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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

At home with . . . Amelia E. Valentine

As a college Freshman, I was introduced to vintage clothing. Shortly after that blind date, we (vintage couture and I) began a torrid love affair that has lasted for 26 years. Actually, the relationship has taken a turn toward the voyeur-esque nature, since most vintage fashion seems to be constructed in one of only two sizes: "-YOU-HAVE-GOT-TO-BE-KIDDING-ME" and "ARE-YOU-SURE-THIS-IS-ADULT-CLOTHING?"!! Due to the fact that I'm fond of that stuff they call "FOOD," and on occasion like to participate in that other thing . . . what do they call it? . . . Oh yes, "EATING!", fitting my body into vintage garments these days is rare. In college, however, a friend and I thought it might be fun to see if we could pull off a "silent-film-starlet-flapper" type look for a Gatsby themed party we were invited to. Well, a can and a half of Aqua Net, two tubes on "Riotous Red" Clinique lipstick, three broken tweezers (heavy brows did not fit the profile), two $20 fringe flapper dresses, and a couple of Route 44 Lime-Aides with a dash or twelve of Jose Cuervo later, we resembled the cast of To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar - except not as feminine - Think more like Jack Lemmon in Some Like it Hot or Jack Benny in drag.

After stabbing ourselves with fifty-four-bazillion bobby pins and poking a new hole in the ozone layer spraying our follicles into place, we arrived at the party. All the other girls turned as we entered and Oooh-ed and Aaah-ed in unison. However, I was fairly sure I knew what they were thinking, having thought it several times before myself. I had on occasion, when seeing a look or an outfit on another woman that was heinously ugly, had chosen to compliment her instead. Superficial? Maybe. Catty? Sure, but I had to compensate for the dear-in-the-headlights-gaze and the head tilted slightly askew like one of those dogs on a World's Funniest Videos clips that hears a strange noise and can't quite figure out what it is or where it's coming from.

Amelia E. Valentine, in contrast, really rocks the "retro-fashionista immersion look." She is flawless in her present day interpretation of the old Hollywood siren style, with the perfectly coiffed pin curls, flawless red rosebud lips, and lined eyes. She looks radiant in her Peter Pan collar, powder-pale complexion, and auburn bob haircut. It's almost as if Greta Garbo or silent film star Clara Bow had thrown up directly on her - and I mean that in a flattering way. She's simply stunning! A quote made by Coco Chanel came to mind the first time I saw photos of Amelia on The Queens of Vintage social network - "In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different." I think Amelia has that nailed, and you can share her penchant for altered-vintage clothing at her online Etsy shop. Her posts on her Live Journal called The Life and Times of Archy and Mehitabel where she shares ideas about living the Vegan life, posts photos of daily retro outfits and shares samples of her embroidery and art, is a fun read. Amelia has shared a glimpse into her world in Austin, which one can tell from her photos is quite unique and dear to her heart. The way she's chosen to express herself so uniquely proves another of Coco's adages, and that is elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress - but rather it is something that exists in ones daily presence and interactions, etc. Thanks, Amelia, for sharing your adventures and collections, your funky, fun shop, and your very lovely vintage inspired life!

I live in . . .
I live in Austin, Texas after a time in Oregon for my MFA.

I'm studying to be . . .
I'm studying to be a teacher of Gifted and Talented students at Texas State, but for the time being, I make vegan soft serve and sell Hello Kitty at Toy Joy.

I choose this profession because . . .
I choose this profession because I love teaching young, curious minds.

When I was a child I wanted to be . . .
When I was a child I wanted to be a Biomedical Engineer, someone who makes false limbs and organs. I was always rubbish at science and mathematics so I never thought I could be an engineer. Now I just have an appreciation for the curious and Victorian.

I’m listening to . . .
I have the most varied musical palette ever. I love 1930s and 1980s pop! I've been working of expanding my tastes to more contemporary things so I can open the Austin Chronicle and be familiar with the show listings! Lately, I’m listening to Francois Hardy, Nico, Balkan Beat Box, Spice Girls, Rainer Maria, Vashti Bunyan, The Pipettes, Prince, and Dan Deacon.

