Posts Tagged ‘Style’

This morning I have two choices – I could write, or I could watch the true crime drama unfolding in DC.

Wait, the January 6 hearing is postponed because someone’s wife went into labor? Great! I can tell you all about my week; the grand event was the installation of the master bedroom closet. Finally. My clothes have found a home! There still may be a handful of boxes left lurking about, waiting to be opened. Like the dream of a second home, the box of sand toys and acrylic wine glasses I reluctantly put away this week.

“These are from my Beach House box,” I told the Groom. The Bride was working a night shift so it was just the boys and the Love Bug as she climbed the step ladder, reaching for my melamine plates high above the refrigerator. I packed that box in NJ a long time ago; back when the Rocker was going off to college.

There may have been a wistful tone to my voice, I’m not sure. But the ‘Beach House’ was one of the last boxes left to unpack, and I knew that once the colorful dishes and beach towels were cleaned and sorted away, my dream of owning a little sliver of sand was over.

On the other hand, unpacking ALL of my clothes was like Christmas morning, every morning for a few days straight. It was also a bit intimidating. I no longer wear high heels, or crew neck sweaters, or anything fancy for that matter. My pandemic style became clear – comfortable cotton things bought at Whole Foods, mixed with an occasional online sale that Instagram knew I wanted. And for some odd reason I’ve accumulated a lot of jumpsuit/overalls? Maybe the result of living in a little city farmhouse.

What to keep and what to give away was becoming less clear. I thought about the Bride asking me how many red shoes I really need. I started asking myself why I have so many summer sweaters when the temps here in Nashville tickle 100 degrees. Then I thought about the stylist who helped me go through my closet before leaving the Blue Ridge – what would she tell me to do?

Find your style! Ha, easier said than done for this transplanted nana. There are the Rumson clothes vs the Southern clothes. Caribbean vacation clothes vs comfy yoga pants and sweats. In a rare moment of synchronicity, Bob and I watched the finale of Grace and Frankie on Netflix. In fact, we loved all seven seasons and 94 episodes! Often I’d find myself wondering if my style was more Lily Tomlin or Jane Fonda…or maybe somewhere in between.

Then I heard about the Coastal Grandma look!

“This week, “coastal grandma” may have suddenly slipped into your vocabulary. The preppy new trend on everyone’s lips is a world away from the micro-minis of yestermonth. Think shingled beach homes, light and airy chambray button-downslinen everything, bountiful backyard gardens filled with various lettuce varieties, and a meticulously maintained chicken coup (an ironic spelling error) with more square footage than a Manhattan apartment. That’s coastal grandma.”


Eureka! I could relate to that aesthetic and I don’t need to own a beach house to look like someone who owns a beach house. I love cedar shingles, and I always wanted to keep chickens. It’s Bette Midler meets Meryl Streep. So maybe I don’t live on the Vineyard. My new closet already includes lots of linen and straw hats and faded denim. But since I’m living in the Music City I’ll keep all my boots and call my look the Landlocked Nana.

I caught the end of today’s hearing. As Grace said to Frankie on the beach, “Now what?”

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The big move was done in little pieces. We ferried small things over in our car piece by piece, the ubiquitous Pod was delivered and emptied by a team of BellHops, then finally Music City Movers emptied our townhouse. Ten days later I threw a Seder for family and friends – 17 altogether. To say I’m exhausted would be missing the point; I’m feeling like I got hit by a truck and I don’t have the flu….

Remember that book we all read years ago, required reading in every high school English class, “The Things They Carried.”

Twenty years ago, writer Tim O’Brien released a book of stories about young men and war, his war, Vietnam. Among many other things, he listed the weight of each soldier’s clothes, canteens and can openers. From the book: Every third or fourth man carried a claymore antipersonnel mine, 3.5 pounds with its firing device. They all carried fragmentation grenades, 14 ounces each. They all carried at least one M-18 colored smoke grenade, 24 ounces. Some carried CS or tear gas grenades. Some carried white phosphorous grenades. They carried all they could bear and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.


I’ve been reevaluating all the things I’ve carried around with me from my glory days as a new wife and mother in Massachusetts, to moving back to NJ when the Rocker was just 2 and unpacking was almost impossible, to building our small house overlooking the Blue Ridge in Virginia. Then finally the fantastical move to Nashville, leaving Bob to sell most of our furniture to the new owners of our house, while I stayed here on Nana duty.

