Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Other than the sounds of chainsaws and woodchippers all over the neighborhood, things are pretty much back to normal here at Old Maid HQ. The power went out approximately ten minutes after the wind started to blow and stayed out for about 36 hours, but thanks to the folks at National Grid working around the clock, we got power back days ahead of projections.

I spent the day yesterday with my darling sister-in-law and my nieces and nephew. They got power back around noon, so I was able to charge my phone and scrounge a hot shower and a hot meal before venturing home.

The cat is also really glad the power is back on. On Sunday night she got pretty tired of me shining a flashlight on her to cast her shadow on the wall and then singing the theme from the 1960s "Batman" television series.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Words of Wisdom: My Niece Katie

Then I realized... there are many degrees of happiness.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Do Not Disturb

My BFF was in town for a week, and in addition to the usual merrymaking and carrying on, there was her 90th birthday party and a family cookout that I helped to cater and clean up after.

If anyone is looking for me over the next couple of days, I can be found napping with my cat in the sunroom. Being nice to people in large groups really takes it out of a cantankerous old maid.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What I'm Reading: Apollo's Angels

Apollo's Angels is six-hundred-plus pages of ballet history, and managed to keep me engaged throughout. That alone tells you it's a well-written and interesting book.

Jennifer Homans discusses the history of ballet from its beginnings as a courtly art in 17th century to the great dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. Through it all, ballet was shaped by the events of modern European history: politics, war, and especially the rise of communism.

As a dancer -- an aged, decrepit dancer, but a dancer nonetheless -- it was fun to read about the long and fascinating history that I'm a part of every time I go into the studio. And the next time we do a reverence at the end of class, I'll do it with more, well, reverence.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Supposedly About Fall Fashion (But Really Just General Crankiness)

Lately, I feel like I'm living in a world gone mad -- to the point where I'm almost afraid to open my browser in the morning and see what the day's headlines are. At times like this, you'd think that reading fashion magazines and websites would be to my weary soul as chocolate is to PMS. But you would be wrong.

Maybe it's because I recently looked at a book about fashion from 1909-1939, in the introduction to which Diana Vreeland gushed about how "everyone" was chic and happy and full of fun until World War II came along and wrecked everything. Because, as everyone knows, World War I and the Great Depression were both freaking blasts.

These days, Vreeland's successors at Vogue are desperately begging people to buy something, anything, by basically throwing a lot of crap at the wall and seeing what sticks. Which is fine, I guess, since it means there are lots of choices out there -- but most of them aren't very good choices.

Take the coat above, by Rick Owens. The style is timeless! You can see paintings from the Middle Ages where figures are wearing something similar, that's how timeless it is. And it will look ever-so-chic until... well, until December 26th, to be precise. And then you might haul it out of the back of the closet next year if you're invited to a Star Trek-themed Halloween party.

Or maybe I'm just cranky because last night on Project Runway the contestants were given the challenge to dress stiltwalkers (that would be performers who walk on stilts, not really tall hookers) and then those who made costumes -- as opposed to outfits for gigantic elderly secretaries -- were penalized.

I'm telling you, the world has become a crazy place.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Fall Fashion Update With Exciting New Game!

Image: Suno.com

I promised to give you the scoop on fall fashion, so here it is. The prevailing theme in all the magazines I looked at the other day can be boiled down to the following sentence: "THE ECONOMY IS TERRIBLE AND NUMBERS ARE DOWN, SO FOR THE LOVE OF GOD BUY SOMETHING!"

They didn't put it exactly that way, of course. Instead, the fall fashion issues I looked at all had articles full of urgent fashion superlatives, telling the reader that she simply must have fitted sweaters, big slouchy sweaters, jewel tones, earth tones, black-and-white ensembles, things that look modern, things that look vintage. "The midi length skirt is back!" the fashion editors claim, but they showed every length from gyno-mini to maxi. They just want you to buy something, pretty please.

The picture at the top of this post is an example of the important fashion trend that Style.com calls "Collage Studies." You could buy the outfit above from Suno for thousand of dollars, or you can play an exciting new fashion game! Here's how to play: have a friend blindfold you, and then steer you toward your closet. Grab the first blouse, skirt, tee shirt, tights, and pair of shoes you get your hands on. Put them on. Remove the blindfold and be impressed with the chic ensemble you put together! Borrow an oversized plaid fleece jacket from your father, brother, or significant other, and put it on over the whole thing. Look! You're a fashionista!

Or, for examples of mixing prints from women who have real-world budgets, bodies, and places to go where they don't want to be laughed at, check out this post on Style...The New Black.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Dept. of Home Economics: Trash to "Treasure"

I've been working this week on some things I like to call "swamp yankee crafts," and it has occurred to me that my grandma would be proud since I am taking trash and reusing it. She liked anything that was gussied up for little to no money and was famous at the church Christmas bazaar for her crocheted toilet paper covers.

My first craft is a hillbilly basket. It was designed to go with a John Deere themed room at the Army Dude's house, so that's what dictated the materials and color scheme. I measured the length and width of the areas I wanted to weave fabric through, and cut the denim strips (from an old pair of jeans) about an inch longer. Then I trimmed the ends as necessary once I had them stitched in place.

