Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Other Important Topic: Beauty

Ha! "Beauty" is something I find more amusing than interesting most of the time. An exception was my teens, of course, when I put some effort into mastering the art of wearing three shades of blue eyeshadow. And my twenties, when we lived in Manhattan, and I loved thinking of myself as sexy and sophisticated. But in my thirties and forties, raising children in the country, I had no time for makeup, nor interest in it, and if I did give it half-hearted try, it just looked silly.

This attitude changed in my fifties, but not dramatically. However, by the time my sixties arrived I realized makeup was my friend. And when I had cataract surgery and no longer hid behind glasses, I needed to make the best use of it. (That is, once I got over the post-cataract shock of seeing my aging face in all its HD detail.)

Makeup, especially eye makeup, makes such a difference in how I look that I've had to keep a rein on it, always aware that I don't want to channel my inner clown. (I don't really have an inner clown. I don't like clowns. But you know what I mean.)

This morning I tried Maybelline's new eyebrow mascara (Eyebrow Drama). I like it! My eyebrows have turned into an iffy mix of blonde and grey (like my hair), growing in various directions (not like my hair). I bought the Blonde shade of this product. I was concerned that it might be too light, but it's a good shade for me. Looks very natural, and somewhat tames the direction of the hairs. I filled in here and there with pencil.

I recently tried Bare Escentuals mineral powder, which is not new, but new to me. They offer a matte product, but I bought the original (on eBay, best price) along with a Kabuki brush by e.l.f. A zillion YouTube videos demonstrate how to apply it. Although I've always gone for a matte look (moisturizer plus powder, no foundation), what I like best is that it's not matte. The finish has a subtle glow to it. Doesn't look old. At least it doesn't in my bathroom mirror, which has the best light ever: not even one wrinkle can be detected in this light!

I rarely turn on the TV in the morning anymore, but one day I happened to catch the Today Show when they were talking about John Frieda Luxurious Volume Mousse. They said staff members raved about it. So I bought it on Amazon—cheaper than driving to Walmart. It really is a nice product. It reminds me of stuff they use in salons; never stiff or sticky. The can says "Transforms Fine Hair." My fine hair, once so thick, has become fine and thin. I wish the transformation included hair growth, but one can't have everything.

Oh, and one more: NYX Nude Matte eye shadow in Bare My Soul. It's taupe. Looks blah, a dull brown, in the case. But I love it for daytime because it looks so natural, like an actual shadow. Lavender can have the same effect.

What is it about October? Last October I posted about a bunch of beauty products I tried after reading a magazine article. And now here I am back again to talk about other products I was inspired to try. I hope I'm not getting desperate.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Money, Money . . .

Based on the numbers I heard on the news the other night, credit-card debt is pretty astronomical, and in many cases it's coupled with a complete lack of retirement savings. Scary.

I have a theory that says electronics have seriously messed with people's spending. I'm old enough to remember when not every family could afford a TV. Then VCRs came out, and everyone had to have one. Stores popped up all over the place renting TVs and VCRs. And of course everyone was renting movies, and some were buying them too.

I remember being wheeled to the operating room for some minor surgery I had, and the two orderlies—ignoring the patient completely, of course, engaged in an animated discussion about all the movies they owned. That was at the start of the video revolution.

These days, we've come so far from VCRs. TVs have gotten huge, and often hugely expensive. The smaller ones are relatively cheap, but not many people want smaller ones. We are offered 3D TVs, smart TVs, DVRs, laptops, tablets galore, and smart phones. Of course this is coupled with data plans, DSL charges, and cable bills. This can add up to megabucks, but still there's a prevailing feeling of entitlement. Not only does everyone want to "keep up with the Joneses," as we used to say, but they want their kids to have all this stuff too. It's no wonder so much of the country is in debt.

My own bottom line is that I'm grateful to be frugal. At this point in my life, I don't know how I'd manage otherwise.

Monday, September 01, 2014

As a PS to my Beany Tale.....

Bean Arch #2, erected this year and doing well!


Saturday, August 09, 2014

A Beany Tale

I'm an enthusiastic grower of green beans. My three bush varieties are just about finished, and my pole beans are too small to pick yet, so when I saw a sale on magnificent green beans at the supermarket today (labeled "Locally Grown") I snatched them up.

They were green-bean perfection: Perfectly straight, perfectly cylindrical, uniformly green. They looked like they'd never come within 20 ft. of a Japanese Beetle. From the length of them, I assumed they were pole beans, but they didn't look like anything I'd ever grown. I was curious, and started thinking about how I could get in touch with the grower so I could find out the name of the variety.

But when I snapped off the ends I realized these beans were lacking something: tenderness. And after they were cooked I lost all interest in identifying them, because the other thing they lacked was flavor.

I suspect they're one of those tough varieties that sellers grow because they hold up well in transit. Or maybe they hold up well after being commercially canned, because I detected a little of canned-bean flavor even though they were relatively lightly cooked.

So I'm glad I didn't pay much for them. And I know my Kentucky Wonder pole beans will be well worth waiting for.


