Tag Archives: lifestyle

My Friend Robbie

My kids gave me Robbie for Christmas. He’s black and gray. And I have already fallen in love with him. I cleared a corner in the living room and fixed it up, just for him. The minute I put him down in that corner he began to explore.

He checked out the empty space beneath each chair, often bumping into the legs before he found his way out again. Then he headed for the stairs. I gasped as he reached the edge of the landing. I jumped from my chair expecting him to fall down the stairs. That is when I realized that he is a bit of a tease. He scooted up to the edge, but just before tumbling over he backed up a bit. He worked his way along the edge, inch by inch, until he reached the wall. Then he turned around and headed down the hallway.

I thought he would lose his balance when he reached the threshold between the carpet in the hallway and the kitchen floor. But he mastered the transition with only a minor hesitation. He quickly gobbled up some crumbs that had fallen on the kitchen floor before he turned back to the hallway.

Avon had left the bedroom door open, so this inquisitive little guy decided to check it out. Of course the first place he went was under the bed. I figured I would have to get down on my hands and knees to coach him out. But he gleefully scampered out the other side. Just as I reached to pick him up, he disappeared again under the bed. When he appeared again, I stood in his way so that he had to leave the bedroom.

By the time he made his way back down the hallway, he was beginning to run out of energy. After a couple of diagonal passes across the living room he made his way back to his private corner.

Robbie, of course, is my new robotic vacuum cleaner.

(Robotic vacuum cleaners really are a thoughtful gift for anyone that has arm and/or shoulder issues.  It doesn’t totally take the place of an upright vacuum.   But if you run  it frequently it definitely cuts down on the times it is necessary to get the upright vacuum out.)

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Is the Little Black Dress Still a Must Have?

Does the little black dress continue to be an essential wardrobe element for the woman of 2015? Do you own one?  According to Wikipedia the little black dress is “an evening or cocktail dress” that is simple and often cut short.  This definition fails to recognize the scope of the little black dress.

Prior to the Victorian era brides wore their best dress, whatever color it was, for their weddings.  Often that was a black dress, especially in Scandinavian countries.  During the Victorian era, and continuing into the 1920’s, the black dress was reserved for mourning.  It was even considered disrespectful to wear black if not in mourning.

According to Style List all of that changed in 1926 when Coco Chanel published a simple black dress in Vogue.  Vogue described Chanel’s designs as the shape of the future and the concept of the little black dress as a must have was born.  Chanel’s 1926 version was a simple black dress with long sleeves, featured with pearls.  It soon became a woman’s go to dress for any occasion.

The little black dress retained its popularity throughout the depression.  It became a symbol of simple elegance.  A woman could own a little black dress without spending a lot of money.  When she wore it she always looked pulled together.  It retained its popularity through WWII due to textile rationing.

During the 1950’s the popularity of the little black dress took a bit of a hit when it became associated with the more risqué woman, think Marilyn Monroe in a plunging neckline.  Audrey Hepburn revived it in the 1960’s when she wore a more sedate version in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Throughout the next several decades the little black dress went through multiple incarnations.  In the 1980’s it featured bits of lace or ruffles at the neckline.  In the 1990’s Kate Moss wore a leather jacket to add a bit of edge to her mini skirted, little black dress.  By 2000 the little black dress was still considered a staple for every woman’s wardrobe, but by then it was anything you wanted it to be as long as it was black and a dress.  The little black dress now includes dresses with lots of glitz.  One version is even a baby doll dress that would have been considered lingerie in earlier decades.

Today Tim Gunn of Project Runway still says every woman should have a classic little black dress.  I, however, think times are changing.  The MBA blog says a simple black dress is nice to have, but does not describe it as a must have.  The AARP Style Guide for women over 50 lists a black pencil skirt as part of a woman’s basic wardrobe but not a black dress.  Instead AARP suggests that jewel tones are much more flattering for the skin of AARP age women.

I own a basic black dress.  The last time I wore it was in 1991 to my husband’s 50th high school reunion.  Do you own a basic black dress?  When did you last wear it?  I propose that we give up the notion that every woman should have a little black dress; or even a dress at all if you don’t wear them.  I, myself, like dresses.  But this year I think I will make a new classic dress, but it will be blue or gray or maybe brown, but definitely not black.

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First Snow Adventure

I grew up in Southern California during the 1950’s.  It didn’t snow in our neighborhood.  The rare sleet or hail storm was almost as exciting for us as the snow is for children here in the Pacific Northwest.  I remember at least one time that our Church took us to the mountains to play in the snow.  This was supposed to be a rare winter highlight for us.  I must have been ten or eleven years old because it was before we moved into the Poppy Way house.

