Tag Archives: shopping

Shopping at the New Jersey Clothing Factories Led to a Life of Power Shopping

26 May

My sister and I can be power shoppers. We can go to a sales rack in most stores and find something wonderful. Others are sometimes amazed by our accurate determination of what would look good even when it is on the hanger. It is a talent we inherited from our Mom, the queen of power shoppers.

When we grew up in New Jersey, there were no true outlet stores or factory outlet stores to be exact. But there were major clothing factories nearby. And as a perk to New Jersey teachers, several times each year, the teachers were presented special cards that allowed them to shop in the factory stores. These stores were usually reserved for employees and were filled with items that were not quite perfect.

For my sister and I, it was like magic shopping at the factories with our Mom. Our two favorites were Trousers Up and Evan Picone.

These expeditions were a women event only. Dad and my brother would stay home. My sister, Mom and I would venture out on our journey to the New Jersey highway system. This was a major event. My Mom hated to drive on the highway. Due to a childhood accident, she was blind in one eye. So to take us out to the factories was a big deal. And we knew it. We were instructed to help find the right streets.

We would spend hours out there going from one factory to another and stocking up on clothes. I loved when we returned home and told our Dad how much money we saved him. His response was always the same, “I don’t care how much you three saved. I want to know how much you spent!” We never told him that number, we gave that responsibility to Mom.

My all time favorite memory was shopping for my trousseau. My Mom was a traditionalist. I was getting married and I needed to have new clothes for my honeymoon and my life. I especially needed a special outfit to wear to travel the morning after I married.

My sister, mom and I were on a mission that day. And it was a day I will never forget. I can still see some of the clothing that was purchased even today, over 35 years later. I remember the dusty blue short overalls from Trousers Up. And I remember the electric blue and white striped top with blue skirt my Mom purchased for me to wear on the plane. It was a knit Evan Picone outfit.

To be honest I kept it for years, until my daughter forced me to clean the closets one day. She informed me that I would never fit into that outfit again, and someone else could wear it. She had no emotional attachment to it, but I did. However, she was right. So about 5 years ago, I finally parted with my honeymoon ensemble.

By the time my sister married, five years later, the factory shopping expeditions were no longer available. Factory outlets were opened to shopping for everyone. And my sister had a favorite outlet, Harve Bernard. I owned two suits by this wonderful company, but my sister could live in this outlet. (My daughter made me get rid of these suits as well. They also hung in my closet for many years.)

Do you like these jackets?

Do you like these jackets?

I can still hear my Mom telling us to try something on. “Try it on,” she would say, as we shook our head looking at an item on the hanger. “You don’t know what it will look like until you put it on. You never know. It might look wonderful!”

And often it did. We learned to always try it on. A sentiment we taught to our daughters.

Why is it that some of the most important experiences between a mother and daughter and even granddaughter occur while shopping? I think because so many lessons are shared during these moments:

Always treat people with respect in the dressing room and at in the store.

Hang up your clothes after you try them on. (Cleaning as you go along makes the chore easier.)

Encourage the people you are with, but be honest on how they look.

Don’t buy something you will never wear, (do not waste money).

Never buy shoes that hurt, if your feet hurt your whole body hurts.

I loved shopping with my Mom. And in later years, I loved shopping with my daughter. And the best times were shopping with my Mom, my sister, and our two girls as well as our niece. We had many shopping bonding times. During our times shopping, we passed along our important lessons.

It's a mother's job to hold the purchases.

It’s a mother’s job to hold the purchases.

But the love of shopping is not just important on my side of the family. My sister in law and I, along with our daughters, also had wonderful times on girl weekends.   My daughter and I would drive to St. Louis to be with my sister in law and niece. We would have a great time shopping, going out to eat and visiting. Even though my daughter could not be there, I went to St. Louis to go bridal gown shopping with them. My niece now has her own daughter. I look forward to shopping with her one day as well!

For a while my cousin’s daughter was in college at Washington University in St. Louis. Of course we would pick her up for a dining and shopping treat.

And it is a treat. Sometimes we do not even buy anything. We just browse. We try on. We examine the newest styles. We guess the prices on expensive looking items. My young cousin likes shoes and boots. So we would always tried to browse through a shoe store. With all of these women I have shared laughter and joy as we shopped.

