Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fashion for the Filmmaker

This past Christmas, I gave the filmmaker a few new sweaters and a crisp button-down from Uniqlo, along with a surprise present. In one single shopping experience, perusing gifts for my brother and boyfriend, I decided that Uniqlo will definitely transplant the Gap or Banana Republic in the future for my arsenal of classic, simple basics. Fit, cut, and material at Uniqlo far exceeds those at the popular, once reliable American brands. The filmmaker has a slighter, slimmer build, and surely welcomed a snugger, more flattering fit, quite the contrast to the billowy folds of so many items for men at other large franchise shops. Unfortunately, he is still disappointingly adamant about his dislike for any and all denim, but, at least for now, he fully and enthusiastically embraces lambswool and cashmere, and looks remarkably dapper in a cardigan sweater.

(image taken from That Kind of Woman)


These wildly bombastic cat eyed sunglasses put my Nina Ricci frames from France to shame, a deep, dark, boring shame.

(image courtesy of the filmmaker)

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Phenomena of the Seasons

A couple of days ago, I turned 26, a birthday without any real associated milestone, other than a slow and inevitable pass over the hump towards real adulthood. Normally, my birthday includes a healthy dose of red wine and wallowing, definitely a generally unjustified bout of melancholy and dread for time passing. This year, rebuking wasteful energy and negativity, I was imbued with cheer and a French chardonnay, surprisingly pleasant; I decided to relish in the triumphs of my past year, accomplishments personal and professional, and plan for new adventures for the coming months. Traveling to two new continents, visiting Paris for the first time, forging a constantly changing and growing relationship with my first niece, and continuing to strengthen my bonds with dear friends, both old and new, have been incredible successes as I reflect. Failing to properly organize my photographs, and my thoughts, on my various travels the past year has been a source of personal disappointment, all the more motivation to garner some fervor, and steal a few hours from another pastime. Not spending quality time with a sheet of blank paper, a blue pen, a black pen, a pencil, a quill and a spill of ink, anything to scrawl, scribble, jot, was another bit of shame, and one which I hope to resolve.

Quite a number of weeks ago, a friend of mine from university sent me a brief message, one sentence, four words: "Tell me you're writing." Truthfully, I have awkwardly avoided all response, since, the answer is, barely. Occasionally, some ramblings here, the start of something that could maybe eventually a poem there, on a cocktail napkin. Nothing formal, particular structured, or, worst of all, regular. Steady. Actual participation in a craft I so revere, and frequently, pretend to indulge in. Certainly, this is not a revelation, spurred by too much crab dip, or a stiff martini, during a birthday dinner. This is not new. Still, the opportune time of reflection and establishing new goals for my life and continued evolution lends to a renewed commitment to endeavor forward, set new goals, simply and namely, to write.  Because I hate to think that, permanently, my response to this friend, whom I admire, is a peremptory and pathetic shrug. Or silence.

When I started this particular project almost two years ago, it sprung from a place of desperation and shock and confusion: I had, falsely, as it was later revealed, been let go from my job, along with the rest of my colleagues, seemingly abandoned and left to flounder for something new in a strange suburban town, which I did not even care for. Since then, it was developed into a space where I feel more comfortable sharing anything and nothing; posting various photographs of earrings or grand meals, almost never cooked by me, making arcane allusions to biological mechanisms or favorite poems, or sifting through complex emotions with my words, often rather inelegantly. Essentially, a spot for me to blow off some creative steam, to just write unfettered, unconcerned of the jibberish, or frankly, of an audience, beyond myself. While I have no intentions of ending this little jaunt among the digital world, I do hope to persevere with other, more daunting projects, which carry importance, a sort of substantive pursuit without which I feel sluggish and dull, timid though I may be.

(image taken from BibliOdyssey)  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mollusks and Pearls

I will emphatically admit, again, that I am totally inept at those just-because presents; those little tokens that are stumbled upon, and immediately evoke that one particular individual, and it is so flagrantly obvious they must own them. My brother-in-law, David, elevates dapper, pristine dressing to an art form; he regularly bemoans the societal constraints on men and acceptable jewelry and other ornamentation. Needless to say, he adores cuff links. While his collection is already quite enviable, adding a few more unique pieces is never discouraged, so when I discovered this golden clam shells with miniature pearl detailing, I swooned. They are nothing fancy, the material rather plain and typical, but such a different, and amusing, shape, I had to go for it, take the plunge, praying and hoping that what I found to be darling, David did not find to be cheesy. For me, they exude a decadent, yet simple, delicacy. We exchanged presents with the family the afternoon following his company Christmas party; his enthusiasm and gratitude seemed genuine, but my free expert baby-sitting skills.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Laziness, or, Severe Style

Now that my heavy blunt bangs have dissipated among the wild mane of the rest of my hair, as a result of laziness and a crazed schedule, I have convinced myself that I need to start wearing a severe side part and long, loose waves. The Veronica Lake. Demure and sweet, but also a big mischievous and conniving.  And, apparently, perfectly paired with growling, taxidermied polar bears.

(image taken from Film Noir Photos)

Dreaming of a White Boxing Day

Snow continues to pour from the sky, after a mostly white, then mostly melting, Christmas, here in the Land of Pleasant Living; perpetually ill-prepared, I left my boots at home. Flannel-clad and comfortable, I stay cuddled in my refuge, a down-comforter covered bed.

