35th Annual Dickens of a Christmas Festival

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A fun and educational holiday experience for the entire family

By Susan Baldani

Main Street will undergo a picturesque transformation as the 35th Annual Dickens of a Christmas Festival comes to downtown Franklin, TN the weekend of December 14. Against the backdrop of Victorian era buildings, visitors will feel like they’ve gone back in time to when Charles Dickens was alive and Tiny Tim was riding on his father’s shoulder.

“We actually have a brand new revamped section of the festival,” said Megan Hershey, Chief Operating Officer of the Heritage Foundation of Williamson County. “We’ve gotten some great feedback from our Downtown Franklin Association members as well as the general public, that they would really love Dickens to be more of a theatrical festival. That’s really what it was intended to be when it started.”

Folks dressed in Victorian era costumes and as Dickens’ story book characters will gather on sidewalks while period dancers will take over the streets. Victorian era craft demonstrations, such as candle making and weaving, will be on display, while carolers stroll by singing holiday songs. Pop-up musicians, both adults and children, will be interspersed throughout the festival playing accordions and fiddles.

“This year is probably going to be the most authentic Dickens era holiday festival that we have done. We’re really honoring it as a theatrical festival,” said Hershey.

There will also be a Holiday Town Sing, where the public can join in and enjoy their favorite holiday tunes. As there are every year, there will be plenty of activities for children and families, plus booths filled with a variety of delicious food and drinks.

The Dickens of a Christmas Festival,  sponsored by First Citizens National Bank, attracts anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000  attendees each year. As usual, most of the events are free of charge.

Carriage rides, which haven’t been a part of the festival for many years, are coming back and will most likely be stationed by the Franklin Grove Estate and Garden, which is a new project of the Heritage Foundation.

On Saturday night, at 7:00 pm, the Franklin Theater will be featuring a Christmas Carol theatrical experience featuring Jason Wood. It will be a one-man show based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Tickets are on sale now at FranklinTheatre.com.

The Heritage Foundation of Williamson County is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on historic preservation and education. The festivals in town, which also include Pumpkin Fest and Main Street Festival, were originally started as a joint venture between the  Downtown Franklin Association and the Heritage Foundation, which have now merged, as a means of bringing tourism and traffic to downtown Franklin.

“These festivals have now become part of our cultural heritage,” said Hershey.

The Dickens of a Christmas festival will be held rain or shine from 10:00 to 7:00 on Saturday and on Sunday from 11:00 to 4:00.

“We have extended the Saturday hours because we think Franklin is so beautiful with all the Christmas lights and holiday decorations. Having this extended time allows us to go into the dusk part of the day so visitors will be better able to enjoy the lights,” said Hershey.

For more information on the festival, go to WilliamsonHeritage.org/Dickens.

Written for Franklin Lifestyle Magazine in Franklin, Tennessee.

Make shopping fun and festive

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Support local businesses this holiday season

By Susan Baldani

A few years ago, when I decided to take the train to work every day, my husband and I became a one car family. This was a smart financial choice because it saves a lot of money that would otherwise go to car payments, gas, and insurance costs. But, it does take some adjusting to. I can’t just pick up and go whenever and wherever I want.

The first year without a vehicle, I decided to do most of my Christmas shopping online. It was convenient and easy and everything was delivered right to my door. But something was missing; I found that I didn’t get the same joy out of finding the perfect item on a website that I did in a physical store.

During the holidays, I always loved walking around small shops trying to find that perfect gift while listening to Christmas carols and smelling cinnamon, maple, and pine scented holiday candles wafting through the aisles. Some of the local stores even had complimentary hot cocoa or cider for their customers. Shopping in these types of establishments always got me into the holiday spirt.

I also missed the customer service and having someone to assist me with picking out gifts for my hard-to-buy-for relatives. I found many of the local owners and managers, the people who actually ordered the merchandise, to be very knowledgeable and helpful. Whether it was the yarn shop where I would choose colors for a cousin who knits, a gift store that sold imported teas for a good friend, or a clothing store that had the most luxurious cashmere sweaters for a dear aunt who was always cold, these local shops provided the most high-quality and unique items.

Luckily, I now work in a town full of small independently-owned businesses. With a shopping mall only 10 minutes away, these store owners have to provide the best of the best in order to inspire people to shop locally. Although I can hear the same music at the large commercial stores, they just don’t have the personal service and little extras that make me feel appreciated. I’m just another revenue number to them, and shopping online is even more impersonal.

