Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pretty vs. Practical: a classic battle born over jellies

When I was a little girl, all I wanted was a pair of glitter jellies. Do you remember them? They were those plastic sandals made for children that came in a variety of "princess" colors like pink, purple and...more pink.

My neighbors had a pair of jellie
s. I thought they looked so pretty running around playing make believe games with their sparkly shoes on.
Alas, we (my sister and I) were not allowed to have jellies. My father, always the pragmatist, thought they were a frivolous purchase. Poorly made with absolutely no promise of comfort or practicality, I guess he just figured that they weren't worth the money.

So instead of glittery pink, I wore tennis shoes with rainbow shoelaces. And patent leather mary janes for church on Sundays.
Little did I know that the early seeds of a classic battle were being born right then. The duel between comfortable, supportive footwear and the OTHER kind of shoe--the beautiful, glamorous, dainty, shimmery shoe.

Once I grew a bit older, the battle leaned in favor of practicality for quite some time.
I went through many years wearing some variety of heavy brown shoe to school, and velvet black strappy sandals for fancy occasions. There were the clogs for a time. Then the birkenstock-like sandals. Then the closed-toe loafer/boot hybrids. And believing that black really does go with Everything...I wore that black strappy sandal to Every Single Prom, dinner and dance that required a skirt.
As I look down at my feet now--clad in metallic rose-gold flats with rosettes on the toes--I realize that somewhere along the way the battle swung back in favor of the "jellies." You'd be hard pressed to find any type of heavy brown shoe in my closet now, and though I do still keep a black strappy sandal on hand, I DON'T wear it with everything formal.

The truth is that practical and comfortable just don't make the top of the list for my shoe-criteria any more.
And feet do hurt after a day spent in open-toe wedges. And yes, sometimes I get cramps in my arches--a casualty of poor support. But I just don't care.

As far as I'm concerned,
I'm making up for those years coveting jellies and wearing sneakers instead. It's my time for pink glitter, and I'm not turning back.

Is there a fashion item from your childhood that you fondly remember? Do share by posting your comment here!

Setting the Pace (more thoughts on reCentering)

This time of year is rather two-faced, don't you think? One day it promises a hint of warmth and sun and spring, and the next it slips right back into winter.

In a word, it's a tease. A flirty, coy tease.
Needless to say, "the tease" and I have been spending some time together recently on my regular prairie walks. And you can tell just from the photo collages above and below, that the scenery shifts dramatically from one day to the next.

And naturally--since I've been in a very reflective mood lately--I've been pondering this shifting in my own life. I mean--is it just me or do you feel like this season involves a lot of stutter-stepping? For instance, some days I wake up bursting with energy and ideas, and then other days I slip back into the habit of figuratively curling up and only doing the things that Have to get done.

The truth is that I sense change on the horizon. Good change, mind you. Much, much needed change. And I'm anxious to get there. BUT... seems like the steps I take to reach the horizon are two-forward-and-then-one-back. Change, it appears, will not be rushed. Just like this recent two-faced weather, I can't force "spring" to get here any sooner.
And so in my efforts to reCenter, I am trying to let change set its own pace. It is, at times, a frustrating endeavor. I'd prefer to push it along, already, especially when I'm teased with promises of warmer days. But I'm trying to take a cue from nature and remember that you can't rush out of winter's dormancy into summer overnight. The seeds of new things need time to grow slowly, or else they'll perish.

And the last thing I want is for my much-anticipated change to perish before it has a chance to bloom. So I guess I have no choice but to endure a little more teasing for a time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Dear Winter...

note: all images are from jcrew--the store I wish I could shop at, but instead just try to copy...
Dear Winter:

I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I’m tired of you.

Please go away.

I know that your role during the year is important. I hear from others that your snowy contribution is good for the planet and all. And something about the tilting of the earth being necessary, etc. etc.

And yes, I know that your presence means lots of furry stoles and silken wool trousers and cashmere sweaters. And I suppose that all of my lovely knit sweaters wouldn’t do me much good without you.