(image taken from A Well Traveled Woman)

Monday, December 24, 2012

'Tis the Season

For most office environments, the generic and all-encompassing holiday season means passing around a collection to get the big bosses in charge something they do not care for, want, or need, like a personalized coffee mug or a cheap, not silk tie, and, likely, colleagues are obligated to seek and purchase a humorous or somehow thoughtful, but still cheap, present for a forced gift exchange. Cynical though my tone is, these paltry traditional pastimes of contrived cheer can be quite fun, and often are wonderful distraction from a critical task at hand, like completing a client deliverable on time and per expectations. 

In my office, our general office manager and human resources guru is a saint; she works tirelessly to support us, sometimes very thanklessly, and is a completely selfless, giving woman. She pats our shoulders as we moan and groan about internal squabbles, about incompetent and frustrating clients, she doles advice on what is the best garage in the surrounding area to take your pathetic car, she maintains an endless supply of chocolate for us all, and she ensures our kitchen is stocked with a few essentials and is tidy, chores that are not part of her job description. She can talk sweetly and genuinely to anyone and anything; I love listening to her share stories, share her bounty of seemingly infinite practical wisdom, gleaned from experience.

Naturally, my colleagues and I collected to present her with a small token of our appreciation, but I wanted to get her a something extra, something unnecessary and superficial and maybe a little bit glittery, just for her. A single mom of two great, but surely occasionally infuriating, adolescents, spending excess time or money on herself is simply not on her radar. She adores long, bold necklaces, so when I came upon this silver beaded chain with a jingling tassel, I snatched it up feverishly. No matter who the recipient, or how well I know them, I am generally fairly self-conscious about presents that are not either a specific request, or a consumable item, like wine, chocolates, gift certificates to favorite unique restaurants. With this necklace, I vacillated between my excitement and my certainty that it would be the perfect match for Judy, and a sort of looming nervous energy that she would be appreciative, but not actually enjoy the gift.

Before leaving for the holiday to head to visit my family, I gave the present, simply wrapped in a silver bag. She beamed, and I beamed back. This season, I have been very guilty, of over indulgence in my own petty worries, of failing to recognize, or remember, what is truly important, in the month of December, and always: generosity, kindness, truth, integrity. Ignoring the almost incessant white noise of societal expectation, of professional concerns, to just relish in simple, beautiful joys. Giving this very small token to someone I care for, and who I respect deeply, seeing her smile with her lips and with her eyes, rekindled a fire within, one that must burn brightly and vibrantly to truly live and love.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


To walk alongside this man, for hours, a slow and constant trudge through frozen snow, some condensed breath, hot and heaving, some perculating sweat from the effort of the slow trajectory. To soar above him, with the eagles, a brilliant and purposeful topography, meticulous, beautiful.

(images taken from My Modern Metropolis)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Dew Drop

Church sales are, in this amalgamation of predominantly random rants, occasionally cogent collected thoughts, eminent. For any individuals, boy or girl, guy or doll, gentleman or lady, who fancy themselves a connoisseur of costume jewelry and have not attended at least one church bazaar, I shake my proverbial head. Wrought with wrinkled and dotty old ladies, volunteering and vaguely helpful, some of the best and cheapest pieces of ridiculous costume jewelry, most likely formerly in the wardrobe of one of the wandering, church-going women who now wear their drooping neck-skin as statement, have been discovered in the basement of a strange neighborhood church. While I certainly benefit from the copious treasures that are bound to be unearthed, typically, I feel no guilt about spending money at these sales either, knowing that the money either funds new wooden pews or is donated.

These bronze leaves were attractive to me for how different they are from the rest of my collection; delicate and, like some of my other favorite pieces, a sublimation of organic and artifice. Small pearl embedded just in the crux of the fold, immediately evoking pools of dew, ephemeral globes of pure water on a plant pedestal, waiting to dissipate in the warming sun.

Thursday evening relaxation soundtrack: Instrumentals Clams Casino 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Outfit for a Monday: Pearls Spun

Clothing myself in muted neutrals, from top to bottom, is quite easy with my wardrobe; while I relish the simplicity, I like to add a few facets, usually in the form of bodacious necklaces and emboldened tights. This multi-strand of taupe pearl beads was a recent acquisition, from this past weekend, during some errands shopping for gifts for others. Normally, I am very strict about staying focused on my agenda, finding something thoughtful and suiting yet still a bit unexpected for those I care about; still, occasionally, the eye wanders, lays upon something too good to forgo. The necklace is originally from J. Crew, though I bought it for a significantly reduced price from a local consignment shop. The hordes of people who fawn over J. Crew are too many to count; the aesthetics and the quality are certainly above mediocre, often even admirable and worth laudations. For example, the tightly tied knots in between each individual bead in the above necklace. Still, for me, what is truly brilliant and worthy of effusive commentary is their impeccable, impregnable brand strategy, bolstered by particular targeted marketing and campaigning, the construction of a elusive but accessible Americana style, at once timeless and spunky and unique, which, despite, and perhaps because of, the often ridiculous price points, the masses continue to crave and consume.

