Saturday, April 21, 2018

One Point Four

Display at Heller Nature Center, Highland Park, Illinois

We moved to Highland Park when I was ten. Looking through eBird checklists from northern Illinois, Danny asked if I'd ever been to Heller Nature Center where there were a number of good bird sightings being reported. I had to confess that I'd lived just down the street from the place, had routinely rode my bike past it, and still never summoned enough curiosity about the world around me to bother going in.

We'd planned a day for hiking and birding, but the fickle Midwestern weather had other ideas. Alternating between sleet, freezing rain, and eventually snow, we tried braving the 40 mph winds but quickly understood it wasn't going to be a nice day for a walk in the woods. Earlier, we'd tried to explore the lakefront by the remains of what used to be Ft. Sheridan, but conditions were even worse at the shore. Defeated, but unwilling to just head back into Chicago, we stopped in the visitor's center at Heller.
Reading space well stocked with nature books, bird guides, etc.





After my initial shock at how nice it was, I understood that's what taxes go to in well-off towns. We spent some time birding from a window that looked out on some feeders and Danny managed a checklist, keeping the day from being a complete loss. As we were just a few minutes down the road from where I lived, Danny asked if we could see the neighbourhood. Not to see where I lived, but to see the monstrosity house built by one of our "famous" neighbours. We called him One Point Four, because that's how much his house cost in millions.

It had come up, as Danny was talking about a sports team outside of Illinois. "Our neighbour used to own that team", I mentioned casually. I'd never thought that was strange. Successful businesspeople (in this case, someone that made a fortune providing the most mundane service) often go on to buy  sports teams. I mean, why work so hard if you don't get to spend it on something you'd like?  Anyway, other than remembering the school bus stop was at the corner of his front lawn, and he always waved to us as he left for work, I can't say much about him as a person. Oh, there were rumours of wild parties, but I was never invited to those😀. Anyway, Danny had never seen a truly over-the-top posh neighbourhood, so off we went.

When we moved to Highland Park in the 70's it wasn't because my parents wanted to. After several heart attacks and eventually a triple bypass (a fairly new surgery at the time) my mother wanted to live in a home where she wouldn't be required to climb stairs. Unable to find an existing home they liked in Skokie, someone suggested they see a new subdivision being built in Highland Park where they could buy a lot and custom build the house they'd like.

At the time, Highland Park west of the highway was still rural. I mean, rural. Like horse farms, and fields rural. There were about a dozen homes already built in the newly developed area, and the street where we eventually built our house was only partially paved. The sidewalk wasn't even completed, ending abruptly in a pile of mud. The few existing homes were very, very, fancy. My mother caught sight of one, like a miniature version of the White House complete with white columns and a sprawling horseshoe driveway in front. "We don't belong here." She observed. We didn't, but went ahead and did it anyway.

In the decades since, the area has been completely built-up with newer, larger estates. As we turned in, my husband noticed the house that had so intimidated my mother back in the early 70's. He was struck by the state of disrepair and the pretentions that must have inspired someone to build such a horrible thing in the first place. The lawn was a wreck, the paint was all peeling, and the overgrown bushes, now trees gave it a Grey Gardens vibe. You couldn't possibly use that driveway without doing serious damage to your car.

The people that built homes in that subdivision weren't from "old money" families. They were newly rich in the era of WIN ("Whip Inflation Now") when the rest of the country was struggling. Where it might have been gauche to flaunt wealth in most places, no such social prohibitions existed there. I'd never encountered people that would start conversations with a stranger by asking how many square feet your home had, until I moved to Highland Park.

I've always been thankful that my personality was pretty much formed before we moved  to Highland Park or I might have had a harder time with the fact that I absolutely did not fit in. I'm not always in the right, but being the sort of person that is willing to believe I am, despite any evidence to the contrary provided just enough insulation to get through eight years of living on the North Shore. I'm always struck when I run into people that grew up in Highland Park how they end up in the extremes. One person became an investment banker, another a Catholic Worker. Highland Park does that to people, I guess.

The house I lived in didn't look too bad, and I noticed they built an addition because...it wasn't already large enough?! The quince bush/tree was gone, understandably as unless you particularly liked quince it would quickly cover the lawn in fruit each autumn. The other trees that were mere twigs when we planted them were now fully grown and offered shade and privacy dwarfing the one-level ranch style house. I couldn't see the backyard, but I'm certain they didn't leave it wild prairie as my parents had. I'd guess there was a pool, and possibly a tennis court back there by now.

