Thursday, September 30, 2010

Grammar Lessons with N

N is rounding the corner to three, and especially having been in school for a month now, is talking, talking, talking. Always entertaining. Her language skills are really starting to develop and as we work on them, I've taken the liberty of recording some of her best moments:

On the Tenses…
“What did you do at school today, N?”
“I eat gum!”
“You ate what?”
“I eat gum!”
“Really? Well, it’s “I ate gum, ‘ate’ is the past tense.”
“I ate past tense!”

On Proper Nouns…“We’re the People O’Dells. Let‘s call Mommy O‘Dell.”
“Well, Mommy O’Dell is at work. How about we call her when she’s on her way home from work?”
“What about Daddy O’Dell?
Nooooo he’s not Daddy O’Dell!”
“He’s not?”
“Nooo he’s Dude O’Dell. That’s my daddy’s name!

“You call me sweet pea?”
“I sure do!”
“Because you’re sweet, and you’re a little pea.”
“Oh. Okay!”

On Modifiers...

Note: We've been playing at the park quite a bit the past week or so, what with the weather so gorgeous and all. One of N's favorite activities is the slide, which she likes to slide down, and the climb back up, and then do it all over again. Sometimes, when she needs a rest, she likes to lay at the bottom of the slide and proclaim, "I'm dead."

"What are you doing, N?"
"I'm dead!"
"Ooooohhh no! What are we gonna do? Maybe tickles will bring you back to life!"
(Laughing, then very serious) "No, don't touch me, I too dead!"
"Too dead for tickles?"
"Yes. I too dead."

"Okay, I not dead anymore!"

On Vocabulary...

"I can't do this, I too little."
"It's I'm too little, and no you're not! You're a big girl!"
"No, it's too wobbly."
"It is crooked, huh?"
"Yeah. It's too crookedebly."

crook-ed-eb-ly: crooked + wobbly + eb?

Side note: One of the reasons for languages changing throughout history has been parents thinking their child's pronunciation of something, or mis-use of words and grammar is cute . . . and it is! But N and I will strive forward towards proper grammar. My favorite grammar rule? Borrowed from my kindergarten teacher, which I still remember to this day, and apparently used to use to correct my own parents: "Cookies are done, children are finished."

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Nannyisms - Lessons I've Learned Thus Far

So, this nanny thing. I’ve been doing it for almost three months now, I think. And, I’ve been bound to learn a thing or two by now, right? In the spirit of remembering said lessons, I think it's only appropriate that they be recorded.

So, for starters, the current bane of my existence is the spoiled milk smell that haunts my car, that NO MATTER WHAT I DO, I CAN NOT GET OUT.

At least after a time, I found the source: a stray sippy cup that had wandered under my seat, no doubt thrown there by small, exasperated hands (or dropped, sadly, and lost, like a smelly Velveteen Rabbit). By the time I found it, after the weekend (my car had been parked in a hotel garage for a wedding and largely un-driven), it’s contents had congealed and sprouted life.

The most unfortunate part of the poor sippy cup’s saga is that two hours of my day consist of driving in my car’s malodorous confines. That is two hours of spoilt milk smell. You think, perhaps I will get used to it, but no, you really don’t, and no amount of driving with the windows down has helped the situation.

At the moment (though it's now mid-week, still smelly, and looking grim) I can only hope, and pray, that time, and Febreze, will help ameliorate my stinky situation, but I have at the very least learned a very important lesson: make sure all sippy cups are present and accounted for upon exiting the vehicle.

That is Lesson #1 in my book. Here are just a few more, as I’ve learned so far:

2) Soap is icky. We don’t eat soap.

3) You never know when you’re going to land on an answer to “Why?”

“Drive, Rachel, drive!” I hear, daily, from my back seat. Or, “Hey Rachel, whatcha doin’?”
 “I can’t go right now, N,” I say, or, “Driving.”
“Why?” or, “You pick me up from school? Why?”
“Because that’s my job.”
“Because…I love you. Because…it’s my job to take care of you. Because...your mommy and daddy are at work. Because...your mommy asked me to. Because…that‘s how life works.”

“Because that’s how life goes,” or, “Because accidents happen” are two of my favorites, actually. I’m always amazed that they consistently work, too.

Of course, today, I got, “You pick me up, Rachel? Because that’s your job?” Ah! Progress!
“Yes,” I say.
“Doggone it!” N says. This is, of course, one of her new favorite things to say (we‘ve finally moved past “poop“), but to this…I could only laugh and say,
“Yes, that’s right, N, doggone it - you just said a mouthful, lady.”


