Saturday, September 28, 2013

Holiday Cards

I love sending cards to my friends, so when the holidays roll around, I go nuts.  I spend lots of time picking out the perfect card.  For many years, my holiday cards had a motorcycling theme.  Last year, I shifted to a fashion theme.  I sent cards displaying a drawn image of a Christmas tree made from high heels.  People liked the card.

This year, I want something fashion-related but more personal.  Something me.  After hours canvassing the Internet in vain, a thought popped into my head -- why not make my own cards?!  After all, I have some skill at photography.  I own raw materials.  And it promised to be a fun exercise.  So I embarked on the creative journey.

The image I created is shown below.  You've seen me wear those heels before (here).

The cards are printed by a custom-printer (CafePress) so, if you want, you can order some for yourself.  Then again, if you're reading this, you'll probably get one in the mail!

What do you think of the image?  Do you enjoy sending out holiday cards?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Supporting Good Work

There is a famous charity that gives annual "Genius Grants."  The grants are large sums of money given to people doing good work.  I learned about the grants years ago when my artist-friends all hoped to receive one.

The best part about the grants is they contain no strings.  The money can be used for any purpose and is intended to allow recipients freedom to spend more time on the activities they are being honored for.  Being committed to their projects, that's always the case.  Most recipients regret having to struggle to make ends meet while trying to write novels, compose music or perform social work.

You can't apply for these grants and nominations are made secretly.  There's no influence or lobbying that will get you the money; you just have to do good things and hope someone notices.

I like this idea.  I like encouraging people to do good work.  Our society needs more of that and, too often, we don't reward such efforts.

It's easy to talk big but action is where it happens.  I've decided to step up to the plate.

This year, during the holidays, I'm going to give three $500 awards to bloggers who are doing their best to improve our online community.  The cash awards are recognition for past efforts and encouragement for future contributions.  The blogging achievement I plan to recognize is not frequency of posting or number of followers but, rather, quality and sincerity of content.  I want to support those who open their hearts to us.  That's a rare and precious gift.

I'm not taking requests or nominations for these awards; they will be based on who I see improving our blogging world.  The recipients can decide whether they want to be mentioned publicly; they can remain anonymous if that's their preference.

Oh, and did I mention there are trophies involved?!  Everyone loves a bigass trophy.  :-)

Like last year, I'm calling these prizes the Bloggy Awards.  You'll hear more about the Bloggies when they are bestowed to deserving recipients in December.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Halloween Costume

I love Halloween.  Not only does it give us license to indulge our fantasies, it introduces whimsy into our pedestrian lives.  We need more of that.

I dress up in costume every year and use the occasion to be creative.  My costumes are never generic (e.g., pirate); they are specific cultural references.  Last year I was Caroline from "2 Broke Girls," the formerly-rich girl now a waitress.  The year before, I was Alice Kramden of "The Honeymooners," Jackie Gleason's TV wife.

I usually spend many days pondering what to be.  This year, the idea for my costume occurred to me in a flash of insight.  Let me explain...

A decade ago, Jennifer Garner played a female secret agent in "Alias", an entertaining show that ran for five years.  Last month I watched every episode from beginning to end.  In most episodes, Jennifer's character, Sydney Bristow, gets dressed up in a glamorous gown, with perfect hair and makeup, and attends a fancy cocktail party at the bad guys' mansion.  While mingling with guests, Sydney slips quietly out of the party and sneaks down a corridor to a private office.  She picks a lock and enters the secluded office where she copies secret documents or steals a critical object.  An alarm then goes off and Sydney has to battle her way out.  She always makes it back, looking fabulous the whole time.

The combination of female glamour and exciting espionage is potent.  So, this year, I'm going to be Sydney Bristow!

As you know, I already own lock-picking tools to carry in my sequined clutch.  And today I bought a garter belt to holster my gun and tiny grenades.  One nice advantage is that I already have a gorgeous gown for this costume - you saw it here.  Oh, and I'll slip my combat-knife into the clutch next to a tube of lipstick.  A gal needs to be prepared!

What are you going to dress up as this Halloween?




