Monday, March 30, 2009

J.Crew Private Shopping Event & Brunch: What We Wore, What We Bought...

D.C. ladies, you looked phenomenal in your colorful, girly, and perfectly accessorized J.Crew outfits! You were a huge hit with the Pentagon City sales associates, and you definitely made the scene at Clarendon's chic Boulevard Woodgrill.

Below is what we wore. Please share your Polyvore set with me! Either send me the link at or leave a comment letting me know your Polyvore name.

Also, what did you take home with your 20% discount? Tell me all about your finds!

J.Crew Private Shopping & Brunch
J.Crew Private Shopping & Brunch - by 3-Penny Princess on

JCA DC Brunch
JCA DC Brunch - by Cleo26 on

Diana P's J.Crew Private Shopping & Brunch Outfit
Diana P's J.Crew Private Shopping & Brunch Outfit - by 3-Penny Princess on

DC J Crew Aficionada Brunch-03/29/09
DC J Crew Aficionada Brunch-03/29/09 - by HeidiGblog on

Polyvore To Real Life: JCA event 3/29/2009
Polyvore To Real Life: JCA event 3/29/2009 - by Jcrew chick (aka slastena) on

Dina's Brunch Outfit
Dina's Brunch Outfit - by 3-Penny Princess on

3Penny Princess Shopping Spree
3Penny Princess Shopping Spree - by DC Hill Grl on

JCA-DC Private Shopping Event & Brunch
JCA-DC Private Shopping Event & Brunch - by Smartiepants on

DC JCA Brunch Outfit
DC JCA Brunch Outfit by DCFashionista featuring J Crew jeans

Easy, breezy Sunday morning shopping w/JCAs
Easy, breezy Sunday morning shopping w/JCAs by fool4fashion featuring GAP jeans

JCA Shopping Event
JCA Shopping Event by AnneG featuring J Crew necklaces

Sunday, March 29, 2009

J.Crew Private Shopping Event and Brunch: Photos & Recap

Thanks to all the D.C. area Aficionadas who attended the marvelous extravaganza that was the J.Crew Private Shopping Event followed by Sunday brunch!

An incredible day was had by all, thanks to the tremendous efforts of the hardworking and talented J.Crew Pentagon City associates. Each Aficionada was showered with lavish attention, lovely sweets, and refreshing mimosas as the amazing associates waited on us hand and foot to make sure we found lots try on from the pretty new spring and summer collection. The guests walked away with plenty of fabulous finds (to wear to future occasions!) purchased at a 20% discount. The experience was no less than a shopping fairy tale!

Afterwards, we adjourned to the lively Boulevard Woodgrill in Arlington for brunch. Our server did an outstanding job of attending to all of our food and beverage needs as well as taking some key photos of the group. The private dining room was idea for catching up with each other, and also for sneaking a peak at Diana P's stunning jewelry creations (more on that in an upcoming post).

The morning started somewhat overcast in the high 50s with a little drizzle but blossomed into a gorgeous sunny afternoon in the mid 70s. And speaking of blossoming, the famous Washington cherry blossoms were in full bloom throughout the area, making for a glorious spring day to complement the lovely spring pieces in the store.

All the Aficionadas looked spectacular in their "Frilly Frocks" themed J.Crew ensembles. Polyvore sets to follow. Please send me yours!

Guests in attendance included Slastena, Dinagideon, Drewablank, DianaP, Cleo, HeidiG, Kat, Lexieloo, JBird, Metropolitan Magnolia, Joyce, AnneG, Rosa, Geneva, Aasha, LisaK, Jackie from DC, Nancy, Cindy, Gina, Gillian, Awojo, Amy, Kate, and 3-Penny Princess. (Please let me know if I've left anyone off the list.)

Check out the photos below:

Susan, our talented and attentive (and stylishly polished) J.Crew personal shopper, sent a note thanking all of us for attending the Private Wardrobing Session. She writes:

"...All the ladies were wonderful, and were so pleasant to work with. I know the staff had a good time, and I hope all of you did as well.

I've got you scheduled for the end of August. Ahh, I love fall clothes; its my favorite line all year."

Yes girls, you know what that means... we're invited back in late August to preview the Fall 2009 collection. Keep your calendars open!

Also, check out dinagideon's blog post and Slastena's blog post for a swell recap of the private shopping & brunch with photos.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Update on D.C. Aficionada Private Shopping & Brunch

Washington, D.C. J.Crew Aficionadas, I am pleased to update you on some great news about this Sunday's Private Shopping Event and Brunch...

First of all, get ready to shop till you drop! The Pentagon City J.Crew store has graciously offered to delay their store opening by 2 hours so that the Aficionadas can have the store all to themselves from 10:00 AM-12:00 PM. We will be guest VIPs!

Plus, they will make our Private Wardrobing experience a delightful one by serving snacks, coffee, juice, mimosas, and tasty treats.

And, get this: You will receive 20% off a $125 purchase during the shopping event!

I will also update you on the weekend's new offerings and promotions as soon as I receive them.

Brunch at The Boulevard Woodgrill will begin at 1:00. We will be seated in the downstairs private dining room. If you can't make it to the private shopping event, meet us at the restaurant afterwards.

If anyone is riding Metro and needs a ride from Pentagon City to The Boulevard Woodgrill, please let me know. Also, if anyone needs directions either to Pentagon City or to The Boulevard Woodgrill, feel free to contact me.

Finally, don't forget to take the poll on my blog to vote for the items you're most looking forward to trying on during our Private Wardrobing Session.

Visit the original event post for all the details and locations.
If you have any questions, either leave me a comment or email me at

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday!


This just in!

