Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Up Up and Away!

Here is, yet another gratuitous shot of Big Ben.  This is my porn right now as I ponder what will be packed as the Ultimate Urban Chic London Wardrobe.  I'm not new to the concept of packing since we travel quite a bit throughout the year, but mostly that is for track events which I can do blindfolded.  I know exactly what to pack, be it for a one, two or three day event.  I know which items go where in the bag and what goes with them.  It isn't difficult.  Ditto packing for a tropical vacation.  Bathing suit, cover up, flip flops, sandals, sun dresses--lets go!  But this has been hard.  Mostly because I have no clue what the weather will be like.  I am guessing it will be cold and wet, but what if it isn't?  I know I will be doing an absolutely INSANE amount of walking.  I do not want to be immediately identifiable as an American at 100 yards by my running shoes, so they are staying home.  I don't really want to look casual, but I do want to be comfortable, so here's what I've compiled.  Please do tell me if I'm kidding myself here or if you have better ideas.

First off, there is outerwear.  I may look like a complete tool walking around London in my Barbour, but I will be warm and dry.  I'm guessing that no one wears these in the city, but I don't care--I like it.
My trusty Brooks Brothers trench will be coming along since it looks equally fab with jeans and dresses.  The only problem with mine (not exactly the one pictured, but a lighter color and fabric) is that it has no lining, and therefore provides only basic warmth and the fine fabric wrinkles like the dickens.  I hope the hotel has an iron.
The Restoration Hardware chiffon scarf.  I think they changed the design to an "infinity scarf", which is a darn shame because the original model was a real chameleon.  It works as a shatoosh-like wrap--light and fluffy and oh-so-elegant with a dress or as a light airplane blanket and equally wonderful doubled up and tied in a myriad of ways as a chic and warm scarf.  It also weighs NOTHING and can be rolled up and stashed in your purse if you find it's too warm to wear.

The Marc Jacobs Globetrotter Kit Calley bag impressed me in a whole bunch of ways, not the least of which was the soft, buttery leather and nearly impossible to pick-pocket styling.  It's big enough to hold what you need without being TOO big and lays fairly flat when worn across the body AND has an infinitely adjustable shoulder strap that you can make small enough to use it as a shoulder bag if you wish by simply doubling up upon itself--brilliant!  It also does not unbuckle, making it nearly impossible for a would-be thief to undo the strap and run away with it.  The jury is still out on the completely useless luggage tag on the front zipper.  It flops back and forth when you walk and there is no good way to remove it without destroying the pull, so it's not leaving.  I do like that it adds some interest to the front of the bag, so we'll see.
Yeah, there it is... the ubiquitous Longchamp Le Pliage tote.  Everyone has them and there is a reason.  They're waterproof.  They weigh nothing.  They can be folded up and stashed away when you're not using them.  The one huge downside for me is the total and complete lack of compartments, but I can deal with it.  They also hold a TON of stuff and still manage to somehow look like a purse.  Also, the handles are a good length to carry it on your shoulder--some of my nicer leather totes have short handles which greatly reduces their usefulness.
Blundstone 500's or "Blunnies".  I don't even know how long I've had these and I rarely wear them at home, but they are great for traveling, mostly because they behave like a sneaker and look like a nice boot.  They are also waterproof and slip on and off with ease.  With the addition of thick socks they are warm and comfy--if not the most elegant things in the world.  I can make a concession to my feet since I don't want to spend the whole trip in pain/freezing.

Should the weather decide to cooperate, even just a little, I am wearing these.  Attilo Giusti Leombruni or AGL ballet flats.  They are, um, not cheap, but there is a reason.  Hand made in Italy, they are hands down the most comfortable ballet flats I have ever tried at any price.  It's the leather.  And the memory foam footbed.  And the leather.  Did I mention the leather?  It's thick, soft and well, you just have to try them for yourself.  I also love the color combination.  They work with black AND brown--how many things do you own that do that?
A must see for this trip is the Liberty store.  I realize this is blasphemous, but I haven't always been a fan of their small floral prints.  Then Ann Mashburn came out with this:
The Liberty print popover.  I am a huge fan of the popover since I hate tucking my shirts in my jeans.  This one dresses up or down and looks great with a variety of colored sweaters or jackets--it has the unique ability to go with red or pink.  I'm hoping the find some other gems when I visit the mother ship.  Also the achitecture is incredible.
Traveling with me as well, will be the Banana Republic Sloane fit boot cut black pants.  Dress 'em up, dress 'em down--they always look good and the fabric is comfy.  They are the swiss army knife of the travel wardrobe.

