Sunday, August 31, 2014

Beautiful Catbird Stacking Rings; Looking for a Canary

I can't quite believe that I've never been to Brooklyn.  I've been thisclose to the Williamsburg Bridge, when making a trek to Orchard Street, but have yet to cross over it.

And I want to do so before this year ends, because I have a quest.

This summer, after my purchase of some perfect @# stud earrings, and after making a birthday purchase for my daughter at a artisans' market on Bleecker Street, I began to crave stacking rings the way I might crave cannoli. And my sweet tooth, as evidenced by my summer of cake, cannot be denied.

In particular, I'm drawn to rings by Catbird, which NY Magazine calls the founder of ring stacking.  Located in Williamsburg, Catbird features all manner of delicate rings for stacking in various shades of gold (and silver), with precious stones or other embellishments, like initials, or twists and hammers.

My craving is for a stack on my index finger, and at the end of summer, since I was not going to Williamsburg, I decided to bring Williamsburg to me and ordered a trio of threadbare (very, very, gossamer thin) rings to begin.

I knew that I needed a size larger than my wedding ring, and used an online measurer (big mistake) instead of being patient and visiting a jeweler that afternoon. 

My rings arrived, fit for a fairy in style, but sized for a ogre. My fault entirely, but the lovely customer service people understood my dilemma.

Tote above, wrapped box below.

 So back they flew, and my quest will be continued in person.  Here's hoping that this cat catches a canary some time in December.

The very tiny, delightfully fairy size box.

What am I looking for?  Don't know, exactly, but all must be mismatched, possibly with an opal or aquamarine in the mix.  Rose and yellow gold are welcome together, and I think I prefer a baguette stone to a round one.  But we'll see.

And speaking of quests, my 9-year-old son saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the first time last night.  So "shrubbery" and "it's just a flesh wound" uttered in a British accent are not uncommon sounds today.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Tan Suits for Summer

I don't post about men's wear too often here, but I do welcome summer when men can break out linen suits, cotton poplin suits, and lighter-coloured suits.

When we were in London last, Mr. C bought a Hugo Boss tan linen suit that I coveted. (I remember buying a tobacco linen trouser suit from Jaeger while still an undergraduate.  The nerve!)

So here's a mini collection of tan suits from labels including J Press and Brooks Brothers (those bastions of preppydom) as well as Boss and a couple of unknown but stylish looks.

I typically get my personal tan at the beach or by the pool, but countless media reports tell me that's dangerous.  I've never seen a report about the tan suit being hazardous to one's health, though, so I think we're safe.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Let Me Eat Cake

This summer I dined almost exclusively on cake.

My whole family (all five of us humans plus our golden retriever) had a summer birthday, so we went from cake to cake to cake.

There were ice cream cakes, failed homemade red-velvet cakes (we forgot the baking soda, hence the ice cream cake), make-up-for-it triple-layer-with-peach-filling by fancy decorator cakes, ridiculously good strawberry shortcake in New Jersey, chocolate cakes, carrot cakes, fruit-custard-tarts-masquerading-as-cakes cakes, and I suppose a cupcake or two for good measure.

My summer birthday triple-layer cake was frosted like this one.
 They were all delicious and I felt like Marie Antoinette via Sofia Coppola's cinematic vision--all blue and pink pastel in both mind and body.

But wait!  My very favourite cake of all time was served some four decades ago.  Purchased at Enterprise Bakery in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island,this special cake marked Miss Antoinette (err--Miss C's) first birthday.  And the photo (far above) is even all blue and pink pastel.

From New York's Cupcake Cafe, *way* before those Magnolia upstarts.

A good cup of Tim Hortons' coffee to top it off? What's that you say? *Who* bought Tim?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Beyonce, Michaela, and Anna's First Vogue UPDATED!

I tuned in to the VMAs late, late, late last night, just in time to catch the last act, 20-some minutes of Beyonce singing and dancing.

My major takeaway from the performance was that Beyonce's bejeweled bodysuit and flowy locks reminded me so much of Michaela in LaCroix on Anna Wintour's first American Vogue.

I loved that jacket and would happily wear the 2014 bodysuit too. (Wasn't I just blogging about Donna Karan's Five Easy Pieces, the foundation of which is a bodysuit?)

Oh, alright, alright, alright (conjuring Mssr. McConaughey). It seems that Vogue has this cover on its mind too.  The day after I posted my "separated at birth" pair,* ran a photo and story of the "offspring du jour," RHOBH daughter Gigi Hadid, in an homage to Michaela.