We drove through, looking at the homes that seemed so opulent in the 70's but had aged poorly and in another town with favourable zoning might have been divided up into several living spaces. Where older homes in established neighbourhoods can blend in without drawing too much attention, even being desirable housing stock, these properties, each more outrageous than the last and secluded in a subdivision appeared a museum of bad taste-and not in a kitsch sort of way. Not every home was in a state of disrepair, but enough of them were, to dissuade anyone from wanting to buy there when so many newer, modern McMansions are being built just down the road. What will they look like in 40 years? I wonder how long it will be before the subdivision is razed for something newer to be built atop all that 70's brick?

We found One Point Four's house. It still looked like a windowless office building, but someone had replaced the strange panelling on the outside to give it a bit of a face lift. It was raining heavily, and the outside looked like someone had splashed water on a slate and the chalk had smeared in places.

The interesting thing about the house was what you couldn't see from the outside and would only know if you'd either been inside, or had seen it being built, as I had. The entire structure, which I can only describe as a gigantic, multi-storey box, is built around an equally gigantic boulder. No, not a "rock." A giant, maybe 20 Ft. tall boulder.

I remember when it arrived on the site. Naively, I thought it was something they'd put in the garden, and that it arrived prior to building so they could get it properly situated. Nah, they were going to build their house around the rock, and still leave room for an indoor pool. In comparison, spending your money on a sports team seems like a more reasonable investment. They were runoured to have paid cash for the house as well, which might have been true as the stagflation years of the 70's weren't a good time to be asking your banker for $1.4 million to build an ugly house around a boulder in the posh suburbs.

These days, the homes in planned communities have very little to tell them apart. Working off a handful of floorplans, a few exteriors to chose from, and a standard landscaping design you would be unlikely to find a builder willing to build a house around a rock, or stick a swimming pool in a courtyard. As crazy as some of those homes were (40ft. gold lion statues at either side of the drive?) at least they were distinctive. They weren't especially well built though, and less than fifty years on they look ready to collapse. I wonder about the people living in those houses today. Would a Highland Park address really be worth living with a giant boulder in your living room? I'm willing to bet they couldn't get $1.4 million for it today. Imagine the real estate listing.
"Six bedroom, four bath home in Highland Park. Indoor pool, eat-in kitchen with updated appliances, giant boulder in living room."

A better writer could find a lesson in all this about the impermanence of wealth where all that remains is a giant boulder, but I'm struggling to do it without sounding like a moralising prat. If my parents were still alive to see the decay of the neighbourhood it would undoubtedly bother them. Being the least ambitious person I know, seeing the present state of things felt pleasingly levelling to me. Perhaps for the first time in my life I felt successful. Not in the financial sense, rather in that I've never been so full of myself that I would entertain, much less follow through on building a house around a giant boulder, just because.



Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Ryebread That Killed Elvis

 My only real concern with going to Chicago for two Cubs games was parking. I'd forgotten quite a bit after being away from the place for more than 25 years, but the trauma experience of trying to park in Lakeview isn't something that ever really leaves you. It hasn't improved any over the years. I really don't mind driving in Chicago, but parking is shit. We were spending the week staying in the suburbs, so it made sense to use public transportation. I spent the first ten years of my life living two blocks from the Skokie Swift station but I can't remember ever taking the train.

When I was a child, the Swift was only a commuting line that ran limited hours from Skokie to the Howard "L" station during the week. Today, it runs every fifteen minutes (or so) seven days a week. As a child, we played in the empty station on weekends and *cough* my sister might have let me "drive" her car around the abandoned lot on a Sunday afternoon (I sat on her lap and steered as she controlled the pedals) but these days children have to find other ways to get into mischief. The newsagent's next to the station that had pinball machines in back is gone, with a Target store standing in its place. The Greyhound bus station is now a Starbucks sharing the space with some sort of exotic massage parlour. The Yardstick fabric store, with their giant yardstick sign in front is gone as well, replaced by a sandwich shop. The clothing store, Just Pants (a name my mother found hilarious ,"It's Just Pants. Get it?!") is a currency exchange, and the beauty shop, Shear Genius in the beautiful Bronx building sits abandoned. The garage where my dad kept his truck is now an upscale ice cream shop, and the drugstore across the street is a matress showroom. One constant though, has been Kaufman's delicatessen and bakery. The original building burned a few years back, but they rebuilt in a way that kept the spirit of the original place alive while incorporating modern improvements such as seating and a public restroom.
Kichels (puffy egg biscuits) from Kauffman's

Living just a short walk from Kaufman's meant I spent a good chunk of my young life there, mostly taking a number and waiting to be served. The old store had a bench on the bakery side where you could wait (and it was always crowded, so wait you did) and some charity had a metal rack of paperback books they sold for a quarter. I bought a copy of Future Shock once, but it was boring, so I gave it to a friend😀.

