Friday, September 4, 2015

How To Get Dressed

Baltimore County is a fashionable world, a world of leggings that aren't ironic and scarves, statement necklaces, cardis, and power heels and I, in my mid-40s, still don't really know how to get dressed. I am a goose among swans.

My vibe is Graduate Student Hillbilly Nerd Wanna Be Librarian And/Or Field Biologist.  I don't know even one, let alone nine ways to wear a scarf.

[Michelle Phan shows you nine different ways to wear a scarf.]

So like the perpetual graduate student hillbilly nerd that I am,  I hitched myself up by the belt loops of my dingy, hits-right-at-the-cankle Talbots' culottes and went straight to the library.

I filled my arms with books with bold, aspirational titles like You: Personal Style and How To Get One, You Sad Middle-Aged Woman Who Thinks Talbots Culottes In Tangerine Are Ever The Right Choice For Brunch Or Any Other Time, and The Stylish Do More With Their Lives Than You Will, Ever

Much of the advice is about defining who you are, what you like, and projecting this with your costume clothes. A lookbook helps. So does imagining Stacy London looking at you.

I did what is called "wardrobe editing" or "curating" and I am wearing a crisp white oxford (like Sharon Stone at the Oscars!), black skinny jeans that I am not quite sure fit in a flattering way, orange ballet flats, and large earrings cut out of balsa wood in the shape of feathers.

Get off the ground little goose. Fly, goose of fashion, fly! 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Baking Bread

La reine of baking Dorrie Greenspan has a butter tip-sheet. That sounds dirty, Urban Dictionaryish. Yum yum I thought, but no, perv, it really is tips about butter.

[An aside: Dorrie Greenspan's boozy, Parisian pineapple.]

Dry butter. Winter butter. Higher butter-fat content butter. Butter from grass-pastured cows, etc. Mise en abyme. That's an expression from a pointless confusing tunnelscape French literary criticism that I learned to use in college French (ou est la piscine?) and is best explained by the cow logo of La Vache Qui Rit cheese.

[Or explained by this: Gerard Depardieu. Or even better, by this: Foux de Fa Fa]

La Vache Qui Rit wears earrings of La Vache Qui Rit, and the cow in the earrings is wearing earrings of the same logo, and that cow is wearing -- ow, ow, stop, you're hurting my American brain.

But I'm into that sort of thing, vexation, confusion, pain, France, since I started baking. Making brioche. Being a person who makes brioche is like wearing a t-shirt that says Cake or Death in happy, bubbly handwriting, perhaps with a little smiley face in the "o" of the "or death." French handwriting.

With brioche (as with so many things) I am trying to keep things light and airy, like Vangelis' soundtrack to Chariots of Fire, but my medium is heavy, corporeal, butter and eggs. It's not only a philosophical problem, it's physics.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


"No pants, no 'rawls!" my then two-year-old son shrieked as I tried to dress him for pre-school. He hated anything (pants, overalls, shorts, David Beckham sarong) that covered the loin-half of his self.  He was meant to be free. Yes, but I wanted to dress him with me in adorable matching sailor sets.

I remembered this last night when -- in the role of my life, The Harried Suburban Mother in a suburban docudrama called Looking Last Minute For Uniform Pants -- he was trying to stuff himself into a size 10 and the waist-button went boing, popped off and rolled under the bed to join Ninjago Lego minifig heads (if you have to ask, just don't) and he welled up. He said with mounting hysteria (apple:tree) that nothing fit him.

He was right. He looked like a Japanese anime badger in a 2-pound sack. The uniform pants that I had pressed, folded and neatly set away for the idyll that is summer (where one can wear something elastic-waisted all day) had shrunk, tightened, gone Cabbage-Patch-doll-sized like a cashmere sweater accidentally in the wash on hot. A first-world problem. The treachery.

"Mommy's on this," I said. "Don't cry. Mommy is a problem solver." Mommy is problem-solving this like a Sherlock Holmes who solves everything by gunning the Hyundai to the consignment shop, and failing to find pants in Size 12 Husky because that pretty much describes EVERY GROWING BOY IN THE COUNTRY then mutters, swears, and drives like a bat to Hunt Valley and throws money at the Lands' End catalogue.

Monday, August 31, 2015


It's the back to school "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" where I remember distinctly not the "with fruit the vines that 'round the thatch-eaves run," (adieu, adieu, Mr. Keats) but the chalkboard sweet milk-carton smell of my 4th grade teacher Mrs. Jenkins who did not have a first name to my knowledge and wore her hair in a giant spray-shellacked beehive and presciently, Jungian-ly, archetypically, cast me as the Cowardly Lion in the Ellis School 4th grade's rendition of The Wizard of Oz. I channeled my best Burt Lahr blaring in my chubby, thick lion-colored dance pantyhose. If I were king of the forrrreeeest.  

