Shop the World Monday, Mar 17 2014 

In the middle of a major sewing project, my sewing machine’s light bulb went out. To you non-sewers, this might not sound like a big deal, but it is when you need that light to continue. I have a 40-year-plus-old Singer machine, so finding the correct bulb could have been a challenge. Fortunately, I drove a couple of miles down the road to a fabric store that carried the correct bulb and was back to work in an hour. Had I ordered one online I would have waited days to continue my project.

Living close to all of the major department stores as well as quaint boutiques offers a lot of shopping opportunities. Most of us enjoy a leisure day at the mall where we can see and touch items before purchasing. My guess is that there are fewer returns when we shop this way because it is clearer as to what we are getting. And if we don’t want our local shops to close, we need to frequent them and make purchases there so they can afford to remain open.

However, there is no doubt that online shopping has its perks. The ease and simplicity of shopping on tablets and smart phones is fun in a different way than in person. We can compare prices across a wider variety of items while comfortably in our jammies, if we so wish, avoiding crowds and saving gas and taxes. We also have those online reviews to help us make the best choices.

But those benefits don’t come without precautions. Here are a few steps to keep the experience safe and prevent costing us more than the price of our purchase:

  • Use familiar websites.
  • Look for the lock. That little icon of a locked padlock indicates a SSL(secure sockets layer) encryption.
  • Check the address. Secure sites start with HTTPS:// (not HTTP://)
  • Never email credit card information.
  • Never give your social security number.
  • Check your credit card statements throughout the month.
  • Keep your computer security up-to-date.
  • Never turn off your firewall.
  • Encrypt your home wireless connection.
  • Use strong passwords. Microsoft recommends 14 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols.
  • Use different passwords.
  • Don’t put an unknown flash or thumb drive into your computer.
  • Hold down the SHIFT key when you insert a drive into your computer.
  • Think carefully before opening attachments or suspicious emails such as ones that say they are from ATT or Yahoo and instruct you to click to update but do not address you by name.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

It’s Only a Number Thursday, Oct 11 2012 

I wear a size 00 – at Chico’s. This is rather odd since most everywhere else I where a 4.

Actually, I have to admit that my size 4s of years ago are tighter than they used to be. I’d love to believe the clothes shrunk in the wash but the scale tells me otherwise. Sizes are more generous than in the past.

Have you experienced this trend?

We commonly hear that Marilyn Monroe wore a 14 but that 1960 size is the equivalent of an 8 today. Most manufacturers have been increasing proportions for their sizes  for decades. And that’s really a smart marketing move. Who wouldn’t prefer to shop where they can purchase a size 8 rather than a 14?

Until the 1920s women’s clothing was custom-made. Although considered a fashionable idea, sales remained slim for decades because there was no consistency in sizing between manufacturers. It was difficult to buy clothes that fit well.

In 1939 and 1940 The National Bureau of Home Economics of the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted the first major survey of women’s proportions. They gathered 59 measurements from about 15,000 American women to determine average sizing. It wasn’t until 1957 when those findings were incorporated into a commercial industry standard.

However, as the average women’s bodies continuously changed so did the standard. The Department of Commerce finally gave up and withdrew the standard in 1983.

So now we are back to the uncertainty of sizing. Most of our closets have two to three sizes of clothes with the same proportions from different manufacturers.

The key to finding articles that fit well is to check each company’s sizing chart rather than the size number on the tag. This is particularly important for online shopping where you can’t try on the items until you receive them at your door.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

Produce at its Peak Thursday, Aug 30 2012 

Bright red tomatoes; hearty sweet, red, and white potatoes; fragrant peaches, apples, pears; juicy grapes; and so much more. In spite of this summer’s drought, produce currently is abundant at farmers’ markets.

Shopping your local market is good for the environment and good for you. If you have one close to you it’s worth checking out.

The one in my town is a French Market, which means there are other vendors besides those selling produce. Soaps, scarves, handbags, jewelry, cheeses, olives, meats, eggs, flowers, handcrafts, and other items also are available. It’s a great place to pick up a gift along with the groceries.

