Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Regift or Not To Regift?

Few of us has disposable income for brand new expensive gifts and most of us have too much stuff, anyway, so this question has come up in my circle of friends and family more than once in the last few weeks.  Some consider regifting to be the height of tacky and insulting and others think it an alternative to unwanted items gathering dust under beds or filling landfills.  
Please, discuss:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Advice to a Young Actor-Musician

Dear Leenya,
My name is Andrew and after seeing a performance of Company last spring on PBS I immediately fell in love with it. After I saw Company I wanted to know more, so I looked it up on the internet and happened to stumble upon your website which then led me to your blog. The reason I'm telling you all this is because I have many questions as to how you've managed to become successful as both a musician and an actress. I myself am a trumpet player and I also enjoy acting, though was unaware that I could find a common ground. Please reply with any advice that you feel would help guide me in the right direction to having a career as enjoyable as yours.

Humbly yours, Andrew

Dear Andrew,
I'm so glad you loved Company!  It was one of the most rewarding artistic experiences of my life and am so glad that PBS aired it for all who missed it on Broadway! (I'm pictured here with Raul Esparza as Jenny experimenting with pot for the first time.  Check out excerpts on Youtube)
I'll offer some advice I often give that pertains to this blog.  Aspiring performers are told that persistence is the answer to success, but they are very rarely taught HOW to persist, how to stick it out during the dry spells that all artists who are trying to make a living at their art inevitably go through. 
There are so many paths to "success" in this business, not just doing-it-for-the-love-of-it amateurs (a noble and rewarding motivation, by the way!) or Madonna super-stardom.  For those of us who fall somewhere in between, ways to pay the bills vary.  
The key is to first find a "day job" or "survival job" that is flexible and doesn't suck the soul out of you (Mine have ranged anywhere from Sunday School Guitar Lady to Department Store Christmas Tree Decorator and Celtic Rock Fiddle Player) and then when you do finally book that fabulous Broadway gig (the actor-musician concept WILL be explored again, either by John Doyle or other daring directors.  I did tell Stephen Sondheim that he should write a musical with us crazy quadruple threats in mind.  Wouldn't that be cool?!), you must put half of your shiny new paycheck in the bank and continue to live cheaply (definitely a challenge in the most expensive city in the world!) so that when that wonderful show closes or you can't bear performing that show for one more day (It happens!  Sad...) you can live off those savings.  
The truth is, there is no "making it".  It's one in a million actor who escapes having to auditioning for that next job (eventually with the help of an agent or manager, which makes open calls unnecessary, thank God!) and you will always have times of unemployment, especially if you don't want to take work out of town or do shows that don't interest you artistically.  
But that's the downside.  The upside is that if you prioritize and find ways to live with a small overhead, you get to spend most of the hours of your day doing what you love.  
You're right.  I am having an enjoyable career!  Have a blast and embrace this crazy thing that you've chosen to do.  It's an adventure that not everyone has the guts to do.  And keep logging in to What Would Leenya Do for more tips on living stylishly and inexpensively at the same time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Ornaments that Complement

If you've been reading my blog from the beginning, then you should feel like you already know my friend Chad.  I wanted to include a photo of his living room this Christmas as he not only has a great sense of design and love of  all things holidays, but he does it all on a budget with stoop sale finds and antique shops.  Pictured here are decorations that caught his eye, but are mostly chosen carefully to fill out a color scheme.
Merry Christmas to you all and here's to a creative and rich-in-spirit 2009!  
Don't forget to take my Resolutions poll...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wrap it Up

Don't be boring! 
Anyone can go out and buy expensive wrapping and matchy- smatchy bows and ribbons. If you've saved wrapping from last year, your gifts will all look different and the look under the tree will be more festive, fun, and eclectic.  
Obviously, some large gifts will have to be wrapped with new paper (best to buy only paper that is recyclable and/or biodegradable!  Jack's 99 Cent World is the best for bargains), but if you have a bag of bows and ribbons that you've kept, you can put together some great combinations.  You can even keep brown boxes unwrapped, using ribbons and try multiple bows of different sizes.  Experiment with taping tiny stockings or other ornaments that have lost their hanger to gifts.  Ribbons with wires can be instantly brought back to life with some reshaping.  
And what about Christmas Cards from years gone past?  Cut off the tops and use them as gift cards or tape two tops together and create a gift envelope for small gifts.
It's not just for Grandmas!  Find one small shopping bag and save the wrapping that wasn't hastily ripped off by children young and old.  You'll thank yourself next Christmas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ornaments that Document

The year that Ted and I bought our first little country cottage together, we wanted to give gifts that would also serve as announcements but of course, we didn't have a lot of money left that Holiday season.  What I did have, though, was a bag full of leather scraps that I found in the Garment District, a small box full of random jewelry fasteners, and some fabric paint.  Ted had a leather punch and some good wood glue.  I found some festive ribbon and after about three days of our little assembly line, we had about 45 ornaments to send out, each slightly different.  The paint is metallic and quite opaque and worked perfectly on the leather.  We ripped paper squares for a rustic look and glued them to the back for documentation.  Et Voila!  Homemade Christmas Gifts done! And it's fun to go to apartments of friends and family and see little likenesses of our Gingerbread House (that's what we affectionately call it) hanging on the tree.