For this rather plain and ordinary light camel sweater, subtly embellished with a scattering of minute eyelets, the loose whorls of pearls was perfect; ultimately, to create some dimension, I twisted the strands, so rather than lay flat, they formed an almost chromatin-like structure. Tertiary organization.

Staying within the confines of my toffee-toned camel theme, I chose this beautifully curved almost cuff bracelet, a lovely piece from Vietnam, carved from the horn of a cow.

Originally, my intention was to wear deep plum tights with my camel sweater and skirt. After shimmying into my favorite pair, not too far from sausage in a casing, I was much dismayed, alarmed, shamed: a thick knife wound of a run, running wild up my calf toward my knee, tainting one of my dozens of favorite tights. Alas, some thick, nimble thinking was required; I faltered a bit, somehow landing on forest green.

Early morning dance soundtrack: Jamie XX Boiler Room Mix

Monday, December 17, 2012

May Your Days Be Merry and Bright

Rain has fallen from skies of steely slate for over twenty-four hours, an atmosphere dank and dreary. This year has been nearly impossible for me to grab the Christmas spirit, wrap my body around the comfort of nostalgic tradition; unrelenting rains do not help this propensity to bury myself in work and worries. Nonetheless, celebrate the season, or at least celebrate a season, any season, any day, just this beautiful piece of life, I must. I have been indulging in my favorite Ronnybrook egg nog from upstate New York, fortified with a healthy douse of bourbon; most of my shopping is complete, and I am pleased with the bounty. Some argue against the notion of purchasing presents solely for a commercially designated time of year, as though out of habit, rather than from a true and genuine desire to give. While I can appreciate that, and concur, still, a time to reflect, to embrace those important, near and dear, lavish them with a few tokens, cannot be all bad, even if a bit contrived and hyped.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Outfit for a Thursday: Brooch Engineering

I have owned this thick black shawl-collared jacket-like cardigan from Banana Republic for ages, though, never had worn it as regularly as the simple and timeless style warrants because the button enclosures were a bit loose and, invariably, after a few minutes the cardigan would be draping agape, forlorn and dejected. Throughout a busy, long day, certainly many clothing pieces have to be slightly readjusted, for either comfort or function or aesthetics; spending a predominance of the day re-buttoning, however, is not pleasant. Embarrassingly, it took me a few seasons before I came to this subtle and brilliant epiphany: use a brooch to keep the jacket closed. Easy adoption and absorption of engineering principles mostly runs through the veins of my family, though, I suppose runs more vigorously within my siblings than within myself.

This delicately ornate golden flower brooch was a surprise gift from a friend of mine at university; we lived together in a suite of five girls during our sophomore year. She was an interior design student, whose fastidious and glamorous and seemingly effortless style, at once condescending and accessible, I had always admired. So, when she placed in my room a few brooches she no longer wore, I was ecstatic and grateful. Amidst my mountains of costume jewelry, certain individual pieces, particularly those I have had for longer, are neglected. This is definitely one of them. Now, with my innovative solution for my superficial sartorial woe, I will be displaying this flower more frequently.

Prone to wearing an amalgamation of rather neutral colors, I paired the black cardigan with a bronzed brown skirt, with just a hint of gold thread embedded throughout. I also chose these bronze-gold rhinestone earrings, also rather intricate in their make, and a bit evocative of the voluptuous folds of flower petals. One of the pair is missing a single rhinestone; I wear them anyway, without care. There is probably a metaphor embedded in here, encapsulating my personality: glittering, complex, but missing a single rhinestone.

Saturday morning coffee soundtrack: Symphony Number 4 Johann Brahms

Friday, December 14, 2012

Wear My Love

Sometimes, more frequently than I could ever imagine, in my fantasies and in my dreams, the world awakes to pure, unadulterated tragedy and devastation. Something ugly and hateful almost beyond recognition. On these days, I wish I could wear my love, like a thick fur coat, warm and comforting. Wear my love for my family, my filmmaker, my friends near and far, for harrowing poetry, for provocative paintings, for new terrain and new adventures, for everything beautiful and simple and good, like something soft and visceral, for everyone to see and to touch and share. Wear this, and embrace my beloved ones, all at once, firm in my two open arms.

(image taken from EHB)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Oxygenated Blood, Redux

I am weak. After months of mocking monotonous and mechanical marketing messaging, promoting not a single brand, or specific item, but a particular breed of color, jocularly jeering at the contrived content of online fashion media, I relent. The blogger behemoth, which, so transiently, zeroes in on a target, pummels, then dissipates with an equally impressive force, is a mostly idle indulgence, in which I partake. Lately, with the inundation of repeated imagery, lack of spark, rather than a source of visual ignition, it is a more a source of assured cathartic numbing. Naturally, from here, the confines of safe and wise hindsight, I can assert that my mental promise to not succumb to the oxblood phenomenon is like my resolutions to never shop at Zara, or to start actually planning all my meals for the entire week on Sunday morning: theoretically sound concepts, which embed themselves in my semi-conscious thinking, constantly appealing, but ultimately a lie.

