Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What To Do With Your Pumpkin

I used to feel bad about discarding decorative pumpkins after Halloween. This year I pondered an alternative fate -- and found one.

Pumpkins are vegetables. You can eat them! They're safe to eat raw but taste much better cooked. And cooking them couldn't be easier. Just bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. They taste like juicy zucchini.

Before popping them into the oven coat them with some olive oil and salt. I experimented and made two batches. The ones on the right are plain and the ones on the left were tossed with Tamari soy sauce and spicy hot sauce. Both were nice; I prefer the spicy ones.

Once cooked you can throw pumpkin chunks into any dish. They're also good topped with salad dressing. Pumpkin is healthy with practically no calories.

Have you ever eaten pumpkin?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Putting On Female Clothes

I want to make an observation about women's clothing. It's something you guys all know already but is valuable to discuss. Your thoughts are invited.

My new dress from Aimee is amazing. It fits my body perfectly. But! And this isn't a bad "but," just a fact-of-life situation. The dress is very hard to put on. Its top is snug, fitted to my exact measurements and made of non-elastic material. There's a side-zipper that allows you to snake into the dress but, to pull the zipper up, you need two hands and leverage which, when inside the dress, you don't have. Thus, it's hard, almost impossible for me to put the dress on by myself. I really need a spouse/aide to zip me up.

I've faced this before with other female clothing, especially fancy gowns and form-fitted items. That's why I usually choose elastic material for stretch allowing easier manipulation. But I have no regrets about choosing the material used in this dress; it is amazingly beautiful. Luxurious and chic. 

To wear attractive feminine clothes often involves effort and sacrifice. I've never had discomfort wearing any article of male clothing; even neckties aren't a big deal. But frequently when I put on a tight dress I face physical struggles so intense and prolonged there are almost tears. Also -- and I'm not kidding -- I always keep a pair of scissors within reach because I have (more than once) actually gotten trapped inside clothes. My shoulders and torso are unnaturally large for most women's clothing. I've gotten halfway into some pieces, unable to complete the journey and unable to back out.

You've faced difficulty wearing tight clothes, right? How do you deal with it? With stoicism? Scissors? A handy husband to zip you up?

Please give me the benefit of your experiences.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Project of the Year

Life, for most of us, is hard and boring. If we wait for the world to offer us excitement, we're usually disappointed. I've found that you need to act on your own initiative to grab joy in life.

At least once a year I try to do a major project whose aim is pure fun. No business purpose, no social or other obligation. Just fun.

Last year I visited my friend Aimee in upstate New York (Potsdam). Aimee is a talented seamstress who makes clothes and costumes for friends and customers. Hearing her stories put an idea in my head -- maybe I could ask Aimee to make me a dress. A real dress. The perfect dress. So I did and she said yes. We've spent an entire year working on it and the dress was just completed. Squee!!

Due to my large size and odd shape for a girl, most women's clothes don't fit me. If they're right in one spot, they're not in another. That's just a difficulty I've gotten used to. But if I could design a dress from scratch, maybe I could have one that fits everywhere.

So Aimee and I brainstormed this. What is my favorite color? What era and style appeal to me? What silhouette and shape suit my cylindrical body? We spent a good deal of time working on these questions and found the right answers.

Aimee sourced beautiful fabrics, sew-ed her little fingers off and, in July, we met again for a fitting. Aimee put a rough-draft on my body and made adjustments. Then she retired to her laboratory for a few months of further work.

Today, the finished dress arrived in a big box. It's done!

I want to do this dress justice -- which means I want to have quality photos taken by someone more skilled in photography than me. And I hope to have better makeup applied than my usual hatchet job. So, I'm not going to show you the final result yet. I'll arrange a photoshoot and reveal the culmination soon. Until then, here's a peek!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fashion History

There's no doubt that the 1970's were my time. During that decade I grew up, sensed the world and started engaging with society. I was 13 to 23 years old.

Among developments of that era was my close attention to female fashion. I coveted it with aching passion. So when any clothing from the Seventies crosses my path today, my heart melts and my judgment disappears.

Some styles from that turbulent time have revived, some not. I saw an authentic vintage dress at Rosie's Vintage store and immediately recognized it as something many women wore back then. But it's an odd style that (to my knowledge) has never re-surfaced. But... pink! Need I say more?

This is a strange dress but it appeals to me. What do you think?

P.S., Thank goodness for Spanx! A tight-fitting dress like this requires shapewear.

P.P.S., I felt happy wearing this dress. I think its femininity created that joy in my heart.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

New Shirt

Last week when I brought my motorcycle in for service, I spotted a t-shirt celebrating the exact model of my motorcycle. I had to have one so I bought it. Of course, the shirt is made by BMW.

My bike (the sportbike, not the tourer) is a 2016 BMW S1000R. It's faster than a speeding bullet and more fun than a bag of monkeys.

Do you have any clothes with emblems that mean something to you?