Last but not least is the COH Dita Petite.  For the vertically challenged, there is nothing better.  You can wear them for days on end (in fact they recommend that you wash them as infrequently as possible) and they just keep getting better in fit and softness.  The "felt" wash is particularly choice since it's thin and soft and very dark, with just the right amount of whiskering.

One last thing.  The Humangear Go Toob is possibly the most ingenious packing device I have ever seen for toiletries.  They have a huge wide mouth that is easy to fill and clean (really), the silicone is soft so you can get ALL the goo out (when you are running out of shampoo, this is huge) AND a suction cup so you can stick it to the tile in the shower and not have your little bottles falling all over the floor.  I found these years ago in an REI and they were pricey for travel bottles, but recently Target and Walmart have started carrying them at reasonable prices.  If you travel a lot, these are priceless.

Ok, that should do it.  Tell me, am I ready?


Thursday, February 21, 2013

And Panic Sets In...

I just recently had a horrifying moment when I looked at the calender and realized that I'm leaving for London in a little over a week.  In an attempt to not make myself completely crazy with anticipation, I booked the trip and then tried to completely forget about it.  Unfortunately, I forgot about everything, including the really important stuff that required advance planning, such as making boarding reservations for the dogs, making sure the credit card doesn't have international transaction fees (it did--eep!), making sure the electronic adapters/converters still work and of course, compiling the perfect wardrobe for international travel.  This is actually a bit easier for this trip than it usually would be for me.  I am expecting that it will be rainy, cold and crummy so I am packing the Blunnies, Barbour and copious quantities of cashmere.
I recently read that "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."  I love this.  I love to travel and I can't wait to see London with LAM.  Neither of us have ever been, but this is his first time over the pond.  He is a tropical vacation addict, so we did that route for many years.  Tired of returning home with an expensive tan, I decided that this is going to stop here and now.  We all need to re-charge batteries from time to time, but part of the fun is experiencing a new culture, seeing and doing things that you can't do at home.  I can't wait until the first time he orders a drink in a restaurant and it comes with two ice cubes floating in it.  He doesn't deal well with change.

For me, besides the whole treasure trove that resides in London's various museums, I am probably most looking forward to seeing this:
The Arnolfini Portrait is my favorite painting of all time.  First off, let's clear up one thing: no, she isn't pregnant.  Ironically, the woman who is believed to be depicted in this painting died childless.  This was the popular style of dress at the time and he was a fabric merchant, so it is likely that the many fold of her dress are to show wealth and prosperity, but that's not what I like about it.  What I like is that for one, it was painted in 1434 and is not even remotely religious in nature, which is pretty darn uncommon.  Also, it depicts the Arnolfinis in what we can imagine to be their bedroom.  We can see the various debris of daily life, which makes it something of a time capsule.  Notice the prayer beads hanging on the wall, the brush hanging on the bed, the fact that they are (we assume) both barefoot.  We can see his stocking feet and her shoes are tossed aside behind her.  Can you imagine trying to WALK in his shoes?  The dog is front and center and he looks pretty secure with his place in things.  There is also the mirror.  Can you see the artist's reflection?  Fascinating.  The script above the mirror reads "Johannes de eyck fuit hic", which means "Jan Van Eyck was here".  There is, if you research it, a ton of speculation out there as to what all of these things actually mean.  I am inclined to think that it is nothing more than a marriage portrait of the Arnolfinis.  Clearly, she is looking at him with her head turned down, but looking straight AT him and not down at the floor.  He is not looking at her, but rather, gazing forward.  Interpret these things however you like because no one will ever know the truth.  Regardless, the detail is incredible.  The fur on his coat actually shimmers.  The brass on the chandelier gleams.  I could stare at it for hours.  Hopefully, LAM will be patient while I do just that when we visit the National Gallery; just like I plan on being when he complains about lack of ice in his drink.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

More than bacon loves pancakes!

Have a great Valentine's Day everyone.


Monday, February 11, 2013


This print hangs in my dining room and I'm not sure that anyone but me pays enough attention to it to really understand what is going on here.  It's a Mark Stock painting from a series called "The Butler's In Love".  My former in laws were lucky enough to own one of the originals from this series--same butler standing against a similar wall (the color is more of an acid green), white gloved hand curled in anguish at his mouth--he looks to be in the throes of an impossible situation.  Because he is.  He is in love with the lady of the house, who he cannot have.  Ever.  My ex's parents have a vast art collection, but no one single piece ever jumped out to me the way this enormous, bold and wonderful piece did.  I used to position myself so that I could always look at it.  I was delighted to find this print so that I could keep the butler with me and although a print is never the same as an original piece, I think I might like this one even more.  Since he is contemplating the lipstick on the glass, you have a better sense of what is going on and the use of color is just stunning.

