Wednesday, January 30, 2013

With your good bag and your cheap shoes...

Hannibal Lecter, Fashion Maven
Lately, I've been feeling a bit like Clarice Starling, a well-scrubbed rube with a little taste. Sure, my pocketbook looks fabulous. But exactly what statement am I making with my worn-out shoes?

Over the last six months, I have worn through three, count 'em, three pairs of my all-time favorite ballet flat, the Jack Rogers Slim.

Oh Slim, how I loved you.
When I wore a dime-sized hole in the soft leather soles of Pair #1 within two months of purchase, I rushed the shoes off to the cobbler, as if carrying a sick puppy to the vet. Sadly, the new sole he applied began to peel off just a few weeks later. When the Slim went on sale, I ordered two more pairs in black and gold thinking that perhaps Pair #1 was just a lemon. Neither fared any better than my original pair.

I arrived at the unhappy conclusion that I was the owner of cheap shoes. Adding insult to injury, my cheap shoes had cost me a good chunk of money. It was time to upgrade.

If you are a man, you can turn to any number of fine establishments for exceptionally made shoes that will last decades (or at least get you through Career v. 1.0). Mayor Bloomberg claims he's been wearing the same two pairs of loafers to work for ten years. If you would like to weep green tears of bitter envy over perfect tassel loafers, I invite you to read Reggie Darling's ode to Alden slip-ons here.

But for us double X chromosomes? Labels and price no longer seem to guarantee quality. As I read through blogs and forums though, it appeared that Ferragamo still has a cult following of women who swear that their flats have lasted them for years. Last week, fortified by a dry martini and reassured by Lisa at Amid Privilege, I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of Ferragamo Varinas in tortoiseshell printed patent (thankfully on sale).

Will they last? Only time will tell.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chin Chin Cherie

Pink Elephants on Parade
Every season, Lilly Pulitzer comes out with one print that I fall for head-over-heels. This Spring, it's Chin Chin, a retro/gaudy pink & green print with Indian-inspired elephants and paisley.

Must-haves for me include this shift dress with its key-hole back:

The Nina dress in Chin Chin.

Although I probably won't pair it with the dress, the Shoreline tote is also on my list.

If I were a braver (read: thinner) person who could pull off wild go-to-hell pants, I'd get the Worth Skinny Mini Zip Jeans too.

The Chin Chin print will be available on February 10th, but you can preview the line now at The Pink Pelican.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Whale Watching Redux

On Saturday, the Merry Husband and I took our chances on another whale watching trip. This time, we had beautiful clear blue skies and water.

As we waited for our boat, we admired the shorebirds, who were hoping for a bite or two of waffles from the diners at Polly's on the Pier.

Brown Pelican

Juvenile Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron

Voyager Excusions
And then we were off. 

Sea Lions
Our first whale was this juvenile humpback whale about a mile from shore. 

Too close for comfort.

As we headed out to sea, we passed hundreds of common dolphins.

Some joined us for part of the journey.

Although the gray whales are migrating from Alaska to Baja California, we didn't spot any. We did, however, see a pod of fin whales, the second largest whales after the blue whale. Fin whales can grow to over 80 feet, and are often called the greyhounds of the sea for their speed and sleek shape. On our return trip, two of the whales emerge about 100 yards in front of our boat. 

We had such a great time, we may try our luck again in the summer, when the blue whales migrate north.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Color Us Ours

Charlotte: I'm thinking about quitting my job. Sometimes I walk by one of those Color Me Mine pottery places and I'll see a woman having a lovely afternoon glazing a bowl. That would be a nice change.

Carrie: Sweetie, if I was walking by and saw you in there, I'd just keep on walking.

Flashback Carrie and Charlotte.
Charlotte wears Lilly Pulitzer's
Not So Crabby skirt.

Sometimes my sister and I like to plan out our mid-life crises. "When I have my nervous breakdown," I'll tell her, "I'm going on a road trip to Sedona." Or sometimes, "When I have my nervous breakdown, I'm staying at the Ashram in Malibu for a week and eating nothing but goji berries and sprouts."

My sister's imaginary meltdown typically involves the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. There in the shadow of the Topa Topa mountains, she will retreat to the resort's Artist Cottage and Apothecary, where she will blend her own perfume and learn the lost art of mobile-making.

Usually, daydreams about forced downtime and hippie arts & crafts are good indicators that we need to schedule a few days off from work. That's not happening anytime soon for me, so I was thrilled to get an email from a fellow Junior Leaguer that she was organizing an event at Paint 'n Pour in Redondo Beach. At this art instruction studio/ wine bar, you can sip chardonnay while you replicate a "Painting of the Month" - in our case, one of the Manhattan Beach Pier. No artistic ability? No problem - a friendly instructor will guide you through it step-by-step. 

