Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Unexpected Difficulties

This move to Connecticut is my first major relocation. I’ve lived in the same area my whole life (apart from college) and have really taken for granted the basic knowledge of the area I learned growing up. I moved from suburbia to suburbia so it hasn’t been too jarring. Life is still highways to get where you’re going. Chains that are ever present in suburbia are here too. But not all chains.

Back home we have wonderful places called Wawa. Fantastic convenient stores usually with many gas pumps. It is a well known fact that Wawa has the cheapest gas in any area. I suddenly realized when needing my first refill that I had NO clue which gas stations were reliably cheap. When I went to get groceries, I was horribly disappointed in the selection and the produce at the nearest grocery store. Back home there was a reliable chain where you knew the produce was good and the prices were cheap or even the high end chain where it was more expensive but the quality was great. Here, I have to go by what co-workers and neighbors say and opinions vary greatly. I’ve finally settled on a store I like. I think.

The first week I went to work I turned on the TV for traffic and weather and realized I didn’t know which channel to turn to. At home, I tuned in to 6 ABC where they had traffic and weather updates every six or so minutes. My dilemma was quickly resolved when I noticed it was an hour later than I used to leave for work and there was only one local news show left available.

Speaking of traffic. Recently we’ve had some issues with flooding thanks to the combination of tons of melting snow and a lot of rain. I did my normal learned behavior of checking with the radio to find out what roads to avoid. This didn’t work for two reasons. First, they named a bunch of streets that were flooded. Charles Ave between 1st and 2nd Street. Ok good…where is that exactly? I went with the theory if I didn’t know the road it wasn’t one on my commute and to not do any exploring while random roads were flooded. The second problem was when the DJs got tired of listing the flooded streets. They reverted to the tactic that never threw me before, and I quote, “Basically if its a road that usually floods when we get really heavy rains it’s flooded now. You know which ones to avoid.” (No I don’t!) I never knew how entirely NOT helpful that is until now. If you know which roads tend to flood you don’t need the radio to tell you that once again, in this torrential rain, they have flooded. If you’re not from around here it’d be nice if at some point you mention which roads these tend to be. Again, I opted for no exploration  and to just go home and ponder what else is missing from my kitchen besides cooking spray and olive oil.

These little things just keep popping up that just come with the territory of moving somewhere new. Of course that’s part of the excitement that Nicole was talking about yesterday. I need to find a new go to Mexican restaurant. I need a new favorite pizza place. And the most important part, where to get a good hoagie. I don’t care if they call them grinders here (that was another bit of confusion) they’re hoagies.

For the time being, I know I can get a pretty good sandwich at Panera. If I really need to go someplace that feels familiar there’s always Target. It is suburbia after all.

PS – Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all my Irish friends out there!

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Christmas Shopping: Not just for December Anymore

My Christmas shopping is done. I just got the last stocking stuffer this past weekend. Now that most people are done cursing me, I’ll explain how. I Christmas shop year round.

When I was growing up my parents would always be finished with shopping before Thanksgiving. I was raised with the concept that this was the best way to avoid the cranky marathon shoppers and enjoy the holiday season more. My mom has gotten away from this habit ever since I was in high school. Between after school activites, work, etc she just couldn’t get the shopping done before her Thanksgiving deadline. I have decided that her method is the way to go as long as I can pull it off. Anytime I go to a Summer Art Festival, away on a vacation, or even on a girls day out shopping, I am keeping an eye out for potential Christmas gifts. One important thing with this method is to have a designated area in your living space for the gifts so you can find them 6 months later.  Not that it isn’t fun tearing your apartment apart the week before christmas looking for the necklace you got your mom in July (not that I’ve ever done that).

I take a lot of pride in buying presents for people no matter the occasion. I like to put thought in it and know they’ll use it or enjoy it. The years I’ve left shopping to December will usually result in seriously random presents for people. They’ve liked them well enough, or at least pretended to but I’ll always feel like I could’ve found something better if I had more time. If, over the whole year, I haven’t found something for my family I will resort to asking what they want around late October.

