WHAT’S THAT SHMATAH YOU’RE WEARING? – Marilyn Armstrong

“How come Gibbs is wearing a coat in Arizona in the summer?”

I was talking to Garry. It was an NCIS rerun. We watch a lot of reruns, though this new fall season of TV is shaping up better than I expected, so maybe there will be new shows to watch.

 

The question about costumes comes up often and on various shows. One of the more common “duh” moments is when the male lead is wearing a coat and the female lead is skimpily dressed. No explanation needed for that one.

More weird is when each cast member is dressed randomly, apparently without regard for the plot. One is wearing a heavy winter coat, another a light denim jacket. A third is in shirtsleeves. Some are clothed in jeans or other casual stuff while others look ready for Wall Street … or a cocktail party. Women are supposedly hiking. Or running from or after serial killers while wearing 4-inch spike heels. My feet hurt looking at them.

A pair of red shiny leather stiletto heels with gold heel-pieces

Garry and I have done a tiny bit of movie “extra” work so I’m guessing it goes like this:  “Go find something that fits in wardrobe and be on set in ten.”

Everyone hustles off to wardrobe, which looks like a jumble sale or the clothing racks at the Salvation Army store. Most of the clothing in the wardrobe probably came from some second-hand source or other.

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Everyone dives in looking for something that fits. As soon as they find an outfit … any outfit … they head for a changing booth, then off to be on set before someone yells at them. Stars get slightly better wardrobe or wear their own clothing. Wearing ones own clothing, both on TV shows and movies is common. I understand why.

The real question is not why everyone on a show is poorly or inappropriately dressed. It’s whether or not the people who produce the show think we won’t notice.

My theory is they don’t care if we notice or not. They don’t want to spend money on a wardrobe. They figure if you and I notice, we won’t care. In any case, we’ll keep watching. And they’re right. It’s a bottom-line world. A wardrobe is one area where corners can be easily cut.

The thing is, we do notice. You don’t need to be a professional critic or especially astute to see the incongruities of television costuming.

Open closet

It’s not just costumes, either. Sloppy editing, crappy scripts, stupid plots that include blatant factual and continuity errors. Ultimately, we do stop watching. Because it’s obvious they don’t care so why should we?

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You notice it on long-running shows that originally had good scripts and editing, but not anymore. The quality of the show slides. Producers are baffled when loyal fans stop tuning in. Obvious to a normal person, but apparently incomprehensible to network executives. Disrespect for viewers is at the root of much of the illness besetting the TV industry.

They should be nicer to us. We’re, after all, the customers. Aren’t we?

A MOST UNUSUAL HOBBY – Marilyn Armstrong

I got an email notification informing me that Amazon had delivered a package at 2:05 pm this afternoon.


This was confusing because I had received a previous message from Amazon that this particular delivery had been canceled because it was damaged. It was supposed to contain 2 rolls of contact paper (the stuff in our cabinets is the same age as the house, so you can imagine the condition it’s in) and a bottle of shower cleaning spray. I had also received a note telling me they had refunded me for the order, though I had yet to see the refund in my account.

Also, there was no package. When I went to look at the details of the order, it said it had been canceled and the money was refunded. I couldn’t find the refund in my account. I couldn’t even find a charge for the order in the first place.

I called Amazon. I said I’d gotten a notice of delivery of a package that was supposedly canceled and for which I’d gotten a refund except I couldn’t find any refund and also, there was no package.


I gave the guy the order number and he said it had been refunded. I said that as far as I knew, I hadn’t gotten a refund either, but hey, what’s a little money between pals, right? So he starts a 3-way telephone conversation with UPS who says the don’t have to tell me anything because they have a contract with Amazon which says they don’t have to deal with Amazon’s customers.

“All I want to know is whether or not you actually delivered a package to my house,” I said.  He was very firm that it had been delivered.

I agreed it had been delivered, but where? He got a little hazy at that point and asked me to wait while he asked someone. He came back and told me that although I got the email, they had actually delivered the damaged package to Amazon. It was entirely accidental that they notified me about its delivery.  When I checked my bank account, it appeared that Amazon had both charged me for the items and refunded my money today, except they charged me after refunding me.

The whole thing was listed as having come from the department of “Hobbies and Entertainment.” Two rolls of contact paper and a spray bottle of shower cleaner. Some hobby, eh?

UPS hangs up. “Amazon,” I ask, “Are you still there?”

“Yes,” he says. “I don’t think the fellow from UPS understood anything at all.”

“Me neither,” I said.

“You have a good evening,” he said.

“You too,” I responded.

I’m still a bit puzzled but as long as I didn’t pay for something I never got, I’m okay. I’m pretty sure my hobby of putting new contact paper in my cupboards while cleaning my shower has been sidetracked.

BUYING NOTHING ON AMAZON PRIME DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

Not only am I broke, but I don’t need much. We are already overstuffed. However, our GPS is slowly dying. I’m pretty sure the battery isn’t recharging properly. When I went to see when I bought this GPS, I realized it was more than 4 years ago. It has left my “bought” list on Amazon.

It is old.

Then I realized today is “Prime Day Deals,” so I figured okay. At least I should take a look and see if there’s something selling cheap that is usually expensive.

There were a few items on sale — mostly Garmin and a few TomToms, as well as a few items of unknown origins. First, I bought a Garmin. Then I canceled it and bought a TomTom. And canceled that one, too. There was not a single GPS from a known-manufacturer that had my minimum rating of four stars. There weren’t any in the “unknown” category either.

I know some complaints are phony (as are favorable reviews). But when I read them, they sounded all too familiar. The same complaints I have made and everyone else has made.

