Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cold Comfort Charms




She made a promise to herself to keep her own well-being sacred.

~
A friend passed along that quote to me recently and I've been keeping it under my pillow ever since.  It really says so much about how we must protect our fragile souls from the things that want to steal our peace of mind these days.

So many times this month I wanted to write about my new autumn tablecloth, or tell you about a new fragrance I discovered or a place I visited.  But I held back because of the events that occurred recently, including last week's terror attack, which made me feel that writing about perfume or small domestic details seemed frivolous and silly.  The stuff of ordinary life pales in comparison to the innocent lives lost in horrendous hideous ways for no good reason at all.  And yet, I found the world only paused for a moment...and then marched on.  I even heard a newscaster sum up the week with "It was a good week", after having reported on the NYC attack in detail for two days straight.  "Breaking News" becomes "Old News" as quickly as a coin toss.  I don't get it.

Maybe we are numbed by it to a degree - so many random attacks and yet we are still required to go to work and the Christmas ads still have to roll out on television.  I worry about my upcoming visit to NYC to see the Downton Abbey exhibit but if I don't go then I hear that oft-said refrain over and over, "Then they win".  But carrying on is difficult and I'm more worried than ever about my nephew who lives in Brooklyn and I want to know where everybody is at every single moment.  So I decided that instead of writing about my lovely linen tablecloth, I would write about the things I do that soothe me and take the edge off when I feel unnerved.  But naturally, most of my cold comfort charms do include domesticity, beauty...and of course, perfume.

On the Homefront (it is a war out there)

Keeping my house warm at night is always a comfort.  Boosting the thermostat slightly above where I have it typically set, helps me feel safe by reminding me that I am warm inside despite the cold world we live in.  I will pay the extra expense...it's worth it.

Lighting - being a single mom all my adult life, I learned to be electrically frugal due to necessity.  But having my lights on, not just in the corner where I am perched, gives me a feeling of comfort.  It may be dark outside, but inside it is bright and warm.  I can look down the hall from my bedroom and see the small bathroom light glowing and another one in the hall too.  Ditto, the expense.

Music

I have always enjoyed background music while I am home but now I eschew anything that isn't lilting and soothing.  This often means more Mozart, Vivaldi, and Chopin.  I don't want pounding noise reaching out to grab me or bizarre and strange lyrics calling out my name.  Give me the strains of classical sounds or orchestral pieces by Montovani and Norman Luboff.  Call me a square...don't care.

My Bed

Having a beautiful supportive bed with lovely cozy blankets and pillows can never ever be underestimated.  Falling into your bed's arms every night will help you rest from any worry-overload or sadness that seizes you.  And it shouldn't cost a lot to outfit your bed with fluffy pillows and warm covers.  Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and their ilk offer affordable bed linens with an ever-changing stock.  Keep looking for the right stuff.

Beauty Routines

I step up my beauty action when I am stressed.  It reminds me that no matter what the world is dishing out, I can still take care of me.  This is not the time to stop using that foot smoother in the tub or to skip flossing.  Au contraire....it is actually the perfect time to escalate your routine.  Pick up a few envelopes of mask when you pick up your toothpaste.  Keep your nails polished and pretty with a new upbeat color.  Use your moisturizers and take care of your skin even if you don't feel like it.  Looking after ourselves with exquisite attention is one thing we can control in an upside-down world.

Books

Nothing helps with anxiety like escaping into a good book.  I just re-read Jane of Lantern Hill, an old childhood favorite by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  The story is full of marvelous advice that has stood the test of time and by allowing myself to surrender to the story, my fears and concerns were eased. Libraries are filled with shelves of fiction that nobody reads anymore.  Some of my library's stacks contain real gems and it is where I first became acquainted with Barbara Pym and Elizabeth Gaskell.  Some terrific innocent fiction was written by now-forgotten authors in the 40's and 50's.  Find a novel you can drown in.  At least for a few hours.

Scent

Good smells are mood changers.  Favorite perfumes are comforting, especially if they remind you of someone beloved.  Make sure that your home has a scent imprint.  I like lavender in my upstairs rooms and lemon or oranges in the kitchen.  Bake brownies or make stew.  Fill your house with happy scents.  We need it more than ever.

And finally...my new tablecloth.  Always looking for the Holy Grail, I happened upon a linen embossed cloth for a round table.  Round cloths are very hard to find and to stumble upon such a fine one in a beautiful fall-like color had me handing over my credit card -  I knew I couldn't walk away from it.  Now on  my table, with autumnal candles and a bowl of fruit, the vignette I created has become the sentinel of my fall.  I didn't want to spend the money but it was money well-spent - it is an heirloom.  But more importantly, it is one of those small things that remind me that despite all the vagaries of our world, we just have to continue making our little corners worth coming home to.  We can make ourselves worth coming home to as well.  And in the process, we keep our well-being sacred, despite what's going on out there.

What are your Cold Comfort Charms?


Note:  My tablecloth above (but round).

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

She Shred

It all started with a seemingly innocuous idea...
Tired of the lack of closet space in my small home, I asked a friend if I could borrow his paper shredder. I had known for a while that I wanted to dispose of some old employment papers associated with my long and varied career. Why would I need to keep the performance review that was done just before I left for maternity leave - the one where my boss recorded that I went to the doctor too much? Twenty-five years ago, even I knew that comment didn’t belong there. So why had I been holding onto it for so long?
The shredder was bigger than I had anticipated (not to mention louder), and shredding at first was a task I couldn’t wait to finish just so I could get the electric behemoth out of my house as quickly as possible. But after shredding the trail of papers that represented my stop-and-start career, I found myself taking a gimlet eye to something else — my files of divorce papers.

