venerdì 25 dicembre 2009

Christmas time

Just a few pictures of my Xmas:

It has been snowing quite a lot in the past few weeks, with temperature swinging around - 15°C (5°F, if you're more comfortable with Farenheit degrees).
Streets have been impassable for days, and the whole north Italy had been covered by a thick white layer; but, unfortunately, yestarday a hot wind melted the most part of it.
Our Christmas has been a very windy, hot, bright yellow-lighted day - some African wind brought us a sand rain, that gave the landscape a funny sepia shade - with not even a hint of snow.

My older brother, as a (new) member of the citizen band, had to dress up ("Mum, I will never go out like that!", he said) with the band uniform (black suit, green vest and blue tie - I would have felt ashamed, too) to play the flute in our church, for the usual Xmas concert.
At some point he had to perform a solo, and he was tomato-red with embarrassment - just to complete the chromatic whole!
When we got out of the church (that was actually a lot colder than the outside), we had to psychologically prepare ourselves for The Christmas Lunch (with capital letters).

We're a pretty big family, when we are all reunited; so, every time we share some festivity, we have to go to my uncle's restaurant - closed for the occasion - and put all the tables together to achieve this gigantic dining-table.
My mom and her sisters-in-law, supervised by my granny, used the restaurant kitchen to put together two first courses (tortellini and vegetable lasagne), and five - yep, five - second courses (including pig's trotter, osso buco, rabbit stew and two or three kinds of roasted meat, coming with all sorts of handmade, delicious sauces) with plenty of side dishes (roasted potatoes, stew runner beans, mixed salad) and quite a lot of excellent wine. And say nothing about desserts!
I've made a cheesecake and a chocolate cake, my granny a fig jam-and-macaroon pie, one of my aunts a pumpkin pie, and forgetting panettone, marron glacés and chocolates!

Those kind of things are often a tour de force that can wear the sturdiest man out, but when the company is good and the occasion is - thank God - an una tantum, it becomes quite enjoyable.

At the eleventh hour (literally!) I was told I had to decorate the table: somehow, with what I could find turning drawers over and ransacking the restaurant warehouse (I hooked some angel hair from a window, too), I managed to do...

those little luminaries...

... and this centre-piece.
Lots of use of tangerines there, I fear - at least it smelled good!

(Why I look so old?)

Here I am wearing my mom's Xmas present - an adorable vintage pied-de-poule coat (mid-1960s, I think) with funny astrakan trimming around the neck and sleeves. By my side you can see my brothers - the older one being only 14-year-old, but quite a lot taller than me.
I tried to match the coat with a 1960s hairdo, inspired by superkawaiimama (I would have loved to try a 'flip' like the one showed by Aya, aka StrawberryKoiVintage, but unfortunately my hair is far too long for it to look good).
I used a home-made hair rat (made with my own hair wrapped into a hairnet) to achieve some volume at the top - if you think it's gross, you should talk with my mum, who raised her eyebrow and asked me, why the hell I put a dead mouse on my head?

My dad gave me an amazing vintage garnet ring as a gift, as I adore garnets. This gift caused a little misunderstanding, because my pack and my mum's were wrapped with the same paper, and my dad mixed them up.
When he gave my mum her present, and she opened it, she found my ring and tried to wear it - but she noticed that it was way too small for her fingers. At the same time, I thought I would have loved it, if it was my own gift, and wondered why my dad didn't give it to me.
He saw mum struggling with the ring, and said "Whoops, I must have made a mistake".
Both me and mom thought he was referring to the size of the ring, but he rapidly replaced my mum's gift with mine, and vice versa. My mom started laughing and told me, "Sorry, I spoiled you the surprise!"

Inside my gift was also a note from dad, saying (more or less):
With all the silly geese around the world, why a smart daughter happened just to me?
Anyway, I won't change you for anything else in the world - not even a pack of chewing gums.
Merry Xmas, Cocca.

When I asked him, "What if it was two packs of chewing gums?", he answered, as I knew he would have, "Well, in this case I would look on the exchange."

My brothers had a note into their presents, too.
Enrico's one said
you're a donkey! [And I can confirm it's true, nda], but among all donkeys you're my favourite one.
Merry Xmas, Gibus

Andrea's one said
you're a good kid, and a bit of a mama's boy.
If you were obedient, too, you would be perfect... Too perfect!
Merry Xmas, Chicchi.*