So, my lame solution to appear not a complete hypocrite: dabble. With tights. Once the initial pangs of guilty consumer concession weaned, bringing the tightly wrapped tights sheepishly and furtively to the cash register, I had to admit that owning a beautiful, nearly red wine tinted pair of hosiery far surpassed my predominantly undeserved condescension towards commercial fashion trends, social media marketing schemes, and actually sheep-like behavior of so many bloggers. Oxblood consummates so elegantly with gray, with browns, with camels, with navy and black and cream; resistance was futile. So, completing the cycle, in some type of supremely superficial and loosely accurate interpretation of the ancient philosophic and religious notion out of destruction, creation is born, or something else equally irrelevant and poorly metaphorized, I had to share my nonsense two cents. While the rest of the digital world has moved forward, with the seasons, to carefully constructed and exorbitant gift guides, I proclaim, without endorsement or sponsor, I adore the color of blood, replete and rich with oxygen molecules.

Post-champagne, ridiculous rambling soundtrack: Music for TV Dinners: the '60s (compilation)   

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Christmas Memory

The other weekend, Elizabeth and her husband David decorated their seasonal Christmas tree; a natural and biological extension of their nuclear family, I was invited to help. Aside from actually selecting ornaments, for them all glass and many hand-blown, keeping a vigilance on the naughty pets and cuddling the baby are required. Unfortunately, our cosmic schedules were misaligned: I spent the Saturday working furiously, they bemoaned my absence but nevertheless created a marvelous Christmas spectacle. I stopped over on Sunday evening, for a welcome requisite family dinner, a respite from the tensions and migraines of work deadlines. Their tree was an electric fire, large opalescent spheres and crystalline glass pieces refracting glints and sparkles, jettisoning the electromagnetic power between them, creating something tangible, and seemingly systemic. Donned with gay apparel, the tree seemed more alive. 

When we were quite young, Elizabeth and I, along with Adam, barely of age and size to mention, our family bought our Christmas tree at a large lot near our suburban neighborhood, a sort of municipal state grounds used for the annual fair, for esoteric computer parts conventions that lured pale geeks from their basement, for lavish pet shows that vetted pretentious cat and dog fanciers from across the land. During December, each year, it was an artificial forest. A luxurious carpet of Fraser Fir, Blue Spruce, Virginia Pine, Douglas Fir. A clean aroma permeating, overcasting the exhaust from the busy thoroughfare. I do not really recall any specific or significant events, more so lingering visceral memories: pine perfume, cheap peppermint from those small candy canes distributed at almost any and ever commercial establishment throughout the Christmas season. I am not particularly or terribly fond of peppermint now; then, I remember eating them with relish, trying to fit oblong bits into my mouth, licking away the red coloring until the sugared carcass remaining was smooth, white as bone. 

Also lingering: fleeing, brief escapes, jumping or flailing from now-empty Christmas tree stump-holders, these squat metal cylinders sprouting almost mechanically from the earth in a very perfect Cartesian plane. From one miniature tower to the next, I would jump. Each time, invariably, my giant-sized child-foot would be ensnared in the gaping mouth of the holder, at which point, I believe, I wailed until my family could locate me, pull the limb free, to safety, always a bit roughly. Some force was necessary. As we grew a bit older, we began to journey further out, beyond the familiar confines of franchised suburban sprawl, to actual Christmas tree farms, where the roots seep into the ground, where boots and a sharpened hand-saw were worn and carried. These trees were fresher, lived longer in that corner of our living room, without dropping quite the volume of needles.

The past few years, I have decorated a minute plastic Christmas tree for my apartment, about three feet high. It has stood atop various chairs or tables, usually placed before a large window. Crunchy, a bit prickly, dyed the familiar evergreen, it evokes no real visceral reaction, at least while naked. Once adorned, even though I usually begrudge the task as another chore, I am always pleased; I feel prepared for Christmas and my spirits raised. Normally, my little tree is up by now, dressed and festive. Lately, like the other weekend with my family, it just seems to not fall into line with my schedule, something that perpetually grows further uncontrollable and inconsolable, some behemoth leviathan of tedious responsibility. Part of the hesitation, subconscious and external, in the form of fluid obligation, is that, for me, always, decorating the tree is a communal activity. Something accomplished surrounded by those I love, and who love me in return. Tonight, hopefully, in the company of the Vince Guiraldi Charlie Brown Christmas album and a strong egg nog, I will embrace the season, embrace the endearingly pathetic plastic, and forgo the other stress, jump away, with abandon, without fear of what may come when I hit the ground. Someone is always around to lend a hand, pull me up from folly.

(image taken from A Well Traveled Woman) 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Pantone 17-5641

And let the emerald visual bombardment commence...

(image taken from Proven Winners)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tartan Tedium, Rhinestone Rut

Unlike my love for piano jazz, foie gras, Spanish red wines, Anne Carson, John Cheever, rich physical and intellectual sustenance, my sartorial style, in some respects, is inconstant, temperamental, vulnerable to whim and fancy and long cycles of comfortable monotony. Inspiration can easily be garnered from typical sources, catalogs, digital look books, editorials obvious and obscure, from the heavy racks of boutiques or consignment shops, one laden with a contrived floral perfume, the other with the aroma of the boudoir of a strange and dead aunt. Unlike those intricate neuronal pathways, fired, formed, forged by persistent brain chemicals, my exterior can be readily molted, abandoned, changed, evolved. This clothing-skin, this shield of nakedness, can be removed forever, or can be shed quickly, cleaned, donned once more. Bending new brain coils, thinking, this takes further effort.