My sister wasn't sent to Kaufman's much after she misunderstood my dad's joke of, "Tell the counterman to keep his finger off the scale", and she duitifully repeated the message. "My father says you should keep your finger off the scale...and can we please have a pound of roast beef also?" After that, it was my job to buy the cold cuts and bread.
Mr. ETB had a sandwich called, Moshe's Pupik. Or was it Zaydie's Heartburn? I can't keep track of the novelty names.

When we stopped in, the Eastern European woman working at the counter who probably had a real job wherever she came from but was now reduced to slicing bread for suburban idiots like myself, kindly offered me a sample of something. Perhaps overwhelmed by my first visit to my old neighbourhood in years, or more likely because I have a terrible habit of over-sharing not terribly interesting stories about myself, I blurted out, "That's how I found out I was allergic to cashews! The old woman behind the counter gave me a cookie and I got two steps outside on the sidewalk before grabbing my throat and throwing up. My sister was mad when she found out because the old woman never gave her a cookie." The woman, let's call her Masha because she looked like a Masha, nodded without expression and replied, "That is very interesting. Do you want bread with or without seeds?"

One day in the mid-70's, I walked into Kaufman's to find several people talking excitedly. "The king is dead" a woman told me. It took me a minute to figure out she meant Elvis, but I was struck by how upset people were. It occured to me that the last time someone important had died (Mayor Daley), I was also standing in line at Kaufman's waiting to buy a ryebread.

"Do you want bread with or without seeds?" Masha asked, jolting me back to the present. Wondering who might die as I stood in line ordering my bread, I replied, "With, please" before my mouth got ahead of my brain again and I cheerfully joked, "You guys make killer bread." Fastening the twist-tie with a flourish, Masha nodded, "Very nice bread. Pay at front."





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Fishwich in Hooverville



After enough hours on the road my culinary and ethical standards slipped far enough downward that a filet-0-fish sandwich in rural Iowa became my least-bad choice when measured against a hot dog in a gas station that had likely been spinning on that greased rotisserie for days. I used to think no one bought those sausages and they were just for show, then I met my husband.

You know that disoriented feeling you get after being on the road for a while where you pull off and just sit quietly before making certain your legs still work when getting out of the car? It was like that, but combined with the disorientation that comes with being in a small, midwestern farming community. Unless you knew better, it was just an exit along the Interstate with a gas station, a MacDonald's, and newly ploughed fields. Obviously, I missed the brown roadsigns indicating there was a historic site nearby.

My Ukrainian grandmother, Clara absolutely adored fillet-o-fish sandwiches. Granted, she'd lost most of her teeth by the time the sandwich debuted, and food you can mash against the roof of your mouth without risking damage to the remaining molar does have a certain appeal, but really I think it was the bun. Soft white bread from flour so refined and bleached it almost seems an entirely manufactured, highly engineered product of chemical origin was as far away from dark, chewy rye bread as it gets-in America the peasants can eat white bread-with a deep fried square of Alaskan pollack as a bonus.

I haven't been in that many fast-food joints in recent years. It was never my first choice for a meal, even as a child. We had a MacDonald's in our neighbourhood that began as a walk-up window. A few years later they added indoor seating, and my mum liked to have a hamburger now and then. I think it was something like 15 cents, so it was easy to justify on a budget. My dad wouldn't touch the stuff, and with a perfectly good delicatessen across the street serving sandwiches, he didn't feel obligated to try it. I'd go along, and because I was one of those kids with big eyes that always looked pathetic without really trying, someone would custom-make me a toasted American cheese on a bun so I'd have something to eat. It was a smallish-town in the 60's, I wouldn't try that today.

