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Archive for May, 2009

ShampowderI know I missed the day in school when the girls were taught about “beauty products.” I can barely remember to wear makeup and I buy shampoo that costs about a dollar.

Looking through wedding magazines has had me thinking more about fashion recently. As a result, I’ve been discovering some of these “products,” like Shampowder. Shampowder is a colored, scented powder that you apply to unwashed hair to help absorb the oils and keep your hair fresh.

Shampowder is based on the tradition of putting baby powder on your hair to avoid having to wash and style your hair in a rush. I’d never heard of this tradition and informally polled girlfriends about it … they almost all knew about it and a few wanted the link to the website.

A classmate from high school, Jayne Shapiro Polan, created this with her husband, Barry, after she became a mother and no longer had time to wash and style her hair every day. Jayne discovered that the baby powder was noticeable on her hair and hard to apply. She found a way to solve the problem for herself and others, too.  

Jayne kindly shared a sample with me. I tried it and admit that not only was it easy to apply, but it worked really well. I look forward to keeping it on hand. 

Clearly this isn’t something you want to rely on for your wedding, but as we all know, life gets busy. This is a great trick to save time. Now, who is going to invent longer days and better yet, longer vacations?

 

Check out the Shampowder website. You can buy one online for $15.99. Don’t forget to join the Facebook Fan page. I love that her product has gotten as much attention as it has. Che brava!

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Most weddings involve a merging of traditions, large or small. My friend Christa Verem and her husband Jas helped their friends, an American and a Korean, plan their wedding. When Christa told me about the passport inspired programs that her husband designed, I asked her for pictures to share with you. What a creative and low cost way to invite guests into the couple’s life!

Passport Ceremony Program (outside)

 

Passport Ceremony Program (inside)If you’ve added a creative detail or two to your wedding, I’d love to share it with my readers. Please email me at ChloeMiller(at)gmail(dot)com.

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It is Memorial Day weekend and we are all inevitably thinking about cooking and eating. I’d like to share some recent cooking adventures with you.

I know my way around the kitchen (from finding the fridge to following a recipe) and have a repertoire of dishes that I like to cook, mostly Italian. Looking to expand dinner options (something without mozzarella, perhaps?), I recently exchanged cooking lessons with friends. I taught them a few Italian dishes and in turn, I learned some Thai and Russian dishes.

My friend Paula took a traditional Thai cooking class in Thailand while she was visiting her son who was studying there. We made beef satay, lemongrass mushroom soup, papaya salad and curry over fish.  The unforgettable, even if perhaps less-than-Thai, basil ice cream that followed the meal cooled our tongues after the spicy dinner.

I had no idea that Thai food was so labor intensive (especially the lemongrass that had to be cut amazingly thin. Hans, who joined in on the lesson, was very patient with the knife.) Paula introduced us to new flavors, from what she jokingly calling “Thai chocolate,” that is shrimp paste, to the savory and sweet combo of the papaya salad.  

Thai curryThai papaya salad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Galina, who you might remember from a recent blog post about Russian weddings, has been living in Ann Arbor for the last year while her husband is a scholar at the University of Michigan. She and her husband were going to a political science conference in Chicago and we mentioned a Russian restaurant there. When her husband said that they didn’t need to eat Russian food out since his wife cooks it so well at home, I nudged them in the direction of an informal cooking lesson.

We made Olivie (mixed potatoes, carrots, eggs, peas, pickles, onion and sausage mixed with mayo) and “herring under the coat” (Seledka pod shuboi/ Shuba). This was a mix of pickled herring, potatoes, eggs and beats. It was delicious. We ended with a great apple pie that was almost like a meringue. Now when we go apple picking this fall, we’ll have something new to make besides American pie and apple sauce.

While we ate, I thought of my ethnically Russian grandfather. I don’t remember him cooking and I don’t remember my grandmother, who grew up in a traditionally Polish household, cooking anything Russian. I wish I had known enough to ask him about his childhood, family history and mother’s recipes. Instead, I can only imagine that perhaps these were dishes that he might have eaten.

Russian dishesRussian apple pie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I showed Paula how to make bucatini all’amatriciana (read an article I wrote about the dish in a recent local Edible Communities publication) and chicken saltimbocca. “Saltimbocca,” traditionally made with veal, has a name that means “jump in the mouth” because of the delicious combination of veal, sage, prosciutto, butter and vermouth. (We also prepared a dessert, but since it failed, I’ll gloss over right here.)

