Staying Stylish in Suburbia

Fall Flowers- Thoughts on the changing season

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I picked a bouquet of fall flowers on my walk yesterday. Goldenrod and Queen Anne's Lace scattered amongst the dying grass. In the woods down by the river the trees were still holding onto their green, refusing to admit the end of a season. But the vast blue sky and the faintly sweet smell of decay gave it away. Autumn had arrived with her brisk air as sharp as any knife, ready to cut through the heat of summer and bleed the leaves red again.

This time of year gives me pause. It brings perspective, allowing me to gather and store my best thoughts, fattening me up on daydreams for the long winter to come. Fall is reflection. It is that moment before death when everything becomes more vivid, vibrant and precious precisely because it is all about to fade away.

That's how I've been feeling on these first days of Autumn. How about you? What do you love most about this time of year?

The National Book Festival

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

This weekend we drove into the city for The National Book Festival. Hosted by the library of Congress, this years line-up included authors and poets such as Joyce Carol Oats, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner), Margaret Atwood, Ayana Mathis (The Twelve Tribes of Hattie), and  U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey.

The Huffington Post described the event by saying "It's an embarrassment of riches. For those who are book crazy, this -- and not Christmas -- is the most wonderful time of the year."

So true! The festival offered the opportunity to wonder from pavilion to pavilion, meeting and hearing firsthand from a plethora of amazing authors. There were book signings and other forms of entertainment as well. Esmae particularly enjoyed the kids pavilion where she had her photo taken with storybook characters. In other words good times were had by all.

With our two little ones in tow I couldn't see everyone I wanted to but I did manage to hear the great Margaret Atwood speak. What a writer. So brilliant and such a smart ass too. I loved it! One thing I've always admired about her is the ability she has to avoid being boxed into a single genre. Likewise, listening to her speak she had no trouble going against the grain of popular thought. During the question and answer portion of the presentation the audience kept making broad assumptions and Atwood kept cocking her metaphoric rifle and shooting those assumptions out of the clear autumn sky. Pow! Pow! Pow! They fell like geese at our feet.

My favorite example of this was when an audience member asked what Atwood thought about technology making our children less intelligent. The assumption being that she would agree that time spent on the internet and away from books was a bad thing. Instead Atwood insisted that kids these days have more opportunities and motivation to read and write. If she had, for example, wanted to write a steamy vampire novel as a teenager there would have been nowhere for her to present her finished story. The only place she might have gone was the High School newspaper which would have undoubtedly rejected it as trash and called her parents in to intervene. None of her peers would ever seen her work that way. But fast forward to now and kids have a myriad of anonymous online forums where they can publish and present their work to the world. Technology has offered a way to gain immediate feedback without fear of embarrassment or thoughts of repercussions. If anything, Atwood argued, technology has driven creativity, intelligence, collaboration and inspiration to new levels. In other words it doesn't matter what you read or write, (she admits to reading everything from the dictionary to the glossies at the dentist office and has quite a presence on Twitter) as long as you are constantly reading and writing.

As a blogger I can certainly appreciate that point of view. I tend not to look at my posts as my "real writing." They are far from poetic and often less than profound in content. But regardless of whether or not I am professing my love of fashion or simply describing a moment in my life as a mother. Writing is writing. I can work on my novel on the side but to discount everything else as simply trivial nonsense would be a mistake. As writers we collect our material and fine tune our tools in different ways. Blogging and even Facebook and Twitter can provide us with opportunities not only write but to connect with readers. It is still putting our thoughts to paper after all and what better place to practice and play with our words.

All that is to say that I enjoyed Atwood's insight and opinions tremendously. It was motivating to listen to such a wordsmith in action. It was also a good reminder that she is just a person, someone who respects her craft and is dedicated to honing her skills through whatever means possible. The woman is nothing if not prolific. Apparently she's working on an opera next. Inspiring!


Her First Haircut

Thursday, September 19, 2013

So many firsts are happening lately. Her first day of preschool. That was rough. Not for her but for me. Yes. I'll admit I boo-hooed a bit. We also recently went to get her very first haircut in an actual salon. If that's not a coming of age activity I don't know what is. 

I found a place that said they were good with kids. She is so wiggly I didn't want anyone without experience wielding scissors that close to her face, least of all me. The deal was if she could sit still for the haircut we would go get a smoothie afterwards. I had my doubts that even that could keep her calm but I was wrong. She did fantastic! Here is a little photo essay of how things went.

Because a girl has got to pick out a good magazine while she waits...

Then there's the ritual primping in the mirror...

Before hair shot

Followed by the actual cut...

Umm...hello cutest little fro/mullet ever! 

We played a game counting 1,2,3, before each snip. It seemed to help calm her.

She even got a blow out. Talk about full service.

Here are the after shots... So straight!

 But by the time we got home the curls were back in full force. Thank goodness! 

Floppy Fedora how I adore ya!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm a hat person. I wasn't always but in the last several years my love for head wear has grown leaps and bounds. Hats work wonders for the woman who wants to remain stylish without putting an ounce of effort into it. I mean what could be easier than slapping on a hat and calling it a day. No hair product. No blow dryer. I'm sold! Especially as the cooler months approach and I begin the early morning routine of walking my little one into preschool on a regular basis. It is essential that I have a go-to hat to hide my matted mama's mane. I'm particularly partial to the floppy fedora. I just got the one pictured above and it makes me oh so happy. Plus, on a more practical front I was recently caught in a downpour and I could actually see as I made my mad dash through the rain. Bonus!

Here are a couple of links in case your interested in buying one of these beauties...
Etsy Fedora
Traveler Fedora
Free People Fedora
Gilt Fedora

Below is what you might call a bit of hat porn. What kind of hat turns you on?

