Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Boyfriend Bragging

When all of your friends in near geographic proximity, as well as any semblance of interesting culture and entertainment worth pursuing and purchasing, live and exist about a one hour train ride to your east, a typical Friday late afternoon or early evening looks like this: clench your teeth as you tailgate through traffic home as swiftly as possible, put a can of diet soda into your freezer to quickly chill for some much desired en route caffeination, throw some random arguable "necessities" (including at least ten pairs of gold and rhinestone earrings, a leotard, and some maxi skirts, excluding essentials like extra pairs of underwear and your deodorant) into your Diane von Furstenberg weekend shoulder bag, find your latest read and toss it in your leather purse, make sure you have at least three lipsticks, and dash out the door to catch the New Jersey transit train that does not have a layover in delightfully foul Newark, causing an additional forty minute delay to your already ridiculous and inconvenient social commute.

Now, if you keen on detail, in text, you will notice that the above harangued list did not include one critical step: remove said can of soda from your freezer, so that you can, indeed, imbibe it, refresh and revive yourself with this sweet elixir. And so it does not explode. I nearly always recall this crucial task, sip on my soda as I sprint to the station. Last Friday, unfortunately, I did not have my wits about me and was not so lucky.

Physical and chemical properties of matter inform us that water molecules expand as they freeze, transition from a liquid to a solid state; very basic scientific foundation. So, any type of predominantly water-based liquid, trapped in a can of defined volume, trapped in a freezer of low temperatures, will expand and expand, until it can release, in an eruption of  crystalline shards of cola, decorating your frozen fruits and sausages and ice cream pints like splatters of paint from a drunken and wanton artist.

Immediately upon arriving at the station, hearing the engine groan in the distance, I remembered the can. And, knowing that I would not be returning to my apartment that Sunday evening, could only cringe at the certain image of unpleasant clean-up that would await me there. Sure enough, come Sunday, as I returned to my humble dwelling, there were no surprises. I opened the freezer door, the entire cavernous stomach sullied with bits of frozen cola slush. Immediately, I closed the door once more, unable to grapple with the concept of cleaning this horrendous mess; my freezer had already needed, yet another, wipe down from the pathetic remnants of a few popsicles that refused to be scraped free, from a hurricane power outage a year ago. My elbow grease and entire roll of paper towels seemed to do little. Now, it was a complete disaster zone.

Calmly and simply, the filmmaker told me to keep the door closed, and to not worry about it. It would be taken care of. When I arrived home from work Monday evening, masochistically, I slid the door open, peered in. It was spotless. Without a doubt, the cleanest it had ever been since I had moved in. Every surface was a gleaming, almost medicinal white, immaculate and saintly pristine, and he even had tossed some now unwanted food items that had long yearned for the trash. Swooning, seduced by the sultry and alluring appeal of sterile surfaces, I nearly fainted. Some girls are just lucky, I suppose, even when they are sometimes a bit forgetful. 

(image taken from Miss Top Ten Image)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Decadence on a Dime: Smorgasburg and Black and White Cookies

This past weekend, I indulged in the delicious offerings of Brooklyn Flea Food Festival, Smorgasburg, not once, but twice, briefly visiting the Williamsburg location with a few friends on Saturday and then strolling through the DUMBO location with my sister on Sunday. I was able to exhibit some mild restraint each visit, not tearing through the tents buying each and every delicious item. Elizabeth and I planned our trip after a margarita and guacamole outing at a new neighborhood favorite, Gran Electrica, so we figured the prudent thing to do would be to split a sweet. Immediately, we noticed a tent where a man was lathering thick and fresh butter cream frosting onto a large cake cookie, the final touches of the essential Brooklyn black and white cookie. With our waists on our minds, foolishly, we split one. 

Verbose and effusive and bombastic as I often am, I am not entirely certain words can describe how amazing and satisfying this food experience was; pinnacle, watershed, and life changing come to mind. Elizabeth and I continued to reference this cookie, devoured in moments, in mere bites, hours later that afternoon. Despite its short life, I managed to get a rather pathetic piece of photographic evidence. Unfortunately, we were both busy licking and chewing, and I neglected to note the vendor name. Something along the lines of "Cookie God" seems appropriate, but, I am sure, wildly inaccurate. Probably the best 3$ I have spent in years.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Defining Classics: Tuxedo Flats