Mother packed sack lunches for my younger sister and I containing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple and two cookies.  Then she dug out our winter gear.  We had mittens, not gloves.  Mom attached our mittens to a length of yarn and strung it through the sleeves of our coats to make sure that we didn’t lose them.  I was old enough to find this embarrassing, but now realize how practical that was.  We didn’t have fancy jackets or waterproof snow suits like those commonly seen today.  Instead we donned our brothers hand-me-down plaid flannel shirts, pulled on a pair of pajama pants under our regular slacks, and put on two pairs of socks.  We packed a change of dry clothes into a bag, added our boots, coats and scarves and we were ready to go.

We joined our friends at the church and were assigned to a car.  Parents drove in those days.  Our church didn’t have a bus or van.  The trip seemed to take forever.  As we made our way up the mountain pass the rain turned into tiny snowflakes that spotted the windshield.  We had never seen it actually snowing.  Anyone living where they have winter weather wouldn’t have considered what we saw as snow. It melted as soon as it hit the glass.  But for us the excitement was almost unbearable.

It took forever before the driver in front of us pulled off the road into a little turnout.  Not a parking lot, just a little turnout.  Our driver followed.  Soon we all piled out of the cars and put on our coats and boots.  I remember that at that time I didn’t have regular boots, I had overshoes instead.  They were just a rubber slipper that slid over my shoes.  They didn’t even cover my ankles.  They were designed for walking in the rain, not playing in the snow.  I considered my coat as really luxurious.  It had a faux fur yoke and collar.  The body and sleeves were “wine” colored corduroy.  It was long enough that it reached my knees.  Most of the kids had some kind of knit cap, but my sister and I had scarves to tie around our heads.

At first we made snowballs.  We didn’t have enough snow experience to think about a snow fight.  We tried to make a snowman, but none of us really knew how and none of the adults seemed interested in instructing us.  We didn’t have  a sled so we just sloshed around in the wet snow.  What had resembled snowflakes on the trip up the hill soon turned into a torrential down pour.  Our inadequate gear left us defenseless against the moisture. We had been in the snow for less than half an hour when the adults nudged us back into the cars; the girls in one and the boys in the other.  We were happy to submit to their commands.  We all changed our clothes right there inside the car, first sliding off our wet shoes and pants and replacing them with our dry ones.  Next we slid our arms out of our coat sleeves and slipped off our wet shirts while still covered with our jackets.  We replaced the wet tops with our dry ones before we removed our coats.

Our coats were too wet to put back on, so we sat shivering inside the car while we ate our lunches.  Then the adults drove us back down the hill.  Perhaps it should come as no surprise that as an adult, I don’t really get too excited about going out in the snow.

Written for  Three Word Wednesday   words:  highlight, instruct and submit.

Also written for The Short and the Long of It:  Three words:  plaid, moisture and defenseless.

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Changing Seasons

The leaves have fallen from the trees across the street, but this morning I watched two stellar jays flutter from branch to branch.  A nut hatch also scurried about his business as the sun highlighted the gnarled,weathered and snapped appendages of the old poplars that are determined to thrive despite the early winds this year. Although clouds dot the morning sky, the sun is like those old poplars.  It is determined to win.

So I draw from their persistence today and rejoin the writing world.  I look forward to winter with the anticipation of a child.  As the rains and winds approach, I have the perfect reason to stay indoors and write.

I have other writing I must do, so will sign off for now, but I will be back soon.

 

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NICKNAMES, SILLY LABELS and other Conventions

What my photo album revealed….

JoAnn and I cropped 2

 I opened my photo album and my younger sister, Jo-Ann, appears. July 1949, she isn’t yet six months-old.  I am no more than a year-and-a-half.  She has hair.  I don’t.  Well, mine is very light and it appears as if I have very little.  This image doesn’t make me shrink with disgust.  I know that I am en route to a discovery.

The next picture of me was taken sometime later.  I am big enough to sit on a backless stool.  I have no more hair than I had in the first picture.  Today, this one doesn’t make me pout like I did for the photo.  Instead it makes me smile.  It reminds me of why Dad nicknamed me Butch.  Butch is such a silly nickname for a girl.  But yes, he was right.  When I was small I didn’t have much hair.  Dad never used that moniker maliciously.  He never called me that in front of my friends.  It was instead a special endearment that seldom went beyond the family.  I wish he were here today to call me Butch just once more. September 3rd would have been his 99th birthday.

As I continue through the album, I come across numerous pictures of Jo-Ann and I dressed alike.  Unfortunately the quality of the photos is so poor that I cannot scan most of them in and share.  And alas, I do not have the technical ability to scan them and improve them.

 My favorite is of the two of us standing in the yard.  It reveals so much about our childhood.   It was probably a Sunday morning.  We both have our short blond hair curled in soft curls, parted on the left and combed to the right.  Hair barrettes hold our hair out of our faces.  That in itself is a reminder.  Bangs were not permitted in our household.  Never! They reminded Dad of a really mean little girl from his school days.

We both wore white ankle socks.  I know there was probably a stitch of blue embroidery thread in each of Jo-Ann’s and a stitch of red in each of mine.  Each Monday the laundry was done and sorted.  All of our clothing was labeled.  I am not sure why it was so important that we each had our own clothes and never wore the others.  As we grew, items were always passed down from one of us to the next.  And when we were quite small we were always dressed alike. However  I am grateful that we each had our own things.  I know a lot of kids didn’t.

