Hi, My name is Lucie and I’m a Shop-a-holic

At least that’s what my husband calls me, but I prefer the term, savvy shopper.

My shopping skills were honed early on in the malls of suburbia, where my mother (a hard working farmer’s hard working wife) faced with having to get her 5 daughters ready for “back to school” would hand us 3 older kids $100 apiece (worth much more in 1981 dollars!) and tell us to get ourselves some back-to-school outfits. Flush with cash and the heady responsibility of choosing our own outfits for the status-setting super important first day of school, my sisters and I would comb the mall for hours, scouring all the stores for the must-have trends and the best bargains. Each sale and promotion was scrutinized and once our research was complete, we would conduct our analysis over Orange Julius drinks in the food fair, carefully considering the versatility of each item before one dollar could be wrested from our sweaty and excited hands. My sisters and I were the original Shopping Bags, debating the pros (status, sex appeal) and cons (cost) of French Jeans vs. Rainbow Jeans, Ralph Lauren Polo shirts vs. Daniel Hechter.

It was around then when I had my first sale-induced hot flash – you know the feeling, stumbling upon a deeply discounted item in your size and favourite color, in perfect condition, marked ridiculously low because it was the very last one in stock. Never mind the fact that is was a halter top and it was the beginning of September, you just can’t ignore good karma like that! One year, my sister discovered white leather Stan Smiths on sale for the ridiculously low price of $19.99 in our size! “Just imagine the possibilities,” I screamed, but she hesitated, unbelieving this incredible deal. So then I threw down the gauntlet saying, “If you don’t buy them, I will.” She quickly bought the shoes. Back at home, while she was lacing up her prized sneakers, we discovered that the left shoe had 6 sets of holes for the laces and the right shoe had 7! We briefly considered taking the shoes back, but 1) after the day shopping with her 5 daughters, our mother didn’t want to step foot in the mall again until 1984, and 2) we figured that if it took us that long to discover the mismatch, no one else would either.

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Now that I’m a bit more flush with cash (thank you Poker tournament!) I have been hunting for a pair of the famed red-soled Christian Louboutins. These shoes cost $595US and hurt like a bitch, but I don’t care, I want them anyways! PLUS as my feet have stopped growing, I was pretty sure I could get the cost per wear down to something more reasonable over the rest of my lifetime. But I’ve been wrestling with my desire, as I still hate paying full retail and they simply do not go on sale. One sunny day, I tucked my savvy shopper tail between my legs and headed for Holt Renfrew’ shoe department. Unfortunately for me, the sales person either didn’t like me or didn’t believe I was the type to part with that much money for a pair of shoes (in her defense, she would have been right on a normal day) and gave me such lazy service that I decided to walk away from the shoes, validating her point, but saving my savvy shopper ego.

That was about a month ago. Since then, I’ve been spending my poker winnings in dribs and drabs – $200 on sweaters at Club Monaco (I know, I know Spring is around the corner, but they were on sale and I’m cold NOW!), $250 on a neon-yellow puffy ski jacket (ditto), $99 on a pair of cool cargo ski pants (really cheap) and assorted other things, leaving me with just enough poker money STILL to buy the Louboutins.

That was before I went shopping along Vancouver’s famed South Granville area. Well actually, I was returning some bathmats to Restoration Hardware, but I digress. I popped into Ashia Mode since I had a few minutes left on my meter. Ashia Mode is a super swish ladies store where I once bought a Lida Baday ball gown for 50% off! I’ve only worn it once and now hemlines have changed, so this was not one of my more stellar purchases, but I thought their winter sale deserved a quick peruse.

And there, looking forlorn in the 70% off and more section, were these babies.

So cute! Last pair. My size. Leather soles. So comfy. And look at them on!

And the piece de la resistance?

Moschino Cheap and Chic for 90% off!! Yes, I am a savvy shopper! And Mr. Louboutin, I’m still searching for you!

Love Lucie

My Poker Face

I know I’m not alone when I say my husband plays Poker with the Guys, and he has done so (sporadically) for as long as I’ve known him. He leaves the house with a wallet full of twenties and more often than not, returns quietly late in the night, slipping sheepishly into bed. If his adrenaline wakes me, he does not (usually) rain dollar bills down on my body, but rather talks about an inevitable bad beat, like when his Nut Flush got beaten by an unforeseeable Full House.

About 3 years ago, he was invited to join a regular monthly poker tournament. He would win sometimes, he would lose more often, but always seems to have a good time. And I didn’t really mind being left with our 3 little kids, as they do fall asleep eventually, leaving me to drool freely over McDreamy and McSteamy on Grey’s Anatomy.

Till one night, he came home early and empty handed, ranting about how he couldn’t possibly play as he was placed at a table full of women, who made it impossible for him to think, distracting him with their inane talk of deals on sheets at HomeSense.
“Women?” I asked, my radar blinking, “I thought this was a boys night?”
“Noooo,” he admitted sheepishly, but quickly added, “and you’re welcome to come with me next time.”
“No,” I demurred, “I don’t know how to play poker and I hate to lose money.”
“It’s only $40 bucks, cheaper than taking you out for dinner,” he reasoned, ever the romantic. “Come along with me next time.”

Hmmm, wrestle 3 kids into bed or put makeup on and be social? And I had to check out these women he was hanging out with, just to be sure.

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No Limit Texas Hold-Em, they say, takes 5 minutes to learn to play and a lifetime to master. And after 3 hands, I was hooked. It’s a strategic cat and mouse game, ridiculously easy to play, but knowing when to bet and when to fold, how much and how aggressively takes hours of subtle observation and focus.

There are more than 40 of us in this poker group, professionals in finance, law, and homemaking, who vie for the 20 tournament spots each month. It is run by a very organized Commissioner (The Commish) who sends out the invitations, organizes houses to host the tournament, runs spreadsheets tracking attendance and winnings, awards cash prizes and points for the top 6 finishers each tournament. The points are tallied up over the year and the top 9 finishers (and 1 wildcard) qualify for the Tournament of Champions (TOC), with a total prize pool of more than $2,000 (siphoned off the monthly tournaments). Like I said, very, very organized.

In my freshman year, I won a tournament once, I think primarily due to the fact that I was new to the group, and no one knew my playing style. I was ecstatic, and bought something (I’ve forgotten what) with my $200 of winnings. Not bad for 5 hours of work, I say, and much more fun! The 10 points awarded for a first place finish, also qualified me for the annual Tournament of Champions. At the TOC, I was such a pile of nerves, you would have thought it was the World Series of Poker. I was shown the door relatively early, finishing 7th, well out of the money, but quite relieved I wasn’t the first to do the Walk of Shame.

In my sophomore year, I didn’t make the cut (though my husband did) and I went out with the girls while my husband waged battle with the Poker gods of luck and lost.

This year, my husband and I are tied at the top of the points race, which means we get to start with the largest chip stacks, a huge advantage for those who know how to wield them. The 2010 Tournament of Champions is this Friday, with pride and money at stake. My husband is practicing online, analyzing playing styles (loose v. tight, bluffer or not), and developing strategies on how to play them.

As for me, I’m working on my poker face. I think poker is 90% luck of the cards and 10% skill (which includes betting and crafting a good poker face). Since I can’t calculate pot odds to save my life, I’m counting on two glasses of pinot grigio and my lucky bracelet my 5 year old made me to make me the last person standing.

Mama needs a new pair of shoes! And if I win, I promise they’ll be Louboutins!
Wish me luck!
Love Lucie