Now, although I still shop online once in a while, I also make sure to support local stores. Giving my business to them feels right, and it also makes my shopping experiences, especially around the holidays, much more enjoyable and festive.

Happy shopping and happy holidays!

 

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Hot Cranberry-Apple Cider

Ingredients

2 quarts apple cider

1.5 quarts sugar-free cranberry juice

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

4 sticks cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons whole cloves

1 orange, thinly sliced Save $

Directions:

In 4-quart saucepan,  add all the ingredients except for the orange. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Strain, then pour into mugs and garnish with fresh orange slices.

 

Written for The Country Register – distributed across the U.S. and Canada.

The day after Thanksgiving

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By Susan Baldani

Thanksgiving is a day to be shared with others. Hearty food, lively conversation, and the appreciation of our blessings are always a huge part of it. However, the day after Thanksgiving is also a time to rejoice.

Since I have a major role in preparing the family meal in all of its abundance, by the time I sit down to the dinner table I’m always somewhat exhausted. And then there is the massive cleanup! Even with the assistance of a dishwasher, it can still be quite overwhelming.

By Friday afternoon, all the guests have gone home, all the pots and pans, casserole dishes, and other paraphernalia have been cleaned and put away, and the house is back in order. Best of all, all those lovely leftovers are in the fridge just waiting to be devoured.

I sit down to a leisurely meal of turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, gravy, and hopefully, dessert, if there is any left. And not to be forgotten, luscious whipped cream to go on top of that delicious pumpkin, pecan or apple pie.

Although I love the bustle of Thanksgiving day and having family around, there is something about the peace and solitude of the day after that really gives me time to reflect on how fortunate I am. I have a close and loving family who enjoy each other’s company, a healthy body that allows me to live my life to the fullest, and great friends who are always there in good times and bad. These are riches that money can’t buy.

This year, as I prepare another Thanksgiving meal, I’ll give thanks for the day and enjoy everything it has to offer, while also secretly looking forward to the day after. I’ll also be sure to hide at least one piece of pie to savor the next day. Yes, I am very thankful for the day after Thanksgiving.

PERFECT PECAN PIE
Ingredients:

 1 whole unbaked pie crust
 1 cup white sugar
 3 tablespoons brown sugar
 1/2 teaspoon salt
 1 cup corn syrup
 3/4 teaspoons vanilla
 1/3 cup melted butter
 3 whole eggs, beaten well
 1 heaping cup of chopped pecans

Instructions:

Buy or make your favorite pie crust and press into a pie dish. Then, combine the two sugars, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl.

Spread out the chopped pecans in the bottom of the unbaked pie shell and then pour syrup mixture over the top. Cover top and crust with foil.
Bake at 350º for 30 minutes. Remove foil, then continue baking for 20 minutes, being careful not to burn the pecans or crust. If it jiggles a lot upon removing it from oven, cover again with foil and bake for an additional 10 to 20 minutes or until set. Required baking time can vary widely with this recipe.

Allow to cool for several hours before slicing.

Written for The Country Register, published throughout the U.S. and Canada.

How to encourage and teach children to have empathy for others

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By Susan Baldani

In today’s world, fostering empathy in children is more important than ever. It has a positive impact not only on others, but also on the child demonstrating it as well.

Empathy is the ability to recognize, identify and understand feelings in others. People who are empathic show compassion for others, try to prevent actions that hurt feelings, care for those who are suffering, and also understand how their behaviors affect others, whether positively or negatively.

How do we instill empathy in young hearts and minds? There are actually a variety of strategies that can help parents, caregivers, teachers, coaches and other individuals who are involved with children. Of course, depending on a child’s age, some techniques will be more appropriate than others. However, it’s best to start early. Even very young children can learn to be caring and give comfort.

Model empathy
When your child see and hears you comforting another person, you’re sending an important message to him. He sees how you do it and learns to replicate that behavior. He also witnesses the difference a few kind words and actions can have.

Display and vocalize your own feelings
Some parents try to hide sadness or frustration from children. Tell your children when you’re going through a hard time and explain how they can help you feel better. Even if it’s just by giving you a hug or drawing you a picture, they’ll learn how they can give comfort, which in turn will give them a sense of pride in themselves.