Great minds and all that.  But didn't Vogue once tell me I was "too intellectual" to work there? I guess someone's either dumbing down or someone's smartening up. Wait--am I complimenting myself here?

*or "separated at girth" pair, recalling all the fuss over gorgeous Michaela's unflat tummy. Sigh.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

"Dressing Gown" Isn't Dressing Down

Saturday I woke up feeling ill--a persistent cold had turned in to something worse, and so I spent a feverish few more hours zooming in and out of sleep before physically rising.

But Saturday was a big day chez nous, with both parents called into service, so I rallied and made two 75-minute round trips to transfer one child to/from a party. That evening, just I was ready to call it a night, another child needed a physician visit--pronto--so I made that 75-minute round trip again, also spending time in an urgent-care clinic (all is just fine, but I'm glad we went).

Today, then, on Sunday, I tagged Mr. C for a morning activity with our youngest so I could sleep. And when I did wake up, I decided that today would be an excellent day to spend swanning about in my dressing gown. All. Day. Long.

I adore my dressing gown.  It's made from a variety of Liberty prints and was part of a collaboration that Liberty had with Saks well over a decade ago.  It "sort of" resembles the gown in the top picture (from 13Threads via Etsy) and makes me feel like I am a walking Bloomsbury painting.

But as my dressing gown is 10-13 years old, it will need to be replaced eventually.  I'd've bought that one from 13Threads, but it's sold out.  My heart started to flutter when I was one on Purl Soho's website, but should have realized that the gown was simply an example of what one could make from a pattern.  I like to make quilts but I do not like to make clothes.  So I guess I have a quest.

I also adore the term "dressing gown."  It's ever so more romantic than the functional "bathrobe" or the frumpy "housecoat." These terms tend to be used interchangeably these days, so I choose the former. Do any gentle readers have a dressing gown that they love? When/why do you wear it?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cloning Klum's Style: Project Runway's Impossible Task?

Last night to wind down I watched most of the Project Runway episode wherein designers were tasked with making a red-carpet look for Heidi Klum to wear at the upcoming Emmys. Ms. Klum would be one of the judges selecting the dress.

This is, I believe, an impossible task, because I have always thought that Heidi Klum has really bad personal taste. 

But wait!  I want to invoke Diana Vreeland here, who once said (and I paraphrase) that it's better to have bad taste than no taste. 

One of the three top looks represented bad taste, thought I.  It was Amanda's gown, with a bodice covered in some sort of ric-rac-y beaded trim stuff that looked stiff.  Zac Posen was having none of it, though he did think that the back of the dress echoed Geoffrey Beene in a favorable manner.

Another top three look was in quite good taste.  Kini's black gown with curved beaded inlay was elegant and lovely. It didn't win.

The third gown--and the winning look--was somewhere in between. One could say that Sean's layered ombre fringe gown was on the edge of bad taste, and so I shall. 

So what do gentle readers think?  Does the fringe dress represent a foray into good taste or is it an example of Ms. Klum being consistently bad?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Travels in Color

This summer in New York I returned home with two purchases from two different shops that surprised me at the time. Only now, when I open them up, do I see what they have in common.  It's all about color and whimsy. 

The first is a (child's?) notebook from Lapin & Me, which I bought in Soho from the children's department of an otherwise grown-up boutique.Was I drawn to the ears (see my avatar)? Peut etre. It was the color that hooked me, as these shades of sherbet pink and aqua-blue were too delicious to pass up.

Second on my curiosity list is fabric from Liberty (found at Purl). On one hand, Liberty fabric is a no-brainer, as any gentle reader knows.  I adore the florals and have made many a quilt and bunting from them.  But this print, called "The Isle of Wight," is novelty, not floral, so, again, it's the color--pale aqua with a hunt of mauve-y-pink--that catches my eye.

And I would write in my book and sew with my fabric while staying here, one to add to my list of (little) pink houses:

The Isle of Wight is, generally speaking, a patchwork quilt on its own. It reminds me of an aerial view of Prince Edward Island, except with white cliffs instead of red. Here are some images to travel with via color.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Of Capsules, Time, Wardrobe, and Other

Today my children begin school, but for my eldest the day day is even more special, as it marks the beginning of not only high school but of a uniform-free wardrobe.