I’m reading . . .
Since graduate school, I always accidently fall asleep if I read a book. I have an subscription and I love listening to books while I'm doing embroidery or while cooking. Steve Martin's “Born Standing Up” was a hilarious tale of his rise to fame and he even plays banjo between chapters. I just finished Neil Gaiman's “The Graveyard Book” and scared myself silly! I never read his books when I was younger but now I can't get enough of him.

My artistic heroes or muses are . . .
My artistic heroes or muses are Doris Salcedo and Tom Friedman - they are both sculptors who use domestic materials in poetic ways. My favorite Doris Salcedo pieces are when she uses clothing such as burying clothing in concrete or caging high heels behind animal skins. Tom Friedman just astounds me! I found one of his books when I was 19 and I just stared at it for hours. His sculptures are out of aspirin, detergent, his own signature, play-dough, anything really. He is what obsessive art making is all about.

I would describe my style as . . .
I would describe my style as 1930s Chorus Girls meets Sweet Lolita meets Flapper Fantastique.

My favorite color is . . .
My favorite color is teal because it matches everything.

If money were no object . . .
If money were no object I would travel the world for five years on a giant food tour: olives in Greece, Mangos in Brazil, Dumplings in China, Fairy Bread in Australia, Curry in India... the list goes on!

I’m creatively moved by . . .
I’m creatively moved by exposure to other busy people. I get my energy from other artists and creative people.

I received my education and training from . . .
I received my education and training from the University of Arkansas (BA), the University of Oregon (MFA) and Texas State (M.Ed, forthcoming).

A perfect day would include . . .
A perfect day would include homemade vegan breakfast, a long walk, good iced tea, a kiss on the forehead before I fell asleep.

My favorite place in my studio is . . .

My favorite place in my studio is the sunlight that falls on my studio desk and illuminates my in-progress projects.

I collect . . .
I collect ephemera: Vintage Valentines, human teeth, 1930s silk dresses, photographs of strangers.

My favorite collection is . . .
My favorite collection is my 1920s/30s valentine collection. I even have two of them as tattoos!

I’m spiritually moved by . . .
I’m spiritually moved by good food (and little else).

If you had a mission statement, what would it be?
The Ladies' Society for the Reinstatement of Proper Undergarments is a self-created group that endorses my products whole heartedly. We have monthly tea meetings where we dress in full regalia and try not to stain our stockings with jam.

How did you acquire your love of vintage?

When I was a kid I watched Betty Boop cartoons and I remember feeling this strange sensation while watching a rotoscoped Cab Calloway sing “St. James Infirmary Blues.” I knew I was traveling in some way, it was like an out of body experience. Since 2001, I have been a part of an online community of "time travelers." We are young people who wear vintage clothing, listen to old music, and watch classic movies. We gravitate towards the period from 1920, when film making came into its own as an art, to around 1948, when the long playing record was introduced. We do this not just in an attempt to appreciate the past, but to adopt it. Our goal is to internalize the gracious values of this earlier era in order to combat a world that is quickly moving in the opposing direction.

Do you have a fashion icon or era in fashion that you emulate?
I study the years of 1929 – 1936 and watch Pre-Code movies to try and grab the style from this era.

Who are your favorite designers?

John Galliano, Milla Jovovitch

What do you do when you're not blogg-ing or journal-ing or Etsy-ing?
I work at a toy store and make little clothes for my Blythe dolls, Violet Crown and Odile. I'm also slowly learning Portuguese from my sweetheart, who is from Belo horizonte, Brazil.

What are your personal favorite blogs or websites?

Roxanne Carter:
Amy van Doren: It'll Take The Snap Out Of Your Garters!
Queens of Vintage

Where are your favorite places to shop?

In Austin, Texas I like to shop at Amelia's Retro Vogue and Blue Velvet. Otherwise, I go to estate sales or shop on Etsy or Evilbay.

Are there any trends your are particularly inspired by this season?
I bought new socks from, does this count?

