The Growing Season

Today, I discovered an in-the-works documentary that might just revolutionize our nation’s notions about elderly care, child care, and the power inherent at their intersection. The movie is called The Growing Season (formerly titled Present Perfect), and it is scheduled to be released later this year.

“Stepping into most any nursing home, it’s hard to ignore the sense of isolation one feels on behalf of the residents living there, and even harder to reconcile that with the fact that old age will inevitably come for us all. In our fast-paced, youth-obsessed culture, we don’t want to be reminded of our own mortality. It’s easier to look away,” begins project leader and Seattle University adjunct professor Evan Briggs.

She was inspired to delve into the concept of elderly care when she learned about the Mount Intergenerational Learning Center in Seattle, an award-winning child-care program located on a campus that is also home to more than 400 senior residents.

Photo, thegrowingseasonfilm.com

“When I heard about the Mount and its Intergenerational Learning Center, I was struck by the simple perfection of the concept. I was further intrigued by the idea that with neither past nor future in common, the relationships between the children and the residents exist entirely in the present,” Briggs explains. “Despite the difference in their years, their entire sense of time seems more closely aligned. As busy, frazzled, perpetually multi-tasking adults, we are always admonished to live ‘in the moment’. But what does that mean? And with the endless distractions provided by our smart phones and numerous other devices, how can we? I was curious to observe these two groups, occupying opposite ends of the life spectrum, to see firsthand what it meant for them to simply be present with each other.”

Briggs says that The Growing Season explores the experience of aging in America—both growing up, and growing old—and captures the subtleties and complexities of children’s interactions with their elderly counterparts. She challenges viewers to consider what value a person offers to others throughout his or her life. “Are we asking for the right contributions from each other? How do we measure and define a successful life?” she asks. “While this film doesn’t shy away from confronting some difficult realities, it is ultimately a life-affirming story of hope that, we believe, just might lead to serious positive change.”

Here’s a sneak peek:

Learn more about the project at TheGrowingSeasonFilm.com.

You can also pre-purchase a digital download of the film to help support the project on IndieGoGo.com.

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Happiness is …

Here’s what Carol had on her computer screen this week … just had to share!

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checking the mail

While it’s sadly disappearing nowadays, checking the mail used to be a pretty titillating experience. After all, you had pen-pals, letters from relatives, brown paper packages tied up with string, maybe even a letter from Ed McMahon himself, letting you know you finally won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. Whether you had a mailbox with a flag at the end of a dirt driveway, or a drop slot in the door to your city apartment, or a key to a copper-colored box in the office itself, checking the mail was just plain fun.

In the ’80s, little girls sent SLAMs with their bubble-gum-scented Lisa Frank stationery letters. Remember those? Handmade questionnaires you filled out, then passed along. Once full, they were mailed back to the original maker, and voila! You had a dozen new friends from all over the world.

There are plenty of fun things you can still mail, without even bothering with the packaging. Believe it or not, the post office allows you to affix postage to:

  • coconuts (they’re considered a “self-contained unit”)
  • a potato (because, well, it’s Idaho!)
  • a flip-flop (but you should probably send two)
  • a box of candy that is less than 13 oz.
  • a sombrero
  • a lime (to go with the above sombrero)
  • a rock or brick (though we don’t know why you’d want to)
  • an inflated beach ball
  • a piñata (Fill it with candy first. Best. Birthday. Invite. Ever.)
  • plastic water bottles filled with treats
  • a Frisbee
  • plastic Easter eggs
  • basketballs

But did you know back in the day, as they say, you could even mail your children?? Don’t get too excited, Mommies, it was a short-lived period in history. I guess (we grudgingly admit) it’s not the safest way for little Junior to travel, even if you find yourself tempted after he shaves the dog, smears peanut butter all over his bedspread, and/or pours your salon-brand shampoo down the tub.

According to the Smithsonian Institute, ‘Just a few weeks after Parcel Post began, an Ohio couple named Jesse and Mathilda Beagle “mailed” their 8-month-old son, James, to his grandmother, who lived just a few miles away in Batavia. According to Lynch, Baby James was just shy of the 11-pound weight limit for packages sent via Parcel Post, and his “delivery” cost his parents only 15 cents in postage (although they did insure him for $50). The quirky story soon made newspapers, and for the next several years, similar stories would occasionally surface as other parents followed suit.’

