Monday, December 28, 2009

Surfacing for Air! Happy Holidays from Casa de JCAUNCMom!!

Hi glaydies!

I'm about three weeks late in saying this, friends, but do let me wish all of you a wonderful holiday season!  I hope every celebration in your holiday universe has been joyful, stress-free and fun -- be it Hanukkah, Christmas (traditional or orthodox), Kwanzaa or anything else including the often-overlooked Seinfeldian Festivus.

As you have no doubt noticed if you're one of my trusty little band of followers or are an occasional dropper-by, I've been AWOL from my own blog for weeks and weeks.  I've been suffering from an extreme case of Overwhelmeditis, which is especially easy for ME to catch since I am a card-carrying, founding member of the "seriously ADD but didn't know it til her kid was diagnosed" Club.  It's been an exceptionally busy holiday season around here, starting really just before Thanksgiving.  In six weeks here's what's been shakin' around Casa de JCAUNCMom:
  • Journey Boy arrived home safe, sound, healthy and happy from his epic cross-country trip, with hundreds of pictures and reams of journal pages that he's working on editing (so, more to come on both text and pics as soon as he's officially allowed me to publish a few).
  • I had a mercifully short bout of the flu -- the regular kind, not the swine kind, yet just awful nonetheless.  It started right before Thanksgiving and sort of limped along that whole holiday weekend during which we were in NJ visiting the DH Clan.  My immune system really pulled out the stops and I managed to get thru that weekend reasonably intact with just a sort of overall feeling of crummy, but when I got home the last of my brave little defenses collapsed and I was flattened for another four or five days.  Yuck.
  • Blues Boy's early December birthday arrived (age 20 ... twenty???) just as I was recuperating from the flu and just as he and all five of his suitemates at UNC came down with a wicked head cold.  Poor kids.  I had remembered even in my flu-induced stupor to order him a strawberry birthday cake from my all-time favorite cake site Very Vera, and over the course of a week he and his buddies apparently ate it in shifts, as their heads cleared enough to allow them to taste it.  Then their exams started.  Poor kids again!
  • Mrs. Santa -- depending heavily upon her Online Elves this year -- got a late start but managed to get everyone on the Nice List a few goodies.  In view of this year's economy we really did dial it back, but I was pleased to take advantage of a couple of the good sales at The CrewseShip's site.  Can I say that all my boys are lookin' quite well-outfitted this week? Oo la la!
  • Mrs. Santa also decorated the house, which in our interfaith home means that I go allllllllll out.  Translation:  Cars slow down to gawk.  I think the neighbors send their friends to look, seriously.  We've got a menorah faithfully lit for the 8 nights of Hanukkah, but we've also got an old-fashioned multi-colored Christmas tree, a wreath on the door and reindeer in the yard.  And why not, right?  True story:  When our boys were young we used to invite some of their Jewish friends to help decorate our tree, and one year I actually had my DH (Jewish) and the two dads (one Jewish and one Buddhist) of a couple of our sons' friends on ladders putting lights on my tree for me.  Isn't that the definition of Ho Ho Ho???
  • Blues Boy made it home safely after exams, still sniffling.  He's all better now, thanks to a ten day dose of super-intense Mama Care.
  • Hanukkah came and went, with our usual small-scaled but sincere and fun celebration.
  • The four of us went to see Billy Crystal do his one-man show 700 Sundays.  Fantastic show -- a hysterically funny, deeply moving and truly awesome tour de force memoir of Billy's fascinating family life.  Such a great treat for us, and a nice Jewishly change of pace from our usual family "holiday night out" which is often The Nutcracker at Atlanta Ballet or A Christmas Carol or some other festive Christmas show at one of the many local theaters.  L'chaim, y'all!
  • And right on Hanukkah's heels Christmas week roared by in a happy blur of wrapping packages, cooking, baking and visiting with friends.
So here we are.  It's quiet at Mi Casa today.  JB's beautiful girlfriend is visiting, so they're out hitting the after-Christmas sales.  BB is, as I type this, searching On Demand for a movie and sinking into an impressive sub sandwich he constructed from Christmas leftovers.  I hear Eddie doing his most pitiful "pleeeeeeaaaaassse share" whine and I'm betting BB will ignore him.  DH is at work, and I am enjoying this tiny lull before I get set for us to ring out 2009 in style with a small dinner party on Thursday evening for three couples who are all dear old friends.  I'm thinking Italian buffet -- whatch'all think?  I'll post menu ideas, how 'bout that?

Glaydies, I hope for all of you, and for my own family here and scattered all over, that 2010 becomes a year that we'll be able to look back upon fondly.  I don't do "New Year's Resolutions" any more, having decided years ago that big, grand, long-term goals like that don't work for little ol' ADD me.  But I do set smaller, more manageable goals for myself, and one of mine this next year is going to be:  Write more in my blogs.  So, if I'm "on track", look for more of me and my scribblings here  (WITH OOTD AND IRL PICS, I PROMISE) and at my other blog 500 Characters Max.  You can bet you'll see me commenting here and there on YOUR wonderful blogs.

Before I sign off, I do want to share three pics with you all.  Enjoy!

The first is my Tar Heels (BB on left, JB on right) on Christmas morning (check out their Santa hats :-)) with our 13-year-old Bichon Frise, Eddie.  It was early-ish, and you can see how very excited Eddie was to be roused from his favorite Nap Chair for this picture:

And here is what I believe might win the prize for Funniest Power-Point-Created Christmas Gift Packaging Ever.  I had asked the boys for a copy of "This Is It", the Michael Jackson DVD.  Here's what I got:

Happy New Year, everyone!!!!!!


    Saturday, November 7, 2009

    If You Coveted ABC's Purple LP Clutch....

    Hi everyone!

    It's been awhile since I've had time to post, although I've tried to find a few minutes each day to peek at your blogs for fun.  All's well here, though, and when I can get back here later today to tell y'all what's been cookin'.  (Hint:  Navy shoe shopping.  Plus ridiculous water-related house repair issues keep cropping up like mushrooms!)

    For the moment, I've got a couple of quickies to post about.  First things first -- HUGE THANKS to Kathy and Seashell for giving me the Over the Top Blogger Award!  I'm so tickled, girls -- I just love you two and I really appreciate you thinking of me! Watch for another post from me where I'll answer the OTT Blogger questions! :-)

    And next, I want to pass along a tip from my morning e-mail:  a Bluefly TODAY ONLY extra 15% off sale. :-)  If you've never shopped Bluefly (and I can't imagine you girls haven't), it's essentially Loehmann's Back Room, online.  High-end stuff at ever-increasing discounts.  The gamble is to wait something out -- if it's still there in a couple of weeks it WILL be marked down again.

    There's lots of great stuff marked down the extra 15% today, but the main reason I'm alerting you to this sale is that contemporary handbags are marked down... including some gorgeous Linea Pelle bags.  And what will you find there, if you look?  None other than that beautiful LP "Alyssa" clutch in "Purple Dawn" that our friend A Bigger Closet bought to replace the J. Crew Lexi clutch in Light Amethyst, which she didn't loveShe's a big fan of this Linea Pelle clutch.

    I have borrowed this picture from ABC's blog for you (thank you, ABC -- hope this was okay to do!)

    Bluefly has this cutie (or the same bag in a pretty taupe color) on sale for $99.45, marked down from $195.  ABC was able to buy hers directly from Linea Pelle for a little less money because she scored an awesome sale + a discount code, but this bag's sold out at LP's website.  Bluefly's price is still a great sale price.

    Don't forget to do your Bluefly shopping through so that you can rack up an extra 4% in Ebates dollars!  And get this -- if you are a first-time Bluefly shopper and spend more than $200, Ebates will kick in another $40 off for you!  

    Happy shopping, glaydies, and I'll see ya later!

