Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vintage Photos

As part of a writing project I'm working on, I've been poking around in my family's old photos. I mean, very old! This is my great-uncle George, on July 4, 1876, the 100th anniversary of America. Little George was not quite five years old at the time:

Here he is as a young man. Love that beard and mustache!

Much older, here, but still the same nose. Kind of hawkish, with a point at the end:

His hair is gone, but the nose stays distinctive. I think he looks a little like Sigmund Freud, with those glasses and that 'stache/goatee combo:

But this baby photo might be my favorite photo of George. He was the first child born in his family, and here he is with his daddy, Elisha. From everything I've been able to find about Elisha, he was a very sweet man. Can't you just see the love shining out in this photo?

Such a happy papa.

George grew up, among other things, to be the senior medical officer on an expedition to the North Pole, in 1903-1905. I don't have any photos of him from that time--yet. There's a chance there are some among his Arctic memorabilia, which was gifted to Dartmouth.

If I find them, I'll post them!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Roadside Rescues

Here's last weekend's roadside finds. A thick terrycloth towel and a red wire letter tray, both in perfect condition:

Two nesting KitchenAid mixing bowls:

The bowls have a rubber footing to keep them from skittering around the countertop when you use them to beat or whisk something vigorously:

 They have very nice pouring lips, too:

It makes me scratch my head in puzzlement. Are people in my neighborhood putting things out because they're too lazy to take them to Goodwill? Or because they don't KNOW about giving things a second home?

Or are they onto me, and they figure if they stick stuff by the curb, I'll pick it up? (Shifty eyes, shifty eyes....)

Whatever the reason, all these items got saved from the landfill. I took the towel for my box of cleaning rags, and a friend nabbed the bowls and the basket.

Thanks, silly neighbors!

Dreamy Dogs

I'm a pug person; that's my breed. Even so, every now and then I see a dog that makes me catch my breath and say, "Ohhhh! I wish I could...!!"

This blue-nose pitty puppy, for instance:

Or the little cutie on the right, with the perfect polka-dot on her back. Heaven knows I'm a sucker for a polka-dot pup:

Photo: 2nd Chance Rescue NYC Dogs

Or this little Buddha boy, "Churro," who was one of the chillest Chihuahuas I ever met. (He didn't even mind wearing a pink collar with a heart charm on it.) Churro was at a rescue event when I was volunteering; I hope he found his Forever Home.

Photo: Karl Loveys

I hope they all did; wouldn't that be wonderful?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This 'n' That

There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to this post. It's just a bit of this 'n that.

When The Boy was here over winter break, I crumbled up Amaretti cookies into a dish of yogurt for a little dessert. I was shocked to learn he'd never eaten one of these delectable little crunchy cookies. We corrected that situation immediately.

The Boy often gives me gifts of his time and effort for the holidays. Like putting all my music CD's into a format that I can access on my laptop. This year, he was tickled to have an actual object to give me: a kitchen scale that measures in ounces and grams.

I love it. It comes in mighty handy when weighing out dried sweet potato snacks for my pugs:

Speaking of which, this is an acceptable bed, to a pug. Actually, to two pugs:

I was poking around on the Internet to learn more about my great-uncle, who was part of a failed expedition to the North Pole in the first years of the 1900s. He and his crew were marooned for two years before being rescued. The surprise was I found a batch of photographs recently sold by Sotheby's, including this startling sight. The crew adopted two baby polar bears and brought them home. Here are "Billy" and "Mary Louise," on the deck of the ship that rescued my great-uncle and his crew:

I have high hopes for a new Masterpiece "Mystery" series, premiering right after this week's episode of "Downton Abbey." The television critic for the Los Angeles Times gave "Grantchester" a great review:

The show is set in post-WWII England, in the tiny town of Grantchester, which really exists. It is the site of one of the most wonderful places I've ever visited. I spent a magical day with The Hubby walking from Cambridge along the River Cam, past white swans and docile cows, to have tea and scones at "The Orchard." People have been doing the same since the time of Oscar Wilde and the Bloomsbury bunch:

If the television show is half as wonderful as my day in Grantchester was, it'll be memorable indeed.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Parrot Flock

 A few weeks ago, I was walking a dog in the early morning when a squawking flock of birds passed overhead. I snapped a few fast photos. A careful look at the pictures reveals the flock was probably several hundred strong.

I knew my neighborhood had a few parrots--mostly escaped pets who thrive on all the fruit trees of L.A.--but I'd never seen such a number all in one place.

And these birds made an entirely different sort of sound as they flew over:

A few days after the sighting the flock, I was buying more birdseed at my local shop for all things  wild. The owner saw my photos and asked some questions about the flock's behavior. He was fairly sure they are Red-Lored Parrots:

Photo: Wikipedia

He also told me that L.A. is home to something like 20 different species of parrots. Such beauty! And it's all there, every day, hiding in our urban jungle.

Now when I take the dogs for walks, I look up every time I hear a single squawk or cheep or coo. I never know if I'll see anything, but there's always a chance it will be a magic moment like this was.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

National Dress-Up-Your-Dog Day

I read on the Internet that January 14 is National Dress-Up-Your-Dog Day.