There’s even a famous story of a girl named Charlotte May, in 1914. She was 4 years old, living near our neck of the woods, in Grangeville, Idaho, and her parents mailed her to Gramma, who lived about 73 miles away. With a 53-cent stamp attached to the back of her coat, the good-natured postal clerk wrote her down as “poultry post,” and joked that she was the biggest chick on record. When asked why the odd mode of transportation, the mother replied, “It was cheaper than a train ticket.”

Someone even wrote a book about Charlotte’s trip (she made it safely), and you can find it here. Perfect for the grandchildren in your life, the whole book is made to look like a suitcase that you unfold to read, with the title being framed in postage stamps. Just make sure your little chickadees don’t get any ideas to mail themselves to you!

Maybe we just like our mail in Idaho, because here’s another nostalgic photo, taken this time in Fruitland. Are these little ones checking the mailbox for a letter, a package, or perhaps a returning sibling?

Photo by Dorothea Lange via the Library of Congress.

And let’s not forget how our humble mail service began here in the States. The Pony Express is an intriguing bit of history we can’t set aside, no matter how much we love our e-mail and smart phones. A difficult and dangerous job, the original advertisement looking for Pony Express Riders read like this: “St. Joseph, Missouri, to California in 10 days or less! WANTED: Young, skinny, wiry fellows. NOT over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. ORPHANS PREFERRED.”

Gulp. They were not messin’ around. Here’s a photo of four fearless early Pony Express riders. Either these guys didn’t see the “under 18” request or this was a job that aged you fast!

Photo by Earnest and Elaine Hartnagle via Wikimedia Commons.

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World Beard Day

What, you didn’t know?

You mean to tell me you’ve never properly celebrated this upcoming important holiday?

Fitzhugh Lee Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

That’s okay, I forgive you. But in order to show proper penance, I’d like to you to memorize these whisker-ocious facts (and maybe post a photo in the comments of the most highly groomed bearded man in your life).

  • World Beard Day is celebrated on the first Saturday of September (mark those calendars).
  • You may think this is a new holiday, but, my mustached friend, you’d be wrong. There is actually evidence that the Danish Vikings had their own Beard Day as far back as 800 AD. And you know those Vikings—they really knew how to party.
  • In Donksburg, Sweden, they banish all of the un-bearded to the forest to spend a day and a night (probably thinking about what they’ve done!). Their effigies are burnt to a satisfying crisp in the village by those who have the very best in facial hair. Seems a tad bit harsh … but also humorous.
  • In southern Spain, the locals enjoy a boxing match between a bearded man and an un-bearded one. The bearded one always wins. Of course, he’s the only one allowed to be armed, so things are a bit swayed in his favor.
  • It is considered extremely disrespectful to shave on World Beard Day. Don’t even think about it! Prefer your hunk of burning love to be smooth skinned? Best have him shave the day before and ignore a little stubble.

photo, Ikie2 Designed by Incredibeard via Wikimedia Commons

If you or the significant other in your life can’t quite wrap your brain around (or can’t quite grow) a fully impressive set of whiskers, perhaps a mustache is the place to start. He can even participate in the highly competitive The World Beard and Mustache Championships, located this upcoming September in Northern California. There are all sorts of categories to sign up for, from the humble Dali Mustache to the Imperial and the Freestyle Goatee. Check out these past winners and prepare to be inspired by follicle greatness!

Whatever your preference, opinions about facial hair are varied and sometimes quite amusing. Check out these quotes about the fabulous beard:

“I have the terrible feeling that, because I am wearing a white beard and am sitting in the back of the theatre, you expect me to tell you the truth about something. These are the cheap seats, not Mount Sinai.” ~ Orson Welles

“You know, I just tend to grow my beard out for ‘Parks and Rec.’ As an actor it’s always easier to shave or cut your hair for a role, but it’s hard to put fake hair on or grow hair for a role. When you look at pictures of me, the longer my hair is, the longer my facial hair is, that’s just the longer I haven’t gotten a job.” ~ Chris Pratt

