Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: not Finished, but Enough

I’m a big fan of the glossies, as most of you already know. Somedays, when I just want to relax, I’ll head to the local bookstore to drink a hot tea and flip through the tabloids and fashion magazines at my leisure. I’m rather ashamed to admit that I take voyeuristic peeks into the lives of celebrities--and I like it. And I scour the fashion pages even though I know they’re exacerbating my urge to consume in excess. And I read the fitness sections as if they’re somehow going to motivate me to actually leave the bookstore and go for a jog (they never do...). I even like the silly quizzes, though I don’t mark them up in the store (because that’s just rude).
But one thing I’ve recently been noticing about all of these glossies is that they’re always trying to get me to improve myself. Whether it’s the 5 simple steps I can take to eat healthier, or the 10 secrets to making me a dynamo in bed, the underlying message is You Can Do Better.

Now, the truth is that I could do better. And I have to admit that part of me appreciates the encouragement and motivation. But once the gloss wears off, it just starts to feel like A.Lot.Of.Work.

And so I wonder--do the women who possess the elusive je ne sais quoi have some kind of secret self-improvement regimen that the rest of us don’t know about? Or are they maybe just more successful at implementing all of these earnest suggestions and check lists that line the pages of women’s magazines?

Somehow I doubt it--on both accounts. My suspicion is that actually the women with je ne sais quoi have mastered something else entirely--rest. They aren’t striving for perfection, but instead are resting right where they are. And this is why we are attracted to them.

I’m learning that there is a great chasm between a spirit at rest and one that is striving. The latter is driven to always improve, always grow, always advance, while the former says "I could improve, but I’ve done enough for now."

...Yes, I could fold the laundry while talking on the phone...but this conversation is enough.
...And Yes I could wake up twenty minutes earlier and squeeze in a workout, but my weekend walk is enough.
...And Yes I could be better in bed, and better at correspondence, and better at cooking, but Damn It! I Am Enough, just as I am.

Not perfect, not finished, but Enough.

Imagine what that would feel like. No wonder there’s just something about a lady like that.

What do you think? Have we gone too far with the self-improvement, or do you find it genuinely helpful? Share your thoughts below!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rose Obsession: a new pink cardigan

I had bittersweet feelings when I finished knitting this sweater last weekend. On the one hand it was nice, as usual, to complete a project and have something lovely and new. On the other hand, I know that this will probably be the last sweater I knit for many weeks.
You see, once the weather starts to get warmer, the idea of curling up with balls of soft, warm wool starts to lose its appeal. I don't want to curl up--I want to lay out in the sun. And I don't want wool--I want bathing suits and linen and thin cotton.
Of course, it's not quite time for those aforementioned lighter fabrics. After all, we had a foot of snow just last week! So this pink cardigan is a very good way for me to start wearing my summer dresses...with a little fashionable warmth to tide me through these last cooler days.
The yarn, which is a blend of bamboo and silk, is nice and soft. AND rose-colored. Like the pink petals of flowering trees. I Can't Wait for the flowering trees!
But until they bloom, you'll find me wearing this and dreaming of roses and warmer weather...

...and also feeling
just a little bit sad that winter's knitting is coming to an end.

How do you like my latest (and last of the season) sweater? Leave your comments below!

For you knitter's out there--this is a
free pattern from Berroco that I found off of Send me photos if you decide to knit one up for yourself!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Je Ne Sais Quoi: an introduction to my new series

When I decided that the theme for this next series would be je ne sais quoi, I knew that I needed to start with two very important things:

First, I needed to know how to spell je ne sais quoi.
You see, correct spelling was absolutely crucial to the next step, which was that I needed to know what the phrase actually meant. After all, much to my chagrin, I do not speak French. And therefore I couldn’t very well base an entire series on a French colloquialism if, by some stroke of bad luck, the phrase actually means “the lips of a fish are cold,” or “don’t show your ankles to strangers.” Because that would be very, very embarrassing.

Fortunately, after accomplishing the first task--spelling--with a bit of trial and error, I was relieved to learn that je ne sais quoi does, in fact, mean what I thought it did. Translated roughly, it means “there’s just something about her.” Something special. Something alluring. Something unique. The woman with je ne sais quoi has presence, and perhaps a bit of mystery. And she--my friends--is who I want to focus on for the next two months.

