Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Do People Post Photos of Their Clothing?

  100_1159100_1138    100_1149 100_1068100_1157

Okay, I know not everyone does this.  But I’m fascinated with the blogs where people post their daily clothes choices.  And I keep wanting to do it myself.  Why, though?  I also keep arguing with myself about it. 

In the interest of Blog-As-Therapist, here goes.  I figure there’s no harm in trying anything once, right? 

If you’re a reader who has posted photos of your own clothes, why do you do it, and what do you get out of it?  I’d really like to know! 

(People usually say where they got what they have. Everything in my photos is a mix of new and post-consumer.)

And here are a few parting thoughts. 

I had no idea of the character. But the moment I was dressed, the clothes and the make-up made me feel the person he was. I began to know him, and by the time I walked onto the stage he was fully born.”  Charlie Chaplin

“She wears her clothes as if they are thrown on with a pitchfork.”  Jonathan Swift

“Style is a magic wand, and turns everything to gold that it touches.”  Logan Pearsall Smith. 

Happy Tuesday! 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Fresh Flowers, Recession-Style

I adore flowers and am lucky enough to work as a fill-in floral designer at a local florist a few times a year.  Recently I visited a blog on which people shared what they could not give up in the recession. Many said “fresh flowers.”  So I thought I’d post some ideas for enjoying fresh flowers without going broke.

Gerbera daisies (pictured above) are pretty reasonable, and you don’t need many to make an impact.  However, they’re very susceptible to bacteria and need a very clean vase.  Having stems wired at flower shop will make them last a lot longer.  If they wilt, re-cut the stems and put them in deep, hot water for a few hours.   
Lilies last up to 2 weeks, and often smell wonderful.  Buy stems with lots of buds, and pick off pollen-covered anthers.
Alstroemeria last 1-2 weeks and are reasonably priced.
Carnations have been maligned as old-fashioned, but there are simply gorgeous colors, like the pale green “Prado” above.  To modernize them, I like to display them in bunches without other flowers.  They last up to 2 weeks, and smell good.  Changing water is important.   
Anthuriums can last up to 6 weeks in the vase. 

Other ideas:  Vases make a difference.  If you have a wide-mouthed vase you’re going to need to spend more to make the flowers stand up and look arranged.  I like to use several heavy-bottomed, skinny-necked vases and have one stem (like a gerbera) in each. 

Also, think about where you spend the most time and have your flowers in the small spaces in those areas—like on a table by a reading chair; by your bed; on the kitchen table.  You’ll get a bigger impact from a small arrangement than if you tried to decorate a whole huge living room with flowers.  In my tiny house, this rule of thumb is a given.

Finally, remember these tips for preserving your flowers. 

Always remove foliage that will be below the waterline. Otherwise bacteria can develop on it, and kill your flowers.

Change water frequently.

Cut flower stems at an angle with a sharp knife (not scissors) when you get them home.  Recut them if you think about it every other day or so. 

Putting the vase vase in a cool place or refrigerator at night will prolong vase life. 

Keep away from fruit (flowers don’t like ethylene gas), heat, and sun. 

Enjoy flowers!  They add so much to daily life.  Don’t they? 

Please Welcome My First Guest Blogger

Hi, I’m SEESPOTRUN, and I am a sixth grader at Washington Middle School in beautiful (and very snowy today) Missoula, Montana. I am currently 12 years old, and I enjoy playing soccer, skiing, and playing with my friends and dogs. A few of my pastimes are writing, violin, photography (I took these pictures of the outfits I designed) and playing sports.

I am posting today because my mom SALLYMANDY invited me to be a guest blogger on “The Blue Kimono.” I have always liked fashion design, and even though I would never wear some of the outfits I’ve created—I’ve enjoyed every second of making them up.

What I think about when I make a new outfit is, “Make sure that there are lots and lots of vibrant, awesome colors and patterns.” When I dress, I make sure that I wear something I love. Even if it’s something you don’t like very much like a dull gray shirt, you can spice it up by wearing cut off jeans and an orange sweatshirt! Even if it doesn’t match that’s okay because it’s something you like.


When I designed this outfit, I was thinking since I love to base a lot of my outfits off of funky shoes, I decided to base this outfit off of my favorite pair of Chuck Taylors. I also was thinking of something a little more sophisticated than what I usually wear, but you can make a pair of jeans and some tanks and Converse as sporty looking or as dressed up as you want.