As I've said many times, I haven't emotionally matured much past ten. Perhaps to eleven. My mom jokes that 4th grade was my academic peak. My Denali. Previously my Mt. McKinley.

My son begins 4th grade tomorrow; it's like I'm going to 4th grade. Is that how tied up in him I am? Mother as sticky web of her own unfinished business. Mother as vampire? Yes. Possibly.

The small lion-costumed ghostly me of the past with a tartan plaid metal lunchbox containing the extremely uncool lunch of homemade meatloaf (or worse, my grandmother's relish-flecked egg salad on homemade wheat), nothing good to trade in the lunchroom, will be following him off up the hill, I can't help it.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Moving Tips

Ha! "Lamp Box"  haha "Dishpack Box." The very idea that someone has named something a "Large Mirrorpack" makes me know there is someone out there so much more organized than I could ever hope to be.

As far as packing materials go I am I am totally Used Dishtowel. Mindlessly Wrapping Glassware With Stuffed Animals, and 100% Discarded Printer Box Found In The Dumpster Into Which Sorta Fit My Ikea-Framed Posters. I'm This Cuisinart is Clean Enough.

I regret my collection of yelloware bowls. They looked so pretty on the kitchen counter in a marigold spectrum, but now that I'm hefting them into boxes, they look all It's Not 1940 Anymore, Farm Girl. You Know These Are Glazed With Lead Paint.

In fact, I regret every purchase, every hand-me-down, every relic of brown furniture that I didn't say no to now that I have to pack everything into a "Medium Box."

I don't even have that much stuff -- I consider myself a Zen-ster, and have a belief system that is Shit In Shit Out, but where did all the stuff come from? Why so many throw pillows, wind chimes, and lemon zesters? Why the multiple bird feeders?  The aspirational tennis racquets when I have never played tennis. And mugs? Dutch ovens? Don't even get me started. I'm having to take some deep breaths and some sort of medication because of the mugs; they're like Tribbles on Star Trek.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Triple Crown

The day I've been waiting for since I was a chubster bucktooth in the '70s watching the Derby with my grandmother (some people called her a pip) on her naugahyde recliner in her living room (referred to as "the bird room" because of the knockoff Audubon-print wallpaper she loved so much) eating unsanctioned sweets and too allergic to horses to even feed the glorious animals apples without getting hives, is here.

I'm not a sports fan of anything except American horse racing every year in the early spring and World Cup soccer every four years (but I married into that) so when American Pharoah crossed the finish 5 1/2 lengths ahead of Frosted yesterday on Long Island I hollered. I felt Seabiscuit's soft ghostly nose brushing my cheek. Mama's getting a new pair of shoes! I spluttered.

Mama's getting a t-shirt with Victor Espinoza's face on it! I fangirl squeeed. "Kids," I said to the kids, "you are have just witnessed history." I wept. I blubbered. I'm not ashamed to admit it, I miss my grandma.

She always wore little red and bright-colored pumps (she was kind of a peacock) fit for elves all in a neat row in her closet and complicated hair ornamentation geisha-ish. She would have been toodooleeedooing and slapping the couch saying "Hot Damn!" and things things like, "Mercy!" and carrying on about making a horse-shaped cake to celebrate. She had that kind of skill set.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Call Me Calizabeth

Caitlyn Jenner the man formerly known as Bruce broke the internet this week, but not a lot of stereotypes about women with her Vanity Fair cover. I wanted to see her as I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar.

Older adult womanhood shot by Annie Leibowitz is about what? Lounging louchely on white leather couches with expensive mermaid hair looking moodily out at the world though a penthouse window. Or come-hither camera, I've still got it, a starlet in a white satin bustier. (I have one of those! Wait. Damn. I don't. I must have misplaced it with my Nice 'N Easy hair color from 1988. Remember the commercial? "It's you, only better.")

Her athleticism and bravery has been poured into several fitted evening gowns and that feels old hat. Really old hat. Like a top hat made of beaver on a master of the universe who runs railroads whose woman is at home making preparations to hostess with the mostess a dinner party in a bustle.

I was hoping for some kind of expansionary image, some kind of pushing of the envelope of Woman, some kind of punny, explosive, funny Bette Midler in a bed of roses and thorns, clever impish RuPaul rakishness, "We're all come in to the world naked and the rest is all drag," and instead we've been diminished to breaking the internet with our butts. Again.

Caitlyn could have just as easily have called herself People Pleaser, and I would have said, Girl, there is no way you can win this game; that's been my name for a long time. Then we'd giggle girlishly, do you think he's cute? OMG! Kinda!

We'd twirl our banana curls. We'd put maraschino cherries in our pink drinks before heading up to the roof deck to do yoga with Kim.