Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On the Twelfth Day of a Feminine Christmas

I just couldn't pass up this sweet little miss to represent my twelfth Christmas post to you.  Her image depicts a lovely Christmas purity.  Clearly the illustration is idealized but one simply cannot help but be swept away by the charming dearness of her.

Occasionally, we come across someone in our lives who also seems to have an honest pureness of spirit as represented in this image.  And I'm not talking about children, who are naturally innocent and faultless.  I'm talking about adults.  Maybe it's a special friend or perhaps someone just on the periphery of your life that you admire from afar.  They embody a beautiful year-round Christmas spirit of the heart.  Usually, these are the people who have no agenda of their own, other than the desire to help.  And they also seem to come up with solutions quite often too.  Generosity of spirit and problem-solving seem to go hand in hand.

For my new year, I have been thinking about how to keep Christmas all year long and all I can come up with is to just be open and more generous.  As luck would have it, I was able to begin immediately when my mother needed me today.

Mom doesn't ask for much but sometimes she needs somebody to hold her hand while she traverses through 21st century loopholes.  I'm so glad I was free today to help interpret for her, a world she doesn't quite understand anymore.  And it was just one day after Christmas...

Thank you for your readership this year and for your comments.  Thank you to my friend Judy for providing the image above.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

On the Eleventh Day of a Feminine Christmas

These two women are clearly from the Homefront.  That is a place that endlessly intrigues me, especially during Christmastime.

There were just four Christmases during WWII and the specialness of the holiday was surely enhanced by the abundance of patriotism that flooded the country.  I quiz my mother often about what life was like during those years and she tells me that Christmases were very special and poignant, with  nearly every family having fathers, sons, uncles, and nephews overseas in battle.

Some of my favorite Christmas movies were created during the war.  Since You Went Away, an epic film of Anne Hilton's life on the homefront raising her two daughters alone, is one I especially love.  This film corroborates my mother's stories of how women on the Homefront did not shirk in their creation of lovely Christmases for those left at home, even with the complications of rationing.  Without her beloved "Tim", Anne invites an endearing motley crue into her pretty home on Christmas Eve and hears from "Tim" yet, as the gong strikes.

Christmas during the war was gentler despite the war.  Courtesy and respect was in abundance even if money wasn't.  Kindness and generosity too.  Anne's grocer Mr. Mahoney, delivers everything on tab.  Where can we do that today?

A coworker once told me that although she thought my blog was beautiful, she didn't understand it.  I didn't mind.  A Lovely Inconsequence is not for everyone.  But for some, I seem to strike a chord.  Maybe it's because like the women left behind on the Homefront, we still care about keeping some things sacred.  Not that my former coworker wasn't a wonderful, kind person who didn't love Christmas, but admittedly, I have an overactive beauty gene.  Some of you might as well.

One more post this month...

Friday, December 22, 2017

On the Tenth Day of a Feminine Christmas

Before the internet and cell phones, videos games, and DVD's and having only one television in the house with just three channels and 6 people, if you wanted to be alone with your boyfriend, you went for a walk.  And it didn't matter if it was sweltering or stormy, you stepped out with your beau.

The song Winter Wonderland will always remind me of a certain high school boyfriend.  Together, we stomped for miles in the snow, all through our town, laughing, talking and holding hands.  Except for an occasional movie or a birthday dinner at the one fancy restaurant for miles, our "dates" involved a promenade or two each week.  No one had money back then either.  At least not how it seems today.

What I remember about our promenades were the romance.  We bundled up in wool coats - mine, a pastel pink one, belted at the waist with matching popcorn-knit scarf, hat and glove set;  he, in a military-style pea coat, skull cap and jaunty plaid scarf.  There were no sub-zero down-filled coats - we wore bulky wool and cloth like everyone else.

We were our own Christmas Chanel 5 perfume ad but still young enough to "play".  I would let him catch me after he pretended to chase me in a barren parking lot under foggy streetlamps.  Snow bit at our noses when he went in for a kiss or two, both of us out of breath, laughing and frozen.

Our walks always led us back to Mom's kitchen table for cocoa and a cookie or two with all the others milling about.  There was just enough time for his coat to drip-dry into an icy puddle out on the back porch, much to the family dog's delight.  His curfew was 9:00 PM sharp and no matter how much fun we had, he didn't want to disappoint his folks.  But before he headed back out into the snow and if no eyes were prying, he left me with another kiss.


Sleigh bells ring
Are you listening?
In the lane, snow is glistening
A beautiful sight...we're happy tonight
Walking in a winter wonderland.


Thursday, December 21, 2017

On the Ninth Day of a Feminine Christmas

Are you warm enough?  I know.  Me either.  So I bought a classic set of pajamas in merry tartan similar to the ones above.