Unlike Great Grandma Ada, who cocooned in her home for fifty years collecting the things her two sisters left behind, I’ve had ample opportunity to prune and shed the things that were weighing me down.

I still carry: some of the school papers from my children; the Bride’s baby dresses; a big, antique French cupboard; the heron and guinea hen prints, the kilt I was wearing when I first met Bob; my 1960s avocado green mixer; my 60s blue Dutch oven, the one I found in a store in Cambridge, MA, the same store I’d see Julia Child shopping in from time to time, it’s a heavy workhouse of a pot that found its way back into my heart during Seder prep; the oil painting the Bride did of us on Windsor Pond; the Rocker’s self-portrait from high school. All the old photographs.

And my beautiful desk, the one I’m writing on just now. I’ve missed it for 2 years.

I’ve carried all I can bear, but still the Bride insisted on “Marie Kondoizing” me. She dumped piles of clothes on my bed and asked me, one by one, if they sparked joy?! “Mom, you have two similar black Eileen Fisher dresses, which ONE do you want?”

I was resistant at first, but then I saw how my style, me weight, my essence had changed over the years. No woman wants to be stuck in the same hair style their whole life, and I could finally see that “Pittsfield-me” was too Laura Ashley, “Rumson-me” was too Lilly Pulitzer, and “Nashville-me” is something entirely different. I thanked my dated clothes for their faithful service and bid them farewell.

Bob has always traveled light, and so he was happy to see the Big Purge, but to my surprise he kept a few sentimental things of his own.

We are ready to tackle the garden now, to plant and transplant, to install the fairy house. I hope y’all had a wonderful Passover and Easter weekend and you’re looking ahead to blue skies and warmer days. Ms Bean has her favorite sunny spot on the porch, and I just might join her!




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Whenever I see a newsworthy writing prompt, I keep it in a folder for a rainy day. And even though it’s stopped raining, this one has been calling to me for weeks. “Rejoice, Dressing Your Age is Dead,” by Erin G Ryan in Jezebel. http://jezebel.com/rejoice-dressing-your-age-is-dead-1515208677?utm_campaign=socialfow_jezebel_twitter&utm_source=jezebel_twitter&utm_medium=socialflow

Despite the best efforts of survey respondents and dating advice columnists, women aren’t necessarily heeding the social directive to stop caring about fashion once Hollywood stops casting women their age as the love interest in action movies. Gone are the days of No Miniskirts After 35. Women well into adulthood are storming Asos to deplete its supplies of unicorn sweaters…

First of all, I hate unicorn sweaters. And I hate those fashion magazines that deign to advise us how to dress at “any age;” we see the layouts for our 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. Then what happens? Are we supposed to sail out to sea like a Viking warrior, put on grannie shoes and call it a day? Here’s how you dress in your 60s ladies – however the hell you want!

I got my start in the newspaper business with a very tongue-in-cheek essay called, “The Fashion Hot-Line.” It was 1980, and I was all about the local custom of wearing flannel everywhere. Big hair and bling hadn’t quite made it up to the Berkshires. To be honest, the whole fashion thing had eluded me for years. Except for the occasional trip to Loehmann’s while visiting Grandma Ada, my style was more mid-century mama – ie, comfy.

Still, I admit to not liking the look of young girls and their moms dressed alike. That whole leggings and sweatshirt Falshdance craze just seemed too contrived. But matching Laura Ashley dresses? Now that I could understand. The Bride soared beyond my stilted fashion sense while she was still in high school; even cautioning me not to wear what I had worn in the 1960s. Which does not mean I don’t love hippy-chic baby clothes for the Love Bug!

In an industry that must change every season in order to maintain exceed its sales, I’ve always given short shrift to trends of any kind. Florals are IN for Spring, how original! If malls are dying and no one knows where teens are buying their clothes these days, as Ryan says in her article, then maybe that’s a good thing. They are probably raiding their mother’s closet, going to thrift stores, and shopping online at TopShop with the occasional trip to TJ Maxx. Maybe they are even saving their money?!

My 20 something Rocker has another modeling gig in LA. Remember when the band did that photo shoot for Paris Vogue? Well they want the boys again! I never would have thought my sweet son, who wore a black armband for weeks over his grungy surfer tee shirts 20 years ago when Cobain died, would be the fashion forward face of our family! Everyone always said the Bride should model, she was so tall, so svelte. But fashion is fickle, Rock on Dude!

