Archive for September, 2011

Dreaming of a better Peoria… sort of

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

DSW is coming to Peoria. Next spring. It’s a start. But, really, it isn’t enough.

Just like Peoria lacks convenient flights to anywhere, Peoria lacks decent retail.

Oh, sure there are a couple of malls. But neither calls out to me.

Dicks is the anchor in one of them. Dicks Sporting Goods. I’ve gotten so desperate, I’ve actually browsed there. Even tried on clothes.

The Sears doesn’t even sell Lands End. (Although they do take it back. If you’re lucky enough to find one of the two employees who knows how to do it.)

Macy’s did away with the Origins makeup counter. That was one of the only reasons to shop there. Even the shoe department is pitiful.

I don’t even know where to go look for a decent ski jacket and snow pants for Kaitlyn. (OK, I know of one place but if they don’t have anything, then I’m out of choices.)

And don’t get me started on the complete lack of options when it comes to buying Kaitlyn’s shoes.

Yet, the town supports two Bath and Body Works stores. And about a hundred Steak N Shakes.

Now there is a big, empty spot in one of the malls where the Borders used to be. And that got me to thinking… what would I really like to see go in that spot?

(For lovers of small, unique, local shops and boutiques: forgive me. Those do exist here. I cannot afford them. So, I turn to my list of shopping: favorites from my browser.)

Pottery Barn. With a Pottery Barn Kids section.

I pour over the catalog. I browse the website nearly every day, as if it’s going to change. Oddly, my house is not especially filled with Pottery Barn merchandise. But I like to look. And I really like to see it in person.

Williams Sonoma. Yes, there is a lovely small specialty kitchen store about 30 minutes away. But a big chain that carries stuff I like just 10 minutes from the house? Yes, please. It wouldn’t stop me from taking the cooking classes across town.

The Container Store. Yes, it’s crazy to go in there and spend big bucks on plastic boxes, but I like the idea (if not the practice) of being organized. Have you seen my pantry? I’d totally shop there.

A better Target. Our Target just remodeled to include a grocery section. The produce always looks wilted and they took away from areas where I did shop in order to add to the area in which I won’t shop.

A Sears with a Lands End section.

I dare not even dream of a Nordstrom. Or even a Nordstrom Rack.

I know it’s too much to ask, but a Nespresso store would be fantastic. Mail ordering my coffee disks is ok. Although Nespresso’s delivery time is a bit slow and I always seem to wait until I’ve polished off all my favorite flavors before remembering to reorder. Besides, Nespresso stores smell wonderful, have free coffee samples and just plain make me feel good. And just maybe George Clooney would stop by sometime.

My UPS man would probably be happy if a Ballard Designs opened up here, although I think that’s mail order only. When he delivered my rug and my end table, he complained about how folks who live out in these new neighborhoods order big and heavy stuff. Well, Mr. You-Have-A-Job-Because-I-Order-So-Much-Stuff-Thank-You-Very-Much, we order rugs and furniture online because there’s no where here to buy that stuff. At least, not the stuff I want to buy.

Back when I managed to get to the gym on a regular basis, a woman in the Zumba class asked me where I’d gotten my shoes. I told her I’d ordered them from Zappos. She not only wasn’t interested in following in my online retailing footsteps, she scolded them. “I like to shop local,” she said. Turns out, she owns a small store in town. So I can see her point. It’s a specialty store and one I’d probably frequent if I needed what she sells. (Crafty stuff; I’m so not crafty.) And I’d much prefer to do my shopping in a store than in my slippers at my computer. But, for now, that’s my best option. Look out, UPS guy! I need some new turtlenecks!

Spend Green to See Green

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

When we moved into our house last summer, I vowed that I could drag a hose and sprinkler around the yard in order to save the several thousand dollars it would take to have an automatic sprinkler system installed.

Today, I cheered to myself when the sprinkler company showed up and started digging.

Turns out, that just like I can walk past a dying house plant practically calling out for water, I can also completely ignore a lawn. Even when you actually hear it crunch when you walk on it.

I honestly don’t know who is more excited about the addition to our yard: me or the neighbors who have to be tired of looking at the big brown spots. Although I have to say, they are far more noticeable from my upstairs window than from ground level. Maybe the neighbors never glance all the way to our yard from their bedrooms.

I do know who isn’t excited about it. Kaitlyn.

Yesterday afternoon the sprinkler boss came and put little flags all over the yard, marking the spots where the sprinkler heads will go. After school, Kaitlyn wanted to know what they were for. When I told her, I could see her deflate. She looked absolutely crushed. “Oh,” she said. “That means no vacation.”

We’ve always said that we’d always choose to go on a cruise rather than to install a sprinkler. And it isn’t really a joke. It’s just that this year thanks to some extra savings, we decided to take the plunge and save our lawn. (Hopefully it isn’t too late.) Oh, and to take a vacation next summer. Some of that windfall is coming from the executive decision not to cruise on the Big Red Boat. Mickey may charm the kiddies, but when I can sail a perfectly good massive ship with another cruise line for half the price (and still get my sprinkler system)? Well, I’m going to do it. I tried to break the news to Kaitlyn. She offered up her vacation savings. Which at last count was just shy of $10, and hasn’t had any coins added since. The gesture is heartwarming, but isn’t going to cover the cost. I think she’ll forget all about the mouse once she gets on the giant ship. I hope.

Now… if we can just get grass to grow in the spots where it died.