I think plaid is beautifully classic but when I was a young miss, I would have screamed if my mother tried to get me into what I would have considered to be "boys pajamas".  Let my brothers wear the red and green flannel pj's as well as the lasso-wielding cowboy-printed ones.  I only wanted long nightgowns with frills and ribbons.  Please!

But the older I get, the warmer I want to be in winter, especially during the Christmas season, when the desire to be cozy sets in.

I'm not saying abandon your silk nightgowns or your pretty summer nities...you will reach for them again.  But there is something wonderfully reassuring about slipping into soft and warm menswear-inspired pajamas on a cold winter solstice night.

Would you agree?

Monday, December 18, 2017

On the Eighth Day of a Feminine Christmas

In high school, I had a friend who would put on fresh makeup whenever she was sad.  And I was lucky enough to attend some of these sessions and learned a lot.  She also had a very beautiful face that took to makeup like a fish to water and her application technique was a joy to watch.  Even if she were going nowhere but downstairs to meatloaf with the family, she did a marvelous job and I was enthralled to sit at her feet.

I love our model's muted-red beaded dress and the shiny hair style with the unique I-took-some-extra-effort hair accessory.  But I really love her shimmering makeup.

Dewy skin goes in and out of fashion but Christmas is the perfect time to get a preemptive glint on your face before you head out the door for your Christmas celebration. I love a little sparkle during the holidays not only because it's festive but also because it's youth-defying.

A lot of cosmetics these days have light-catching properties and I especially like that factor in the new concealers.  They blur the skin and remove lines and wrinkles.  But for some pretty shine, there are powder highlighters and creams and iridescent eyeshadows.

Here are some really nice ways to shine-on, even if you are no longer seventeen (and you don't have to be young to get away with it!):

Slick some shimmery pink lip gloss over your normally sedate lipstick - for bonus glow:  kiss someone under the mistletoe.  Go ahead.

Gleam your legs and arms with a shimmery body lotion.  Also the décolleté.

Try out the new highlighter powders or liquids judiciously - touch them to temples, above and beneath the highest arch of the eyebrow, at the highest point of your cheeks, along nose and as a finishing touch, add a wisp on your cupid's bow.

Drip the teeniest bit of argan oil into your hands, then smooth them over your freshly curled hair - instant glow for weary lackluster locks.

Watch your favorite classic Christmas movie - one that touches your heart - your eyes will shine with happiness.

Give someone a special gift that they really don't expect - your heart will glow.

Share a childhood memory with your best friend and ask her to tell you her favorite Christmas memory - you'll be beaming from ear to ear.

Take a walk in the snow - your cheeks will be rosy with health.

Sit by the fire on Christmas Eve and watch it cast a radiance across the faces you love.

My friend from long-ago may never know she had such a rapt student but she taught me it never hurts to get your glow on.

What are your ways to glow this Christmas?

Sunday, December 17, 2017

On the Seventh Day of a Feminine Christmas

The other day I offered to go to the village to pick up some needed wrapping paper for my mother so she wouldn't have to go out in the snow.  "No, you won't know what I want.  It needs to coordinate with my theme this year", she replied.  I smiled inwardly.  Mom still works Christmas her way and her wrapped presents reflect that.

The woman in my picture above has embraced the movement.  I love the baubles, the red and gold packages, and her merry white and red dress.  I imagine she has planned her wrappings in such a way to express her exuberance for the season.  But I wonder sometimes...why do we care?

Surely, you've received a much-desired Christmas gift from special male in your life, wrapped in newspaper or a plastic grocery bag with a bow.  Department stores have "Men's Nights" just to provide extra support and help for male shoppers who apparently don't have a clue.  I think that men just can't be bothered with fussy wrapping or maybe a man just doesn't feel he has the dexterity to pull off a package like those depicted above.  No matter...we'll provide the cheer of a well-wrapped gift.  It is truly, half the fun.

Last year I stretched my creativity a bit and used brighter colors that weren't red or green or traditionally printed with Santa's and snowmen.  It was a triumph - at least quietly to myself.  And I had a ball.  This year, I went on a magenta and teal campaign.  No one who has visited has said one thing about my shiny colorfully-wrapped gifts under the tree.  But I know when I hand Mom hers, she will exclaim out loud, "Oh how lovely you wrapped this!'  And I have no doubt, she will enchant me too.

Friday, December 15, 2017

On the Sixth Day of a Feminine Christmas

This adorable little babe reminds me of my daughter – her coloring, the rosebud lips, the tenderness…  This Christmas, my feelings of endearment know no bounds because in the New Year, I will be the grandmother of what I am certain will be a close facsimile to the precious child above.

