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Hello Visitor, I am a creative person with many interests.  To name a few: 

  • all forms of art and design,
  • the performing arts with an acute passion for ballroom dance,
  • all categories of writing,
  • and the observation of social behavior. 

I believe we are all students of life and of the subject matters we choose to pursue.  My focus and goals are always to improve upon whatever I am currently doing and hope to accomplish in the future.  I look forward to sharing my thoughts and observations with my readers and invite my readers to contribute commentary.  It is my joy to enlighten others and to receive further enlightenment whenever possible.

 

OLD MEETS NEW

Lyndhurst Mansion
Lyndhurst Mansion

And what brings you to the mansion on this glorious day? This past weekend, April 16th and 17th, were two Spring days that embodied the essence of the “budding” season and were a perfect reason to be on the Lyndhurst estate grounds in Tarrytown, NY. It was also the annual Lyndhurst Family Fun Day which showcases the creative works of all emerging, and in some cases well-established, LEGO masters aged 5 to 72. What an amazing opportunity for mostly children to participate as exhibitors and viewers of LEGO construction art. The Lyndhurst mansion, a 19th c. gothic-revival gem, is part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the most exquisite sites in the Hudson Valley. My personal history with the Lyndhurst property goes back at least 25 years, when I first attended the bi-annual Crafts at Lyndhurst, usually held in September and May; the summer concerts; the Rose Garden show; the lectures in the Carriage House, and even an occasional Kennel Club Dog Show. I always sensed something magical about the estate and I am now beginning my second year as a volunteer and potential docent. It’s rewarding for me to contribute and be a part of the landscape I find inspirational and refreshingly spiritual.

The little plastic interlocking LEGO blocks offer endless visual and engineering

Table of LEGO Exhibits

LEGO Exhibit Presentation

opportunities as well as challenges for children to explore and create.  My monitoring assignment inside the mansion allowed me to observe and protect these little plastic constructions from possible destruction as 2 to 4 foot high viewers were compelled to handle them. The Lyndhurst curators of this event deserve enormous credit for conceiving this juxtaposition of the classical ornamental antiquity of the mansion as a backdrop stage for these petite plastic new assemblies. It was quite an incongruous meeting of OLD and NEW and YOUNG and OLD. As this was “Family Fun Day,” it was wonderful to see how many families had children who were “constructionists,” but who also introduced their kids to this exhibit in the environs of a historically preserved landmark. I was impressed

Little LEGO Enthusiast

Little LEGO Enthusiast

to see the many ethnicities and varying nationalities of the families who attended this exhibition with gusto; and their awesome appreciation of the interiors of the house as well as the displayed creations. On the whole, these parents took advantage of a ‘beautiful day at the mansion.’

Little Girl enjoying LEGO

“Can’t get enough of this funky stuff.”

One very imaginative and abstract LEGO piece entitled “Brainstorming,” stood out among the recognizable edifices and array of multi-purpose vehicles. I respectfully requested clarification of the unrecognizable random forms with “eyes” from the single-digit creator, and received, with assistance from her Mom, a very technical explanation. I shall attempt to paraphrase my interpretation of her description: “Brainstorming” was about finding channels, i.e., entranceways, to corruptive sites and structures in the brain – pretty heavy - but what a

"Braintstorming," the Exhibit.

“Brainstorming,” the Exhibit.

concept! I should also mention that the father of this child was a neuroscientist. It was evident that there was much parental guidance and/or participation in these LEGO projects. And to the other extreme, across the hall, settled on the entire expanse of a marble radiator cover, was a magnificent collection of shrines of an Eastern Indian appearance. The master engineer, who admitted his age to be 72, said he collaborated with his 5 year old grandchild. The designer proudly posed for me next to his exhibit and also explained that all the temples housed independent deities of Hindu origin, there was also one church (one God).

Lyndhurst LEGO Artist

Lyndhurst LEGO Artist

The primary colors and basic plastic palette of the LEGO bricks had their day in the grandeur of the manse with its subdued Victorian shades enriched with elegant gold, bronze, mahogany and marble. It was a day of OLD and NEW.

 

The Princess of “Pea” Fame Goes Car Shopping

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The Princess of “Pea” Fame Goes Car Shopping

2016 Kia Optima Views

2016 Kia Optima Views

Let there be no question, my acute oversensitivity has qualified me, at times, to be referred to as a “princess,” not necessarily with a positive spin, but, nonetheless, accurate.

