Did You Hear About the Creepy Woman at the Mall?

It’s not December yet, but it’s the most wonderful time of the year at the mall.

I recently spent some quality time at Mayfair Mall, my happy place.

I was serenaded by carols, delighted by decorations and charmed by the man in red–taking a break before heading North to put the finishing touches on a few billion toys.

The place was packed with happy shoppers.

One caught my attention. (By “caught my attention,” I mean I ended up stalking her from Hudson’s Bay into Eddie Bauer and on to Banana Republic as I examined her outfit, item by item. Luckily, I don’t look threatening or she probably would’ve called mall security.)

She was dressed in a similar style to me–jeans, knee-high boots, a leather purse and a nylon jacket suitable for a rainy afternoon.

I’m a purse person so her bag immediately jumped out at me. A simple black hobo, it had Tod’s discretely stamped on the gusset. (You read that right! She had a Tod’s bag. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in person.)

Then she took off her jacket and slung it over her arm. (Shopping is warm business!) Her basic quilted jacket had a big old Burberry label on the inside. (Translation, it probably cost more than my mortgage and car payments combined.)

Now I was intrigued and backed off to give her some space (literally.) That’s when I noticed the logo on her boots. Yep–they were Prada. (Ca-ching!)

It gets a little weird now.

I noticed a tiny label on the back pocket of her jeans. What choice did I have? I had to learn the brand name so I followed her through the mall, squinting at her ass as I tried to make out the word on her pocket. Either I need a new prescription, or the Seven Jeans Company needs to redesign their logo to make it bigger and flashier.

This woman was wearing thousands of dollars in designer clothing and accessories–brands I’ve only seen in movies or magazine ads…and to be honest, she didn’t look any better dressed than me.

I walked a little taller after realizing I looked just as good as the woman in the aspirational labels. Not only that, but I probably don’t inspire creepy fellow shoppers to follow me through the mall examining my labels.

It’s an unsung benefit of frugality!

The Purse Whisperer

My friend D rarely buys purses. (She’s more a shoe and coat person.) So it was exciting when she emailed a picture of her new handbag.

I liked it…really liked it…so much that I went to visit it at Hudson’s Bay.

I examined it. Carried it around the purse department and even took out the paper stuffing to see how it would hang if it wasn’t stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey.

But I didn’t buy it. Although I really liked the purse, I know that I can be influenced by peer pressure. (I’m lucky I hung with a nice group in high school or I might have gotten into some serious trouble.) Did I want the handbag just because D had it?

“I want your purse,” I said the next time I talked to D. (So much for introspection about my propensity to be guided by peer pressure!)

“Then buy it.”

“You won’t think I’m some creepy purse stalker?”

She sighed. “Just get the purse if you love it that much.”

I’m calling it my post-strike treat.

D called the next day.

“I bought our purse,” I said.

“I knew you would. It’s lovely.”

“Lovely and on sale! Mine was $65 less than yours.”


“Yes,” I said. “Clearly the shopping gods like me more than they like you.”

She grumbled a bit.

“Have you bought anything else I might like?” I asked.

The Ghost of Walmart

My sailor and I went to the mall on the weekend. Normally I have to twist his toned and muscular arm to get him near any shopping venue, but he needed to get some man stuff–duct tape and batteries–so he suggested the trip.

As usual when we go shopping together, I ditched him as soon I arrived in my happy place (the mall!) It’s not that I don’t enjoy our time together–he lurks.

He follows me from shop to shop, silently observing. He’s doesn’t judge or try to control my spending (although he has been known to exclaim, “Seriously? Another purse? How many do you need?”)

Nothing takes the fun out of shopping like a lurker…nothing except being on strike.

The stores were buzzing with back to school sales and school supplies–they were everywhere! I don’t know who’s buying them as there’s still no word on when we’ll be back in class. I haven’t bought my boy’s because a stack of unused supplies in a corner collecting dust and dog hair will just depress me.