As well as excitement when we find a special treasure: a dress or shoes we were not expecting to find, but there they were calling one of our names; a bargain that cannot be passed by. These bring out the ‘power’ shopper in us.

Take me to a sales rack in any store and I will have a wonderful time. I do not care if I do not find anything for me. My sister just told me about a power shopping she had with her sister in law, who needed a certain color brown slacks. My sister led her to the sales rack in Bloomingdales. And there among the many items were the perfect pants, on sale and special sale and then 40 percent off!

What more could a shopper desire?

My daughter is now engaged. As we plan the wedding, we have discussed the wedding gown shopping experience. She wants her aunts and cousins to come with us if they can. Who better to tell her the truth and share the joy? The most glorious of shopping experiences!

Shopping at the factory outlets on the New Jersey highways brought my sister, Mom and I laughter and fun. But it also led us to a life of power shopping and a lifetime of memories with our daughters, sisters, sisters-in-law and nieces, along with many moments of joy.

The Catskills’ Peddlers Brought Wares and Excitement

14 Dec

In the 1950s and 60s, when I was a child, weekdays in the bungalow colony were fun, but somewhat routine. Yes we played, we swam, we fished. We enjoyed being outside. But we were basically confined to an area whose boundaries were determined by how far we could walk.

In those days, most families only had one car, and that car was with the Dad, who had driven back to the City for the week. So during the week, we stayed put.

We were unable to go far to shop, and definitely could not carry too much back with us. A walk into town, Kauneonga Lake, to Vassmers, Newman’s or Sylvia’s S & G were the most we could muster. We could not go out for meals, except for the Chinese restaurant that was across the street or sometimes walk into town for ice cream at Newman’s. Those were our choices, until the late 60s early 70s when my grandparents were up and we had my grandfather’s car to use during the week.

The big excitement during the week, before we had a car, was when the peddler arrived with a station wagon filled with items for sale drove up the driveway. Some peddlers specialized in one item, like purses or linens; others carried a variety of many items.

I loved the arrival of a peddler car. Everyone would stop what they were doing and walk over to the car, where the peddler had already opened up the truck and started spreading things out: clothing, and linens, toys and dolls. It was a wonderful barrage of color and merchandise.

The moms would quickly pick through the items they needed. Sometimes we got clothing, because it seemed in the summer we were always growing, especially my brother. His jeans always seemed to shrink during the summer. But in reality he was just getting taller and taller. My Mom used to tell him that he would bankrupt the family because she had to buy so many jeans. But it was okay, I actually wore his hand me down pants then.

I remember the ‘muumuu’ dresses that the Moms wore during the week. The peddler often had a wonderful selection of these brightly colored, easy to wear dresses. My Mom got one that she loved. It had a multi-colored stripe like pattern. And along the edge was a white fringe. Once she got a ‘muumuu’ that she stopped wearing very soon after purchasing. It made her look pregnant. And with three small children, she definitely did not want that mistake to be made.

I still remember the day when we were shopping and someone she knew asked if she was expecting. I thought my Mom would collapse in the store. When we got home, she immediately changed. I never saw her wear that dress again.

My favorite memory concerns a doll. My Mom and Grandma promised me a new doll. I do not remember why. I must have either been very well behaved that week, or my brother destroyed my doll. In any case, I saw this lovely nurse doll. She had a beautiful white uniform, with warm brown skin. I loved her.

My Mom, my Grandmas and the peddler tried to talk me out of wanting that particular doll. But I would not back down. I loved the warm color of the doll. I wanted only that doll. And a promise is a promise. So they purchased the nurse doll for me. It was not until years later that I was told the doll was African American. At that age, to me, a doll was a doll.

Getting fresh food was also an important issue. I vaguely remember that we had milk and cheese delivered directly to the colony. But fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs were another story. Everyone helped each other. There was always at least one dad up during the week. And when he and his wife went shopping, they often had small orders from many families.

We also had trips to farms where we would go out into the fields and pick the fresh tomatoes, corn, string beans, peas and other vegetables. You paid by the weight. I loved to go. There was one up on Hurd Road and even further up on West Shore Road. There was also food sold at farm stands. One in White Lake on 17B was great for fresh corn and other vegetables. It was my Dad’s favorite stand.