    Monday, October 26, 2009

    Searching for the Elusive Navy Flat Shoe

    Part II of today's posting. :-)

    It's autumn, and for my wardrobe color palette that means I'm on a quest for some new navy shoes.  I need driving mocs/loafers for my usual "uniform" of cords, tee and sweater, and I need some ballet flats for my skinny lil' toothpick jeans.  As much as I really hate to say this, I am finding over time that many of my Crew ballet flats aren't very comfortable.  Do y'all find this??  It's especially true of some of the stiffer patent leathers (e.g., metallic guava and peacock Salinas), which I love... until I wear them for a while.  Could be I am needing to size up a 1/2 size -- I may try that -- but I'm feeling a little burned and so am looking elsewhere for this fall.  And I'm not looking to spend $$$ on anything -- $$ or better yet $ would be wonderful for my clothing budget!

    Wow, are there some cutie pie shoes out there in the $ to $$ price range, from basics on up. I'm with our friend Sweet Tea in Seattle on this:  I love  I also have a close personal one-on-one relationship with  I've even been invited to join  Oo-la-la. :-)

    I Polyvored a few candidates, of course including some juicy little items that aren't navy -- aren't even blue at all! -- but look so luscious.  I especially like the idea of the little evergreen-colored Calvin Klein suede ballet flat with some of that gorgeous new forest-green stuff at JC.

    Here are the mocs & loafers:
    It's Autumn -- New Navy Mocs & Loafers Needed!
    It's Autumn -- New Navy Mocs & Loafers Needed! by JCAUNCMom on

    And here are a few from the SO many beautiful ballet flats out there:

    Whatcha think, JCA's?


    A Visit Home from Blues Boy

    Good morning JCA's!

    I've been searching for navy blue flats (ballet and moc-style) and in my next post want to report on a few interesting possibilities (Heidi, oh Heidi, are you listening, GF?) -- but first lemme tell y'all why you're looking at an especially happy JCAUNCMom today!

    (1) The weather's (finally) beautiful and dry here and

    (2) WAY more important, Mr. J'Mom and I had the absolute delight of a nice long-weekend visit home from our almost-20-year-old DS#2!!!

    Since his older brother Journey Boy has a blogosphere name, let's name DS#2 more descriptively.  How about "Blues Boy", in honor of his startlingly blue eyes and his love for all things "Carolina Blue"?  Sneak peek at the big blue eyes and the face I love so much:

    Blues Boy blew into town last Wednesday night for UNC's fall break and brought with him an adorable suitemate, along with a huge dose of clutter and stinky giant shoes and noise and laughter.  The most fantastic manly aromas drifted out of Blues Boy's shades-drawn-vampire-in-residence bedroom, our guest room (shades also drawn -- vampire number two in temporary residence) and my usually-pristine-these-days bathrooms, which for four days stayed all delightfully steamed up and messy with wet towels on the floor and the lingering scents of Old Spice deodorant (BB's favorite) and some pleasant girl-enticing cologne.  I spent the whole weekend wearing a big silly grin.  The boys packed just about every Atlanta activity possible into their 3 1/2 days here.  Lots of college kids seemed to be on break or just in town this weekend, so Blues Boy got to introduce many of his high school "posse" to Cute Suitemate.  Saturday night a big crew piled into our house for ping pong, pool and roasting s'mores, marshmallows and banana boats over our little copper fire pit.  Hubby and I spent the evening in the living room watching shows we'd TIVO'd, answering the front door, happily getting big hugs and hearing life-at-college tales, and listening to the chatter and belly laughs coming from the back yard.  Heaven heaven heaven!!!

    Today the boys are back at college, and in the ATL our house is quiet, order is restored, and our little old dog is zonked in a state of delighted exhaustion.  This must be a bit like what Cinderella felt like at 12:10 a.m.  Dinner tonight will be on a much smaller scale, and the doorbell won't ring to interrupt our evening.  These aren't bad things at all -- don't get me wrong.  Life in an Empty Nest is sweet in many ways, and I do enjoy the order and peacefulness.  But I don't think anything will ever send our happiness rating soaring more than having our children, their friends, and someday their wives and children home to visit.  It's the definition of pure joy.  If we could bottle that feeling, creating world peace would be a piece of cake. :-)

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Passing This Along: Deal on NWT Navy Winnie Stadium Jacket, Size 6

    Hey folks,

    I'm just running my usual recreational searches on eBay this lazy afternoon while DH "watches football" (meaning, of course, naps), and I ran across an auction by a seller who always offers discount deals on NWT JC stuff.  Today's auction is for a size 6 NWT Winnie Stadium Jacket from this fall season's collection, in NAVY (the auction photo is yellow, but read the auction text) -- Buy It Now price is $160 or bid starting at $140.

    FYI, I tried this jacket on IRL and it runs a bit roomy, IMHO. I'm almost always an 8 in my JC jackets and coats, and the 6 was fine.

    Buyer beware, of course.  If you're hesitant I'd ask the seller some questions.  I have no clue how he manages this pricing, but I bought one item from this seller before and had no problems at all.  If the merchandise is counterfeit I sure couldn't tell it.

    Here's the link:  Winnie Stadium Jacket eBay Auction

    Saturday, October 17, 2009

    Journey Boy Checks In

    Happy dreary Saturday, friends!

    Once again, I'm looking around my fair Southern city and my cheerful, busy neighborhood today and wondering when we all got picked up Dorothy-style and dropped over the rainbow into the Pacific Northwest.  It is raw, wet, and unseasonably cold -- again -- and there are no bikes, trikes, Big Wheels or skateboards afoot outside.  We're all hunkered down.

    It's been like this now for weeks with few breaks, and I find myself (a) sending big mental hugs to my JCA friends who really ARE in the Pacific Northwest -- and other areas where this is ordinary October weather -- and (b) having to search harder and harder for mood pick-me-uppers. But today I got a great one when I logged into my e-mail with my first cup of coffee:  an e-mail (the first of the trip) from our wonderful DS#1, a/k/a Journey Boy, with pictures!

    If you don't know who and what I'm talking about, before you read on I suggest you peek back at my post from mid-September about my son's then-impending departure on his dream trip.  He's a month in, with about six weeks to go, and he's as happy as a pig in the mud, I'm tellin' ya. Today's e-mail was brisk and jaunty, and his pictures reflect that same delighted attitude.  He and his traveling buddy "Moose" (the non-dredlocked guy in the blue shirt in the first picture below -- Moose is so nicknamed because he was born in Canada) are loving what Journey Boy calls "life in the Champagne Beauty" --- their name for the champagne-colored 2007 Dodge Grand Caravan that they're calling home. In the first month of their trip they've camped, climbed, hiked, visited friends and family and generally cavorted their genial way thru the Carolinas, the Virginias, New Jersey and New York, Kentucky, the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, Grand Tetons National Park, Nevada (with a stop in Reno to mail home a box of clothes that, although fresh from the laundromat, smelled magically like my boy!), Salt Lake City, and parts of California, where last week they met up with two other buddies who will be with them for the remainder of their trip.

     Journey Boy (left) and Moose.

    Journey Boy in his climbing harness.

    The Badlands in South Dakota.

    Sunrise, somewhere early in their trip -- this one wasn't labeled.  But wow.

    Moose (left) and JB.  With George Washington. (Mount Rushmore -- look carefully at the background.  This is your "Where's Waldo?" picture of the day. )

      I can't look at this picture without grinning and without thinking about Willie Nelson's classic lyrics:

    On the road again, 
    Goin’ places that I’ve never been. 
    Seein’ things that I may never see again,
    And I can’t wait to get on the road again.
    On the road again,
    Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway. 
    We’re the best of friends,
    Insisting that the world keep turning our way.
    And our way is
    On the road again.

    JB does his bouldering thing.

    The Black Hills of South Dakota.  D'ya see those granite peaks (probably "the Needles" but we're not certain) in the background?  I'm betting that my son did a bit of dangling there.

    Here's my boy in the burgundy sweatshirt, just getting started on the ascent of a bouldering "problem" (that's kinda like "route" or "as-yet unconquered piece of giant rockface" to the rest of us non-climbers).  He's standing in front of Moose and I think that's their other two pals Nate and Tommy who are watching.

    As his brother would say, Sweeeeeet.

