Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Merry Little Christmas

Can I just say that it is amazingly simple to decorate for Christmas when you've already got a nice house house to begin with?  Maybe that should be criteria when you are house hunting - "will this place look good at Christmas time?"  Unfortunately there are too many establishments in this part of the world that fail miserably in that area, no matter how warm or efficient they might be on the inside.  My last dwelling was probably the worst offender - who pairs yellow/cream with brown trim? 
It almost makes you think of yellowed teeth with food stuck in the corners.  Although I was reluctant to live there, I made a brave go of it, and I think my efforts paid off in the end - at least on the inside, but the outside was irretrievably ugly and there was no getting around that.  Its amazing how a little turn of events, maybe a psychopathic neighbor lurking in the shadows, could change my luck for a real aesthetic treat!  And this is perfectly manageable for me, because I don't think I could handle decorating a mansion.
  This is a beach house, so please understand location is everything, but I think the new wood shingles are such a nice blonde color.  And the inside is cute too.
I'm ashamed to say it, but I geek out over Martha Stewart and all her impeccable decorations and perfectly put together dinners, but to be quite honest, I'm just too lazy to get that amitious over decorating.  Still, I think I did a good job in this corner!  Well, too leave you with some professional inspiration, this is my favorite ad of the season - pretty much encompasses the American Christmas look, kind of takes on sort of a retro feel too.
 I know this has nothing to do with beach houses - but look at that lovely red townhouse - such a cool photo.  Marketingwise, it caught my attention.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fall Style

Wear your style with pride - and don't be ashamed to dress up!  There is no shame in looking good.
I hate the jeans-for-every-occasion look.  I've been thumbing through these kid's archeology mags that my mom brought over and it came to mind yesterday when I was at Mass - What if the church was suddenly buried and everyone preserved exactly the way they are standing right now?  How would people look at our civilization?  Most of the people there were dressed in jeans or sweatpants.  I'm not super picky about other people's clothing, but sometimes it makes me wonder:

"The Pollock diggings provide a valuable link between the citizen-slave communities of the twentieth century and the tribal anarchy which succeeded them. Here you see a people of advanced culture, capable of an elaborate draining system and the construction of permanent highways, overrun by a race of the lowest type.  The measure of the newcomers may be taken by the facts that their women were devoid of all personal adornment and that the dead were removed to burying places a great distance from the settlement - a sure sign of primitive taboo..." Brideshead Revisited, page 7.

Anyway, my style picks for this fall:
1. The Fisherman sweater: of course you have to find one that fits right - they can have the effect of looking doudy - especially if you are petite and wearing something sort of shapeless (talking from personal experience here)  but on guys, you can't go wrong.

2. Fair Isle sweater dress - I loved this sweater dress from Anthropologie when it came out a couple of years ago.  Of course I couldn't buy it at the time, but I still like it.  I would pair this with jeans and a cardigan- yes I know I just mentioned the ubiquitous jeans, but I do wear jeans sometimes - just not everyday and every occasion! Fair Isles sweaters are beautiful, but you have to know how to wear them.  You don't want to end up looking like this:
               Agh!  Just a little too over accessorized!  Not into the desperate housewife look.  That pursed mouth could have something to do with it.

3. Leather oxfords - all my heels have kind of hit the back of the closet lately because I am always walking down at least two flights of stairs, sometimes with a child in each arm, so I would really like to prevent killing myself, and them.  So ballet flats and oxfords are now my go tos.  But I think the oxfords are my favorite.  Maybe its just me getting influenced by trends, but I really think they make every outfit. 
And of course, the best accessory, a large Baroque house!  Oui la :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review : The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

