Dressclown's Blog


Oh, Summertime. July 20, 2010

Filed under: Gear,Life — dressclown @ 9:50 pm

I live for summer. Unfortunately, the place I live decides to be foggy and dreary in early summer. They call it June Gloom. But it’s more accurately May, June and part or all of July Gloom. I guess that might keep tourists at bay, so they stick with the shorter version. The tradeoff? Pretty much the rest of the year is stunning and when the other parts of the nation are bundling up for fall, we’re having our finest, hottest and sunniest days.

So while most of the US is getting the half-way gone summer blues, I’m just starting to get amped up for summer. I have a few summer beach traditions, that mostly involve food. (Go figure!) But every year, I buy myself a classic book that I’ve either never read or haven’t read since I was very young. I read it only at the beach while laying on my blanket, so it gives me an excuse to just sit there and tune everything out and really read.  I also get a new sundress and try to limit myself to just one. And then I get some new sandals and replace my old beach flip flops. I find that a year is pretty much all I can justify and that’s about when they start falling apart or getting too gunky from tar, anyway. So in the spirit of beach supplies, here’s my Martha-y list of must haves. (Only, unlike Martha, they’re not all ridiculously expensive and they aren’t all robin’s egg blue.)

Make Sure You Use Protection – Suncanny Mineral Powder Sunscreen by Colorescience, about $45

I gotta start with the basics. I absolutely hate normal sunscreens. They are messy, they get into my eyes and sting like a hell. And they smell horrible to me. I don’t want to smell like that. I love these powders. They are waterproof and offer a physical barrier of sunscreen that is just the best I’ve ever used. And I use them as makeup. You can put it on light or dark and all you have to do is sweep it on with a brush. It never looks cakey or powdery or chalky and there are a lot of ranges you can use, from totally clear to different skin tone colors. I like All Clear, which has no color and is completely translucent. I use this on myself all over and on my husband too if he lets me near him with it. You really can’t see it on, but it does the trick better than any sunscreen I’ve ever found. It is slightly expensive, but one tube can usually last me four to six months, whereas a cheap drugstore sunscreen in a tube would be gone in one, so it all ends up being the same difference money wise, but better protection.

Classic Summertime Read – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, about $10 new, or free with your libary card!

I love this book and haven’t read it since I was about Scout’s age. What I love about classic books (like Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley, which I read last summer) is that you read them and find that the world isn’t so big, so different of a place as you might imagine. It’s amazing how relevant some of the classics are, particularly the books that were written in just the last century. A lot of the situations the characters find themselves in is shockingly similar and relatable to what we go through and talk about every day. I’m not sure if this is comforting or just a shocking lack of progress, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

Summer Frock – Lucky Brand White Cotton Eyelet Dress, about $49

Here is is. My Dress Du Jour. And by that, I mean that I wear this Lucky Brand dress at least three times a week. I can’t even describe how soft the sheer cotton eyelet overlay is on this dress. It feels like a vintage garment, that’s how soft it is. The cotton voile under slip thingie is removable so you can layer it on top of a different color. It makes me sad to say that on me, this dress comes to just above the knee. Sigh.  Anyway, go git yerself one of these little numbers. It’s not online anymore, but the stores have a lot left. A friend of mine reports she just got one on sale in store for $49.  Honestly, this dress looks and feels like $449.00.

Perfect Summer Sandals, about $15

And what to wear with such a lovely dress? These adorable sandals, of course. I love that effortless Mexican Senorita vibe they have going on and they are actually quite comfortable. They’re from Old Navy and are about $15.00. They come in other colors, but the yellow was my favorite for summer.

Summer Photographic Art, from $39

Maybe you can’t get to the beach this summer?  Sad face!  This amazing photographer can help transport you to an endless summer of happy memories. I bought this print of Coney Island because I just found it endearing and fun. It looks like a miniature set, but it’s a real photograph. She also has other prints of the beach and beach life in a similar style. I love her work and I like that it’s an affordable addition to your art gallery (or a start to one!)

In the food category of summertime recommendations, I have an entry for the Naughty But Nice category for you to serve/bring for the next summer BBQ.

Behold, Tequila Watermelon. (That’s right!)

