How I survive December without entering a mall, or The beauty of small shops

December 13, 2010

I hate malls. I’ve always hated malls. Even when I was a teenager and worked in a mall for three years, I wan’t big on malls. I don’t like the crowds, I don’t like the cooped-up indoors feel of them. These days, I most hate the same-ness of the stores and the throngs of crowds. In fact, in our first months together, one of the first times my now-husband told me he loved me was when I told him I hated malls.

So you can imagine just how very much I hate malls around Christmas. I make an annual vow not to darken the door of a mall all of December (yet even I make an exception on Boxing Day to brave the crowds for sales, although I never queue up to enter any store).

While it’s easy enough to get my holiday shopping done before the deadline, especially this year with Hanukah starting December 1, that doesn’t mean I have no shopping to do all month. Sometime you just have to get something that you can only buy at the mall store.

On the weekend, I really needed to buy a certain-sized curtain rod. I tried driving across town to a fabric store, but they didn’t have the one I needed, which really just left me the department store at the local mall. I had to go the mall. But I tried to outsmart the mall. I went to the upper parking lot no one ever uses, came into the department store only, found my curtain rod and headed straight to cash. Five minutes–I could have held my breath — except for the ridiculously long waits at the checkout.

I thought I would collapse from anti-mall-itis, but someone with a huge basket of stuff let me cut ahead for my quick purchase and I escaped mostly unscathed.

The funny thing is the next day, still the weekend, I was walking along the street of my local shopping block, which features some of the same stores as the mall but also many smaller boutiques and coffee shops. And those stores were busy but not crushing. I could go in without hyperventilating, and I could get served and buy what I needed without huge waits or loads of frustration.

This has really renewed my faith in local shopping areas, in small shops and customer service, and has also renewed my vow to stay the heck out of a mall after December 1 every other year. I vow, never to return. At least, not until Boxing Day.


Almost finished my holiday shopping — can you believe it?!

November 20, 2010

The minute Halloween ended, Christmas season began. Or so says the retail world. November 1 I heard my first carol and saw my first splash of red and green. Are there people who like having two months of Christmas? Because I am not one of them.

Before you jump all over me and call me Scrooge, may I point out that I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas at all. In fact, ever since I was a kid, not celebrating Christmas was a big part of defining ourselves as Jews. Our Christmas tradition is to go out for Chinese food and go see a movie. Of course, these days all the goyim go see movies too, so it’s a lot more crowded than when I was a kid. So while I like the lights and the days off and the parties and food, I don’t like having Christmas thrown at me in an overwhelming way for such a long time.

Not that any of that has anything to do with what I’m about to brag about — I have nearly finished my holiday shopping. Despite being Jewish, I still have to keep up with the Jones and buy my kids presents, only for Chanukah (a very minor Jewish holiday that falls sometime around Christmas that has turned into a gift-giving occasion, not that it was that when I was a kid). And this year I hit the early November sales, made lists, and have bought all but a few of my gifts already. I know, you hate me.

If it makes you feel any better, Chanukah is early this year — December 1-8 — so I had to get shopping earlier. And I still have to figure out the food and clothes part (I have nothing nice to wear for the party I’m throwing!).

But come on, you hate me, don’t you. Ha ha.


No time to cook? Maybe that’s why we’re in a food crisis

May 3, 2010

You know I lead a busy life. Did you read about the week it took me two days to do the laundry? But cooking dinner is still a must, almost all the time.

I admit, we do our own cheating. We eat out occassionally, maybe once every two weeks. And on the two nights a week my husband is responsible for dinner, he usually picks up something frozen (M&M Meat Shops is his friend) to serve with cut veggies and dip. But I cook. I like cooking, and it’s usually easier and faster to throw together a meal at home than buy something ready made. Yes, ready made meals at home are cheaper than restaurant food, but not even close on the healthy scale, and no where near as good as something I made myself. Plus the more something at the grocery store is ready made, the more it costs than the ingredients themselves.

So I cook. But this article about a grocery trade show had me up in arms. It said that quick, “healthy” (emphasis mine) foods dominate the market.

Cooking is a luxury now,” said Dale Dubberley, president of Vancouver-based Thai Away Food Services Ltd., which offers a “Meals-in-Minutes” line. “People do it for fun, but they don’t do it every day. People don’t have time. Now they can go to the grocery store, get a restaurant-quality meal and have dinner ready in five to 10 minutes, for maybe half the price of eating at a restaurant.”

People cook for fun, but not necessity? What kind of crap is that? And how can we let that get promoted as gospel? No wonder more than half of adults are overweight or obese. No wonder the poor, new immigrants and aboriginal populations of our societies have the least access to secure, healthy food options.

Cooking takes effort, but not tons of time. Save your pennnies for nice nights out at a restaurant, and plan simple, healthy meals to cook all the other times. We can solve the food crisis, one home-cooked healthy meal at a time.

There, I’m done my rant for now. Off to pull together a quick stir fry for dinner.


Amazing customer service from Foxy Jewelry

November 10, 2009

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid to say this, and I wasn’t offered any samples if I blogged this.

I went to a big craft show last month with a friend on a Friday evening. It was so lovely for us to get away from husbands and kids and just have a grown-up night out. I don’t do enough of that.

The show had lots of homemade/artisan food, clothes, and especially jewelry. I don’t normally enjoy a lot of shopping (my personal mall tolerance is only 30 minutes before I go buggy!), so usually shop rather purposefully. But this show was all about strolling around and having fun looking and trying, and my friend was all about the jewelery. She wanted to try on every necklace and ring there!

Well, her jewelry enthusiasm rubbed off, and I got into the spirit and chose a couple baubles for myself. We both picked necklaces from one busy counter, Foxy Originals Jewelry. Apparantly they’re all the rage among the younger set, but to me they just had nice pieces at reasonable prices. So I bought a necklace, as did my friend. They packed it up in a pretty pink bag and I stuck it in my purse.

A few days later I was wearing the right colour for my new necklace to match, so I pulled it out of the pretty pink bag. But there was something wrong with the chain’s clasp. It wasn’t attached to the chain. I could still wear it, but the clasp could fall off and be lost very easily.

So I found Foxy’s website, and emailed them a photo of my chain, asking if there was something they could do. And here’s where the amazing customer service came in. I got an email back within a couple hours. They apologized, asked for my address so they could send me out a new chain. And to make it up to me, I should also chose anything else from their collection for them to send me as a free “I’m sorry” gift. Wow! So I did, and within a few days I was mailed a new chain and another necklace. No charge, no fuss, no complaining.

I was so impressed I wrote this post.