31 October 2014


Last month, we visited the FDR house in Hyde Park. In our exit through the gift shop, the girl picked out a Rosie the Riveter t-shirt, and announced that she wanted to be Rosie for Halloween.

Because I know this girl, I know that her choice was about 40% "let's make mom happy with a feminist icon" and 60% "ooh, i get to buy hair product and screaming red lipstick". I totally went along with it because it was a pretty easy costume to pull off, and um, We Can Do It!

She had the jeans, a belt and the boots. We got a blue oxford cloth shirt at the consignment store - it should have been denim, but oxford cloth is what we found, and it's good enough for jazz. I got the red/white polka dot fabric at a quilt shop and fashioned it into a head schmatte, and we found an image of the collar pin on the web, printed it on photo paper, and hot glued it to a pin-back button. Ta da!

[The electric drill is not historically accurate. Also, it did not go to school with her.]

And then, as one does, I posted the pictures on Facebook and a friend of mine from high school left a comment:

I am smiling because I think your mom would have loved it. It is genius. And intelligent. And historical. And NOT a princess or a sleazy outfit. Post this to your blog. Please.

And so, because Anne asked, and because my mother would indeed have loved it, here's my 10 year old Rosie.


23 October 2014

Class of '94....1894, that is.

I was perusing the archives of my alma mater, as one does, looking for an image that had been used in a presentation that I'd been to over the weekend. The speaker had said it was from the 1894 yearbook, and happily, all of the yearbooks exist as pdfs on the college library's web page. I love the intertubes.

That 1894 yearbook turned out to be 317 pages long what with covers and endpapers and advertisements, and it is completely wonderful in an unexpectedly whimsical way. Oh sure, there are pages and pages of lists of names, but there was a banjo club! Complete with banjeurines and a factotum! And two members named Florence. The whole yearbook delighted me, actually.

One page was given over to a ditty about bananas:

I found the image I was looking for:

There's a whole riff on the Declaration of Independence, rendering it applicable to a graduating class:

A Declaration of Dependence.

WHEN, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a class to dissolve the bonds which have connected them with college life, and to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and their own opinion of their learning and importance entitle them, a decent respect to their Alma Mater requires that they should declare the grief which moves them at the separation.

Prudence, indeed, would dictate (this have we learned line upon line, precept upon precept, from our foster mother) that conditions long established should not be changed for light and transient causes. But when a long train of courses and matriculations, pursuing invariably the same object, has fulfilled its design of reducing us under an absolute sense of our profound ignorance, there is its beneficent task ended, and it is our right, our duty to throw off such conditions and to provide new fields for our future activity. The history of the present Faculty in its relations with the Class of '94 is a history of continued kindness and of repeated benefits (sometimes, we confess, these blessings were so disguised that we failed to recognize them), having in direct object that knowledge of folly which is wisdom, and that mild and submissive disposition which is the crown of womanly character. To prove this let facts be submitted to a candid world.

They have maintained, often against our will, laws the most wholesome, and the most necessary for the public good.

In every stage of our history we have petitioned in humble terms for that which seemed necessary and convenient for us; our repeated petitions have been answered by repeated refusals. Thus has an overruling wisdom preserved us from error.

We, therefore, the representatives of the Class of '94, do, in the name of the class, solemnly publish and declare that this Class of '94 is not, and never can be, unmindful of these benefits; that nothing can absolve them from their allegiance to their Alma Mater; and that the affectionate connection between them and Wellesley College cannot now, or at any other time, be totally dissolved.

And near the beginning was this heart-stopping and ever true statement from Tennyson:

Just that, alone on a page. Wise words. Witty women. I'm so glad I stopped to read that 1894 yearbook.

16 October 2014

What's Old Is New Again

In days of old, once upon a time, over the river and through the woods, an eon ago, you know, back when I was a kid, there was an Italian deli. It was on Main Street and it had sawdust on the floor. Its fragrant stock included wheels of Parmesan, tubs of olives and giardiniera, enormous wax covered provolone hanging from the ceiling, sturdy little cacciatorini, seeded semolina breads. Exotic but not, for it was the stuff of childhood. For cocktail party nibbles, my parents would buy cecis and favas - roasted salted chickpeas and fava beans - the cecis crumbly to the tooth, the favas requiring a good snap of your back jaw. The juxtaposition of textures chalky and smooth in that bowl of salted mixed not-nuts was what always kept you going back for more.