*Now, don't ask me why Giulia is became "Cocca", Enrico "Gibus" and Andrea "Chicchi", because nobody remembers it, and my dad remembers it less than anyone.
Considering that he often calls my mom "Wife" ("Wife, come here just a moment, please" "What time is it, Wife?"), and she calls him by surname, you shouldn't be surprised of those kind of nicknames! :-)

lunedì 7 dicembre 2009

Antiques and Fingerwaves

Sunday I had my usual date with the antiques market, and I decided to try for the umpteenth time to try fingerwaves on me. I have very straight, and very heavy hair, so whatever amount of gel, water, hairspray or lime I put on them seems not to be enough. This time, for God knows what combination of favourable weather, good cosmic vibrations, the intercession of a God of the Hair, or just luck, they turned out pretty well.
The previous night, however, my head looked like this:

and my family looked like they were going to burst into wild laughter from one moment to the next.
In the early Sunday morning, my mum came into my room with her bathrobe on and her hair wet, and woke me up to get her hairpins back.
Thank you, mom. Very kind.
I and mom competed for the mirror - she kept saying that, if she didn't blow-dry properly her hair (with a round brush, loads of pins and two mirrors at her disposal), they would have revolted against her; *I* kept saying that, after a night spent with a thousand metallic pins on my head, I had no intention to spoil the whole thing by combing my hair without seeing what I was doing.
It was a hard fight. I won a corner on the lower part of the mirror, and managed to comb my hair and put some makeup on.
When I finally got dressed - with a combination of greys and taupe that made my mom (her, child of the 80s) put her hand on my shoulder, shake her head, and say compassionetly "You can't be a daughter of mine" - my brothers had a lot of fun in taking my cloche hat off, then putting it on again.
Thanks, guys. Very funny.
I cuffed the youngest one on the head, but didn't reach the other.
While I was finally reaching the car to go to the market, my dad took a look at me, arched an eyebrow, and commented "Your shoes look like your grandma's."
Thank you, dad. Very uplifting.

From the market:

1 - Hatbox with cigarette cards on
2 - Magazines from the early 50s
3 - An old S&N typewriter
4 - Myself in my "granny shoes" and my
hat and coat trimmed with felt roses

mercoledì 2 dicembre 2009

Library finds, part II - Modern... Vintage!

For all those people who think "vintage" as a synonymous of "granny-like", I found out some photos that could make you change your mind... a little bit!
After another raid in the local library, I came home with, among others, a photograph book about Dior and another one about the great fashion designer Renè Gruau.
So, what? You could say.
They were both used to draw clothes in the 1940s-1950s: what's new about that?
Well, I noticed some similarities between a few different pictures; and I decided to ask you to play with me an old game: the kind of game you can find in the crossword magazines.
So... are you ready to find the differences between the photos I'll post below?

Look at this picture: this quirky, luscious red evening dress, named "Ispahan", was designed in 1947 by Gruau for - guess who? - Dior.
Ruby red silk, gloves, stiletto heels, pearls. A refined updo to let the model's bare shoulders uncovered.
Looks like a typical case of the mixture of elegance and craziness, malice and voluptuousness, that characterized French fashion in the early 1950s - no more financial straits, people long again for elegance, luxury, and some fun.
With its fancy bodice - red baroque roses emphasizing the bust, an equally red shawl around bare shoulders, this model is peculiar of its time - today, its rococo roses would appear dated and out of place.

... Or not?

This fire-red taffeta dress belongs to the Winter Collection 1989-1990.
A draped stole wraps the model showing its peculiarity: extravagant silk roses all around the shoulders, surrounding bare neck and shoulders, highlighted by a high chignon.

It's just me, or this dress reminds us of something we have already seen before...?

Same thing with these couples of photos: which one is following the other's exemple?

On the left: pattern from the 1940s.
On the right: model from the 90s.

On the left: Dior dress, 1950s.
On the right: Dior dress, late 1980s.

Now, take as well this picture, and its modern, offhand, jaunty feel.
When I first saw it, I could have bet it was made in the late 1980s: a bright pattern, high-waisted tight trousers, flat shoes.

Nothing further from the subdued colours, neatness and panache of the war and post-war times... If we ignore the fact the picture was drawn in the late 1940s for the cover of the International Textiles.

I found a slightly, but funny resemblance with some 1980s dresses I've seen on the net, like this, or this.

Let's take a last look on this one. This drawing is so amazingly up-to-date, with its comic strip look and a slightly 90s feel, that I was quite surprised it was actually made in 1957.
Nothing it its contrasting, bright colours, or essential and rough-edged lines, reminds me about the Fifties and the dreamy idea of a soft, kind-hearted femininity that it's usually associated with these years.
When I see this jazzy checked pattern, the first image that comes to my mind is more like this... than this!
... But, maybe - I should reassess my idea of what "vintage" is! :)

mercoledì 25 novembre 2009

Another farewell

That is not much of a tribute, I know. But I felt like doing it, anyway.

It seems that November is time for me to lose my dearest.
After crashing my car, that, after all, is quite a little trouble, today I had to face a more important, more painful and more definitive loss.

I used to have four cats.

