Tell the truth, but tell it slant. This is from an Emily Dickinson poem, but I remember it most from a novel I read years ago called The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma, which really brought it to life. The book, if I recall, is about someone who desperately wants to be a writer. It is about the writing process. The process of creating. And what that involves. Tell the truth, but tell it slant. The book examines truth versus fiction and what a story truly conveys. It is broken into chapters, and each chapter is a different story of a person who desperately wants to be a writer, who is jealous of another more famous writer, and who also is in love with a woman. These are the things that tie the stories together, but each story is vastly different. Through them, the narrator’s essence starts to take shape but only as a construct of those various slants of the truth. In the end, you see the “truth” in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible without understanding each angle of it. It is fluid, everchanging, but always constant, always growing.
The topic of writing, of storytelling, of capturing some essence of truth is something that has always fascinated me. I wrote my thesis in college on Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time), which, if memory serves me (it was, in fact, a million years ago), is about someone who desperately wants to write a novel about people as they exist in time. It is about love and loss and death and life. It is about the trickery of memory – sometimes a vehicle of truth-telling, sometimes a mirage. It is about how what is written is actually something else entirely than what truly exists. But what is written is everlasting. It gives life to what would otherwise die. It captures a truth that is otherwise not possible to capture without storytelling. We then as readers of a story or viewers of art interact with the piece, and it becomes something else entirely. It becomes a part of our truth too.
Over the weekend, Michael, my almost 5 year old, and I had a perfect 48 hours together in NYC. We went to so many playgrounds, to the Cloisters, to Michael’s favorite restaurants, to the MoMA. I slowed down and spent time just being, soaking in the world around me. The flowers were blooming, we had perfect weather aside from a rainy morning when we watched Up together. And I just had this overwhelming feeling of how beautiful life is. How it keeps changing. How I desperately want to capture it. The essence of what I see and feel.
Over the weekend, Michael and I painted together. I love painting with him and seeing what his little brain creates. He is so artistic and imaginative and the way he views the world is so fascinating to me. When he asks how to paint or draw something specific, I always tell him, “Just draw/paint what you see, not what you think it should be.” “Draw what you see” is something I was taught in a drawing course in college, and it is one of the best pieces of advice I have ever received. This past weekend, Michael was painting a picture of the universe from his imagination and I was painting a bunch of daffodils that I was looking at. Michael turned to me and asked, “What are you painting?” “Those daffodils right there,” I said. “Mom,” he replied, “You’re not supposed to paint what you see. You should paint what’s in your mind.” He was right. But also I am not wrong. Tell the truth, but tell it slant.
On a jog yesterday, that phrase “tell the truth, but tell it slant” suddenly came to me. I hadn’t thought of it in so long, but at a moment when I was jogging alone along a pond, with the wind whipping around me, a sunny but blustery day, I suddenly thought, THAT is what I am trying to achieve with art. It is taking what I see around me, above me, below me, within me - and spinning it on its side. It is showing the various angles of what exists. It gives us permission to tell what we see, what’s in our mind, our truth, and then tell it again another way as needed. To construct a bigger Truth made of truths over time. It gives us permission to change and not to get it all right all the time. Tell the truth, but tell it slant. That is storytelling. That is life. That is art. That is who we are.
Well, hello! I haven't written in, oh, two years or so, but who's counting? Since my last post, I now have an 18 month old son, Michael, and am expecting a second in March. My, how time flies!
Fast forward to now. I am just recovering from what I'm convinced was the Plague, and I am pretty thrilled to be amongst the living again. And what better reason to start blogging again?
Speaking of thrills, one of the more thrilling things for me as a parent is watching Michael experience the world, in particular, art and design. Matt and I used to like museums in our non-parenting days, but now that we're parents, museums are one of our go-to places to fill the time between naps. I have gone to more museums in the past 18 months than I did in the decade I lived here before Michael came into our lives.
I started taking Michael as something quiet and air conditioned to do while I was on maternity leave in the dead of summer, and I expected him to sleep through the whole thing. But look at this guy! He LIT UP when we were inside. From that moment on, I was hooked on the feeling of seeing Michael see art and space. Everything he sees, as he sees it, is a WONDER, and it's a wonder for me to watch.
Lights have long been a favorite for Michael. Have you ever taken the time at a museum to look up and see all of the lighting? It's amazing!
Now that he's running around, the world is SO much more exciting. Matt and I took him to the Nelson-Atkins -- a must-do if you're in Kansas City -- when we were home visiting my parents for Thanksgiving this year. We did a holiday card photo shoot and let him run wild, exploring the space. It was such an INSPIRATION to see him SEE in a way that can be hard for adults to do. In my recovery time from the plague this weekend, I used that inspiration to do our holiday card, and I'm pretty excited to see it in print. I had a little too much fun working on it!
That magical space between reality and imagination is a place we often forget to visit as adults. Kids remind us of that.
If we pay attention, we might just see the whimsy and wonder in the everyday - through a child's eyes or our own.
