Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Retrospective: Exploring

[Hiking fashion]

First, a little music for you.

Now that I've been to Scotland, “exploring” has a new meaning to me. I picked-up an Edinburgh guidebook while I was there this last summer, and I'll never forget the command on the cover (probably uttered by a Scottie dog): “Don't be boring, go exploring!” This was a little day trip that I'm so glad that I took. I remember still being in England and talking over my whim of heading farther north with a friend that I had just met, and she advised: “Edinburgh is a city not unlike San Francisco—its charm is readily apparent.” I so enjoyed the castles, bagpipes, Laura Ashley store, tartans, toffee pudding, and tea shops.

After coming back from this magical adventure in the United Kingdom I’ve sought to incorporate many of the elements that I experienced and enjoyed into my everyday, and it should be noted that most of these do not have to do with city life. Sure, I went to Edinburgh, and London too. But my happiest times were spent in England’s Lake District (again), where the green is really green and the blue is truly blue.

After being in the Lake District this time, I felt compelled to make hiking part of my life on a more regular basis. This may sound silly, but at the time those hikes felt almost life-changing. I always chose to go on the most difficult excursions. One of the things that I learned about myself on this trip is that I like to accomplish tasks of great difficulty: the difficulty is proportionate to the feeling of accomplishment. When we reached the height that we had been aiming for, the view from that place was just so lovely. I felt as if I had earned it. Back on stable ground, everything seemed better: jokes, taking a shower, food, etc. Maybe it was just the endorphins and fresh air that made this so! And, I counldn't help but be proud of the healthy apples that had grown in my cheeks.

If this sounds good to you, maybe you should consider joining your local chapter of the Sierra Club, too. Autumn enjoys hiking as well and this fall created an outfit inspired by this pastime. She suits the season, wearing orange and brown, and I love her hat's classic style. She will stay adequately warm in corduroy culottes and comfy sweatshirt.

Lastly, I hope that you will enjoy this poem by William Wordsworth of the Lake District, capturing the excitement of exploring and hiking:

Stepping Westward

"What, you are stepping westward?"—"Yea."
—'Twould be a 'wildish' destiny,
If we, who thus together roam
In a strange Land, and far from home,
Were in this place the guests of Chance:
Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,
Though home or shelter he had none,
With such a sky to lead him on?

The dewy ground was dark and cold;
Behind, all gloomy to behold;
And stepping westward seemed to be
A kind of 'heavenly' destiny:
I liked the greeting; 'twas a sound
Of something without place or bound;
And seemed to give me spiritual right
To travel through that region bright.

The voice was soft, and she who spake
Was walking by her native lake:
The salutation had to me
The very sound of courtesy:
Its power was felt; and while my eye
Was fixed upon the glowing Sky,
The echo of the voice enwrought
A human sweetness with the thought
Of travelling through the world that lay
Before me in my endless way.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

2010 Retrospective: Los Angeles Leisure

[How to do the Hollywood Bowl]

Dear friends,

I am sorry that you missed the festivities of this past summer. They were wonderful and included two concerts for me at the Hollywood Bowl. We took these pictures when my sister Autumn came along, with the homemade picnic that she made.

This is how the Hollywood Bowl works: You will need a picnic, of course, and homemade is certainly preferable. Autumn's is sandwiches made with turkey, fresh watermelon slices, lemonade in glass bottles, and something sweet to eat. You will pack these in your own version of the “picnic basket.” At the height of summer in July when this was, these portable food hampers become more expensive than ever, but you can improvise. My sister uses a natural fiber tote, and a wood box that she found at a gourmet food shop in South Pasadena. Add to these some plates, utensils, and napkins (these design-y ones came from IKEA) as well as a quilt for comfort, and you're ready to venture out.

But, wait! Don't forget to dress appropriately! Overall, your outfit should reflect the eclectic mood of the Los Angeles arts scene, which explains Autumn's interesting skirt. It is in fact two skirts, an almost vintage-looking floral one worn over a white eyelet one. This look works because both skirts are cotton. The show will start before the sun will have set, which necessitates some good sunglasses. Autumn wears her cheerful cherry pair well. You will also need a warm cover-up (not pictured) for when night falls.

This is the order for the evening: You should take the tram. Unless you live or work near the Hollywood Bowl, the tram really is the best option for ease and travels there from several convenient locations. Once at your destination you're free to spread out your picnic and people-watch, but please try not to stare too much at the darling baby up ahead. It's rude—but I agree with you that her parents should have thought better than to bring her to such a late-night event...

You can sway, dance, sing along, harmonize—whatever you would like—when the concert starts, because what better bliss and heaven is there than being alive and young and enjoying live music outdoors in the summer?

This is my advice should you in future find yourself fortunate enough to go to the Hollywood Bowl.


P.S. We saw the adorable Zooey Deschanel of the band She & Him peform the song “I Was Made for You,”
among other delights.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

How to sew

[White shirt]

My sister Autumn made this stylish white chemise. Yes, that's exactly right, and I am impressed. She had some help, however, and it was in the form of Common Thread Studio.

