Category Archives: Holidays

Holiday Shopping: Get Off My Highway

It’s begun. Come this Monday, I’ll be standing in massive lines shopping for Christmas presents…without ever stepping foot outside the house.

I’m always sure I’ll be able to get through my Christmas list in my usual way – sitting in front of a nice fire with my laptop, my toes warm and toasty in my fuzzy slippers, coffee in hand, laughing at all those Black Friday fashionista fanatics who think seven cents off a sweater is worth peeing in a coffee can for whilst camped outside TJMaxx.

Unfortunately, all those well-meaning companies broadcasting free shipping and enormous deals on Cyber Monday always forget just one thing – server overload.

Last year, I believe I actually saw the little shopping cart icon in the top corner twitching. And the little green thing-a-ma-jig bar down at the bottom of the screen inched along at a snail’s pace.  I stared at it as if waiting for a kettle to boil, mumbling into my hot cocoa, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.”

And just when I thought I had scored an elusive item I’d been searching for on Ebay, I received an alert from The Ebay Mafia telling me they pulled the item the person was selling because it was “unauthentic.”  Hmmm…how did they know that? Is there an old geezer from the Antique Road Show doing side work for Ebay, scouring the site for bogus competitors and snitching? Hell, I don’t care if it’s not authentic!  Neither is the color of my hair, but only my hairdresser knows for sure. And to tell you the truth, how do I know the alert from Ebay was authentic?!

Which brings me to my whole reason for this post – and that is to provide you with my semi-vast knowledge and Street-Smart Online Shopping Tips for this holiday season (and any time you are shopping online for more useless stuff).

I’ve been Christmas shopping online for years. But those were the good old days. And if it wasn’t for those damn media gurus marketing the day as Cyber Monday, I wouldn’t have every Tom, Dick and Harry & David shopping on the same day. So I hope you’re the paranoid type who refuses to provide a credit card number over the internet. All the better for me. Stick to the mall, and let me shop online in peace.

But since you’re all clogging the traffic on the holiday shopping superhighway along with me now, here are a few rules for navigating those ominous, self-help cyber lanes:

Step away from the link.

E-mails that you receive – even from friends and family – should raise a red flag if there is simply a link (the little blue words with the little blue line under them) in the body of the email. Unless you are provided with a lengthy dissertation from Aunt Betty about her recent hemorrhoid surgery, DO NOT click on an email from her that just has Betty’s Best Apple Betty recipe in the body of the email. You tried to click on that, didn’t you? Stop that!) You will end up with a virus – one that even Aunt Betty’s chicken soup won’t help.

Shop here, not there.

Although you’re a tight wad (okay, frugal, whatev…) remember:  If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.  That Mac being sold by Apple & Eve Computer Company for $29.95 is not a good gift for your college student.  Practice what you preach. Just Say No.

Listen to your mother.

Mom used to always tell you, “Be sure to wear clean underwear,”  as you headed out the door rolling your eyes. Not only was she worried about that nice policeman discovering not one, but two sets of skid marks during his investigation should you become involved in an accident, but she was trying to tell you that change is a good thing. So change your underwear – and your password – often. Do you know there are Little Men under each key on your keyboard memorizing your keystrokes, and they’re none too happy to be the subject of your wrath on their little heads, so they send everything you type to the Big Guy in a coffee shop in India, who turns around and hacks into your computer. And your little dog, Toto? Yeah, he might be cute, but quit using his name as your password.

Pick a card, any card.

Choose a credit card – and one credit card only – for your transactions. Your brain will thank you when you are trying to distinguish your Christmas purchases from the Brazilian hot wax you got prior to that office Christmas party.

Be a good little file clerk.

For each transaction, you should receive a confirmation email regarding your purchase and delivery information. If you don’t, call the company to confirm. And if someone answers, “Yo, dis is Johnny,” consider yourself screwed. (Another reason I think you should get off the internet highway right now and head on over to Wal-Mart with the rest of the sheep.)