Lately, I almost exclusively embrace wool tartans and other plaid patterns, once belonging to men, some from my own life, some from the lives of others, then, in furious contradiction, slathered with costume rhinestone and pearls, with a red lip stain. Though redundant, perhaps, I could choose a less comely or less classic rut; heavy wool and bits that sparkle seem never to fade from consumerist envy. Overall, I feel captured, caught in some mental whirlpool of stagnation, manifesting in this refusal to browse my extensive wardrobe, in a perpetual return to familiar fiction by John Updike or Raymond Carver, reliance like an old but faraway and distant friends. Each night, I stare at my copy of The Dream Songs, shudder, wrap myself in a childhood quilt, attempt to burrow my shoulders into the mattress, passed down from my grandmother. Maybe I will begin tomorrow. 

Iconography: Dave Brubeck

(image taken from BBC)

(image taken from Vail Summer)

(image from Tune Up Space)

(image taken from PRX)

(image taken from Moving Image Archive News)

Perhaps it is because I first listened when I was rather young, to me, the opening to Time Out is one of the most memorable and recognizable sonic experiences I have had, particularly within the wild and wonderful jazz genre. I had never the great pleasure of seeing him actually perform live, but those first few moments, I could imagine an elegantly furious dance upon the white and black keys, hear it in my spine, that melody frantic and optimistic, a pure unadulterated energy. Staccato, and smooth, simultaneously. Dave Brubeck, along with other genius musical giants Miles Davis and Duke Ellington, was my foray into the jazz scene, this passionate and dynamic, sometimes maniacal, sometimes elegiac and tranquil, original art form, into its textures and its characters and its infinitely rich history. Today, he passed away, joining in the heavens, in some other celestial or even visceral world those other beautiful pioneers, just one day shy of his birthday. A long and full life, one that will continue to be studied and admired, jazz amateurs and connoisseurs alike eternally grateful for his oeuvre.   

Monday, December 3, 2012

Art Deco, Revitalized

This bangle embodies, and embellishes upon, all the stylistic attributes that are associated with the nebulous and iconic art deco movement, other than, lamentably, bakelite; this bastion of original French art deco jewelry design was forgone, in favor of gold, onyx, and diamonds. I am generous, so, I can forgive the team over at Ralph Lauren, and can assure them I would still wear and adore this magnificent piece of bodacious bodily armor. 

(image taken from Vogue France)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Time Piece Lusting, Encore

After spending a preponderance of my precious cubicle time today salivating over large and stylized analog watches for men, I came to the embarrassingly slow realization that I should just put one on my list for jolly old Saint Nick. Alas, most of the beautiful time pieces I yearn for are also beautifully expensive. While, naturally, I have been horribly nice all year long, I may not have been that nice. So, the gleaning for something desirable, drool-worthy, mostly practical, and wallet-friendly continues.

Afternoon shopping soundtrack: These Things Take Time Molly Nilsson

(image taken from The Pursuit Aesthetic)

Femme Fatale

I think I would call your vibe, at times, "fatal attraction"... sexy and alluring, but with the possibility of some sort of evil and calculating genius/madwoman type behind those eyes.

I am not entirely sure that those words are not completely biased; regardless, definitely one of the more bizarrely beautiful compliments I have received in recent times. Murderous, no, but maniacal, certainly, at times; hopefully, stubbornly and relentlessly passionate and fearless, always.

(image taken from Virtual History) 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Outfit for a Wednesday: African Accessory

Straying from my typical consignment and vintage shopping haunts, I discovered this necklace in the corner of a small boutique in Stellenbosch, South Africa; an array of earthen-toned stones and natural materials, this piece adds a refreshing variety to my costume collection of garishly posturing gold and opaque bakelite. Though a spectrum of soft browns, this necklace is wonderfully textured and the weight of it alone seems to exude a powerful opulence. Some of the stones are polished smooth, pristine, while others are raw, as though freshly plucked from some cavern. It is unlike anything else I own, unique, and so, very superficially, embodies the experience I had in South Africa. When I was younger, I was foolishly actively repulsed by pairing what I deemed to be two neutrals; black and navy, or black and brown, or brown and navy, was some type of carnal sartorial sin. Now, particularly with warmer, lighter navy blues, partnered with either black or chocolate brown, I indulge in the joys of crazed chromatics. Yesterday, I chose a new casually silken DKNY navy sweater as the background for this sentimental statement piece.

While in Stellenbosch, lazily strolling on a late Saturday afternoon before heading to a fantastically decadent dinner at Rust en Vrede winery, we were a bit disappointed and surprised to learn that most of the quaint and darling shops were closed. Persevering, I still managed to find a number of trinkets and was able to sufficiently stimulate the local economy. 

For a completely international and exotic appeal, I also wore this thick cream bakelite bangle, a treasure miraculously cheaply salvaged at the old Marché aux Puce St. Ouen north of Paris. This is the easiest and most versatile bracelet I own, though, that may be a statement that depends on my mood; my bracelet portfolio runs quite deep.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Autumn Sweater

New day, new challenges, new frustrations; the sun has emerged, already leaving only vulnerable and scant remnants of the first true snow of the season. Yesterday, I lamented, wanting nothing more than a warm, tropical escape. Today, I still welcome and yearn for escape, but I realize it is more solitude that I seek, rather than a balmy environment. It has been years since I have strolled along a beach during the colder months, the wet, chilled sand giving pressure against the soles of the feet, the waves more violent and yet more tranquil. Bikinis and lotion are forgone, replaced with thick knit sweaters, cashmere scarves, heavy rubber boots. During the off season, or just in more cold climates, beaches always appear more desolate, more isolating. 

