Shopping

7th December
2009
written by Steph
Last Friday I took the afternoon off from work, as Tony and I had a friend coming over on Saturday night and I had big plans.  I was making boeuf bourguignon, you see… And I realize that it’s not in good practice to test out new recipes on guests, but despite being quite labor intensive, I had all the confidence in the world I could pull the dish off.  Now, because BB takes so long to cook (the prep is really pretty easy, but the thing needs to be in the oven for a few hours), I decided I would make it on Friday night and then simply reheat on Saturday evening (as there were no guarantees we would be around for several hours Sat afternoon to start the cooking), and voila: effortless and delicious dinner the evening of!  However, Tony told me he was probably going to have to work late on Friday night, and if that meant him not getting home until 7, well, I didn’t want to have to wait until then to run out and gather the groceries and then start cooking, so we met up for lunch (always fun), and then I drove him back to work and then kept the car to do my errands. And so began my afternoon as a make-believe housewife.  I have to say that shopping in the middle of the day during the week is actually DELIGHTFUL.  I got a prime spot in the parking lot and the store was far less congested.  Pretty much it was just me, a few elderly people, and lots of housewives.  I was able to zip through the aisles with speed and ease, and all was going smoothly… until I approached the checkout.  Seeing as it was the middle of the day, there were only two cashiers open, and I had to choose between standing behind an older bachelor or an old lady.  I opted for the old lady, because I figured she was probably more well-versed with efficient supermarket checkout.  This was a HUGE MISTAKE. While it didn’t look like she had a ton of items, her final bill wound up being $118… and this was after she had spent about 2 – 3 minutes scrounging about in her change purse in order to find her coupons (many of them for a measly 25¢…) that saved her a grand total of $3.50.  SERIOUSLY.  I am all for bargain shopping (Tony was greatly amused the first time we went to the grocery store and I would swap out products for those just a few cents cheaper…), but I do that when there isn’t a huge line of people behind me!  Plus, it’s not like she didn’t have plenty of time to have these coupons in hand before her final bill came up!  She certainly had enough time to have an awkward conversation (loudly, natch) on her cellphone while her items were being rung up. And then, the icing on the cake of rage: SHE PAID WITH A CHECK.  People, I cannot tell you how enraged I get when people pay for things at the grocery store with a check.  Why do this? Clearly you have a debit card, and if for some reason you don’t have the funds in your account at that exact moment in time, you can still choose the credit option!  Seriously, WTF?!?  If you use a check, it takes aaaaages, because you have to fill the whole thing out, and then they have to see your i.d. (despite carrying a purse, hers was stowed away in her fanny pack), and what should have been a 30-second process has now taken 5 minutes.  Haaaaaaaate. Just in case I wasn’t clear enough, I will repeat myself for clarity’s sake: When grocery shopping, DO NOT USE A CHECK TO PAY FOR YOUR PURCHASES.  It is unforgivably horrible of you, and all the joking and bashful smiles at the snaking line of people behind you doesn’t make it better.  In fact, it makes it worse because all that time you spend “gee whizzing” over how expensive groceries are today and simpering about how you’re sorry for holding up the line just means you are wasting more of my time.  Here’s an idea: rather than feeling bad about holding up the line, how about you just don’t do it?  Gah! Needless to say, after that experience, my trip to the nearby wine store was a necessity… and I don’t regret walking out with three bottles when I only needed one! And because I know you were all wondering, yes, the boeuf bourguignon was a success, which did much to soothe my fiery rage (but clearly not enough that I felt the check/coupon incident was no longer a bloggable offense!).
12th November
2009
written by Steph
We're in New York, New York!  Yeah!  So, updates might be a little bit slow until we get back to our dreary little life in Nashville this Sunday evening.  After all, it would be a shame for us to miss out on the city that never sleeps because we're on the computer... But I wanted to say that we made it here with minimal fuss, have checked into our wonderful hotel (Hampton Inn off of Times Square... who knew?), and we are already in love with the city, after having spent just one evening here.  It's good to be back in a place with public transportation, more restaurant choices in a single block than we have in all of Nashville (perhaps I exaggerate slightly... but oh, how street food makes my heart skip a beat, perhaps even literally!), the ability to walk about excessively, and yes, shopping!  Oh, and Jamba Juice! And on that note, I'm off to grab myself a Caribbean Passion, and then I'll go visit the flagship Steve Madden store (mmm... shoes...) and the Aldo in SoHo.  On every trip I seem to foolishly pack shoes that wind up hurting my feet by the end of the day and so I always have to buy a new pair.  Part of me might be doing this deliberately, since it happens almost every time! (Why I do not pack the shoes I purchased on my previous trips, I do not know.)  Oh well, there are far worse things in life for me than spending time in a shoe store... Have you ever been to New York?  If so, any things to see or do (or places to eat) that you highly recommend?  Yay!
22nd October
2009
written by Steph
A long while back, a friend forwarded me a link to a page on Zappos where you could watch in real-time what shoes people across the United States were buying.  It was pretty fun to watch as I am a self-confessed shoe addict (I love shoes almost as much as I love books, and have lamented on several occasions that you can only wear one pair at a time), and it was also kind of amusing to watch how buying trends for certain parts of the country aligned with my preconceived notions about that region (e.g., lots of Birkenstocks being bought in California, snakeskin cowboy boots in Texas, pumas and adidas and similar track shoes in NYC, etc.,).  I believe the friend who sent it to me referred to it as "my kind of tv", and well, he wasn't wrong. Until now that is! Because now, The Book Depository is offering a similar peek into the lives of its patrons.  For me, this is pretty awesome since it revolves around books (duh!), but also because it's a globally accessed site, and so you can see what people ALL OVER THE WORLD are intending to read, all from the comfort of your own home.  In the brief time I've been watching, someone from Spain has purchased a book on Gymnastics, someone from Italy bought Beloved, someone from New Zealand bought Interpreting Contemporary Christianity, and someone else from Italy (I presume) bought Complete Chinese Knotting (I don't even know what that is).  I love the real-time updates and zooming all over the map as someone from some corner of the globe buys something new. Sigh.  And people wonder how I get by without cable. [For all your book voyeurism (or vicarious book buying) needs, check out The Book Depository Live.]
21st October
2009
written by Steph