My goal for myself, and for all of us, is to explore our own je ne sais quoi. I want to know what kind of cocktail of confidence, style, skill and spirit is required to produce this alluring quality of the alluring. I’m sure that it has more to do with personality than beauty, and with ingenuity than money. And hopefully for all of us, it isn’t just reserved for the French (note: if, by the way, you are French and happen to be reading this, please feel free to share some tips with the rest of us!).
I also want to talk about what it means to “come into ourselves,” because I am convinced that it is a critical part of the special presence that accompanies an elegant woman. It suggests the art of growing comfortable in our own skins and dispositions, and the practice of resting instead of striving. And though I know this is a perpetual process, I’d like to think that there is a threshold of acceptance that can be reached and maintained for a lifetime.
Of course, a woman with je ne sais quoi also impacts those around her, and so I want to actively observe how unique women motivate, encourage and equip those around them to grow, too. How do they boldly use their talents when so many others seem to lack confidence? How do they manage to take risks even in the face of failure? How do they strengthen their spirits when the world outside their doorsteps is full of danger and uncertainty? And how do they help the people they meet to do the same? These women, after all, are not shrinking violets, afraid of their beauty and skill and daunted by fear. They demonstrate a resilience--a mysterious reserve of strength--that I think we would all love to discover for ourselves.
If you’ve noticed by now the conspicuous absence of outward beauty to the list above, it is, indeed, intentional. Of course we will spend time discussing beauty, but more as an outward manifestation of these other, previously mentioned attributes. If a pretty face were all that was required for the essence of je ne sais quoi, than the world would be a whole lot simpler than it is right now! Alas, simplicity is not a naturally occurring quality among women (just like thick, full lashes, hourglass figures, and porcelain skin are also rare). Complexity, instead, is our familiar trait, and so outward beauty can thus only reveal the surface and just beneath. It is fun, but will not make us into the alluring creatures we would like to be, no matter what Victoria Secret says.

And now, without further adieu, I invite you to join me in the pursuit of je ne sais quoi--

Friday, March 26, 2010

Favorite Winter Sewing Projects

Now that the weather is beginning to warm, I find that I'm pulling away from yarn and knitting needles and drawing toward my sewing machine. And oh the plans I have for sewing...

But before I share with you a few of my newest completed projects, I thought I would take a walk down memory lane and showcase some of my favorite sewing projects from this past winter--
First and foremost, this winter was a turning point for me and sewing for one reason: I discovered Vogue patterns. Yes, I know they've been around for ages, but I've never actually purchased and used one.

Oh my--what a difference it has made! Garments that actually fit! Lines that are flattering and curvy. It's like a whole new world for fabric and thread...

The pencil skirt and plum shirt were my first two Vogue projects, and I couldn't be happier with the way they turned out. With a few more patterns to go--and some modifications of these shown above--I have a lot more sewing ahead!
Of course, Vogue isn't the only one designing fashion. A few pieces I've created myself using clothing I already owned and sprucing it up a bit. The feather light silk top at top and the ruffled blouse here are two of my fondest creations so far.

Next week I'll be starting a new series called "Je Ne Sais Quoi," where we'll talk daily about that special and alluring quality that certain women have--and how to perhaps get it for ourselves. So please come back Monday as we start a new conversation---

--and I promise they'll be more sewing in the weeks to come!
Have a happy weekend!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sweet Tooth

I couldn't very well dedicate a week of posts to my favorite things without including a few treats. Because I confess that I do have a bit of a sweet tooth.
Alright...maybe more than a "bit."
My favorite of the treats are probably cupcakes, but it's hard to say for sure. They're so cute and scrumptious. And easy to make.

Then again, so are scones. And cobbler. And cookies.
Overall I'd have to say that I prefer baking to cooking. This probably isn't great for the future of my waistline, but I can't hide who I am. There's just something appealing about flour and sugar and eggs all mixed together. Something that I don't find when...say...mixing chicken with rice and veggies.
This fondness for baked sweets runs in my family. My sister is the one who cleverly told me how to make sure my cookies don't go flat (a problem I've been having) and who knows the secrets of making zucchini bread in the croc pot. And then there's my dad, who always did the baking in the family, from birthday cakes to chocolate candy at Christmas.
Sweet tooths--the whole lot of us.

Now, if you'll excuse me...I'm going to eat some chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

Do you have a sweet tooth, or were you one of those lucky people born without one? Share by posting your comment below!

**Just one more weekday until my new series (commence loud cheering), Je Ne Sais Quoi! I can't wait!**

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring in Colorado (and what I'll be doing this morning)

Dear people who live in temperate climates:
Right now you're probably rising up to enjoy a cup of coffee on your patio, soaking in the morning sun. Can you smell the flowers blooming all around you? And the scent of fresh green floating through the air?

