Archive for March, 2010

A Charmed Life

March 25, 2010

A while back, I was looking at my Mom’s sterling charm bracelet. When we divvied up Mom’s jewelry, I ended up with the charm bracelet, because it brought back some happy memories for me. It was obviously collected in the 1930s and 1940s. I remember getting into her jewelry drawer and playing with it as a child. There was a tiny fan with moving blades, a concertina, miniscule bottles of Coke and Milk, an Indian headdress, a Donald Duck, a toilet with a lid that opens, and some other miniature dangles.

Charm bracelets were still popular in the 1950s and 1960s, so I got my own starter bracelet with a tiny silver heart locket. I got a new charm for birthdays and special occasions, and my charm bracelet is loaded with a grand piano, a Canadian flag, a ballerina, a bear from Yellowstone park, a mailbox, a Graduation cap, and various odds and ends, some of which move. I stopped adding charms in the 1960s, because hippies didn’t wear charm bracelets. They were too dangly and dainty, and clinky, making noise on your wrist and catching in embroidered clothing, and anyway we were all about the ethnic and bold jewelry at that time. So my charm bracelet ended up in my sentimental jewelry stash, where it has been ever since.

I still remembered the thrill of getting a new charm to mark occasions, though, so I made sure the Baby had her own bracelet, although she wasn’t much interested. Still is was a rite of passage in my mind.

But looking at Mom’s and my own charm bracelets made me nostalgic and something more. No way would I wear mine now. For one thing, it is too little to fit comfortably around my wrist. But I really like the idea of wearing collected memories, and some of those charms are just so cool. Then I thought about the necklaces I made from my gumball and crackerjack charms. Hmmm. I would wear a necklace. But a necklace full of silver charms could be clunky and heavy. And maybe, even, gasp!, tacky. But when has tacky ever stopped me? So I have decided to take all my charms off the bracelet and put them on a necklace. But, this is me, so I can’t stop with that. If I am going to wear my life around my neck, it needs to be a bit more comprehensive. I belong to the “More is better” school of thought. So I am getting more charms to fill in other bits of my life. A tree and shovel and log cabin for when I lived in the woods, and met Mr. GG. A duck and a squirrel for my former pets. A wooly mammoth, just because I love wooly mammoths. A Snake Goddess from Crete for my love of all things Minoan. Enameled maps of the states I have lived in. A woodpecker in a tree, a quail, and a blue jay for the birds that currently make their way through our back yard and bring us such pleasure. A unicorn for the tattoo I got in 1976 in San Francisco. A blue and white teapot for the china pattern both Mom and I love. A couple of earrings my best friend gave me. Maybe I’ll get Mr. GG to make me a tiny copy of our wedding rings.

I have no idea if this necklace thing is gonna work out. But I am bound to have fun assembling it. And it combines a bunch of stuff I love to do – making things, buying things, considering appropriate symbols, and revisiting some of the best parts of my life and making them into something concrete.

Anyway, it is good to have a project, because the weather is still iffy, and ordinarily I would be out working in the yard. And thinking about making a necklace sure beats cleaning up the basement or moving piles of wet leaves from the perennial beds.

If you someday see a woman with a hefty, clunky, amorphous yoke of silver dangling into her cleavage, it just may be me. Try to look past the whole tacky side of it, and appreciate the fact that I condensed the high points of my life into a bunch of little charms. And if it is absolutely too hideous to wear, I will put it in a frame, and it will still serve a purpose. I told you I was a pro at justifying ANYTHING I wanted to do, didn’t I? Tacky or not, I think this idea is just…… charming. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

The Ides of March

March 23, 2010

March is not my favorite month. Last year Mr. GG was in Australia for the whole month. And things on the domestic front went to hell in a handbasket. It snowed a couple of feet and the snowblower broke. The garbage disposal broke. The shower drain malfunctioned. The city did something to the water pipes, so I was without water for a few days. But the worst was that Furbutt went on a pee rampage. All of a sudden she started urinating on everything – bedding, the wall to wall carpet, the tile floor, everything. My standard cat pee cleaner could not handle the job. So I got on the internet and found a recipe that involved using water, dish soap, peroxide and baking soda, which smelled only marginally better than cat pee. And Furbutt took to peeing on the baking soda mess. And then I screwed up the vacuum cleaner sucking up all that baking soda after it dried. Yikes. The vet gave me kitty Prozac to rub in Furbutt’s ear, and it was all I could do not to rub the stuff in my ear, too. When the Prozac goo didn’t help, he switched her to people Prozac. Eventually Mr. GG got home and the whole pee thing stopped, but not before I was seeing the entire world through yellow lenses. It was hideous. Furbutt came really close to being a permanent outside cat.