Our personal shopper just sent me the list of promotions that will be going on in the store this weekend. Here they are:

• NEW! Featherweight Cashmere S/S Cardigan (15534) - $99 ($168)
• Featherweight Cashmere Cardigan (11271) - $125 ($158)
• French Terry Cardigan (13658) - $49.50 ($59.50)
• S/S Cashmere Crewneck Tee (12248) - $78 ($98)

• All ¾ Stretch Shirts (11454, 12072) - $48.00 ($64-$58)
• His Stripe Shirt (97335) - $50.00 (69.50)

• NEW! Tissue Boyfriend V-neck Tee (11657) - $19.50 ($29.50)
• Pique Polos (13946, 13852) - $24.50 ($39.50-$42)
• S/S Perfect Crewneck (97785) - $15 ($22.50)
• French Terry Double Hoodie (12661) - $49.50 ($59.50)
• Painter Crewneck (12672) - $24.50 ($34)
• Washed Favorite Tank (92236) – 2 for $25 (16.50)

• NEW! Café Capri (10492, 13327, 13947) - $59.50 ($79.50)
• Select White Denim (99774, 11579) - $20 off ($98)
• Cocktail Capri (12305, 12428) - $69.50 ($79.50)
• Seaside Shorts (13052, 13810) - $39.50 ($49.50)
• Premium Stretch Bistro Pant (99809) - $78 ($88)
• Everyday Chino (95397) - $49.50 ($59.50)
• Stretch Summerweight Bermuda Short (99432) - $39.50 ($49.50)

• Canvas Atelier Jacket (13105) - $98 ($148)
• White Denim Jacket – 25% off ($98)
• Pinstripe Stretch Wool Suiting (95729, 92730, 95728) – 25% Off
• Washed Curator Trench (11899) - $118 ($158)

• NEW! All Full Price Swim – 30% off

• Cotton Sateen Gateau Skirt (13464) - $69.50 ($88)
• Beachcloth Raquel Ruffle Dress (12651) - $59.50 ($78)
• Sanur Dress (91099) - $59.50 ($68)
• Novelty Mini Skirts – 25% off ($98-$69.50)
• Pencil Skirts (Various) - $69.50 ($128-$98)

• Cashmere Blend Scarves (15242, 14547) - $49.50 ($68)
• All Full Price Women’s Shoes – 25% off
• All Full Price Women’s Sandals – 25% off
• All Fabric Belts - $24.50 ($34-$38)
• All Full Price Socks & Knee highs – 3 or more 30% off
• All Capri Sandals (72868, 90874, 14181) - $10 off ($49.50)
• Select Bangles (Various) – 2 or more 30% off ($34-$28)
• All Women’s Flip-flops(Various) – 2 or more 20% off ($49.50-$19.50)
• All Tortoise Accessories – 2 or more 25% off ($24.50-$16.50)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lessons of a Shopaholic Part 3: Days 15-28 in Shopping Rehab

Day 15:
Enjoyed a nice social Sunday with friends, made it to church, and called my parents. Made divine cinnamon French toast for me and hubby. Gave the cat extra love. Didn't venture near a store.

Fought the urge to surf the retails sites. Instead, read Wikipedia for a couple of hours while DH played video games. Learned several interesting facts about India, Sanskrit, Buddhism, and the Jain religion. Learned that Buddhism is the world's 4th largest organized religious group while Hinduism is the 3rd largest. Also learned that Hinduism is one of the world's oldest living religions and that the word "Hindu" comes from the ancient Persian word for the Indus River. Looked forward to learning more about the world outside of shopping.

Day 16:
Focused the entire morning on administrative and housekeeping items. Then, received a call out of the clear blue from a work client asking to meet in 2 days. This sent me reeling to put together a massive portfolio and update numerous projects. Spent the rest of the day and evening on the phone and and computer doing research, polishing off my bio, and emailing various sources. Went to bed tired and slept well.

Day 17:
Spent the day running to meetings with other clients. All ran over and left me with little time for potential diversions. The rainy weather further underscored my desire to get home, get dry, and finish projects. Again, worked into the evening.

Day 18:
Met with new client after rising early to finish preparing. Meeting went so-so (mostly from my perspective), but I was proud of myself for having finished a lot of important tasks in a short period of time and finally updating a lot of out-of-date projects. Although I didn't feel that our goals were currently in alignment, I agreed to keep in touch anyway.

Day 19:
Worked on tasks for other clients and spent much of the day in negotiations between various parties.

Took a long lunch to celebrate my productive week. Found myself with nothing to do temporarily while waiting for responses from clients. Surfed the net, of course.

As always, a bad idea, given that J.Crew was once again offering a discount, and there were so many pretty spring things I wanted! Especially since the temperature was once again 70 degrees and I couldn't wait to get into spring clothes. Bravely resisted the urge.

Received several discount emails from other retailers. Cole Haan sent a reminder about the 30% off ending in a few days. Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy sent out a friends & family coupon code for 30% off. Ignored Ann Taylor, Piperlime, Nine West, and DSW.

Closed my internet browsers as they were doing me no good. Re-opened one window and went straight to Wikipedia for more enlightenment. Figured I needed fluffier topics to keep my interest. Read all about the actors and TV personalities on some of my favorite shows.

Did you know that Stacy London of What Not to Wear majored in philosophy and Germanic studies before working for Vogue and Mademoiselle magazines? And, her mother is Sicilian and her stepmother is a romance novelist. Also learned that Bobby Flay had a major falling out with Iron Chef Morimoto after losing to him in Japan in 1997 (caused apparently by Flay offending Morimoto). They had a rematch where Flay won the competition, and the two are now friends. Wikipedia is my favorite new time waster!

Finally decided to hit the grocery store to reload my fridge and pantry for the coming week. No more ordering pizza and Chinese food!

Day 20:
Fell off the wagon - hard.

