Archive for February, 2011

February 28, 2011

Dressing for the occassion, formal attire

So you receive this invitation for a holiday party or a wedding or something and it specifies “formal attire” – what now?

Good question because simply saying you “formal attire” leaves room for interpretation – as the meaning has changed over time.  There is black tie and white tie (for guys) and most men I know (all??) don’t know the difference and if they do they sure don’t have either a black or a white tie attire handy. Then there is semi-formal but what used to be semi might now be okay for “full formal”

When in doubt ask about the expectations.

That look will get him into every party, pic:

Assuming we are talking a wedding here, big event, but not exactly royalty getting married “formal” would most likely imply for the gents: full suit with necktie or bow tie, maybe a vest (too hot??), leather shoes and belt, tasteful watch, body piercings removed.  However, it could mean that a tuxedo (formal in the traditional sense) is required, so better find out.  Btw, few men own these things –  that’s what tux rental places are for.

Woman would wear either a long evening gown or (careful here) a very nice cocktail dress, knee-length kind of thing (e.g. for a day time wedding).  In my experience it is entirely more comfortable to be dressed too nicely then being the only girl in a flowery garden party dress when everybody else is head-to-toe in silk.

Okay, so I admit it, that whole blog was just another excuse to show a picture of an immaculately dressed Daniel Craig.  For pictures of formally dressed women just open any of the “girly” magazines and you’ll see more than enough.

February 27, 2011

Walking the fine line

I just read an article that had the following sub-headline: “Why the president’s walking a fine line on the Republicans’ slash-and-burn budget proposals.”

Walking the thin line - in high heels, no less, pic:

Now what exactly means “walking the fine line’?  The idiom is a way of saying that one is caught between two individuals or groups who have radically different views about something and one must must balance those two competing ideas or ideas.  Walking the fine line is difficult and balance is easily lost in which case one ends up on either one of the two sides of the issue.

Examples for this idiom are plentiful, one of the more well-known ones is “walking the fine line between genius and insanity”.

Another idiom which basically means the same is “walking a thin line.”

Both idioms come from tight-roping where on literally walks on a thin/fine line and any imbalance can have serious consequences – at least with out a safety  rope.

February 27, 2011

Cooking, learning Spanish, and a manicure

in 5 minutes  per day.

Saving minutes every day, pic:

This is another trend that has me worried and puzzled: these days everything has to happen at warp speed because we all have such busy lives.

When my mom bakes a cake it takes her an hour or so, today, it has to be done in 5 minutes because who could possible waste more time than that on baking a cake.  Honestly, if all I have is 5 minutes, I just don’t bake cakes, I eat a cookie.  But that is just me.

One of my favorite magazines has this one -page thingy every month about how to clean your back porch in 15 minutes or how to reorganize your correspondence in 12.5 or dust of your book shelves in 10.   Everything is broken down by the minute, or half minute along the lines:  minute 1, get cleaning rag and spray cleaner; minute 2-3.5 pick up everything from the floor and put it in it’s proper place.  Here is where I stop reading, if I could pick up everything and put it in its proper place in 90 seconds I wouldn’t need this instruction.  Since it will take me like 30 minutes to do so I don’t need this instruction either.

Then there are the “get a flat stomach in less than 2 minutes a day”, “learn Spanish in 5 minutes a day”, the “improve your marriage in 2 easy steps”, “become a better human being in 30 minutes”, “get a full-body work out in 8 minutes”, “never have back pain again with these exercises in 4 minutes a day”, the “email MBA”,  “prepare a three course meal in 15 minutes”, and “redesign your front yard in an afternoon”.  It takes me an afternoon just to plant the gladiola bulbs I just bought and pull out the weeds – and that was a productive afternoon!

Getting everything done in a rush is the newest fad.  Not sure what happened to enjoying a work out, or cooking a meal, or reading a book or learning something new.  Not quite sure either what we are supposed to do with all the time we are saving by applying blusher in under 30 seconds – sit on the couch, chill, and eat potato chips??

February 26, 2011

Retail therapy

Retail therapy is a very American concept.  It probably exists in other countries as well but the US definitely invented retail therapy or at least the term.

Serious retail therapy, pic:

Retail therapy is shopping for the main purpose of making somebody feel better to improve her mood, ease frustration and stress. There might be male retail therapy but is is generally used when referring to women).  What you buy during retail therapy are “comfort buys”.

The term was first used by the Chicago Tribune in 1986 when referring of Christmas Eve: “We’ve become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy.”

Retail therapy has become an accepted and established part of American girl culture.  Here is an example:

“What, that idiot Jake stood you up?  Come on girl-friend let’s go to the mall, a bit of retail therapy will do you good!”

February 26, 2011

Pointing my finger

We are back to my favorite – not – topic:  Guns, toy guns to be precise. Whenever I refer to guns in this post I mean toy guns, not real ones .

We have over the last few weeks drilled into our son to never, ever sneak a gun or anything that might remotely resemble a gun into school.  Smart boy that he is he had pointed out that kids he had nothing to fear because kids don’t go to prison and being kicked out of school sounded like fun and so it all culminated in the statement that mom or dad might have to go to jail if he wields a gun.

So we got through that all right and I started to relax a bit about that whole gun business and was hoping that I could stop talking about guns all the time because that a) I find it incredibly boring and b) it makes them all the more exciting and interesting for Bubbleboy, or more aptly Gun Boy.