Creating this outfit for me was pretty simple. Like I said before, I love clothes with lots and lots of funky, bright colors and patterns. So I used one of my favorite sweatshirts and one of my favorite shirts to work with. I also used a skirt I used to wear in 5th grade, and I don’t wear it anymore but I used it because the blue in the skirt matches some of the blue in the sweatshirt. And the little bit of orange on the shirt matches the little bit of orange in the sweatshirt. And black goes with everything so the leggings add a nice finishing touch.


On this outfit, I didn’t think about it very much. I don’t wear this sweatshirt very often, and I love blue, so I decided to throw together an outfit of all blue. I think this outfit would look pretty good with my blue Converse, because this one is mostly all solids, and all solids are easy to work with.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and happy Sunday!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Flashback Friday: Favorite Place #1

In 1955 my grandparents built a summer cabin at Placid Lake, Montana.  I grew up going there every summer, and it’s still one of my favorite places.

I’m pretty sure the cabin was my grandfather’s favorite place, too.  These pictures were taken in 1964 when he and some buddies went up in the fall for a hunting trip.     

I think he’s getting up early…although the window shows it’s dark outside, so maybe he’s going to bed.  I love his expression.     


My grandfather was a businessman with many friends in western Montana.  Here’s one content-looking fellow on the trip.     



And another (put on your pants, young man).    


Here’s the outside of the cabin with my grandfather coming around the corner (the lake in the background)…


…and here’s a similar view forty-five years later.  It looks pretty much the same.  That cute girl in the road is one of the fourth generation of family to enjoy going to “the lake.”   

2001-06-28 #0587 - Halle at Placid Lake cabin

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Few Things I Won’t be Wearing in Montana This Fall

Alexander McQueen  Fall 2009


Jeremy Scott  Fall 2009


Junya Watanabe  Fall 2009

gilesdeacon Giles Deacon  Fall 2009

(I couldn’t resist:  how funny would it be to wear one of these to scrape the snow off my Subaru?  That birdcage thing might crack the windshield.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Handful of Birdsong and a Small Cup of Light

Today I’m feeling a little somber.  It’s something to do with the economy, and how lives—including mine—might need to change pretty dramatically because of it.  That’s unknown right now, but possible.

It’s also about recent events in the news.  How quickly what’s precious can be lost.  


Last Sunday, my family and I went downhill skiing for the first and last time this season.  While we used to recreate almost whenever we wanted in winters past, this year we’re being very careful with money.  I was thinking of Natasha Richardson.  I made H. rent a helmet—her own was outgrown—but I didn’t get one for myself.  I’d already spent too much money. 

We returned home that day tired but glad to have gone.  It wasn’t until Monday that we learned about the plane crash in Butte that killed fourteen people—a couple mountain passes over from where we were enjoying our last ride up the chairlift.  

I know the cemetery where they crashed.  My sister and I drive by it  when we go vintage clothes shopping in Butte.  It’s on a dirty commercialized road that could be anywhere in America, punctuated by a Walmart, McDonalds, and strip malls.  A friend and I stopped there at a gas station by the cemetery three summers ago, too.  We were on our way home from taking our daughters camping.  I remember the warm breeze that came in our open car windows from the cemetery. 

Now I have to wonder why they had so many people in that plane.   Were those little kids allowed to move around on it, maybe throwing the balance off?  And was it merciful that the families died together?  

photography.jpg Photography:) image by Y0URM0M23

And thinking of the plane, the organization I work for hires small planes to fly over the mountains and forests in our mission area, several times a winter.  I went on one of these flights about a month ago.  I scouted the mountain lakes beneath us and tried to match them to names on the map.  I was nervous.  I thought about my daughter.   

Shortly after that I offered a special friend of our organization a seat on one of our flights.  She said maybe she’d come, “if the conditions are really right.”  But today I called her back and said, “I don’t think I want to offer you that, after all.”   

I need to stop from time to time to acknowledge that life is about loss as much as joy.  Loss of a way of life, a loved one, a dream.  Because that’s real, and the real is all we have.  This helps me move on to the real joy that’s there, too.    

Tonight I’m drinking in these feelings expressed by the 18th century poet, William Collins.  I like them.  They’re real. 

“But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,
barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.”

turbulence Turbulence, by Jean Albus

Monday, March 23, 2009

Beauty Knows No Age: Daphne Selfe

Age 80. 

