Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Redux

I posted this last year but think it's worth repeating. Happy holidays everyone.

Briefly: 2007, I’m unemployed for the first time, living in Utah which was not a good place for me to be for any number of reasons. My unemployment benefits ran out in September 2007 and my stress over money and my situation was all consuming. The only thing greater was my belief that I had to get out of Utah. A dear friend lived in Portland and offered me his apartment for the Christmas holidays. I drove there in eight hours and there our story begins. Rather then work from my memory here is my actual journal entry from December 24, 2007 (it’s a bit long but don’t give up, OK?):

7:35pm: I can only try to explain what has happened to me tonight. I found a restaurant two days ago that was lovely and looked just special enough for Christmas Eve dinner alone. It’s called Serratto on the corner of 21st and Kearney. Blonde wood, lots of candles, high ceilings, wine bottles along the wall. Everything warm and glow-y. I arrived early tonight because the shops closed at 5 not 6 as I had hoped. Still, they had a table ready and I was seated. It was a table for two near the back half of the restaurant but with a view of the bar and the windows to the outdoors. My waitress was very nice and I decided to go with a split of champagne for dinner. At first she came back and said unfortunately, they were out of the kind I chose. I said I would think about a split of wine. She said she would bring me a glass of champagne on the house while I thought about it. Then another woman (the hostess, I think) came by and said they’d found more of the champagne, what would I like to do? I went with it. There was a table of 6 next to me and they were quite nice as neighbors. One of the women seemed to own her own shop and the older gentleman was 80- I couldn’t quite get the dynamic- but I was almost comfortable enough to join them. In between my salad and my entrée a woman came in and was seated across from me at another table for two. She looked a bit like Diane Keaton with streaked short hair, very well put together. I thought we must be in the singles row. She pulled out a book and started reading. I noticed that she did the same things I do to keep her hands free- balance a knife or saucer on the spine of the book to hold it open. Our meals progressed with me enjoying my champagne and a rack of lamb. I was completely in the moment, happy to listen to the people next to me, watch the people around me, and enjoy my surroundings. I looked at this woman on and off and thought that it could be me in 10 years and that would be just fine. She was happy being alone. On the bar a man had his glass of beer aligned in such a way that the flame from the votive nearby looked as if it was flickering inside the glass. I was a bit mesmerized.

After my meal, I decided to go for it and order pear and fig bread pudding. The woman across from me got up to leave and went to the back bar with the waitress to pay her bill. I saw them talking but thought nothing of it. The bread pudding was delicious and I ate what I could but not all. I was pleasantly buzzed and completely contented. The waitress came over to clear my plate and said, “I have something to tell you.” I asked what and she asked if I noticed the woman across from me. I said yes and hesitated. She said, “Well, she paid for your entire meal, including my tip. You can leave whenever you want.” I was stunned and could not speak. Finally I said, “What? What do you mean? Why would she do that?” She said the woman told her that I looked happy and was taking care of myself by ordering champagne and dessert. Then she said that the woman said, “She reminds me of myself when I was younger.” I almost freaked out. I touched the waitress’ arm and said, “No! I was looking at her thinking that could be me in 10 years and I would be just as happy.” She agreed, asked my name, told me hers was Heather and said she understood because she was an only child. By now both of us were crying lightly. I said I could not believe someone would do something like that. She said it was Portland, that people were kinder and nicer here. That it was a magical place. She asked if I was from here and I gave her a brief rundown on my situation. I asked for the woman’s name and she said she might be able to get it from the receipt but I did not pursue it. Her first name is Nan. The woman had told her to cover my bill before my bill came knowing that I might not accept so it was what it was. We talked for a bit more and I offered my Visa for a tip but she said she was very covered and that was all right. Then we welled up again, squeezed hands, and I got up to leave. I got outside and started to cry. Soon big heaving sobs. Who would do such a kind thing for a stranger? I have an obligation now to share that, pass it along. I am deeply deeply touched and grateful.

There is a lesson here but I can’t quite get to the core of it. On the one hand I want something desperately but cannot obtain it. On the other, when I least expect it I am given amazing gifts. What does it mean?