Compose a folder in your email inbox and name it “Xmas 2014” or some such name. Refrain from using long names like, “Things I bought online on Monday instead of going to the mall.” Brevity is your friend. Move all your  purchase confirmation emails to that folder. Then check it often to keep track of deliveries from that cute guy in brown.

There are sites teeming with hints for keeping your online shopping from turning into the Shopping Experience from Hell. I’m hoping, though – just a little bit – that I might have scared you away from shopping online, and you’ll pull off the road.

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Christmas Letters from Home

giftwrapping-001I was discussing with a friend the other day the little nuances people have about their Christmas traditions. She, for instance, refuses to wrap gifts. After all, God did put glitzy bags into Hallmark stores, so she figures she’ll just shove her gifts into those. I, on the other hand, like to wrap mine (unless, of course, it’s that big bad HumVee I bought The Mister. I had to crawl under the tailpipe to reach that six-mile long ribbon that I wrapped around the body of that sucker.) Kidding. But really, I’m a bit obsessed with making sure the ribbon matches at least one color in the paper, that every crease is solidly pressed in origami-like precision and taped just so. The ribbon must be tied with an easy-release bow (as opposed to knotted, which would entail the recipient rising from their comfy chair, spilling their hot chocolate and banging around the kitchen drawers looking for a knife or a pair scissors.)

Then the topic of Christmas cards came up in our conversation. Again, God provided us with the the technology to print out address labels, she noted, so why write them out by hand? Press ‘n stick, baby. Once again, that’s just too impersonal to me. My cards have to be hand-written, addressed with my favorite gold Sharpie, complete with little swirls in my letters, sometimes with a small sketch of a holly branch or two for celebratory style.

Then the topic turned to the lengthy, mass-printed Christmas Letter. You know, the ones friends have embedded on their Staples’ Christmas-y candy cane stationary, bragging about their children who all have 4.9999999 grade averages, enough sports trophies to line a wall at the Hall of Fame, and their many adventures and travels to faraway places. (Do they even make fruitcake in China??)

My New Year’s resolution this year may have to be to learn to relax like my friend, be a little lazy, a little less anal, and go with the flow. Or, as they say, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

I’ll try, but my tacky Christmas letter will still have to be customized and personal, and will have to be real and straight from the heart, thusly:


Dear [Uncle Nunzio],

It’s been a great year here with the fam. I’m glad to hear you survived and are outta jail and will be able to visit Dominic over at the home. He will really appreciate your visit, because he has been getting in a lotta trouble with the blue-haired ladies. He’s been wearing his diapers backwards and was charged with indecent exposure last week, so he’ll enjoy your company and support.

17018Our little Sophie is growing up so fast. She just got her degree at cosmetic school…finally! Eight years ago, when she got her GED, we were sure she was never going to find herself. But she’s doing well. Her apartment in our basement is really cute. She should go to decorating school. You should see what she can do with a yard of fur! Her goal is to some day buy the mobile home across the street, but we don’t think it’s big enough for her and all her kids. And – more great news – she’s expecting again, so we’ll have another grandbaby!! The Lord is great!

tubThe Mister and I have been traveling a lot this year. Our bucket list includes hitting every casino in the U.S. This summer, we went to the Poconos and renewed our vows and stayed in a room with – can you believe it – a red, heart-shaped bathtub! It was so awesome! They even offered us champagne, but we just drank the bottles of Courvoisier that we snucked into our luggage. Cuz sometimes they charge you for that stuff on your bill. You really have to watch them.

Johnny is just our pride and joy. He’s doing great and has a new girlfriend. Of course, he denies it by trying to cover up the hickies on his neck with my makeup! Kids! Gotta love ’em! He’s doing well over at the LubeItUp shop. He even gets an employee discount so we get new tires for the RV really cheap like! He’s actually getting a Christmas bonus this year. italianboyHe’s going to buy himself a Glock cuz, ya know, one can never be too careful! And even though they don’t allow 12-year-olds to carry one, it’s okay with us cuz his dad has taken him to target practice back behind the Walmart.

Well, gotta get back to soaking that fruit cake in moonshine. Say hi to the fam for us.

Ciao for now.

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