Friday, March 24, 2017

Rec Five: Children's Books with Strong Female Characters

Madeline- "They left the house at half past nine/ In two straight lines in rain or shine- /The smallest one was Madeline.” Nearly everyone will find, if they try, that they are able to recite these first few lines of the Madeline books. What makes Madeline so remarkable though isn't her enduring popularity, but that even though she is the smallest, she is still the bravest, saying "pooh pooh" to tigers at the zoo. She is kind, taking in stray dogs and stopping bullies, and a perfect example of what we want as a role model for girls and boys alike.

Oz books - Some people are surprised that that is more than one book about the magical land of Oz, but let me tell you something even more better- all the rest are far, far superior to the first. Part of that is the role that girls and women play in all of the books. L. Frank Baum was himself a suffragist, and purposely made his protagonists girls. Strong, and powerful women were sources of wisdom in his stories; girl rulers were nobel and kind; Dorothy- and other heroine's modeled after her- were plucky and had common sense. In one book even, two armies faced off and all the members of either side were girls! He did this because he felt it was important for women to be represented in literature, and tried to do just that when creating his "American Fairytales."

The Betsy-Tacy series - Another series that deserves far greater recognition than it gets, these books show the daily life of a two girls living in the early 1900s. Though technically fiction, the author, Maud Hart Lovelace, draws quite heavily from her own life to the point where it might be more accurate to say they are fictionalized memoirs. The first book starts when Betsy is five and future novels take her through childhood, high school, and eventually college, marriage and the world beyond. As she ages, the writing becomes more complex, allowing the reader to grow with the series. What I love most about these books is that all the women are individuals (since they are based on real people that is hardly surprising) with complex inner lives, and nearly all of them pursue jobs and dreams outside of the home, with the support of their families.

Eight Cousins and A Rose in Bloom- Louisa May Alcott's Little Women and its sequels are perhaps better known, but I love these two books. In real life Alcott was a feminist; she and her family had been part of the transcendentalist movement. Both of these facts put her in the same social circles as the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. The characters in the books likewise espouse many of the same values and even quote some of her friends' works. Yet, it never comes across as preachy. Instead, Rose, other female characters, and the male characters are equally encouraged to make something of themselves, to have a purpose beyond that of leisure and family. Again, these are messages that I find very encouraging to young readers.

Emily of New Moon-  The whole world love's  Lucy Maud Montgomery creation, Anne of Green Gables. This book series is somewhat in the same vein, but here Montgomery draws more closely from her own childhood and young adult experiences as she chronicles the daily life of Emily. Like Montgomery did, Emily longs to be an author, a dream that sometimes put her at odds with society's expectations of women. Emily also deals with deep emotions as she and her friends struggle to find their right paths, a theme that I feel will resonate with readers.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Motherhood Musings: Breastfeeding Basket

I was not a breastfed baby.  So, despite the omnipresence of breastfeeding on any pregnancy forum, it was also not something I had strongly considered.... until my husband brought up that he felt it was important to breastfeed a baby. Please note:this is a hot-button topic to many, but each person has their own reasons for caring for their child as they do, so please refrain from negative commentary on people's choices). Oh, the debates that were had! Questions of health benefits, bonding experiences for both parents, convenience, money, and time all were rehashed. Doctors reassured me that either choice was a good choice- bottle or breastfed, what was important was that the baby was fed. Still, for a variety of reasons, I did in the end, choose to breastfeed. And by the end, I mean, we'd come to that decision only the last three weeks of the pregnancy. Not exactly a plethora of time to read up and find out the right way to do anything. Luckily, I and Ellis took to things easily enough.

Now, as my maternity leave draws to a close at the end of this month, we are switching to bottle and formula (once again, for a variety of reasons unique to our situations, so no commentary on that, please). We can only hope he takes to it as easily.  But before then, I wanted to share with you one tool I found particularly helpful: The breastfeeding basket.

1. Board Books | 2. Diabetic Supplies | 3. Nursing Pads | 4. Notebook | 5. Kleenex | 6. Lotion and Chapstick | 7. Nose bulb | 8. Drink | 9. Extra Burp Cloth. 

1. Board Books - It is never too early to start reading to your child. At this stage though, they can't see much, so don't get too hung up on things. We use about three books in regular rotation. All are simple with high contrast pictures to make it easier for the baby to see. 

2. Diabetic Supplies - Breastfeeding helps me regulate my blood sugar levels, but, since breastfeeding also takes a lot of energy, it is important to have my diabetic supplies close at hand to check on things and react, if needed. 

3. Nursing Pads - Your body is amazing. It is also a bit gross and things can leak. These can help keep your clothes looking great. 

4. Notebook - This can help you remember all those little things, like recording when your baby slept, or sweet moments, like when the baby first smiled. 

5. Kleenex - Your immune system is lower right after giving birth. Be prepared. 

6. Lotion and Chapstick - It is easy to become dehydrated breastfeeding, which can lead to dry skin. Stay ahead of the game here. 

7. Nose bulb - It could be used to clean out baby noses, but we used to to help suck out spit-up. Use for one or the other. Not both because- ew. 

8. Drink - As we said, it is easy to become dehydrated breastfeeding. This nifty straw and cup came from the hospital. It is nicer than a sports bottle because I don't have to lift it up and yet it doesn't spill. 