2 Guitarists: the Rocker on Top

2 Guitarists: the Rocker on Top


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In “Purse Politics; Tote and Vote,” the NYTimes thought it might be fun to do a puff piece on what women Senate and Congress members carry with them all the time. And thanks to Jezebel, I found it! Sen Claire MacCaskill said, “I think most of us, while we may look at the cute little purses, our lives don’t fit in a cute little purse. Our lives fit something that is in between a purse and a briefcase, and that’s what I carry.” http://jezebel.com/new-york-times-profiles-powerful-congresswomen-and-thei-511022241

Right, something in between, like a big purse…a tote maybe. In 2013 we have a record number of women on The Hill, 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House, and all we want to know about are the things they carry? iPads and phones, chap sticks and wallets? This article led to a bit of stream of consciousness for me, so follow along if possible.

A book on my teenage children’s summer reading list was, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. It just so happens their English teacher Mr Shea was a friend of the author, and this book has been coined the next best thing to Hemingway in writing fiction about war. It won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the French Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. Unlike lady senators, soldiers in the Vietnam War carried mosquito netting, writing paper, letters from home and tarps to keep the jungle at bay; “For the most part they carried themselves with dignity.”

And I started to think about the things I carry around hither and yon. The damnable iPhone leaves me feeling rudderless should I forget it, and because of my shoulder problem, I’ve switched to a smaller summer purse. I sling it cross-body like a bandolier setting forth to do battle every day with life in the country. Keys, check! Water, absolutely! Wallet is a must have, along with all those plastic cards that let retailers know all my personal information. I’m holding out at Panerra Bread, why do you need one of their cards, really?

When I was working for a newspaper, I always had a small notebook and pencil with me, very old school Lois Lane. Now, I just send myself a text on my phone if I need to remember something. And my text said “WWII and sex.” I’d been listening to NPR’s “All Things Considered” about our GIs and prostitutes in Normandy around the end of the war. Mary Louise Roberts wrote her non-fiction book titled, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France, to bring some attention to some of the lesser known evils of war; like the rise of VD in our troops and the increase in African American soldiers charged and promptly hanged for rape in Le Havre.  http://www.npr.org/2013/05/31/187350487/sex-overseas-what-soldiers-do-complicates-wwii-history

Soldiers to senators, writers to doctors, we all carry a microcosm of meaning with us every day. Diaper bags are toted everywhere with new moms and dads, and they always have less to carry with the second and third child. Still I’d rather read a book about what lady legislators actually do, and how their approach to politics may differ from their male colleagues. What kinds of policy are they willing to compromise on, when do they stand and fight for a bill. Are they cookie-cutter voters with their party mates? Do they bring in cookies for their aides? Are they furious with the GOP for trying to repeal Obamacare for the 36th time? Is a woman fundamentally different in building consensus?

Because in the end, it’s not about what we carry, it’s about what we do with it once we get there. Let’s see; can you guess who is the DC lawyer, the San Francisco businesswoman, the Chicago child psychologist and the Nashville ER doctor?

J&M  0992

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Red ghillies and oxfords, while we’re in the mood, high heels and sandals.

When we were packing up the house to move South, my daughter was helping with my closet. She’d lined up my shoes in 3 orderly groups – 1) shoes I definitely want to keep; 2) shoes I may want to keep; 3) shoes to give or throw away. Naturally, the second group was overflowing, which led her to ask me this simple question,
“How many (insert color) shoes do you need?”

No apology, I happen to love shoes, in all their myriad shapes and colors. There are pictures of me with my foster sister and her fiancee on a trip to see the circus in NYC. What circus I do not know. I was too young to remember this special trip, but was always told how much I loved my “circus shoes.” In black and white, CLR Child w Jackie 20130125I am beaming happiness with a little pair of oxfords on my feet. Perhaps this is where my need to see the Big Apple Circus every year with my children arose. Being able to wear only oxfords in Sacred Heart School, and only penny loafers at Camp St Joseph may be factors in my fashionable fetish. For sports at camp or school, we would wear white Keds, so you see we had little choice growing up in the 50s. There is also the lasting value in classic design. Trends may come and go, you can gain or lose a few pounds, but a classic pair of good leather shoes can last a lifetime! Though, fair warning to you pregnant girls, my shoe size increased by half with each child. I asked the Rocker once why he needs so many guitars, he looked at me and said, “Why do you need so many shoes?”