But still...

Still I would REALLY like to wear some skirts right about now. And I have an adorable pair of peep toe wedges in a muted pink that I’m dying to break in. And frankly I miss my arms. And my shoulders. Thanks to you they’ve been buried under fabric for weeks upon weeks.

Not to mention my legs. My white, pasty legs that long for the light of day and perhaps a pair of cute shorts. Or the denim pencil skirt I’m planning to make. Or the flouncy shirt dress I got at the thrift store for a steal.

It’s just that I’m so tired of wearing my jeans every day. And my wool coat. I want to run my errands around town in my cherry red trench coat with 3/4 sleeves. I want to see my toes. I want to trade-in my bulky cardigans for lighter, breezy ones.
Can’t you understand? I mean no disrespect. It’s not you--it’s me. I promise we can still be friends... But for now, I need my space. For now...




What is your favorite new spring fashion? The short shorts with wedge heels? The creamy pastel colors? The layered ruffles? Personally I'm partial to anything vintage looking, so I'm loving the belted/tailored dresses...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Lady's Failures

Have I ever told you the story about the first sweater I knit? I was about twenty-years-old, and though I had learned to knit many years earlier, I hadn't touched a set of needles with any degree of commitment since my childhood.

Well, it just so happened one evening while babysitting that I had some time to myself after the kids went to bed. I turned on the tube and picked up a copy of Redbook that their mom subscribed to.

In this copy of Redbook was a feature on Julia Roberts, who--incidentally--is an avid knitter. During the interview the celebrity talked about her hobby and how much she enjoyed it. Naturally coming from a famous movie star, the whole process sounded quite glamorous. And fortunately for me and other readers, Redbook included a pattern for a "Julia" pullover sweater that we could all try.
And that was enough for me to dust off my knitting needles, buy some cheap yarn, and attempt to understand the cryptic pattern jargon for the sweater.

I'm sure I did many, many things wrong. After all, other than the two basic stitches, I had no idea what I was doing. Nevertheless, after a few weeks of plugging away, I had the pieces of my Julia sweater.

Flush with excitement at the possibility of actually making a successfully knitted garment, I stitched the pieces together and then stood back to admire my work. Some of the stitches were a wee bit sloppy, but I was pleased that it generally looked like a sweater should. And so I prepared to put it on.

This is when I discovered the problem. It would not fit over my head. Not even close. I tried to stretch the yarn. I tried to tug and pull. My efforts were in vain. The sweater did not fit.

Concerned, I snatched up the pattern to see where I could have gone wrong. Did I misread a section? Did I follow the steps incorrectly?

Was it possible that my head was just freakishly large compared to the Southern celebrity?

The answer, I discovered after some research, was No on all counts. Turns out that the pattern had an error in it. Apparently even Julia Robert's head wasn't that small--and mine, in turn, was not grotesquely large.
Now here's why I'm telling you this story. Because Julia's sweater was my first knitting failure, but certainly not my last. For years I would find inspiration from a pattern, pick up some needles and yarn, and happily produce an entire sweater stitch-by-stitch only to discover that the finished garment would never fit a normally-shaped person.

Just yesterday, in fact, I started a new project. A cropped v-neck sweater that seems like a perfect fit for spring. And the yarn for this sweater? Well...I've been pulling it ever so gently, line by line, from a cardigan I made last summer that was a total failure.

The point I'm trying to make is that failure is part of being a lady. Now, obviously I've experienced some success--as evidenced by the photos above--but these finished sweaters don't tell the full story. Because what you don't see are the scrapped projects, the ill-fitting disasters. The failures.

I'm so glad that I didn't stop at Julia's sweater (I do still have it--by the way--as a keepsake of my first attempt). And when I knit, I am often reminded about what a failure I am...and how to keep going ahead anyway. One stitch at a time. Until I succeed.