Finished negotiations and paperwork for clients from previous day and had a nice long lunch. Took the opportunity to catch my breath and catch up on social emails that I had been neglecting all week. Devoted a few hours to taking care of details of planning the upcoming J.Crew Aficionada private shopping & Sunday brunch event. Checked evite about a dozen times, made calls to managers, sent several emails, and finalized logistics.

Hubby came home in the early afternoon, unexpectedly. He said he had to finish work projects in the evening and weekend after hours (ah, the joys of IT directors!). Updated him on all the exciting news about the J.Crew Aficionada outing and told him all the pieces were coming together.

With a little bit of trepidation, I finally broached the question I had been avoiding: "Honey, if I'm good for the rest of the month and avoid shopping diligently, can I end my shopping fast early to shop at our private shopping event?" After all, I did start a little early, about 4 days before Lent, which gives me a full 33-day fast before the big day...

"We'll see how good you are," he countered. "If you can stay out of trouble for that long, we'll decide then."

"I've already got almost 20 days under my belt. I'm sure I'll be fine," I assured him. Besides, I argued, it would give me incredible motivation to not shop if I knew that I would be rewarded with the ultimate prize: a guilt-free shopping spree.

Looking at my watch, I calculated that I still had time to run some errands before the Friday traffic started. With work taking over my week, I hadn't even had time to pick up my dry cleaning, let alone get my nails done. Oh, and there was also that pesky bag of clothes sitting in my car that I had finally decided to return from a few weeks ago...

Off I went on "errands." My intentions were good that afternoon as I sped along the highway toward my destination: another trip to J.Crew. Not my home store, of course, where I would have to face all the people who knew me, but the further-out store where I didn't feel compelled to buy something each time I returned. Especially since I had a very limited window of opportunity to go and come back before the hellacious Friday traffic hit with full force.

But oh, what a difference a week makes! My previous trip to this store was a success in that I managed to return without succumbing to the temptations of buying any new springwear or riffling through the sale rack for great deals on winter stuff. Today, however, the store was re-arranged to show off the floaty new dresses and bright graphic tees that had become the trend. How could I not take notice? I would just take one quick tour to assess the new finds, you know, so I could mentally take note of my wish list for the upcoming private shopping event.

Darn it! I knew instantly that I was not going to walk out unscathed. Serpentining through the sherbert colored cardigans, breezy patterned blouses, and flirty skirts, I could not muster up the slightest ounce of self control. Decided to make the best of it and give in. Walked out with a new Jackie cardigan, bright coral tunic, a polka-dot blouse, and a completely irresistible flower-clasp necklace. My only consolation? All were hugely discounted, plus, I had returned 2 items which brought the bill down significantly. Excellent acquisitions by anyone's standards! Even I had to admit that I felt a swell of pride as I sauntered out with a full shopping bag reviewing my superb selections.

Even though I had only spent $30, I had just bought 3 items -- that's 3 more than I was supposed to buy! To makes matters worse, I had a foreboding feeling that my misadventures were far from over. The damage, after all, had been done primarily to my psyche. I already felt as if I had failed. I had not only broken my promise to God and my better half, I had broken my vow to myself that I wouldn't shop for the rest of the month. Now, I would not deserve the rewards that I had promised to myself.

Still inside the mall and a very long way from home, I knew that my first fall would surely not be my last. Especially since I had missed my chance to escape before the massive wave of commuters flooded the roads. I would have to wait it out for another 2 hours before attempting to exit. I was stuck in the lion's den, ensnared by the trap that I had led myself into -- knowingly and, dare I say, purposely? My conscious mind knew what lay ahead, and but it could not fight my body that was pulled hypnotically to the seductive stores where I had dared not to step.

Enticed by a compellingly practical need for well-fitting pants -- after having exhausted my J.Crew options of late -- I wandered into Express, where I had previously found my salvation in the form of the Editor pants. To put it lightly, I was a bit fond of these amazing pants: I owned no less than 15 pairs of Editor pants ranging from work pants to trouser jeans to everyday chinos. Truly the best-fitting pants in the world on my figure, these pants accentuated all the right place while downplaying the rest. The problem was, I had changed sizes a few times and was in need of replacements.

Now, don't get me wrong -- no one makes a nicer wool trouser or cozier cord than J.Crew. But when it comes to denim and day-to-day workhorse pants, I didn't always have the best luck there. Especially lately when it seemed like petite fits were fewer and harder to come by, and besides the obvious length issue, the often generously-cut bottoms presented a lot of unsavory sagging issues. That, and the recent deluge of "easy leg" fits looked like loose sacks on my petite frame. Either that or the matchsticks were much too tight for my solid thighs. The designs that did look promising (mostly last year's) had already been placed in the final sale section online, which is never a good idea for trying on new pants. So, after having returned the last pair of ill-fitting chinos to J.Crew, I thought it best to re-investigate the origin of so many years' worth of great pants.

The salespeople were unusually supportive and helpful, probably because a manager took me under her wing right away. She collected pair after pair in various sizes to help me find the perfect one. After trying on a dozen pairs, I had forgotten how fabulous these pants made my butt look, and how slimming they made my thighs look. My legs looked longer too thanks to the straight fit and just-right flare at the bottom. I knew I had to buy more than one or I would regret it. Beside, the current promotion was buy 2 get 1 free. And the prices -- compared to the full-prices to which I had grown accustomed at J.Crew -- were decidedly easier to swallow. What could I do? I invested in 3 pairs (for the price of 1 J.Crew dress pant, mind you!). At least I would have great pants to wear through the spring, summer, and early fall. Mission accomplished! I felt instantly satisfied at my second success of the day.