The other weekend, while enjoying a cheap drink at a local neighborhood dive, my sister and I were idly discussing what we consider to be wardrobe classics, basic staples that endure that quintessential test of time; though they have been a veritable and whirlwind trend the last few years, I nominated tuxedo, or smoking, flats without hesitation. Essentially, the tuxedo flat is an alternative shape and attitude to the infamous ballet flat; both allow for effortless sophistication and comfort, both are chic and pragmatic, with the tuxedo flat exuding a slightly masculinized flair. Each style is marvelously versatile, a chameleon adroitly adapted for most textures, patterns, and colors. For the last two or so years, I have regularly worn my leopard print tuxedo flats, with denim, chinos, maxi skirts, and disappointed to say that, naturally, they are beginning to wear slightly. Shamefully, I admit that they have also started to tint my feet a grimy black after wearing them for any extended period of time; not attractive. I am wishing I had had the foresight at the time to purchase two identical pairs, since the leopard so appropriately partners with much in my closet, but, alas, now I can only shake my fist in frustration at my myopic thinking. Luckily, hopefully, enough designers and enough stores agree with me, that tuxedo flats are and should be a staple, so I will be able to easily replace this pair. I think a red suede would work quite nicely.

Monday afternoon work soundtrack: Until the Quiet Comes Flying Lotus

(image taken from A Well-Traveled Woman)

Friday, September 21, 2012

Park Güell Ponderings

At the beginning of the summer, back in June, a construct that currently seems bizarre and obsolete and foreign as the cool autumn encroaches on the attitude, I visited Barcelona for two weeks. The trip was, as most of mine are, for business purposes, but the close proximity of two separate programs meant that my stay had some wonderful leisure and pleasure time worked into the itinerary. Sort of like a free, loose interpretation of the word, vacation.

On a day warm and clear, I decided to head a bit north, to explore the renowned Park Güell, an expansive grounds designed by celebrated Catalan, Barcelona-bred architect Antoni Gaudi. During my first jaunt through Barcelona, back in April, I had a few precious free moments to visit his beautiful and ever-evolving La Sagrada Familia; the design and the integration of almost clashing and overly bodacious elements were fantastical. So, for a free day this past June, I knew a long walk through the park was a must.


The entrance of the park is guarded by a steadfast and tiled lizard, a dragon, body nonchalantly poised in a diagonal stretch, lips agape, aesthetically and functionally spewing water, a fountain. As they pass, the visitors dip their hands in this stream, a sort of rite of pilgrimage upon entering.


The height of spring melting into summer, flowers still abounded, not yet dessicated by the intense attacks of the sun. Fragrance of lavender floated, permeated, an almost tangible dimension to the atmosphere.

The various erected structures are a juxtaposition of clean geometric samples, tall columns that could be plotted along the metrics of graph paper, and organic molds of matter, columns that appear as though the spewed forth from some volcanic force from the base rock beneath them. In the various catacomb-like open-air rooms, performers sang, worked upon their instruments, hats and open cases prostrate before them, beckoning for coin, sustenance. Urchin-like street vendors sell trinkets, plastic displays of wanton crap; as I was under one of the main canopies of stone columns, there was a sharp whistle, and instantaneously, lightning, each peddler rolled his carpet, shielding the treasures as a pill bug rolls and shields its many legs, and disappeared. I have never in my life seen a space vacate so quickly; they were more nimble than the hawks on the streets of New York selling fake designer purses. Moments after this warning call, some type of officer strolled across the floor, smiling knowingly.

As is typical of most works of architectural magnificence designed by Gaudi, the park is resplendent with tile mosaics. Bits and pieces of new colors and florals and patterns, melded elegantly into a puzzle, cloaking the benches, small crevices of towers, ceilings between arches.

Spiraling, spiring, a labyrinth of seemingly concentric circular paths across hills, I wandered and walked, finally finding myself atop the highest point of the park, a small stone mound on a tall peak. The city of Barcelona stretched before me, then, almost immediately, disappeared into ocean. Like a physical topographic map, molded in minute detail then rolled forth, other architectural monuments and tall buildings rose from the earth, from the plane of red roofs and throngs of people. A place so mysterious and strange to me, sort of wild in its flavors, its rhythms.

The ledge was quite small, and quite high, and though entirely safe, I could not help but feel anxious, uneasy, yet exhilarated, as though I had actually accomplished some impressive athletic feat. This was ludicrous, but, nonetheless, the sweeping visions of land and sea offered a very dear reward. 

