Le leather

February 25th, 2011 30 comments

I’m not sure what has gotten into me where I have resumed outfit posts (two days in a row after six months without nary a one?)
I had leather pants 10 years ago that I wore faithfully and adored and then tossed after I had kids thinking I was too old for them now. Then I went for a drink with the lovely Aesthetic Alterations and she had on gorgeous leather pants. She is younger than me, but it made me wonder if I could pull them off at my age. What sealed the deal on the frigidly cold day we met was when she told me they were probably the warmest thing in her wardrobe. Bingo.

PS In case you are wondering, these were on super secret clearance at the thrift store … love my local thrift store! They are butter soft and don’t appear as if they were ever worn.

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bella casa

February 9th, 2011 7 comments
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Blue Velvet

January 18th, 2011 10 comments

The incomparable Isabella

Do any of you have a color and a fabric that sums you up?

I do.

It has always been, and it will always be, Blue Velvet.

I have owned some version of a navy blue velvet blazer for the past 25 years.

I love the movie Blue Velvet and definitely went through a David Lynch phase. But that’s not why blue velvet speaks to me so poignantly.To me, blue velvet says Paris in the 20s. It says Greenwich Village in the 30s. It says pernod and absinthe. It says Henry and June Miller. It speaks of dimly lit dance halls and bustling cafes filled with artists and writers.  It evokes romance, sensuality and mystery to me.

What fabric and color speaks to you?

Similar to my New Year's Eve Dress

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Sofia Coppola

January 15th, 2011 6 comments

 

It’s been a few months since I mentioned the incomparable Sofia, so in honor of gearing up to go see her new movie, Somewhere, here ya go:

“You`re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion, but I think you can be substantial and still be interested in frivolity.” – Sofia Coppola

 

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Just Kids

December 29th, 2010 2 comments

I started this book last night and am blown away.

It is beatifully written and I am becoming obsessed with Robert Mapplethorpe. How did I live this long on earth without truly appreciating this artist?

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

www.mapplethorpe.org

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The Feast of the Seven Fishes

December 27th, 2010 8 comments

My family lives far away and for six years I have basically not had any of my own family traditions when it comes to the holidays. I am blessed to have wonderful inlaws (about 30 of them) in town and spend holidays with them.

However, this year my husband and I decided to start our own family tradition. In traditional Italian-American style we held The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve. We invited family and friends and ended up with about 25 of us gathered before midnight mass.

Here is the menu:

L ‘Antipasto:
*  Soppresseta salami, smoked gouda, parrano, proscuitto plate
*  Olives
* Jalapeno Artichoke dip and crackers
* Yummy salmon and wasabi dip my friend Lisa made! with crackers
*  Shrimp and cocktail sauce
* Bacon-wrapped scallops

Il Primo
* Red Pepper Crab Bisque

Il Primo/Pasta
* Lobster Ravioli in a Champagne Cream Sauce

Il Secondo
* Cioppino (see below) with garlic bread

Il Dolci
* Assorted cookies
* Cannoli
* Fudge

History of Cioppino. Pronounced: CHUH – PEE – NO. Although it originated in Italy, this Italian seafood stew was made popular in San Francisco. The idea is the fishermen would come in to the wharf at the end of the day with their various catch of the day and each of them wouuld contribute some of their catch into a big pot with marinara sauce and spices.
My version (actually my brother’s recipe) involved a thick sauce made of marinara, spices and two pounds of fish fillets that dissolve into the sauce making it super thick and chunky. On top of that I added crab meat, crab legs, shrimp, mussels, giant scallops and live clams.
You must sop it up with garlic bread for the full effect.
I was so crazy busy in the kitchen (have you ever fed 25 people in three courses?) that I didn’t manage to get any pictures of everyone sitting down eating or of the food even! These photos are of the aftermath!
So please forgive my photos. Blurry and not really capturing the crowd or mood. We had two tables set upstairs and the kids played and caused a wonderful ruckus in our finished basement.

I apologize for the blurry photo but wanted to show the ambience — all candlelit and white Christmas lights. I finally found a use for the dozens of empty Bonne Maman jars I have — candle holders for votives.

PS. The history of the word Cioppino is unclear: from www.kitchenproject.com: “The name comes either from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa,meaning “to chop” or “chopped” which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various leftovers of the days catch, but also some say it can be a corruption of the word” il ciuppin” which means ..little soup. ”
However, I like this definition which says it comes from the San Francisco fishermen urging their colleagues to CHIP IN to the communal stew pot on the docks.
My family has a long history in San Francisco, so I love this stew for many reasons.

It has been called the San Francisco version of the French bouillabaisse.
My nephew, who is visiting from South Carolina came over for leftovers last night (we fed another 8 people with leftovers yesterday) said it is like the Italian version of Gumbo!

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Uber Chic Sighting and New Shoes

December 27th, 2010 4 comments

As you know from my previous post, I’ve been tossing around the idea of clogs. I finally found some by serendipity.

On Christmas Eve I sat by the most amazing chic woman at mass. She was beautiful, poised and chic. And a grandmother. Her hair was cut in a Louise Brooks chic black bob with bangs and she had Cleopatra eyes and a bit of lipstick and barely any wrinkles. She wore a kelly green sweater with a rolled neckline and 3/4 length sleeves that was formfitting and longer. She wore it with a shorter black skirt, black opaque tights and amazingly cool clogs. (See below)

We made small talk waiting for communion and she has daughters my age and one grandchild. She told me she was 60. She was so lovely, holding her husband’s arm and laughing and smiling at all the babies and children around (including my two).