Since school supply shopping was out I drifted to the clothing and shoe stores. Big mistake! After a summer in swingy little dresses, I’m ready for cozy sweaters and socks and boots–I love me some black leather riding boots!

But not having an income changes the shopping dynamic profoundly. I was like a TV ghost–I could see the shopping action but couldn’t participate in it because I’m not in the zone with the people who get paid. It was so unsettling, I stayed away from mirrors, half afraid I wouldn’t see a reflection.

I’m luckier than many because I know we’ll have food in our tummies and a roof over our Chihuahua no matter how long this drags on.

I believe in what we’re striking for and I support my union.

I’m taking a huge financial hit to stand up for quality public education for ALL kids, not just mine.

That actually feels better than another new purse.

Three’s a Crowd

My sailor doesn’t like going to movies or restaurants alone.

I don’t mind it.

When I’m in need of something delicious and I’m on my own, my go to spot is Pagliacci’s. It’s everyone’s favourite. (Get there early, or you’ll be lining up out the door.)

Tables are jam-packed in the small space and the wait staff fairly fly out of the kitchen with baskets of bread, carafes of wine and plates of steaming pasta.

There’s so much energy that it’s a comfortable place for a solo meal.

I’ve never had a bad experience there…until today.

I was next in line (party of one), followed by a nervous-looking couple. A table for four became available.

“Just give me a minute to get your table ready,” said the hostess, grabbing three menus and ducking back into the restaurant.

Table? I glanced at the couple behind me.

Moments later she came back. “Follow me.”

We did.

She’d moved the two tables that made up the table for four apart–about three inches–to give us a semblance of privacy.

We sat at our separate tables but because we were so close I couldn’t not hear every word of their conversation. It was stilted and awkward–typical first date stuff.

I got a crick in my neck from looking away from them so I didn’t loom like a Victorian chaperone, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t fool anyone. We all knew I was the third wheel on their romantic bicycle.

We had to give up the pretence when we realized I had the sugar, which she needed for her coffee and they had the pepper, which I wanted for my linguine.

When their talk turned to lotteries, she asked me if I knew how many numbers you pick for a 6-49 ticket. Embarrassingly, I was able to jump right into the conversation as if I’d been following every word.

I hope their next date is better. I don’t plan on attending, which should be a giant leap in the right direction.

Oh and the gorgeous pale mauve purse? I saw it, loved it, wanted it and didn’t buy it. It’s a small victory in my quest to stop the mindless shopping.

The Grateful Diaries


I am grateful for hair stylists.

I spent the better part of today at the salon getting my hair fixed. Anyone who has ever seen my hair in its natural state knows this time frame is not an exaggeration.

A few years ago, I modelled in a charity fashion show at the Wardroom in Halifax. A fellow model (and still a good friend) convinced her hair dresser to donate an evening of her services to the cause we were supporting. Woo hoo! We had a professional stylist on site to prepare us for the cat walk!

When she introduced me to her hair dresser, my friend said, “This is Nanette, the one I told you about. She has difficult hair.”

“I see what you mean,” said the stylist, giving me the once over. “I’ll plan to spend a little extra time on her.”

Fast forward to this afternoon.

I left the salon feeling pretty darn good. My hair was silky, straight and resplendent with subtle caramel coloured highlights. If only my sailor was around to appreciate my new look!

I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things. The cashier was a woman I know slightly because I once taught her son. She is a lovely lady and a dedicated and devoted mother.

I said hello.

She peered at me for a moment before answering.

“I didn’t recognize you. Your hair looks nice!”

That’s how I learned I still have difficult hair.

Worst of all . . .

Standards are slipping.

I haven’t vacuumed in so long we’re ankle deep in Chihuahua hair. I’ve given up on dusting. We’re the only house on our street with an angora mantle piece.

But it’s the personal transformation that’s more concerning.

I’m looking pretty rough these days.

If it wasn’t for the bright red blemishes appearing across my face with alarming frequency, I’d be offered a senior’s discount because I’ve become so pale and haggard.