Mattress pile

The Princess and the Pea sits atop her mattresses

No question that I need a new car; I feel as though I’m on borrowed time as the mileage grows and new problems arise in my soon-to-be 14 year old chariot. Everyone has a recommendation for me – some knowing my finances, simply suggest an uncomplicated base model car, some commend the certified pre-owned cars, and some think I can afford an entry level Mercedes or a Lexus. The car salesmen think I can make a decision with one test drive and the promise of 6 air bags and “No Money Down.” WRONG!! First and foremost, what determines my choice of car is the seat (so I might as well be buying a mattress or sofa) because my comfort while sitting is going to affect me physically in and out of the car. I know I’m not alone in my suffering with back and neck conditions – but here’s the good news, when the seat is properly contoured for my body – I’m good. My current “old” car was the last one I explored when I shopped 14 years ago – and the seat won. I am not testing any base model cars – for the most part I want a good number of bells and whistles forcing me to look at the top of the line in most models, i.e., leather-upholstered, 8+ way power heated seats; navigation, and a sunroof. Please don’t assume I’m a “spoiled princess.” I am in no way a self-indulgent shopaholic. As a matter of fact, I am extremely frugal and will sacrifice all kinds of niceties as well as necessities in life just to afford the creature comforts in my automotive domain or should I say “princessipality.”

2016 Toyota Camry

2016 Toyota Camry

Some cars are more esthetically pleasing in appearance, yet, it is sometimes hard to differentiate between them. For now, it’s only the seat that I am exploring. Here’s how the examination goes: First I let the salesman know the situation, a warning that this will not be an easy sale. I’ve observed that most compact cars, e.g., Subaru Impreza and Nissan Sentra do not have power seats even if afforded with heat. Mid-size it is. The first thing I do when seat testing is:

Kia Optima

Kia Optima

  • deflate the lumbar support (turn off);
  • lower the steering wheel as low as it goes;
  • raise the seat so that I can see over the dash;
  • adjust the headrest (if possible) so that I can lean back into the seat; and, believe it or not,
  • check to see if I can reach the seatbelt without breaking my arm.

At this point in my evaluation I have seen almost every mid-size car, but am not yet committed to nor “in love” with any seat so far. Every time I return to my “old” car with the perfect seat (as helped by my magic cushion), it’s like returning to an old lover, but in a relationship whose days are numbered. Here’s a quick rundown of the positives and just a few negatives I can share, assessed from cars I have sat in and test drove:
Price range for all 2015/16 models: $28,000 – $31,000.
Toyota Camry: When I use my “magic foam wedge” the seat is possibly “doable” (at the $$ top). Very nice paint job. Steering could be stiffer.
Nissan Altima: Attractive inside and out. Best interior display and tech gadgetry. Unremarkable paint job and ride.
Subaru Legacy: Best driving and handling car. Unimpressive hard-to-see dash.
Chevy Malibu: Fun to drive, nice to look at.
Acura ILX: Beautiful exterior design, nice interior, unimpressive drive and wholly inaccessible seatbelt.
Kia Optima: Lots of bells and whistles – need to test drive.
Hyundai Sonata: Did not enjoy test drive, low ceiling. Need to revisit.
Ford Fusion: Very comfortable seat, headrest not in my way; but leather seat on the soft side and cheap-looking (very American). Too many trim levels. Rear passenger seat was horrible. Need to test drive.

Unfortunately, my back is not going to get better and car designers are configuring seats that are more intrusive than submissive and non-restricting, so I feel the “pea.” It’s bad enough to toss and turn all night in bed, but to drive with such discomfort is just dangerous. The princess has spoken.

The Princess and the Pea Back Pain

Another sleepless night for the Princess, pondering if she’ll ever be happy with a driver’s seat.

Not a good day for DIA

DIA, Beacon, NY

The entrance, where should we go from here?

As an art lover, a previous art major and a creative person, an excursion to the “Museum Mile” along upper Fifth Avenue in New York City is an exhilarating experience. Choosing one of the famed museums along the route, e.g., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cooper Hewitt, the Frick collection, the National Academy Museum and the Guggenheim is never easy. On a recent Saturday, a friend who is an artist as well as an art teacher, suggested a visit to a new museum venue. Neither of us had ever been to DIA in Beacon, NY. We do not share the same aesthetic in style: he likes surrealism and abstract expressionism, I like classical realism, impressionism, and all of the American schools of art, but we shared the same unexpected shock and disappointment during our day at DIA. 