Wandered past the Cole Haan store. Recalled that sale items were 30% off and figured I should at least look, given my recent bout with blisters after spending a lot of time on foot with clients. Inspected every pair of Nike Air heels before settling on one perfect pair of chocolate woven-leather midheels whose price was too good to be true: just $48 after the discount! Sprung for them knowing that they would come in very handy and save me many hours of discomfort. Thought of which new pants to pair with them first. Surprisingly, didn't feel that guilty at my impulse buy on the grounds that I really needed a great pair of dark brown work pumps and this price was truly remarkable for the unbeatable comfort and quality of Cole Haan Nike Air.

Then, I remembered my Holy Grail of coupons which, at this point, was burning a hole through my purse and threatening to expire in a day: 25% off at Coach. Treading very cautiously and with already-growing remorse, I hesitantly entered the Coach store with half-shut eyes trying nervously to avoid eye contact with sales associates. Such a clean, uncluttered store, with so many beautiful creations to gaze upon! The feel of the sumptuous new Parker Collection leather, the smell of the Coach perfume solid, the sharp looking Madison spectator bags, the shiny objects galore... Add to that the valuable 25% coupon that only arrives in the mail once a season... I....must.....resist.....must....turn....around....NOW!

But wait! What was that adorable little keyfob hanging innocently at the counter, in the very back of the store? Why, it was a cute little bunny with real mink fur tufting out of its tail - how precious! Especially since "Bunny" was my namesake and a source of endless gag gifts received over the years, especially around Easter and, especially from my friend Anna. How could I walk away from such a sweet little treat? Had I not successfully resisted last year's Kate Spade bunny keychain? And wasn't this one so much cuter with it's little white fur tail?

Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen writes in Child Psychology that giving in to temptation is "a self-fulfilling prophecy." Citing a study that found that college students who had been asked to talk about their vices ended up giving into their desires to commit the vices, she concluded "the study participants thought they'd succumb, so they did. Resisting temptation was difficult because of their thought processes."

Pawlik-Kienlen goes on to suggest:

"If acting on your thoughts can work against you (by causing you to succumb to temptation), it can certainly work for you (helping you resist temptation)... To resist temptation, turn temptation around. Instead of thinking about not eating chocolate chip cookies, focus on eating fresh fruit or veggies, or going out for a walk or run... Instead of focusing on not gambling, think about other ways to spend your money... Instead of thinking about not surfing the internet, consider the benefits of sleeping all night long or spending time with family or friends... Give yourself healthy, fun treats like going to the beach or watching a funny play or performance. Take an afternoon off work or treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure. When you resist temptation, celebrate!"

At this point, I had all but talked myself into committing my next vice. Knowing that it was already priced so reasonably and having the additional discount would make the temptation all the more unavoidable. And let's face it, if I was going to blow $45 on a manicure and pedicure to avoid giving into this one last temptation, I might as well just buy it and have something to show for my money. This would be my very last transgression before getting back on the wagon. Really.

Well, not really. I felt a giant wave of shame mixed with sudden fear at the thought of coming home with illicitly begotten items. Instead of sprinting to my car, I made a slight detour through the candy store (the representation of my uninhibited urge to spend, perhaps?). Knowing the way to my beloved's heart, I assembled a tall pile of our favorite Italian candy bars: Kinder Bueno, the hazelnut paste-filled wafer covered in chocolate, made by Ferrero. Armed with my peace offering, I made a beeline for the garage and unloaded the goods into my car. Walking in the door of my house about 30 minutes later, I strategically brandished the bag of candy, knowing that DH wouldn't be able to resist.

"I got you something," I chirped sweetly to my significant other.

Not falling for it, he retorted, "What did you get for yourself?" Guiltily swishing my J.Crew bag around, I faced him with downcast eyes and presented the package for him to inspect. Usually, he's somewhat excited (okay, curious) to find out what "kills" I've brought home from my shopping adventures. But probably disgusted at my utter lack of faithfulness to my promise, this time, he just sighed and sent me to my room to unpack my baggage. Which, I might add, was mysteriously missing a few bags from, say, Coach, Cole Haan, and Express. Striving to avoid confrontation from my outrageous act of rebellion, I had stealthily consolidated all the goods into one bag and re-wrapped everything in tissue for good measure.

My guilt bore down on me like a ton of bricks that evening. My dissatisfaction with myself was matched only by the bad taste in my mouth from knowing that I had ruined my chance to shop at the big upcoming J.Crew event. Alone in my dressing room making space for all my new acquisitions, I pondered my future as a hopeful mother: how would I ever teach my children to avoid the perilous temptations that loomed ahead if I, as an adult, could hardly control my own pocketbook?

Day 21:
Took up compulsive housecleaning instead of compulsive shopping. Washed 6 loads of laundry, decluttered my office, scrubbed the pots and pans, tidied up the kitchen, collected all the recyclables, and cleaned my room. Decided to start fresh, despite the previous day's disasters.

Rummaged through my closet and pulled out a couple dozen pieces of unneeded items and several shoes. Folded everything into 3 giant shopping bags and lugged them to the local consignment store. The owner was delighted to see me after a prolonged absense. I explained that I was there to sell, however. But after she sorted through my goods with relish and gave me good reason to believe that stuff would actually sell, I felt guilty about not buying something... especially since I had barged in on a busy Saturday unannounced without an appointment and unloaded a large number of items. I thought it was only the right thing to do, to buy one small thing.

After a 20-minute search through the store's 3 levels in an enchanting historic rowhouse off the main street, I turned up a pair of to-die-for jeans that fit me like a glove. Thrilled at the prospect of bringing home yet another pair of fabulous pants -- already in a petite length and in my favorite dark denim to boot -- I was further overjoyed when the owner offered me a seller's discount, bringing my total to around $50. Which, for almost-new expensive denim that made my derriere look like a million and my legs a mile long, wasn't bad.