Over the past few years I had trouble shopping for my sister.When I’d ask what she wanted it was usually a Lowe’s gift card to put toward her house. I would always tell her bluntly “No I’m not getting you that give me another option.” This may seem mean but in fairness she will do the same thing to me, especially when I was younger. I’d tell her a random object I wanted and she’d look me dead in the eye and say, “That’s stupid and useless I’m not getting that for you.It has to be something practical I refuse to add to your crap.” Ah, sisterly love. She had a point though.

I like to give people something they will use or enjoy and not just become part of the clutter. So practically speaking, a gift card to Lowe’s  is a great gift but it feels so impersonal. I’ve gotten over this to an extent. A gift card CAN be a personal gift. A friend of mine got her master’s degree a few years ago and, as a graduation present, I got her a gift card to one of her favorite clothing stores for new work clothes. If there is a specialty store I know someone loves, they’ll get a card to there. I personally am a BIG fan of Target. Anytime I get a Target card I get down right giddy. The one year I nearly got my sister her beloved Lowe’s card because she was planning on using it toward the purchase of a new stove (I ended up finding something better but I nearly relented).  In these ways, a gift card is almost more personal than some random thing that is picked up for the sake of finishing shopping (and yes this is what I used to do for people with fingers crossed that they liked the gift). By buying  a well thought out gift card you know they’ll like it.

The few times I do go out shopping this time of year it tends to be less stressful. I’ll look at the people running  around with tons of big bags from various stores (Honestly! How many people do they have to buy for?) I’m still keeping my eyes open for presents for people. It gives me warm fuzzy feelings when I find something that I know a friend will love and isn’t that the whole point? So if you are still out gathering gifts for loved ones I hope you find just the right thing (or gift card) that gives you the warm fuzzies.

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Shopping – my archnemisis

This week, in honor of Black Friday I suppose, we’re talking about shopping. It’s very easy for me to sum up my feelings about shopping. I hate it. I hate the crowds, the rude salespeople and I hate parting with my money. I like my money, and I feel it is more at home in my wallet than a cold cash register. I’m also not one of those people who needs the latest fashions. I figure as long as I look good in what I have and everything matches, that’s all I really need. It’s great for extending the life of one’s wardrobe.

If I must go shopping, I try to do it when the stores first open, or towards closing time. I can’t stand going in the middle of the afternoon when everyone else is there. It’s ironic in a way. As a kid, I used to hate that my parents always insisted on getting up early to go to the stores. It all makes sense now.

I do seem to have some kind of shopping quota that must be fulfilled though. I tend to go for months not buying anything (except essentials like food and toiletries). Months. I can’t remember the last time I was in my local mall. However, my non-shopping seems to build to a breaking point, which leads to binge shopping. My binge shopping is relatively benign. It usually starts with getting an email or catalogue from one of my favorite stores advertising a great sale with free shipping. Here’s the crux – free shipping. I shop at very few stores and know what sizes I need. I hop online, stuff my virtual shopping bag/cart (with 3, maybe 4 items – I told you my binge shopping was benign), enter my shipping address and credit card information and wait patiently for my order to arrive. No traffic, no crowds, no salespeople, no cranky me.  I love online shopping so much, I even buy the K-cups for my Keurig coffeemaker online (http://www.bigcatcoffees.com/).

I do go to stores occasionally. I seem to have a particular weakness for Target. I think it’s because I can buy a whole bunch of stuff – accessories, makeup, house goods, etc. – without spending that much money. I also can go there late at night and not deal with the crowds. I’ve learned not to buy gifts there though – they have a pretty poor return policy.

Shopping is one of those things I really don’t derive much enjoyment from. I more view it as a necessary evil. Sometimes I wished I enjoyed it more and liked going clothes shopping and having the latest styles and whatnot. But after nearly 30 years, I don’t think my viewpoint on it is going to change. I take the band-aid approach to shopping- minimize the pain by getting it done as fast as possible.

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