Matchbooks are for Lovers

January 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

I don’t smoke. (I don’t think you are allowed to in New York anymore.) But I am a sucker for a charming matchbook cover. So it saddens me that so many restaurants around town are replacing their lovely matches with weird little logo-emblazoned pads of paper that are about the size of a Bubblicious wrapper. They are just so, well, disappointing.

No one is writing their number on those things to give to someone at the bar. And I am fairly certain that important note-taking happens using one’s smartphone, tablet or lovely Hermès diary. And so, I deem these matchbook replacements to be useless. And unless something is ridiculously beautiful or highly amusing, I don’t go in for Useless.

Which brings me back to the matchbook. Aside from being extremely useful — candles, people, candles — I love passing by a small group of them around the house and office. For me, they serve as excellent little mementos of time spent with the people I adore at the places I love best. Like photographs, but without someone’s eyes closed in the shot or you feeling like your arms look bad.

Therefore, I make this plea:  Can we have real matchbooks again, please??

xx

(Photo: Some Cozy Night)

Unreasonably Cold

January 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

Some years ago, the weather section on the front page of the New York Times included among the usual weather info the following statement: “Unreasonably cold”. I assume that the Times should have used “Unseasonably cold”, but I feel certain that this “typo” was the work of a rogue copy editor just calling it like it was. And for the next several days in New York, it is going to be totally and relentlessly Unreasonably Cold.

So, before I get on with my own advice on keeping warm without looking like a schlub, here is a nice little post from New York Magazine on the subject:

http://nymag.com/daily/fashion/2011/01/designers_on_cold.html#

While I don’t agree with all that is said here, I will be doing some personal vetting of those Uniqlo Heattech underthings as I am a major believer in major layering. (Making this the only time of year when I would ever consider a game of strip poker. But you know that I’d probably consider it for about three seconds before dismissing such an activity entirely.) Anyway…here is my list of top layering pieces for Unreasonably Cold weather:

1)  J. Crew Long-sleeved Tissue T’s.

Sure, they may fall apart, but the are light weight and can actually be seen peaking out of things without losing your modesty or fashion credibility.

2)  Hanro Silk Long Undies

For when I am feeling all Swiss and Fancy. No bulk, lots of extra warmth.

3) LL Bean Silk Long Undies

Sometimes I like to  pretend that I am a practical girl. Very little bulk for good warmth.

4) EMS Long Ski Undies

These are ideal for when I think I might die from the cold and don’t give a fig about bulk.

5) Brooks Brothers Wool Knee Socks.

Argyle. Their insanity makes them work with anything. And these babies are LONG, so you are assured excellent calf coverage.

6) Wolford tights.

We’re all adults here. And Wolford hosiery is not for kids. For maximum layering, pair the regular opaques with the silk Hanros. Wool ribbed if your pants are feeling a little roomy.

7) Hunter Wellies

With a liner. Let’s not mess around.

The one glaring omission from NY Magazine’s suggestions from the Fabulous Set is the hat. Sure, they were mentioned here and there,  but I know you know this Essential Truth: Hats keep you warm. Your hair will survive. Just put one on. A nice-looking one, naturally.

And finally, a word on keeping warm indoors: Get yourself a hot water bottle. Really. LL Bean makes a nice cashmere covered one for a reasonable price, and if you are feeling unreasonable, get thyself to Malo.

xx

(Photo: Mr. H.)

The Idiot Reel

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

[id-ee-uh t  reel]

Noun

A mental catalog of acts where our benign but profound stupidity is on full display. Often recalled when in the middle of a new installment for the reel.

Highlights from my Idiot Reel include feeding my dog, M, blueberry pie in bed, crossing the threshold of Astor Place to get a post-breakup haircut in 1990 and the evening when I triumphantly yelled “BEE GEE!!” to Mr. H. while trying to recall the last name of Maurice, Robin and Barry*.

Naturally, my reel contains every single time I thought to myself “How hard could it be?”, occasions when I confidently began to discuss subjects of which I know nothing about, and several bouts with my garbage disposal. If it were professionally edited, I can only assume that in between each of these episodes there would be a new shot of me looking for my keys.

I am pretty certain that we all have an IR. And if they could actually be recorded, would I be the only one who would hit “play” frequently? I don’t think so.