With Galina, we made a selection of pizzette and lasagna. Florentines make lasagna with bechamel sauce, instead of ricotta, but my time-saving secret is to add a bit of heavy cream instead. The sauce immediately lightens and thickens and you’re done in moments. If you are making pizza at home, I can’t emphasize the importance of buying a pizza stone (you can usually find one under $20.00 at a store like Bed Bath and Beyond.) It heats the pizza from below and helps to perfect your crust.

No matter what Italian dishes we ate, we ended the meal with limoncello. (Perchè no?)

Bucatini all'amatricianaLasagna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you so much to Paula and Galina for kindly sharing their expertise and kitchens with me. Please raise your glass to these wonderful women and the next cooking adventure!

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Ann Arbor Book Festival

When I moved to Ann Arbor late last summer, I did my best to become involved with the local literary community. After some Google searches, I found the Ann Arbor Book Festival. I met with executive director Kathy Robenalt and became a volunteer and presenter. It was so much fun to experience it this weekend.

There were an amazing number of events connected with the Ann Arbor Book Festival  this weekend and in the weeks and months leading up to it. You might remember my blogging about the Bacon Brunch at Zingerman’s.

The Ann Arbor Book Festival organizes a Writer’s Conference. I presented the workshop “Writing Your Family History,” which was great. We discussed not only how to gather information about your family, but also how to put it into a readable form. Participants completed some great writing in response to prompts. In particular, I remember one participant’s short piece on removing gefilte fish from a jar onto plate. She described the texture and smell perfectly.

I attended the lunch with keynote speaker Elizabeth Kostova. She discussed her writing process and how she completed her first book. Her talk was illuminating, although I’ll never understand participant questions at these kinds of events. There is a sense that writers know a mystical secret about writing and if participants can just hear the trick (write in the morning, write every day, hire a book doctor, etc.) then they will achieve the same product. Kostova was able to share her own techniques, but did a fine job of illuminating the simple work of writing. Write, share your work with others, edit fiercely. Indeed. 

The highpoint of the day was Colson Whitehead’s talk “How to Write, Or A Few Things I Learned From Listening to the Donna Summer Version of ‘MacArthur Park’. I will admit that I have never read any of his books, author and friend Erika Dreifus’ blog Practicing Writer recently led me to explore his writing and attend the session.  His talk was funny, sincere, and illuminating. He offered “rules” for writing and then undid them with humor and ended with the idea that that rules sometimes work, but mostly don’t. Everyone who had been at lunch should have heard his talk before asking Elizabeth Kostova questions. I look forward to reading his new and older books. 

I had some wonderful conversations with participants and authors from the conference. I met children’s author Tara Michener at the Author’s Reception at the library. Check out her cool book and blog about diversity, Who I am, not what I am.

I helped with the Author Breakfast on Saturday morning in the Michigan League. What fun to meet all of the authors – especially Desiree Cooper who led the conversation with the authors (despite the fire alarm going off just as she started!)

Here are a few photos:

 Colson Whitehead at author breakfastWilliam Powers and Desiree Cooper at Author Breakfast

 

 

Each writer graciously shared experiences and advice. As a volunteer, I helped to coordinate the event and had the pleasure of meeting almost all of the authors. I was lucky enough to sit with NJ based author Sung Woo and Detroit based Sharon Stanford. When I was in line for breakfast, I overheard Masha Hamilton encouraging a writer who had been in her session the day before. She encouraged the participant to take classes and publish her work. I was moved by the fiction writer’s dedication. She emphasized that we often sit on projects for too long when in fact, the public should have accessed to the well-crafted work. She offered suggestions about how to break down a longer project, in this case with a textbook with a cultural component, into smaller, perhaps more easily publishable pieces. (I will admit that I was surprised when Peter Yarrow, of the legendary Peter, Paul and Mary, arrived a bit late and was less pleasant. In fact, I was shocked that this peace-loving hippie folk singer snapped at me more than once.) 