My daughter randomly selected this book out of the library yesterday.  I read it to her this morning, and it struck me as rather unique for a children's book - sort of dark and pessimistic, but not scary enough to alarm a toddler (and she gets alarmed very easily).  Social critiques can be transmitted in all sorts of mediums, whether it be paintings, novels, comics and films, but I very rarely see it done with children's books.  The only other one that comes to mind is The Little Prince by Andre de Saint Exupery.  I thought that this particular book handles the balance between the seriousness of social criticism and the lightness of a children's story rather well.  The illustrations also add weight to the simple story, with an industrial world of rusty pipes, wires and cement, with nary a tree in sight, and yet there is a soft yellow light that adds a bit of hope to the tone of the picture.  The basic storyline is a young boy comes across a funny sort of half-robot, half-alien thing at the beach.  They make friends, and he takes it home with him.  Unable to keep it at home, he searches for a place to bring it, and finally discovers one: "I mean, I can't say that the thing actually belonged in the place where it ended up.  In fact, none of the things there really belonged.  They all seemed happy enough though, so maybe that didn't matter."   The world is full of dull, passionless people who follow lives of drudgery.  Lack of observation, and lack of individuality seem to be the common disease. 
What came to mind when reading this story were two things:

First, C.S. Lewis' description of the "new man" in his book, Mere Christianity.  This is the person of twentieth/twenty-first century make, who has little connection to nature, little thought besides what is dictated from society, and little moral direction.  The Lost Thing seems to depict that world, especially through the examples of the boy's parents - disinterested, tired, genderless.  The lack of human connection also seems significant.
Second, teenaged Ignacio Alvear in The Cypresses Believe in God is encouraged by his father to go walking through the city and just look around and take note of things.  In other words, observe.  What he notices is a downtown that is changing - buildings with more rigid lines and less flourish, and he is decidedly disappointed by the view, having expected something that would have been more beautiful.  When he tells his father about his findings, his father says, "What do you expect, son?  Its cubism." 

The "thing"in The Lost Thing looks like an experiment gone wrong, and yet it is more human than the human beings.  It plays, reads, expresses sadness or delight.  The place that it eventually settles in at the end of the story is bright, full of different creature/robots and seems to be in an older building(s) from a different time.  It makes an impression on the boy, but is eventually forgotten as he immerses himself in his cold industrial world.  Not a wildly happy story, but thought-provoking nonetheless.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Over Generics - Hollywood Films

  And while we're on the subject, what is up with all these movies coming off the conveyor belt with the same tiresome storyline every time! (Just went to the movies last night with my husband and my brother).  Like we've seen that already, and yet they still make them and Americans keep paying to watch them.  Shameless I tell you, shameless.  That's my word of the day, in case you haven't noticed. ;)

Teen Romance - Let's put two of the season's hottest actors together - the guy is troubled, but sensitive, and searching for meaning.  The girl is grounded and artsy - but she has a secret - she is dying! And of course she doesn't tell the poor bloke until he is head over heels in love with her and she is the only thing in his life that ever meant anything! (Remember Me, Restless, Here on Earth) A refreshing new take on the old spin: maybe this time the guy dies instead and the girl goes on study paleontology or she gets better, they get married, and they have 10 kids and a farm.

Psycho Thriller -  Weird things are happening to this one fella.  He keeps having strange dreams, and there is this pesky guy that keeps turning up in the most inconvenient places.  Oh no!  Now he has murdered someone and blamed it on you!  Except, wait a minute...its all your head and you are actually a psycopathic killer!!!!  (Secret Window, The Machinest)  A refreshing take: that pesky guy actually is just some kind of weirdo and you have to catch him in the act of a crime, so people will stop blaming you and looking at you funny.

The Romantic European Va-cay -  The couple goes on a trip to Europe and discovers that one or the other is involved with covert CIA activities and knows French, German, and Pig Latin and a black belt in Karate.  Or in the case of Angelina Jolie: you are the most elegant and impenetrable woman on the face of the earth and using a poor math teacher for a cover.(The Tourist)  I like Angelina, but come on, I just don't sympathize with statues.  And I think Mr. and Mrs. Smith could go under this category too, except without the va-cay.  Refreshing take:  How about real people just go back packing around Europe or something, and they learn about themselves?

Horror Flick - Director uses every possible quiet moment to build tension and get you freaked out of your mind and just when you think that at least the most likeable character is going to get away ... A man jumps out of the shadows with a chain saw and hacks him/her to pieces.  (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 28 Weeks Later, and every other horror movie!)  Actually I have seen a couple that didn't do that, and they are intelligent and worth watching: 28 Days Later, Monsters.  I'd put more down if I knew them, but that's the only two so far that make the cut.  The Exorcism of Emily Rose was well done, but I wouldn't recommend it just because it freaked the pants off me.  

