thankfully, good old Sears came through again.  Now, for husband:  he has suits galore and more ties than he’ll ever wear again in this day and age of “business casual.”  However, he does not own something called a “sport coat” – I think it’s something my father used to wear when dining at the country club.  Needless to say, my husband had no idea what to look for and the uber-youthful employees at various stores had NO IDEA what we were talking about, even at The Bay.  He went to Banana Republic Men but sadly, that shop was unaware of the Summer Sale Madness going on around them.   We need things but we have limits…

By the end of the afternoon, salespeople were getting 3rd degree burns from our burning hot credit cards and it was time to stop.  We know, even after indulging in such insanity, that we probably still don’t have everything we need.  On “smart-casual” night, we may have to smuggle food to my jacket-less husband out in the hallway.

Of all of us, I was amazed to find that I was the best “kitted-out” in terms of formal and “smart-casual” items – me, who regularly stands in front of my closet just before our quarterly date nights declaring she has nothing to wear.  I will never be able to use that excuse again.  Oh well, after this cruise, we’ll not be able to afford to go anywhere for years to come so my usual uniform of jeans and a tee-shirt will suffice.

Five days to go!!!!!