Recently, I got a pitch from a PR company touting roasted salted chickpeas as new "very unique" snack:

Health Conscious Friends Launch Perfect Crunchy Snack
Cooking "accident inspires new product, Chic-a-peas

I said, sure, send me a sample. But it wasn't until I tasted them that I realized that they really weren't anything new - they were a repackaging of the cecis of my childhood. That's not to say they aren't good - just not new.

Now what I need to do is find some favas to go with the cecis. And throw an old school cocktail party.

Disclaimer: I didn't buy the Chic-a-peas, and I wasn't compensated for writing about them.

13 October 2014

The Garment

It looks medieval. You look like a hippie. That garment could have been in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I love it! You made that?

My absolute favorite baby present - back almost 11 years ago - was a blanket made out of recycled felted wool sweaters. It's simple - six inch squares zig-zagged together, all shades of off white, dense and soft and subtle. It was made by Crispina, a woman who - back in the day - used to have a flourishing cottage industry making blankets out of sweaters. In recent years, though, she's scaled back the production and sales business, and now does workshops to teach other people how to repurpose clothing into other things. Because it was an itch I had to scratch, last spring I went to one of her all-day workshops, the sweater/sweatshirt chopshop. Crispina supplies everything you need, and by day's end, my garment was largely complete. It probably would have been finished that day had I not decided that it needed to be knee-length, but finally, after some more snipping and stitching, it's actually finished, six months later.

The schtick is that you cut up two sweatshirts so that you keep the neck/shoulders of one, and the shoulders/sleeves of another. Everything else flows from there. I cut the pieces for the "skirt" in a more-or-less trapezoid shape, so that when they were pieced together, they flared out a bit. The trim piece at the bottom is actually the bottom of two sweatshirts flipped upside down. It's all hand sewn, with six strand cotton embroidery thread, except for the hook & eye tape - that's too stiff to do by hand, so I took it to a costume shop and had them run a zigzag. I probably could have done that myself, except that my sewing machine is old and cranky. Besides, standing hip to hip at the worktable in the shop, figuring out the thread color and making sure the tape was pinned right, you get lines of dialogue like Let me just move that codpiece for you.

I'm so pleased with how it came out. And the funny thing is, people comment on it every time I wear it. Yeah, my 10 year old wishes I wouldn't leave the house in it, but everyone else loves it.

18 September 2014

The Latin Lesson

While I've never taken a Latin class, I know my smattering of e pluribus unum and amo/amas/amat, post prandium and quod erat demonstrandum, caveat emptor and et cetera. And, I know that a male graduate of Harvard College is an alumnus, and a female graduate of Wellesley is an alumna, and a whole mess of graduates of some college are alumni, but the collective female graduates of Bryn Mawr are alumnae.

So, when I got a pitch from someone that used "alumni" incorrectly in the subject and four more times in the body copy,

National Cheeseburger Day is September 18, and NFL alumni / successful restaurant founder and CEO, Crawford Ker, is offering insider tips for creating the perfect cheeseburger so everyone can enjoy this national holiday deliciously! For more information or to arrange an interview with Mr. Ker, please contact me...

I felt compelled to write back.

There's only one former NFL player involved, right? Alumnus is the singular.

And now I feel like I've made the world a better place. Because yesterday, I got a follow-up email, and she fixed it! She used "alumnus" correctly!

I am just following-up to see if I can provide further information regarding National Cheeseburger Day on September 18. NFL alumnus / successful restaurant founder and CEO, Crawford Ker, is offering insider tips for creating the perfect cheeseburger so everyone can enjoy this national holiday deliciously! For more information or to arrange an interview with Mr. Ker, please contact me...

Considering how much railing I do about things that are never going to be fixed, this was one gratifyingly simple pleasure.

Incidentally, how do you pronounce "alumnae"? Mary Lefkowitz will tell you.

17 September 2014

Road Trip: The Miscellaneous

If you get an ebook out of the library on your Kindle app and you never take the iPad off of Airplane Mode, you can take longer than two weeks to finish your book because the Kindle will not get the ping from the mothership that will delete the book. This is good when you are reading one of those 900 page books in the Outlander series.

One 12 ounce bottle of olive oil is good for two weeks of salads and sautéing, but 10 ounces of vinegar is twice as much as you need.

Elevation changes are well reflected in sealed plastic packages. These marshmallows were bought at 5627 feet and photographed at 8975 feet. See how the bag is inflated? Also, jumbo marshmallows are idiotic.

When you pack, you throw weird stuff in at the last minute, right? I loved having a couple of silicone twist ties and a few of those plastic coated metal clips, for sealing up all sorts of things, and holding other things in place.