I've upped my slip-on sneaker game this summer and splurged on a pair of Vince 'Blair 5' Slip On Sneaker while Nordstrom was running a sale. They're perforated leather and I got them in the taupe color ("Woodsmoke"), which acts as a great neutral - particularly in the summer with bare legs (even better for someone who, unlike me, has actually managed to get a tan this year). The shoes typically go for $195 and I got them for a cool $130, which seemed like a steal when compared to the original price but still feels ridiculous to admit spending on a sneaker.
I must say though - they have been well worth it. As you probably know, shoe shopping is an endless battle for me (dead sesamoid bone removed December 2013), so I was pretty overjoyed when these fit the bill. The leather interior felt amazing from the first moment I slipped my foot in the shoe, and the shoes have become my go-to throughout the summer for commuting to work and hanging out on the weekend. Never a break-in period, never a blister - even in the sweaty summer heat. I bought them in May and they're still going strong. And they've only gotten more comfortable with time.
It's hard for a sneaker to be sleek, but these somehow manage to do just that without sacrificing comfort. I like the stiffness (sturdy but with just the right amount of give) and thickness (about 1") of the sole combined with the softness of the leather upper (like buttah!). For someone with my foot issues, these are just what the doctor ordered - and they're darn cute, to boot!
Reviews say to size down. I am not sure I agree. I wear a 9 and I have these in the 9, and they fit like a dream - though I do have pretty unique feet. Everywhere I recommend below offers free shipping and free returns (without the annoying labor of having to log back in online and print out a shipping label), so order two sizes and return what doesn't work.
They work great with almost any look - jeans, dresses, shorts, even suits... I am particularly digging the slouchy dress-with-sneaks look right now (like the Nordstrom one shown above)... and I'm heavily considering investing in a pair of the black version of these sneaks for fall.
Where to Buy
You can buy these shoes lots of places, but not all online sellers are created equal. The below three are my favorite online destinations for good quality (nice packaging with tissue paper!), customer service and fast shipping with free, easy returns). Shopbop in particular, if you're an Amazon Prime member, is a dream. You're paying a lot for these shoes, and the purchase experience should be an enjoyable one.
Saks, $195 (use code 'FREESHIP')
Shopbop, $195 (2 day free shipping with Amazon Prime)
Something wonderful has happened in the world of work appropriate womenswear: an elastic waistband. When made in the right material and cut with a pleated, roomy middle and a tapered, cropped ankle, the pull-on pant is not just comfortable - it's downright stylish.
A few months ago, I ordered a pair of mega marked-down Rebecca Taylor knit pull-on pants and have never looked back. They were originally $295, and I found them at Neiman Marcus for $77. They're made of a knit crepe material and have pockets, a fancy satin tuxedo strip down the seam and elastic at the ankles. They're like sweatpants made for the working woman. They're glorious in every way.
Over time, I came to call these pants my Friday Pants.
One - I tend to wear them on Fridays, when one dresses for both the workday and the promise of the weekend ahead. My office is at least a 45-minute commute from home, so whatever I leave the apartment wearing in the morning is what I stay in until I go home at night. On Fridays, I like wear something that works both in the office and out on the town, and these pants do just that.
And two, my Friday Pants feel like Friday: like you're putting on a pair of happiness. Because happiness is the freedom to breath and move about without restriction. Happiness is an elastic waistband.
Now, when my alarm goes off on Fridays, I get to think not only, "YES! IT'S FRIDAY!" but also, "YES! IT'S FRIDAY AND I GET TO WEAR MY FRIDAY PANT!" It's double the pleasure, double the fun.
When paired with a tucked-in silk blouse and a well-cut blazer, this pant can go to the office and out for cocktails. When commuting to and from work, I wear my Friday Pants with my black-on-black slip-on Vans. When in the office, I wear them with a comfy black ballet flat -- the Aerosole Nashville perforated suede ballet flat is my go-to work shoe these days. If you are someone who can wear heals, Friday Pants look great with a classic pump.
The pant that I purchased sadly is sold out everywhere -- though there is one pair of them available in a size 6 in stormy grey at Rebeccataylor.com -- but you don't need my exact pant to own your very own Friday Pants. I'm listing a few great options below.
On the higher end, you can find great pants at Joie, Rebecca Taylor, Theory and Vince. I like the Joie Mariner Pant for $168 at Cusp. Vince makes a nice Jogger Pant for $295 (on sale for $203 at Nordstrom right now). It has a sleek seam down the front of the leg that makes a nice, slim silhouette.
On the lower end, J.Crew has a few nice options. I particularly like the Reese pant - I tried it on yesterday and it's made of a luxe-feeling matte crepe with a thick piping and shirt-tail hem at the ankle. It doesn't fit quite as well as the Rebecca Taylor pant (it's a little less roomy in the tush), but at $ 79.50 plus 30-40% off depending on what sale J.Crew is running, it's a nice pant for the price. I also like the Eileen Fisher Slouchy Tapered Pants on sale for $89.60 at Nordstrom.
Happy Friday! (Because even when it's not Friday, there's no reason it shouldn't feel like Friday.)
Well, I got what I asked for. Early this morning, my beloved KHP elephant chair performed a disappearing act and vacated the premises, leaving a blank space in its wake.
Matt's cousin Caroline arrived bright and early -- much earlier than I would normally be up and about on a Saturday -- and Matt and I hauled the oversized piece down the elevator and loaded it into Caroline's Wrangler.
