Friday, September 25, 2020

The Many Shades of Brown


The summer before my freshman year in high school, I met a girl who was two or three years older than I was. She was from Indiana. She came with relatives to visit for a few weeks. Back then, my family lived out in the country next to my grandparents and an aunt and next door to them, lived another family household with an aunt, uncle and two cousins. So when the Indiana relatives came, it was lots of fun-especially when they brought along that older girl.

It took me a while to talk with her. After all, she was older. Back in Indiana she was a cheerleader and, she had a boyfriend. I thought she was beautiful. With her blonde hair and the way she spoke, she reminded me of Marilyn Monroe. But after being around her for about a week, I realized what was most intriguing about that girl was her eye make-up. I'd never been around anyone who wore eye make-up. And she wore it every, single day.

One evening when we were all hanging around I had the nerve to ask her about eye make-up. I really knew nothing about that stuff. I could tell she was thrilled to tell me all about it. She went inside and brought out a plastic case which I soon learned held all of her make-up. She even had a little mirror. Since I'd asked about eye make-up, she pulled out small compacts of many different shades. I'd noticed she wore mostly blue. That girl had several shades of blue along with what I soon learned were accent colors. I never knew eye make-up came with accent colors. I was mesmerized by the plastic compacts and array of colors as well as eyeliners in all of their shades.

"Want me to do you eyes?" she asked.
"Me?" I replied as I felt my face turning red.
"Yes. You have big, brown eyes. They would look even bigger and more beautiful if I added a bit of make-up."

Seconds later I felt as if I was in a beauty parlor. I didn't take her long to "do my eyes." When she handed me her little mirror I was stunned with what I saw. My eyes were bigger. They were shades of brown-soft browns with lighter accented shades. I fell in love with my big, brown eyes. The next day she showed me how to do my eyes one step at a time. She told me what to buy. She told me how to take it all off at night. 

After she and my relatives left, I went to the store and bought Maybelline eye make-up. And I have been wearing Maybelline eye make-up in shades of brown ever since. "Doing my eyes" every morning has become a part of my morning routine even when I'm not going anywhere. 

Doing my eyes adds a kick to my step-a bit of color to my day. It's a fun little thing I do just for me. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Oh Those Netted Crinolines

I hardly ever wore crinolines under my skirts way back when wearing crinolines underneath skirts was the fad. Not participating in a fad was unusual for me. After all, I ran to a department store located in the downtown of where I lived  the moment Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" grabbed my attention. I had to have bellbottoms and short-sleeved ribbed sweaters. I had to grow my hair down to my waist. But crinolines were a different story. I didn't like all of that netting. I didn't like my skirts pushed way out in front of me even when most of my friends wore crinolines all the time. 

However, there are most always exceptions to most anything-even when it comes to wearing crinolines if crinolines aren't your thing. For me, that exception  came when my grandmother made me a velvet green dress to wear to a Christmas party. It was going to be held in a grand old hotel in that downtown where I lived. My date was a Freshman at a nearby college. He was so cute. We were going with a friend of his and that friend's date.

My grandmother was an expert seamstress. I had no problem wearing a homemade dress. I knew it would look as if I'd bought it in some fancy store. My mother, also an expert seamstress, owned a fabric store. It was part of our home and my grandmother lived next door. So on a Saturday morning my grandmother came over and we talked about 'the dress.' It took a few hours. The dress had to be perfect. Since it was a Christmas dance, the three of us agreed velvet would be perfect-emerald green velvet. Then we browsed through some pattern books to get some ideas. The dress ended up being a combination of features taken from a few patterns. My grandmother never actually had a specific pattern to follow. She measured me while my mother measured out the yards needed. Besides a zipper, that's all my grandmother had to make the dress. No pattern. Just a bag with the velvet and a zipper inside.

I went for a few fittings. That was fun. I loved watching my grandmother tighten a dart or tuck in a seam with her measuring tape around her neck and straight pins attached to her house dress for quick use. When I went for the final fitting three days before the gala event, I was shocked to discover my grandmother had added crinoline to the dress. Not too much but still, it made the dress puff out a bit. I didn't say anything. I didn't feel like trying it on but I did. She'd worked so hard on the dress. My grandmother put it over my head and I could feel the netting go down my sides. After she zipped up the back, she turned me around in front of a long mirror and asked me what I thought. I was afraid to look. When I did, I fell in love with the velvet green dress. The crinoline added something special. It dressed it up. It would be fun to dance in it. I loved to dance. I was excited.

Despite the velvet green dress, the dance was a disaster. After we'd dance to a fast song and my crinolines went flying, my cute date smelling of English Leather told me I wouldn't see him again because he had a girlfriend back home. Not even that dress could stop the tears.

I never wore crinolines again. I was quite happy when miniskirts and go-go boots became the fad.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Teddy Bears Sitting By A Rhubarb Patch


Years ago there was a rhubarb patch growing alongside a sandbox in front of a garden near a river and that rhubarb patch, just like the sandbox, the garden and the river, was enjoyed all summer long. Children big and small would sometimes pull a stalk of rhubarb when going to play in the sandbox or run through the garden.

