Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where is style born?

Maybe style is culled from what we see around us. Look at Chanel in the sailor's jerseys. She saw them on the French coast.

My mother is turning 80 in a couple of weeks and we are going to dinner with her and my dad - all four of her children, assorted spouses and partners and a couple of grandchildren. I had the idea that it would be fun to wear something reminiscent of the year she was born - 1930. Nutty, I guess. But, we are a rather serious family and I think she would think it was kind of fun. So I was researching the 1920's and '30s and came across these great photos. I swear I must have lived in Europe in the Twenties. These clothes just feel like home to me. Love them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Fur

My vintage fur hat. Is it so Mad Men???

I love seeing the hand stitching.

Getting ready to leave NY on Friday, I was running some last minute errands alone. On our corner at Madison is a woman's shop - generally a little too classic for me - but I spied a fur neck warmer - it looked so yummy, I popped in and tried it on. I discovered it was $195. and seemed really cheaply made. I'll pass thank you.

I head back to the apartment to pick up a bag of things I want to drop at a nearby shop as a donation - and head out with Lee. The shop is run by Sloan Kettering and filled with vintage Upper East side labels, old fur coats and cashmere sweaters. Lee is with me. I'm heading in with the bag when Lee motions me to the window.

"Babe, this is so you. Look at this hat. You have to have it."

He's pointing at a mink hat, sort of Russian style. First, I can't believe Lee suddenly has an eye for fashion. He's never once in seventeen years pointed something out that I should try or buy.

I shake my head because of course only 20 minutes before I am eying fur head gear.

"Okay. I"m all about it."

I go in, ask for someone to get me the mink hat - and oh, by the way, the fur scarf next to it. I try them both on, peer through the window to Lee who is still on the sidewalk and he gives me the thumbs up. Then he sticks his head in the door.

"You have to have it. You look great in it. It is so old New York."

How does Lee know these things? Wink, wink.

So, for $80 I walk out with the mink hat from Macy's circa 1960 and the fur scarf circa probably last year. And, Lee's chest is puffed up. He scored and made me happy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Back to School

My new "dressing room / guest room / storage room." Previously Izzy's bedroom. I'm the mother from hell - I take over my daughter's room the minute she moves out! It's a Freudian theme. I just saw "Freud's Last Session" (a play at a YMCA on the West Side) in NY this week.

Wow. I even have a place for all my shoes. I, sadly, never get rid of shoes. Many of these are 18 years old and from consignment stores. Hey, things come back.

I have a biological clock that tells me it is "back to school time." Every end of August, from the time I was five and preparing for kindergarten with Mrs. Klesspie, I have been aware of my clothes. Now, I should probably be clear: we didn't have much extra for store-bought clothing when I was young and living on my grandfather's farm. My mother and great-grandmother, Lulu, made most of my clothes. My Grandma Fern bought be a dress now and then. But, I have a distinct memory of shopping in Marshalltown, Iowa when I was only five, for a few things for school. And, of course, I would go home and put them carefully into my little cupboard of clothes.

Later, by the time I was 12 or 13, I was making all of my own clothes and started madly designing what I wanted for fall after scouring Seventeen Magazine. Then, I would collect the fabrics and trims and get to work re-working patterns to get just what I wanted.

SO, Lee and I got home last night after 8 days in NYC (which was fantastic, btw!) On our arrival, the cats had made a mess of the place. I won't say more, but even with a "caretaker", the only thing worse might have been a dead body in the living room, having been dead for a week. We cranked the AC - opened windows, sprayed lavender around the place, lit Nag Champa and Aveda candles. The worst was Izzy's room where she'd put the catbox when she left for school. We scrubbed it like we were alter boys cleaning the chalice for communion.

Izzy had moved to Madison in our absence, so her uber messy bedroom was suddenly ours to do with it what we needed. (We've been storing my office supplies in our bedroom on the floor all summer.) Since we brought all our clothes back from NY we both need more closet space. So, I decided to take over this free room, turn it into a combo dressing room, storage room, and guest room. All in some crazy version of Freudian style.

Lee was napping while I did this and I was a little worried that he would think I was being selfish for taking it over. (He could seriously use a real office!) But...he loved it. Thought it looked like a great reading place.

When we eventually get a guest - I roll out my clothes rack and make up a cozy bed. For a couple, I'll just buy a second twin mattress top plop on top of the one we have. Then, we flip it out and...voila! It's a king size bed in a miniature room! Who cares? You're sleeping!

SO, here's my groovy "dressing room". I've never had one! Have I ever even had a closet to myself when I was in a relationship? I don't think so....