The timing was perhaps for the better, because it allowed me to say goodbye before I'd really come to terms with the event and also allowed me to play around with the suddenly blank space and capture a photo in the early morning light, when the light is the prettiest.
When I realized yesterday that this moment would occur so soon, I spent a final evening with my elephant last night, curled up in its loving arms, appreciating the last decade of my life and how much I had loved lounging in that ridiculous chair in the various spaces it has occupied over the past nine years.
Because that's the thing: I love to splay out in oversized chairs. (Is there anyone who doesn't?) As I lounged there in the dim light of night, I felt a sense of calm and acceptance and gratitude for what the chair had given me. And I felt ready to let go.
And now, today, when the chair had performed its disappearing act, I enjoyed the opportunity to fill the void that was suddenly there: The blank space I had been given; the clean slate, empty canvas, call it what you will. We kept the little side table (a cheapy TV tray that has stood in as a side table for as long as I can remember) with its CB2 pig bookends and West Elm task lamp and cool engraved silver tray that we received as an unexpectedly wonderful wedding gift, and moved one of our twin lambskin-covered Eames-y chairs over to the space and went full Domino Mag with the look. The twins are now separated, which gives them a sense of independence and adds a nice harmony to the room overall.
Why did this all happen before I'd managed to suck down my first Keurig coffee? Because blank space excites me. Because if you give a mouse a cookie, he's going to ask for a glass of milk. And because the answer to the question of what to do with a blank space is always, always, to fill it.
Even if you don't want to. Even if you want to keep the space blank. Because that is nature's way.
In design, we talk of negative space. And in science, we talk of entropy. In life, I think we just talk of living. And where one lives, one needs a chair. And one also has a tendency -- an entirely natural and impossible to fight tendency -- to fill up space with.... stuff. Because blank space is an invitation to make your mark.
And who can refuse an invitation like that?
Happy Space Filling!
Today is a very good day. And not just because it's Friday.
Today is a very good day because Bloomingdale's is having a one-day Home Sale.
Why is this so good? Because Bloomingdale's doesn't have just any home goods - Bloomingdale's has FEATHER AND DOWN PILLOWS SENT FROM HEAVEN that make life on earth worth living. And don't we all deserve to sleep on the stuff of the gods?
Normally, these heavenly pillows are a cost-prohibitive acquisition -- I mean, seriously, eye-gouging -- but today... today... they are 50% off.
Even at 50% off, they're still pretty pricey. But here's the deal: They're life-changing. Literally life-changing. Up until a year ago, I was both against down-filled pillows (they seemed too soft and expensive?) and also pillows that cost more than $30 (because why should pillows cost so much?). I didn't realize down pillows came in different forms and levels of firmness. I also didn't seem to realize that you have the power to set your bed up so that it feels like you're staying in a luxury hotel on a nightly basis. So when Matt and I got married five years ago, we bought a bunch of synthetic pillow inserts from Pottery Barn, thinking Pottery Barn would have generally good pillows, but Pottery Barn does not have generally good pillows. It turns out that Pottery Barn has terrible, lumpy, rock-hard pillows that get worse with time. Pottery Barn wants you to suffer in your sleep, not rest on a cloud sent from heaven. Now those pillows are in our guest room, and I'm embarrassed when guests stay over.
About a year ago, when I was sitting at physical therapy having my post-surgery foot cranked about in exquisite angles of pain, my physical therapist Frank (the best, by the way) looked up at me and noticed that, while I was certainly wincing from the pain he was inflicting, I was also holding my neck in a separate form of agony.
"What's going on there?" he asked.
"Oh nothing. My neck just hurts. I think I slept on it weird or something."
"You need to get a new pillow."
"Huh?" Crank. Yelping. Efforts to breath. "Oh, well, yeah. Probably." Crank. Yelping. PG curse words. "They just seem so expensive and I have no idea --- AH! -- what kind to get."
"I'm serious. Go over to Bloomingdale's after this and get yourself a real pillow."
And because I did everything Frank told me to do, because Frank is wise and also funny and endlessly cheerful and always right, I went across the street to Bloomingdale's and headed to the pillow section.
It's a strange experience to pick out a pillow. Everything is wrapped in plastic. You're aware that you're not the only person who has gone to select a pillow and so you think about the germiness factor of your situation. Have they pressed their faces on the plastic? Is there a protocol? Is what I'm about to do wrong? And also everything is horrendously expensive, so you're stuck sort of eliminating based on cost alone and then trying to find the best option within the price range you can somewhat stomach. I wandered aimlessly for a while and then, once I'd convinced myself that no one was looking (since no saleswoman wanted to help the limping girl with the cane), I decided to see if I could test the pillows out. What do you do? Hold it up to your face and squeeze? Bend over and lay your head on it? How do you know if it's good? I tried a few different things ever so covertly, and finally a saleswoman came over and tried to upsell me.
"You like that one? What kind of sleeper are you? You should try this one. Everyone gets this one in the medium."
So many invasive questions and opinions, and I had just been caught pressing my face against the plastic covering a pillow - I felt dirty.
"Oh. Well, I don't know. Um, I'm a side sleeper? Do side sleepers get medium or firm? But that's like $300. I don't think I can spend that on a pillow."