Aside from providing a much-needed belly laugh from time to time, The Idiot Reel keeps me from taking life too seriously. It’s also a gentle reminder that I can recover from my own mistakes. And while recovery from the 1990 “Astor Disaster” did take a while, as the stakes in life only seem to get higher and higher, that is a nice thing to know.

xx

Ms. Keyless

*Yes, I just looked up their first names on Wikipedia. And I am now wondering if the naming of these three sons are on Mrs. Gibb’s reel. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that they were family names.

(Photo: Some Cozy Night)

Losing My Charlotte

January 17, 2011 § Leave a comment

 

Some years ago, before iPhones or Facebook, but during the apex of “Sex and the City”, a colleague of mine mentioned in passing that the character Charlotte’s clothes reminded her of my own. I was a little put off: was she saying that I dressed like an Upper East Side Priss? An adorable one, but still — me??  A Vogue subscriber from the tender age of twelve!?!

She tried to explain that this wasn’t what she meant, but whatever. We never discussed it (or much else) again. Yet now that I think about it, maybe she had a point: I did love an A-line skirt with a pair of kitten heels, which always seemed to magically match whatever handbag I was carrying.

A quick run though my closet today reveals that almost nothing from those days is still in residence, except for a Burberry trench (which I still wear) and my first pair of rather “Charlotte” Manolos (saved for posterity). This brings me to the actual point of this post.

I am fairly certain that every five years or so, one goes through — or at least should go through — a little style evolution that is in part about what’s current, but is mostly about one’s state of mind. Which, I might add, has nothing to do with that horrible concept of what is “age appropriate”. It is just about “you”, now.

Before you dismiss this as obvious, let me say that I am confident that the awareness of this concept  keeps us from hitting that “This Will Work” look. Which is, let’s face it, terribly aging and makes you a prime candidate for The Blahs.  And now I offer this little tidbit as a case-in-point:

There was a time when I was really into sweater sets.

Anyone who knows me now may find this laughable, but it is true. I was in my early twenties and also in my “I am going to marry some kind of Finance Guy and move to Rye or Greenwich” phase. This was exacerbated by my working in very conservative environments, where everyone was pretty much living somewhere on the Metro North line and was or was married to a Finance Guy. Monday through Friday,  it was all silk scarves, button earrings and Jones New York suits. Weekends and holidays: sweater sets galore.

The Vogue-reader in me was expressed though shoes and the pioneering of pant suits at my office. Oh, and sometimes I skipped hosiery. Yes, I was a renegade. In a “Charlotte” kind of way. Still, I was just in my twenties and dressing for the part in life that I thought I was headed for.

A few years and one terrible breakup later, things changed. I now worked at a place where everyone around me dressed as they pleased. Unshackled, except for my budget, I pretty much followed my bliss. By my late twenties, Kate Spade was the kudzu of my closet, and my shoe-to-bag matching skills neared Ninja level. Still, turtlenecks pervaded the wardrobe for reasons I still don’t fully understand. Perhaps somewhere deep down I felt like the Finance Guy/Rye thing still could have happened. Or maybe I was just cold. No matter: it was “me”, then.

At thirty, I married a very non-Finance Guy — the one and only Mr. H. — and we stayed in New York. (OK, in a terribly smug, very much mocked part of Brooklyn, but still, so not the Metro North scene.) It was around that time that the “Charlotte” comment was leveled at me. No immediate wardrobe changes were apparent. My A-line skirts and dainty heels were in full force. They seemed fun and pretty and that was what seemed right for a newly married girl in New York.

Shortly thereafter, though, I decided to work full-time with Mr. H, leaving what I knew and was trained to do for something decidedly off the expected path. Risky and surprising, but I was doing it. And like a Sartorial Angel from the Heavens, the voice of Andre Leon Tally went off in my head said “Honey, all bets are off”.

It started slowly, but but the time I hit 35, I had developed a taste for all things Japanese and Flemish, the sky-high heel, and whatever Mr. Elbaz had draped into existence (provided that I could make it wearable for day). And once I realized that there is rarely a definitive front or back to anything but the pants and coats on offer, I’ve been in a very close and merry relationship with Marni. True, almost nothing that I wear these days “matches”, but I never feel mismatched. Maybe some of you think that I am, though. It’s ok. I feel like me.