That’s it for today. 

Happy Tuesday! 

“Post Consumer” Clothes Shopping

I’ve been a second-hand shopper for a long time.  In the 1980s, I was a college student in Tucson, Arizona, where the first Buffalo Exchange Store was founded.  It was there I overcame my queasiness about “used” clothes and started a life-long adventure in creative shopping.   

lalyvintage Laly Vintage Clothes, Prague

People who buy second-hand as an eco-friendly lifestyle choice are starting to call it “post-consumer” shopping.  I like this term.  It incorporates a deeper philosophy than mere “thrift shopping.”

Over the years I’ve spent a lot on new clothing—mostly for my first professional job.  But I keep coming back to second-hand.  Here are some reasons why, with a few photos of basic pieces from my closet, which I found “post consumer.”   

Reason One:  I believe that if my washer and dryer can sanitize a baby diaper, they can take care of any second hand clothing issues I might have.  For shoes and bags, I believe in alcohol.   

Reason Two:  Uniqueness.  I’ve never seen anyone else wearing a coat like this vintage wool one.  It fits me well, and it was $12.00.  I removed the belt and belt-loops as they do nothing for me.  I love the princess seams and the pointy collar. 

2009-03-15 # 060Same thing for these boots that my sister gave me from her Etsy shop, Rocky Mountain Retro.  They’re warm and comfortable and completely fun to wear.   

2009-03-15 # 065 

Reason Three:  Quality.  This was the reason I bought these Doc Marten shoes.  They stand up to Montana winters, and their clunky shape works well with my figure.   The Olaf Daughters clogs---same thing.  If I polish them, the Docs look the same as they did when I bought them nine years ago.  (Cute doggies:  first quality, paid full price.) 

2009-03-15 # 064

Also, I can find better quality brands at second-hand stores than I can in our local “new” stores.  I found this Ann Taylor vest for a dollar, and I’m using it now with summer blouses to help transition to spring.  I love the knitted pattern (which you can’t see very well).   

2009-03-15 # 051

Same with this leather bag from the Sundance Catalog, which set me back three dollars. 

I think I’ve really improved the quality of my wardrobe in ways I couldn’t have if I were only shopping our local retail stores. 

2009-03-15 # 071

Reason Four:  Ability to try something new without a big investment.  I bought these two moderate quality tops (one summer, one winter) with horizontal stripes to test the theory that small stripes are lengthening.  I wouldn’t have paid full price to test this out, but I’m now really enjoying these pieces. 

2009-03-15 # 072 2009-03-15 # 055

Likewise these Hilliard and Hansen shoes.  The times I’ve had to wear heels in the past five years is approximately once, but when those occasions come up and I don’t have anything I like, it’s bad.  Why not have these hanging around?  They’re neutral, pretty cute, comfortable, and the only “heels” I’d feel safe wearing.  And if I never wear them?  They were six dollars. 

(I’m really careful with buying things for “maybe” days.  That’s led to too many mistakes.  But for something neutral, classic, and moderately well made which could very well have a special occasion use, I’m glad to have them on hand.)

2009-03-15 # 068

Reason Five: Options, as in the freedom to spend less on clothing to save more for travel; to cut up a sweater, make into something else, and not have a heart attack; to be less beholden to the clothing industry.  And, last but not least, to enjoy my clothes hobby with a decreased sense of angst at the human and environmental costs. 

To finish up, here are a few interesting links I found that are related to post consumer clothes shopping.  Hope you like them as I did. 

“Old Clothes, New Looks” by Alexandra Palmer and Hazel Clark is a fascinating-looking book (I’ve only read reviews) about second-hand clothes circulating in history, and how the practice has affected cultures.  I want to read this. 

Great ideas for remaking an old or second-hand sweater. 

A link with information on cleaning second hand clothes. 

And here’s one of the many sites by people who recycle post-consumer clothes into new products:  Armoursansanguish

What are your thoughts about post-consumer clothes? 

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flashback Friday


"Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

Helen Keller


Sallymandy, age 4

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Things Not to Give Up in a Recession: Art!

Have you ever read a promising new author who tells how literature saved his or her young, confused life through the redemptive value of J.D. Salinger or Shakespeare?  Or maybe this happened to you?   

For me it was Euripides.  I was haunted by Medea; and, later, by the heroes of John Steinbeck.  The more tortured the moral predicament, the deeper I dove in. 