Another piece from the series, the emotion conveyed is just wonderful.

When was the last time a painting grabbed you?


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Dear Cupid

Love comes in many forms and takes many shapes.  I love my husband.  I love my dogs.  I love my family and all of my friends.  And I love my cars.  One more than all the others.  Yes, I play favorites and yes, it is possible to love a machine.  You see, I remain, as ever, in complete awe of the E30 M3.  Created for the sole purpose of being a racecar (BMW was forced to sell them to the general public because the DTM rules demanded that they do so) to kick Mercedes-Benz's butt.  It is the most winning BMW in history.  This is not my car, but it looks almost exactly like it.

Even down to the blue harnesses.  This is a model I found on ebay.  I have the perfect place for it--cupid are you paying attention?  You can forget the overpriced flowers and chocolates.  I think this baby needs to come live with me.

How can I feel actual, genuine love for a machine, you ask?  Um, because I can do this with it:

That's Watkins Glen International Raceway and this part of the track is called the "Esses".  Imagine climbing a hill with three turns, with your right foot planted firmly on the floor.  When I learned to drive this track, my instructor said, "There is only way to drive this section.  Put your foot down and steer as smoothly as you can.  You may NOT lift your right foot.  If you lift, the back end of the car will come around and you will hit the guardrail.  Keep feeding power to the rear wheels and the car will stay on the track."  That was a long time ago and I have driven so many thousands of laps on this track that it feels like home.  And there is no place like home.

This is the place where I am usually the happiest.  In an odd way, I am the essence of myself all suited up and on the track.  I am not short, I am not tall, not old, not young, not rich, not poor.  I am a driver.  My goal is to be fast.  To be at one with the machine, and totally and completely in the present. 

Is there someplace where you are completely and totally in the present?


Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Some days it's easy to lose focus and forget what's important, you know, eyes on the ball.  Nose to the grindstone.  This seems to happen to me in some fashion every day around 4:00.  I deal with this the way Sheldon Cooper deals with everything--by offering myself a hot beverage.

I'm not quite there yet, but I feel it coming on.  How do you all keep your eyes on the ball?


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

At Last

Organization is key.  Neatness counts.  I like things to line up nicely and make sense...because...if I can't see what I have, then I can't make anything.  Or, I should say, I'm not inspired to make anything.  My sewing room had become, slowly and over time, the sort of place where no sane person would ever want to work.  The lighting was terrible.  There wasn't enough flat work space, there wasn't a good place to put things away in an organized fashion and fabric was stacked in giant piles with no rhyme or reason.  And then...a couple different blogger friends mentioned the Alex Flat File from Ikea.  And then a couple more friends mentioned how great it was.  I suddenly started to feel like I had missed the great organization boat, so I had to check it out.
It turned out to be more than your typical piece of particle board put it together yourself furniture.  I was warned that 1. It weighed a ton (it does, but once it's together, it's on wheels, so no big deal). and 2. It takes forever to put together.  Well, we brought it home, heaved the little, but insanely heavy box into the house on a dolly, I made a nice pot of coffee and set LAM to work.  Two hours and no cursing later, it was together.  LAM was even impressed with the fit and finish.  The exterior is painted wood, the drawers are on nice sliders and the back is finished as well as the front and it's quite wide, which is one of the things I really liked about it.  You see, I have this tissue paper problem.  I can't throw it away.  When it gets crumpled, I iron it.  If I buy something in a store and they wrap it in tissue, I have to save it.  My collection has come in handy on numerous occasions from packing orders to wrapping presents, etc., but I didn't have a good place to stash it so it would stay nice and neat.  In addition to housing paper, mats, templates, card stock and whole host of other artistic ephemera that previously had no real home, the two large bottom drawers are the perfect size to lay tissue out flat.  Perfect!  This freed up much needed space on shelves that were supposed to be housing fabric, so now it's all folded and organzied in a way that I can see exactly what I have at a glance.  In addition to that, I re-purposed a friend's old pine kitchen table as a middle of the room work island, moved some things around, added much needed lighting (thanks to the Alex file, I now have a PLACE to put another lamp) and once I was finished admiring my handiwork, got cracking on some new plastic bag holders.