Encourage children to express their feelings and to also ask others how they are feeling
Ask you children about their day and let them know you they can come to you when they’re having a bad day or if they are sad. Encourage them to find out how their friends and family members are doing and to really listen when they respond. Sometimes listening to someone’s problem is all that a person really needs.

Validate your children’s feelings
Children are often scared or worried about things adults may consider trivial. However, they are very important to the child at that time. Tell them you understand how stressful it can be to prepare for a test or how nerve-wracking it can be going away to camp. Instead of saying “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine,” ask “Why are you worried? Let’s talk about and maybe I can help.”

“Sometimes when our child is sad, angry, or disappointed, we rush to try and fix it right away, to make the feelings go away because we want to protect him from any pain. However, these feelings are part of life and ones that children need to learn to cope with. In fact, labeling and validating difficult feelings actually helps children learn to handle them,” said Claire Lerner and Rebecca Parlakian, authors of the article “How to Help Your Child Develop Empathy.”

Other times, children get angry because they can’t do something. Parents can say, “I can see you’re upset that you can’t watch television right now, and I know you’re disappointed, but it’s time to go to bed.” While they still aren’t getting their way, their feelings are acknowledged.

Teach empathy through stories
Dr. Michele Borba, an internationally recognized expert and author on children, teens, parenting, bullying, and moral development, said, “The right book can stir a child’s empathy better than any lesson or lecture ever could. And the right book matched with the right child can be the gateway to opening his heart to humanity.” Also, tell your child stories from your own childhood and let her hear how you demonstrated empathy to others in their times of need.

Role play and show children how they can empathize with others
Because of their limited vocabulary and experiences, children may have a hard time showing their concern for others. Come up with situations where your child can practice using comforting words phrases such as “I’m sorry you’re sad. Can I help?,” or “Can I sit with you until you feel better?” Sometimes kids don’t realize what they say or do can hurt others.

For example, if your daughter’s friend wants to play with her at recess but she would rather play alone, how would she tell her friend in a kind way? Or, if your son doesn’t want his best friend to stay over one night, how would he handle it so as not to hurt his friend’s feelings?

It’s also very important to teach children how to say “I’m sorry.” Let them know that they won’t always be perfect and may still hurt someone’s feelings, but a sincere apology helps others know that they regret their behavior. The key word here is “sincere.”

Point out uncaring behavior
Dr. Borba suggests four steps to help kids respond more empathically with “CARE”: 1) Call attention to uncaring behavior; 2) Assess how uncaring affects others, helping kids to understand another’s perspective; 3) Repair the hurt and make amends; and 4) Express disappointment for uncaring behavior, while stressing expectations for caring behavior in the future.

Limit internet and phone time
Many kids, especially those in the preteen and teen years, may lose personal communication skills if they spend too much time with peers online or texting instead of having face-to-face contact. The other danger of social media is that people say things online that they would never say to someone in person. Explain how the same rules of respect and courtesy apply whether the person is in front of them, on the phone, or on the internet.

Every child is different, and some will develop empathy easier and faster than others. Be patient and continue to help them become empathetic individuals who care about their fellow classmates, friends, parents, siblings and others they come across in their day-to-day worlds.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family Magazine in Virginia.

Halloween Safety Tips from the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad

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By Susan Baldani

Halloween is fun for all ages, but especially for children. What other day will people give them free candy just for saying Trick or Treat?

It’s also great watching all the ghosts, superheroes, witches and devils walking throughout the neighborhood. But on this day, just like any other, safety comes first.

Trick or treat while it’s still light out
Since it gets dark fairly early in the fall, right after school is prime time for trick or treating. The temperature is milder than it is at night, and there is still over an hour of sunlight left.

Don’t wear masks that block vision or hearing
It’s important for children to be able to see their surroundings and hear what’s happening around them. Many masks make that hard to do. Using makeup and other props like fake mustaches or noses are a safer way to let a child transform into someone or something else.

Never trick or treat alone
Make sure all children are accompanied by an adult. Even older kids need someone with them when knocking on strangers’ doors.

Stay on sidewalks; do not walk in the street
We often see groups of costumed kids walking in the streets. Just because it’s Halloween and kids are in a group doesn’t mean that it’s safe to do so. Drivers may be distracted and not see anyone until it’s too late to stop.

Look both ways before crossing the street
Kids have a tendency to run across the street when they see someone on the other side handing out candy. The same rules apply as they do on any other day. Remind them to look both ways and depending on their ages, have them cross with an adult.