I knew that the evidence of my long-ago marriage, which ended abruptly and with deep pain, had been serving as a silent monument of look-what-he-did-to-me.  Somehow, I had always thought that my daughter would surely want to read these papers.  Of course, this was based on the cherished fantasy that she would understand what I had been through for her.  But after lugging around the files from move to move, I slowly came to the realization that the documents didn't really represent the best of my life, and I wondered if, in the end, I really wanted to leave a mass of harshly-corded paperwork behind.
Opening the massive divorce file gingerly, I began at the beginning: The Separation Agreement. Here is where every detail of single-parenting is laid out. Who would take our daughter on holidays, who would pay for her braces and college, who would drive her to school. I held it over the shredder for a few seconds. Then, it was gone.
Shredding the agreement gave me a sudden surge of confidence, and I found that the more I shredded, the lighter I felt inside. It was as though I was at last unhooking the past and letting it trail off behind me. Out went my budget book from the early divorce years that outlined what I spent on diapers and daycare. Out went the letters from HIS attorney fighting to pay less child support than his salary dictated. Out went my attorney’s final bill. Before long, I was shredding the marital household bills and tax returns. Even the receipt for our bed — the last document with both our names written together.
It was almost as though I were obliterating an entire decade of my life. But instead of feeling sad, I felt liberated from the past and hopeful for the future. And I realized something else, too — that a silly form of magical thinking had been engulfing me all these years and forcing me to keep all these old documents. I had been wondering if something happened in the past and there were no papers to document it, did it really happen?
The shredder answered that question with its constant whirring. Yes, the events occurred - even the dotty boss I worked for all those years ago existed (although he's long gone now). But I also realized that one does not always need to have tangible evidence to prove a life existed. I also just couldn’t imagine my daughter sitting on the floor outside my closet going through each file, page by page. And is that really how I want her to remember me — through a collection of cold, legal documents? Certainly, my life has been more multi-dimensional than a mass of paper, no matter how painstakingly chronological they are.
The entire shredding process took no more than three days, and getting rid of my old papers left a wonderful space in my closet which I have already filled with a small trunk. But new papers and documents won’t be going into that trunk. Instead, I will be filling it with a soft baby blanket of my daughter’s that is now freshly laundered and folded. Also, a stash of favorite books left behind from what turned out to be a very happy childhood.
I’m sure I’ll be picking up a few other newer baby trinkets along the way, as well. I’m going to be a grandmother, and that’s a role I won’t need any papers for.
~
This piece originally published on a website I contribute to occasionally.  

https://fairygodboss.com/articles/my-past-in-shreds-how-shredding-gave-me-a-fresh-start


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Story of Tea Cups


As my grandmother climbed into her 80’s, I think she recognized that time was winding down.  And though it hurts to remember, I wasn’t too surprised the day she announced, “Your grandfather and I are going back to Canada next spring for one last time”.  She and “Puppy” took a trip to Nova Scotia every couple of years to visit Pictou and Prince Edward Island.  Although it was the place where my grandfather spent his childhood, it was a world much more fully embraced by “Nana Mac” who found inspiration in the craggy landscape and especially in my grandfather’s rich Scottish heritage.

I tried to visit my grandparents weekly, making trips from rural Western Massachusetts to their Boston apartment.  One afternoon, soon after my grandmother’s proclamation, I found that she had laid a cloth over the leather card table she kept folded in the living room.  But instead of our customary lunch of chicken salad sandwiches and iced tea, she had strewn twelve tea cups with matching saucers across the snowy cloth.  Oh was I ever familiar with those beautiful cups – each one a different eye-catching pattern.  They were all dainty and delicate as bone china is, but the varying motifs and colors had been deeply alluring to my young self.  Of course, my sister and I were never allowed to play with the cups but they were regularly brought down from the hutch in the dining room and put into service for Nana Mac’s bewitching afternoon tea parties for us.  We learned the value of fine things at her knee and loved the uniquely individual cups and saucers.

“Pick six!” Nana Mac directed me as she gleefully clapped her hands together.  I didn’t have to think too long – I already knew which of the beautiful cups were my favorites.  I shyly pointed to the two rose-sprigged cups first – one in coral pink and one in baby blue, then the very unusual harlequin cup, and at last, the three etched in gold.  Nana Mac carefully wrapped my selections in newspaper and then placed them in a brown paper bag.  When she finished, she leaned into me with a conspiratorial wink and whisper, “You selected all my favorites”.  I was delighted when after that chicken salad and iced tea lunch, the plain paper bag with its fragile treasures was thrust into my arms with a kiss.

Nana Mac never did make that final journey to her beloved Nova Scotia with my grandfather. She died unexpectedly on a clear cold morning in early winter.  And it wasn’t until spring that year when my sister finally opened her own bundle of cups and saucers.  As we poured hot tea into two of the precious bestowals, I noticed my sister’s voice becoming thick and soft with emotion. “Nana said she saved her favorites for me”.  Or so I thought I heard her whisper…

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

On the Eve of A Birthday


Tomorrow is my birthday.  Again.  They sure do come fast and furious now - like contractions.  And yet, I still get a little secret thrill from them although I would not admit that out loud to anybody.  Nevertheless, like a child, I will probably have a delighted feeling inside all day.  I'm too adult (or too old) to expect presents and cake but what I've discovered through the years is that I need neither to feel loved on my day.

I recall nearly all my birthdays.  Shout out an age and I could probably tell you how I celebrated. 9!  Oh that was the birthday my older brother ripped up his leg on an old standing pipe in the backyard and my party had to disband for a bloody trip to the ER - we never even lit the candles on the cake.  17!  How could I forget the first birthday I received a present from a boy - a way-too-sophisticated-for-me gold watch with black Roman numerals I could barely read.  23!  That birthday occurred in the middle of my bridal year and the evening sparkled more than the diamond on my finger.  30!  A sad little birthday alone with my baby in a big house - but her kisses and pats saw me through.  40!, 47!, 53!...and so it goes.  And goes...

What I love most about my birthdays now are the cards I receive.  For two days I let them stand like soldiers on my bookshelf.  I'm tempted to take a picture of them and unabashedly show them off but it's what's written inside that slays me the most.  Winsome phrases and words that make me feel cherished.  A friend from far away who tells me that she misses me or even better - that she thinks of me.  Imagine that.  Thank you, Carol, I think of you, too.

I am always charmed as well, when a well-wisher's card depicts something meaningful to me.  Such was the card I received yesterday from my sister - knowing how much I adore blue and white china and orchids, she somehow found a card with both!  Cards like my sister's say more than Happy Birthday...they say "I know you".  It's always nice to read, "I saw this and thought of you", as Judy's card did today when she sent one with a lovely woman on her bed with a laptop.  Yep, that's me, even now as I write for you here.  Judy knows.  Karen knows too with all the marvelous fairy dust cards she finds just for me.  "The more glitter, the better", we both agree.  Dear Karen, I feel the sparkling love.

I expect birthday greetings from my beautiful niece who always nails it with particularly thoughtful cards, my daughter who finds just the right words to tug at her mother's heart.  And my mother, whose cards I deem especially sacred now - her prim handwriting is still the same as the notes she wrote to my school teachers long ago, but the pretty script  belies the passage of time...