I told her “I want to look like you when I’m 60! Please.” and she said, “So do my daughters!”

Now my husband always, well 99 percent of the time, loves my style and what I wear. The only comments he ever has are on shoes. He has very strong opinions on shoes. And I care what he thinks.
Enough to get rid of shoes he find unflattering. For instance, last week, I had bought some super high (but clunky heeled) Colin Stuart black suede Mary Janes off ebay for a pittance, but he saw them and immediately said he didn’t like them.

So I always try to seek his opinion in this one area of my style. On Christmas Eve, I pointed to the woman’s clogs and whispered “Aren’t they amazing? Do you like those?”
He did. So the hunt began.

Initially, I was worried they would be very expensive — judging by her enormous wedding ring and her fur coat (not the thrift store variety I like to wear!) But I easily found them online and they were very affordable. By the way, I can find ANYTHING online. I should charge to offer this service : ).
So my husband liked them and bought them for me. They should arrive today:

BONUS: Notice they are fur lined (well shearling) so they will keep my feet toasty, as well.

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Where Style Meets Comfort

December 20th, 2010 7 comments

I’ve been holding out on the whole Clog scene for about a year now just like the uber stylish Garance did, but like her, I think I’m going to wave the white flag. It all started with a fellow blogger who lives in the same Godforsaken, winter wonderland part of the country that I am in.
See where I live it is common practice to shed one’s shoes at the entry way when you visit another person’s home. I get it, but I don’t like it one bit. When I get dressed, my outfit includes my shoes and it feels off without them — not to mention much colder with stocking feet.

A lot of people actually tote around these knit slipper shoe thingies that they then put on at someone’s house. It’s not my thing but I didn’t know what suited me until I read what Aesthetic Alterations does to solve her shoeless visitor conundrum.

She takes along a pair of platform, chunky sandals and slips those on when she arrives at her destination. I still want something a bit warmer so I decided to investigate clogs — chiefly this pair from Born.

Of course digging around on zappos, I came across a few other cute styles, including this one:

The Corby is cute, but I surprisingly like the clog better. If I did buy the clog, I would be breaking a well touted style rule — if you’ve worn the trend once — the first time around — skip it the second.
Oh yes, I wore clogs in grade school. Big, clunky wooden ones if I remember right. And I thought I was pretty cool in them, too. They may have even been the first heels I ever wore.
So if I did buy these I’d be breaking the rules. Not the first time.
What do I like about them? The suede. Love suede. The ability to slip them on and off at someone’s house. The heel. It’s not funky or trendy, just a decent high heel that I can be comfortable in. Which leads me to the most important thing I like about them — just knowing they are from Born means I can walk around in them for days and still be comfortable.

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Style Inspiration from Novels

December 7th, 2010 4 comments

Over the years, I have found style and fashion inspiration by characters in novels.
Recently I revisited two of my favorite books: “Henry and June” by Anais Nin and her diary covering the same time period: 1931 to 1934.

Here is how June’s style is described by Anais in three instances:
“Then June came, all in black velvet, black cape and her hat with a feather shading her eyes.”

“Did any woman ever wear shabby shoes, a shabby black dress, a shabby blue cape and an old violet hat as she wore them?”

“June dark, secret under the brim of her Greta Garbo felt hat, heavy-caped, tragic and pale.”

Of course all these photos are of Uma Thurman playing June, but you get the idea.

I am a huge fan of Anais and Henry Miller. Once, as a reporter, I got a private tour of Miller’s home in Big Sur, overlooking the ocean, but that is a whole another story.

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Pucker Up Baby

December 3rd, 2010 1 comment


I’m truly not a big cosmetics girl, but there is one beauty product I cannot live without: lipstick.
< Whenever I read those questionnaires asking what you would bring to a desert island I always think: duh, lipstick. I think I went about a decade where I didn't wear any eye makeup but wore red lipstick every single day. I think Lipstick can brighten up your face exponentially. I like the matte in the shade Fire Down Below (what’s not to love about these other names, too: Catfight, FunnyFace and HotVoodoo). I’ve heard about Nars for years, mainly in connection with celebrities:

Because of that, I guess I always thought the product line was out of my price range, but its really not. I did a little investigating and looked at lipstick, lip laquer and lipgloss.

As a mom who stays home with the kids, I can sometimes be stuck for months inside the house, only going out for food or other necessities (yes, this climate is horrible), but darn if I don’t wear lipstick each and every day even if the only people who see it are my husband and kids.
A friend of mine who works outside the home commented on the women in our area of town. She said she liked me because I was the only one she knew who always wore lipstick. What a funny thing to notice, but I think it does make a difference.
It was only recently that I heard the term Lip Lacquer, (did I mention I’m not a big beauty product girl?) but I had no idea what it was at first. Since I’m the type of girl who would never, ever in a million years wear her hair in a shellacked hairstyle that was crusty-with-hairspray-to-the-touch hair, it sounded terrible, but when I checked it out it was actually a cute idea, but not enough color for me. I also looked at the Nars Lipgloss but all it did was reinforce that I truly am a lipstick girl. As much as I would like to be the French Girl who looks like she has no makeup on, in reality, I’m more like the French Girl with the red lips and the smudgy black eyes.
<

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What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.