Colored Shapes

Boring colors, boring shapes

Whenever you exchange money, goods or services for an “agreed upon” return, you are disillusioned when, for your good faith offering, you receive nothing. A $12 admission fee is not much to gamble away to glean some enlightenment, however small; but include travel time, gasoline $, and factor in the realization that you have also been

Shapes

If a child of 6 did this, you'd say, "Good Job! - but what is it?"

intellectually scammed: now recalculate your losses. That feeling, together with a significantly greater financial injury, was similarly felt by those lured to purchase Facebook (FB) at the IPO. My analogy is simply with the feeling, not the endeavor. I had not done any prior research on the tone or presentation style of DIA. I was on board to see some form of art, i.e., new talent and/or creativity after a fashion. My friend and I entered the empty armory-like facility – there was no direction or guidance. Being but two of few souls physically present in the enormous expanses of white-washed and grey spaces with clerestoried 30/40 foot ceilings (once purposed industrially in the previous century), was much like being adrift at sea without land or ship in sight.

Big Room, Great Floor
This would make an excellent dance floor, just clear off those metal objects and find me a good partner.

Is an artistic experience one that also detracts, subtracts, and offers nothing? My understanding of “minimalism” is that it doesn’t go a great distance to produce a desired effect, yet is suggestive, giving shape to a concept, form or hue – “less is more.”

Exhibits of objects I quickly noted as offensive, depressing, and ugly, forced me to avert my eyes while removing myself from the area so that I didn’t retain any lasting impression. Random piles of garbage, e.g., crushed metal fenders and car parts compacted in a scrap metal yard; and colored, cut out shapes with no relationship to one another, do not make it in my world of insightful talent and beauty (in execution). This gutted one-time factory building continued to “un-amaze” me with its squandered use of space to harbor items that lacked any useful definition, such as the 4 deep holes of varying shapes, at least 14’ x 14’ with no way in or out. There was a

Holes

More black and grey spaces you don't want to fall into.

nightmarish quality to being quite alone in these vast undefined areas. You wanted to just wake up and find an exit – but you had endless traversing of monotonous wood or concrete floors before any egress was visible.

Surely, I cannot have been the only visitor to the DIA exhibits who felt this venue presented an updated telling of The Emperor’s New Clothes based on the offerings:

Empty Gallery

My inspiration is to repurpose this space.

  • Presentations that would not suffice to pass any reputable art school entrance exam;
  • stuff you don’t need talent or innovation to create;
  • randomly scattered debris;
  • amorphous grey shapes, repetitively laid out on floors or walls;

allowed to be viewed as “significant” or “thought-provoking” or, dare I say, “inspiring.”

The upside – The spaces have wonderful potential for:

  • Catered events:  parties, dinners, weddings, sweet sixteens, etc.
  • Practice space for aerial acts/trapeze artists.
  • Ballroom dancing.
  • Dance and staged performances.
  • Studio space for any form of dance or exercise class.

However harsh and definitive this may sound, I recommend no one go to DIA, Beacon, NY, for its current usage. But, should you feel a perverse need to try something new and potentially toxic, consider the above list of contraindications – forewarned is forearmed.

Do ya like good music? Spotlight on Teri Lamar & New Company

Teri Lamar & New Company

Teri gets this dance crew into full swing. Everyone's gettin' down w' the music.

To achieve performance perfection without pretention is a natural gift; and Teri Lamar & New Company, whether performing as a duo or with her full band, delivers simple, unadultered talent and fun.  Fortunately, my last minute perusal of the ArtsWestchester website on Thursday afternoon, 6/27, (offering  daily opportunities for performance, classes and exhibits) listed  TL & Co to be the season’s opening act of outdoor music at Patriot Park in Tarrytown.  What luck!  I was now committed to getting there on time to hear a favorite band. I had the pleasure of first encountering Teri and Frank Brenna, (keyboards and vocals) at the Dunwoodie Golf Course a year ago.  For me, it was love at first listen.  I am not a greedy person – when my expectations are fulfilled and my objective met, I am happy.  Such contentment generates loyalty to the source, and so, I became an instant fan of Teri Lamar & New Company.  I relate immediately to quality and precision (especially in the arts) regardless of the window dressing.  Being a dancer, I am compelled to move my body whenever the beat grooves me, and there is plenty of music to rock my world when I am in this band’s audience.