And so, on my birthday's eve, I ask you - why should I not feel a secret little thrill?

Sunday, October 1, 2017

An Heiress' Perfume


I hadn't tried L'Air du Temps in a long time.  Even though it is considered a classic fragrance, it's always been a loyal drugstore brand although I haven't seen it at my local CVS in a while.

For many years, there was a small independent pharmacy in the village where I live.  At the back counter, past all the remedies, were several bottles of L'air du Temps in creamy white boxes.  One dark night - a very rainy one, I happened to see a slender hooded figure walk to the back of the pharmacy and in a whisper, ask for a bottle of L'Air du Temps.  As if he had done it a hundred times before, the kindly old pharmacist reached for a box from the shelf behind him, opened it carefully, and then displayed in his palm, the crystalline Lalique bottle to what turned out to be our town's beautiful young heiress.  Rumor has it...

The romance of that moment - which could have taken place in the very heart of Paris - the lore, the stormy night is what I recalled when I saw this lovely ad from Seventeen '73.  And here, L'Air du Temps is called "The Romantic Perfume" and I think they've illustrated it very nicely with the young woman with long blond tresses in a simple hat who surprisingly resembles our curious young villager.

My imagination surmises that our heiress could probably purchase the most costly perfumes in the world (the family business is a very well-known hosiery empire) and yet, she shops at the local pharmacy in a small fishing village for her bottle of The Most Romantic Perfume.  But that doesn't surprise me really because although she is a rather ethereal personage, I do see her locally from time to time.

After researching the scent, I decided I wanted to sample it again.  I went to a perfume outlet that sells overstock fragrances and found a small tester.  Still being a rather inexpensive perfume, I was surprised to smell how full-bodied it is.  There is a hint of Bergamot but the peppery carnation made me sneeze.  The bottle is breathtakingly beautiful and indeed romantic, with two doves nuzzling each other in translucent glass - it must look impressive on a dresser or vanity.  The history of L'Air du Temps was interesting to read, especially that the fragrance was created after WWII and that its iconic bottle was designed with world peace in mind.

However much I reject the perfume for myself, it will always be associated with our lithe and somewhat otherworldly village heiress.  She certainly trails a storied and romantic wake...


Do you wear L'Air du Temps?  I would love to hear about it...


PS:  Thank you for all your thoughtful comments of late.  I hope to write more frequently in October.  

Sunday, September 3, 2017

The Scents of Fall


I switch my light summer fragrances to those with warmer accords when the air turns cool in September. More often than not, the perfume I reach for on chilly mornings is Chanel No. 5.  When I drive over the misty bridge that spans the cove in my town, I often shiver into my scarf or turtleneck and catch a whiff of the blanketed dusty rose that makes up part of the composition of the world's most famous perfume.

Searching for vintage Chanel No. 5 ads is so much fun that I may do a series of them here.  The copy on the ads is very sweet too.  But this one, speaks to my schoolgirl days when I too, walked to school on leaf-strewn streets.  The scents of those days are so embedded into my psyche that as soon as the calendar turns to September, I go into overdrive with nostalgia and memories, helped along by No. 5.

Also underneath the crunching sidewalks that led to school, were acorns and tiny decomposing apples that mixed with the wafting smoke from rusty barrels of burning leaves and branches.  These marvelous things blended together to create an olfactory soundtrack to fall.

Too, there were high school football games held in the old cement stadium known as Kelliher Field.  The seats were gravestone-cold but the cocoa, in perilously thin paper cups, was so searing hot that we could barely sip it for fear we would scorch our tongues.  But it smelled wonderful and deeply chocolate-y.  And somehow it went better with the fragrant buttery popcorn that assaulted us from the moment we stepped though the field's gates which compelled us to buy small red and white cardboard boxes of it.  Oh and didn't our mothers pull out the meatloaf recipes torn from Ladies Home Journal's and stuffed pork chops with sage again that filled our homes with such rich savory smells?  And cinnamon apple pie, anyone?  Back to perfume...

One golden fall, a friend's mother began to sell Avon.  That was the year I wore Sweet Honesty, Avon's answer to the 70's back-to-nature mania.  I fell for the all-natural look of the packaging which appealed to my personal style at the time:   bell-bottomed jeans and long straight hair shampooed with Herbal Essence.  Sweet Honesty came with me to school in a little roller bottle which I'm sure replaced my summer Strawberry Fields scent that year.  I liked Sweet Honesty for its peppery note that was perfect with fall's burnished colors of smokey gold and magenta.  Like autumn, it was both strong and gentle.

The following year I was away at college.  Still in New England, but housed with young women from all over the country.   And since I wanted to fit in, I wore their uniform fragrance - Revlon's Charlie.  Who can forget Shelley Hack's leggy strut across our Seventeen's centerfold in a chic plaid pantsuit?  Charlie was known as the sexy-young fragrance and "sexy" was not an adjective that graced Seventeen much before then.  It was so new and wearing it, we all felt new - and free and young.  And sexy.

I began wearing Chanel No. 5 when I was gifted a bottle from a woman who knew my father.  She thought as a young working woman, I might like a sophisticated perfume.  But I wasn't quite ready - it smelled cloyingly sweet to me.  I preferred to find my own fragrances and so for many years, I experimented with Cinnabar, Fracas, and that harlot of a perfume - Opium.  But I never did find one to settle on until I tried No. 5 again.  By then, I had read about Chanel and the origins of her iconic perfume.  At last, I was ready for it.  And it has stayed that way for over 20 years.  I always want a small bottle of  Chanel No. 5 on my dresser top come fall.  It's comforting and oddly reassuring and smells of autumn.  As when I kicked my way through fallen leaves on the way to school...

~

What are your favorite fall scents? Please share in comments...

And in keeping with back-to-school style, please read my essay on Rebecca Tuite's marvelous book, Seven Sisters Style:  
http://www.fashionstudiesjournal.org/4-reviews-3b/2017/7/28/seven-sisters-style


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer's Final Bow



My town has the most charming ice cream shop.  It's painted in sherbet colors and has a rick-rack of gingerbread trim.  I don't indulge every day but enough to know the owners who winter in Florida each year.  But our conversations are all too brief during the height of summer when a line snakes out past their picnic tables into a grove of trees.  Still, the ice cream is rich and wonderful and worth the wait.