Voices that couldn’t pronounce basic words in English. Weird directions that send you to a graveyard instead of the mall (we did that one in Gettysburg and it was hilarious). Batteries that die in less than a year and only work for an hour at a time even when brand new.  And, of course, terrible customer service. Not enough gigabytes so that when you try to update your firmware or “lifetime maps,” the unit drops dead.

None of this is new. These are the same old problems which have shown up in every GPS I’ve ever owned for as long as they have been around.

The thing is, spending more on a bigger, fancier unit doesn’t mean you’ll get a better GPS. Basically, the complaints about the big expensive sets were the same as the complaints about the small, compact ones — except people who spend hundreds of dollars for a GPS that can’t find it’s way on a straight road from point A to B were even MORE pissed off than people who spend less money.

Amazon’s best which oddly are the same as Best Buy’s best …

Some folks complained that to get more than half the “benefits” of the new units, you have to hook them up to your smartphone. Several people pointed out if they were going to use a phone, they wouldn’t bother to buy a GPS. They could get the same crappy service without spending the extra money.

In the end, I didn’t buy anything. The “Prime Day Deal” discounts were no better than the discounts you can find on Amazon on any normal day. They have also made it increasingly difficult to tell the used items from the new. They hide the word “renewed” so that you can easily think you’re getting a bargain whereas you are actually getting something which was broken and is still broken.

No matter what they say, they do NOT check the broken items to make sure they are genuinely fixed. They repack them and send them out so you can argue with customer service.

It’s an online version of “Black Friday.”

Maybe there are some big bargains tucked in between the (mostly) junk they are selling for short money, but I didn’t see any. Overall? “Big Sale Days” are a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

Meanwhile, you can add to my list of “things which need fixing, the faithful, but wildly inaccurate “vehicle GPS.”

Software designers, it’s time to toss out your existing designs and come up with a new design that works. Which won’t, in the middle of your travels from Boston to Bangor, send you on a side-trip through an ancient forest to a collapsed bridge.

THE SUPER BOWL OF GROCERY SHOPPING – Garry Armstrong

Men can shop. I shop. Moreover, I am a highly competitive shopper. This is Guy Shopping, in three scenarios.

Scenario #1

I’m one of those guys who, if shopping “solo,” can zip through the aisles, getting everything on the shopping list. Sometimes I time myself. It’s like a “Wide, Wide World of Sports” event for me.

As I exit the supermarket, my cart full of groceries, I look at my watch. A big smug — almost “45-ish” smile on my face. I quietly proclaim in a “Howard Cosell-Marv Albert” style, “Yesssss!!

Scenario#2

I’m on my game as I begin shopping. First stop, produce.

As I check over the tomatoes, a cougar lady in stilettos, low-cut tank top, and stretch jeans — strike up a conversation about how nice it is to see a man knows how to handle tomatoes. I switch into my TV guy mode, wrap the chat, and move on. Next aisle, it’s the “groupies.” Folks who grew up watching me on TV. They’re blocking access to the pasta sauce and other canned goods. I do two or three minutes of my greatest hits and move on.

The deli section is always difficult. There are inevitably two or three people buying a quarter pound of everything. They must taste a piece of each item to make sure it’s quality stuff. Oy!!

Now, I’m trying to make up ground. Taking short cuts through various aisles and BAM — elderly people, crying kids, and a Mr. Know- It-All, blocking access. I silently curse their birthrights and smile my TV guy smile.

Finally, finally, I’m at the checkout counter.

Groceries bags are lined up in front of my stuff on the counter. The “hot and cold” bags are clearly open to be used for frozen food, meat, and so on. I slowly and clearly explain how the bags should be used. You know — perishables into the “hot and cold” bags. Please pack evenly.

I always bring extra shopping bags so I don’t have to lug overloaded bags up two flights of stairs.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

What was I thinking? It’s like I was speaking Klingon. Outside, I repack stuff at the car, loudly cursing the gods. The drive home is slow. Very slow.

The slow drivers who are always waiting for me are blocking the lane. Probably the same folks who blocked the supermarket aisles.

Scenario#3

I enter the supermarket and eyeball the “self check out” section. Do I have what it takes? I promise myself to try. Someday.

I can do it.

Fast forward. I approach the checkout counters, eyeball the “self check out” counter. No! I don’t have it. No true grit. Maybe next time.


Note: I omitted the folks who still ask why I don’t have “my people” shop for me. They are of the opinion that we are too rich to shop for ourselves. Yeah!

LAST CHANCE – Marilyn Armstrong

Most of the stuff I buy online are necessities that are cheaper online or not available (locally) offline. Dog food. Dog biscuits. Over-the-counter medications like generic Tylenol and generic allergy meds.

I buy very little clothing because I don’t wear much and feel I have more than enough probably for the rest of my life. I haven’t bought a pair of shoes in about 4 years. Once a year, I buy underwear for me and Garry. Maybe it’s my imagination, but I swear it wears out faster than it used to. Cheaper fabric?

Olympia Sports

Every now and again, I buy a couple of new tunics tops and loose pants for summer — or yoga pants for winter. When it’s Garry’s birthday, I get him whatever he is currently yearning for. This year, it was Marine Corps garb but that’s only because we’ve run out of NCIS clothing.

Any place from which I’ve ever bought anything sends me advertisements for their sales including cameras, clothing, computers, furniture, cell phones, and phone carriers. Streaming TV stations, shoe stores, LL Bean, and Land’s End. J Jill and Coldwater Creek.

Every single advertisement assures me this is my absolute last chance, my final opportunity to get 40% off, 50% off (with free shipping for purchases over $100 or $75) or cash in on their two for one sale. Don’t forget, if you rope in a friend, he or she will also get a fabulous discount, too.