I’ve pretty much given up on contact lenses. It’s easier just to pull on my thick, spinster-style glasses in the morning.

Worst of all (and it pains me to even share this) I wore yoga pants to the mall!

I’ve reached the point where the dog, in her jaunty sweaters, in dressing better than me.

If my sailor doesn’t come home soon, he won’t recognize me.

Recovering From the Weekend

016It doesn’t seem long ago that recovering from the weekend meant drinking lots of orange juice and vowing never to drink again or at least not until the next weekend.

These days, although the weekends are never as fun as they used to be, it takes considerably longer to recover from an especially challenging one.

On Friday after work when all I wanted was a glass of wine and a half hour to myself, I discovered (shudder) a flea on Penny’s tummy.

On Friday evening I gave the poor dog a toxic flea bath, hoping only the fleas would succumb to the poison and the dog would emerge unharmed by this traumatic experience. Not one dead flea dropped off her when I rinsed her and neither my boy nor I have been bitten, so hopefully it was just a lone vermin and not a full-blown infestation. Just in case, I stripped the beds and washed all the bed clothes in hot water. Then I vacuumed the entire house, including everything upholstered to catch any malingering fleas hoping for a free meal from the delicious mammals in our home.

Then I had to scrub the tub because we humans probably shouldn’t bathe in flea shampoo residue.

On Saturday morning when all I wanted was to bring a mug of coffee back to bed so I could lounge and read for a while, my boy woke up extra early with a stuffy nose, a sore throat and a nagging head ache. (Oh the joys of back to school and exposure to the cocktail of germs and viruses to which our children are exposed!) At least the house was clean, so after grocery shopping and an assortment of other really fun errands, I could devote myself to waiting on him hand and foot while worrying that I’m going to get whatever he has.

Since I need some joy in my miserable life, on Sunday I accessed some much-needed mall therapy. Yes, I know I’ve vowed to limit shopping, but I exercised admirable restraint given current challenging conditions: a couple of books, a scented candle, lip gloss (for medicinal purposes) and a pretty robin’s egg blue notebook.

What I saw, loved and didn’t buy even though it called my name: a supple leather Kate Spade handbag at Winners.

Even my sailor was impressed when I told him.

His reply to the news: I can’t believe you left without the Kate Spade bag!

How many sailors understand the allure of a Kate Spade purse? Clearly we were meant for each other.

Shop My Closet

005It’s not secret that I love to shop. Spending a day roaming through the mall is one of my favourite things to do. I don’t always buy things. It’s just fun to look.

Of course, you’re more likely to find that irresistible _______ (insert appropriate noun: dress, shoes, jeans, top, purse, sweater, other) if you spend all your free time shopping.

Once said special item has been located, it’s almost impossible to walk away without it. After all, you might never find something as _______ (insert appropriate adjective: cute, flattering, comfortable, slimming, unique, other) again. You’d be a fool to walk away from it, even if you already have three to five similar items at home.

I’m resolving to shop my closet until my sailor returns. We have big plans for our future which include a university education for our brilliant boy, a boat for our brilliant sailor and a trip or three back to Paris for our brilliant blogger. It’s time to look ahead to the big picture instead of falling for the instant gratification of whatever catches my eye at the mall (or lately, online.)

This will be easier said than done as nothing fills the big sailor-shaped void in my life like something pretty and new, but I will do my best to limit shopping for stuff I don’t need.

Things I will continue to buy without guilt:
1. Books (did you hear about the woman who discovered live bedbugs in a library book???–ewww!)
2. Skin care items (yes, I splurge on Clarins, but skin is actually a vital organ so this technically counts as health care.)
3. Salon visits (I have challenging Ukrainian wavy hair–thanks, Dad!–that needs serious TLC from highly trained professionals!)
4. The occasional latte while I’m on the go (life is tough and everyone needs a little treat now and then–this is mine. I’ve already switched to wine from a box. I can’t give up my Starbucks fix.)