Just when I was paying, honey called to check in on me. "I'm just finishing up," I proclaimed. I let him grill me on the day's damages. He chastised me halfheartedly but later asked to see my new purchase. After trying on the jeans for him, he must have liked what he saw, because he not only complimented the fit but left the subject of my purchase largely undiscussed. Although I felt bad for buying when I was supposed to be back on the wagon, I felt really good for bringing in so many things to sell. Even better when I learned that any unsold goods would go to my favorite charities.

Oh well, there's always tomorrow to get back on the wagon for good...

Day 22:
Made French toast again but this time it came out burnt. Probably due to the new bread I had used. And the fact that my mind was elsewhere.

Stared at my full J.Crew online cart while savoring my post-burnt toast coffee. Knew that I had purposely missed two great discount codes in row, but now I didn't know for what purpose exactly. Decided to post my wish list so I could stare at it somewhere other than the J.Crew site for the next 2 weeks. Also hoped it would serve as sufficient motivation to avoid all forms of retail temptation, both physical and web-based.

Went to church again to face God. The priest really drove the point home as he expounded on the day's readings: the 10 Commandments. Though shall not covet. Thou shall not commit idolatry. Thou shall not bear false witness. Guilty, guilty, and guilty. Felt better after confessing and asking for forgiveness. Went to the grocery store afterward to replenish our food supply. Vowed to finally resume volunteering after a year-long lapse.

Day 23:
Felt hopeless and just plain bad following the weekend's shopping catastrophes and the third straight day of rain. So bad, that I could not muster one ounce of self control to prevent me from placing the Cole Haan order that had been sitting in my cart. The shoes that I absolutely needed -- because they went with everything in my wardrobe and were a high enough heel to wear with my long pants -- were on sale and actually available in my size (no small feat, no pun intended). And if I was going to take advantage of the 30% discount plus free shipping, today was the last day.

What the hell, I'm firmly off the wagon anyway. Might as well get the shoes that will end all shoes. As well the superfly sporty wedge sandals that I've been eyeing for months for good measure. In both colors. Maybe they'll make me happy when my husband finally divorces me. Maybe I can work in the Cole Haan store for extra money. Prayed that at least one pair wouldn't fit me so I would have to return them.

Made one tiny breakthrough: Emailed the place where I used to volunteer and told them I wanted to volunteer again. Asked them to call me to discuss times and needs.

Day 24:
Felt bad again, but sought serious help. Realized I wasn't going to be able to do this alone. Decided to investigate outside support.

Googled "shopaholics anonymous" and "shopaholics anonymous meetings" but to no avail. I mean, there are hundreds of entries, but none that I was looking for.

Did you know that there are loads of "Debtors Anonymous" groups in just about every region which meet regularly? I took the self-test they offered. Only answered "yes" to 3.5 out of 15 questions. Further examined the 12 "Signs of Compulsive Debting." Could only identify with 3 of the 12 signs. Not sure if this is group is going to help me get to the root of my problem.

Kept searching. Found a "Spenders Anonymous" group that seemed slightly more promising. Didn't answer "yes" to to more than 3 of the 13 questions to determine if I was a spender, but definitely identified with the stories of recovering compulsive spenders. Unfortunately, couldn't find any chapters in my region, let alone my metropolitan area. No online support groups available, either.

Came across Gambler's Anonymous, Clutterers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Smokers Anonymous, Schizophrenics Anonymous, and Workaholics Anonymous, to name a few.

Gave in and surfed around the spuriously named site of Shopaholics Anonymous. Spurious because 1) this is not an actual support group for fellow compulsive shoppers, 2) there's not much anonymity in printing the name of the person who's in charge of the so-called support group, or the name of various celebrities who have allegedly been helped by him, 3) the entire mission and mantras of most "anonymous" groups modeled after AA is to help individuals for free instead of charging them for therapy, 4) most "anonymous" groups attract new members by word of mouth rather than self-promotion, and 5) any group that claims to represent "anonymous" does not hold public conferences.

Furthermore, I failed to see the connection between the forces that drive shoplifting or employee theft and those that drive shopaholics. Apparently Dr. Shulman believes that he can appeal to all three groups with one website.

Disgusted though I was by the lack of an actual and aptly-named "shopaholics anonymous" support group (at least in the D.C. Metro area), I did take Dr. Shulman's advice on reading two books he recommends for compulsive shoppers: To Buy or Not to Buy and I Shop, Therefore I Am by April Lane Benson. Both are available on Amazon and received very high reader ratings.

Also, contacted Spenders Anonymous to find out if we could start some meetings in my area. Felt much better instantly.

Received an autoresponse an hour later from Spenders Anonymous telling me that they received my email and that, if I'm writing to inquire about meetings in my area (as most people inquire, check the website for a complete list of meeting locations. If there is not a meeting in my area, they suggested that I attend other 12-step programs, or, start my own meetings using the materials they have available online.

Felt a little deflated. Obviously, given some organizations statistics that up to 25% of the U.S. population has problems with compulsive spending, it boggles the mind that there are not more support systems available.

Decided that, until I find something better, it might make sense to attend at least a couple of Debtors Anonymous meetings. Penciled in the hourlong "Shoppers Night In" meeting for this Friday evening.

Set off to (gulp) pay one of my credit card bills (the most massive one) at the store. Nothing like a big fat reality check to quell a shopping urge. Was accosted by rows and rows of bright floral motifs and found it nearly impossible to walk straight to the cash register and back to pay my bill. Tried to run out of the store when I was done but was pulled in by the enchanting smell of flowers and pretty Clinique Happy Bloom perfume bottle. Had to test it. Two salesgirls immediately rushed to my aid and informed me that the perfume comes with the most darling miniature flower compact that contains the most gorgeously flattering shade of pink lip gloss. And, they were starting to take reservations for the upcoming Clinique Bonus. Help! I must get out of here!