So I am satiated with delicious food and champagne and humbled by a stranger’s generosity. What a day. I feel as if I need to go off somewhere and contemplate this. There is something here to learn; something very important.

A lovely little miracle, right? All true. I hope each and every person reading this has something wonderful happen to them VERY soon. Even if it's tiny as long as it gives you hope and makes you feel loved.

Source: via Catherine on Pinterest

Friday, December 21, 2012

Endorphins or Epiphany- Your Choice

First off, an apology. My poor blog has been dormant for far too long. Of course, I have an excuse, who doesn’t these days? For the last two years I’ve struggled with issues of identity and employment, what is my purpose, who am I supposed to be, and what do I want to do when I grow up. In the last month my personal situation has been compounded by additional trials that have left both J and I feeling quite Job-like. I simply couldn’t write about it, and still have no intention of going into the details, because there is nothing for anyone to say. The inside of my mind is much like the underside of our couch—covered in dust, with fearsome unidentifiable things hiding in the dark. And I know this because I had to look under there for a pita chip that fell out of my mouth. It’s not pretty and does not need to be shared, especially as the bleakness I feel is echoed by recent events in our nation. There is much that simply does not make sense and for which there are no answers. 

Given all that, I decided that if the Mayans were right and the world was ending today I ought to at least exercise before being eradicated. The pool has been an almost mystical source of relief for me, when I’m not sharing a lane with a middle-aged overweight man in a Speedo who thinks he’s Michael Phelps and tries to do the butterfly, thereby washing me into the next lane. Much like the underside of my couch this is not pretty and no one should be subjected to it but until I have my own pool, there you are. I went with full knowledge that it could be crazy crowded or if I were supremely blessed, deserted. It fell somewhere in between and I got into a lane next to a kindly grandmother wearing scuba goggles and a green swim cap with petals on it. As I took my first strokes my motion through the water required no effort. I simply glided without exertion and felt my entire body expand and release. It was glorious and as I continued I was suddenly hit by these thoughts. Literally, they popped into my brain and all the other noise fell silent. 
Today is the end of the world. It is the end of an era. It is the end of me as I have been. My life right now is filled with nothing but uncertainty but I can control me. No matter how bad things get I can still be kind and gracious and open. If I believe that we all have a unique gift and our life is to be an expression of that gift then I have to stay open to receiving it. A closed fearful mind lets nothing in. So, I’m finished with the mud, the catatonia, the stupor. I have to keep trying and be as kind to myself as I wish to be to others. Events are going to unfold and they may be worse than anything I imagined but I’m already in that place and it’s not where I can live. There is a new world for me. I have absolutely no idea what it holds but I can continue to work on myself and be grateful for all the loving and caring people I have in my life. 
Endorphins or epiphany—who knows? I may eat my Chipotle burrito for lunch and lapse back into torpor but even the fact that I have put these words out there; that my heart and my head needed to express them means there is a kernel of truth in what I’m saying. Today is the end of the world and tomorrow will be better.

Monday, December 3, 2012


Is the water in front of me. Serene and unruffled. Waiting for my form to flow through, sleek and smooth, arms cutting into it like a knife but with only the smallest ripples. No splash or crash or noise. No excess. The lights above cast my reflection on the bottom and I watch my arms power down into the water, body long, gliding.
I move through the water and it moves through me. Nothing extraneous, just this movement powered by me. No racquet, ball, or bat just this body and its power, its motion to send me on. My chaotic thoughts churn like the water I kick up behind me but unlike those small waves they won’t settle into stillness. Pellucid. I would like to be.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Easy As Pie

Much like the remains of whatever bird you tore into on Thanksgiving Day my carcass has been lying around since Thursday, accomplishing exactly nothing. So, in a belated effort to be useful, I’m sharing this delicious and easy recipe I made for dessert—my only contribution to the Thanksgiving feast. And while Thanksgiving is over, cranberries are still plentiful and this is a nice, fresh, winter dessert. 
For me, a meal is not complete with something sweet at the end. At the same time I knew the odds on me making pie crust were slim to none. Making two crusts and cutting a lattice and leaf shapes was never going to happen so I was thrilled to find a local bakery (Grand Central Bakery) that provides all kinds of products to make your life easier—including prepared pie dough. If you’re the type who likes a challenge then by all means make whatever pie dough you use for a regular pie. 