Well, deja vu, all over again. Furbutt is peeing on stuff again. We watched her from across the room as she squatted and aimed perfectly into my red and white embroidered Chinese slipper. Back to the vet. No physical problems, so she is on another antidepressant. Which has to be made up at the people pharmacy. And Shamu has thyroid problems – she lost 5 pounds (from 22 to 17), and apparently it wasn’t the prescription diet cat food. So she has thyroid medication (another trip to the people pharmacy) and it seems like I spend half my life squirting liquid down little kitty maws.

In the last week, I have been to the Clinic 5 times, and the Vet 3 times. Plus that trip to the emergency room. Sucks. My doctor decided (against my no-Med school opinion) that my IUD needed to come out. So I went to a new gynecologist, who was really late for his appointment cause he was delivering a baby. But he managed to find the MIA IUD, and held it up triumphantly as he said, “Wow, that’s a first! I didn’t know these things could come apart!”. I did not share his enthusiasm for this new experience – seems like part of the copper came off the thing, so he had to go fishing around for it, and couldn’t find it. He kept apologizing for the pain I was experiencing, and I made some smart ass comment that it was too bad copper wasn’t magnetic. He agreed. “Then you could just sit on a big ole magnet”. I like this doctor.

We have agreed to meet again in a couple of weeks so he can get some kind of scope and fishing hook to take a fantastic voyage through my girly plumbing to look for the missing copper. Blah. And my regular doctor wants me to go to a neurologist, even though my MRI shows my brain is functioning just fine. Just to be on the safe side. I suggested that maybe I was just nutso and being a hypochondriac, and that a neurologist was overkill, but she looked at me and said, “My lawyer would not like it if I diagnosed you as nutso, so you are going to the neurologist. And by the way, your cholesterol is too high. Do you want to see a nutritionist, or do you know what to eat, and are just not eating right?”. Huh. I guess that was a rhetorical question.

Oh wait, stop the presses. The OBgyn’s office just called to say that I need to have an ultrasound to see if that copper chunk is still in my uterus – that’s what the manufacturers recommend. So another trip to radiology tomorrow. Maybe I should just endow a room at the Clinic. I mean the little receptionist with all the studs bristling from her ears already squeals, “I always check you in!” when she sees me.

Nope, March is not my favorite month. And I still haven’t done the taxes. Maybe I’ll go find that old Simon and Garfunkel song “April, come she will”, and listen to it a few hundred times.

How Green Was My Brain

March 17, 2010

Well, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, something we don’t make a big deal out of around here. Although someone has already asked Mr. GG where his green was today. He told them it was home in bed, and then had to explain he married Irish. Me having Irish ancestry doesn’t come up much, unless Mr. GG makes some crack about me having an Irish temper. I don’t, but it makes me furious when he says that, and I generally let him have it with both barrels, which sort of proves his point. One of my sisters was born on St. Patrick’s Day, and got Patricia for a middle name. A long time ago a cousin and I dumped green food coloring in the mashed potatoes for her birthday dinner, and while the potatoes looked festive, once that brown gravy was on them, they didn’t look so appetizing.

I am cooking corned beef for dinner, but mostly because it was on sale. You couldn’t pay me enough to boil cabbage to go with it. That stuff reeks. I think I will make a nice cheesy potato dish to go with it. Anyway, as far as I am concerned, the whole point of corned beef is to have leftovers to make reuben sandwiches.

I am moving kind of slow today, because yesterday was stressful. I called the doctor to make an appointment for some headaches I had been having. I checked them out on the internet medical sites, and it looked like it was some sort of TMJ or pinched nerve action going on. But the doctor’s office started asking me the kind of questions we all recognize as the signs of stroke, and insisted on getting me in pretty quickly. So, I’m here to tell you, if you don’t feel nauseated or a little shaky when you call to make a perfectly normal doctor’s appointment, by the time they grill you on weakness in your left side or any disorientation, you are bound to start feeling sick to your stomach, and a little nervous.

So, I take a few aspirin and call Mr. GG to see if he can take me to the doctor. You know, just in case. Then I lay down on the sofa, and tell myself that I am just fine, and alternate positive thoughts with choosing music for my funeral service (okay, so given enough time to brood, I can be a raging hypochondriac).