Here's a time-capsule type of memory: my experience was the reverse. In Grade 10 (which marked the beginning of high school in Canada) I moved to a uniform, complete with hand-tied necktie.  It was soooo easy.

Because before that, I remember spending an enormous amount of time choosing my outfit for the following day--trying on item after item, accepting and rejecting looks over and over again.  My uniform was a capsule wardrobe, if you will: five easy pieces before Bob Rafelson TMed the concept.  (Or maybe it was Donna Karan's seven easy pieces, also TMed. Note those iconic bodysuits, above.  I had a couple.)

One dress, many ways.

No matter--the limited choice was, as noted above, easy.

Today I still follow that capsule concept: I have little clothing, but clothes I really like.  Dresses are key, because they're easier than easy.  But with the advent of high school and its style challenges?  I may need another sort of capsule.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Just Fryed"

The above phrase was quite common when I was growing up, used in a number of contexts--"fried" could mean "exhausted," from excessive intellectual or physical work, or it might refer to other kinds of excesses.

I was feeling "fried" last night, due to a combination of things: returning home from a four-week vacation with a miserable cold; trying to sort out my three children's school and extra-curricular activities; getting ready for my own school year; encountering 84+ degree days while living in a historic house without super-duper modern central air.

One of my children is entering Grade 7, and her preparations reminded me of another kind of "Fried"--the emergence of the highly desirable Frye Campus Boots when I was in my Grade 7.  I remember the girls who had them with the western stitching; they'd roll up their wide-leg jeans and wear them as a sort of culotte over the boots; other times they'd tuck them in and gently balloon the pants over the rim.  I LOVED that look and desperately wanted a pair. 

 But my parents denied me the boots, probably thinking that the price tag was too high for a tween with growing feet. (In turn I just denied my Grade 7 girl a pair of Coach wedge booties for a similar reason, plus the high heel.)  So I eventually bought, on sale, a "sort-of" Frye boot that was perfectly attractive, but had a zip up the side. Still, I culotted and ballooned with the best of them and made those boots my own.

While in Soho this summer, Mr. C and I ventured into the Frye store and these boots caught my eye once again.  Because they were the pair that got away? Because they represent the remembrance of things past? Or because they'd be perfect for fall and beyond?

I'm still my parents' daughter, though, and would find it difficult to buy something on a nostalgic lark.  But I am asking myself whether I'd like to get Fryed this fall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Knit Wit: New Photo in Selvedge

When Mr. C was a Fulbright Fellow in Iceland, back in 1993 or so, I flew over for the Christmas holidays. I had wanted a cross-body bag for the trip and the day before my flight I went to Saks to search for one.

My treasure hunt was cut short, though, when I spied a perfectly, ridiculously fanciful hat by Eric Javits. It was dark blue wool, with a Dickensian/Doolittle swoopy brim that swept over my brow and then again, anchored by an outrageous brown plume.  That's what I bought instead of a bag and have never regretted it.

When do I wear the hat? Occasionally I've worn it in a theatre production when I played a Victorian lady; I've worn it to class when it fits the novel. And I wore it most recently during a hot day in June to get my photo taken for the fall issue of Selvedge.

Here it is, in the original colour photo (that's a dressmaker's Tahari military coat below, with beautiful pick-stitching on the collar) and, in a black/white screen grab from the online edition of Selvedge.

The September/October issue features "knits," as you'll see from the dreamy Tim Walker cover (of Gilles Deacon) and my knitting anecdote, which coincidentally also references Iceland!

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Solar System (the Queen, her Corgi, and a Mountie)

When we drive into Midtown Manhattan we usually park below the Hearst Building, with its stunning PoMo architecture.

I like parking here because when we walk out to 56th Street, we pass Bricco, a little Italian cafe where happy patrons have left lipstick imprints on the ceiling. (I have not left one, though I have dined there.)

Then when we return, it's up 57th, past Carnegie Hall, the Russian Tea Room, the Art Students League, and on to a prolonged stop at Lee's Art Shop.  This is the store that the Jolie-Pitt children are often photographed leaving, arms full of art supplies. But I love it for its whimsical first floor, full of cards, wrapping paper, and curiosities to dress up one's office.

The other year I purchased my Solar Queen (Jubilee Edition) from Lee's, and she stands contentedly on my office window ledge, waving at all who enter.  This summer I've "adopted" a couple more solar mates to join HRH.

First is Elroy, who's available in brown or blonde.

