Sunday, December 28, 2008


At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited…

--Thomas Hardy, “The Darkling Thrush”

My sister always seems to be prepared for anything, which would befit a girl whose childhood heroes were the resourceful Nancy Drew and any cartoon character who had the ability to crack a case. Need a story for any reason? Autumn’s got one. Have a blister and need a Band-Aid? My sister probably has one in her purse.

“With a mirror right inside the cap touch ups are a snap—anywhere,” reads the box of Autumn’s favorite lipstick. How fitting!

My sister found her Lola brand “lip crème” at a darling, darling store right next to the Metro station in South Pasadena. Puff Beauty Studio specializes in modern make-ups with an old time attitude, as illustrated by the sleek 1950s Barbie pictures on the shop’s walls.

The girls who work there are friendly and helped Autumn to the perfect orange tone to complement many of the clothes she wears. The color’s called “Pucker,” in case you were wondering.

I think my sister looks air-ready with her cute flight jacket. She could be a bird—light at the throat, dark wings and body, and a beak that’s a charming hue. Then, what’s she doing playing with that cat…?

Autumn suggested that we move this time’s photo shoot outdoors and under the peach tree that’s showing the effects of winter. “Wet and wildness” would have been my poetic assessment of the back garden’s current state, but my sister was ready with another more appropriate poem that includes this tree-image: “The tangled bine-stems scored the sky/ Like strings of broken lyres.” This Hardy poem is about a bird who expresses “Hope” at the prospect of a new year and era.

That’s my Autumn, always prepared.

Many thanks to the wonderful readers of My Sky-Blue Portfolio! See you in 2009!

Puff Beauty Studio
1005 Mission Street
South Pasadena, California 91030

Saturday, December 27, 2008

After Christmas anecdotal

We had a set of Christmas crackers this year, and someone, who shall remain nameless, had the good fortune of getting a little red dinosaur in his. I could have used that dinosaur. He would not trade—not for a moment—and joked to me, “They say the dinosaur is our common ancestor, and I’ll be keeping this one in the family.” I asked this person what he would be naming the figurine, and he replied, “I have to go to church for a proper name.”

From my cracker, I got a whistle (to use on the misbehaving kids at the library, of course), a stylish paper crown, and this joke:

Patty: Did you know that it takes three sheep to make one sweater?
Matty: No, I didn’t even know they could knit.

Also delightful this holiday was the Short Story Dog Contest with its 12 entries. You might read my contribution, “Bungalow Dog,” which I’ll admit isn’t really fashion-related, either. However it does include the line, “Molly was a model, and a fairly famous one at that.”

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Just look at Autumn's colorful striped legs, so free-spirited and happy... These are the stockings that I got my sister when I was away on vacation, that are still a joyful surprise whenever she wears them again: "Ha-ha-ha-hello, Autumn!" Now that the days look sunny but feel icy, what better way to capture the general temperament with one's choice of legwear?

These tights remind me of Pippi Longstocking, one of Astrid Lindgren's fanciful characters, and a childhood favorite. I remember being especially impressed by the way that Miss Longstocking rolls- and cuts-out her gingerbread cookie dough--on the wood floor of the kitchen of Villa Villa Cola, no less! I would have been thrilled to get one of her giant Mr. Nielson monkey cookies as a Christmas gift!

But, a book closer to my heart by this same Swedish storyteller, The Children of Noisy Village, depicts a more everyday sort of story with more everyday sorts of children. "Noisy Village" comes from the fact that there three houses close together, each with children. At this moment I must admit to feeling somewhat like the nine-year-old main character, named Lisa, when she says:
The night before Christmas Eve I felt sad because I didn't think that Mommy and Agda could ever get everything ready for Christmas. It looked so messy all over the house and especially in the kitchen. I cried a little after I had gone to bed.

(Real truth: Even as a child, I thought that, if this Lisa-girl was so concerned, she should get out of bed and help her poor mother!)

What I enjoyed most about the children of "Noisy Village" is that they seemed always to be making things, and not just the woven paper heart baskets that Swedish people have as Christmas decorations. All their own, these children have stories, songs, poems, games, mischief, plans, and celebrations.

Happy holidays, everybody.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Scarves are the accessory of choice this time of year, the cold wind and weather necessitating a little extra warmth, and what better way to add some color and texture around the face? Some people look cheerier in scarves, and others, with the lengths of knitted or woven fabric draped around the neck and shoulders just so, have the gift of appearing poet-like...

You can do your local library (and yourself!) a favor by trying-out a title of poetry. You might find a favorite. Too many really excellent poetry books never get checked-out, leaving librarians to wonder: "Should I withdraw this book from the collection?"

Can you believe it, the delightful poem below comes from such a never-been-borrowed library book?

Dance Steps
by Susan Kinsolving

When the world grew desperate enough, eccentric
solutions were attempted. The President started
xylophone lessons. Daily readings from Pushkin
and the I Ching opened Parliament. Every military
installation in Africa was required to maintain

a large aquarium. On alternate days, the Kremlin
became an infant day-care facility. Every Japanese
citizen wrote weekly to a Central American pen pal.
The Pope toured China and Australia to present Charlie
Chaplin film clips and vegetable gardening tips.

Of course, there was protest and cynicism, yet
undeniably things had changed. Newspapers reported
the details of foreign dreams. Summit meetings began
by swimming laps. Ancient Greek became the official
language of Mexico and Argentina. In Bombay, a luau

was given honoring Eskimos and televised by satellite
to Saudi Arabia. Exactly what resulted from all
these efforts was indeterminate; however, international
opinion favored further whims. Trees took on new stature.
Animals were consulted. Children held office. Romantic

love gained new respect. The gold standard broadened
to include well water, new jokes, and flower arranging.
Subsequently, values changed. Authority and innocence
merged. And it went on this way for a long time because
everyone wanted a better story with a happier ending.

And it went on this way for a long time because everyone wanted a better story with a happier ending. Albert Einstein knew that one must do something different in order to expect different results, which this poem illustrates with boisterous creativity. In this way, Autumn's multicolored boucle yarn scarf is a spirited break from the winter norm of "understatement."