    I can't say that the worry and anxiety I wore so heavily when I wrote that September post have miraculously vanished, girls.  They're still there and I think about my dear faraway child constantly.  But I've managed with surprising success to back-burner almost all thoughts of him dangling 40 feet up, driving at 2:00 a.m., camping with nearby bears (and without what I would personally consider adequately waterproof boots, but then I'm kinda wussy about that kind of thing).

    And the reason I'm able to back-burner these scary, worrisome visions is really simple: There is not a doubt in my mind that he has never been quite so contented -- and he's generally a contented person, so I'm saying a lot here. Last week he called for a quick chat while he stood outside a laundromat waiting for his clothes to dry.  He told me that one night, after a nice day hike, he and Moose had camped on the shore of a lake in Grand Tetons National Park.  He had woken up at dawn feeling really cold and unable to go back to sleep.  So he'd opened the tent flap, intending to make a fire and start some coffee, and he'd discovered an overnight snowfall.  Instead of making the fire right away, he bundled up, tiptoed out of the tent and sat, alone, on the shore watching the sun come up over the mountains, listening to the trickle of water and the sounds of birds and little woodland creatures awakening.  Later in the morning he and Moose hiked back out thru all that fresh fluffy stuff.  A few pictures from that lovely day:

    Moose, enjoying the same view his traveling pal had enjoyed earlier in the morning.

     Brrr. But again, wow.

    No matter how cold your face may be, you just cannot contain a grin that comes all the way up from your frozen toes.

    I listened to the joy in his voice as he shared this experience so vividly with me, and I wanted to cheer and cry all at the same time.  And I asked him if he was reaping from this trip everything he'd hoped he'd discover and gain. This was his answer:  "Well, Mom, you know, I'd say yeah, actually.  I would say I definitely feel.... (long pause as he pondered the right word choice) ... Expanded. Know what I mean?"

    I sure do.  Awesome.

    Thursday, October 15, 2009

    Sad news for me means good news for one of you!

    Hi everyone!

    It's been another rainy, dreary week here, and I've found myself wondering how our pal Sweet Tea in Seattle stands so MUCH rainy weather.  STIS, you're my hero, girl.  Enough already here.  Bring me some autumn sunshine!

    I thought I had a bit of autumn sunshine earlier this week when my Shimmer Paisley Lawn Dress arrived safe and sound.  What a beauty this dress is IRL!  The fabric is so light, floaty and soft, and the print is the most gorgeous paisley mix of muted fall-like colors. It looks fantastic with a cardi -- especially one of the delicate chiffon-trimmed ones like last year's Tartines -- and all of the colors in the glazed pecan-honey glaze-burnished olive family work.  Ditto for any skinny belt that you might want to play with.

    I got the 8, and it was perfect thru the bust so I know the 6 would have been too tight there. Unfortunately, pretty much everywhere else it fit me poorly.  I'm simply too short to wear it -- at least to wear it in a size that accommodates the meno-boobs. :-)  The bodice was too long (making the beautiful neckline droop), the shirred waist hit me above my waistline at a weird "nothing" place, and the full skirt (even as I imagined it hemmed shorter) just did nothing at all for my short little legs.  Oh well.  This wasn't a big surprise to me since I know my body type, but a gal can hope, ya know.

    I actually let the dress hang in my closet for a whole day and then tried it on again.  Nothing miraculous happened overnight -- shockeroo -- and it still looked frumpy and dumpy.  Not at all like it looked (which was:  fan-freakin'-tastic) on Dina or on RatsonParade. And check out ROP's lovely Polyvore set.

    So glaydies, who'd like to give this truly fabulous and sold-out piece a home?  I will sell it for exactly what I paid plus your choice of shipping.  I paid FP ($150) plus $12 sales tax (interesting -- it came from a store in South Florida) and free shipping, so my total was $162.  You pick the shipper and I'll send it anyway you like.  I've got a PayPal account so paying will be real simple.

    If you're interested, give me a shout.

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Starting a new blog -- please stop by! :-)

    Glaydies (what DOES that mean, Gigi -- it just sounds so cute),

    I'm launching a new blog today and you're invited to visit and bring friends.  It's called "500 Characters Max" and it's going to be the place where I finally stop talking about being a writer and start learning to be a writer.  I'm going to post bits and pieces of things I've written or am working on, and I hope you'll give me your honest feedback.

    This of course does NOT mean that I'm abandoning "Crewsing Thru My 50's".  I will continue to post about my J. Crew addiction (threatened by the overflow of ruffles right now, but hanging in there), tips and tricks from my adventures in the rag trade, my workout addiction and whatever else randomly amuses me about being (alarmingly) old enough to have adult children.  And you know I'll keep reading your blogs every day.

    If I ever figure out how to do it, I'll even post some IRL pics of my OOTD.

    Stay tuned, and come see me over at the new blog.  Happy October rollout, JCA's!

    Thursday, October 8, 2009

    A Miracle Story: Using My New "White Card"

    Just thought I'd pass this along, lovelies --

    After seeing Dina's post today about finding the beautiful Shimmer Paisley Lawn Dress which I've been kicking myself for not ordering, I decided on impulse to try out the phone number on my new "VIP" White Card, which I was surprised and delighted to receive yesterday from my new close personal friend Mickey D.  I figured it was a nothing-to-lose situation -- why not see if my very own dedicated Personal Shopper could find the dress for me?

    So I called and talked to my friendly guy Paul and I put him on the chase.  He asked -- and he honest to goodness sounded nervous and apologetic -- if it would be alright with me if he took a few hours to look into this, seeing as how the West Coast stores were hours from even being open yet and thus he couldn't call them.  Good grief.  How demanding can these customer service divas BE? :-)  He promised to e-mail me later today with a report on his progress.

    Y'all, five minutes later I got an e-mail from him saying that he found the dress for me and it's being sent to me today with SHIPPING FOR FREE.  Holy cow.  Apparently mine's coming from an East Coast or Central Time Zone store, because none of the other stores would have been taking Paul's (I'm sure quite frantic) call yet.

    The moral of this tale is that it's most definitely worth making a phone call to the "find it for me" hotline if you're coveting this dress.  Paul commented that while it's been a hot item, the inventory's still showing a little availability in "most sizes" somewhere in the country.

    I ordered the dress in the larger of my two JC upper-body sizes (6 and 8) because the always-smart Dina nailed it with this sage advice:  "I would rather take in than squeeze in..."  This dress would be an especially easy take-in alteration because it's got a center back seam and zipper with a shirred waist.  Whther or not I don't have to take it in, I'll definitely have to hem it, we know that for sure.  Remember, students, short shins = knee length is an uuuuuuuuggggggggggly look.

    And even hemmed, there's a good chance that this style may not work on me, Miss Shortest-Waisted-Preemie of 1955.  But it's such a cute and versatile dress (and in my best color palette, too) that I figured it's worth a shot.

    If it doesn't do a thing for me, I'll sell it to one of y'all for $ for $ what I paid JC for it, okie dokie? :-)

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    Tips & Tricks: For Short-Waisted and Long-Waisted Girls

    Hey everyone!

    I've gotten several requests over the past couple of weeks to share more of the tips and tricks I learned in my years as a clothes peddler.  I thought I'd start by recapping for y'all a real basic:  Short-Waisted versus Long-Waisted.

    You all know by now that I'm a short-shinned, long-thighed girl.  I didn't figure that out til I was almost 30.  And at the same time I discovered that I am short-waisted. Yeah, I know, you're thinking "Is she kidding me? How could she not KNOW she was short-waisted??"  After all, we see it in the mirror our whole lives; we know this small detail about our physique, right?  I'm here to tell ya, not necessarily.  I'll tell you my little story, but if you'd prefer to skip ahead to tips and tricks, scroll down.  You won't hurt my feelings one bit! 
    I am boyishly shaped.  I've got no waist, I have broad shoulders and I have long skinny legs -- think: a narrow rectangle on Popsicle sticks -- and I seem taller and longer than I really am.  I think I've mentioned that people always describe me as "around five foot six or so", when in fact I'm five foot four.  My mother looked at my shape, considered the fact that I needed pants "long in the stride" (a fact which, incidentally, is totally unrelated), and simply concluded -- and told me -- that I was long-waisted.  My relatives backed her up -- at every family event I heard "Look how long you're getting, for heaven's sake!"  And I believed my people. When I was fresh out of law school I read every article I could find on how to dress for being long-waisted, and I followed that advice with great care, trying my best to look mature and elegant in front of the infuriating older, male trial judges who regarded me with such condescending, toying amusement.  (There's a topic for another post, girls. Stay tuned.)

    I'd been practicing for about a year when an older woman lawyer invited me to go shopping with her to a "home trunk show."  This was, in fact, my introduction to the line of clothes that I'd one day sell.  It was also my introduction to understanding the proportions of my body correctly.  The "consultant" who was hosting us pulled just a couple of fabulous items for me to try on, saying "This is just for size and style so I can make some notes about you for the future!!"  And as I tried on clothes, she educated me, tactfully but firmly, about what I should be wearing, and why.  She was spot-on in her advice, and I figured out real fast that I'd been wearing almost everything completely wrong, from colors to shapes to proportions.

    The very first misconception that she exploded was my firm belief that I was long-waisted.  I am, in fact, ridiculously short-waisted, and I have a very narrow natural waist which just aggravates the "short-waisted effect".  As I found out, whether you're long-waisted or short-waisted has nothing to do with the shape of your torso; it has everything to do with the length of your torso relative to the lower half of you.  It's another one of those simple measure-and-compare facts, girls, like your leg proportions.

    Wanna see for yourself what you truly are?  You will need your trusty measuring tape, a mirror, a piece of paper and a pen. 
    • Measure from the top of your head to your natural waist (**more in a moment on how to find that). 
    • Now measure from your natural waist to the floor. 
    • If you're longer on the top than on the bottom, you're long-waisted.  If you're shorter on top than on the bottom, you're short-waisted.  It's that simple.
    **Finding your true natural waist is kinda fun, because you may discover that it's not where you thought it was or that it's not nearly as wide as you thought it was.   Here's how to do it:
    • Place your thumb into your armpit on the same side of the body and gently slide your thumb down in a straight line along your side until you can just barely tuck your thumbnail underneath the edge of your bottom rib.  To find the right spot to stop, it may help if you lean slightly in the other direction, as if you were s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g your torso.  Once you find your bottom rib and get your thumb into position, stand upright again, keeping your thumb firmly where it is.
    • Now gently trail your index finger from the same hand downwards away from your thumb. Stop moving your index finger as soon as you begin to feel even the tiniest trace of a curve outwards in your body's shape.
    • Look in the mirror at the visual distance between your thumb and your index finger. That gap that you see between thumb and index finger is your entire natural waist!
    • Now carefully pull your hand away from your side, keeping your index finger and thumb in exactly the same positions, and plant your hand down onto the piece of paper, marking where your thumb and index finger landed.  Measure the distance between those two points.  This is the width of your natural waist.  A distance of 1" to 1.25" is typical of someone short-waisted. 
    So what do you DO with this interesting info? Well, you can change the way you look in your clothes in subtle but very flattering ways by deploying a few tricks of the trade. This is another one of those "fix the proportion visually" situations, as is choosing your skirt length.

    If you're short-waisted:
    Your torso is shorter than your lower half, so your natural waist will tend to look like it rides high.  To correct your body's upper half/lower half proportions, you're going to want to visually lengthen your torso and pull your observer's eye down so that your waist appears to be lower on your body.   A few short-waisted girl tricks:
    • Match your belt color to the color of your top. The visual effect is that you add the width of your belt to the length of your torso -- i.e., if your belt's an inch wide, your torso looks an inch longer.
    • Wear your belt as if it were a waist bracelet instead of wearing it as if it were holding up your pants or skirt. When you put on your belt, hook it one hole looser than snug. This little trick makes your belt buckle hang just a teeny bit forward and down, so that the visual silhouette of your belt is a gentle "V" instead of a horizontal line around you. Your waist appears lower on your body.  
    • Following that same reasoning, avoid wide belts unless they're contoured belts (C-shaped). Contoured belts tend to hang a little lower in front naturally. :-)
    • Avoid tucking in your tops when possible.  If you want or need to tuck in, make sure you're tucked in smoothly -- you don't want waist bunching -- and be sure to apply the "waist bracelet" belt trick.
    • Be careful with short cardis or short jackets.   I know they're cute and I break my own rules to wear them, too.  But they can visually cut you in half.  Best if they're matched or blended closely to the color of your pants or skirt.  It also helps to wear a longer shirt/cami/tank/sweater and let it hang out from underneath.
    • Longer cardis or jackets (v-necks especially) are a short-waisted girl's friends.  Leave them open or unbelted.  This is a perfect quick fix for the disproportion between your top and your bottom halves. 
    If you're long-waisted:
    Your torso is longer than your lower half, so your natural waist will tend to look like it rides low.   To correct your body's upper half/lower half proportions, you're going to want to visually shorten your torso and pull your observer's eye up so that your waist appears to be higher on your body.   A few long-waisted girl tricks:
    • Match your belt color to the color of your bottoms.  You don't want the extra inch of torso that would be created by matching the belt to your top.
    • Wear your belt snug.  Unlike your short-waisted friends, you don't want to let your belt droop at all -- you want your waist to appear as high as possible.
    • Following that same reasoning, wide belts are best worn cinched on you, and you can wear a straight, wide belt.
    • Tucked-in tops and empire-waisted tops are good options for you.  If you wear a long top, try belting it in the middle.
    • Be careful with long cardis or jackets.  You don't need to add length to your upper half, so if you're jonesing to wear a long 'n lean topper, belt it in the middle.  
    • Short cardis or jackets can be a long-waisted girl's very best options, as long as you make sure they hit you right at or just slightly below your natural waist.  A cardi or jacket that's too short will hit you above your natural waist and make you look like your clothes have shrunk! 
    And if you're that rare woman whose upper and lower halves are pretty evenly proportioned:
    Well, I hate ya, but that's beside the point. :-)  All you need to do is follow two simple rules:
    • Since you don't have to choose clothes that will help to correct a disproportion, you should choose your clothes to highlight whatever you feel is your best body feature.
    • Wear fitted (different from tight) clothes.  Don't wear baggy clothes -- they'll distort your lovely proportions.
    I hope you'll find this helpful, Crewsers!  See you tomorrow -- I am off to have a glass of wine and study the FS section of the Crewniverse before dinner.  Just in case I've missed any short-waisted girl gems.


    Monday, September 28, 2009

    My first blog award and great roof news!

    Hi everyone!  We just got home this afternoon from a wonderful weekend in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where hubby and I took a break from our soggy home to visit our adorable DS#2.  We found him happy as a clam, healthy, making A's in all his classes and thoroughly enjoying life in a 6-guy suite in one of the nicest dorms on campus.  It can't get much better than that for a parent, I'm tellin' ya.

    Before I say another word I must share the fantastic news that our homeowners insurance IS going to cover the complete replacement cost of our roof!!!  We're also getting $$ for repair of our "injured" closet, and they're even giving me a little money to compensate for the loss of a silk Stuart Weitzman handbag that I've had (to be honest with y'all, but SHHH ;-)) for years.  The flooded garage is not covered because it was, as we suspected, a groundwater problem.  But the insurance payment might be enough to end up covering even our out-of-pocket garage costs.  Can I tell ya that after we got this news on Friday, my poor husband slept well for the first night in a week??  YAY!!!

    And the good news for me continues!  I'm pretty new to blogging and so far have only a small band of loyal followers, so imagine my surprise and delight on finding that both AppGal and Kathy and Seashell have nominated me for my first blog award!!

    Beautiful ladies, you've made my day!!  Thank you so much for thinking of me, and for making me really feel like I've arrived as an "official" blogger now!

