Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


Why I Stalked a Shopper in Hannaford

old-womanwigIt’s near impossible for a writer to go out in public without imagining characters for their next novels.

Once, while waiting at a bank’s drive-up window, I wondered about my teller’s hair–which was really a bad wig. Why would she pick a style from the ’60s? Was she threatened by the aging process? Or had she spurned the whims of fashion?

The drawer slid open with my receipt. I reached over my half-opened, stuck-off-its track window to retrieve it. My arm wasn’t long enough. While I tried not to stare at the woman, character names for her ran through my head: Paula? Nancy? Frances? 

I soon realized I’d have to open my door and half-step out to get my hand inside the drawer. I had one foot in and one foot out. Unfortunately the car was in drive, and the foot that was in was not on the brake.

I grabbed the receipt and hopped alongside my rolling car to the end of building. It came to a stop after it withdrew the bank’s downspout.

 All because of that woman’s hair.

Recently, I was developing a female character. It was important for this character to be recognized by her perfume, which meant researching fragrances. I tested a multitude of brands in department stores. All I came away with was a bunch of stinky samples and a whopping headache.

None of them were right for my character. I needed to simplify my method. I would sniff it out in a more natural habitat.

It worked. I was standing at the deli counter in Hannaford when I smelled the perfect scent: Clementine and cactus flower, bergamot, Hawaiian tuberose, spring honeysuckle, frangipani, musk, exotic woods, and nectarine. [Research, people research!]

I looked around and tried to figure out which woman owned it. The one in the Nike jogging suit? The lady with the kerchief and polyester pants? The one in the beige top and funky straw hat who looked a lot like Minnie Driver?

Minnie DriverI wove my cart in and around them, sniffing as subtly as I could, pretending to check out cheese. I quickly eliminated the kerchiefed woman, who smelled more like salami than the salami she was buying. I tucked her away for another day.

I tailed the other two women until I reached a fork between two aisles. It called for a quick decision. I chose the Minnie lookalike. I tried to get as near to her as I could without drawing attention to myself. I dropped a few items in my cart to throw her off. Each time I got close, I sniffed, surer than ever I was on the right scent.

Even when she skipped aisles and pushed her cart faster, I kept up. I had to have the name of that perfume!

At one point, she gave me a weird look. I wasn’t sure if I’d blown my cover or if she’d looked in my cart. I’d been in the store for forty-five minutes and all I had to show for it was a jar of Gerber strained peas, a box of matches, and a toilet plunger.

Before she called security, I gave up the hunt. I retraced my steps and found the makings for dinner. Rather despondent, I checked out.  All my research had been for nought.

Pushing my cart through the lot, I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Loading groceries into the car parked right next to mine was my perfumed lady!

I sprinted toward her, then slowed to a stroll, blocking her only way of escape. I said, “Excuse me, you may have noticed me in the grocery store?”

“Ye-es.” She quickened her pace and scanned the area.

Before I could finish my explanation, she gave up the name of her perfume and took off faster than I could say Tommy Bahama.

Nice woman. Haven’t seen her since.

TB Perfume


Because of Christ, we give off a sweet scent rising to God, which is recognized by those on the way of salvation—an aroma redolent with life. ~ 2 Corinthians 2:15 (MSG)



Ten Favorite Home Decor Stores and Why I Like Them

If you’ve read any of my profile, you know that I love home decorating projects–whether doing one of my own or working on someone else’s.  Here are a few of the places, in alphabetical order,  I can count on to find what I need!


CTS Matelasse BeddingChristmas Tree Shops:  The first Christmas Tree Shop was located on Cape Cod where I lived up until my recent move to New Hampshire. It was one of my first stops on my home decorating buying sprees. But you have to go often, because their merchandize is always changing. And it can change from store to store and from town to town. When they were bought out by Bed, Bath & Beyond in 2003, I noticed an increase in the quality of the CTS’s home décor and bed and bath linens.  I recently found a king-sized, cream-colored mattelasse bedspread I’d been searching for in stores and online. The cost: $39.99.

HGTV Home Furniture:   If you’re a fan of HGTV home design shows, then you’ll enjoy seeing their new brand of furniture and household furnishings–the same ones their designers use. The site tells you where you can find their brands locally so you can check things out in person.

Hobby Lobby:   Yes, if you’re a crafter or hobbyist, this is the place for you. But I was excited to see so many home décor items, including pottery, pictures frames, mirrors, small pieces of furniture, outdoor goods, and quirky items in this store—items that required no work and no assembly. Good for me!

HomeGoodsHomeGoods:   This is another place I love to poke around in even when I’m not actually working on a project. I usually check TJMaxx, too, which is their sister store. My most recent finds were the perfect ottoman for the end of our bed, a small chest of drawers for my office, and some lined curtain panels the right shade of grape for my bedroom–only $18.00 per pair!

Kohl’s:   This is my go-to store for kitchen and bath area rugs, bath linens, and kitchen ware. They have some great sales, too. The other day I was getting ready to order a picture frame online from Kohl’s for $49.99, but I was psyched when I saw the same frame in the store for $22.90!

Pier 1:  Okay, I admit it, I like their commercials, especially when that colorful sock monkey sings! Even though they have a good selection of dinnerware, art, glassware, and candle holders, I often imagine the perfect customer for this store is a single woman. It’s a good research place for writers, too.


kohls rugGrandinroad: This is my new favorite catalogue! I love the fresh colors and fun patterns in their area rugs, pillows, ottomans, and painted furniture Even their leather side chairs come in ten colors! This catalogue makes me want to start decorating my home all over again. But don’t tell my husband.

Home Decorators:  This company is similar to Grandinroad. While Grandinroad might be a little more eclectic, their style is more classic. Cool side tables, buffets, and trunks.

LampsPlus: After looking in box stores, local furniture and lighting stores, and major department stores, I found the perfect hanging light for over my dining room table at LampsPlus. It’s a Kathy Ireland design. When I first got this catalogue, I said, “So this is where those TV designers get their light fixtures.”  This is a cool website and so easy to navigate. They’ve got a great search engine; I’ve used it tons to find just the right style, size, material, and shade of area rug.  Shipping is either free or $2.99– no matter what you buy. Returns are easy, too.Lamps Plus

The next time you’re out and about, stop in one of these places and get inspired! Don’t forget to bring your paint swatches, measuring tape, fabric samples, and list of your room and window measurements.

Or find your find online!

Tip: Find out the store’s return policy, keep your receipts, and plan on returns. You never know how it will work until you get it home. For example, I bought an ottoman I liked at HomeGoods, but found one I liked even better in another HomeGoods.