And no, I'm not returning the remainder of the package to the store. Because after all, flavor is just . . . a matter of taste. ;-)

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

A Juicy Tale

Do you juice? Have you ever juiced? Did you juice at one time--like for about three days--but gave it up? Judging from the number of slightly-used juicers for sale on eBay and Craigslist, a lot of people get excited by the idea of juicing, but don't sustain the level of interest necessary to incorporate juicing into their lives.

Back in the 1970s I paid over $200 for an Acme juicer. I became a binge juicer--no surprise, because this is how I do a lot of things: binge sewing, binge rug hooking, binge decluttering, binge-watching some of the TV series I missed back when everyone was watching them once a week. You get the picture.

At some point I stopped juicing. This was before we had eBay and Craigslist, so the juicer went into my pantry and eventually became invisible. I almost never watch infomercials of any kind, but a few years ago I turned on the TV in the kitchen and there was Jack LaLanne, vigorous and fired up with enthusiasm at age 102 or whatever, demonstrating his juicer. Truly, he was like the best preacher you've ever heard, except instead of the Bible he had his hand on a kitchen appliance. Instead of sin he decried processed foods. And instead of prayer he offered us carrots, apples, and romaine lettuce.

This is great, I thought, and I own a juicer! But with the zeal of a recent convert, owning a juicer wasn't enough. I wanted my kids to own theirs too. I didn't order any from the infomercial, though (frugality trumps zeal); I went to Amazon, my go-to retailer, and bought a Jack LaLanne juicer for my son and his family for a lot less than the TV price, plus a Waring Pro juicer for my daughter and hers. Then I got my juicer out of the pantry and ran some vegetables through it.

The LaLanne juicer was still in its box when I read through some online reviews and learned it's an absolute bitch to clean. I offered to sell it and replace it with a different brand, but my son semi-tactfully suggested that I simply sell it. No replacement, thanks. As for my daughter's, I assume it's still in the box. Unless she sold hers too. My own enthusiasm waned before long as well, and the juicer made its way back to the pantry. (I think it went there on its own.)

Then last year someone recommended the documentary "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead." Icky title, but it certainly grabs one's attention. I loved the movie (you can watch it here). If Jack LaLanne was a preacher, Joe Cross is Paul the Apostle. I started juicing again immediately. Every morning I would set out a large plate and fill it with juice makings: carrots, greens, celery, part of a beet, a piece of apple, a wedge of lemon, a chunk of ginger. It made about 16 oz. of juice, and that was my first meal of the day. I observed a dramatic increase in my afternoon energy.

After a couple of weeks I also observed that the juice was a little hard on my gut. I was seeing an acupuncturist at the time, and she thought it might be difficult to process all those nutrients at once. She suggested I juice every other day, making a smaller quantity, and eating something along with it. She also suggested that I chew the juice, but I ignored that part.

This time I've kept it up, to the point where my sturdy Acme started showing signs that it needed a new blade. I bought one, but wasn't able to install it properly. Perhaps the Acme is too old. Maybe I could have looked harder for a different blade, but I realized I now had the perfect excuse to get a Breville juicer just like the one Joe Cross used in the movie.

It arrives Friday, FedExed from Oregon. I bought it (slightly used) on eBay. Cheers!


Friday, June 06, 2014

Sweet Rocket (Dame's Rocket, Hesperis)

In case you don't know what it looks like, this is it. It wasn't planted here; it arrived on its own. It all began with some seeds I intentionally planted in a perennial bed, but the self-sower long since outgrew that.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Note to Amelia Phillips, Who Died in 1884

I know you were born in Prussia, though I'm not sure when, and moved at some point to London with your husband, the tailor Jacob Phillips, your son Phineas, and daughters Harriet and Esther. I'm not certain when you came to America, but in 1860 you were living in Norfolk, Virginia, with Harriet and her family, which at that time consisted of her husband, Herman, a chiropodist, plus 2-year-old William, and 8-month-old Ophelia.

At some point you and Jacob settled in Baltimore, Maryland with Esther and her family. Esther's husband, Charles, was a cigar manufacturer who shared a business address with Jacob's tailoring shop. After Jacob died, probably in 1868, you moved to New York City with Esther's family: Esther, Charles, and their children:  Isidore, Lena, Jacob, Harry, Minnie, Phineas, Oscar, and Bertha.

Two years after you arrived in Manhattan, Harriet died. By then she had five children, ages 18, 17, 14, 13, and 7. The youngest three, all boys, were placed in orphan asylums—the older two in Cleveland, Ohio, and the youngest, Jacob, in the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum. I hope Jacob went to New York so you and his aunt, uncle, and cousins could visit him. I don't know why the other two boys weren't placed there with him. And I don't understand why all three weren't able to live with relatives instead. So sad.

Herman said he worked all day and couldn't take care of them. He paid $100 to $150 each year for their care, and died himself 10 years later at age 58.

So this is what I mainly want to tell you: Esther's son Harry, with the beautiful singing voice, married Alice, also of a beautiful voice, and in 1903, after they'd spent some time performing together and separately, their son Harry was born. Three years later they had a daughter, and named her Esteare—Esther with a French accent. Your daughter must have been a good mother to have a granddaughter named for her.

Harry grew up, and—are you still following me?—when he was 40 had a daughter named Susan. C'est moi. Your great-great granddaughter. I was thinking of you today, Amelia, and just wanted you to know that.

Amelia Phillips' memorial on FindAGrave