Anyway, we spend the rest of the afternoon at the doctor’s and she sends us along to the emergency room. I am on the whole, disgustingly healthy, so have not had to spend much time at hospitals. But here I am, having IV’s and getting an MRI, so they give me a little something to mellow me out before they insert me in that tube thingy. Good thing, too. I have now eliminated spelunking as a possible future activity. No way will I be crawling through narrow rock tubes to get to some pristine underground river or cavern lined with crystals. Seems I have a touch of claustrophobia. Who knew? They give me ear plugs, and I keep my eyes firmly shut, and I only have to ask to be pulled out once for a little breather. Then I get to hang around in the emergency room again, and I am freezing from being in that tube, so they put a heated blanket on me, and between that and those nice calming drugs, I zone out for a while. Mr. GG informs me I have snored. Since those calming drugs are still swimming around my blood stream, I don’t even care if thousands of strangers heard me snore. The doctor eventually shows up and tells me my brain is okay. Woooohooo. I am really glad, but mostly hungry. It is way past lunch and dinner time, and I NEED FOOD NOW! We drive through a Mexican fast food place and I inhale a burrito and taco before we even get home.

Later, when things have calmed down, I am still kind of groggy. Mr. GG mentions that he snuck around in the lab and saw my brain. Nobody was around to throw him out, so he stood at a window and watched my scans. I asked him if there was a lot of green. Green is my favorite color. I would like to think my brain scans show up like an explosion in a Crayola Factory, all bright and cheery with primary colors. He says no, that it was all black and white with a lot of shades of gray. We both snicker at that. He also mentions that he is a lucky man, because he has always wondered how my brain worked. We snicker at that, too.

Anyway, I still have to deal with these headaches, but that is nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to all the awful stuff it could have been, so today I am in a really good mood. I will not go so far as to say it is the luck of the Irish, but today, I won’t say it isn’t, either.

The Windmills of Your Mind

March 16, 2010

Okay, that’s a song title. Dusty Springfield sang it first, in the original Thomas Crown Affair. The reason I like it (well, besides Dusty – she’s one of the all time greats) is the first couple of lines:

Like a circle in a spiral,
Like a wheel within a wheel
…..

Circles and spirals. I find those very powerful motifs. So have eons of humans, if you look back at cave art, and labyrinths, and Celtic interlace, the Mayan calendar, and art nouveau and deco designs. It is probably the idea of a circle as a complete, enclosed entity. Definite boundaries – a circle of safety, a circle of friends, a circle of life.

And the spiral – it starts out as a circle, but then spins into the infinite, winding from the safe and known, out to who knows where. The realm of possibilities. The place of transition. Cusps. I like cusps. I like being on that threshold of safety and familiarity, but poised to go off on a new tangent. It seems like most of the important leaps in human history, human awareness, and human thought have taken place in these intermediate zones.

If I ever had to pick a religion, I would probably pick Wicca. Because they celebrate the Wheel of the Year. That’s one of those things I keep meaning to get around to researching. I am not sure how many Wiccans I would find in Utah. But then I read a book like “The Expected One” by Kathleen McGowan, about Mary Magdalene, and find out about the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral, and walking it as a form of meditation. Which reminds me of the labyrinth at Knossos on Crete, which I have always wanted to see. Which reminds me of the Snake Goddess, and the Mother, and goddess worship on the isle of Malta, the Venus of the Willendorf, and I see that these same ideas have been around a REALLY long time.

Well, I knew that. Objectively. But feeling it subjectively is another thing. It gives you a shivery awareness that people hundreds and thousands of years before you, felt those same feelings, not knowing that you specifically would exist, but trusting that you too, would know Truth when you saw/felt/experienced it.

Symbols can be very powerful things. And we each find our own symbols as we spin off through our lives. Some of us are nesters and stay close to home and find the infinite in a grain of sand. Some of us venture out, and find that wherever we are, whatever we see, our fundamental truths seem to remain constant. People being people. Life being a journey.

I may not know the name or life history of some woman who lived centuries ago, but I bet that when I look at that great spiralled Milky Way in the night sky, I feel the same feelings she felt. For me, connections are critical. Connections to what was and what will be. So I know that farther down the line, a woman will hold a baby, love a man, think of a better way to do something, laugh at herself, or grieve for a loss, and she will in that moment, know exactly the way I have felt. I find that very, very comforting.

Stew

March 11, 2010

A few days ago a reticulated iris poked it’s way through some oak leaves and produced a beautiful purple blossom in my back yard. Reticulated iris are sort of like the Kate Moss of crocus – way more tall, elegant and willowy than those chubby, cheerful yellow crocus we all tend to have. I rejoiced. Spring had arrived. Right. It has since snowed. Winter again, here at the old homestead, but that little flower is still bravely standing, battered yet alive.

And Mr. GG has been in Nevada and southern Utah for a week, and got caught in some real storms – the kind you drive 10 miles an hour through. It’s March, for heaven’s sake!
But after a week away, he gets home this evening at dinner time. He gets homesick, and tired of sleeping in motels and eating fast food, so I plan to have a hearty pot of stew on hand. This is really pretty easy to produce, and he loves it, so it’s a good welcome home dinner for both of us. I can whip some up, and still have time to do the laundry and pick up the mess I made making a mosaic table top for a friend, and run a couple of errands. Good stew makes you think all is right with the world. And it doesn’t need a lot of accompaniment – maybe some crusty bread, or some Bisquick biscuits if you are really industrious, and some strong flavored cheese for sides.

