Monday, May 28, 2012

Just a Little Hello!!

Made by me - more soon!
 Just a little hello - I hope you have been enjoying Memorial Day weekend as much as I have. I have spent my time doing the following:

- Getting pedicures with my mom and sister. I always feel a little more prepared for summer after a pedi.

My toenails are hotter pink than this photo suggests.
- Helping prepare and eat a relaxed outdoor feast with my family, which included sweet corn (on-the-cob), baked beans, macaroni and cheese, raw vegetables, and grilled steak and hot dogs (I know, it's a classy combination!).

Dad shucking the corn - and me looking on!
Dinner included a conversation of the freedoms we are most grateful for. We agreed the First Amendment included some of our favorite rights and that they even helped procure other rights and freedoms. We appreciate all the people who have given of themselves through words and actions in the course of our country's history.

Sweet corn - a family favorite!
 - Roasting marshmallows while telling stories around my mom's new fire pit. Heck, yes, those marshmallows became s'mores!

Roasting marshmallows around my mom's new fire pit!

Here's hoping you spent your Memorial Day in relaxation with people you love! I would love to hear about any special Memorial Day traditions you have or any exciting times you had over the weekend.

Alison :)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bagels, Birds and Buddhism

Freshly grilled and filled with a thick slab of cream cheese, I purchased the most memorable bagel of my life from a street vendor in New York City. An iced mocha accompanied it. The vendor added sugar by the tablespoon, and it grated my tongue as I slurped my drink down. While I have tried many interesting foods, this gritty sensory explosion remains one of my favorite gastronomical experiences.

The bagel and iced mocha I purchased today paled by comparison. However, I enjoyed the crisp yet chewy consistency of the bagel, made gooey by the slathering of melting cream cheese. I relished the bittersweet mocha as I watched birds bicker over crumbs. I enjoyed the shade, the light breeze, and all the passersby oblivious to my attention. I was participating fully in the moment.

It is no secret I have been having a tough time in the aftermath of the death of my Aunt Vickie. This unexpected, untimely death has drudged up so many fears and questions. One thing that has made this season of grief, anxiety and upsetting thoughts more bearable has been the knowledge that all my grief symptoms are completely normal. I am not doing anything unique. The true godsend, though, has been my discovery of a mindfulness meditation group. Years ago, I meditated often on my own as part of my yoga practice. It made me feel calm, attentive, and connected to a reality larger than myself and this existence. For me, it was a form of prayer, and I felt enlivened by the practice. Over time, though, I fell away from meditation, prayer, or anything of the like.

Recently, I began attending group meditation sessions. Before my aunt died, I had been searching for that spiritual connectedness I used to have, but afterward I was hoping it would help me heal. Through searching, I found out about these nondenominational meditation sessions and decided to attend one. I am so glad I did. It has really opened a doorway for me. So far, the benefits have been enormous. These meditation sessions give me the opportunity to slough away my thoughts and be completely in the moment, which reduces my anxiety tremendously. I can also employ these freeing techniques outside of class when I really need them. In addition to the meditation itself, the acquaintances I sit with in silence are becoming the spiritual community I have been missing as of late. We all think and know differently, but we support each other along our parallel paths. 

Before one of my first meditation sessions, I told the meditation leader I really gained a lot from chanting as a form of meditation. You cannot help but be present when your whole body and mind are activated through the spoken word. She told me she would be chanting for a whole hour after our group meditation. I said, "I'm in." I stuck around while some people left and other people joined the group. It turns out I had joined in on what I think of as a Buddhist prayer service. We chanted prayer mantras and contemplated compassion and loving-kindness. During that first session, I was completely focused on the sound of the words as they flowed from my gut through my mouth, and, out of the ether, I had a bit of an epiphany: I am a religious mutt, just as I am a Euro-mutt. At that point, I shrugged away my embarrassment about not actually being Buddhist. The people who know me and my spiritual ups and downs, will not be surprised by this huge announcement-to-self. I do not know if I am going through a phase, or if I am at the beginning of a new focus. At this point, I don't know if I will ever become a Buddhist, if I will return to attending the Christian church of my childhood, or if I will seek out an entirely different church community. All I can say is that I like the Buddhists. I find sense in their philosophies and sensibility in their practices. Maybe I can't ultimately have it all ways, but this is where I am right now: label free and loving it.