"Wow, this is a really nice MacDonald's" I blurted out as we shuffled in. And it was! Light-flooded from big windows, and a decor that had 1930's looking photographs on the walls. "Look at that guy in a fedora..." I started to say before the quote alongside the picture started sinking in. "Oh shit, that's Herbert Hoover."

I mean, I knew Hoover was from Iowa, even if I didn't know West Branch was his hometown. I wasn't really prepared for the irony of having lunch in a place with a big sign outside offering employment for a non-living wage of $10.10 per hour festooned with images of the American President at the time of the stock market crash that began the Great Depression. "I'm eating a goddamned fishwich in Hooverville" I thought, but didn't say aloud as the friendly locals tamping fistfulls of fried potatoes into their pie holes might have taken offense at describing their town as a Hooverville. Still, $10.10 an hour can't buy you much, even in small town Iowa and the hamburgers cost considerably more than 15 cents these days.

To be fair, Hoover didn't cause the Great Depression, and though his response to it was seen by many as, "Too little too late", the country had been through economic depressions before and he was following precedent in the way he dealt with it. Still, if it happens on your watch, you own it and in Hoover's case his legacy has largely focused on the economic suffering of the 1930's.

A few miles down the interstate on the Illinois side is the historic site where Ronald Reagan was born. I didn't bother stopping to check if the fast food offerings in town carried a Reagan theme as there's only so much irony I can take in the space of a few hours.


Friday, April 06, 2018

Here Comes the...Snow

2-4 inches of snow for us tonight with more on the way Sunday. Look how thrilled I am with that. You can just see the excitement in my eyes. We've been setting records for cold temperatures as well. I'm not too terribly worried about the garden as the only thing emerging yet is sorrel-and god knows nothing will kill that. I might put the fleeces out Sunday night if it really does go to 10 degrees F. I really hope that turns out to be wrong-I don't like running our furnace in April.
The sun was out today, so we made the best of it and had a quick walk around Chalco Hills. There's always deer roaming about, and we saw several but somehow I was unable to get any photos. I don't like to get too close-being charged by a deer isn't my idea of a nice afternoon. Anyway, I did write a song some time ago about the NRD (Natural Resources District). Imagine a blues tune with plenty of harmonica.

Oh the NRD they got deer all over the road
Road
Road
Oh the NRD they got deer all over the road
Road
Road
If you don't wanna hit a deer
Don't drive down the NRD road
Road
Road.
                             
You know there's deer in there.
 I'm wearing the world's ugliest comfort shoes, but they match. My foot is still painful, but I can walk, even if I limp a bit. I'm glad to have that stupid boot off but it will be quite some time before I can wear anything narrow or with a heel. That's okay, by this time tomorrow I'll be back in my snowboots!
First wear for the birdy bag this year. I need to re-glue some of the gems.

Outfit Particulars:
1950's raffia skirt-Etsy
1950's nylon shirt-Etsy
Cardigan-Hand-Me-Ups
Enid Collins handbag-Antique mall
Bracelets-both Hand-Me-Ups
Belt-Goodwill
Vintage Avon brooch-Yard sale
Earrings-Thrift World
Shoes-Hand-Me-Ups
Fragrance-Corinandre

Easter was pleasant. Danny coloured some eggs, we watched baseball, and did laundry. I had a cold, but that's mostly gone now. It was strange-for about 24 hours I couldn't stop sneezing...then it was over. Just. Like. That. Believe me, I'm not complaining, but it certainly was strange. We never did get outside to throw our cascarones (coloured eggs that have been hollowed out and filled with confetti). Maybe we'll save them for the 4th of July-that ought to piss off the nativists😁