Can you?

Because I want you to know that I can't smell any of those things.
Why? Because here is where I live. In case you missed it, the date is March 24th, and this is Colorado. And the two photos above were taken from my driver's seat last night.
And this is the view from my back door this morning.
Now, in case you've never experienced a spring snow storm (because instead you're lying in the beach getting a tan), let me tell you a few things you should know.

First, the snow is HEAVY. Very, very heavy. So you can think of me as I'm trying to heave piles of it off my driveway this morning with a shovel.

Second, in addition to the shoveling I'll have to take a tour through my yard knocking all of the snow off the trees and shrubs. Because HEAVY snow breaks branches.
And all of this effort will make me a) exhausted and b) sore. And then when it's all finished, the sun will come out and melt everything that's left by tomorrow.
Because that's just how it is in spring in Colorado.

So, people of temperate climates who are going to work right now wearing skirts and sandals--be thankful. Because I have to go put my boots on now and lift hundreds of pounds of wet snow.

I just thought you should know...


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Design for the Seasons

This week I'm posting on some of my favorite things from the past year. And if you've been following my blog for any length of time, you know that one of my favorite things is to (re)decorate my home compulsively.

Now, before you start to judge me for over consuming, let me at least say that almost all of the images you see above and below are from items that have been handmade by myself or my very handy husband. Furthermore, the majority of them come from materials recycled from thrift stores, old clothing, and pieces of nature.

Part of my compulsion for redesign is to match the interior of my home with the changing seasons. For instance, right now I still have pinecones and cable-knit pillows lying around, which isn't very spring-like.

What would be more spring-like would be to swap out those items for some of the ones shown just below--like the lime green pillow covers I made last May to mimic the colors of budding Aspen trees and gray, rainy skies.
Of course, once spring passes I'll probably pull out some of the items you see in the first collage, like my great-grandmother's quilt and my patchwork pillow shams in red, white and blue (I get a little country-cottage in the summer...). And then I'll move onto the theme below. The smoky tones and woodsy textures always remind me of autumn.
And finally, a year from now, I'll once again be pulling out my faux fur throws and sheepskin and cable-knit pillows. You know--the ones I need to start putting away now that the weather is getting warmer.

Some people ask me if I'll ever get to the point when my designing is finished and I'm content with things the way they are.

These people obviously don't know me very well...

Do you do any seasonal redesigning? Share your favorite spring decorating tip below!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Shopping Thrift: a review of tips for finding gems among junk

Good morning and happy Monday to you all! I missed you last week, and am so glad to be back here in this online space (I know--normally people don't feel this way when they return from spring break, but what can I say? I love my job!).

I am very excited to introduce a new series to you starting Next Week,
but before then, I've prepared a short montage of posts highlighting some of my favorite subjects and images from the past year. Beginning with thrift store shopping...

The honest truth is that I LOVE thrift store shopping. While other people crinkle their noses at weird smells and various vagrant shoppers, I see colorful neighbors and a world of possibility.

This is why Craig gets very, very nervous when I say I'm going "out" for bit.

"Out where?" he always wants to know,
afraid that I'll come back with some kind of hideous contraption that he can't stand the sight of.

To be fair, I have come home with a few hideous items that I was forced to promptly return. Items that undoubtedly came from someone's garage...and probably should have just stayed there. In other words, I have definitely made some choices in poor judgment. As such, I thought it prudent to share a few tips I've learned about thrift store shopping:
Tip #1: older furniture, though sometimes less fashionable, is usually better quality than new stuff. And since thrift stores tend to mark up what looks hip and current, you can usually find good deals on older pieces.

Tip #2: like with us ladies, it's the inside that counts. You can always makeover the surface or finish of a thrift store find--but it is much more difficult to fix water damage, poor construction, and misalignment.

Tip #3: thrift stores are great places to find kitchenware! Need a bundt pan or a 12-count fluted cupcake tray? Try a thrift store before you hit Wal-Mart and you might be surprised with what you find for a great bargain.

Tip #4 thrift stores are also great places to find fabrics. My favorites are the wool from men's suit jackets, and any type of high-quality sweater. Just make sure to check for stains and holes that are too large to fix--
Tip #5: shop often with an open mind. Thrift stores usually rotate their merchandise frequently, so you never know when you're going to run into something marvelous. And it helps to browse with a general--not specific--list of things you're interested in. Because rest assured, you'll find that perfect chair when you're searching for linens instead.

