Baseball History – Effa Manley

Guess what? Effa Manley has just been chosen as the first woman ever to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame! She was the owner of a Negro League team called the Eagles and a great advocate for African Americans in baseball! She apparently did a lot to promote and push for African Americans in baseball, both as players and executives. She sounds like a pretty amazing woman! And now she is making history of her own as the first woman in the Hall of Fame!

Runway Thoughts: Proenza Schouler

A fairly new design team that has really wowed me for the last couple of years is Proenza Schouler. This collection was less spectacular than some of their previous ones, but it was still pretty interesting.

ProenzaSchoulerOutfit1

A lot of their designs had the stained glass look that the outfit above has. This also pretty much encompases their color palette. I like the colors, but this particular combination looks odd to me. Some others were much better.

ProenzaSchoulerOutfit2

There were a lot of outfits in this collection that had very architectural details. This one feels almost like the end of a building with windows and everything! Lots of designers take cues and inspiration from buildings, but something about these designs feels different. Almost like they took the inspiration from the blueprints rather than the final buildings.

ProenzaSchoulerDress1

There was a surprising amount of leather in this show. Several models sported leather jackets and others wore leather belts like the one above. I like the lines on this dress. It was a common element in the dresses and skirts and I think it looks really sharp.

ProenzaSchoulerDress2

Many of the skirts had wonderful flowing drapery like this dress. It softened the look and paired well with all the leather and geometric shapes. I love how elegant this gown looks. It just flows around her like liquid.

Overall I liked this collection. It experimented with geometric shapes and straight lines, which was unusual and nice. I loved the juxtaposition of the soft draping skirts and dresses and the leather jackets and belts. I liked the youth and freshness in this collection as well as the feeling of experimentation! It was great.

Book: George Washington’s Teeth

George Washington’s Teeth
Deborah Chandra And Madeleine Comora
Illustrated by Brock Cole
2003

This is a funny, somewhat irreverent book telling the story of George Washington’s many dental problems. It is told in short verses and watery, almost sketchy illustrations. The verses are simple and tend to rhyme. They are funny and focus on the parts of the story that kids are likely to find entertaining. The history of Washington’s part in our country’s history is there, from what battles he fought in and where he was to when he became president, but it isn’t the focus of the story. The battles are told in how many teeth Washington lost rather than how important they may have been to our history. For a very young audience, this is a great approach.

The story is funny and educational, but it doesn’t force a lesson at all. If anything, it pushes the lesson to the background. There is a factual time line in the back of the book, which could give older children a place to start on research or give kids who just find the history interesting more facts. I was very pleased with the writing in this book. It was a pleasure to read.

The illustrations are great. They show historical dress, furniture and even weaponry, but they are fun and funny as well. They don’t feel like strong historical pieces, but rather pieces that are meant to expand the story being told. They show what was happening around Washington with the country, but he is always in the middle dealing with his rotten teeth. The pages filled with pictures of the dentist trying to deal with Washington’s teeth are some of the best, despite being some of the busiest!

This was a cute book and I would definitely recommend it. Even if the history is completely unimportant to the child at hand, the story is funny and should provide entertainment!

Publisher’s Description
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Oscar de la Renta

One of my all-time favourite designers is Oscar de la Renta and I am pleased that this collection is another great one! De la Renta’s designs always have a certain ladylike grace that many other designers never achieve. He also has a consistancy that seems to be rare in the fashion world (you can’t always count on Galliano or even Marc Jacobs to have collections that past fans will like).

OscardelaRentaCoat1

There were a lot of coats in this collection. I’ve been slightly frustrated that so many of the other coats I’ve seen in collections have been so similar to each other, as if the designers couldn’t really find their own spin. De la Renta’s coats use a wide variety of shapes and styles though. I think this may be one of the only coats I’ve seen this season where the closures are offset! And it looks really good! Many of the short coats were wonderful too.

OscardelaRentaOutfit1

Notice how he actually knows where a woman’s waist is? I really like this outfit. It’s simple and elegent. Minus the sunglasses I would absolutely wear this. It’s casual yet would work well for work.

OscardelaRentaDress1

I love the shape of this dress. It’s very formal and pretty. The fabric is great. I’m so happy to see a collection with color! A lot of color! I’ve gotten pretty sick of black and white.

OscardelaRentaDress2

Couldn’t you totally see this dress on a starlet at the Oscars? Every year there are a few actresses who choose to wear de la Renta dresses to the Academy Awards, but I’m usually wrong about who and which dresses they wear. Nevertheless, this dress screamed Oscars to me this year. I like the shape and think it is pretty, but it’s a little too Barbie for me.

I really liked this collection. It broke away from many of the trends of the season and stuck true to Oscar de la Renta’s vision of ladylike elegance. I would wear several things from this collection. It’s not quite my favourite collection of the season, but it’s close.