  • 1 small seedless watermelon, red or yellow, quartered and cut into 1-inch-thick wedges
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • 2 limes, halved or cut into wedges
  • Flaked sea salt or coarse salt
  • Arrange watermelon in a single layer in two 9-by-13-inch baking dishes. Bring sugar, water, tequila, and Triple Sec to a boil in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute. Let cool slightly. Pour syrup over watermelon wedges, and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes.
  • Remove watermelon from syrup, and arrange on a platter. Squeeze limes over melon, and season with salt.
  • Just be careful not to get any on that dress……Viva La Summer!!!!!!


    What Lies Beneath. July 16, 2010

    Filed under: Life,Out in the water,Uncategorized — dressclown @ 7:34 pm

    I’m a cheater. I cheated.

    I wasn’t supposed to go back in the water for another week at least, but I had to. I mean, come awwwwn. It was almost 80 degrees at 7 a.m.

    I was pretty good and only paddled out. Never got my head wet and didn’t do anything strenuous. Didn’t get any sea water in my mouth or nose. So what’s the harm in that, I ask? It’s more strenuous having the dog pull on his lead during a walk, I say!

    But boy, it was an interesting morning out there. It was fairly calm and glassy, which was good (for once!!!) and there was hardly anyone out this morning which is odd for summertime. Oh, but then I saw why. Unfortunately, after I got out past the swells.  Ripped up looking dolphin fins that seem pointier than normal aren’t ripped up little dolphin fins that seem pointier than normal.  They’re sharks.

    Oy vey. I saw at least two and they’re weren’t on their merry way down the coast, either. They were circling the buoys again and again, more than likely looking for seal or other big ocean shark game.  So I just turned around and paddled in. Why take a chance? I mean, I know that statistically speaking, the chances of anything happening are slim to none. But it’s like riding a carnival ride or eating at that taco truck off the beaten path…..why tempt fate? So I just put my feet on the board (nobody was going to mistake ME for a seal today) and sort of paddled back with my hands. (And now my stomach muscles hurt like fuck, thank you very much. That’s hard!)

    I was more disappointed than scared. Hard to describe really. But maybe the word unnerved was invented for this morning.

    As I made myself my morning smoothie, I was thinking about all the times I’ve seen sharks out there. Usually, they are just fairly  small ones like today. And a few times I’ve seen babies. Once off Rincon Point in the dead of winter, I was out pretty far with a friend of mine and I’m almost positive there was a great white passing below us.  Sharks don’t really scare me that much. I’m not sure why. I was never scared of needles, either. I don’t like spiders or clowns. Clowns in the water would cause me to have a nervous breakdown and drown from fear. Honestly. One might say I have a priority issue, but I can’t say I’ve ever been truly frightened by a shark.  I feel sorry for them a little bit. Thousands of them are killed in Japan every month just so people can have shark fin soup. That’s sad to me. I think they are quite misunderstood and very little respect is given to an animal that was around on the planet longer than we can even really fathom. (See what I did there?)

    I think what freaks people out about them is that…..well, they aren’t cuddly are they? And they are so intently driven on whatever it is a shark does, which is often characterized as “moving forward” or “stealthily advancing” or being “cold, calculating.” I mean, they have to move or they’ll die. So naturally some of us make a highly metaphoric, if not myopic, view of their nature. I think it’s more a reflection of how we see OUR nature rather than theirs. They’re just doin’ their thing. Being sharks. Lookin’ for food, swimming. Moving.

    As for fearing sharks?  I remember my husband once asking me when we were first dating, “…yeah, but aren’t you ever AFRAID to be out there in the water? With the sharks!?” At the time, I felt like this was one of the most ridiculous questions anyone had ever asked me! Afraid? Of sharks? Me?? I was about to reply when I had the recollection of a couple of times in my life of being afraid in the water. And it had nothing to do with sharks, not directly anyway.

    As these lovely photographs by the great Dave Doubilet can attest, there is often a lot going on just beneath the surface of things, particularly the ocean.