As an aside--which of the above projects is your favorite? Although I love all of them, I think I wear the pink cardigan most often. What do you think? Post your thoughts--on failure or on your favorite--below!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dressing up Men

A conversation from early in my marriage:Overheard while preparing to attend a dinner and awards reception:

me (getting ready in a party dress): what are you planning to wear, Craig?

him: I'm not sure yet. Do I really have to go?

me: yes. We've been through this. You're coming. Now I was thinking that you could wear your dark corduroys. You know--the ones I bought for you for Christmas three years ago.

him: I'm not wearing those.

me: why not? They look good on you and you never wear them. People will be dressed up, you know.

him: they're not comfortable. And I don't care what other people are wearing. Do I really have to go?

me: You're going! Well, if you aren't going to wear the corduroys, what about your Dockers? You could wear your white button-up--the one you like that you took on our honeymoon--and your linen sport coat.

him: I want to wear my jeans.
me: You ARE NOT wearing your jeans! Why do we have to go through this every time we go out!?

him: Because you never listen.
me: that's ridiculous. People will not be wearing jeans, Craig. Seriously--you have to pick something else.

him: I'm not going if I can't wear my jeans.

me (giving him The Look): you're going. And no jeans!
Sometime later at the event, much to my dismay, a gentlemen walks in looking dapper in a cowboy hat, a white button-up shirt, guessed it...jeans. Turns out, he was the recipient of one of the awards.

my husband (turning to me): If he gets to wear jeans, so do I.

And I've been losing the battle over denim ever since.

glossary of dapper men's clothing and accessories, all from Etsy sellers:
1. mod mens over coat by good grace
2. 50's men's pierre cardin executive suit by the brush factory
3. vintage mahogany lace-up oxfords by squeaky wheel collective
4. men's shirt - navy/white gingham STYLE No. BKT10 by brooklyn tailors
5. vintage 70's wide boho brown leather belt by skinny and bernie
6. men's suit - grey worsted wool STYLE No. BKT50, also by brooklyn tailors
7. vintage steampunk handcrafted watch by revolt70

Monday, February 22, 2010

a Little Sparkle for your Morning...

Not so long ago, when I was in my early twenties, I spent some time in counseling working through the garden variety issues that come with the “coming-of-age” angst. And among the many things that I remember my therapist saying to me, one of them has always stood out. Stood out because it perpetually annoyed me. She used to say--and say often--”now remember, Stephanie, you’re a human Being, not a human Doing.”Now this “human being not doing” saying is fine to ponder on quiet walks and during deep discussions, but as I mentioned, it always annoyed me. Annoyed me’s just not that practical. The truth is that what I Do is a big part of who I am. Transcendent self-awareness aside, I can’t very well spend my days just “being.” My husband, for one, would probably not appreciate my “being” when--say--a huge stack of dishes needed some devoted “doing.”

What I’m trying to say, in a nutshell, is that frankly I have too much to do to concentrate on just being.

And so it was with a familiar task-oriented mind that I took another “reflective walk” yesterday morning. The beauty of a clear, chilled, snow-covered prairie had certainly made an impression on me, but not quite enough to press out from my mind the mountain of things waiting for me at home.

And then I came across some tall grasses.
I had passed them already on the first leg of the walk without notice, but upon coming back they caught my eye. Caught it because they were dazzling. On top of their generic stalks were these magnificent crystal clusters, sparkling radiantly in the morning sun. It was like the whole prairie was covered in diamonds--decked in splendor for no particular reason on a boring Monday morning.

As I stopped to snap some photos (that regrettably did not turn out), it occurred to me that these shining gems were not practical at all. They were just beautiful. Granted prairie grasses aren’t normally troubled by the mounting to-do lists that we humans lug around from day to day, and therefore have more leisure to be unexpectedly lovely, but still...
...Still they reminded me of those annoying counseling sessions and how my therapist always felt the need to prod me Away from all my earnest doing. And while her attempts, and mine, are generally futile most of the time, every once and awhile I remember that beauty is at least as important as efficiency and to-do lists.