Here's what our paintings were supposed to look like.

Here's how my little disaster looked half-way through the class.

Uh oh.
And here's how it turned out.

The Merry Husband has suggested that we give it a place of honor where no one will ever see it in the master bathroom. It's that good.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Staying On Track

In the first week of the new year, my enthusiasm for new projects knows no bounds. Closets are cleaned, gym memberships are bought, and impulse buys are shunned. Surely, I think to myself, this will be the Year of the Improved Me.

And then around January 8th, cold hard reality sets in. The cruel alarm clock summons me from my toasty warm bed for a pre-dawn jog. I glare resentfully through the darkness at the Merry Husband and Merry Dog, who snore away happily to themselves. If only I could console myself with the purchase of a new Lilly Pulitzer shift...drats.

In short, I'm in need of inspiration. Luckily, this morning a friend pointed me to this story from the Today Show. The blog Runs for Cookies brought together twelve runners who had each lost over 100 pounds. Together, they ran the Ragnar Relay, a 200 mile race from Miami to Key West. 

So, if you find your resolve fading too, take a few minutes to watch their remarkable journey. Suddenly, that morning jog doesn't seem so odious anymore.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

What's Your Silver Pattern, Dear?

(Left to Right) Faneuil, King William,
Hamilton, and Hampton by Tiffany & Co.
Martha Stewart Weddings
The first week of the new year is always depressing. The shiny decorations have to be taken down. It's back to business as usual at work. Clothes everywhere seem to have shrunk virtually overnight.

But one person is blissfully oblivious to the malaise around her: the new fiancée. She basks in the rainbow glow cast by the carbon crystal dangling on her finger, which she periodically thrusts under our noses for closer inspection. Not that we are envious or anything. Well, maybe a tad. It is really sparkly.

Over the next few months, happy women and their bored-but-dutiful menfolk will descend on Crate & Barrel, Macy's, and Target. Lists of coffee makers, stock pots, and chef knives will be drawn up. The men will be handed scanner guns and, while their future brides are momentarily distracted by blenders, will register for camping equipment and Tide. "Because we need Tide," they will helpfully explain to bewildered faces later.

Today, everything from video games to tropical vacations is fair game on bridal registries. But you won't see many silver patterns. Silver has simply gotten too expensive. And besides, modern couples want useful gifts. Silver, which must be washed by hand and polished periodically, is considered hopelessly impractical.

Still, some women wouldn't dream of getting married without registering for silver. Most of them, it seems, reside in the Delta. Open the pages of any issue of Southern Living, and you'll see tables set with patterns like Francis I, Chantilly, and Fiddle Thread, sometimes all at once.

Strasbourg by Gorham and Francis I by Reed & Barton
Southern Living, March 2012
In many families, allegiances to certain silver patterns are as fixed as those to Chi Omega and the Crimson Tide. But for those of us not born into a Rose Point or Buttercup matriarchy, picking a silver pattern can be a tricky proposition. We may ask ourselves, "Is this salad fork really me?" Luckily for us, the silverware-based horoscope in Marilyn Schwartz' A Southern Belle Primer can tell us whether we are a Chrysanthemum or an Acorn.

Marilyn Schwartz can help you predict  whether you'll get
along with your future daughter-in-law based
on her answer to the not-at-all strange question,
"What's your silver pattern, dear?"
When the Merry Husband and I got married, I decided on Tiffany's Faneuil, a pattern that would nevah evah make Schwartz' list of approved patterns. The name seemed a fitting tribute to the Merry Husband's adopted hometown of Boston, and the shape reminded me of Tiffany's iconic knife-edge solitaire. Although silver didn't make our registry list either, my sister (always the traditionalist) gave us a cake knife and server as an engagement gift. Since then, I've been picking up pieces of the older, heavier stuff from eBay, Replacements, and Beverly Bremer. This year, I'll be cutting back on my clothing budget so that I can add a piece or two a month to my collection.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Breakfast of Champions

For the superstitious among us, there is one absolute must for New Year's Day.

The black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread represent coins, cash, and gold. Now, why am I wasting my time on pennies when there are Benjamins and gold to be had? As Tevye would say, "Tradition, tradition!"

Black-Eyed Peas and Greens Recipe

8 ounces black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked over
1 lb collard greens, washed and chopped into strips
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped smoked ham or country ham, cut into thin strips
1 shallot, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup dry sherry
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup butter (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the peas and greens. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the ham, shallot, bell pepper, and garlic, and saute. Season with salt and pepper. Deglaze the pan with the sherry and add the honey. Add 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid from the greens.

Drain the peas and green, and combine them with the ham mixture in a bowl. Add the butter, stirring until it melts.

Serve with cornbread.
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