Every sale is my final opportunity to acquire something. The most annoying thing is even if I want something, they don’t have what I want. Wrong size, wrong model. Too big, too small, too something. Or it’s in some strange color like lime green or delicate baby pink. If I really need it, it’s the one that isn’t on sale.

Yesterday

Today

These final chances to save money never end. I have concluded that the “last chance” will never arrive. Before I have time to delete yesterday’s “last chances,” there is an entirely new set of last chances in my inbox. I remember thinking I got way too much snail mail. I still get way too much snail mail, but the amount of email is catastrophic and overwhelming.

It takes me hours to delete all my final chances to get whatever is on sale at a gigantic, huge, monstrous, final last chance opportunity.

My conclusion from all of this? There is no such thing as a final sale unless the company is really going out of business.

A lot of “going out of business” sales are also endless. I remember when I was growing up in Queens, there were stores that had been going out of business for years. Eventually, a law was passed that you could only go out of business for six months. After that, you were either back IN business, or you had to close your doors.

Also, you couldn’t have a continuous sale. If it lasted past a certain interval (I forget what it was, but something like six weeks), they became your regular prices.

I suspect when any of us really get our final opportunity — our true last chance — it won’t be via email. It won’t even be through snail mail. You or someone will discover someone dead.

That would be the genuine final opportunity

ONLINE SHOPPING REVOLUTION OR CONSUMER REBELLION? – Marilyn Armstrong

I’ve been thinking about shopping.

Does anyone remember in those last ten years before online shopping came into full flower? That was when you’d go into a nice shop and discover there was no one there. No one to help you find the right size or style … or even the correct department. More than half the cash registers were closed and the people who worked the counters were actually working multiple counters so wherever you were waiting, they weren’t there.

I remember not buying a watch in Kohl’s because there wasn’t anyone at the jewelry counter and the cash register was closed. I looked everywhere and I didn’t see a single store worker.

There was absolutely not a soul willing to help me find the right size or choose a different color or size, or even say, “That looks nice.” Or do anything that might encourage me to buy something.

Shopping went from being fun to being work.

By the time online shopping was readily available, most of the brick-and-mortar stores had cut down their staff by more than half. Returning something meant standing in long lines for the one individual who handled all returns and you’d better have saved that receipt!

They did themselves in. They treated their customers like WordPress treats us … and the results were exactly what you’d expect.

When the day there arrived offering us a real choice, shoppers were ready. Instead of fighting for a parking space and wandering around a mall trying first to find the right store, then searching the shop and discovering there was no one on the floor to talk to. Hoping to get some assistance in finding an outfit and realizing there wasn’t any.

All of which was followed by another ordeal, searching for an open register.

Suddenly, you could order clothing and return what didn’t fit or what you didn’t like. In the meantime, just to make what was already difficult just a bit harder, many city malls began charging customers for parking.

Free gift wrapping was not free. You couldn’t even get plain boxes to wrap without paying for them. The quality of the clothing went down while the prices went up. There were no more departments where you could get clothing altered, either.

It wasn’t just the Internet that ruined “real store” shopping. It was the attitude of the store’s owners and managers. They decided they “owned” their customers and we’d show up anyway, no matter how bad the service. It must have been a rude shock when they realized not only did we have a choice, but we weren’t coming back.

So they can blame their demise on Amazon and the Internet, but they can also look in the mirror and realize when you treat your customers badly, eventually, when times change, they won’t be your customers.

It’s a lesson that cable companies are learning, cell companies are just beginning to learn … and it won’t end there. I fought with my cable company for years to get them to give me a package I could afford … and when I finally gave up and cut the cable, suddenly they filled up my email with all kinds of tempting packages — for ONE year only.

After which they would do what they always did: jack up the prices by 100% and we’d go through the same thing again. There are only so many times you can anger and disappoint customers without expecting them to hit back in the only way that matters: financially.

You never own your customers. They own you. Eventually, they will let you know how they feel about you. Count on it.

BRING BACK THE GAP – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Gap

The Gap had the best jeans ever. Although I loved the cut of the button-down version, sometimes one didn’t have the time to hustle the buttons, so I generally had to settle for zippers.

Zippers are quicker.

They have been in the process of closing many (in some areas, almost all ) of The Gaps.

Not that I could afford them since I stopped working. They used to have sales, so their $60 (probably now $90) jeans dropped by as much as 75% and I would load up until the next sale. They were not only attractive, but it was good, soft, solid denim. The shops were a bit erratic. You never knew if they were going to have your style or size.

Still, it was good knowing they were there. Just in case I or someone I knew  (like Garry or Owen) decided to go and buy good jeans to last a lifetime. I remember one of Owen’s birthdays, I took him to the Gap and bought him a couple of pair of jeans, a great denim jacket, and a few cool shirts.

Plus one hoodie which I seem to have inherited. It’s just worn out enough to be the perfect Gap hoodie. And it’s got to be at least 20 years old … and it’s still got another ten or twenty years in it. That is the joy of quality. As long as you don’t change sizes, the clothing lasts forever.

This is probably why Garry has so much clothing. He can still wear his dress Marine Corp clothing from when he was 17. I think I hate him.

Now, it’s all “Old Navy” which is going independent and of course, the wildly overpriced “Banana Republic.” Although these three companies produce essentially the same stuff, it’s not exactly the same product. There are quality and style differences.

Old Navy is okay, but they don’t have the range of sizes the Gap had. The jeans are thinner and frankly, Wranglers look at least as good. Often better. They certainly wear better. Old Navy is also weak on styles anyone older than 18 would wear.