The first one - named Sheila years ago, now known by everyone as "The Nasty Old One" - is an old, fat, mischievous, slightly paranoic Siamese.

An extremely sweet (and adorably goofy) white-and-grey boy with a pink nose, named Toby, is the loveliest cat you can imagine.

His brother Tigre (the obvious Italian for "Tiger"), a pearl grey tabby cat, is the funniest, fattest and cutest little sluggard in the world.

The last one, Mimi (nickname for Mississippi) was our lap cat.
She was five years old: completely black, with round golden eyes, a funny plump face; and she was as sweet as you can imagine a cat to be.
She spent her life purring on our knees when we were sitting; and, everytime we went to sleep, she jumped on my bed, or my brothers'.
When nobody was sitting or laying on a bed, or doing anything that allowed her to be held in our arms, she used to rub against our legs or to jovially chat with us, bottom-up, with her husky, low, funny "Barry White" voice.
She was not a clever cat, as the Siamese one is - or nearly as elegant as the Old One; nor funny as Tigre, our little clown.
She had never been as good as Toby in catching mice or lizards.
But she was the one always purring on your knees when you were studying; the black shadow following you everywhere in the house; the pair of round, golden eyes that blinked to you under the table, the head pressed against our hand to say she wanted to be cuddled. The furry black ball always glad to be petted (actually, I think no cat have been cuddled as much as Mimi had been. Even my father, who's not fond of cats at all, liked her - our little, dumpy, awkward, super sweet black cat).
She was the little girl who was afraid of the vacuum cleaner; the one who hid under your bed in the night and, when you were comfortably wrapped into your sheets and nearly falling asleep, jumped so silently and softly on your bed, that you lacked the courage to chase her away.

Mimi died today, in my arms.
A few days ago she began to rapidly - and painlessly - lose weigh; on Monday we learned she suffered from FeLV (Feline Leukaemia Virus). The vet told us she was going to leave us in a month - at best.
This evening, just three days later - three days! -, when I got home from work, Mimi looked, for the first time, sick; she looked at me with watery, suffering eyes, and began to cry out of fear.
I understood that the veterinary had been optimist.
I wrapped Mimi into an old sweatshirt, held her and tried to comfort her, for over two hours; she was barely able to move, breathed with great difficulty and was clearly scared, but as long as I was by her side, she was quite calm, and didn't whine at all; at some point she closed her eyes and even managed to purr - just to reassure me, I believe... because I can't think about any other reason why the poor thing should have purred in such a painful situation.
My little, brave cat.
At some point, I - stupidly, stupidly - tried to sedate her, to spare her more pain: but to my dismay that made her feel even worse; and I think I'll never forgive myself for doing it - for causing her further pain, when I could have just let her in peace.
In a couple of hours, anyway, she slipped in a sort of haze, and I think she didn't understand what happened next. At least, I wish so. She died after a brief, unconscious struggle.

I spent the next two hours crying like a baby.
I hope to God Toby, Tigre and The Old One had not contracted FeLV, too: I really couldn't stand another day like this. I never thought I could ever be that fond of an animal, and suffer as much as I do because of it.

* * *

EDIT [November 26]: We buried Mimi this morning - a windy, cold, clear morning - in the backyard, and planted colorful tulips on her pit. They should flower in the early spring.
Tigre, as curious as only a cat can be, came to see what we were doing; but soon, amused by the leaf fall caused by the windy weather, he began to run up and down the garden, jumping into the leaf piles like a kid, to make leaves fly.
That made us all chuckle.

I don't have many photos of her.
Those are the only ones in which she looked pretty good.

1. A six-months-old Mimi, half-sleeping into my mum's Chanel purse - classy cat!
2. Little Mimi exploring the house
3. Mimi looking down her chair - what did you see, kitty?
4. Mimi sleeping on my bed

"Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
and save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers
Slipping through my fingers all the time"

venerdì 20 novembre 2009

Library finds

As I promised, I'm trying to make the most of my car wreck, and I'm enjoying the newly found library section devoted to the history of fashion.
From a book called "Vestiti: lo stile degli italiani in un secolo di fotografie" ("Dresses: Italian style, a century of pictures"), here's a few of my favourites.

Look at this girl from 1935, looking amazingly modern in her plain, smooth, low-necked blouse and black pearl necklace, with an elegant silver fox fur around her shoulders and a malicious smile on her face.
Only her super thin, penciled eyebrows, a hint of finger waves, and her cloche hat point out her belonging to the 30s: had the picture been not dated, I could have thought it was taken yesterday.

