Pirates Don’t Wear Pink Flowers

As much as I adore 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s  wardrobe — cute cargo shorts, precious polos, oh-so-adorable blue jeans — I think that having a baby-girl granddaughter to dress up in clothes such as these would be fun, too.  I mean, who else but a granddaughter can you talk  into wearing bright-pink flowers, yellow kitty cats and a riotous mixture of vintage-style prints? With ruffles? The Captain does have long gorgeous blond curls and he has put on my boots and clomped around the house, but he draws the line at pink flowers and yellow kitty cats. And, admittedly, he likes my boots because he then goes around brandishing a pretend sword and muttering “arrrr” in a spot-onl Jack Sparrow imitation. He would not be interested at all in these darling outfits by The Whimzy Barn I found at the Green Market arts and crafts show in Corinth, Miss., that’s held every month in historic downtown.  Check it out — it’s a great place to shop for young pirates as well as sweet little girls.

P.S. This is a great discussion in light of the controversy surrounding the pink-toenail-polish J Crew ad. Look, we all know that there isn’t a mom around who hasn’t at least thought about “prettying-up” her little boy. In the ad photo (which is a real mom and her child), it’s obvious that the mom and her son love each other and are having a great time. Why this strikes fear into some people’s hearts, I have no idea.

Didn’t Your Mother Always Tell You to Put Your Napkin in Your Lap?

I’m a huge fan of Project Runway. (At least I’ve been one ever since Project Runway switched to Lifetime and I’ve been able to watch it since our cable system refuses to offer Bravo. And I’m done ranting now.)  I mean, you’ve got sharp objects and shiny fabrics mixed with delicious diva-ness and the Sartorial Wisdom That Is Tim Gunn. What’s not to like? I especially love it when the judges go all crazy eyed. Now, I do not claim to know anything — not one single thing — about fashion. But it always amuses me when the Project Runway judges rail against something a show’s designer has produced when THAT VERY SAME LOOK is making the rounds in the real world. Take Peach’s dinner napkins, for example. In this past week’s episode, our favorite Token Old Lady (and note that she’s younger than I am, please) created an outfit that, yes, is ugly and busy and ill-fitting but definitely is not deserving of the judges’ scorn for her waistline “dinner-napkin” embellishment. At least if this fall 2010 cocktail dress by Nanette Lepore, which made it into the September issue of InStyle magazine (page 324), is any indication. Cat Deeley, where are you when we need you?

Fashion???

Oh my cookies! Yup, these are actual pieces of clothing that I wore in the 1980s. And what’s worse is that I actually made them myself. When I was cleaning out closets for a yard sale recently, I found these stashed away … probably in an effort to forget. But it’s not my fault. As stay-at-home moms in the 1980s, my friends and I perfected our uniform of Laura Ashley jumpers, black stretchy stirrup pants and oversized Bedazzled T-shirts gathered on the side with hair scrunchies. Painful but true. And for some reason — I am not creative or crafty or in any way remotely talented artistic-wise — I became addicted to sewing. I made clothes for myself and my two daughters. I made clothes for their dolls. I made pillows and curtains and Halloween costumes. I think I convinced myself I was saving money, although anyone who’s ever wandered into a fabric store and come out minus the grocery-budget for the month recognizes that big fat lie. The collar has little bunnies on it, and I think I work it for Easter over a white blouse. The sweatshirt I have no excuse for. Why I would want to bedeck myself in a huge hot-pink sweatshirt decorated with buttons, bows and spools of thread, I have no idea. Please tell me some of y’all went through this phase, too.

Florence, Alabama

“Come on in. May we help you?” As soon as you push open the heavy wood and glass door and step onto the creaky floorboards, you know you’re someplace special. And that place is Wilson’s Fabrics in downtown Florence, Alabama, where northwest Alabama families have been coming for 61 years for everything from fabric for wedding dresses to emergency repair of buttons and hems. Robbie Wilson, 60, is closing the store his parents — his father was “The Tall Man with the Low Prices” — founded. At one time, the fabric business was good. From this first storefront, the Wilson family expanded their company into six stores across northwest Alabama. But after business peaked in the 1980s and ’90s (remember all those gorgeous handsmocked dresses we made back then?), the company had to close store after store until only this, the original, remained. Small local fabric shops are going the way of small local bookstores  — probably already have. “People don’t sew anymore,” said Robbie Wilson, smiling ruefully, when I went to pay my last respects at the shop earlier this week. The combination of readily available inexpensive ready-to-wear clothes and the steady rise of big box do-it-yourself chains such as Hobby Lobby and Jo Ann’s Fabrics didn’t help, either. Plus, downtown Florence took a major hit when the local family-owned department store sold out and then closed a few years ago. “But Florence is a vital and changing downtown,” Wilson said, ever optimistic. “It’s just going to go in a new direction, with new opportunities.” Someone has leased his store space and is opening a gift shop there, he added. But nothing will replace the antique cash register, the yellowing handwritten signs, the piles of fabrics and patterns in the back where you knew treasures lay hidden, just waiting to be unearthed. Like so many others, I have many Wilson’s memories. I remember chasing my brother under the fabric tables when we were little. Later, when my own children were little, I lovingly fingered fine cotton and browsed through smocking plates as I planned Easter outfits. And later still, when I worked at the newspaper office just a couple blocks away, I’d duck into Wilson’s for thread or ribbon or pins or whatever I needed for an ongoing project. Sigh. We’re going to miss you.