One day, a glorious, beautiful day, a bunch of teddy bears, of all shapes and colors and sizes and conditions, gathered together by that rhubarb patch to play outside in the sunshine. Big, lovable Dandy, wearing quite the straw hat, was more worn out than the Care Bear or other teddy bears enjoying their time together. Dandy’s condition had nothing to do with his age. Rather, it was all about the love he received and the love he gave back—reminding me of one of so many quotable lines from the treasured children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams—

     “What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

      “REAL isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”

Dandy was loved. Dandy became real just like so many other teddy bears have become real through endless hugs and countless kisses and fur combings and dress-up times and tea parties and snuggling in bed before falling asleep and sitting by rhubarb patches in the sunshine. Many of those really loved and really worn teddy bears now sit on shelves or are tucked away in attics or closets or have been tossed into a toy box or placed in a crib or given down to the next generation, or have become but a memory kept deep in one’s heart.

To all those beloved, those really worn, Real Teddy Bears like Dandy, I wish you a very well-deserved, very Happy Teddy Bear’s Day. You have been there for so many of us in good times, bad times, funny times and sad times. We’ll forever feel your hugs and the warmth of your fur and the love in your eyes. As Margery Williams simply explained: “Once you are REAL you can’t become UNREAL again. It lasts for always.”


Saturday, September 5, 2020

It Was All About The Logo


I must have been twelve or thirteen when I first looked through a New York Times’ Sunday edition that my father brought home from work.

I was instantly intrigued by such an extensive newspaper with so many sections and the smell of all that ink on all of that newsprint. I remember standing at the kitchen table with the paper wide open. There was just so much to see and read. But I never made it through all of those pages. I never got beyond the first section. I was stopped in my tracks by a logo.

You have to realize this was way before computers and instant everything. There were only three news networks on the TV. Cable was nonexistent. Magazines ran cigarette ads. It was a whole different world. So when I turned a page of that newspaper and saw for the first time a pen and ink logo that swirled off the page in creativity, I was hooked. 

The logo was the Lord & Taylor logo. The ad said the item advertised was available at all Lord & Taylor stores. I wasn’t interested in the item. It was the logo that intrigued me with the capital L looking like a bird you’d draw when you were a kid and how the word Taylor was written as two words with the letter r looking to be an extension of the letter o. It all flowed together beautifully. I stood there and studied each and every stroke of the pen that created it. From then on I asked my father to bring home that paper whenever he could. He tried remembering but many times it slipped his mind.

One time when he did remember, more than the logo grabbed my attention. This time the advertised item hooked me as well. I had to have the outfit drawn with the ink pen showing a skirt with a flair and a pin stripe shirt with long sleeves in my size. But what really had me in a tizzy were the suspenders attached to the skirt, going up and over the shoulders of the pin stripe shirt worn by a model sketched by an artist somewhere far away from my kitchen table where I stood in awe of both the logo and that outfit with suspenders.

I remember making quite a commotion to my parents about the outfit. I made it very clear it was a matter of life and death that I have the outfit. I was told it was too much money for just a skirt and a shirt. I argued how the outfit came with suspenders but I could tell it was a lost cause.

A few weeks later when getting off the school bus, I saw a package attached to our mailbox. Waiting for cars to go by, I ran across the road to see who it was for. Even before I reached the mailbox I saw that logo—that swirling, creative sophisticated logo with the capital L looking like a bird. My suspenders had arrived! I was later told it was a belated birthday gift.

I kept the box with the logo in my closet for the longest time and I wore those suspenders to threads.

Last week when I heard Lord & Taylor would be closing all of their stores, I felt sad. I thought back to when I’d look for their ads in the New York Times and how excited I’d get when seeing their logo. To think an artist could bring the excitement I felt to even suspenders tells me Lord & Taylor was nailing it. A global pandemic and a thing called the internet were out of their control.

The memories of standing at the kitchen table with a newspaper opened to a page displaying a Lord & Taylor ad will never go away. Neither will the image of the letter r looking to be an extension of the letter o.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Old Grinder from the Hardware Store

With zucchini so plentiful in the garden last week, my son Brian and I spent a few days making small loaves of zucchini bread. Some loaves will be for Christmas gifts and some will be for giving away—and some are for our own enjoyment.
The process began when I brought out my mother’s old Universal food grinder. The old grinder holds so many memories of preparing for so many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I can still hear cranberries popping as they were squeezed through the grinder. Some never made it through. Instead they’d go flying through the air when the grinding speeded up and the juice from the cranberries fell into a yellow bowl sitting on the floor underneath the grinder. My mother once told me she bought the grinder at Barr’s Hardware located in a downtown of long ago.
The grinder is still as good as new. There are no buttons to push or speeds to select or cords to plug in. You just put the parts together and off you go. Brian did all the grinding of the zucchini. My mother would have loved how fast he had that grinder going.
Our first batches of zucchini bread were made from a basic zucchini bread recipe. But then we got a little creative by using my daughter Natalie’s recipe for "Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread." It was fun adding the baking cocoa and chocolate chips to the zucchini since zucchini is so bland. The result was a super moist, sweet but not overly sweet bread that I can tell you from trying a “few” slices, tastes as good as it looks. If you’d like to make some double chocolate zucchini bread, you can search for the recipe on my daughter’s website.
Enjoy and Happy Baking as September begins to unfold.