When I think of my Dad, I always think of eggs! My grandfather was a retired baker, who continued to bake. So he needed lots of eggs. The Goldstein’s had a chicken/egg farm on West Shore Road near Happy Avenue. They were good friends of my grandparents, and they sold my Grandpa eggs wholesale. My Dad was in charge of getting the dozens of eggs that Grandpa needed. Over the years, others at the bungalow colony started asking for eggs. My Dad started taking orders and buying crates of eggs filled with large trays holding two and half dozen eggs per tray. He always took one of us to go with him. It was a treat!

Shopping in the Catskills was much more fun than shopping in Jersey. A grocery store had nothing on going directly to the farm. A clothing store was fun, but not the same a rummaging through the trunk of a station wagon. I still get a thrill when I see an old fashion station wagon! The Catskills’ peddlers brought wares and excitement to the bungalow colonies!

Remember The Corner Candy Store; It Was Not Just for Candy

30 Aug

Children of today are missing out on so much fun due to parental fears and lack of neighborhood stores. But one of the most important things they are missing is the corner candy store!

From the time I was 3 until fourth grade, I lived in a three-family home on Third Avenue in North Bergen. It was great living there, but most important the owners of the house also owned the candy store on 85th Street that I passed every day one the way to and from school.

I lived on the second floor.  The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

I lived on the second floor. The owners also owned the corner candy store on 85th Street.

Every afternoon I stopped into the store with my treat money. You could get many different penny candies: candy buttons on a paper strip, licorice, sugar water in waxed bottles, candy necklaces and so much more.

These candies bring back so many good and gooey memories. The candy necklaces would get wet and slimy around your neck as you ate off pieces of candy. The button candy on the paper was difficult to eat without eating some of the paper. One of my childhood friends remembers being yelled at by her mom for eating too much paper.   Pixie Stix were a favorite. They were straws filled with flavored sugar. I delighted in eating those!! The little mini bottles of wax with the sugar water came in many colors. I liked to mush the wax into balls after drinking the water. My sister remembers eating the wax and getting into trouble for that action. She also squashed the used bottles into shapes. We had hours of fun with penny candy!

An extra special part of going to that candy store was that the owners knew us so well that often they would give us some extra candy to eat on the way home. Some times they had candy behind the counter for us: items that came in with a broken wrapper or some little flaw. My sister would stand on the step stool, an old wooden milk carton, sometimes to look over the counter to see if anything was there! We would chose our candy and the store owner would put the prices on a brown paper bag and add them up to tell us what we owed.  Then we would put the candy in little brown bags and snack on the rest of the walk home. We usually had enough to eat that we had some left even when we got home.

When I was in third grade, I started going to religious school in the afternoons after finishing Horace Mann. Before going to the synagogue, Temple Beth Abraham, for religious school, we found the candy store a very popular spot. I always would first go to the candy store for a snack and would meet many of my friends in there also getting something to eat. We always needed a snack between school and religious school!

Besides the candy, the most important part of the candy store for me was the comic books. I think every candy store had a comic book section. Each week new comic books would come out, the cost five or ten cents each. And sometimes there was a special one that cost a quarter. I loved getting the comic books. I loved browsing through them. Some of the boys loved to buy the baseball cards as well.

When we moved away from Third Avenue to 78th Street, I was desolate, partly because of the lost of the candy store. But I found out I really had no worries. Even though I did not know the owner at first, I did find another corner candy store to walk pass on my way home from school. It was on either on 77 or 76 and Broadway, if I remember correctly. It also had all the penny candy and the comic books. The only thing missing was the free candy I used to get.

But I did not totally miss out on free candy. My grandparents owned a bakery on Palisades Avenue in West New York. A few doors down from them was a corner candy store. Sometimes when I spent the weekend, my grandma would give me a dime and send me to the candy store….not for food. We had lots of candy and bakery goods at the bakery. But I could go buy a comic book. Yay Grandma! She knew I loved to read them.

There was no candy store within easy walking to our summer home in the Catskills. Oh, wait, I take that back, when I was really little there was a small store that sold candy and ice cream across from the lake on the way to town on the corner of West Shore Road and 55. It closed when I was very young. Now there is a private home where the store used to be.