“Medea,” Rebecca Parker, www.deviantart.com

In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron encourages would-be artists to expose ourselves to all manner of human creative expression.  Poet Kathleen Norris wrote in The Cloister Walk that literature was her first form of religion.  Art feeds art—whether one’s art is a perfect cake or an original piece of choreography.

I live across the street from a university with a good reputation in the arts.  There are dozens of arts opportunities every year that I can absorb—many of them free or nearly so. 

For instance, last summer my husband and I took our daughter to an exhibit of Rembrandt’s “Beggar Etchings.”  When have we ever had Rembrandts—or many other things this old—in our little town?  These etchings are almost painfully realistic; not even sympathetic necessarily.  It was exciting just to be in the room with something the artist worked on. 


“Beggar Seated Warming His Hands at a Chafing Dish,” Rembrandt van Rijn 

Then there was the snowy night I went to a faculty recital by soprano Anne Basinski, who was being accompanied by my friend Lee Heuermann.  I went to support Lee, and didn’t really want to be there because I was in the throes of an icky cold.  But when Anne and Lee sang Lakme’s Flower Duet, I shut my eyes and I was transported (you can click on the link and listen). 

This week I’m going to see a new exhibit of paintings by Montana artist Fra Dana, an American Impressionist.  Dana was a cattleman’s wife torn between her ranch duties and love of art.  In 1897, the year after her marriage, she began to study at the Chicago Art Institute with William Merritt Chase.  Chase’s other students included Georgia O’Keeffe and Joseph Stella (and his “Girl in a Blue Kimono” is coincidentally up there on my page).  A prenuptial agreement allowed Fra (pronounced “Fray”) Dana to study in New York and Paris with some of the most important American Impressionist artists.  Here’s one of her paintings:

breakfastbyfradana   “Breakfast,” by Fra Dana

…and here’s a portrait of Dana by William Merritt Chase—also part of the exhibit on campus:

Portrait_of_Fra_Dana_by_William_Merritt_Chase_1897  “Portrait of Fra Dana,” William Merritt Chase

She doesn’t look very happy, and I don’t think she was.  After trying for several years to mix her art and traveling with the life of a ranch woman, Dana gave up her painting dreams.  Near the end of her life she wrote that she could fight the world and win, but could not fight both the world and her husband and win. 

I’ve enjoyed many musical and dance events in this town,  including Emmylou Harris, Elton John, and the Ailey II Dance Company (below). 


When the Rolling Stones played Missoula a couple years ago, though, my dislike of crowds won out.  I stayed home, and listened to the thumping of the concert from our house.     

The Stones don’t exactly qualify as belonging to “the arts” in my mind, though “Sympathy for the Devil” has some of my favorite lyrics, and “Angie” will always break my heart.  And even Sir Reginald—a favorite since grade school—isn’t really “fine art.” 

But while we’re on the subject of what could be called popular art, let’s not forget the summer day my daughter came home and said casually, “Oh did you know the prince of Russia is in town talking about Shrinky Dinks?” 

Say what? 

It took a long time to believe her, but she was right:  it was Prince Andrew Romanov (yes, that Romanov) at the Missoula Art Museum showing his collection of Shrinky-draw-on-plastic-and-bake-it-Dinks.  On these shrunken pieces of plastic he’s depicted his colorful and singular life.  Apparently the old gentleman has a great sense of humor.   

Who but the grand-nephew of the last tsar could achieve international fame as an artist in this medium?  But look at this example: 


Balmoral Castle,” Prince Andrew Romanov

I love it!  Who’s “A” and “K” in here?  Is it Andrew and the King? 

And here’s the 80-something prince himself, photographed here in Missoula: 


What a fantastic face, to say nothing of his neckerchief and mustache.  I wish we’d met him that day.  By the time we heard about it (and believed it), the event was over.  Andrew has a book about his life called The Boy Who Would Be Tsar.  It’s illustrated with his…um…images. 

We’re not in New York or Paris here, or even Boise, Idaho.  But:  I love being able to skip across the street after dinner and take in something beautiful or fascinating that elevates me above the mundane.  And there is beauty, and fascination, and passionate creation by highly talented people.  How I appreciate what they give us.   

So for now, I’m looking forward to more of the same in my town.  Next month the university is presenting “Medea,” and I’m going to be first in line.  Because we’re in a recession and I need the arts more than ever, and because it’s Euripides, who’s been with me for a long time now.   

