28 April 2010

Lemon Aid

Simply Recipes has a lemonade tip which I've tested twice now and simply must pass on! It's sugar syrup. By creating a well-blended syrup with the sugar you can avoid the granules-at-the-bottom-of-the-Koolaid-pitcher phenomenon. Simply heat the sugar (they say 1 cup; I say no more than than 3/4) in 1 cup of water in a saucepan, stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved. Juice 4 medium lemons (yields 1 cup juice). I use an old-fashioned glass juicer because I like simple tools (and antiques shopping). I've been picking the seeds out by hand. I've avoided using a strainer because I don't want to lose any pulp. (If anyone knows of a more efficient way to de-seed, please let me know.) Add syrup and lemon juice to a pitcher, along with at least three cups of water (to taste). Refrigerate and then enjoy!

Philanthropic Shopping

I recommend laying up a store of greeting cards, like a hope chest--cards for the successes you hope your family and friends will have, cards for your friends--things you could say to them every day, cards for people you hope you'll meet, because you have things to say to them.

My mother, my grandmothers, and my father's sisters all save and send cards. They send little pieces of love to their dear ones on special days and they make ordinary days special by sending love.

Cards are more than letters. They convey with pictures sentiments words cannot. They can even be on occasion, decorative. -- Stacked in an arch over a doorway at holiday time or stood on the mantel on a birthday. They are little testaments to love, our year-round and just-because valentines.

You can make cards; it is both fun and inexpensive. Making your own cards allows for greater artistic control and the ability to tailor a card specifically for it's recipient. I've used tissue paper to create texture and depth and shades of color. I've occasionally used clip art.

My baby sister sent me a beautiful handmade card for my birthday this year--with an intricate hand drawn and colored "happy birthday" on one side, and a bright, filigreed "be happy now" sunrise on the other. It merits framing.

I have a few favorite card lines I've recently discovered at a local store, Megan Morrison. Vermont artist Kathleen Sawyer is responsible for the lovely Local Wisdom Greeting Card line:

Curly Girl Designs:

Curly Girl and Positively Green Cards, both make their cards of recycled paper with soy-based ink. Positively Green:

So whether homemade or purchased, greeting cards communicate love in an aesthetically pleasing way. I recommend buying them up now so that by and by they'll be there, ready to carry your love.

Philanthropic shopping doesn't just include greeting cards.  ProFlowers has well-priced bouquets ready to ship, with your personalized note and a complimentary vase, right to the door of your loved one. The other day, I made a bouquet list--with a bouquet for each of my special ladies.

Also, start adding gift ideas to your Amazon Wish List. You can then ship things to other people's doors whenever fancy strikes. I've done this too, as well as been the recipient of surprise packages.
The love of, the practice of, indeed, the art of shopping is so much more than completing your wardrobe or your home. You can use your love of and skill in shopping to improve the lives of others--one greeting card, one flower, one smiley-faced package at a time!

12 April 2010

Betty Draper Nightgowns

One of my favorite semi-local bands, newgrass outfit The Giving Tree Band, has decided that an upcoming concert will double as a pajama party. Now if you're like me, you don't have a lot of pajamas per se in your closet. It's fashion while you're unconscious, so it doesn't seem like a huge priority. The concert is at a bar, so the idea of exposing anything comfy and cuddly to that environment is unappealing. I decided to go to the local thrift stores because something costumy will feel more festive, and because I won't worry as much about getting a thrift store purchase dirty.

I thought it might stand out nicely, amidst cute Katherine Hepburn/Roman Holiday, matching top-and-bottom pajamas, and short Victoria's Secret shorts with "Angel" or "Lover" emblazoned on the butt, to go with something a little more unexpected. I wanted something which rejoices in 100% nylon fluff and ruffles and rosettes--in feminine pink or baby blue. Perfect for crisp morning air and black coffee on a front porch, waiting for the morning paper. Old lady nightgowns, or more properly, nightgowns which were popular thirty to forty years ago, are perfect for this. They are moo moo balloony numbers, about as far away from having a waistline as a garment can possibly be. They are very flowy in their ballooniness--which is perfect for dancing.

To travel to my destination in style, I found the perfect housecoat--an elegant, structured piece, with a sewn-in decorative Bertha collar. 100% polyester gorgeousness. I should note here, out of respect, that my mother and both of my grandmothers have worn such housecoats with the utmost sincerity, and have lent them much elegance. It is no doubt due to their example--sipping their morning coffee at the kitchen table in a soft yet structured housecoat--that I appreciate the elegance of this shape now. It is structured similarly to a 1950s day coat, and has the same polished look.

I bought a pair of pink, slide slippers, with ribbon and lace detail. Not only do they look dainty and feminine, but they create the scuffling shuffle walk which is essential to this sort of pajama costume.

I plan to finish the outfit with a nape-up-the-neck up-do, secured with pink, sponge curlers.

Just a note about the namesake of this post.  Betty Draper is the suburban housewife of Donald Draper on as-good-as-the-best-of-Greek-tragedies Mad Men.  She is played to pitch perfection by January Jones, and sometimes gets flack simply for being a 1960s, "I don't know who we're voting for" housewife, but it's important to realize that these sorts of complimentary handbag housewives, with clandestine cunning, were cultivated to be the perfect feminine counterpoints to ultra-masculine protagonists.  It would be a failure of compassion to damn the woman for not running free while failing to damn the society that bound her feet when she was a child.  I love the Betty Draper character.  She embodies a particular kind of bell-jarred, 20th-century western woman to me.  And I am waiting for her to break free!  I am waiting for her to realize that Betty Draper nightgowns are meant for dancing!