The bonus to this galette? It tastes even better the following day. I was concerned that with only three people I would have to throw half of it away but J, my mother, and I each had a piece the following two nights, which is not saying much for my mother and I but J never eats dessert, so it was big deal. Store it in on a rack in a covered container in a cool area. We set it outside, as the fridge was overflowing with leftovers. The extra time gives the lime and ginger a chance to blend and really ups the flavor.


Galette with Cranberries

3T ground nuts
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw and pat dry)
1 medium apple, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2” chunks
1/3 C plump dried cranberries
¾ C packed light brown sugar
1 1 ½” piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced (we used half that)
Grated zest of one lime
Juice of ½ lime

Preheat oven to 400˚. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Remove prepared dough from fridge (should be chilled). Roll dough into a 1/8” circle 12” in diameter (this is the size most prepared pie dough comes in). Place dough on baking sheet. Sprinkle nuts on dough, leaving a 3” border around edges.  

In medium bowl mix together remaining ingredients and stir until brown sugar has dissolved and berries are coated. Carefully spoon mixture onto pie dough, leaving 3” border. This will mean heaping it in the center but that’s all right. Get a small bowl of water and wetting fingertips fold edges of dough up and around filling. This will create pleats or folds that you can pinch gently together, using the water for a seal until an edge is created around entire pie. Lightly brush edge with water and then sprinkle with 1-2t of sugar.
Bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown, cranberries have popped, and filling is bubbling. Place baking sheet onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes. Gently remove galette from baking sheet and let cool on rack.
Recipe by Dorie Greenspan from InStyle, November 2012

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Retail: The Despoiling of Humanity

I finally completed my foray back into the world of retail. It’s been quite a learning experience and, as always, I’m compelled to share some of the finer bits that have come my way, especially as starting tomorrow some of you will jumping into the insanity of holiday shopping. My number one take-away is that nothing will sour your belief in humanity more quickly than retail. For whatever reason, it brings out the craziest, loopiest, most entitled behavior one could imagine. I have looked at any number of customers thinking, “My mother would have beat me for such behavior.” 

  • Compiling a massive stack of books from around the store, sitting on a stool and reading through them for over an hour, then coming to the register with only two, leaving the balance of the stack spread out on the floor. This one offended me so much I did ask the customer, “Do you want the books you left on the floor as well?” Without a trace of shame, middle-aged woman replied, “No, they’re just too heavy to put away.” 
  • Phone call wanting to know exactly what the new café would be serving.
  • Sticking an iphone in my face with the website goodreads on it and asking me to look up every book on your want-to-read list because you’re tired of looking.
  • Bringing in your entire family, including pre-verbal toddlers, and letting them wander completely unsupervised while you read a book, which, of course, you do not purchase. This is not a singular experience but instead one I witnessed daily. Families settling into the store for several hours, small children pulling books off shelves and climbing on fixtures with no adults anywhere in sight.
  • Sitting in the newsstand area and reading magazine after magazine, thumbing through the pages, bending the spines back, and then discarding them on the floor when you’re finished. Hours and hours, magazines that have to be discarded no sold and not a single purchase.

I could go on but this is enough ire on a day of thanks. Just a few final thoughts: Sales clerks are not your maids—leaving any store items strewn in fitting rooms or on the floor is offensive and embarrassing (to you), retailers are not known for their generosity and employees seldom earn more than minimum wage and are held to part-time hours so no benefits have to be paid—they  will want to help but expecting them to be psychic regarding a book whose title/author’s name you don’t know and then getting mad because they can’t find it is rude and cruel. The same goes for any product whose name you can’t remember. In addition to being poorly paid they STAND behind a register or customer service desk for hours every day. No sitting is allowed. Try standing for two hours straight in the comfort of your own home and see how good you feel.  