What trend from the past would like to make a comeback?
Tweed jackets with nipped in waists.

What clothing items would you say are timeless?
Peter Pan collars on dresses, t-strap heels, fruit prints, Seersucker, mother of pearl buttons, lace headbands

What beauty product can you not live without?
Lush's entire beauty line, especially Henna for my hair and Aromoco and Massage Bars for my body!

Amelia was also featured in the book What I Wore Today

Amelia's embroidered hankies are part of an exhibit at The David Winton Bell Gallery at Brown University called Inappropriate Covers, an exhibition of multimedia works by 11 established and emerging artists, through Friday, May 29, 2009.

Etsy Treasury

Hey many thanks to Kim over at Thatsomething. She featured my Louis chairs in a Treasury West on Etsy last week.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Girl Friday: Greetings From the Dangerously-Over-caffeinated

Greeting from the "dangerously-over-caffeinated",

I greet each new day with the firm conviction that there is entirely too much blood in my caffeine system, and if the past few days is any indication of the coming weeks, my kidneys will be gone entirely by Flag Day. I'm sure that they are already the size, shape, and consistency of an overly saturated cleaning sponge due to my heroic intake of Diet Dr. Pepper. The worst of it is that I've just dropped a 20 oz. bottle of said soda all over my computer desk. And, now I'm having to lift the keyboard with my left hand and tilt the monitor with my right hand, pick up the chenille throw from the sofa with my teeth, and drop it on the stream of soda headed for the printer, while simultaneously dabbing up the soggy mess with my elbow. And the only thing I can concentrate on throughout this whole contortionist exercise is whether or not I should get another DDP out of the fridge downstairs. Which really is kind of silly because, let's face it, if I've reached the "over-caffeinated-hand-shaking-dropping-things" period of the day, then it's highly unlikely that I will be able to keep a firm grasp on the next bottle. However, we all know that I'm going to get another one and then another after that . . . so, there goes that debate and such is life for this caffeine junky!

I'd wax on further about the love and craving I have for DDP's, but apparently my caffeine intake has been so extreme that I've completely lost the ability to sit for more than a couple of minutes at a time, thereby making it impossible to write coherent thoughts on a post. So, I'll just have to leave you with links to some interesting new discoveries. Look for posts with more detailed information featuring each of these new friends in the future.

Jonamor D├ęcor

French Kissed Design

Queens of Vintage

August Morgan

Landon Pigg

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Grey Gardens

For your amusement, here's a list of items I have painted in the past 24 hours.

1) My Golden Retriever, A.J. - his tail swished across the freshly primed leg of a shield back chair

2) My black Chuck Taylor's - apparently depth perception is not my forte'

3) A.J., . . . again - he's slowly turning into 100 lb Grey Schnauzer

4) A pair of vintage Louis chairs, 2 benches, 1 chandelier, 1 shield back chair, 1 Mid Century side chest, 1 Asian side chest

5) Our deck, my neck

6) My inner thigh, A.J.s inner thigh

7) My nails

8) A pretty picture

Primed pieces waiting for their paint color. Some will need upholstery - some may need some mirror or new drawer pulls.

If I ranked my least favorite ways to pass a day, painting my latest vintage finds out in the blazing Texas sun would fall somewhere between a visit to the "snatch doctor" and watching a 4-year-old with too much hair product in her extensions with a flaming baton compete in the talent portion of the "Ain't She Sweet Beauty Pageant" down at the Wash & Lube. In the past few weeks a string of vintage furniture pieces with exceptional design pedigrees have come into my possession. So, in the spirit of reuse, repurpose, and rework, I had no choice but to strap on my low VOC paint drenched brush and give these vintage beauties a new life.

To be honest, the eco-friendly agenda isn't my main concern. My real motive is far more selfish and shallow. You see, I need to produce some cash flow so that I can maintain my degenerate shopaholic status and dig up and purchase more vintage treasures. So, to indulge my thrifting addiction (and it truly is an illness) sans the bitter aftertaste of shame and guilt, I will be listing these pieces on my website and Etsy store in the next few days.