Friday, October 19, 2018

New York City

It was beautiful in New York today. After riding my motorcycle into Manhattan for service, I walked around under a sunny sky. I went to Columbus Circle where I ate a delicious Cobb salad and then wandered into Central Park. Although I wasn't planning to take any pictures, I found it impossible not to. The city is so photogenic.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

My Return

I have this tendency, taught to me early in life, to bury myself in work. Which is okay for a while but then I need to re-surface and have fun again. I'm coming out of a two-month period where I've neglected blogging and everything else I enjoy. Need to fix that!

Which is a weak reason for a post but I feel I need to re-connect with you, my blogging friends. Connection is important and, even inadvertent, I never want to neglect anyone. I do my best to follow and comment on your blogs. I re-commit to that whenever my head pops out of work-mode.

A lot of "re-" words, huh? That's a sign I've spent too long underwater. I can't wait until the day I can afford to stop working and pursue my passions full-time. My "retirement" won't be leisure but, rather, active efforts to do the activities I love, like writing, reading, motorcycle-riding, fashion and blogging.

Do you ever bury yourself in work or home-maintenance or child-rearing? I wonder how common that is. BTW, one can never say this enough -- THANK YOU FOR VISITING! I cherish your interest and effort in coming here. Somehow I will reward you. Promise.

Random topic for discussion: I drink a lot of tea and look for ways to flavor it. One of my favorites is honey. I recently discovered there's one -- and only one -- honey that has scientifically-proven health benefits. It's called Manuka honey from New Zealand. In addition to the health benefits, Manuka tastes great -- earthy and rich. It has the depth of flavor I crave in every food.

Because of the health benefits, Manuka honey is very expensive. A problem arose due to the premium price -- counterfeiting. As much as 90% of stuff sold as Manuka is not really Manuka but just cheap ordinary honey, mislabeled to sell for more money. So, you have to verify authenticity by buying from sellers who are reputable and certify their product, like Steens.

Manuka honey makes a great gift for someone who's birthday is coming up... hint, hint!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

"Ninth Street Women"

Grace Hartigan was the greatest female artist of the 20th Century. A new book about her and four fellow artists was just published ("Ninth Street Women"). The story the book tells is also covered in an excellent article in The New Yorker.

I knew Grace. For several years in the early 1980's, she was teacher/mentor to Maura, a woman I lived with for twenty years. Grace was head of a graduate art school in Baltimore; Maura and her friend Joan were Grace's favorite students. Maura had a deep personal bond with Grace and we socialized many times, both there and at Manhattan art-shows.

Grace was the first artist of her generation to have a painting purchased by the Museum of Modern Art. Her fame in the 1950's was meteoric, particularly since, as a woman, she was categorically underestimated. Her work deserved acclaim which it received from critics and collectors from the Fifties until her death in 2008. For 30 years, Grace lived in Baltimore teaching graduate students, popping up to New York for occasional shows and events.

Grace had a colorful, complex life. She had wild times with notorious friends, like painter Jackson Pollock, poet Frank O'Hara and art-dealer John Bernard Myers. She was also acquaintances with the other notable female painters of the time (Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell). After rejecting comfortable family life in a New Jersey suburb, Grace devoted herself to art -- and lived dirt-poor during the early years. She and her friends struggled to make ends meet while creating great work. The book describes that New York scene in the Fifties and Sixties, with reference to many of the crazy characters in Grace's life. In her later years, she told us stories about that time in greater, more scandalous detail.

Grace told Maura that with students of her caliber, Grace's job was not to teach them art but, rather, how to live as an artist. She succeeded in that -- Maura has been a painter continuously since then. She lives and works in Wales now.

I recommend the book as an entertaining historical account of a wild group of artists whose work in the middle of the last century changed the face of art. They warrant deeper examination than our culture has given them so far.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Pants Are Not Just For Boys

When I get a chance to wear women's clothing, the last thing I think about is pants. Why would I want to wear pants? I wear pants every day as a man so my female eye turns to dresses and skirts. But that's foolish -- pants can be feminine, too.

My friend Sheila, who displays inventive outfits at Ephemera, is constantly showing me that pants are attractive. And feminine. Seeing her outfits causes me to re-think my bias against pants.

Last Saturday I was walking around my neighborhood and saw a sign for a garage sale. I headed down the suburban street to find a lawn full of boring bourgeois items. I kept searching and found a clothes-rack in the back -- and the clothes were nice. Squee!!

I've been looking for men's shirts with French cuffs because I have cufflinks I want to wear more often. But such shirts are hard to find and normally expensive (e.g., over $100). The garage sale rack had two beautiful new blue shirts with French cuffs. I snapped 'em up. I also found a pair of women's pants and a simple blue dress. Nothing had a price on it. I took the four pieces to the owner, curious what this was going to cost.

The owner was female, about 50. She opened with "you picked the best stuff!" She said the shirts belonged to her ex-fiance: she bought them for him and he didn't like 'em. The pants and dress were hers. She pointed out the pants are from Henri Bendel, a luxury brand that sadly just announced it's closing after 123 years.

The woman looked at the four items. She said $10 would be enough for all of them. She said the proceeds are being donated to a local animal-rescue charity. I gave her $20, told her to keep the change and felt I'd scored a huge bargain. The shirts alone are worth over $200.

Here are the pants with by an embroidered top from the 1980's which I bought today at my favorite store (Rosie's Vintage in Huntington).

Do you wear pants?