Cardigan of Doom

I’ve developed something of a lip product addiction, which does not on the surface seem to have much to do with cardigans. But it does. I think about which lip gloss to put in my handbag more than what shirt to wear (an unheard of anomaly) and lust after the clicky packaging on Chanel lipsticks with, admittedly, too much enthusiasm. It’s a bit extreme, a little shallow, and not like me. Or, it wasn’t like me.

The version of me with the laser focused lip preoccupation wears more make-up all the time. She wears dresses and tights more than jeans and jumpers. And only uses tote bags to carry her groceries back from Waitrose. One year ago me had a lot of cardigans. A cardigan for every day of the week, and then some. This had everything to do with being a high school teacher, because adding a cardigan to skinny jeans and metallic flats was my conception of a cute, professional, yet still recognizably feminine, and not completely irrelevant person.

When teaching started to become that thing that will be my job for a while, instead of that thing that I’m doing in between cool and creative writing jobs, a slow creeping terror began to set in. It was subtle and kind of had a poltergeist demon whisper thing going on.

“…this over air-conditioned classroom is the only place you will experience human interaction and it will be with children with the intellectual capacity of grapefruits….”

“…your only creative activity until you retire in 40 years will be to slightly differentiate the same curriculum year after year…and no one will care…”

And other funny things, like

“…you might die here. Wearing a cardigan…”

Hahaha. Not hysterical at all, really. Honestly, eating toddler ravioli cups for lunch was also getting to me. But it was the closet full of cardigans, shoving my over-indulgent dress collection into the dark dusty recesses that most clearly signified the need for change.

Fast forward a year, and I live in the greatest city in the world with amazing friends, hobbies (!), and an unscheduled freedom that gives me time and space to be spontaneous, adventurous, and wear all my dresses. With full awareness that this is a temporary state of being, I’m soaking it up for all it’s worth. Part of me knows that the cardigans are waiting in the aforementioned recesses. And their day may come given the student loan statement I’m currently ignoring. But that day is not today. And there is also a glimmer of hope that another sartorial future awaits. Fingers crossed for lots of hats.

A Very London Christmas

Much like all other things in life, the English are much better at Christmas than Americans. Probably due in large part to the fact that there is very little public religious association, and a significant emphasis on spirit and festivity. Never has it been so apparent which country the Pilgrims ran from, and which one they ran to.

There are certain areas in particular where this celebratory excellence really shines.

Christmas Jumpers: While Americans thought they were super cool for throwing Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and making fun of over decorated kindergarten teachers from coast to coast, the British have made festive jumpers clever and adorable and mandatory. They go along with the almost daily Christmas parties throughout the month of December (and sometimes November) and the only thing more embarrassing than a hideous one is not wearing one at all. Wooly jumpers are, and always have been a British wardrobe staple, but as soon as reindeer, penguins, and fair isle snowmen jump on you’ve got yourself a cultural must-have. And I must have one. Or two.

Greetings: There is absolutely zero sensitivity about how you choose to spread holiday cheer. Yes, England has its own brand of Protestantism, but London is a cosmopolitan city and honestly no  one cares what you do in your own time, so we all acknowledge that decorations and warm spiced wine and chocolate are wonderful. End of.

Advent Calendars: They do have their roots in very Christian tradition, but most people in England probably don’t know that. They’re simply  a reason to start opening tiny presents as soon as December begins. There are many chocolate ones, but these days you can get them with Legos, and candles, and makeup, and nuts. Really anything you want to wake up to. Why has America not been doing this?

My dream advent calendar.

Twinkle Lights: Fairy lights, Christmas lights, whatever you want to call them, they are flipping everywhere. Every major street in London has light up snowflakes and trees and baubles on the street lights. But the department stores completely take the cake. With the mutual goal of covering every square inch of their five-story city blocks in twinkles they all compete to do it the best (except for Peter Jones, which sticks with the classic stripes) to astonishing effect. And not one bulb is ever out.


No Pesky Thanksgiving: Forget hearing everyone complain about how early the holiday songs are on the radio and having to start shopping the Christmas sales when you’ve barely got the cobwebs down from Halloween. All of that is not only acceptable, but encouraged, in England because there is no silly day of eating (celebrating said Pilgrims’ inability to farm) to get in the way. Though I did have a silly day of eating with a large bunch of British people, who were confused but hungry, and it was fun trying to explain casseroles, sweet potatoes with marshmallow, and pumpkin pie (“Yes, I’m sure that the marshmallows are a side and the pie is the dessert; I mean the pudding”)

I suppose it’s just one more thing to add to the list of reasons why London is the best city in the world and I need to find a way to never leave. As if I needed more.

Happy Christmas xx

How To Get Ready for (Almost) Anything While Driving

 There are some basic requirements for accomplishing effective and productive activities, in the car, while driving, without murdering yourself and others. These directions are meant for situations where you are alone in your car, otherwise, make your passenger useful.

First, you must do them without the use of the mirrors. While it may seem as though rear and side view mirrors were designed to check your makeup in, they are for death prevention, and this is never more true than when you plan to use one or more hands for alternate activities.

Second, you must have a plan. You do not suddenly decide to change into skinny jeans and a turtleneck top at a red light and go for it. The guy in the car next will be very entertained when he sees you half-naked, with your bun trapped in the neck hole and a pant leg slung over your shoulder when the lights turn green, but other than that nothing good will happen.