4) Teaching patience requires great patience - enormous amounts of it, often - but is so worth it. You both learn it. At your own pace, of course.

5) And, to that effect, temper tantrums can be easy. No, seriously. Let them have them. N wants to scream and kick and shout? Fine by me. Let her get it out. There will be more of them and they will be bigger, and in more public places, if you give in. She knows that when she’s ready to talk, and calm down, she can get up out of time out and we can discuss that nap. She probably knows she’s really ready for it after all those tears and spent energy.

As one of the Big Lessons I've learned over the course of my life, and my nannying, is, There Will Always Be More Lessons, I'm sure this is to be continued. . .

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

OMFG...GG a Paris

It's that time again, Left and Right Bankers. And yes, soon you too Upper East-siders, but bless their golden hearts, Gossip Girl's ending the summer in Paris. Blair to the Right and the Louvre, Serena to the Left and the Vespa boys. But what's this? As GG herself said, the only beau for Blair is the one in her hair, having ruined her chances with the good Prince Grimaldi.

Never fear, dear, faux-pas-ing Blair, because a girl will always have her first (and some say, only) love, and that's fashion. And with New York Fashion week in full swing, why, it's never been easier to buy some love.

Or, if you're a West Plaza blogger with all her chips in the bank and staying there, it's never been easier to collect inspiration and update last season. Here's a look at what's getting me going this early autumn:

Blair has become Queen B in another capacity as of late, and that's pattern mixing. Serena keeps it in neutrals, another trend I'm loving this fall. Gray, especially, is a pretty and soft, and unexpected, neutral.

Here, she ties it all together with a Royal blue.
But the girls of Gossip Girl aren't the only ones getting my fashionable knickers in a twist for fall. Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors Fall ad campaigns highlight the ladylike, Mad Men moment going on - love, love love - and the 1970's sportswear ease.

Michal Kors really does me right by fall colors.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"Material Culture Studies," or, Can Indeed Objects Make Us Happy? (happy new york fashion week!)

In college, I once dreamed of being an archaeologist.

No, scratch that: when I was in 6th grade and we started our unit on ancient Egypt, I secretly took my textbook home that evening and read through the entire 5 or 6 chapters the book had on the subject. Twice. Maybe more.

So in college, when being an Art minor didn't seem like it would work out, I took my Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt class as a jumping off point (oh, and I suppose I can thank Indiana Jones for his influence too), and decided to try to move into the Archaeology minor my school offered. My first class? Material Culture Studies. The study of objects, possessions, things - and the human histories that both surrounded them, and could be derived from them.

I ultimately decided not to pursue that path, but being a clotheshorse, it's still a topic that especially interests me and the lessons I took away from this class were recently brought to my attention again by a Huffington Post, er, post entitled, "I Shop Therefore I Am: Can Objects Make Us Happy?"

As in, more than that fleeting moment of "oooh, pretty!"

For the anthropologist, objects are a connection to a culture past - a window into the way things might have used to be. They can be this to any ordinary person as well; I was fortunate enough to be left with purses, belts, and costume jewelry from both my great-grandmother and my nana. My great-grandmother's life spanned three centuries, and the collection of paste shoe clips, brooches, clip and screw-on earrings, and one long 1920's chain of (glass) pearls - it speaks to me in a way she never could, or did. Born in 1899 in a German community in Kansas, she moved to Lawrence in her 20's, and in the 20's, where she entered secretary school, and learned English. She was an independent twenty-something woman and when I carry a clutch of hers, it's a connection to the young woman she was, and to our shared experience, nearly 100 years later.

In her post, Dylan Kendall cites design critic Don Norman, who explains that: "people respond to objects based on three different aspects of the product: visceral--which refers to the initial impact the product has on us, its attractiveness and its overall aesthetic value; behavioral--which refers to the look and feel of a product, how well it serves its purpose and how easy it is to use; and reflective--which refers to how the product makes us feel, what image the product portrays and what messages it sends about us to others."

Our brain gets in on the action too, eliciting dopamine when we're faced with decisions such as, "should I give up shopping in order to save aggressively in order to live in Paris?" or "should I buy the ankle boots I've lusted after for two years now?" And it works either way we take that decision, helping us develop positive patterns and making us feel good about the choice we've made. In my case, I know how much I love clothes and fashion and style and it's something I've spent my lifetime building positive associations with; however, saving is something that recently makes me feel that really great sense of reward, even if it hasn't paid off in the big way I've planned yet.