And like "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, from the Grey Garden story, these charming vintage furniture pieces have a glamour that will never fade.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Make That Two Pink Martinis

I'm off to the Pink Martini concert in San Antonio tonight at the Lila Cockrell Theater. They will be performing with the San Antonio Symphony beginning at 8:00pm. tonight and tomorrow night. My son is on a field trip to Six Flags in San Antonio today, so, we are "springing" our daughter out of school early and driving to San Antonio to pick my son up at the park. The plan is to get all dressed up in our "swankiest" duds, have a nice dinner and cocktails (not the children, but the adults) and go see Pink martini (the band, not the drink) HA! I slay me!!!!! As you can see, I'm beside myself with excitement! This will be the first opportunity I've had to see Pink Martini live, though I've been smitten since one of my dearest friends introduced me to their music earlier this year. I posted a lengthy piece about Pink Martini and it's band members here.

Pink Martini, time with the Hubbs and kidletts and cocktails - I can't think of a more perfect weekend!

I leave you with a few Pink Martini recipes that I found on the Swank Martini website

Pink Martini Recipe

1.25 oz greygoose vodka
0.25 oz lime juice
0.25 oz triple sec
0.25 oz cranberry juice

Serving Instructions
Shake with crushed ice. Strain into glass. Serve in a cocktail glass. Garnish with lime.

Pink Panther Martini Recipe

Splashed with champagne.
2 oz. Gin
1 oz. Campari
½ oz. Grapefruit juice
½ oz. Champagne

Combine gin, Campari and juice in mixing glass. Add ice and shake.
Strain into your Swank Martini Glass and top with Champagne.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

At home with . . . Stan Williams

In the Summer of 1971 my mother asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. After giving it some thought, for something like an entire day, and pondering the options I figured were available to me: teaching little kids, raising little kids, dancing on Lawrence Welk, becoming a "lady of the evening" (which I was told had something to do with kissing boys, and was quickly removed from my list), or becoming a nurse. I didn't really, deep down in my heart, want to be any of those things. My Mom suggested that I think about what I really enjoyed doing most, and how I wanted people to see me when I was grown. So, finally, I realized what I wanted to be, a garbage collector . . . or a French maid. (I thought the uniform was groovy!) You see, I was tragically in love with our trash collector guy, Jim, at the time. I would sit out on the curb in front of our house when it was "trash-pick-up-day" and wait for hours to get my, "Hey, what's up kid?" and a glimpse of his Pearl Drops-polished smile. It wasn't just the filthy overalls or aromatic scent that accompanied Jim that won me over. He used to give me gifts from his earlier pick ups, stuff like discarded porcelain figurines, old cigar boxes, and one time he even presented me with a beautiful cut glass lamp. The remaining summer months of 1971 were spent rummaging through every yard sale and church bizarre I could convince my Mom to take me to. Which really wasn't that hard of a sell, because at least the prospect of these sales kept me out of the neighbors trash.

I tell that story to tell you this one. . . . newly-found friend and author of The Find, Stan Williams, had similar beginnings. Only his experiences were shared by his Mom and Aunt Diana and were located in the town of Independence, Missouri and the suburbs of Kansas City. The search for treasures in dark, musty garages, the "crack-of-dawn" trips the the flea market, the exploration and excavation of thrift stores throughout the years, have all been a story in the making - actually a book in the making - The Find, to be precise. The back and forth e-mailing that Stan and I have been doing in preparation for this interview, has been such a wonderful experience for me. I am grateful and flattered that he has taken time out of his busy schedule to share his story with us.

A photo of Stan from his book atop a desk I bought for $10 in 1984. His dad later refinished it for him. He says it now lives with his sister in Independence, Mo. and jokes that the photo is also almost a year and a half old and shows him before he grew a pornstar 'stache!

This Christmas tree is one of Stan's most precious finds. He found it at the flea market at the Santa Monica Airport with one of his best friends. He loves it so much that he keeps it up all year long, and it even has working lights.

