Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The last days of summer

For most of this summer, I've maintained a display of "beach reads" (you know, light books, quick books, "pack-in-your-beach-tote-and-go" books) at the library where I work, and I must say, it's been very successful, because every morning I must choose many new books to replace the ones that people have checked-out.

What is it about summer that makes people nostalgic? (I'm not talking about you or me specifically. Just people.) I have experimented with many different kinds of books for my display (Nikolai Gogol, it seems, is a winner, with an almost instant check-out average), but then there are the books about summer, the books with "summer" (or "sand," "tides," etc.) in their titles, which invariably evoke times that were so good and are now over. Consider, for instance, Ann Brashares' book, The Last Summer (of You & Me)...

My sisters, brother, and I were at a surf style restaurant last Friday night. It was a good time, with the likely "Good Vibrations" playing in the background. And, after dinner, we went to a special dancing night that was happening nearby. James played the "teddy bear" (dolls sometimes need a teddy bear to escort them to special occasions), and speaking of nostalgia, I am certain that the sweet 1940s melodies will be ever connected to the memory of this night for me.

Autumn's sunshine-y ensemble is like a Beach Boys song. It's bright, it's upbeat, and it's best enjoyed before Labor Day. I really like the way that all the yellow items match: yellow (super-cute) sunglasses, yellow bracelet, yellow shrug sweater, and strapless top with yellow stripes. Often, a color that's everywhere one summer will be nowhere to be found the next, so it's a good idea to get items that match while you can. Autumn's distinctive yellow things look quite fetching with her basic white capri-length pants.

Moving forward. Soon, Autumn will turn to planning what to wear to school this fall, as I will have to make a new library display. I'll do something special for "Banned Books Week" at the end of September, but what do you think of a display called "What about Birds?" for the interim? Catchy, no?

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Background: Autumn sometimes looks like a bear to me, especially in photographs. I tell her that she will likely have an even more bear-ish appearance when she is old. Autumn, my other sisters, and I used to work at a home for elderly ladies, and there was a lady who reminded us of a teddy bear. She was really adorable and had bear-like lines around her mouth and curls that peaked at two places on top of her head, that resembled bear ears.

A bear poem:

by Adrienne Rich

Wonderful bears that walked my room all night,
Where are you gone, your sleek and fairy fur,
Your eyes' veiled imprisoned light?

Brown bears as rich as mocha or as musk,
White opalescent bears whose fur stood out,
Electric in the deepening dusk,

And great black bears who seemed more blue than black,
More violet than blue against the dark-
Where are you now? upon what track

Mutter your muffled paws, that used to tread
So softly, surely, up the creakless stair
While I lay listening in bed?

When did I lose you? whose have you become?
Why do I wait and wait and never hear
Your thick nocturnal pacing in my room?
My bears, who keeps you now, in pride and fear?

When I showed Autumn this poem, she said, "Isn't it too long for the blog?" I agree that it could be, but Autumn's comment is reminiscent of Winnie the Pooh's line: “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'"

Friday, August 15, 2008

Making a personal style story

1. Nurture regard for someone or something, fictional or real.
2. Consider what details make this person or thing special.
3. Apply these elements to your own life.
4. Avoid emulating your inspiration too much, because caricatures are less charming.

The library where I work is in the process of switching to a new Internet chat reference system, and I was asked to choose a "pen name" to appear when I am online. We decided on a literary theme, so each of us librarians was to choose a representative book character.

Understandably I found this assignment to be very difficult. Which book? Which character? There are so many... And, even though I am an adult services librarian, I found that I identify more with the book characters of my childhood than with heroines that I've met more recently. Wouldn't you prefer to be Ramona Quimby (age 8) or Charlotte Doyle over Tess Durbyfield or Nora Helmer, to name a few easily recognizable figures? Children's literature characters tend to be almost all-around appealing.

But, considering my new screen name reminded me again that assuming other identities on a small scale can be very fun. It's not just about books or online chatting, either. It's about personal style, and smart dressers know that they can take elements, indeed, from literature but also from art, music, film, past times, current events, other places, etc. It's not copycat or costume dressing at all; it's really a matter of inspiration. There's a particular pleasure in wearing an outfit that's personally special, lending a kind of storytelling to everyday life.

Let's consider Autumn's current fascination with Scandinavia. Like a lot of people, Autumn was happy to read Astrid Lindgren stories when she was small, and my sister nowadays enjoys a trip to IKEA. A recent browse on YouTube revealed Lotta på Bråkmakargatan, a character of Astrid Lindgren's, on screen, and Autumn agrees that you don't have to speak Swedish to find little Lotta's authentic emotions amusing.

Autumn's outfit pictured below has the good humor and charm of Sweden and the other Scandinavian countries. It could be considered plain by some standards, but the well-edited design and well-appointed colors are apparent. The fashion is made-up of a long-waisted pink pastel sweater top (with pockets for change and other small items, that are very cute!) and a neutral-colored pleated skirt. The beige shoes with buttoned straps and complimenting ankle socks are subtly playful. I especially like the uniqueness of the socks for this ensemble.