Sometimes all of the above will make a person cranky by the end of a long day so having your payment ready and NOT talking on your cell phone while at the register goes a long way to helping. Yes, you’re tired too and you’re spending your money in their establishment but giving even a moment’s thought to being a good customer and being an active, prepared part of the shopping experience makes it a good one for everyone. And that, dear reader, is all I have to say about that.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Anna Karenina- Keira Knightley

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere in the U.S. where Anna Karenina will be showing—congratulations! The movie opens in selected theaters on the 16th. The rest of us will just have to wait and hope that it does well enough to expand into smaller markets. 
I’ve read the book in all its glorious tragedy and commend the filmmakers on their choice of Keira Knightley as Anna. Despite what you might think of her acting capabilities there is no one who can do doe-eyed, slender, aristocratic grace like she can. Look what she pulled off in Pride & Prejudice in those dreadful frumpy frocks! How lovely then to see her truly decked out in the grandeur of a wealthy character. 
Here are two of her costumes from the movie, beautifully photographed by Mario Testino for Vogue as well as a still from the picture in Chanel diamonds worth millions. If nothing else, the movie will be a visual extravaganza.
Dress by Joe Wright

Dress by Jacqueline Durran 

Jewelry custom designed by Chanel w/ 693 diamonds

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Portland: Brief Bit of Fall

Just a quick visual to show how inexplicable the colors of fall can be. No photoshopping here, this tree is truly an almost fluorescent shade of red; startling enough that I have to stop every time I pass the window. If it weren’t in a neighbor’s yard I’d love to get a close-up of a leaf. 

My thoughts go out to all my readers who have either just been hammered by Sandy and are now mired in mud and water waiting for electricity or those who are bearing the brunt of the storm with snow and ice. It was a quick and unusual fall here (as in, it is 64˚ today) but with the reality of climate change sinking into all but the most impenetrable skulls ‘unusual’ may be a word we can no longer apply to the weather.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: Fantasy Shopping

Happy Friday! If, like me, this week has left you tired of reality then how about a quick trip of fantasy shopping? This fall was not one of my favorites but there were items that caught my eye. Below, are items I’d love to own but likely never will. Still it’s cold and rainy right now and looking at pretty clothes always makes me feel better.


From top left:
  1. Fur lined parka- no idea who makes it despite extensive research on my part but I LOVE it
  2. Tory Burch sequined dress $595- could be really cute dressed down with a white shirt underneath
  3. Tory Burch Mary Jane $425- kind of spring-y color combo but still adorable
  4. LK Bennett suede/patent pump- because cordovan is hot this fall and this is a sexy classic,
  5. Philospohy knit dress with jeweled collar $695- again, a soft neutral with a demure simple line but the jeweled collar means business,
  6.  Generation Love- wool w/apaca sleeves $178- this is just fun, a soft sweater with metallic sleeves. Could be worn with jeans or a leather skirt
  7. Asos belted coat $215- businesslike and love the defined waist 
  8. LK Bennett pump $315- OK, so this is the shoe that Princess Catherine wears almost constantly but it IS a great neutral and who wouldn't want to look as classy as she does? 
  9. Jewelry: Irene Neuwirth necklace and earrings, Mimi So necklace, J/Hadley ring- as so much of what I was drawn to is soft neutrals I thought these beautiful gemstone pieces in deep blue would be a perfect complement.
What’s caught your eye this fall?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: Taking on Men

Sorry to have been AWOL but returning to a job where I deal with the public for the first time in decades (handling their money, credit cards, merchandise) brought me the mother of all colds and so I’ve had to restrict myself to basic functions only: sleeping and working. I’m on the mend and adapting and am back with one of my favorite categories for fall—menswear for women. Because I’ve never had a lot of curves, spring and summer are always a tougher time of year for me. Concepts like ‘bare’ and ‘sheer’ and ‘short’ are harder to work with and I end up sticking with 'layering'. Imagine then, how happy I am when designers embrace suiting as an option. To me, it is ripe with possibilities, both in clothing and accessories and only an unimaginative mind views it as masculine. Women's wear takes the best of menswear concepts—impeccable tailoring to hide flaws, fine fabrics, and subtle embellishment to the next level and with a pop of color, an uber-high heel, or a big bow, makes it especially feminine. Here are some of the pieces I fell for. See anything you’d like?
Suits: Michael Kors scores with a classic herringbone tweed while Rodarte goes 40s broad shoulder in a gorgeous pumpkin orange. One of my favorites, Gucci turns suiting on its head with a luxe velvet smoking jacket and trousers- the epitome of elegance. Erdem takes a slim silhouette and explodes it in a purple and yellow tweed.
Accessories: Oxfords and patent slip-ons by AGL,burnt umber cigarette case purse by Givenchy. Absolute, to-die-for-I don't-care-if-I-have-nowhere-to-wear-them-I-must-own-now stiletto ankle boots with ribbed tights by Burberry Prorsum (seriously, I have to have these boots) and classic black driving gloves with pieced leather and patent purse by Bottega Veneta.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: What Went Wrong