Friday, September 20, 2013

Secret Agent

When I was a child, I wanted to be a secret agent.  My favorite TV show was "The Man From U.N.C.L.E."  Its star, Robert Vaughn, portrayed Napoleon Solo, a secret agent who was suave and debonair.  He had confidence, poise and strength.  I was seven years old when the show started, an impressionable age.  I styled my hair to look like him.

I've never outgrown my ambition to be a dashing spy, skilled in subterfuge and armed with neat espionage gear. 

Last month, I watched all five years of "Alias", a TV show that ran from 2001-2006 and starred Jennifer Garner as secret agent Sydney Bristow.  In every episode, Sydney broke into a secure location by picking door locks.  It is a neat skill to have.

I'm proof that you're never too old to live your dreams.  So...  I studied and learned how to pick a lock.  It's actually not hard.  Once you grasp the concept, it just requires a little practice to get the feel of it.

Locks are interesting mechanical devices whose design hasn't changed in over a century.  Once you understand how they work, it isn't difficult to defeat them.  You just need two tools, a tension wrench and a pick.

I just bought those tools in a set suitable for secret agents -- they come concealed in a credit card!  The credit card slides open to reveal the hidden tools.  See the pictures below and note the name on the card.

Did you have any dreams as a child?  Is it possible to achieve them now?  Can you borrow some ice skates and win a local figure-skating competition?!



A Worthy Blog

After whining about a sadly large number of bloggers who've been slacking off lately, I want to shift gears and applaud someone who is doing good work in the blogosphere.

Bethany blogs at The Glamorous Housewife.  She recently put up a lengthy series of posts on the fashions and culture of earlier time periods: the Twenties, Thirties and Forties.  Her posts both inform and entertain with historical references, pretty pictures and commentary on interesting trends, such as the emergence and different styles of makeup.

If you like learning, browse through Bethany's blog.  If you're like me, you'll get hooked.  I love learning about how women lived in earlier times.  It provides context and insight into our present lives.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Where'd Everyone Go??

Where'd everyone go??

Over the Summer, I thought my Bloglovin reader was broken.  There were so few posts by my favorite bloggers.  I went to their blogs to check up on them and noticed many had been silent for weeks.  I started to worry about the bloggers.  Then I realized they were choosing not to blog.

Why is that?  Is it the season?  Are people vacationing?

Or is it boredom?  As someone who's blogged long-term (four years), I've seen many blogs come and go.  Most seem to last two years before petering out and quietly disappearing.

Have you noticed a diminution in blogging lately?  Why do you think that happens?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Trying A New Color

I rarely wear green.  I don't even think of it as a choice.  But I was at my local boutique recently and saw a cute mesh top in a pleasant shade of green ($10).  I figured it'd look good over a lime-green skirt they also sell ($10).  I wondered if wearing gold under the green top would brighten its luster so I gave that a whirl.

I'm not sure if this outfit works, but I like to try new things.  In person, the lady-tie has green in it that I thought would complement the other pieces but, in photos, you only see its predominant color (blue).  Looking at the pictures, I'd replace it with something else less clashing.

What do you think?


Monday, September 16, 2013

Weird Nature

I've lived in the same house for 28 years.  It has a big tree in the front yard which I adore.  Even though the tree's roots have upended the walkway, I'm not touching it.  I kinda like how the walkway is now uneven due to the tree's growth.

I noticed this year that, weirdly, there's a new tree growing out of my old tree.  No kidding.  I didn't know this was possible but there it is.  I find it kinda neat.

Do you love trees?


Sunday, September 15, 2013


Doing portraits is surprisingly hard.  You try to capture the essence of a person's character while struggling to achieve several technical goals.  The difficulty is magnified when you're both photographer and model.

As hard as it is, I enjoy doing this.  The exercise uses all of my creative talents -- photography, lighting, fashion, makeup, etc.  The process is artistically rewarding.

Here, I decided to mix two colors I've never seen together: purple and gold.  There's purple in my necklace and new lip color.  There's gold in my top and eye-shadow.  I made special effort on my makeup (including false eyelashes, again) because the face is the focus of every portrait.

What do you think?  Of this as a portrait?  Of the colors?  Of the top and jewelry?  Of the makeup?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Funny Stuff

After work, I was inspired to experiment.  I took my new pink lipstick out for a ride, and found a cute shirt to match it.  I also wore some fun sunglasses I picked up at a novelty store and pulled out a necklace and earrings.