Book: The Story of Saint Patrick’s Day

The Story of Saint Patrick’s Day
Patricia A. Pingry
Illustrated by Pamela R. Levy
2001

This is a board book that attempts to explain the history of Saint Patrick’s Day. It tells the basic story of Saint Patrick’s life as well as discussing some of the other common symbols associated with the holiday. The story is simply told, but perhaps a little beyond much of the board book crowd. The book focuses heavily on the religious aspects of the story with little time spent on the secular elements that are common today. I was particularly irritated that the book specifically pointed out that leprechauns are make-believe but told the story of Saint Patrick driving out the snakes as if it was as factual as everything else they said about him. It seemed like it was deliberately scoffing at the non-religious aspects of the holiday. I found it irritating.

The illustrations really are nice. The compositions of each illustration are very well done. I particularly liked the picture of the parade which is shown from behind a little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders in the audience watching. I liked that we saw several of the same children throughout the book and that the colours are good, but not artificially bright for the story.

I didn’t like this book much. I haven’t read many of the other books in the series, but this one didn’t impress me at all. I would not recommend it.

Publisher’s Description
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Thakoon

Thakoon was another designer that I had never heard of before, but I can definately see the appeal of some of these designs! The collection felt very young, but still adult (aka. not high school).

ThakoonDress1

Like many of the other collections this season, most of this collection was black and white. Unlike many of the other collections this season, the black and white outfits still looked distinctive in this collection. This dress uses a very common shape, but the line at the bust where the fabric changes gives it a very different look. I don’t know that I would wear this dress, but it does look very good.

ThakoonSuit1

I like this suit. It is very youthful and modest, but not dowdy at all. It has nice lines and the fabric has a great sheen. The edging on the jacket creates a nice detail. Many of the pieces in this collection had this sophisticated and youthful feeling.

ThakoonOutfit1

I really like this outfit. It looks very casual-dressy, which is a hard look to achieve. It also looks really comfortable. It’s flattering on the model and the color is great. There were some wonderfully flexible outfits like this one in the collection, but I think this was my favourite!

I liked this collection a lot, but I probably wouldn’t wear a lot of it (I look awfully young as it is, highlighting that isn’t always a good thing). I loved how everything looked comfortable and attractive at the same time. This wasn’t a spectacular collection, but it was very nice.

Book: The Goose Girl

The Goose Girl
Shannon Hale
2003

This is a novel retelling the fairy tale of “The Goose Girl”. This is a less well known fairy tale these days, but it is a really good one. It does have some of the same issues many other fairy tales do with things not quite making sense if you think about them too hard. This novel attempts to explain those things and generally make a coherent story. And in general it does a good job of that. The plot is well done and the characters are fairly three-dimensional.

Hale’s writing is excellent in this book. It is wonderful wordcraft. The issue is the pacing. I had some trouble with this book despite the great writing and interesting story because the middle was so slow and long parts of it just dragged. The beginning was really interesting and got me wondering about how things would play out, even though I knew the fairy tale quite well already. The problem started near the beginning of part 2 of the story and continued until nearly the end of the book. But then the ending was really good. The pacing was quite frustrating because I shouldn’t want to keep reading a boring book just because the beginning was good. I think part of the pacing problem was the main character’s ineffectualness. She was just so unable to do anything to really help herself and that was the primary focus of the middle section of the book. The plot really doesn’t move forward much and the action pretty much revolves around the main character thinking and wishing she could do more.

I liked the inclusion of the princess’s ability to understand and communicate with birds and wind. It created some interesting philosophical discussions that the author didn’t shy away from. The discussions of the lady-in-waiting’s “people talking” ability actually added a lot to explaining the fairy tale and was believable because it wasn’t explained as a magical ability, which allowed the reader to draw comparisons between the description of the ability in the book and things experienced in real life. I liked this added dimension of philosophical discussion. It is rare that such discussions are so explicit in novels aimed at children and teenagers.

The book was good, but would have been much better if the middle had been condensed some. I liked the way the fairy tale was interpreted and the world was wonderfully developed. It’s nice to see politics take such an important role in a fairy tale story. I also really liked the thought-provoking discussions. That said, I was still bored throughout the middle. I would recommend this book to people looking for an interesting fairy tale adapt ion, but probably not anyone else. I do intend to check out Hale’s book The Princess Academy at some point and hope it does not suffer from the boring middle that The Goose Girl suffered from!

Publisher’s Description
Shannon Hale’s Website
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Tuleh

Today I’m looking at the collection from Tuleh. Overall, this collection evoked old-fashioned college girls (Vassar came to mind a few times). The outfits were largely modest and in simple colors.

TulehSuit1

Suits like this one were common in the collection. They all had higher necklines and longer skirts, straight lines adding height (which most of the models didn’t really need), and simple accessories. The fabrics were nearly all blacks, grays, whites and creams. I like this style, but somehow everything seemed to fall just a little bit short of being as flattering as it seemed like they should have been.