Is it still bad if most of these were free?

Is it still bad if most of these were free?

Now before y’all go calling me on the fact that I’ve fallen of the wagon yet AGAIN, I’m going to point out that this month, I’ve only gone book shopping at the shelves at work.  Which means I didn’t pay money for most of the books I’m showing you here today, so don’t get all up in arms! (I say “most” because Tony was away on business and bought a book or two as a gift for me/us, which doesn’t really count, does it?  I was hundreds of miles away and had nothing to do with it!!!)  While I admit that I still have a problem when it comes to acquiring books – seriously, I’m reading as fast as I can in an attempt to make a dent in our stacks - doing so when they’re free is far less worrisome than when they’re not, right? So, as we’re almost done with October, this meant that the September shelves at BookPage needed culling to make room for new stock (I believe I replenished those barren shelves with February books), and I nabbed two books from there, but my big jackpot this month was the “finished books” shelves down in the foyer, where we display all the books that are sent to us in finished form that were not reviewed in the magazine.  These are free for anyone to take and ultimately get donated to a library every few months.  Normally a steer clear of these as I have my arms laden down as it is, but I stopped to snag a copy of Long Past Stopping by Oran Canfield as a gift for a friend who was down visiting us this weekend (said friend is a fan of Augusten Burrows, and when I paged through LPS a few months ago I immediately thought of him, and her!).  Since I was already there at the shelves, I did a quick perusal and consequently managed to find another seven books to bring home…  Here’s how it all broke down: (more…)
29th September
2009
written by Steph

What was the first step again?  Admitting I have a problem?

What was the first step again? Admitting I have a problem?

No seriously.  I clearly have some kind of problem when it comes to book buying.  Why is it that I cannot go more than three weeks before entering McKay’s only to leave with more books than I entered with (in this case, I didn’t even trade anything in!), when I have more than enough books in our apartment to last me for at least a year?  Why did I go when I had just finished saying to Tony that I need to read through some of what we have so that we can reasonably make space for new stock?  And yet I go and buy 17 books (and this is after – and I kid you not – I put back at least 10 other books).  Clearly this is now verging on a certifiable addiction, right?  I knew I shouldn’t have gone into McKay’s at all, but my reason for doing so was that I just finished reading the most recent Douglas Coupland novel, and it was so AMAZING (and that is really all I can say for now, because I am reviewing it for BookPage… but stay tuned for more on that some time in November) that I had to go out and buy more Coupland.  Like right away.  Because I kind of wondered how the heck it is I had gone so long without reading anything by him, and I worried that I might somehow cease to exist if I didn’t rectify this by reading everything he has ever written.  So I told Tony I wanted to go to McKay’s to check and see if they had any Coupland and that was all I would buy… and then as you can see from the picture, clearly things went terribly wrong (or did they go terribly right?), because prolific as he may be, Douglas Coupland has certainly not written 17 books.  Ahem.  After discussing this most recent binge with my friend Taryn, I have decided that probably my first mistake was taking a cart with me while browsing.  Obviously I need to stop doing that. Do I get any leeway given that our grocery bill for the week was only $34?  Surely that balances out this spree somewhat, right? After the jump, we examine the damage!
25th August
2009
written by Steph
P1030168_v2

What a surprise... more books!