Juniper Sling

I love the ad that Penhaligon's put out for their old/new perfume, Juniper Sling.  I've never worked in marketing, but I've always admired a good advert, well done.  Mind you, it is a tad shameless, but in perfect keeping with the classic "Penhaligon's" brand and reputation for classics.  I'm so tired of perfume ads showing some limpid looking female lounging around - like just because the girl is pretty, that's going to make me want to buy?  So I can lounge around looking limpid too?  Yah, no thanks! 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Le Cinematique

I haven't been able to write in a while because, first, I was moving in to my new apartment, and second, I was without internet for the first couple of weeks.  I have to say that as inconvenient as being without the net can be, I actually got a whole lot more of other stuff done during the day!  It's had been pretty chaotic here lately, but finally I got to sit down with my hubby last night and watch one of my favorite films, Bringing Up Baby, starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn.  The comedic timing in this movie is absolutely superb and Cary Grant as Dr. David Huxley and Katherine Hepburn as Susan Vance, make one of the best on-screen couples I've ever seen.  Its always been one of my favorites because they remind me of my husband and I. 
Style-wise, I couldn't think of anything sharper than channeling these characters.

Prof. David Huxley
He's a professor and devoted to his work as a paleontologist, not fashion, so his style should be elegant but uncomplicated; respectable and unfussy.  I would think he might put his loyalty in several brands that can dress him properly. 
I would go with a Harris tweed jacket and a pair of Alden oxfords. (I originally had a suit from Brooks Brothers, but Raymond suggested that it looked a little too flashy for a Professor, which I think he is quite right).  I think I got a little confused between Huxley and Cary Grant himself.  Anyway, this is much better- and more elegant too. I think his scent would be Guerlain Vetiver - but it wouldn't be his choosing - something his sister gave him as a gift?  Sometimes you just have to rely on others! 

Susan Vance
She's a child of old money and while I wouldn't call her some kind of spoiled heiress, she certainly can flit about without anything to stress over, financially speaking; but that's part of her appeal and  what causes the hilarity to ensue.  Susan is very high-spirited and child-like. 
I would say that she would start her day with a sprit of Annick Goutal's Songes and be a devoted fan of American brands like Diane Von Furstenburg and Ralph Lauren; perhaps a running account at Bloomingdales? 
And some shoes that are fun and a little bit quirky!
These are from Kate Spade. 
And if you are really going to be the new Susan Vance, you have to be able to rock a hat too.  I love this one from Anthropologie.

Add a dash of confidence and persistence.  She gets the man that she wants in the end!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Follow you inner Interior Decorator

 Every place that I've lived in has had some attempts to make it cozy, even if we were only staying for 6 months or so.  There wasn't much that I could do to the wood paneled trailer in Arizona, but I tried anyway.  The interior decorator in me always comes out and wants to do a complete makeover.  I just want a cozy home - it doesn't have to be fancy.  The apartment that we are going to rent was primarily chosen because of location, so I have to say the outside and inside appearance leaves much to be desired - however, let me look on the bright side- things I like about it - Grape vines on the fence, the apple tree in the yard, lots of space inside.  Things that need to be changed: Brown painted floors that are beginning to peel, Tacky colored walls.  Of course one instant and dramatic improvement would be to paint all the wood trim white, but our landlord seems to think that the wood carries some value with it, which I assure you, it doesn't.  It is very orangey and thin.  So how do you decorate when you can't change the wood trim?  Please send me ideas someone!  
The landlord has agreed to repaint in the colors I picked out, so I have to say that is pretty nice.  The color palette I chose:  Floors repainted in Poppyseed (Navy blue, almost black),  dining room and living room in a crisp white, bedrooms a light blue and the guest room in an easy going yellow.  Since the outside of this house is modest, I'm not trying to make a palace inside.  Somehow, I feel like interiors and exteriors should relate to each other.  And if you can't change certain things about your pad (i.e., wood trim, yellowing siding) proceed with the best of your own good taste, and don't over do it.  I hope to get some before and after pictures to show soon!