Naturally my thoughts are threading their way to next Christmas, when I will hold in my arms a beloved little girl who has already stolen my heart.  I’ve heard it told that becoming a grandmother is like falling in love.  Dear Readers, I'm there…

My daughter has retained her unique honey-colored hair like the little one above, which enchanted me first on the dark snowy Epiphany night she was born; now three decades past.  And my mother and I were hard-pressed to find a simple doll whose hair would match our girl’s.  We knew we succeeded the Christmas morning my daughter patted her new dolly’s head and exclaimed, “Look Mommy, she has the same hair as me!”  Our delight knew no bounds then, either.

Am I ashamed for the passionate love for my daughter that emotes from me thus as I write?  Just wait until next Christmas.  You have no idea...


Away in a manger

No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Lay down His sweet head
The stars in the sky

Look down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay
The cattle are lowing

The poor Baby wakes
But little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes
I love Thee, Lord Jesus

Look down from the sky
And stay by my side
'Til morning is nigh
(Her favorite lullaby)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On the Fifth Day of a Feminine Christmas

Isn't she lovely...Isn't she pretty?  Truly the angel's best. ~Stevie Wonder

She is indeed, lovely in her silk taffeta dress the color of a child's Valentine's Day lollipop.  The simple chignon, the sweeping skirt with pockets (there they are again) create a lovely inconsequence even though her dress is formal.  It reminds me that it really doesn't have to hurt to be dressed up, does it?

Admittedly a dinosaur, I prefer people to be festive in appearance on Christmas.  I believe in comfort - I really do and it's the reason why I always bring my slippers to my sister's house on Christmas Day.  It's no fun doing the dishes in heels - although many a homemaker of yore did just that.  Still, a bit of sparkle and glow is called for on a holiday that represents so many things to the world and is our very greatest of family celebrations. If it were not so, would there be so many blingy garments for sale or so many "ugly" Christmas sweaters which are really just attempts to make a caricature out of the too-precious themed sweaters that your mother may have tried to get you to wear once.  I don't care - I love it all.  Christmas gives us permission to be outre, out-there, flashy....or just lovely, if that's your aim.

So will you be lovely this Christmas Eve and Christmas Day?  And what will you wear?

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

On the Fourth Day of a Feminine Christmas

This mid-century half-apron really brings back memories.  My mother and grandmother always wore aprons like this.  And every Christmas, their aprons reflected the joy and specialness of the season with embellishments such as felt cut-outs of Christmas trees and the ever-present holly leaf replete with crimson berries.

Nearly every Home Economics class taught girls how to make a simple apron and both my mother and grandmother made their own.  Theirs had other beautiful dressmaker touches such as rickrack trim and deep pockets.  After all, what use is an apron without pockets?

What really touches me about home-sewn Christmas aprons is the extent to which homemakers went to make these items especially for the holiday.  And knowing that their festive aprons came out but once a year made them all the more special when they were at last seen again.  Somehow, it just elevated the entire season.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On the Third Day of a Feminine Christmas

This was me writing my list yesterday.  Fortunately, we have a lovely little  shop in my town which offers simple and charming gifts at no-guilt prices.  Susan always has just the thing in her tiny store for girlfriends, sisters, daughters and mothers.

Even though they are believers, there are many who are decidedly anti-Christmas.  I'm not one of them.  But the flood of a certain jewelry store's TV ads can set my teeth on edge and have me rethinking the whole thing.

Years ago, I recall the cry of the grown-ups in my life who said that Christmas had become too commercialized.  And I wonder, what would they think now?  Every industry has capitalized on Christmas and the holiday is Big Business.  What bothers me most is the frenzy it can cause in the heart of this average woman who just loves the season, the giving, the lore, and still holds close the main reason for the season. So how do we turn the Christmas machine off and enjoy simple pleasures and joys and claim them for our own?

One way is shopping in places which have values aligned with our own.  Stores that carry well-crafted, meaningful gifts, that don't cost an arm and a leg.  Bubble bath that helps a dear friend to slow down, a knit scarf to warm the neck of a niece that works in a cold city, a crystal beaded bracelet for a mother who still loves her bling, hot cocoa mix for a fiendish co-worker who can't get enough chocolate.  I could go on...The thread is that the gifts are thoughtful, whimsical...think things in small boxes that say something special to your giftee, such as, "I see who you are inside".

So while you are writing out your gift list, shut off the TV and listen to some beautiful ancient Christmas carols instead.  Have a warm cup of tea and a cookie.  Really think about the ones you are buying for.  And if you come to see me, I'll take you to Susan's and I guarantee that together, we will check off that Christmas list.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

On the Second Day of a Feminine Christmas

Aren't they darling?  I imagine they are walking home from a candlelit service at church.  Perhaps he, as the Mister, is picking her up and found her waiting under the glowing lamp light, her candle still flickering.