Teri gets the party started

Teri gets the party started on 7/3/13

The group is unique in their music choices,  starting their sets with songs from the mid-60’s which never get covered by any other band.  For an aging “Baby Boomer” it’s an instant “OMG –  I haven’t heard that song since I was a kid or pre-teen” moment.  Of course, you can’t believe you’re actually listening to “This Diamond Ring” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys or a totally accurate rendition of a jazzy rock instrumental, “Glad,” from the group Traffic.  There isn’t a lot of glitz,  just perfect pitch “covers” of songs that range for 5 decades from top 40 pop to classic rock, r&b and disco.  Check out their playlist.  Teri sings the “best of the best.” Amazingly, she plays my favorites in every genre.  Her songs are so personal to me, that I wonder if she picked through my ancient pile of “45s” from back in the day to create her selection of “oldies from the ‘60s.”  It’s true as well for her current “top 40” catalog.  This band is a crowd pleaser, and their repertoire is vast.  Teri has a smooth, unstrained vocal and comfortably delivers sultry or demanding, up-tempo, disco, rock and pop effortlessly.  Teri just sways to the music and aims to please, her occasional tambourine is always a great accompaniment.  You never think to yourself that the original is better, Teri and the band reward the audience with flawless execution  of every song they cover.  Keyboards are very strong and whether full band or solo, Frank incorporates a fully-nuanced sound – technology!  I swear I heard a harmonica, but couldn’t see one being played.  The drummer is also dead on. 

Teri Lamar

Teri Lamar with her signature hat (photo used w/permission)

On this recent Thursday night, the ominous skies and wind didn’t deter TL, and the group soldiered on through the evening from 7 to 9 p.m.  The weather was promising to storm, but held off till the stage was empty and all were in our cars.  I drove home in blinding torrents of rain, but I wasn’t disappointed.  Besides sampling an array of great dance tunes and songs of every genre, including a few from The Beatles and Stones, Teri performed moving and inspiring versions of If I Ain’t Got You by Alicia Keys; It Will Rain by Bruno Mars; Sunday Morning by Maroon 5 and yes, in full voice, Rolling In the Deep, by Adele.  This girl can sing anything.  I went to see another performance in Ossining on 7/3 with fireworks.

Teri and Frank are genuine people, humble and modest when receiving compliments; and I will continue to let them know how much I enjoy their gigs – because I like good music.

*Title Reference: “Sweet Soul Music” Arthur Conley

 

 

Waste Not, Want Not

Thoughts of luxuryWaste Not, Want Not A phrase that the working classes have instilled in their children from depression times on in the U.S. The “working class” is now the fortunate one, as the reduction of jobs across the board has become a way of life, setting a lower standard of living. The reality of “frugality” may take some time to set in for many of us who enjoyed spending – when a weekly paycheck funded the coffers of our discretionary income. Income, or the extreme lack thereof, has redefined the growing “unemployed” populace, now learning to edit lifestyle choices for the sake of economy. Despite the continual promotion of luxury goods and experiences in the media, a larger “budget-minded” audience is being targeted and capitalized on by some crafty and creative entrepreneurs and advertisers. “Sales” are a 24-7 business; the Blue Laws of yesteryear begone! Department stores open their doors at 6 a.m. and close after 1 a.m. for premature and/or last-minute holiday shopping.

Piggy Bank
Saving Bank

My natural predisposition to practice discipline manifested itself at an early age; rarely allowing me to stray from my preference to save rather than to purchase on a whim. Placing my allowance in a passbook account, and eventually investing in the market for increased wealth, has, on occasion, paid off. While sustaining all possible utility from clothing and devices even past their shelf life, when it comes to replacement, I want NEW. I am not a flea market shopper, nor an extreme couponer, but will happily accept “hand-me-down” clothing offered by a friend or relative if they fit.

A segment on a “newsy” TV program caught my attention the other evening. A “step-and-buck-saving beauty tipster” was demonstrating methods of extracting the last drops of make-up from myriad containers – I considered it worth a listen.