Looking at those two elegant women, you could bet they were posing for the photographer - just waiting, in their best side, for the picture to be taken.
But, actually, this picture was taken at some horse racing in 1935-1936, and those ladies are actually following their front-runner with a tiny pair of field-glasses.
But look at the bucket purse the lady on the right is holding - or the belt the other one has wrapped around her waist, in contrast with the white, double-breasted jacket: didn't they look like they were modelling for some fashion designer?

How can I not love the casual, yet stylish jacket and matching culottes this girl wears in winter 1937?
The sobriety of her dress, anyway, is sweetened by the nice hat on her head, with its ducky ribbon bow.
According to the caption, she is a model showing a new kind of fabric; at the time, in Italy, there were more than 800 fashion houses.

This amazingly beautiful girl in the picture, dated 1945, is not the starlet of a forgotten Hollywood movie, but Marella Caracciolo Agnelli, the wife of Gianni Agnelli - The Lawyer, as they used to call him - the most well-known, much speculated-about Italian industrialist, the principal shareholder of Fiat (Agnelli was also known worldwide for his impeccable, slightly eccentric fashion sense).
She is still now one of the most influent patron of the arts in Italy - but she is also the daughter of a Duke... as her husband was the son of a princess.

It Italy, we say "Donne al volante, pericolo costante", that we can translate as "Woman driving, peril thriving"; or "Donne e motori, gioie e dolori", that is to say, " Women and engines, joys and pains".
Women and machinery do not mix?
It does not look like so, if we take a glance at this 1948 picture, where two gals smiles at each other through a 1100 Sport Fiat.

I think that, apart from the pleased expression the woman at the wheel is showing, the elegant lines of the car, and the stylish clothes of the ladies... match perfectly!

giovedì 12 novembre 2009

Crash!, and an eulogy for an old friend

Rain, sharp turn, tree.

A car accident can be that easy!

That's what happened to me a few days ago... and that's why I don't have a car anymore.
Actually, I was quite fond of my eleven-year-old, rusty, wheezy Polo, that scared cyclists with its farm tractor-like clatter...
My clapped out Polo, whose dents and scratches I used to fix with blue nail varnish and a little brush.
My old banger, whose back seat covering was frayed, because my brother used to chew its edges when he was a baby.
My noisy jalopy, whose trunk smelled as rotten grease, and I never understood why.
My old rusty friend, whose engine compartment was - I swear, I swear! - the nest of a little field mouse, that used to pile up hazelnuts under the battery case (what a lot of laughter me and my parents had, when we found out what the strange ticking noise into the engine was: nuts knocking one into the other!).

But this Monday morning was raining, at the time I was going to work; the street I usually travel on is narrow and quite uneven - but it's shorter than the others.
I drove on it a thousand times, at least.
But this Monday, I sheered too abruptly to avoid a pick-up coming towards me, my car went into a skid on the wet asphalt, and the next thing I remember was the bang and the sickening smell of the air bag exploding.
I did it all by myself, actually.

My first thought was, I swear, "Where are my glasses? Oh, no, I've just bought them, they're new!", and the second was "How can I be that stupid? I can't believe it!"

For me, just a few bruises and tons of irritation towards my foolishness and the inanity of the whole thing. For my car, a journey to the junkyard.

Every cloud has a silver lining, though. I will finally have a new car - well, at least, a newer car.
I rediscovered the pleasure of taking a bus and sleep all the way to my office.
And, because of the bus' timetable, that does not coincide with my work schedule, I have a free hour to spend at the library - where I found out there's a section all devoted to the history of fashion.
Today I spent my free hour enjoying an amazing picture book on Italian fashion of the 50s and 60s.
I think my next posts will be devoted to my next finds in the public library...

PS: just a silly thing. Being involved in a car accident in an elegant, well-combed, feminine outfit can be pretty useful.
At least ten people stopped to ask me if they could help me in any way. A man called a tow truck for me. Another lent me his umbrella. Five guys tried to help me move my car from the street to a courtyard.
I'm not sure that would have happened if I had tousled hair and no makeup on! :)

domenica 1 novembre 2009

Halloween by proxy

Not being able to do the 1930s murder mystery party I would
have liked to stage with my friends, because of a flu - not the swine one, just an uninteresting, regular flu - I decided to dress up my eleven-year-old brother, so at least one member of the family (my older brother, Enrico, who is fourteen, had flu like me) would have had some fun.
After some argy-bargy - I leaned towards the Mad Hatter, he was more inclined towards Freddy Krueger - we finally agreed upon the nineteenth-century barber Sweeney Todd, lately performed by a pale, and more-than-ever disquieting, Johnny Depp.
We made it in less than three hours, using only a few safety pins, some glue and quite a lot of food coloring.
Here's the result.