“I will never shave off my beard and moustache. I did once, for charity, but my wife said, ‘Good grief, how awful, you look like an American car with all the chrome removed.” ~ Rolf Harris

“A man’s face is not a rich person’s lawn; you are wasting resources if you devote that much energy to trimming your beard, sideburns, or mustache just so. Nor is a man’s face the woods; there need not be the tangled weeds, shrubbery, and wildlife/eggs benedict that get ensnared in them.” ~ Ellie Kemper

“A decent beard has long been the number one must-have fashion item for any fugitive from justice.” ~ Craig Brown

“Kissing a man with a beard is a lot like going to a picnic. You don’t mind going through a little bush to get there!” ~ Minnie Pearl

Well, have I convinced you? Raise your pint of ale high to this most manly of all holidays. (And be prepared to share your styling gel. Just sayin’.)

None of the men in my family are sporting beards this summer, but the ear of fresh sweet corn I had last night for dinner had a kind of beard …

and my bees are “bearding” (forming “beards” on the outside of the hive during hot weather to keep the hive from overheating).

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Weird Food of the Decades

Strange things to eat have been around since we started stuffing delicacies in our pie-holes (and our cheeseburger-holes and our pasta-holes). And lest you think only the peculiar is plated in exotic locales—that’s a whole nuther kettle of fish—we’ll just stick to the good ol’ U.S. of A.

What was en vogue the decade you were born? And if your mama was eating it in utero with you, maybe that explains some things.

Here are some of the most atypical foods I could find, and if you have an all-time weird food recipe in your collection, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

1920 Cookbook created to push Jell-O via Wikimedia Commons.

  • Sauerkraut Chocolate Cake. Recipe here if you dare.
  • “Weiner-Roni” Casserole with Karo Syrup. Mmmm, can you say health problems on a fork?
  • Creamed Tuna with Noodles in a Jell-O Mold. My tummy hurts.
  • Speaking of Jell-O, what was the 1970s obsession with congealing meat products in fruit-flavored gelatin? Chicken, seafood salad, creamed beef … it all went in a package of Jell-O with a dollop of Miracle Whip on the side.
  • Spam Italiano. In other words, Spam with tomato sauce and cheese. But methinks the Italians look askance at this concoction.
  • In the ’50s, Kraft released a Potato Fudge. Like, fudge sauce for your baked potato. The tagline read, “In the heart of your baked potato, spoon a big swirl of Kraft’s Potato Fudge! That chocolatey, gooey goodness your kids crave will melt right in and even the most finicky eater will have a smile! And you’ll love the healthy vitamins and minerals!” Don’t care for fudge on your baked spud? That’s okay, they made a butterscotch version, too.
  • Fiesta Peach Spam Bake. Um, I’m not convinced that those two should ever mingle in my belly.
  • Veg-All (remember those cans?) Pie. Again with the Jell-O. I think all the Virginia Slims the ladies were smoking were affecting their taste buds. Oh, and don’t forget to garnish this pie slice with … wait for it … tartar sauce. Yep.
  • Okay, I’m back. How about Ruby Chicken soup? This recipe came about in case you needed to use up a couple cans of cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving. Too bad the finished product looked a chicken being boiled in its own blood. Um, thanks, but we’ll pass. Not even for Halloween is that appropriate.
  • Kraft Squeeze-A-Snack. A squeezable cheese-like product. Kraft, we’re onto you.
  • Pink Buttermilk Congealed Salad. Don’t even get me started on how this uses Jell-O: I can’t get past the word Congealed used in a recipe title.
  • Fruit Cocktail Topped Hash. Cuz nothing says hash like … fruit?
  • Broiled Bologna Cups with Canned Peas. At least this recipe tried to be fancy: evidently if you broil bologna slices, the edges curl up into a nicely shaped bowl. To cradle your canned peas. Ew.
  • Ketchup Pineapple Upside Down Cake. That’s alright, Heinz, we pass.
  • Shrimp Salmon Mold. Made with … you guessed it: Jell-O. But the clincher was the snazzy way the cook molded it back into a salmon shape. What’d that salmon ever do to you?
  • Milk Chicken with Banana Buttons. Um. How before-dinner martinis did you need to make this one?
  • Pimento Puree. Apparently, pimentos were the kale of their time.
  • Liver Loaf Shaped as a Pineapple. Because it was classy, people!
  • Lest you think we’re only picking on the 1970s, let’s take a moment to remember (maybe not so fondly) the 1980s: they brought us Sloppy Joes, Manwiches, Bisquick everything, Shake and Bake, cereals shaped and flavored like donuts/cookies/candy bars (part of your nutritious breakfast!), American cheese slices, Salisbury steak TV dinners, Dr. Pepper chili, pizza rolls, and bagel bites. I can feel my arteries hardening.