Later that morning, I attended William Power’s talk on the business of writing. His focus was on finding your passion, pitching it and writing about things that interest you. He was efficient, clear and inspiring in his talk. He offered the perfect combination of left and right brain thinking. For example, he stressed rapid clustering as a brainstorming technique and precise editing for the pitch to editors. I look forward to reading his books.

At the book fair, I learned more about some local literary magazines, from The Michigan Quarterly Review to The MacGuffin There were a number of self-published authors, too, selling their books.

All in all, a great time. I look forward to being involved next year.

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Hans and I met Galina Gorokhova and her husband Vitaliy at the Kenville Dance Studios, where we take ballroom dance classes. Recently, they kindly had us over for a Russian cooking class (more details to come in another entry) and shared their wedding pictures and some of their wedding video with us. In each picture, you can see how in love they are with each other. I so enjoyed hearing about the Russian traditions and what they decided to incorporate into their wedding in St. Petersburg that I asked Galina to write a guest blog entry on Russian weddings. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Thanks, Galina, for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Galina and Vitaliy on their wedding day

A Typical Russian Wedding

In Russia weddings have always been a tremendous three –day event where a large amount of people was invited. 

Preparing for a wedding doesn’t take such a long time as in America for example.

Usually people go to a city hall two month prior to their wished wedding date. They write an application that they want to be married on that particular date.

All the nearest relatives take part in this event. Guests are sent invitations. If the celebration is not taking place in a restaurant then the women cook different meals. The cars in which the guests of the wedding will travel are decorated with tapes, flowers and balloons. No doubt the most beautiful one must be the car for bride and groom. It is decorated with huge rings. 

Also before the wedding it’s important to choose two witnesses. One of them must be male and the other one – female. By the way groom usually chooses the male, and the bride chooses female to be witnesses. These are as a rule best friends, brothers or sisters of the young couple.

A lot of attention is paid to the clothes of a groom and a bride. In Russia the groom is usually wearing strict black suit and white shirt. The dress of a bride is to the contrary traditionally of white color. There is a veil on her head. Besides, the groom mustn’t see the bride in her dress before the wedding. In Russia it’s considered to be a bad sign.

An important custom is the buy-out of bride. The groom and his friends must come to the house of the bride. Guests from the girl’s side are waiting for them here. The guy must pass several trials to see and to take his bride away. For example he is asked to make compliments to the bride. Or they can check how well he knows her asking different questions about her. If he doesn’t know the answer to the question or is mistaken then he must pay money. 

The groom is given the bride in the end. When a young couple goes to street parents sprinkle them with rice or coins. This is done for future prosperity and well-being of newly-married couple.

After that future spouses sit into the car and go to the wedding palace. Guests follow them. Decorated cars go on the streets in column. During the travel they’re certainly signaling so that all the associates paid attention to them and knew about the holiday 

The official part of the wedding takes place in a registry office. It’s rarer for couples to arrange wedding ceremony at a church. During the wedding the groom and bride exchange rings symbolizing their love and devotion to each other.

After the official registration a newly-married couple goes to the trip through the city with guests. They stay at mostly important monuments and sightseeing. Besides, there is a tradition that the groom must carry bride on his hands through all the bridges in the city. Of course it is rarely executed but at least one bridge is necessary. As a rule at each staying guests say toasts for the young family. Usually people drink champagne.

At this time the parents of a groom go home. After the city trip all the others also come here. The groom’s parents meet a newly-married couple with bread and salt in front of the house entry. They wish the new family happy life together. After that they treat the groom and bride with bread and salt. It’s considered that the host in the house will be that of them who breaks off or bites off a bigger piece of bread. 

Then guests go to a place where the celebration will take place. Here a magnificent table is waiting for them. The groom and bride sit at it first. By the way bride sits right of the groom, and the groom’s parents are right to bride. After that the other people take their places, and the celebratory dinner starts. It is accompanied with numerous toasts for happiness, health and well-being for the groom and bride.

 Besides if you are at a Russian wedding don’t be surprised when you’ll quite often hear here guest shouts “Bitterly!” (Gorko) Sometimes even too often. Don’t think it far doesn’t speak that the food isn’t tasty. In fact when guests shout “Bitterly!” that means that the groom and bride must kiss each other. By the way sometimes you can also hear “Sweet!” (Sladko) And this moment witnesses must kiss each other.