Instead, I moved in closer to inspect the promising-looking new Clinique Even Better Makeup foundation with SPF 15. Lately, my skin had been flaky and dry no matter how much I exfoilated and moisturized day and night with my normally nourishing Lancome Primordiale day and night creams. I was also experiencing some redness issues due to allergies and dryness. These issues had been rendering my trusty mineral powder foundation useless of late.

The Clinique consultants went to town on my face. First, one dusted a hefty dose of the yellow-tinted Redness Solutions Instant Relief Mineral Powder on one side of my face. Instantly, my compexion went from red to perfectly balanced. On the other half of my face, another blended the Even Better foundation in precisely my color. It transformed my flaking red visage into a glowing, warm, and even-toned countenance. Both products helped tremendously, but the liquid foundation imparted much-need moisture and luminosity that the powder just couldn't match. It also had an added benefit of minimizing my lines and blemishes. The consultants proceeded to give me an unexpected makeover. A girl who was shopping in the store actually stopped to compliment me on my complexion.

Sold! I had to have this magic potion. But I knew I couldn't wait 13 more days for the bonus to start. On the other hand, I do hate missing those bonuses, especially when they were giving away a fetching floral case full of interesting new products like the Blushwear Cream Stick and a Youth Surge Moisturizer. What to do? I pressed the consultant for a sample of the new foundation. She complied and made me a little sample jar with my exact shade. How nice of her! I conceded and agreed to buy a mascara now, since I was running out. Besides, it was cheap and wouldn't come close to getting me the bonus gift. But I promised that I would try the foundation at home and return in 2 weeks to buy a full sized bottle during Bonus Time. She seeemed placated enough.

Left the store and made it home without doing any more damage. Swiped my hand through the mailbox on my way in the house and out fell a temptation: 30% off anything at Cole Haan. Now, I realize that I had just illicitly ordered 3 pairs of shoes online with the 30% off sale items discount, but this was 30% off the new, full-priced items! This season's offerings were proving to be very hard to resist with the elegant new Phoebe handbag collection and Huarache open-toed pumps. I had also been seriously craving the new cobra embossed wedge thong for summer. Must not buy! Must be good!

Day 25:
Tried my new magic potion sample from Clinique. Surprisingly, the results turned out to be just as amazing as the day before. I was so happy with my glowing face and proud of myself for applying it properly with the foundation brushed using the technique that the consultant had shown me yesterday, I almost forgot about the shopping I wasn't doing.

Naturally, the feeling of contentment didn't last long. Got an email from a friend who finally wanted to take me up on a shopping trip. I had contacted her previously about taking her shopping to help her revamp her wardrobe, now that she was getting married and approaching the big 3-oh in a year (ah, the young and carefree...). She offered to meet this weekend and go to J.Crew (at my suggestion). Debated on whether or not to risk it but decided that, if I shopped vicariously through her, it wouldn't count against me -- would it?

Calculated how much I still owed after having made a solid dent with yesterday's payment. The problem is, I've been making sold dents each month, but I keep rebuilding the debts shortly after I pay them.

Wondered if that ingenius trick from the Confessions of a Shopaholic movie would work: freeze my credits cards to keep them out of easy reach. Actually went to dunk them in a bowl of water and stick them in the freezer, but then had second thoughts. What if I needed to use my J.Crew card when I took my friend shopping this weekend? What if I needed an emergency beauty product at Macy's?

Tried to remember if I had offered to actually buy clothes for my friend or just help her shop. Made a mental note to see if my hubby (who was conveniently old friends with this friend and hence my connection to her) would pony up some cash instead. Also made a note to write down my Macy's card number on a Post-It note just in case I had to make an unexpected run to the cosmetic counter. Then recalled that my card was expiring at the end of the month anyway and the new card that I had received a month ago was still sitting in my room waiting to be activated. Debated on whether or not to freeze that card too, in case temptation overcame me. Decided against it.

Checked the daily blogs. Oh no! Another 20% off discount at J.Crew, this time on final sale items! It was hard enough to refrain from buying any of the new full-priced spring items at 20% off last week, but I didn't know if I had it in me to resist 20% off already low sale items that have been sitting in my cart for weeks. Re-opened the J.Crew window in my browser after vowing to keep it closed for as long as possible. Took inventory of the 12 items currently in my cart. Seriously considered atl least 3 of them that I had been watching for the past couple of months. Another huge decision to make....

Obsessed and obsessed and obsessed over it all day. Couldn't get two particular sweaters out of my mind. Pictured myself in them constantly. Planned all the ways to incorporate them into my wardrobe. It was driving me insane. I know that I shouldn't be spending any money period. But I felt like it was going to eat me alive if I obsessed any more.

Resolved to just get one sweater, stop obsessing, empty my cart, and close the J.Crew browser window for the rest of the week (or as long as absolutely possible). The $80 was worth that peace of mind, and I hoped it would give me the resolute determination I badly needed to stay away for the rest of the month.

Day 26:
When I was growing up, my parents bought Murphy's Law calendars and related paraphernalia year after year. Not because we were Irish (at least not by birth, though we were for some inexplicable reason "adopted" by numerous Irish families throughout my childhood and early adult years). Largely, Murphy's Law was well-suited to our household because it was agreeable to my parents' wry sense of humor and belief in a divine figure with an even bigger sense of humor. The witty platitudes and free-flowing alcohol helped both go down more easily. I should point out that neither Drs. Spock nor Suess figured prominently in my upbringing.

Feely mildly sarcastic, I formulated my own Murphy's Laws:

1. The best discounts come to those who don't need them.
2. The less time or inclination one has to shop, the better the discounts will be.
3. Coupons either come all at once or none at all.
Corollary: When you're praying for one to come, it won't come. When you are sick to death of them, they won't stop coming.
4. When you've got money to spend and an eagerness to buy something good, nothing will be available in your size or color.
Corollary: When you're desperately trying not to shop and praying that nothing good will jump out at you, everything you've ever wanted is available not only in your size and color, but also at a can't-miss price.