But of course it is the produce that takes center stage. Our French market features three main farms. Two are from Michigan but one, Windy Acres Farm, is actually located only a few miles from my house. The family owned business is so close it is as if the fruits and vegetables truly are (my) home-grown. I often purchase items picked that very morning.

You can’t get fresher than that.

©2012, Mary K. Doyle

Pin Your Interests on Pinterest Monday, Apr 30 2012 

Like it? Pin It.

That’s what we do on Pinterest, the online pinboard. It’s your personal bulletin board of all of your favorite things. Only your personal choices are not so private. You show them to the world – or at least Pinterest members across the globe. And you see all of their boards as well.

Need a party favor, suggestions on how to wear your hair, gardening tips, or want to know the newest fashion trends? Check it out on Pinterest. It is so much easier and more focused than a vast internet search. You will see what other pinners found on their treasure hunts, cutting your research time considerably.

My daughter, Erin, introduced me to Pinterest a few months ago. Honestly, at first I didn’t get it. Why would I want to spend my precious time looking at photos of home decor and pastries and showing them to other people? Now I say why wouldn’t I? The assortment of ideas I see courtesy of other pinners sparks my own line of thinking. I’m drawing on the creativity of people all over the world and I love it. I also enjoy building and looking at my own boards and sharing my favorites with other members.

You can pin anything you find online, from someone else’s board, or a personal photo or scan you uploaded. There are some pinners who I follow and often repin their pins.  I may not know the original pinner but feel a bond with those who share common interests. It is a new way to connect with and tap into people you’d otherwise never meet.

Pinterest also serves as a means for marketing to a whole new audience. I pinned book covers of the books I’ve written on one of my boards and was surprised to see how quickly they were repinned.

Pinterest does have some concerns though, especially in regards to copyright violation. Particularly when it comes to photos and artwork, artists’ works can be copied, reprinted, or duplicated. My feeling is that all artwork posted anywhere online should have a watermark, © symbol, or at the very least, be uploaded at a low resolution. This offers some assurance that the placement of art anywhere on the internet is more of an opportunity for marketing than for someone to steal their work.

It’s easy to join Pinterest. Simply apply and wait for an opening or ask a friend who’s already a member to offer you an invitation. Check out my boards (Mary Doyle Brodien) and happy pinning.

©Mary K. Doyle

Free Box Monday, Apr 16 2012 

Take what you need and leave what you don’t.That’s how the “Free Box” works.

The Free Box consists of a row of shelves that line the outside of a building in downtown Telluride, Colorado. Shelves are stocked with items for home and personal use. Notes posted on a board offer larger items such as furniture and appliances along with phone numbers to call if you are interested in them.

Anyone can shop or stock the Free Box. Items are left by residents who no longer want them and visitors who come to Telluride for a season, purchase what they need for their stay, but then don’t want to lug them home. Volunteers keep it all tidy.

My son and daughter-in-law shop the Free Box. As they purchase new items, they return the old for someone else to use. Their sofa, coffee table, and a beautiful desk are Free Box specials along with some of their clothes, books, plates, and cups.

My son and daughter-in-law remind me of my parents who were very practical people. Mom and Dad didn’t waste money on what they believed was unnecessary. Most of the furniture in our home was handed down from other relatives. I used to tease my mother that her decor was Early Salvation Army.

Honestly, I’m not that frugal. But I do have a practice of removing two items from my closet for every one that I bring in. If I purchase a new top, two items need to be tossed or placed in the charity bag. I do cheat a bit by counting literally everything, like counting each glove, sock and shoe, but this is a way to thin out some of the things that I no longer like or fit into. When I feel badly about getting rid of something, especially an item I rarely wore, I remind myself that passing on what I am not using is good stewardship. Someone else may really need it.

We have many non-profit groups in the area that collect clothes. Salvation Army, Purple Hearts, and Amvets distribute used items to the needy and sell the rest at reasonable prices in their shops. But what if people could just take what they needed without a middle man deciding who is most deserving? The Free Box feels more like sharing than accepting charity. It is less embarrassing and more dignified.

I wonder if this system could work in cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Cincinnati.

©Mary K. Doyle

%d bloggers like this: