Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Outfit for a Monday: De-Construction of Brown, with Leopard Print

Sometimes, perhaps even most times, my more creatively compiled outfits come together when I am running a bit late, in the shower, rinsing copious lather from long hair, fretting about the potential of traffic, have not given a single thought to what I am going to clothe my body with, then drying off, and I need to make a sudden decision. Although not quite the throngs of a do-or-die situation that may have confronted our newly bipedal hunting and gathering ancestors, adrenaline is rushing and pulsing nonetheless.

On Monday, confronted with this anxiety and a heightened sense of intuition for my closet, I decided on two slightly older pieces, of the tried but true variety: this lighter toned leopard print cardigan and a deep chocolate bubble hem skirt. To invigorate these well worn articles, I paired deep indigo tights and a warm goldenrod yellow sweater shell, complementing the brown, evoking the chromatic components of the whole.

I will probably never tire of this golden snakeskin leather belt; it has proven to accent even the plainest of outfits.

These teardrop drop earrings were a recent find from an antique open house event that I attended with my mother, while relaxing at home over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Decadence on a Dime: L'Oréal High Intensity Pigment Eye Shadow

(image taken from Hello Trade)

With Thanksgiving in the past, the season of cheer is officially here, and with it approach a bevy of glamorous cocktail and dinner parties, a carte blanche to don glitter and shine. Unfortunately, this Christmas season looks rather dim for me, at least in terms of formal parties, professional or social in nature; for the sake of being positive and optimistic, though, in this case I have decided all the merrier to make a party out of any occasion. Admittedly, I am the last person who requires any type of justification for dressing up or standing out, however, now, as frost starts kissing the cold grasses and artificial lights emit a festive glow in crowds of shrubbery, I will hopefully be in good company, a sea of sparkle.

Red lipstick is a traditional holiday make-up flair; the red reminisces of cranberries, holly berries, crushed velvet bows draped about boughs of mistletoe. I love lipstick, but, as I frequently lament, I abhor the maintenance required, especially with a bold red. For holiday parties, and otherwise, I typically remain faithful to shimmering eye shadow. For the past few years, my absolute favorite has been L'Oréal High Intensity Pigments, cleverly acronymed: HIP. These duo-palettes come in an array of metallic hues, from caramels to honey to emeralds to deep amethyst. Initially, the low price was frightening; surely, an eye shadow so affordable would not be intense, nor durable. I was pleasantly surprised to be wildly wrong on both counts; this eye shadow is vivid from noon to dusk.

Lately, my comfortable and trusted choice has been the combination golden ochre and army green, both of which complement my deep brown eyes; thankfully, according to a vapid column in Cosmopolitan a few years back, brown eyes give me the freedom to wear any color of shadow and liner I desire, without fear of downplaying any innate retinal chromatics. So, perhaps for this season, I shall return to one of my first beloved choices in this brand: pure silver.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ochre with Coral, and, the Archimedes Palimpsest

Traditionally, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving has been spent assisting my mother in the kitchen, preparing the myriad, crucial side dishes for the feast the next day: yams with apples, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, or cream spinach. This year, the crowd congregating to dine at my childhood home was intimate, and so, thankfully, associated stress levels concerning the cooking were low; my younger brother and I were able to head to the Walter's Art Gallery this year. Specifically, we planned to see a special exhibition on the newly re-discovered and actively restored Archimedes Palimpsest: Lost and Found: The Secrets of Archimedes. A palimpsest is a method by which sheets of manuscript, in this case parchment, are effectively erased and re-used, bound in a new way to create a new book. The texts by Archimedes, transcribed on large parchment sheets, were scraped away, cut, and folded anew to make a prayer book.

Initially, both my brother's and my expectations were that the exhibit would highlight the mathematical proofs hidden within the ancient watershed manuscript, treatises on buoyancy, on geometry. Towards this end, we were both a bit disappointed; the content of the manuscript was not illustrated to any significant extent. Rather, the exhibit focused on the long history of this manuscript, from when it was first transcribed, mutilated artfully and used for centuries by priests in a monastery in the Byzantine Empire, discovered, lost and purposely and shamefully further ruined, and finally discovered once again. The exhibit also explained the delicate archaeological and precise, complex scientific techniques harnessed in order to salvage and preserve the pages. The prayer book took four years alone to unbind, as a result of modern, synthetic wood glue that had been applied more recently in the life of the manuscript; researchers utilized imaging techniques applying an entire spectrum of wavelengths of light so that the first application of ink, the mathematics by Archimedes, could be discerned. The process has been arduous and precarious, but ultimately, rewarding, and a great gift to our modern society has been bestowed.

In an interview with the curator of rare manuscripts at the museum, one of the most poignant points of the exhibit, and an issue central to media and knowledge restoration and conservation, was broached: currently, the archival and survival of much of our knowledge, our arts and sciences and histories and stories, are predicated on the maintenance of electricity. If, indeed when, this source of energy passes, dies, the record of so much of humanity can die with it. I have had many conversations with many different people on the history of the book, and more importantly the future of the book; I hope that future is long and vibrant.

To travel to downtown Baltimore and explore the beautiful, grandiose halls of the Walter's, I wore a pair of heavy tweed winter shorts, coupled with thick black sweater tights, an ochre sweater camisole, and a camel cashmere cardigan. The leather riding boots, which feature a unique gradient from brown to black on the toe, and an array of button-like studs, were perfect for walking.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Taco Feast

As I prepare our Thanksgiving meal with my mother, which means, mostly, peeling potatoes and fetching utensils about the kitchen, I cannot help but reflect back on a delicious taco feast from last week, made special, just for me, by my filmmaker. My younger brother told some story a month or so ago about making tacos for a girl; instantly, an inexhaustible fire burned deep in my belly for such a dinner. I do not believe I have had tacos in at least four or five years, whether through neglect or ignorance, I cannot remember. After a jaunt at the gym, we bought the fixings together, and while I rinsed off in a hot shower, the filmmaker browned the ground turkey and assembled the various toppings. After a long week, a meal prepared specifically for you is a beautiful and welcome thing. Guacamole, salsa verde, and extra sharp Vermont white cheddar made for ideal flavors with the seasoned turkey meat.

This year for Thanksgiving, we are making a turkey breast, as opposed to the full bird, but as our party will be small, I am sure there will still be ample leftovers. Perhaps another Mexican-themed night can be planned.

Thanksgiving Train

Tuesday morning, in an attempt to relieve myself of the traffic, avoid the inevitable heavy hustle and bustle of traveling this time of year, I took the train back down to my parent's home in Baltimore, to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and visit some friends. When traveling, I like to be comfortable, however, not at the expense of elegance or personal style; for this trip, I selected a large, warm, wool sweater dress by Cynthia Rowley, and some thick black sweater tights, paired with brown and black-toed leather boots. To complement the pale grayish cream of the sweater, I chose clear lucite accessories: my cascading waterfall lucite necklace, an oblong lucite bangle, and large convex lucite earrings.

It is a pleasure to be home, to relax and be lax, sleep in, eat too much, drink just enough wine. It is different this year: my sister, her husband, and the new beautiful baby are not able to join us in person around the table. She is just too young to travel, especially when also considering a rambunctiously adorable labradoodle puppy, Siouxsie. I miss them, but wish them a comfortable and happy Thanksgiving meal this evening, in their warm, cozy home. The filmmaker joined his best friend and band mate up in Rhode Island for the week, staying at the picturesque home in Newport, also surrounded by friends and loving souls. I am so glad and so thankful to be surrounded by such incredible people, to love and be loved.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

California Dreaming

One of the occasionally, not entirely rare boons of frequent travel for business is the fortuitous intersection of work and pleasure, professional and personal, when happenstance and destiny align to create an opportunity. When I was out west in California the other week, to attend a large medical conference, the planets were shifted in my favor: I would be in San Francisco, and could orchestrate a subsequent visit with one of my best and most lovely friends, Katherine. She, along with her dashing Partner-in-Crime, were ideal hosts, welcoming me into their newest new apartment, after a hasty move up one floor in their original building due to a slight structural inconvenience.

This was my first trip to San Francisco and to Berkeley, and I am so thankful to have shared the experience with Katherine, who has spent the past few months out there. While I am frequently saddened that she is the furthest away from my physical being that she has ever been these past six years or so, since our first day of university as fresh and bewildered new students, I was so excited to be able to absorb a small glimpse of her new life in a beautiful new town.

Following my conference, Katherine met me in downtown San Francisco, and we trekked the streets in search of sustenance, taking a few photographs meanwhile. The art deco skyscrapers and the purposeful design elements meet wilderness of Yerba Buena Park were inspiring; the buildings are not so claustrophobic and daunting as out east, so I was able to actually imbibe some of the details of the towers.

Initially, we attempted to dine, in elegance and sophistication on an outdoor terrace, at this fine establishment, one that surely boasted a fine cocktail menu and decadent delights. Alas, we arrived at the exactly incorrect and imprecise time of middle to later afternoon, just as the kitchen had cooled for lunch, and too early for any hopes of dinner. Terribly foiled.

Some brief, and surprisingly silent, other than our own giggles and banter, moments later, we were out in Berkeley, delighting in the quick and easy slider and tater tot combination from Phil's Sliders. Precariously placed between delicate sesame buns, the beef sliders featured cheese, local organic lettuce, and a mysterious, though not entirely unfamiliar, special sauce, evocative of, but vastly superior to, another more widely known, and quickly prepared, version.

Despite our ravenous attack on these miniature burgers, we were able to muster the courage and fortitude to continue our delicacy quest, as we are generally not ladies who deign from abundant and healthy meals, traveling to Pizzaiolo in Oakland for dinner. Pizzaiolo is an unassuming but smart wood-fired pizza house; the atmosphere is cool and comfortable, blending with the tenor of the terrain, with the body language of the natives. It is a great neighborhood joint for anyone who loves food. The cocktails were strong and unique, and the pizzas featured an array of delectable vegetable, meat, and cheese toppings.

At this point on my trip, my time had predominantly spent within the confines of the San Francisco conference center; I always enjoy seeing a new city, and with its stark hills and lackadaisical temperament, San Francisco was pleasant and interesting, however, I had not really formed any strong opinions, positive or otherwise. That all changed as soon as Katherine and I woke up, and following a brief breakfast at a local organic grocer and a haphazardly packed picnic lunch, drove to Napa. I fell in love with Napa, very intensely, which is not at all surprising, given my strong affinity for bucolic landscapes, fresh air, and good wine. The terrain moves in waves somehow different and foreign to those shaping the land here in the east, the trees are different, their shapes, how their bodies bend with the wind, towards the sun. My new life goal is to be able to afford a few acres out here, a plot that can become home to a rustically elegant home. Sigh; a girl can dream.

Our first destination was Artesa, a vineyard recommended by my longtime friend, and now mutual friend to Katherine, Diana, mostly for the grandiose views and the subtle architecture. The angles are harsh, a geometry that is far from organic, yet it seems that the façade of the building was intended to jut out sharply from the hillside, a natural and beautiful accident. Surrounding the building were various sculptures, encompassed by clear fountains, all obviously artificial and yet, again, somehow so perfectly apt. The wine was a bit above mediocre, pleasant to taste, though, for the price, not worth indulging in an entire bottle; with such a lovely landscape, any wine can be enjoyed, and I was certainly in good company.

The kind and jocular lady pouring the wine for us thought we were sisters; I think it is the similarly styled, loosely curled hair.

Our next stop was a vineyard specializing in sparkling white and rosé wines; the name of the winery currently eludes me, but that is a minor detail when greeted with this impressive, faux-French, Louis XIV chateau edifice, built a could of decades ago.

Brown leather boots, jeans, and a black blouse were an ideal outfit for a day of romping about and tasting wines.

Thankfully, the sparkling wines were not overtly sweet, and ranged from semi-dry to dry. I enjoy the effervescence, especially with oysters; sparkling always creates a more festive illusion with any event.

The moon loomed softly over the roofs, the sky still warm with the sun. Beautiful.

After the two vineyards, Katherine and I ventured into downtown Napa, and stopped by a local wine tasting bar, Vintner's Collective. The Southern belle working behind the counter was knowledgeable, refreshingly down-to-earth, and a total doll. They specialized in less common vintages, prepared in smaller batches, generally only a few hundred or less cases. I bought two bottles of red, one that Katherine and I shared later in my trip, and look forward to opening the second, a full Zinfandel.

Berkeley apparently has a number of young men, or older men, named Phil, who are entrepreneurial and successful proprietors; Phil'z Coffee features delicious, slow drip brews, a whole plethora of flavors and tones to suit any palate. I realized this only after I attempted to order a latte, since it has been eons since I have enjoyed decent espresso. With a smooth but powerful flavor, I did not miss the espresso.

This cinnamon bun deserved a photograph.

Thursday evening, after a long afternoon of strolling the streets of Berkeley and doing some shopping, we went back into San Francisco and explored the Mission. Unfortunately, this shop was closed; I was seriously tempted by this cephalopod.

A wine tasting and cheese bar, featuring local wares from the western states.

Hopefully, this coming spring, I will be able to head back; California is such a wonderful change of pace, and I would love an opportunity to catch up again with dear friends.