    The rules for receiving this award, I understand, are these:
    • Thank the person who nominated me.  
    Check!  MWAH to Kathy, Seashell and AppGal!!!  I'm especially pleased to have been nominated by these three lovelies, since I admit to having a soft spot for them all.

    AppGal is a woman after my Tar Heel heart.  I'm a native North Carolinian and even after all my great years in Atlanta I'd move homeward in a heartbeat.  AppGal loves it, too, and I get such warm fuzzies from reading her warm and chatty posts about the happy life she and her DH are building for themselves in one of the prettiest corners of my beloved North Carolina.  AppGal, I hope I'll be reading about wonderful events in your life, big and small, for a long time.  If you're blogging, I'm following!

    I discovered Kathy and Seashell after seeing their blog linked to many of your blogs, dear readers.  One quick read and I was hooked.  Who wouldn't -- who couldn't -- adore a mother-daughter duet like this pair?  They share an almost tangible (it's THAT powerful) bond that goes beyond just parent/child -- they are mutually-admiring friends.  Awesome to see that.  I'm always excited to find new posts from them both, because each has her own unique writer's voice and yet both are honest, witty and so vividly descriptive.  Such fun to follow along!  Girls, may you have another sixty years of fabulous adventures together, and may you share them all with us on your blog!!
    • Copy the award and paste it here on my blog.  Check!
    • Link the person who nominated me.  Check!  
    If you aren't already, I invite you to enjoy AppGal's blog "Musings on the Mountain" and Kathy and Seashell's blog "Two Hands Full of Daisies". They're both must-reads for me!
    • Name 7 things about yourself that no one knows.  
    1. I was born in the same hospital room that my mother was born in.
    2. My mother was only 29 weeks pregnant when I was born, and my birth was a shockeroo to the little town where my parents lived because they'd not told anyone they were expecting.  My mom hadn't even begun to show, apparently.  I weighed 3 lbs 2 oz and was so premature that the doctors advised my parents not to name me because, they reasoned, I wasn't likely to live and if my parents didn't name me my death would feel more like a "simple miscarriage."  (This is how the thinking went in 1955...  Neanderthal.)  I stayed in an isolator/incubator for 10 weeks and wasn't named until I struggled my way to a whopping 5 lbs -- 8 weeks after I was born.
    3. I've always been (til menopause) kind of a string bean, but boy can I eat.  In college my sorority sister (also skinny, also a big eater) and I won a Greek Week ice-cream-eating contest for our house.  We ate 32 scoops, weren't the least bit embarrassed about it, and went out for beers to celebrate with our sisters.  Thinking about this now, I can only say:  Gross!!
    4. My hazel eyes change color pretty dramatically when I cry and stay that way for about three days.  It looks like I'm wearing really fakey green contact lenses.
    5. I've had two honest to goodness ghostly encounters.  I know how that sounds, but the experiences were real and quite dramatic and rather wonderful, because one involved my grandmother and one involved my dad.  My mother, her sister and I shared the grandmother encounter at the same time, and we marveled about it together for years.  (P.S.  Came back later to add this:  I've never publicly talked about this until choosing to do so now, and frankly, I'm sure it sounds nutty to some of you.  That's okay. :-)  I'm as sane as you are, and if I hadn't lived thru it I probably wouldn't believe me, either.)
    6. I'm an accent mimic and my kids are, too.  We pick up accents quickly and easily when we travel and we can "do" them perfectly when we get home.  DH does not have this gene, at all.
    7. I have a true love/hate relationship with movie theater popcorn.  I love it, but I hate the fact that I cannot cannot cannot attend a movie without buying it.  I don't like to share, and I eat precisely as much popcorn as I buy.  If I buy a tub, I eat -- and enjoy -- a tub. 
    • Nominate 7 bloggers for this award and post links.  
    This is the hard part for me, because I'm finding fantastic blogs every day, thanks to all of you!  But if I had to pick creative (Kreativ) favorites besides AppGal and Kathy and Seashell (who certainly are at the top of my list), I'd definitely include these jewels:
    1. A Bigger Closet.  This gorgeous Canadian blogger single-handedly pulled me hook, line and sinker into the deep end of the Crewlade.  Hers was one of the first Crew-related blogs that I found last winter when I had recently rediscovered J. Crew while on a mission to begin rebuilding my tired, momly wardrobe.  I've never seen an outfit on ABC that didn't look fabulous on her and that wasn't creatively coordinated.  For all of our sakes I hope our ABC gets that bigger closet, so that she can fill it and we can all continue to enjoy her chatty, insightful and always on-the-money observations about the world of J. Crew fashion.  ABC, you're the gold standard and I can't imagine why J. Crew hasn't recruited (recrewted? ;-)) you for the catalogs yet.  They're missing the boat!
    2. 3-Penny Princess.  3PP's classic post about her 2008 "personal best" bargains is so shrewd, so wise and so much fun to read that I bookmarked it, and referred back to it time and again as I started mentally constructing what I wanted to accomplish in my 2009 buying.  But by far and away my favorite 3PP post is the eloquent, beautiful love story about her mother that she entitled A Visit from the 3-Penny Queen -- the sweet tale of how 3PP's blossoming sense of her own Crew-inclusive fashion style led her to rediscover the many wonderful things about her mom.  3PP, your mama raised you right, honey.  MWAH!
    3. Crew Crew 4 J.Crew.  I discovered Audrey's blog after I discovered Audrey under her Unbelievably Awesome eBay Power J. Crew Reseller name, natedac.  I've been slowly accumulating some choice past-season J. Crew items off eBay after reading rave blog reviews, and Audrey's become my hands-down favorite seller.  She's always got a great selection of pieces, she's responsive, she's quick, she's friendly and accommodating, she packs and ships beautifully, her pricing is reasonable -- there's not a thing not to love about her as a Seller.  But she's also secretly a fabulous J. Crew stylist, and I know I can count on her "What I Wore Today" blog posts and "matching" Polyvore sets for fresh ideas on using new and old J. Crew pieces.  Audrey, nothin' but love for ya, girl.
    4. Fabulous Florida Mommy.  I've mentioned this before, but it's worth repeating that FFM was the very first JC blog that I ever read, and my introduction to the totally-addictive Polyvore.  I found FFM's blog after spending a rainy winter afternoon trying to Google-research J. Crew clothes and get some ideas for outfits.  I had no idea what a gold mine was out there, and I can distinctly remember the jaw-dropping feeling of discovering FFM's famous custom-designed Polyvore sets.  I still happily check in on FFM's blog every day, I still love her wonderful sense of style, and I've really grown to love and look forward to her weekly "Inspiration" posts.  Here's my 2009 personal favorite:  Brighten the Corner Where You Are.
    5. Gigi's Gone Shopping.  You all feel the same way I do about Gigi, I know it.  There's no one in the blogosphere who casts a wider or more expertly-aimed net for great Crew-ish fashion finds than she does.  I've learned to check her blog before pushing the ENTER button on any order for a new and trendy piece at J. Crew.  More often than not I'll find that Gigi has found, tried on, inspected, photographed and reviewed the JC piece I'm considering and that she's also pointed out other vendors' similar pieces that might be better buys.  Her posts (and her e-mails, should you be so lucky) are honest, direct, thoughtful and smart as a whip.  Keep shopping, Gigi. I'll keep reading!
    6. Sweet Tea in Seattle.  (A/K/A Sparrows and Sparkles).  I found STIS this summer and was a fan for life the first time I laid eyes on her blog with that amazing header picture of her three beautiful little towheaded children skipping at L'Arc de Triomphe.  It ought to be captioned, "The Personification of Joy".  Then I read her profile bio and grinned from ear to ear.  She says of herself: "I am a displaced Southerner, mom to three beautiful babies, married to a very kind, easily distractable, brilliant businessman of a husband. I like: sunshine, coffee, cute shoes, expensive handbags, inexpensive jewelry, European cities, doing laundry, eating out, fashion magazines, interior design, kate, Lilly, and Tory, and trying to figure out what is going on in the world of politics. I don't like: people who are mean or get in my way when I am shopping."  Her sense of humor, her innate Southernness (recognizable anywhere by another Southern gal -- it's like a secret handshake), her cheerful energy and her sheer joyfulness permeate her blog.  I especially enjoy her fabulously descriptive accounts of her busy family's travels.  Always a smilefest for me!
    7. And last but only alphabetically, My Superfluities by the just plain wonderful Dina G.  Dina wears her big heart on her sleeve and a huge, contagious smile on her very pretty face.  I just love visiting with her.  I know her posts will be chatty, fun, filled with happy anecdotes about her family and friends and chock full of spot-on observations about J. Crew and Boden and other great clothes.  I love Dina's OOTD pics; few bloggers out there can say that they outfit themselves with as much confidence and flair.  She's just beautiful!!  Dina's started another blog, Mid-Century Mom, and I can't wait to see what she has to say there about her newest adventures.
    • Leave a comment on your nominated blogs to let them know you've nominated them. Check!
    So that's it for me, everyone.  I know most of you already follow the blogs I've nominated, but if there are any that you're not already familiar with I encourage you to click and read.  They're addictive!