But we had substitutes. We could walk into the town of Kauneonga Lake, to a small grocery store, Vassmer’s; or to the pharmacy, Newman’s. In one of those stores we could either get candy and comics, or go to the fountain at Newman’s and get ice cream or a soda. It was fun! I remember when I was a teen, I walked into Newman’s one day and there was my brother with his girlfriend having a milk shake…if I remember correctly there was one shake and two straws.

Next to the Ritz Movie Theater in White Lake was a candy store as well. Before we would go into the movie, we would go to the candy store to pick out our treats. How wonderful was that? Very wonderful!

Children today do not have the joy of going into a little corner store by themselves and choosing any little candy or comic. Now you have to drive to the supermarket or a convenience store. The neighborhood candy store seems to be gone forever. And I miss it! Going to a corner candy store every day was a part of the daily routine. And forget penny candy! I do not believe it exists anymore!

I thnk going to the corner candy store also taught us about money. There was only so much you could spend. Would it be a comic book or candy? How much did you need to save from your allowance to get exactly what you wanted? You could plan. The candy store owners knew you! They would hold back your favorite comic, knowing what you wanted to read each week. And if you did not have enough money, they would wait till you came back.

The corner candy store was a gathering place for children and adults. It was a community space, a place for neighbors to visit.  Penny candy and comics gave us so much joy.  I think that is why the corner candy store was so important in my life.

There actually is still a store there: https://www.google.com/maps/place/North+Bergen,+NJ/@40.806574,-74.007579,3a,75y,199.76h,96.03t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1s0C9V1gOMRYvBYne8nYQNwg!2e0!4m2!3m1!1s0x89c25804d4293b57:0x5efe2629bb9f9381

Shopping on the Avenue…. I don’t mean Fifth, I mean Bergenline!

10 Mar

When I grew up in New Jersey, the place to shop was Bergenline Avenue.  It was filled with shops of all types.  There was an advantage to shopping in Jersey then crossing the River (Hudson) to shop in the City (New York).  First of all, we paid no tax on clothing in Jersey, while they did in New York.  (We could have our purchases shipped home, which saved us the cost of these taxes, but then we had to wait.)  Second it was so convenient and there were so many shops!

We could go to find lingerie at Sylvette’s; boy’s and men’s clothes Al’s Army/Navy; a bit of everything at Schlesinger’s; shoes at National Family; women’s fancy clothing at Corduroy Village.  And of course, there were many places to get something to eat.

For me there was one more advantage.  My Mom knew everyone.  She had grown up in West New York, the daughter of a store owner.  And she was an elementary school teacher in the West New York schools.  So if people did know her for one reason, they knew her for the other.

My Mom’s favorite place to shop for us was Little Marcy’s.  She knew the owners well.  That is true.  But what is also true is that they had everything you could want.  It was conveniently located right on the Avenue with a bus stop right there, and we always could find parking..

The store was really several stores linked together over time.  It started on a corner and moved to the middle of the block.   When you first walked in there was the infant clothes, then you walked to your left and entered an area with toddler’s clothing; walk through another opening and children’s clothes.  Up to this point there was clothing for both girls and boys.  But once you entered the teen clothes, the emphasis changed to girls only.  There were, I think, two small dressig rooms on this floor.  Young girls do not like to change in front of others.

I loved shopping there.  And I loved it even more once I turned about 16. That is when my mom took me to the staircase in the back of the infant clothing and we walked up to the adult women’s clothing for the first time. Oh my….a world of bargains of all bargains of designer clothes.

Upstairs were two rooms of women’s clothing with the labels removed.  This is where designer clothing that were overstocks and now highly discounted were located.  In the second room was a dressing room along a back wall. It was a common room where everyone changed together.

My Mom, sister and I loved going there.  We got back to school clothes, clothing for special events.  (Although I will admit a few excursions to Corduroy Village for special events. The dress I wore to my brother’s bar mitzvah came from Corduroy Village.)

We loved to browse through the racks upon racks of clothing, searching for the just the right item.  Then bringing them back to the dressing room area.  My sister, mother and I would carry so many hangers filled with clothing.  Mom usually did not try on that much.  She got her enjoyment helping my sister and I.  But every once in a while, we could talk her in to trying something on.  Especially if we were the only three in the dressing room!