Ok, it’s been over a month since our last book buying expedition (our last trip was on the 4th of July weekend), which I think is some kind of progress!  I aim to visit the bookstore no more than once a month, because any more frequently than that would feel pretty decadent.  Also, there’s no way I can read fast enough to keep up with bi- or tri-weekly trips (not that that would stop me).  This time I managed to accrue 10 books in our stack to sell back before venturing to McKay’s.  I figured if I can commit to ensuring that I trade in at least 10 every time we visit then that will be a good way to curtail frivolous and unnecessary spending.  We didn’t get very much money for our trade-ins (just under $1 per book…), but as they say, every little bit helps, since we were able to walk away with 9 books for just $14.  And maybe the math might seem a little strange to you, but it was actually nice to see we were coming away with fewer books than we entered with as it means one less book to store at our apartment! Now, onto the loot! (more…)
7th June
2009
written by Steph

Or rather, a funny thing happened while we were at the used bookstore, in that I exercised a ton of restraint and put a bunch of books back on the shelves.  I know some of you are looking at the picture of our bounty thinking, “That’s restraint?!?!” but I promise it’s true.  This was the first time where I just felt pretty uninspired by a lot of the books I inspected, and while I put a bunch of books in my cart, I didn’t feel like I HAD to have a lot of them, so I placed them back on the shelves before we cashed out. So, total damage this time was 15 books – ostensibly one of our lightest hauls ever from McKay’s, but I will say the books that I got were ones that I really did want.  I did trade in a bunch of books and Tony culled his cd pile, so all of these books were purchased on store credit and did not cost any cold hard cash monies. (more…)
2nd May
2009
written by Steph

Book-based stalagmites are now developing at an alarming rate around our apartment...

Book-based stalagmites are now developing at an alarming rate around our apartment...

I’ve noticed that a lot of book bloggers out there do weekly accounts of the inventory they have coming into their libraries.  Normally the book influx is on the order of 3 to 7 books, which seems reasonable.  Of course, I don’t really participate in Library Loot or the like, because I really don’t have book entering the apartment on a regular basis.  Instead, I seem to operate under the “When It Rains, It Pours” principle, when it comes to acquiring books.  Total damage this time?  27 books (3 of them are graphic designy, so I’m not including them in this run down… I think 24 books are plenty to keep us busy.)… and this time, we paid with our own pocket money.  No vouchers or anything! Sigh.  I guess we’d better cut the preamble, as this is going to be long enough.  Let us go and revel in my total lack of self-control. (more…)
24th April
2009
written by Steph

Guys, I’m so sorry about the dearth of updates, but things have been so crazy here and time has been short for writing.  Turns out that even when you have a low-key wedding in mind, it still requires a good deal of planning – just when you check one thing off your list, a new one pops up in its place.  I think weddings might be the Hydra of social events…  I suppose I really shouldn’t complain as our planning has actually been going quite smoothly – dress shopping, suit buying, venue picking, all of that has actually been quite painless and efficiently completed.  That’s right, I have my dress purchased!  I won’t post a picture of it here, but I will show you the shoes I have decided to wear on the Big Day.  They are super fun AND comfy, and I look forward to wearing them at the wedding as well as many years to come.  I wanted a pair of shoes that were funky and expressed who I was, and I love the little snippets of blue (now I just need something borrowed and something old!):

That's right - I'm going to walk down the aisle in zebra-striped shoes with blue buckles!

That's right - I'm going to walk down the aisle in zebra-striped shoes with blue buckles!