This summer past she discovered this little shop on South Pasadena's Mission Street. This is not your grandmother's sewing shop and offers a modern take on traditional handicrafts.

Common Thread Studio is more about expertise than fabric and notions, and there are classes for beginning sewing, serger basics, silkscreen printing, alterations, and making such items as “bourgeois” travel kits and aprons with pot-holders. You can also attend their “open studio” to use their professional equipment and pretend that you are a high-end designer working on a couture creation!

During Autumn's lesson she cut-out the pattern (provided by the teacher) and sewed a few seams. After this great start, my sister was able to take her cloth home and complete the rest of the project.

But, I want so many things, and sometimes it's rather funny to listen to me. Earlier this year some of you may have heard me say that I want a purple purse, which is based on an image that I have in my head, vaguely associated with lush ski vacations. To complicate matters further, the leather must be of a certain jaunty shade and the metal findings of a proper shininess.

So far my search for the perfect satchel has been as unsuccessful as my finding delicate gold adornments like these. Don't pity me though, I've lately found a coat in leopard faux fur that I love...

From time to time I should remind myself that simplicity is easier and sometimes far more elegant. Look at my sister in this blouse. Thin, crisp, and well-shaped with a hint of eyelet, this blouse is deceptively simple in appearance. The custom close fit makes this look. Please don't mind my name-dropping another lovely white shirt-wearer.

Common Thread Studio
1011A Mission Street
South Pasadena, CA 91030

P.S. Audrey Hepburn wore cat prints at least once so there's no need for me to feel gaudy.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just dance

It’s been quite a week, so this time we’ll have more music than words. And pictures—we always have those, don’t we?

My sister and I have fallen for the Aldo ads. I think that they are about shoes, but I can’t be sure. They are just so brash and sweet and rock-and-roll. And there was a kind of music video once, but I can’t find it online now.

Anyway I have a question: When did rock stars become rock stars? I don’t mean to take a philosophical turn here, but I just wonder sometimes…

Incidentally, we love this song by the Bird and the Bee:
One night a meteor came to my door
And he asked me to dance
One night a shooting star
He traveled far just to ask me to dance.

Local note: The Griffith Park Observatory reports that a meteor shower will peak early tomorrow morning—between 2:21 and 4:44AM—and “observers may expect to see 10 to 18 meteors per hour, although the shower sometimes produces more.”

I think that’s hot.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


This is my brother James—doesn’t he look handsome in his dress shirt with built-in tie? This is the shirt that he’s wearing when kids his age exclaim, “You look nice, James—but why did you dress-up so much?”

And then my brother explains that it’s just a nifty shirt.

Talking about versatile, what do you think of this English story?

Thinking Outside the Box

When the bright telephone box in the village of Westbury-sub-Mendlip, Somerset, was decommissioned, residents were reluctant to let the iconic kiosk stand empty. Instead, they turned it into a book exchange, providing the local community with a library of ever-changing stock and a village talking point. It is open 365 days a year and is even illuminated at night for anyone wanting a bedtime story. The exchange ensures the phone box will serve the village for many more years to come.

Isn’t the idea of no-longer-in-service phone booths being used as lending libraries wonderful? I think it’s charming, especially since the booths are the British red kind. (Librarians talk about “bookmobiles,” vehicles designed to serve as libraries, all the time, but it’s sometimes the simplest ideas that are the most interesting to me.)

James requested that I add this music, from one of our favorite movies, "My Neighbor Totoro."

Article credit: Country Living (British Edition), April 2010.

It came!

My Chanel “Latin Lover” “look book” came, and you know? They sent it FedEx!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

I'm yours

No April rain,
No flowers bloom,
No wedding Saturday within the month of June,
But what it is, is something true
Made up of these three words that I must say to you:

I just called to say I love you.

My dear readers,

If I may, I will continue with the Nora Ephron tangent, and may I present her 1998 film “You’ve Got Mail,” again with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks? Let me point out that there are many reasons to love this movie, in my most business-like fashion (reasons numbered, no less):

1. Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly is the owner of one of the most delightful children’s bookstores that I have ever seen, and it’s charmingly named “The Shop Around the Corner.”*
2. Kathleen reads aloud Boy by Roald Dahl and talks about Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series!
3. This film seems to be a love letter to New York City and particularly the Westside.
4. I love the brownstone buildings, the small businesses, and the outdoor markets and festivals used as backdrops.
5. I enjoy that the movie takes place over the course of almost an entire year and includes the seasons and different special holidays.
6. Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” is part of the soundtrack!
7. Kathleen and Tom Hank’s Joe Fox exchange heartfelt e-mails (though they actually detest each other in real life), and the movie seems to capture the good feelings that people felt when they first started using the Internet…

As part of my job as a librarian, I teach computer classes to beginners, and it’s something that I enjoy doing very much. I think that it’s very important to tell my students that the computer isn’t all that difficult to learn and that it’s very unlikely that they will break it when they are using it!