Have you noticed how some things are most beautiful just before they disappear?  Falling stars, brides who depart for exciting new lives, flowers, and of course, tender seasons that cannot last.  Right now I am enjoying summer's swan song - the air is warm and balmy and the sun is throwing stirring shadows and light;  total eclipses notwithstanding. 

Knowing that summer must soon end, I find myself holding on to it for dear life.  I love the plump native tomatoes in overflowing bins at the market.  As my mother taught me, I eat them like apples as I sit on the front stoop watching juices flow down my arm.  It's ok because the garden hose is still unraveled in the side yard just as it always is until September - I'm a lazy hose-mistress to be sure.  Every Friday, I buy a farm-style bouquet filled with sunflowers and violet asters along with spikes of golden rod and dried beach fronds.  My rustic bouquets don't last as long as the prim blush roses I bought in early summer, but the colors are as warm and bright as October sunshine.

As well, I am getting the most from my liberating wardrobe.  Making sure each morning I select knee-skimming skirts with sleeveless tops or pretty dresses with billowing potential should I still find myself still wearing it when I fetch the recycling bin at the bottom of the driveway every Wednesday night.

As for perfume, I can't stop spritzing my eau fraiche blend that I keep cool in the refrigerator.  It's light and airy and not yet too weak for summer's final bow.  My coral lipsticks, a watercolor silk scarf, and other accouterments still call out to me.  I won't rush the goodbye because the hello takes so long.  

I'm sure I will surrender when summer turns back just long enough to take a final bow.  By then, I'll be longing to light some candles against a dark sky and chilly wind.  And it will seem odd to see the dried leaves flitting and falling on my garden hose.  I'll put that to bed along with the rattan furniture and the clay pots that are holding my spectacular geraniums and begonias which have never looked more gorgeous as they do right now in their vivid hues of reds and pink.  They seem to bloom over and over and over, like the last dazzling firework on July 4th.  

I'll miss the crickets and frogs which lull me to sleep and the dove that coos from a distance late in the morning.  I'll miss the cold gazpacho I finally mastered and the watermelon and corn.  But summer will really be over when the little pastel ice cream shop finally shutters its windows and closes its doors.  They'll put out the scratchy homemade sign that reminds us they will be back next summer.  And each year...I try to believe them.



(Top image by Trent Gudmundsen)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Paradise



"I can't stop thinking about Hawaii", I told my son-in-law a month ago.  "Oh you'll be thinking about it a lot more when you come back", he warned...

I've been missing a special place that I recently visited.  For more than two weeks I have been in Hawaii.  I never thought I would have the chance to visit this part of the world and yet, I never thought I would love it so much either.  Hawaii is very beautiful with a lovely aesthetic that is partially ancient lore and partially post-war beauty.  And unlike New England's crisp nautical sun, Hawaii's light is far-reaching and golden.

The picture above is one that I took on the Ke'anae Peninsula on the Road to Hana.  I almost wept at the breathtaking beauty and felt a deep connection to the inlet which I later read was the site of a devastating tsunami in 1946.  I sensed it was hallowed and snapped quite a number of pictures like this one with my cell phone.  There was an old church left standing and like all churches in Hawaii, the doors were wide open to anybody that happened to pass by.

In addition to the famous Road to Hana, we visited the Black Sand Beach where black-as-night lava rocks cover the shore.  We toured the volcanoes on The Big Island, careful not to take anything that wasn't ours so as not to anger Pele, the mythical Goddess of Volcanoes.  We ate fish and passion fruit, wore flowers in our hair, and shopped in small boutiques in Maui's Up Country.  And every afternoon, we raced to the shore to sit huddled in matching weathered chairs to let the Trade Winds wash over us and blow our cares out to sea.

My companions were my daughter and my son-in-law and the only mar on our adventure were the three days my daughter was ill.  On the plane to The Big Island, my only child became sick with a high fever and chills.  She also had an extreme headache that frightened me.  Upon landing, we took her to the hospital were she was admitted.  For three days, we sat by her side as fluids and antibiotics were drained into her.  And although the environs surrounding the hospital were gorgeous, the landscape lost its sparkle.  Thankfully, before too long, we were back to our vacation and all the gifts the islands had to offer.

Now I am home with a volcanic suitcase on the living room floor exploding with clothes to be washed, presents to distribute, and plenty of keepsakes, including the journal I kept on our trip.  I am missing paradise and reliving all the wonderful things we experienced and as my son-in-law predicted, I am thinking about Hawaii alot.   Of course, as I reminisce, my thoughts also race back to those three days I was frantic with worry for my daughter - those recollections are woven into the tapestry of my journey too.  When the memories come, I lean in and let them wash over me just as the winds did on the edge of Hawaii's magnificent shores.  And it is then that I realize...True Paradise is when loved ones are healthy...

~


PS:  If you have ever visited the magical isles of Hawaii, I would love to hear about it.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Find One Hundred Ways


I have always loved Quincy Jones' song (sung by James Ingram), One Hundred Ways.  The lyrics stole my heart years ago because, by God, they are true.  If it's violins she loves...well, let them play. Send her roses...just because.  And even better:  in your arms, she will reflect...she owes you the sweetest of debts...yes, let her repay.  Find one hundred ways!

But the lyrics go far beyond romance and reciprocity.  What about living a One Hundred Ways kind of life?

Recently, on a night I had a party to attend, the weather suddenly turned.  By late afternoon,  a sparkling summer day had become dark and chilly.  Rain was not in the forecast but I no longer felt like partying.  So I downplayed it by wearing a boring but comfortable dress, minimal makeup and I regrettably ate too much lunch, even though I knew it would spoil my appetite at the party.  "I'll just put in a appearance and head back home to my bed and watch Netflix", I said to myself.  And then wouldn't you know it -  the party was wonderful and festive and fun.  Our hosts moved the enchanting dinner table from the lawn to the covered porch which was decorated with pots of trailing ivy and bright begonias.  They pulled out all the stops - they found one hundred ways.

Some people naturally live this way.  One sees it in the nurse at the doctor's office who has complete pride in her job.  Her efficiency and manner offer a sense of order and reassurance.  It's the friend who makes your visits special by serving you a delectable warm treat from the oven to go with your mug of tea.  Even when she's dead tired from being sandwiched between needy children and elderly parents.  It's the co-worker with a serious illness, who shows up at the office every day with another new fetching scarf wrapped around her head.  It's the comforting lunch you pack for a loved one that's filled with nourishing food, all attractively wrapped.  It's the elderly woman who still wears lipstick and dresses with care as she sets out on her daily round.