After trying to get Danny's medical stuff sorted, it looks like we finally have. The results are all very good, and I'm happy and relieved to no longer worry that nuts or an asthma attack will kill him, but I am honestly struggling with why his former allergist never tested for these things. I'm glad we switched doctors, of course but I'm more than a little pissed off that he's been loaded up with every imaginable steroid for asthma that he doesn't have. For years. I remember questioning why he never wheezed, only coughed and being immediately shut down by the doctor as not understanding asthma (despite having it most of my life). Right. No one ever told us there was a definitive test for asthma, and they likely woudn't have. I'm relieved, angry, and mostly sad about all the time he spent unable to play outside for fear of allergy-induced asthma. He can't get those years back. I feel tremendous guilt for not having switched allergists sooner, though I realise I couldn't have known. We did what they told us to, and it was absolutely wrong. Anyway, he's fine and I am going to celebrate by taking up smoking going on holiday. At least now we don't need to panic when he coughs for hours at a time. I always wondered why the rescue inhaler didn't seem to do much of anything! Uh, because it wasn't asthma. Right. Predictibly, it has been suggested he might have outgrown it...just like he might have outgrown the nut allergy. I understand doctors are reluctant to say someone made a careless diagnoisis, but... Anyway, he's a good kid and seems completely unbothered by it, and I'm glad. He doesn't dwell on stuff the way adults do. It is going to take some time for me to deal with the relief, guilt, anger and everything else, but for now I'm just glad he finally has some answers and can move ahead and go enjoy the outdoors in spring and summer...if it ever stops snowing.

 Some 80's clothing to finish things out. The gauze skirt required leggings beneath, but that just made it look all the more vintage.
The buttons are just sewn on.
Was still in the boot there, but my good foot was wearing a new velvet shoe.

Outfit particulars:
Skirt, sweater, and handbag-all Goodwill
Shoes-K Mart
Leggings-Target
Necklace-Goodwill

Pesach will end Saturday at sundown and I am going to have a gallon of gin and tonic. Gin, being made with grain is off limits during pesach. Potato vodka is acceptable, but I really don't care for it. Anyway, it was an interesting year though I didn't make anything terribly special. We had a very nice spinach and feta omlette tonight, but that's hardly cooking.

I have to get the house ready this weekend for our house/pet sitter. I like her-she looked in the fishtank and remarked, "Well, I can see where Shitty got his name."

Now to get packing.













Thursday, March 29, 2018

Somebunny Loves This Time of Year

Spring is (sorta) here and I'm jumping for joy. Actually, that's more of a wobble for joy as my foot is still in the boot (going on 5 weeks now) and I don't want to risk further injury. Anyway, between the snow showers that melt as quickly as they fall, we've had some lovely warmer temperatures. I always look forward to wearing my linen blouse for the first time each season.
At  this point I think of the boot as a fashion statement. I am able to walk easily now, though the toes and top of my foot are still dreadfully bruised and swollen. Most days, I forget I have the boot on unless someone asks what happened. Anyway, everything is moving forward and that's all I can ask.
Outfit Particulars:
Skirt-Hand-Me-Ups
Linen blouse-K Mart a few years ago
Cardigan-Kohls
Vintage bag-Goodwill
Bakelite bangles-all over
Glass beads-Hand-Me-Ups
Lucite earrings-Can't remember
Quilled brooch-Sarpy County Museum Yard Sale

The potatoes are ready to be planted as we cut them earlier in the week and they are now sufficiently healed over and can go into the dirt. We're planting Yukon Golds again this year as they are the most difficult potato to find locally in good quality condition. Fingers crossed they do as well as last year.
 Also planted are peas, scallions, chard, spinach, borage, cutting lettuces, rocket, and something else I've forgotten at the moment. The strawberries came back in good condition, and have really spread this year. This will be their third season and I'm hoping we will finally have a good yield.
 I've been getting creative with Instagram filters to post photos of my perfume collection.
I wouldn't call Zen or Gres Caliene favourites, but they both work well in spring.

 I finally wore my Owl and the Pussycat dress from Lindy Bop.
 To be honest, I felt a little too old for the dress. If I were teaching elementary school, perhaps I could get away with it easier but it felt out of place with my life all day. I don't typically worry about age appropriate dress (really, sod that) but novelty patterns are tricky on everyone and they don't get easier as you age. I don't mind looking goofy, but I do try to avoid looking...I don't know...twee? I might cut the dress down into a skirt as it will be easier to wear and won't feel like quite so much, "Too much."
 But I did go matchy-matchy with the brooches, obviously.
Outfit Particulars:
Dress-Lindy Bop in the sales (it was quite inexpensive which probably convinced me I needed it. That said, if they did a Jumblies print next, I'd probably buy that too!).
Box bag-Hand-Me-Ups
Cardigan-Goodwill
Brooches-both Goodwill
earrings-Goodwill
Vintage lucite and glitter necklace-Thrift World
Bangles-all over
I made Danny take a photo with all the books he had scattered across his bed for nightime reading.
They're all about baseball. No surprise there. Except for the book about fish. No idea how that got in there. Cubs won their first game of the season, so the fan is happy. The poor kid has been through a rollercoaster of medical stuff, and now we're just looking forward to having a bit of calm. In addition to the Chicago trip to watch a couple Cubs games, we bought tickets to see the Cubs minor league team in Des Moines, Iowa. We're going and staying over for Mother's Day weekend, just the two of us for some quality time watching baseball and availing ourselves of the hotel's Mother's Day Brunch. I can't think of a better way to spend Mother's Day.
The Picnic Pants had their first wear of the year even if it is still not quite warm enough for a picnic.
The Hungarian blouse had a first wear as well...beneath a mohair cardigan. I really wasn't kidding when I said our weather is flaky.