There are other tips, of course, and many of you have probably already read about them from my thrift store e-book. But since it is a popular season for giving our homes a little facelift, I thought it would be fun to revisit these ideas!

Do you have any thrift store treasures you'd like to boast about? Mine is definitely my mid-century modern armoire that I got for under $100! How about you?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Just a Reminder...

...that I'll be taking a Spring Break from posting (although not from working!) this week!

See you again next Monday!


Monday, March 15, 2010

Adieu to "On Being a Lady"...but only for now

With just a few formal days of winter left, it is time to say goodbye to my winter series, On Being a Lady. But before the official adieu, allow me to state that this has been a lot of fun. The fancy hairstyles, the talk of all things feminine, the sugary treats... I’ve enjoyed every post and project, from the silly “boudoir” article to the pearls of wisdom.
In a culture that is so fixated on efficiency, it has been refreshing indeed to spend some quality time focused on beauty, radiance, luxury and glamour. And it’s been even more refreshing to know that these attributes can be achieved with more creativity than money, and more resourcefulness than consumption.
Furthermore, it has been so nice to be reminded about what it is to be female. Not “worker bee.” Not mommy. Not business owner. Not consumer.

But female. Girly. Womanly. Ladylike.

And I’ve loved hearing more from you during this series! I’ve cherished your comments, be they on which fashion you prefer, or how you express your femininity, or how your husband/boyfriend enjoys queso and wears too much denim, too! It is very rewarding for me to see a small community building right here in this online space.

Fortunately, though this series is ending, many of the themes we’ve been exploring will carry right on into the next series. Though I don’t have all of the details worked out yet, I know that we’ll be spending a lot of time talking about what it means to finally blossom--to come into our femininity and our creative talents. So stay tuned to hear more about that soon!

But before then, I will be taking a brief reprieve from updating daily. I need to hunker down and do some planning/writing/crafting (aka my version of a Spring Break) so that I am prepared for the rapidly approaching new season! As such, I won’t be posting for the rest of this week. But rest assured--I’ll be back next week with a series of montage posts featuring my favorite things, and then the new series will launch the week after!

So thank you, friends, for joining me during the journey toward being a lady, and I’ll see you again very soon! Hope you have a great week!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Reaching Out: breaking free from my general malaise

I’m afraid to admit that it has been ONE OF THOSE WEEKS. The kind where I succumb to the lure of a general malaise and put off everything I need to do.

And after a particularly unproductive Thursday involving a Hulu binge and some unadvised quantities of guacamole, I found myself lying in my office in the dark wondering where the day had gone, and why it has been so difficult to find the appropriate energy lately.

After some intense soul-searching over a can of root beer, I identified the culprit. No, it was not the grayish weather we had this week, although that certainly didn’t help. Rather, it is my social isolation. You see, I work from home, and as such, I spend a lot of time alone planning and writing and creating, etc. etc. Which means that I don’t always spend much time out and about.
It’s a trend, I’ve concluded, that I need to remedy. So, to jump start the process, I thought I would search for some inspiration on Etsy this morning. More specifically, I wanted to see what other local sellers in my region were crafting and listing. I reasoned that perhaps I might be able to siphon off some of their energy, and maybe even have a chance to meet some likeminded creative-types who could rub off on me.

And pull me out of my home office.

The truth is that we all need a little outside help to pull us forward from time to time. Because often our dreams and plans get trapped inside our heads or on the pages of our journals or never make it outside of the three people we really share our lives with.
This, naturally, leads to loneliness and stagnation.
Fortunately I already feel better. Just looking at these beautiful items, and knowing that their creators live in my town takes away some of that loneliness. And their example of innovative and fresh enterprise refreshes my excitement about resourcefulness and entrepreneurism. They’re putting their skills “out there” just like me. And frankly doing a fine job of it at that!
So, if like me, you're currently struggling with a little malaise yourself, perhaps the prescription is to reach out. Because we can't accomplish our goals and dreams all by ourselves, no matter how disciplined and focused we are. Trust me--Hulu and guacamole are powerful distractions...

Take a minute to visit the shops of these wonderful local sellers to Northern Colorado, or perhaps visit Etsy and search for shops in your region!

And have a great Friday!

Glossary of handmade sellers:
1. rouched bamboo cream longsleeve top by mnemosyne
2. ginseng wristlet by chick bags
3. czech glass fire polished beads blue turquoise faceted donuts by bead soup beads
4. peppermint sugar scrub by all things mint
5. small size--one pendant custom silhouette necklace by lucky me beads
6. chenille and flannel baby blanket in apples and oranges by the red pistachio
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