In order to get the last vestiges of seemingly dried mascara from its tube, add a drop or two of contact lens solution to the tube and replace the wand. Without pulling the wand out of the container, move it up and down to liquefy the caked mascara. It was recommended to avoid adding air to the mix, i.e., keep the wand in the container while mixing.

In order to salvage the sticky residue of lip gloss in a tube, hold the tube under a faucet, letting fairly warm water run onto it (keep the applicator wand inside and closed so that no water gets into the container). Once the gloss starts to liquefy enough to pour, remove the applicator and pour gloss into a tiny plastic or glass container with a screw lid about the size of a quarter. (You might even save and thoroughly clean an old lip gloss tub container and reuse for the remnants of a tube container.)

In order to extract every last trace of your foundation in a jar, find an itty-bitty, mini plastic spatula and insert into bottle to scoop out and apply to face.

As to the mascara:  It is well documented that it should be discarded after 6 months, especially if it has dried up. It would be unhealthy to continue to use and certainly if you added any potential contaminants to it. Not only would you incur the cost of contact lens solution, but a possible trip to an emergency room if an eye infection emerged.

Lip gloss is cheap enough, let it go. How much time do you need to invest in search of that “tiny container,” which would have to be sterilized before use. But as demonstrated on the program, you are to dip your pinky finger into the pot each time you needed to reapply – consider the sticky mess on your finger and the time to wash your hands before and after applying. “Time is money” and lip gloss comes in a tube container with applicator wand to address and simplify all the conditions you will now bring upon yourself. No recycling!

Turn your jar of foundation upside down and let it stay that way once the product is just too depleted to reach. (You may have to prop it up by leaning it against something else.) Carefully open the jar once foundation regroups into the cap and neck of jar. You will be able to use with dab of finger or Q-tip for another month or so. Done!

Brings to mind another wise saying: ”Penny wise and pound foolish.”  Back to my point – Waste Not, Want Not.

Recovery

African Violet on the mend

African Violet on the mend

Recovery:  However relative to our lives, it’s a waiting game that we have all played – hoping to return to “normal” or to “break even” or to find a lost possession; not to mention the healing process from illness or emotional trauma. We are compelled to expedite our cause in whatever ways seem most effective, oftentimes relying on past history, medical cures, professional advisors and simply, on faith. The reassurances we receive from those we confide in along the journey only contribute a momentary balm. Who doesn’t resort to “Wishin’ and Hopin’” and prayin’ to St. Jude, for one. Sending good thoughts into the Universe, in combination with presenting one’s self as open and receptive to all methods of healing and guidance, however forthcoming, are all positive enablers. Hope springs eternal, allowing us the fortitude, confidence, trust and patience we need to further along the desired result we seek. “Ahhhhh,” the sigh of relief we take when we see the light at the end of the tunnel – progress in the form of  physical movement, an “up” day in the market, a pain that ceases to distract us and a glimmer of gold under a cushion – the missing earing found!

Violet bud
Budding

The fall and winter months passed for me with a sense of painful concern over my inability to rescue the few plants I own, some for over twenty years. From health to withering and death in a matter of weeks, two well-loved philodendruns had to be discarded. I also tried to sustain an African Violet (“AV”) which flowered last spring but then just continued to wilt and drop outer leaves. I tried a stick of plant food as well as watering the bottom of the pot. No, I do not have a ‘green thumb’ nor am I big on plant research, repotting or root surgery. I care though, never over-watering or exposing to extreme heat and cold. Observing no change from bottom watering, I once again top watered. A little more sun I felt would be good, so I put my AV on the window sill for a few hours each day.  A slow change:  the outer leaves remained a pale sickly mint color, but no leaf fall. There was an apparent density of center leaves, and could it be?  With my strongest glasses I peered into the plant, and noticed an embryonic flower bud. Life had begun!  Was this my harbinger of health for all my far-from-well and unfinished business?  In order to bring about any change, one has to be proactive, but, as recovery appears on the horizon, most of us repeatedly say, “Thank God,” “Thank you, God.” And some “Wishin’ and Hopin’” never hurt – sing it Dusty.

