Creative Miscellany With a Side of Cuteness

There are quite a few book reviews on tap. It is taking a little longer to tweak them, but they’re on the way.

Meanwhile, I figured I’d give a post to some creative things, given the new tag line.

First up: a scarf crocheted in yarn that is one of go to colors. Orange is far from my favorite color but I wear it well.

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Edited to add: pics of a few crochet projects the girls have done this past week.

I am very proud of our pineapple. I originally thought we’d been growing it over a year. However my husband corrected me. It just feels that long. It’s only been 8 months.
There’s no way it takes Dole that long, but…

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If you just have to be out in 90+ temperatures, you might as well enjoy some of the beauty of summer. Like these roses:

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And vibrant greenery:

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I’ll round this out with an infusion of cuteness. Our oldest has a birthday coming up this week. This baby could drink last year so this isn’t a milestone, but I thought she should get equal time:

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OT: These Babies Can Drink!

These babies could go out and have a drink tonight if they wanted to.

Last night they couldn’t do that. Tonight they don’t want to.

They’d rather eat Mexican with Mom and Dad then go to an escape room adventure with their big sister.

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Time flies so hold ’em close while you can.

Good Hair

good hair  Good Hair: for Colored Girls Who Considered Weave When the Chemicals Got too Rough,  by Lonnice Brittenum Bonner. Originally published in 1994.

One of the things that happens when you decide to live a healthier, more natural life is that you look at every aspect of what that means. Over the past decade or so black women started doing the “big chop” (cutting off chemically straightened hair and starting over with their natural texture of hair). I said back then that there was no way I was going to cut off my shoulder length hair and start over from scratch. This, even though the women in my family actually grow a pretty decent head of hair. Our daughter did her big chop in 2012 and went from 1 inch hair to this in about 3 years:

curly girl

She straightened it once for a formal event and it was slightly longer than shoulder length. Not bad for 3 years. Still, I was unconvinced, especially since the decision isn’t mine alone to make.

As I started working more and more towards optimum health, even putting myself through the torture of regular boot camp workouts, it seemed ridiculous to do all of this and continue to slather my scalp with harsh chemicals for the appearance of length and the expensive ease of styling. It’s unhealthy as well as unnatural.

I still haven’t taken the plunge, but I am inching closer to it and I started reading up on ways to get there without a “big chop”. My daughter was 17 when she did it and I am NOT 17. I need my hair.

I ran across Lonnice Bonner’s Good Hair in the library and since it’s a short book, I knew I could spend an hour reading on a subject that I probably already knew more than enough about. But I read it anyway.

The book contains Bonner’s journey towards wearing her natural hair in all its glory, starting with the all too familiar review of the things most black women remember from childhood. The hair tugging, hair straightening and tight corn rows we all grew up with which made us weary of our locks and sent us running to the nearest salon for a solution as soon as we were old enough and/or had the money. Whichever came first.

This author’s journey was much more perilous than mine to be sure. I’m conservative by nature with a husband who hates weaves and wigs so I have never been particularly adventurous when it comes to my hair.

However, I watched from the sidelines as many of my friends and relatives drifted from hot combs to Jeri curls to weaves and wigs and everything in between. Bonner’s journey was one I’d seen countless times before. She finally made peace with her hair, the hair God gave her, and it looks fantastic.

It isn’t great writing by any stretch, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to let other women know that even after all the damage and drama they have inflicted on themselves fighting against their hair, that they can make peace with it too.

Clearly this is not a book my most of my readership will have any need or inclination to read, but I read it, so I reviewed it.

Grade: C

Junie B. Jones Is Not a Crook

junie bJunie B. Jones Is Not a Crook, by Barbara Park. A children’s book originally published in 1997.

Lest any of you fear I have fallen off the deep end, am off my rocker, an elevator whose mechanism has stopped reaching the top floor, or a few eggs short of a dozen, some back story is in order here.

My niece (now in her early 30’s) was recently somewhat mortified to learn that not only had our 8 and 9 year-olds never read a Junie B. Jones book, but that they were fairly unfamiliar with the fact that the series even existed. She went about fixing the problem last month by presenting our youngest child with a set of 16 Junie B. books as a birthday gift.