    When you’re in the water, you’ve never really just ON the water. There’s really no such thing as the surface. Not so long as you have the potential to go beneath it, whether on purpose or by misfortune. The ocean is a whole thing, a very real, large and wide and impossibly deep thing. And you’re somehow part of it and not part of it at the same time. And there’s absolutely no way you have any control over what that huge entity might do or contain at any given moment. And that has scared me before. And indeed it will scare me if I let myself think too much about it.

    I remember being at Rincon once years ago. It was a very lowly lit, gray day and I couldn’t see my feet in the inky blue water. I remember suddenly thinking that anything could be down there and how could I possibly know what was underneath me? All types of sea creatures and plants could be under me. How did I even know the ocean floor was there at all if I couldn’t see it? I experienced a sudden understanding of the vast enormity of the ocean, and indeed how I was part of that enormity and I found it so overwhelming that I had an immediate desire to paddle back to shore, to get out of the water and out of that uncertainty. At that moment, everything seemed so indescribably and terrifyingly giant. I felt small, helpless and dangerously insignificant.

    Simply put, I was much more afraid of an idea than something actual, something tangible. Because an idea has no boundaries. You could certainly punch a shark in the eye, but how to take on the enormity of an idea? How to take on the whole ocean?

    Sharks? Pfffffff….

    Like I said. Priorities.


    Now They’ll Sleep… July 12, 2010

    Filed under: Life,Uncategorized — dressclown @ 7:33 am

    I’m afraid it’s another non-surf post as I’m still not allowed within 20 feet of the beach by my evil dentist. However, I had a bit of a Synchronicitous Weekend (hello Sumner, Summers and Copeland.)

    We decided since we couldn’t go to the beach without me bursting into tears or commandeering someone’s  board, we’d go to the mountains. To distract me from my misery,  the gallant husband drove us up to Figueroa Mountain Saturday morning for a bit of a leg stretch, some fresh air and views. (He got a bit carried away with the caretaker/invalid thing when he put a plaid wool blanket over my lap in the car. I’m not sure who I felt more like, Blanche Hudson or Dr. Scott…..”Don’t hurt her, Frank Furter!”)

    Anyhow, on the way up we were listening to that old Belly CD,  Now They’ll Sleep.  Ever mindful of the great healing power of trivia (?) I asked the husband if he knew what that album title was in reference to. Naturally, he had no idea. So, rubbing my hands together in glee, I explained that it was a direct reference to the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the Wicked Witch of the West “plants” a poppy field for the foursome to cut through on their way to the Emerald City. As she gazes into her crystal ball, she cackles, “Now they’ll sleep…..now they’ll sleep.”  Which always struck me as being a bit of an odd – and literary – line for the movie, which has surprisingly normal vernacular even by today’s standards.

    Now, before I go on, I must mention that I have an obscenely accurate and long memory. I can recall much more than the average human. I cannot, however, make change. So it all sort of evens out. But when I was growing up, I had an album that was literally a recording of the film. And I listened to that thing daily for, like, a year. I have almost total recall of the entire film, line by line. I can even fill in the music if I really get into a groove.  So it’s not that unusual that I would know this line.

    But getting back to the synchronicity bit.  When we arrived at Figueroa mountain, I looked longingly down, down, dowwwn past the land to the ocean, feeling peaceful just seeing that huge expanse of blue. I had the thought that the water is my Emerald City the instant I noticed the poppy fields. They were everywhere, bright orange California poppies.

    Things got even weirder that night when we got home, turned on the tv and saw that The Wizard of Oz was literally just starting on AMC.  That guy who looks like a brunette Jeff Daniels was just introducing it. (Did you know Shirley Temple was cast first and actually did some filming before Judy Garland was brought in? True story, according to dark Jeff Daniels.)  So we settled in to watch. I have not actually seen the film since I was about 10, and I was pleasantly surprised that yes, I did actually remember virtually every line and every scene as it played out.