The Silent Wife: A book review

Monday, September 16, 2013

There are a couple of reasons why I chose this book. First of all it was reviewed by one of my favorite writers, Ann Lomott, who was quoted as saying that she, "Gobbled it up in one reading." Secondly, it was being marketed as the next Gone Girl. I have to admit that the combination of these two things pulled me in. I love Ann Lamott and I loved Gone Girl. The latter being a smartly written page turning physiological thriller that left you unsure of who, if anyone, to root for.

I will agree that there were a few similarities with the two books. The writing was good in both although The Silent Wife lacked Gillian Flynn's crackling, caustic style. Still, I enjoyed Harrison's prose as well and would certainly read her work again.

"His mind is on everything at once, encircling the whole of his world at a sweep... It's come to a point where he savours the constant apprehension, the risk he takes with each small decision, the strain of being overextended, the pressure of betting everything on the current venture. The anxiety he feels is stabilizing in a way, letting him know that he's alive and on track. It's anxiety cut with anticipation, an  interest in what comes next, a stake in things unfolding. this is what propel him through his day."

Both books were centered around murder and the corroding consequences of a toxic marriage. Both books were hard to put down. I even took The Silent Wife into the bathtub. But the similarities stop there. For one thing I saw the plot twist coming a mile away with The Silent Wife, which was certainly not the case with Gone Girl.

But enough with the comparisons.  Here is the basic gist of the book without giving too much away.

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison was written in the third person from the perspective of "Him" and "Her" in alternating chapters.

HER: Jodi's character (the silent wife) is the examination of a woman so adept at denial that her passive aggression has taken on an internal life of it's own. This eventually leads to a murderous plot that she is both responsible for and emotionally detached from.

HIM: Todd is a philandering middle aged cliche who is in denial about how far he can push a person before they crack. His cluelessness boarders on delusion as his narcissism leads him down a path towards grave consequences that will not only affect his health and spirit but also his chances at staying alive.

In the end it is a story about things left unsaid. How the unspoken can build and build until there is nothing more to be done but the unthinkable...

I give it three stars out of five. I liked it fine but the characters were both so unappealing that I had a hard time caring for them or the outcome at times.
Has anyone else read this book? If so what did you think?

We need a word for that...

Monday, September 9, 2013

I love language. I love the way it sounds dancing off the tip of the tongue, the dips and turns it takes depending on the speaker. I love the accents and hand motions that go along with language, the facial expressions and physicality that add to the layered meanings behind a single word or sentence. I love the interplay between inflection and tone, the power behind a shout and the secrecy of a whisper. I love written language too. Reading a sentence that encapsulates a certain sentiment beautifully or working with the placement of words to transform a blank page into poetry.

I also love the challenge of getting around the limitations of language (English in particular). There is a certain level of joy that comes from finding the perfect combination of words to explain something that hasn't been designated a single term.

On the other hand I can certainly appreciate how other languages have unburdened themselves by creating specific terms to explain something that is untranslatable in English. Haven't you ever wished you had a single word to describe something that has been left out of our language? For example, I want a word to describe the moment when a full on verbal argument or fight erupts into heavy laughter. You know what I'm talking about, right?! That moment when things get so heated that they turn absurd. You look at your sparring partner filled with such flustered anger that you end up saying something utterly off the wall, ridiculous. That starts them giggling and in turn transforms your fury into howling, hysterical belly laughs. Yea. I think we need a word for that!

Here are a few more wonderful examples inspired by the Maptia blog of untranslatable words taken from other languages. What do you think we need a word for???


TARTLE- The act of hesitating when introducing someone because you've forgotten their name


KOMOREBI- Sunlight through the trees- the interplay between light and leaves.

Yagan (Tiera del Fuego) 

MAMILHLAPINATAPEI- The wordless yet meaningful stare between two people who desire to initiate something but are too hesitant to start.

Spanish (From Spain) 

DUENDE- Regarded by many as the hardest word to translate in Spanish, it loosely means to have soul. Federico Garcia Lorca described it as: irrationality, earthiness, a hightened awareness of death, and a dash of the diabolical. It is what gives you chills, makes you cry, smile or feel deeply connected to something, art and flamenco in particular. 


LITOST- A state of agony or torment created by the sight of ones own misery. 


WADEINSAMKEIT- The feeling of being alone in the woods.

Cake Toppers

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

How wonderful are these cake toppers by Madeline Trait?! I love the idea of being able to jazz up a simple cake for any occasion. Forget the overused, disposable candles. I'm all about these hand drawn, hand painted, wooden designs. Plus, with the holidays just around the corner and lots of cake to be had, they seem like just the thing to add a little bling to your baked goods! What do you think?

Cake Toppers

Coming Home Country Road- Harpers Ferry, WV

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

One of the things I love best about our new home on the East Coast is the variety that surrounds us here. Not only are we within a short distance to the Nation's Capitol with all the city fun of museums, music, culture etc... We are also close to some of the very best outdoor activities around with the Appalachian trail, rock climbing, biking and rafting all nearby.

This Labor Day weekend we took advantage of the latter, exploring the historic town of Harpers Ferry which as it turns out is also a hub for outdoor recreation. Settled in the mountains of West Virginia where the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers intersect it was the perfect setting to celebrate the end of summer. Traveling with two kids under three is never easy but amid the chaos and a few breakdowns, both from the girls and from us, we managed to have fun wondering through old town, wading in the river and sampling the town's famous frozen custard. I can imagine spending many a weekend here especially as the girls get older and we can start to to introduce them to kayaking, hiking, biking and zip line adventures. Such fun awaits!!!