What do you think?  A bit odd, of course, but then so am I.  :)



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Jen & Juni

I met my close friend Jen through blogging.  Her blog is remarkably inspirational and tries to improve the self-esteem of young women.  After meeting online, we became friends and now we talk on the telephone.  I know -- real-life communication!

Like me, Jen was very close to her mother and was devastated by her mom's premature death.  That's a situation we both experienced and talking about it created a bond between us.  I feel like I really know Jen and vice versa.

Jen now has a baby whom she loves dearly.  Juni is not only adorable, she's loved.  Jen has an attachment to her that's wonderful for the both of them.

Jen just recorded a song devoted to Juni and put it on YouTube.  It's beautiful.  Honestly, it made me cry.  But don't tell anyone that -- boys aren't allowed to cry.  :)

I encourage you to watch it. 

The Morton Downey Jr. Show

There are events which serve as catalysts to our culture -- events that transform what our society is into something else.  One of those events was a TV talk-show aired in the 1980's called "The Morton Downey Jr. Show."  It's important to know about this show as it changed the face of television and led directly to what we watch today.  I saw this change first-hand and was startled by it.

Back in the 1980s, TV was tamer than it is today, especially during daytime hours.  The reigning talk-show host, Phil Donahue, was gentle, domestic and nice.  Women watched his show and felt all was good and safe in the world.

Then came Mort.  Morton Downey Jr., the 55-year old son of a famous singer, was abrasive, crude and hostile.  He hosted a talk-show, notably filmed in New Jersey, on which he smoked cigarettes, said outrageous things, yelled at guests and generated huge controversy.  His show went from nowhere to huge prominence in a New York minute.

Have you ever heard of Mort?  If you're old enough, did you see his show?

Mort's show pioneered extreme television and laid the groundwork for much of the crap in our media culture today.  The way the show did this was by being explosively entertaining.  Mort tapped into populist anger and, for the first time, gave voice to powerless people dissatisfied with our society. 

Mort entertained his audience on a primal level, by screaming insults and threatening violence.  He was the first television performer to jump out of his seat, rush over to guests, get in their face and have you believe a fistfight was going to break out.  His language was inflammatory and his behavior spellbinding.  He developed catch-phrases, like "Zip it!", which reinforced his shocking new approach.

The critical historical point is that Mort's show injected entertainment into news discussion.  For the first time, you didn't fall asleep watching talking heads.  Mort staked strong positions, usually on the conservative side, and debated them with ferocity.  His audience -- always loud and frequently volatile -- was given the opportunity to step up to a platform and express their views.  They did -- and reflected every part of our society including opinions of stunning ignorance and bigotry, views that had never appeared on well-groomed television before.

To learn how our media culture became what it now is, you should watch a terrific documentary just made about Mort's show.  It's called, "Evocateur: The Morton Downey Jr. Movie"  The documentary has great clips of Mort arguing with everyone from Ron Paul and Lyndon Larouche to Gloria Allred and Alan Dershowitz.  Also appearing are such prominent Eighties personalities as Al Sharpton, Mayor Ed Koch, talk-show host Sally Jessy Raphael, Guardian Angel-founder Curtis Sliwa and comedian Chris Elliott.  Impressively, the movie has several amusing animations that illustrate key points and add visual entertainment.  Most valuably, the movie places Mort's show in historical context.

I was surprised to learn from the documentary that Mort began life as a rich kid, although he was haunted by his difficult father and kept away from his mother.  Mort's family lived next to the Kennedys and were closely acquainted with them.  As a young man, Mort even worked for Ted Kennedy, a liberal whose views were the polar-opposite of what Mort later espoused.

Equally surprising is the public disgrace that befell Mort after his show ended.  He falsely pretended to be the victim of a violent attack and, when the truth was uncovered, his credibility was destroyed.  It was an ignoble end to a bumpy career.  Later, in the mid-90's, Mort became deathly ill with lung cancer.  To his credit, he changed his position on tobacco and publicly campaigned against smoking during the last few years of his life.

