Sunday, May 31, 2009

Michelle's Garden

"Whether there would be a White House garden had become more than a matter of landscaping. The question had taken on political and environmental symbolism, with the Obamas lobbied for months by advocates who believe that growing more food locally, and organically, can lead to more healthful eating and reduce reliance on huge industrial farms that use more oil for transportation and chemicals for fertilizer."
"While the organic garden will provide food for the first family’s meals and formal dinners, its most important role, Mrs. Obama said, will be to educate children about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables at a time when obesity and diabetes have become a national concern.
"The Obamas will feed their love of Mexican food with cilantro, tomatillos and hot peppers. Lettuces will include red romaine, green oak leaf, butterhead, red leaf and galactic. There will be spinach, chard, collards and black kale. For desserts, there will be a patch of berries. And herbs will include some more unusual varieties, like anise hyssop and Thai basil. A White House carpenter, Charlie Brandts, who is a beekeeper, will tend two hives for honey.
"The plots will be in raised beds fertilized with White House compost, crab meal from the Chesapeake Bay, lime and green sand. Ladybugs and praying mantises will help control harmful bugs."
New York Times

From a Nourished Mother

"I read an article...many months back that really inspired me. It was about some Northern European preschool where the children play outdoors all day long. Yes, all day... every day. Rain or shine. Sometimes they don warm coats and scarves, sometimes they need rain slickers and galoshes... but they are out there in the fresh air, playing not just with 'natural toys' but with nature. I thought about how really marvelous this is, and really anachronistic, too, in a time when most kids find fun in front of screens in carefully climate-controlled (and often sterilized) environments. Around the same time I read Richard Louv's wonderful book Last Child in the Woods, in which he coins the term 'Nature Deficit Disorder' and describes how limited access to the outdoors and lack of unstructured play there has contributed to an alarming rise of childhood depression and attention disorders. I realized reading this book, and especially after reading that article, that I should be getting [Stella] out there to play every day, and that there was no good reason at all that I should be searching for indoor fun because of 'bad' weather... that barring truly freezing temperatures or howling thunderstorms, we should still be able to have lots of fun outside, even in the winter. So that's how we ended up spending many days during these past cold months enjoying the parks around town, more often than not as the only folks climbing and swinging and marching through the trees in our mittens and fleecy hats. I heard a few words of caution from family concerned that I might be dooming the child to a rotten case of pneumonia... but of course, being cooped up inside with all the germies during the cold months is what really contributes to all the winter sickies, and Stella came through the season with flying colors and barely a sniffle.
"And moreover, she really enjoyed herself. Now that the weather is warming up, and everything is turning green and lush, it's marvelous to be able to point out to her (or have pointed out to me!) how everything is changing, and to see all sorts of little creature-friends who weren't there before. It's exciting to think that she will have an authentic understanding about the cycles of the seasons, and be familiar with the plants and animals and wonderous what-nots that many kids might only recognize from their picture books or television screens. She really does seem to prefer being outside, too... even when it's raining or 'yucky' she points out the windows, pulls me to the doors. We've started taking a good long walk to the river and playing at the park every Saturday afternoon while The Papa is at prayer services-- I used to try to keep her amused for those hours indoors, in the playroom, and it was always a hassle. Now we both look forward to enjoying a glorious springtime stroll and some good old running around and climbing all over before we head over to see the other kids and play with the toys inside for a much shorter span of time. She's so much less fussy and stir-crazy. Today we went to a playdate to meet up with a bunch of babies and toddlers we know, but Stella wasn't really into it after she had made her rounds of the house, inspecting all the toys and exploring her options. She wanted out. We ran around on the grassy commons outside our friend's house, chasing butterflies, looking at tiny flowers, touching tree bark, collecting sticks. She even met her first bee.
"I think this has all got to be pretty good for her. I think among all the intriguing points that Louv brings up in his book about why kids need nature, the most striking is that children need to be on the move-- they need to run wild, use all that energy, revel in the joy of being in their bodies. Trying to calm kids down, keep them quiet and still, sit them at desks, focus their attention on 'work'-- is really the biggest part of our crisis with hyperactivity and attention problems... we expect developmentally inappropriate behavior from small children, and put them in 'classroom' situations long before they can be ready (and who ever, at whatever age, really wants to be ready for dreary days at a desk when there are butterflies to chase?!). With less and less time outdoors, and more of that precious little time spent in very structured, competitive recreational pursuits, it's no wonder kids can't focus, can't relax, can't enjoy themselves. Hmmm... and it sounds like a lot of grown-ups you know, too, right?
"In any case, I was thinking again the other day about that school where the kids spend all their time in their natural habitat-- and it is truly their natural haunt, what children have evolved to enjoy, explore, learn from (as with so much of modernity, babies have no natural inclination to adapt to our weird whims when their innate prehistoric biological expectations are thwarted!)"
Nourished Mother