The fur hat...that's a story for tomorrow.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Brothers in New York City

My brother, Kelly.

Tom - his charming partner.

How lucky am I?

My "baby" brother, Kelly, and his partner, Tom, have hired me to design their newly purchased "old home" in Minneapolis. There is little from their past life that they want to take with them, so we are shopping for a house full of furniture - entry, living room, den, dining room, kitchen stools, bedroom, guest room and office. This is a lot of furniture! But how fun is that?

So, since they also love any excuse to go to New York, we decided to do a shopping trip to the city. I have a photo shoot next week. It is my birthday AND our anniversary early next week and I thought it sounded like a grand idea to roll this all into one big trip.

Today we started at Holly Hunt and found the chairs of Tom's dreams. Hand made walnut by a very small but caring little company called Troscan. We also landed on the bed and uber cool Poliform bedside tables. Then we went in search of the perfect table. We were all a little worried about wood - but what else is there? The house has been recently renovated and the owner put in walnut floors. (A bit of overkill to me! This house would have had oak. That is what I think it should STILL have.) And there is a gigantic original oak buffet in the dining room - lots of wood! So what do you do for a table and chairs?

Well, now that we found a chair we liked - claro walnut - we kept our eyes open for a table and, upon dropping unexpectedly into a shop on E. 58th, we found a steel table with a very high cool factor - made of recycled parts of old steel machinery - it was fantastic! So now, we have this cool urban table with amazing hand crafted walnut chairs.

Then, we moved on to confirm sofas at A. Rudin, select the cording for the linen velvet for one sofa and moved on to lunch. After lunch - I am all iced tea - they are bloody marys and beer - we went downtown to a great little shop on the lower east side - called Il Cafiero. www.ilcafiero.com. Fantastic! We found a pair of vintage mirrored lamps for the bedroom. And, maybe a really interesting vintage Tommi Parzinger chest for the entry. But, if they don't get it - I may. It is quite good. A perfect "bar" - lots of storage.

From there, we hit BDDW for the breathtaking experience of that showroom and the extraordinary kindness of the staff. www.bddw.com. So impressive. People were just nice to us all day. Professional, thoughtful - so, so good to work that way. Of course, they found a few things there! On to Ochre to check out the light they have to have. And we found the perfect coffee table for the living room - one piece vintage Paul McCobb - 1955 - brass with painted glass top. So freaking cool. It just suits them. I told them they'd have to hang on the loveseats and smoke. You just know an ashtray belongs on this table.

I love New York.
And my brothers.

Monday, August 16, 2010


Lee and I have been talking to Izzy about freedom. Here's Lee's story:

In 1972, Lee went to Italy (his first trip to Europe at 21 years old.) He went to some sweet little spot on the Mediterranean called Salerno to study Gestalt. He was there for several months. At the end of the course, he spent 10 days in Rome. This is what he said to Izzy today...

"After spending 4 months in Italy, I spent the final 10 days alone in Rome. It was such an experience of freedom. I came to know the city in a way that I was comfortable. I could depend on myself. I had never known anything like it. Then I went home to Kalmazoo. I had worked at the Upjohn company before I left - which is how I made the money to go. I arrived home on January 6 and had no idea where to land. I applied for a job at Upjohn because it was familiar. I got a job and showed up. It was like walking into a concrete prison. After the expansion of Rome, here I was in corporate America. I never felt so deflated in my life. The freedom I felt in Rome was gone. Like that."

Lee told Izzy this story because we were talking about her own experience of Europe - what it was like to be back. Then, we all started thinking about what freedom feels like.

I remembered my experience from a week ago - swimming in Lake Superior. That felt like freedom to me. I felt ridiculously at one with the water. I felt fourteen. I felt my body. I even liked my body.

When else have I felt freedom? I felt it in Florence in 2006 at 53. It was my first trip to Europe. (I know...I am really a late bloomer.) I hit the ground running. I just got the city. I can't even explain it. I just felt at home.

I often feel freedom in New York - managing the city. It is powerful to be able to navigate and move around and find my own way there. I feel freedom walking around my neighborhood there - from the apartment to the library with my backpack full of books and notepads. I love how no one cares who I am - which gives me the freedom to be whomever I want to be. New York is freedom to me.

I remember feeling freedom riding my bike around Charleston, SC in the '80's. What a magical place to live as I was turning 30.

What is freedom for you? I'd LOVE to hear about this! PLEASE, don't be shy. Write.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Mother

Scene in Northfield, MN this morning along the river.