Back toward the base of the park, after a slow descent from my summit of triumph, I wandered through the paths around this coral pink house, I believe a home where Gaudi lived for a time; it was difficult to discern, most signage proudly posted in Catalan, translated to Spanish. In the wild gardens here, bizarre and grotesque statues of stone stowed away, occasionally surprising a pedestrian.

This is one, perhaps the only, physical artifact documenting that I have, indeed, traveled to Europe; a sort of pathetic admission, given that I have been over there at least five times in the past year. I, mostly, enjoy traveling alone. It is not always comfortable, in the sense that one must be well acquainted with their textures of their own solace, but it can be tranquil and a challenge, and I am on my own pace for adventuring. It is most certainly not conducive for obtaining any photographs of yourself amidst the beautiful scenery; I prefer photographs with content of interest, and my face is something I am already quite familiar with and have the fortune of being able to regard quite easily in the mirror. Still, it is nice to capture a moment here and there, to send to family and friends. While climbing the steep trail to the top mount, a young group of touring girls asked me, using hand gestures, to take their picture and, naturally, I obliged. They returned the favor, forever memorializing this slightly sweaty but elated vision of myself.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Support GoldieBlox

My beautiful and dear friend, Katherine, in addition to being an incredible jewelry designer, seasoned bourbon drinker, and just all-around fun lady, is an innovative and progressive designer with an acute interest in and passion for attractive and sustainable spaces and forms. She challenges herself, and others, to approach their natural and material environments with thought, foresight for the future and effective re-purposing, and sensitivity and integrity for the origin of innate beauty. Katherine has worked on a variety of fascinating projects, ranging in focus from climate change campaigning and interior design journalism; the past year or so, she has been freelancing for an exciting and, until now, confidential initiative, GoldieBlox. 

GoldieBlox is a remarkable concept, divined and brought to life by Stanford engineer Debbie Sterling and her team: a construction toy set and accompanying story series featuring Goldie and her friends, specifically designed for young girls to foster crucial engineering analytical and problem solving skills and to inspire thriving interest in engineering principles. The overarching unmet need, and mission, was to create a toy that engaged young girls in a similar manner that Legos, Kinex, and Lincoln Logs have with young boys for generations, challenging girls to solve problems, think spatially, and find meaningful solutions to relevant problems, as well as encouraging girls to view the world with a scientific lens. To encourage girls to face a problem, confront it, and resolve it, a lesson valuable that extends in myriad directions beyond building a toy Ferris wheel or a magical vehicle or a house. To understand how solving problems can help her fellow woman, and man. To reassure young girls that she has the confidence and the mind to achieve.

Those other toy brands have attempted, unsuccessfully, to penetrate the young girl market, essentially simply altering the colors of their original products. Those other toy brands did not work to understand the developmental differential between boys and girls, the nuances in learning, the element of narrative so critical to engage curious young girls. In these superficial endeavors by these stalwart toy brands, toys were merely tinted pink and purple, and when products did not sell, even this was abandoned. Debbie, Katherine, and their colleagues, rather, performed extensive research, secondary as well as primary market and product research; they are not simply penetrating a new audience, they are creating and designing for their audience. They are their audience, a bit older and a bit wiser, and perhaps a bit bitter that for them, such toy options were simply not available.

As a woman who loves science, studied science academically and continues to pursue intellectual interests in various scientific fields of study, and who is clearly disappointed at the staggering reality that most young girls in my country stop being interested in science and technology sometime in middle school, I cannot commend this project enough. Vividly, I remember playing Legos with my father, building large expansive cities, bizarre mansions, towering skyscrapers. Sometimes, our projects would topple, crash, shatter, and my father would explain to me why, the importance of foundation, the importance of support for different types of structure. He was an engineer. I remember with equal fondness playing with Barbie dolls with my friends, interested not so much in her material accessories and clothing, rather in the opportunity to construct a character, a fantasy. To tell her story. GoldieBlox elegantly integrates these two facets from my own childhood that I loved so much: problem solving and stories. Unsurprisingly, these continue to be the strongest thrusts in both my professional and my personal pursuits. I am fortunate that I maintained this inquisitive attitude without a set of toys like GoldieBlox, but, I can say with confidence, that I wish I had the opportunity to learn with Goldie and her friends.

Like so many entrepreneurs, Debbie and the team are utilizing Kickstarter to help garner financial and general support to make the first production order; after many ideas, sketches, and prototypes, the GoldieBlox team is ready to get moving. If you have a few moments free, please read about this important and exciting and fun project. If you have a few dollars free, please contribute, knowing that you are helping young girls realize that they can be so much more than some pink princess, waiting on her prince.