I could never afford The Banana Republic, even when I was working. Though these days, it’s hard to know if that is the name of a store or the name of the country in which I live.

Bring back The Gap!

I need those boot-cut button-fly jeans! Or maybe not. Are they elastic?

NEWER MOMS AND POPS – Marilyn Armstrong

Garry came back from the deli with news. Lance and Betsy have sold the place and are retiring. Someone else is taking over.

Quaker Deli and its friendly and generous owners were among the very first people to welcome us to the valley more than 18 years ago. Until we got our feet under us and began to know our way around, it was a required stop in our daily rounds. They make great sandwiches and sell quality cold cuts. And they always know how we like it sliced.

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But time has had its way with them, as it does with us all. It’s what happens nowadays to almost all “mom and pop” shops. In this case, it’s not a lack of business. It’s simple tiredness. The kids don’t want the business. Mom and pop don’t want to spend all their remaining years on their feet. So, they sell.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing if only whoever takes over the place would keep it as what it is … a place to pick up a few necessities without going into town. Where you can buy a great lunch, made for you. Buy a lottery ticket or whatever. Most of the new owners of these shops are immigrant families. They see a small business as a ticket to the Dream of America.

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They don’t mind the long hours and hard work. But they don’t necessarily maintain the place in any way that resembles how it was. They go more heavily into higher volume, bigger profit items — like lottery tickets and cigarettes. They stop selling food and making sandwiches. This has happened to every little deli or mini grocery sold since we’ve lived in the Blackstone Valley. If it happens here, we will have to go into town for everything. The last convenience store will be gone.

I have heard over and over again that mom and pop stores are disappearing because we don’t support them, but that’s not necessarily true. It may be true sometimes, in some places. In this case, Lance and Betsey have plenty of business, maybe more than they can comfortably handle. All the truckers stop there to buy lunch. It’s the only place at this end of town where you can get an emergency supply of eggs or half-and-half.

The problem is that — not unreasonably — their kids have different dreams. They don’t want to run the family deli. They want a job where they can sit at a desk and go home without worrying about the business.

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Small business are nonstop work. Buying, selling, bookkeeping. Ordering supplies. Tracking sales and figuring out what you should buy in greater or less quantity … or just stop selling entirely. The shop may be closed, but there’s always work to be done. I’m sorry to see them leaving and we will miss them very much. But I understand. I couldn’t do it.

Among many other reasons, this is why we need immigrants. They will happily do the jobs we can’t or won’t do. Think about that the next time you begin to rail against newcomers to our shores.

Do you want that job? Could you do it? Would you?

SHOPPING ON BLACK FRIDAY – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: SHOP


I do not shop on Black Friday. Not now, not ever. But as it turns out, you may not go to the mall, but sometimes, shopping comes to you. In this case, because the boiler decided that this bitterly cold day is a good day to break down.

Last night, when we went to bed, the house was warm and cozy. When we got up this morning, the house was chilly. I finally went to check the thermostat and it was 55 degrees (12 degree Celsius) and the boiler wasn’t making that boiler noise we love to hear. It’s almost zero outside.

The new hot water system attached to the old boiler.

In my experience, the day your boiler doesn’t work is always the coldest day of the year. There may be colder days to come, but this one is a doozy. I’m wearing two sweatshirts over a long-sleeved wool dress and I have a heating pad behind my back. It’s still cold.

So we are indeed shopping, though why I don’t know. We had the boiler tuned and the igniter replaced in mid-July, so it should be good to go, no problem.

But it’s a big shopping day and here we are, bundled up in as much clothing as we can fit on our bodies. It’s not so cold that we are in danger of freezing to death, but it’s not comfortable, either.

If you don’t go shopping, not to worry. It will arrive at your place, carrying a bag of tools. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

FASHIONISTA? ME? SERIOUSLY? – Marilyn Armstrong

I need to start out by pointing out I will not wear anything that isn’t comfortable. Gone are the high heels, tight anything (skirts, pants, sweaters, forget it!) and in is anything elastic. Even my jeans are elastic. If it doesn’t stretch, I don’t wear it.

I hate “dressy” events because I don’t own dressy clothing. I did, back when we were both working and Garry had events to which we were required to go, but now? I have some dresses, but I can’t wear shoes to go with them. And pantyhose? Seriously?

We’ve invented telephones that rule the world, but we can’t do better than pantyhose?

That being said, don’t expect much from this!

Daily Topic Subject – Fashionista!

Q1] How important is colour in your life?

In my life? Color is important. Not so much in my clothing, though. I wear grey, black, tan, taupe.

Occasionally red or orange … and navy. Not a thrilling palette. But the house has color — in pictures and statues and pottery.

Q2] What is most favourite colour to wear?

Denim.

Q3] Is there a colour that you wear that brings the best out in you and in others – in so far as compliments?

Photo: Garry Armstrong –

Black.

Q4] Are you a person who likes to overdress for the day or are you a follower of the credo, less is more?

I don’t OWN fancy clothing anymore. I can’t wear dressy shoes — and I can’t balance on high heels.

So overdressing is unlikely. If it requires that level of dress? I probably won’t go.

PQ5] What are five of your best items of clothing that you simply couldn’t be without? [and l don’t mean underwear/socks]

Sleep tees in the warm weather and flannel nightgowns in the winter. And don’t knock socks. I have the world BEST sock collection.

Q6] Do you dress for the season, as in colour wise, or just throw on whatever is warm and practical?

We live in New England. I have hot weather clothing, warm weather dress, cool and chilly weather clothing, cold weather clothing, very cold weather clothing, brutally cold weather clothing, and arctic-level clothing.