So if flowers are what you love, buy that bouquet for heaven's sake.  If you crave tomatoes, fill the kitchen. Simmer sauce, make tomato tarts, sandwiches, salads.  Ditto watermelon, lemons - whatever it is you're passionate about.  Immerse yourself.  Roll around in it.  Let's stop saving our perfumes, the "good" dishes, and anything tucked away for "best".   "Best" is now.  Use your things. Show them off.  Share them.  Multiply them.

Quincy Jones reminds us that if it's one more star we want, go all the way.  Life is short - shorter than we sometimes realize while in the midst of it.  So, show up.  Be present.  Dress the part.  Go big. Begin today.  Begin again tomorrow.  Do it as long as you possibly can.  Find one hundred ways.


~

Find One Hundred Ways

Compliment what she does
Send her roses just because

If it's violins she loves let them play

Dedicate her fav'right song and hold

Her closer all night long

Love her today

Find one hundred ways

Don't forget there could be

An old lover in her memory

If you need her so much more

Why don't you say

Maybe she has it in her mind

That she's just wasting her time

Ask her to stay

Find one hundred ways

Bein' cool won't help you keep a love warm

You'll just blow your chance

Take the time to open up your heart

That's the secret of romance

Sacrifice if you care

Buy her some moonlight to wear

If there's one more star she wants

Go all the way

In your arms tonight

She'll reflect that she owes you

The sweetest of debts if she wants to pay

Find one hundred ways

In your arms tonight

She'll reflect that she owes you

The sweetest of debts if she wants to pay

Find one hundred ways

Ya gotta believe it whoa

Love her today

Find one hundred ways




Note:  I will be on a special vacation - a journey - for a few weeks.  I'll be finding one hundred ways and I'll share when I return.



Sunday, June 25, 2017

My Yellow House


I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after...they've gone through and through me, like wine through water and altered the color of my mind." ~ Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights

Given my blog-documented love of my hometown, would it surprise you to know that I created alerts on my computer when a house in my old neighborhood goes on the market?  I love to take "tours" into these homes, but alas, they are few and far between because my old hood is not a very transient place.  So I was delighted to find for sale, the petite yellow house that sat kitty-corner to my childhood home.

A variation of Pennsylvania Dutch style, the yellow house is one of three "brides" that were built together in the early years of the 20th century.  They all have small rooms and beautiful wood-paneled walls and lots of charming details, such as inset cabinets and hardwood floors.  While growing up, the little yellow house was occupied by an unmarried and kindly woman named Flora Innes, who walked up our hill every night and past our house, after having been dropped off at the bottom of the street from her wearying factory job.  Flora knew all our names by heart and greeted each of us.  She was a sweet, lovely woman who had suffered childhood polio and walked with a marked limp.

After I took an online spin around the inside of Flora's old house, my daydreams began to ignite.  You see, I am in love with a boy I went to high school who lived not too far away from Flora and from me.  Since I "re-met" this boy many years after first laying eyes on him in 7th grade and long after Flora had been gone, I began to imagine all the what-if's that surprisingly bubbled to the surface since spying Flora's yellow house in my in-box.

What if my love and I had found our relationship back in high school?  What if we had actually married all those years ago?  What if we had bought the yellow house from Flora's relatives when it first hit the market 40 years ago and what if we had a family of our own in the yellow house and what if we had had a long life together?  I even went so far as to imagine myself taking family china out of one of those delightful built-ins and setting the dining room table for Tuesday night dinner with his now deceased parents!  In our house...our little yellow house???

I always believed that the dream of what might have been is the most painful dream to let go.  We watch our fervent wishes slip from outstretched hands like rocks dropped from a bridge that disappear into dark water.  But that is only a tragedy when one has to do an abrupt about face of no choice of their own.  I don't feel the dreams of what-if have a similar power over us.  After all, who's to say that the girl I was 40 years ago was ready for that boy I now love?  Who's to say I would have felt the spell of the little yellow house in the town I was so sure I wanted put in my rear view mirror as quickly as humanly possible?  Time changes us...it grinds us and then polishes us if we are open to its lessons.  Only then can we become whole or at least more of who we were meant to be in the first place.  And then there is love - what of love?  Well...love carries its own timepiece, doesn' it?

My fantasies about the little yellow house resulted in some magically entertaining reveries for driving to work last month but I have since discovered "my" house has been sold to a pair of young newlyweds.  I was told that they have already erected a matching shed in the postage stamp of a backyard, replete with matching shutters and window boxes.  I would have done that first too.  And their parents often come to help.  I just know they are enjoying that marvelous wood dining room with the built-ins, which no doubt are storing some family treasures.  I'm so happy for them and I believe that somewhere, dear Flora Innes is happy too.

As for me, I am now wearing the diamond ring that once belonged to the beloved mother and guest at my imaginary Tuesday night dinners.  And I've learned that any color home can be my yellow one - our view and our reflections are ever-changing.  Like wine poured through water...



Sunday, June 18, 2017

On Towels...



The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers...~William Wordsworth


A friend came to visit last weekend and loved my blue beach towels.  They are now downstairs, washed and boxed and ready to mail to her doorstep.  I wish it had occurred to me to send them off with her on the day we said goodbye.  Still, I am pleased she will have them soon to cheer her as she wraps herself in one after her morning shower - she loved them so much.

My grandmother thought towels were a big deal.  She talked of Turkish towels and the January White Sales often and I think it was a source of pride for her to have a modest stack of quality towels on hand for loved ones.  My mother also waxed poetic about them but sadly, in our house, towels were often used and abused and left as wet tattered rags on the bathroom floor.  I'm pretty sure she gave up her dream of a neat and tidy linen closet with four active children.  Stacks of colorful fluffy towels would only have served to regularly break her heart.

Nice towels in a good price range are hard to find these days.  There are plenty in rich and famous linen boutiques for those who can manage the price tags that are as lofty as the towels themselves. For me, I scour Home Goods for occasional bounty.  I also suggest department stores when they have their seasonal bedding sales.  A plush affordable towel is a very fine thing.