TulehCoat1

There were a lot of coats in this collection and for the most part they played with the same elements as the suits – modest designs and basic colors. Several of the girls carried suitcases in different shapes and sizes, but always in matching pairs. It was an interesting element of the show, but I’m not sure what it added.

TulehDress1

The end of the collection was all more formal dresses and gowns. Several of them had interesting elements to them that made them stand out. The dress above caught my eye because there is so much going on, yet it doesn’t feel overly complicated. I love the very high waistline of the very fitted skirt and the sheer sleeves really add a lot. Some of the dresses were not so well done, but all were interesting.

While there wasn’t a whole lot from this collection that I could really seeing myself wearing, a lot of it was nice. I liked the idea behind it and many of the elements worked. I just felt like it didn’t quite make it in some cases. More tailoring in the suits would have been nice, but that tends to be what I look for in a suit, so my opinion in this case may be suspect. Overall I liked the collection, but wasn’t wowed by it.

Book: Pirates!

Pirates! by Celia ReesPirates!
Celia Rees
2003

This is a really interesting novel set in the 1700s and told by a girl who grows up as a sugar plantation heiress and ends up a pirate. Believe it or not, the story is very well fleshed out and makes a lot of sense. The characters are extremely real and you can’t help but have strong reactions to them. At no point did I want to be in Nancy’s shoes, but her story had me fascinated from beginning to end. One of the nicest things about this book was that it didn’t soften anything. Slavery, piracy and the consequences thereof were all out there without any sugar coating. It made the book dark, but without that darkness and realism the story wouldn’t have worked. I wouldn’t have believed that piracy was a good idea for Nancy if the darkness of life on the plantation and the accepted evil of her intended husband had not been very realistic. Nor would I have believed the rest of the book if the piracy had been dangerous and extremely unusual for a woman.

The writing was excellent. Every character had a distinct voice. One of the best elements of the story was that Nancy is telling it herself with the benefit of hindsight and the book never forgets that. There are places when we know something is going to go wrong because Nancy comments that if she had known what would happen she wouldn’t have done something. This is unusual in novels like this because the author usually wants big dramatic things to come as a surprise, but it worked really well in this book to enhance the realism and keep the fact that Nancy survives each incident in view. The tactile and emotionally charged descriptions that popped up often in the book also maintained the feeling of the story being told by a real person who experienced these things.

I was wonderfully impressed with this book, and particularly fascinated by the ending. It is so nice to read a book that keeps me thinking past the last page. It left me wanting more, but not wanting a sequel, if that makes sense. I was impressed enough with Rees’ writing that I intend to pick up some of her other books as well.

This is a great book, even if you aren’t a big fan of pirates, and I highly recommend it! It starts a little slow, but after a while you can’t put it down and the pay off makes everything worth it!

Publisher’s Description
Celia Rees’ Website
Buy it from Amazon

Runway Thoughts: Vena Cava

Today’s collection may well be one of my favourites of the season! It’s from Vena Cava, a design team that I’ve heard of but am not at all familiar with. The presentation of this collection was really cool. Rather than having the observers sitting in chairs watching the models walk down a runway, the models were standing around in four rooms made up to look like a house (using props from the designers’ own homes) and the observers walked around looking at them. I’m not sure it’s the most practical way of showing a collection, but it gets big points for creativity and homeyness!

VenaCavaDress1

I really like the simple, flattering lines of the dresses in this collection. Everything was very soft and flowy. I like the rich color of this dress and the stripe at the bottom that almost seems to suggest a layered skirt. If there was a theme in this collection, it seemed to be coordinated, sophisticated, comfortable pieces.

VenaCavaOutfit1

I really like this outfit. The skirt has sailor pant closures in the front, which is unusual and cool. The top has great detailing around the neck! Doesn’t it just look like something one could throw on for work? I love it.

VenaCavaOutfit2

I just had to post this picture. It’s a model reading a book! And it looks like an old book! How cool is that? Oh, and you can see the detailing on the top more clearly. It’s very pretty and provides an interesting element in what would otherwise be a pretty boring black top.

VenaCavaOutfit3

Ok, before I get into the outfit, will you look at that model? Isn’t she gorgeous? And she’s not 17! What a novel concept! I think she looks great. I’m not really a fan of very wide-legged pants, but they go well with this set of tops. What I like about this outfit is that she looks so complete and put together. She looks elegant and comfortable at the same time. Like a professor giving a paper for facinated students, or an art director surveying pieces for a collection.

I really liked this collection a lot. It was very simple and elegant. I kept thinking of very well-educated young women discussing great works of literature or critiquing art. The presentation was unique and worked exceptionally well to showcase this particular collection. I like that the designers created such a beautiful collection and then chose a way of showcasing it that would bring out the best qualities of their designs! This was a great collection. I will definately keep an eye on this design team from now on! I would even consider buying some of their pieces.

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