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Dress, Perfected

thedressI recently fell back in love with dresses. I’m not sure when or why I fell out of love, but at some point it became much easier to wear tops and bottoms. Now that I’m in love again, I can’t quite fathom why I haven’t always worn dresses. 

 

How did I fall back in love? I went into Jeremys Department Store in San Francisco one day looking for something -- who knows what. That’s not a usual haunt for me, or typical shopping behavior. But I walked in, looked around and snagged a dress that was in a print featuring my favorite acid green. Even better, it was an Alberta Ferretti, which, at full price, is out of my comfort zone. It needed a belt, but otherwise was the perfect dress for me. The salesperson was taken aback when I came out of the tiny dressing room to get a better look. She went off to find a belt, and while waiting for her, I discovered pockets. Yes, this dress, that felt like it was made for me, had side pockets -- which were completely camouflaged so no one else would ever notice they were there. At this point I was in a swoon. I grabbed the dress and hurried to the register before I could question my purchase.

 

This dress truly showed its stuff when I was in New York a couple of years later. I forgot to pack the lower half of most of the outfits I  intended to bring. It was hot, so a sleeveless dress that skimmed without grabbing was just what I needed. I wore that dress, in comfort, to a matinee performance of Master Class with Tyne Daley, followed by an afternoon of drinking, then dinner. I wore it shopping, out to a fancy lunch, and to another dinner. We hit the Met, got on and off the subway, and in and out of cabs. 

 

The dress was perfect. I got compliments on it, dealt quite well with the East Coast heat, and forgot that I was wearing the same thing over and over again.

Read more: Dress, Perfected

To Every Thing, There Really Is a Season

When I think of June, a few things come to mind. The end of the school year. The start of summer. Father’s Day and graduation ceremonies. Sundresses, sandals and coconut-scented sunscreen. Barbecues, lightning bugs and summer storms. 
 
But one thing stands out more than anything else: cherries. They’re my absolute favorite, and for a few weeks in June, when I go to the farmer’s market on Tuesday at the Ferry Building in San Francisco, I know I’ll find the sweetest, most delicious cherries. I also know that I have just a few short weeks to enjoy them. Though I can buy cherries for a few months here in California, the ones sold after the Fourth of July just don’t taste as good to me.
 
Which got me thinking about the whole cycle of life thing -- at least when it comes to fruits and vegetables. My mother and grandmothers, who were raised in the country, could tell me what fruits and vegetables are in season at any given time of the year. But beyond knowing that cherries, tomatoes, basil and watermelon are summertime enjoyments, I’m fairly clueless about the best time to buy certain foods.
 
I blame my ignorance in part on globalization. Supermarkets now carry fruits and vegetables shipped in from other places at all times of the year, making it difficult to get a sense of seasonality. And that’s a crying shame. Because anyone who’s eaten a Ranier or Bing cherry at the height of the growing season knows that it’s a taste you just can’t beat.
 
Of course, my ignorance also sent me on quest to find out just what I’m supposed to be buying when I ‘buy local.’ So I found a “What’s in season” buying chart for Northern California and got up to speed. These charts are available for all parts of the country, but here are 10 things I learned.
 
1. Almonds and apple come into their own in August through November, while May, June and July are the best months to buy apricots.
 
2. Avocados are harvested year round. And avocado pits are an excellent source of  fabric dyes. If you boil them, you get a fabulous deep-purple ink or dye.
 
3. Chestnuts, which I associate with the Christmas holidays, are actually harvested in September. I found a whole bunch of recipes that use chestnuts. Let me just say if you ever make chestnut fritters and need a taste tester, give me a call.

4. Figs come in June and July, and then again in September and October.
 
5. Lemons and oranges are in season year-round, though I always thought that oranges were at their peak in December. Or maybe I thought that because the kids in the Dickens’ novels always got oranges in their Christmas stockings as a treat.
 
6.  Peaches are harvested between May and October, and pears between August and November. If you haven’t tried grilling peaches (brush them with a little melted butter), you don’t know what you’re missing. And if you’re into smoothies, I recommend adding half a pear. It’s incredible.
 
7. Raspberries and strawberries are both in season May through November, though you can find some strawberries a few months earlier.
 
8. Beets, bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, kale, leeks, lettuce, mushrooms and spinach are grown year round, but if you’re into green beans, then buy them fresh June through September.
 
9. Potatoes, which you'd think would be a year-round crop, are in season June, July and August.
 
10. Corn on the cob should be enjoyed June through October.
 
If you don’t live in California like me, I encourage you to go to Google and search out the ‘What’s in season’ charts for your area. There’s a really good reason, beyond enjoying great tasting food: Buying fruits and vegetables when they’re plentiful means you can buy them for less. Buy in bulk and then freeze, pickle or jammify (if that’s not a word, it should be) them to enjoy later in the year. I like to freeze strawberries, pears, bananas, blueberries and raspberries and use them to make smoothies.
 