PQ7] If you were going for an evening out and the dress code was ‘smart casual’ what is your ideal outfit and why?

I tell them I was sick and not go.

Happy anniversary!

Garry might go alone, but if he had to wear a tie, I doubt he’d go either.

Q8] If you were having to attend an important meeting or appointment and the dress code was smart – what would your outfit be then?

At my age, I don’t have those meetings or appointments. If they are my age, they are also wearing sweatpants.

Q9] How many pairs of shoes do you own, and what is the breakdown [as in casual, smart, evening, leisure]

More boots!

I have maybe 20 pairs of shoes, 10 of which are really old and I don’t actually wear them but they aren’t worn out, so I keep them. Mostly, I wear sandals in the summer and Uggs in the winter. In between, I wear SOCKS.

Q10] Do you have classic clothing or classic items in your wardrobe that you have had for years and never go out of fashion if so name three?

I consider it classic. Others might say I’m a slob. Sweatshirts, tee-shirts, and jeans. I’ve been wearing this same clothing since I was a young teenager. Oh, and I have not one but three Navy Peacoats.

Q11] Are you into plain colours, wild colours or outlandish designs or a mixture and which do you favour more?

Plain. Elastic. Washable. Dryable.

PQ12] Do you have a favourite quote with regards fashion or design – if so what is it?

No.

Q13]  Knee high socks, ankle socks, shin socks or no socks?

Ankle socks with sticky bits on the bottom when I’m in the house. Knee high in the winter and if that isn’t warm enough, it’s too cold to go out.

Q14] Can you see the connection between colour and music and if so does it influence your dress code for the day in any way?

Not really. I wish I could say yes, but really, no.

PQ15] If you are going out somewhere special and want to listen to some music to put you in the mood whilst getting dressed up, what do you listen to? [Provide link please]

I don’t think I’ve EVER done that.

Q16] How often do you buy new clothing for the season or the year?

When I try to put on the nightgown and my finger goes through the fabric, I figure I probably need a new one. Also, as I get older and everything droops, I have to buy different sizes.

I’m also getting shorter (we shrink with age), so that’s a factor. But otherwise? I have winter and summer clothing. This is New England. It’s all about the weather.

Q17] Remember tie-dye from the 70’s was it a thing you followed, bought into or worse, how do you feel about it now?

Nope. Byt the time tie-dye was in, I was a mother working full time. I missed that whole dressing thing.

Q18] What is the brightest coloured item of clothing you have in your wardrobes/drawers?

I have an orange dress.

Q19] What is the most expensive item of clothing that you have in your wardobe? How often do you actually wear it?

I have a deep winter coat from Land’s End that cost me about $250. I wear it when the temperatures fall significantly below zero (Fahrenheit, NOT Celsius).

PQ20] Are you deleting any questions, if so which ones?

No.

Q21] Is being ‘fashionable’ important to you, or is being comfortably attired  more so?

I like not looking like I just crawled out of a ditch, so clean matters. I only wear the hairy, dog-hair covered stuff at home. The dogs do not care. And anyway, Garry is similarly attired.

HOUSEWORK SUCKS – Marilyn Armstrong

Housework seriously sucks.

It’s not just me who thinks so. No one likes it, not even the people who are paid to do it for other people. Maybe they like it the least, but I suppose getting paid makes up for something.

Last night, Garry sniffed and said: “It smells like ammonia here.”

The recently departed carpet

I knew right away what it was. A few weeks ago, my grandkid brought over a darling and completely un-housebroken puppy who — of course — pissed on the rug, directly in front of where Garry sits.

The rug before this one

I have cleaned the rug, cleaned the floor … but the dogs have great noses and they can always smell it and feel obliged to add their own personal scent at the same site. This is why I only buy cheap carpets, so even if I have to ditch them once per year, I don’t have to slash my wrists because my hand-tied woolen rug from somewhere in Asia has been ruined.

I pondered the possibility of getting the rug cleaned. It was only a 4 X 6 so it would not have been all that difficult to haul it to wherever they clean rugs (I am sure there must be a place that does it), but the price of cleaning it would be around $30. The rug only cost $40 in the first place and once the urinating has soaked it through, it never entirely comes clean.

The rug before the rug before the last one

I pointed out to Garry last night that we needed to do some cleaning, especially floors. Even though we clean up after the dogs, they can smell it. The whole urinating becomes a kind of canine party, you know?

So when the dogs started their morning barking: “GET UP GET UP GET UP,” I got up. I turned on the coffee, gave them biscuits, cleaned the water bowl. I tried to get Garry up to help with the cleaning, but he had gotten up early to put the dogs out. It was pouring again this morning, by the way, as it has been doing pretty much every morning for weeks. When Garry said he thought he might need extra sleep to compensate, I said “Whatever,” and got to work. If I waited for Garry, it would be dinnertime and we wouldn’t be done yet.

I took up the rug and its underpinnings — the thing that was supposed to keep it from sliding around on the floor. I threw it away. It stank. It was made up of some kind of sticky foam and I think it had effectively functioned like a sponge and absorbed everything. Yuck.

I rolled up the rug and pushed it off to one side of the room, got out the vacuum. Vacuumed everything. Since we’d done this a mere four or five days ago, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I vacuumed the living room, hallway, kitchen, then took the dustmop and cleaned behind the dressers in the bedroom, another one of those jobs which needed doing for a long time. Oddly enough, it did not disturb Garry who thinks I can’t tell if he is sleeping or awake.

Back to the kitchen, I dumped Murphy’s Oil in the bucket, let it seep into the mop, and washed all the hard woodlike floors. Then I did it again, moving all the furniture out of the way. By this time, my back was screaming at me.