The wrought iron chair was given to Stan by Deb Kelt, who is married to Charles Hancock of Austin. She literally found it on the street. He loves it because it always reminds him of Deb. Stan's Mom took a scrap of velvet and fashioned a new seat cover. Underneath the chair are rolls of paper used to make cigarettes from a shut-down paper factory in Rijeka, Croatia.

So, our trip begins and off we go to the Big Apple to drop in on The Elegant Thrifter, aka Stan Williams. NYC is a city filled with a myriad of cultural icons, fashion experts, financial tycoons, creative artists and visionaries. Stan is one of those people, an outspoken advocate for New York City's Housing Works and supporter to their efforts of raising $10 million a year for homeless and low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. The Find is full of wonderful stories, spot-on advice, elegantly photographed by Jim Franco and Bob Greenspan and is filled with practical sidebars from some of today’s most clever style makers, including Simon Doonan, John Derian, and Real Simple’s Kristin van Ogtrop – all of whom are pronounced diehard devotees of New York City’s Housing Works. I simply can't gush enough about this book, it's truly amazing and I highly recommend it. But, beware, after looking through it, you'll be itching to get to the nearest thrift store in search of your own treasures.

In a photo from The Find, prop stylist Joe Maer, uses a blue and white theme for a romantic affair.

If I had not become an writer and editor, I would
have been a . . .

If I were not a writer/editor, I would have been a French teacher. I am very much a francophile and learned -- oddly at a very early age in the Independence, Mo., public school system -- the appreciation for anything and everything French. No influence from my family. In fact, I was the first to ever get a passport! I always dreamed of far away places, and France presented me an exoticism so far away from what I knew. I love the country, and, to me, the language is the most beautiful in the world.

When I was a child I wanted to be . . .

When I was a child, I wanted to be a writer. I was always fascinated by words and asking people nosey questions. So I guess that fit my interest.

A photo from The Find in which events designer Michelle Rago uses gigantic peonies to set the theme for a romantic wedding setting.

I'm listening to . . .

I'm listening to Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Arnold Turboust (one of my favorite French artists from the 80s who is now a FaceBook pal.) and 1980s French Pop.

I’m reading . . .

I'm reading so much right now. I am obsessed with The New Yorker magazine and have been for years. Right now, I'm taking a whimsical break to read the David Sedaris When You are Engulfed in Flames. I spent a month plowing through all the works by Robert Maxwell, and try to read a French best seller at least once a month. AND The Four Agreements is always on my desk for a quick boost.

A photos from the book showing the home office of David Jimenez showcasing a Knoll Barcelona chair at a chrome-and-glass Parsons table.

My artistic hereos or muses are . . .

Dolly Parton is my artistic hero. She is who she is, and she created herself. I am always inspired by her.

A photo of Stan's Dolly Rama party where he and his mother made a "Tablecloth of Many Colors." They used vintage and thrift pieces to set an "Urban Granny" table.

I would describe my style as . . .

My home style is urban grandma chic. I like clean contemporary lines, but also homey touches.

My favorite color is . . .

My favorite color is's rich, regal and warm.

If money were no object . . .

If money were no object, I would move to Paris, loaf and LIVE!

I’m creatively moved by . . .

I am creatively moved by people who just decide to do something, and go for it. It's inspiring to me, and life is too short to waste doing something that isn't fulfilling, or spending all your time planning and never getting around to it.

Another photo from the book of a chair that Alex Bandon, multimedia editor for This Old House, reworked for her neighbor with a some primer and bright red paint.

I received my education and training from . . .

I have a journalism degree from the University of Missouri -- Columbia and studied for one year at University of Bordeaux, France.

A photo from the book in which Heather Chadduck of Cottage Living sets a table with black-and-white plates, residential numbers and French accounting ledger placemats, displaying her fascination for anything numbered.

A perfect day would include . . .

A perfect day for me would start out with a fabulous Pilate's class, followed by a garage sale trek through Santa Monica. Next, a 40-minute power nap before heading off to the airport to board flight on Air France to Paris -- first class of course!

My favorite place in my home is . . .