And of course, we also had our lovely anniversary celebration last weekend, which was fantastic.  We drove Pip down to Chattanooga, and stayed in a cozy little B&B called the Chantacleer Inn (True story, though: I could never remember the name of this place while we were staying there, and wound up settling on a rather crude version that I COULD remember, which is really no reflection of the inn itself but rather my juvenile humor… I won’t post the name here, but let’s just say it involved a perfectly correct term for “rooster” (the inn’s logo featured one), thought it’s probably not the term you’d use in polite company… Tony tells me that Chantacleer is the name of a rooster from a fairytale, but if this is true, I never read that fairytale, so that mnemonic was not helpful to me).  We visited the Tennessee Aquarium, which we enjoyed immensely (though ultimately decided we’d rather hold our wedding locally rather than 2 hours away from where we live), and also had a great time dining out at some of our favorite restaurants in Chattanooga (this one place has the best stuffed poblano pepper appetizer on the planet, AND their margaritas are to die for!  I had two!).  I won’t lie, however… as we don’t have cable tv at our place, one of our highlights of the weekend involved simply lolling about in bed watching Animal Planet and HGTV in our room!  Hey, it just shows that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to show us a good time! 😉 So, looking at my reading log, I realize that I haven’t finished a book in about 3 weeks, which is why I haven’t been able to review anything lately!  I think this is largely due to me feeling mentally burnt out (I don’t have exams to contend with as many other people do, but things at work have recently come to a head, and hopefully will improve from here on out) and just being too tired to read most evenings.  I started reading The Master & Margarita, which Tony highly praised on the site, but I soon realized that while it normally would be the kind of book I would love, it just wasn’t the right time for me to read it.  It has a pretty discursive narrative, and my poor tired brain just couldn’t keep up.  I was struggling too hard to turn the pages and remember what the heck had been happening, that I decided to put it aside until my brain feels less sluggish so that I can fully appreciate Bulgakov’s swift wit.  I’m currently reading something for a top secret project that I can’t divulge at this point, which I realize is horridly unfair, but all this is to say that you’ll still have to wait a bit before I’m ready to post any new reviews!  Tony has one book on the roster that he needs to review, but he’s been utterly bogged down at work, so the time just hasn’t been available to write about it, but eventually you can expect a review on Graham Greene’s The Power and the Glory sometime this year! 😉  And I apologize for not having recipes either… we took a bunch of pictures a while back when I was cooking up a frenzy, but at this point I’m not sure that I can trust my memory to write down reliable instructions (or ingredients) for the dishes!  It might be time to call it a wash and start from scratch… inevitably I’ll wind up making many of those things again, and hopefully I can keep up with them on the site! Some of you may consider memes a punishment, but I thought that it might be nice to post some actual content here on Steph & Tony Investigate, rather than simply another excuse for our shortcomings of late.  So, I’ve ganked an old meme off of Claire’s site, which she borrowed from Tuesday, and I thought I’d give it a whirl.  It’s supposedly the über meme, so hopefully all of the important bases will be covered!

(more…)

28th March
2009
written by Steph

Behold as Mount TBR increases once again...

Behold as Mount TBR increases once again...

There actually has been quite the downpour ongoing today (complete with intermittent tornado warnings, which Tony deemed scaremongering, citing insufficient cloud density or something to that effect), but who cares about the weather when Tony and I finally made our way back to McKay’s after what seems like months of abstaining from book buying (in truth, it’s only been about 8 weeks, if that, but it has felt like FOREVER)?  I’ve been trying to curb my book-buying bug of late with trips to the library (it’s just a block away from the Y, which we visit 3 – 4 times a week), but public and private libraries hardly compare!  Sure, my rampant book buying just contributes to my never-ending, never-lessening TBR stack, but what I like about owning books I’d like to read is the fact that I feel no pressure to actually read said books.  Counterintuitive, I know, but when I visit the library, I inevitably take out more books at a time than I had originally intended (I have impulsive tendencies, have you noticed?), and then I feel pressured to read all of those books one after the other, even if I’m not necessarily in the right mood for them.  [Tony thinks that’s crazy talk by the way – he’s one of those people who can make a list of the next 10 books he’ll read and stick to it and feel perfectly happy.  I, on the other hand, have to wait until I’ve finished one book before I can even contemplate the next one, and then it’s a deep soul-searching process… Thankfully, today I was somewhat vindicated when we were at the store and ran into a friend of Tony’s who says she is the same way as I am when it comes to picking her next read!  Huzzah!]  Anyway, I realize I could return books to the library unread, and I often need to do so, but it feels like such a defeat to do that!

Ok, so today’s total damage?  25 books.  Eeps!  BUT.  In all fairness to me, today Tony actually picked out a large number of books today (not the majority by any means, but he still contributed to the haul!), and also, most of these were bought using store vouchers we had accrued through various trade-ins, so we really got 25 books for only $9 (real money), and that hardly counts as a splurge, right?  RIGHT?!?!

After the jump, an in-depth analysis of our loot! (more…)
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