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My wedding day. My sister wearing her most wonderful dress from Little Marcy’s.

But the most important purchase of all occur in the winter of 1980.  We were in crisis mode.  I was getting married in March.  And my sister did not yet have a dress. My Mom, sister and I had gone everywhere looking for a dress for my sister to wear as the maid of honor for my wedding. We had looked in every store. And frustration and fear was rising.  Would we find something before the wedding?  Could we, would we find anything  for her to wear that went with my dress?

In our last ditch effort,  we went to the upstairs room at Little Marcy’s.  We went to the second room, where prom dresses and long dresses hung along the walls in color and size order.  And there….in her size…. a dress.  The perfect dress!  Waiting just for us!  You cannot imagine our joy and astonishment.

She tried it on.  Oh my,  it fit perfectly!  No alteration needed.  And the sleeves of the dress echoed the sleeves of my dress!  Wow!

And most amazing of all, it only cost $28.

We could not believe our luck!

Later this month, I will celebrate 34 years of marriage.  Whenever I look at the photos of my wedding.  I see my sister in this glorious dress standing next to me, and I remember the happy days shopping at Little Marcy’s and the fun on the Avenue!

Shopping at Sylvia’s In Kauneonga Lake

8 Feb

Every summer of my childhood and teen years, I spent some time in the S & G Outlet clothing store; or as my grandmother called it, the schmattah store.

Also known as Sylvia’s, this small store was an important part of Kauneonga Lake life.  Located on the hill just as you enter town and overlooking the lake, Sylvia’s carried a bit of all the types of clothing you might need during the summer and beyond.

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The town of Kauneonga Lake, looking up the hill to where Sylvia’s store used to stand.

Because it was the only clothing store in town, it had the undivided attention of all the girls and their moms. Sylvia, the owner, was a short, blonde dynamo of a woman.  She could sell anything.  And she did.

My sister, my mom, my grandmother, and I loved going to Sylvia’s.  We bought our bathing suits there each summer. We got jeans and sweaters, socks and underwear, sneakers and flip-flops, shoes and hats.  Everything you needed to survive the summer, you could get there.  It was the time before the big stores like Target and Walmart.  If you outgrew your clothes during the summer, as my brother often did, it was at Sylvia’s that he could get new jeans.

When my friend, Vicki, and I were 13, we were so excited that we were allowed to walk up to Sylvia’s by ourselves.  We both worked as mother’s helpers.  We would save our pay and then shop.  It was great. We felt in control because we shopped by ourselves.  But looking back, I realized our moms had no worries.  Sylvia did not carry anything we could not wear.  Sylvia kept an eye on us and knew both of our moms. And finally if we found something we could not afford, Sylvia would set it aside till our moms could come up to, perhaps, buy it.

We would often buy some of our back-to-school clothes at the store. One year Vicki and I got matching long, mustard gold sweater vests. We thought they were beautiful.  I remember we called each other to plan to wear them to North Bergen High School on the same day, once we were back in school in New Jersey.

The store itself was small. Just one large room with two lines of tables down the middle piled with clothing. A pathway between the tables allowed you to examine all the clothes. Under the tables were stacks of brown shoeboxes filled with sneakers, shoes, and sandals in children and adult sizes.  Extra merchandise was hidden under the tables as well.  Men and boys clothing did not take up as much room as the girls and women clothing. While along the walls were shelving and hanging items.  If you wanted to try something on, you went into the bathroom, which served as the changing room.

Behind the store was a small apartment where Sylvia lived with her son.  It had a little kitchen.  Sometimes when we went there with my grandmother, we had tea in the kitchen.  If the store was not busy, Sylvia and my grandmother would visit and have tea. We were allowed to go into the store and search, while they chatted.

My sister started working for Sylvia when she was 14. Sylvia always loved her.  She, my sister, had the most extensive vocabulary for a small child.  When she opened her mouth, you never knew how she would express something.  I believe Sylvia enjoyed this about my sister.  In any case, as soon as she was old enough to work in a store, she became Sylvia’s helper.

Once my sister started working there, we had an advantage over everyone else. Since she unpacked the boxes and put out the new merchandise, she knew when the best stuff arrived. When she came home from work, she would let us know what had been delivered.  If she really liked something, she would put it on the side.  I remember a pair of shoes, in particular, that my sister felt we both needed.  For that I had to go up and try them on.