If you are going to go to more than three National Parks in one year, get the pass. It’s $80, it’s good for a year, and it gets a carload of people into the park. And then when you happen to be driving by the FDR house in Hyde Park, you can go on a tour for free! We’re making the most of our park pass. I might even go to the Teddy Roosevelt house, which is a block away from my office and I’ve never set foot inside.

If you are going to be in Yellowstone for more than a couple of days and are going to be buying things like groceries and bear spray and souvenirs, join the Yellowstone Association. It’s $35, and gets you a 15% discount on purchases in the Park (except for gas and meals). And you get a quarterly magazine for the next year. And you get a door prize, which was a choice of a tote or a stuffed bear. Yes, of course, the 10yo picked the stuffed bear, and named it Fumarole.

I can't really explain why I was so amused to find spent cap gun ammo outside the office of the Butch Cassidy campground.

One family’s campsite in Madison included the oddest little tent: its footprint was about 4’ square, and it was taller than it was wide. We decided that it was the Tardis in disguise.

The way I solved the problem of the kid wanting to buy things at every single gift shop was by giving her an allowance. I didn’t give it to her in cash; I paid for things, and she said “take it off my tab”. On about the third day, she started working out what Monster High dreck she could buy with the leftover money when we got home, because I’d made the mistake of not stipulating that it was “vacation only, use it or lose it”. Next time. In the end, she did spend most of her allowance on the road – on postcards, a 3D wolf puzzle, two stuffed animals, an “opal” ring, and the Lego movie on the airplane ride home.

Do not ever buy the Walmart Mainstays Quick Drying Towels. They dry quickly because they do not absorb any water; I think they may have been treated with ScotchGuard.

A 10yo American girl who speaks no Dutch can have a wonderful few hours with a 10yo Dutch girl who speaks no English.

I got out of the car one day to take a picture, and saw signs for a Gutzon Borglum monument. Awesome name, right? He turned out to be the sculptor who carved Mount Rushmore. Maybe we'll go to Mount Rushmore next year.

I like a good didactic sign, but I like them better when they don't have grammatical errors.

The end.

Part 1, The Hut, is here.
Part 2, The Campsites, is here.
Part 3, On Food And Cooking, is here.
Part 4, The Assignment, is here.
Part 5, The Animals, is here.
Part 6, The Natural Sights, is here.
Part 7, The Built Environment, is here.

16 September 2014

Road Trip: The Built Environment

While most of the trip was about the natural environment, I was delighted by and sought out plenty of human-built structures. Some of them were falling down candidates for Decay & Desuetude, but here are some other things that struck my fancy.

I loved stumbling upon the Ephraim, UT library, and discovering that it was a Carnegie library, built in 1914. It has great fenestration.

We were fascinated by the free damn tour of the Flaming Gorge hydroelectric dam (the tour guide used damn/dam as often as she could). Dedicated in 1964, it's an amazing piece of concrete work, though we can debate the pros and cons of a hydro dam from now 'til eternity.

I also liked the old-school dam on Jackson Lake. Gears!

Because we were in Utah, some of the sights were Mormon sites, like the temple in Salt Lake City.

And the Ephraim Co-op building, built in 1871 of local oolite limestone.

And another LDS temple, with the helpfully named Temple View motel right near by.

We also stopped to check out a fracking well, which had cows grazing alongside. The cows ran away when we got out of the car.

At the four corners of the main square in the center of Jackson, WY, there are huge arches made of antlers. I like the pattern. And this totally counts as "built environment" - you can see a screw head just off center.

The old Old Faithful Lodge is a wonderful pile, inside and out.

This hinge is on a side door at the Norris Geyser Basin Museum.

We made an art pilgrimage to the Spiral Jetty which meant 34 miles of gravel road in the middle of nowhere. (And the kid refused to get out of the car when we got there.)

I love that fans have built tiny spirals alongside the big one. (You can see them to the left of the base of the spiral in the picture above.

Actually, I'm not surprised that the girl didn't get of of the car, because we were driving the hut, and the hut didn't love the gravel road AT ALL. In fact, I was expecting a mutiny from both my husband and my child, but he decided to embrace the adventure when he realized that there was no turning back.

A sea of cuboid hay is a perhaps a stretch as far as the "built environment" is concerned, but it compelled me to take its picture, so here it is. Anyway, it's totally man-made.

And because I'm weird, I had to take a picture of a concrete light pole, in a suburban part of Salt Lake City. I just liked it.

Part 1, The Hut, is here.
Part 2, The Campsites, is here.
Part 3, On Food And Cooking, is here.
Part 4, The Assignment, is here.
Part 5, The Animals, is here.
Part 6, The Natural Sights, is here.