When I philosophize about them, towels are often overlooked but are one of life's little luxuries.  Thick thirsty towels that are soft and at the ready makes one feel that life is abundant, normal - they are oddly reassuring.  An entire blog post about them does seems a bit silly but the latest world events have hit me hard and I, like many others are groping for the little things that seem unimportant but really do matter.  Like towels, favorite books, iced tea in a clinking tumbler with fresh lemon.  And boxing up a bit of comfort for a good friend.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Soda Fountain Stories


He is clearly smitten with her as she sips from his soda glass.  I love her tartan dress which I imagine to be blue and I'll bet the bow wrapped around her ponytail is black velvet. The moody glow from the lanterns, the tile floor, the leather seat covers make this a charming photo of a 1950's couple on what looks like an innocent first date.  Mom and Pop are most certainly at home in front of the picture window, waiting for their young miss to return by 11 o'clock.  I'm sure she will...

In spring, I like to revisit some of my favorite teenage novels - nearly all set in the 1950's.  I call them Soda Fountain Stories because soda fountains figure so prominently in them.  I can't say it's a trip down Memory Lane because I only know the 50's from pictures, my mother's anecdotes, and novels.  But the heroines' travails seem universal and somehow familiar to the struggles of every decade:  there's the fast crowd who refuses to welcome newcomers, the benevolent and understanding teacher, and of course, a shy bookish late bloomer who doesn't know someone in the wings thinks she's fine.

My books are a comforting trip back in time when good manners were valued and expectations for behavior were cut like glass.  Most important to me though, were the stories' emphasis on home and family.  Nearly every novel has a loving mother who volunteers at church and school, sees that her children and husband eat a good breakfast, and still bakes brownies from scratch...or gingerbread, as one of my favorites tells.  Dad works at the office in the city and comes home tired and put-out but shakes it all down with the help of Mother and her pineapple upside-down cake.  The family dog and kid brother help too.  Oh, if only...

Still, as far removed as 2017 is from the Atomic Age (and all those bomb shelters that were never used), we have it pretty good now too.  Medical care is at nearly science fiction-level, we have the internet and cell phones, movies and books on-demand, and many other magnificent things.  I'm not completely idealizing the purity of the 1950's - I'm just saying that it's some kind of wonderful to escape to a simpler time every now and then when the biggest problem in life is whether the prom dress you made will be as pretty as the illustration on the pattern cover.

Come with me to the suburban 1950's.  Your reboot is ensured.

~

Some favorites:

Wait for Marcy by Rosamund du Jardin -  (Marcy is known as "Squirt", a nickname she detests.)

Sister of the Bride by Beverly Clearly - (Oh how you'll cry!)

Almost April by Zoa Sherburne - (A sudden tragedy which surprisingly aligns with the 21st century too.)

~

And, there is one elusive novel that I have never been able to locate after reading it once in the 8th grade.  It must have been dear to me as the story line has never left me.  A girl's mother is institutionalized and while she is gone from home a beneficent housekeeper takes her place.  But when Mother is well enough to return, our heroine is torn between the warm replacement and the mother she all but forgot.  Does this outline ring a bell with anyone?

Finally, do you have a tender 1950's teenage novel that has remained steadfast in your heart?

Friday, May 26, 2017

True North



“But afterwards, is there nothing more for me in life - no true home - nothing to be dearer to me than myself?” 



Thanks to a good friend, I found out this week that the North Star, Polaris, has not always been our North Star.  In fact, for a very, very long time, that distinction was held by another star that positioned itself high above the North Pole, called Thuban.  And because of the earth’s gyrations as it twirls around the sun, Thuban will once again be our North Star someday far in the future.  This new-to-me-information had my head twirling with thoughts of my own personal North Stars and how they too, have changed seats throughout my life.

As children, I suppose our North Stars are our mothers – after all, they are our first loves and upon whom our very existence depends.   Thus, I recall how my infant daughter’s eyes followed me whenever I moved about in her room, even before she could sit up by herself or speak.  I was not only the person responsible for her very life; I was her North Star, the beacon she sought for guidance and safety in her brave new world.

I thought about other North Stars I’ve aligned myself with –those that helped me try out different roles when I was younger and those that gave me parameters for living as I experimented with new ways of being me.  Sometimes our North Star is our beliefs and concepts and sometimes our North Star represents just one person.  I think it is rare to have only one North Star for all of life because we change so often and adopt so many roles, especially as women.

For a while, my friends at school were the star I wished to follow. There were years, my guiding principles came from organizations I embraced such as the Girl Scouts or my church.  Other times, I found a mentor or a friend who had already traversed the road I was on and I looked to them to ground me and keep me on course. But lately, my North Star is harder to spot.  I wondered if it's because I have finally grown into the woman I was meant to be.  Mostly, I prefer to take my own counsel, set my own path…listen to my own heart...

That kind of trust comes only from years of living and experiencing.  It comes from an innate knowledge that “Yes, I have seen this before”.   And my reactions stay true to those core beliefs I didn’t know I was honing  -  through childhood when my mother and grandmothers guided me, through motherhood  when I looked to seasoned mothers to show me how, and now to beyond, when my skills for soothing and advising myself seem sharper than ever.  And happily, I find in myself the ability to be North Star to others.  Or at least that’s what I hope.

So the bottom line is that the pinnacle of growing older is that we may get to be, not only the cosmic light for others, but also the beam of sparkle that we once sought outside ourselves.  Looking back, I realize that my constellation has changed many times over.  Perhaps now...and at last...I am my own North Star.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Beauty Parlor Night


In my twenties, when I was young and carefree, I rented a house with four other women.  We all worked, dated, and fret about the number of pizza slices we ate in front of the blinking black and white TV on Friday nights.  We were obsessed with clothes, the number on the scale, and finding Mr. Right.  Maybe not so carefree...

Our lone bathroom quickly became overflowing with lotions and potions, hair "painting" kits, pink shaving foams, and bottles of nail polish.  Although we each had our own personal needs, we gradually came to see how much fun it could be to unite and conquer our challenges collectively. Thus, Beauty Parlor Night was born.

We had lots of giggles and laughs running in and out of each others' rooms trying on lipsticks and giving each other manicures.  We shared dating horror stories as well as gave advice to the poor roommate who happened to be lovelorn that week.  We spent a lot of time cross-legged on each others' beds with Mint Julep Mask on our faces and towels wrapped around our heads.

For me, Beauty Parlor Night is still sacrosanct even though my routine has become much simpler. - I'm less concerned with trying new makeup colors and much more passionate about good skincare and smooth and lovely feet.  And it's imperative that my beauty regime eases me into a good nights sleep which is by far the best beauty aid of all for someone my age.