Well, I could keep going with this gastronomic game of Truth or Dare, but I think you might need a Pepto break.

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Argan oil

If you’re a fan of argan oil in your skin-care routine, I have a bit of historical (er, biological?) trivia for you.

It begins with the stout seeds of the shrubby Moroccan Argania spinose tree …

Photo by Songwon Lee via Flickr

Seeds that are gathered by … goats.

Photo by Grand Parc – Bordeaux, France via Wikimedia Commons

That’s right, we’re talking about those wacky tree-climbing goats that scream, “Photoshop!”

But there’s no technological trickery at work here.

These goats do defy gravity, and while they are loping about in the limbs of trees, they eat argan seeds.

Can you see where I’m going with this? (Just be glad you get your argan oil from a bottle.)

Here’s the history of argan oil, in a nutshell, according to Michael Graham Richard of Mother Nature Network:

“Argan oil is quite popular these days in skin- and hair-care products, but this is nothing new. Indigenous Berber tribes in the region actually did something similar, though they didn’t get the argan oil out of a bottle that they bought in a store; goats would climb up argan trees and eat the fruits, swallowing whole the core, which looks a bit like an almond.”

Photo by Fred Dunn via Flickr

Okay, we’re all caught up to that point, so …

“This nut would pass through the goat’s digestive system and end up in goat droppings, where it would be collected. To get at the oil inside, you would then have to crack it open with a stone, and grind the seeds inside. The resulting oil was then used for cooking and as a skin treatment.”

Photo by Chrumps via Wikimedia Commons

Now you know.

As with so many modern manufacturing practices, the middlemen (middlegoats?) have been cut from the process of processing argan oil, but that doesn’t stop them from climbing trees to eat seeds.

Watch and laugh:

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bookmobiles

Libraries on wheels (or on four-legged creatures, as we will soon learn) first began gaining popularity in 19th-century Europe. Inspired by the creativity and knowing it would fulfill a need here in America as well, librarian and entrepreneur Mary Titcomb launched the first bookmobile in Maryland at the turn of the century. Drawn by a horse and carriage, the idea began catching on, and by 1904, 66 mobile libraries had been started.

In 1912, the first motorized bookmobiles took off with a zoom … and they didn’t slow down for several decades.

Photo by Orange County Archives via Wikimedia Commons.

The bookmobile was an ingenious way to bring literacy and education to rural communities. What could make a bibliophile smile wider than this coming ’round the bend in their neck of the woods?

Librarians in the early 1900s could purchase a bookmobile for as little as $1,000, which made financial sense … at least until the 1970s and ’80s, when fuel prices began to skyrocket.

Fuel prices might not be so limiting, however, in places like Thailand, where bookmobiles come in the form of elephants, or in Zimbabwe, where they utilize donkeys. In Kenya, they prefer the camel as their mode of bookish transportation, and in the Andes, they like their llama-mobiles. Have a pet-dander allergy and an automobile aversion? Try a boat, like in Bergin, Norway. Not only is their bookmobile water friendly, it also has a small performing circus on board.

I know, right?

In the Himalayas, there’s a bookmobile in the form of a person. This dedicated librarian carries his books-for-loan in a huge basket on his back … even the entire Oxford Dictionary!

Intrigued as we are by these devoted bibliophiles? You can download a free mini movie on one of the most famous bookmobile drivers, who brings his tomes to the people of Colombia on donkey-back.

With the dawning of the digital age, bookmobiles lost their popularity, but we feel confident that the vintage feel and artistic vibe of the bookmobile will be revived. Seattle already has one that’s awfully sweet to the eyes.