Monday, March 16, 2009

An Award Pour Moi


Ingrid at Fashion is My Muse nominated me for the Excessively Diverting Blog Award today.  (Ingrid also has a lovely blog on books called Blog of a Bookworm.) It’s always a pleasure to be recognized for one’s efforts, within Blogland and out.   Thank you, Ingrid!

I’m rather uncomfortable choosing e-friends to nominate in the interest of not leaving others out. There is one person, however, who’s been so helpful since I started blogging that I’ll nominate just her:  Hazel at The Clever Pup.  

The aim of the award is to acknowledge writing excellence in the spirit of Jane Austen's genius in amusing and delighting readers with her irony, humour, wit and talent for keen observation. Recipients will uphold the highest standards in the art of sparkling banter, witty repartee and gentle reprove.

Hazel, please claim your award. You may post the badge, list the name of the person who nominated you and link to their blog. Then you many nominate others that you feel meet or exceed the standards set forth. But if you are award-weary or have already won this award before, please just enjoy the honour!!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

What Can’t You Give Up During a Recession?

My short list:

1.  Healthy food.

2.  Enough free time to spend with friends and family.

4.  Parmiggiano Reggiano.

5.  My office…  

2009-03-05 # 042                      

…downtown in a converted historic hotel, built before Montana was a state.  This is the view looking toward the south window.  The patchwork kimono in the window is a handmade, vintage silk piece I acquired for $18.  Yes, I know.  It should not be hanging in the sun.   

This is where I do my work-work.  I do my blogging at home.  The owner of this building and my friend, the encaustic artist Leslie Van Stavern Millar, makes these small rooms available at cost to local artists and writers.  Since my husband works at home, everybody wins if Mom works downtown.  Does that make sense??  

Here’s a view looking down the hall to the other studios.  

2009-03-05 # 045

And here’s my desk, my computer, and my loud pink water cup.   

2009-03-05 # 044

What can’t you live without?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My Twelve Year Milestone

On International Women’s Day I happen to be thinking of my own journey in motherhood.  My daughter turned twelve this weekend.  Each year as we celebrate her birthday, I also remember other mothers who are marking another year of parenthood.  Motherhood certainly isn’t the only way for women to make a difference in the world.  It’s been the most profound one for me. 

Here’s a favorite photo of my daughter, H., on Ruby Beach in  Washington State, taken last summer.  We arrived there on a rainy, chilly, day, but had much fun chasing the surf in bare feet.  I love this picture because H. is the only real color on the beach, and her feet are skipping over the surface.  (The beach is named Ruby because it’s said the sand has a reddish cast to it.  Do you see it?  I don’t.) 

ruby beach 2

(photo by D.L. Smith, Jr.)

This next photo shows what we saw the night H. was born as we drove to the birthing center in Fairbanks, Alaska, where we were living at the time.  Remember Comet Hale-Bopp?  It was out in full force that night, along with the northern lights. 


I didn’t make it all the way through labor without medication, but ended up giving birth at the hospital at the Army base in Fairbanks.  I’d been hoping to avoid going there.  The room was stark.  The staff were all wearing fatigues.  But they were wonderfully professional and kind, and helped me through a tough labor without a C-section.  There were three giant pine trees out the window that I could see and that seemed like friendly spirits there for support. 

Very soon, I came to understand what my grandmother meant when she told me that soon I’d wonder how I could ever live without H.  Here’s a poem that captures that feeling, about three months into motherhood.


On this night within night                                                               of the blue arctic winter,                                                             my house shakes down to sleep.                                               Night light and slippers                                                                    I sink and sigh, too                                                                          O couch, be my lover.

Upstairs, hidden                                                                              is a glowing spark sleeping.                                                          She shines, possibility                                                             leaking under the door.

I love her

I miss her

the union we had when                                                                    my body contained her.

She plunders me,                                                                             wrenches me open.                                                                         I am the soft bruisy flesh                                                               of a fruit near its center.

Please, someone, somewhere,                                                         make up a new language                                                               for the smooth nap of hair                                                             on my lips, for the press                                                                of her kitten-paw fingers, her                                                       tiny clean earthworm of mouth                                                         on my nose.

Write down her notes       

which my ears                                                                                 were made perfect to hear.

Thank you, women everywhere, who nurture people, art, ideas, and causes for all of us.