Easter and Pesach overlap this year, which is inconvenient, but manageable. Basically I baked the Easter breads and froze them so we can enjoy them after Pesach ends. This photo was from Danny's first Pesach. Look at those itty bitty feet! He's now several inches taller than I, and we have the same size shoe. No idea how that happened. I also have no idea when I found time to iron that tablecloth with a three month old throwing up all the time. No really, he did. We had to feed him every two hours around the clock, and he'd finish a couple ounces of formula and then...blerg, and we'd have to start all over again. I think he spent the first year of his life puking, and that special medical formula wasn't cheap (or covered by insurance). Still, after about a year it resolved and now we're probably clear of any serious puking until he and his friends discover alcohol.
In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have let him play with those egg cups. My mum bought them at Woolworths, but they're the sort of thing that's collectible now. I loved that rocket-ship one as a child!
Nice buns😜.


 This year, I baked a bunny instead of a lamb. Danny said it looks like the alien from the Classic movie.
 Yeah, I guess the ears do have an Alien look about them. He's in the freezer chilling out with Roland the Snowman's head. Yes, Roland survived yet another winter. He might outlive me at this rate. I hope they don't stick my head in a freezer. Cryogenics just isn't an appealing idea to me.

Mr. Bunny is coming to haunt your dreams, boys and girls!
Okay, I will leave you with one last outfit that just screams, "Springtime."
I wouldn't have worn this in the 80's if you'd paid me. Funny how a distance of a few decades makes things more interesting. I said, "Interesting" not, "Less hideous" because there is a difference, you know.
This would have been an expensive jacket at the time-this was a line made for Saks 5th Ave.

Outfit Particulars:
80's jacket-Goodwill
80's skirt-Goodwill
Belt-came with a dress
Necklace-retail, years ago
Brooch-Etsy
Earrings-Mum's
Gold bracelets-all over

Whatever holidays you celebrate or not, I hope you have a lovely weekend.















Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Amouage Bracken Woman-Review

I won't be the first to review Amouage Bracken Woman with an equal measure of enchantment and sickness. This is a perfume that shifts between extremes, and continues to do so over the course of several hours. There's a lot to sort through in that time.

Some fragrances are simple to describe by their notes. A few dabs on pulse points and in a couple hours you've worked through opening to end. Sure, not everything is that linear but typically there's a predictability in how those notes emerge. A few wearings later, a "Yes or No" emerges, and that's that. Bracken isn't like that. Bracken emerges like the first fiddleheads of spring pushing through the late winter mud when everything else is still struggling to wake. A blast of green breaking the matted straw of last autumn's wheat coloured ground cover. But not any old green. Not any old fern. It would be a mistake to assume Bracken is some sort of fougere you can lump together with a generic label of, "Green notes." This fern isn't bright or bracing but rather herbal, sometimes medicinal, and sometimes like the measuring cup of water holding a bunch of asparagus. It smells more asparagus fern than asparagus, but it also smells of the salinated sandy dirt it was grown in. Then, it buggers off for a bit and you catch a nice berry note before it returns with some lily and narcisus and tries to kill you. Some people get "Romantic walk in the woods" from this part of the Bracken experience-I get the opening credits of a sci-fi movie. That isn't a bad thing.

At some point in the Bracken Experience (like the Jimi Hendrix Experience with less feedback and more patchouli) it goes 60's. I think it is the chamomile more than the patchouli, but really, who knows. My experience of the 60's largely consisted of learning to read, gluing pieces of tissue paper to construction paper, and Flintstones chewable vitamins which were a brand new thing and probably the closest anyone in our family got to candy. The 60's to my mind smells like rubber cement and iron fortification. Anyway, there's enough leather and vetiver in there to satisfy any filthy hippie worth the title. It isn't constant though, and the leather is subtle, sort of damp like it was caught in a cold March rain that could snow if it wanted to. Then, our friend Fern returns. My mum had a friend named Fern. I don't think Fern would have fancied Bracken Woman as she always smelled of Lysol. Bracken is anything but clean.