Kendall's conclusion is: yes, objects make us feel good. But, "but in a culture in which we've pumped steroids into consumption, we should align our choices in a way that minimizes gluttony and, instead, maximizes our lifetime happiness."

My conclusion? This past weekend, I spoke with a new acquaintance about his recent residency in France, and his efforts to obtain his visa so that he can return to Paris, where he's been hired as an architect. His frustrations with American culture were clear, and many and one of his biggest complaints is the consumer culture that exists here, the need for more, more, more, and quantity over quality. I think it's an issue that everyone in America is aware of, yet still, quite often, a participant.

I pointed out that France, and Paris in particular, is a culture of style and fashion, but where we agreed, was that there, it was about quality. You may spend $250 on a sweater (or quite often more), but you have it for a lifetime. Point in case, the Louis Vuitton (aha, French label) speedy bag handed down (well, on loan) to me from my mother. Now, should she ever be willing to part with this bag permanently, I would not be surprised if it gets passed down to her granddaughter.

And when you're spending this much on clothes, you take care of them properly, but you also, ideally - and according to my friend - buy less of them. There are exceptions, obviously - celebrity culture has only helped to exacerbate, and make public this problem - but at least in my friend's experience, this is the rule in other cultures.

The feeling I love that clothes offer me? That would be style, which in turn, both produces by and is produced by confidence. Style is something quite different than quantity - it can be achieved with the smallest of touches and is yours and yours alone. This is a feeling, a way of being, and for me, something that enhances my happiness. Do I need a gazillion clothes to be stylish? Oh, at times, I may feel that way, but the truth is, there is no need for that. As I grow older, I find myself yearning for elegance and simplicity. Perhaps sometime we will see the day when I have but a few choice items in my closet - a Chanel jacket, a nude Loubitoun pump.

It's true that in a world of headache-inducing, world-spinning Forever 21's, less can often feel like a good thing. Surrounding yourself with things, things, things is something that is quite a bit less than admirable.

However, it is in our nature to collect. No, we may not take these things with us, but, it just may happen that, if their quality is there, they will be left to someone to take care of them for you. So you may as well select - or create - the things that surround you with care. As Kendall said, minimize gluttony, maximize lifetime happiness. It's not truly the object after all; it's the way it makes you feel, and the story, or stories, you enliven it with by doing just that - living.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Anthony Bourdain celebrates 100th episode guessed it, Paris!

In just one hour from now, 10/9 central, September 6, the Travel Channel will air the 100th episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. And where does this episode take place? I suppose I spoiled that with the title of this post, but, yes, in Paris. France, and Paris in particular, is kind of the mecca of food for Bourdain, especially seeing as how his family originates from France, and as a young boy he would spend summers there. Then there's his restaurant, the French Les Halles, and the fact that the French are very good at cooking with those bits of animal that most Americans turn their noses up - and that Bourdain relishes. It's a very fitting setting for his 100th episode.

I was in Paris when my favorite meal became just that. Le poulet roti avec les haricots verts, aussi avec les pommes purees. Roast chicken with green beans and mashed potatoes (though really, any kind of potatoes). I have the most divine roast chicken recipe that's made with an herb butter that you actually rub in between the skin and the meat several times, and surround by garlic cloves. Mmmm. And I just saute the haricots verts in some butter and minced garlic and it's perfection (Yes, I love butter).

So yes! I will be watching eagerly, and I'm sure, whilst salivating. While I wait for the episode to air though, here's some videos of Bourdain's take on the City of Lights:

Tony's Best Moments

How Tony Enjoys Paris

Who Says Paris Sucks?

I love his recommendation to while in Paris, just wake up and walk, do ordinary things. Bourdain's gig is kind of my dream gig, only I'd be writing rather than on tv. Writing and traveling and writing about it - what could be better?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Lakeside Labor Day

Happy Holiday weekend! I've just received proofs from Sara, for the photo shoot we did about two weeks back at Lakeside Lake, just outside of Lawrence, KS. It was a sunrise shoot, and while the previous night's storms didn't provide the light expected, early morning mists still made for a gorgeous shoot. Here are a few - the theme was very much playful, Kansas, country, and summery. There was a lot of playing around with props found around the lakehouse. And, if you know me, you might even see a few items from my own closet:

Check out the rest at - under Lakeside Labor Day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Urban Mining in KC

Does shopping for my apartment count as shopping? No, no, I know the answer to that. But I still thought I'd share some vintage market bliss.