As for the cherries, I make sure I get my fill in June. -- Connie Guglielmo 

June 5, 2014

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If you liked this story, you might also like:
Eat Fresh, Eat Local, All Summer Long
Tasty Treats, Hot off the Grill
Apples and Domestic Happiness



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Meeting My Mother, a Small-Town Girl Turned Paris Fashion Model

Mother’s Day turns 100 this weekend. For many years, I didn’t like the holiday at all. I felt that my own mother hadn’t taught me anything, making me ill prepared for success in the working world. I finally turned the corner on that perspective, but not in a way you might predict.

About 15 years ago my mother, Ann Montgomery Brower, decided to write a memoir. Called Another Me, the book tells the story of her transformation from Midwestern girl to haute couture fashion model in Paris. I gave an early draft of that book to my therapist to ‘prove’ to her that my mother was indeed flighty, self-centered and impulsive. My therapist had a completely different take away. “She sounds a lot like you. She’s very independent and adventurous and a big risk taker,” she said.

Like me? A whole new picture of my mother emerged. Though she came of age in the early 50s, my mother never romanticized marriage and babies or fantasized about our wedding days with us. Instead she encouraged us, her five children, to spread our wings and take risks by telling us her stories of Paris over and over, and the fairy tale of how she became a working model virtually overnight.

Read more: Meeting My Mother, a Small-Town Girl Turned Paris Fashion Model

We're Declaring Spring, Whatever the Calendar Says

basilTulips. The Easter Bunny. Flowered dresses. Clean closets.

Everyone welcomes spring -- which starts on March 20 this year -- in their own way.

For me, it’s time to start thinking about tomatoes.

In case you don’t already know this, I am a tomato snob. That is, I reject the perfectly formed, unblemished, bland, reddish-orangey blobs they sell in many supermarkets and offer up in salad bars. I also send back tomatoes in restaurants when they don’t smell or taste like the real thing.

I know I’m fortunate to live in a place with fantastic weather -- so fantastic, in fact, that we are readying our garden for the tomato plants we will pick up later this month and plant here in Silicon Valley. If all goes well, we should, in approximately 120 days, start enjoying a bounty of truly great tasting yellow (pear) and red (beefsteak, Early Girl, Roma) tomatoes.

To those of you who live in a similar clime, I encourage you to think about growing your own tomatoes, if you don’t already. If I can convince just one other person out there to grow their own tomatoes -- and to buy locally grown tomatoes when you have the chance -- I’ll feel like I’m doing my part to counter the negative effects of modern agribusiness on the tomato (you can read all about it in my essay on the topic, Confessions of a Tomato Snob.)

To those of you who may not be looking at planting a spring garden for a few more months, I offer my sympathies. I also have a suggestion: Herbs. Growing herbs is a lot easier than you think. Not only are they better tasting than the dried version, but you’ll also find that it will cost you a lot less than the fresh herbs you’ll find in most stores. Many nurseries now offer containers with a mix of herbs.

Here are five herbs I can’t do without -- and some suggestions for what to do with them.

Read more: We're Declaring Spring, Whatever the Calendar Says

A Month for Unsung Heroines

ChipetaHow many awesome, under-recognized women make up our history? Let's start by saying I recognized only one of the dozen honorees of 2014’s Women’s History Month, which kicked off March 1. This year, the National Women's History Project, which gave life to the list, chose to honor women of "character, courage and commitment."

“Against social convention and often legal restraints, women have created a legacy that expands the frontiers of possibility for generations to come,” the organization says of this year’s honorees. “They have demonstrated their character, courage and commitment as mothers, educators, institution builders, business, labor, political and community leaders, relief workers, women religious, and CEOs. Their lives and their work inspire girls and women to achieve their full potential and encourage boys and men to respect the diversity and depth of women’s experience.”

The woman who was familiar to me is Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who was one of the first Army women to fly combat missions. She lost her legs and partial use of her right arm after her helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and exploded. She earned a Purple Heart for her combat injuries, went on to serve as Assistant Secretary of Veteran Affairs, and in 2014 was elected to the House of Representatives for the state of Illinois.

You can find all the honorees here, and I encourage you to take a few minutes to read about these remarkable women. Here are a few I particularly wanted to call out.  

Chipeta (1843-1924). An Indian rights advocate who married a powerful chief of the Uncompahgre Ute tribe in what is now western Colorado, Chipeta (above) lived through the “often violent and brutal times of western settlement. Chipeta was a peacemaker who did not consider all settlers to be the enemy, often giving food to starving white families.”

Read more: A Month for Unsung Heroines



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