One could say this change stems from the freedom of working for myself in a creative environment. No doubt that is a part of it.  But I think the bigger part is this: Nothing in my life so far has turned out as I had imagined it. (Sound familiar? It didn’t even work for Charlotte, come to think of it.) And while it is kind of surprising, it is also kind of freeing. And the freedom in the clothing just kind of followed.

So how on earth is all this navel gazing relevant to you? Well, I guess this:  Every once in a while,  take stock of your closet and who you are today. Toss as needed and be unafraid of trying new things. Even if you are totally swamped, or feel like “now isn’t the time”.  If you like something, it probably likes you, too. (This is not to be confused with a specific garment looking good on you…I am talking about a total vibe.) And it is ok for it to be over between you and some garment that you spent a lot of money on and loved for so long. Say your “farewells” and pass it along to someone who will hopefully love it as much as you did.

And in the interest of full disclosure and to show that I can still be a soft on the Toss Mandate, the last piece of “Charlotte” that I added to my closet was an apple-green, silk crepe blouse from Chloe. It is more than five years old and certainly has some wear, but its lovely scalloped collar and pin-tucked short sleeves make it impossible for me to let it go. I am sure it will still make appearances from time to time, but these days, it mostly exists in my closet to be pretty and to remind me that everything changes, nothing is a given and anything is possible. And I think that is ok, too.

xx

(Photo by Some Cozy Night.)

So I got a Flu Shot

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

And find myself to be quite ill today, nonetheless. So, while I patiently wait for the NyQuil to kick in, here are some random musings. Maybe some will be of interest to you.

– Method Tub and Tile  wipes are really kind of  excellent — especially if you get a stopped up tub and then need to deal with the aftermath on your own.

– Speaking of stopped up tubs, I recommend that we be unafraid to give people plumbing snakes as house warming or shower gifts. Everyone should have one. And someone in the house should probably know how to use it. (Word on the street is that this is another Development Area of mine.)

– I’d like to celebrate the wonder that is Kiehl’s Ultimate Strength Hand Salve. The best hand cream I’ve tried. I keep one by every sink in my house. (Now if I could only remember to use it after every hand wash…)

– You’ve heard me say it before, but I want to be on record on the internet that Epsom Salt Baths are a wonder. Mix with a little of your favorite bath bubbles and make sure you use the full two cups of salts per bath!

– NyQuil takes longer to work than one expects. Should I be asleep by now?

xx

Ms. Quil

Not Feeling Cozy on Account of Adulthood

January 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

The World over-promised on Adulthood.

All I ever heard about was staying up as late as I wanted and eating whatever I wanted and generally doing whatever I wanted. A very attractive proposition.  I could not wait to be one. As a Marketing type, I am impressed. As an Adult, I feel a little deceived.

My biggest gripe of late regarding Adulthood’s  purported benefits involves the “Set Your Own Bedtime” feature. Now that I am no longer 20, I have no desire or ability to stay up as late as I want without repercussions. I wish I could go to bed at 8:30 or 9:00 at night…but no.

If it isn’t my own schedule that keeps me up way past my bedtime — I have determined that I am a Nine Hour Girl — it is the things running around in my head that keep from actually sleeping. Last night I could not fall asleep on account of a man on the phone who just start yelling at me before I had a chance to say anything except “Hi! I placed an order about an hour ago”. Telling him he was being very rude in my best Emily Gilmore* voice helped some, but I still could not get it out of my head and myself  off to dreamland until well past midnight. (And Fresh Direct was coming at 6:30AM!) There would most definitely be repercussions.

What to do?

Well, in the spirit of making something positive out of something utterly negative, here are some things that seem to work for me when I am certain that I am never going to fall asleep — EVER:

1) Bitch and moan for a while.

Even if it is just to yourself. OK, this isn’t positive, but it does sometimes make me feel better. The key is to not do it for too long, I guess. Otherwise, you risk becoming a cliché, especially if you are a New Yorker. (This does happen to be a Development Area for me.)