 I chose blonde because it seems that the royal corgis are that color.

Then, continuing my Commonwealth theme and acknowledging my roots, I'm welcoming a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (aka a Mountie) to my ledge. He's obviously not mounted, but in the spirit of the Musical Ride (Canadians will know this), I'd like to play Pharell Williams' "Happy" on loop. (His Westwood Mountie hat, you know.)

And lest my ledge be deemed too English/Canadian, I'm also adding something to help my American visitors feel at home: a light-up glass Statue of Liberty that changes colors. Indeed, I hope that these guests, important symbols all, will be "Happy" chez moi.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Slouching toward Fashiondom

Every fashion rule known to humankind states that baggy clothing makes one look bigger.  So fitted shirts, slim sweaters, cigarette pants, and pencil skirts are typically flattering.  Why, then, is Fall 2014 such a slouch?

Take these sweats (below) from Gap, for example: they're loose at top and tapered at the bottom--not quite Hammer Pants, but perfectly slouchy. 

J Crew follows suit.  Perhaps this wool/leather tee to the right looks constructed, but it requires a slouchy, very long shirt underneath. And the generous cut of the tee adds material to one's silhouette as well. 

I haven't tried the sweat pants yet, but on Friday evening I tested J Crew's slouchy separates in various sizes, to see which provided the best look. The slouchiest sweater I wore in S and although a fitted sweater looked just fine in my regular size, I opted for one up in order to layer a shirt underneath and to (you guessed it) give it some appealing slouch.

I'm ready to pair said generous/slouchy sweaters with the tailored bottoms mentioned above, but am also looking forward to trying something looser, just to see.

Are gentle readers ready to trade in their fitted separates for something slouchy?

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Hat Tricks (and a Song)

Do you know the hat department at Bergdorfs?



I remember when it was flourishing, albeit two decades ago.  That’s where I bought my fabled Treacy trilby and every time I visit New York, I make my pilgrimage there, but lately I’ve come up empty, with only a wee sprinkling of hats scattered few and far between the thicket of bags.

Sometimes, though, a sprinkling can yield more than a shower (dropping the metaphor now; no worries), as I was pleased to catch a glimpse of Eugenia Kim’s fall collection.

Her wool felt “Caterina” cat-ear beret was not yet in store, 

 but her “Joey” marled felt baseball cap was.  

I’ve been coveting a “jockey” cap ever since I saw Burberry Prorsum’s perfect straw brims with pompoms, and a chic baseball cap might take second base in a pinch hit.

The “Joey” cap was, however, no match for my famously large head.  I stomped my feet in fury, shed a cross tear or two, and then came to my senses. Oh Joey, I’m not angry any more.

Neither is Concrete Blonde, in their angsty 1990 song “Joey.” (I also sang it this spring with our faculty rock band in concert.)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Of Lupins, Loops, and City Walking

On Wednesday I walked for hours through new York, taking a welcome respite on a Central Park bench for an hour or so while my daughters sat for an artist.

On Thursday I awoke bright and early, ready to run the hills of New Jersey, as I love to do in the mornings.  I begin with two steep hills, run on flat for a few miles, and then finish with those hills again.  It's a challenging loop, at beginning and end, and one that leaves me feeling satisfied.

Today,  though, I wondered whether I was wearing the right shoes and checked to see that my PEI-lupin-colored Nikes were on my feet and not some errant pair of heels that I'd strapped on in my morning fog. For my knees ached, my feet ached, my legs didn't seem properly attached.  A day in the city had thrown me out of alignment, I guess, and I abbreviated my run, lopping off a mile and forgoing the finishing hills.

The running shoes at an angle of repose. Photo taken while they were still new.

When I was in my early 30s I worked in the city, 5th at 42nd, right across from the NYPL in a lovely art deco building that housed (and still does) a venerable publishing house. During my lunch hours I'd power-walk all the way up 5th to Bergdorfs, or take a turn on Madison to Barneys, and hightail it back to the office, ready for my afternoon.

After work I might carry on down Broadway to ABC (the most beautiful store this side of Liberty's), with a sidestep into Fishs Eddy, around 23d St. Then I'd go work out. 

So this physical shakeup following a mere afternoon in the city does not sit well with me. But sit I shall, after taking a dip in the pool, whence I'll return to The Goldfinch (only 200 pp left!) to see what happens to Theo. Nothing good, I'm sure, so I'm working on not rooting for him, though, of course, I am.