And so, under the influence of my co-conspirators (the therapist and the prairie)
, I've concluded that a little sparkle is good for me every now and then. It won't make my to-list go away, but it reminds me that efficiency isn't always the healthiest habit for me. Diamonds, however, are healthy indeed.

Now if only I could successfully convince my husband of this fact...

the Splurge

There are a lot of things in life that make "going back" difficult. For instance, when we moved into this house, my husband and I bought a king-size bed. And now we could never possibly go back to sleeping comfortably in a queen. I mean, where would the dogs sleep? How would I stretch out properly? What would I do with all of my cute linens?

Or, as another example, when I purchased my first small bottle of mineral makeup and wore it around town, I knew that I wouldn't be going back to liquid or cream or any other variety of potion. I had found my cosmetic soul mate, and wouldn't be looking back.

So when I decided sometime last year to try out a few "authentic" yarns (aka not acrylic) to see what all the fuss was about, I understood that I was taking a risk.

A risk because I knew that if I discovered that I loved (LOVED) nice yarns, I might have a difficult time going back to the run-of-the-mill (aka cheap) variety.

Needless to say, I was right. Here I am, a year or so later, wearing what is certainly THE SOFTEST SWEATER I have ever owned or worn in my entire life.

Softer than my dog's ears.
Softer than a baby's skin.
Softer than cashmere. (okay--maybe it's as soft as cashmere...)

This yarn--a pale gray color that I think is perfect for spring--definitely debunks the notion that knitting is an affordable alternative to buying mass-produced sweaters from...say...J.Crew. Because not only is it THE SOFTEST SWEATER I have ever owned, it is also the most expensive. It was, in a word, a splurge.

This expense, however, is tempered by the satisfaction I got from knitting this sweater from scratch. And from learning new techniques (like making an I-cord, for instance). And from knowing it will stay with me for a lifetime. All things that I could not have gotten from buying a similar sweater from the store.

In other words, sometimes not going back is worth every penny.

What is your favorite splurge? Share by posting your comment here!
note: for the curious, this is the Faux Wrap Sweater from the fabulous book, Reversible Knitting.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Reflective Walk

In the spirit of yesterday's recentering, I decided that today I would do something I haven't done in a very long time, which was to walk one of my favorite trails.

It was probably the best decision I've made all winter.  The air was so refreshing and the dark gray clouds of a cold front rolling in set an almost magical quality to the skyline.  My soul must have desperately needed the openness--the feel of chilled wind on my face--because I felt like I was drinking in freshness.
This feeling of freshness is a bit ironic considering the last time I was on this trail.  The truth is that I haven't walked here in almost exactly a year.  I remember the last time like it was yesterday.  I had just finished up an appointment with my doctor where she explained ever so plainly [I'm paraphrasing now] that my husband and I had better chances of winning the lottery than conceiving a child.  

It was news, you can imagine, that has profoundly impacted the last year of my life.  And it was news that was anything but fresh.
I mention this for a number of reasons.  One is that a lady is equal parts elusive and vulnerable.  And today I'm practicing the latter.  And two is that it is an important part of my story.

And that story is one of a long season of dormancy.  Like the grasses and trees from these photos taken on my walk, I have spent the past 2+ years resembling a barren prairie.  Oh yes...I know that this lovely blog has begun to show the pale pink of bloom, but it has taken many, many months to get here.
And really what you see now are just the early buds--a hopeful promise of what is to come.  Many of my dreams for this little online space are yet to blossom--still waiting for their figurative spring.
And also waiting for figurative spring is my family--my chance to be a mother as well as a wife and writer and creator of pretty things.  This endeavor I'm afraid I have less control over, but it is a piece of my heart nevertheless.  And it encourages me that one year later, on this very trail, I was able to feel freshness and openness instead of the crushing weight of sorrow that I felt when last I tread here.
So, I suppose my first 24 hours of "freshening up" for a new season have been fresh indeed.  So fresh, in fact, that I've made a decision to return to this trail as often as I can during the next several weeks.  Because I want to witness day-by-day what it is like to come out of dormancy.