I have visions of well-cared for children playing outdoors in the soft summer light as grandmothers dutifully sit and knit complicated woolen sweaters for the coming cold...

It's wonderful to be the main character of your own story!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Make-up lessons with "The Original Pretty Girl"

This time, Autumn was behind the camera and took a picture of Amber's handiwork. One day lately, I asked Amber if she please would do my make-up, and afterwards, everyone said that I looked like my sister. What a nice compliment.

P.S. The subject of this blog is Autumn, but it was brought to my attention that the web place needed a better picture of me. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

For a rainy day

Don't you know? Umbrellas are magical creatures. Any child could tell you so, and I remember walking between two buildings when I was seven and visiting Denmark with my family. There was a gusty draft, and the umbrella that I was holding turned inside-out! I felt like Charlie Chaplin!

The word "umbrella" is very pretty, I think, and I used to think that I might like to name a daughter it. Um-brel-la... I supposed that I would call her "Ella" for short. Maybe, I should have just named a doll "Umbrella" and been done with it.

Autumn has never told me, but the below outfit could be one of her favorites: She appears to be very pleased when it's the clothes choice of the day. The cotton skirt would be very plain indeed, if not for the little multi-colored umbrellas; it's jaunty--and even appropriate--on sunny days.

Let me expand your umbrellas-in-the-arts awareness! Most everyone knows about "Singin' in the Rain" with Gene Kelly, but have you heard of these?

Rain by Peter Spier: My parents gave this book to me when I was a child at the end of a school year. It has no words and features pictures of a sister and brother's experience of a rainy day. I found it mesmerizing and still do.

Yellow Umbrella by Jae Soo Liu and Dong Il Sheen: This book is by two South Korean authors but is transcedent with its use of images and sounds. This picture book, featuring a child's rainy walk to school as from the perspective from above, would also be a silent experience, if not for the music CD included with the book. I discovered this artful book while a library page, and it's delightful.

"Les Parapluies de Cherbourg," a film by Jacques Demy: This French classic from 1964 is also very visual, and it's a musical with dialogue that's entirely sung. The story is sweet but tragic, and Catherine Deneuve plays Genevieve who works in an umbrella shop and is in love with Guy (José Bartel), an auto mechanic. Umbrellas have a way of accentuating one's features and motions and creating a charming atmosphere in general, as this film shows. An aside, my mother used to listen to the soundtrack by Michel Legrand while she was studying ("Guy and Genevieve were my friends."), as I did much later, only on CD.

Friday, August 1, 2008


"Saawariya" is, in fact, a faithful adaption of a short story by the Russian master tale-teller Fyodor Dostoevsky. Only, "Saawariya" takes place in India.

Like the film, "White Nights" is best taken in over a few sittings. It is a darling treasure of a story and begins thus:
It was a wonderful night, such a night as is only possible when we are young, dear reader. The sky was so starry, so bright that, looking at it, one could not help asking oneself whether ill-humored or capricious people could live under such a sky. That is a youthful question, too, dear reader, very youthful....
I recommend that you find the story at your local library and read it!

*This word could refer to many things, but it often reminds me of a fashionable clothes shop in Pasadena, called "Reference."

Not just a song and dance man

The other day, I made a discovery at my library. While on the trail for disco music (seems we don't have much of it), I found a CD of only Gene Kelly songs, as sung by him in the movies. Let me confess: I love Gene Kelly, and while I realize that many other library-goers do as well, when I found the music, I felt that it had been selected expressly for me. Love makes us irrational, I know.

My brother says (maybe a little jokingly) that Gene Kelly is "creepy" in "An American in Paris" with the way that he unexpectedly shows-up at the perfume shop where Leslie Caron works and won't leave her alone until she agrees to see him again. But, it's romantic.

There should be more men like Gene Kelly, because he was fantastic! He could dance, sing, act, choreograph, direct, write, produce, and speak French. Remember when he sings "I've Got Rhythm"? "J'ai the daisies dans green pastures."

Another discovery: There's a fairly new Indian film that features a lead and a story comparable to Gene Kelly and "An American in Paris." I won't spoil "Saawariya" for you, but an actor named Ranbir Kapoor plays an endearing character who's in love with a girl, but she's promised to someone else. And to complicate matters further, there's another woman who loves him. The film seems as if it happens in a dream with its picturesque and somehow familiar village settings and mystery-filled darkness that settles upon everything. The Bollywood-style song and dance numbers were a delight to me as well!

While Autumn does not have a sari, her closet is not without influences of India. Last summer, she got a skirt, originally from India, at a local outdoor market. Amber also has an Indian skirt, as you can see:

These hot months are the ideal time to wear these skirts, because they are fashioned of butterfly wing weight silk fabric in a breezy wrap-around style. They are easy, too! These girls wear their skirts with t-shirts and sandals or flats--oh, and maybe a bracelet. And they are set to go wherever their summer adventures take them.

What I like about these skirts are their vibrant colors, which keep people from noticing how very casual the dressing really is. Autumn could wear her ensemble for afternoon errands in town and then to an evening patio party.

And, in case you did not notice, the skirts are reversible, making them even more versatile!