Month: April 2012

fran's eyebrows

Beauty confessions

A few quick confessions here.

1. I stink at styling hair. While I love vintage hair styles, I don’t actually wear them as my hair resists all my attempts to coax it into anything other than its naturally pin-straight state.

2. I think professional manicures are a waste. Why would I spend all that money to have someone paint my nails, when I can spend the same amount on a bottle (or two) of polish and do my own nails many, many times? (Even though my nail-polishing skills are only marginally better than my hair-styling abilities.) I also have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table with my mom and my grandmother as a teenager with all of us doing our own nails. Why didn’t we help each other? Because the women in my family are stubborn and god forbid we should ask for help, that’s why.

3. This year I finally stopped going to Supercuts and found a real salon for the first time in almost a decade. I’m kind of an impulse hair-cutter. Sometimes that’s been ok. Other times, it hasn’t worked out so well – hence the commitment to a salon that encourages stylists to spend more time with their customers.

4. I refuse to wear a bathing suit in front of my co-workers. It’s one thing for me to go to the beach and parade around in front of total strangers or jump in a pool with friends. But people I work with fall somewhere in between…that’s a weird line. And I’m not crossing it. My bikini will not come with me to Orlando.

fran's eyebrows

My paternal grandmother. Yes, I have her eyebrows.

5. I do not trust anyone else to do my eyebrows. When I was about 11, my dad’s mom told me that I had her eyebrows and made me promise to keep them. At the time, I thought she was insane. I had no idea why anyone would want to get rid of their eyebrows. Now I understand what she meant and I’ve done my best to stay reasonably close to Grandma Liskow’s eyebrow shape.

I could keep going here, but five is probably plenty. Especially if I don’t want readers to think I’m a totally nut-job. So, what are some of your beauty quirks?


Packing and preparation

I have been horribly lax about posting new compacts to my website lately, largely because my day job has been ridiculously busy for the last few weeks. My whole department has been working their tails off preparing for our annual user group next week. We’re hosting 1,000 people for four days, and as part of the customer-facing staff, I have to be on my best behavior and perpetuate the illusion that I am professional, polished and poised.

Gah. Large groups of people send me right over the edge. I’m trying to make a game of it and tell myself it will be good for me. Which it will, professionally.

Most of today was spent packing and reading. I won’t have more than a few minutes to myself all next week, so I revelled in my downtime today. Tim was kind enough to apply my henna tonight, so at least I won’t have loads of gray peeking out when I’m trying to make good impressions.

My lovely silver handbag hasn’t arrived yet. Disappointing, but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to use it in the future, even if I won’t have it for  the Awards Gala. I’m also disappointed that I won’t have time (or a car) to be able to do any exploring while I’m in Orlando. An internet search turned up a few vintage shops that looked promising–Deja Vu Vintage in particular. But alas, no shopping on this trip. Maybe next time. On a more positive note, I’ve found a lot new inventory lately–after the conference craziness has subsided, I plan to get pack on track with photographing and posting compacts to the site.

Yard sale/flea market season should be starting soon–something else to look forward to when I get back.

Tomorrow: nails and last minute packing. Now, off to rinse out my hair and see how my latest henna mix turned out.



confetti compact

Choosing a travelling companion

This may seem like anathema to some collectors, but I actually use most of my compacts.

By “use,” I mean carry them in a purse and check the mirror when I need to touch up my lipstick. Since I rotate so often, it would be a huge pain in the neck to keep powder in them, and I rarely need to powder my face during the day (ironic for a gal who collects POWDER compacts – I know). Sure, there a few items in my collection that never leave the shelf: those that are too old, rare, expensive, or fragile for me to feel comfortable subjecting them to the inside of a purse. For example, my Volupte Golden Gesture hand compact will never get used–this Volupte series of compacts is expensive and they dent if you breathe on them wrong.

I have about 25 compacts that I feel comfortable tossing in my bag. I switch them out as the mood strikes.