My favorite place in my home is my dining room floor where I always tend to work on projects -- in the middle of everything!

One of the seven Housing Works thrift stores in New York.

I collect . . .

I collect too much. I love vintage handbags, cocktail ephemera and vintage cookbooks.

My favorite collection is . . .

My favorite collection is my Dolly Parton memorabilia that I've collected for more than 30 years -- albums, photos, programs, ephemera, T-shirts, and the list goes on.

I chose this profession because . . .

I think I chose this profession because I'm somewhat shy, and also nosey. I like getting to know people and telling their stories. It was hard for me to be a hard-nosed fashion reporter because, I genuinely liked everybody, so sometimes I wasn't tough enough. I really enjoy the kind of writing I'm doing now -- writing about things that speak to me personally.

A photo from the book of a collaboration piece crafted by designer John Bartlett and framer John Etsy.

My biggest influences are . . .

My biggest influences are varied. I dedicated my book to my mom and dad. They are hardworking people who taught me respect for everybody. My mom used to always have craft projects around the house, from making Christmas ornaments to pouring candles. And my dad is THE ultimate handy man. He can work wonders on old furniture. And he demonstrated to me that hard work always pays off.My high school journalism teacher Ron Clemons taught me how to be a good writer. He was also one of the first to recognize my skills. Even though I had great professors at the university, he taught me the most that I retained. My favorite saying of his ...and I think this is good for a journalist to remember..."Nobody cares about your opinion. Stick to the facts." I approach every project as a journalist would and try to keep everything as real and authentic as possible. And then there was my high school French teacher who instilled in me the love of France, and the French language. I am influenced by Dolly Parton's story of making herself out of nothing into a huge star. She is kind, talented and smart -- and she's hokey. I'm a sucker for home-spun hokiness, but I also appreciate loftier ideas. From a design perspective, I'm always entranced by Wendy Goodman's Tony Duquette book and haven't been able to stop looking at it for the past year. It has inspired my making paper mache volcano vases for a friend's wedding tabletop. I'm also inspired by John Derian. He's another person who took a creative hobby and turned it into a thriving business. He is a lovely person, and it shows in his work.

I’m spiritually moved by . . .

I am spiritually moved by the power of prayer.

My advice to someone just starting out in this field would be . . .

My advice to anyone starting out in this career is to only do what you love. Always set your goals high, and don't worry about what other people think of you. That's hard for a creative person, though, because we are pleasers and want to be liked. I read in Seth Godin's book Small is the New Big that creative people aren't afraid of failure, but they are afraid of being criticized. I think that rings true.

I’m emotionally moved by . . .

I'm emotionally moved every time I take a plane and land in my home town of Kansas City, Mo., or in Charles de Gaulle in Paris. Both feel like I'm coming home, and I always feel energized. I'm also moved by old bluegrass gospel music, the sea, a heart-felt compliment and objects crafted by hand -- whether it's an old fashioned pineapple upside down cake, a decoupaged plate or a crocheted art piece. I guess I'm moved by things where I feel at home...or when someone touches me with an authentic gesture, either in words or actions.

Stan was interviewed by Amanda Tice from at his books launch party at Ports 1961 at the Meat Packing District, New York City. You view the interview here.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Mom's the Word

A photo of my beautiful Mother in her 30s

One of my roles, as a suburban mother, is to deliver my children "here," "there," and then "here" again, because we forgot where "there" was. When I delivered my daughter and son obstetrically, I had counted on those being the last times I would have to be as anxious about getting my children safely to their desired destination (my loving arms in this instance). But, if my 15-year career as a mother has taught me anything, it is that that would not be the first time I would be sorely mistaken! And today, I'm fully aware that "Deliverance," is not just a movie title!

