Sunday, April 5, 2009

Shoe Buy Don't Bother Me

Elegant fashion plate that I am nowadays, my friends and acquaintances might find it hard to picture me tromping around, in all but the steamiest weather, in a pair of sturdy brown hiking boots. But there was a time when I owned only two pairs of cheap shoes: utilitarian hikers for fall through spring and a colorful pair of flip-flops for the summer months. Later I acquired an adorable pair of black cotton Mary Jane style Chinese slippers with dragons embroidered across the toes. These I reserved for “dressy” occasions and contra dancing.

It was all very reactionary, inspired in part by my one and only “beauty contest” trauma episode, where I was seen gliding across the high school auditorium stage in an emerald green gown and elegant silver high heels, a vision to behold. The judges kept me in the running until, tragically, I pivoted to face the audience on my assigned masking tape X and overspun the mark via the slippery soles of my silver footwear. It was a magnificent spinning sideways crash into the terrorized beauty that stood grinning to my left.

Many moons would pass before I would treat myself to anything but the most practical, always flat and usually boring shoes. Who needs glamour in the midst of a Waldenesque nature girl period, anyway? I was all for simplicity, utility and basic comfort in those days. And then, suddenly it seems, all the dressy special occasions of life began occurring more frequently. That’s when the passion for quality discount shoes took hold.

It started with an invitation to a friend of a friend’s wedding – a very upscale, country clubbish affair for which rubber flip flops and a thrift store bought “vintage” sundress just wouldn’t do. It was easy to find two new appropriate dresses: one for the seated rehearsal dinner for 500 and one for the wedding itself. But the search for just the right pair of shoes was to launch a joyous years long quest.

That first pair of dress shoes had to be just right: comfortable, affordable, fashionable, and the perfect finish for my new look. Should I buy a strappy pair of sandals or perky little sling-back pumps? Sexy high heels with an open toe or a sophisticated yet slightly casual wedge? So many choices! I quickly acquired a passion for shoe shopping and acquisition. Before long I had amassed a mind boggling shoe collection. That’s when shopping for online shoes at great prices would have come in handy, if only there had been an “online” in those days gone by.

Nowadays I can entertain myself and get all my shoe shopping done online in the comfort of my living room. Shipping is quick, easy and cheap or sometimes free. Returns are equally painless. And there are a wide variety of styles and brands from which to choose. I still have a sturdy pair of hiking boots, several pair of flip-flops and, yes, even a pair of black Mary Jane’s, in addition to clogs, a variety of sandals, heels of varying heights and shapes, and several dressy options. The only thing missing is a pair of glamorous silver heels.

Time to go shopping!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


January is traditionally the time for looking backward to the previous year and avowing new resolutions for the year to come. It’s also an excellent time to look to the near future and coordinate summer plans for vacations, group gatherings and special events such as weddings. In recent years, the “destination wedding” has become a very popular way to combine a vacation-style group gathering with the celebration of a couple’s union.

Asheville has long been a favorite destination for vacationers, groups on retreat, and folks looking for the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate. The natural beauty of the Western North Carolina Mountains, the variety of activities and entertainment, and the availability of family friendly lodging the Asheville area make it the perfect wedding destination.

Wedding guests will discover an abundance of activities before and after the main event, whether they stay at a cottage rental within walking distance of downtown Asheville or at a cabin rental with scenic mountain views. They will enjoy strolling around Asheville’s Pack Square where they will have access to live theater, museums, first-rate eateries, street entertainers and music at a variety of venues.

Your friends and relatives might enjoy an afternoon of antiquing, followed by a hot stone massage at a world-class spa or a relaxing treat at a bakery, ice cream parlor or chocolate lounge. Or suggest a tour of the Biltmore Estate and Winery and a walk through the Biltmore gardens. The summer months find the Asheville area ripe with numerous recreational and entertainment opportunities.

A twenty-minute drive from town will bring your wedding guests to a delightful location for a memorable outdoor adventure on a hiking trail or an energizing dip in a cool mountain stream. Breathtaking waterfalls and scenic overlooks are within easy driving distance of their comfy vacation rental.

When choosing a location for the ceremony, outdoor lovers will have their choice of magical venues in which to exchange vows. Two spectacular options include Asheville’s Biltmore Estate and Chimney Rock. Or plan your wedding with a backdrop of breathtaking mountain views near the inn or cabins where your guests will stay. Consider celebrating your union in a charming gazebo at the Botanical Gardens in Asheville, surrounded by thousands of exquisite perennials and flowering trees alive with butterflies and hummingbirds. Or simply take a more traditional approach with a church wedding and reception in a rented hall, while gifting your guests (and yourselves!) with the Asheville area destination to enjoy and remember. For anyone seeing this wedding destination for the first time, chances are many exciting return trips will follow.