Third, your plan will change entirely depending on whether you are traversing city blocks or highways. If you’re going to be stopping at lights and signs then that is the best moment to do anything that temporarily blinds you or otherwise occupies your sight, and the time to do anything that requires large motions (i.e. diving behind the driver’s seat). If you are on the freeway then these things must be timed in accordance with the moments of most predictable traffic speed and movement. NOT when everyone is changing lanes to get on the right freeway. NOT on the curvy parts. And, just generally, NOT when it is raining. Also, don’t touch your cell phone.

Since I brought it up, lets start with Changing Clothes in the car.

Step One is to get the clothes you would like to be wearing into the passenger seat. Depending on the length of the light you may also have time for step two, pile them face down in the order you are going to put them on. Put cardigan on the bottom, then dress, etc. It’s up to you, but in the case of a jeans/top combo I tend to do pants after shirt.

Step Three, undo everything you are currently wearing. I am not terribly coordinated but can usually manage to unbutton and zip while in motion without a problem. Please keep one hand on the wheel though.

Step Four, take it off. Not everything, just the first thing you’re going to change, even if you’re changing into a dress, you can put it on over pants and still take them off after. If you’re switching dress to dress, go fast. Now, you are taking your clothes off while surrounded by windows so there’s a fair chance someone is going to see you partially dressed for a moment. Since life is not a romantic comedy though, you will not know them and no one will care. Generally you’re only going down to underwear, and worst case scenario someone honks appreciatively. Do not be so freaked out that you don’t have a shirt on for two seconds that you stop important driving things, like stopping. Not dying comes first.

Step Five, put some clothes on! It can be very freeing to drive around in your bra, but you probably have a mission, or you wouldn’t be changing while driving. Once safety is assured, whip the neck hole of the shirt over your head. You can deal with sleeves later, but not blinding yourself is most important. If there are tricky strappy thingies then arrange these over your wrists, slowly, before the whipping. Then put your arms in their proper places. With turtlenecks you want to stick both hands through the top and let the shirt fall inside out over your arms before popping over your head at the opportune moment.

Step Six(maybe) is for pants. Pants must be done in stages, both on and off, or you will die. First, off the butt, then, off the knees- using a wriggling motion and one hand. Ideally, take off one foot at a time when the car is stopped (do NOT forget that one foot needs to remain on the brake), you may be able to manage both, but don’t attempt if wearing skinny jeans. Anything you take off should then be tossed into the backseat to avoid tangling and confusion. To put pants on, it’s helpful if you’re flexible so that you can bring your foot to you and keep your eyes on the road. Good news about this is that if you find you could get your pants off, but suck at putting them on people can’t tell and there will eventually be a good time to pop your foot in there. One feet are in, it’s just a reverse of the wriggling process. And remember, only use one hand to help, even if it takes longer. Rushing will not help you.

Step Seven is for shoes. Use a hand to take them off and put them on. It seems like a great idea to kick them off, or toss them down by your feet until one gets stuck on a pedal. Try to get heels on before you reach the valet. Make sure your ass is covered before you get out of the car, but otherwise wait to check yourself out until exiting the car and checking the reflection in the window.

It seems complicated, but it’s not if you take your time. Please don’t die half-naked.

Now, Makeup.

Step One, put the makeup you want to use in a cup holder or your lip gloss will escape into the black void between the seat and the center console.

Step Two, only apply mascara at red lights. Otherwise, wait until you’re parked. You are never going to get the depth perception right without a mirror and you are going to poke yourself in the eye and crash into me. Everything else can be done the way you normally do, while moving, without looking at a mirror. If a fork can find your lips so can a lip gloss wand. Even eyeliner can be done – but only after lots of practice, don’t attempt that for the first time before a job interview unless you have a really great lie about babysitting ready.

Generally makeup is not so vital that you need to be doing it in your car; the guys at work are ugly and not worth it. But before being interviewed, seeing family, or otherwise brutally judged please do it safely.

Lastly, Eating (without wearing your lunch).

Step One, do not order soup. Some foods are not meant to be eaten while driving, you must accept this. That said, I keep goldfish crackers, granola bars, and fruit snacks stashed all over my car at all times. Along with a bottle of water, mini-lotion, hand sanitizer, a hair brush (I ALWAYS forget one when I go anywhere), a tire gauge, and a spoon. I like to be ready. To prepare for car eating, I always put my hair up. Everything else is against you, don’t make it harder.

Step Two, napkins. Unless it is one of the above foods which you do not need directions to eat, and you don’t want people to think you have the motor skills of a toddler, cover anything that might get dribbled on with napkins. Never assume everything will be fine. When eating burgers and sandwiches it’s best to get no sauce (and your cheeseburger really doesn’t need mayo). Good to put the fries in the cup holder because taking them out of the bag individually seems to precipitate a fling all over the car motion when you’re not looking. If you have a passenger, just make them feed you. If fries do end up in the void, send Barbie. For some reason Barbie’s hair will attach to the french fries and retrieve them, thus saving you from old fry smell.

Remember to always pay more attention to the road than your food. Be willing to toss whatever is in your hand to react to emergency situations; that is why God made Windex.

Please practice safe multitasking! I am out there driving, too, and if you hit me because you were trying to save your fro-yo, I will end you.