For whatever reason, Fall 2012 was a difficult one for fashion designers. Enough so that pulling my ‘what-were-they-thinking’ picks was painfully easy. There are designers (ala Betsey Johnson, John Paul Gaultier)  that make their mark by presenting collections that are wildly out there and for that they’re recognized for putting on a show- which is all well and good. But when established designers present lines like these, that are clearly marked as READY. TO. WEAR, but are anything but, I have to cry foul.

 MaxMara- this one hurts because I have loved your edgy elegance for many seasons. I own pieces of your label, for goodness sake, and this is what you’re showing me? Especially, after last fall, which was a visual delight. A pinstripe jumper might have potential but not when it looks like a bolt of fabric wrapped around and fastened at the chest. And shin guards? Avant garde is one thing but ugly is another. Better yet, now you want me to believe that a camel mohair jumpsuit with CROPPED LEGS is going to look good? Really? It doesn’t even look good on the model! In both these cases some absolutely gorgeous fabric has been wasted.

 The theme for Givenchy’s collection was equestrian, which explains the militaristic cape, epaulets, and boots. Beyond that, this outfit is a train wreck. Not a single piece of it works. Dreadful.

Calvin Klein has been a champion of the female form for decades. Whether you liked him or not, his clothes were cut to flatter and they did. What happened here, I have no idea. This is only one example from a collection that was frumpy, boxy and shapeless—the antithesis of Calvin Klein. And please don’t tell me that it’s post-modern, deconstructed and all about the fabric because it’s a pantsuit and it is unflattering as hell. Very Mao’s China.

 I saved the best/worst for last. Marc Jacobs is a creative and talented man but I think the strain of designing three lines finally got to him. Louis Vuitton is restrained and minimalist and it looks to me that as soon as he finished that line, he barfed Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory all over the runway at his own show. There is no other explanation. Funhouse fur hats, out-sized glittery pilgrim shoes, padded hips, and cropped pants…the list of offenses is almost unending. This is not fashion and it is certainly not anything that will ever translate to ready-to-wear. Almost feel as if he’s making the case for an ‘exhaustion break’.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Bruce Springsteen- Happy Belated Birthday

It was not the most illustrious beginning to a love story.

“The Boss? Who is that?” Sigh. Yes, I said it but please understand I was an 18 year old who had grown up largely in the wild west of Colorado. What we counted as music didn’t count at all. It was only upon reaching college (and getting a boyfriend who was a bona fide Springsteen freak) that I began to learn about this man who made such amazing music. How could such a powerful voice come from that scrawny body? Suffice to say that my initial feelings were solely to remain close to my true love, my boyfriend. However, as that proved ephemeral and damaging I began listening to the Boss to see how he could help. Soon it was he and I together and Bill was a thing of the past. I amassed 5 of his Rolling Stones covers, a concert poster from the Stone Pony, and while living in Atlanta camped out over night in a supermarket parking lot waiting for tickets to his Born in the USA concert to go on sale. Floor seats, 15 rows back, baby! At one point, several members of his crew came out into the audience with backstage passes and I not only hurdled two rows of folding chairs but nearly dislocated a friend’s arm by pulling her along. She was just slow enough that the last ticket went to some slut right in front of me as my fingers were closing around it. The crew dude shrugged but there were no more. Needless to say that girl and I did not remain friends for much longer after that.

There were all the albums and boxed sets (remember those days?) but my love for Bruce was sealed on my 21st birthday. He was appearing at Red Rocks amphitheatre- the iconic concert venue. I had gotten 3 tickets for myself and my two besties. Red Rocks is festival seating so we would need to arrive at to start standing in line before they started letting people in at . This time, while I knew I was not likely to score anything backstage I was determined to get photos despite the staff at Red Rocks (and Springsteen himself) being notoriously hard-assed about unauthorized photos or recordings. We were allowed to take in a cooler but no glass so I hollowed out the Styrofoam bottom and put the baggie wrapped body of my Pentax SLR in there then re-covered it and packed ice, food, and drinks on top. The only lens I needed was my telephoto and as security has not yet reached the stage of strip search or x-ray I had my VERY well endowed friend Ro conceal it between her breasts in her bra. In fact, I was so worried it would fall out I made her duct tape it to her skin. I duct taped 3 rolls of film to the inside of my ankle.

As they started letting us in my heart was pounding but with thousands of ticket holders and our scrubbed face college girl cuteness we had no issues. The larger problem once we scored great seats was what to do with ourselves for the 7 hours until the concert began. There is only so much Frisbee one can play and by that stage of life we were all wise to ways of alcohol pacing and so drank only water for most of the day. We were able to get pleasantly high by the massive amount of weed being smoked in all directions so that was a freebie. I need some kind of mellowing influence because the ONLY thing being played on the sound system was Pink Floyd’s The Wall, of which I am not a fan.

Finally, it was time for a warm up band and sound check. The crowd was settling in and we were enjoying icy Jack Daniels and lemonade (yes, mixed together, don’t ask me why). A lone figure came out to the main mike in a red flannel shirt and jeans and without completely knowing why I began screaming, much to the confusion of everyone around me. “It’s him, It’s him!!!” and it was. He stepped up to the mike and said, “Hello, I’m Bruce Springsteen and I thought we’d do the sound check and warm up as opposed to having another band out here." Now everyone was freaking out- except for the woman in front of us who had so over indulged in both weed and booze and no food that she had thrown up and passed out almost simultaneously.

The sun was setting so I unpacked the camera and got to work. I made it all the way to the front 5 rows and began snapping what seemed to be unbelievable photos. My only concern was that I had not brought a flash as I thought it too easy a way to get caught so I was using very high speed film which would likely compromise the quality a bit. I had the time of my life at the most amazing concert ever (they played straight from to ) and got 3 rolls of some stellar shots of Bruce, Little Steven, and the Big Man (R.I.P.- which does not even seem possible).

It was the best coming of age birthday ever despite poor MaryAnn throwing up convulsively from too much Jack and not enough lemonade, being hit on by a lesbian in the ladies room (which I did not even fully understand was happening), and after streaming out to the parking lot realizing that my lights had been on since 6am and the car was stone cold dead. Cute was no help then as everyone wanted to get home and no one had jumper cables or would stop. I finally made my way to the backstage area and began banging on doors. It would be a great story if I could say that I met Bruce and he helped out but he was long gone and the best I got was a tired guy who said I could use the phone (way before cell phones, folks). I had to call my parents (great) and they had to call AAA to come give us a jump. All told it took two hours with poor MaryAnn groaning in the back of the car and Ro and I jumping around and screaming Springsteen lyrics. BEST. BIRTHDAY. EVER. (Hey, it wasn’t me yakking in the bushes, I know about pacing).

So, Bruce, even though I'm a week late, happy birthday--you are still a god. At 63 you’re looking better than ever and even though I do not understand the Patty Scialfa marriage thing, I respect you anyway. Candy’s Room? One of my all-time favorites.

*This is a repost from last year but it still makes me laugh and I still missed his birthday by a week. Oy

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Unemployment Diaries: Working

We’re taking a little unexpected detour from the fashion world today but, hey, the blog is called Inside Out so you kind of have to expect this sort of thing, right? 

I’ve done a fair amount of ruminating about unemployment, job searching, identity crises, et al. Not happy topics but in today’s upside-down world very real and to a helluva lot more people than just me. I’ve gone a couple more miles on this journey and feel compelled to share, if only because I think the majority of us are pretty lucky and move in worlds where we don’t always know what’s going on for the average person. 