(image taken from Kickstarter)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Trench Deferred

Last April, while I was in Paris, my uniform consisted of black tunics and sweaters, black denim, leather riding boots, and my trusted classic camel trench. The Parisian skies are known for their unrelenting cascades of gray, in all varieties, for their caprice, suddenly bursting into loud tears of rain, then clearing up just as easily. At some point, traipsing along the streets, or perhaps enjoying an espresso or a glass of red wine in a café at a corner in some neighborhood, foreign and new to me, one of the top buttons loosened and was nearly lost. Thankfully, with some dexterity and mental acuity, I was able to recover the button and safely stow it away, to repair when I returned home. Mending this button has been on a variety of sketched up "to do" lists, half completed then discarded, the past five months. With the sweating sun hot, grabbing along the back and the shoulders and the nape of the neck, a rain jacket is just not a priority. Just last week, staring down into the eyes of this lonely and isolated button, abandoned on my dresser near a messy array of rhinestone necklaces, I thought how I should sew the poor bastard on the coat before autumn descends and I find myself wrapped in a maelstrom of rain without my favorite, and fashionable, protection. 

Naturally, in the early hours of this morning, an intense storm has swept across the landscape, puddles and foreboding clouds abounding, leaving commuters cowering, or aggressively swerving and honking their brash horns. I had plans of a highly anticipated and social nature this evening, now, a bit dampened at the prospect of having to dash from apartment to train to subway to apartment in the rain. My trench coat is still functional, especially when equipped with an appropriate umbrella and footwear, but, my mildly obsessive compulsive mind will be agitated at the thought of a missing button, forlorn. Obviously, though, not obsessive compulsive enough to have made any actions to ameliorate the situation. 

(image taken from That Kind of Woman)

Monday, September 17, 2012

A Weekend in the Country Up North

We took the train from the city together, clutching cans of cold beer, admiring a terrain quaint and foreign and exotic to us, the other passengers silently reading the evening papers, or just sitting and staring, also silently. Excited and jovial, juvenile, we drink and we laugh, reminisce of the times when we first met, thrust together in various social circumstances at university, bizarre or drunken or stereotypically banal. Now, we are all old friends. Steel and stone towers are left behind, we ride atop rolling green hills and beside shores of water. Away, an escape, for a few days, we will be invited guests at the home of our mutual friend. She meets us at the train station and we drive the final miles to a house, tucked back from the road amidst an arsenal of tall trees. 

Saturday morning, a slow saunter to the main square, a carnival of canvas tents, the town market, littered with vendors and farmers and patrons. One woman sells lemonade, sugared and warming in the bright sun. We fill our arms and our bags with food, with broccoli and carrots and onions, with heavy cheeses, with loaves of crusted bread. 

That evening, we bask in the cacophony of crickets and larger, more ominous creatures, invisible and hidden in the brush beyond the safeguard of our screened porch confines. We drink wine, bottles passing between hands, among friends, emptying. Three, then four, then five bottles collect, sharing tales of hapless professionalism, remembering when and why and who, a time younger and more fresh, still happy and foolish.

Only friends so close could select their dinner, victims waiting in a tank, and prepare it together, from death to delicacy.  A bag of bodies suffocating, entangled with one another, a web of chitin and tasty morsels.

Snapping off claws, cracking open at the crease the hard exoskeleton, to slurp out rare and sweet white meat stowed away with in, a meal of crustaceans is a meal that should be consumed with friends, ones you love, seek solace in. It is messy, butter and other fluids dripping between our fingers. We wash it all down with more wine.

Warm from the oven, we fill the last few crevices of our stomachs with berry pie, dipped in a creamy homemade ice cream. After devouring our bounty, continuing with our wine, we form a large circle, play charades, a parlor game centuries old, still engaging and new. 

