Sunday, January 11, 2009


I looked in the mirror
and saw
a woman
filled with contentment.
She had bright eyes
that looked with delicious mischief,

and I envied her.

--Maram Al-Massri

I was working my late night at the library this week and decided to browse some of the new books to the collection. It's a treat that I allow myself sometimes, when the collection development lists and professional readings are temporarily completed, and I took three titles back to the reference desk. One of them was a poetry book by Maram Al-Massri, A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor, translated by Khaled Mattawa.

Thumbing through this Syrian poet's writing, that is direct and simple, was a pleasure, and reminded me of being a student at UCLA. I hope that Autumn sometimes consults with friends about writing projects, as I did, on the floors of dormitory rooms. Al-Massri moved to Paris in 1984, and although she is fluent in French and English, she relies on the Arabic language and poetic forms.

This suspendered skirt of my sister's, I envy. Its form is simple--and striking. It's appropriate for class with any woven blouse or knit skirt, and this time Autumn chooses a blouse with stripes and ruffles to show the teacher that she's a serious student.

For your enjoyment, here are some other selections from A Red Cherry on a White-tiled Floor:

What did I do in your absence?
I changed
the water
in the goldfish bowl,
I watered the small plant,
I regulated my breathing,
and began knitting
the woolen sweater.

I beg you...

I've ordered a cup of coffee
and fearing that I'd be late
I forgot
my purse.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Santa Anita

The December 2008 issue of Vogue had a feature, called “Coastal Blend,” with the following write-up:

On a glamorous getaway to L.A., actor Jon Hamm plays leading man opposite model Catherine McNeil, who wears a retro Hollywood-worthy mix of rich Technicolor, graphic prints, and bold bijoux.

Read: glamorous, getaway. L.A., retro, Hollywood, Technicolor, graphic, bold, and bijoux.

A day at the races. This first weekend of 2009, my sister and I wanted to “try something new” (one year it was a collective resolution for us sisters to opt for the new, and we thought to bring it out again) and so we visited to the Santa Anita Park. For all the years that we’ve lived in the San Gabriel Valley we could not remember when we had been to the racetrack in Arcadia.

With the racetrack’s Art Deco architecture and the foothills framing the big sky, the views were cinematic, and oh—there was drama! “Nine To Dine” sounded like a great name for a horse, and—privately—we chose it to win.

However, when Nine To Dine was parading with its owner, trainer, and jockey, we observed it behaving badly, not allowing the rider to mount it. “And that horse is the favorite?” another onlooker questioned. The jockey, especially, looked put-out. But, wouldn’t you know, that horse was the one to win the race?

Much of the fashions in the Vogue spread were too something-or-other for my sister, but it did not stop her from taking what she admired.

Autumn began with basics: a white button-down shirt, khaki pants, and a tweed jacket by Ralph Lauren. She then added sophisticated accessories: a waist-cinching belt over the jacket, wrist-length gloves in leather, and a square-faced watch. And finally, here comes the confidence: a purse in a color that pops, a scarf that’s a reminder of jockey silks, earrings and bracelets in gold.

I love Autumn’s movie star lip color best of all.

Autumn’s look is a translation and an inspiration.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Sunday amusement

Darlings, my apologies…

This past Sunday came and went without any My Sky-Blue Portfolio writing from me. The reason, you ask? It’s not that these pictures weren’t ready—they certainly were—but it’s because my mind was lolling in the post-holiday-ness. It seems that nothing short of the threat of a term paper’s impending due date would have moved it into swiftiness.

(Because of that last comment, I think that I deserve any of the har-hars that I may get from my sister, who has been in the throes of essay-writing for a while now, or any other similarly employed student…)

Growing up, Sunday was a typically quiet day in our house, save for the movies that we watched that were mostly of the classic cinema or BBC sort. Even so, I am a little surprised by the industriousness that my sisters and I involved ourselves in then.

On these weekend afternoons, we would often open the past months’ fashion and design magazines with a pair of scissors in hand. Sometimes it was for a game, descriptively named “Perfume Company” or “Modeling Agency,” but these “businesses” are not what I would like to tell you about now. It is the making of scrapbooks that still holds my interest…

These scrapbooks had very little resemblance to the photograph albums of the same name popular now. They could have been a spiral-bound notebook or a binder with loose pages—the base materials didn’t matter. They were mostly meant to be idea books, for us to arrange and paste pictures of clothes and things that we liked. Scrapbook-making was a very sincere form of “window shopping.”

So, this past weekend I asked my sister to show her old scrapbook to me. What I noticed in particular was the nuance with which my sister had made her selections. She could say to me—even now—“I like this part, but not this,” which shows that she didn’t simply accept the fashions as they were but was critical of them. Autumn had organized her pages by silhouette or color, and they display poufy skirts and sporty combinations and a lot of oranges, light neutrals, and black. I see my sister wearing some of these looks now, so you could say that her scrapbook helped her to define her personal sense of style.

Autumn’s fashion shoot is based on some pages from her scrapbook, which originally come from the June 2007 Vogue issue. Keira Knightley is photographed in Africa by the ever-popular Arthur Elgort. Need I point out that the safari or adventurer look has long been a favorite of my sisters?

Browsing online I found that other people were also taken with this Vogue feature and even made virtual scrapbooks in response on this website. And, you really should take a look at this preferred actress from the BBC. Be sure to watch the clip’s final minutes to see Justine Waddell’s safari gear!