Photo by Joe Mabel via Wikimedia Commons.

I’d say if you park it next to your local taco truck, you’d have some cheerful patrons, wouldn’t you?

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Wistful for Wisteria

“Ah, wisteria … my favorite. I had one when I was young and newly married and living in a very old house. Since then, I only long for another,” Beverly (Bee Haven Maven) wistfully writes. “I have a picture in my mind of an arbor with wisteria on either side and a great old wooden porch swing hanging beneath. My peaceful dream is only interrupted by the buzzing of bees around my head—they really love the blossoms. Perhaps this will be another project for another year…”

Photo by Ink Flo via Pixabay

I feel certain that Bev is not the only one feeling wistful for wisteria this time of year. They are truly lovely, but not easily grown on a whim. Cultivating these divine vines requires time and patience (like, years’ worth). So, if you’re planning a planting, prepare for a two- to three-year process of hurry-up-and-wait.

Photo by Carlotta Silvestrini via Pixabay

Another consideration before shopping for seeds: only two varieties of wisteria are native to the U.S. This fact matters because the Asian varieties (Wisteria sinensis and Wisteria floribunda) are considered invasive, noxious weeds that will aggressively spread and displace native vegetation.

“Consider growing the less invasive American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens), which grows in Zones 5 to 9. The vine grows 25 to 30 feet long with shiny, dark-green leaves and large, drooping lilac or purple-blue flower clusters, which appear after the plant has leafed out. However, note that the flowers are unscented, unlike the Asian Wisteria,” advises the Old Farmer’s Almanac. “Another native American is Wisteria macrostachya (Zones 4 to 9) or Kentucky wisteria. This late-season bloomer is native to the southeastern U.S. and bears unscented bluish-purple flowers after growing only two to three years, making it the quickest wisteria to bloom.”

Rather than wait for wisteria to bloom, take a (virtual) vacation to Kawachi Fuji Garden in Kitakyushu, Japan. This gorgeous garden boasts over 100 flowering wisteria plants from 20 different species. The voluminous vines create Kawachi Fuji’s famous wisteria tunnel.

Get details at Japan-Guide.com.

 

Curly Girls

Curly hair hasn’t been “in” since the 1980s, and those curls were permed to death, teased to high heaven, and sprayed with toxic hairspray to set. After that trend flew the coop, flat-ironed, stick-straight hair was all the rage.

All through the ‘90s, right on through the first decade of the 2000s, up until just recently, when celebrities like Shakira and Lourde started flaunting their natural ringlets and waves. All of a sudden, women with curly hair weren’t just the “before” photos in the makeover articles.

But tossing all those flat-irons and blow dryers is a hard habit to break! What’s a girl to do?

Embrace her curls, that’s what. Over 50% of American women have curls … say what now? Time to take back what nature gave ya, and tame those tresses.

photo by Gordon via Flickr.com

“Curly Girls” isn’t just a catch-phrase, it’s a movement. The basics for following the Curly Girl method came from Lorraine Massey (try her book, The Curly Girl Handbook) to read all about it.

But the rules for gorgeous, shiny, twirly, swirly, curls are pretty simple:

  • Toss all those toxic hair-care products, and yes, this probably means your shampoo.
  • Skip shampooing altogether (this is called The No Poo Method … no, it’s not a laxative commercial), or switch to a brand with no parabens/sulfates/silicones. Some Curly Girls use a simple mixture of apple cider vinegar and conditioner to cleanse their hair, or a make a DIY sugar scrub for their scalp. But the shampoo brands are catching on: it’s getting easier and easier (and less expensive too) to find a shampoo free of all those nasty, pesky chemicals.
  • Figure out which curl pattern is your distinct pattern. This will help you know which products to try and which tutorials to watch: patterns range from

1 = Straight Hair
2 = Wavy Hair
3 = Curly Hair
A = Curl diameter of sidewalk chalk
B = Curl diameter of a Sharpie
C = Curl diameter of a pencil
4 = Kinky Hair
A = Curl diameter of a needle
B = Zigzag curl pattern
C = No curl pattern