I’ve written here about shoes a number of times. About our town’s famously decadent shoe store Scarpa, https://mountainmornings.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/small-times/
I remember writing about the fashion writer who stood staring at the one red shoe in a gigantic see-through bin of discarded shoes at the Holocaust museum. Once, while writing about Pinterest, I even included a picture of my shoe shelves: https://mountainmornings.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/pining-or-pinning-that-is-the-question/

One of the first gifts I bought when I found out the Bride was pregnant with a girl was a pair of pink leather shoes. Will they be helpful in her quest to start walking, like those overly-polished and re-polished white Stride Rites I laced up my baby’s feet? Probably not. Will they be ever so adorable, absolutely! I was star-struck once while strolling down Madison Avenue with my sister Kay. We stopped short in front of a fancy children’s boutique with pink leather Italian shoes in the window. Of course, I had to get them for the toddler Bride, even if they might only last her a few months.

There have been Picasso shoe periods. The 60s teen years of wearing Weejuns, penny loafers without pennies, polished just so with black to tone down the oxblood color. The dancing decade of wearing espadrilles with rope you wind around your ankle, very Isadora Duncan. The Pappagallo phase of pastel and mini bows with Queen Anne heels paired nicely with mini skirts. Thankfully I never went in for the high dollar, designer stilettos of Sex and the City; either I was just too old wise or whygobroke/killing/your/feet.

So if you love shoes, you may enjoy reading this historical essay on shoes and gender and power, “Why DID Men Stop Wearing High Heels?” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21151350 _65446635_red_soled_compositeThink of Louis XIV, initially men wore heels in order to ride a horse and the height and color became tied with rank and royalty. But eventually, “High heels were seen as foolish and effeminate. By 1740 men had stopped wearing them altogether.” We women dropped the need for height after the French revolution too, but for some insane reason, in the mid-19th Century, we decided it might be nice to squeeze our feet into high heels again…well, if you read the article you’ll learn why, and it’s not pretty.

But take heart, these teeny tiny feet are ready to dance in the Music City. Thank you velcro, and thank you ecommerce for making fancy baby shoes as easy to find as say, a good pair of Minnetonka slippers.

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Bob and I were in Starbucks the other day, and as I waited for my pumpkin spice latte I picked up the Washington Post, Style section. Imagine my surprise to find its front page article was featuring my favorite co-host of “What Not to Wear” Stacy London. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/stacy-london-fashion-guru-discusses-insecurity-in-new-book/2012/10/03/5aeaeb6e-0be4-11e2-a310-2363842b7057_story.html

Photo Joseph, TWPost

One of my first articles for the Berkshire Eagle back in the ’80s was about fashion. Believe me, I’m no expert on fashion. But the editor liked it so much, she actually posed some models to illustrate my tongue-in-cheek points. There was the “Native,” who usually wore jeans and flannel. There was the “Big City Tourist,” the visitor from NY or Boston to ski or take in Tanglewood in the summer. These women usually wore black, and had their nails done. And then there was this sub-species of “Transplants,” like me. We needed help. We were trying to fit in, we bought homes and cross country skis and dressed in strange outfits. We needed our own style, and I proposed a fashion hot line.

Today, we have Apps and bloggers and reality TV. We can watch Stacy on TLC’s popular fashion show where she ambushes poor, unsuspecting fashion-challenged women and in one hour transforms them body and soul. Really. Well, it actually takes a week in NYC but the final show is a magical hour and how she does it without psychotherapy is beyond me. Needless to say, I adore her and tune in whenever I am home alone for lunch. It is my guilty pleasure and we’ve become lunch buddies. But we have one other thing in common – we both have Psoriasis. http://www.psoriasis.org/about-psoriasisStewart+Brown wearing

Stacy delves into her childhood diagnosis in her new book, “The Truth About Style” and she has also started a website “Style for Hire.” http://www.styleforhire.com She was extremely insecure as a kid, never knowing when her skin could break out in debilitating, red scaly patches. Then, when she started woking at Vogue, an eating disorder kicked in, leaving her ripe for reinvention. Three years ago, my dermatologist told me that normally 30 year olds experience Guttate Psoriasis. Guttate means small rain drops of eruptions, instead of full scale patches…so I was unusual…my arms and legs looked like pepperoni pizzas. I felt pretty unusual. I was told however, that small doses of sunshine would help this auto-immune disease and I declined taking any strong, cancer fighting drugs. These steroids had been approved for skin treatments, but I’m just not a pill person.