But next week, I’ll be on the road. I need to choose one compact to go with me for the week. I have a formal event on Tuesday night, so I’m leaning toward a compact that will work nicely for that. I have my dress from the clothing swap, I found awesome shoes, and got a lovely vintage handbag from ReTraced Steps on Etsy. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it gets here in time.) (Aside: This Etsy seller has a vintage Christmas tree light with ashtrays that reminds me of the Lite-Brite tree my grandmother had when I was growing up. Not exactly the Lite-Brite tree, but still tempting. The Lite Brite tree will get its own blog post closer to the holidays. Back to packing.)

Typically, I try to stick with a color scheme for my wardrobe during work travel so that everything goes together, but this time, my Tuesday clothes just don’t fit into the chosen palette. I don’t think I care enough to try to pick something different at this point. I’m mostly working with black and gray, and my dress for the Awards Gala is blue and silvery with some black. The winner?

confetti compact

My travel companion: a goldtone compact with silver/shell confetti set in black lucite.

One of my favorites. Sparkly, fun, yet sophisticated. Black with hints of silver, gray, and blue or purple in the right light. Also, this compact has a really good mirror. Important when I’m going to be running around in a strange place meeting with customers for four days straight; the last thing I want is to realize I’ve had lipstick on my teeth for hours while trying to make a good first impression.

Compact problem solved. Now: trying to figure out if I can fit a small can of hairspray in my quart-sized zip-top bag so I can attempt to do victory rolls for the gala on Tuesday night. Wish me luck.

Helene, my new girl crush.

Next weekend, I have to travel for work. I’m going to be at a conference from Sunday through Thursday, running around like a madwoman.

I rarely wear flats. Rarely wear anything less than a 3 inch heel to work, really. Sadly, running around a hotel for four days doesn’t go so well in heels, and my black almost-flats died at the end of last summer. I’ve been on a mission to replace them, but haven’t found anything suitable yet. So, last Saturday, I went to the mall. I confess: I’m not strictly vintage. I wear a lot of repro and I have good luck finding classic styles at places like JC Penney and Ann Taylor.

And my mall just got a White House Black Market. The website really doesn’t do their clothing justice – they have some gorgeous dresses and skirts that work nicely in a vintage-lover-who-can’t-always-find-real-vintage wardrobe. Anyway, I popped in. They had a ton of lovely summery strapless dresses with circle skirts, all way over my budget, so I drifted toward the back of the store and the sale racks.

And there she was. All almost five feet of her, with her giant tortoiseshell sunglasses, lipstick, gobs of jewelry and yellowy pinned-back hair that could be old lady hair, could be dyed. “That’s a really nice top–and that color would look great on you. I love red on redheads.”

Bingo. She got me. “I love red.”

“Have you seen this? And that skirt goes well with it, we’ve got another red top over here…” and she was tearing through the racks finding me anything red in sight. She set me up with a dressing room, gave great feedback to the gal in there trying on clothes and modelling for her mother, and drifted back out front to greet new shoppers. Adorable and efficient. Her name is Helene (Hell. Lane.)

I wound up with a fabulous red wrap dress. Not really as vintage as I usually go, but you can wad up the fabric, stuff it at the bottom of a suitcase, pull it out, put it on and walk out the door wrinkle-free. Love that. “That’s like a Diane von Furstenburg dress–classic. And it fits you beautifully. It’s on sale, too: a really good price, that’s how you want to buy things here.”

Helene came across with a lovely sincerity. When I rejected one of the tops I tried on, she asked why – I told her I loved it, but the back dipped low enough to reveal part of one of my tattoos, which I don’t want to show at work. She nodded in solemn agreement. “No, you don’t want that. How about this? No, that has the same line in the back.” This woman in her late 60s/early 70s was completely not freaked out by my tattoos. She talked me into signing up for the email newsletter…I had to walk her through part of the POS so she could enter my birthday month. Her response: “Will you look at that! You taught me something new today.”

Helene rocks. She’s got a wonderful combination of style, grace, and manners: She encapsulates the old-school high-end department store level of customer service. I was already planning to become a frequent shopper at White House Black Market to stay on top of the sale racks, but now I’ll stop by just to check in with Helene. Great customer service will do that.

Especially when it reinforces my obsession with awesome little old ladies.

J.D. McPherson was…

not happening last night.

I know: I told you how excited we were for the show.