It's rare when you can pinpoint a precise moment when our society shifts, but I saw that clearly in 1988 watching Mort on television.  Much of what we see now (including reality-TV shows) traces back to that moment.  Mort's show was truly a historical catalyst.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pie For Dinner

Lots of places call themselves the "best", but most are merely using hyperbole.  There is, however, one place that sells fruit pies here that is the best.  The world's best.  Their pies are stuffed with ripe fruit, made with fresh ingredients, and baked daily.  Eating one is like tasting Heaven.

I rode there yesterday.  It's a 100-mile roundtrip but worth the time.  I had Peach Cherry Pie for dinner.  Lots and lots of pie.

My motorcycle is in the foreground of the above picture.  More pics are below.

Do you like pie?



Sunday, September 8, 2013

Playing Around

Sometimes we want to look different.  Radically different.  So we play around.  I'm like a teenage girl and want to have fun exploring possibilities.

A few days ago, I tried to create a portrait -- but cancelled posting it because my makeup was off.  The colors were wrong.  It's tricky matching face-makeup to hot pink hair.  I re-did the portrait today and believe the result is better. 

You probably can't tell but I went to the trouble of applying false eyelashes.  They're squirmy little devils.

Do you ever try radically new makeup and hair-color?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Night In New York

My friend Megan, who has a wonderful blog, comes up from Florida twice a year to attend Fashion Week in New York City.  We met at Lincoln Center last night and spent the evening having fun.  It was my third time meeting Megan in person; I reported on our earlier visits here and here.

Due to her contacts in the fashion industry, Megan gets invited to the best fashion shows and hobnobs with the in-crowd.  Today, she's filming a video for Cover Girl.  I feel more stylish just hanging out with her.

You know you're approaching Fashion Week when you start seeing attractive young women wearing sky-high platform heels.  One girl had on red-soled Louboutin's with three-inch platforms in front and seven-inch heels in back.  I feared for her safety.  The shoes were very cute, though.

To start our evening, I whisked Megan to my favorite ice bar.  Going there always perks up your mood.  Dipping into 23-degrees is a refreshing shock to the system.  Megan enjoyed the experience.

Later, I escorted her to one of my favorite restaurants in the city, The Delta Grill, which has great character -- and alligator sausage.  We ate Cajun dishes and I was reminded of my trip to New Orleans a few years ago.  I went there during Mardi Gras, just after the Saints had won the Super Bowl.  It was an intensely festive affair and I even saw star-quarterback Drew Brees on top of a Mardi Gras float, tossing miniature toy-footballs.  I also spotted political pundit James Carville at the bar of a restaurant I was eating.

It was fun seeing Megan again.  She was, of course, dressed amazingly and carrying a neon leather clutch with charming lace cut-outs.  We caught up on personal stuff and discussed the future of blogging.

I also snapped some pictures to give you a flavor of New York.  They're below.

Pop-quiz: Do you know what a Muffaletta is?





Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Way We Used To Dress

It doesn't surprise me how popular vintage fashion is becoming.  Clothing in the past was made better and women tried harder to look good.  Today, comfort often trumps any effort to look nice.

My favorite vintage-blogger is Jessica.  She is an invaluable resource.  On Facebook, Jessica just linked to an interesting article in The Huffington Post about how women dressed in the past.  The article is provocatively and accurately titled, "7 Ways Your Grandmother Dressed Better Than You."

The article is worth reading.  Here are the highlights:

1. You dressed to impress at every occasion.
2. Clothes were made better.
3. Fabrics were, generally, of a much-better quality.
4. They wore the right underwear.
5. Details mattered.
6. Fit was paramount.
7. Clothing cost more.

What do you think?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Tie Me Up!

Until recently, I didn't understood scarves and rarely wore them other than for warmth in Winter.  Watching you guys, however, introduced me to the idea of scarves as fashion accessories.  You planted a seed in my head.  (Maybe that's why hair is now growing out of my ears...)

I was shopping this week and saw the most amazing scarf.  A beautiful hue of orange with yellow accents.  I snapped it up and built today's outfit around it.  Yes, normally a scarf is the last thing you throw on an existing outfit but, today, this scarf takes center-stage.  It is the reason for the outfit and the centerpiece.

What do you think?  Do you wear scarves for fashion?