Gossamer shirt (mine): Stefanel
Vest: mum
Greatcoat: an old coat of mine
Belt: mum
Half-finger gloves: mine
Bloody handkerchief: made with an old piece of fabric and some red food colouring. In doing this, I succeeded in staining with permament red spots my hands, my arms, my chin, my nose and even, don't know how, my teeth.
Shavers: made by me and my bro using some nail files covered in aluminium foil
Leather tie: dad (don't ask me *why* my dad should own a leather tie, because I really don't know; and I probably wouldn't want to)
White "Sweeney" wisp: made cutting some locks from a white Marie Antoinette-like wig and sticking them onto a hairgrip. Actually, I sticked it onto my fingers, firstly, and only after a good team work I succeeded in pasting it on the hairpin - but that's irrelevant into the economy of this post.


White greasepaint: theatre wear shop
Eye shadows: Maybelline? (not sure of that, the case has lost its label)
White concealer (for lips and eyebrows): GOTbeauty

My brother received loads of compliments from his friends ("How can you be that cool?!" being the most common comment)
The hardest part (and I mean, really hard) was cleaning the makeup out, when he came home after his "trick or treat" walk!

mercoledì 7 ottobre 2009

The Italian Job

People, I've got a new job.
Yeah, lots of you didn't even know that I was looking for it, but - I don't know why, maybe for some sort of supertitious fear, I didn't want to talk much about it.
Actually, this year I already worked for three different societies (no, I was not fired three times, it's just that my employment contracts were fixed-term ones), being a secretary, a tax consultant, and a waitress; now, it's time for me to try a new field.
Drums roll...
I'm an insurance agent.
Are you scared?
... I am.

First of all, just to make me feel comfortable, they told me I am supposed (read: forced) to ask (read: beg) all my relatives and friends to.... Er, take into consideration the idea of insuring themselves with my agency.
Secondarily, I've been warned that I will work on commission: that is a nice way to say 'no contracts signed, no money'.
That makes me fear that I will be soon pennyless - and, in addition to that, my friends will hate me because I've stressed them out.
What's more, I will drive around the whole province with my poor, clapped out car, that's going west [my poor, loyal friend - don't leave me yet!].
And I hate driving. Just for the record.

Above all, I am really afraid that it will end up being a door-to-door kind of job, the one that will get people look at your faltering smile, document wallet and dark suit and, even before you can say "Hello", will shout: "Get off my property, you swindler!"

So, why am I committing myself to do that...?
Well, because there's nothing else, primarily.

At least, I can go around all dressed up.

PS: we're not con men, for the record. Our products are quite good.
By the way... Any of you is interested in joining a supplementary welfare fund?

lunedì 28 settembre 2009

Changing out my closet

Just a little, quick, random post before going to bed.
A bed that, at the present time, looks like this:

Yeah, somewhere - under tons of fabric - it should be my bed.
At least, I think so.

I have to replace my summer clothes with fall and winter clothes, so I've taken advantage of an unforeseen one-day holiday (the guy who should teach me my new job has got a flu) and I rolled up my sleeves.
I decided to list all my clothes into an Excel file (separating them by colour, pulling apart the formal ones from the informal ones, etc), following the advice of a wise friend (who manages to have almost as much skirts as me), because, even if I have much more dresses than I could possibly wear in my whole life, when I have to go out I never manage to find a single one that works for the occasion: and I usually sit on my bed with a disconsolate expression on my face, shaking my head like an old dog, and muttering to myself : "Twenty-one years collecting clothes, and I still have nothing to wear".

Guess what I found out, while classifying my clothes?
That I am... a person of fixed habits.
What's new about that?
Nothing, actually.
But I realized that I have a disquieting proclivity to buy the same item twice - and I became aware that I have
- two exactly alike gingham skirts with black round buttons on the front (one was my mum's, the other was found at a second-hand market)
- two white knee-lenght polka-dot skirts (one bought in Germany during a field trip, the other found, - guess where? - at a second-hand market)
- two black polka-dot shirts
- countless white skirts
- countless black skirts.

... I'm a hazard to myself.

PS: I would love to say I wore the bandana to protect my hair from dust - but, actually, I did it just to feel more homemaker-ish.
I can't do my housework without a little bit of drama.

martedì 8 settembre 2009


I have been trying to arrange a - very well-organized, for my standard - hair tutorial post: I wrote the theorical part, I decided the page setting, and all.
But something went wrong during the process, and
- my 13-years-old brother, who was supposed to be the Helmut Newton of the situation, had been too occupied (not) worrying for an exam, and (not) studying for it.
- my hair refused to obey to anything but the force of gravity, and sadistically hammered away at bobbypins for a week.
- my wondrously well-ordered post mysteriously vanished into ether.

So, I had to think about something else to fill the hiatus... And, yes, I know, the beginning sounds like a homework assignment ("Yesterday I woke up, had breakfast..."), but with that kind of preface, I ask you to go easy on me, this time!