I glued a piece of cardboard (cut out of a Triscuits box) to the fabric for the bottom to give it some support. I left the cardboard visible because, well, it's a hillbilly basket. If I ever do this again, I think I'll try using strips of thick paper (like magazine covers) and glue. Stitching inside a box was a pain.

My next swamp yankee craft was cat food can tea light holders. I got the idea of recycling cans by wrapping them with something new from Alyssa Watters, who was selling cans covered in prints of her original art at a caft fair earlier this summer (the Army Dude bought several). I don't know how I made the mental leap from that to tealight holders made from cat food cans, but as I'm sure you've realized by now, gentle readers, my mind is a strange and mysterious place.

I stripped the labels off the cans and cleaned them really well. I saved one of the labels as a template because I'm not smart with math and calculating circumferences due to the fact that the math area of my brain has been crowded out by show tune lyrics.

Next, I cut strips from magazine pages with pretty images and glued them onto the cans using a glue stick. Then I applied a thin layer of Mod Podge with a brush to create a lightly textured effect and let it dry.

I worked on these while watching a marathon of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives. It seemed like the right thing to do.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

I'm No Saint (But I Want A Name Like One)

I'm thinking of calling myself Maria the Astonishing. Or maybe Auntie Maria the Astonishing (it's a work in progress). It has a superhero quality that I like, and has the advantage -- like Gorgeous George or Vlad the Impaler -- of letting people know what they're up against. It's helpful, is my point.

I got the idea from the fabulous blog Got Medieval. If you don't read it yet, why not? It's on my blogroll. The author is a doctoral student in medieval studies and he's hilarious (it surprised me too). If you've ever wondered about the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet (and I know you have), you'll find this blog to be an invaluable reference.

Regarding the name Maria the Astonishing, it comes from a medieval Belgian saint named Christina the Astonishing, who apparently came pretty close to being buried when she was only mostly dead. Legend has it that after waking up during her funeral mass, she levitated to the ceiling because she couldn't bear the smell of sinful people. Pretty astonishing, I would say. I realize that people in the medieval era didn't bathe all that much, but you'd think she'd have been used to it, and having been mostly dead for a couple of days she couldn't have smelled too fresh herself.

I just want to steal her name, you understand. After her near death experience, she went on to renounce all comforts and actually seek out ways to suffer. That would not suit me at all.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

A Day In The Life

Awesome spider web in Rovensky Park

The Team Maria President thinks I need an AuntieCam because he says I am always up to random and hilarious things that would be fun to watch. Exhibit A, he believes, is the fact that I got up at 4 a.m. and put on a fancy necklace and a tiara to watch the royal wedding. Exhibit B is the fact that I think it's a perfectly normal thing to do.

Trust me, gentle readers, you do not want me to set up a webcam. Right now I'm still in yoga clothes and I haven't brushed my hair. However, yesterday -- since I'd already decided that I was going to play hooky from all the things I should be doing -- I thought I'd bring a camera along and document my day.

I took a mid-morning walk to Rovensky Park, where I checked on the tree where I'd hung a bracelet I found in the path one day. Yup, it's still there. Then I sat on the grass under a weeping willow for a while, just thinking my thoughts.

Arriving back at Old Maid HQ, I decided to make some sun tea. This batch has pomegranate and blueberry green teabags, plus one bag of True Blueberry. I'm a rebel like that.

This is what I wore. See? Perfectly normal -- nary a tiara in sight. The dress is from Old Navy. I bought three of them for next to nothing at the beginning of the summer and I've been living in them. Other items:

Flats: Target, last summer
Bracelets: Ed Levin
Rings: Road trip mood ring and silver ring from Pepi
Watch: Raymond Weil, at least 20 years old
Earrings: a gift from a friend.

I know Michael Kors would have something stinging to say about the fact that my earrings match my dress ("Oh my God, she's a middle-aged Barbie!" comes to mind) but too bad. I love turquoise and am fully capable of putting together a head-to-toe turquoise look including shoes and an ankle bracelet. I think I showed remarkable restraint.

By lunchtime I was hungry and dreadfully hot, so I made a smoothie. (Note that I put the top securely in place before starting the blender, Rachel.) This one is banana and strawberry with vanilla yogurt.

I headed out to Barnes & Noble where I browsed through a stack of glossy fashion magazines because I simply had to know what's in for fall. I got the scoop, but more on that in a future post.

I took a quick browse through Michael's and laughed at the moss balls. I'd have taken a second picture of them and sent it to my brother and sister to brighten their workdays because I'm a giver, but my phone was on low battery.

Arriving home in the late afternoon, I caught up on Tom & Lorenzo's take on the first episode of Project Runway Season 9 and added my opinions to the commentary. As one does.

After dinner out at the Blue Plate Diner with a couple of friends (I had the Cobb Salad), it was time to curl up in my Tinkerbell pajamas with a P.G. Wodehouse anthology and call it a day.