    I guess I should explain that the reason I had that recording of the film was that when I was in 3rd grade, I was the Wicked Witch of the West in the school play. There were a grand total of two performances, the first being after lunch for the school and then again that night for the parents.  I absolutely relished my part. Even back then, I found dark characters more interesting than light ones. I spent weeks listening to that album as “preparation.” And though I had not an ounce of pretension about it I promise you, I did find myself wondering what really made her tick. What must it have been like for her, I wondered. “Ok, let’s see….I’m ugly. And green. That’s not fun. And this Glinda chick is really cramping my style. She’s like the Marilyn Monroe of witches and everyone loves her.  My sister just got killed. And the bitch who killed her hijacked the one glam accessory I could hope to get my hands on. And I’m surrounded by little monkey ushers with blue eyeshadow and epaulets.” No wonder she was such a miserable bitch, I thought as I glued my prosthetic nose on…..

    So after watching the movie Saturday night, we went to get some coffee on Sunday morning and ran into someone I went to school with. And again with the synchronicity because as fate would have it, it was the guy who played the Tinman. He grabbed my arm and said, “I was just thinking of you last night! The Wizard of Oz was on and I was remembering how you played the Wicked Witch. And your nose fell off.”

    Because, well, it did. It fell off.  Right in the middle of the evening performance. Right in the middle of that line.

    “Now they’ll…..PLOP…..sleep.”

    If you’ve ever been 8 years old and nervous and in front of a large room filled with kids and their parents and your teachers, you know how hard it was for me to stay in character and not to burst into hysterical laughter. Or tears.  The total silence helped sober my mood, I admit.

    So, so quiet. And there I was. My real nose – very white, very small and decidedly wartless – giving me away, ruining any shred of  artistic credibility I’d garnered up until that point. What was worse was that it was somehow lost onstage, kicked away during the scene. And this being off, off, off Broadway, there was no backup nose. I had to scrape away some green makeup from my neck backstage and make do with my real nose for the rest of the play.  My best friend, who was playing Dorothy, found the fucking thing during the scene where she threw the “water” on me (the water being a bucket filled with blue confetti streamers.)  Panicked, and for reasons known to this day only to herself, she reached down and picked up the nose, hiding it in the bucket. Only to throw it over me two seconds later to an enormous roar of laughter from the audience who apparently found the witch being pelted with her own discarded nose funny.

    So, yeah. Synchronicity. What did I tell you?

    But I have to say, one thing that my 8 year old brain hadn’t really caught up with is how much metaphor is really going on in that story. Of course, the whole brain/heart/courage/home thing is a bit transparent. But watching it on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud at the genius of a toxic but beautifully hypnotic poppy field eternally springing up between you and what you want most in this world.  It’s perfectly, really. It looks so lovely. How could anything that beautiful be bad for you? And you’ll just lie down and rest now. Because you’re getting sleepy. Who wouldn’t? And you can still see the city as your lids close and you drift off, never realizing you’ve been a victim of distraction.

    It really got me thinking. In the real world, we do have those poppy fields. The only difference is that we make them ourselves and there’s no green nosed witch making them for us. We all have a poppy field, every one of us, at one point or another in our lives.

    What’s yours?


    Wounded Warrior Surf Camp June 22, 2010

    Filed under: Life,Travel — dressclown @ 1:27 am

    I think I could safely say one of the most freeing, peaceful and highly individualistic things I do in my life is surf.

    Inexplicably, surfing can be a great magnifier of joy and happiness and also a much welcome mitigator of grief or sadness. So I thought it was a great idea when I heard about Wounded Warrior Project’s annual Surf Camp recently.

    Taking to the water makes perfect sense as a way to alleviate stress in all types of people, but particularly for those individuals who have been wounded or affected by war. It serves several purposes; at a very basic level, it keeps the mind occupied particularly at first as you learn. But on a deeper level, it is a great equalizer quite simply because anyone can ride a wave, no matter what their physical limitations might be. With some help, even people who are partially paralyzed can surf. It’s all about riding a wave and not so much HOW you do it.  So I can imagine that this would be incredibly freeing and confidence bolstering to someone who understandably feels that their life as they knew it is over. It would be incredibly freeing to realize that you CAN do things that you never imagined doing before.

    There’s also a great feeling of peace out there in the water, and a feeling of co-existence with nature. To someone struggling to fit back into the world they knew, society and even their own families that connection could be very helpful.

    And in terms of those able-bodied individuals who are struggling with combative post-traumatic stress disorder and the anxiety comes with it, it’s a welcome chance to be at peace, thinking nothing of what is happening in the moment while having a zen-like quality of letting go.