Sunday morning I had been visiting, as usual, an antique/second-hand market. The night before I prepared myself to the event wearing pincurls, and I wore my blue dress, white shoes and my favourite 1950s sunglasses (oval black lenses, cream white bakelite frame).

I managed to spend less than 20€, and I bought three dresses, a purse and a cardigan.

One of the dresses was a vintage - I think late 1970s - one; not an eye-catcher, though I find it pretty cute, with its cream undercoat and its (umpretentious, but lovely) checked, black and cream tunic!
The lady who sold me this dress asked me if she could take a photo of my outfit, and I - obviously! - assented with pleasure.
She gave me a little discount, too... And I - obviously again - agreed with (great) pleasure once more!

The cardigan was something
rétro-ish, too.
Salmon pink, fitted, with rounded metallic buttons and a neat neckline, it istantly reminded me a lot of Doris Day for its colour, shape and neck.
Isn't it the perfect sweetheart, girl-next-door fall item?

I bought this purse - lacquer red, patent [fake] leather - on my way home.
I took a glance into a 99 cent store and I saw it.
Yep, I know what you're thinking, and I was puzzled, too.
But I payed it 99 cents, and I'm actually very happy about it.
There I bought some colorful stickers, too (a pocket of glittery sweets, including lollipops, cupcakes and candies; and a "paperdoll" one, with little colored dresses, purses, shirts and bikinis).
But, being grown-up and mature, I pretend I bought them for my younger brother (11 years old); who, to tell the truth, actually sticked a bright green lollipop and a shimmery red and yellow cupcake on his diary - but is pretty uninterested about the tiny skirts and the pink, or gingham microscopic underwear!

mercoledì 19 agosto 2009

Last Tango in Bologna

Yesterday night I went to Bologna for a tango dance, and I finally had the occasion to wear my fringed "fake flapper" dress, and, above all, to try on me the gorgeous 1920-1930s hairdo by Iris, that I always wanted to.

I'll omit the fact that my mom laughed to tears when she came into my room and saw me, mouth full of bobby pins and eyes crossed in the attempt to see what I was doing on the back of my head - but lots of people congratulated with me for the hairdo during the evening, and I was actually very pleased with the result, too.
My mom took those pictures and, being sadic, managed to make my nose feature as the star of the performance - while the rest of my face is here only as a supporting role. I ask you, please, pretend not to see my huge resemblance to Adrian Brody when I'm half-face.
If you have the occasion to go out for an elegant soirèe - try this hairdo, people, it's great!

The dance was not as romantic as one may think - lots of sweaty fat men running one into the other - and the most funny outfits for the ladies - but I had fun anyway.
Someone should tell women that bright green shoes do not match a violet skirt, and even if they did, a brown t-shirt has little to do with the rest.
But I'm pedantic.
I'm quite sure, however, someone should warn women who are over sixties that golden lamè fabric is not what is usually called "sober yet elegant".
I wis I had a camera, because some of the outfits were something psychedelic... Not that I was particularly refined, but at least I left the feather boa home!

mercoledì 12 agosto 2009

I Want Candy (part I)

Just so you know.
I have an insane passion for sweets, candies, chocolates, cakes and sweet things in general.
If I was shipwrecked on a desert island with only an unlimited supply of Nutella (presupponing that I was travelling on a tanker full of Ferrero products), I could survive 'till the end of the days, eating just Nutella forever, maybe just adding coconut for a spurious Bounty Bar.

Talking about Bounty Bars: did you know that their antecedents (Peter Paul's Coconut Mounds, Almond Joy) were introduced in the 1920s and became popular in the 1940s?
And that the Mars bar was created in 1932, and M&M's a few years later?
Can you imagine eating candy cigarettes (sometimes called sugar fags in the UK), colorful sweets named "Chuckles", disquieting "Long Boys" chocolates, funny Root Beer Barrels or squared, bright violet gums?
If you were children in the 40s and 50s, you'd have loved 'em.

I did a little research about vintage candies, and that's what I found out.


Sen-Sen was developed in the late 1800s by T.B. Dunn and Co., perfume dealers. In keeping with its perfumery roots, it was on the market list for many years as a cosmetic: Sen-Sen was to the 19th century what breath mints are to our time.

Any country store worth its salt prominently displayed a box of the handy little packets within easy reach of its customers.

Sugar Daddy was the biggest lollipop of its times.
The Sugar Daddy was originally called the Papa, and was invented in 1925 by a chemist named Frank at the James O. Welch Company. The name was changed to Sugar Daddy in 1932. Sugar Babies were introduced three years later, in 1935.