Here’s how to make a decent stew – you need a crockpot, or a nice, heavy, cast iron dutch oven. In a pinch you could use a regular stock pot, if you are able to maintain a low flame on your stove, but I vote for the crockpot – you can walk away and leave it.

Beef Stew

Buy some lean beef stewing meat at the grocery – however much you think you’ll need. You’re gonna have a lot of vegetables, so you could skimp on the meat if you want. Get the beef already cut up, it saves lots of time.

Put some flour and seasoning (black, red or lemon pepper) in a plastic bag and dump the beef cubes into it to coat them. Then put them, a few at a time, into a heavy skillet with oil in it and brown them. This step is critical… gives the beef a nice flavor, creates a small crust that holds in the juices, and leads to very tender meat. Keep frying the beef in small batches, removing the browned pieces with a slotted spoon, and put them into a crockpot. When all the beef is browned, I sautee a whole onion (which I have chopped coarsely) into the same skillet, and cook the onion until it is translucent. Put that in the crockpot too.

Then dump in 2 cans of Campbell’s Beef Consomme. Don’t mess with this. Don’t get Campbell’s Beef Broth, or use bouillion cubes. Add 1 can of water and maybe a splash of red wine if you have some sitting around. Or you could put in about 1/2 a can of beer. But only if you are in the mood. Anyway the liquid should cover the meat. If it doesn’t, throw in yet another can of consomme. Then get creative with seasonings. I always add a Bay leaf, a bunch of whole peppercorns, some dried parsley. The rest changes each time – maybe add some oregano, paprika, marjoram or thyme, or whatever seasoning you like.

Let the whole thing simmer in the crockpot on high for about 6 hours. The time doesn’t have to be exact, an hour more or less usually doesn’t matter – you just want the beef to be tender and almost falling apart.

About an hour before you plan to eat, boil up some cubed potatoes, and sliced carrots in a separate pot and cook till tender. Drain them and put them in the crockpot with the meat. At this point, I usually shake some frozen peas and corn right from their bags into the crockpot, too. Not the whole bag, just enough to add some color and punch. Let it meld in the crockpot for at least a half hour and then serve it up. The whole house is gonna smell terrific at this point, and people will be hanging over your shoulder, asking if the stew is done yet. Hold fast, and make them wait.

If you don’t have a crockpot, you can do this whole thing in a cast iron dutch oven, but you have to keep the oven on low (about 275 -300 degrees) for 6 hours, and that is not really energy efficient.

Oh, another thing. The Campbell’s consomme is high in sodium. When I make this, I have to hide the salt shaker, since Mr. GG tends to salt everything before he even tastes it!

Anyway, if you are still in the throes of winter, you may want to give this stew a try. You can’t really go wrong, once you have the beef simmering in the consomme. Anything you do to it after that just makes it yummier.

And while you are at the store, buying the beef and consomme, pick up a bunch of daffodils, too. Spirits will be lifted. It will remind you that spring is (almost) here.

Beautiful Neighbors

March 9, 2010

We lived in a white stucco French Norman style cottage in Boise, complete with a turret, red trim and mullioned windows. It was built in 1926 and it was my dream home. We moved in when the Baby was almost 5. The yard was big and deep, and bounded by flowering shrubs on 3 sides, with a multitude of trees scattered throughout the yard – scarlet hawthorn, linden, maple, apple, pear, peach, and dogwood. We moved in the spring, so it was at its most gorgeous. Three kinds of lilac, viburnums, forsythia, flowering quince, Oregon grape holly, mock orange, hellebores, violets and spring bulbs were in bloom. A huge bed of iris was budding. Blue flax and pyracantha had started to show color. It was heaven. I spent as much time in the yard as I could. The neighbors to one side lived in an almost identical house with an irrigation ditch cutting through the edge of our properties, crossing into their back yard.