(image taken from A Conversation on Cool)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Snow Slush Summons Winter

After a short night of sleep, interspersed and interrupted with bizarre dreams, rampant with lawyers drinking light wheat beer from glass blender jars, I awoke to a wet, heavy blanket of slushed snow, matter in a strange transient state between solid and liquid. Groaning, reluctantly, I went about my morning, making coffee, selecting earrings, but made sure to incorporate a thick black sweater and thick black sweater tights into my outfit. Nearly every day while living in Ithaca, I, joined by my many peers, would traipse through clouds of gray snow and slush under gray skies; walking through the elements, though frigid, visceral, had an almost meditative quality to it. Collective, communal, simultaneous misery and revelry in the harshly beautiful climate, at once oppressive and refreshing. Driving through the elements is merely precarious and dangerous and threatening. As I maneuvered my car adroitly to the office this morning, watching the snow accumulate and stick, I wish for nothing more than a teleportation device, to whisk me away in time and space, to some isolated tropical beach, without cell phone or computer or other mechanized communication device to haunt and torment me. Just a blanket and a broad-brimmed hat and a bottle of coconut-fragrant lotion.

(image taken from Fred and Ginger Vintage)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Revlon I Love You, But You're Bringing Me Down

A few weeks back, I verbally lamented the loss of my favorite true red nail polish shade, Frankly Scarlet from Revlon purchased ages ago; had I been able to foresee the future, the impermanence of this delectable shade and its ever brilliant name, I would have bought enough bottles to last a few decades. My despair and my disappoint subsided after my vehement rant and futile plea to Revlon. Last week, before boarding the train and heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, I finally did scrape the last tinted dregs from my lone and lonely glass bottle, having to tilt it at odd, often precarious angles to coax the precious color from the dreaded bottom. It was finished. There were no tears flowing, but, I am sure more than one heavy sigh escaped from my drooping lips. 

Now, there are a few other shades from Revlon that I also trust and enjoy; I am particular about my nail polish, and avoid any color that departs too dramatically from a classic red or a deep wine. The desire for countless women to don awkward shades of olive and khaki and tan, giving their nails a look of fungus overgrowth, besides a perpetuation of obvious trends, continues to elude me. I had surrendered hope of finding a replacement for my favorite classic red, when, during a reunion brunch with my childhood friends Morgan and Joanna, I noticed that Morgan was wearing a nearly identical shade. Could it be that Frankly Scarlet was secretly being manufactured, packaged, distributed, and marketed solely on the eastern shore of Maryland, right to the local shops where she now regularly frequents? No; rather, OPI had released a similar shade, that perfect red with a subtle, subtle sultry hint of golden glitter. Revelation; my eyes were opened to change and to new possibilities.

Today, strengthened by the power of two margaritas and a hearty scrambled egg burrito brunch, I strolled with my sister to her neighborhood apothecary and scooped up three OPI bottles: two in my favorite classic red, one a newer, sort of Bordeaux wine. Admittedly, I did first glance through the Revlon racks, scoured quickly for that elusive and now nostalgic bottle, in vain. My betrayal with OPI soothed the pain.

(image taken from My Wedding Color)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Though You May Not Drive A Great Big Cadillac

Today, I am thankful for what I got: a loving family, an adorably beautiful baby niece, an infinitely supportive and kind boyfriend, fun and loyal and true friends scattered near and far around the world, and a lifestyle with a, mostly, balanced proportion of hard work and indulgence. I am thankful for continued travels, for new exciting adventures, for those people, big and small, strange and dear, superficial and profound, that I have met and engaged with along the way. I am thankful that I brought my old but trusted car into the shop just in time to replace my worn, and now dangerous, tires, that the mechanics there were honest and straightforward and exceedingly helpful. I am thankful that my mother and sister are such incredible cooks, always willing to share with me their delicious bounty. I am thankful for my education, which served to bolster and solidify a life of intellectual curiosity and passion, of learning and discovery. For timeless classics, for evolution and adaptation and flexibility, for tradition with new growth. For the words I speak, the stories I tell and those others share with me. For the clean air I breathe and a steadily beating heart.

(image taken from Dying for Chocolate)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Gracious Good-Bye, or, Dropping Like Flies

Life has, succinctly, been hectic lately: my car needs four new tires, which is a critical concern, considering I was a thin slice away from blow out; the Christmas season is blatantly looming, the first few popular carols already trickling out of the speakers of the pharmacy and the grocery stores, an incessant and cheerful reminder that I need to go shopping; and urgent, aggressively timed projects at work are now exacerbated in their already impressive capacity to induce sweat-dripping stress, as two of our esteemed and pleasant colleagues are leaving, onto greener professional pastures. For both, green as in more lucrative and more mentally and emotionally fulfilling. I, unable to resist certain genetically imprinted tendencies of human nature, am green with envy, meanwhile. Petty though this appears, at least I am able to honestly acknowledge it, and I continue to remind myself that happiness and success are not inherently finite commodities, a sort of limited well from which only a few can drink. The potential for happiness and success in others in no way could or should diminish my own future potential opportunities and adventures. It is saddening to see both women go, because they offer so much to our project team in terms of knowledge and competency, but more so because they are each wonderful, kind, generous ladies. They will be missed. And for now, those that remain standing are a lean and, though experienced and bright, somewhat anxious team; the future is always a tenuous prospect.