All the pulling and bending was taking a toll. I emptied the bucket. Refilled it with the kitchen floor cleaner and started moving everything out the way for the next stage. I got halfway through the kitchen and realized I needed help. I was not going to get the rest of it done. It was almost noon. I figured since this big cleanup was his idea, maybe he could lend a hand.

Soon to be the new rug. It’s shabby chic, just like the rest of the place.

About an hour later, it was done. Garry hauled the old rug to the trash. I changed the covers on the sofas. Duke is shedding and being white, he leaves a trail wherever he lays his body. Which is everywhere.

Duke made out well, all things considered. When I hauled the end table out of the way, at least half a dozen tennis balls emerged. One was tossed for excessive slobbering and toothy destruction, but all the rest were salvageable. I put a few back in the box where I store new ones and gave Duke three previously lost balls. Bonanza!

That was approximately when I realized I actually couldn’t move. For all practical purposes, my back had seized.

I ordered a new rug. Another $40 plus a new non-skid pad for underneath it. I considered skipping the pad, but falling isn’t a really great idea.

I hate housework. It’s never finished. As clean as you get it today, it will need to be redone in another few days. And another few days after that. It is the task that is never finished and never completed

SEARS GOES DOWN IN FLAMES – Marilyn Armstrong

Last night on the news, they announced that Sears was going out of business. Destroyed, they said, by the likes of Amazon.

In the course of last night, I ordered two things I needed — a raised toilet seat because I’m finding it really hard to get up from the very low seats in our bathrooms and a raised seat is a lot less than a new toilet. Later, after the nurse called with the results of our blood tests, I learned I was anemic, so I went back to Amazon and ordered a couple of bottles of Vitamin D3. I didn’t have to get out of bed for either order.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When I was a kid, everyone went to Sears. That’s where you shopped for the “big stuff.” Refrigerators, washing machines, shop tools. You always needed help because these are expensive items that you intend to keep for a long time. You want to be sure they will be what you want — within the limits of your budget, of course.

Meanwhile, sometime during the late 1980s, Sears decided to take a chip from the local department stores and eliminate human sales personnel. For love nor money, you couldn’t find anyone to talk to. At the same time, they substantially cut down on the items for which everyone had gone to Sears — large appliances — and loaded up on dorky kid’s clothing.

Considering that every store carried kid’s clothing but almost no one carried appliances, it was a baffling decision by The Suits who ran the place.

Since then, I’ve never had any reason to go to Sears. Not only do they not have what I’m looking for, but they have hardly any people working with customers and they’ve closed down most of their checkout counters. So did most of the other brick and mortar stores.

There was a time when you could go into a department store and someone would be stuck to you like glue, showing you where your size was on the rack and helping you find the shoe or the dress or the jeans you wanted. Then, one day, all these stores decided we could all fend for ourselves, like a herd of sheep without a shepherd, a dog, or even a fence to keep us from falling off the mountain.

From that point on, which by then was the early 1990s, shopping at a mall became a chore. They would have one frazzled worker supposedly managing multiple departments and you had to wait, often for as long as an hour for him or her to have time to answer a simple question, sometimes as little as “Where’s the changing room?”

Amazon didn’t kill these stores. They committed suicide. They thought that they owned us and we’d keep coming because what else could we do, right?

Along came Amazon. They might not have someone to help you find the item you were looking for, but you had all the time in the world to read the reviews, compare prices … and if something didn’t work out, they were (gasp) NICE to you! That’s right. Nice. Polite. Helpful. And they sent the item right to your door. No battling for a parking space and hauling heavy boxes through the lots.

Our little grocery store — Hannaford — is the smallest store of its type in town. They aren’t fancy. They don’t have a lot of variety, but they also don’t have extremely high prices. Often, their actual prices are lower than Walmart and much lower than “Stop n’ Shop.” If you want help, there’s always someone around to show you where the item is … and they will wait for you to make sure you’re all set before they go back to whatever they were doing before. They never seem to be cross about it, either.

Hannaford

Not only are the nice to the customers, but they are also nice to the workers, many of whom have worked there for years. This has a side benefit of employing people who know something about their products and the store.

Amazon didn’t just join the market and destroy the competition. They found a big hole in the market — department stores who overcharged and acted as if customers were trivial. They made it increasingly difficult to find items and harder to pay for them. Parking lots got smaller to make room for more mall and around the holidays, they were a nightmare.

By the time Amazon loomed on my horizon, I had already made a big shift to buying more from catalogs and less from shops. It wasn’t even a big deal.

Parked cars

Today I bought my toilet raiser for $35 and two bottles of chewable D3 vitamins for $17.00. I wouldn’t have even known where to look for the raised toilet seat … and just one of those bottles of vitamins would have cost me the same price at CVS as I paid for two of them on Amazon.

I’m sorry that Sears is going out of business, but I’m not surprised. They stopped providing customer service years ago. Actually, it’s amazing it took them this long to crash and burn.

The irony is that I didn’t mind paying a little more to shop in a “real” store where I could get help and assistance, but I really minded paying more to get no assistance or help and a general attitude of surly indifference from employees.

I know working retail is hard. My son has worked his whole life (mostly) in retail. It’s hard work and many customers are not nice people. But then again, many of the workers aren’t nice either, so I guess it sorted itself out.

It all started because the shops decided to save a few bucks and get rid of their own workers and now, they are SHOCKED that the shoppers have gone elsewhere.

Parked cars

Our little local grocery store is always busy. The parking lot is constantly full and the checkout lanes are filled with people chatting with each other while waiting to pay. No one gets crazy when a line is slow because a new employee is learning the ropes.