Oh, the beauty of black and orange

Friday, September 16th, 2011

I think I’m ready for Halloween. As much as I love summer (well, the sleeping in every day part), I adore times of year that come with their own decor. Others cringe when they go into the stores and see Halloween displays in August. Not me. Oh, no, I haven’t bought anything… not yet. It’s certainly too early to buy. But it’s not too early to browse. To think. To decide. Bill has already dropped some cash on a new smoke machine/bubble maker. Did he need another smoke machine? About as much as I need a black and orange wreath. So I will say nothing. Yes. Yes, he needs that smoke machine.

Now that I’ve scoped out a few stores, I think I’m ready to go buy.

Black wreath with little orange lights? check.
Garden flag? check
giant spider web for window above front door? check
glass jars to display candy corn? check and check

The real dilemma is what to buy to give out to the trick or treaters. Kaitlyn and Bill don’t eat chocolate, so the first rule is, we can’t load up on chocolate or I’ll be the one eating it all in November… along with the bite-sized nuggets of hip-expanding evil Kaitlyn brings home. Last year, the kids we tagged along with trick or treating seemed incredibly impressed by the couple of houses that gave out full sized candy. I spent time bagging up adorable assortments of tiny candies. But I think that’s all in my sweet past. I think this year, I’m going big. Or, at least, full sized. That is, if I can figure out where to buy full sized candy bars right now other than at the check out of the gas station.

The exciting thing about this year is that we’ll get to buy a costume for the dog. I know Bill is dreading that. Kaitlyn and I think it will be fun. I will probably not think that when I am wrestling Phineas into said get-up. Still… I’ll do it. And I’ll take pictures. And I’ll keep the wrestling part to myself. Maybe.

I’m not as excited about coming up with a costume for myself. I’m not creative. I’m not skinny, so buying a one-size-fits-a-few from a store is pretty much out. If there’s a theme I need to follow, I need to know like last week so I can get started thinking about it. It takes time to beg crafty friends to lend a hand! (My one idea is for Bill and Kaitlyn to dress like Adam and Jaime from Mythbusters. Plausible?)

And when it’s all said and done… when the last full sized treat is handed out… when the trick or drinkers have tossed back their cocktail (note to self: find a good Halloween drink to pass out to the grown ups)… when Phineas has been wrestled back out of his costume… I vow this year to make an inventory of my spooooooky items as I pack them back away for another year on a shelf in the basement. So next year, just maybe I can start my shopping earlier.

Now, has anyone seen any ceramic turkeys on sale?

What Labor Day means to me…

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

The last cookouts of summer, final trips to the pool, packing away those white pants and shoes. I can only imagine these are the things that people think of on Labor Day weekend. Not me. I think of laundry. Mounds and mounds of laundry.

When I was a kid, we spent every Labor Day weekend watching the Jerry Lewis Telethon, imagining holding a backyard circus to raise money to donate (they always featured kids who’d pulled off these seemingly amazing backyard fundraisers). And we watched my mom do laundry. Approximately one year’s worth. Now given that I have no memory of going to school naked or being mocked for wearing clothes that were so nasty they could stand on their own in the corner, she must have done laundry at some other point during the year. But I do believe it was just enough to get by. I think most clean clothes were acquired at the store, rather than from the dryer. As soon as I was tall enough to reach the control knobs on the washer, I started doing my own laundry. (No need to insert snide remark here about how I am short and that I may still struggle to reach the knobs on a top-loading washer.)

Our laundry “room” was in the basement. The basement was unfinished and not, I suppose, a desirable place to just hang out. I remember there was a chalkboard on the wall at the bottom of the stairs. A hook where my brother’s bike ended up more than he’d have liked as punishment for riding in where he wasn’t supposed to. The far corner housed a giant tower of wires that controlled all the lights in the house. Next to that sat the wash area. Along with the requisite washer and dryer, there was a television (handy during severe weather related trips downstairs) and a giant counter for folding with bins underneath for sorting. I don’t remember if there was ever anything in the bins. I do remember that on top of that counter the mound of clothes stood taller than I did. (Again, no need to point out that such a mound didn’t have to actually be terribly high.)

Every Labor Day weekend, you could find my mom sitting down there amid the haystack sized piles of clothes, towels and sheets. She would be watching the telethon and washing and folding the finally clean clothes. Don’t ask about ironing; I know she owned one and that’s as much as I can say on that topic. After a while, she’d get lonely or maybe just tired of sitting in the basement, and bring a pile up to the family room to fold. I think she stayed up all night, watching the donation total rise and the pile of clothes to wash shrink.

I remember one weekend when she was gone (where’d she go? no idea.) and my dad had reached his limit on the whole laundry thing. It was grey and nasty out; probably early spring. So the pile had grown pretty hefty by then. Anyway, he filled at least dozen giant garbage bags with the dirties, stuffed them in the car along with me, my brother and my grandma (how’d she get suckered into this?) and drove us all to a laundromat. At first, it was kind of thrilling to stuff all those clothes into the giant washers, feed it quarters, and watch it clean our clothes. I thought it really seemed pretty smart, to be able to get all your laundry done at once like that, rather than have to dedicate an entire holiday weekend to the task. The excitement quickly wore off. We stopped paying much attention to the job of sorting and just stuck to stuffing. Years later, my mom still talked about the time my dad shrunk her favorite sweater by washing and drying it. And even as a kid I didn’t have much pity on her because that one sweater gave its life so that load after load of my clothes could finally be fresh and clean.

As an adult when I’d go visit my mom, she seemed to always have laundry going. Her washer and dryer were in a little room just off the family room, so you could watch any tv you wanted and have the constant hum of the dryer in the background. Still, there seemed to always be at least one pile of dirties crammed in there. Some habits just cannot be entirely broken, I suppose.