My darling Mother taught me, by example, that being a mother is one of the highest salaried jobs in the world, since the payment is pure love. Growing up in a single parent household for much of my life, I had an unusually unique perspective on this business of "mothering." My Mom is the type of person who upon seeing that there were only four pieces of fried chicken for five people, would promptly announce that she never did care much for poultry, just so there would be enough for her four children. My Mom is and was, all about making her kids feel safe and loved. The stresses of resolving the housing, clothing, and medical issues that arose on an already burdened teacher's salary, was her own private burden. That task was complete only when her babes were emotionally and physically fed, bathed, read-to, firmly snuggled and lovingly tucked into bed, and asleep!

Although I have never had to endure the hardships of being solely responsible for clothing, feeding, nurturing, and educating my children, I am SO my mother's daughter. At first glance you would never guess it! My Mother looks nothing like you might expect an Amazon High Priestess' Mom to look like. I'm 6'1" and my Mother hovers somewhere around 5'6" or 5'7"(at her tallest). When we pose together for a photograph, it looks much like I've invaded Middle Earth and have taken the Shire's matriarch hobbit hostage - she's intimately familiar with my arm pits and I with the cowlick she has at her crown. Yet, another place where we vastly differ, is in our culinary skills. My Mom is a repository for all things delicious and knows how to cook everything to perfection. I, on the other hand, get Christmas cards from all the take out joints within a 5-mile radius of our house and am the proud godmother to more than one of our pizza delivery guy's children. But my sarcastic sense of humor, now THAT, you can thank her for! My Mom can take any scenario and make it a worst-case in about five seconds flat (although most of her concerns typically do materialize). I, on the other hand, tend to be a little too trusting of the universe and get blind-sided by some unforeseen glitch in my plans.

She always has crossed the way-too-much-information-threshold, but, has graciously given me the privilege of returning the favor. That has resulted in my feeling at ease to let her know everything that I have done, said, was thinking of doing or saying, etc. I feel sure, however, that there have been times when she wished I were not so forthcoming with the intimate details of, let's say, an evening out with "Mr. Jack Daniels", and the Mexican food "brooch" that I affixed to her nightgown that promptly followed. (You've simply not lived until you have thrown up on your Mother!)

Even when I felt the need to drop the "F-bomb" throughout all of my speech in high school, my Mom was patient, and requested that I only use that word when I really meant it. Well, Mommy, you will be glad to know that I've grown, and matured and don't feel the need to use that particular expletive to tell you - I'm the luckiest "Mother-******" on the planet!

...And I really meant that!!!
Happy Mother's day Mommy, I love you all the molecules!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Child of the Seventies: Clothkits

As a child of the 70s, I had a memorable talisman - among others, Mrs. Beasley was a favorite because she had a pull-string that made her talk. She said wonderful things like; "DO YOU WANT TO HEAR A SECRET? I KNOW ONE" or, "IF YOU COULD HAVE THREE WISHES, WHAT WOULD YOU WISH FOR?" I confess, I was all about "the secrets" and "the wishes" at the age 6 or 7. I even had an invisible friend, who I named Buffy Rebecca - in homage to the 70s series, A Family Affair. She lived on my Big Wheel. She would stand on the seat back when I rode it, which was often and at very high speeds down our steeply pitched driveway. When I reached the end of it, I would pull with a strong jerk on my hand-brake at the back right wheel, which produced a rather lovely black skid mark and a fantastic Indianapolis-style hissing noise. Buffy Rebecca would not be able to resist the centrifugal force and would fly off the Big Wheel, slam into the large Mesquite tree we had in our side yard, break her neck, and have to be taken to a hospital where she would be attended to by Dr. Marcus Welby, M.D. In the meantime, I would give an accounting of the accident to New York City's finest detective, Lieutenant Theo Kojak (played by Telly Savalas) who always said, "Who loves ya, Baby?," and then would give me an imaginary lollipop. In response I would say that "he" loved me, and that was that. Buffy Rebecca was pretty much abused, neglected and ignored by me, other than that. There were no deeply disturbing conversations or orders to paint the neighbor's cat blue - so, I'm not really sure how that happened! I was at home with my family watching Laugh In at the time . . . honestly! I had a friend, Julie, who had an invisible friend named Marilyn Monroe, and I guess, if the truth be known, I felt abnormal not having one.