I loved their yard too. They had landscaped the irrigation ditch with rocks and flowering alpines, billowy ferns and tiny mosses. One day I saw a black and white tuxedo cat sitting on a large flat stone, under a purple Siberian iris watching the water flow by. It was a timeless scene, like a Japanese print. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Eventually we met the neighbors, Genevra and Charles. She was British and he was Hungarian. They were artists. Well, obviously, if their yard was anything to go by. They were an older couple, and they really liked the Baby. They encouraged her to come into their yard any time, to play on the swing set they kept there for their grandchildren. Genevra’s mother lived a few blocks away in one direction, and their daughter Francesca lived a few blocks in the other direction, with her children Caitlin and Cristo. They were an intensely close knit family. And they welcomed us into it. For the Baby, who had never lived near any relatives the whole thing was a revelation. Genevra played a British game called “Happy Families” with her, and invited her to tea parties and easter egg hunts. They did art projects. Caitlin, a tiny, fey child and the Baby got along great too. They often vanished into the shrubs, building clubhouses, miniature kingdoms, and talking about whatever girls who are kindred spirits talk about.

One Halloween Francesca had us over to her house to make masks. This whole family was artistic, down to their fingertips. It must have been in their DNA. We cast Caitlin and the Baby’s faces with surgical gauze, first smearing them from hairline to neck with a thick coat of vaseline, then dipping strips of gauze in water and building up a life mask. The Baby wanted to be a fairy princess that year, so we fashioned pointed ears on her mask. After it dried, she painted it and I sewed her a magical blue dress to go with it. I don’t remember what Caitlin was that year, but Francesca and Cristo cast his legs and arms to make a set of jointed armor so he could be a knight. This family attacked life with a gusto and totality that I found fascinating.

As time went by, I found out more about their history. Charles and Genevra married in 1940 and lived on his estate in Hungary. He was some sort of nobility – I don’t know if I ever knew exactly what he was – maybe a baron. With their children and Genevra’s mother and sisters, they survived the Nazi occupation, and Genevra eventually smuggled baby Francesca out of Hungary to Switzerland. In a valise, under some clothing. The family reunited in California in 1948, and eventually made their way to Boise. Genevra’s mother Theresa de Kerpely was an author, and had written about their experiences during the war, in the fictional “A Crown for Ashes”, and the biography, “Of Love and Wars”. She was an aristocratic, white haired lady I had absolutely no problem addressing as Madame de Kerpely. Everyone treated her with the deepest respect. In 1993 she was honored by the Yad Vashem Memorial Institute of Israel, a tribute for righteous gentiles who aided Jewish people at great personal risk to themselves during WWII.

Genevra’s father, brother and son, had all committed suicide. She never talked about that, or about what happened when the Nazis moved into their home. But the entire family worried about Cristo, who did not know about this, and was going through a bad patch, due to his parent’s divorce and problems at school. He tended to pick on Caitlin and the Baby, and Mr. GG reprimanded him a couple of times for teasing them. Shortly after that, we began to get anonymous calls threatening the Baby’s life. It wasn’t too hard to figure out from where they originated, but it was an agonizing situation. I loved these people, but I knew the son had some severe problems. I called the police. With that one call I undid an important friendship, and caused both our families a lot of pain. I regret it to this day, and wish I had found another way to handle things. I was the mother of a young daughter and I was scared, and I have to say, given the same situation, I would probably do it all over again. Some things you just have to live with, and maybe you have to answer for them down the road. If so, I am certain my beautiful, beautiful neighbors will come up at my final reckoning. That’s okay, because I still miss them.

Starstruck

March 7, 2010

Okay, it’s official. I’m a groupie. Brenda Kinsel read my blog. I have all her books. I have given several away over the years. I read her blog and “Tips and Teasers” every month.

When I found she’d left a comment on my blog, I had to read it twice to make sure it was really her, and then I got on the phone and woke the Baby up in Boston, and screamed “Brenda Kinsel read my blog!!!” After the Baby calmed me down and asked me what the comment said, I had to read it to her, because I couldn’t remember what it said. Didn’t she get it? Brenda Kinsel!!!! Then I had to email Mr. GG (who was in a meeting) and let him know. He was happy for me in a bemused way.

So naturally for the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about clothes. And talking about clothes. My sister told me about a site called “myshape.com” which lets you plug in all your measurements and then suggests outfits for you, which you can order up immediately from a variety of vendors. I fooled around on the site for a while. It was fun, but I find I still have a disconnect between what I like and what looks good on me. At least these days, I try to buy only stuff I love, and it is amazing how things co-ordinate colorwise and stylewise.

I still tend to focus on the details instead of the big picture. Which is why I have this thing for shoes and purses and vintage jewelry. I may be in a white shirt and jeans, but it will be accessorized with several chunky raw turquoise necklaces, or an art nouveau enameled floral pin, or a bright cardigan. I have several pairs of green shoes. I love green shoes and boots. Mr. GG makes me jewelry, and even though he keeps giving me new stuff, I truly love my moonstone ring, celtic braid cuff, and the massive hammered silver cuff he gave me years ago. (He also made our wedding rings, oh so long ago – he made braided Turk’s Head knots out of the same piece of gold wire. That is romance, Mr. GG style. Pretty cool, huh?).