Show Off!

Go on, admit it!  You're popular!  So why not display your Christmas Cards for all to see?  
There are probably many ways to make them part of your Holiday decor, but here is one of the simplest:  Tack a fun ribbon across a room and hang your cards like they're clothes of love and praise out to dry in the light of the season.  

Friday, December 12, 2008


Sometimes we forget Advent.  Every year, you might think that Christmas starts the day after Thanksgiving and by the time we reach December 24th, we're exhausted and Christmas-ed out.  I'll admit I rarely get to church these days for one reason or another, but one thing that keeps me coming back is our Rector, Bill Tully and his fabulous sermons.  He sends out a weekly message called Crossroads and I wanted to share this week's, all about the season of Advent.  Even if Christmas is just a secular celebration for you of family and the season, I think his message offers a great perspective.

Is Advent taking hold?
Is it my wishful thinking, or is Advent a little less frenzied this year?  Is the Spirit taking rueful advantage of recession and touching us all in that place where we self-regulate a little--maybe even get a bit contemplative?
Small and compact, Advent as a season on the sacred calendar has always been counter-cultural.  In its earliest form it was six weeks not four, and it deliberately served for Christmas the same penitential purpose as Lent does for Easter.  Counter to the theme of "coming" in the sense of Christ coming by birth into the world, its themes focused on last things, the "second coming" agenda of Heaven, Hell, Death, and Judgement.
So if our usual over-indulgence and hurry are muted by the genuinely tough times, is that so bad?  That's not the same as asking if God is sending bad things to punish us.  Such a theology assumes God is puppeteer pulling every little string of our lives, a surprising way of seeing God that otherwise thoughtful people often fall into.  A different but perfectly traditional, even orthodox, way of seeing things is that God does NOT pinpoint every action or occurrence in history or our lives.  Instead, God gives us the ability to respond to what happens, and even to work with God to redeem the times.  
That's what I think we're seeing this Advent.  I'm actually hearing more and more people struggling to find meaning in what we're going through.  Some even turn to the riches of our tradition to see how our practice might change lives, ours, and others.
That's more enlightened theology, of course, but it's more than that.  You CAN slow down, care for yourself, make loving and proportionate decisions about how to live and celebrate, and reach out in love to at least one other human being.  
The New York Times is taking reader comments this week on the question, How do you celebrate the holidays when your loved ones are away?  I was struck by one melancholy reply:  "I'm usually depressed... I go to church where people say "may peace be with you" and then ignore me."
Wouldn't the world be different-- and a little closer to the love Jesus lived and died for-- if each of us could turn that unhappy moment around, and pay attention to someone who needs that love?  If Advent is touching you in this hard year, you'll know what to do.
Bill Tully

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Original Renaissance Girl

I came across these photos of my Great Grandmother, Amber May Fowler Rideout.  She was the original Renaissance Girl.  My childhood beds were covered in her bonneted-girl quilts and I now have my parents' wedding ring quilt in our bedroom.  I've talked to several relatives and each has a quilt from her somewhere.  How many quilts must she have hand-sewn?  I can't begin to imagine...
My Father reminded me that she also knit amazing thick zip-up sweaters, very stylish in the 50's, for many of her grandchildren, even with matching hats.  I remember seeing photos of my Father and his three brothers wearing slightly different but matching sweaters in the snow.  I have one of the sweaters now and it is so substantial, I can wear it in place of a coat!
Every birthday for the last 10 years of her life, I'd receive a different doll in the mail.  She embroidered a different outfit for each one:  One a pink and white 18th Century Lady, one a red and black Senorita, the next year a Princess in blue and white.  Each even had undergarments and perhaps a hat or matching tiny purse.   They must have taken forever to embroider with a tiny needle and the finest yarn she could find.  Her dolls were too small and delicate to live the fast-paced life that my Barbies lived, so they remained admired on upper shelves and I can only really appreciate them now. 
My grandmother raised many children on the rural plains of Alberta, Canada and I can imagine that ingenuity and creativity meant actual survival for her.  I'm guessing bargain shopping wasn't really an option and my efforts to survive in show business and a big city probably pale in comparison.   I remember meeting her once when I was about four, but I wish I could have really talked to her.
Thanks for your hand-made works of art, Great Grandma!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Progress Check

How's it going?  Have you finished your Holiday preparations yet?  No?  Have you even made a dent?  
It's a bit out of character for me to NOT procrastinate, but I made my gifts again this year and am about halfway done already!  Just thought I'd celebrate a bit by posting...
Who's making their gifts this year?  Share, please...  