When we lived on the farm we'd get to this point in the year (March) and with any luck the snow would be mostly gone and the mud would soften into the sort of stickiness I can only liken to being caught on a glue trap. More than once, my husband went to take the trash to the pit and would lose a boot on the way back-unable to pry it from the muck. Oh, he'd retrieve it eventually, but that clay-heavy mud was something else. It had a different smell when wet or dry. It was almost powdery when it would dry enough to chisel it off your shoes, but wet it smelled of everything from decaying vegetation to a pottery class. Combined with the mouldy, bitter smell of damp hay in the barn, it shifted between, "Ahhh, springtime" and, "Oh god, what died?" The snow geese would be migrating through about this time, settled in for the evening in the wetlands that surrounded the farm. The smells, the noise, the mud-a glorious rebirth that only lasted a day or two before the flies arrived. Bracken...smells like the day before the flies. And it is a lovely day. 24 hours later your sci-fi movie will take a decidedly horror-bent turn, but while it lasts...and the berries are so nice.

I would have liked Bracken to have a bit more of the birch note. I know it can be an overwhelming note and the use here is quite restrained, but I do like the smell of damp bark, and I'm a little sorry there isn't more of it.

I hate to keep banging on about the berries, but they are strange here. Sweet, but not too, tart but never veering into raspberry. Mulberry? Something dull between blackcurrant and blackberry? No idea. I am terrible at nailing down berry notes, but it keeps returning, sometimes only a whiff and my brain thinks, "Wow, that's nice" and I go to sniff again and it is gone. "Ha! Take that perfume lover."

Narcissus makes me sneeze. So many fragrances I would have loved to wear leave me with watery eyes, a running nose and a hacking cough. I like the smell of narcissus, but it has to be a pretty special perfume to suffer through what it does to me. I am pleased to report no such trouble from the narcissus in Bracken Woman. I almost wish it had made me sneeze because at $300 bucks a bottle, I'm going to be going in deep to smell like I've been out photographing snow geese in the March mud of Nebraska. The generously gifted sample bottle (thanks, Emily!) will last a good long while as this stuff is a powerhouse that requires but a small drop, but yeah, I see a full bottle in my future. Obviously I haven't tried it in warm weather, but I would think it would be suffocating in the heat and humidity. I could be wrong-sometimes fragrances surprise me.

Notes according to Fragrantica:
Fern, chamomile, berries, narcissus, birch, lily, leather, vetiver, and patchouli.

What I smell:
Biker caught in the rain, Nebraska clay/mud, fiddleheads, pottery class, unseasonably warm but rainy spring days when you open the kitchen door to let in the smell of rain but immediately regret it when two hours later everything on the clothes drying rack smells like a field mouse died behind the fridge.  And some berries😁. Something mushroomy. Dirt. wooden canoes. You get the idea.

I understand this review isn't exactly selling Bracken Woman, and honestly-it is a tough sell. I would advise getting a sample or decant before investing in a bottle, but I'd also encourage you to wait it through to the end without scrubbing. It changes and shifts so much through the (very long) wear that you might miss out on something you adore because you were retching into a wastebin. I mean, come on, what's a little puke in the face of magical perfumery?


Friday, March 16, 2018

Come For the Clothes, Stay For the Whinging

This isn't a sexy, play-with-my-hair pose, I just have a stabbing pain at the back of my head😘.

 But hey, I do what I can. We've had a hectic, mixed-up week around here (that's a grand understatement-stress much?!), but I still managed to get dressed. Can't say I didn't accomplish anything! My foot continues to heal, and hopefully by the time we go on holiday in April I will be able to manage without the funny shoe. I probably won't be back into heels, but anything would have to look better than this.
Right, complaining won't change anything, so on to the clothes.
I purchased this vintage skirt last summer from an online seller. It was described as a 50's skirt, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. The metal zipper doesn't seem to be original, and I think that's what threw her. I know when I replace a zip I use whatever I have in the correct size-sometimes plastic, sometimes metal. Anyway, this is probably 70's or 80's but I love the colours and print, so no harm done. It wasn't expensive-around $15.00 if I remember correctly. Today's lesson? It takes more than a zipper to accurately date a piece of vintage.
Outfit Particulars:
Skirt-Etsy
Top-Goodwill
Vintage jacket (part of a suit)-Long gone vintage shop in Brookline, Mass
Bangles-all over
Earrings-Goodwill
Celluloid brooch-Etsy
Cowboy Boot (s)-K Mart
Vintage handbag-New Life Thrift
Vintage tooled belt-Thrift World
Fragrance-none this week as Danny has been asthmatic and although perfume has never triggered an attack, why risk it?