Guests give presents to newly-married couple. Usually wedding presents are practical. Lots of guests even give money. Also different kinds of home appliances are popular.

 Also there is a tamada (host or toastmaster) at every wedding. The tamada is a person who leads a wedding and tries to make it cheerful and memorable. He carries competitions with the participation of the newly-married couple, witnesses, the parents of the bridegroom and the bride and other guests. Often the future of the couple is defined by the results of such competitions. For example they find out who and what duties will carry out. Also often they bear two trays. Guests are offered to put money on one of them depending on whose birth they allow from the young family – a boy or a girl. After all who wanted have voted this way tamada counts money for a boy and for a girl. It’s considered that that of them will be born for whom the assembled sum is bigger. By the way the first piece of wedding cake is also supplied from the auction. Sometimes tamada sings. Actually music is present at Russian weddings. After the dinner guests always dance.

 Usually weddings take part on week ends. On the second day the bride isn’t wearing her white dress. This day guests gather again together and continue having fun. There aren’t any special traditions on the third day.

Our Wedding

All wedding look the same. You’ll notice that if you’re ever to choose the photographer or a cameraman. It is so dull to observe all traditions all the time. So when it came to our wedding we did a modern wedding.

First, we skipped witnesses because we didn’t what to make our friends ill at ease when choosing between them. They are all best!

Second, there was no white dress and black suit.  White doesn’t go with my pale skin and we both hate black. We even asked our guests not to wear black.  Nobody minded. 

Third, there weren’t such stupid things as buy-out of the bride and “Gorko shouting”.

We thought it is silly to ask my future husband questions about me after 7 years of being together and make him pay money for me. Am I a thing or what? I found it offending as well as getting up and kissing whenever people shout; we are not  circus dogs, aren’t we? Instead of shouting “Gorko” we gave each of our guest a bell to ring to make some noise to give way to emotions. 

And fourth, there were not any games or tricks with money. We wanted our guests to have fun and not to spend their money.

Giving up a tradition is not an easy thing. We had some fights with our families on some of the things which didn’t go with traditions.

But after all it was our wedding and we successfully did it! And even those who didn’t believe it would be fun were satisfied. Because something new is always good!

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After spending two and a half hours in the bra store hush for my recent reading, I had to find out more about bra fittings, finding the right bra… and share it with you. (Or at least, half of you, my readers.) Lisa, the owner of hush, kindly shared some information with us. Once I finish this dreaded diet (more about that later), I’ll be back to the store for a proper fitting. I promise, Lisa!

 

***

 

So many women buy their bras in department stores or online. What is the advantage to having a custom fit?

The advantage of having a custom fit is in the knowledge of our staff.  Bras are like any other article of clothing in that a size 38C fits differently depending on the maker, the style, and the woman’s preferences.  At hush, we know our products and we listen to our clients wants & needs.  We are able to take a measurement or two and then return with the perfect fit – often on the very first try.

 

What is involved in a fitting?

Fittings are easy!  Our clients are in private dressing rooms.  We take two measurements with only a bra on.  We consult with each woman about what she is looking for in terms of coverage, color, special needs, etc.  We then go select bras for our client, bring them back, and get to trying them on….yes we help you get the girls into those cups

 

Women rave that a good fitting bra can make them feel thinner and change their entire look. How does this happen?

This magic happens in two ways.  First, by lifting your breasts off your ribcage and/or abdomen, your are physically shifting that “weight” from that area to where it belongs.  Secondly, by giving your breasts each their own space, your are turning what appears to be somewhat of an area of “mass” (confusion) into two distinct lovely places.

 

What should women expect to pay for a good bra?

A reliable, good quality bra runs from $50 to $70.

 

How long will a good bra last?

This depends on a couple of factors:  How often you wear the bra without washing it and how you wash it.  Say you wear the same bra 6 days a week, washing it on the 7th, I’d say 6 months to a year.  Whereas if you wash the bra everytime you wear it and wear it every other day, you will double its life expectancy.  Think of it like a rubberband. The longer you keep a rubber band stretched to its capacity, the more likely it is to loose its elasticity.  You need to give your support time to recover from holding your girls up all day;o) If you can afford three bras, and rotate them the life of each of them is a couple of years or more.  Caring for your undergarment – cold water, no bleach, hang dry is best.  Once you introduce bleach, you reduce the elasticity of the bra.  Same goes for the dryer.  Use a gentle detergent, like Forever New; and hook your bras so that they don’t catch on anything.  Of course, there is the old fashioned hand washing method; I just don’t know many women who have the time or energy.