Holiday travel:  Is it bringing out the Grinch in you?  I used to love to fly, but shoe removal and liquid restriction (not to mention escalating airfares) are enough to make one wonder if taking the bus would have been a better option after all.  And with baggage allowances dwindling monthly,  advanced preparation is a must.
I used to be an overpacker.  I'd show up at Grandma's local airport with a suitcase that even two people couldn't lift and on top of that, I'd still have a carry-on and a heavy coat.  Half the clothing and shoes that I stuffed into my bigger-than-God suitcase went unworn.  My reasoning was, I didn't know what I'd feel like wearing once I reached my destination.  Better to be prepared.  Well, I'll tell you:  There is nothing like two months of carrying a 60 pound sea bag all over Europe (Ah, the post college graduation Eurail Pass!) to make even a hearty Renaissance Girl mend her ways.
These days, being prepared means having one carry-on bag that you don't have to worry about losing during flight delays and unexpected travel changes.  It means you won't take up too much room where you're staying and that you will actually be able to locate things when you want to wear them!  And let's not underestimate the joys of being able to go directly to security without checking a bag.  Note:  Pack your carry-on WITHOUT unzipping the optional expanding zipper.  Save that for shopping that might accidentally (yeah, right!) take place during your travels.  
But how to START packing?  
I make at least a mental list of what I'll be doing during my stay and what wardrobe requirements there will be.
I start selecting clothes from my closet by deciding on the nicest outfit first (seeing a performance, going out to dinner with family, etc.).
I choose 2 pairs of shoes (okay, with my athletic shoes for working out, three), one of them completing the event outfit, the other, perhaps, a boot that is comfortable and stylish and that I can wear on the plane (leaving room for clothes in my carry-on).  Don't forget, make sure they're easy to remove for security...
I always choose too much at first, knowing I'll be putting at least half of it back in the closet.
Keep it all neutral so it will work with anything you pack.  Don't forget hose or tights for skirts, socks for athletic shoes and boots.
Hey!  I mention this in my advice to On the Verge in the Lady Godiva post!  Well, it works for packing, too.  If the boots you chose are brown, then that would be a fabulous neutral to match a belt to.  Then why not choose more natural and Earth tones?  If they're black, find a black belt and choose brighter colors.   
Depending on the length of your stay, you'll only need one pair of jeans (I know, that's a tough one), one skirt, 2 long sleeved tops, 1 sweater, one jacket, maybe one pair of slacks, and a couple camis and a t-shirt.  Separates are better than one-piece items (dresses) because everything you brought can be mixed and matched (Yay, color scheme!) to create different outfits.
Just bring the earrings, watch, and necklace that you wear all the time.  Much less hassle, maybe plus something for the nice outfit...  A Pashmena scarf can be worn a couple of different ways.
Remember the liquids thing, as it applies to carry-ons.  You can always buy stuff there.
Keep it simple.  It's winter, you'll have a coat.  (Does the coat match your color scheme?)  And reading material for when your flight is inevitably delayed.  
Actually, I'm wondering that for myself about this post, but seriously, that should probably be
your next question.
When the flight finally takes off, I remember how I actually do love to fly.  It's a miracle, if you think about it, being that far above the clouds and seeing the world from a wider perspective.  See how small all of our problems are in this big universe?  
Where are you going this Holiday Season?  Have a great time!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sample Sale!

Have I mentioned Sample Sales as sources for stylish bargains?  No?  Well here's one this week!  Worth has a GORGEOUS fall and winter collection and the website is a great place to see examples of assembling stylish outfits (On the Verge, this one's for you!).

Laura & Saundra of Strategic Image Partners
Invite you to the Fall/Winter Worth Sample Sale
For the first time ever, Worth is marking down it's show room samples at 50% off!
Come in on Friday for the best selection and ask for Saundra or Laura.

Unsold fall & winter inventory from the warehouse
will also be available for special order (by Saundra and Laura) at 35% off.  

Strategic Image Partners Client Appreciation & Early Bird Shopping
Friday, December 5th, 11am -7pm
Enjoy wine and hor d'oeuvres from 4pm-7pm
@ Worth Showroom:  37 West 57th St. 8th Floor
(continued on Saturday, December 6th from 11am -7pm
and daily Monday, 12/8 to Friday, 12/12 from 11am-7pm
No Appointment necessary