Carry light sticks, or wear LED bracelets or necklaces, especially if wearing dark costumes
Once it gets dark, keep children safe by making them easily visible to drivers and bicyclists. With leaves on the roads at this time of year, it may take longer to stop.

As usual, all treats needs to be checked before eating
It’s very tempting to sample some of the goodies right away, but make sure children do not eat anything until it has been looked over by an adult.

Halloween is fun for all ages!

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By Susan Baldani

Boo! Halloween is almost here. Ghosts, goblins, vampires and werewolves will be roaming the streets after dark. Jack-o’-lanterns will flicker on porches, as leaves are rustled and the scent of firewood wafts through the air. Doorbells will ring, and shouts of “Trick or Treat” will resound throughout neighborhoods.

I have such wonderful memories of celebrating Halloween as a child. Instead of store-bought costumes, my siblings and I mostly wore homemade costumes made by Mom or Grandma. These could be simple, such as a white sheet with holes cut out for the eyes. Instant ghost! Or a black leotard and tights, cat ears and drawn on whiskers. Meow!

Others though were pretty elaborate, such as my witch outfit. My mom painted my face green, put a long black wig on my head and long black dress on my body, and sent me to school for the Halloween parade. I was sure I was going to win for best costume.

Well, I never got to march in the parade. I was so scary that kids started crying when I walked into the classroom. The teacher made me take off the wig and wash off the makeup.

So much for getting the winning trophy. However, my mom redid it all when I got home so I could scare all the neighbors and get extra candy for my amazing costume.

These homemade costumes were always my favorite because no one ever had the same exact one. Every year, we would come up with something different and had great fun taking old ties and ripped shirts to make ourselves into hobos, or dressing all in red and putting on some devil’s horns. The ideas were endless.

Today, I love seeing all the kids out trick-or-treating in their costumes, whether store-bought or homemade. It’s a time for them to be whatever they want for one day; whether a princess, a superhero, or a dinosaur. And, getting free candy always brings out the smiles.

Also, many of my adult friends have Halloween parties and encourage their guests to dress up. After all, who doesn’t want to be a kid again, even for just a few hours? To laugh, play, and have fun; these are things we should always make time for in our busy lives.

So have a Happy Halloween, and don’t eat too much candy!

Written for The Country Register newspaper distributed throughout the US and Canada.

Be involved in your children’s education and watch them blossom

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By Susan Baldani

Children are expected to be fully engaged in their education. One way parents can ensure this is happening is to lead by example.

According to the National Educational Association (NEA), “Research shows that family engagement in schools improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and restores parents’ confidence in their children’s education. Students with involved parents or other caregivers earn higher grades and test scores, have better social skills, and show improved behavior.”

So, what exactly does this mean? What can parents and guardians do to show they are invested in their children’s academic success? Here are some ideas:

• Form relationships with your child’s teacher.
Keep the lines of communication open and let the teacher know you are available. Volunteer for opportunities such as classroom helper, fundraising, and extracurricular activities.

• Attend back-to-school nights.
Show your child and his teacher that you are interested in what he and his classmates are working on and how the classroom is set up.

• Get involved in what your child is learning.
If the class is learning about fossils, take your child to a museum where she can view them and learn even more. Or, if she is learning about animals, go to a zoo where she can see, hear, and possibly touch them. Bring classroom lessons into real-world experiences to make them more meaningful. Every day, ask your child what his favorite new thing was that he learned that day and why.

• Set goals with your child.
If your child is struggling with a subject, such as reading or writing, come up with a set amount of time where you can both work on that skill together. Or, if you can’t do it, hire another student or private tutor.

• Use the school’s technology to your advantage.
Most schools have portals where you can see assignments and make sure your child is getting everything done. You may also be able to see grades and report cards. Keep track so you can note any difficulties before they become too severe.

• Attend school plays, sports, and other special events your child is involved with.
Support your child’s extracurricular activities and be there to cheer when she’s winning and to offer comfort when she’s losing. Show your support by rehearsing lines with your child or practicing hitting a ball.

• Advocate for better educational materials or courses.
If your school is struggling to buy certain materials, get together with other parents to find ways to raise money or get donations to fill any gaps. Teachers often use their own money to buy basic necessities. Ask them to make a list of items that are in short supply.

• Continue to be involved even as your children get older and more independent.
Older children need and want their parents to be involved in their education, too, even if they won’t admit it. “The U.S. Department of Education reports that the rate of parent involvement drops to 55 percent by the time children reach age 14, and it continues to drop as children progress through high school.”