My mother-in-law gave me a family heirloom opal ring with my name and “1899” engraved on the inside. Turns out Mr. GG’s great grandparents had the same names as he and I do. I love that ring. I also crocheted a bunch of my Cracker Jack charms into thin strings of embroidery floss and wear 3 at a time. I have some real pearls, and I have bakelite bangles. I have a collection of enameled bar pins, and pendants of fossilized turitella shells that Mr. GG made. I wear all this stuff, depending on the day, the event, or my whim.

Ah, I see I digress again. Get used to it. That’s how my brain works. Anyway, since I am officially a Brenda Kinsel groupie, I have a story for her.

When my mom died, we did not have a funeral. We had a celebration of life for her at her favorite restaurant. We played a CD of photos we’d made for her retirement party. The Baby assembled several huge posters with photos of Mom throughout her life. We put out souvenirs from her trips to the Democratic National Convention and political stuff that meant something to her. We invited everybody. And the place was packed. People came, talked, ate, laughed, told great stories, and raised several glasses to Mom.

My sisters, sister-in-law, and the Baby and I all chose a piece of Mom’s jewelry to wear to this shindig. We stood in a receiving line, each of us sporting a pin or earrings or necklace that was Mom’s, as people came by to tell us how great Mom was. Some of them recognized our jewelry. The Baby wore a pink satin cocktail dress with long black gloves, and a complete parure of aurora borealis crystal jewelry Mom bought in the 1950s. (It was a very casual event). But the Baby pulled it off, and plenty of people told her she was as beautiful as Mom always said she was.

Anyway, wearing something that belonged to Mom, but that also reflected our own personal style, somehow enhanced this occasion, and added some kind of personal bonding between us women. That is the power of clothing and accessories. I’m not saying it is always like that, but it can be.

Oh well. I still haven’t purged my closet this season, but I have been looking at issues of Lucky, In Style, Victoria and County Living. I am back in the research phase – seeing what resonates on my horizon this month.

And as far as being a Brenda groupie goes, how about we all put on something we LOVE today (and celebrate being fine, strong, attractive women), in her honor.

Sole Food

March 4, 2010

Whenever Mr. GG is out of town, my life takes on a whole different rhythm. For one thing, I don’t cook much. I indulge in girl food, which for me is usually huge chef salads, fondue made in the microwave, bread and things with greek olives and feta, or whatever I damn well feel like eating. Don’t get me wrong, Mr. GG eats all that stuff, too, it is just that making it for one seems different and indulgent. Cause I eat whenever I feel like it, not when he arrives home with his stories and his appetite. I also read non-stop, with no guilt. Usually the first thing on my agenda when he leaves is a trip to the bookstore, where I load up on magazines and trash. A stop at the grocery for a new bag of clementines and some artisan bread, to replenish the tonic water supply (I like it straight), and some fresh cut alstroemeria or whatever flowers are in the discount bin. Then I come home and divvy up flowers into lots of little vintage bottles and vases and put them in every room. That makes me feel good.

I redo my “To Do” lists, which usually are so inclusive that the seven labors of Hercules pale in comparison. For the last year, “recover the love seat” has made the list, and I have gotten as far as buying 8 yards of upholstery fabric. But I no longer love the gray green fabric – I bought it as a foil for the rusty floral I covered the couch with, and it just seems bland and boring now. Besides it will show cat hair more. Maybe if I bought a different fabric (like the one covered in little concentric rings of color), I’d be more interested in sewing. While Mr. GG is gone is a good time to do stuff like this, cause I can tear apart the love seat, put the sewing machine on the big kitchen table, and leave my staple gun and fabric out while I work on this project.

On the other hand, I found a new Karres book by Eric Flint, and a bunch of home magazines, and the snow has melted enough to expose the grape hyacinths around the yard, and maybe I should go clear the leaves away from them. Dilemmas. Nice ones. I only have to please myself. Well. That and gather all the Tax info, because it is that time of year. Okay that goes on the list, along with purge closet, and clean car. And write back to those car salesman who are persecuting me by phone and email.

And surf the internet. Zappos calls me. And endless.com, and 6 p.m., and Overstock.com. In spring, a woman’s fancy turns to thoughts of footwear. I found a pair of Camper heels on one site for only $22.00!!!!! I love Camper shoes, especially Camper Twins – each pair is made to look similar, but not exactly the same. I let myself dream over some leather Icon sneakers with Van Gogh’s Iris printed on the leather, but luckily they don’t have any in my size, as they are way too expensive. Now that it is changing seasons, I stop looking at boots, and check out leather sandals and clogs. While I am surfing, I check purses too. Then I check out shoes for the Baby, but she is really picky, and hates to spend money on good shoes, so that is just an exercise in futility. Still, it would be nice to surprise her with a box from Zappos. And she could always return it……. Hmmm. It is always best to consult her first. Okay, back to stuff for me.