Cajun Week

Interior decoratingThe best part about Cajun Country? The incredible Home decorfriendliness and hospitality. A week or so ago, two other friends and I were lucky enough to get to go to Lake Charles, Louisiana, for a real Cajun wedding. Driving from our corner of northwest Alabama, we stopped in Jackson, Mississippi, to pick up another friend and we got our first taste of what Cajun generosity is all about. (And I know that Jackson isn’t really Cajun country but when you’re close enough to drive to New Orleans for lunch, that qualifies in my book!) Our Jackson friend, Jana, is always the one we turn to for decorating and entertaining advice since she excels at both of those — and she outdid herself this time. We’re ashamed to admit that even though she’s lived in Jackson now for almost three years, we’d never gone to visit her. So this was our first peek at her new house, and we all just fell in love with it as soon as we walked in the door. Everything was so warm, inviting and luxurious, with handmade Jana touches everywhere. She designed and made all the window treatments, as well as throw pillows and handpainted floor coverings. I wish just a little bit of her creativity would rub off on me.

Home decorHome decorAnd maybe it did, a little bit, because the next day Jana took us Do-it-yourselfto a wonderful consignment shop in Jackson — bargain hunting is another Jana speciality — and I found one of those wonderful 1980s’ embellished skirt like you’d make and wear to a friend’s Casino Night party. Instead of thinking, “Wow, I could probably wear that,” I had a Jana-thought: “Wow, that would make an adorable pillow.” Of course, you need a Jana to make those thoughts come true, and she did. You know you’d pay $60-plus for this pillow in a decorating shop, but I got it for the $8 cost of the skirt and Jana’s sewing time, which she luckily didn’t charge me for. Aren’t friends wonderful?

And the Cajun hospitality at Jana’s house didn’t end with Jana. On our way back from the wedding we of course had to Cajun foodstop in Jackson to drop Jana off. We had driven through nail-bitingly scary heavy rain for hours and were suffering the after-effects of too much fun, but Jana’s husband, Don, met us at the door with restorative glasses of wine and a wonderful Cajun lunch of real authentic New Orleans mufulletas (the secret’s in the Central Grocery olive salad) chips and salsa and a fresh fruit salad that Don showed us how to liven up with chili powder — something I’d never tasted before but I really enjoyed. I know I’m embarrassing Jana and Don here by gushing all over them, but, really, when you have friends who go to so much trouble to make you feel special, then you just have to brag about them. I mean, folks pay good money to be treated like this, and Jana and Don did it just because they love us. Awwww…

So this wraps up my Cajun Week, with reports from my few days exploring Cajun Country. I had a blast and I hope you did, too. Can’t wait to go back. And check out my weekly TimesDaily column on the Cajun wedding, at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20090918/ARTICLES/909185004

Quilts

jims-quilt-007There were just two of us for Sunday school so we didn’t have class jims-quilt-003at my little church this past Sunday, but I learned a lesson anyway: (K)not all sermons come from the pulpit. When I got to church on Sunday morning and it became apparent only one other of the usual five or six women in our class was going to show, I contemplated going home for more coffee and Sunday New York Times. But before I could head for the door, our minister asked the two of us (our church is small so there’s no place to hide!) to finish a prayer quilt from the women’s group. The quilt is for a church member who’s fighting cancer, and our minister wanted to bless it at the service and deliver it that afternoon. My brain said, “But I have no crafting skill whatsoever and besides, I want Sunday Styles and another cappuccino,” but my mouth said, “Sure! Of course! Love to!” That happens a lot at church. But I was so glad — this time, at least — that my mouth paid no attention to my brain. Turned out all the quilt needed was tying some knots, and I’m very good at tangling things up. Our church women’s group makes these prayer quilts for people who are sick and in need — when you tie one of knots you say a prayer for the intended recipient, who then gets to wrap up in cozy warmth and love. As we tied and talked, I suddenly sort of time-traveled back to old-fashioned quilting bees, where women gathered to care for each other through fabric and friendship, and I finally understood the timeless power of needle and thread. To make it even better, this quilt was for the husband of a friend of mine. I sat beside her during the church service. When our pastor blessed the quilt and announced it was for her husband, I got to hand her a tissue and give her a hug. Definitely worth the loss of a second cappuccino.