Then Tim went to work and I worked from home, waiting for the grill repair guy. Gave myself a mani-pedi so I’d look nice for the show…ironed a dress, picked out shoes, etc. The grill repair guy, who was supposed to show up between one and five, showed up at quarter past five. Whatever. After he left, Tim and I started talking about when we’d have to leave for the show, who’s opening, what do they sound like, why would you choose them to open for J.D., do we want to eat in Boston or eat at home before we leave, blah blah blah logistics….

and we realized that neither one of us really wanted to leave the house. The last few times we’ve planned adventures in Boston, we’ve come home disappointed. Maybe we set ourselves up for disappointment. Maybe we’re too misanthropic. Maybe we’re just old and jaded. We’re ok with that. We own it.

So, as much as we love J.D. McPherson, we stayed home. Our friends Lucas and Bernadette came over, B did my hair in awesome rolls even without having any product in it, the boys made us chili dogs and home-made french fries, and we had a really good time.

To anyone who was expecting a review of the show, I apologize. As consolation, here’s the North Side Gal video I mentioned in my last post. Enjoy.

Following up on retro remedies

Dedicated readers may remember that as soon as the trees started waking up, I became an itchy, hive-riddled mess. To control my raging skin allergies, I started drinking a cider vinegar cocktail every morning. It seemed to work. Then I went to the doctor, who gave me several prescriptions. My husband put the cider vinegar in the pantry. Out of sight, out of mind: I stopped taking it.


Especially in concert with last weekend’s outdoor adventures. My skin hates me.

I resumed the cider regimen yesterday and can feel the difference. Call me crazy, but it definitely works. To quote the Monkees, I’m a believer.

Speaking of bands, tonight we’re going to see J.D. McPherson in Boston. Tim and I both love the album “Signs & Signifiers,” it’s absolutely brilliant. Both of us could listen to it on infinite repeat: deliciously reminiscent of lots of the older music I love without being a complete rip-off or ridiculously predictable. If you haven’t already heard it, go find the video for North Side Gal. I’ll wait while you watch and listen. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the show and hoping J.D. lives up to my expectations. Expect a full report tomorrow.

Mint condition

We’ve had a spell of warm weather the last few days – finally. Tim and I got out in the yard over the weekend and did some much-needed raking. I also did some serious maintenance in one of my flower beds.

One of the things I love most about my flower beds: the majority of my plants have been gifts. When Tim and I bought the house, both our mothers offered us tons of things from their gardens. Tim’s mom gave us some wonderful hostas and Solomon’s seal and astilbe from her yard. My friend Helen gave me day lillies, Siberian irises, lungwort, lamb’s ear and thyme. My friend Lisa, who can grow anything anywhere, gave me tiger lillies and more hosta and paperwhites.

My mother, who my family has long nicknamed the Garden Ho, let me run rampant in her yard, digging up things willy-nilly. Hostas, thyme, wild onions, peonies, phlox, foxglove, liatris, myrtle, a pretty thing we later learned was called rose campion…all kinds of plants.

And mint.

A word about mint:

INVASIVE. That’s the word about mint, all right. Argh.


The mint invasion.

You’re probably thinking that my invasion doesn’t look so bad. Consider that it’s only April – the start of the growing season. If I don’t tend to that now, it will get two feet tall and consume everything in its path. Which is great if you’re a mojito factory, which I’m not.

I spent some time digging out rogue mint. Digging, ripping, extracting by any means necessary. Mint sends out runners, so when you pull one plant out, you can chase the root back to another plant several feet away. It’s really amazing. The whole time you’re ripping it out, you’re thinking, how the hell did that get over here? And then you find the root. Oh. That. That’s exactly how it got all the way over here. Yikes.

Anyway, I cleared out a ton of it, potting some for myself and some for friends. Who have been warned that the wee little fuzzy thing in that pot will transform into Audrey 2 given the chance. With the mint out of the way, I was able to move a foxglove that had self-seeded in the middle of some phlox, giving both the phlox and the foxglove more space. And put in a pansy left over from my window box – hanging basket – front steps flat. I’m pleased. Next up: the back yard.

mint tamed

After the purge. Room for new plants.