I have a gift certificate to Amazon, but I can’t decide whether to get the book on vintage enamel jewelry, the one on recreating vintage hairstyles, or a book on the Glasgow School of Art embroidery and textiles. Several of my favorite fiction authors are coming out with new books in the next few months (Linda Howard, Charlaine Harris, J. R. Ward, Tara Janzen), but I can’t pre-order. I am so not into delayed gratification. It is hard enough to wait for Amazon to send me stuff they have in stock. But if I order a bunch of used paperbacks from other sellers, they would get here sooner. But then I would spend most of the gift certificate in postage charges.

All these non-essential things to think about can occupy me for most of Mr. GG’s absence. I let my brain have a vacation. I make stuff. I play Spider Solitaire. I plan a new perennial bed for the front entry. I look at seed catalogs. I go through my closet and put stuff in the Give Away box. I schedule a shot for the cat. I plan a trip to the Salt Lake Library and get on the internet and reserve a ton of books.

I can, and do, these exact things when Mr. GG is home. I don’t know why it feels different when he is gone. It just does. I am always happy when he comes home. But I don’t mind when he is traveling. I take really long baths. Oh, yeah. I need to get the epsom salts and make some more scented bath stuff. Maybe I will put food color in this batch to turn it ocean color.

See, I am sort of temporarily living single, with all the comfort and stability of being married to my True Love shoring me up emotionally. Sometimes life is practically perfect.

Dressing for the Chronologically Challenged

March 3, 2010

When my grandmas were my age they dressed appropriately. Ethel was a tiny, timid little thing who bore 9 kids, and wore pastel house dresses. She had that permed blue hair thing going, and lots of dowdy shirtwaists, and they suited her just fine. Charlotte generally wore nice slacks, and sharp printed blouses, and they were comfortable when she sat in her chair, crossed her legs, and sipped her 5 o’clock martini and smoked cigarettes.

My mom wore lots of tailored things to her job – dresses and suits and power jackets, accentuated with matching costume jewelry. After she retired, she wore jeans and sweatshirts and clogs, with nicer stuff to wear to club meetings and the symphony. As she was dying at age 82, she fell in love with my green Naot leather Maryjanes with the embossed floral pattern on the sole, and talked about ordering herself a pair. We ended up getting her new nightgowns, slippers, and fleece robes instead, since she wasn’t ever gonna leave the house again. Maybe we should have ordered the shoes, just to sit on the bureau, so she could look at them and hope.

Well, most rules for dressing well these days are contingent on personal taste and what is available in your size. Which makes you hostage to the buyers at chain stores, unless you have the bucks and body to shop at high end boutiques. Um, that wouldn’t be me. You’d think they would make some kind of “tween” style thing for us women who don’t want to go around in sweats with “JUICY” plastered across our butts (false advertising as well as dubious taste), but still want to look contemporary and stylish.

It is hard to get excited about wearing clothing that is boring. But it is an awful lot of work to find things that fit and don’t suck. My personal guru on this whole subject is Brenda Kinsel, a fashion consultant who writes books, and I recommend reading “40 over 40”. She tells you how to dress to suit yourself, in clothes that make you feet attractive and comfortable and genuine. You don’t start by going to the store. You start by thinking and evaluating. She says to think of some stuff in your home or your closet that you just love – and figure out why you love them. Is it the color? The texture, the drape, the lacy touches or the sleek lines? The first time I did this, the things I came up with were my red cowboy boots, a huge art deco pin with square cut glass stones in primary colors, my green art nouveau plates, and my collection of crackerjack charms. Also, I loved the feel of velvet and cashmere. I wanted to find a way to express the feelings those things evoked in me, in the way I dressed. Is this too cerebral for you? It actually works, if you give it enough time and consideration. Brenda wants you to get up every day and put on something you love from your carefully edited closet.

She is all about the “does it make you feel good, happy, authentic” end of things, rather than the “if you are Pear shape, wear A-line skirts” rules. She can tell you how to be appropriate for the occasion, and true to yourself. And we all know that the initial 10 seconds of meeting someone lets them size us up, and make snap decisions about who and what we are. So if you care about how you present yourself, it behooves you to give this clothing thing some thought. It is not shallow, or superficial or trivial to want to appear well. It is just another facet of who you are, and you might as well have fun with it, if you are so inclined.