Our brown sandals reminded me of another part of the family tradition.  Brown, not white.  Brown could be polished and didn’t get scuffed up as easily as white..  Oh how I wanted Saddle Oxford’s for school when I got older.  But my folks often bought Jo-Ann and me shoes from the boy’s department; because that was the only way they could get brown or black shoes for us.

In the snapshot we are both wearing checked cotton dresses, with puffed sleeves, and ruffled skirts.  Jo-Ann’s looks neat and tidy.  Mine looks wrinkled.  (Hmm, I wonder if there was more to that nickname than just my lack of hair.)  I am not even half-of-a-head-taller than she is.  I can tell which one is me because my shoulder is higher than hers…and my skirt is shorter.  Her skirt almost reaches her knees.  I must have been in a growing phase.  My skirt hem and knees had separated company.  That was another family must…Skirts are to be worn halfway across the knees.  Can you imagine how much stress that caused when I was in my teens in the 1960’s and the mini-skirt was popular?

We both have little purses with long straps that reach across our bodies from one shoulder to the other side.  That is how I know it was Sunday.  There was, no doubt, a handkerchief with a few pennies for the collection plate, tied in the corner and stored within those bags.  We are both looking at the camera and smiling.  And best of all, we are holding hands.  Today we live in different states.  I wish she was close enough that I could reach out and hold her hand today.

Now let’s recap this photo.  We had the same hairdo; the same socks and shoes; the same dresses; matching purses; and we are just about the same size.  I guess I don’t have to wonder why people thought we were twins.

Jo-Ann was nicknamed Jeep.  One of the most popular stories was that she was standing up in the back  of the car on one of our outings.  A Jeep vehicle had cut Dad off, or some such thing and he said, “Get out of the way Jeep.”  At this point Jo-Ann ducked, she thought he was talking to her.  From that day on the family says she was called Jeep.  But as I look through the album I wonder if there might be an additional reason.

In the album I find several pictures of Jo-Ann and me dressed alike.  The big difference is that in one I am admiring how cool I look; and she has a wad of her skirt twisted up in her fist, and she is crying.  In the next, she has her hands bawled up into little fists, and yes, she is crying.  I am just standing there looking at the ground.  And on and on they go.  She always looks ready to be on the go and not happy to have to stand still.  She wasn’t a sit and do nothing child, unless she was ready to fall asleep.  And now I wonder if that is why Dad affectionately called her Jeep.  She was like a Jeep–always ready to go.

As I continue I discover a photo taken in 1955.  This is a picture of me with both of my sisters.  We are dressed in matching blue dotted nylon skirts.  Other than the 1955  photo matching outfits seldom show up in the photo album after we started school.  The pictures that appear are instead pictures of us under the Christmas tree with three identical dolls; or on Easter Sunday with different dresses, but wearing identical hats, bags and sandals.

It is amazing that we grew up to be such different personalities.  We are compatible, but different.  Just the way it is supposed to be.

 

This was written for Three Word Wednesday.  The words:  disgust; pout; wad.

Also written for my monthly memoir group.  Topic:  Something from your childhood.

 

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Where is My Muse?

Sometimes my muse behaves like a delinquent child.

She refuses to send me a  coherent thought.

She does nothing to trigger an inspiration and

I end up feeling like a hapless lass.

Today is one of those days….

Three word Wednesday:  hapless; delinquent; trigger.

 

 

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My Mother’s China Cabinet

It’s my house, but I call it Mother’s china cabinet because so many of the items in it once belonged to her. We built the cabinet on the North wall of the dining room.  In the evening, when the sun sets, the wood appears almost pink, but in the morning when the sun is bright the cabinet appears white.

My parents did not live a lavish life style, but my mother accumulated an abnormal amount of dishes during her life time and now many of them are mine.  China plates so white they appear translucent peek through the glass doors, matching cups dangle from hooks above the bowls and sauce dishes.  This is not Mother’s original set of gold-rimmed China.  The first set was run through her dishwasher until the gold rim washed away.  After we were grown she replaced them with this set.   This set does not go in the dishwasher.

Six paneled doors house the heirlooms hidden on the shelves below.  There is a set of 1940’s art deco wine glasses, slightly cloudy from years of use;  a Victorian spoon holder, its cherry color still bright; and the bowl we called the Jell-O bowl.  These are all reminders of another era.  During my childhood the china platters were filled with both turkey and ham at Christmas time.  We drank cranberry juice cocktail from the wine glasses and a concoction of whipped cream, fruit and Jell-O filled the almost square “Jell-O bowl.”

Today these dishes stay safely nestled on the shelves as if their only purpose is to be on display.  Perhaps I will get them out and use them this year on Christmas Day.

Three word Wednesday: dangle, lavish, abnormal.

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