In the article “The Enduring Importance of Parental Involvement,” by Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, and Otha Thornton, president of the National Parent Teacher Association, they mention that “[t]he most significant type of involvement is what parents do at home. By monitoring, supporting and advocating, parents can be engaged in ways that ensure that their children have every opportunity for success.”

All of this involvement takes time. What is a parent to do if he or she works full-time or has other demanding responsibilities?

One solution is sharing the load. Mom can go to back-to-school night and Dad can go on the next field trip. Grandparents can also help by attending school plays or the next football game, and aunts and uncles can help with homework. Engage the whole family in your child’s education.

If family is not close by, ask best friends and good neighbors to pick up some of the slack. Children want to know that people are interested in what they’re doing, and if it can’t be Mom and Dad, other people they know can sometimes fill in.

Explain to your child why you can’t be there — for example, if you will be away on a business trip — and help them understand that as they have a responsibility to their education and teachers, you also have a responsibility to your job and your boss. Make it clear that you will be there when you can, and you will miss seeing them in their play or competition. If possible, ask the person attending if they can record at least some of it so you can share it with your child at a later time.

Of course, schools also have to encourage parental involvement and present opportunities for interaction between parents, teachers, and administrators. Everyone in the educational community has to be on board and recognize that a team effort will offer the best solution for creating a positive and open learning environment for students.

“Schools must do their part to encourage parent involvement in education. Key activities include making parents feel welcome at school, involving parents in decision-making, and implementing programs to provide information about parenting skills and community resources,” said Linda Hinkle, a writer and educator who spent 29 years teaching mathematics in public high schools.

If you feel the need to do even more, consider joining the PTA (Parent Teacher Association), which provides programs on strengthening family-school partnerships, or run for a spot on your local Board of Education. Both of these will give you the opportunity to gain more insight into the behind-the-scenes workings of your town’s educational community. The more understanding parents have of the educational process, the more they can help their children achieve academic success.

Written for Roanoke Valley Family Magazine, in Roanoke, Virginia.

Vinings Gallery by Denard

serenade by Denard Stalling

Art that tells a story

By Susan Baldani

After graduating from the Columbus College of Art and Design, Denard Stalling moved to Atlanta in 1989 and started working at a gallery. There, he met Gary Handler. He had no idea that 10 years later they would be opening their own gallery together.

Today, Vinings Gallery has three locations – two in Roswell and the framing operations in Vinings, where Stallings’ studio is also located. He recalls when they first set out to find a location. They chose the nicest building in an up-and-coming area that they felt had the potential for strong growth. Today, Vinings is a neighborhood brimming with energy from the numerous restaurants, boutiques, and galleries.

“People love coming to the area and hanging out,” says Stalling.

When people visit the galleries, he doesn’t want them to feel like they’re in a museum. “We have a totally different vibe; we want you to have a great experience when you come in. Our sales staff is also very friendly.”

The galleries have been carrying Thomas Arvid’s realistic wine compositions for almost 20 years. “We represent great artists and wine is a big backdrop to what we do,” says Stalling.

Another featured artist is Simon Kenevan. They’ve been selling his seascapes for four years and he’s one of their top selling artists.

Each gallery in Roswell has a different flavor. The Elizabeth Way location has many original and limited editions, whereas the Canton Street gallery is more upbeat and where buyers can find top artists who they’ve been carrying for years.

“We’re a decorative art market. We make beautiful images. But, there is some investment potential with the original and limited edition art as well,” says Stalling.

Stalling’s art is well-represented and he will be holding his own show this fall. An illustrator and saxophone player, he is now focused on musical compositions.

“Within that illustration I try to tell a story so it’s not just a still life. There’s some movement,” says Stalling. “I combine my love of music and the appreciation for the styling of the instruments and combine that with a pretty realistic technique.”

To learn more about the galleries and artists, go to http://viningsgallery.com/.

Written for Smyrna Vinings Lifestyle magazine in Smyrna-Vinings, Georgia.

Spotlight on Aladdin Cleaners

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By Susan Baldani

Located in the Village Shopping Center in New Providence, Aladdin Cleaners has been in business since 1982 and offers much more than just dry cleaning. Don Kim, who has been the owner for the last three years, ensures the best service for all his customers. That’s why their slogan is “Where Quality Makes the Difference.”