 This puppy basket is going to hold my pastry brushes in the kitchen. It is a bit too small to turn into a purse.
Someone got shark socks! I bought some as well.
 These are supposed to be cigarette trousers. I bought them far too big but the thing is...they're so much more comfortable this way. Yeah, they look like something my granny would have worn...maybe she knew something. Anyway, I bought another pair in beige and I think I'll keep them. I'm really not a trouser wearing sort of person, but these are like pulling on a pair of sweatpants.
 The Marimekko top sees another year.
 My hair is in desperate need of cutting, but I haven't had time. I've owned this barrette forever.
 The hair bow was my mum's. It looks better clipped to a bag than in my hair. I'm wearing shark socks if you look carefully.
BIG earrings.
Outfit Particulars:
Trousers-K Mart
Marimekko top-Target
Silver bangle-Goodwill
Earrings-Hand-Me-Ups
Shark socks-K Mart
Straw bag-Goodwill
Bow-Mum's

I have a new glass kettle in my life. It won't look this sparkly for long. 
 Another skirt I'd forgotten about, rediscovered when I cleared-out my clothes last week. The elastic needs replacing, and it is super-lightweight. Will probably be better in summer with a peasant top, but I was eager to try it out now.
The print looks Mexican, but it is fast fashion made in China. A genuine vintage skirt like this would be very costly.

Outfit Particulars:
Skirt-no idea
Top-K Mart
Belt-came with a cardigan
Tights-K Mart
Enid Collins bag-antique mall
Necklace-Hand-Me-Ups
Floral brooch-Tiff and Tam
Bakelite bangles-all over

I'm late to the Korean skincare fad, but at $2.00 for 60 face wipes, these were a good introduction. They do a decent job removing eye makeup, but if you're wearing liner and mascara it will probably require two wipes to get it all off. I bought these for travel, and I must say I'm happy with them. Big Lots carries the entire line in different formulations. 

 Speaking of eyeliner... I've been experimenting with white liner on the upper lid. I can't quite get past the feeling that it looks like I used Liquid Paper as makeup.
It does open up my eyes quite a bit. I also bought some liner in a pale pink-that ought to be interesting in a bunny rabbit sort of way.
Time for a Spring dress even if the weather isn't playing along. We're having thunderstorms at the moment, complete with hail. I had to take Danny to a medical appointment this morning and it was a challenging drive! We don't get that much rain here-at least not in downpours, and I had forgotten how tricky it can be when you hit standing water on the roadway. I do wish people would just slow down and pay attention, but maybe that's asking too much. Self driving cars cannot get here soon enough for me!
Outfit Particulars:
1970's polyester maxi-Salvation Army store
Necklace-Hand-Me-Ups
Enid Collins handbag-Antique shop
Jade bracelet-Goodwill
Seashell earrings-Goodwill

Have you seen this alternative to plastic Easter grass? If nothing else, it will be easier to clean up if no one eats it.

 The Misty Harbor raincoat is getting plenty of use. This might be the hardest working item in my wardrobe.
 This dress defies photography. It is a beautiful silky, shirtdress, but you'd never know it from the photos. Ah well, use your imagination.
Outfit Particulars:
1980's Leslie Fay shirt dress-Goodwill
Misty Harbor raincoat-Etc Cetera, Seward
Handbag-Goodwill
Brooches-both Goodwill
Pearls-Hand-Me-Ups
Earrings-New Life Thrift
Liberty scarf-Goodwill


And that's about it. Whew, what a crazy week. Next week doesn't look much better, but at least I have interesting clothes to keep me distracted. I wish someone could hit me over the head with a coconut and knock me out because that's about the only way I'm going to get any sleep.

Hey life,
Have a great weekend!