    Thanks again to AppGal, Kathy and Seashell for the fun award!!!


      Tuesday, September 22, 2009

      Special thanks and an update from waterlogged Atlanta

      Note: I have no clue why this post is publishing in teeny weeny type and I can't seem to get it fixed, girls -- so sorry! :-(

      I've been meeting today with roofers and am taking a break to dash off a completely non-clothing post, starting with a quick but HUGE thanks for the way-too flattering comments responding to my haircut & color post yesterday. I am blushing!! Remember, girls, that I got to pick which photos you saw -- I could have shown you PLENTY in which it's obvious real fast that I'm the middle-aged mom of college-aged guys! You have all made me feel wonderful about my cut and my color (not to mention money I've apparently spent well on Obagi skincare products and an iMac with built-in camera.)

      On a serious note, let me say that I especially appreciate the little lift you've given me, because holy moly are we dealing with flooding here in Atlanta. If any of you have seen pictures from Atlanta on the national news in the past day or two, you know that we really are becoming Atlantis. The photo I've attached shows an aerial view of our main downtown interstate highway during rush hour -- an entire section just floated away. Roads and bridges are washed out, neighborhoods stranded, schools literally up to their rooflines in water, the giant roller coaster at Six Flags Over Georgia almost submerged. Here are two links to short clips from ABC's "Good Morning America" today that'll give you a good sampler: Atlanta flooding and roller coaster.

      Six people have lost their lives and countless others have watched their homes and belongings washed away by muddy, cold flood water. Being a city on a river (the Chattahoochee) with a zillion creeks, we're used to routine flash flooding anytime we have heavy rain, particularly in the past five drought-stricken years during which our concrete-packed earth hasn't been able to absorb the occasional and unfamiliar rainfall. But this -- this is not something we expect at all. We're five hours from the nearest coast, and this is devastating, hurricane-level damage. And incredibly, there is more rain on the way. I cannot help but be reminded and humbled by the memory of what New Orleans suffered with Katrina, and yet what we're experiencing is just a fraction of that level of pure awfulness. N'awlanders, what tough and brave folks you are! 

      DH and I have such comparatively minor damage. We had the roof leak issue I wrote about last week, and yesterday morning we discovered that so much water had blown hard and sideways at our front door for hours that the whole door assembly had become waterlogged. It's now started splintering, so it'll need to be replaced. And then yesterday afternoon I decided I'd take poor Eddie into the garage for a little play time -- he's small enough so that I thought I could encourage him to race around in there and stretch his legs a bit. Imagine my shock when I found our garage flooded two inches deep from ground water pouring in under the walls. The earth under the foundation just wouldn't hold another drop.

      So I spent hours hauling stuff from the garage into our house, including at least a dozen boxes of china, crystal, brass and tchotchkes that I'd brought home after my sister and I sadly dismantled and sold our parents' home following our mom's passing three years ago. Today's project is to try to find at least temporary homes in my house for some of this stuff; it had been stored in the garage because I really DON'T have space for any of it, and yet it's all worth saving for Journey Boy and his adorable brother's "someday" homes. I lost only one box of books, a few wooden items and a couple bags of potting soil (way gross, cleaning THAT up).

      It's a headache, but as I said, we're well aware that for us this is essentially inconvenience, not life-altering stuff. A roof and a door can easily be replaced, and a garage can be re-sheetrocked and aired out. So many of our friends and neighbors have it far, far worse. Truly, I have NOTHING to complain about. Folks, please join me in saying a prayer or sending up your most positive thoughts today, for those who have lost their lives, their families, and my sad, stressed, wet, overwhelmed city. And send us some sunshine. Oh, and please cross your fingers for DH and me that we'll have some of this damage covered by our insurance. 

      I am off to put on some non-J. Crew junk clothes and see what I can do to make sense out of my miniature war zone around here. Later on I'll have a cup of tea and crewse the blogs to see what you lovelies have been up to today -- my little treat. :-) I'm glad you're "out there", cyberfriends!


      Monday, September 21, 2009

      Haircut & Color Pix, By Semi-Popular Demand :-)

      Hi everyone, and a shout-out from still-raining-cats-and-dogs Atlanta.  I'm gonna start telling people I'm from Atlantis, for heaven's sake.  Speaking of dogs, Eddie (see pic at bottom of my blog page) hates the rain and for the past four days has not peed or schmooed (my kids' word) anywhere except immediately outside the back door (nice, huh?) under the portico roof.  We have this ritual now:  he pees, he schmooes, we rinse & scrub & disinfect.  Fun stuff.

      But I digress from today's important topic, don't I?  I told y'all last week about my new haircut and radical new hair color, and I've had some public and private requests for pix.  Fair enough, since I piqued your curiosity.

      My hair color previously was a dark, kind of neutral brown with a LOT of fairly chunky blonde highlights that were getting almost straw-colored.  I'm Irish and my natural hair color (last time I saw it -- who can remember anymore?) is dark brown, but more of a chestnut brown and with some auburn in it.

      My previous haircut, as I've told y'all, can best be described as Shaggy Sheepdog Needs a Clip.

      Hair Hero (if you don't know who this is, read my post here) diagnosed my color as too flat, too ashy-brown, too light-blonde -- generally just all wrong. :-)  He thought the cut had too many layers, all the wrong layers, wrong pattern for my bangs (you see a wrongness theme going on here??) and he declared that I'd have to lose some length in order for him to start repairing my cut.

      So here's what he recommended and I said "WTH, why not" to doing:

      (Sorry about the overexposure.  It's so dark in my office because of the gloom outside and the flash on my computer's camera is so bright -- I can't seem to get the lighting right.)

      (And y'all, also sorry about breaking the blogger's rule re: showing your face, but otherwise I couldn't have really shown you the cut, ya know?  Forget you ever saw me.  This conversation never happened.)

      And from the side, back and top (so that you can see the lowlights):


      The red glaze, I have decided, may be a bit much for me.  But it'll shampoo out slowly but surely, and the lowlights underneath it are quite caramel.  So we'll see how that comes along.

      All in all, I am very pleased.  Despite the fact that, in order to become very pleased, I think I single-handedly paid half of Hair Hero's daughter's fall private school tuition. ;-)


      Saturday, September 19, 2009

      New Blog Format?

      Hey everyone,

      Just a quickie.  I've been playing with the formatting while DH and DDog "watch football" (zzzzzzzzzzzz).  I was going to post a poll but can't figure out how to do that.  (Instructions, anybody?)

      So if you have a minute, just leave me a comment and answer this question:

      Which is easier for you to read -- the old, narrower-columned posts in my previous blog format (OLD) or the new, wider-columned posts (NEW)?

      If you say OLD, I'll switch it back. :-)

      If I had an ark I'd be loading it up....