BB Bats were super hard, little taffy-like candy suckers, and you could get them in strawberry, banana, chocolate, and one other flavor that was sort of like peanut butter. They probably were supposed to be soft and chewable, and once in awhile they were, but most of the time you could build the foundation of a house out of them on account of they were so hard. Despite that, they were super popular, and you could get one for one or two cents max.
(article source:

first appeared in 1924, as a new kind of candy bar, consisting of six pieces of candy wrapped in wax paper, and then packaged in a wrapper.
The candy consisted of almond bits embedded in a honey-flavored taffy which makes for a long-chewing candy.
Practically, when you ate one of these, it would have left you tongue-tied and nearly unable to speak for at least an hour or two, unless you provided with an adequate quantity of water.

Salt Water Taffy
The real origins of how salt water taffy got its name are disputed. However, the most popular story concerns a candy-store owner, Mr. David Bradley, whose shop was flooded during a major storm in 1883. His entire stock of taffy was soaked with salty Atlantic Ocean water. When a young girl came into his shop and asked if he had any taffy for sale, he is said to have offered some "salt water taffy." It was a joke, because all his taffy had been soaked with salt water, but the girl was delighted, and she bought the candy. Mr. Bradley's mother was in the back and heard the exchange. She loved the name and so Salt Water Taffy was born.

sabato 25 luglio 2009


I want to make clear first that I have some obsession for black and white clothes. I have, to make ourselves understood, a white dress with black polka dots, and a black dress with white polka dots; a black skirt with white embroidery, and a white skirt with a black pattern. A black dress with white flowers. A white dress with black and white flowers printed on it. Two white dresses with a slightly different black pattern. A white dress with black borders. A black and white jumper. A black halter top printed in white. Countless black and white gingham items...
Er, I think you got it.

This morning my friend Sara and I put on comfortable shoes, fresh white cotton dresses (they're not fresher than every other colour, but they look like they are), and took some water bottles, fans and sunglasses; we rolled our sleeves up, wore a ferocious expression, and we went out for a raid - er, some shopping at the local market.
When I say "some shopping" I don't render the idea of what going shopping with Sara is like.
More than a hobby, it's a mission: when we go out shopping together, we walk for, at least, five hours, with no breaks, following a schedule that would make Lt. Hartman pale.

Sara, goddamn her!, found out some super cute denim high-waisted Capri (the last pair, *sigh*), and an eye-candy ruffled shirt.
I found nothing.
Well, at least, until I saw this.

There and then, I thought I've never seen anything that reminded me more of Jackie Kennedy.
But I felt shivers down my spine when I realized what I was staring at: the most expensive stall in the whole market.
As usual.
I always like things I can't afford: a gift that I inherited from my mother, who is able to look at an entire clothes shop where everything -from skirts to coats - is half-price, and like the only pair of gloves that are full price.

I shyly took a glance on a random label - and my heart sank: 150 € (nearly 215 $) for a vest?!
What the hell...?

My friend tried to encourage me ("C'mon, don't give up hope... Maybe they have sales"), but I knew she was only trying to make me forget that she bought the last pair of those Capri.
But, unexpectedly, she was right.
Actually, not only they had sales, but the jacket in point was, miracolously, one of those items that, having a little flaw, can not be sold at the full price (someone told me the English for this kind of clothes is "seconds": can someone tell me if it's correct?).

So, I took courage and I pronounced the terrible words.

Nobody was happier than me to hear the answer: 15 € - about 20 dollars!
So, here I am, now. With my brand-new black and white jacket.
Onassis, here I am!

venerdì 24 luglio 2009

The Lost Brigade

A little bit of history, today, dear readers of mine.
My family's one, actually.
But Italian history, too.

Let's start from that ring there: I wear it most of the time, wedging another ring into it to make it the right size - I have ridiculously small fingers, and it's way too big for me.
The ring in point was my grand-grandfather's, Anchise Cioni (The 'C' and 'A' in the front), who died in Greece during the WWII, lefting her wife Elena a widow and his two little daughters, Alberta (my granny) and Vanda, two orphans when they were babies, not even school-age.
Elena was sort of an unusual woman: born in the 1890s in a tiny village in North Italy (population oscillating between 50 souls when the times were florid, to a dozen when times became hard); daughter of farmers, she went to school - quite an eccentricity for a country where, at the time, 90% of people, and nearly 100% of women, were illiterate, - and learned to write and read; then she worked as a maiden for an influent family, whose members, for some funny unknown reason, used to call her "Lena".
She was no beauty, but she managed to marry Anchise, who was more than a handsome man, hiring him away from her much prettier sister; Anchise was named "The English" by friends because of his fair hair and eyes (uncommon in a country where 90% of people have a dark complexion) and tall height.
I inherited no height from him, but people say I have his hair and skin, freckles included.
Nothing is left of him (Even Elena's wedding ring, the only golden thing she'd ever had, was confiscated by the Fascist army to fund the war) except from some books, a blurry photography or two, and this ring - the only thing that won't become dust in a couple of decades.