Such was my mood as I stared back at the beaming models on the J.Crew site that beckoned me to throw caution to the wind and "Just Do It." That is, just buy something already and stop being tormented by indecision.

I sought temporary relief from my shopping itch, along with a side of wisdon. Googling "help for compulsive shoppers," I came across several good discussions from various sources. I stumbled upon this simple, easy-to-follow advice from University Credit Union in an article entitled Tough Times Series: It Was Such a Bargain: Help for Compulsive Shoppers:

"Studies show that females still make the majority of family purchases, and that shopping is considered a socially accepted female practice--you know, "retail therapy."

Women who are compulsive shoppers generally purchase clothes, shoes, and kitchen items. The small percentage of men who compulsively shop tend to splurge on computers, electronics, power tools, and even investments. (Male spenders more often tend to be compulsive gamblers.)

... "Money is not the issue and income level is not the issue," [Dr. Donald] Black [a psychiatrist and a professor of psychiatry at the University of Iowa, Iowa City] says. "I've had poor patients with no money who go to garage sales and hardly spend anything. Their finances aren't impacted, but they're spending every free minute doing this."

On the other hand, someone could be a multimillionaire and have plenty of money to spend. This person isn't getting into trouble financially, but maybe she's spending so much time shopping that she's ignoring her children. The behavior will not always lead to a financial problem--it depends on the individual.

Ann, an upper middle-class housewife, spent numerous hours frequenting second-hand stores checking "if anything new had come in." She was constantly looking for that special item that would make a set complete or that she thought would add to her wardrobe or décor.

After years of accumulation, Ann's house was cluttered with her "bargain" purchases. Rented storage units were so packed that, when she needed an item, she couldn't find it. Garments with tags still on them lined her several closets.

Because Ann shopped at thrift stores and only purchased "sale" items at other stores, she thought that justified her spending. But bargain shopping added up fast--so fast that Ann soon was rushing home to get the mail before her husband could so he wouldn't see her credit card statements."

Here is how the article recommends preventing "Shopping Binges":

- Pay for purchases by cash, check, or debit card.
- Make a shopping list and only buy what's on it.
- Put financial goals in writing so you have something to "save" for.
- Get rid of department store credit cards; carry one major credit card for emergencies.
- Record every dollar you spend and your feelings about each purchase.
- Avoid discount warehouses; allocate a certain amount of cash to spend if you do shop at one.
- Avoid catalog ordering and watching TV shopping channels; throw out mail-order catalogs immediately after you receive them. If you must order through the mail, send a check instead of using a credit card where it's easy to overspend. Mark the purchases you're interested in and wait a few days before actually ordering to see if you really still want that item.
- Take a walk or exercise when the urge to shop comes on.
- Find a money mentor; look for a friend or colleague who spends and saves wisely and ask for advice.
- If you feel out of control, you probably are. Seek counseling or a support group.

This made a whole lot of sense to me. I mulled over those thoughts that day as I pondered how to get back on the wagon again, and this time, stay there for good.

But first, please, please, please just let me buy that one last sweater....?

Day 27:
Never heard back from the volunteer group. Never received a follow-up response from Spenders Anonymous. Saw that I was tentatively scheduled to attend tonight's Debtor's Anonymous meeting when I checked my Outlook calendar and recalled a prior engagement for the evening -- a bon voyage happy hour for a friend who was taking a distant journey. Oh well, I mused. Better luck next week.

Couldn't get the stupid J.Crew sweater out of my head. Yes, it's a piece of woven cashmere, but it was proving to be of utmost importance to my sanity at this point. It wasn't just any old sweater: it was my all-time favorite cardigan in my all-time favorite color in my size (and in the shrunken fit I preferred). Checked my J.Crew cart and saw that, wonder of wonders, it was still sitting in my cart after 12 days. Other final sale items had long exited my cart, but this sweater remained, despite being marked down to a perfectly acceptable price. Surely this was a sign. I simply couldn't rationalize why getting my favorite sweater -- that I was planning to buy since it came out -- at an additional 20% final sale price was a bad idea.

Telepathically, J.Crew reached out to me by telephone. I received a call from my store letting me know that a jacket I had dropped off a while back for alterations was ready to pick up. I told them I'd be in that day to pick it up.

Meanwhile, I waited and waited all day for the FedEx truck to drop off my Cole Haan shoes that I had ordered four days ago. Formulated another Murphy's Law:

5. An impatiently awaited delivery will arrive at the very last possible moment of the day.
Corollary: The one day of the month your spouse goes into work a tad late or takes the afternoon off, the package will arrive promptly when he opens the front door.

Hadn't heard back yet from my friend who had contacted me three days ago about going shopping. Called and left a message asking her if she wanted to go this weekend so I could pick up my jacket.

Didn't hear back from anyone else I was waiting to hear back from either, and I needed to get going so I could get my errands done and still make this evening's social engagement. Also remembered that I needed a manicure. Decided to swing by the mall to get my nails done and to pick up my jacket. Then, I would head over to the party.

I was on the way out the door when my friend called me back about shopping. She said this weekend worked for her, so we agreed to meet the next day. Decided to postpone my J.Crew visit until tomorrow. I was slightly relieved that I wouldn't have to go to the mall alone today.

Then, as I again set out for errands and a manicure, the blasted Cole Haan package arrived. Naturally, my husband was now home and expecting his own FedEx package of books that he had ordered. So when he announced excitedly that the FedEx truck was outside and ran out to collect his books, I darted out behind him and rushed to meet the delivery man. He appeared to be carrying two packages: a large box and a small, slim box, which looked like it contained books. My hubby guessed right away that something was amiss.