Don came to America from South Korea 28 years ago and has been in the dry cleaning business for over 20 years. His first store, Spring Cleaners in Millburn, is now managed by his wife Eunice.

All work at Aladdin is done on the premises and their services include laundering and dry cleaning items such as shirts, draperies, comforters and wedding gowns. They are also experts in tailoring and alterations. If the straps on your sundress need to be shortened or your pants mended, they can do it.

Aladdin Cleaners also provides quick service. Bring in something for cleaning by 11:00 in the morning and they can have it ready for you by 4:00 that same day, and for no extra charge.

They will even pick up and drop off your clothing as well for no additional charge. “We go to New Providence, Summit, Chatham and Berkeley Heights,” said Don.

People are often confused as to what should be dry cleaned and what should be laundered. Silk and wool are pretty easy, because those fabrics almost always need to be dry cleaned. The same goes for anything with lace or pearls and beads, like a fancy gown, and anything made from leather.

For other items, look at the label and especially heed the “Dry Clean Only,” instructions. However, what if it doesn’t say or the tag was ripped off or the print is illegible? Aladdin Cleaners will know how to handle your clothing so no damage is done.

Experimenting at home is never a good idea. Putting an item into a washer may change its shape and finishing it up in a dryer may lead to severe shrinkage.

One thing that makes Aladdin Cleaners stand out from other dry cleaners is that they use only natural dry cleaning ingredients, which Don stressed is rare.

“I don’t think anyone uses natural chemicals around here,” he said.

Don bought the store from the original owner, who had been there for 37 years, so Aladdin Cleaners is well known in the area. Due to the quality of their service, they have a lot of repeat customers, many of whom have been coming in for years.

“The Cleaner’s Association [of NJ] named us best cleaners every year since I have been here,” said Don.

Aladdin Cleaners is located at 1260 Springfield Avenue in New Providence and is open every day except Sundays. They are there from 7:30 am to 7:00 pm, Monday through Friday, and 8:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturdays. For more information, give them a call at 908-665-1343 or visit their store.

Written for The Showcase Magazine in Warren, New Jersey.

http://www.theshowcasemagazine.net/showcasemagazine/warren_edition/salutes/aladdin

The differences between men’s and women’s fashion

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By Susan Baldani

I’m often jealous when buying clothes for my husband, especially pants. All I have to know is his waist size and inseam, and voila, perfect fit!

I wish it were that easy for women. It’s not enough to know your size, since every designer seems to have his or her own idea of how big or small that size actually is. And length is another tricky situation. I’m 5’4”, which is considered “average” in the U.S., but when buying pants, sometimes average is too long and short fits just right. What on earth do truly short people do?

This is why when trying on clothes I have to bring at least three sizes into the fitting room. It’s a frustrating experience, and buying clothes online is almost impossible. It usually involves shipping items back because they don’t fit.

Shirts and blouses are sometimes a little easier, because if they’re a little too big or a little too small, they can still look okay. But again, when in the fitting room, I usually have at least two sizes of each to try on.

Speaking of shirts, have you ever noticed that men’s shirts have buttons on the right side, while women’s have buttons on the left? Why is this?

Well, it turns out that this fashion orientation dates back to over a century ago. According to the article, “Here’s why men’s and women’s shirts button on the opposite sides,” on Today.com, “The reason is historical,” says Melanie M. Moore, founder of women’s blouse brand Elizabeth & Clarke. “When buttons were invented in the 13th century they were, like most new technology, very expensive,” she says. “Wealthy women back then did not dress themselves — their lady’s maid did. Since most people were right-handed, this made it easier for someone standing across from you to button your dress.”

Most men, on the other hand, dressed themselves. However, the article goes on to state, “there are a few competing theories as to why buttons are on the right side.”

‘I think it’s important to question which time period we’re talking about, since shirt and jacket buttons are a relatively new phenomenon,” notes Chloe Chapin, fashion historian and Harvard University Ph.D. candidate in American studies. “But as a general rule, many elements of men’s fashion can be traced back to the military.”

Once again, the right-handed assumption played a role since “access to a weapon … practically trumped everything,” she says, noting that a firearm tucked inside a shirt would be easier to reach from the dominant side.

Well, you learn something new every day. Now, if only clothes designers could learn how to make women’s fashion sizes consistent, we would have a better idea as to what size we actually wear.

Written for The Country Register published across the U.S. and Canada.