Sunday morning and then afternoon come quickly, and again it is time for the train ride through hills and fields and green, back to an environment more innate and familiar. Exhausted, this ride is quiet, each of us dozing or idly flipping through magazines and books, the air pure with contentment.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Outfit for a Wednesday: Betty Draper, Banker, and Cyclic Styles

(image taken from Banana Republic)

 Lately, I have fallen into a bit of an online shopping rut, relying heavily and solely on a constant deluge of deals in my inbox for Banana Republic, despite some mild dissatisfaction with a few items; the marketing scheme, buy more, they send more, is simple and brilliant. My approach, on the other hand, is a bit of a sample of psychosis, where I expect the result that has been displayed before me on a glowing computer screen and am slightly disappointed with the tangible piece. This admission, hopefully, will shame me into altering this behavioral pattern. While perusing the wares after clicking some such invitation for deep discounts, I jumped over to the accessories area, a place I rarely, if ever, review, whether online or in a veritable store. An avid antique and vintage and consignment shopper, I am usually unimpressed with the quality of the options, and prices, at most large franchises. Unique finds are often at the fingertips of a seeker, if one wishes to put forth the effort of the prowl and the hunt. Perhaps it is just that one exorbitant and bodacious J. Crew bubble drop necklace that has become so infuriatingly ubiquitous in the digital and real world, but, for me, I loathe wearing obvious and identifiable items, familiar to the other ladies around me.

So, on this particular morning, tedious scrolling through jewelry at Banana Republic, I found this infinity chain-link gold plated necklace; a mere two weeks prior, I had found an extremely similar piece at one of my favorite local consignment shops. Unlike the J. Crew baubles, loud and colorful, inciting numerous and less pricey mimics, this style of elegant connecting chains, a sort of linear tessellation, is a classic style, often inappropriately set in a trend taxonomy. My necklace will never date. I, also, was validated in my general masculine hunting attitude, as opposed to complacent online gathering: I paid 12$ for my necklace, which features an alternating pattern of smooth and matte textures, while the Banana Republic option is over 50$.


Not accidentally, I paired this chain necklace with two of my more recent Banana Republic acquisitions: a pale cotton candy pink banker tycoon button-down and bright cerise cropped pants that evoke a sort of quintessential bored 1960s housewife, now perfectly embodied in the character Betty Draper. An ennui that before may take a paragraph to establish the aura and aesthetic, now can be summarized in two nouns: Betty Draper. The blouse is fitted and well made for the feminine form, a pleasant and welcome surprise when it comes to these type of professional button-downs. The slacks, unfortunately, were a bit loose in the leg; I had been anticipating more of a cigarette, tapered look that would come to the ankle and they did not deliver this. Still, the color is refreshing and they are a welcome addition to the sort of tempestuous transition seasons that are early autumn and late spring, when the heat will turn to a rage at a moment's notice or drop to a cold shoulder of neglect just as quickly. They are equipped with some spandex interwoven in the fabric, so, I hope a cycle in the wash will ameliorate the situation.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Outfit for a Tuesday: Lines and Angles and Pearls, Oh My

Since I flew to Germany on Labor Day Monday afternoon, I did not really have sufficient time to relish in relaxation, admire my own toiling, or flaunt a final end of summer look, though, to be honest, I never really adhered to such arbitrary rules of chronology. So, today, I decided to compensate with this simple center pleat a-line skirt, featuring long chain patterns of nesting right angles, a simultaneous ode to the square and to the almost chevron. With my navy and kelly green exercise in geometric tessellations, I paired a simple white and navy striped blouse; the pairing of traditionally jarring patterns has lost a little of its original vehement steam in the print and digital fashion world, however, it is a strategy I find to be timeless, rather than trendy.

Kelly green, a color I adore, has always been a bit of a trick for me, a taunting and terrible trick; it is alluring to me, but rarely attractive against my skin tone. My solution is generally to fulfill my thirst with accessories. With a strong but simple pattern and a predominance of navy intermingling and combating with the green, diverting attention, this skirt does not imbue me with that ill appearance. It helps, also, that the kelly green was not near my face.

Decades ago, jewelry nearly always came in a set of sorts: bracelet and necklace, brooch and earrings, earrings and bracelet, earrings and necklace. When I search for consigned vintage jewelry now, I love finding sets, but never pair them together in reality, for fear of looking dated or too much like a mannequin in a woman's contemporary store window. These earrings and necklace were actually not meant for one another originally; the earrings were a vintage find early in the spring and the necklace is a discarded J. Crew piece from a favorite local consignment shop. They complement one another well, and perhaps do, ensemble, evoke a model from Talbot's but it is a risk I am obviously willing to take. The infinity, eight shape of the earring is elegant, and I have been drawn to longer chains lately.

My days for open-toed wedges are numbered, a pleasant and frightening thought; with autumn comes leather Frye boots and thick sweaters and blazers, but also that always dreaded and feared impending winter, looming.

Tuesday evening snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich soundtrack: Love This Giant David Byrne and St. Vincent; Solo Piano II Gonzales