9. Extra Burp Cloth- babies spit up. Have an extra on hand, so you don't ruin your clothes. 

Not pictured but still important: 

Snacks- I had both a low-carb snack and a snack I could eat if I was becoming hypoglycemic. Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy and quickly changing blood sugar levels are possible. Even if you are not diabetic though, it is good to have snacks as you need to replenish your own energy levels. 

Wallet and Phone- A phone provides communication and entertainment. Especially in the early days, you maybe physically be up to moving around much, so having the world at your finger tips is helpful. Likewise, your wallet has mony, credit cards and your health insurance card. As you get all the paperwork for your baby finished (like, say, ordering birth certificates!), you want these in easy reach. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

Cinema Style: Designing Woman

Designing Woman may be a repackaged version of Woman of the Year... but the plot is besides the point. It is really a film all about the clothes, something Gregory Peck's character comes to understand when the wife he's known all of three days discards her casual wear for, well, this ensemble. As the film's costume designer put it, Lauren Becall had a body made to wear clothes, and that is put to advantage in a number of pencil skirted dresses. A conservative neckline keeps things classy, and the accessories do the rest. Pearl earrings, mink stole and a structured bag complete the look. You have to pretty confident in your style to pull off red-on-red monochromatic look like Becall does here. With confidence as the main accessory, everything else is kept pretty minimal with only a subtle watch added to the ensemble. The focus in on the color. Another wiggle dress is seen, and a swing coat with three quarter sleeves adds enough drama on its own. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

10 Productive Things to do in 15 minutes or less

Lay out your clothes

Write several Thank You notes

De-clutter your wallet

Watch a TED Talk video

Update your resume

Toss dinner in the crock pot

Learn a new language with Duolingo

Call, text or email a friend

Get up and stretch, especially if you've been working on the computer all day

Unsubscribe to unwanted emails (try Unroll.Me to help!)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Film Flick: Designing Woman

The story MGM  likes to tell about Designing Woman is that costume designer Helen Rose came up with the idea of making a film about a fashion designer. While this may or may not be true, some accuse it of being a little more closely related the Spencer/Hepburn vehicle Woman of the Year than this costume designer's dream. Certainly, the two films do share some basic plot characteristics.   Both involve an earthy sports writer and an intellectual woman getting married and discovering how little they have in common. But both the details of the story, and the style of the films differ greatly from there.

Mike Hannigan  (Gregory Peck ) meets a Marilla Brown (Lauren Becall) on vacation and ends up in a whirlwind romance and marriage. However, on returning to New York, they discover everything from their social spheres to their daily pursuits, to their bank accounts seem to be opposites. What's already a tense situation becomes more awkward when exes get involved and- oh yeah- the mob.

Furthermore, where Woman of the Year was most definitely 1930s screwball comedy- with witty banter and a fast pace- Designing Woman has all the hallmark signs of 1950s filmmaking. First, it is  filmed in Cinescope with many large, sweeping sets and colorful, decadent  woman's clothes. There is even a literal fashion show in the film. Luckily, Becall's past as a fashion model meant she was made to wear beautiful clothes, and the second leading lady, Dolores Gray, had a body built for evening gowns as well. Designing Woman also has less of the quick banter. Its comedy is more broad and physical, which might not have worked with lesser actors, but Becall and Peck do it tremendously. Another unique conceit of the film Designing Woman is that it is narrated, in turns, by five of the main characters talking directly to the audience. This adds a delicious dichotomy  when what the character are saying doesn't match what they are thinking. It is not, perhaps, as laugh out loud funny as Woman of the Year, but this style brings a charm all its own.

One of the main draws of course, is seeing two of Hollywood's greatest play opposite each other. Gregory Peck is so effortlessly charming, and Becall's sultry voice means she can vacillate between sexy and funny with ease. These two also have chemistry, with some steamy gestures that would have seemed against the Hayes Code were it not for the fact the characters were married. Why they weren't cast as a pairing more often remains a mystery to me! So it is perhaps surprising to learn that James Stewart and Grace Kelly were originally considered for the parts,  but when Kelly became betrothed to Prince Rainier of Monaco, Stewart decided not to take the role.

"She got the Prince, I got the part," Becall is supposed to have said on the matter. In fact, Peck was cast first. He was against type, seeing as he had not really done a comedy since Roman Holiday. Part of the deal was that he got final approval of the choice for leading lady, but then he and  Becall were friendly, so it wasn't much of an issue when she was cast. Both recalled the film fondly, and for Becall filming Designing Woman had a special appeal.Her home life at the time was very stressful since her husband, Humphrey Bogart, was terminally ill. She explained in her biography, that the part of Marrilla, with all the broad physical comedy and yelling dramatics, allowed her an emotional outlet, so that she was able to keep a calm and stable demeanor for her husband and children at home. Perhaps in tribute to her own successful marriage, one of the scenes in Designing Woman has the song "How Little We Know" playing in the background. This is the same song Lauren Becall sang in her first film, To Have and Have Not, where she met and fell in love with Bogart.

It can be hard to be a remake- or even to be thought to be a remake!- as there will always be some who cannot help but compare. However, in my opinion, if such a comparison has to be made, I might prefer this gentler tale of opposites attract. Maybe it is just the clothing that draws me in, maybe it is the charm of Peck and Becall but Designing Woman seems designed to delight! 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Pin It button on image hover