And maybe I'll see it happen for me, too.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


note: stay tuned for a brief message from our sponsor... (okay--it's really a message from me.  It just sounds more official put the other way...)  

Hello Friends--

I know I've been a bit off-topic this week--sort of jumbled and disorganized--so bear with me as I post yet again on a subject outside of my norm.  You see, it seems that every year around this time I find myself slightly overwhelmed and little disoriented--like I'm hanging in-limbo between two seasons.  One season--the holidays--has passed, and the other--spring--has yet to begin.  And I'm passing through the middle, slightly dazed.

In other words, what I could really use right about now is a chance to Recenter.  To remove all the clutter (mental and otherwise), reevaluate my priorities and goals, and...well..."freshen up" for spring.  Judging from my recent past, this process usually works itself out in a few weeks time with the aid of some spring cleaning, warmer weather, and my trusty journal.

So, beginning today I am going on a "ReCentering" cleanse.  Not the kind involving anything to do with my colon, thank you very much, but the kind involving all those things I mentioned above.  I'll still be posting daily, of course, but perhaps weaving this theme of refocusing for a new season into our discussions about being a lady.  

With that, I'm off to begin the Centering process.  I'll be back tomorrow with more information and (hopefully) a plan that you can join me on!  

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Being a(n Adventurous) Lady

note: I've started to invite some of my readers to contribute their thoughts, stories, creations, and inspiration to my daily posts.

And so, without further adieu, please welcome kerri...

"Women are creatures of habit. We create routines and schedules and pride ourselves in our ability to keep them. I’m not sure if this is a quality of a lady, though. Spontaneity is more apt for a lady; she is always seeking to meet new people, try new things and to improve herself constantly. Habit does not encourage these things. But adventure always does.
"Take, for instance, Lizzie Bennett from Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She never settled. She constantly did uncomfortable things, in pursuit of something more. Be it a long holiday in the country or a visit to people far “above” her station, Lizzie didn’t hesitate to test her boundaries or put limits on sharing her opinion and being herself. I would call her adventurous, to say the least.
"I, however, am not adventurous. While I love challenges, I don’t often find myself seeking them out. When I do, the rewards are greater than I ever imagined. But I constantly hold back. And I’m not alone. Why? Because where we seek adventure or a challenge, we understand failure as a potential outcome. Fear of failure clouds other possibilities, like success or happiness or confidence.
"Enter snowshoeing. It was something I had never done, nor had my friend Amy. We made a plan, last minute enough to not be able to change our minds. I’m not sure about Amy, but I knew if I had too much time to think about it, I’d come up with any number of excuses to not go. But we went. It was hard starting out (I fell at the very beginning of the trail – why should I have actually paid attention to how to keep those things attached to my feet?); I was positive that by the first stop on the trail I’d be ready to turn around.
"Breathing hard (but trying to hide it from Amy, as she was trying to do the same), I made myself find a rhythm. About 20 minutes in, it just clicked. My blood was pumping, my lungs were filling with clear air, (my armpits may have been sweating profusely), and I felt awesome. "Natural high" became a phrase I understood. Amy and I made the whole hike, wind and all, and got to see beautiful vistas that made the sweat and burning lungs worth it.
"I’m a blog-lover but I’ve never been a blogger, probably because I see it the same way as I saw snowshoeing. So when Stephanie asked me to be a guest writer, I was intimidated (I’m sweating as I write this – could this be a theme?). I have visions of people scoffing at what I think are compelling ideas and NOT laughing at my jokes (pulse check). Oh gosh! But I know I’m not alone; I know you share similar fears to mine.

So here’s to Lizzie Bennett!
And here’s to you--and me--trying new adventures.

It's what ladies do.

Interested in being a guest writer? Email me at for details!

photos courtesy of kerri, taken on her snowshoeing trip.

Monday, February 15, 2010

a Foolproof Formula

And for the record, I REFUSE to try oysters though they do make him so very happy. There's just something seriously unappealing about those slimy centers...
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