"You're choice. But everyone gets medium."
here are several levels of pillow quality sold at Bloomingdale's, and I ended up buying the cheaper version available and getting the medium even though I knew I should get the firm. The medium after all, because it's less dense, was cheaper. There was a $25 off deal being run, so I felt some level of victory and sheepishly brought the purchase home with me, ashamed of how much I'd just spent on a pillow. I gave it a shot. Too soft. It needed to go back.
But instead of taking it back, I kept the medium and went back after my next PT session and bought the firm version. Another $25 off victory. The firm, as it turns out, was just right.
I feigned to Matt that we would keep both temporarily to "decide what we like better." Matt was completely appalled at my expensive taste at first, claiming he did not need a fancy pillow and I should return one of them immediately, but then he slept on the pillow for a while and realized that his life had begun to improve and he had Frank and my overspending ways to thank. Over time, as sales have run, I've managed to buy one more medium density version and one more firm density version, so that both Matt and I now have one of each. Because as it turns out, the perfect pillow combination is one firm on the bottom, one medium on the top. It gives you both support and softness. It makes going to bed feel like the most magical experience on earth.
Soft density = for stomach sleepers
Medium density = for back sleepers
Firm density = for side sleepers
I now have the single desire to acquire two king firm density versions for our room (to sub as body pillows and because they're useful) and a combination of medium and firm density standard pillows for the guest bedroom, so that we can do away with our lumpy rocks from Pottery Barn for good. I had actually just broken down last week and purchased $40 mediocre down pillows from Macy's to fill the need in the second bedroom, and just this morning, after I received the email from Bloomingdale's alerting me to today's glorious sale, I tore through our trash and fished out the Macy's bag and receipt so that I can return the sub-par pillows and get the ones of the gods that are sold at Bloomingdale's at 50% off.
So, yes. Today is a good day indeed. My mediocre Macy's pillows will be returned. My Pottery Barn rocks will be discarded once and for all. And my home will be one step closer to being a luxury hotel. All at 50% off retail. I mean, it's still beyond expensive. But sleep is an investment isn't it? An investment in ourselves? And investment in making sure we wake up excited every day (for breakfast or otherwise)?
I sure think so. And I'm sure Frank would agree.
Where to Buy:
Bloomingdale's My Flair Medium Density Down Pillow Collection, $119.99 for standard (normally $240)
Bloomingdale's My Flair Firm Density Down Pillow Collection, $147.99 for standard (normally $295)
Happy Friday and Happy Home Shopping!
Full disclosure: I wrote the majority of this post almost a year ago and then panicked and couldn't share it. I wasn't ready. But today I must accept my fate. It is time.
I talk a big game about buying on Craigslist, but I very infrequently discuss selling on Craigslist. Why? Because I have trouble parting with things. Maybe it's some form of Only Child Syndrome, but once an item finds its way into my home, it becomes a sort of member of the family, an always-there friend, a part of the home. And it's very hard to say goodbye to friends.
When I first moved to New York and got my first apartment, my mom took me to Macy's so we could furnish the apartment with some adult-quality items upon which to sit. At the time that we went, I had already acquired an off-white Ethan Allen sofa via Craigslist (that I thought looked like the one from Monica and Rachel's apartment on Friends) and a painted armoire (featured in this post here) also via Craigslist, so I was in need of a chair and an ottoman/coffee table to accompany these two pieces. While at Macy's, we happened upon an oversized chair -- a chair-and-a-half, if you will -- and my mother pounced.
"This is it," she said. "It's a must-have item. Everyone will want to sit in it. And it's Kate Hufft Pink."
At the time, I thought, "Good god, Mother, that's the size of an elephant. Have you seen my tiny, single lady, New York living room (of which one wall is the kitchen)? We are not in Texas, and this is not Nebraska Furniture Mart. It will never fit." What I said was something like, "Oh, well, that's nice... Where do you think we could put it?"
The thing is, the chair did sort of speak to me. "Kate.... pick me.... please, Kate. I will love you forever..." And it was sort of KHP. And it did sort of look like the club chair in Monica and Rachel's apartment on Friends. (When one grows up in the Midwest and dreams of moving to the Big Apple, one also dreams of having Monica and Rachel's apartment -- one just does not know that no affordable apartment could ever be the size of Monica and Rachel's apartment on Friends.) It was sort of like trying to choose a puppy out of a litter and eventually knowing that you need to get the one that looks like no one else will want it, because that's the one that needs the most love and that will love you the most.
And so it came to be that the elephant-sized KHP-colored chair-and-a-half came home to live with me.
Over the course of nine years, four apartments, a move-in with my manfriend, an exchange of vows with my manfriend and many, many gatherings with friends and family, the KHP chair has truly been the elephant in the room. And strangely (or not?) at the center of everything. It is a very welcoming elephant, and as elephants in rooms tend to be, it is hard to ignore. It has always been too big, lurking there wherever we have decided to place it in a given space. It knows this and has accepted its fate. But it also knows that it's comfortable. It is the coveted seat at a cocktail party or as a dinner party starts to wind down; the seat you take when you need some comfort after a rough day or when you just want to be lazy on a Sunday. The KPH elephant has a gravitational pull. If someone walks into the room and wants to sit down, they are drawn to the KHP elephant. They may joke about it, they pretend like it's ridiculous and huge and why do you have this ginormous chair in New York of all places, but, secretly, they love it.