Like penguins tossing themselves to the sea, my roommates and I disbanded and plunged one-by-one into marriages.  I miss the young women I lived and "played" with long ago and was thrilled to chat with one recently.  "What are you doing at home tonight?", she asked.  "I just stepped out of a lavender honey bath. You"?  "I stole my daughter's blue nail polish and it's drying on my toes", she replied.


Note:  Next post up, "What I Did For Love Infatuation".  Soon, I hope.



Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Charms


I used to think my modest house took on its beauty only by candlelight.  But that was before I had a new front door installed with a half-moon transom built into the top.  Every morning this past week, as I descended the stairs, I noticed a brief pastoral scene framed in that window, as pretty as if it had been stolen from a colorful illustrated bible.  The window is also responsible for shedding a tender shaft of light on my living room floor that greets me each day as I pad across it to reach my coffee cup.

I've lived in my home almost twenty years now, so it is too steeped in memories to be seen in a detached way.  But I do take it for granted sometimes.  And since I've only just begun to appreciate spring as the lovely season it is, I always thought my house made its grand entrance on Christmas Eve when my tree shines bright along with the white votives I scatter across the bookshelves.  Not anymore...

As well as the new light in the morning, I realize I am truly indebted to the frieze of trees that shelter the front of my house and help keep things quiet around here.  Those elms are not yet in leaf but a coppery aura tell me that they will be green soon.  I learned about that from an old farmer once.  The birches are still blurred with a hazy pistachio-green foliage along with a lot of unnamed plants and bushes.  I don't have a green thumb but I have admire what gardeners choose to plant for maximum spring color.

Something as simple as a newly installed window has caught me off guard and made me want to head outdoors for walks.  But not for exercise - I want to scavenge for presents for the house. I clipped a communal bush for forsythia branches but now they have passed.  Next will be my mother's lilac which I will pilfer for both us.

There's always one moment in the house, when I sense that summer has arrived.  Sometimes it's the heat I feel from the second floor when I open the front door from work -or the unmistakable earth smell from the open bedroom windows.  But I've always ignored spring's visit - it's just been too painful.  Lucky for me, a friend has been showering me with love and holding my hand for the last few springs.  This year, with my new "view" from a simple built-in window that was really just an afterthought, I may be able to manage on my own.  Every season has its gifts.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Finery


When I was too young to understand anything spoken in church, I asked my big brother why we had Easter.  His wise, all-knowing answer was, "Easter holds us over 'til Christmas".  And it made perfect sense.

My mother created Easter baskets for us but what I remember most fondly was the finery she outfitted my sister and I in.  There were winsome cotton dresses with smocking and sashes or colorful prints of flowers or birds, cotton ankle socks with lace trim, straw hats with excruciatingly tight chin straps, snow-white cotton gloves, and brand new shoes.  How I loved the shoes!  So much so, that one Easter Eve, a pair slept in their cardboard shrine right next to me in bed.  I remember peeking into the box just before sleep, peeling apart the crinkly tissue paper and inhaling the leathery goodness. Our shoes were often shiny black patent with petal cut-outs or dainty t-straps replete with pearl buttons. But sometimes we found the same version in milky white or pale pink.

The most heralded Easter garment however,  was the spring coat.  Each year on a special Saturday in March, when winter was still biting our toes, my mother would take my sister and I to the big city department store to search for new coats - coats that would have their debut only on Easter Sunday.  Formal and lightweight outerwear was not hard to find in those days because everyone had a spring coat back then.  They were as ubiquitous as ski jackets in December.  The quintessential go-to color was navy and if all else failed, it was the one hue that could be counted on to coordinate with any dress.  But more often than not, my mother found pretty pastels for us in nubby weightless wools or sturdy pique cotton with large tone-on-tone buttons.

Along with the coats, we would buy rustling slips and tiny structured grown-up-looking purses to match our shoes.

We gave Easter special honors by dressing as beautifully as could be afforded.  Our ensembles were thoughtfully planned, purchased and executed with an excited anticipation that belied a holiday my brother said just came around to hold us over.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

In Memoriam


I've introduced you to this handsome chap before.  He was the grandfather of a good friend of mine and I was delighted to see this newly-found photograph of him.  Known mostly as the favored dentist in our hometown, he is still remembered well by some of the parents of my high school friends - nearly 75 years after his death.  Imagine that...

Even with a torture chamber for an office, you may wonder why he is still talked about with such warmth and respect among local elders.  His striking good looks and untimely death are certainly mentioned but mostly he is remembered for kindness and generosity of spirit.  When he died suddenly at 49, nearly the entire town owed him money for the mercury-filled holes in their teeth. There are other stories too - but that's for another time.

More than a few years ago, a co-worker brought a newspaper into work that contained the obituary of the woman who used to run our department.  The first reaction was from another co-worker, who under her breath, simply muttered, "Ding Dong".  Everyone knew that was a reference to The Wizard of Oz when the bad witch had a house fall on her head.  There were a few snickers and a few shrugs too.  But I was left quietly stunned.  This woman - our former supervisor - was a mother and a grandmother of five.  Yes, she was punitive, even mean at times, taking the letter of the company's law to ridiculous and borderline inhumane degrees.  But she was a grandmother, presumably with small children who loved her.  Somehow, the in-congruence of that unnerved me. Even with an assumed loving family, there were still a not insignificant number of people who saw her as the Wicked Witch of the West and would remember her so.  It gave me pause -  I thought about legacies and the impressions that follow bosses and others in authority long after they are gone.

I've seen a lot of behaviors from bosses in my lengthy career.  I've worked for those willing to do anything to get ahead including walking over friends, colleagues, and underlings and then kicking the remains to the curb.  But there have been others who were principled enough to go the extra mile to do the right thing.  I suppose success can be had on either path...

Recently I left a job I liked a lot.  What I didn't like were the behaviors of the person in charge.  His actions were abusive to the degree that gave me no choice.  I guess in our careers, it comes down to what we choose to do at the fork in the road.  And at the end of our lives, how do we want to be remembered by those we served or by those who served us?  I'd prefer to be remembered like the beloved young dentist above and not by a reference to an evil player in a child's fairy tale.


Special note:  there will be happy springtime topics to cover here soon.  And this, in case you need help:  https://www.facebook.com/thatsharassment/




Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vanity Fair

In Chapter Nine of Little Women, the March sisters prepare Meg for a journey to Boston for the long-awaited Sally Moffat coming-out party.  Meg Goes to Vanity Fair is one of my favorite chapters in the Louisa May Alcott book.  As Meg packs her trunk with her finest clothes and accessories, her sisters gather 'round and contribute their own best things as well.  I love the helpful and fluttery way the girls anticipate Meg's opportunity to finally rub elbows with a proper society and their excited chatter about all the wonderful things they imagine will happen to Meg at the wealthy Moffat's.