      DH is still sleeping, hunkered down under the covers in a ball so that all I can see is dark hair peeking out from under the edge of the coverlet. Eddie our furball (see pic at the bottom of my blog page) is flaked out, too, flat on his back, jackrabbit-style, ears tossed out, pink belly hanging out there, on top of the covers snuggled up to DH's legs. They're totally adorable, if I do say so myself.  DH is coming down with a cold and so snorrrrrrrrred all night, poor guy.  He often snores and I deal with it by jiggling him, poking him, or, (with some regret but, ya know, because I have no choice) just whacking him, and then he turns over and quiets down.  But last night I didn't have the heart.   And Eddie was snoring too, so it was wicked stereo noise.

      Great night to sleep, too, darn it.  It's been raining here for three days and after a little teaser of a break yesterday the rain started again last night and is still coming down. Pouring, actually. Atlanta's a hilly city (this often surprises people who imagine us perched amongst flat cotton fields down here in Dixie, but we actually sit up on an Appalachian/Great Smokies foothills plateau and we are not only very leafy and green but also quite hilly), and much of the city's low-lying areas are under a flood watch.  As beautiful as those parts of town are, wow am I glad I don't live there today.

      We've suffered our fair share, though.  Sometime during the night on Wednesday our roof sprang a big leak that ran from the attic down into our closet, melted out a chunk of sheetrock ceiling and caused a huge mess directly onto most of my hanging clothes and into my pajamas drawer. DH hauled a couple of loads to the dry cleaners when he left for work and I spent most of Thursday dealing with getting the leak temporarily "plugged" and the sheetrock mess cleaned up, doing load after load of laundry and calling roofing companies.  This, by the way, all happened as we were having to say goodbye to DS #1, who left Thursday on his Journey (see my post "My Son the Cliff-Dangler").  The roof damage was no doubt a good distraction for me, I must admit -- who had time in the midst of this roof situation to get weepy for long?  (I had a moment when he left.  I'm entitled. :-))

      Thank God for our wonderful friend-for-life contractor, who came over as soon as we called him on Thursday and climbed up onto our roof (treacherously) in the rain to throw on a patch and a tarp.   The bad news from him was that the damage appears to be pretty extensive -- hidden until this bout of rain and wind was the last straw.  So we'll be interviewing roofers next week because our contractor tells us we're probably looking at having to replace the whole roof.  Cross your fingers for us that once things dry out and we're able to get a good look at the leak we'll discover some underlying cause that is INSURED!  Otherwise, you beautiful gals will be seeing me lurk but not shop for a loooooong time.  Grrrrrrr.

      It looks like I've lost a couple of my newest (wouldn't you know) J. Crew summer sweaters -- the dirty water stains were just too gross and indelible -- but all in all I can't complain because most everything was salvageable and it's not like I don't have enough clothes!  But ya know, it takes more than all of this water hullaballoo to dampen my mood when I've got an awesome (still startling when I pass a mirror) new "do" AND there's been a new JC rollout and fun new ensembles to imagine, whether or not I can own any of them right now.  Looking forward to seeing all of your great ideas, Crewsers!


      That Blue Skirt!

      Happy Saturday, and happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish blogosphere friends out there!

      I have a bright blue tarp on my roof (if you wanna know why, see my next post) and I see it every time I drive up or down our driveway.  It keeps reminding me to ask y'all this (which I know has been asked elsewhere, but I don't see much discussion yet so thought I'd prompt us again):

      What does everyone envision mixing and matching with this beauty of a skirt?  If I only buy one thing from this rollout, it may well have to be this.  But I'm coming up skimpy on great ideas to work it with things from past seasons.  Ideas, JCAs?


      Wednesday, September 16, 2009

      Phyllo Dough Friends

      Sometimes the oddest things collide in my mind.

      DS#1 is in his room packing for his Journey (see my previous post) and I am awaiting his company to do a little errand-running, so I've been reading blogs and, from Kathy and Seashell's wonderful blog I moseyed my way over to a few cooking and recipe blogs.  (Yum!

      With all that delicious, beautiful food flashing by me on the screen, I found myself suddenly thinking about my BFF with whom I'd had a nice catch-up chat (she'd been away on vacation) earlier.  And it occurred to me that food permeates our friendship in so many ways.

      There's the literal and obvious, of course:  We eat together, a lot.  We TJ Maxx together and then ritually have lunch at La Madeleine.  (Sampler trio plate please -- chicken salad, spinach salad with strawberries (hold the mushrooms, extra bacon), strawberries Romanoff -- because who can have too many strawberries?)  She is an Olympic-gold-medal-caliber TJ Maxx shopper and my skill is, well, at T-ball level, so she leads me expertly around the store and I follow like a happy, clueless sheep.  If we're not "Teejing", we often meet at her house or my house for a bite, or we wake each other up with an early morning phonefest while we eat our yogurt with walnuts and fruit and plan our days.  We get our nails done together and sometimes afterwards we duck-walk, our toes separated awkwardly by rolled-up toilet tissue, to Starbucks for coffee and "a little something."

      Our husbands are also great friends with each other, and hers (we call him "Chef") is a very accomplished cook (mine:  God love him, "rambled eggs" is his big dish), so our evenings together as couples often involve cooking and recipe-swapping.  In June, our families spent a wonderful week renting a beach house together -- the kind of trip that can make or break a couples' friendship -- and several times Chef made amazing dinners for the whole house, including our kids' college pals who'd materialized "for a coupla days".  (Observational analogy:  Free beach house accommodations are to college kids as movie theater popcorn is to me. :-))

      A little less obvious are the food metaphors that capture so much that's essential about our BFF bond.  First, there's the onion.  This is, I think, a nearly universally-applicable and simple but accurate image of the way that women make friends with each other: we peel back the onion skin layers.  When we meet we start out exchanging superficial information.  If and only if we're interested in getting to know each other better (and we all know, don't we, that feeling you get when you're interested but the other gal isn't, or vice versa), we execute a delicate and precise dance with each other so that we're swapping increasingly personal stuff of roughly equivalent weight and value.  You show me yours, I'll show you mine.  There's always a little pause, isn't there, after a satisfyingly quid-pro-quo exchange.  Each of us digests the fact that we've shared more of ourselves and processes what we've learned about our friend.  We shift in our friendship chairs a little bit as each of us adjusts to a slightly deeper level of intimacy in the relationship.  There's risk involved at every step in this dance, this revealing.  But what better feeling is there in a friendship than those moments when you've shown your underbelly, your closet skeletons, your deepest darkest, and you know that your friend understands and loves you anyhow -- or loves you more?

      I don't think most men do this.  I can tell you mine doesn't -- and doesn't remotely understand why I feel sorry that he doesn't share this type of friendship with any of his guy pals.  And he does have real pals, guys he's been trusting friends with for years.  These friendships are nourishing to him, I know.  But ask him anything about his pals' inner lives and he has no answers.

      I can also tell you for a fact that my sweet DH would be dumbfounded to know even the general subject matters that I freely discuss with my BFF.  She and I have spent several years peeling back the onion, until now we are fully exposed to each other as human beings.  She knows enough about me to get me in deep doo-doo, but I could pull her into the poop pit with me in a New York minute, knowing what I know.  The process of getting to this innermost place with a friend is a little scary, for sure.  How gloriously freeing it is, though, to know that this dear woman is well aware of even the most vulnerable pieces of me that I don't allow many others to see, but never judges me, delights in being with me, celebrates me and loves and supports me unconditionally.  I could call her and said "Hey, it's me, I gotta have a body bag, do you know where we could get one??"  I know her.  She'd say "F**k." (Her favorite expletive.) She'd pause for a moment and I know I'd feel her thinking furiously.  Then she'd say "Okay.  Here's what we're gonna do......"  Now THAT'S a pal.  (Or, as we often say to each other, a sister from another mother!)

      Which brings me (trust me, you'll see) to the other food metaphor, one that will require a little explaining:  Phyllo dough.

