Some advice on online shoe shopping

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I buy the great majority of my shoes online. A lot of people do, I know, but for me, it's kinda the only option. At a size 12 (13 in some styles/brands!) it's pretty much Nordstrom Rack (which I love and frequent) or online. Which, in this day and age, with what Zappos has done to the online shoe market, is fine.

So I found myself in need of some new sandals. Coming into this summer, I had two pairs of sandals, both purchased at the beginning of last summer:
clarks spa.jpgmerrell agave.jpgOrange Clarks Spa flip flops and black Merrell Agave sandals. Both pairs are still functional, but neither thrill me. The Clarks are really bad for my feet (shoes with no support and flexible soles are plantar faciitis nightmares) and the Merrells are just kinda ugly. So, at the beginning of this summer, I hit Nordstrom Rack to look for some new sandals.

I came home with a pair of very cute 3.5 inch wedge heeled sandals in black leather from Sofft. They're great--very girly, unlike my other options, really versatile, and not too uncomfortable. Unfortunately, they also make me around 6'4". And though I'm sometimes fine with that, it's not a height I want to carry in my daily life. So I tried again.

This time, I found a coupon and searched around the online world. I ordered each of the following shoes:

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Aerosoles Sun Mate, from Shoes.com, $55.20

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Annie Sienna, from Zappos, $49.90

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Columbia Sun Goddess, from Zappos, $34.95

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Dansko Sissy, from Zappos, $110

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Indigo by Clarks Abruzzo, from Zappos, $80

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Indigo by Clarks Bordeaux, from Zappos, $88

I kept one pair, the Aerosoles Sun Mate. They're cute, and they were cheap. Nothing else fit, or was comfortable enough or cute enough to be worth the price. So I've been wearing the Sun Mates.

They're just as bad for my feet as the Clarks flip flops. No arch support, flexible soles. So, as summer is already winding down, I set out last night to make yet another attempt to find some reasonable sandals. This time, though, I felt less desperate, and decided to focus on cost savings, rather than just finding something that looked cute at Zappos and pushing the "Buy" button.

So I started at Zappos, because they have the best selection, descriptions, and feedback on styles. After going through many pages, I picked out the following styles:

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Annie Shaw, $44.90

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Chaco Switch Eco Tread, $62.10

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Softwalk Torri, $94.95

The thing about Zappos is that their selection and customer service and feedback is great, but their prices sometimes aren't. So after I picked out what I wanted, I looked around for the same styles elsewhere. My first stop was 6pm.com, which is basically Zappos' clearance rack. They didn't have the Annie sandals or the Chaco flip flops, but they did have the Softwalk Torri sandals, for $66.50, and in my size! Except they only had them in white, which is not the color I wanted. So I kept looking.

Next I checked Shoes.com and Onlineshoes.com. Shoes.com had the Chacos in my size, in another color, but they were $65. Even with the 10% off coupon I found, that was only a bit cheaper than the Zappos price, and when it's that close, I'd rather go with the known quantity of Zappos customer service. Neither of the other styles were available. Onlineshoes.com had the Softwalks for the same price as Zappos, the Chacos for $64.95, and no Annie's. With another 10% off coupon, this order would have ended up a bit cheaper than Zappos, but again, when it's close, I'd rather pay for Zappos.

My last stop in comparison shopping was at Amazon.com. And that's where I hit the jackpot. The Softwalks were on sale for $47.71--half off! The Chacos were $64.99, so no savings there, but the Annie's were only $22.34--another half off! And shipping for an order over $25 was free. Now, if they don't work, I'll have to pay some return shipping, but I'll still come out ahead.

indigo by clarks lyon.jpgSince a lot of sandals seemed to be on sale, I kept looking around Amazon.com after I put the three pairs I'd selected in my cart. I'm glad I did, because I found another pair I loved--the gladiator sandals I'd been looking for all summer. The Indigo by Clarks Lyon, on sale for $39.76! Just to be sure, before I purchased I went back and looked for the style at Zappos, 6pm, and Shoes.com--$80; $48 and not available in my size; and not available.

The moral of the story, of course, is look around to make sure you're getting the best price--not exactly a new maxim. Also (and again, not exactly news), if you trust your taste for next year, buy sandals towards the end of the summer. Those Aerosoles I paid $55.20 for on sale in April? $50+10% off now. And clearly, if you're on the lookout for end-of-summer sandal sales, try Amazon.

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The countdown to BlogHer begins!

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I was hard at work yesterday when my phone rang. Glancing at it and seeing an unknown number, I groaned inside. Unknown numbers usually mean work. Still, I answered. And to my surprise and delight, I heard:

"Grace? It's Suebob."

The lovely Suebob was calling to ask if I'm going to attend the annual BlogHer conference coming up in New York in a couple of weeks. I am! And I'm getting excited about it, too.