Of course, I fully support your right to wear sweats or leggings in public if you must, but it isn’t gonna make me want to talk to you. But if you have a cool piece of jewelry on, or a coat in a great color, I’m more likely to slow down and give you the time of day. Let’s show a little spunk, ladies. Even if you prefer to fade into the woodwork, you can choose baroque molding, Frank Lloyd Wright modern, painted and chippy shabby chic, or earth friendly, sustainable teak.

And I don’t always practice what I preach, but it feels like spring today, with that renewal, fresh start feeling, and I just may go and purge some stuff from my closet.

Go on and Google Brenda Kinsel. See what you think. And FYI, I’m the one in the bright red coat. It makes me happy.

Shopping for Mental Health

March 1, 2010

When I had the party last week I found a kindred spirit and I dragged her into my bedroom to show her the photo of the Callanish Stones hanging there. It is one of my most cherished possessions. A picture of standing stones in the Scottish moonlight. It occurs to me that others may love this as much as I do, so I am going to give you some links to things I really like.

Myths and Legends has the most gorgeous photos of Celtic sites, castles, Irish countryside – the Callanish Stones speak to me, and the photo in the moonlight is, well… see for yourself.

www.mythandlegends.com/newscotcallanish.html

The Isabella Catalog is geared towards the thoughtful woman who lives a modern yet spiritually oriented life. Which means you can find really cool books and CDs, expensive skincare, meaningful, pretty jewelry, and things to make life generally more pleasant. One thing that intrigues me is a little amulet from Julian of Norwich, patron saint of cats, who said “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well”. I haven’t bought it, but I find it is a useful saying when I generally tend to say ‘This too, shall pass”.

www.isabellacatalog.com/prod.cfm/pgc/21100/sbc/21103/inv/12656

When you are dealing with the ghastly effects of aging, or wondering if those movie stars who coat themselves in Creme de la Mer are buying the fountain of youth, I highly recommend getting on the Essential Day Spa site and finding out what works for REAL women. The forums are addicting, and they name names, give honest opinions and even have an excellent, excellent forum on making your own skin care items. You probably don’t want to look at this site while you are at work, because you will get sucked in, and get caught by the boss, so wait till you are home and can devote some time to it.

www.essentialdayspa.com/forum/index.php

Once you get sucked into the whole formulating your own skin care thing, or just want stuff with safe ingredients, you are gonna want to go to Garden of Wisdom to order finished products, or the components to make your own stuff. I highly recommend their hyaluronic acid that is already mixed up for you – it comes in a bunch of scents and varieties – and is a primo moisturizing tool. Currently I am using spearmint, but the pink grapefruit smells yummy, too. And put seamollient into everything… your shampoo, your conditioner, on your face. That stuff rocks.

www.gardenofwisdom.com/page/page/4480041.htm

If you garden, well, let me qualify that, if you are into flower gardening and love the heritage flowers, the old fragrant ones, you need to know about Select Seeds. I spend hours dreaming over this catalog, making lists that start at outrageous until I pare them down to realistic. This is the only place I can find white heliotrope, which is also known as “cherry pie plant”. I can not survive summer without pots of heliotrope on my patio. And they have Brugmansia plants. Check them out. Start thinking about billowy borders of nasturtiums, patches of evening scented stock, fragrant sweet peas, and your day will get much better.

www.selectseeds.com/cgi-bin/htmlos.cgi/05369.2.27723198695820320231?

While you are out enjoying your yard this summer, why don’t you hang some paper lanterns around? I have masses of these dangling from the scrub oak in my yard, and it looks like a fairyland of colorful floating spheres. It is worth it to get the battery operated lights to dangle inside them. If you don’t want to spend that much, Joann’s fabrics usually sells the same kind of lanterns with built in light bulbs and an on/off switch. They are always on sale at the end of the season. I have lots of these. I didn’t like the flying pigs on some, so I got out my Elmer’s Glue and a bunch of colored tissue paper and covered up the ugly stuff with cut out leaves and flowers. And sometimes you can get these at your local “Big Lots”. But if you are feeling flush, try Luna Bazaar.

www.lunabazaar.com/

There. I just gave you links to some of my favorite stuff in the world. Fragrant plants, pampering body stuff, ways to make your nest more “you” (I guess, if your “you” is kind of like mine). Oh well, you know what I mean. I could make a real case for looking at catalogs as a kind of meditation – seeing what you want at any given time, gives you a key to what is occupying your thoughts, and lets you focus on what is missing. That doesn’t mean you get to go out and buy all this stuff. It just means you use your current interests to take a mental snapshot of where you are, and see if it fits with where you want to be. Did that make sense? I can usually justify doing anything I want to do, so I may not be the most trustworthy source on shopping. But if you do nothing else today, go look at the Callanish Stones. It will make both of us feel better.

p.s. if the links don’t work, you are gonna have to cut and paste. I told you I was technology challenged.