I am about to venture to my own Vanity Fair and although I have no sisters nearby to help pack my trunk, I do feel the love and support of those who care.  My destination is not Boston Society but an exciting new job with more money, exceptionally wonderful benefits and hopefully, more respect than in my last position.  To prepare for Vanity Fair, I have scripted a checklist for my "trunk" based on all the loving advice I have received about this sudden and perfectly Providential chance.  The new position practically fell from the sky and into my outstretched arms (although I was ready the day my heart whispered to my soul, "Where's your pride?").

~As I enter the door of my new firm, I will tell myself "I am about to meet some life-long friends".  (From my sister)

~I will pack a book as well as a healthy salad for lunch in case my initial lunchtime appears to be a lone one (i.e., lonely).  (From my daughter)

~I will remind myself that this job was a gift from Heaven above and I will be mindful of the Divine's hand.  (From my good friend, Karen, who prayed)

~My look will straddle the more casual dress code of my new company with my natural tendency toward trust-fund-librarian style.  I will strike an appropriate balance until I know more about how the natives dress.  (Also from Karen)

~I will remember that new ventures even at my age, mean a "younger" brain and learning new things will be ever-so-good for me.  (Also from my sister)

~I will carry a small tote bag with a few "comforts" for just-in-case, including an extra set of contact lenses, some tea bags, tissues, and a new notebook for jotting down notes in a pretty way. (My friend Patty, an inveterate self-starter who is a wee bit older than I)

~I will become acquainted with my new commute route well before my start date so I arrive with time enough to compose myself and check my lipstick.  (The Complete Secretary's Handbook - 1962 edition)

Unlike Meg March, no one can pack my trunk for me...but my loved ones have certainly helped me fill it.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Help from the Shelf


Long ago, I clipped a quote from an article about Joan Didion.  She told the journalist that when she was small and upset by something that happened in school, her parents would tell her to "go to literature" for help.  They believed she would find answers in the classics.  When I am unsettled, I also go to my shelves looking for, if not answers, comfort.  My books remind me who I am, where I've been, and where I need to go.

Like old friends, my library is familiar and friendly.  Sometimes just gazing at an image in one of my books takes me back to a version of myself that I may have forgotten.  I am reminded that the person who looked upon that image, sometimes many years ago, still exists within.  And if I can tap into her, I can tap into renewed strength.

I have favorite literature that offers me all kinds of inspiration but I thought I would give you some of the non-fiction books that I reach for in times of trouble.  So, straight from my shelf:

Linda Dannenberg's The Paris Way of Beauty will always be my favorite beauty book.  I purchased my copy in 1979 and as a young single working women, I learned how to care for myself and organize my beauty routine using its tried-and-true French methods.  I still employ the Recipe for a Basic Makeup outlined in the book and the diet advice has stood the test of time. I still get a thrill when I crack it open and a shy but chic young woman meets me between the pages.

Romancing the Ordinary by Sarah Ban Breathnach is not unlike her blockbuster Simple Abundance but it is more concrete in its approach.  I love both of Sarah's books but Romancing the Ordinary speaks to my soul.  Reading a few chapters before bed is like a beloved great aunt tucking me in as she murmurs, "There, there dear".  In times of stress or pain, Romancing the Ordinary provides the quiet comfort I crave.

When I need a good cry about life's heartbreaking tenderness, I reach for Nancy Lindemeyer's Jenny Walton's Packing for a Woman's Journey.  Nancy's stories, drawn from her childhood to young womanhood are so poignantly written that it is one of the only books that can make me sob out loud.  Her stirring essays about the grandmother who adopted her as a small child, tug at my heartstrings like a plaintive violin.  I had the pleasure of having lunch with Nancy once and she told me that the only way to write the stories was to relive each one.  It shows.

My Father by Judy Collins is illustrated by my favorite children's book artist, Jane Dyer.  The story is about a daughter of a coal miner whose life is made radiant by her father's dreams for her.  Dyer's colorful and gently realistic interpretations of what should have been a stark childhood come alive off the page.  This book is perfect for a weary grown-up's lullaby.

I love the art of the Impressionists and so another book I turn to regularly aligns fashion with my favorite art movement.  Dior Impressions:  the Inspiration and Influence of Impressionism at the House of Dior is a beautiful volume that explores the relationship between Dior's designs and 19th century artists use of light, nature and color.  Many of Dior's dresses appear to step right from the gilded frame.  The text is engaging and the book is so spring-like, I can almost smell verdant grasses when I open it.  Mesmerizing.











Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Big Tease


Lace is a big tease - it both provokes and conceals.  The women above are all "laced up" but they're not telling any secrets...except to each other.  Today's lace is different - it's quintessentially feminine and very alluring.  If you want to look girly - wear lace.

Most lace is made by machine these days, the design of which sometimes begins on a computer because lace artistry and other needle arts are not being handed down as much anymore.  If I had more time, lace is definitely a subject I would explore - there are hundreds of books, mostly vintage, to help me along.  Handmade lace requires painstaking work and a nimbleness to create. The bobbins and threads that artisans use to make this ancient textile are mind-boggling.  A lace-maker is no klutz.

My grandmother made me a white eyelet lace dress when I was 13 and I loved it.  I thought it made me look sexy and grown-up but I probably just looked chaste and virginal - my grandmother's creations were far more conservative than my mod 1968, Seventeen-Magazine-as-Bible self wanted.  The only color in the shift was the tender green velvet ribbon that Nana wove through the waist and the embellishment of a lone golden daisy stitched where the ribbon joined. That dress stayed in my heart and the memory of it still has me trawling spring catalogs every year for eyelet blouses.

I do wonder how appropriate lace is for a woman of a certain age though.  I wore an orchid-colored lace dress for my daughter's wedding almost two years ago but I'm not sure I would feel comfortable anymore in a pure white lace dress.  I would however, embrace a crisp shell or bell-sleeved blouse, especially in eyelet.

So what is it about this textile that appeals?  Is it the association with brides and matrimony? Babies in Christening dresses?  Mostly, I think it's like the freshness you feel on the day you suddenly discover that spring came to stay.  Lace is as unexpected and delightful as a breath of fresh air - accompanied by a jolt of sex-appeal.  Or not.