"That's an awfully large box... I don't remember ordering that many books," he accused. He pushed me back inside while he signed for the packages -- I mean package. It appeared that his books didn't arrive, so the other slim box must have been for a neighbor. However, he lost no time in tearing open my box and inspecting the contents.

"Shoes?" he exclaimed. "You are very, very, very bad!" he continued with disgust dripping in his voice. He examined all three boxes before deciding that neither the shoes nor I were worth any more of his time today.

I had no excuse whatsoever to offer up except that I needed comfortable shoes so we could start taking walks again. That, and I told him they were really cheap with my discount. He didn't look like he cared, and frankly, I didn't blame him.

I proceeded to try on each pair, praying all the while that they would be either ugly or ill-fitting. Well, at least 2 out of 3 didn't fit (and one of those wasn't that pretty). I can't recall a time when I felt more elated that shoes didn't fit me. As I wrapped up and re-boxed the unwanted pairs, I felt highly relieved that I was returning the 2 pricier pairs and that the 3rd pair I was keeping was not only exceptionally practical but relatively inexpensive at $66 (especially for Cole Haan Nike Air). I committed myself to restarting my daily walking regimen with my new superfly sporty wedge sneakers. And I felt that I had (at least temporarily) gotten shoe shopping out of my system.

But that bloody J.Crew sweater kept re-appearing in front of my eyes. What the hell, I conceded. I'm just going to put myself out of my misery. Bit the bullet and ordered it. At least now I could hope to enjoy a peaceful weekend with family and friends without being assaulted by the persistent nag of remorse at having missed the sweater. Vowed to remove everything else from my J.Crew cart and re-close the browser window. Also forced myself to close eBay, which had *mysteriously* re-opened following my ill-fated searches for various J.Crew items.

Enjoyed a convivial evening with a group of social girls. Bid a proper bon voyage to the would-be traveler and enjoyed some yummy appetizers with a couple of glasses of wine. As this was a well-dressed and shopping-friendly gang, the repartee briefly turned to our latest adventures. I tried to listen to others' tales for a change instead of dominating the conversation with my own shopping exploits. It felt good. The wine also felt quite good and had the added effect of making me feel confident and happy. By the time I got home, the urge to shop had faded and I was able to spend the remainder of the evening in quiet bliss in front of the TV with my hubby without constantly wondering if I should check the sales.

Day 28:
We met some friends for a fun day of beer-making at Shenandoah Brewing Company. I had never tried it before, but at the invitation of my friend and her boyfriend, we met them and several of their friends for this interesting experience. While I considered myself more of a wine connoisseur and frequented many wineries and wine-tastings, I did enjoy a good beer now and then, particularly with certain cold-weather foods to which I now gravitated again during our "cool" spell.

I have to say, it was more fun that a barrel of, well, beer! The process of selecting the exact recipe, compiling and measuring all the ingredients, starting the brew, and mixing it took about 3 hours. During the lulls, the eight of us played cards while downing endless pitchers of various freshly brewed blends plus all the soft pretzels and chili dogs we could hold. It was also fun to make new friends, whom we'll see in another four weeks when we return to bottle our custom beer. Everyone was so down-to-earth and the employees were swell. They even had toys and a play area for kids.

Note to single gals: if ever there was a place to pick up red-blooded and only mildly intoxicated men without wheezing through walls of smoke or enduring cheesy pick-up lines, this is definitely it! Although my crowd consisted primarily of couples, there were plenty of all-guy groups that looked friendly and ready to mingle. With plenty of downtime during the brewing process, this place is much less noisy than a bar for carrying on a conversation -- and much cleaner to boot.

Later, I took my friend shopping at J.Crew. Had to remind myself several times that we were going to shop for her, not for me. And, my DH was kind enough to offer up some cash to help me buy her an outfit on the grounds that 1) I didn't buy anything for myself, and 2) I didn't put anything else on my J.Crew credit card. I accepted it since he was an old friend of the girl's, and it was he who came up with the idea of taking her shopping in the first place.

We had am amazing shopping experience! Though it wasn't an easy few hours -- mostly spent running in and out of the J.Crew dressing room grabbing handfuls of possibilities for my friend to try on -- it was well worth it. The process was wrought with strong emotions and deep insecurities, much like an episode of What Not To Wear. Truly, every single girl on the planet believes that clothes just aren't made for her body type and that no pants exist that could flatter her figure. In addition, it often takes no small amount of cajoling and bargaining to get people to try on cuts and colors that they would never otherwise consider. The efforts of Susan, the J.Crew personal shopper, cannot be overstated. Her patience and good eye helped us to finally amass a worthwhile collection and, together, we put together a few key ensembles. The transformation was dramatic: frumpy free-spirit to fabulous femme fatale.

My friend was grateful for the help and confident in her new outfits. I kept my fingers crossed that her self-image would soar dramatically as a result, and also that the effort would continue into the future.

There was another big accomplishment that day: I didn't buy anything. Now one single thing. And this is my favorite store we're talking about! Part of the success was due to my steadfast determination to focus on someone other than myself. The other credit goes in no small part to the store associates who persisted in preventing me from buying anything, having read my blog. Can you believe it? J.Crew is now looking out for my spending habits! At least since it will likely affect how much I am able to buy at the big private shopping event in one week.

I felt so good when I came hope late that evening. Tired, but good. My hubby was proud of me too, and made me report the play-by-play of the shopping experience. The feeling of doing good and being good was a strong motivation for me. I realized that, if I believed that I could be good, I would continue to be good. I also looked with renewed hope toward the big day when I would be allowed to shop. I somehow felt more powerful knowing that, when I have something to look forward to, I will savor it more. And I had every intention of going back to that store in one week with a set amount of cash and a definite budget so I would not go overboard (or use my J.Crew card).

Though the previous two weeks were full of ups and downs, I felt strong as I prepared to enter the final week of my shopping fast...