Whatever . . . You know what I mean

pink rose
pink rose

In my youth, (not so much now) my parents were very strict about my usage of vernacular – yeah, slang. I would be rebuffed in mid-speech and criticized for expressions such as “Ya know,” “I was pissed off,” and “It was the pitts.” (OMG – such offensive stuff!)  Not only was there critique of improper grammar, but the expectation of a broadening vocabulary forever loomed. So, I had two dialects: “at home” and “in the street.” But fortunately, my parents imbued me with the same enthusiasm and appreciation for properly executed language as they had.

“A rose by any other name . . .” Creating a standardized name encourages universal interpretation, assuming the basic identifiers remain constant. The word rose, used consistently in English and French, means the flower or perhaps a pinkish hue in the red color family. Having an extensive vocabulary allows the speaker/writer to further define information via nuance – subtlely articulating just which ‘shade of gray’ they are referring to; in the same way a composer creates variations on an original musical theme by a mere tweaking of notes or accents.

It is important to make the right word choices in order to dynamically and accurately convey whatever it is you might be describing. As we age, our memories seem to freeze more and more often (senior moments) and we are dependent on others, at times, to provide the elusive word or phrase we were going for. When a listener successfully fills in our blanks, the reward is in the accomplished mutual comprehension. Having inherited my parents’ ear for exactness in spoken English, I confess to a pet peeve with people who arrogantly show complete disregard for our established language (excluding trendy slang) and reassign their own words and phrases indiscriminately. When challenged on their intent, they impatiently say Whatever . . . You know what I mean.” Well, the fact is  . . .  I don’t. And I don’t have the patience to interpret your lazy, indulgent, inflated, misuse of vocabulary. Let me give you some examples of comments I have encountered.

When Mr. and Mrs. Joe Blow show up at a restaurant or party with another couple or two, they are “a group of friends.” When men or women (in excess of 3 or more) whether aged 16 or 60, go to a party, club, dance or restaurant, they are “a group of friends”; but when P. Diddy shows up at an event with his “posse” – selected women, bodyguards, drivers and assorted assistants, he is with his entourage. The word entourage, synonomous with retinue, refers to the attendants surrounding a high ranking, possibly titled official, but more currently, a “celebrity” – music, sports, fashion, etc. Too often I hear someone inappropriately giving unearned status to anyone, simply because he/she is in a group of two or more persons. If I were to offer the offender the above definition of the word entourage, I would be told “Oh, you know what I mean.”

Calling someone infamous when you mean famous can be pretty insulting. Unknowingly, a misinformed speaker might say: “He/she is more infamous than ever now because his/her house was just robbed for the third time in a year.” This unfortunate homeowner, a three-time victim of household theft, has become a familiar figure in his local community (plenty of press coverage) because of it. He is neither famous nor infamous. Famous is a positive word, reflecting well earned accomplishment or achievement; whereas infamous connotes negative actions: The infamous John Doe, well known for repeatedly cheating on his wife, was caught again with a pretty young woman in the parking lot. Just try telling someone they don’t mean infamous, but rather famous, and you’ll be told, “Yeah, whatever.”

Let’s say you’ve had a nagging cough for over a month; quite disruptive to your life and disquieting to everyone else afraid of catching “whatever” you’ve got. I say to you, “What have you done for that cough? Have you tried A, B and C?” You say to me, “I’ve done everything. What do you think, I’m just sitting around on my laurels?” No, I don’t think that at all, because it’s obvious you have no idea what laurels are nor how to use the expression properly.

Sitting (or resting) on one’s laurels:  Relying on one’s past recognized successes to be adequate; doing nothing more to maintain and/or refresh an achievement or complete a new one, thereby keeping a reputation/title current and fresh.

Sitting on one’s laurels is often confused with and substituted for sitting on your ass. “Why don’t you do something instead of sitting on your ass.” – A crass way of telling someone they are ineffective and non-productive. Both expressions have negative associations with laziness and lack of effort; yet they should never be used interchangeably. But, just try and tell the mis-user of either term their respective purpose and you’ll undoubtedly hear, “Oh yeah, whatever . . . you know what I mean.”