It’s been a very long time since I read a Junie B book myself, so in order to re-familiarize myself with the tone and content of the series I picked one out of the stack to read. I chose Junie B. Jones is Not a Crook.

Cute, whimsical, and full of heart this book tells the story of how Junie B Jones learns the lesson of doing unto others as you would have them to to you.

When her grandpa buys her a new pair of furry mittens Junie B is over the moon. So much so that she in annoying everyone in her class with her talk about her furry mittens. When she leaves them unattended on the playground and another child picks them up, her journey to find them begins in earnest.

Along the way Junie B finds a colorful pen that another child at school has lost or misplaced and decides to keep it: Finders Keepers Losers Weepers is for the moment her favorite rhyme. She never tells anyone however, that she found the colorful pen because deep inside she knows that she should take it to lost and found.

Upon recovery of her mittens and a sage piece of wisdom offered by her loving grandfather, Junie B. recognizes that finders keepers losers weepers is not always an appropriate position to take when she finds something that may belong and be of value to someone else.

It was a cute little book and Barbara Park’s ability to combine the glee and learning experiences of childhood into a heartwarming tale are admirable. It’s certainly not Beatrix Potter, but neither is it meant to be. It engages the attention of children who may not be lovers of reading (ask me how I know that), and it was clear to me why the Junie B Jones series of books skyrocketed into popularity and have remained popular for the past 25 years or so.

Grade: A

Tailor made for the 6-9 set who are able to read on their own. Fun to read aloud as well.

Reader poll: How many of you parents view the Barbara Park series as twaddle?

 

Wife Dressing

Wife-Dressing-by-Anne-Fogarty

Wife Dressing: The Fine Art of Being a Well Dressed Wife, with Provocative Notes for the Patient Husband Who Pays the Bills, by Anne Fogarty. Originally published in 1959, then re-released in 2008.

I know this wasn’t on the short list of books I referred to as my summer reading list. I think I’ll refrain from posting what’s in the queue because it changes on a dime with one trip to the library or bookstore. This book, Wife Dressing, is one that I stumbled upon in my local library which instantly captured and sustained my attention from beginning to end.

First up, this is not (I repeat NOT) a book for crunchy girls. If that’s you, save yourself the trouble of reading any further and catch me next week when I review something deep like C.S.Lewis. This book was written almost entirely with the city or suburban wife in mind. Factor in that it was written in the 1950’s and there is all kinds of stuff that would make even the most well dressed 21st century wife cringe. Or at least drop her jaw in disbelief.

There were parts of this book that I genuinely enjoyed, and plan to put into practice. Some of it left me incredulous that I hadn’t thought about these things. We’ll get to that in a minute, but it’s worth noting that Ann Fogarty was a successful fashion designer and New York socialite. In other word, a rich chick whose life was in many ways foreign to most of us. Some of her advice just isn’t transferable. At least not to me.

However, it was entertaining and a lot of it is transferable. It is transferable because when I get dressed, I am “wife dressing” in the truest sense of the phrase. My husband has strong opinions about my appearance, his likes and dislikes, and has no trouble offering an immediate thumbs down (or thumbs up!) to what I drape myself with day to day. That brings me to the first chuckle worthy quote I ran across in Wife Dressing:

The most dangerous threat to successful wife dressing is triumphant cry, “I’m married! The battle is won!”

To paraphrase John Paul Jones: “You have not yet begun to fight.”

The wedding is only the beginning. When your husband’s eyes light up as he comes in at night, you’re in sad shape if it’s only because he smells dinner cooking (p.10)

I agree. You crunchy gals with crunchy husbands have it good, so don’t take it for granted. In another bit of “dated” advice, Fogarty reminds her readers:

Remember that it’s your husband for whom you are dressing. Keep him in mind when you shop. No matter how much your best friends like something,if your husband is critical you’ll find yourself giving it up, even if you’re sure you know more than he does about women’s clothes.

Clearly, Fogarty  couldn’t begin to imagine the mind of the 21 century wife. With that admonition, she begins to explores a range of topics related to wife dressing, including color, cut , fit, and dressing appropriately for the occasion.In addition to dressing appropriately for the occasion is the importance of eschewing displays of extravagance among those for whom they will be viewed as arrogant or offensive. For example, the wives of your husband’s subordinates.