In September, my unemployment ran out so I stopped being one of the lazy, slacker 47% mooching-off-the-government crew that Romney so firmly believes is holding the economy back. Because I enjoyed being on unemployment, right? Reality: I looked for a job every week and despite sending out over 200 resumes and individually written cover letters I got virtually no response. Not a single job offer in Portland, Oregon, which is where, for better or worse, we live and cannot relocate from. 

Last week I did get a job offer at a national retailer and as nothing has turned up in my field, I accepted. I’m not going to name them because then I’d have to put up all sorts of disclaimers about corporate secrets etc. but you’ve all shopped in their stores. I’ve been hired as a temporary sales associate for the princely sum of minimum wage and, obviously, because this is the new paradigm, NO benefits. You see, companies can hire temp workers to work 40 hours a week, but they don’t have to give them any benefits because they’re not real employees. It’s a slick new trick more and more companies are trying because they hate paying benefits. Does it make their profits go up? Sure. Does it build any kind of real corporate stability or a corporate culture beyond ‘how do I pay myself an obscene bonus without affecting the bottom line’? No, but the future doesn’t seem to be of much concern for these guys. 

So, at age 51, after over a decade working in an office environment, I now find myself expected to stand on my feet for 8 hours a day. I had my first day yesterday and by hour 7 ½ I was shaking with fatigue and knew my brain to be shutting down. I’m not exaggerating here, and those of you who know my medical situation know that fatigue can and will hit like Katrina. I have no levee to protect my functionality and when exhausted become like a small child—staggery and speechless. That plus the neuropathy in my feet means they alternately burn and cramp no matter how good the shoes, adding to the fun. Could anyone tell? Probably not, but it felt bad. 

What I was left with when I got home (and after the best husband in the world had fed me a small, healthy dinner and bundled me off to bed) was a multitude of feelings. One, a deep sadness that I may not be able to physically manage this job. Bottom line, no drama. If I can’t stand up, I can’t. Which begs the question: what if I HAD to have this job? Because right now, I don’t. I’m just concerned about having no income at this stage of my life so I took it. And if it’s problematic now then how likely is it I could do the work in another 5 years? There are hundreds of thousands of people out there doing work much worse than anything I’ve ever known and in pain and worsening health every day. I felt weak and spoiled. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: Oscar de la Renta

Oscar de la Renta has been the epitome of elegance and class for decades. His collections are extravagant without being gaudy and always feminine. For fall, he seems to adopt the ‘more is more’ edict that went out (unbeknownst to the rest of us) but in a way that still allows the beauty of the clothes, and their flawless construction, to shine through. Do I like the Marlo-Thomas-That-Girl hair gone wild? No, but affectation is the standard in runway shows. Look beyond that and you’ll see modern, fun, fresh clothes.
 Two sweet suits, only not so much. These have a bit of much needed sass. On the left the jacket is an exploded plaid version of the skirt, with a soft peplum. On the right, I love pink and grey together and the sheer silk blouse is gorgeous. I'd wear this right now- minus the fishnets. 

 The taupe sheath covered in black lace and bejeweled screams ladies-who-lunch (in the best way possible) while the deep blue of the pants and jacket are so saturated and lush the eye is transfixed. Another fox collar for fun.

There is always evening wear aplenty at fashion week and I'll likely come back to it, but thought, as part of a collection, both of these dresses were stand-outs. The patterning and beading on the left feels almost Native American with the full length fur (faux or real?) for extra glamour. On the right is that sea blue I love done in a cutout lace slit dress. Simple but not.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: Alberta Ferretti

Alberta Ferretti is a gentle, petite, Italian woman from the northern coast of Italy. For the most part she has been known for light party dresses but this fall she mixes it up in a way I found particularly interesting. Like Haider Ackermann, she stuck with silhouettes that were more tailored but juxtaposed heavier fabrics like wool, mohair, and fur in dark colors against tissue-thin silk dresses. It gave the collection a look that was both serious but feminine.

 All business pinstriped coat on the left but on the right a more playful interpretation of a jacket and skirt. The oversized, soft sweater plays perfectly with the chiffon/feather skirt.