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Mascara: The Art of Application

NefertitiEnhancing the eyes by darkened articulation has been an accepted aesthetic preference from as far back as 4000 BC in ancient Egypt. Over the millennia, the properties of the materials used to cosmetically blacken the eyes, eyebrows, eyelashes and moustache hairs (of men), while similar throughout the world, would never have been approved by today’s FDA guidelines. Not until the late 19th century, would a prototype for our current concept of mascara be developed by the French chemist, Eugene Rimmel, in England, using petroleum jelly. A similar, yet improved product was fashioned in the U.S. by T.L. Williams for his sister, Mabel, in 1913; and later sold through mail order by a company eventually known as Maybelline. As the 20th and 21st centuries progressed, so did the compelling desire for cosmetic manufacturers to create mascaras that promised long, longer, thick, thicker, black, blacker lashes.  If you look at giraffes and camels, these animals have luxurious, beautiful lashes – if only we could emulate theirs – oh, wait – we have. We have false eye lashes in every imaginable pattern and shape. But, for those of us born with modest, short, sparse and lightly-colored eyelashes, not into adhesive attachments – there is mascara.

I started wearing eye makeup at the age of 13. Over the decades, I have only made very minor changes to my look. Since fashion trends are often revisited a couple of generations later, the current eye fashion, (using excessive black eyeliner, smoky shades of eye shadow, pearlized highlighters, and lots of mascara) is pretty much the same as when I got started. Eye makeup should be dramatic and, I believe, sexy. I have always been complimented on my makeup application and, on occasion, asked to show a woman how to make up her eyes. I am not a “makeup artist.” I have no training outside of my own observations and lifetime of personal experience. When I did ballroom dance competition, I was given a few pointers in ballroom makeup, and, of course, have seen, many competitors and their amazing makeup – often done by professionals.

Women who generally don’t wear makeup, especially eye makeup, are often intimidated by the whole process of picking products – and complain that they are physically uncomfortable with “stuff” on their eyes. I agree that sensitivity to different products is very common, and it does take exploration to find those we can live in. I suggest buying inexpensive over-the-counter brands in chain stores, i.e., CVS and Harmons, where they also have liberal return policies.

Not all mascaras are created equal: some are watery and non-lengthening, some are volumnizing and allow you to build up your lashes significantly. Age changes the consistency of mascara, thickening it, making it more substantial and easier to apply. When asked to critique a woman’s makeup, by my standards, she is usually not wearing enough for me to see. I often comment that she needs eye shadow, eyeliner, mascara, foundation, blush, lip liner and lipstick. I am then told that she put the components on in the morning, but they wore away during the day. I have never personally had this experience, except for lipstick, which needs re-application a minimum of 3-4 times a day. Because I’m writing about Mascara, I will not get into why makeup disappears, but simply advise: consider the products and the application. For women who claim their mascara is not noticeable – they usually do not understand “the art of mascara application.”

So, here we go: To properly apply mascara, one has to have patience and precision. Dip the wand into the case to coat with fresh mascara, but not excessively. Carefully apply to upper lashes starting from inside of eye (closest to your nose) moving to the outside (near cheekbone). Stroke gently upward from the base of the lash to the tip. Return wand to case to refill brush and keep putting fresh mascara on till you see your lashes turning black and lengthening. Yes, you should always buy black mascara unless you are an albino or have blonde lashes, and then brown would be OK. You may accidently smudge part of your eyelid or nose; clean up at the end with a cotton swab and eye makeup remover. Also, you may have to remove an obvious clump of mascara from some of your lashes; do so carefully with your finger tips (or a toothpick if your vision is exceptional). The key is to keep applying mascara to the lashes across the entire lid for as long as it takes them to become obviously thicker, blacker, and longer. If you were to count the strokes – you could easily do from 50 to 100 strokes per eye. In time, that’s a minimum of a minute per eye. The lower lashes (inside lid or outside lid)only need to be outlined with eyeliner.

There are many brands and types of mascara to choose from. At the higher end ($24-$35), Lancôme makes excellent mascara, in the $8 range, I like L’oréal Voluminous Original.

 

As the Ring Turns

Lyndhurst Estate

View from Lyndhurst Estate

My two annual creative pilgrimages, held a week apart from each other at the end of September are:  Crafts at Lyndhurst in Tarrytown, NY and The Armonk Outdoor Art Show in Armonk, NY. Many of the same artisans return every year as well. These are juried events and the level of artistry and creativity is simply awesome. If happiness is a fleeting emotion, I am completely happy for the 3 hours I devote to each show, respectively; receiving spiritual and inspirational renewal as well. I have spontaneously made unique purchases of jewelry, clothing, accessories, and artwork, which I have never regretted. Most rewarding are my conversational exchanges with the artists, praising their work while being instructed in their techniques. There are a minimum of 200 exhibitors at each show and I manage to see them all.