If you would like to share, I would love to hear your stories of religious/spiritual awakenings, or even the complete opposite.

Alison :)


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Photo Booth to the Rescue

Maybe you stood too long in front of the mirror while brushing your teeth. Or perhaps you hit snooze three more times than you should have. Could be you had a hard time getting your best friend off the phone. Whatever the case, you have probably encountered days when you dropped a component from your normal morning routine or risked being late for work. I know I have. Putting on jewelry and makeup tend to be the easiest steps for me to skip when I am in a rush. Not that I care to do without either when I am going to be in the public eye all day. Here are my tricks for avoiding that scenario: if I need to get out the door before putting on jewelry, I slip it on at a stoplight or in the parking lot at work; if I fly down the stairs with makeup bag in hand, I appropriate Photo Booth on my office computer to suit my needs. It works just fine as a mirror! Then, when the workday starts, I am in my seat looking pulled together and serene, even if getting there was anything but!

Do you have any "I better get out of this house right now, or I'm not gonna make it!" tips or tricks?

Hope you are all having a lovely work week,

Alison :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Twiggy Who?

Yes, my mother, at the age of thirteen, did thicken Twiggy's hair, eyebrows and eyelashes, add freckles to her adorable little nose, and play a game of Dots and Boxes with those newly added freckles. How could she have known that Twiggy would remain an icon forty-five years from that day, and that her future daughter might like a pristine version of that famous face to post on her blog? It was simply unforeseen.
Yep, I am still hauling around my July 1967 McCall's, and, lucky you, you get to hear all about it. The cover story is Twiggy Who? by Jean Kerr. It's a tongue-in-cheek essay about, well, Twiggy's twigginess.  It's funny stuff, but I think it is indicative of how women  sometimes think and talk about other women.

Writes Kerr, "I do not go back as far as Lillian Russell, which will surprise my children, but I do remember the friendly 'forties, when we all admired the gorgeously cushioned contours of Ingrid Bergman and mini-skirts were worn only by girls under five. And by Scottish Bagpipers. It was a great time for a size fourteen* to be alive. Even girls who wore size sixteen were taken to dances and occasionally found husbands...I did not expect this age of felicity to last, and it didn't. I watched the fearful descent from substantial Ingrid to wiry Audrey and finally to Mia Farrow, knowing we were going from pillow to post, and I shuddered."

 Such a good photo spread by Otto Storch. I love Twiggy's pose and expression, as well as the cropping of this photo.
Kerr also refers to Twiggy as seeming like "a most delightful young boy." I know Twiggy is generally faulted with ushering in the fashion world's cult of thin, but I really like Twiggy's face and style. She sums up the swinging '60s for me, and I love the fashion! Despite my adoration of her style, I know I am never going to have Twiggy's figure. It is a difficult one to maintain (not even Twiggy maintained it as she matured into a woman - although she still looks great), and I never had it to begin with. I'm going to be honest here - I have fought my body for a long time, and I am tired of it. I am not perfect. I am not the ideal, and I just don't feel like judging myself anymore for not fitting somebody else's idea of perfection. Shoot, I don't feel like less of a woman simply because I am (a lot) more of a woman than Twiggy was in 1967.

Do you notice how Twiggy has wrinkles under her eye and around her mouth? How come faces in magazines have to be as smooth as babies' butts these days? P.S. Yes, the patterned earring is my mom's doing. In this case, I like the addition.
I am not saying I am working on letting myself and all beauty standards go. I am saying I am working on myself for myself, and I am okay with acknowledging that perfection is out of the question. Nor is it the goal (anymore). I know from personal experience that thin women can provoke envy and dissatisfaction with one's own self, but, truly, criticism doesn't make you feel better about yourself. We women have to deal with a lot of pressure, media and otherwise. We do not need to lambaste each other for what we have too much or too little of. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Let's celebrate each other!