 It's fall but Ferretti nails it with a white business suit. The belted waist and color let everyone know you don't follow the rules. Again with the soft, scrunchy sweater this time paired with a leather cut-out skirt. If you must try leather this fall do it in a more interesting way like this. 

Obviously, I like a burst of color after monchromatics because just like Ackermann, Ferretti shows light feminine dresses with intricate cutwork in silk, chiffon and lace. Very wearable and the perfect length.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: Haider Ackermann

Each season I like to present the designers whose collections I most admired (or desired). This fall was more difficult than any previous season. A collection is comprised of 30-50 pieces and my criteria is that I must LOVE at least 6 pieces to showcase the designer. Last year was a cinch, as I must have been on ecstacy because I loved everything. Carolina Herrara and MaxMara, Michael Kors and Donnna Karan, Ralph Rucci and Elie Saab, and YSL and Givenchy: go look. These are clothes you ache for—even if you have nowhere to wear them. Just looking made me giddy. This year…not so much. 

There was a stand-out, a designer who seemed to recognize that opulence and design still need to equate to wearability. His name is Haider Ackermann and he has long been known for his very severe, architectural looks and androgyny—not concepts I’m drawn to. This fall he held to his aesthetic but warmed and softened it and amid the explosion and confusion of other designers, this felt like a slice of luxurious reality. A woman could wear these clothes and be flattered by them. See for yourself.

Subdued neutrals with a trace of color at the neck. Long lean skirts are my favorite kind especially when combined with a soft draped top. The eggplant leather coat is fabulous.
More eggplant, in an origami wrapped leather jacket and full trousers- another plus, as I have no interest in the whole cropped pant look. On the right, it’s another slim skirt beautifully paired with a blush shantung jacket. Stunning.
And just when your eye is lulled—explosive fall color. This is astonishing and only a taste of what he showed. There was pumpkin, paprika, mustard, red…all beautifully combine in a way that did not overwhelm or clash but grabbed and held your attention. The drapey silk blouse with its intricate folds, on the left, sets off the slim pants. On the right, the blouse is like a piece of art and yet seductively soft.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fall Fashion 2012: Trends

The kiddies are back in school and while the days may be verging on hot the nights are cool enough for an extra blanket. Thus, I’m calling it-it’s fall and time to begin the journey into what’s new in the fashion world. I’ve hinted that this fall was particularly disappointing but am going to hold off on why and keep things upbeat with some of the trends I’ve seen that interest me. 

For me, burgundy and navy are synonymous as neutrals. Navy made a comeback after almost a decade of derision by fashionistas (and I screamed ‘I told you so’) and this year there was the same uptick in showings of burgundy (or wine or cordovan or whatever you want to call it). This is good news for everyone because really, aren’t you getting tired of black?

Gucci chiffon dress, Tory Burch spectator maryjane, Alexander McQueen wool pencil skirt, T by Alexander Wang dress, Luxury Rebel pump, Valentino chiffon/lace blouse, Gucci sweater
There are several names for this trend: black and gold, baroque, luxe. I’m going with luxe because it encompasses the many ways opulence is popping up in fall fashion. My caveat—if this is a trend you like proceed with caution. It’s not the eighties anymore and economically we’re anything but luxe (which I’ll address later), but if you feel like a little extra bling the fashion world is right there with you this fall.

 Dolce & Gabbana dress, Lanvin dress,Robert Coin earrings, Marches dress, Oscar de la Renta fox/ostrich clutch, Balmain boots, Zac Posen metallic brocade skirt

It might seem odd to call a coat a trend but when there is such a plethora of options, compared with years past, it becomes noteworthy. Designers will often throw in an outerwear piece in their fall line but it’s just that—a throwaway piece with little thought. This year’s crop of outerwear covers the gamut and what you see here is my condensed version of my favorites. Too many choices!

 Carolina Herrera, 3.1 Phillip Lim, DKNY updated leather motorcycle jacket, Alberta Ferretti fur, Burberry, Ralph Lauren (minus the top hat to distract, this is a gorgeous red/black plaid)

I’ll be back during the week to showcase some of my favorite designers’ collections for fall. Stay tuned!
Images provided by: Vogue, InStyle, and Polyvore

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