And it’s interesting that even with all of the changes and improvements of technology, life actually hasn’t changed so much. For instance, most of the time of my computer classes is spent showing people how to use the computer to connect with family and friends: writing a letter (using Microsoft Word), composing a message (in Gmail), and sharing pictures (via e-mail attachments).

But, “You’ve Got Mail" makes me think of how I used to envision my grown-up life when I was small. Again, please allow me to count the ways:

1. The radio. I have to admit that my earliest memories of the radio feature Stevie Wonder and, in particular, his very sentimental song “I Just Called To Say I Love You.” (This song almost better suits the movie, because of its mentions of seasons and holidays—and none are so important as the simple gesture of personal connection.) My mother says that she remembers my older sister and me playing with our toy telephone and singing that song into it. I thought that when I grew-up all radio would be as wonderful as that Stevie Wonder song!

2. Books. I think that I always knew that books were in my future. Growing-up there was a period of time when I read a lot of books that took place before even my grandparents’ time, at the turn of the century. Examples are Roald Dahl’s and Maud Hart Lovelace’s books, but even better, I liked stories that also happened in New York. Autumn enjoyed these, too, and titles include A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and the All-of-a-Kind Family series by Sidney Taylor. They are coming-of-age stories or just good-natured adventures in childhood.

3. Holidays. When I was a child, I thought that life was about preparing for, celebrating holidays! (I still think that it should be.)

4. Letters. I was a letter-writer, and in fact the Pride and Prejudice book that my sister holds (a reference to “You’ve Got Mail” of course) was a birthday gift from my French pen friend Aude. Despite that I write and get a lot of e-mails these days, I still miss the days of USPS and so I was excited to discover this Letter Writing Club that meets once a month to write letters to loved ones.

5. Shopping and pastels. This is perhaps the most embarrassing of my admissions, but I once thought that when I grew-up I would spend most of my time shopping for (birthday?) presents at gift shops and wearing pastel-colored clothing. Why pastels? I have no idea… I am kind of glad that this didn’t turn out, because pastels mostly look less-than-flattering on me! I much prefer this Kathleen Kelly-inspired light blouse and dark jumper ensemble that Autumn wears—it’s anyway better for doing business.

Until next time…

Yours truly,

*You may or may not already know that “You’ve Got Mail” is a re-make of a film from the 1940s, “The Shop Around the Corner,” nicely starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan.

P.S. “I-just-called-to-say-I-love-you” phone calls are still lovely.

Monday, March 15, 2010

H and G*

There's a lot to love about “Sleepless in Seattle” with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, and it's not just because it's a Nora Ephron film, which, by the way, means that it has smart writing:

Jonah: Thank you for dinner. I've never seen potatoes cooked that way.

Walter: It's Miss Scarlet in the broom closet with the radio!

Annie: Walter! I would give anything to marry Walter!

Sam: I certainly hope you don't plan to marry Jessica!

(If you're not also a big fan of the movie, then these one-line bits probably are doing very little for you, but stay with me, please...}

The interaction that Tom Hank's character (Sam) has with his pre-teen son Jonah is one of the most entertaining of the film, made even more hilarious by the complication that Jonah's friend, an almost blase-appearing girl named Jessica, presents. She is funny because she expresses herself a lot using abbreviations that nearly no one besides herself can decipher.

“M-F-E-O?” Made for each other.

There is a part of the movie when Meg Ryan's character (Annie) receives a letter from Sam, who she still hasn't met yet, but the letter is really written by young Jonah and Jessica. It reads that Sam is excited to meet Annie on Valentine's Day in New York City on the top of the Empire State Building so that the two of them can see if they are really “MFEO.” Annie's best friend (played by Rosie O'Donnell) shows that she doesn't understand this expression, but of course Annie gets it instantly! (Rosie O'Donnell is very funny when she then exclaims: “It's cute! It's like a little clue!”)

Anyway, I was thinking about abbreviation-as-style-concept, particularly in terms of my sister's style in these pictures.

Autumn's look is meant to suggest “Sleepless in Seattle,” but she is not necessarily meant to be Meg Ryan's Annie or any one of the other fabulous characters from that movie. If she were to dress like Annie, she would likely be wearing suits and other work clothes mostly in neutrals and muted blues and grays, and hair would less curly and more drape-y. But, a lot of the other characters have very curly hair like my sister has, and her pink, gray, and black is like Annie's kitchen and other domestic spaces that she inhabits. I must add, too, that Autumn in these pictures reminds me of the Valentine's Day window display that Annie admires! How else do you think that Autumn looks like "Sleepless in Seattle?"

Abbreviation for style is a good idea, because you don't have to follow your inspiration precisely but the right people will “get it” instantly!

Here is some music, if you like, and you might also like to look at Target's new Liberty of London collection.

* “H and G” is short for “Hi and Goodbye.”