Their nearly touching heads tell me they have secrets and perhaps some promises to keep.  But I imagine them married in the first blush of their joined lives.  And somehow he knows what that candle flame means to her.  And he's not bothered by it at all.

I do believe there is nothing so beautifying as dining with someone you love at a table lit by candlelight.  It does more good for a face than the best highlighter-du-jour from Sephora's latest collection.  Glowing candles soften hard edges and reflect light from the very place our souls emanate - the eyes.

Long pretty tapers on the table and white votives scattered about will lend an incandescence to your home too.  Who says houses don't have souls too?  And candlelight will bathe your house in a radiant light that hides a multitude of sins.  Shine on...

Using candles during the holiday season, to light the walkway on Christmas Eve, to enhance your table's scrumptious dinner buffet, or to just glow on the mantle above the hearth, reminds us that even in the world's darkest days, the light will come again.  And I believe our Mr. and Mrs. may already know that...

On Christmas Eve, love is clothed with visible vestments, with gifts and written words, with holly-wreaths and flowers and candles...As I watch the Christmas candles burn, I see in them a symbol of the Great Love which dipped a lustrous spirit into human form that the world in its darkness might be illuminated and made beautiful.

    ~Ceremonials of Common Days by Abbie Graham (1923)

Friday, December 1, 2017

On the First Day of a Feminine Christmas

I love the drama of this woman's Christmas coat.  I imagine she is stopping by a friend's house Christmas Eve afternoon to drop off her wrapped package and have a glass of sherry a cup of tea. Although I can't imagine wearing so much fur these days, she does look warm and feminine.

I saw the coat of my dreams once.  It was on a six year old.  But it was a lovely a-line, fitted through the shoulders and chest with a charming flair right where you need it – over the “trouble spots”.  In sumptuous chartreuse, that marvelous green color that teeters on acid, it was best of all, a nubby textured knit for added interest and depth.  I never tell my family when I am looking for a new coat.  “Oh you and coats!” they will cry.  The problem is I can never find a coat I really love.  So each fall, I go on a private hunt for that elusive combination of warmth and winsomeness.

A few years ago I took to wearing capes.  You would be surprised at how warm a cape can be except on the most bitterest of winter days.  Layering works beautifully under a cape's sweeping fabric and if you can find one with fresh details such as toggle buttons or small faux fur collars, they can be very special.  Sadly, one of my favorite capes was carelessly tossed in the dryer last year and when it emerged, it came with a shrunken shoulder and a permanent crease pointing like an arrow up the left side.  It now belongs in Star Wars Costuming.  And ok, it was carelessly tossed by me who was trying to skirt around another dry cleaning bill.  So perhaps you can imagine my delight at seeing a high school chum who came for lunch, in an unusual cape/coat that nearly took my breath away.

As soon as my friend stepped through the door, I noticed the dashing fur collar and when she removed her coat, I had a chance to finger the beautiful cashmere and feel the fine weight of it in my hands.  “Oh this is lovely!” I told her.  And I immediately asked her where she found it, something polite people never do according to my etiquette books.  Her cape/coat came from a private sale in a town known for its high-end shopping so I knew it would be expensive.  I didn’t ask my friend – I’m not that impolite.  But I did know it would be terribly expensive. 

What I really loved about her piece was the casual élan it evoked – almost as though it were a thing you grab from a hook by the door to walk the dog in.  But it had such shape and drape that once it is put on, it becomes a lovely inconsequence that oozes style.  I had to have one.

A quick internet search the following day, netted me the private sale information that was now over.  No matter.  I hunted down the company’s website.  But my breath was taken away for another reason:   it wasn’t just expensive – it was almost sinfully expensive.  Now, I may be exaggerating a wee bit because what I really mean to say is that it was almost sinfully expensive for me.  I had never once in my life, spent as much on one piece of outerwear before.  And for more danger, I would be purchasing sight unseen and without a return policy of any kind.  Final Sale.

But the heart wants what the heart wants and I knew I would be making that luscious, full-bodied, inky-black cape/coat mine with a click of a button.  I waited just a day or two just to be sure, and kept the shopping cart open on my laptop before I clicked on Wednesday.  And by Friday, I was screen vamp Theda Bara with a bearskin coat about her shoulders, Anna Karenina wearing a long red Cossack in frozen and crystalline Russia, and Queen Guinevere in a snowy ermine cape waiting for Sir Lancelot on the wooded edge of Camelot.  Or perhaps I was just me wearing a fine garment that was a rare pricey gift to myself;  a mini-splurge to remind only me that in our relatively short lives, it may just be ok now and then to buy a dream.