    This years’s surf camp is happening in Virginia Beach, VA, and involves soldiers from Walter Reed Memorial Hospital. But the locale changes annually. I’d highly encourage anyone to donate to this great organization and also to consider volunteering time for the surf camps if they are in your local area. They always need teachers and volunteers to make this happen, though in recent years Billabong has generously sponsored the event so boards, suits and other equipment are usually covered. What a wonderful idea!


    Aint No Challah Back Girl… June 9, 2010

    Filed under: Gear,Life — dressclown @ 12:21 am

    Oh, the simple pleasures of summertime.

    In 1999, when my husband (let’s call him Mr. E) first moved from the UK  to Sunny SoCal, people were forever asking him what his favorite part of living here was. The answer was always the same: Brunch.

    My favorite part of the weekend is still just that. A long, late n’ lazy meal by the beach or on a patio is an ideal way for me to get the weekend started. And so much the better in summertime.

    After a few nice sets (early!) Saturday morning at Rincon, we went to our favorite spot in Santa Barbara, Jeannine’s Bakery (uptown location, people, please…no idea why it’s better. It just is.) The parking is always a nightmare at this location. The lot literally has room for one row of cars and goes both ways so it’s a bit of a struggle even on a good day. But we found a spot and E drove like a madman to get into it. The space was teeny and I thought I’d never manage to get out of the car, but once that hurdle was crossed, snagging a table outside was next.  I saw one table for two open and quite literally pushed E inside to order as I raced for the seats. A woman in her early 50s saw the table at the same time as me and we had what can only be described as an Old West style stare-down before I managed to get there first. I felt the urge to make guns with my thumb and forefinger, blow off imaginary smoke and holster them in my jeans, but I resisted.

    Then, my phone rang. It was Mr. E asking what I wanted to order. That gave me a good laugh, for two reasons. 1) He was the last person I expected to be calling me especially since I was looking right at him through the window and it hadn’t dawned on me he was on his phone and 2) because for the past TEN YEARS I’ve ordered the exact same thing every time we’ve eaten breakfast there. In fact, what I order isn’t still on the menu but I order it anyway. So I told him, “The usual please.” The usual is an egg white omelette with onions, cheese, tomatoes and avocado.

    Now, I’m certainly not ascribing genius, detailed memory skills to, of all people, a MAN. But I admit that part of me did expect him to remember what I get every time.

    When he finally came to the table with our huge, decadent lattes (and by decadent, I mean Peet’s in a really large, really heavy porcelain mug) he looked worried.

    “I forgot what you usually get. I went blank. Panicked. I just ordered you MY usual……”

    Was I mad? God, no. Let me preface Mr.E’s usual by saying that for ten years I’ve sat across the table from him, looking longingly at his breakfast and wondering why I didn’t just order THAT instead of mine. I’ve tasted it twice.  And it was so good I still remember those two times explicitly, though both were probably in 2003.

    What we’re talking about here is french toast. Made from home-baked Challah bread. Of course, it comes with sausages, which along with being not too Challah-ish were kindly consumed by Mr. E.  But my point is that it’s something I would have NEVER ordered for myself and it was SOOOO freakishly good.

    So I guess, contrary to the entry’s title, I AM a Challah Back Girl. Very, very much so…..

    In other news, this weekend marks the fourth time I’ve taken my new Matuse suit out for a spin. I can honestly say that it’s the best suit I’ve ever owned and if you’re in the market for a new one, try them out.

    Matuse makes rubber suits from (of all things!) limestone. The result is the lightest, most hydrophobic suit you’ve ever seen/felt/worn in your life. It felt like a second skin and there was absolutely no drag whatsoever. They claim the rubber is something like 400x more flexible than human skin. I believe it. What’s more, I was super warm and there was no clinging at all.  Excellent. The suits do require a bit of extra care. They are thinner and more delicate, so you have to be careful how you handle them (no ragged nails!) and I would NOT take this suit to a place with coral reefs.

    My only gripe with them is that they have very limited womens’ suits, in both sizes and styles. They only have full suits for women right now and there’s a wait time on them. Looks like the soonest you can get one shipped is September, but again, well worth the wait.