One of these colleagues is leaving the area, forging a new life further up north in Connecticut. She has been with our company a few years, coming on board only a few months after I have, so, in many senses of the word, she has been an enduring and true comrade in the often surreal world of our corporate culture, as well as that of our clients. Often, the group jokes at the parallels to popular situational comedies, featuring hapless or numb workers and benignly and blissfully ignorant leaders; the reality is frequently more ridiculous than the fictions designed to entertain. The seemingly daily farce can keep life interesting, with the right optimistic perspective, but it can also be wildly draining and uninspiring. We have worked together closely on a number of different projects, and I have always admired her passion and her formidable ethics. Her last day is today, wrapping up loose ends, as I sit abroad a packed, shaking train, heading south to Baltimore for the Thanksgiving holiday; on Monday, she presented me with these pearl and rhinestone earrings. I was pleasantly surprised, a bit taken aback; knowing that she is moving and attempting to consolidate some of the clutter that invariable attracts and clings to our lives, she saw these and believed I should have them, believed I would enjoy them. They are large, bodacious, have both pearl and rhinestone detailing, so, naturally, I swooned and beamed with joy. I wore them yesterday, with a new deep indigo knit dress.

While the act of giving a material item is always so rewarding, for both parties, the selecting of a token and the receiving of something new and shiny and novel, and certainly I was excited to flaunt these earrings, it was the thought that touched me, the careful consideration and understanding of what I like aesthetically, what I would appreciate. I shop consignment regularly, so obviously have numerous items that have resided in the closet or the bureau of someone else; my favorite, though, is an item owned by someone familiar. It makes the piece more familiar, imbues the material with something more of a narrative, of a soul, of the person I know and care for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Lost Art, or, The Impending Holiday Season

My mother always jokes, a bit forlornly, that homemade pie crust is a lost art, a type of sculpting or mold of flour and shortening that is fading to no more than quaint memory. I remember being a little girl, watching as my mother massaged the dough, then rolled and rolled into a perfect flat plane, finally meticulously pinching the edges into a precise pattern of dough divots, a tessellation of sharp angles. It was not until a much older, bordering embarrassing, age that I discovered pie crusts came packaged and pre-prepared, ready to toast to a golden brown in the oven. My mind was opened to cartons of fake canned frosting at about this same time; they both always seemed so excessively and unnecessarily grotesque. I have yet to attempt, let alone master, such a feat, at once simple in concept, yet mythic and grandiose in my own biography.

My maternal grandmother died before I was born; she was no cook, so I am not entirely sure where my mother gleaned her own kitchen secrets, her exact proportions of shortening and flour, other than perhaps an older edition of a Betty Crocker cookbook, the fictional domestic matriarch beaming with baking knowledge. My paternal grandmother loved to cook, and, similarly, took pride in hand-crafted pie crusts, devoted her hands to the similar ritual of soft kneading, of rolling, of delicate persuasion into the pinched pattern. I remember her lemon meringue pies quite distinctly, but, naturally, this time of year would always be the traditional pumpkin. My last times spent with her were Thanksgiving and the Christmas season; there is, always, in these months a tease of melancholy for someone lost, now a contortion of memory and photograph.

While I was an early adolescent, just starting middle school, meandering those long halls, uncertain and gawky, my grandfather grew aggressively ill with leukemia; though my grandmother, Meemaw, had long been diagnosed with a throat cancer, he died before her, in early autumn. It seemed to only take days for his body to wane, to something faded, a sort of fog of the reality of the girth it had been. For her, I can barely remember her body before the superficial senescence, years of feebling bones and muscles and tendons. After his death, Meemaw came to stay with my family. Our last Thanksgiving together was quiet and solemn, the meal predominantly prepared by my mother, save the pumpkin pie dessert. Proud, despite the effort, her movements burdened with a dark mourning for her husband, burdened with dying cells, ironically maniacal in their growth as she seemed to disappear, she mixed the dough, rolled it slowly, a flat plane, repeated that final methodical pattern. Tired but pleased, she turned the pie plate as she shaped, with her sharp fingers pinching a complete circle of crust.

(image taken from A Well Traveled Woman)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Bronx in Frankfurt

Today was one that was particularly trying and aggravating, the type of Monday where before lunch I wish I could abandon my slowly puttering computer and my tedious teleconferences for a liquid lunch. My first legitimate, genuine cocktail, which I distinguish by that which was served in an actual glass, made of something not tinged with a false bubblegum-inspired fruit flavor, and consumed not in secret in a dark basement or a hushed bedroom with my friends, was a classic martini. Fine chilled gin, a touch of dry vermouth, served up with a twist. I was still a few years shy of the legal drinking age, but, as I was generally responsible, and not raised by backwards teetotalers, this posed as minor prohibition. With my limited experience in the varied and lascivious world of libations, mostly dusty unwanted items smuggled from the liquor cabinets of my friends' parents, I was not entirely sure I could muster a martini; I was not entirely sure I even actually liked the taste of alcohol, without a heavy dousing of juice or soda. When the glass was set before me, I hesitated, for a moment. In a restaurant, surrounded by smug family members, I sipped slowly, and finished my drink. I will not pretend I enjoyed it thoroughly, but, I did began my appreciation for gin and for something well-crafted that evening. 