Going about my merry way at the Art Show, I quickly perused a display of large sculptures. The sculptor addressed me unexpectedly as I was leaving his booth. He began a hard sell and the dialogue went something like this:

“You look like you’re ready to make a purchase and you need and want one of my sculptures.”

“They are beautiful,” I said, “but I don’t know why you think I’m ready to buy anything.”

“I’ll make you a good deal and I’ll help with delivery and set up.” He said.

“I don’t think so. I certainly don’t have the space to properly display such exquisite work.” I said.

“I’m sure you have a beautiful home.” He said.

“It’s a home – no room for sculpture though.” I said, finding his persistence off-putting. The conversation then refreshingly shifted to his State of origin.  “I used to live there too,” I told him, “when I was married.”

“And what about now, are you still married?” he asked.

Taken aback by such a personal question, I quietly said, “No, not currently.”

“But, you’re wearing a wedding ring,” he insisted, “what if someone wanted to approach you and ask you out? You’re making yourself unavailable.” He said with some irritation.

I was at a loss, so unprepared for this attack. Feeling and probably looking confused as well, I said, “But I’m not wearing a wedding ring.” At least I didn’t think I was. I started to feel my ring finger and realized that the simple, unpretentious gold signet ring I always wear had turned, revealing a skinny band of gold. “Well,” I said, with a hint of humor, “that can really come in handy at times if I don’t want to be approached.”

Not amused, he started on another rant. “You’re misrepresenting yourself and losing out on opportunities for men to talk to you.”

“But I talk to people all the time when there’s a topic of mutual interest. Whether anyone is married or not is of no concern to me.” I further added, “I’m just going to continue to enjoy the show. It’s been nice talking to you. Good luck.” I started to move off, feeling strangely violated and somewhat disoriented.

His points might have had a place at an event for “Singles” or at a Bar (where au contraire, a good many married people come sans their rings); but certainly his arrogant delivery was simply inappropriate. Here I was at a favorite venue for beauty, enlightenment and peace of mind, and I wind up getting judged and disciplined by an artist who should have been trying to gain my favor.

I will never know, after that bizarre exchange, if this guy really did want to ask me out – since he didn’t.  Alas, such a disquieting “to-do” because my ring turned.

You Wear It Well

There used to be something missing from my wardrobe.  It’s absence was mentioned to me from time to time, quite unexpectedly, usually by men whose presence I was quite unaware of.  I tried to quickly remedy the targeted omission, but without conviction – I didn’t feel like wearing something that didn’t feel natural, much like a child in a suit dressed for a holiday occasion.  I was in my mid-twenties at this time, and fortunately, I was put on notice.  It was at this juncture in my life that I began to study people’s behavior patterns, i.e., actions and reactions, manners and conduct that were either alien to me or just different.  Sometimes we aren’t able to employ a behavior we’ve been advised will benefit us, even when we see for ourselves how well it works for others. I admired various individuals for their ability to handle situations that I couldn’t.  Hence, I began to channel such traits and emulate them.  Once I learned to wear this amazing accessory, free to us all, my life not only improved, but I learned how to influence others around me – whether they could see me or not.  Making this addition to my general attire, regardless of whether I was taking out the garbage or dressed to the nines made me feel appealing and offered a sense of control – a camouflage of an untidy appearance or not-so-hot emotional state.  I even confused myself — that’s how powerful this simple enhancer is.  You must have guessed by now I’m talking about a smile.  It will dress up anything you are wearing and really make people notice you.  A great smile is an equalizer that allows you entry to places you might have been previously afraid to explore.  It’s a well received calling card.  One reason I am so impressed with the “smiling” advantage is that it gives you a confidence you didn’t know you had.  If you are alone, you can go anywhere, engage strangers and get assistance faster just by the warmth of a smile.  Another thing that occurs when you smile, and you can really enjoy this too, is that you project a positive attitude which is contagious.  Yes, good karma does travel.  A smile adds a radiance which makes the wearer beautiful and someone is sure to tell you, “you wear it well.”