The medal below has a more interesting story.
It was coined in Vienna in 1863, for the circa 3000 men who were part of the Brigata Estense, that is to say, the private army of Francesco V D'Este, Duke of Modena.
That name does not ring any bell?
Of course not.
It was a damn hard work to find out what the hell this "Brigata Estense" was.
Well, I finally found out that, in 1859, the Brigata Estense gave Garibaldi hell, and made the Italian Unity stagger for a while.
But, as we all know, history is written by the winner - and Garibaldi won, after all.
So, the Brigata fell into oblivion, and not many people even know it existed.
But this is its story.

June 11, 1859.
Sun has yet to rise when Francesco V, last Duke of Modena, jumps on his horse, hardly restraining emotion - a solemn departure that fits his romantic soul.
He has just been defeated by the Piedmontese army, and he has to abandon the city imediately, and for ever.
But he does not flee alone. He is the only sovereign who is followed by his army into exile.
Those soldiers follow him in Mantua for nothing else but devotion - the Duke is unable to pay them, luck is bad, and their future, more than precarious.
In addition to that, Garibaldi tries everything to convince them to come back: they're making a fool of him in front of his men, and in front of Austria. If the Duke is still in charge, the Italian Unity is in danger.
He tries to buy them, then to threaten them. But, for the following four years, those young men stay by Francesco's side.
He himself tries to convince them to go back home, not wanting them to be punished, or their families threatened.
He discharged the troops, but only 172 people, out of 3000, choose to go back. The others stay.
Meanwhile, about 1000 people come from Modena and ask to join the Brigata. The story of its courage and loyalty is spreading fastly through Italy.

But the destiny of the Brigata is doomed. In 1863 Francesco and his wife, Aldegonda - whose eyes are tear-filled, and who burst into tears before the ceremony is over - decorate every man with a medal, whose back beared a sentence.

Fidelitati et costantie in adversis.
Loyalty and constancy in adversity.

And there I come into play.

About one year ago, I was ransacking my grandmother's attic looking for a mourning veil that was my grand-grandmother's, when I run into this little dusty metal disc. There and then, I though it was some old tin cork or something. When I found out it was a medal, and that old, I was sure it was some worthless modern reproduction. What a surprise when I asked an antique dealer for information, and he said that, being a fan of the Brigata story, he had been looking for a copy of it for nearly 20 years, and he offered to buy it from me!

I never found out who was the brave relative of me who followed his prince that morning of June 1859, but I have a feeling that he was Sante Cioni, my grand-grand-grand-grand-father, born in 1840, dead in 1927.
But, whoever he was, he had to be nearly my age when he left his home, his family and friends and maybe his fiancè, and everything he had, to go far and away for who knows how much time.

Once I made researches to build my family tree: I found out that four generations of people was born, and died, in the same mycroscopic village, Camatta; population: about 300 people in the 1850s (Wiki).

We, modern people, used as we are to travel here and there everytime we like to, probably don't understand what it was like, in 1859, to leave one's house for a place, Mantua, that was 70 km (44 miles) far: at the time, when everybody born and die in the same town, in the same house, and never see another place, in a whole life, it looked as distant as the moon.
But Sante, or whoever he was, left everything behind and followed his leader, on his feet, for 70 kilometers, and remained where his leader was - a foreign country, where everybody spoke German and stared at them as they were a crowd of country bumpkins - for more than four years.
I wonder if anyone, now, would even think about doing something like that.

giovedì 23 luglio 2009

Random hearts

Just some random clothes mixing, including my new jacket-y.
Yep. I was bored. Too hot and sultry to do anything useful, today...
And my parents stole all my new books to read 'em while they're on the beach - yeah, now my family (mum, dad, two younger brothers) is in Croatia on holiday (with my new books, and I repeat it, in case someone didn't notice - they were *my* books, including Special Topics in Calamity Physics, Stieg Larsson's trilogy, my beloved Lolita and Cats in the Belfry) and I'm here, home, with 43°C (about 110*F), four cats between my feet.
And working like a modern Stakanov.
Or Cinderella.
Or both.
You know, I have to drive for 44 km (like, uhm, 27 miles? I'm no good in interpreting conversion tables) every morning , and when I finally arrive to the office, no matter what I wear, I'm bathed in sweat and nervy as a cat.
I don't like driving at all, by the way.
And, you know, it's not easy to look impeccable, when the back of your white-linen dress is crinklier than a Neapolitan mastiff and your hair - the same hair that in the morning looked flawlessly curly and shiny after their nighthly pincurls threatement - look like you've survived the sinking of the Titanic.
Too bad for an elegant 1940s secretary wannabe.

Come on, fellow bloggers, cry for me.