Monday, May 25, 2009

Jane Fonda in Barefoot in the Park

My favorite of Jane Fonda's ensems in Barefoot in the Park consists of brown corduroys with a leather belt, an orange turtleneck tucked into the cords, little brown leather beatle boots, and a toggle coat--I think it's khaki. I bought an orange turtleneck the other day; that's how obsessed I am with the costumes in this movie. Too bad there are no pictures of that outfit to be found with google images. With my current tactic of playing pause and draw with movies (right now my favorites are mostly from the late '60s and early '70s preferably based on a play) in order to practice my fashion plate illustration skills, I may be able to post one soon, along with a few drawings of the costumes from Butterflies are Free (starring Goldie Hawn), which are also very difficult to find on the interweb. The real shame there is that I also can't find a good picture of Goldie's hairdo in the movie, which I want. The grass is always greener, and the curly vs. straight hair battle is no exception.
I am on the hunt for the perfect pair of high-waisted, dark brown, ankle length cords. Also Beatle Boots under $50.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Earth Works" by Suzy Menkes (New York Times Style Magazine: Winter 2008)

"It was one of those stifling Milan days when the heat sparked off the sidewalk and humidity turned the city into a sauna. As I dodged into Napapijri, a new store carrying hefty outerwear in techno fabrics (this was July), a strange thing happened to my sweat-drenched body.
"No, it wasn't air-conditioning, although this was one of the rare public places in Italy where there seemed to be some attempt to control the temperature. It was when my eyes looked up to a series of photographs -- vast glacial stretches of empty polar landscapes, icy white, with pockets of deep blue -- that I started to feel cooler and calmer. The display of Sebastian Copeland photographs, from his book 'Antarctica: The Global Warning,' did more than make me admire the integrity of individuals who are trying to raise awareness of threats to the environment. I also realized that those ice-floe colors of nature at its most distant and untouchable are part of a new palette appearing on the fashion runways.
"It seems as if we are all yearning for distant travel. When people talk excitedly about a vacation, it is nearly always in a place so far off the tourist map that it is uncharted territory: visiting ancient Greek ruins in Libya, swimming on the farthest shores of Anatolia, viewing the peaks of Patagonia. I contrasted that with the travel explorations of previous generations, from the Grand Tour of Europe in the 19th century to the hippie trails through India and Morocco in the 1970s. And I started to evolve a theory that vacation exploration is the spice in the fashion palette of each designer generation.
"Hence the 'I'm just mad about Saffron' ocher shades and weird mixes of dung brown and burnt orange in the '70s. They came from the Maghreb at a time when Marrakesh was the doomed Talitha Getty's hippie playground (she died of a drug overdose a couple of years after posing there for languorous hippie-deluxe photographs). Then there was the kaleidoscope of hallucinatory pattern and color drawn from India via the Beatles album covers in their guru-and-Ganges period -- long before Rajasthan had became a mass tourist destination.
"I started to think of the pale shades in last March's Marc Jacobs fall show as a reflection of a polar planet. And I noted how many of my memory clicks from the collections were the eerie pink strips of a sunset on the rim of the earth, and of the glacial tint to neutral shades.
"There was also the advent of 'green.' Our dream, now that it has mostly disappeared under urban sprawl, is of a lost pastoral world with sylvan landscapes. So leaf green is a new fashion color. Dai Fujiwara, the designer for Issey Miyake, told me that his spring 2009 collection was all about 'color hunting.' He printed 3,000 color samples, took them on a trip to the Amazon, and finally matched eight shades to jungle and river.
"Then there is turquoise, an unloved fashion color since the Egyptomania that followed the discovery of King Tutankhamen in the 1920s, when all things Pharaonic became suddenly à la mode. Now turquoise is back, in a slightly different register: the cerulean blue of the waters that you hope to find when traveling to Greek islands but are more likely to see only if you go deep-sea diving.
"Like the polar regions, the underwater world is one of the last frontiers of humankind, an area within the reach of only the most intrepid travelers. I always pause in wonder when I see the glinting colors of tropical fish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. I am mesmerized by the swaying, translucent jellies, and ask myself whether fashion designers have been inspired by these sea creatures to create the ethereal looks we see in their collections.
"In reality, such inspiration would more likely be caught on the Net than in the net. Cyberspace can create virtual journeys, giving us an enhanced vision of color and space. When I click on high-resolution sites, I am entranced by the intensity of the effect, even for familiar locations. A ski scenario suddenly shifts from picture postcard to hyperintense visions of blue sky and glacial pools. Equally awesome is the range of color available on a computer. Theoretically, it should be possible not just to enhance color, as designers do when they play with print and pattern, but also to dream of a walking trip in the Hindu Kush mountains, find the images in cyberspace and match the colors: from dream of distant travel to fashion reality at the click of a mouse."
New York Times

Tuesday, May 12, 2009