They are nice, we are nice. Even though “Stop n’ Shop” offers delivery, we go to Hannaford because they offer human beings.

RDP THURSDAY – HERD
FOWC with Fandango — Fence

A MIXED-MESSAGE NUISANCE – Marilyn Armstrong

Word Prompt: Nuisance


Speaking of shopping carts, this is one of those love-hate relationships. When I am leaning on a shopping cart, I can move through a grocery store with the best of them. I lean forward a bit, my back sighs with relief.

The wheels will take me wherever I need to go.

Left to their own devices, outside in the parking lot, shopping carts roll. Unless you have an awfully flat lot — and we don’t — they not only roll, but they wander as they roll. Because the wheels are never level or even.

Despite having installed storage areas throughout the parking lot– and of course, there’s always the option of walking your cart back to the store — people just leave them wherever they are. This wouldn’t be so bad, but they roll.

Then they roll into your car. They cause accidents. They bang into people in wheelchairs. They run over small children. They block parking spaces. They make driving lanes un-drivable.

All of which could be easily fixed by returning the cart to the store. After all, how much time would it take? A few minutes? Or even less time, putting it in one of the many stalls designed for that purpose?

I couldn’t shop without one. Neither could many of the disabled people and senior citizens who really need that cart in the shop.

So folks? Be nice. Take the cart and return to a place where it won’t roll elsewhere. Not into a car, a kid, or a driving lane.

Or my door!

BEING NICE TO CUSTOMER SERVICE – Marilyn Armstrong

Usually, by the time I call customer service, I’m already mad about something. It’s just the way life is in these crazy days of long hold times, people who speak some other language, but whatever it is, it’s definitely not one you speak.

Kaity and camera (and phone too)

Last night I went to look at an order I placed on Amazon. It was for a camera. Birthday present for my granddaughter. Believe it or not, she has finally worn out her camera. I offered to get her a new one last year, but she really loved that Canon and couldn’t believe it could ever wear out.

Well, they do wear out. If you read the fine print, every camera has a “designated number of shutter hits.” Usually, it’s somewhere around 150,000 which sounds like a huge amount, but if you take a lot of pictures, over the course of seven or eight years, you can run up some pretty big numbers. A few weeks ago she admitted the camera was slowing down and not delivering like it used to.

I wasn’t surprised. In the olden days, we’d send the camera into the shop and have it rebuilt, but you don’t do that with electronic cameras. When they die of old age, you replace them. In the time since I got that camera — 2011 I think — the Canon DSLR has undergone considerable changes.

In keeping with my understanding of what she really wants as opposed to what I want for her, I knew she wanted the same camera. New. Faster. But basically, the same otherwise. So that’s what I got her.

From the Canon T3, we have moved up to the Canon T6. It is not one of Canon’s top cameras, but that’s what she wants. She has lenses — one for each birthday.

Kaity looks for something to shoot …

I found a seller on Amazon who had the camera body only, no lens. Just the body, battery, charger, eye-cup, strap with and a full warranty for a good price. I bought it.

And when I went to look at delivery schedules, there was a big “PROBLEM WITH ORDER” showing, but no information about what the problem could possibly be. Since I had already paid for it, it wasn’t money.

There were only two other possibilities. They ran out of the camera and I was supposed to wait for them to restock (no way) — or they realized they needed to raise the price. In fact, they had already charged me $10 more than their list price. I really hate when they do that.

I had a funny feeling they were going to ask me for even more money. I noticed in their new listing, the camera’s price had gone up by more than $50, which made it the same price as every other Canon Rebel T6 camera.

I didn’t have time to wrangle with the seller. Since I hadn’t placed the order directly with Amazon, I understood it was sort of their problem, but also, sort of not.

It was late, maybe two in the morning. I got a customer service woman on chat. I explained this was a gift and I didn’t have time to turn this into an extended issue. I needed to just cancel it, get the money back, and order the camera somewhere else.

I said: “This is a really popular camera and there are tons of them on Amazon and elsewhere. I wasn’t expecting a problem or I’d have ordered sooner.”

Honestly, I forgot to order. I meant to, but I was looking to see where the best deal was and didn’t actually order one until a few days ago. I wasn’t expecting a problem, so I didn’t think it was a problem.

Kaity

I told her I understood it wasn’t entirely in her control since Amazon was not the seller, but I could not wait a week for them to figure out what to do … and surely there was nothing to prevent me from canceling. They obviously hadn’t shipped it.

She assured me I’d she’d make sure it got canceled and I’d get all my money back. Then she sent me a letter saying “thank you for being so nice.”

No one ever says that to me because usually, I’m not all that nice. But Amazon has been good to me, so I try to be nice in return. They always try to work things out for if they can. Not only did she say thank you, she gave me the secret telephone numbers to get hold of Amazon service directly! That’s like the keys to the kingdom. NO ONE gets those numbers.

Canon Rebel EOS T6 DSLR bundle

Plus a $30 credit — for being nice.

Me?

Ultimately, I bought the camera where I usually buy cameras. It cost a little more, but I got the normal zoom, which I knew Kaitlin wanted. It came with a case, a few filters in a nice little case, battery with charger, a good quality SD card, and Corel software.

I spent an extra hundred dollars, but she got a better setup — and I know Adorama will ship it quickly, pack it properly, and provide a real warranty. They have a physical address in New York. I used to shop there years ago when I lived in New York.

Being nice apparently has some good points.

EVERYTHING YOU WEREN’T THINKING ABOUT MATTRESSES – Marilyn Armstrong

Let’s not talk about the news. I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want to think about it. Instead, let’s talk about mattresses. Because we just got a new one.