So unlike Stacy, I had always felt pretty comfortable in my own skin. Getting all pimply in my late-middle-old age was just God having a good laugh at my expense. “OK now, let’s see what you can do with spots!” A famous Stacy quote is: “Style is the quickest shorthand to who you are.” I guess I’m now a sun-loving, nana? And I’d say I’m an Eileen Fisher, organic Stewart+Brown wearing, yoga pants comfortable type? Stacy was speaking this weekend at a synagogue in DC, and I almost drove up there to see her. After all, she saved me from wearing pedal pushers (aka capri pants) since they shorten the leg, and who needs shorter legs right? Because if change can really occur from the outside-in, a What Not to Wear mantra, I’m ready to tackle this transplanted nana, Southern-style.

And no, I didn’t save everything I ever wrote. But I’m glad I saved this one:

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Yesterday I attended a book signing at a beautiful new salon in town, Avina Natural Nails. I had met the author of The Power of Slow at our town’s Blogville Conference in the Spring and got the invite via Facebook. All that interconnectedness got me thinking – why not blog about the blogs I love? So this is for my MIL, who asked me once, “Where does your blog go?” And for my NJ friend Eve, who was so excited to hear I started doing this since she’d been “…looking for a blog to follow.” And of course for my oldest friend Lee in MA, who started me on this writing journey by introducing me to her friend the newspaper editor, saying, “You have to read her stuff!”

Local Virginia Blogs:

http://powerofslow.wordpress.com/ Even though the above mentioned author actually lives in Germany, let’s start with Christine Louise Hohlbaum since she grew up here, and her inspiring Mom still lives here. Just talking with Christine makes your heart rate slow to a more even rhythm. She offers lots of strategies to break time-wasting habits and increase time for more purposeful pursuits.

http://www.cvillefashion.com/ Dana put together this beautiful, local style blog that keeps calling me back time after time. She featured the Bride’s vintage gown this year and also alerted me to a benefit sale at Scarpa, our town’s best shoe store. She finds the latest deals and trends long before other fashionistas, and I love her Foxfield summer dress contest! She is a style sleuth.

http://www.asthegoatworldturns.com/ I met Anna by chance at the checkout at Whole Foods. We started talking, one thing led to another and then I’m showing her my Facebook pic of me kissing a baby goat….it’s often occurred to me that I could be a character in an Anne Tyler novel because some of my most serendipitous encounters tend to be life changing. Well, if you’ve ever thought about hobby farming, and making your very own goat cheese, (hello?) this picturesque and perfect blog is for you!

http://www.deedeeslivingwill.com/ Denise Stewart wrote a play called “Dirty Barbie and Other Tales.” She will star in this one woman show at Live Arts this November. She also runs workshops for teen girls on how to live a healthy and meaningful life. This blog will make you laugh and make you cry since she touches on all our hot topics. I love a post she did recently on her friends. I met her, and Marijean Jaggers at Blogville and felt I’d known them all my life.

http://www.marijeanjaggers.com/ Marijean Jaggers is my blogging Yoda. She was an instructor at Blogville and anyone with a business who understands they must get out on the web in some compelling way should speak with her first. Her last workshop was titled: “Don’t be a Weiner-How to Use Twitter Like a Professional” Wednesday, July 20th. Love it!!

http://www.younghouselove.com/ A friend of the Bride and Groom went to UVA with the husband of this DIY blog from Richmond. This is an amazing story about a young couple, with a new baby, who buy mid-century modern houses and step by step turn them into beautiful and functional contemporary homes. This blog IS their work, it’s not something they dabble with at night. And it’s fantastic. I told Bob if they had such a thing as blogging, we could have done this type years ago.

http://latebloomerbride.com/ Speaking of love, did you find it after forty? Here is an excellent trip along the funny and never too late road to marital bliss. Or, “…consider this blog a memoir with a purpose. It is for all the late bloomers out there – especially the newly married kind who are trying to figure out how to take a fully formed life and merge it with someone who finally turned out to be Mr. Right.” Right!

Some are inspirational, some are instructive, but all are well written and worth your time. And because there are so many, I’ll have to save my other family and out-of-state favs for the next post! If you’re wondering if I got a manicure yesterday, a once or twice yearly indulgence, can you say “Pink Lemonade?”

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