As far as my wardrobe was concerned, it consisted mostly of Grandmother, Aunt or Mother-manufactured dresses or smocks that we paired with stirrup pants at first and then bell-bottoms later. I was a tall child, even back then, so stirrup pants on my lengthy legs more closely resembled the pants that one might wear as part of their baseball uniform, though that was not the look I was striving for. However, if I had lived in the UK, and been aware of, or had access to Clothkits I would have been rockin' that look to the max!

Started by Anne Kennedy in 1968 and run from her kitchen table, Clothkits was one of the original 'Mompreneurs' in the craft business. Hugely successful, Anne's idea was simple, design groovy, graphic clothes and accessories for kids. She would print the pattern onto high quality cotton or corduroy fabrics in multi-sizes and send them out by mail-order with little packs of notions. This allowed Moms with even the most basic sewing skills to make their childrens' clothes with pride.

Kay Mawer
, bought the old Clothkits business in 2007 and promptly relaunched it. She has created a fantastic new range of Clothkits for the modern kid. She stays true to the heritage of this iconic brand by raiding the Clothkits archives. Projects with contemporary artists and designers form the core of the business. Partnerships with screen printer Jane Foster and papercut artist Rob Ryan are some of her most recent collaborations.

I'm thinkin' I'll be getting a couple for my daughter and me . . . who knows, Buffy Rebecca may even like one - I'll just be careful not to get a color that clashes with her neck brace!

Photos courtesy Clothkits

Friday, May 1, 2009

Girl Friday: Thrifting Guru Stan Williams

Thrift-ing is, without a doubt, my “Crack”! Junking, antique-ing, thrift-ing, garage sale-ing, flea-ing - whatever your label, it, to me, is therapy minus the psycho-pharmocologist. Sometimes I’m looking for a specific something and other times, I’m just doing it to “get my dig on!" Sometimes it finds me and sometimes, I find it - “IT” being the treasure or “The Find.”

Which leads me to today’s post on The Find, authored by Stan Williams, a fellow blogger, thrifter, lifestyle writer and editor. It will be available May 3rd. He has teamed with the design experts at New York City's most popular thrift store, Housing Works, to show, not just "what" to look for in vintage decorating, but also how to recognize a treasure. It's elegantly photographed and filled with practical sidebars from some of today’s most clever style makers, including Simon Doonan, John Derian, and Real Simple’s Kristin van Ogtrop – all of whom are pronounced diehard devotees of New York City’s Housing Works. They not only show what to look for, but also how to look at an object to identify a great piece. You know, the trick of seeing beyond nicks and wobbles, color and intended use. One example, for instance, is encasing a vintage leather trunk in Lucite, and PRESTO!, you have a stunning coffee table. Further suggestions are taking pages from old books and wallpapering a foyer, or fashioning a cushion for a garden chair from a baseball diamond’s home plate.

The Find includes chapters on furniture, accessories, small spaces, and entertaining while offering unexpected ways that secondhand or vintage items can make statements throughout a home. This book is a combo handbook and inspiration for vintage decorating and reinforces the thought that secondhand does not have to mean second rate. It is documented proof that there’s always something special to be found.

You can find this book here and Williams’ blog The Elegant Thrifter is a must read. The Housing Works Thrift Shops occupy seven upscale locations in New York City, selling high-end vintage treasures to bargain hunters and fashionistas alike - Sarah Jessica Parker is a huge fan and contributes to their cause by donating goods. More information like auctions and other events, online shopping and ways to donate can be found here. The shops not only provide more than $12 million in funding per year, but also ensure a supply of clothing and essentials for our clients. It's times like these when I wish that I had unlimited funds to buy passage to "The Big Apple!"

My recommendation: Put your "Junk Gypsie" boots on and hit the estate sales, garage sales, thrift stores and flea markets this weekend to get a little shopping therapy, and skip the doctor-approved happy pills.

Book cover photo by by Jim Franco, and is courtesy of

Photo of trunk courtesy Turquoise LA - this piece designed by Jordan Cappella, features a vintage Goyard inspired trunk under a lucite base.