 

How did you become involved in this industry?

Ahhhhh yes, the eternal question.  How does one with a Master’s Degree in Engineering move into bras?  Simple, I HATED bra shopping and the end results of ill fitting garments.  There just had to be a better way.  I dreamed up a place where I (and my equally frustrated girlfriends) would want to shop.  Then just like any geek, I went to work on researching and data crunching until I was sure I could help women feel comfortable (and perhaps happy) in their underwear.

 

What do you recommend to a bride for her wedding-bra?

I recommend you come see me ASAP.  Your most precious day should not be spent being concerned about your bra.  Your bra should be most-of-all comfortable.  If you are looking for a strapless bra, I suggest a torsolette or bustier.  These styles provide support from the hips or waistline up.  If properly fit, they shift very little and can be quite sexy for the end of the evening;)

 

 

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As you enter Hush, you’ll immediately have a feeling of privacy and comfort as well as elegance and pleasantness.  This is a place that makes you smile on a rainy day, and where knowledgeable women consult with you to find the perfect fit. hush intimate apparel, owned and operated by Lisa Nelson, is focused on its specialty of meeting the undergarment needs of all women. The products currently within her quiet walls range from 30AA thru 48K and even some cups in 50 & 52. But what is most impressive is her desire to find the best fit possible for each of her customers, even if that means putting in an order or recommending a competitor for those last minute needs.  “My feeling is that I do the best I can to carry the products and ranges for my customers; but sometimes I just don’t have what a client needs. So in cases where she needs an undergarment sooner than I can accommodate, I suggest other places I know carry good products. I just hate that I wasn’t able to help because, as a woman, I know how aggravating it can be to go to 10 places to find the one item that works for you.” says Lisa. She is confident that her inventory will continue to evolve as she gets to know the women she serves.  So, just what does hush carry? There are bras: t-shirts, underwire, wireless, strapless, bustiers, backless, plunge lines. Then there are the panties to match every bra in a variety of styles (thongs, boy shorts, briefs and hipsters). hush carries excellent quality hosiery for every day (pantyhose, and shape-wear) and special occasions (thigh highs and stockings). The chemises and other sleepwear are elegant and the fabrics are impressive. It is obvious care was taken to choose items that ANY women would feel good in. What adds to the beautiful lingerie is the personal attention and professional fitting each client receives. The hush staff takes measurements to ensure that each garment fits properly then brings the garments to the customer.  You no longer need to wonder if the bra fits “right.”  This takes the frustration out of looking for what you think is your size and what might look good. And, to top it all off, hush also keeps track of customer sizes & preferences for the purpose of making phone calls to regular customers when new products arrive, and for gifts from loved ones.

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Thanks so much to Lisa Baker Nelson for hosting the Mother/Daughter night at Hush last night. She kindly invited me to read poems twice and I couldn’t have asked for more in an audience. It was a lot of fun!

As promised, here is the bra poem I wrote. It is dedicated to Lisa Baker Nelson of Hush. She has a framed copy of it in her store.

 

Underwire

Wigglewiggle.
The nerve.
Why am I held here?
Solid, unmoving. (A little escaping on the side.)
What do I need?

Shh. Hush. Don’t tell my problems.
But, please, please help me.

Phew. 

© Chloé Yelena Miller 2009

 

 

My fiancé, who spent 2.5 hours straight in a bra store, took some pictures during the reading:

Hush ReadingHush Reading 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He also kindly videotaped the bra and underwear poem. Check it out on Facebook.

Lisa and her staff offer private fittings. Everyone who came out of the dressing room was thrilled to discover how she looked after wearing a properly fitted bra. Be sure to check out her store. It is on Maine Street in Brighton, a cute town with many restaurants and stores.

 

Thanks to Leslie Hipp, Independent Consultant, Executive Area Manager Arbonne International, for her kind words after the reading:
I just loved your poems and your warm, fun spirit. Your presence made a big difference in the feel of the evening festitivies.

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