      I'm a good cook and baker, pretty confident in my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants recipe-altering skills and reasonably accomplished in my technical skills.  But there are certain ingredients that are still intimidating to me after my 30-some-odd years in the kitchen, and phyllo dough's one of them.  Many years ago while I was pregnant with my younger son I was working with a wonderful older (than me) Greek woman named Cleo who decided it was her mission to feed me properly while I was expecting.  Naturally, Cleo's specialties were the classic Greek foods that melt in your mouth, like moussaka (a nutmeg-fragrant sort of lamb lasagna), avgolemeno (lemon-egg soup), spanakopita (spinach-filled phyllo pastries) and baklava (nut and honey-filled phyllo pastries).  With each lovingly-wrapped tray of luscious goodies or Thermos of warm, silky soup, Cleo would bring me a recipe card.  She'd read it to me, interjecting all kinds of "extra" instructions that rounded out the simple how-to's on the card.

      For baking with phyllo dough, she said this, and I've never forgotten it:  "Handle it like you will handle this baby."  By that, she explained, she meant that I should handle each tissue-thin, delicate piece gently, with care, keeping it covered, moist and free of drafty air that would make it dry out.  It would only required a short cooking time, she said, so she cautioned me to keep a watchful eye on it because if neglected it could be ruined quickly.

      "Really small world" side note:  Fast-forward 15 years.  Cleo's grandson ended up being a high school classmate and very close friend of my younger son.  How crazy is that??  She is in her 80's now, a little frail but still beautiful and delighted beyond words to know my son.  Her grandson and my son call her "YaYa Cleo."  What a blessing!

      I've made Cleo's phyllo-dough-intense recipes from time to time, and they're intimidating because she was so right about this fantastic ingredient.  If I do not treat it with the requisite steps and care --- which isn't hard, but requires a bit of planning and focus --- then my kitchen time is ill-spent and my meal's ruined.  When I follow Cleo's admonition and treat that dough like I handled my own precious babies, the reward is food that's like the proverbial nectar of the Greek gods.

      And so, to my point about my BFF:  She is my phyllo dough friend.  (PDF? Phyllo dough phriend? )  I love this gal fiercely.  She deserves to be handled with the same gentle, loving, attentive care that I gave my babies, and that Cleo taught me to give to my phyllo dough. And although that's the right thing to do, it's not a selfless commitment.  If I treat her right, I know our friendship will be continue to be one of the most spectacularly delicious and beautiful creations that I've ever had a hand in cooking.  Yum.

      If you have a phyllo dough friend, go give her a call, and just tell her, "Hey, I want you to know, if you ever need to find a body bag, just call me no questions asked....."

      Monday, September 14, 2009

      My Son the Cliff-Dangler

      My older son (that gravity-defying dreadlocked guy in this picture taken in Australia last year) is leaving in a few days for ten weeks of exploration across the United States with three of his college buddies.  They're driving and, I think, sleeping occasionally in a Grand Caravan, donated generously to "the cause" by the parents of one of my son's traveling companions.  They plan to make their way to the Pacific Northwest, down thru California and then eastward toward home again, with frequent stops all along the way to rock climb, hike, and camp in America's most beautiful parks and wildernesses.

      My son has worked hard, excelled, saved his hard-earned money and deserves this trip richly.  He's dreamed of it, talked of it with his pals throughout college, planned its loose itinerary with care, organized his prodigious collection of climbing/hiking/camping gear, and trained all summer to be in peak physical condition.  Every cell in my adoring-mom body is deeply, sincerely hoping that he'll have the trip of his young lifetime -- a trip of wonders beyond his considerable imagination.

      Simultaneously, those same adoring-mom cells are, annoyingly, sending out "SOUND THE ALARMS!!" chemicals, in a desperate attempt to convince me that I should be nearly paralyzed with anxiety about the 101 things that could befall my sweet boy and his pals.  This is an old, old knee-jerk response in me.  I'm determined not to surrender to such a doomsday worldview, but as his departure looms I can feel the struggle raging between "Mom Who Is Thrilled About Her Son's Amazing Opportunity" and "Mom Who Is Totally Eeyore the Donkey".  So I workout, I write, I blog, I cook, I stalk J. Crew sales, I distract myself in any way possible because so help me, I will show nothing, do nothing, be nothing to my son that will dampen his joy -- and my own joy that he's doing this grand thing. 

      Just among us, can I say that this is tiring inner work??

      But I am used to this kind of internal battle, too.  It's been the story of mothering this child, this being who, from his infancy, has been a take-no-prisoners envelope-pusher.  When he was three months old we videotaped him making propulsive vertical leaps in his doorjamb-hanging "Johnny Jump-Up" -- movements of such power that we thought surely he'd jog his little newborn brain loose.  When he was seven months old (and barely but joyfully crawling -- oh locomotion!!) we discovered that he was vaulting, Olympic gymnast-style, out of his crib.  When he was three years old he mastered riding a two-wheeled bike in one long afternoon, angrily refusing training wheels and ignoring the bumps and strawberried knees that the effort cost him.  We weren't allowed to help, at all.  He was certain -- and correct -- that he could do it successfully on his own.

      You get the picture and the pattern, I'm sure.  He played the usual team sports with intensity, but he reserved his real passion for laser-focusing his formidable physical talent and daring nature upon anything that could be considered an extreme sport.  Even the extreme end of an ordinary sport would do.  Roller skates became his first set of wings and as a preteen he would glide along railings and curbs, and leap gracefully off of low-hanging roofs, landing cat-like.

      Having discovered what it feels like to be airborne, he was hooked.  He launched himself to new heights on his mountain bike, a slalom water-ski and his snowboard.  Each time he set out to master a new sport or skill, we saw his best innate traits again show themselves:  he was never afraid to try; once committed, he never hesitated; he practiced tirelessly; and he took his lumps gracefully and with no complaints.

      Early on he also embarked upon what I know will be a lifelong love affair with untamed Mother Nature.  The path least trodden is the path most alluring to him.  He's never more contented than when he's strapping on his giant backpack for a trek into the woods and a few nights under the stars. 

      And then in his freshman year of college he was introduced to rock-climbing, the sport into which his love of all things extreme, exacting and outdoorsy converged in a happily perfect storm.  It demands physical discipline and training as well as mental acuity and puzzle-solving skills; it rewards individual excellence and allows the climber to reach for his own solitary goals while still being in the companionable company of his climbing buddies; it's best done in the most spectacular of Mother Nature's corners; and you betcha it involves a certain degree of mother's-heartrate-accelerating risk.

      True to form, within five months of finding his Nirvana of a sport, my boy had become skilled enough to win his first regional indoor competition (at left, he's on his final climb of that "Dixie Rocks" competition).  In the three years since he's continuously worked on improving his climbing skills and he's explored lots of wonderful places -- TALL places -- from which he could dangle, Spidey-like, by a few fingertips.

      There just couldn't be a greater irony than the fact that this silver-lining-seeing, steely-nerved, eagle-eyed, cliff's-edge-loving adventurer-child was born to me, a skeptical, nervous, near-sighted, mosquito-hating, snake-phobic, risk-averse, contingency-oriented, detail-planning lover of 500-thread-count sheets and indoor plumbing.

      Then again, that's the miracle of it.  I couldn't spend 22 1/2 years in the company of this awesome, fearless, gorgeous creature without changing a little myself, and I like to think for the better.

      There was a time when I'd have argued ferociously that his Journey (truly a capital "J" event for him) is ill-advised because it embraces risk and spontaneity and bugs and dirt and many deep dark unknowns -- and certainly I'll worry about him; how could I not?  But I know that for him, this trip, done in exactly this way, is perfect. 

      In my son I have witnessed the value of a life spent embracing challenge and quest, and from him I've learned to work a little harder on silencing my inner Eeyore the Donkey and on encouraging my other self -- that cautiously optimistic part of me who truly is "Mom Who Is Thrilled About Her Son's Amazing Opportunity."  I still don't like bugs or dirt, I still prefer to plan my route, program my Garmin, book my sleeping space ahead of time -- and indoors.  I'm never going to be a risk-taker by nature or choice.  But bit by bit I'm pursuing some adventures that fit me.

      Safe travels and happy dangling, my sweet boy.  Mama loves you to the moon and back.