An art installation over the river in Northfield - inspired by Christo???

A very fuzzy photo of Izzy and my almost 80-year old mom at the Saturday market in Northfield, MN, population 20,000 when all of the college students are there.

Isabelle has not seen my parents / her grandparents for one year. She left last August for Spain for the year - came back on July 1 and is just now able to spend a night with them. My parents live in Northfield, Minnesota - home of Carlton College - one of the country's best small liberal arts colleges (with emphasis on liberal.) The little town has a small river running through it, a main street filled with late 19th and early 20th Century buildings, a claim to fame as the place Jesse James had his famous shootout and a very good coop. I was given the grand tour today.

Isabelle and I drove down last evening after work and my parents couldn't have been happier to have us and see Izzy after a year. "Hola," my mother says, as she hugs her. She whips out the four Spanish lines in her vocabulary and Izzy plays along.

WE sit with wine while they grill her about her year in Spain. But, within 20 minutes, Dad is itching to eat. It IS 6:45! We gather at the table for roast chicken, macaroni and cheese and white buns my father has whipped up that afternoon. It is lovely except everything is white. I remember that I have brought along both red and green heirloom tomatoes which Izzy and I quickly slice, add a little chopped basil, balsamic and olive oil. Finally, there is a vegetable and a bit of color on the table.

Mom and Izzy just buzz with conversation. It is very cute. We talk literature which my mom is quite interested in - always reading. We talk travel in Morocco which my mother can't imagine never having been on any continent but North America. They talk religion and gay rights. They are on the same side of those arguments. It is, again, very cute.

This morning, we get up and head downtown. This is quite an ordeal. My parents can't walk very well anymore - my father needs a cane (at 81) and my mother has some problems with her hip and cannot walk more than a couple of blocks without a bit of rest. She turns 80 next month. We must find parking close in, which, in Northfield we learn is not a problem. We stop at one farmer's market, quite small on Saturdays, apparently, and I pick up some fresh salsa.

Then Mom wants to show us her coop. Now, this is kind of funny to us because we've been shopping at our coop for 18 years. Before that, I shopped at one in Iowa City in the '70's. But, Mom is very excited that she shops at the local coop and wants us to see how "cool" it is. Okay, Mom. Will do. We get a tour. Literally. We walk up and down each aisle and she shows us what she buys.

"Oh, I get all my cleaning supplies here. And, here...I buy my facial cleansers and lotions. Oh...and here...I buy the milk from a local dairy. Here is my milk. Here is my cream....and in this aisle, I buy the Thousand Hills hamburger. It is also local. Oh, and the breads are local. And here are the crackers. These are very good."

Izzy and I were so tickled that she was so excited about her coop. We pointed out a few of the things we buy at ours - and she was interested. I must say, it was very impressive. It was about the same size as my Linden Hills coop and had almost all the same things, but the Northfield Coop wins by a hair. It had a slightly broader selection. It really was very good. And Mom was quite proud.

"Grandma, you should run for the board. See, they are looking for board members (as she pointed to a sign on the front door.) You could launch your political career," Izzy said in her dry and smart-ass way.

"Oh, that's okay," my mom said. She'd rather just shop there and buy her vegan aioli, which she thinks is super cool. She didn't know Aioli is SUPPOSED to have eggs. :-)

Then we walked to the Saturday market on the river - a block away. We bought some yummy savory scones, local honey and some spinich quiche.

"I'm so happy you could come on a Saturday and come to the market. I just love this town. There is so much to do," she said with the enthusiasm only my mother can pull off with total authenticity.

She is such a gem. And a very good mom.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Madeline Island - the real deal....

We visited dear and long time friends this past weekend - on Madeline Island. Here are some images. Out on the farm first settled in the late 19th Century by P's family - remnants of the original log buildings still stand. P and Lee mowed and raked the grass while K and I prepared the summer squash picked that day. We took a late afternoon swim in the lake - the most pristine, clear water in which I have ever swam. I felt 14 years old - without the pull of gravity, no aching back, flexible knees, supple arms. Lee brought K and me drinks on the beach while we stayed lazy and wrapped in towels. Dinner was fresh Lake Superior trout "lifted" that morning and cooked on a wood plank on a grill. Bittersweet moments with friends who are struggling - but, who isn't in some way? Lovely to be able to share our imperfections,a sense of humor and an entire bottle of gin over the weekend. All in a place that is the real deal for me....yes, give me Madeline over the Hamptons...any day. But then, no matter how much I love New York City, I am still a farm girl from Iowa. :-)