In fact, it will fit two slender friends or a slender couple:
But to answer that question -- the elephant in the room question -- that why do you have this ginormous chair in New York of all places question: Love, of course. Isn't it always love? When I get home after a long day, I immediately plop down in the elephant's welcoming belly and curl up in its comforting arms. It loves me. And I love it back.
The chair and I have been together for my entire adult living-in-the-real-world life. It has been a love-hate relationship -- I gripe about how large it is, how it doesn't fit, how it's wearing thin in places, how it's stuffing is starting to burst through, how I can't seem to get the wrinkle out of the skirt (not that I've actually tried)... but really, despite all that -- no, because of all that -- I love it. And when others criticize it, I get defensive and a little bit sad. The chair is my KHP elephant, after all. And it has been a very loyal friend.
And so, now that it has come time to part with it (after the purchase of my Cordova chairs last year and my realization that it's just time to grow up (just as Monica and Rachel do at the end of Friends) - though Taylor Swift, who will always be younger than I, advises against it), I feel a sense of sadness that we must say goodbye. I've always loved the chair. But now I love it even more. It's the end of my twenties! The end of an era! The end of a love affair with a really, really big, KHP-colored chair! That brought me comfort during my first few really confusing years in the city! That my mom bought for me! That we shopped for together!
And while I am ready for the new grown-up look that we will eventually have in our living room, I am sad to say goodbye to this piece of my past and this chapter of my life.
And so I find myself being that type of Craigslist seller who wants the owner to understand the chair I am selling and to promise to love it. A difficult task indeed. I posted a listing last year and have received only one email, and I have deemed the potential-purchaser completely un-elephant-worthy (and possibly a killer).
Body: When can pick up be set up??let me know.
Seriously? No. You may not have my elephant. Nor may you have my address.
As you might expect, I didn't respond, I removed the link and I decided to keep my elephant chair for one more year. But, alas, a year has passed. And it's time to say goodbye. Here is my new posting http://newyork.craigslist.org/mnh/fuo/4857090388.html
I tried to keep it, you know, light and not like, This is killing me to do, but those of you who read this blog and know me know... This is killing me to do. Over the past year, the chair moved over next to Buddy the Buffet and has become my favorite reading nook. I love it. It's actually my favorite space in our apartment now. It's the first place I go when I get home at night from work, and I sit there, just soaking in the comfort and letting the day melt off.
But it is time. The weight of this apartment must be shed -- Buddy needs some freedom -- and we are ready to renovate soon and bring new life to the space.
So: here's the question.... Do you want my elephant chair? I can promise you it will love you more than you will ever know.
And here's the other question: what furniture do you love like I love my elephant? I'd love to know!
Hope you're staying warm in the blizzard!!
Happy chair loving :)
When I was a child - maybe 10 or 11 - my parents, for a fleeting moment, decided to look at houses. They quickly came to the conclusion that the one we already lived in was perfectly wonderful - and to this day, they still live there. I am so glad they made that choice, because I love our house and can't imagine having grown up any place else.
But I remember the glorious feeling of looking through a house that wasn't already and might never be but could maybe be yours, of imagining actually living there, of moving throughout the space, a maze of exciting twists and turns and places to discover, thinking about, this is where I'd put my bed, this is where I'd put my desk, my glorious collection of stuffed animals, my art supplies, etc. etc. (again, I was 10 and my world revolved around my room). In all of the houses we toured, I for the most part remember only the bedrooms (one was pale pink with built-ins that seemed very sophisticated, and I wanted to live there; and another had wall-to-wall shag carpeting that was the color of Astroturf -- a boy's room -- and I sort of wanted to live there too).
But there was one house in particular, the house that I begged and pleaded my parents to get (because I didn't understand any of those adult things like finances and mortgages and practicality and the pros and cons of living in Kansas versus Missouri). It was the house with the pale pink bedroom, which was of course a selling point (so many sophisticated shelves upon which to put my Troll dolls!). But the real reason I begged and pleaded was because, on the outside, in the backyard, it had this truly wonderful feel of a secret garden, with a gated wrought-iron fence, and huge, shadow-casting trees and meandering stone paths and an aged brick patio and lush all-encompassing greenery everywhere. I could imagine being out there with my black FAO Schwartz art box (oh, how I loved that thing - do they still make those?), drawing what I saw and digging about in the dirt. I was an only child and loved finding little beautiful hiding spots, particularly out in the yard, that I could sort of be in and make my own.
And on the inside of this gorgeous house, there was something that I had never seen before and that, to this day, I still dream about: hand painted wallpaper in the dining room. I didn't know what de Gournay was at the time, but this must have been de Gournay. It was truly the most glorious thing I had ever seen. It had that touch of Chinoiserie, with pastels and ropes of flowery stems creeping up the walls, like the wall itself was a trellis, and gorgeous, blooming flowers and butterflies and hummingbirds fluttering about and cranes meandering amongst the scenery. In many ways, it was like having an indoor version of that secret outdoor garden. Less nooks and crannies to hide in, but you could still walk about the room, running your fingers across the papery beauty, surrounded by art and the best possible interpretation of the outdoors.