  • Moisturizing is key for curly hair because curls get dry quickly and they are thirsty. Use a thick, organic conditioner. Look for ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, argan, aloe vera, proteins, etc.
  • Get rid of your hairbrush. Curly girls have no need for a hairbrush EVER. Simply comb through your hair to detangle in the shower while your conditioner has been slathered through.
  • For extra volume, flip your head upside down for the final rinse and comb through.
  • Now, “Squish to Condish.” Squeeze and squish your tendrils up towards your hairline. No need to rinse out all the conditioner either. Remember, you have thirsty hair!
  • While hair is still very wet, apply your curl product: creams are good for smooth ringlets, gels provide great control especially in humidity, and mousses give you some bounce and volume. Most curly girls experiment and even combine their products. Remember, you’re looking for products that do not contain parabens, sulfates, or non-water-soluble silicones.
  • Your curls will be sopping wet and sticking a bit to your head. That’s okay! They’re going to come to life during the drying process. For any flat pieces, twirl a section and then scrunch. Some girls do this to their whole head (after a while it doesn’t take so long), some just do those stubborn pieces in the front that they know are prone to frizz or straightening out.
  • Scrunch some of the water out with an old cotton Tshirt. Towels create friction.
  • Air dry, or use a diffuser on your blow dryer. You know the one: it’s the bumpy, round attachment you may not have ever used before.
  • For sleeping, try “pineappling” your hair: Pile loosely on the very tip-top of your head (think unicorn horn placement). Tie in a loose bun or just in a simple ponytail. This keeps your curls from getting smooshed on your pillow all night long.
  • Speaking of pillows, switch to a satin pillowcase. It really makes a difference in frizz control!

It may take some practice to find which products work best for your hair, but your tired tresses will thank you for it.

For a list of curl-friendly products, check out Curly Girl’s blog. Or search for “curly girls” on Pinterest or YouTube. It’s a bunny trail of wavy proportions.

Curly girls of the world, unite!

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Hats Off to the Easter Bonnet

Some of us remember dressing up in our Sunday best on Easter, to-the-nines, complete with a frilly hat or bonnet. Nowadays, it’s more about plastic eggs filled with candy, hunts in parks that get surprisingly competitive, and possibly making your toddler cry while posing for photos with a gigantic bunny rabbit.

Let’s bring back the bonnet, farmgirls! The history of the Easter bonnet began after the Civil War, when people were desperate to bring some normalcy, fun, happiness, and even frivolity back into their lives. Dressing up for church in your Sunday best became something to look forward to, and after Lent, it seemed even more luxurious and exciting. Buying a new pair of gloves, adding some plumage to your top hat or some ribbons to your skirt was …

well, worthy of a parade, you might say.

The first large Easter parade was the Fifth Avenue Parade in 1870 in New York, but it happened a bit as an accident. So many people dressed up in their Sunday best that day, when they filed out of church at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and walked down Fifth Avenue, it had the look of an organized parade. Every year, Saint Patrick’s Easter service attracted more and more church-goers, all dressed in their bonneted finery, and by the 1940s, over a million people were in attendance. Oh, how I love an (accidental) parade!

5th Ave., Easter Parade circa 1910-1915, Library of Congress, via Wikimedia Commons.

In the most recent years, the Easter parade has dwindled in size, but not in spirit. There are still predicted to be around 30,000 people this Sunday, outfitted in their best and most stylish clothes. Complete with hats, of course!

The film Easter Parade, with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, and music by Irving Berlin, certainly boosted the popularity of Easter bonnets. Who didn’t want to be just like Judy?

And in fact, the heyday of the outrageous and outlandish Easter bonnets was in the 1940s and 1950s, when ladies wore bonnets shaped like ginormous eggs, fluffy rabbits, clotheslines complete with tiny clothes and washboards, picnic scenes, crates of eggs with chicks peeking out, and bunny ears the size of small children! You can take a peek at some of the most outrageous (and probably headache worthy!) headpieces on Pinterest, like this collection, courtesy of The Eternal Headonist, an Australian hatmaker.

Let’s bring back the Easter bonnet, ladies and gentlemen! Who’s with me?

Easter in New Orleans. People with colorful Easter bonnets in the French Quarter. Photo by Infrogmation (talk) via Wikimedia Commons.

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