BlogHer seems to be one of those things that only makes sense to folks who are into it, if you know what I mean. For the uninitiated, it's a two-day conference focused on women and blogging. This is the 6th one (and will be my 3rd). The days are filled with panel discussions and hands-on technical classes, the evenings with keynote speakers followed up with parties. It is, as the website claims an opportunity for bloggers to enjoy "hands-on learning, rich discussions, opportunities to meet with the brands that support them and plentiful networking opportunities."

Which still doesn't really explain why I'm so into it, does it? The truth is, I'm kind of a half-assed blogger. As Suebob said on the phone to me yesterday, I'm not particularly interested in improving my blog or building my brand. I know I'm never going to blog for money, and that's fine with me, that's not why I do this. For me, blogging is about communication with folks I know (online or in the flesh) and having a reason and a platform to write. So, crass as it may sound, I'm not really there to learn anything.

The primary reason I love it is for the people I get to hang out with. This year I'm especially excited, because I'll get to room with and spend some time with my friend and Heroine Content co-blogger The Princess, who I left in Austin a year ago and haven't seen since and miss horribly. I'll also get to see the aforementioned Suebob, who is nothing but lovely and so much fun to be around, and hopefully Laurie, who I also adore and haven't seen since last year, even though we live in the same neck of the woods now. If I can spend even a moment basking in the rather glorious presence of Karen this year, as I was lucky enough to do last year, then I'll be completely happy. It goes without saying, I'd hope, that there are a ton of other folks I'm looking forward to seeing as well, or even being introduced to for the first time this year.

Beyond the specific folks I go to BlogHer to see, I also go for the general environment. Though it does get a little rah-rah girl power for my tastes at times, the fact is that there aren't a lot of times when 1,000 or so women convene on any space, take it over, make it their own, and enjoy the living hell out of it. Sure, it's less political action group and more sorority party, but at least it's *my* sorority, you know? These are, by and large, women with whom I feel really comfortable, and it's great to spend two days surrounded by them.

Another great thing about BlogHer is finding new blogs. Every year, after I return, I end up with an even more bloated feed reader, full of new blogs to read. And as time goes on, I whittle some of them off, but a few always hang on and become new favorites, and if I've met the mastermind behind them, I'm much more likely to be interested in their content. My favorite from last time around? Gotta be No Appropriate Behavior, the blog-child of Laura, who I was thrilled to get to know at BlogHer '09.

Finally, there's an atmosphere of fun and...luxury? at BlogHer that just isn't part of my daily life, and I enjoy the hell out of that. The swag is plentiful and sometimes incredible, the parties are great fun, and I get to spend three nights staying (at a VERY reduced rate) at the New York Hilton. Like I'm not gonna be into that.

SO! Are you going to be there? Drop me a comment so we can be sure to find each other!

Oh, that picture? That's me at the MamaPop party last year, with a giant cardboard Edward Cullen. Not a great picture of him, but it's cute of me, right?

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Rockin' the real vintage dress!

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My recent trip to Pittsburgh had many, many highlights (see my previous post with the cotton candy, for example). One of them, though, had to be the last afternoon I was there, when my friend Nonny and I headed to the Shadyside area of the city to do some vintage shopping. First, we stopped for a great lunch of crepes (hadn't had crepes in years, still love them, particularly with Nutella). Then, we hit a couple of great vintage stores. Pittsburgh vintage stores impressed me not just for their selection, which was excellent, but for their prices--vintage stuff I could actually afford!

The best place, by far, was a shop called Eons Fashion Antique. Among other treasures, there I found a long rack of 50s and 60s house dresses, in waist sized up to 36. Yes, that's right, 36. I never find real vintage stuff in my size (which, it turns out, is generally 18 or 20 in pre-vanity sizing)! And the dresses mostly had their original tags still on them! Amazing.

I bought three. Excessive, probably, but I couldn't help myself. They were between $22-$30 each! Less than $80 for all three, if I am remembering correctly. And last night, when Mark and I went out to The Wine Kitchen (excellent as always, though they were sadly sold out of the sea salt and caramel torta palla), I debuted one of them.

Vintage dress!

I don't think there is any question that this is the style for me--it works with all my assets and does a pretty good job of hiding my flaws. The question is, can I really dress like this every day?

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Don't I look like Jackie O? Just a little bit?

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Turns out, I LOVE sailing.

Me, or Jackie O?

Me, or Jackie O?

Me, or Jackie O?

For reference:
jack and jackie sailing.jpg

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Notes from the road

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I just returned home from the first leg of my summer travel adventures, which started with a business trip to Portland and ended with a pleasure trip to Pittsburgh. So far, so good. I didn't totally fail at packing, air travel treated me very well (including my taking a $400 travel voucher to return home this morning rather than last night, which I very much didn't mind doing), and I had a productive time in Portland a wonderful time in Pittsburgh. In two days, I start the next leg, a trip to Minneapolis to visit Mark's parents.

In Pittsburgh, I ate here. The dessert menu featured a "Six Penn Circus"--cotton candy, cinnamon doughnuts, whoopie pies, and Cracker Jack, all house-made. Oh hell yeah.

Grace with cotton candy!.jpg

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