Fast forward to now. I went to a movie solo last night -- one of my favorite indulgences. All in, it cost me, like, $40 dollars, but was so worth it. Matt was out of town, I'd been suffering from a migraine (still am) and so I thought maybe a little escapism would be good for me and decided to see Wild. I'd just devoured the book a few weeks ago -- seriously, so wonderful; read it now -- and thought it fitting to see the movie alone since it was about a woman's solo trek up the Pacific Crest Trail.
I bought a popcorn and a massive soda water and ate my popcorn indulgently kernel by kernel and laughed and cried a little bit self-consciously in the nearly empty theater until I looked around and saw that the only people in the theater were also solo movie goers like me, and then I laughed and cried with confidence and it was cathartic.
In the movie, there was a sort of recurring theme, something that Reese Witherspoon (Cheryl) said, which was something Laura Dern (Cheryl's mom) used to say to her, and I cannot for the life of me remember if it was in the book (and because of this pesky migraine, I'm not about to do the research to find out), but it was a really wonderful philosophy on life:
"There’s a sunset and a sunrise every day. You can choose to be there for it. You can choose to put yourself in the way of beauty.”
Let's be honest. I'm not going to be putting myself in front of a sunrise or a sunset anytime soon in the middle of winter in New York. But I can look at beautiful imagery. I can still put myself in the way of beauty.
When I get migraines -- and those of you who get them may agree -- I find most things to be intolerable. Light. Sound. Smells. For the most part, people. Certainly reading. But as I lie there under an icepack in the dark, thinking about how much my head hurts, thinking about what I must have done to cause it (because there is a guilt; even though migraines are in the end quite random, there is this feeling that you must have done something to bring this pain about, that you're letting other people and yourself down, that maybe you're imagining it, that somehow it's your fault, that maybe it's trying to teach you something about yourself), and it's in those moments that this burst of creativity happens for me. It's hard, because you're lying there in the dark, unable to sleep because a tiny army of evil has set up shop and is stabbing you in the eye and the side of the head and the nape of your neck and you think, Will this ever f-ing end?, and it's then, during the no sleep and the stabbing pain and the pleading for mercy, that something wonderful happens: images of beautiful things sort of swirl about and you have this ah-ha moment and think THAT is what I want to do with the kitchen, THAT is the story that I need to write down right now, THAT is what I need to do to get myself out of his hell.
And so here I am. A little bummed that a migraine has taken over much of my MLK weekend, but grateful that I don't have to deal with missing work. Lights off, sound off, isolated from people. Allowing the throbbing to teach me what lessons it may: That beauty is everywhere, even in pain. That pain can be cathartic. That I can put myself in the way of beauty. Because I choose to. And because life is beautiful.
Happy surrounding yourself with beauty!
I'm really digging flat ankle booties, and in particular Chelsea booties, right now. I've been wearing sneakers for nearly a year since having had foot surgery last December, and while I do love my slip-on Vans, I'm ready to graduate from skater canvas to the wild world of cool-girl leather. The Chelsea boot, with its flatness and roomy toe box, seems like it just might be my ticket to ride.
Why the Chelsea boot, and why now? You mean, aside from the fact that it's just plain cool? Why, Thanksgiving, of course.
But not for the reasons you might think. It's not just because of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals that undoubtedly drive me to consume far more than I ever should. It's not the 30% off, 40% off, spend $200 and get $25 off, use code GETFESTIVE, FREESHIP, act now or regret forever. I mean, obviously, that's part of it... okay, that's a lot of it. But it's not all of it.
It's not at all all of it. Because if the sales alone were all of it, then the Chelsea bootie would make no sense. The Chelsea bootie would be but one of many random purchases that the brilliant department store marketers have manipulated me into believing I must buy. And the Chelsea boot was not but one of many random purchases. It was not, I tell you!
(I mean, fine, I didn't just buy a pair of boots. I bought a lot of pairs of boots to try because who knows how they'll fit? And I bought boots from multiple stores because the sizes were selling out as I was price-comparing and putting them in my shopping cart, and it was maddening. And okay, yeah, I also got a few long down puffy coats to try because I'm cold and I want to feel like I'm commuting to work in a comforter. And a new down pillow for Matt and me because it was on sale and feels like sleeping on a cloud and no other pillow will do, and don't we deserve it? I got it on sale, after all. And a plaid flannel shirt because the dry cleaners lost my favorite one and because I needed to get over an extra threshold of spending to get to a new level of savings and I'll probably return it anyway... I mean, truly, the psychology of Black Friday/Cyber Monday is insane! Forget buyer's remorse or saver's remorse: the "need" that these post-Thanksgiving sales instill in our malleable, exhausted, L-Triptophan-laden, wine-infused brains creates an entirely new form of MY-GOD-WHAT-HAVE-I-DONE? guilt and self-loathing.)
But existential crisis aside, the reason I'm into the Chelsea boot right now is really not the sales at all.
The real reason? Nostalgia.
Thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks and of gratitude and of being with family. And for me -- and I imagine it is for many of you -- it's also a time of remembering. Because childhood was great, and the holidays as a child were sparkly and involved mandated time off of school. And because Thanksgiving as an adult is so much harder than it was as a kid, isn't it? I mean, don't get me wrong, I love every part of it. It's incredible and wonderful and I appreciate it so much more now as an adult than I did as a kid, when I didn't realize just how much work it all was -- when I thought it was just a given -- and what a novelty it was to have all of your family from near and far under one roof breaking bread and doing the dishes together. But as an adult, the physical act of getting yourself to the Thanksgiving table -- of gunning the gas pedal on everything else -- on all that other effort of getting a seat at the other table(s) -- for weeks prior and then suddenly slamming on the breaks for just long enough to pack a bag and catch a flight or make the drive or, god forbid, host -- is downright exhausting.
As we age and our families morph and merge and bifurcate and grow, new traditions are created and some old ones are maintained. There is always turkey. Same as it ever was. Isn't it great that there is always turkey? And even better, there is also always so much more. Tradition is wonderful, but it has a way of locking us into old ways and closing our minds to new experiences - old habits die hard, as they say; but having new experiences has a way of expanding our horizons and making us open to change and new ideas and, subsequently, new contentedness. There's innocence lost, sure; but also new traditions and a new kind of happiness gained.
As I write this (it's the Saturday after Thanksgiving - who knows when I'll actually hit "publish"), I'm laying on a ginormous sofa in my sister- and brother-in-law's lovely new house in North Carolina. My husband Matt just flew back to New York in the morning for work, and I just spent the day getting a pedicure and eating pizza with my sister-in-law (I mean, really my dream come true) and I am now lying here in sweats and serenity while my brother-in-law snores next to me. I feel completely at home in a family that I was not a part of until just a few short years ago.
But with that new sense of serenity and gratitude of being part of a new family, there is also that sense of remembering our "original" families -- the ones we knew when we were kids; the ones we knew when we knew nothing else -- and what it was like when there was less to worry about. There's the nostalgia. For being a kid. For having no cares in the world.
I am an only child. And growing up I had no cousins at all on my mom's side of the family until I was 17. So when we would do Thanksgiving with my mom's side of the family in St. Joe, Missouri, I was quite literally the only child. It was me, my parents, my Mama Norma (grandmother) and my incredibly cool aunts and uncles, Aunt Mimi, Uncle Dan, Uncle Mike and his wife Aunt Jackie. I idolized my aunts and uncles. They were in their twenties and early thirties (ancient, learned, wise cool ones to a 10ish year old), and I hung on their every word and fashion choice.
Much of my memory of these Thanksgiving times is blurry. I can't place the year(s) or my age. But I can remember the smells and the feels. I remember the plush pink carpeting and (fake?) wood paneling and heavy brick fireplace in my Mama Norma's family room. The linoleum floor in the kitchen that was meant to look like brick. The pantry that had a secret double-layered door that hid my Kraft Mac and Cheese and Spaghettios & Meatballs. The orange and white 60s floral wallpaper in the kitchen. The saloon quality (and shiny, non-wood feel) to all wood features - swinging doors that I loved to swing and swivel chairs that I loved to swivel on and a bar that I could climb up onto from the swivel chair to retrieve Diet Cokes from a mini fridge. There was even a small fake Western town of storefronts in the unfinished, cobwebby basement. It was always dusty and there were never kids to play in it with me and I realize now that adults had no interest in going down there, but I remember it and that concrete, cinder-blocked basement all the same. I'd run around it all as if it were my own personal play area. As if all basements had small Western-themed towns made for kids. That basement had a pool table. I could play against myself for hours (seldom correctly), and when I was lucky, I'd convince one of my aunts or uncles or my dad -- and if I was really lucky, more than one of them -- to come down and play a round with me. I was terrible (and very small), but over time, each one of them managed to teach me how to hold the cue correctly and to think about angles and to always, always avoid the 8 ball. I learned a lot in that basement.
Amongst all of these memories, I have one very clear one: It is the memory of boots. It is of being in the basement and hearing the clunk, clunk, clunk of someone's arrival. It is of being in the family room and watching each of my awesome aunts and uncles walk into the room, having just arrived in their Hondas and Toyotas from their drive from Kansas City or St. Louis, still emanating the cold St. Joe air that they picked up between the car and the front door, still wearing their coats and hats and letting out hellos and giving hugs. And in those moments, they always clunked in wearing thick, black leather boots. 90s boots. Sturdy, sh*t-kicking boots. Boots I yearned to be old enough to wear.
Each arrival was different. Aunt Mimi would squeal and sort of march in place as I ran to her. Uncle Dan would always show up in his uniform -- ripped, worn jeans, an oversized heather wool sweater, a wool hat and Chelsea boots -- and hold up his hand for a high five. Uncle Mike would run in grinning and squat down in his jeans and rugged boots, open his arms wide and let me dive into them for a bear hug. Aunt Jackie would always be by his side, wearing a hip, healed boot, her hair always blond and perfect and covetable, ready with a hug.
Those boots (unbeknownst to me) symbolized so very much to my young mind: the arrival of family; love and comfort; adultness; coolness.
And now, years later, they have come to symbolize something else for me: Youth. Strength. And fond memories.