I’m a born researcher, so when I’m buying anything, I feel I need to learn everything about whatever it is. I’m still in a mental huddle about possibly buying a new rack for the dishes in the kitchen so you can imagine the intensity of my search for a mattress to fix my spinal problems.

In the course of buying a mattress, I made a bunch of useful discoveries. First, I’m getting out of bed in the morning in less pain than I was. This is probably due to the new mattress, but also to not sleeping on my side. My left hip thanks me hourly.

Mostly though, I had to recognize that nothing was going to make it all better. It’s way past that point now. A good mattress helps, but changing the position in which I sleep counts too.

Money: A Good Mattress Doesn’t Cost $100


If you are spending in the “moderate” range, a decent quality mattress, queen-size, will cost you $1000, give or take a couple of hundred dollars. Smaller mattresses of the same type will cost a bit less and bigger ones will cost a bit more.

Spending more may or may not actually get you a better mattress. Many of the better-known mattress companies no longer make the best mattresses, but they still charge higher prices.

You can save several hundred dollars by buying your mattress online. However, unless you don’t have a bed at all, you will have to figure out how to get rid of your old mattress. You can’t just stick it on the street and hope someone will pick it up. Your trash company will not take it away.

Unless you live in a town that has a dump of its own (and you pay to use it), someone is going to have to take your mattress away. Because they are so big, nobody wants old mattresses.

Here, where there’s no town dump and all nearby dumps are full, it will cost anywhere from $150 – $400 to get rid of a mattress. If you need to hire someone to take it away, as opposed to stuffing it in the back of your truck and driving it to the dump, you’ll have to pay more.

You have a truck, right?

In our case, being older and with arthritis in all the right places, we couldn’t haul an old mattress outside, much less to the truck we don’t own. I finally realized we could solve the problem by buying the mattress at an actual store. We went to Bob’s Discount Furniture.  They advertise on every television station in New England and have a local store. They would take away the old mattress and install a new one.

Regardless, online or not, it’s probably going to wind up costing you about $1000 between the mattress itself, taxes, a cover, and unless you are getting it from Amazon Prime, delivery.

Our delivery was just $70 and included free removal of the old mattress, which was all told less than it would have cost us just to get rid of the old mattress on our own.

$799 for the mattress, $54 taxes, $70 delivery. I also bought a topper for it, bringing the whole thing to $1002.

What’s the Right Style?

If you are arthritic or have other back, hip, shoulder, or leg issues, you’ll be happier on memory foam or gel than on an innerspring mattress. If you have an adjustable bed, you can’t use a hybrid or innerspring mattress. Our last mattress was a 10-inch pure (real, from the tree) latex mattress. We couldn’t afford that today.

We have an adjustable bed, so it was going to be memory foam or gel-infused memory foam.

Most foam mattresses last about seven years. An expensive latex mattress can last twice that. The one we had to get rid of was unbelievably comfortable for 15 years. We had a 20-year warranty, except the company that made the mattress was no longer in business as of five years ago.

It’s one of the problems with long warranties. You need to assume the company will be around as long as your warranty lasts. Often, they aren’t.

Regardless, after 18 years of daily use, it wasn’t hard to figure out we needed a new mattress. Nothing lasts forever. This time, having bought a pretty good foam-gel-infused 12-inch mattress, seven or eight years is pretty much what we can expect from it.

We have a 20-year warranty on the mattress, so if Bob’s Discount Furniture is still in business when we need a new mattress, I’ll be curious to see how that works out.

How Hard? How Soft? Springs? Foam? Latex?


How soft? As soft as possible if you are a side-sleeper. I am, but I am teaching myself to sleep on my back because my hip can’t take the pressure anymore. Medium to medium-plush is about right for the vast majority of people, even those of us with back problems. Harder mattresses are not better for you. Most of us, as we get older, need less hardness.

Sex?


Innerspring and hybrid coil/foam mattresses are better for sex. Everyone says so and I will have to take their word for it. It has been a very long time since I slept on anything that wasn’t latex.

What’s the Scale for Measuring Mattress “Hardness”?

Most places use a gauge of 1 to 10. Almost every mattress will be between 4 (plush) and 8 (medium-hard). Six is the most popular number and when the talk about “the comfort spot,” six is usually “it.”

Bob’s offers several mattresses where you can get firm on one side and plush on the other, but Garry and I wanted plush times two. We have arthritis, bad backs, problem shoulders, and difficult hips. Not to mention sciatica and disc herniation.

I would have like a mattress just like the one we had, but I’m not even sure where to get one like it now. Full genuine natural latex mattresses are expensive. Most people can’t afford them and I just got lucky on the first one.

If you are not short of funds and can “go for the gold,” as it were, a pure real from-the-tree latex mattress is as good as it gets. Theoretically, the imitation foam is identical to the stuff from the trees, but every report indicates people who buy real natural latex are happier with their mattresses.

We believed we had the most comfortable bed in the world. It was, for about 16 years.

I think the new one is going to work out. After five days, it’s softening up and getting comfortable. But we can still trade it for 90 days.

Not bad, right?

A Short Summary


If you have the money, buy a natural latex mattress, the best you can afford. Not only will your bed be your most comfortable place, it will outlast any other mattress you can buy. I wish I could have afforded another one, but we couldn’t come up with the money.

If you are a stomach or side sleeper, consider making an effort to sleep on your back.

Make your bed really comfortable! These are Beegod pillows and I love them. Who knew pillows could make such a difference?

If you don’t have an adjustable bed, consider getting one. If you have back problems or asthma? Raising the bed makes it better. I originally got ours because of asthma, but it turned out to have many other values too.

Also, get a great pillow or two. Yes, they also matter.