A few months back, I purchased a Groupon for Urban Mining, a "basement business in the historic Meyer Building on Main Street," which specializes in "99% recycled furniture and decor for home, garden, soul at delightful prices...mak[ing] it fun to be green and beautiful!"


And, finally, last month, I found the chance to peruse Urban Mining on a sunny Saturday morning and came out with some great finds. See, they're only open one weekend - the first weekend - out of the month, which they do, they say, in order to keep their prices low and variety high. Here's what I came home with (thank you pre-shopping-ban Groupon!):

I thought this was a bargain: functional clock, chalkboard for kitchen notes, and lots of shelves and storage inside! I haven't hung it up yet, but, I'm excited about it.
So, it's only part of a typewriter. But, as a writer, even one who's only ever known computers, typewriters fascinate me - they're so very His Girl Friday and passionate, furious typing, so I've always wanted to have a collection. This will make a perfect photo holder, and sit on my desk as a reminder of what I want, and love to do.
Ah. Simple, and hung by my door to touch for luck.

Isn't this the most gorgeous vintage apron? Pockets + sheer, floral prettiness = my new dress apron for all the dinner parties I'll be having in my little apartment!
I didn't walk out with any major pieces, that's something I neither have the room nor the budget for. But between the beautiful dishes, shelves, pieces of pop culture history, and just, well, charm, I could probably never leave this place empty-handed.

This month, they're welcoming fall with open arms (okay, I am too) with autumnal colors, Halloween decorations (ooooh), back-to-school fun, and vintage and mid-century charming finds. They're also featuring author Amy Barickman, who will be there to sign her new book, Vintage Notions: An Inspirational Guide to Needlework, Cooking, Sewing, Fashion and Fun on Friday from 1-4 pm.

Urban Mining Homewares will be open Friday and Saturady 9 am to 6 pm (welcoming stragglers 'til 7 on Friday) and Sunday, from noon to 5 pm. Go to Urban Mining Homewares for more details and directions and trust me, you don't want to miss this! I found it nearly impossible to leave last month, even after I had already purchased and packed up the car.

(P.S. There's this antique key cabinet by the front desk, it's gorgeous, and um, don't buy it - I'm counting on that beauty staying there until I return from Paris).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trazzler "On the Road" Contest - Be a dear, and vote please!

Happy September! And happy rainy, productive mid-week morning, to that. If I might ask a favor from anyone who happens upon this, I've just entered a writing contest over at Trazzler, a travel writing site where users write reviews of places, all places, and things to see. This particular contest had to do with forgotten places, hidden places, places one might happen along when, yes, you guessed it, on the road.

It took me a minute to think of where to write about. It's a place I've been thinking about quite a bit lately. A place I've been to twice; the first time, after a trip to nearby Wiliamsburg, Virginia, on a quest to continue to follow the stories I read in books, we headed up north towards Norfolk and under the bay towards Chincoteague Island, where we stood on a wild winter beach on Assateague Island, surrounded by dunes and sea grass and wind and whispers of wild animals, birds, and sea creatures. Virginia, place of stories - we had started in the home of Felicity, American Girl, but also Jamestown, and Monticello, sites of American history, and ended at the home of Misty of Chincoteague.

Chincoteague was the town time forgot, in a purposeful way; the townsfolk had made sure of the lack of chain restauraunts and hotels and when we went back, we instead stayed in a cottage, with geese and gulls in the yard, and a plank dock that stretched out yards into the Chesapeake Bay. My sister and I spent delightful hours attaching string to chicken necks and tossing them off the edge, laying down to watch the crabs scuttle towards them, in the clear few feet of bay water. We'd quietly, slowly pull them up towards us, up out of the water, and then shout for dad to handle the snapping claws, and ultimately, handle them for dinner.

Come to think of it, I was a rather picky eater back then and I think I refused to eat our fresh caught crab. Mistake I should always regret, but I was not afraid of the ice cream and waffles and the local ice cream shop, and I do remember braving a fried clam or two from my dad's dinner at a seafood restaurant.

Oh, there were so many things to be done; my sister and I rented a tandem bike one day and rode it to the beach (a battle I'll never forget), and watched as people crabbed and fished in the salt marshes the drew the divide between populated Chincoteague, and wilder, oceanside Assateague.

Assateague, where the wild ponies lived.

As much as it kills me not to finish a story, I have to take this moment to implore the reader to visit and read. Click the green button, "save" to vote - the person with the most votes by September 30 wins the contest. My challenge was to write about Chincoteague in no more than 160 words. I would so much appreciate a vote, if you read this and like it.

And sometime soon, I'll finish my story.