That house in St. Joe no longer exists. Or so I hear. Zillow and Trulia thankfully tell me its edifice endures, but my Mama Norma sold the house several years ago, and rumor has it that the buyers razed its Formica'd, linoleum'd, saloon-themed wood-paneling to the ground. It's a pity. That house was the best for exploring.
But it's still there in my memory. All of its insides are still living and so real to me. That strange basement in particular.
As are the boots. Their clunk. Their weight. Their leatheriness. Their coolness.
Where to Buy
I'm working on a comprehensive list and will share this with you soon. I bought a number of different options -- Tory Burch mostly (because she makes boots with a wide toe box, and also, I love her), Sam Edelman, Munro (a brand I didn't know existed until yesterday but which makes boots in wide sizes and with cushioned insoles) and Vince -- the majority of which have sold out at the moment, so I don't want to list them here and give you false hope (and I also don't want to vouch for something I haven't tried yet). If I were to make general recommendations on quality worth the price, I would recommend trying Frye, Tory Burch and Vince on the higher end (over $200) and Sam Edelman, Steve Madden, Doc Marten and Vince Camuto on the lower end (under $200).
What are your favorite Thanksgiving memories?
Happy Thanksgiving and happy finding happy!
How do I love thee, Cameron Diaz's kitchen? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height of thy emerald green cabinetry, thy clean lines and gilded edges, thy glamour and thy brassiness, thy cozy cocooniness, thy futuristic lighting juxtaposed with thy traditional woodwork and the graininess of thy wood...
I happened upon Cameron Diaz's kitchen, as I'm sure many of you did, in the October 2013 issue of Elle Decor. I remember flipping through the issue, turning the page to the above image and letting out a gasp of great joy. If I could have purred, I would have.
"This," I said to myself, "is a kitchen."
The story featured all of Cameron Diaz's incredible Manhattan apartment, designed by the incredible Kelly Wearstler. I wanted to climb through the magazine pages and into Cameron Diaz's apartment and live in all of its rooms, but this kitchen in particular... this kitchen... was something to behold. I wanted to pad barefoot around its wood floors, lounge on its countertop, leaning against its grainy emerald cabinetry, and savor a cup of coffee. I wanted to wash vegetables in its sink (and imagine that it had a disposal, because in my dreams, New York sinks have disposals). I wanted to have friends over and dribble lemon juice and leave red wine rings on the unlacquered brass countertops and marvel at how I didn't care that it was staining, that I was adding to its character, its patina, or as Cameron Diaz put it, "its soul"... I wanted to see how the kitchen would sparkle and glow if I turned that overhead light fixture on. Of course, in this fantasy, Cameron Diaz was also my best friend and participated in all the aforementioned activities with me. For example, we would turn the overhead light on and off and she would make this face:
Let's look at the kitchen from another angle so we can see how it looks from other parts of the apartment:
I've given it a year now. I've looked at literally thousands of kitchens. I've veered off into different directions -- a white kitchen! a grey kitchen! black! navy! natural wood! -- but always it comes back to this one. The best part? Matt loves it too. Throughout the past year, as I've shown Matt my various ideas for how we might one day renovate our dated galley kitchen -- the white, the grey, the black, the navy, etc. -- he always says, "That's nice, but what about that green one?"
And so I said, "You're right! What about that green one?" And the more I had the green in my head, the more I found inspiration everywhere I looked...
Our lamps in our entryway for example....
And these images from Anthropologie's October 2014 issues, which I ripped out and taped to our cabinets....
And this kitchen by Bailey and Pete McCarthy (Bailey a decorator and writer of fab blog Peppermint Bliss) featured in Southern Living:
And this kitchen designed by interior designer J. Randall Powers (it's his own home) and featured in Architectural Digest:
And so, with all of that inspiration, the question becomes, how to adjust Cameron Diaz's ultra high-end Kelly Wearstler designed kitchen to a non-celebrity's budget and a family friendly design... and make it our own?
1) Keep all of the fabulous green cabinetry and brass hardware. Maybe even a brass sink.
2) Eliminate the unlacquered brass countertops, but keep the backsplash. As much as I love the countertops and I'd love to feel completely at ease with the stains I would inevitably create, I know that I would stress about the fine line between "giving the kitchen soul" and "completely destroying the counters"... and I would manage to completely destroy the counters.
3) Instead use perhaps a clean, white, easy-to-clean countertop (quartz?). Something durable, low maintenance and impossible to ruin.
4) Lighten the floors to a simple, easy, dark brown wood to flow with the rest of our apartment.
5) Five, plop one of our flame-colored Le Creuset pots into the image because we insisted upon getting the one so big that it won't fit in any cabinets and it now sits permanently on our range.
6) Try to imagine it all in a galley style instead of this nice little jewel box.
The result is something like the below image.
We've also toyed around with the same concept but with subway tile with dark grout instead of the brass backsplash, but that does seem to eliminate some of the warmth that is so key to this look.
What do you think? What kitchens make you swoon??
I am an artist/designer and former financial professional with a background in comparative literature, business and design. I live in New York with my overworked lawyer husband and my two boys Michael and Theo and spend much of my free time dreaming about how to enhance the aesthetics of our little world. I am endlessly inspired and always in search of something new. This is a blog about my search, my inspiration and things I just really, really like or want.