Then the following conversation happened:
Gun Boy: “Mom, we can’t bring guns to school.”
Me: “Yes, I know. We have been talking about this for a while now.”
Gun Boy: “We are also not allowed to use our fingers as pretend guns.”
Me, incredulous: “Really, I haven’t heard that before. Is that a new rule?”
Gun Boy: “Yes, were playing the other day and were told that we can’t use our fingers as guns either.”
Both contemplate that new development for a few seconds ….
Gun Boy: “Mom, you know, that is really difficult because we always have our fingers with us.”

A whole new meaning to flipping the finger, pic:

I stopped and hugged my little guy – he squirmed out of it, not wanting to be hugged randomly anymore – for I felt so bad for him. He is six, he wants to play cops and robbers, cowboy and Indians or whatever modernized variation therefore they play these days (yedi knights vs. droids seems to be the flavor of the month) like generations of little

boys before him.  They take his plastic guns, his sticks, pencils, squirt guns, and finally now they tell him he can’t even use his fingers anymore. What is he supposed to do, play house all day or exciting math games, or draw flowers and kittens?

As much as I dislike guns myself, and as much as I am pro-gun control to the point where they would probably kick me out of most states in the country if I voiced my opinion, so – considering all of that I am going to take this little boy to the local gun club.  I want him to learn how to handle guns and I want him to touch them, I want him to grow up and have a relaxed attitude towards them. It might not have gotten through to the people at school but things you really, really want and can’t have become all the more desirable. I could tell a few stories about that myself, most people could.

But somehow, this lesson seem to have gotten lost somewhere during one school reform or another.

February 25, 2011

Bucket List

I don’t know whether this a exclusively American idea/concept, probably not but here is where I came across the idea for the first time.  That might have more to do with age then with location but so be it.

writing a bucket list, pic:

So anyway, a bucket list is a list of all the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket” – that is die.  Generally these lists contain a lot of travel-related tasks (mine certainly does) and other things you always dreamed of accomplishing one day and never quite got around to, like publishing a book, or spending serious time volunteering, learn how to draw a face that does look human, not like a space alien, learning a foreign language, cook a five course meal – you get the idea.

The name derives from the idiom “to kick the bucket” for dying.  The German equivalent, I just found out now would be the “spoon list” because “passing on the spoon” means the same thing as “kicking the bucket”.

It is actually fun writing such a list – turns out there is an amazing amount of things one wants to do but never does do.

February 25, 2011


Oxymoron #1, pic:

Oxymoron – I love that word, just the right combination of Greek geekiness combined with “moron” which is an English slang term for a stupid person – but that, of course, is purely incidental because the Greeks back then didn’t know about the word moron, though I am sure I knew the concept.

Anyway, oxymorons are conjoining contradictory terms.  Let’s look a t a few examples, those which I find compelling because we use them in everyday speech but never stop to thing about that they are oxymorons (btw, another plural version would be oxymora which my spell checker considers the correct one but sounds terribly pretentious, so I am staying with the Americanized version).

Another good one, pic:

So here we go with the oxymorons   :

act naturally

minor crisis

unbiased opinion

only choice

seriously funny

and my favorite: military intelligence

February 24, 2011

Kicking the bucket

This expression made a brief appearance in a blog post about the word kicking a while back but it is worth to look at it in a bit more detail.

The kicker of this bucket seems very much alive, pic:

Kicking the bucket means to die.  it is not a very subtle way to say that somebody died, it is somewhat casual and unconcerned.  So if your beloved Uncle Harry dies, you probably would not say “he kicked the bucket” but if somebody you don’t know and don’t particularly care about dies and you want to express those sentiments you could use it.

Like in this example:

“What, that actor is still alive?  I thought he had kicked the bucket years ago. He must be in his 90s by now.”

Where the expression originated is unknown. There are theories but none too good so let’s not worry about them.

February 24, 2011

Axe to grind

I have an ax to grind with that kind of outfit for yard work, pic: © Donna Lanning |

Today’s idiom is  “to have an axe to grind with somebody or something.  It can be used in two slightly different but related contexts: If you have a axe to grind with somebody it means: to be angry with that person and planing on confronting them about the cause of that anger.  An example of this usage is:

“Holly, listen, I have an axe to grind with you.  They way you treated me in front of the boss during the meeting is totally unacceptable.

When the ax one has to grind is not with a person but a thing or fact then it means to have something to complain about – like in this example:

Since Oscar lost his job to outsourcing to China he has had an axe to grind with globalization.”

February 23, 2011

Drop of a dime

The Americans sure like their dimes.  Here is another idiom involving the smallest of the US coins: “at the drop of a dime”

Literally dropping dimes, pic:

If you do something at the drop of a dime you do it very fast, pretty much instantaneously, without too much thought, planning, or hesitation.  Another way of saying the same thing is “at the drop of a  hat”.

The origin of that phrase seem to be the Wild West where dropping a hat was often a sign of an imminent fight.  But then again it might also be of Irish origin where they apparently were also ready to fight without much ado.

Here are some examples:

“The situation in Libya is very volatile right now, things can change at the drop of a dime.”

I would love to fly with you to the Caribbean tomorrow but I can’t just leave at the drop of a hat.”

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