When my sister was 14, I was 18.  My full time summers in the Catskills were coming to an end.  By the time I was 21, I was spending my work weeks in the city, and coming up only for the weekends.  I did much of my shopping at B. Altman’s in NYC, or at Little Marcy’s in West New York.

But I still shopped at Sylvia’s.  There was something special about walking up and down those aisles, checking everything out and finding the perfect treasure.

It was a sad day when Sylvia retired and no longer opened her store on the top of the hill overlooking Kauneonga Lake.

A new way to shop

23 Dec

Last week I shopped online with Lara.  We have always enjoyed shopping together.  A tradition we started when she was about 10 or 11.  Back to school shopping, holiday shopping, birthday shopping, spring shopping, several times a year we would spend the day at the mall getting clothing for both of us, and for others.

When Lara was in high school, she always volunteered for her homeroom to do the holiday shopping for the child her group adopted.  We also adopted two children for our family to buy gifts for the holidays.  Lara and I would hop in the car with the money she had from her classmates, and the lists for all the children. And we would spend the day shopping.  And yes, I did add some money to her bounty to make sure that everything her child wanted and needed was purchased.

Every shopping experience was wonderful.  Sometimes we went shopping with my sister and niece in New Jersey.  Other times we did three generations shopping extravaganzas with my Mom or my Mother-in-law.  Women time:  it is not really the shopping that made it wonderful, it is the conversations.

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Of course there were a few times when she wore me out.  When the chairs near the fitting room were a welcome relief for me and all the packages.  I saved the stores with the best chairs for last.  So that when I was tired, I knew I could have a comfortable place to analyze what Lara was trying on.

Even when she was at college, although I missed her, we always found time to shop when she got home.  And although she could not be there when I did the shopping for others, for that one shopping experience, her brother, Mike, would come along.

I miss my girl.   I miss lunch with her.  I miss discussing options for items for our house…or for me. I miss her good opinions and her company.

Although Jay and Mike try to shop with me, their idea of a good shopping expedition is 45 minutes at Costco tasting food samples and searching all the electronics.  I feel extra pity now for my friends with only boys for they have never experience the joy of shopping with a daughter. 

So with Lara so far away, I have tried to do some shopping on my own.  But I find it not fun.  I have gone shopping with two of my close friends. And that helps. We shop; we do lunch, we have a great time. 

But shopping with Lara is a special time.  Just as shopping with my Mom and sister was always special.  Our times together always ended with jokes to my Dad about how much we saved him, especially when we returned from a big sale shopping experience.  Lara and I would continue that tradition with Jay.

So two weeks ago when Lara sent me an email about some leggings she wanted me to buy for her and bring when I visit, I avoided going to the store.  Shopping in her favorite store, without her seem sad.  But then coupons arrived in the mail, and I knew I could not put it off any longer.

When I arrived, I saw that the store was having a giant pre-holiday sale.  Two of the sales women helped me…I was the only one in the store on an early Tuesday morning.  But we only could fine one pair of the leggings Lara wanted.  I tried texting her to no avail.  Yes, I can text overseas, amazing.

Then I decided to try something new:  FaceTime from my phone.  She had called me several times using this Dick Tracy like application.  So I did it.  I called with FaceTime.  And there she was!!! On my phone, able to see where I was and look at the clothes in the store.

We went shopping together.  It was so much fun. Even the sales women got into it.

“Where is she?” They asked.

“Israel!” I replied.

“Really?  You are shopping with her from Israel. That’s wonderful.”

I admit, she got more than just two pair of leggings.  And I picked a gift for my son’s girlfriend as well.

When it was time to leave, I felt a little sad.  But at the same, I wondered how my Mom survived the year I lived overseas.  No phone, no email, no internet, no Facetime.   Just letters. 

A few days later, Mike’s girlfriend turned 21.  He felt badly that he could not spend the day with her.  “She spent the entire day shopping with her Mom,” he told me despondently.

“Hey Mike,” I replied, “When Lara turned 21, I did the same thing for her birthday.  Don’t be upset. Next time you see her Mom,  say,  “Glad you two went shopping…my Mom and sister would have done the same thing.”