2) Listen to an Audiobook

The more New Age-y, the better. Seriously, this stuff knocks me right out. I imagine that Richard Feynman lectures would produce similar effect.

3) Warm Milk with Honey

THIS REALLY WORKS. I don’t know if the chemical reaction is at play for me, or just the idea of drinking warm milk and honey that produces that warm and fuzzy frame of mind that makes it easier to nod off. Whatever. I recommend.

Things I DON’T recommend based on actual, not infrequent experience:

1) Watching television

Nothing good can come of this. One time, I actually found myself viewing The Jersey Shore — the episode where one girl punches another. (Or does that happen in every episode?) A cautionary tale, no?

2) Going on the Internet

Even just to see if I have posted anything…or what is going on over at Facebook. Again, you will be up forever and may wind up purchasing that really lovely coat you wanted but thought was impractical and too expensive when you were in better control of your faculties.

3) Counting Sheep

If you are at all Type A, this could be mildly dangerous. I mean, shouldn’t the sheep be lined up all nice and orderly? And are they fenced in? And what if one of them hurts themselves while jumping over the fence?? No, this isn’t a way to quiet the mind. Pure hooey.

And that is all I have for today. Baaa.

xx

*Emily Gilmore: Mother of Lorelai Gilmore  on one of my all-time favorite television shows, The Gilmore Girls. The Anna Wintour of Television Mothers, but with tons more to say and much more conservative clothes.

My Chili Type

January 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

I like the idea of chili, but rarely do I enjoy what actually winds up in my bowl when out in The World. It is often greasy, with too many ingredients and sugar, and meat of unknown provenance. That said, it has never occurred to me to whip up a big pot of chili. I am really not that type of girl. However, since The Husband  — “Mr. H” from here on, as it is easier for me, and what I call him anyway — and I have probably over 25 pounds of our own grass-fed ground beef from a cow share that we do with some equally enthusiastic, food-focused friends, I began to reconsider my position. So this weekend Mr. H and I decided it was time: we were making our own chili.

A simple goal, yes?

Well, “yes” and “no”.

The “no” part comes with finding a recipe that suits your needs and  sensibilities. Yes, there are Chili Sensibilities. These  include your feelings about beans, ground beef versus chuck, how many vegetables, if any, you wish to include, how spicy you like it (no, not like that…), etc., etc. And it turns out that there are actually a few distinct Chili Types: Cincinnati, Texas, New Mexico and Midwest. I suppose there is also the “Canned” type, and I fear that if I walked down the supermarket aisle where they keep all the “just add water” products, there may even be another type or two, but let’s just leave it at that.

Mr. H really took the reigns here, reviewing several cookbooks until he determined that we are the Cincinnati Chili Types (CCTs). CCTs go in for ground beef, a complex mix of spices with moderate-to-high heat and beans, but little other hooey. (No judgement!) The only part of the CCT that we do not abide by is the notion that the chili be served over spaghetti (!??!), but I am pretty sure that this must be some kind of misprint. Corn bread or rice: The only way to go.

On to the “yes” part:  the marvelous simplicity of making chili. I do see why it is a popular thing to cook, as once you know your Chili Type, it is fairly simple to assemble the required ingredients, get them into a pot and call it a meal. And even faster when you are using grass-fed beef, since it takes far less time — maybe half the suggested time — to cook. And don’t mess around with cook times on grass-fed, or you will have some very rubbery meat on your hands.

I worked from the basic recipe for Cincinnati Chili in the 1997 Joy of Cooking, improvising here and there as I often do.  Essentially, you put the meat, spices, liquid (water, vinegar and worcestershire sauce), along with onions and garlic into a pot bigger than the one I decided to use and just let it simmer until you feel that you have achieved chili. The chili meat is then refrigerated for several hours so that it can absorb all those spices you dug out of the pantry when you started the affair. Once it has cooled you can remove any fat that has accumulated on the top and get on with things. Those things include reheating the chili with the beans while you maybe take down some holiday decorations, feed your dogs and do some laundry.

Once it is heated through and somehow corn bread or rice has magically appeared, scoop into some cozy-looking bowls, add a dollop of sour cream on top, grate some good cheddar over that and you are done. Except for walking the dogs. And folding the laundry. But who’s complaining?

xx

Ms. CCT

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