Some of her best advice is in the realm of expressing individuality, and being prepared for those days when you have to cover lots of terrain at once. Because our Sundays often include church, followed by family visits, a possible cultural outing (or outdoor event) I especially liked her tips for taking one ensemble and transforming it easily with the simple addition of a well stocked tote in your car. It’s a tip I definitely plan to start using; immediately.

Navigating the unknown for a specific event was another area which offered good tips to remember:

The English language doesn’t seem to cover this situation, so calling your hostess is no good. Save the call. She’ll only say something vague that won’t tell you a thing. “Informal” to some people means corduroys and leotards; to others, “no decorations” will be worn. Conservatism with dash is the best combination for an evening’s journey into the “unknown”.

Unknown, such as the phrase “cute but classy” that our girls and I recently needed to translate, can be a tricky thing to figure out. Conservatism with dash sounds about right

There was a note that I almost decided to leave out because quite frankly I haven’t the slightest idea how to seamlessly include it. However, I want to do it because I find the transition in our particular era to fascinating and worth discussion. That, and it gives me a chance to plug a friend’s work.

Fogarty believed women should always wear girdles under a dress. Despite her middle aged, 18-inch waist, she wore one and strongly admonished her readers not to go dress shopping without wearing foundations similar to those they would be wearing underneath the dress.:

Figure control at all times improves posture and stops you from spreading. The idea of not wearing a girdle under a full skirt is wrong. As for slim, tight skirts, I think there should be a federal law against wearing them girdleless. My mother put me into a girdle when I was 13; I have worn one ever since.

Given the return of corsetry and the marked (well known and proven) results that they offer a woman in terms of posture and keeping a waistline, I wonder if girdles weren’t a very large part of the reason why we didn’t see as much middle aged spread in years gone by despite the fact that women didn’t regularly run or do squats.

Fogarty wrote that during an extended time without wearing her girdle her waist went from 18 inches to 19 and 1/2 (no weight gain, just spread), which immediately and forever seared into her the importance of figure control.

Now girdles ain’t really my thing because I need to breathe, but corsets have always fascinated me a little bit. Hearthie makes beautiful corsets. But like I said, I need to breathe so I wear one of these under most of my dresses and fitted t-shirts. After nearly a year, I can honestly say my waist has shrunk and my posture is absolutely wonderful. My back is stronger too.

Chapters cover everything from proper travel packing, to a strong admonition against boudoir wear outside the boudoir, to distinguishing value and cheap, and resisting the urge to wear white shoes. For some reason, Mrs. Fogarty really disliked white shoes- except on brides and nurses. I kind of agree.

She writes that being a slave to fashion is a terrible idea while simultaneously warning against wearing a dress which was all the rage one season but out of vogue the next. For those of us who don’t (or are to old to) shop based on current trends, the point was moot. Her point on good taste however, is worth adding here:

The sole arbiter of what you wear is your own judgment. Price tags may limit you horizon. Labels may help you recognize designers whose styling has pleased you before. Saleswomen will advise you on what is most becoming. But the breathless words, “I’ll take this one,” are your responsibility alone.

Good taste is harder to define than it is to recognize.

Despite the fact that about 1/3 of the book is way too rich for my blood, this wife dresser found a lot of it quite useful.

Grade: B+

Musical Interlude:Father’s Day Break Edition

I wrote the date down today. Is it June already? Father’s Day is in two weeks and for the first year -ever- ours is going to be markedly different. June 1st marked 4 months to the day that my family of origin’s ship lost its rudder.

Husband and I don’t do things for one other on Mother’s or Father’s Day for several years now. We -well he– figured that if we’re going to do the thing at all it should be done right. Let the children honor their parents. I agreed and still do, but this day wasn’t in my head at the time.

In contemplation of my new Father’s Day normal, I went looking for songs honoring fathers. The selection and quality were -as you might have guessed- pretty terrible. But I found Nancy Sinatra’s song, It’s for My Dad, poignant and sweet:

 

I have a lot of good books on tap so in a couple weeks I hope to put up a review.

Until some time after Father’s Day then!

Edited to add: Got sick and had too much time on my hands. So I’m back a little bit before Father’s Day.