Since then, traditional, classic cocktail recipes have interested me, as well as, seemingly, nearly every other young professional in the general vicinity of a metropolitan area. While trends often cheapen a good thing, occasionally, they are welcome, if it means more attention, fresher and more lush ingredients, and better care are given to drink making. And more knowledge of the old-fashioned, original, and true recipes, ways of doing things taste impeccable then and now. Avid Wall Street Journal readers, my parents introduced me to the old How's Your Drink? columns by Eric Felton, weaving a narrative as he shares the purportedly perfect recipe for a plethora of cocktails, of any and all boozes, bitters, and garnishes. After reading his book of the same name, I learned extensive, but not dull or exhaustive, history of the art of mixing and drinking, and even felt a bit of nationalistic fervor in my love of cocktails, an American innovation.

While I still indulge in a martini, occasionally with a briny olive, frequently with the more classic twist, through Eric Felten I discovered another delicious and classic cocktail that is essentially now completely ignored: the Bronx. The Bronx, named after the zoo, not the borough, at one time ranked with the martini and the Manhattan; these three were the three in cocktails, the trifecta, the musketeers of making merry. While both the martini and the Manhattan remained mainstays in the cocktail circuit, despite, or maybe because of, the, to me, egregious and frequent substitution of vodka for the traditional gin, and the various concoctions since bastardized, the Bronx become antiquated and then forgotten. Still, when I reference the drink at some of my favorite, and reputed, cocktail bars, eyebrows are raised, or a I am met with an incredulous or condescending stare. Thankfully, the ingredients are basic and the proportions easy to remember, so, provided I have ample ice and a clean shaker, I can make my own.

1 1/2 ounces good gin
1 ounce fresh orange juice
1/4 ounce dry vermouth
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
twist of orange to garnish
ample ice to shake

I have never once seen the Bronx featured on any cocktail menu, whether it was the true recipe or even some distant variation thereof. Never. Then, in Frankfurt, in a land known for sweeter white wines and strong heavy beers, on a quiet street, in an unassuming Thai restaurant, which boasted of cocktails, something to always be skeptical of in Europe, where wine and beer, rightfully so, reign supreme, I found listed, as true and classic as can be, the Bronx. I was flabbergasted. After their offerings of curries, the cocktail list was the most extensive on the menu, and featured a display of some of the best of the traditional indulgences. Gimlets. Mai tais. Bloody Marys. Old Fashioneds. And the Bronx. Amidst gilded Buddha statues, rainbow silken robes cloaking lithe and aged Thai servers, and precisely angry guttural German, a bit of American heritage. The beauty of travel and exploration is learning that I can continually be surprised and invigorated with the unexpected. 

(image taken from The Kitchn)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Recent Read: Waltzing the Cat

After reading the first few words of the freshman collection by Pam Houston, Cowboys Are My Weakness, I fell in love, fell in love with her controlled lyricism, her romantic tableau of open skies and tall mountains, her encapsulation of stoic and strong and hurtful men, her sense of unbridled and impassioned adventure, depicted in her highly autobiographical narrators. During a recent jaunt to the local library, I found her second collection, Waltzing the Cat, nestled in between a handful of adult contemporary mystery and crime and romance. Though slightly different in structure than her first collection, following one single protagonist narrator chronologically as she navigates her relationships with friends, lovers, family, and self, as opposed to numerous varied female voices, these stories did not at all disappoint. Enthralled, I journeyed with Lucy O'Rourke, famed adventure and outdoor sports photographer, as she tries to make a life for herself in San Francisco away from her beloved rivers and mountains, as she is trapped in a jalopy sailboat in squall with two men, as she inherits a dilapidated ranch from her estranged maternal grandmother. 

Houston writes with a beautiful precision and a profound sense of integrating the bittersweet humor and pain inherent in the life of a woman seeking compatible, physically and emotionally fulfilling companionship. Though her narrators are women, in this case one particular woman, who grows and lays her triumphs and mistakes on the page, Houston has a profound understanding of the masculine, whether that be manifested in the men Lucy loves and loathes, or the women. Intimacies, both transient and eternal, are portrayed elegantly and truthfully. I believe her stories and believe her characters.

Aside from admiring her astute craft, I violently admire Pam Houston, the woman, the type that I wish I could be and would want to be. A wanton wanderer, willing to take risks and adventure, refusing a stagnant path of security and monotony. Fiercely independent. Unafraid of disappointing her parents, her friends. Like me, born and bred on the east coast, she released the fetters of tradition and responsibility, so potent here, for the west; since being introduced to her work, I fantasize wildly about abandoning this life. I have run a white water rapid river, never summited a craggy peak, and I hope one day to at least relinquish my fear and try, but until then, I can always rely on the work of Houston for a visceral resurgence and a powerful dose of beautiful truth.

(image taken from University of Montana-Western)