Normally, I don't dress my pugs, unless it's very cold or wet weather. Pao Pao wears a little red coat on those rare days it rains:

But then on our walk, I found a child's pink "Barbie" visor.

It seemed like a sign.

So I plopped it on a patient but befuddled Pao and took a few snaps:

I can almost hear him thinking, "I'm not really feelin' dis:":

"Look up for a treat? Hokay!":

Next, feeling inspired, I tried a Flower-Girl look:

I thought he looked adorable.

"Umm, a little help here, Ma?":

In case I traumatized my boy with all that pink and girly stuff, next I went for the George-Clooney-in-a-tux look:

So dapper! So classic!

I thought it would be fun if I could get him to chomp down on a fake cigar while in black tie, but he wasn't having it:

"Pheh! Phoo!":

"Smoking isn't good for ya, doncha know, Ma?":

Sorry, sweet pea. But thanks for playing along.

You're a good sport, Pao. Let's go put that Barbie visor back where some little girl can find it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

New Year, New Cruelty-Free Products

Well, new to me, anyway.

A few days ago I needed a new bar of soap. I saw this lovely French import at my local grocery store:

 Pretty packaging! And I love lemon and lemon verbena scents.  

The leaping bunny logo on the side indicates the product is cruelty free:

When I used it, the soap produced a soft scent and lots of lather. Win! I also needed a rich hand cream for the winter weather, when things are drier and colder. I found this:

The lotion has a faint, lemony scent and soaks in without leaving a greasy residue.

And it's cruelty free, too:

Two new products, both lemony, to usher in a new year. I'm a happy consumer:

I'm amazed at how many cruelty-free products I can find. Look for the leaping bunny or the words "never tested on animals," and you may be surprised how many you can find, too.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Vintage Birthday Parties

Today's my birthday! For fun, I poked around my family photos, looking for snaps of me as a child on my special day. I love how these photos reveal details typical of birthday parties long ago.

Back in the day, birthday candles were stuck into little, reusable plastic holders. (Were the holders to catch the wax drips, or just for fun? I don't remember.) Often the holders looked like a flower or saucer shape, like the pink ones on the big cake at the left of the photo. Occasionally they were fancy forms, like the three animal-shaped holders on my tiny cake:

These were my friends, the twins Holly and Hally Harding (below). I'm about six here. Note the missing teeth and scab on the bridge of my nose. Kids were constantly falling down and getting whacked in those days--safety helmets were an unknown. The jumprope with wood, painted handles is a classic children's toy from that era. Although it's winter in Kansas, I'm wearing knee-length shorts we used to call "Pedal Pushers." Maybe I was hoping for spring weather?:

The Harding twins were sweet girls. I wonder whatever happened to them? And I totally remember that sweater I'm wearing:

This was a special birthday. I turned 7 a week after my Nana turned 70. Here we are at our double celebration:

I look like I'm frowning, but I'm not. I've always had a "resting bitch face," and I'm concentrating on sliding the heavy cake on its pressed-glass plate safely onto the table. (Note the polka dots on the paper tablecloth--even then, I loved them!) My Nana's cake has "70" done in a double row of candles. Mine has a doll in the middle, frosted to look like she's wearing a big ol' hoop skirt. (I dunno; it was a thing, back then.)

The pink and green things in front of our cakes are party hats--totally necessary at a party from that era. (I'm wearing one, in a photo below). I don't think my mother ever knew it, but I hated those things. I felt like a clown in them--and I really loathed clowns. She probably didn't realize that, either. Poor Mom!

Below, the same birthday. I love the girls' hairdos and their dresses, with the big skirts. On the green curtains behind us, there's a paper "Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey" game pinned up. That was a classic party game back then. (The bored-looking teenager on the sofa is my lovely sister Nina, btw.):

Here's a closer look at that epic doll-dress cake that my mother made and frosted. Mom also sewed me the blue velvet dress, which had vintage mother-of-pearl buttons down the front. (I loved that dress!) Also note the little plastic blue barrette in my hair, shaped like a closed umbrella. Every little girl had a whole stable of colored, plastic barrettes to match her outfits, back then. And there's that dumb party hat, clapped onto my head:

The thing I love about this photo, below, (besides my Nana's lovely smile) is the "Chatty Cathy" doll sitting on the table. I got that doll for Christmas, just a few weeks before. It was THE toy every little girl wanted that season, and I felt incredibly lucky to have her. She was the first doll that said a range of sentences (randomly selected) when you pulled a string at the back of her neck. She said things like, "I love you!" and "I'm hungry!" Totally iconic item.

Here is the last birthday I celebrated in Kansas before my family moved to California. I was turning 12, and in full dork mode (that's me on the left, mugging with the cherries). My friends and I were getting a little old for Pin-the-Tail-on-the-Donkey, so Mom had us decorate hats (from her stash of millinery items). We had fun! That's Janine Ogas, next to me with her eyes hidden by a feather, and Nadjia Heydon, holding the rose between her teeth. I don't remember the other two girls' names.

Again, the dork factor is off the chart. I was always tall, but that year I shot up like a weed. Hence the red pants waaaay too short for me, and the long-sleeved sweater that needs about two inches more at the wrists. That's Nadjia, again, on the floor:

Decades later, I'm still celebrating my birthday with family, friends, and good food.

Just no paper party hats.


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