Wishing you body love and booty confidence,

Alison :)

*Approximately a size 8 today.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Out of This World

Smirnoff advertisement from the July 1967 issue of McCall's.

Recently, I have been both browsing images and scrutinizing articles from several old magazines I have in my collection. This Smirnoff advertisement from the July 1967 issue of McCall's Magazine stopped me in my tracks as I scanned ad after image after headline. This  ad nearly sings at fever pitch with the drunken optimism of the Space Age. Looking back  from here and now, I know only two years later man would be walking on the moon in real time. This happy couple and their third wheel, the astronaut, were still looking forward to that event. I wonder what lasting cultural phenomena/impressions people will see in/derive from our ads when they look back in time from forty-five years hence.

What cultural attitudes and artifacts do you think will epitomize our era?

Alison :)

P.S. I am wild about the bold floral print on her dress (and coordinating shoes!) and his swanky suit. And who doesn't love a spacesuit?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Fancy Work: Hair Wreaths

An elegant example of a hair wreath with the image of its maker, Mrs. Josiah Marvin of Battleboro, VT, at center.

Delicate, expressive, morbid and sentimental, hair wreaths and jewelry appeal to me. I first discovered hair being incorporated into jewelry in the book Victorian Jewelry: Unexplored Treasures by Ginny Redington Dawes. I must have checked that book out from the library a hundred times between the ages of 10 and 18. I still think the book is a great resource for anyone who appreciates unusual and beautiful objects or is interested in what the people living from the mid- to late-1800's valued.

Victorian jewelry: Unexplored Treasures, an excellent resource.
Gorgeous! I would love for this brooch to be part of my personal collection.

From that book, I thought hair jewelry was an odd sort of memorial or romantic gift, kind of like a fancier version of the lock of hair my mom kept in my baby book. At that point, I didn't realize just how ornately hair could be styled when removed from one's scalp. Neither did I realize just how much hair art would intrigue me.

Have one of these in your family? Might want to hold onto it. This hair wreath takes the typical "lucky" horseshoe shape.

I grew to love Victorian hair wreaths as time went on. In high school I worked at an antique store co-owned by one of my favorite teachers. An amazingly large and intricate hair wreath, the first I had ever seen, hung on the back wall in the front room. It was gorgeous and slightly faded by time and sun. I admired it whenever I worked the front desk or had a moment to view it closely. I wondered at the time and craftsmanship involved. I fantasized about the history of the family whose hair was incorporated. With my graduation money I pragmatically bought a cedar chest from that shop, but I certainly considered taking that glorious piece of art home with me. The $750.00 price tag ultimately stopped me. I still long for that piece. For now, I will have to be satisfied with images and rare real life sightings of other hair wreaths and jewelry.

What do you think of hair wreaths? Do you admire any art or wearables made from unusual materials? I would love to see what nontraditional materials excite you as a maker or consumer!

Alison :)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Blogs I Stalk, No. 2 - Jamie Etc.

What is it with me and teenage girls (remember this post?)? If I were a guy, I might be considered a lecher. But how could I not adore Jamie's spirit, exuberance and style! This Brit chick blogs over at the lovely Jamie Etc. To be honest, I read all Jamie's posts back to day 1 when I discovered her blog. It's fun to peer back in time into a 13-year-old's mind (the inverse of my age!), and I really appreciate the combination of depth and fun, insight and innocence, Jamie includes in her posts. We are all of us complex creatures in a big, big world. Whether she were 13 or 33, I think I'd love Jamie's blog.

Jamie Etc. glances upon a variety of topics, from hair tutorials to blog organization ideas. Jamie has created an especially fine blog feature called Monday's Notebook, where she writes her blog posts out in longhand. That's an inspiring feature! Maybe you'd like to play along? At the very least, go check out Jamie Etc., and let me know what you think!


Alison :)