Meet the new additions to my Etsy shop.  I'm particularly excited about the beachiness of the coral fabrics.  The one on the far left is Waverly's Coral Cascade fabric and it is just buttery soft!  Stay tuned for more additions coming soon!


Monday, February 4, 2013

Et Plus Ça Change...

One of the remarkable things that I've noticed as I've gotten older, is how much my aesthetic taste has changed.  It's noteworthy to me because when I was younger, I thought I knew myself pretty well.  I knew what I liked and why I liked it and I couldn't imagine that would ever change.  Those of you who have been down this road can go ahead and start pointing and laughing now.

The younger me was drawn to things that were, well, fussy.  Think dried floral wreaths and Laura Ashley bedding.  Cute was a big factor.  Now, I want clean.  I want simple.  This photo from Regan Baker Design is a pretty good representation of my current style.  I love the simple, serene feeling of it.  The paint colors look like soft linen and it's somehow classic and modern at the same time.  I like to think of it as "beach casual".

Of course, this set photo from "Something's Gotta Give" has become downright ubiquitous and almost cliché, but I still love it.  Everything is neutral, yet, still has great character.  It's hard to imagine ever getting sick of this grouping and if for some reason you did, it would be easy to fix with some new pillows and maybe a new area rug.  Another thing that grabs me every time is the detailed woodwork.  The paint colors are not competing with the molding detail, but rather enhance it through subtle shadowing.  The piece of art over the mantle is wonderful and it's almost as if the rest of the room were designed to fade into the background so you will notice the piece.  Sublime.  The more art I collect, the less interested I am in having my decor compete with it.  The art is the star, not the wall itself.

In my own little universe, I added some more calm to my new living room/studio by saying goodbye to a truly tragic coffee table from a previous life (that LAM had always silently hated) with this linen storage ottoman.  It's a coffee table!  It's a bench!  It's a place to stash things I don't want anyone to see!  It's also a great color and pretty well made for the price.

Lately, I've been on a mission to remove floral patterns from my house.  This is one of the things that I loved as a younger person, but no longer have any affection for whatsoever.  The throw pillows on the couch were floral, old and not washable.  They needed to leave.  A trip to Ikea to procure an Alex flat file (this sort of deserves its own post, so I won't go on about it here), revealed these tie pillows.  Yes, Ikea.  Ok, I realize some of you may love the Swedish box store and I don't hate it, but we have a sort of love/hate relationship.  They suck you in with good styling and then you look a little closer and it's well, not always what it's cracked up to be.  There are a few choice pieces that go the extra mile, however and this collection of throw pillows hit the mark perfectly.  Beachy, serene, washable.

One thing that should never be missed whenever visiting any Ikea is their cafeteria, because I always find some neat thing that I've never seen or tried before.  Case in point, this sparkling pear soda.  I saw the can from across the room and thought, "Wow, what a great package design!".  I love the white can with the acid green pear and the stuff inside, is well, it's like crack.  Possibly the yummiest fruit beverage I've ever had.  It's a good thing you can't find it anywhere else, because at 50grams of sugar per serving, it's uh, not low in calories, but the perfect thing to fuel you up for hiking around the store (that counts as cardio, right?).


Friday, February 1, 2013

A Study in Contrasts

Strange things are a foot in Philadelphia this morning.  It started snowing like crazy just as I was getting ready to leave for the office and right about that moment, I noticed that this azalea had seemingly also taken that opportunity to begin blooming as though its life depended on it.  'Cause it sorta did...  This poor plant has been hanging out in my kitchen garden window for the last two years and each week I would look at it and try to decide whether to water it or throw it away (it looked that bad).  Recently, it seemed to somehow find a second wind and after over a year of nothing whatsoever, voilà!

On another slightly unrelated, but surprising note, I noticed yesterday that my supply of paper checks was getting low.  While I detest the idea of writing a check and putting it in the mail, it is still a necessary evil from time to time.  Ordering checks has always frustrated me since the offerings both from my bank and various online check printers was well, a vomit-worthy design nightmare.  More often than not, I would go the blue safety route, refusing to have something printed with my name on it that also contained kittens, rainbows, country vistas, religious and/or inspirational messages, or retina-searing patterns.  And then I found these:

Found at Checks in the Mail, these were a refreshing breath of fresh air.  Hopefully, LAM won't protest over the pink ones too much.